5w, 1dBack to business 2 comments · 64 views
10w, 5dThe fair has ended 1 comments · 100 views
12w, 6dVolume 1 complete 3 comments · 120 views
15w, 6d"Preorder" The Lost Element Volume 1 2 comments · 170 views
16w, 3dCover Art for The Lost Element 5 comments · 144 views
17w, 4dCrystal Fair coming 0 comments · 54 views
18w, 2dOver too soon 12 comments · 109 views
18w, 5dBronycon underway 18 comments · 119 views
19w, 6dUnder 1000 words 8 comments · 155 views
22w, 3dRegistered 8 comments · 93 views
I heard the sound of birds chirping just outside my window as I rolled over in bed. Morning had come, but I was in no hurry to get out of bed. At least, I did not feel like getting out of bed as long as my girlfriend was near me. However, when I turned to look at her, I found that the other side of the bed was empty. “Fluttershy…?”
My beautiful pegasus lover was nowhere to be seen. The bed sheets were still a bit messy, so she had clearly been in bed a short while ago. However, I also noticed that there was a note resting where she had been sleeping. “Hm? What’s this…” I muttered as I sat up in bed and took the note in hand. “Gone to do some shopping. See you in a few hours?”
I smiled with a shrug, “Well, I guess that’s OK. Better go see what Scoot is up to.” I got out of bed, knowing that I had to head into work in a short while. I tend to sleep late on weekends, so it was past 11 AM.
I got up and went to put my clothes on, sliding on my pants before slipping on my socks and shoes. When I went to get a shirt, I paused while I browsed my options. Among my list of shirts were the six shirts my friend Rarity had woven for me. While I tend to wear the colors of Pinkie Pie, Rainbow Dash, and Applejack when I work at Sugarcube Corner, I tend to resort to wearing either Fluttershy’s, Rarity’s, or Twilight Sparkle’s colors were I work at the spa. After a moment of contemplation, I decided to wear the shirt that matched Fluttershy’s coat colors with her cutie mark on the chest and back. “I’m wearing your colors today, honey.” I muttered to myself, imagining her blushing upon seeing me.
I went into the bathroom and wetted down a comb while looking myself in the mirror. My bed head was pretty bad, so I had to use a significant amount of water to smooth it all out. For whatever reason, my hair has a tendency to curl a bit in the back, so I suppose my overall hairstyle is a bit unkempt… Wait a minute. I almost always start out my journals like this. That is to say, always starting when I wake up and get dressed. Is this becoming somewhat repetitive? I honestly do not mind writing about it, but… Well, if anyone has been reading my journals, let me know if it would be a good idea to stop starting them like this.
Anyway, I went downstairs to check if Scootaloo was in her room. “Morning, Scoo… Huh?” Much to my surprise, I found that even she did not seem to be home. In fact, the entire cottage seemed to be abandoned. Where was everyone? It was not like things for me to wake up with no one around.
I began to fear that maybe something dark had occurred, so I rushed outside to see if there was anyone there. I ran down the dirt path in front of Fluttershy’s cottage and stopped on the tiny bridge that spanned the brook in front of it. As I gazed around, I felt some relief flow into me. While I still saw no signs of pony life, there were still plenty of Fluttershy’s many animal friends going about their business. I could see Angel resting in his house while nibbling a carrot, but I am sure he would not give me the time of day unless Fluttershy was present.
I looked back towards the house, wondering if I should go back inside and eat some breakfast. However, I felt dreadfully lonesome at the thought of sitting in that quiet house without anyone to keep me company, chat, or even just have some music playing. Rather than do that, I decided to just pick up something to eat at Sugarcube Corner and maybe spend a bit of time with Pinkie Pie in the process. And I always do enjoy that silly party animal’s antics.
I walked across the meadow that separated my home from Ponyville and soon reached it without incident. As usual, many ponies were just going about their business, though I did not see any who I felt particularly close to. I was actually already feeling quite lonely. I had not gone this long without any interaction with any of my friends in Equestria since… Ugh, I would rather not remember that time.
I ended up passing through the local market on my way to Sugarcube Corner. I felt my spirits rise when I remembered that Applejack runs her apple stall on Saturdays. Perhaps I would find her there. I weaved through the crowds of shopping ponies, trying to find a stall or cart loaded down with apples.
“Apples… Apples… Oh, there we go!” I muttered, finally spotting a cart with a few bushels full of apples. However, I did not see who I was hoping to see. Applejack still did not seem to be around. Instead, I found two other familiar faces minding the stall. Apple Bloom and Big Macintosh.
Still pleased that I had found a couple of my friends, I approached them with a smile. Big Macintosh was still just looking about with that absurdly relaxed expression he always has while Apple Bloom kept striking some cute poses while holding apples in various ways as if she was auditioning to be the Sweet Apple Acres mascot. But as soon as she saw me approaching, Apple Bloom immediately dropped the apples and waved at me while a joyous smile spread across her face.
“Morning, you two.” I spoke with a smile as I drew near.
“Mornin’, James! Great ta see ya! Right, Big Mac?” Apple Bloom replied before glancing up at her brother, who in turn was looking down at her.
“Eyup.” He replied briskly, his calm expression remaining unchanged.
I kneeled down and gently placed my hands on Apple Bloom’s sides as she stood up on just her hind legs, a sign that she wanted me to hold her. “Everything been OK with you two?” I asked as I lifted the little filly up and cradled her in my arms while she cuddled with me.
Apple Bloom giggled as she nuzzled my chest, “Everythin’s been fine. We only just opened, so we ain’t got many customers yet.”
I then looked down at Big Macintosh and asked, “Have you two seen Applejack today?”
Big Macintosh replied, “I dunno, but she said she had somethin’ real important ta tend to taday. Ain’t sure what though.”
I then asked while directing my gaze to Apple Bloom, “OK. Oh, and Apple Bloom? Have you seen Scootaloo today? I didn’t see her at all when I woke up.”
Apple Bloom seemed to avert her eyes for a second before speaking, “Oh, she’s hangin’ out with Sweetie Belle right now. They were doin’ some research on somethin’. Once we close up shop fer the evenin’, I’ll go see ‘em too.”
I smiled before rubbing my nose against hers, provoking a delighted giggle from the little earth pony filly. “OK then. You tell them I said hi when you meet up today. All right?”
Apple Bloom nodded, “Will do!”
Once I set her down, Big Macintosh spoke up. “James, hang on.” He then reached into one of the bushels and grabbed an apple by its stem using his teeth. He then swung his head and flung it towards me. When I grabbed the apple out of the air, I found it was a golden delicious apple. “All yers. It’s on the house.”
I grinned before patting Big Macintosh on the head, “Thanks, Big Mac. I could really use this. See ya later.” I waved goodbye and tried to make my way through the market.
On the way, I stopped and looked around at my surroundings. Fluttershy had said that she needed to do some shopping in that note she left behind. If she was going to do any sort of shopping, this would likely be the place to do it. I still had around thirty minutes before I needed to be at work, so I took the opportunity to search for her.
I had to weave my way through the many ponies who were going about their business in the market, making certain I did not trip over any while the cluttered noise of commerce roared around me. I saw many ponies of many colors, but no matter where or how long I looked, I could never find the color combination of yellow coat and pink mane. I have actually been able to identify ponies based entirely on their color schemes, provided I have seen them often enough to recall them off the top of my head.
Just as I was about to turn and continue my walk towards Sugarcube Corner, I paused when I thought I heard my name being called. Suddenly, I felt someone embrace me from behind. “What the…” When I turned and looked down, I found a familiar gray earth pony mare gazing up at me with crimson eyes. “Mitta!”
My friend grinned brightly, “Hello! How are you today, James?”
I kneeled down and embraced her, “I’ve been good, Mitta. Though I am trying to find Fluttershy. Have you seen her today?”
Mitta glanced around before motioning to lower my head further. I could tell she wanted to tell me something secretive, so I did what she wanted and lowered my ear to her. She then whispered, “She told me not to tell you, but she won’t be able to see you for a while today. She had something very important to do.”
This caught me by surprise. Why would Fluttershy not be honest with me? Could she…be seeing someone else? …No, I strongly doubt that. I cannot remember last hearing of infidelity in Ponyville. I am sure that she was dealing with something very unusual. “Huh… OK then. Did she seem OK when you saw her?”
Mitta nodded and dropped back down onto all fours, “Uh huh. She didn’t seem nervous or anything. Is something special happening today?”
I shrugged, “I have no idea. I know next to nothing about the holidays of Equestria.”
Mitta shrugged her shoulders, “Me neither. Although… Have you seen Rarity today?”
I shook my head, “Can’t say I have. Why?”
My friend glanced around, “She told me she had something important to do and left. I haven’t seen her since. I pretty much came out here just to get some shopping done for her.”
Hmm… So even Rarity seems to have disappeared for the day. Well, knowing her, I strongly doubt there is any foul play involved. I then shrugged, “Well, I doubt it’s anything we have to worry about. Anyway, I need to get going. I want to grab some breakfast before I head into work.”
Mitta smiled and nodded, “It was good seeing you, James. Take care.” The two of us waved goodbye before I turned and walked through the market while searching for Sugarcube Corner. I looked back over my shoulder to see Mitta walking away. She has really come to fit in quite well in Ponyville over the last few weeks. She is still a little on the modest and quiet side, but she has a habit of really opening up around me.
I continued on without incident and soon came to Sugarcube Corner. I was almost expecting Mitta to have ran on ahead and beaten me to it just so she could nibble on the architecture, but she was surprisingly nowhere to be seen. “Huh… Guess she finally got it through her skull that roof shingles are indigestible.” I could not help but speak with a smirk. Mitta really has developed quite the sweet tooth since arriving. At least now Pinkie Pie has a candy fiend to relate to now.
I pushed the front door open and found Mr. Cake standing at the counter while arranging the merchandise inside the glass display case that served as the counter itself. He looked up at the sound of the door swinging open and immediately looked at me. “Ah, welcome, James! What can I get you today?”
I replied, “I think I’ll have a blueberry muffin and one of those chocolate chip cupcakes.”
“Will do. Coming right up.” Mr. Cake replied before walking through the twin swinging doors to the kitchen. Moments later, the swinging doors opened. But to my surprise, it was not Mr. Cake who emerged, but Pinkie Pie.
“Morning, Pinkie!” I said with a wave. I suspect Pinkie Pie was not expecting to see me, since she jumped slightly and turned to face me with a surprisingly shocked expression.
“Huh?! James?! When did you get here?!” She asked, almost sounding like I really spooked her.
It was rather unusual for Pinkie Pie to be anything but happy to see the face of a good friend of hers. I thought maybe something bad had happened. “Are you OK? Did something happen?”
Pinkie Pie regained some of her composure and grinned, “Huh? Oh, I’m fine! I’m peachy keen! Or is it Pinkie keen?”
I frowned, “You sure? You seemed really freaked out a second ago.”
Pinkie giggled with a very nervous expression, “Oh, everything’s OK! I just didn’t expect to see you today!”
Before she could speak further, someone called from upstairs. I distinctly remember the voice sounding like Rarity. “Pinkie Pie, I seem to be having trouble remembering where you wanted me to hang these ribbons! Would you be a dear and show me again?”
My friend clearly seemed to become even more nervous from Rarity’s words. I raised an eyebrow, “Uh… Is something going on up there?”
Pinkie Pie began to fluster, “Oh, her?! Um... She was…uh… Juuuust looking for some diamonds she loaned me to practice decorating cakes with!”
I crossed my arms, not really buying her story at all. “And who exactly would even be able to eat such cakes?”
Pinkie Pie giggled, clearly beginning to sweat. “Spike, silly! He loves gemstones, and he likes cake! So why not combine the two into one awesome treat?!” She then reached under the counter and pulled up what seemed to be a photo, “See?! At his last birthday, Mr. and Mrs. Cake made this special sapphire-studded cupcake for him! Doesn’t it look amazing?”
I must confess that cupcake looked very appetizing. It was a cupcake with blue icing with shimmering chunks of sapphire sticking out of it like rock candy. Seeing this photo may as well have loaded my doubts onto a one-way rocket and just flew off to the moons of Jupiter because it was a very convincing tale. “You know, I just might try that sometime… Wait, then what does this have to do with the ribbons Rarity just asked?”
Pinkie Pie put down the photo and giggled, “Well…uh… Interesting story there. It all started with…” She then made a mad dash upstairs without looking back, causing the rocket containing my doubts to have engine trouble and not achieve liftoff. My apologies if that analogy was in poor taste.
Before I could think about it further, Mr. Cake came out of the kitchen with my order on a plastic tray. “Here you go, James. And they were just baked too.”
“Thanks, Mr. Cake.” I replied while reaching into my pocket for the payment.
However, he then shook his head. “Oh, don’t worry about the payment. It’s on the house today.”
I gave him a surprised glance, “Huh? Really?”
The yellow stallion nodded, “Absolutely. Go ahead, enjoy them.”
This day was starting to become a real oddity for me. First, I wake up to find Fluttershy having gone to the market only to discover she was never there, something suspicious is happening upstairs in Pinkie Pie’s loft, and now Mr. Cake was giving me my breakfast for free when I cannot recall the last time he ever gave out treats for free. “Is there some sort of catch?”
Mr. Cake chucked at my question, “Of course not! Go ahead and enjoy them!”
I shrugged and took the tray in hand. “OK. Thanks, boss.”
I took a seat at the closest table and started on the cupcake first. The vanilla buttercream went very well with the vanilla cake and chocolate chips baked inside, but I already went into that in an earlier entry, did I not? Anyway, I doubt it is interesting to read about how one enjoys eating a cupcake, so I will move on. Not to mention I did not have that much time to sit down and relax. I needed to get to work soon.
Once I had finished my cupcake, I left Sugarcube Corner and proceeded onward to the spa. Along the way, I was nibbling on my muffin while bits of sugar would occasionally fall from the top with every bite I took. The walk was uneventful, though I was keeping a constant eye out for any of my friends. I did find it odd that I had spoken to so few today.
I finally came to the spa and scarfed down the rest of my muffin before stepping inside. I found Lotus seated at the desk while looking over what seemed to be a list of reservations. “Morning, Lotus. I… Huh?” I noticed a pair of royal guards standing at the entrance to the main chamber. Each was of the pegasus variety. “Why do we have extra security today?”
Lotus smiled, “Good morning, Mr. James. Oh, and don’t mind the guards here. Though we do have a guest who wishes to have one of your luxurious massages today. Please head on in and tend to her when she comes to you.”
I nodded and headed on in and proceeded over to the massage tables. I then took a seat on one and glanced around, but was very surprised to see who our customer was. She was seated in the hot tub, that long gorgeous mane of hers completely soaked. She then turned to me and smiled, “Ah, just who I was hoping to see. How are you today, James?”
I was honestly flabbergasted to see just who my first massage of the day was going to. “Wha… Lady Celestia?”
The princess of the sun herself was sitting across from me in the hot tub. For whatever reason, her mane was no longer wavering and seemed to be ordinary hair. “Huh… And here I was thinking your hair did not have physical mass.”
Celestia chuckled and pushed her mane out to the side with one hoof, “Of course it has physical mass, James. Although you should see my mother after a bath. She always looks bald.”
I snickered, “What, is her mane and tail made of fire?”
Celestia smirked, “It may as well be. Father always teases her about that.”
It was then that a thought occurred to me. I have never once seen the king or queen of Equestria once in my life, nor have I ever seen any mention of them in even the most arcane records of Equestria’s history. “Celestia, I’m curious. Where are your mother and father? I’ve never even heard of them before.”
She sighed and looked towards an upper window, “They are out there somewhere, watching silently. They entrusted Equestria’s safety and rule to Luna and myself, but I know they are alive and well somewhere.”
I then asked, “You think I will ever meet them?”
Celestia smiled, “I honestly cannot say. I have not seen them in well over a thousand years. But maybe someday. Although I am sure that as long as Luna and I continue to guide Equestria properly, they may not deem a visit to be necessary.”
This honestly made her parents sound rather cold and distant. Or was there a deeper meaning behind them keeping their distance that was over my head? Regardless, Celestia did not seem bitter about them at all as she recounted her parents, so they were clearly on good terms with each other.
“Well, are you ready for your massage?” I asked, feeling now was a good time to change the subject.
Celestia responded by lifting her bare hoof out of the tub and examining it. “Hmm… I feel that if I spend much longer in here, my hooves will start to get pruney. Give me a minute and I will be right there.”
I watched with my arms crossed as Celestia made her way to the edge of the tub and began to climb out of it. But once she had emerged, her amazingly long mane was draped over her back and I was given a good view of her long watered down tail and hindquarters. With that gorgeous slender body combined with all that, I could not stop myself from muttering under my breath, “Hot...”
Celestia must have heard me since she turned her head to look at me and asked, “Hm? Did you say something?”
I instantly became flustered and replied, “Huh?! Oh, uh… Nope! I didn’t say anything!”
Celestia just stared at me for a moment before a whimsical smirk spread across her face. “If you say so.”
I felt intensely nervous at that look. Knowing just how impish she can be on occasion, I began to fear that she was going to have the guards just outside the room arrest me. However, she did nothing at first and wrapped her massive mane in a towel. She looked rather odd without all that hair trailing behind her. I could not help but ask, “Just how do you fit all that hair in there?”
Celestia chuckled, “I honestly have no clue, but I’m not complaining.” She then descended the steps beside the hot tub and began to canter on over to me.
I must have been nervous and possibly even blushing since Celestia was starting to give me a curious look that seemed to show she was studying me. Once she was standing right before me, the alicorn finally asked, “James, are you all right?”
I must admit it felt rather awkward to be standing before Celestia when she was not wearing anything at all. I had become so accustomed to seeing her wearing all that gold jewelry, seeing her without it was the equivalent of walking in on her when she was just stepping out of a shower. Or a hot tub, in this case. I replied, “Um... It just feels awkward when you’re…um…not wearing anything.”
Celestia surprised me with a laugh, “That’s all?! James, you flatter me. Don’t worry so much about that. I mean, honestly. Most ponies don’t wear anything most of the time to begin with.”
I brought a hand to my chin, “Huh… I guess that’s true.”
Celestia then smiled, “If you do not mind, may we get started?” She used the levitation spell to move a few pillows to one end of the massage table and relaxed her forelegs on them once she was resting on the table.
I was quite nervous, in all honesty. This would be my first time massaging someone from the royal family. I know Celestia is a very reasonable woman, but I was still worried what she might do if I displeased her. I decided to play it safe and start with a spot I knew I could not mess up on. “May I start with your wings?”
Celestia spread one of her large beautiful wings and looked at it, “You massage wings too?”
I placed my hands on the joint closest to her body and began to gently knead it with my fingers, “I do.”
I heard Celestia let out a sigh at my touch, “Mmm, that’s lovely. I never knew just how tense my wings are.”
I nodded, “Actually, they’re not that bad. I’ve massaged wings before and yours don’t feel that tense. But then again, I’ve never massaged an alicorn’s wings before, so maybe they are and I just can’t tell.”
Celestia replied, “Well, that feels great either way. Please keep it up.”
I spent the average three minutes on each joint. Despite their size, I found that an alicorn’s wings are not that different from those of the average pegasus.
Once I finished with Celestia’s right wing, I walked over to the other side of the table. “Other wing, please.” Celestia folded her right wing and extended her left. She was deathly quiet throughout the massage, though she would often sigh in pleasure.
Since I am aware just how long a massage takes, I will not bother writing down the process of it anymore. Although I was quick to notice that Celestia has a few more vertebrae than the average pony. Probably due to her greater height. I did not mind it so much, since the mass of muscle in her body felt somewhere between unicorn and pegasus capacity and I know how I have explained just how burly earth ponies are.
Once I had finished with the joints on Celestia’s body and forelegs, I turned around while straddling her and faced her hindquarters. Looking down at her flanks, I noticed her two large sun cutie marks. “Uh… Celestia? Are your cutie marks…sensitive in any way?”
Celestia looked over her shoulder at me and replied, “Sensitive? Um… Not that I know of.”
I smiled, “Oh, OK. Just making sure.” However, as soon as I dug my fingertips into her flanks and cutie marks, Celestia let out a loud gasp and shuddered under me.
“Wha… What was that?!” She exclaimed, looking back at me.
I instantly tensed up, my body temperature skyrocketing as hot sweat began to ooze from my pores. “Uh… Did I do something wrong?”
Celestia asked, “That was my cutie mark, wasn’t it?” I nodded silently. “Is that what you meant by sensitive?” I nodded again. “Well, that was new. I never knew a cutie mark could do that.”
I groaned, “You have no idea how many ponies come in who have that problem. And they usually don’t know it until they find out the hard way!”
Celestia chuckled, “Oh my, that must be so embarrassing for you. Well, now I know what you mean by sensitive. Just go around them please.”
I nodded, “OK.” That was a close call. I was honestly afraid she would have thrown me in the dungeon for touching her there.
Once I had finished with the ankles and knees of Celestia’s hind legs, I breathed a sigh of relief. “There. All done, your highness.” I then climbed down from the table so Celestia could stand up.
Celestia slowly stood up and hopped down from the massage table before flexing that gorgeous slender… My god, I could not help getting a little hot and bothered from just watching. “Mmmm, my goodness, I feel great! I was sure you would do a good job, just not this good!”
I smiled as innocently as I could, but blushed again when I watched her gorgeous mane unfurl like a flag, once again returning to its naturally billowing form. Celestia seemed to notice and asked, “James, are you well? You seem to have a fever, judging by that red face of yours.”
I waved my hand at her, “Oh, it’s nothing. I swear I feel fine.”
I could tell Celestia was not convinced. She frowned and asked, “James, you can tell me what’s wrong. I’m really starting to become concerned for you.”
I sighed, knowing that she probably would not leave me alone until I confessed. “OK, I’ll talk. But promise me you will not slap me or anything like that.”
Celestia nodded, “You have my word. Now then, what seems to be troubling you?”
I took a deep breath before speaking, “It’s just… You’re hot. Ungodly hot.”
I was expecting Celestia to be genuinely offended by my words. I mean how often does a princess get called ‘hot’ by one of her subjects? She stared at me with a blank expression for a moment, her eyes just focused on me. However, she then burst into laughter. “That’s all?!”
I asked, as bewildered as I could possibly get. “You mean…it doesn’t offend you?”
Celestia calmed herself down and chuckled, “You would not be the first. I cannot tell you how many suitors I have received over the centuries.”
I replied with a bemused expression, “Seriously? Uh…how many did you…”
Celestia shook her head and smiled, “None. Duty comes before pleasure, after all. I have no time for romance unless the man is capable of ruling alongside me.”
This thoroughly surprised me. To think that Celestia would put her role as one of Equestria’s rulers before any personal pleasure. I honestly always thought that she was remarkably free-spirited for a princess, but she actually seems to be a very responsible ruler.
However, Celestia then smiled, “Although, I will give you one thing. You are the first human to ever compliment me like that.”
I think I may have blushed at those words. “I am?”
She then whispered, “Yes. You know that humans have lived in Equestria before. It’s just that none of them came to view me quite like that.”
I shrugged my shoulders, “I don’t see why they wouldn’t. You’re arguably the most beautiful pony to ever exist.”
Celestia chuckled, “Yes, some have told me that. I even modeled for a single issue of Playcolt once.” She then rolled her eyes, “Although…that did generate quite a scandal in the process.”
I shook my head and chuckled, “I can imagine… Doing that is very adventurous for a princess.” I then glanced at the clock and found that the time was just past noon. “Actually, I really should be getting to my lunch break now. Can we talk later?”
Celestia then glanced at the clock too and asked, “Actually, may I join you?”
This request surprised me. “You sure? I was going to the local café. I’m sure they don’t have anything overly fancy that you might like.”
The alicorn smiled, “James, just because I live in Canterlot does not mean I have a taste restricted to upper class cuisine. My tastes are quite well rounded.”
I was honestly surprised to hear this and rethought my response. “Well… OK. I’d be glad to have you along.”
Celestia beamed, “Excellent. Just give me a moment.” I watched as she went over to a corner that seemed to have her shoes, necklace, and crown resting by it. She stepped into each of her shoes before sliding her gold necklace over her head…or is it a collar? It is far too broad to be a traditional necklace… Well, regardless, she then placed her crown atop her head just behind her horn. She then looked my way and smiled, “Shall we?”
I replied, “After you, your highness.” While she went ahead, I reached into a cabinet that was installed under the counter right next to the massage tables. Inside were a few magazines and a notebook I had stashed in there. Taking an ink quill in hand that was also kept inside, I added to a list of over three dozen names. “Princess Celestia…” In case you have not figured it out by now, it is a list of ponies I keep on hand so I do not forget who have sensitive cutie marks.
When we entered the lobby, the two guards I had seen before followed Celestia’s every move without saying a word while keeping their constant display of serious silence up. Celestia turned to face the receptionist desk, where Aloe was now seated. “Everything was delightful, Miss Aloe. Although, if it is not too much to ask, I wish to accompany James on his lunch break.”
I stepped out into view so Aloe could see me. “Is that OK?”
Aloe smiled, “Of course! Just please be back no later than an hour.”
Celestia nodded, “Many thanks, Miss Aloe. James, this way.” I waved goodbye to my employer and followed Celestia and her guards out the door.
As we walked along, I noticed that the two guards were staying at my sides constantly while I followed behind Celestia. I tried to move out from behind her so I could walk beside her, but the two armored pegasi used their bodies to keep me boxed in. Was it simply because of standard protocol to keep peasants from placing themselves alongside royalty? Regardless, Celestia seemed to notice this right away and spoke with a displeased expression, “Guards. Please do not restrict James’ movement.”
The guards seemed rather surprised, their stone-faced expressions changing briefly while one replied in a deep gruff voice, “Uh… Yes, your highness.” They regained their composure immediately afterward, but did not respond to any of my movements. I sped up my pace until I was walking alongside the beautiful princess.
Celestia looked to her left, her face parallel to my own. “I apologize for the strictness of my guards. Despite my efforts to encourage them to relax and not be so stern, they have a habit of taking their roles very seriously.”
I nodded with a smile, “It’s OK. I honestly don’t blame them for being so protective. It would be a shame if something awful happened to someone as sweet and caring as you.”
Celestia seemed to blush ever so slightly at my words and smiled sincerely. “James, you are such a sweetheart. And thank you.”
As we walked, Celestia asked, “So, where would you recommend we stop for lunch?”
I replied, “The local café is my usual lunch spot. Great service and a good selection.”
Celestia smiled at me, “Then let’s head over there, shall we?” I nodded and led the way with the two royal guards in tow.
The walk to the café was fairly uneventful; although I noticed quite a few ponies were bowing as we passed by. Surely they were bowing out of respect to their princess. Although I also noticed several ponies whispering to each other while eyeing us. “Uh…Celestia? What do you think is up with them?”
The alicorn princess glanced over at a couple and seemed to frown unsmilingly at them. “Oh dear… I suspect they may be gossiping over why I have the only human in Equestria in my company and no one else. Ugh, this happens every time I am seen with a single man.”
I snickered, “Only you don’t have those kinds of feelings for me, do you?”
Celestia chuckled, “Oh, James. Granted, you are very sweet, but I am sorry to say that I simply have no time for romance. Not to mention I do not know you nearly well enough to even consider courting you.” In all honesty, that kind of hurt. Probably because of just how gorgeous she is. However, she then muttered, “Besides, Nightmare Moon would be rather cross with me if that ever happened.”
I raised an eyebrow and asked, “What about Nightmare Moon?”
Celestia suddenly glanced at me and grinned nervously, “Oh?! You weren’t meant to hear that! Uh… Just forget I said anything.”
I gave her a bemused glance, “OoooK? If you say so.”
We finally came to the café and found that most of the tables were open. However, as we approached a table, the waiter approached her. “Ah, your majesty! Welcome! Right zis way.” He then led us to an empty table and swept away one of the piles of hay situated around it with his hoof before setting down a fancy purple pillow with shiny gold threads around the seams in its place.
Celestia smiled, “Thank you. Although could you please fetch one for my friend here too?” She motioned her hoof towards me as she spoke.
The waiter stared at me with a rather surprised expression before looking back at Celestia out of the corner of his eye. “Erm… Yes, your highness.” He then hurried inside the café while Celestia took a seat on her pillow.
I asked while trying to not laugh, “Did you see that look he gave us?”
Celestia rolled her eyes and sighed, “Yes, I did. I’ll tell you right now that there are times where being a princess can be a pain in the royal tush.”
For whatever reason, I had to catch myself from laughing at those words. “Um… No disrespect, Celestia. But…did you mean to use ‘royal tush’ in that sentence?”
She gave me an awkward smile, “I honestly could not think of a wittier response, so yes.”
Moments later, the waiter returned and placed a pillow identical to the one Celestia was sitting on beside the table across from her and left a pair of menus for us before heading over to a distant table to speak to a young couple.
I took a seat on the pillow, but would have preferred a stool since now the table was a bit too high for my liking. Regardless, I took my menu in hand and began to look through it. However, I was quick to notice each of the guards standing at each side of the table. They had their heads held high with a familiar dull expression, as if they were dismissively keeping a constant vigil.
I finally asked, “Uh… Guard?”
The royal guard on my right seemed to act as if he did not hear me at all. Glancing back over at Celestia, I saw that she had her menu open and was holding it aloft with a levitation spell, the menu and her horn being engulfed in a billowing golden yellow aura. She then lowered it slightly and directed her gaze towards me without saying a word.
The two of us shared a brief stare before I glanced over at the guard to my right. Starting to feel a bit impish, I glanced back at Celestia with a whimsical smirk. She seemed to know exactly what I was thinking because she too was giving me a delighted smirk as if to say ‘Go for it’. I then looked over at the guard and spoke, “Excuse me, sir. You seem to have a spider crawling up the back of your helmet.”
Man, those guards are trained well. He did not respond to my claim at all. I added, “It’s very small… I think I see a red hourglass symbol… Whoa, that’s a black widow. Very strong venom. You better get rid of it.”
The guard still remained completely calm, his expression remaining the same. I then noticed what seemed to be a tiny plume of pebbles, probably more like sand, levitating behind the guard’s head with a familiar yellow aura around it. I glanced over at Celestia, who gave me a wink. I then sighed, “OK, you’re right. It’s not a spider.” I then picked up my menu and began to look through it again. “It’s just a large scorpion.”
At my words, the plume of sand began to lightly rub against the back of the guard’s helmet, probably to simulate the light footsteps of a scorpion climbing up it. Sure enough, that did it. The guard’s wings sprang open as his expression became one of fright. He threw his head back a few times while letting out a few startled shouts, eventually flinging his helmet off. He turned and faced his discarded helmet while Celestia and I burst into laughter. It did not take him long to realize that we had pranked him together, his gaze becoming one of silent irritation. The other guard to my left merely rolled his eyes at us. Now that I had a good look at the guard without his helmet, I saw that his blue mane was combed down.
Celestia stopped laughing and spoke, “Guards, please relax. This is a safe town. Not to mention I am more than capable of protecting myself.”
The guard I had just pranked sighed, “Yes, your highness.” He and the other guard then returned to their positions once he had retrieved his helmet, but then sat down at the table instead of standing up like before.
I looked at the guard I had pranked and asked, “So…uh…how is Shining Armor and Estoc doing?”
The guard replied in his deep gruff voice, “The captain and sergeant are doing well.”
The other guard replied in a slightly higher pitch, “We have a few new recruits now, so they are at work training them.”
The waiter then returned and asked, “Have you made your decision?”
I looked towards the guards and asked, “Do you want anything?” I then turned my menu to the one on my right.
“Uh… I’ll…” The guard seemed rather flustered, apparently due to never ordering lunch while on duty. “I… I’ll have the sub sandwich.”
The guard on my left nodded, “I will have the same.”
I then looked at the menu again and replied, “The seafood and vegetable pasta with a small house salad with French dressing, please.”
Celestia then spoke, “I would love the same as him, only hold the seafood, please. And a slice of your finest cake on the side. And we would all like sarsaparilla for drinks.” The waiter nodded silently before gathering up the menus and entering the café.
As I thought back to Celestia’s order of cake… Oh lord, I knew this was going to be corny, but I had to say it. “You ordered some cake, Celestia?”
The alicorn princess nodded, “Yes, I’ve always had a fondness for cake.”
I then smirked, “Make sure you save some for Companion Cube. He loves cake too.”
The two guards looked at me with bewildered expressions, as did Celestia. She then replied with an awkward smile, “Well… I can’t say I know of a pony named Companion Cube. But if I ever meet him, I will be certain to treat him to cake.” I chuckled as I saw my joke was wasted on them. It made sense that she thought Companion Cube is a pony since most ponies have two words in their names. Twilight Sparkle, Rainbow Dash, Nightmare Moon, Shining Armor, to name a few. Who knows? Maybe there really is a pony somewhere in Equestria with the name ‘Companion Cube’.
I then faced the guard on my left and asked, “So…uh… Has anything come up in Canterlot over the last few days?”
He replied, “Altercations are rare in Canterlot. More often than not, we get called to break up arguments between bickering couples.”
I rolled my eyes, “Splendid… And you would think that those hoity toity buffoons would put themselves above petty bickering.” At times over the last several months, I have met a few Canterlot ponies while visiting Rarity. And I can say that they are partially why I have no desire to live there. Their lack of respect for those living in more modest societies and laughably shallow morals absolutely disgusts me. I will never understand what Rarity sees in people like that and why she used to be so enthralled with the idea of living among them. The idea of living in glamour I can understand, but having to put up with them in the process? I fail to see the logic in that. Even their laughter sounds shallow and fake! …….I am going far off topic here. Forgive me.
Celestia nodded at my words and spoke a very surprising response. “It is a most regrettable grievance of Canterlot. I have been trying to find a way to educate them to understand the finer things in life that you simply cannot acquire with money, but it is difficult when I have to tend to all of Equestria’s interests.”
I sighed, “Nothing short of a volcanic eruption will teach them what it’s like to live with less than us… Not that I want it to happen, but…”
The guard on my right frowned, “We understand, sir. And it is frustrating when those of us from humbler towns have to serve and protect those who look down on our kind.”
I looked at the guard to my right and asked, “Guard… May I ask your name?”
The guard turned his gaze towards me and stared for a moment before cracking a slight smile. “It is Fuller, sir.” For those who do not know, a fuller is the central segment of a sword’s blade that runs up from the center of the crossguard.
I smiled, “A pleasure to meet you, Sir Fuller.”
He cracked a more awkward smile, “I have not been knighted, sir. Few ponies carry that honor.”
I averted my eyes, feeling a little silly from misjudging the pegasus guard. “Yes, sorry. I keep forgetting that.” I then turned my gaze to the guard on my left, “And you?”
He replied, “Lance, sir.”
I then asked, “Judging by your names… You wield a spear…” I then turned my head to Fuller, “And you use a sword?”
Lance nodded, “You are correct, sir.”
Fuller then asked, “You use a sword too, do you not?”
I nodded, “Yeah. I’ve always had a fascination with swordplay for ages, so it was a real treat to actually use one for real recently…” I then frowned, “Though I can’t say it feels good to strike someone with it.”
Lance then spoke, “We never fight to harm. We always fight to protect.”
Fuller then added, “You should do the same, sir.”
I sighed, “I know… It’s just… It’s awkward when you are fascinated by swordplay, but hate hurting others, you know?”
Celestia spoke, “You are enthralled by the thought of being a valiant defender who protects those he holds dear, aren’t you?”
I bowed my head, smiling slightly, “Yeah, I guess that’s it.”
Fuller spoke, “The captain was the same way. He joined the royal guards because he was always fascinated by old folklore depicting bold knights who protect their homeland. At least that is what I heard.”
I smiled faintly, “Heh… I can relate. I remember the days when I thought the only way you could attack with a sword was by making a straight stab or an overhead swing.”
Lance chuckled, “Kids don’t grasp the versatility of swordplay.”
At last, the waiter returned with a tray on his head carrying our orders. “Let me help you with that.” Celestia spoke as the plates and bottles levitated off of the tray and landed on our table as lightly as songbirds. The waiter then bowed before carrying the tray back indoors.
Fuller spoke, “That…actually looks very appetizing, sir.” His eyes were directed at my order, an appetizing aroma rising from the OBG sauce.
“It is. Though I’m not sure you ponies have a taste for seafood.” I replied with a smile while moving my salad closer.
Celestia moved her plate of pasta closer to herself before using a fork to twirl up the linguine for easier consumption. She made certain to get some bits of spinach, tomato, and broccoli in it too. The three of us watched in silence while Celestia took that first bite. She chewed, making no sudden motions. But she soon swallowed and looked at me. “Mm! Delicious! And you get this often?”
I replied, “Usually. I just stick with what I like. Though I do try new things at times.”
The four of us began to eat our orders without much conversation, the two guards eating their sandwiches by pinning them between their hooves and lifting them to their mouths. Celestia was taking her time, delicately twirling her pasta while making certain to catch some of the veggies in each bite. I was especially drawn to the slice of cake she had ordered. It was a delectable strawberry shortcake slice. I have tasted strawberry shortcake rolls before, so I assumed it tasted the same.
My pasta tasted just as good as always, the seafood blending well with the sauce and veggies mixed in. The two guards seemed pleased with their meals as well, their faces showing slight smiles every time they took a bite of their sandwiches. Before long, the two guards and I had finished our meals. However, Celestia had only just started on her dessert. She seemed to be quite enthralled with it, as if she has a possible addiction to cake. It looked so good; I could not help but want a slice of my own. As soon as the waiter passed by again, I flagged him down and whispered for him to bring me a slice too.
A minute later, the waiter silently placed a slice of strawberry shortcake on the table before me. Celestia was only half done by then, so I had plenty of time to finish mine. I cut a piece off with my fork and took a bite. “Mmmm…” That was all I could say. It was that tasty. But then again, I have always been a sucker for strawberry treats, so what can I say?
Celestia and I finished our cake at roughly the same time to the point that we set our forks down at the same moment. “Couldn’t resist, hm?” She asked with a smirk.
I replied with a satisfied sigh, “Nope. That slice of cake you were digging into looked so tasty, I just had to try it myself.”
Celestia smiled, “And it was delectable. You made a good choice.”
Since we could not leave until the waiter returned with our bill, I tried to ask Celestia a few things while we waited. After making certain no one was within earshot, I asked, “So… Celestia? How has Nightmare Moon been doing?”
She replied, “Very well, actually. She has completely recovered from that night a few weeks back. And she looks stunning without those bandages covering her form.”
I felt a slight sting in my heart from hearing about that night again. “Any scarring?”
Celestia shook her head, “None. She looks spotless. I made sure she got the best medical attention as possible. And she won’t stop talking about you. I can’t go through a single conversation with her without your name being brought up. She really misses you.”
I felt extremely flattered to know that my newest and quite possibly most precious friend was keeping her memories of me so close to her. I then asked, “What about Luna?”
The alicorn princess replied, “She has been doing well also. She and Nightmare Moon really seem to get along. They have even developed a special routine whenever they bring out the night. Have you noticed lately that your dreams may have been more pleasant than usual?”
I shrugged my shoulders, “I honestly couldn’t tell you. It’s hard to remember most dreams after you spend an hour awake.”
Celestia chuckled heartily, “Oh, I know what you mean. But anyway, whenever Luna brings out the night, Nightmare Moon casts a unique type of magic herself that spreads over Equestria, bringing sweet slumber and pleasant dreams to all.”
I smiled at those words. “Huh… That actually makes sense since ‘Nightmare’ is a type of dream. So… Does this make Nightmare Moon the princess of dreams?”
Celestia nodded, “I suppose you could say that.”
Before we could speak anymore, the waiter came back and placed the slip of paper on the table showing the cost for our meal before moving over to another table. I reached into my pocket to pull out some bits for my portion of the meal, but Celestia then spoke up. “Don’t worry, James. I’ll take care of it this time.” In a flash, an elegant purple and gold purse appeared on the table before her.
“Are you sure? I don’t mind paying for my share.” I replied, my hand still in my pocket.
Celestia looked my way as a surprisingly large about of bits floated out of the purse while surrounded by a billowing golden aura. “It’s all right, James. Besides, I’m sure I have much more income than you do.” I averted my gaze with a bemused smile while trying to not snicker at those words. I could only imagine how much currency someone from the royal family gets every month.
I tried to look away from the pile of bits on the table to avoid feeling any jealousy towards Celestia. She and her guards stepped away from the table while I followed her. We engaged in idle chitchat while on our way back to the spa. Once we got there, Celestia smiled, “It was good seeing you again, James. But I need to see the mayor very soon.” She glanced over at the town hall, which was right across from the spa.
I nodded, “Likewise, Celestia… Um…” I wanted to reach out and give her a hug to say goodbye, but I was not sure if it would be a good idea with her being royalty and that I simply do not have the same kind of bond with her as I do with Luna or Nightmare Moon.
Celestia seemed to notice my uncertainty and asked, “James? Is something troubling you?”
I replied, “Um… Permission to hug you before we part ways?”
Celestia gave me a blank stare for a moment before chuckling, “That’s all?!” She then stepped forward and rested her head on my right shoulder with an equine hug. “Permission not needed.”
I could not help cracking a smile at this. I gently wrapped my arms around her neck. I heard her mutter, “You really are very sweet, James.”
I sighed as I held the beautiful princess against me, “I try to be.”
After a moment, I released my grasp on her while Celestia lifted her head away from me. She smiled at me, “I know you and I don’t see each other very often, but I do hope we can become good friends over time, James.”
I nodded with a smile, “That sounds nice. And please say hi to Luna and Nightmare Moon for me when you get back home.” I then looked down at Fuller and Lance. “Please give my best to Shining Armor and Estoc.”
The two royal guards each gave me a salute. “We shall, sir.” Lance spoke first.
“Take care, sir.” Fuller spoke briskly.
As I turned to go back inside the spa, Celestia spoke up from behind me. “Don’t worry about Nightmare Moon and Luna. I have a hunch that you will be seeing them again very soon.” I looked over my shoulder to see Celestia smirking playfully at me.
“Uh… If you say so. I really should be getting back to work though. Let’s chat again soon, OK?” I spoke while waving goodbye.
Celestia nodded with a smile, “Definitely. Take care, James.” I then ducked through the doorway and found myself back inside the spa’s lobby.
Lotus was seated at the front desk and greeted me with a smile. “Welcome back, James. We have a couple of customers inside right now and both want massages.”
I nodded, “I’ll get right on it.” I then walked inside the main chamber and returned to my workstation. I noticed a pair of ponies on my way in who seemed to be in the process of getting facials with one of them getting a cornicure, Aloe hard at work rubbing a file on the horn. I peeked past the hot tub to get a better look at them. Both were mares, but then again most of the ponies who visit the spa are mares. Since their faces were covered by that weird green facial cream and cucumber slices and their bodies were mostly covered by bathrobes with their manes wrapped up in towels, I had to rely on their cutie marks for identification.
The unicorn was easy to recognize. A harp cutie mark. “Well, there’s Lyra. But… Who’s that?” The other pony seemed to be a…well, either an earth pony or pegasus. I could not tell because the robe would be covering her wings if she had any. But from the little bit of her coat I could see on her flank, I saw that she was a vibrant yellow with a fiery orange tail that seemed to have two different hues to it. It was also styled in a very windswept manner. For whatever reason, I felt I had seen that pony somewhere before.
I decided to take a closer look at the pony and walked over to the two customers as quietly as I could. They naturally could not see me with the cucumber slices over their eyes and did not respond to my presence at all. Aloe glanced up at me as I drew near, but I held a finger over my mouth to signal her to not speak. She seemed to understand what I was trying to get across to her and returned her gaze to the file being held in her mouth.
I silently walked up beside the pony I did not recognize and took a look at her cutie mark. From what I could see… Well… Actually, describing her cutie mark is a challenge for me. It seemed to depict a bird in flight with its wing raised as if about to flap it downwards. Only it seemed that the bird was made entirely out of licks of flames. I could not possibly guess who this woman was, so I decided to leave her be and returned to my post.
I went looking through a random magazine from my stash while waiting for my next customer to come my way. In several minutes, the pony I did not recognize was being led towards me by Aloe. “Right this way. Your masseuse is ready for you.”
The pony then spoke up in a voice that seemed vaguely familiar to me. “Sweet. My wings could really use it.”
Well, that confirmed that she was a pegasus. But where did I hear that voice before? When the pony was standing right in front of me, I asked, “Excuse me, but have we met?”
The pony’s mouth dropped open a bit before replying, “Huh? I swear I know your voice…” She then suddenly raised a hoof, “Ooh! I know you! I…uh…uh… OK, no I don’t.” I could not help snickering at her losing track of her thoughts.
The pony then looked towards Aloe, apparently knowing which direction she was in. “Aloe, would you mind getting this stuff off my face? I think half an hour’s long enough.”
Aloe nodded, “Just a moment, please.” She then placed a towel over her roof and began to rub the cream off of her face.
When the pony’s yellow face became bare of cream, she opened her big amber eyes. Her expression changed to one of delight as she looked up at me. “Oh, hey! James! How’s it flying?”
I crossed my arms while looking down at her, “I feel like I know you from somewhere myself…”
The pegasus mare chuckled, “Oh, it’s because of all these clothes covering me, isn’t it? Hang on a sec!” She then twirled herself, somehow flinging every bit of fabric off her body. Her mane unfurled, displaying a wild windswept look that matched her tail’s colors. Now that her body was bare, she flashed a wink at me. “So, am I ringing any bells yet?”
I was genuinely surprised to see who was standing before me. “Wha… Captain?!”
She replied with a chuckle, “No need to use honorifics. Just Spitfire will do.”
I then smiled, “Well… What brings you all the way out here from Cloudsdale?”
She grinned, “What else? I have the day off and I heard there’s an awesome masseuse working here that does things differently than most ponies. So I flew down here to see for myself and… Don’t tell me YOU are the guy?!”
I nodded with a smile, “I am. I don’t use hooves to massage with. I use my fingers.”
She took a closer look at my hands. “Hmm… You’ve got some nice hands. Very smooth and tender, from the looks of it.”
I chuckled, “Yeah, I try to keep them from getting roughed up.”
She then flashed me a smile and hopped up onto the massage table before lying down with her forelegs and chin resting on a few pillows. “In that case, wanna show me how they work?”
I nodded, “Gladly. Shall we start with your wings?”
Spitfire looked very surprised at my words. “Huh? My wings? You can do that?”
I was not surprised. I suppose it is nearly impossible to massage wings with hooves. “I don’t massage muscles very much. I specialize in massaging joints.”
The Wonderbolt captain smiled a bit nervously, “Huh… I see. Well, I’ve never had a wing massaged before.” She then extended her right wing towards me. “Knock yourself out, James.”
I felt along her wing, trying to find the first joint. “Ooh… That feels nice. Where are you gonna… Oh! There! Right there!” She nearly squealed in pleasure as I began to massage the joint in her wing.
“Easy there, captain. When was the last time you ever had your wings massaged?” I asked, a bit startled by that sudden outburst.
Spitfire sighed, “Mmmm… Would you believe me if I said never?”
I cracked an awkward smile at that response. “Man… Years of use and no relief? No wonder these feel so tense.”
Spitfire began to mutter while keeping her eyes closed, “Mm, yeah, that’s the spot… A little more… Oh man, I really needed that… A bit lower… Ooh, right there…” Man, she was really getting into this. It almost felt awkward with her constantly muttering in pleasure like that.
Looking at her then, I realized this was the first time I had ever seen Spitfire out of uniform. Looking her bare body over then, that wild unkempt mane and tail of fiery orange drew my attention. I must confess that Spitfire exudes a type of bold untamed beauty that I had only seen in Rainbow Dash. Perhaps even more so. She is a very attractive woman with a very warm personality, but also oozes an authoritative air about her. I suppose that would make sense since she commands an entire flight team.
Once I finished with the first joint, I moved onto the second. “Huh? Why did you… Oh man! There!” I grinned in suppressed laughter as Spitfire became engulfed in more intense relief when my fingers dug into the next joint in her wing.
“You’ve been pent up lately, huh?” I asked with a smirk.
“Mmmm… Yeah… Can’t remember the last time I felt this relaxed. I think I’ll take a nice long nap when I get home after this.” She replied, sighing in pleasure.
Once again, she would not stop muttering her approval of my touch. It was actually becoming hilarious how she simply would not shut up. But after three minutes, I let go of her wing. She immediately noticed and pouted at me. “Oh, come on! Why’d you stop?!”
I pointed to her left, “It’s time for your other wing.”
Spitfire glanced at her left wing as it extended. “Ooooh. OK then.” She regained her smile while I walked to the other side of the table and once again applied my fingers to her joint. “Oh yeah, there! Just like before…”
I chuckled, “Do you ever shut up?”
Spitfire smiled, “You’d have a hard time keeping your mouth shut if you were feeling this kind of… Ooh! That really hit the spot right there!”
“I’ll take that as a no.” I muttered with a smirk. Once again, it turned into another three minutes of constant muttering from Spitfire, then a brief respite, and then another three minutes when I moved on to her next joint. It was like clockwork.
“Oh, come on. Did you have to stop?” Spitfire asked as I finished massaging her left wing.
I replied while rubbing my hands to keep them flexible and ready, “Three minutes per joint. That’s how it works.”
Spitfire then let out a yawn as she flexed both wings at once. “Well… At least they feel better. Mmmm… Yeah, MUCH better.”
I nodded, “They did feel unusually tense. But now it’s time for the rest of you. Please fold your wings and I’ll get started.” Spitfire did as she was told, allowing me to get above her before straddling her body. “OK. Just relax.”
I heard Spitfire let out a sigh as she went limp under me. As usual, I started on her neck. I was relieved that she was a pegasus since they have the least muscle mass out of the four types of ponies. This left little resistance in the way of my reach.
Spitfire sighed, “Oh man… I didn’t know it would feel this good…”
I asked, “Am I doing OK?”
She chuckled lightly, “More than OK. You’re doing awesome.”
“Glad you like it.” I spoke softly, going from joint to joint with every three minutes. Of course, I made sure to ask her before starting on her flanks. “Spitfire, are your cutie marks sensitive in any way?”
She looked over her shoulder with a somewhat groggy expression. I suspect she was about to fall asleep from how relaxed she was becoming. “Huh? Sensitive? You mean…like a pleasure point?”
I sighed with a grin, “Finally! Someone who actually knows what I mean!”
Spitfire chuckled, “What, do they not understand what you mean and always find out the hard way? Anyway, mine don’t work like that. Massage them all you want.” I was honestly relieved to hear that. Without waiting any longer, I began to dig my fingers into her flanks.
Once I had finished with the knees and ankles of her hind legs, I slowly climbed down from the table. “How’d I do… Spitfire?” I found that the pegasus mare had completely fallen asleep on the table. Light snoring came from her as she just rested there with her head resting on her forelegs.
“Dang… Am I really THAT good?” I asked, not really talking to anyone in general.
“I’d say you are.” A voice replied from the direction of the hot tub. I glanced up and found Lyra looking at me.
“Uh… I didn’t mean for anyone to hear that.” I replied, feeling embarrassed that she had just overheard me talking to myself.
Lyra grinned, “Yeah, you looked pretty absorbed with the massage. I’m surprised you didn’t hear me get in the tub.” By then, she had removed the cream from her face, the robe from her body, and the towel from her mane.
I nodded while looking down at Spitfire, “Yeah, she really seemed tense. It must be tiring leading the Wonderbolts all the time.”
When I looked back at Spitfire, I eyed her wings. They were still spread, but were now drooping down the sides of the table. “Oh… Why not?” I muttered before lifting one and beginning to massage the joints again.
Lyra giggled, “I’ll bet she’s gonna like that when she wakes up.”
“If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the last several months, it’s that pegasi wings tend to get pretty tense over time since nopony can massage them very well with hooves. Especially when it comes to those who have a bad habit of staying airborne at all times.” I replied while rubbing Spitfire’s right wing joints.
“Does Rainbow Dash have that problem?” Lyra asked while looking at me over the edge of the hot tub.
I tried to be witty and replied, “She spends 90% of her time flying when she is awake. What does that tell you about her wings’ condition?” Lyra gave a hearty chuckle at my response.
I looked down at Spitfire as she slept just after I finished massaging her wing’s first joint. She looked so at peace, just sleeping there without a care in the world. Before I even knew what I was doing, I was running my fingers through her fiery orange mane. Lyra seemed to notice and asked, “You two good friends?”
I looked back up at her and smiled, “Well, I’ve only met her twice before. Once at the Grand Galloping Gala and the second time a few weeks ago. She taught me everything I know about flying, so I guess we did bond a bit.”
Lyra cocked her head to one side and asked, “You can fly?”
I averted my eyes for a moment before replying, “Uh… It’s a long story.”
I continued to massage Spitfire’s wings, one joint at a time. “She’ll be feeling extra limber when she wakes up.”
Lyra then asked, “Now that you’re done with her, mind if I come on down?”
I replied, “Just a minute.” I then stepped forward and sank my hand in the hot tub. “Don’t want these to be sore in any way when I start.”
Lyra smiled, “Good idea. I don’t like the feel of cold fingers myself.”
After no more than five minutes, I removed my hands from the water. Thanks to the heat, they seemed a bit more red than usual. “OK, I’m all set.”
Lyra then made her way to the tub’s edge and climbed out before shaking herself dry. “Me too!”
I took a seat by an empty massage table and watched as Lyra approached me. She then hopped up onto the table and turned around. “Hang on a minute.” I asked while I pulled out the sheet of paper containing the list of names of ponies with sensitive cutie marks. Sure enough, Lyra’s name was on the list. However, I had added an extra two words next to her name.
“So, you are ticklish and musical, if I recall.” I spoke while placing the list of names back into the cabinet next to the massage tables.
“Huh? Ticklish and musical in what way?” Lyra asked, apparently not remembering the last time I gave her a massage.
“Oh, nothing. Forget I said anything. Now, please relax.” I replied while climbing onto the table and straddling her. I then dug my fingers into the back of her neck while she went limp under me.
Nothing of importance happened over the course of the massage. But when I turned around to massage her flanks, a smirk crawled across my face. While massaging Lyra last month, I got a little curious and made an interesting discovery about her. My hands then gripped her flanks and began to massage them. But after a moment, I moved one finger over her lyre cutie mark and flicked my fingertip over one of its strings.
“Eek! What was that?!” Lyra yelped while looking back at me.
I replied while ‘strumming’ her strings again, “Oh, just tweaking your Heartstrings, if you know what I mean.” With every flick of the strings on her cutie mark, a delightful hum would arise from it as if I was strumming a real harp.
Lyra began to giggle, “Heehee... St… Stop that! That... I’m ticklish like that! Hahahaaa!”
After strumming a short tune out of her cutie mark, I decided to stop. “Sorry, I just can’t help myself whenever I get that chance. Are you OK though?”
Lyra breathed a sigh of relief and wiped some tears from her eyes, “Hoo… That gets me every time. How’d you know I was ticklish like that?”
I smirked while massaging her flanks again, “I wrote your name down.” Lyra chuckled at my response.
A short while passed before I finished massaging Lyra’s hind legs and dismounted her and hopped down from the table. “All done. How’re you feeling?”
Lyra slowly climbed to her feet and flexed her body. “Mmm… Much better! Thanks!”
I then asked, “Is there anything else I can get you?”
Lyra shook her head, “Nah, I’m good. I gotta get going though. I need to attend a party today, and I don’t want to be late. But I’m sure I’ll see you again today.” She then stood up and embraced me with her forelegs.
I hugged her back and smiled, “OK. Have a good time, Lyra. I’ll see you later.” We then said our goodbyes before she trotted out to the lobby, leaving me with the sleeping Spitfire.
I looked down at the dozing pegasus and sighed, “Come on, captain. You’ve been out for over an hour. Don’t you think you should be getting up by now?”
The Wonderbolt captain did not respond to my words at all. She was still dead asleep. I then tried to wake her as gently as possible. I dipped my hand in the hot tub again and then dangled it over her head. I let a single drop of water fall onto her ear. It flicked as soon as the droplet touched her. Very slowly, she started to come around.
“Huh…? Ugh, how long was I out?” Spitfire asked groggily before letting out a yawn.
I replied, “I’d say over an hour. You OK?”
Spitfire weakly chuckled, “Heheh, yeah. I guess I just got so relaxed that I passed out. You really know how to make a girl feel good.”
I think I may have blushed at those words, “It’s not just you. A lot of the stallions I massage compliment me on their massages too.”
Spitfire then flexed her wings. “Hang on… These feel even more loosened up than before…”
I nodded, “I massaged them again while you were out.”
Spitfire started flexing herself, stretching her wings while groaning and grunting. “Ooooooh yeah, this feels awesome! I really needed this!”
I then stepped forward and asked, “If you want, I can throw in something for free.”
Spitfire paused at my words while looking at me, as if trying to deduce what I meant. She then smiled warmly, “Aw, I see what you mean. I’ll gladly take one, you loveable lug.”
I grinned before gently wrapping my arms around her for a hug. Spitfire sighed before wrapping one foreleg around me. “This is one nice freebie. You really give great hugs.”
I smiled at her words, “Thanks. I try to be nice all the time.”
When we let go of each other, Spitfire hopped down from the table. “Man, I can’t wait to tell the rest of the team about your massages. Next time I show up, I’ll bring the whole squadron along.”
That sounded like a lot to do in one visit to me. “Uh… Are you sure that’s a good idea? My massages take around an hour to do!”
Spitfire paused while holding a hoof to her chin. “Hmmmm… Good point. I’ll just bring four along!”
I nodded with a sigh of relief, “That sounds much better. Who do you think you’ll bring along?”
Spitfire smiled, “Well, I’ll definitely want to bring Soarin. Fleetfoot would probably love it too. I’ll have to look over the others.” She then began to make her way towards the doorway to the lobby before looking back at me. “It was great seeing you again, James. You take care.”
I smiled and nodded, “Likewise, captain. Give the team my best.” She then gave me a salute and trotted out of sight. Once she was gone though, I crossed my arms and bowed my head. “First Celestia, then Spitfire… Why am I getting all the hotties today? Is it some sort of special… Hang on!”
I am not a superstitious man, but I started looking around for a calendar. I went from corner to corner of the spa, but found that there was none to be seen. “Huh… Is it my birthday? Nah…”
We got several more customers that day, though none of them opted to have me massage. Before I even knew it, the clock struck 5 PM. Right as that happened; Aloe came over to me with a smile. “How are you doing, James?”
I replied with a shrug of my shoulders, “I’m OK. It’s a bit dull when I have nothing to do though.”
Aloe nodded, “Actually, you are free to clock out early, if you want. Miss Rarity came by a little while ago and asked that we let you out at 5 o’clock. She would like to see you at Sugarcube Corner.”
I raised an eyebrow at those words. From what I understood, all of my closest friends had been busy to the point of not being seen all day. What was going on out there? “Really? Well… I guess it would be rude to keep her waiting. I’ll get going right now.”
Aloe stepped to her right to get out of my way. “See you on Tuesday, James.” I waved goodbye and headed into the lobby and out the door.
As I walked through Ponyville, my thoughts trailed back to the six mares who had come into my life several months ago. I see them every single day, but with a brief sighting of Pinkie Pie, they were nowhere to be seen today. Where were they? What were they up to?
Nothing of importance happened on my way over to Sugarcube Corner. Although I was starting to feel suspicious of my six closest friends. In fact, standing outside Sugarcube Corner and looking up at it strongly reminded me of the first party I ever had in Ponyville when I first came to this place. Was this another ‘ambush’ being set up?
I snickered to myself, “Oh, you girls…” I was really overthinking this too much. They have never given me reason to doubt them. Deciding to take things as they came, I pushed the door open and stepped into the storefront.
“Gotcha!” I heard a voice shout before finding myself blindfolded right after feeling my glasses getting snatched from my face. I recognized the voice as Rainbow Dash’s.
“Oh, hey, Rainbow. What’s this for?” I asked, finding that I literally could not see anything with that strip of cloth over my eyes.
“No questions. Just walk.” She replied, placing her hooves on my shoulders and directing me.
“Huh? Well… OK.” I replied, walking straight ahead.
After several steps, Rainbow Dash spoke, “OK, now left.” I then turned left. But she then shouted, “Wait! NO, YOUR OTHER LEFT!” Then I walked forehead first into the doorway that led into the kitchen.
“Ow! Dang it, Rainbow! You really want me to relive my first day in Ponyville again?!” I turned and yelled at her while rubbing my forehead. Fortunately, I was not walking very fast when I struck it.
“Uh… James? You’re yelling at a wall.” Rainbow Dash spoke blankly.
I paused for a moment without saying anything. “Let me guess then. You wanted me to go upstairs?”
Rainbow Dash chuckled, “Uh… Yeah.”
“Why didn’t you say so then? I’ve been in this building so often that I can walk it blindfolded. By the way, thanks for giving me the chance to.” I grumbled before feeling my way along the wall until I found the stairs and slowly climbed them while feeling my way along with my feet.
“Are you sure you’ve got this?” Rainbow Dash asked while following me.
“Yeah, I’m fine. I know how to climb stairs in the dark.” I replied, soon reaching the top.
“OK. Don’t move.” Rainbow Dash replied. The room was quiet, but I had the strangest feeling there were others standing in front of me now.
I felt Rainbow Dash starting to undo my blindfold. “OK, keep your eyes closed for a second.” I did as she was told and closed my eyes. The dark blur on my eyelids became a much brighter blur as I felt the blindfold fall from my face. Once I felt my glasses being placed on my face again, Rainbow spoke, “OK, take a look!”
I opened my eyes and was immediately greeted by loud cheers. “SURPRISE!!!” Standing before me were my six dearest friends. And all around the room, there were…presents? A grand cake with a bowl of purple punch sat on a table while a banner stretched across the ceiling that read ‘Happy Birthday James’ on it.
That was when it hit me. “Hang on. It’s my birthday?!”
Everyone present burst into laughter. “Silly filly! Who forgets their own birthday?!” Pinkie Pie spoke with a grin.
Applejack then snidely replied, “I reckon somepony like you.” For whatever reason, that shut Pinkie Pie up quite well.
Along with my six closest friends, I noticed several other familiar faces in the mix. I saw Mitta, Big Macintosh, Lyra, the three Cutie Mark Crusaders, Mr. and Mrs. Cake, and even Spike. I glanced around and smiled, “Whoa… I’ve got quite an entourage today, don’t I?”
Big Macintosh replied with a calm smile, “Eyup.”
Lyra giggled, “We’ve been planning this for a while now. I’m surprised you never caught on.”
I shrugged my shoulders, “What can I say. When living in a world as great as Equestria for so long, you have a bad habit of forgetting about things that you associated your previous life with. And that included my birthday.”
Rarity sighed with a smile, “Well, even here in Equestria, it is still May 25th.”
Before anyone else could say anything, Spike suddenly belched up a plume of green fire that quickly solidified into a scroll. “Huh? What’s this about?”
Twilight then asked while Spike began to read it, “What does it say, Spike?”
He replied, “Uh… I think we’re about to have a few more guests.”
Fluttershy then asked, “A few more guests? But who could they be?” As if to answer that, we could hear distant screams coming from outside.
Mitta cocked her head to one side, “Is it just a coincidence?” She then peeked out the window.
Rainbow Dash then asked, “What’s going on out there?”
Mitta looked back at us and replied, “Everypony’s just running around in a panic. But I don’t see anything bad happening.”
Before we could discuss it further, there was a knock at the front door downstairs. “Ooh! More guests!” Pinkie Pie gasped with a hop before trotting down the stairs.
“You think I should go look too?” I asked.
Lyra smiled, “Well, they must be guests for your party. So, sure! Go say hi!” I nodded and made my way down the stairs, wondering just what had happened outside that caused all the ponies to start scurrying for cover.
Right when I entered the storefront of Sugarcube Corner, I saw Pinkie Pie open the front door. Right when that happened, I heard a familiar voice speak from outside. “Salutations! Are we in time?”
Pinkie Pie grinned, “Oh, just in time! The birthday boy only just got here himself and… Ooh! There he is now!”
Pinkie Pie stepped out of the way as Princess Luna herself came trotting in. As soon as we locked eyes, I made my way over to her and held her in my arms as she reared up on her hind legs before wrapping her forelegs around me. “Great to see you, Luna.”
My regal friend replied, “Likewise, my friend. And a very happy birthday to you.”
Pinkie Pie then spoke, “Come on in! Guards are welcome too!” I watched as a pair of royal guards also entered through the door. And right behind them was another alicorn I immediately felt excitement at seeing.
“Nightmare Moon!” Temporarily forgetting about Luna entirely, I wiggled out of my friend’s grasp and hurried over to the dark alicorn. She reached out with one foreleg and held it against my back when I embraced her around the neck.
“How I have longed to see you again, dear friend.” She spoke softly as she closed her eyes, leaning against me while I did the same.
The two of us just stood there for a moment, holding each other in a tender embrace as if in perfect harmony. I then heard Luna chuckle, “My sister was right. You do share a deep connection that is difficult to describe.”
I suppose she was right. That night was a horrible ordeal for us both, yet we forged a very strong friendship in the process. Nightmare Moon is more than just a friend to me. It is difficult to put into words what she means to me. And I am sure the same applies to her.
After a minute, the two of us released each other from our grasps. I got a good look at my friend, finding that she had finally had her bandages removed as Celesia had claimed. She looked stunning, that glossy black coat being completely free of scars. The armor she wore was still present, but each component seemed to have received a polish since I last saw her. The light blue greaves and the chest plate that hung below her neck seemed to shimmer. Her crown still rested proudly atop her head, the white gemstone in the center appearing to almost glow. Truly, she was a beauty to behold. Although now that I think about it, her presence here explains the panic outside Sugarcube Corner a minute ago.
Nightmare Moon smiled at me and asked, “So, I suppose you can hazard a guess as to why we are here?”
I smiled back at her, “You AND Luna are here to attend the party?”
Luna grinned, “Of course! We would not miss this for the world! And I made sure to bring a couple of friends I know you’ve met before.” She then turned her gaze to the two pegasi in gold armor standing at the sidelines.
I crossed my arms and gazed at them. For whatever reason, all of the pegasi royal guards look completely identical to each other. I will never know how the princesses can tell them apart. “Um… And I suppose I know you?”
One of the two pegasi raised his hoof to give me a salute and spoke a deep and gruff voice, “Fuller and Lance, sir. We met earlier this afternoon.”
I felt rather silly that I had forgotten all about them. “Oh, you guys! Celestia allowed you to come?”
Lance then replied, “She said it would be a good time to get to know you better, sir. And it is an honor to be in the presence of the man who rescued Princess Nightmare Moon.”
That kind of praise caught me by surprise. “You mean… You don’t mind being in the service of Nightmare Moon?”
Fuller replied, “Daily interaction with her has eliminated any doubts we may have had.”
Nightmare Moon then smirked, “They were cowering like frightened schoolchildren the first time I stood before them.” Both Fuller and Lance rolled their eyes with very embarrassed expressions.
Pinkie Pie then spoke up, “Come on, everypony! We don’t wanna keep this part held back any longer, do we?”
Luna nodded, “Ah, yes! No sense in delaying! Lead on!” Pinkie Pie then led us back upstairs, though Nightmare Moon stayed at the back of the line.
When she reached the top of the stairs, Pinkie Pie hopped forward. “Good news, everypony! We have a few more guests!”
I then emerged from the stairwell and stepped aside to allow Fuller and Lance to pass, who stood at the sides of the stairwell before Luna came into view. The princess of the night then greeted them with her hoof held high, “Greetings, everypony. I pray it is not too much trouble that I attend my friend’s birthday party.”
Everyone present bowed before Luna. Mr. Cake then spoke, “It’s no trouble at all, your highness. We can always make room for a visit from royalty.”
Luna smiled brightly, “Thank you kindly. However, my sister is here as well.” She then stepped out of the way of the stairwell.
Mrs. Cake then asked, “Oh?! Princess Celestia is attending too?”
I averted my eyes while a slightly giddy grin spread across my face, “Uh… Not quite.” A second later, Nightmare Moon stepped up and came into view from the stairs.
Right on that cue, the Cutie Mark Crusaders, Lyra, Mr. and Mrs. Cake, and even Big Macintosh let out a frightened shout and immediately huddled together in a corner of the room. “N…N…Nightmare Moon?! But how?!” Lyra shrieked, behaving exactly as I expected her to.
Nightmare Moon was clearly disheartened that her subjects were so frightened of her, a solemn frown spreading across her face while she bowed her head. However, my six closest friends merely laughed at their terror. Mitta then asked, “Why is everypony so scared all of a sudden?”
Apple Bloom then replied, “Why?! Because she’s the Mare in the Moon! Don’t ya’ll know the legend?! She comes ‘round once a year ta gobble us ponies up!”
This revelation seemed to clearly bother Nightmare Moon, who raised her voice, “I do WHAT?! What do I look like to you, a cannibal?!” She glared at my cowering friends before suddenly approaching them and baring her teeth. “Do these teeth even look like they can cut flesh?!”
They were all shivering like mad at Nightmare Moon’s close proximity. However, Big Macintosh still managed to voice an answer. “Uh… Nope.”
Nightmare Moon then raised her head and scowled at them. “Thank you. I know not what led to such an absurd legend, but I advise you to stop believing such a thing. I am NOT a carnivore and never will be. And besides, I could never harm my subjects.”
She continued to look down at the cowering ponies before her for a moment before letting out a sigh. She then looked at them with a much more somber expression. “Please… I know I have done some bad things in the past. But please believe this. I am no longer the monster you all know. I rule Equestria alongside my sisters now. I am not the Mare in the Moon. I am Nightmare Moon, the princess of dreams.”
I then looked down at the three Cutie Mark Crusaders and spoke, “Come on, girls. You remember what I told you a while back in class? How Nightmare Moon was a changed person and helped me when I was in the Everfree Forest?”
Sweetie Belle immediately smiled, “Ooh! I remember now! You said she watched over you in your sleep!” She then stepped forward and looked up at the dark alicorn, “Do you remember that night, Princess Nightmare Moon?”
My friend smiled somberly and replied, “Yes, I remember that night.” She then closed her eyes and smiled, “I felt…so happy when he thanked me for the night. He…” She then turned her head and smiled warmly at me, “He became my first friend.”
I could see that my friends were beginning to relax in her presence since they were starting to climb to their feet. They still seemed somewhat wary, but at least they were calmer now. Twilight Sparkle then stepped forward and smiled, “She’s not lying, everypony. I was there when she changed. She really is a new pony now. Please give her a chance. She’s our friend.”
One by one, the seven frightened ponies began to approach Nightmare Moon. Lyra then asked, “So… Uh… You’re not going to do anything to hurt us?”
Nightmare Moon shook her head with a smile, “Of course not. You are my subjects. And I want you all to be happy.”
Scootaloo grinned nervously, “Uh… That’s pretty awesome. So…you’re friends with my big brother?”
Nightmare Moon flashed a puzzled expression at the little pegasus filly and replied, “Your brother? I do not recall ever getting to know a pegasus stallion from Ponyville. Is he stationed with the royal guards?”
Scootaloo then let out a laugh, “He’s not a pegasus! He’s James! He adopted me and made me his little sister!”
Nightmare Moon’s expression went blank for a moment, prompting a laugh from all of my friends. “He… Well, that’s a surprise.” She then looked down at Scootaloo and smiled, “And I trust he has been a good big brother to you?”
Scootaloo grinned, “Yep! He’s been awesome! I couldn’t ask for a better big brother!”
Luna then stepped forward, “Sister, if it is not too much trouble, I think now would be a good time to give James his gift before we forget all about it.”
Nightmare Moon nodded, “Ah, excellent idea. My apologies, everypony. I know we should give out his gifts in unison, but this one is special.” She then approached me along with Luna until they were standing alongside each other in front of me.
What I noticed that was odd was that neither of them seemed to have a present on hand. “Um… Where is the gift?”
Luna replied, “As she said, it is special. By which she means that it lacks physical form. Now, please remove your glasses.”
I had no idea what they had planned for me, but I did as I was told. I removed my glasses from my face and folded the temple arms. “OK, now what?”
Nightmare Moon then smiled, “Be still. And don’t blink.” Her horn was engulfed by a billowing deep blue aura while Luna’s was coated by her own cobalt blue aura. They then seemed to…aim their horns at my face? No, it was…more like they were aiming directly at my eyes.
I felt somewhat apprehensive about what was going to happen, seeing as how sensitive the eyes are. “Um… Are you sure you know what you’re doing?”
Luna replied, “Of course. We practiced this before we came here. Altogether now, Nightmare Moon.”
The princess of dreams replied, “Yes. And here it goes.”
At those words, my vision was completely engulfed in two shades of blue. It was as if I was looking at a wall of blue paint. Ever so steadily, my vision slowly cleared until I saw the two princesses standing before me again. Nothing seemed any different, so I proceeded to put my glasses back on. “OK, nothing seems different. So, what exactly did… Whoa, what’s wrong with my glasses?”
For whatever reason, my vision was terribly blurred when I put my glasses back on. I could not even clearly make out anything that was right in front of me. “Wait a second… Did you really do what I think you did?!”
Nightmare Moon probably smirked as she replied, “Take them off and see for yourself.”
I did as I was told and removed my glasses. Nightmare Moon and Luna were still standing before me. At such close range, my vision of them was perfect. However, I then noticed that everything and everyone further away from me was perfectly clear. My vision was just as good as it was whenever I wore my glasses. Only one explanation came to mind. “Did you really just fix my eyes?”
Luna smiled, “Well, what else could it have been?”
I looked around at everyone, being completely unable to remember the last time my eyesight was this good. All of my friends were smiling at me, as if silently congratulating me on my gift. I then looked at the two princesses and smirked, “OK, what’s the real reason you did this for me? I’m sure this kind of spell costs money to have it used on you.”
Nightmare Moon chuckled, “It is. It takes great precision and a talent for the spell in order to master it. That is why eye doctors require a hefty payment for it.” She then leaned towards me and whispered, “Between you and me, Celestia let me know even Twilight Sparkle was never able to get this spell down.” I smirked at those words, finding it surprising that there was one spell out there she could not perfect. Oh well, it just goes to show you cannot do them all.
Luna then whispered to me, “The main reason for this gift was so your eyesight can remain clear the next time you ever have to take up the sword. It must be difficult to wear glasses while wearing your helmet.” I certainly was not looking forward to getting involved in combat again, but it was definitely a good idea to plan ahead just in case.
I whispered to them both, “Thank you again for this. I honestly can’t really explain how practical this gift is.”
Just then, Pinkie Pie then clapped her hooves, “Hey! Why don’t we ALL start handing out presents now?!”
Applejack added, “That’s a mighty fine idea, Pinkie. C’mon, ya’ll! Line ‘em up!”
All of my friends began to shuffle towards the stack of presents, although I noticed that hardly any were wrapped. I would rather not spoil what was what, so read on to see.
Mrs. Cake spoke up with a smile, “I say we should let the fillies go first.”
Rarity nodded towards the Cutie Mark Crusaders, though I think her attention was directed mostly towards her sister. “Did you girls get something special for James?”
Sweetie Belle was grinning while performing a cute little hop. “Oh, we didn’t get him something. We MADE him something!”
Scootaloo then spoke up with her tiny wings fluttering and buzzing like a locust, “Yeah! And it’s totally awesome!”
Apple Bloom then called out from somewhere behind the stack of gifts, “Gimme a hoof here, girls! It’s too long fer me ta carry it by myself!”
Scootaloo looked rather nervous at those words and replied, “Whoa! Hang on, we all need to move it!” The two fillies then ran behind the stack while I crossed my arms, wondering just what was going on over there.
Sweetie Belle spoke up, “OK, you get ready to catch it, Scootaloo.”
My sister replied, “Why do I have to catch it? Apple Bloom’s got the stronger back!”
Apple Bloom probably nodded, “Yeah, I do! I’ll catch the end and Scootaloo gets in the middle! Give it a nudge, Sweetie!”
Sweetie Belle then spoke, “Timber!” I saw Apple Bloom trot out into the open before a flat wooden object fell onto her back.
“OK, I got it! Let’s get it out here!” Apple Bloom spoke while beginning to walk sideways. Soon, Scootaloo came into view while walking sideways before Sweetie Belle did the same. They then walked over to me while lined up next to each other with a long wooden object on their backs. “Can ya guess what this is? We made it outta the toughest oak wood!”
I immediately saw what it is they had made for me, and I was genuinely surprised, “Girls, seriously? You forged me my own sword?!”
Scootaloo grinned, “You bet we did! Although Apple Bloom did most of the work. Sweetie Belle and I did all of the measuring.”
Sweetie Belle then smiled, “After we saw you show us how cool you were with that sword, we thought we’d make you one ourselves! But…uh…”
Apple Bloom then sheepishly grinned, “I think we made it too long. That’s OK though, right?” Indeed, the wooden sword on their backs was longer than the Celestial Sword, the blade probably a good four feet. Not that this bothered me. I have long had a deep fascination with longswords.
“OK? This is more than OK.” I spoke while taking the sword in hand by the hilt. “A sword this long is my dream sword!” The wooden blade was blunt, the width being around three to four inches. I had never actually held a sword that long before, but its wooden form reduced the weight enough for me to wield it effortlessly. The hilt was wrapped in cloth that seemed to have been stapled on while the pommel was a spherical wooden ball that had probably been screwed on. The crossguard was fairly simple and was actually made of metal that curved up towards the blade. In all, it was surprisingly well made.
My friends backed away to give me room while I took a few swings with my sword. I performed a back and forth swing before turning around and performing a diagonal upward swing using only one hand before letting the blade come down and rest on my shoulder. I then looked down at the three fillies and smiled, “Thanks for this, girls. This is way awesome.”
I kneeled down and embraced the three fillies with one arm as they snuggled up against me. Scootaloo grinned, “Only the best for my big brother!”
I stood up and propped my sword against a corner in the wall before looking back to my friends. Lyra was looking through the stack of gifts. “I know I put it here somewhere… Aha!” Her horn was engulfed by a billowing turquoise aura while a pair of gloves floated over to me. They seemed to be the traditional shade of brown for leather and seemed to be of the fingerless variety.
Looking at the gloves, a thought occurred to me. “Wait. They make gloves for humans in Equestria?”
Lyra blushed in embarrassment; “Actually, those were custom made for me a while back. I always wondered what it would be like to have hands, so…yeah. When the fingers didn’t move while I wore them, I had them removed. But they still didn’t fit me very well, so…” She then grinned at me, “Well, I’m giving them to you since you can get more use out of them than me! Are they OK?”
I tried sliding them onto my hands and found that they fit me well. “Yeah, they’re great. I’ve always liked fingerless gloves too. Thanks, Lyra.”
She then trotted over to me and gave me a hug, “Anytime.”
Mitta then spoke up, “If it’s OK, I’d like to go next.” I looked over at my newest friend and nodded. She then began to root around in the stack of gifts. “I know I put it in here somewhere…”
Rarity then asked, “Mitta, I don’t recall you ever picking anything up for James. What did you get him?”
Mitta glanced at me out of the corner of her eye and smiled sheepishly, “I didn’t get him anything until just today. I had no idea what to get him for a while. I thought long and hard about it. And when I couldn’t think of anything to get him that was practical, I tried researching the language of flowers for an answer.”
The language of flowers? How philosophical. Mitta must have put a lot of thought and dedication into thinking of something to give me. Rarity seemed especially impressed and smiled, “The language of flowers?! How romantic! What was it?! What flower did you choose?!”
Mitta blushed from the praise and spoke while sticking her head into the stack before replying, “It’s right here.” She then approached me with a flowerpot on her head, slender white flowers blooming from green leafy stems.
“Are those…honeysuckles?” I asked, recognizing them right away.
Mitta smiled, “They are.”
I do know a bit about the language of flowers, such as blue roses symbolizing impossible miracles while the red rose represents the truest deepest love, but my knowledge is still very limited on the subject. “And…what do these represent?” I asked while taking the pot in hand and taking a deep breath through my nostrils to enjoy their fragrance.
Mitta seemed to shyly bow her head before speaking softly, “Devoted affection or bonds of love.” There was an audible aw as most of the other partygoers looked on.
I looked down at my friend, genuinely impressed that she went through so much trouble to find this one special gift to not only please me, but to also show in an artistic fashion the bond we had formed by then. She whispered, “You’re the best thing to ever happen to me, James. And you’re the greatest friend I’ve ever known. I just wanted to find some way to say that, but I couldn’t find the proper words. I hope this gets my point across though.”
I nodded and embraced her tenderly. “It does. You’re too sweet, Mitta.” She closed her eyes and smiled, gently nuzzling me while the rest of our friends looked on with warm smiles.
After a moment, Mr. Cake spoke up. “OK, I think it’s time for me and the Mrs. to show James what we have in store for him.”
I stood up while rubbing Mitta’s head, “Huh? You?”
Mrs. Cake smiled with that motherly expression of hers, “Of course, dearie! I saw how you were eyeing that photo earlier today and we decided to give you a taste of it.” She then held out…the exact same kind of cupcake Pinkie Pie had shown me that day.
Spike grinned and spoke, “Oh boy, that’s a sapphire cupcake! I love those!”
I winced at those words, “Seriously?! Sapphire’s in a cupcake?! Mrs. Cake, you know I can’t digest gemstones! That stuff will rip my intestines apart! It’d be like eating glass!”
Mr. Cake let out a hearty laugh, “Oh, we know! Only Spike can eat gemstones. All those sapphires you see? Those are just hard candy. Blue raspberry flavor.”
That made the thing sound much more appetizing to me. “Oh! OK then. I’d love to try it.” I took the cupcake in hand and took a bite. The cake itself was moist and not crumbly or dry at all, and the light blue buttercream was delicious as always. However, while I did find the candy in the cream to be sweet, the hard consistency did not go well with the soft cake and smooth buttercream. I smiled to the Cake couple once I finished my first bite and spoke, “It’s really good, but the hard candy really doesn’t mix well with the rest of it.”
Mr. Cake chuckled, “Well, can’t blame us for trying!”
As I ate the cupcake, Applejack and Big Macintosh approached me with a barrel on Big Mac’s back. “Our turn! And we got somthin’ ya don’t see in stock too often.”
As I observed the barrel, one thought came to mind. “Is that your special Sweet Apple Acres brand of apple cider?”
Big Macintosh replied with his trademark calm smile and nodded, “Eyup.”
I get the feeling he really should not have said that since Rainbow Dash then made a lunge for the barrel while shouting, “MINE!”
“Ponypile!” Pinkie Pie squealed before she suddenly belly flopped onto the unsuspecting pegasus along with Twilight, Fluttershy, and Rarity.
“We all know you love that brand of cider, Rainbow. But give it a rest! If you really want some, ask first!” Twilight spoke with a rather irritated expression.
Rainbow Dash groaned while everyone laughed at her overenthusiastic obsession with that cider. I then smiled, “I can pour you a glass, if you want.”
My friend’s face brightened at once. “You mean it?!”
I found a nozzle on the side of the barrel and held a punch cup under it before turning the handle to allow some of the golden cider to flow out. Once I had filled the cup enough and turned the nozzle off, I held the cup down to Rainbow Dash. She suddenly got all teary-eyed and held the cup between her hooves. “You… You’d do this for me?”
It was rather silly to see Rainbow Dash getting so sentimental over a glass of cider. But I nodded, “Yup. All yours.”
In a surprising show of strength, Rainbow Dash suddenly jumped into the air, flinging our friends off of her. “YEEESSS!!! THANK YOU!!!” She chugged the whole glass, instantly calming back down. “Man… That hit the spot.” But I was surprised further as she threw her forelegs around me and nuzzled me while giving me a tight embrace. “You’re the best, James.”
I was honestly not sure how to react to that rather random show of emotions and replied, “Uh… But I thought YOU were the best.”
“OK, Rainbow. Give him some breathing room. We still have a few more presents to hand out.” Twilight spoke while a book wrapped in gold ribbon floated over to her.
Rainbow grinned and backed away from me, “Heheh, right. I’ll go last, if that’s OK.”
Twilight then had the book float over to me. “I hope you don’t mind if my gift to you is a book I’ve had for a long time.”
Spike sighed while rolling his eyes with his arms crossed, “That’s all she ever gets anyone for their birthday. Every single year on my birthday, I always get the same kind of gift from Twilight. A book.” Twilight instantly blushed; clearly embarrassed that she was as easy to read as…well…a book.
I snickered while taking the book in hand, “Come on, Twi. Think outside the box sometime! Of course, I can’t complain. This is the first time I ever got anything from you.” I then looked the cover over. The book was fairly thick with a sturdy cover and back that led me to believe it was more of a small tome. “Fundamentals of Magic?”
Twilight Sparkle nodded, “It has a long list of many types of spells. From basic to intermediate to advanced. I’ve already learned all the magic I can from that, so I decided you could use it.”
I then cocked my head to one side, “Twilight, I’m pretty sure you know I can’t even use magic on my own.”
She then smirked and whispered to me, “Not without your armor, you can’t.”
My armor… Of course. Perhaps I should plan a magic training date with the princesses so I can actually get some use out of that book. Regardless, I threw an arm around Twilight and held her close to me in a hug. “Well, I’m sure I’ll be getting lots of use outta this. Thanks, Twi.”
My dear unicorn friend nuzzled my face with her cheek, “Happy birthday, James.”
Rarity then stepped forward with a present wrapped in indigo paper and a white ribbon. “I tried to make something for you that is both fashionable, yet functional. I do hope that you like it.”
Once Twilight had backed away and I had set my book among the rest of my gifts, I took the present in hand. “Aww, thank you, Rarity.” I then began to gently unwrap the gift while everyone watched. The box itself seemed to be similar to a shoebox since the top could just be lifted off, only larger. And when I lifted the lid off, I stared with a smile at its contents. “Well, what do we have here?”
I reached into the box and lifted up a neatly folded sheet of dark blue fabric. Was it a cape? I unfurled it, finding that when held parallel to my neck, it nearly reached my ankles. No, not quite a cape. It was a cloak. Rarity spoke, “I know it is out of season and only a lunatic would be found wearing a cloak at this time of year, but I just know it will serve you well once winter arrives.”
I tried it on, finding that the cloak completely wrapped around me while also having a hood attachment that pulled over my head. Nightmare Moon smirked, “Ooh, very mysterious visage, I must admit.”
I grinned while removing my new cloak, “OK, now this is awesome, Rarity. I’ll be sure to wear this every day when winter arrives.”
Rarity giggled, “I just knew you would adore that little trinket. And I can’t wait to see you marching through the snow with all that white starting to coat you. Just like something out of a novel!”
I smirked while folding up the cloak and placing it among the rest of my gifts, “You planning on writing one soon?”
My elegant friend shook her head, “Oh, darling, I think that is YOUR talent. I’ve read some of your journals before.”
Before our conversation could drag on any longer, Rainbow Dash trotted over to me. From the looks of things, she was the last one. “My turn! And I promise it’s totally awesome!” Hanging from her muzzle was a gift bag that seemed to depict a blue background covered in yellow lightning bolts.
When I took the bag in hand, I found that it was light. Even lighter than the book Twilight gave me. Perhaps it was a magazine. “Thanks, Rainbow. But…what exactly is it?”
My rambunctious friend gave me a wink, “It’s something I worked hard to find. There aren’t very many of these around. Enjoy it, big guy!”
I chuckled while reaching into the bag, “That rare? Aw, Rainbow. You shouldn’t have… Huh?” Next thing I know, everyone present is staring at me with shocked expressions while Mr. and Mrs. Cake are trying to block the views of the Cutie Mark Crusaders. I looked down at what was in my hand before chuckling, “Uh… Heh…Heheh…. Um… Wow, Rainbow. You… Uh… You really shouldn’t have!”
In my hand was a copy of Playcolt. Yes, Equestria’s version of Playboy. I suppose I should have been utterly shocked, and I had every right to be, but I still was not that surprised to see it coming from Rainbow Dash, of all ponies. Everyone was just speechless, but Nightmare Moon was howling with laughter.
Applejack raised her voice, “Rainbow, what’s wrong with ya?! Ya’ll shouldn’t show that kinda stuff ‘round kids!”
Pinkie Pie then said something that really caught me off-guard. “Yeah! Don’t you know this doesn’t have a mature content label on it?!”
Fluttershy then asked, “Um… A mature content label on…what?”
Pinkie Pie then raised her hoof with the bottom upturned, “You know! Mature content! This story doesn’t… Wait a second.” She then…stuck her head into the stack of gifts I had received before looking back at me with a bemused expression. “Huh… I guess this DOES have a mature content label. What’ve I been missing?!”
I then asked, “What’re you even talking about?! What story?!”
Pinkie Pie was about to respond, but Twilight then stuffed her hoof into Pinkie’s mouth. “Don’t mind her. I don’t know what she saw or what she knows, but I’m scared to find out. Can we please drop the subject?”
Everyone present hurriedly nodded in unison. I decided to do the same. I swear, even after spending nearly a year with her, Pinkie Pie still baffles me sometimes. But regardless, Rarity then spoke up. “Regardless, what were you thinking, Rainbow Dash?! James isn’t the kind of man who ogles over a mare’s hindquarters!”
Rainbow Dash replied, “Oh, come on! You’re one to talk! I know you get a new issue of Playmare every month!” Rarity instantly blushed madly at those words while everyone laughed.
I decided to confirm that claim by adding, “It’s true. I saw a copy during my first night at your place last year.”
Rarity shrieked, “James! You were not meant to see that! I…”
Sweetie Belle then waved from behind Mrs. Cake, “Ooh, I never saw it! Can I read it sometime?”
Rarity stared blankly at her little sister, who I will admit is probably the most innocent of the Cutie Mark Crusaders, and replied, “Heavens, no! Perhaps when you are older, but no!”
I facepalmed and tried to suppress my laughter, “Oh my gohahoood….. Still… I think I might enjoy this magazine, Rainbow. Never got anything like this before.”
My friend then flew up to me and threw her foreleg around my neck from the side and held me close in a chummy fashion. “Oh, you’re gonna like this one. This copy is completely one of a kind! The only one like it in Equestria! It’s got content that only you own now!”
I replied, “Well…uh…you sound like you went through a lot of trouble to get this. I’ll treasure it.”
Rainbow Dash winked at me, “You better. And don’t let anypony else see its contents. Those are for your eyes only.” Just why was she so concerned over who saw what was inside it? Was that copy THAT rare? Regardless, I hugged her back to show my gratitude.
However, I soon saw that Fluttershy was giving Rainbow Dash a rather irritated look as if to say that she did not approve of her gift to me. My friend seemed to become nervous at that glare, but I tried to change the subject. “Fluttershy, what about you? Did you get me anything?”
My words got her attention, causing her to give me a shy smile. “Um… I do have one. But…um…I want to show you tonight in private…”
This got me excited. I was instantly wondering what could be in store for me that evening. I smiled, “I’ll do my best to remain patient. But let’s just have a good time now. OK?”
Fluttershy nodded, “OK. But…please don’t look at that magazine until later.”
I snickered while placing the magazine back in its bag and placing it out of reach of the Cutie Mark Crusaders on top of my pile of gifts. “Thank you, everyone. I honestly can’t remember the last time I got so many gifts on one birthday.”
Rainbow Dash replied, “What’re you talking about? Everypony gets gifts on their birthday!”
I shrugged my shoulders, “I guess that’s true. It’s just that as I got older, birthdays started losing their significance. They’re not the same when you’re not a kid anymore.”
Luna smiled, “Nonsense. Every birthday is precious and should be recognized. That is why we are all here.”
I chuckled, “I guess that’s true. Anyway, gifts or no gifts, thanks for coming. I appreciate having you all here.” One by one, all of my friends approached and gave me either a hug or friendly nuzzle. The only ones who did not partake were Lance and Fuller, who remained standing by the stairwell.
Once all of my friends had stepped away from me, everything else went off without a hitch. Only I found that it was not just the second story of Sugarcube Corner being used for the party. The entire storefront was too. It made sense since there were quite a few guests to fit in just that one room upstairs.
Much to my amusement, Lance and Fuller were standing watch over my keg of cider. Rainbow Dash would sometimes try to sneak behind them to make off with it, but they would grab her each and every time. “Never knew there was such a thing as cider addiction.”
Taking a slice of birthday cake on a paper plate, I took a seat in the corner of the room and began to simply watch the other partygoers having a ball. Pinkie Pie had a phonograph playing cheerful music, herself and Mrs. Cake dancing in the middle of the room. Of course, Mrs. Cake ended up drawing too close to Pinkie Pie and ended up being on the receiving of one of her ungodly powerful hip bumps. My boss let out a shriek as she went hurdling across the room. Fortunately for her, Mr. Cake happened to be in the way and held out his forelegs to catch her, causing Mrs. Cake to stop while bending over backwards as if they were doing a dance.
“Oh my… My hero.” Mrs. Cake spoke with a blush while looking up at her husband. That pose and those words were so clichéd, yet so cute at the same time.
Mr. Cake smiled warmly with a blush of his own. “Anytime, honeybun.” I averted my eyes as they shared a brief kiss. Those two really go well together.
The Cake couple swaggered onto the dance floor, performing a duet with each other while being mindful to stay out of reach of Pinkie Pie’s gyrations. It was quite endearing to watch those two sweethearts enjoying themselves together.
While I sat there and enjoyed my cake, I noticed Nightmare Moon approach me and sit down beside me before bringing her entire body to the floor. “Enjoying yourself, James? You seem rather bored just sitting here by yourself.” She spoke with a smile, those exotic eyes gazing at me.
I smiled, “I know I’m not the liveliest guy here, but I’m really having a good time. I just prefer to do things at my own pace. Just look at Big Macintosh over there. He’s just chilling too.” Indeed, Big Macintosh was just idly watching things happening around him while enjoying a glass of punch on the far side of the room.
Nightmare Moon chuckled, “I suppose there are more ways than one to enjoy yourself at a party.”
I just sat there with the beautiful princess, just watching the partygoers enjoying themselves. Eventually, she spoke up again. “James, I honestly can’t thank you enough.”
I looked over at her and asked, “Huh?”
She sighed, “If you had not been there that night… What would have become of me? Or of Equestria?” She then cast her gaze towards Luna, who was trying to get used to Pinkie Pie’s more modern dancing style. “Did my sisters know you would have been able to save me?”
I shook my head, “Nah. They didn’t even know you still existed until I told them I met you out there in the Everfree Forest.”
Nightmare Moon sighed, “I see… Still, it was most wise of them to bring you to this world.” After a moment more, she then asked, “Now that I think about it, do you have any friends back where you came from?”
At those words, I felt an unexpected sense of worry. I had been missing from Earth for…eight months? That is a remarkably long time. And I did not even get a moment to say goodbye. I know my parents and family would not have believed me if I tried to tell them I might disappear to another world and may even make me see a psychiatrist if I did, so an explanation would have been wasted on them. However, I did have a fair number of friends back home. Even if the only means of communication were by Internet and phone.
After a moment, I looked towards Nightmare Moon and asked, “Nightmare Moon. Do you think Celestia and Luna would mind sending a message and even a package back to my home world?”
She cast me a rather worried gaze. “Is there someone you wish to speak to?”
I nodded, “I just want to let a friend of mine know that I’m all right. I’m sure he’s worried about me.”
Nightmare Moon nodded, “I’m sure they would be fine with that.”
Pinkie Pie then just happened to approach us and grinned, “Hey there, you two! Having a good time?”
I nodded and asked, “Yup. Oh, and… Pinkie, do you have a spare scrap of paper on hand? I need to write a message to someone.”
She grinned, “Sure do! Just a sec.” She then reached behind herself and seemed to pull a slip of paper and an ink quill out of nowhere and handed it to me. But just where did she…
Nightmare Moon seemed very perplexed by Pinkie Pie’s bizarre action and asked, “Um… Just WHERE did you get that?”
Pinkie Pie giggled, “I just pulled it out of Pinkie Space! How else do you think I carry my party cannon everywhere I go?”
I think I very nearly gave myself a migraine trying to process just what she meant. Eager to get it out of my head, I raised my voice at her. “You know what? Just forget it! I don’t wanna know! Just… Go have fun! Waaay over there!”
She suddenly turned around and started hopping towards the other side of the room. “Ooh boy! Fun?! Where?!”
Nightmare Moon chuckled, “She’s certainly easy to please.” She then looked at me and asked, “Go ahead and write. Just let me know when it’s ready to be sent.”
I nodded to her while she went back to sipping from a glass of punch. After thinking for a minute, I held the paper in hand and started to write. “Hello, Richard. I am sure you know who this is. We have not spoken in probably a good eight months by now. I know you must be worried about me, and I really cannot say anything that can excuse me not writing back for so long. With where I am right now, I have been much more focused on things happening now than thinking about the past and anything or anyone involved with it. But that is beside the point. I honestly cannot do a good job of explaining where I am right now, but please believe me when I say this. I am fine. In fact, I am feeling great. I am probably happier where I am now than I have ever been in my life. Even so, I am writing to you to let you know that. Also, I have a favor to ask. If you can, please contact every last friend of mine you can as well as my family and let them know you heard from me. Let them know that I am alive, I am healthy, I am safe, and most importantly that I am happy.”
I paused for a moment, making sure I did not write anything too odd. Since I was writing in ink, I could not erase anything. “Also, I am sending you a package of various goods I know you will enjoy, including a bottle of the best cider in the land. I know how much you love good booze, so this will please you for certain. And again, I know this may seem like a shallow attempt to apologize for any worry I put you through, but there is only so much I can do from where I am. Please understand that. Lastly, I cannot guarantee when I will be able to contact you again, but please take comfort knowing I am all right. And… Well, this is a rather silly request. But if you could, let all of the readers of my stories know that since I am no longer able to continue writing them, they are welcome to try their hands at continuing them if they feel they have the skill to do the job well enough. Sorry if that came out of left field. That just popped into my head a second ago. That is all I can think of writing right now. I hope you are well and please do not worry about me. You were always a great friend. And remember, I am all right. With hugs, James.”
I set the ink quill down and rolled up the paper. “OK. Can you hold onto this, Nightmare Moon? I need to go gather some things up.”
My friend nodded and placed her foreleg over it to keep the scroll from unfurling. I then walked down the stairs to the storefront. It was there that I found Rainbow Dash hanging out with the Cutie Mark Crusaders and Lyra. As it turned out, Lyra had brought along her lyre and was using the levitation spell to pluck out a tune on it. As lovely as it sounded, I did not have time to stop and listen. I went straight into the kitchen and started rooting around for the white paper boxes we use for deliveries. I did not take long to find them, though they are always collapsed until put to use.
“OK, what would he like…” I muttered to myself. I started going around and gathering up a little of everything I could find in the kitchen. Some cupcakes, some muffins, chocolate drops, cookies, candies… I had to make sure to leave room for a few other things too, so I placed those in the box, grabbed a lid for it, and carried it back upstairs.
I found my friends all enjoying themselves in whatever way they wanted, although Rarity had her hooves full keeping Sweetie Belle from climbing to the top of my gifts to sneak a peek at my copy of Playcolt. I shook my head, finding her innocent curiosity to be laughable. Of course, Fuller and Lance were still keeping a constant vigil over my barrel of cider with Rainbow Dash frequently glancing over at them. She looked like she was trying to distract herself from the cider, but really, she was fooling no one. It was obvious she had cider on the brain.
“OK… Better top this off with a slice of cake and a bottle of that cider.” I muttered to myself, removing an empty glass soda bottle and a bottle cap from the box. No one paid me any mind when I approached my barrel of cider, although Fuller and Lance stepped aside to allow me by. I held the bottle just under the nozzle before filling it as high as I could with golden cider. I then managed to squeeze the cap onto the bottle’s mouth, sealing the fluid within. I made sure to turn it on its side to make sure the cap was tightly affixed to it.
Once that was done, I placed the bottle on its side in the box to neatly fit in with all of the pastries. However, I was quick to notice Pinkie Pie eyeing the box, apparently able to detect the sweet scent of all the goodies I had in it. I knew better than to leave it alone, but I also could not risk giving Fuller and Lance more items to keep an eye on. I noticed Luna passing by and motioned her over to me.
The princess of the night approached me with a smile, “How are you, James?”
I smiled, “Having a good time, thanks. Anyway, could I ask you to keep a watchful eye over this box for a moment? I’m afraid Pinkie Pie might try to get to it and I need both hands for a minute.”
My friend nodded with a smile, “I shall. No sugar addict shall reach the contents of this container while I am on duty.”
“Thanks, Luna. I’ll only be a minute.” I replied before walking over to the table that held the birthday cake. Apple Bloom was trotting away with a slice of cake balancing on a paper plate on her head. It still impresses me how ponies have absolutely no difficulty whatsoever carrying flat objects on top of their heads without them toppling off like someone trying to sleep on a swinging plank instead of a proper hammock. Regardless, I proceeded to cut myself a slice of cake that took up as much space as possible on one of the provided paper plates. Before I forget, the icing was vanilla while the cake was a checkerboard cake with a mixture of dark chocolate and yellow cake. Of course, I then realized I needed to wrap up the cake to prevent it from drying out.
I walked back over to Luna and asked, “I’m sorry, Luna. Could you keep an eye on that for a moment longer? I need to properly wrap this first.”
Luna nodded again, “I shall. But please don’t be long. Pinkie Pie is starting to give me some strange looks. I am not sure how long I can ward her off.”
I glanced over at Pinkie Pie and saw that she was looking under her bed in the corner. To my surprise, I saw her pull out a fishing rod. She grinned excitedly as she held it between her hooves, but when she looked my way, I crossed my arms and tapped my foot while giving her a stern gaze. She grinned sheepishly before slowly sliding it back under her bed before trotting away.
“Yeah, I see what you mean. Anyway, I’ll try to be quick.” I replied before hurrying downstairs with the slice of cake in my hand. Without paying any mind to my surroundings, I rushed into the kitchen and quickly found a box small enough to contain the plate and cake without leaving any excess space inside. I then placed the cake inside and then wrapped that box in plastic wrap. “That’ll do it.” I muttered before rushing back upstairs.
Much to my relief I found Luna still standing watch over the box of goodies with Pinkie Pie nowhere near it. “Everything OK up here?” I asked while approaching the princess of the night.
Luna glanced around, “Yes, Miss Pie seems to be keeping her distance at the moment. Although I did have to conjure up a large spider to shoo her away at one point.”
I winced at those words. “Seriously? You can do that?”
Luna rolled her eyes, “She flung a toy spider at me in the hopes of scaring me away, so I flung it back at her after exposing it to a little animation spell I know.”
I groaned, “Aww, why didn’t you wait for me?! I would’ve loved to see that!”
Luna chuckled, “Yes, I suppose I should have. My apologies.” I sighed in disappointment, popping the box open before placing the smaller box inside. With that in there, the box was full to near bursting. I could not possibly fit anything else in there. Well, everything besides the message I had written earlier, that is.
“OK, now we just need to find a way to get this to Canterlot without shifting anything around inside it… Uh… Oh, Spike!” I noticed the little dragon boy walking by and waved at him.
“Huh? What’s up?” He asked, eyeing the box beside me.
I then asked, “You can send scrolls to Celestia by burning them with your flame breath, right? Can you send boxes too?”
He smiled, “Huh? Boxes? Oh, sure! I’ve sent packages to Princess Celestia before! Although I kinda am not allowed to.”
I then smiled, “Well, I have a request. Could you send this box to her?”
He nodded, “Sure! You need it sent now?”
I replied, “Not just yet. I need to include a note telling her what to do with it.”
As if on cue, Pinkie Pie ran up to me, “I got it!” She then reached behind her and pulled out another scroll with an ink quill.
“Let me guess. You got that from Pinkie Space?” I asked.
Pinkie Pie nodded before trotting away, “Sure did! If you need another, let me know!”
Spike chuckled, “Uh… Those are actually mine. She just keeps them handy in case Twilight needs me to write something down.”
“Yeaaaah… Don’t tell me how that works. I want my head to remain intact.” I then took the quill in hand and wrote a brief explanation. “Celestia, this is James. I need you to send this package to my friend in Maryland on my home planet. I will greatly appreciate it.” I then placed the note on top of the box and looked at Spike. “OK, it’s ready.”
Spike nodded before walking up to the box and blowing a plume of green fire at it. The box was engulfed and floated into the air as a puff of smoke that then floated out the nearest open window. “There, it’s on its way.”
“Thanks, Spike. I really needed that.” I replied with a smile, gently patting him on the head.
However, seconds later, someone came flying through the window. “I’m late, I’m late, I’m so late!” She then sailed right into me, though I managed to react in time and braced myself to catch whoever it was. The person in my arms was a familiar gray pegasus mare with a blond mane and tail.
“Hey, Derpy! Glad you could make it!” I spoke before hugging her tightly.
Derpy giggled as she threw her forelegs around me, “Sorry that I didn’t get here when the party started. I had a few accidents in the kitchen, so it took me longer than desired to get here. But I made sure your present turned out perfect!”
“You made a present for me?” I asked while setting Derpy down. On her sides was a pair of saddlebags. I could detect a faint sweet aroma coming from them.
“Yup! It’s my special All-Berry muffins!” Derpy replied. She then pulled them open with her teeth and revealed six muffins in each bag, making a full dozen. Each seemed to be fresh out of the oven with noticeable warmth rising from them. I could make out various faint hues of color on them that seemed to be just under the surface.
Luna then asked, “What, pray tell, are All-Berry muffins?”
Derpy replied with a smile, her silly eyes not looking in the same direction. “I call them that because of all the different fruits in them! They have strawberries, blueberries, banana, raspberries, blackberries, and cherries in them. Oh, and I sprinkled a bit of sugar on top just before I put them in the oven to give it a bit of a crunch.”
I smiled while looking at the colorful muffins, “Now that sounds like a feast for the taste buds. I’ll take my time with these. Thank you, Derpy.”
Derpy grinned before embracing me again, “You’re welcome, James. Happy birthday.”
However, Spike then let out a belch as a plume of green fire emerged from his mouth before solidifying into a scroll. “Huh? What’s this…?” He then opened it and looked at me before passing the scroll to my hand. “Huh. It’s for you.”
I took the scroll in hand while Derpy hovered behind me. “Is it from Princess Celestia? What does it say?”
I spoke the scroll’s contents out loud, “Uh… Dear James, I have no idea where you want me to send this. Could you please visit me in Canterlot tomorrow to help me send this package to the proper address? And I will keep it refrigerated to keep its contents preserved.”
Luna rolled her eyes, “I was honestly expecting her to reply like this. Neither of us knows Earth well.”
I chuckled before writing a little note on the back of the scroll letting Celestia know I agreed with her request. “Yeah, I should’ve seen that coming. Could you please send this back, Spike?”
The little dragon nodded while taking the note in hand, “You got it.” He then engulfed it in green flames again before the scroll turned into smoke and floated out the window.
“Thanks, Spike. Now, can I get you anything, Derpy?” I asked.
Derpy smiled, “Well, that punch looks really yummy. I’ll get some of that first.” I then escorted her over to the food table, patting her on the head.
I have to admit, it is rather hard to go into detail on every last thing that happened at the party. There were more guests this time than at any other party I had attended in a while. Even so, I know that everyone had a fabulous time. Even Lance and Fuller got some time to enjoy the cake, although they made fools of themselves when they tried to dance. They often collided, their armor clanking loudly with each clash. I swear, watching them dance was like listening to a tumble dryer filled with pots and pans.
Eventually, Luna and Nightmare Moon made the sun set and night had fallen again. Quite a few of my friends seemed rather beat and it had been a long evening. “Wow, I haven’t been this beat in ages! How long have we been here again?” Derpy asked while letting out a yawn.
Lyra too yawned, “I don’t know… Good party, though.”
Pretty much all of us gathered in the storefront, which quickly became crowded. “Whoa, somepony make some room!” Apple Bloom spoke up, hidden somewhere under all the ponies around me.
“Let’s vacate the premises in an orderly fashion, please.” Luna spoke up, Fuller and Lance leading her towards the door.
Nightmare Moon followed her sister outside. By then, there were few ponies going about their business, so no one was nearby to panic at the site of Nightmare Moon. She glanced around, “Huh… There isn’t as much screaming this time…”
Luna replied, “Give it time, sister. It took some time for our subjects to accept me as well.”
I smiled at them, “It was great to have you both here. Thank you for coming.”
Nightmare Moon smiled back to me, “Likewise. It was an honor to attend. Oh, and if you do not mind…” Her horn was coated by a billowing deep blue aura as what seemed to be a slice of my birthday cake floated out from behind her while resting on a paper plate.
Luna rolled her eyes, “This again… Yes, I do believe Celestia will be most grateful for that, Nightmare Moon. She always did have a taste for cake.”
I chuckled, “Well, make sure you don’t drop it on your way home.” However, Nightmare Moon then approached me and held me in a tender embrace. “Uh… Your highness?”
She whispered while everyone around me watched. “It was so good to see you again, dear friend. And I will be paying a visit again very soon.”
I replied softly, “You don’t have to, Nightmare Moon. If it is too difficult to work it into your schedule, you can…”
However, she then interrupted me, “That does not matter. If I want to see you, then I will come to you. My kingdom is indeed precious to me, but you…” She then whispered into my ear directly, giving me a very touched and fuzzy feeling inside. “You come first, my friend.”
I really was not sure of how to respond to this at first. But I did feel genuinely lucky that my bond with Nightmare Moon was just as strong as the night where we were reunited for the first time, if not stronger. I wrapped my arms around her neck and whispered, “Thank you… I hope to see you again soon.”
Luna chuckled, apparently enjoying the show. “Nightmare Moon, I apologize to cut this short, but we must be returning to Canterlot.”
Nightmare Moon nodded and released me from her grasp before spreading her sable wings. “See you again soon, James.”
I nodded, smiling at her. “Take care.”
Fuller and Lance spread their wings as well, but before they could take flight, Luna spoke up. “One moment, please.”
The princess of the night walked up to me and smiled, “You expect me to leave without a proper goodbye?” She then reached up and held me in a tender embrace as well. Nightmare Moon chuckled, clearly not surprised.
I grinned, feeling blessed to be receiving such affection from both nocturnal princesses. I threw my arms around Luna and spoke, “I never forgot about you, Luna. And thank you again for coming. This was one of the best birthday parties I’ve had in probably a good eight years.”
The princess of the night whispered, “I am glad I was able to attend. Let us meet again soon, dear friend.” We both released our grasps on each other and stepped back. I watched as the two guards and twin princesses of the night spread their wings and began to hover. “A very pleasant evening to you all! May we meet again!” Luna called out while they began to fly east towards Canterlot. We all waved goodbye, watching them fly off into the night.
One by one, we all stepped outside with the exception of Pinkie Pie and the Cake couple. “So, how was it?! Best birthday ever, right?!” Pinkie Pie asked from the doorway.
I turned back and looked at her. “Not entirely sure on best ever, but it’s the best I’ve had in… Honestly, I’m not sure how long it’s been since I’ve had a party this grand since I was a kid.”
Applejack smiled, “Well, ya’ll better get used ta ‘em bein’ this great from now on, because Pinkie Pie never settles fer anythin’ less.”
I looked back at Pinkie Pie and grinned, “Right, you set this all up. Thanks again, Pinkie.”
She replied, “No problem! Now I just gotta figure out whose birthday comes next! Where’s my calendar again?”
However, Mr. Cake then stopped her from going back inside. “Now, Pinkie, it’s always best to keep those things a surprise, right?”
Pinkie Pie giggled, “Oh, right! DUH! I almost forgot!”
Fluttershy then whispered to me, “James, shouldn’t we be going? I still have my gift to give to you.”
I nodded at her with a smile before looking back at all of my friends. “Thanks again for the party, everyone. But Fluttershy and I really need to get home. It’s getting late and I need to put all these gifts away.”
Rainbow Dash chuckled, “Yeah, we know. We loaded them all into this cart for you.” Standing nearby was Big Macintosh, who was wearing a harness that hooked up to what seemed to be one of Applejack’s apple carts. And stacked in it was every last gift I had received.
“You’re gonna help with that?” I asked, wondering if Big Macintosh had even agreed to it.
He nodded with his calm smile, “Eyup.”
Twilight Sparkle then spoke as Spike climbed onto her back, “Well, I really enjoyed myself tonight. But it’s late and I need to get Spike to bed.”
However, Spike retorted with his arms crossed. “Bed? What’re you talking about?! I can stay up as late as…” Much to my amusement, he slumped forward onto Twilight’s neck and began to snore.
Twilight giggled, “See?” We all got a good laugh out of that.
Rarity and Mitta then approached me and held me in a hug with each at my sides. “It was a splendid party, James.” Rarity spoke with her eyes closed.
Mitta added, “Let’s talk again tomorrow, OK?”
I nodded while wrapping my arms around both mares, “That’s a promise. And thank you again for all this.”
One by one, each of my friends gave me a goodbye hug. Lastly, the Cutie Mark Crusaders came forth. Scootaloo then asked, “Hey, James? I’m gonna go to Sweetie Belle’s place to do a little Cutie Mark Crusaders research. I’ll head home as soon as we’re done, OK?”
I nodded, knowing that I had nothing to worry about with all three of them together. “Sounds good to me. Just make sure you be careful on your way home.”
Apple Bloom grinned, “No worries! We’ll both go with ‘er when she heads home.”
The three fillies then gave me a group hug as I kneeled down to reach them. “Happy birthday, James! And good night!” Sweetie Belle spoke before she and her two friends galloped away chatting with each other.
“Heheh, sweet girls.” I spoke with a chuckle while watching them run off.
Fluttershy then asked, “Shall we be going?”
I nodded, “Sure… Oh, wait a sec.” I then walked over to Big Macintosh and reached into the cart. “Let me lighten your load a bit.” I then pulled out the wooden sword the Cutie Mark Crusaders ‘forged’ for me and hoisted the great blade over my shoulder. “OK, I’m good. Let’s go.”
Big Macintosh nodded in agreement, “Eyup.” We all said our goodbyes and began to head home with Big Macintosh in our company.
Walking along like a mercenary with his blade at the ready, I almost felt like I was Fluttershy and Big Macintosh’s escort as we walked through the empty streets of Ponyville, streetlamps casting light upon the roads every few dozen meters. “Hey, should I put this sword away?” I asked, not sure if having such a long blade hoisted over my shoulder was intimidating her.
Fluttershy shook her head and smiled, “Oh no, you’re fine. In fact… I think you look very dashing with that sword out. Doesn’t he, Big Mac?”
Our burly stallion friend nodded, “Eyup.”
I chuckled, “OK then. In any case, if something assaults us from the shadows, I’ll deal with it.” Of course, I strongly doubted that there were any threats in Ponyville. For as long as I have lived here, there has never been a big problem to deal with.
Our walk was fairly uneventful. It was actually a struggle to get Big Macintosh to say anything, so I did not bother. Before long, we crossed the meadow that separated Fluttershy’s cottage from the rest of Ponyville. The exterior was quiet, none of our little animal friends to be seen aside from an owl and a few bats. There was no light shining through the windows, seeing as how no one was home to watch the house.
“Can you give us a hand with this, Mac?” I asked while taking the pot of Mitta’s honeysuckle flowers in my left hand while Fluttershy carried the bag with my copy of Playcolt magazine.
Mac replied with a shake of his head, “Sorry. Can’t. Gotta stay here ta make sure the cart doesn’t tilt too far forward.” The cart only had two wheels at the sides, so there was no real way to keep it from tilting without someone in the harness.
Fluttershy nodded, “That’s OK. There’s not too much to carry in.” I nodded and carried my cargo inside the cottage.
The trip was repeated twice before we saw Big Macintosh off. I set Mitta’s flowers near the window, but not within direct sunlight. Fluttershy then whispered into my ear, “I’ll go get your gift ready, honey. Just relax on the sofa and I’ll be down in a little while.”
I was starting to suspect my girlfriend’s gift to me was something not meant for innocent eyes. “OK, honey. Take your time.” I replied, watching her trot up the stairs.
While looking around for something to do to pass the time, I eyed the bag containing Rainbow Dash’s gift to me. Playcolt… I have never owned such a magazine before. But seeing as how it was a gift, it would be rude to turn it away.
I pulled the magazine out of the bag and reclined on the sofa nearby. The cover depicted what seemed to be a unicorn mare with a slender body and long legs with a light pink coat and mane with a glass of wine floating near her. I felt I had seen her before in person at some point. Perhaps at the Grand Galloping Gala? “She does look like she has ‘Canterlot’ written all over her.”
As I flipped open to the first page, I heard a gentle coo above me. Looking up, I found Angela gazing down at me. “Aw, hey there, Angela.” I spoke softly, caressing her neck. I know I do not bring her up very often, but rest assured she is always around.
It seems that Playcolt is not a magazine dedicated to just naughty pictures. There seem to be articles in them to read. Of course, Rainbow Dash would have never gotten me a magazine like this to read, so I started looking for just the pictures. I do not particularly care for reading magazine articles anyway. For whatever reason, Angela seemed to be watching too.
“Whoa… Hello there, captain.” I muttered as I found a series of photos depicting Spitfire. Ironic since I had seen her just that day. The photos showed her in uniform, but with her mask down to reveal her face. Those warm eyes were gazing at the camera with a very inviting stare. Another showed her with her uniform’s zipper pulled down, revealing her bare chest. Granted, ponies do not have the type of ‘assets’ a human woman would have there, but I still found that display to be shockingly enticing. The next photo depicted her in a more playful style, looking like she was in the middle of a hop while wearing a cheerleader’s uniform, complete with pompoms and a skirt. It was then I noticed that when standing on their hind legs, mares have…quite a figure to them. “Whoa… I never knew pony mares had such…nice hips. I’ll never look at you the same way again, captain.” I muttered to myself, cracking a smile.
I got more of the same in the following pages, finding that Playcolt seems to focus on a mare’s hindquarters, or dressing them up in flirty outfits. However, when I reached the halfway point of the magazine, I stared aghast at what I was looking at. “What the…?! Are you serious?!”
In the center of the magazine… What in the world… How… Why… What… Rainbow Dash?! The first thing that greeted me when I turned the page was of Rainbow Dash herself reclining on her side inside her own home, I suspect. She was giving the camera, or in this case me, an alluring gaze. “Rainbow… Are you serious?” I muttered to myself, noticing that Angela was covering her face with a wing while her eyes were closed, clearly laughing under her breath. I did not even know doves could really laugh.
I was feeling rather hesitant to go on, seeing as Rainbow Dash is my friend and I am already in love with another woman. Was this some sort of prank? I expected that to be the only picture of her, but boy was I wrong. When I turned the page, I found another picture of her. The shot was taken from behind her, head on her bed while looking at me from the side while her hind legs were still standing, proudly displaying her rump. Fortunately for me, her rainbow-striped tail was obstructing anything that might be under it. And on the page opposite from that picture was another that actually made me chuckle a bit. She was pouring liquid chocolate over herself. What, did she suspect I had a food fetish?
Out of suspicion, I took a closer look at the pages that displayed my friend. To my surprise, there were no page numbers in the corners. It seemed that these pictures of her had been manually stapled into the magazine. Meaning… She had modified this magazine personally for me?!
I felt sweat starting to trickle down my neck. I was becoming hot and bothered while looking at these photos. I confess I liked what I was seeing for the most part, but another part of me was telling me to close the magazine. I went against my better judgment and flipped one more page. On the page on the left, I was greeted with a tamer sight. It was a view of Rainbow Dash from behind, but she was standing on just her hind legs. Her wings were spread wide while her forelegs were folded behind her head. Her head was turned sideways, allowing her to look at the camera while flashing a rather naughty grin. I must confess, that was a very provocative pose and it really showed off her figure. I admit right now that I always did find that rowdy pegasus mare to be surprisingly attractive in her own unique way, but this… Just wow.
The page on the right was the final straw for me. I felt my body temperature spike as I gazed at a photo of Rainbow Dash smiling rather amorously at the camera while lying on her back, the shot taken from above. She had her forelegs crossed over her chest, but the unobstructed view of her underside gave me a perfect view of her teats. This felt so wrong, but I was hesitant to look away. As it turned out, her teats were indeed smaller than Fluttershy’s, but not by much.
After a moment of staring, I hastily closed the magazine. I felt so dirty and unclean from looking at that. Why did Rainbow Dash give me that magazine after planting photos of herself in them? She said it was for my eyes only, so it was clear she only wanted me to see them…but why? What was she trying to tell me? “Best not think about this too hard…” I muttered to myself, rushing to the kitchen to get a glass of water.
I quickly chugged the glass of cool water once it was full, feeling somewhat better instantly. Even so, it was hard to get those images out of my head. Why? Why did Rainbow Dash give me that? Fortunately, I did not have much time to wonder about it since I heard a voice behind me. “Happy birthday, honey. Do you like your gift?”
I turned to face Fluttershy and stared blankly at her. She… Whoa. She was wearing a black choker around her neck with white lace reaching from it down to her hips. Around them was a pair of black lingerie, which greatly accentuated her shapely rump. She was clearly blushing, as would be expected from a shy reserved girl like her. “Is it…to your liking?”
After taking a few seconds to think of a witty response, I smiled with a blush on my face. “Let’s just say that if I was wearing my armor, I would have the world’s biggest wingboner right now.”
Fluttershy’s wings instantly sprang open with a wingboner of her own. Maybe she was visualizing me with said wingboner. “Oh my…”
I approached her while kneeling by her side, stroking my hand along her soft coat and over the lingerie that covered her rump. “Man… You must’ve went way out of your way to do this, honey… You’re gorgeous.”
Fluttershy shuddered at my touch, “Yes… Rarity suggested it. She made this just for us.”
I smirked, “Rarity? Whoa. Never knew she ran THAT kind of clothing business.” Fluttershy let out a giggle at those words.
After a moment more of gentle caressing, Fluttershy and I joined lips for a deep sensual kiss. However, it was interrupted by the sound of children talking from…somewhere outside.
“Is that…” I muttered, looking towards the front door. The voices were steadily becoming louder.
“They’re back already?! Oh no, we can’t let Scootaloo see us like this…” Fluttershy spoke while glancing around all flustered.
I smiled, “Then let’s take this somewhere private.” I pointed towards the stairs, knowing the bathroom was right next to our bedroom.
“Ooh! That should work! But let’s keep quiet until Scootaloo’s gone to bed.” Fluttershy replied. I nodded and quickly followed her upstairs. I suppose I could go into detail on what happened in there, but not this time. Today is my birthday and I would like to keep that little memory to myself. You are welcome to imagine what happened next yourself though.
What a day… I am now lying in bed with Fluttershy beside me, sleeping soundly. I made sure to hide that magazine from Scootaloo as soon as she went to bed. No telling what might happen if she saw her role model posing for me like that.
It has been a long time since I last had a birthday so memorable. I never would have gotten one like this back on Earth. The gifts were great too, although that magazine was definitely weird. I should probably make sure to hide this journal for now. Not sure what Fluttershy would do if she ever read that part.
Well, it is time that I sleep. Today was fun, but it wore me out. Thank you again, my friends. I will not forget this day. Only one question remains. Will my next birthday party be just as amazing as this one?