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Rainbow Dash shook her head to try and clear the drowsiness that had been lingering since morning. It had been a nice day, and while nice days were well, nice, for a weatherpony they were also unbelievably boring. There were no clouds to move in the sector, the humidity was steady, the sun was doing its thing, and the unblocked rays created updrafts that were making a gentle breeze. All she and her crew had done all day was monitor. Combine that with sitting on a soft, puffy cloud for hours, and you had a one way ticket to Snoozeville. She'd actually caught four of her workers napping, and while Rainbow didn’t really blame them, she couldn’t resist giving them a wake-up call, buzzing past them just mere inches away at breakneck speed. She snickered at the memory. The looks on their faces were priceless.
She stretched as she stood on the small altocumulus cloud that had been her post for the day, several thousand feet in the air. She craned her head down and beheld what was immediately below her: a vast, green meadow on the borders of Ponyville, which was a few miles to the north. It didn’t look all that vast from this high up, but Rainbow had lived in the area for a few years now, and she was pretty good at discerning sizes from the sky. The thin snake of blue that was the Everfree River sparkled as the sun reflected off of its calm surface, its waters meandering to the Forest of the same name to the east.
Rainbow closed her eyes and took a deep breath, taking in the silence and serenity of the open air. She was at peace here, at home. This was her natural place. She was a creature of the sky, and she belonged in it. She was a part of it. She loved it.
It was time to embrace it.
Rainbow opened her eyes, unfurled her wings, and leapt off the cloud like a diver. She blasted through the air, flapping her wings as hard as she could; her hooves thrust in front and back of her to make herself as aerodynamic as possible. She went faster, and faster still as gravity pulled her closer to the looming ground below. The wind screamed past her and made her eyes water. A faint cone of resistance formed in the corners of her vision.
Seconds passed like minutes to her. The only sound she heard was her own rhythmic heartbeat. Every inch of her was alive with electricity. The drowsiness was gone. The worries and concerns of work were gone. There was only her, the clear, pristine sky, and the hard, merciless ground.
Wait for it...
Three hundred feet above the ground. The wind from her descent was creating a disturbance in the meadow.
Two hundred feet. A squirrel stopped and looked up at her.
One hundred feet. She could see the individual leaves on the trees.
Ten feet. Blades of grass.
Rainbow felt the familiar strain in her back and chest muscles as she pulled up, her wings snapping taut as they caught the air and leveled her out at a ninety degree angle. She cruised just above the ground at subsonic speeds, sending loose plants, debris, and even the occasional small animal flying in her wake.
She reveled in the pure thrill of it all, laughing as she left nothing behind but a faint afterimage of her prismatic mane and tail. Rainbow ascended again, not wanting the force of her travel to disturb the flora and fauna anymore than it already had. As she coasted back up to a few hundred feet, she finally flapped her wings to maintain her clip. She headed towards her cloud home on the other side of town, doing the occasional daring aerial maneuver along the way.
As she reached the southern edge of Ponyville, Rainbow heard the familiar, piercing sound of a train whistle. She looked down, and indeed saw the silver locomotive as it slowly screeched to a halt at the landing.
That’s the Canterlot Train. I wonder if Twilight is back from her University thing?
Rainbow banked and killed her speed as she pulled into a lazy circle above the station to see if her friend was amongst the arrivals. She watched as the final checks were made and the doors opened. Only a few ponies stepped out, and none of whom she recognized as Twilight. She was just about to leave when she saw her friend walk out of the train station, saddlebags bulging.
Rainbow pumped a hoof and swooped down for a landing. Twilight looked straight ahead as she walked from the train, paying nopony any mind and making a beeline for the exit. As Rainbow descended, she briefly thought about tackling her friend or scaring her in some fashion, but then reconsidered. She went up there to show her teachers the big magic spell she’s been working on the last few weeks. Probably has all the stuff for it in her bags. Meh, I’ll be nice. Rainbow flared her wings and landed a safe distance away from Twilight, right in her immediate field of vision. She had expected her friend to immediately take notice and greet her.
Unfortunately, Twilight hadn’t seen her friend’s arrival. She had her gaze still glued to the floor as she walked, oblivious to the world.
Rainbow's eye twitched. So… tempting…
A whirlwind of ideas spun about in Rainbow’s mischievous mind.
No! I said I’d be nice, and nice I will be. Twilight slowly approached her, still tantalizingly clueless. But you are SO getting pranked later, Sparkle.
Rainbow cleared her throat and waved. “Twilight!”
Twilight stopped in response to her name. She looked up and saw Rainbow Dash standing a few feet in front of her.
“Oh, hey Rainbow!” She closed the distance to her friend. “Don’t tell me you were waiting here for me to get back.”
Rainbow made a dismissive noise. “I just got off work. Was flying home and saw the train coming in. Thought you might be on it, so I stuck around.”
“Nice timing.” Twilight motioned forth, and the two walked out of the train station.
“How’d your big magic presentation thingy go?” Rainbow asked as they entered into Ponyville proper.
Twilight sighed. “It could have gone better. I didn’t really have anything to show them but the theory and papers I’ve written on what I’m trying to do.”
“That wasn’t enough for them?”
“Oh it was enough,” Twilight said with an angry huff. “Enough for them to think I’m a madmare who’s going to blow up half of Ponyville.”
Rainbow stopped short, eyes wide. “Blow up? Wait, I thought you were majoring in Objection magic or whatever.”
“Abjuration,” she corrected.
“Yeah, the protective spells.”
“I am, but—” she paused to consider her companion, who looked like she was steeling herself for a lecture on the most boring topic in the world. “Without getting too much into specifics,” Twilight said with exaggeration. Rainbow breathed a sigh of relief.
“The spell I’m proposing is very complex and requires a considerable amount of magic to cast,” Twilight said. “And no matter what you use it for, a lot of power is a lot of power. So if something were to go wrong for whatever reason and get out of control, in the worst case scenario there would be… collateral damage.”
Rainbow’s lips parted. “And that collateral damage would be half of Ponyville?”
“More like three-quarters,” Twilight admitted.
Rainbow found herself looking at her friend in a new light. I knew that she was good at magic, but this? This was more than I expected. More than anypony expects, I’ll bet. Note to self: Getting on Twilight’s bad side is a bad idea.
“That won’t happen, of course,” Twilight added, seeing the worried expression on Rainbow’s face. “They spent three hours asking me questions, making me cast failsafes and wards, and going over my theory in intimate detail. I did it all without a problem. Don’t worry, I know what I’m doing.”
“Famous last words,” Rainbow muttered under her breath as they continued down Main Street.
The general sounds of the denizens of Ponyville preparing to close up shop for the day filled air. The laughter and shouts of fillies and colts could be heard as they squeezed in a few more precious minutes of playtime before being shepherded to their homes. The market was alive with last-minute ponies who were shopping for ingredients for their evening meals.
Rainbow’s stomach gave an audible protest. Did I eat the last of that lentil and corn stew? I’ll need to make something else for supper if I did. Maybe a nice apple and oat salad? Not sure if I have any apples, though. I should stop by Applej—
“There’s something else,” Twilight said as her library home came into view.
Rainbow looked at her. There was something in her voice that was setting off a mental alarm.
“And that would be?”
Twilight didn’t answer and didn’t meet her gaze. She opened her mouth several times, but only clicked her tongue and lightly ground her teeth. Rainbow normally wasn’t one for patience, but she could tell that this was something unpleasant. And the only thing harder than hearing unpleasant news is delivering it. A heavy weight began to form in her chest.
“It concerns all six of us,” Twilight said as they approached her door. “And I need to tell everyone, tonight. Do you think you could go get Applejack and Fluttershy and meet me back here in an hour or so?”
“Why do I get the feeling I’m not gonna like what you’re gonna tell us?”
“Because you won’t,” Twilight replied.
Stupid intuition. So much for dinner. Rainbow groaned.“Yeah, I’ll go get them. I take it you’re going for the others?”
“After I drop these off.” She motioned to her saddlebags.
“Do me a favor and get Pinkie to bring some kind of food. I’m starving.”
Twilight nodded. “Sure.”
“Be back later.” Rainbow cantered a ways away before opening her wings and taking off. Twilight shrank to nothing but a dot as she caught a thermal and sailed high above the town. Rainbow exited the warm pillar of air and angled herself west, following the winding dirt road out of town she knew so well to the orchards of Sweet Apple Acres. I was thinking of heading over there anyway. I’ll just grab an apple or two to hold me over. I have a feeling whatever Twilight is gonna spring on us may take a while.
Twilight watched in awe as Rainbow took off in a burst of color, gain some altitude, and then ascend several thousand feet into the air, sailing out of sight as she blended into the sky. She makes it look effortless. Forcefully, Twilight grounded her thoughts as she opened the door and walked into her home away from home.
The scent of living wood and musty books familiarly hit her nostrils as she entered the library. The circular room stood empty, although the lights were on and the windows were open, allowing a breeze to circulate through the otherwise-stuffy confines.
As Twilight ascended the stairs to her loft on the second floor, she noted that all the books were neatly assorted on their shelves, the floor was clean, and the stairs had been swept. Good, he finished his chores.
“Spike!” Twilight called out as she set down her bags. “Spiiiiike! Where are you?”
“In here!” a muffled voice called from the other side of the room. Twilight tilted her head and saw that the kitchen door stood closed. She walked downstairs and pushed it open. Inside the small, checkered room was a baby purple dragon wearing an apron, removing a quiche from the oven with his bare claws. He set the pastry on an unlit burner.
“Twilight! You made it back early! I’m still in the middle of making dinner.”
“It’s fine Spike, I had a late lunch.” Twilight gave him a hug. “I have to go and get Rarity and Pinkie right now, and the others will be over in about an hour.”
Spike nodded. “You’re going to tell them about the guards coming tomorrow, aren’t you?”
Twilight’s eyes widened. “How do you—“
Spike pointed to a scroll on the kitchen table. “A royal messenger delivered that about a half-hour ago.”
Twilight walked over to the table and undid the wrapped up parchment.
Ms. Twilight Sparkle-
As you have been notified by your brother, Captain Shining Armor of the HMR Guard, the Thirty-Second Platoon and I have been assigned to yourself and your fellow Bearers of the Elements of Harmony at your current residence of Ponyville. Our orders are to monitor your activities for the risk of potential malicious threats, and protect you all in the event of any hostile action. Rest assured that while the evidence of our presence shall be almost nonexistent, we are all prepared to lay down our lives for you and your friends.
We will arrive at the Ponyville Train Station tomorrow at seven a.m. You need not rendezvous with us, as we have been briefed on your residencies and have assigned ourselves accordingly. First Lieutenant Blair, who has been personally assigned to your detail, will also arrive at this time. We ask that you prepare for his arrival.
We look forward to serving all of you.
Second Lieutenant Vigil, Her Majesty's Royal Guard
Twilight lowered the note, glancing at Spike. “Have you told anyone about this?”
He pointed at the steaming quiche. “Haven't had time. I was going to if you didn't come home tonight, though.”
Twilight nodded and walked out of the kitchen. “Don't say anything yet, okay? I would rather not have to explain all of this more than once.” She took the Second Lieutenant's note and levitated it up to her bags along with the other two letters from the Princesses.
“I'll be here,” he called after her.
“Save some of that quiche for me!” she yelled as she ran outside. She turned right and headed to Rarity's.
Twilight ran through the streets of Ponyville, passing only the occasional straggler on the way. Most ponies were now home for dinner, and the roads were largely deserted. A few moments later, she rounded a corner to behold a two-story shop colored in bright pinks, purples and yellows, its flags waving proudly in the wind. A sign with a pony wearing a stylish saddle stood above the door, titled ‘Carousel Boutique.’ Twilight approached the entrance and noticed a sign written in very loopy cursive on the door.
Twilight knocked. Nothing. She tried the door and found it was unlocked. She knew that Rarity lived on the second floor of the building.
Should I just go in? Most ponies don't appreciate random unicorns just coming and going as they please. Rarity is my friend, but I should still respect her privacy... while she still has it, anyway.
As she was debating, a loud series of crashes came from inside of the store. Deciding to forego manners, Twilight went inside to investigate. She passed through the dress shop to the back, stopping as she looked into what Rarity called her Inspiration Room.
It looked like Rarity's 'inspiration' had been a tornado. Rolls of fabric lay about haphazardly, sewing machines were on the floor, and mannequines were strewn everywhere. Spools of thread, pin cushions, scissors, zippers, buttons, and lace were in every place but where they were conceivably supposed to be. In the center of the mess, Twilight saw two white unicorns, one with a beautifully styled mane, the other a filly who was tangled in a bolt of mauve fabric with a wickerwork basket on her head. Twilight recognized the first to be Rarity, who was standing there, eyes mismatched, mouth agape. She’d never seen the filly before, who was struggling to get free.
Twilight beheld the scene for a few seconds. Rarity hadn't moved even an eyelash. The filly was still trying to escape from her cloth captor, and was getting even more stuck in the process.
“S-Sorry,” the filly said. “I just wanted to see...”
Rarity came out of her daze. She muttered something intelligible.
“What was that, Rarity?” the filly asked.
“You...” she whispered.
“Huh?” the little unicorn tried to edge in closer.
“Are. A. MENACE!” Rarity jumped a few inches off the floor, her face flushed and teeth gritted. “A walking disaster! A threat to all of society! CHAOS INCARNATE!” She pointed at the imprisoned filly, eyes so wide that the whites showed. “How could my own flesh and blood be such... such...”
“A klutz?” she offered timidly.
“AN OAF!” Rarity yelled. The younger unicorn found herself enveloped in a blue aura and levitated off the floor.
“Hey! Rarity—” the filly said.
“You're staying in your room until Mother and Father come to pick you up,” Rarity said icily. She used her magic to rip away the fabrics ensnaring the filly, and the basket flew off her head and crashed against a wall. “And you're not allowed in my workroom until you're older. Do you understand, Sweetie Belle?!”
Sweetie Belle went doe-eyed as her lower lip quivered. She gave a small sniffle and hung limp in Rarity's magic as she was placed back on the floor. She miserably began to walk to the exit.
It was then that the two of them saw Twilight, who cleared her throat and quickly stepped out of the filly's way.
“Twilight!” Rarity's shock was replaced by a wan smile. “I didn't know you were back! You've never met Sweetie before, have you?”
“I didn't mean to intrude,” Twilight began. “I heard loud noises and—”
“Don't be silly,” Rarity said with a wave of her hoof. “You haven't done anything of the sort.” She stared directly at her sister. “But I'm afraid proper introductions will have to wait. Sweetie Belle was just going to her room.”
Sweetie, who’d been standing still, picked up on the not-so-subtle hint and resumed walking. She snuck a curious glance at Twilight before leaving the room.
Rarity closed the door with a slam as she left, waiting a few seconds before giving off an unlady like grunt. “I'm sorry you had to see that.”
“I'm the one who should apologize,” Twilight returned. “I shouldn't have just barged in unannounced.”
“Nonsense, dear,” she said. “One cannot barge into a place where they’re always welcome.”
Twilight bit her lip as her eyes flickered towards the door. “Don't tell me Sweetie’s your...”
Rarity gave her a strange look. “My what? Daughter? Ha! Don't be silly, Twilight, I'm only two years older than you. Sweetie’s my sister. My parents can’t be home Monday and Tuesday nights because they have odd work schedules, so Sweetie stays with me on those days, and they pick her up on Wednesday nights. They'll be here in a little bit.”
Rarity motioned at the mess. “I love her to death, but she’s a real hoofful sometimes. You'll have to forgive me if I work while we talk.”
She walked over to a row of disturbed mannequines, beginning to rearrange them and set them upright. “Now, to what do I owe the pleasure of your company?”
Twilight said nothing. She still didn't know how go about saying it yet. She'd tried to think of something on the way here, but everything she’d come up with would make Rarity bombard her with a slew of questions. Her silence went unnoticed as Rarity concentrated on her work. Twilight caught the words 'wild-child', 'maelstrom', and 'adopted' as she muttered to herself.
“Something is going to happen tomorrow that concerns all six of us,” Twilight finally managed. “It's complicated and everypony is going to have questions, so I don't want to explain it more than once. We're all meeting at the library in about forty-five minutes to discuss it.”
Rarity stopped her muttering and put down the sewing machine she had just picked up. She turned and stared at Twilight, who shrunk a little under the penetrating gaze.
“I take it this is something rather important.”
Rarity sized up her friend. “Is it bad?”
“Inconvenient’s a better word for it.”
“By chance does it have anything to do with our little soirée in the Everfree Forest a few months back?”
Twilight hung her head.
Rarity sighed. “I had a feeling that would be the cause of future... complications.” She gave her ravaged workroom a perfunctory glance. “When my parents come for Sweetie, I'll leave this for later and come over to the library.”
She gave a stony nod. “Who else do you still need to get a hold of?”
“Rainbow is telling Applejack and Fluttershy,” Twilight said. “I just need to go and find Pinkie. She's probably at Sugarcube Corner.”
“She's not, actually.”
Twilight raised an eyebrow. “Then where—” she suddenly remembered what day it was. Right, Wednesday.
Rarity glanced at the clock, and then out the window to a building a few blocks away that looked like a giant gingerbread house. “I’d check Sugarcube Corner first, just to see if she went home early, but for the past few weeks I've been seeing her get back around sundown. She probably left Zecora's a little while ago.”
Twilight nodded. “I'll just wait at the outskirts of the forest if she's not at Sugarcube.”
“Do be careful,” Rarity said. “It's bad enough Pinkie goes out there alone as often as she does.”
Twilight chuckled. “If anyone can get through that place unnoticed, it's her. I still don't know how she sneaks up on people so well.”
Rarity resumed her cleaning. “Mother says it's a family trait of the Pies.”
Twilight suppressed a shudder as she got a mental image of a mass of pink ponies using every conceivable kind of pastry in a massive food fight. Confetti rained from the sky, and a myriad of bands played together in complete and utter confusion.
Twilight left Rarity to clean as much as she could before the meeting and crossed the few blocks to the local bakery, Sugarcube Corner. As she approached the candy-decorated shop, she noted that only the second floor had the lights on. Her gaze was then attracted to a smaller, similarly decorated one-story house right next to it. She looked in the windows, which were lifeless and dark.
Yeah, she's not home yet. I'll head out of town and wait for her there.
Twilight gauged her magical font, and found that it was lower than she would’ve liked. There was also a familiar, faint pressure building up in the back of her eyes. Probably shouldn't teleport. I've been demonstrating wards and forcefields all morning, and then the big jump at lunch… I’m impressed I’m only in Magical Fatigue.
She heaved a sigh and trotted east towards the Everfree Forest on the edge of town.
Guess I'm hoofing it.
Rainbow Dash soared high in the sky as she followed the dirt road out of town towards Applejack's farm. From years of experience, she knew that if she were to enter into a sixty-degree dive right now at this height, she would land right in front of her friend's homestead, and wouldn't need to flap her wings once the entire way.
That is, if she was feeling tired, which she wasn't.
Also if she wasn't in a hurry, which she was.
Rainbow angled her wings upward, beginning to go into a loop. As she continued to twist, she arched backwards as the sky and ground switched places. At the zenith of her arc, she coiled up like a spring and followed through, pumping her wings forward with all her strength.
Rainbow shot like a missile towards her destination. The dirt road below sped past, following a line of fencing that guarded rows upon rows of assorted apple trees covering the countryside for hundreds of acres, the fruits in various stages of development. At the far edge of the fields, Rainbow could now see a two-story farmhouse and barn, each getting larger by the millisecond.
She turned just a hair to the left as she continued her lightning-fast descent. She was no longer aiming for the house, but a very large pile of hay bales that were a stacked a few hundred yards away. A large, multicolored bullseye was painted upon them. Taking careful aim, Rainbow made another minute adjustment and rocketed over the farmyard, the sounds of various farm animals barely registering in the back of her mind.
She grinned and tucked into a ball as the hay bales filled her vision.
The Apple family was sitting at the table discussing plans for the upcoming Applebuck Season when they were interrupted by a cacophony of noise from the cows, chickens, and pigs. There was a loud WHOOSH, followed by an even louder WUMPH. They all paused at the disturbance, and then resumed their talking a second later. A yellow filly wearing a fuschia bow leaned back and yelled out the kitchen door.
“JACKIE! Rainbow's here.”
As Rainbow extracted herself from the ruins of the old hay bales that were her own personal landing zone, she took note that the bullseye of the target had completely collapsed from her precision assault. Heh, eighty-one for eighty-one.
A heavenly aroma floated past her nostrils as she walked away from the target. She realized that it was coming from the farmhouse. Her mouth watered at the smell of baked apples, alfalfa, and homemade bread. Sweet Celestia, they're having dinner. Maybe I can—
She was snapped out of her hunger trance by an orange mare wearing a Stetson and a blonde ponytail standing on the porch of the house.
Rainbow shook her head clear and ran to her. “Hey, Applejack. Sorry about the bad timing.”
Applejack opened her mouth to respond, but then shut it just as quickly as she let out a snort.
“Huh?” Rainbow said quizzically. “What's so funny?”
“You're covered in hay!”
She looked at herself and realized it was true: Long strands of golden straw were caught everywhere in her mane, coat, and tail. She looked like she'd been out frolicking in the fields.
“Oh, geez. One sec.” Rainbow stepped back and jumped into the air, spinning herself in a dizzying whirlwind. Applejack covered herself with her hat and shied away. A few seconds later, Rainbow was free of the offending material.
“Much better,” Rainbow said. She then adopted a serious expression. “I caught you at dinner, didn't I?”
“Just about to start,” Applejack replied in her southern drawl. “You eaten yet?”
She shook her head. “Twilight sent me here to—”
A yellow pegasus poked her head out from inside the house.
Rainbow did a double take. “Fluttershy? What're you doing here?”
“Oh, nothing,” Fluttershy replied, looking down at the floor as she walked outside. “That is to say, I was doing something, but I finished and then—”
“I asked her to come over to take a look at our chickens,” Applejack cut in. “Some of 'em are comin' down with Fowl Pox.”
“No, Applejack,” Fluttershy corrected, “they all have it.” She looked over at the chicken coop, eyes full of concern. Her voice gained strength as she continued. “It's just that some of them are more progressed than the others.”
“Fowl Pox?” Rainbow echoed. “Are they gonna be okay? Is it... serious? Can ponies get it? I don't wanna get sick!” She flared her wings and went into a crouch.
Applejack laughed at Rainbow's startled reaction. “They'll be fine now that I know that's what's wrong with 'em. You can't take it lightly, mind you, but it's nothin’ a few mosquito nets and some TLC can't fix. And no, ponies can't get it. You're not in the middle of an infected zone.”
Rainbow breathed a sigh of relief and folded her wings. She looked at Fluttershy. “So you're here doing some nestside manner?”
She giggled. “I was, yes, but I lost track of the time—”
“And I insisted she stay for dinner,” Applejack finished. “You're welcome to join us too, of course. More the merrier.”
Rainbow’s stomach rumbled again before she could say anything. Her face took on a faint pink tinge as she gave a nervous laugh.
“That settles it.” Applejack ushered the two pegasi inside. “You can help us set the table.”
Rainbow sat back in her chair with a contented sigh and looked up at the ceiling as they finished dessert, which was Granny Smith's own legendary apple pie. Applejack's siblings, Big Macintosh and Applebloom, were now taking plates, glasses and silverware to the kitchen, where Granny Smith was doing the dishes. Fluttershy was looking at a collection of family photos that completely covered the far wall.
Rainbow yawned as her eyelids began to feel heavy. I suppose its okay to splurge now and then. Gonna have to push myself harder than usual tomorrow though. I can't even remember the last time I ate that much. Actually... I think it was the last time I stayed here for dinner! I gotta get the recipe for that pie...
“So then, Rainbow,” Applejack said. She was sitting across from her, chewing on a toothpick. “You were sayin' somethin' about Twilight. I thought she was up at Canterlot today.”
Being reminded of the reason for her visit dispelled the looming food coma. She hesitated for a second before looking back down at Applejack and Fluttershy.
“She got back about an hour ago. She says she's got something important that she wants to tell all of us tonight.” Rainbow remembered the look of regretful urgency on Twilight's face. “Correction, something she needs to tell all of us tonight. We're supposed to meet her at the library in—” she looked at the clock. “Twenty minutes.”
Applejack stopped picking her teeth and looked at her friend with a deadpan expression.
“Yeah,” Rainbow said sheepishly.
“And you couldn't bother to tell us this before now.”
“I tried, but then I got distracted when I saw Fluttershy was here and—”
“It takes fifteen minutes to get to town.” Applejack got to her hooves with a grunt. “And I imagine neither of ya want to gallop or fly fast on a full stomach. We gotta go right now.”
“It's not like we're gonna be late,” Rainbow said defensively.
“No,” Applejack replied with a hint of sharpness. “But I do like a little more notice than twenty minutes that I'm expected to be somewhere.” She walked into the kitchen to let her family know where she was going.
Rainbow looked to Fluttershy, who was stretching and preparing to leave. “Sorry about this,” she said.
Fluttershy shook her head, still looking at the far wall. “I'm sure Twilight caught you off guard too, seeing as you hadn't eaten.”
“I was heading home when I ran into her.”
Fluttershy turned to Rainbow, her long pink mane swishing forth to hide half of her face. “Do you know what she wants to tell us?”
Rainbow's face twisted into a grimace. “Nothing good.”
Applejack re-entered the dining room and went to the hat rack. She spat out her toothpick and flipped her Stetson on her head. She turned smartly to her two guests.