As Persica could plainly see as she worked in it, the garden was still in poor condition. Little of the contents residing within it had not yet withered, giving it a poor look. The lettuce seemed to have suffered the least of all the vegetables in the garden this day, and since this morning, Habeas and herself had decided to collect as many of them as they could.
All-in-all, a long, irksome week had passed, but Persica remained holding her head high through it. She found this job of ridding her home of the boggart to be just the fix she needed to keep her mind off of a certain other matter, if one were to consider the dark secret she remained keeping from her dear changeling, Habeas.
The trap she had set and baited for the boggart from within their house was a small contraption of deceptively simple making, being a small iron cage decorated with enough cloth and newspaper around it to keep even one of a sharp mind from instantly realizing its true intention, and containing a lure in the form of an old, silver earring she owned. The horrid activities of the small fey being began to pick up no sooner than she had set down her device, though Persica reassured Habeas that it would all end soon.
"It's been a week, now. It... it will notice it, right? The trap?" The changeling decided to speak up his question, as a long silence had dropped between them as they set most of their focus on gathering.
"Yes. But that's the point," Persica said, smiling his way as she cut off another head of lettuce from one the ground. "By making it look inconspicuous, it won't easily realize it's actually a trap when it does find it. And when it unwittingly walks into it... snap."
"That's... a pretty clever method to depend on," Habeas responded as he loaded his current catch into the cart waiting on the side of the garden, wiping some of the dirt he acquired from it onto his handkerchief. "."
"As I've said before, boggarts are clever," Persica reminded him. "Exceptionally so. What they lack in actual intelligence, they make up for in cunning. Devious cunning. You have to outplay a boggart to catch one."
"I must admit, this whole boggart-catching business has to be one of the most troublesome things I think I've ever experienced." He let out a warm chuckle. "I don't think I have anything I can compare it to."
As Habeas moved through the garden to grab his next bunch of lettuce, his head lifted again; an image striking him. "You know... I think I actually do have an idea on what I can compare something like this to," he smiled to Persica, almost cheerfully.
"And what would that be?" Persica inquired with a low stare aimed his way, honestly curious to what his comparison would be.
Habeas' transparent wings fluttered briefly from his shelled back with a light buzzing sound before the wing casings covered them once more as his mind raced back. "This whole boggart business sounds nearly as troublesome to solve as... as forming a discussion with my older sister, Cert. Yeah, that's it..."
His head went back to the ground as he reset his attention to the lettuce sitting before him, but to this, Persica's own instantly raised upward; at least when she properly registered his words. "Sister?" she asked, a hoof brushing back some strands of her mane's hair from her face. "You have a sister?"
Habeas stopped what he was doing looked her way with a nod. "Well, I have a few siblings," he stated with a shrug. "Five of them, in fact."
"You never mentioned them before." Persica's brow remained lowered for a good ten seconds. "Sorry if I consider it a bit odd. Do you... not look on them very favorably?"
"No, no. Eh... let's just say we all had a distant relationship to one another. But that's not to say we didn't spend a lot of time together as grubs and nymphs." He sighed, shaking his head and smiling in reverie. "Being in the hive, two individual changelings rarely ever had a chance to see one another unless they worked close to one another or a celebration was going on. But that's how our system worked. Just not in my favor, of course."
He exhaled another long, deep breath. "You know, I don't think I had a real, real conversation with any of my family members since I left the hive. I never even knew my parents. The only one I really had any touch with at that point was my youngest sister, Quo. As far as I know, she's still living with it. They all are, probably." Realizing he had allowed his face to go rather glum, the changeling let out another toothy grin. "It's a good feeling, don't get me wrong Persica. It's good since Chrysalis was deposed and all that. The hive can only get better, now."
"Huh..." Persica gave a long, pensive stare his way. "Do you miss them? If so, we could always try to invite one or more of them over."
"I miss them all a fair bit," he said, exhaling a long-drawn breath in reverie of their faces he remembered from his youth, eventually turning his own Persica's way. "If we ever get the chance, inviting them over sounds... rather nice, actually. I'm sure they have time on their own hooves. It's not like each of them left the hive like I did to go on some wacky adventures or anything."
"Then it's a plan." Persica cast Habeas a nod of agreement. "Once we rid ourselves of this fey pest, we can most certainly-"
Persica was interrupted by a small, but noticeably sharp snapping sound, originating from the house. The abrupt noise echoed from the inside of it with the tenacity of a cricket chirping from afar, but the impact of a crack of lightning. As Habeas came to grips with it he found himself staring back at Persica, and the first thing he noticed was that her once plainly-happy visage was now positively beaming, and on her lips was a grin that slowly widened.
"That was the trap," she spoke, her voice a brisk whisper. "That's the sound of it... going off. Hurry! I think we caught the creature!"
Dropping what she had, Persica raced from the garden to the house with all the manner of quickness of a fox chasing a mouse. She burst through the door with just enough care in her motions to turn the handle and push it open instead of busting it down with sheer force. Habeas was a few feet behind her the whole way, and by the time he finally reached her still shape, she was peering into the already-opened cage. Her expression slowly vanished as he grew closer to her, and the mare voiced the reason why soon after.
"There's nothing in it. Not even the earring," she grumbled, closing her eyes and inhaling a deep breath as her excitement was crushed. Habeas tapped on his chin with a hoof as she turned her head away and then approached the cage. Feeling agog, he decided to take a peek inside the disguised trap for himself. While at first he, too, detected nothing, a small thing - resting in the dark back corner of the cage - came into his sights.
"Wait, I think there's one thing," he stated. Using his magic, he levitated the piece out of the cage and into his open hoof. Hearing him, Persica looked over her shoulder and saw what he had acquired.
As both Habeas and Persica could see, it looked like a minuscule roll of white paper with a dust-coated rubber band wrapped around it, keeping it in its current shape. Picking off the band and setting it aside, Habeas unfurled the tube, revealing it to indeed be a piece of paper of a rectangular shape. Upon it was some writing, drawn in what he thought of as being from a pencil.
"It's a... note?" questioned the changeling.
"Let me see that," Persica spoke. Habeas handed the paper to her and they both looked over what laid upon its surface. Indeed it was a note, albeit a poorly-written one at that. At first it seemed hard to read, as most of the letters were crooked or spelled backwards. But in spite of that, the message it conveyed was understandable enough, if just barely.
Der pesky ponys,
Im Gunter Snagknot. Im the boggart living with you and Ive seen you trying to cach me.
Dont stop, and I make things wors. Very, very much wors.
So wors that youl wish I went bak to wat I did befor. I liv here now, I do wat I want.
Sincrly Sinserly Sinceler
That was where it seemed to end, but upon a quick glance, both Habeas and Persica could see there was more. Below the writing was what looked like a hasty red crayon scribble of a small circle that seemed to represent a head, along with two triangles on either side of the circle that acted like pointed ears. It was evidently made to look fierce, as the head bore a wicked, fanged sneer upon it. It was hard to tell if that was truly the case though, due to it looking as though it was created by a young child.
Habeas hummed, thinking hard on what his next question would be. "Persica... what happens now?" was what it became.
She bit her lip. "It knew how to outwit my trap, and this little threat and taunt it left behind tells me how it did. That most likely means it's been captured in one like this before, or at least learned how to work around it. Either way, it's wizened to it." Persica let out an audibly low mumble, which Habeas took as being of not of pure annoyance, but of hard, cold thoughtfulness. "I’m going to have to try another method to catch it. And if it outsmarts that one, then I'll try another one after that. Don’t worry, there’s more than one way to cut a peach..."
Talking to herself in a voice too low for Habeas to hear, she began to walk off into another room. Habeas, wanting to help her in any way he thought would be possible, decided to join her. While he followed behind her, he began to rethink at just how much of a nuisance this little creature was going to become.
He remained dwelling on it when his eye was caught by a picture sitting on a counter beside the base of the stairs. His attention gained, he stopped in his tracks and took a good look at it. It was a photo of Persica and a handsome stallion standing side by side, who Habeas had by now known was her late husband, Chantilly Cream. He stared at the picture for a minute with an interested expression shining on his face and an important question rolling around through his mind. He only broke his focus on the thing when he decided to shift it onto Persica, who was getting herself a glass of water in the kitchen. Filling his lungs with a deep, but sure breath of air as Persica took her first sip of it, he approached her in a slow pace.
"Persica... I need to ask you something."
"Shoot," she halfheartedly responded.
Habeas cleared his throat. "Have you... ever thought about revealing to Peach Blossom the fate of her father?" he spoke her way, his tone full of nothing but sincere inquisitiveness. Putting down her glass after registering his words, Persica looked to him with a surprisingly calm mien, knowing right off what he meant by this.
Peach Blossom, for her entire life up to this point, had been unaware of her mother and father's monster-hunting profession before they settled down on this peach farm, nor the terrible truth behind how Chantilly Cream truly passed. She even thought that the armor and weapons they possessed and displayed indoors were nothing more than old heirlooms. Habeas continued, "The boggart brought it up in my head. It may not be my place to mention it, but I earnestly believe she's old enough and mature enough to handle it," the changeling said. "And in my own opinion, it's better to tell her than keeping it a secret forever."
"Yes, to answer your first question, the subject's crossed my mind from time to time," Persica mumbled, blinking several times while fondly thinking back to the times she spent with her husband in days long since passed. "She is old enough to know, that much I can assure, but I don't think that now is the best time for such a revelation. It'll be soon, just not now."
"I understand," Habeas nodded. "I just... I only realized it a few seconds ago."
"So you might have. And by the look on your face, you feel worried asking me this." Persica managed to form a small smile on her lips, knowing good and well how her coltfriend's mind worked. "I'm glad you brought it up. I've had a lot of stuff going on in my head, but now that you mention it... I should start thinking about it more."
"We should get rid of the fairy haunting our house first before that though, wouldn't you say?" Habeas decided to suggest.
Persica lifted her glass back to her mouth and ingested some more of the cool, refreshing water down her parched throat. "That too."
Peach Blossom stacked another apple onto the pile she was tasked with making, completing the small pyramid of sorts that rested on a quaint podium near the center of the produce section of the store. School may have started, but she still had her work days. It was mostly on weekends that she labored here now, but sometimes weekdays, like this one, required her to take the afternoon shift. Ever the determined young mare, with sights set in a future she could attain with aid from hard-earned money, she worked on with the most intense of vigor.
"And just one... more... ah," she smiled as she set the final apple at the very top, having had to use a small two-step ladder to do so. "And just so."
Upon making sure it was stable, she stepped down from the ladder and surveyed her handiwork. As she looked upon her grand piece of temporary art, she noticed the sound of somepony's hooves walking on the ground behind her. However, she paid them little mind, simply thinking them to be just another customer passing by to get at a shelf. What happened next seemed to disprove this thought, though.
"Well, hello again m'lady. What a pleasant coincidence it is to run into you here." A sudden, familiar, and highly exaggerated voice entered Blossom's ears from somewhere nearby. Her head lifting and ears perking as she came to the realization that the greeting was aimed at her, she spun about and met a sight she hardly thought she would see this day.
“Bumble?” Peach Blossom gasped, her disbelief quickly transforming into happiness of a high variety. Indeed it was Bumble, but there was a dry mop in his hooves and he was wearing store attire closely matching hers. “What're you doing here? And... why are you dressed in a store uniform?”
“I work here now!” he smiled, glee ripe in his tone as the sweet and ready fruit Peach Blossom had just finished stacking. “Because my dad came back and started working on the beehives we own, I have a metric ton of time on my hooves. At first I had no earthly idea on what I should do, but then it hit me. I remembered that you worked here, and I decided it might allow us to spend a little more time together if I were to... join up.”
"Wait, wait, waitwaitwaitwaitwait... Let me get this straight." Peach Blossom stepped toward him until their chests were practically touching. "You decided to apply here just so you could work alongside me?"
He murmured a small laugh. "And maybe earn a little cash while I do so..."
Peach Blossom gave a playful punch to his shoulder. "You sure do like making surprises, don't you?"
"Do I? I sure do." Bumble failed to withhold his visible glee. It wasn't to last though, as Peach Blossom's view slowly changed from him to something in the background. Her face having curled into one of realization and apparent horror, she shifted her focus to him once more.
"It's one of the bosses. Quick, get back to work!" she rasped to him in a hushed tone. Nodding quickly, Bumble started resuming his own assignment as Peach Blossom spun about to face her apples.
Before they had a chance to get caught they both finished turning back to their prior work and did their best to look appear busy; Bumble's current job being dry mopping the floor of any sort of wet stains, while Peach Blossom looked over her tower of apples again for any sort of imperfections. One of the managers, the one who Blossom had witnessed, grew closer to them with his eyes thankfully set not on them but a clipboard he held in front of him. His name being Ashcoat, which matched him nicely given his gray-furred body, he stopped and let out a long hum.
“Mr. Bee, I've been looking for you,” he said, shifting his clipboard into his shoulder as he focused on the new worker. “There’s a bit of a mess in need of being cleaned in aisle ten. A customer was wandering through, slipped somehow, and knocked over nearly a dozen cereal boxes. Care to tend to it?”
“Yes, of course, sir,” Bumble nodded, giving a small salute with his free hoof as the other balanced the mop's handle. Ashcoat hummed again, nodded once in affirmation, and began moving away to look over his other duties. Bumble blew out a puff of air through his lips and looked back at Peach Blossom as she stared to him in turn.
"That was close," he gasped in faux-horror, though truly a little shaken by the unexpected encounter. "And it seems I've used up all my time to see you off-break. I'll see you again soon, Peach!"
"See ya, Bumble!" Peach Blossom bid with a pat on the shoulder. Content, Bumble set off to clean the mess. Giggling to herself, Blossom watched him leave her sight before resuming her own work.