Twilight recognized, on an academic level, the tremendous health benefits of running, and believed it second only to teleportation as a way of escaping from things, but couldn't, for the life of her, understand why anypony would go on a run without having some pressing reason to do so. Sure, she wasn't in the best shape, what with her spindly nerd legs and 3 A.M. microwaved pizza belly fat, but she was reasonably healthy, and saw no need to make herself a sweaty mess with sore shins and a headache for some unnecessary toning.
It was only to spend more time with Anon that Twilight was jogging along that dirt road, her hoofsteps heavy and lungs burning. There was no shade along the path, just fences and farmland, a great wheat plain that stood in great contrast to the nearby Everfree. She was trundling a few yards behind the rest, who were much more accustomed to this sort of thing, Anon and Summer matching each other's pace with a practiced ease, and Dash floating alongside them.
"This dragon's already scared away three of us, and I'm just itching to go at him." Dash punctuated this statement by taking up a fighting stance, her forehooves jabbing the air. "So I fly in, rainbow trailing behind me, and buck him right in the jaw. Heh, I swear, he shook like a bobblehead."
Anon chuckled. "Wait, so you just walked up and hit him?"
"Never said it was a good idea, the whole thing just got me angry, you know?" She waved a hoof. "Of course, it didn't really do anything, so he just throws me back out of the cave and right into the others." She laughed. "I was like a bucking bowling ball."
Summer's grin grew a bit. "What happened next?"
"Oh, oh, get this. So Fluttershy, who's absolutely terrified of her own shadow, scolds him like a toddler! Looks him right in the eyes and calls him a 'naughty boy' and shit!" Dash wrapped her hooves around her chest, a desperate attempt at retaining control. "And it worked! It bucking worked! He flew off, just like that!" She fell to the ground, her laughter uncontrollable, hooves kicking and wings spread wide.
Anon and Summer slowed to a stop, and Twilight practically melted into the dirt.
"Heh, let's, heh, rest here." He used his shirt to wipe the sweat off his forehead. "I think that's enough for today."
Twilight moaned in something resembling appreciation and reached for a water bottle, most of it missing her mouth entirely.
Rainbow had barely managed to recover. "So, Anon, how about you?"
"You got a story for us?"
Anon sat down and crossed his legs, scratching his chin. "I, uh ... " He stared in the distance for a few seconds, absorbed in thought, before looking back at her. "Yeah, why not. I went to ... well, a top tier college, not like the name means anything here."
Twilight perked up, if only to hear some precious MLH lore.
"I absolutely hated it. Not like I hated school itself, it's just the whole ethos of the place was a nightmare, a soul-sucking emptiness or something. I mean sure, yeah, I learned a lot and my resume got a massive boost, but I was miserable." He took a deep breath. "Everyone was ... I dunno, atomized, I guess, fully insulated in their own solitary pursuits, while there was no higher belonging or community, no ... purpose. It was a big school filled with a bunch of geeks from all manner of diverse backgrounds—of course there was no sense of community, of course everyone was lonely, of course all my friendships there felt so unfulfilling and artificial."
He chuckled and ran his fingers through his hair. "I don't mean to be so dramatic, but you have to understand that I didn't like college, like, at all. So, I don't remember the details, but there was some award ceremony for my major's department, and some of the teachers asked me to do a speech." He shrugged. "No idea why, I guess they just liked me, somehow."
"There's this Latin poem called Catullus 16, and it's essentially a smut-ridden rant against the author's detractors. It, heh, starts with something that translates to 'I will sodomize and face-fuck you,' which sounds remarkably profound in the original language. So I make this speech, and do some Latin quotes to sound all important, and slip this phrase in there. The like two teachers who knew Latin were mortified, and the rest didn't notice. Nothing came of it, but I got away with threatening to hate-fuck about a thousand people."
While Summer and Rainbow laughed up a storm, Twilight looked as if he had just shot her dog before spray-painting a swastika on her house.
"When I graduated, I moved to the city, which was somehow worse." Anon leaned back. "To be honest, I don't even get the appeal of the show, considering that it's all mundane social interaction in some materialistic clown world." He turned to Twilight. "Honestly, can you explain?"
"It's, well, the world-building and characters, not the show itself." She shook her head. "Can, can we just go back a second? I ... I watched the show, and I never got the impression that you would do a-anything like that, least of all in a professional enviroment. Why would ... "
He raised a hand. "You watched the show, you didn't watch me. Remember, I'm a real person, not a cartoon character, so you can't just make assumptions about my behavior through a TV screen. You've been here for like 4 days at this point, I'd think you'd have figured that out."
"But ... "
"It's no different to reading a biography, just as limited and just as disconnected from the actual subject." He signed. "And, while it's been ... an experience, I think it's time that you both start to wrap this whole trip up."
Twilight sat up in shock, and Rainbow looked almost relieved.
"Twilight, we have lives, and so do you, it's about time that we get back to them. Not right now, just in the next day or so." He noted her devastated expression, and looked back at Summer for advice, who only shrugged. "Look, we can probably stay in touch or something, alright? Penpals?"