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Chip was angry with himself for sleeping through the day – it was dark outside when Zecora finally allowed him to stand up and have a walk. The colt felt weaker than before and the wounded leg was unreliable – he couldn’t lean on it as it would just collapse beneath his weight. Silver Heart marched alongside him, trying to balance the colt when he threatened to tip over.
“You seem to be feeling better, I think you’ll be going later. Now it is night so let us rest, Tommorow how you feel we shall test.”
“I had enough sleep already,” replied the anxious colt. He effectively lost two days he could have spent getting to know ponies in this Ponyville. A place full of equines seemed very exciting – each individual had their own experiences, thoughts, dreams and what have you. Chip swore he would get to meet everypony and be best friends with them, just like he was now with this little filly.
A filly he would have to eventually return. The colt didn’t know much about raising children, but it he felt this attached to her and the thought of her disappearing was unpleasant, he could only fathom the emotions Night Star and Autumn Leaf were feeling now. Causing grief to those that helped him didn’t sit well with Chip; it was settled he would send her back as soon as he found a way to get his magic back… Which he hoped would take just a little bit longer.
Come sunrise, Chip delicately nudged Silver Heart to wake up – he was up for the last few hours, waiting for the sun to get up so they can leave. He appreciated the zebra’s hospitality and invaluable help, but his desire to indulge in pony society was greater. The colt made a mental note to thank the sleeping zebra at a later time – he’d probably think of something nice once he understood equines better.
Silently, the duo left the cottage and begun their journey towards Ponyville. Chip was a bit slow – he felt drained and the hind leg was a nuisance to him. Luckily the forest wasn’t as damp or hot as he thought it would be – a gentle breeze stirred the air, mixing fragrant flower scents.
Silver Heart was moaning for some breakfast when they both reached the exit from Everfree – for the first time in some days they saw the sun in the blue sky above them. And the town below.
It was magnificent. Chip read about architecture, but he never thought that the buildings would be so pleasing to look at. Elegant, brightly coloured, very straight. No curves like in caves or dens, no moss or dirt – everything was so neat and organised the changeling felt like howling with joy! And even from this far he could tell that there were tons of pones living there. The colourful crowd moved about the town, a faint sound of conversations, cheers and everyday life luring Chip to move in closer.
Almost forgetting his injury, the colt trotted a few steps before falling over with a hiss.
“Careful now Chip! You don’t want to hurt yourself more, do you?” Silver Heart helped the colt back on his feet and walked alongside him, observing his face. She never saw such sparkles in his eyes before. His head was ready to fall off from the amount of twisting it did – he was trying to see everything at once, unable to focus on just one thing.
Inside his head wasn’t any better. His thoughts were a whirling storm; questions and opinions fought hard for attention – What is that? What is this? Why is she carrying that? How does that thing work? If he could, he would just split himself into hundreds of changelings and run up to everypony and jabber away. Maybe he would even do so when he got his magic back.
One of the more unusual items the duo passed was a white carriage, lined with gold. It was standing next to a most peculiar building – the top looked like it was covered with chocolate and cream, and hanging sign to the side read “Sugarcube Corner”. There were two rather tall Pegasus guards at the entrance, scanning the crowd that passed by. One of them saw Chip and whispered something to his colleague. The other one nodded and took a position directly in front of the doors.
“Excuse me, sir,” started the guard who noticed the changeling. He was coming closer unhindered, as everypony went out of their way to avoid bumping into the stallion. “Is this your foal?”
“Uhh…” Chip gulped. “Well, umm, not exactly… Well, kind of…”
The guard sighed. “Allow me to rephrase my question – are you the father of this foal?”
“He’s not my daddy, he’s my best friend!” fired away Silver Heart, standing to face the guard.
“And what’s your name, sweetie?” asked the white stallion, eyeing Chip suspiciously.
“Silver Heart, mister.”
“Really? Is your daddy Autumn Leaf? And your mommy Night Star?”
“Yes!” squeaked the filly. “Do you know them?”
“No,” replied the guard, squinting at Chip, “But we got a message you went… Missing. Your mommy and daddy are very worried about you. I think we should take you home. And have a talk with your… best friend.”
“I guess…” The filly looked a bit sad, but shook it off and smiled. “Okay. Is mommy and daddy somewhere around?”
“No, sweetie. They’re still at home. We’ll let them know you’re here and they’ll come pick you up. And you, mister…”
An awkward silence fell. Chip was waiting for the guard to finish his sentence, which seemed to irritate him a bit – he was frowning more and more as seconds passed by.
“He’s Chip,” offered Silver Heart, nudging the changeling. “He’s not from around here.”
“I… See…” The guards tone wasn’t exactly polite or calm – the colt had a bad feeling creep over his spine.
“He’s sick and wounded you see,” continued the unaware foal. “He needs to go to the spa for a cure for Poison Joke.”
“Poison Joke?” repeated the guard. He seemed to have noticed the scar and blue dots on his exposed flank, causing him to lighten up a little. “I see. That explains a lot. Then we shall have our talk after you take your bath.”
“Bath?” Chip was ignored by the guard who picked up Silver Heart and started carrying her towards the carriage.
“Wait, I’m going now? But I haven’t said good bye to Chip yet!”
“Don’t worry, you’re not going anywhere yet,” assured her the guard. “We’ll just put you here, so we can have an eye on you. Your dad would be even sadder if he found out you were found and then got lost again. You just stay put here and wait, okay? I’ll take your friend to the spa, have a small talk with him and then be back. Okay?”
“I guess…” mumbled the filly, turning her head away. “But you promise, right? Dad says that when a stallion promises, he can’t break a promise. So you promise, yes?”
“I promise.” The guardspony let slip a smirk and turned towards Chip. “Let’s go.”
The changeling felt kind of oppressed by the guard – he stuck to Chip like glue, silently drilling the colt with his eyes. The walk was short and soon the two entered the luxurious resort, ran by two inertly coloured ponies.
The mares were nearly bent in half to honour the guard, who seemed like an important pony. His bath, whatever that was, got prepared lightning fast and soon Chip was staring down into a rather large tub of herbal smelling water. There were no other guests at the spa, so only the quiet ambient music could be heard in the building.
“In you go,” said the guard, tapping his hoof.
Chip dipped a hoof in the warm water. It was wet like any other water. And he didn’t feel thirsty. Sheepishly, he looked at the irritated guardspony.
“I said… In!”
The changeling got shoved into the water with a splash. He feared his wound would hurt, but it seemed to have closed up properly now. What caught the changeling’s attention was the sudden sense of release he witnessed – his body felt like it unglued itself, the skin of his disguise soaking up water and dissolving. The changeling saw as bits of fur fell off his hooves, replaced by the black of his carapace armour. Green flickers consumed the floating pieces of coat and mane.
Most importantly, Chip could finally flex his stiff wings. And he felt the water swirl around his jagged horn. It was safe to say he felt like a newborn changeling – relaxed, calm, finally back to his old self. Not a care in the world could shoot down his good mood now. He was starting to lose breath though, so it was high time to get out of the water.