One Year Later…
It was almost Fall. The green color of the leaves and bushes along the park trail had started to dim. The days had been getting shorter and shorter, and school was due to go back into session in just a few days.
Beebee grimaced at the thought, his mind wandering back to the Crusaders and how he wouldn’t be able to spend as much time with them once that happened. He slowed to a halt and looked off to his right through a gap in the shrubbery, taking in the impressive view of the mountains.
Up ahead of him, Eventide and Buddha came to a stop and looked back at him in curiosity. “Beebee? You coming?” the man called over, drawing him out of his trance.
He looked back at his father and gave a quick nod of his head. “Yeah, I am. Sorry.”
Beebee broke into a canter to catch up, then slowed back to his usual brisk trot once he was back at Eventide’s side. As the family resumed their journey, the five, almost six-year-old bug looked up at his dad, noting the difference in height.
Eventide looked back down at Beebee with a raised brow, his aura shimmering slightly with concern. “You okay, buddy? You were kinda spacing out on me there for a sec.”
“I’m okay. I was just thinking about my friends, that’s all,” Beebee replied, his shoulders slumping slightly. “School’s starting back up for them soon, you know?”
“Yeah, I hear you,” Eventide acknowledged with a slow nod of his head and a quiet hum. “But hey, it’s not like they’re going away or anything.”
“I know, I know. Still, I like seeing them.”
“Trust me, I noticed.”
Beebee rolled his eyes at that but chose not to comment any further. Instead, he affixed his eyes to the trail ahead of them and focused on walking.
They’d never made it this far, before. The trees had thinned out considerably around them as they gained altitude. The rocks were more prominent in the terrain, jutting up from the soil at either side of the trail and along the slopes of the mountainside like. The sky was clear, save for a few far-off clouds on the distant horizon. The sun’s place in the sky, if Beebee had to guess, placed the time at a little before noon.
They rounded a bend in the trail. The path curved upwards into a steep incline for several yards, at the top of which was a practical wall of trees. Beebee eyed it with curiosity and was about to ask a question when a sound caught his ears, making them perk up.
Eventide and Buddha came to a stop by his sides, hearing the sound as well. Buddha looked between the two of them with her tongue hanging out and her aura alight with cheerful confusion.
“...That’s the river,” Beebee noted in a hushed voice, his eyes slowly going wide. He looked up at his father, a small ember of anticipation drifting into his heart. “Dad, is this…?”
Eventide stood still for a second, eyeing the line of trees up ahead. He then gave Beebee a knowing smirk and nodded his head forwards. “One way to find out. C’mon.”
Beebee had nothing to say to that, and so the three of them resumed their walk, albeit at a faster pace than before. The bug grimaced when he felt the burn in his legs and lungs intensifying from the increased movement, but he forced himself to ignore it for now. if he correctly remembered what Eventide had told him when they first started doing this…
They came to the top of the slope and passed into the wall of trees. It wasn’t a very dense patch, but it was long, winding to the left and right for quite a distance like a snake. Just a few more yards ahead, the wall came to an end. The trees were forming an almost natural gateway, through which Beebee could see an almost blinding light. He squinted against it and kept moving, his anticipation building.
And then, at long last, the family stepped through the gate. Beebee’s eyes took a second to adjust, narrowing against a high-altitude breeze that hit his face. When the wind died down, he blinked a few times and looked ahead. His eyes went wide, and his jaw dropped in awe at the sight ahead of him. “Woah…”
A wide and expansive meadow awaited them, stretching out for a long way ahead. Flowers of several colors could be seen poking up between the blades of grass, wavering gently in the wind. Further ahead, a stream was winding through the meadow, its water perfectly clear. A few dragonflies flitted between some of the flowers before vanishing from Beebee’s sight.
Beyond all that, though, was perhaps the most amazing thing Beebee had ever laid eyes on. As if in a trance, he slowly walked forward, gazing down at what seemed to be the entire world. He could see the town he had been born in, nestled between hills and forests. He could make out the skyscrapers that had always been so distant in the neighboring city, looking like little more than toothpicks from this height.
Everything he had ever known. His entire world. All of it was right there, spread out before him for his eyes alone. He just stood there, dumbfounded by the sight. He was so enthralled that he didn’t notice Eventide sitting down by his side until he put his hand on Beebee’s back and leaned in to whisper in his ear.
“You made it, Beebee. This is the end of the trail…”
The end of the trail… they’d been trying to get here for how long? Beebee had no idea, but it had been a few years at this point. For a good few minutes, he mouthed uselessly like a fish, trying to wrap his head around it all. His thoughts were in a state of wonder-filled chaos, ideas and thoughts and memories all battling for his attention.
But above it all, one thought reigned supreme.
He’d made it. He was here.
A smile appeared on his face, and it steadily began to grow in size. A quiet chitter bubbled out of him, and it soon swelled into an uproarious laugh of abject joy and ecstasy. He turned and launched himself at Eventide, wrapping his hooves around his neck in a tight embrace. “WE DID IT!” He squealed at the top of his lungs, his wings buzzing on his back. “WE DID IT, WE DID IT, WE DID IT!!!”
His father laughed and returned the embrace, holding his son close and, quite literally, glowing with pride. “Ha! No, we didn’t make it,” he said before leaning back and grinning down at his son. “You made it. This was your journey.”
“But I never would have gotten here without you, Dad!” Beebee protested with a shake of his head. He chose not to push the subject any further, though, instead choosing to look out at the view again.
Eventide followed his gaze, his expression turning more serene as his aura glowed with awe and wonder of his own. “It’s beautiful, isn’t it?” he asked in a soft whisper.
Beebee nodded his head. “It is…”
He swept his eyes slowly across the meadow, taking it in again. He caught sight of Buddha leaping after the dragonfly only to splash into the stream. Luckily, it was pretty shallow and only came up to her elbows. Barking, the aging golden retriever began to bound and prance through the water. Her aura was aglow with joy and euphoria and unbounded levels of excitement.
“Why don’t you go play with her?” Eventide whispered into Beebee’s ear.
He turned to look up at his father in surprise. “Really? Can I?”
“As long as you don’t wear yourself out, yeah. Go on. Have fun, explore a little,” Eventide’s eyes looked out at the meadow. “Celebrate. You’ve earned it.”
Beebee blinked before looking at the meadow again. He hesitated for a second before nodding his head. On his back, his wings began to buzz, lifting him off his hooves. He rose to around Eventide’s eye level, then hovered in place. He looked back at his father one more time as if looking for the green light.
Eventide nodded towards the frolicking dog. “Go on.”
Beebee didn’t need to hear anything more than that. With a delighted giggle, he reared back and shot off, heading in Buddha’s direction. He came up to her side just as she was pulling herself out of the water, her fur dripping wet. She glanced up at him as he came over, and barked at him. He giggled again before his eyes settled on the stream.
He’d never actually felt what the river was like before…
Curious, he moved forward at a decent pace, lowering himself lower towards the surface of the stream. He could see his reflection staring back up at him, and he tentatively reached his hoof down to brush through it. The water parted around it, disrupting his reflection. It was cold to the touch, but not enough to make Beebee pull back. In fact, it was rather pleasant.
He looked to his left. His eyes widened when he saw Buddha sprinting along beside him from the shore, her eyes locked onto him. He slowed somewhat, then yelped in surprise when she bounded at him, her aura erupting with the combo of colors he had long ago learned meant ‘play with me.’
He barely lifted up to avoid being slammed into the water. Buddha plunged into the water, creating a large splash that doused Beebee. He shook himself for a moment and then started laughing. Oh, wow this felt new! The cold drops flowing down his carapace, the energy and affection from Buddha, the wonderful smell of the flowers and the rush of the wind on his face.
He had never felt so alive.
Without a moment’s hesitation, he dove back down into the water next to the dog, kicking up his own splash. She recoiled, and he gave her no room to escape, splashing water at her with his hooves. His holes meant he couldn’t scoop up quite as much as he would like, but that fact did little to quell his enjoyment.
All the while, as he and Buddha splashed in the river, as they ran through the blades of grass and enjoyed themselves, Eventide watched them from afar, a proud and happy smile on his face.
Beebee wasn’t exactly sure how much time he spent playing with Buddha before he finally began to grow tired. But he hadn’t been done exploring, not by a long shot. He had settled down on the dog’s back once it got hard to breathe and let her wander around at a more relaxed pace. All the while, he studied every little thing they walked by, taking it in.
He managed to catch his breath after a while but still chose to take it easy. He explored on his own, trotting around and examining every little thing he could see. Eventide had joined him, taking the time to explain the flowers, insects, and everything else as they went.
Once he felt comfortable enough, Beebee lifted up into the air on his wings as high as Eventide would allow him to go. Once there, he turned and looked down the mountain and at the world below.
And that was where he now found himself, the early afternoon sun coating the world in its wondrous rays and warming his back. He would rotate in place every so often so look at another part of the view, but aside from that, he hadn’t moved in quite some time.
There was no denying it — the view was breathtaking. From so high up, everything looked so small and so manageable. It was like he was standing at the top of the world, looking at everything he had ever seen or done up until this moment. Somewhere in the back of his mind, he imagined showing this view to the Crusaders, or to Aunt Fluttershy, and smiled. They’d love it, he knew.
“Hey, Bee!” Eventide’s voice broke through his thoughts, making him turn to look down. Eventide was waving at him, his camera in his hands. “We need to start heading back! Come down here and let’s get a picture before we go, eh!?”
Beebee smiled and nodded his head. “Sure! One sec, okay?” he called back down before looking ahead at the view, committing it to memory. He wanted to be able to remember everything he saw here, no matter where he was or how much time had passed.
After a moment, he grunted when a chilly breeze swept by, and a twinge of pain went through the base of his wings. His lungs tightened in his chest, and he knew it was time to come down. With one last parting glance at the view, he turned and flew back down to his father, who was already setting up the camera for a shot.
Beebee came down behind his father and draped his hooves over his shoulder. Eventide chuckled at that before lifting the camera in one hand. “Okay, Bee, calm down. Smile for the camera!”
Beebee did so, and to take it one step further, he pressed his cheek against Eventide’s. The man could only let off an exasperated laugh as the camera gave its signature click, telling them the photo had been taken.