3 DAYS AGO.
"Do you realize what could've happened?! Sweetie you simply must think of the consequences of doing something so foolishly reckless!" Rarity walked back and forth around the marble floor of the boutique, while Sweetie Belle sat on the stairs. Every sad little attempt to defend herself was interrupted by Rarity's endless scolding.
"I mean seriously! What do you think would've happened if Scootaloo was killed? Did you three think about that? I bet you didn't! All you three care about is your silly little crusading to the point where you don't even look after your own well being. It's over Sweetie Belle. I'm sorry." Rarity stopped her pacing and focused her gaze on the little white unicorn. Sweetie was looking at the floor, trying to tune her big sister out the best she could.
"Did you hear me? Sweetie Belle, are you even listening?!" Rarity stamped her foot hard against the ground and demanded the little crusader's attention. Sweetie finally looked up, tears welling up in her eyes.
"I said it's over Sweetie Belle. You and the girls are not to crusade any longer. I'm going to speak with Applejack and Rainbow Dash tomorrow and we are going to end this."
Sweetie's eyes widened, glossing over as they produced more tears.
"NO! Rarity please you can't! It's the only thing we've got! We have to find out what our special talents are and we can't do that if we don't crusade! Please Rarity!" Sweetie finally mustered up the courage to say something, hoping to Celestia that Rarity's threat wasn't serious.
"My decision is final Sweetie. There is no way I'm going to promote reckless behavior that can get you all killed. All we have is each other Sweetie Belle... and I can't lose you. Mother and Father... they would nev--" Rarity didn't get a chance to finish her sentence. Sweetie Belle jumped down the steps and started yelling at the dress maker, her voice cracking as it raised in volume.
"DON'T TALK ABOUT THEM LIKE YOU KNEW THEM! YOU NEVER SPENT TIME WITH THE FAMILY! YOU NEVER CARED TO! THEY TOLD ME I COULD BE ANYTHING, AND THAT CRUSADING WOULD BE ONE OF THE BEST WAYS TO FIND OUT MY TALENT!"
Rarity tried to speak, but Sweetie Belle was on a roll now.
"THEY LOVED ME! THEY LOVED YOU! BUT DID YOU EVER SHOW THAT SAME LOVE BACK?! NO!! ALL YOU CARED ABOUT WERE YOUR STUPID DRESSES!"
"Sweetie Belle! That is quite enough!" Rarity was trying her hardest to stay calm.
"NO! I WON'T LET YOU TAKE AWAY THE ONLY THING WE HAVE! MOM AND DAD SUPPORTED ME AND I WON'T LET YOU TAKE THAT AWAY!" Sweetie Belle let the tears flow freely, not holding in her emotions any longer.
"SWEETIE BELLE, THAT IS ENOUGH!" Rarity's yell shocked the filly. She backed up slowly, till her hind hooves hit the stairs. Rarity used her magic to rip the Crusading cape off of Sweetie Belle's neck. Looking right into Sweetie's eyes, she pulled the red fabric in opposite directions. Sweetie watched in horror as her big sister tore the cape in half, right down the middle. As each thread was torn, Sweetie felt as if a part of her heart was torn with it. She started to sob as she turned and clumsily ran up the stairs.
"I hate you! I wish it had been you!" She shouted as she fled into her room. Rarity flinched as the door upstairs was slammed.
"I'm... s-sorry Sweetie." Her eyes too were slowly beginning to shed tears. She looked down at the now ripped cape and regretted her actions instantly. Slowly she backed away from the cape and turned to face the side wall. Directly in front of her face was a picture of her parents. Her father had a hoof wrapped around her mother... they both smiled at the camera as they leaned over the rails of the cruise ship they were on, a cruise ship that never came back.
"Maybe it should've been me." She reached her hoof up and gently touched the frame hanging on the wall. "Oh Mother, Father. I need you more than ever," she whimpered softly, lip quivering as she started to cry. "Why did you leave me?"
"Apple Bloom are ya even listening to what we're telling ya? Applejack looked down at her sister sitting in Granny Smith's rocking chair. "Well are ya?"
"Yes big sis but you don't understand! It was just an accident! We didn't mean for Scoots to get hurt, we just wanted to try and earn our cutie marks!" Apple Bloom urged her family to understand, but they simply would not have it.
"Y'all coulda died out there Apple Bloom! We've already lost too many members of this family, and we can't go and lose anymore! Right Big Mac?" Granny Smith turned and looked to the big red farmer stallion, who looked just as mad as everypony else.
"Eeyup!" He firmly replied.
"Big Mac not you too! Please guys don't make me stop being a crusader! It's the only way to find out what my special talent is!" Apple Bloom begged her family further. Applejack stomped her hoof on the ground, hard. Applejack was strong, so her hoof hitting the ground was not quiet.
"No Apple Bloom! We are taking the Clubhouse down tomorrow and telling Scootaloo and Sweetie Belle that this silly Crusading business is over! You and the other girls are to earn your cutie marks just like everypony else: by being patient!"
Apple Bloom hopped out of Granny's chair "No Applejack ple-" she started.
"Apple Bloom enough! That is that. I will pull that clubhouse to the ground myself RIGHT NOW if you don't stop! Now go to your room. There has been enough for one night." Big Mac finished, to the surprise of everypony. Apple Bloom began to tear up. She angrily left the living room and ran up the stairs, quickly fleeing down the hall till she swerved into her room and slammed the door. She threw herself on her bed and cried into her pillow. Right beside her bed on her nightstand was a picture of Sweetie Belle, Scootaloo, and herself standing near the Apple family pie eating contest. That day they had tried to earn their cutie marks in pie eating. They looked so happy. Looking at the picture only made her cry harder.
"I'm sorry girls."
Back downstairs Applejack stood near the fireplace.
"Are we making the right decision here?" She questioned. Big Mac and Granny Smith looked at each other and nodded.
"Yes Jackie. We can't allow them to..." Granny slowly nodded off to sleep, as soon as Big Mac noticed her he gently tapped her shoulder with his hoof. She awoke with a start. "Huh? Zap apples don't come for another few months. Why are you yelling at me! Wait... what was I saying?" She softly mumbled to herself as she tried to get back on track. Big Mac and AJ rolled their eyes.
"Oh yes, we can't allow them to get hurt! Why your Mama and Papa left y'all in my care and I intend to keep y'all safe!" At that last word Granny raised a hoof in the air, but it quickly fell as she fell asleep once more.
AJ chuckled softly. Big Mac lifted Granny and laid her on his back. He moved towards the rocking chair, and with the help of his sister, they gently placed her in it. AJ grabbed a blanket folded on the sofa and layed it over Granny Smith. They both kissed her on the forehead and snuck out the creaky front door that led out onto the patio. The sun had just finished setting, its last bit of light fading behind the mountains in the east. The moon steadily rose in the west and in its light the orchard glowed beautifully.
"Big Mac, we should start working on taking the clubhouse down. If we try and do it tomorrow, Apple Bloom will throw a fit."
Together they headed out into the Orchard towards the Cutie Mark Crusader's clubhouse. Applejack felt a small pain in her heart. She remembered when she gave it to the little fillies... but the crusading was getting too dangerous; Scootaloo almost died. Apple Bloom or Sweetie Belle could've been seriously injured. She looked up and saw two shooting stars fly over her head. She silently prayed to Celestia and Luna and thanked them for keeping the fillies safe. But as she continued to think about the crusaders, she realized that without the clubhouse they would have nowhere to meet and play and have fun. Her mind continued dwelling on such thoughts until Big Mac nudged her. AJ looked up and saw the clubhouse sitting firmly in its tree.
"We've got a long night ahead of us," she whispered sadly
"Rainbow Dash, I'm sorry! We didn't realize the scooter couldn't handle the winds! If I had been the one driving it then I'm sure it would've been fine, bu–" Scootaloo couldn't say much else, Rainbow Dash was already too mad to let much else be said.
"It doesn't matter who drove the scooter! It was dangerous! You know I'm all for daring tricks and cool stunts, but this was crossing the line, into just plain reckless! You could've died Scootaloo! One day, I'm not gonna be around to catch you and if I don't, then who will?!" She flew above Scootaloo's head and talked down directly at her. Scootaloo hated being talked down to.
"I'm not a little filly anymore Rainbow! You can't just control what I can and can't do!" She replied to the cyan pegasus, who frowned at Scootaloo. Rainbow landed directly in front of her.
"I can if I'm your legal guardian. Wanna know what else I can do? I can shut the crusaders down. This has gone on too far and for way too long. Sorry Scoots, but that's it. Your crusading days are over." She turned and started to fly to up to her room. Scootaloo couldn't believe what she was hearing. Her mind raced. She had so many things she wanted to say, but didn't know which one to pick.
"No Rainbow Dash! The girls and I love crusading! We can be less reckless I promise!" She hoped Rainbow would soften up to her as she had in the past, but to her dismay Rainbow didn't fall for it this time.
"Sorry squirt, but in the morning I'm going to AJ's and Rarity's and telling them it needs to end. You're not gonna be risking your lives for cutie marks." Rainbow flew up to her room and closed the doors. Leaving the orange filly alone in the living room of the large cloudhome. Scootaloo had tears start to form but she quickly blinked them away.
"No, it's not gonna just end like this." She trotted over to the window in the kitchen that overlooked all of Ponyville. "We are gonna get our cutie marks. No matter what we have to do." She trotted up the stairs to her room. She wanted to ignore looking into Rainbow's room as she passed it but with the door being opened just a crack, she couldn't resist herself. She peered into her adopted sister's room and saw her sitting on her bed holding a photo frame, crying silently as she looked at it. Scootaloo recognized the frame and knew what photo it held... the day Rainbow adopted Scootaloo they took a picture to immortalize the moment. Scootaloo's tears were coming back and this time she let them flow.
"Please forgive me Rainbow Dash... Don't hate me... Just please," she whispered as she slowly pulled her head out and scurried to her bedroom. Scootaloo had a lot of planning to do.
Apple Bloom, Scootaloo, and Sweetie Belle looked awful. None of them had been getting much sleep. The thought of their beloved club being torn apart led to losing sleep. They nodded off consistently in class to the annoyance of Cheerilee.
"Apple Bloom, Sweetie Belle, Scootaloo! Wake up! You know there is no sleeping in class! Did you three stay up late crusading last night?" She softly hit each of the ponies' desks and woke them up. Before any of them could respond to Cheerilee Diamond Tiara took it upon herself to answer.
"No Ms. Cheerilee, haven't you heard? The Cutie Mark Crusaders got shut down Friday night. Their silly clubhouse was torn down and everything!" She snickered at the three fillies, nudging Silver Spoon so she'd join in. "I guess this means they'll always be BLANK FLANKS!" the two bullies started to laugh rudely, quickly being cut off by Cheerilee.
"Girls that is enough." She turned her attention to the ex-crusaders. "Girls, is this true?" She asked them kindly.
"Yes..." the three responded in perfect unison.
Before Cheerilee could say anything else, the school bell rang, and all the fillies and colts sprang up from their desks quickly and evacuated the class. But before the crusaders could leave Cheerilee called to them. "Girls, stay for a moment?"
With a slight groan the three fillies turned and met Cheerilee at her desk. "Yes Ms. Cheerilee?" they again spoke in total sync. The school teacher smiled.
"Girls, I know how important crusading was to you... but maybe it's for the best. A cutie mark is something a pony learns over time. It's not something you can just learn overnight. If you want to find something to do, you can always rejoin the Foal Free Press! You three were amazing column writers for it after that whole Gabby Gums incident. Otherwise, I'm always here if you need to talk." She smiled again and wished them a great day. The fillies returned the farewell with little enthusiasm. They slowly shuffled out of the class and over to the dirt road.
Sleepiness was wearing them down as they walked, causing them to bump into each other constantly and walking down the wrong paths consistently.
"This sucks," Scootaloo put plainly. Sweetie Belle and Apple Bloom nodded softly
"Well... I guess it's a good thing the crusaders had one last crusade planned before it all ended," Scootaloo smiled deviously, awaiting a reaction from her friends.
Apple Bloom turned and saw ten different Scootaloos. "Another what?" she blinked hard several times, trying to wake herself up. Sweetie Belle faceplanted into the dirt, her blank flank still raised up.
"A last crusade?" she asked, her voice muffled due to her face's connection with the earth. She started to snore softly only a few moments later.
"Sweetie, get up. We've got a lot of things to do before we go!" Scootaloo trotted over to the white unicorn and tried helping her up. Sweetie didn't budge as she continued to sleep.
"Go where? Scootaloo, what are you talking about? What last crusade? The clubhouse is gone and you know our sisters won't let us go anywhere; you know Rainbow won't let you go anywhere!" Apple Bloom moved forward to help Scootaloo raise Sweetie from the ground.
"Look we can't just let the crusader's end now! We have dedicated so much of our time and energy into finding our special talents and you ponies are just gonna let our big sisters tell us what to do? Come on fillies! Have a little more backbone!" Scootaloo urged her comrades to understand. Apple Bloom's heart raced slightly.
Can we seriously just... leave?
Sweetie was finally up on all fours. "What's going on?"
"We are going on an adventure crusaders!" Scootaloo proudly exclaimed.
"Yay! Wait an adventure? Where?" She looked confused.
"To wherever we could think of! Think about it girls, all the crusading we've done has been within Ponyville's limits, and we haven't found our special talents, right?" Scootaloo asked.
"Yeah...?" the other crusaders answered back.
"Then let's leave Ponyville! Let's go to Manehattan and get Babs and go on the most ultimate crusade ever: the last crusade to get our cutie marks!" Scootaloo hopped up on a tree stump and raised a hoof high into the air!
"Scootaloo... you haven't really thought this through have you?" Apple Bloom teased. Sweetie Belle joined in. "Yeah, and it's not like we have any idea how to get around Equestria! We don't have a map or any idea of what to do!"
"I guess it's good we are friends with the local librarian," Scootaloo winked at her friends, who smiled in return.
Sweet Apple Acres, A few hours later
Applejack held a rag close to her face, often using it to wipe the moisture that dripped down her forehead while she worked. She looked over at what they had built so far. The wooden structure stood two stories tall; and was being painted by Rainbow Dash at the moment. So far, Rainbow had nearly finished its red coat, and was about to start adding the blues. Rarity walked around the building and placed flowers in pre-dug little holes. She hummed merrily for a second before speaking up.
"Girls, I'm so glad we decided to do this for the crusaders. They can keep crusading as long as they are more careful, and allow us to supervise them. And imagine their surprise when they see this! This new clubhouse is quite lovely. I even finished making the Cutie Mark Crusader flag!"
"Yeah, great idea Applejack. I might've been a little too hard on Scoots, so this will definitely make up for it."
"I know, I felt so terrible listening to Apple Bloom cry these past few nights. Plus, she looks pretty awful since she ain't been sleeping."
"Neither has Sweetie."
Applejack took a swig of her water cooler before she walked to the last glass window pane that needed to be put in. She gently lifted it up, immediately feeling some weight taken off because of Rarity's magic assisting her.
"Thanks Rarity, couldn't have done it without y'all."
The three mares stayed hard at work to complete the new clubhouse. There were more windows, more space and more comfortable furniture. Rarity even managed to flirt her way into getting a few discounted sofas from Davenport's Quill and Sofa Store. About twenty more minutes passed as the hardworking older sisters finished the last of the touch ups. Rarity presented the Cutie Mark Crusader flag to Rainbow, who flew up to the top and placed the metal rod into it's placeholder. She pulled on the small string that held the flag rolled up. As the flag unraveled, it started to catch the wind and soon waved beautifully. The fabric Rarity used almost glowed in the sunlight. The flag itself was red, with the Cutie Mark Crusader insignia sitting proudly in the middle.
"Ta-da! Congratulations girls, we are gonna make three fillies so very happy!" Rarity exclaimed, her eyes starry and filled with pride.
"Alright! Let's go!" Rainbow took off low to the ground towards the north apple field trail. Only to force herself to a stop in front of Twilight Sparkle.
"Hi Rainbow Dash!" Twilight smiled at her pegasus friend. "What are you doing?" She looked past Rainbow and saw the newly erected Cutie Mark Clubhouse in the clearing.
"Oh my goodness! That is so beautiful!" She saw Rarity waving at her and returned the gesture. It wasn't until she noticed Applejack that she felt something was wrong.
"Applejack? What are you doing here? You should be at the Train Station with the girls, or you'll miss the train!"
Applejack quickly trotted up to Twilight rubbing that last little bit of sweat off her brow before putting her hat back on. "What train?"
Rarity spoke up. "The girls? Which girls? Pinkie Pie and Fluttershy?"
"No! The crusaders!" Twilight said with another bright smile.
Rainbow flew up behind Twilight and joined Rarity and Applejack as they responded to Twilight all at once.
Scootaloo flew down a small hill, the feeling of the wind in her mane motivating her to go faster.
"Hey Scoots, can you slow down? We are trying to get our supplies organized here!" Sweetie Belle shouted over the rushing winds.
"Ugh, fine." Scootaloo slowed down the flapping of her wings, thus slowing down her scooter. After a year or so of tugging the little red wagon her friends sat in, her wings had grown strong. While riding her scooter she could pull the wagon and still go fast. There were a few saddle bags on the wagon so the extra weight hindered Scootaloo's speed, but they were already on the outskirts of Ponyville, so she wasn't too worried.
"Whoa! Hey Scootaloo, stop right here!" Apple Bloom exclaimed. Scootaloo did as requested and hit the brake. The scooter came to a clean stop on the last hill inside Ponyville's limits. They could easily look down and see the entire town. The sun had started setting by this point and its glow made all of Ponyville look beautifully orange. Sweetie Belle smiled and waved at the town.
"Goodbye Ponyville!!" She yelled loudly. "Hey Scootaloo, when will we come home?" She curiously asked her pegasus friend.
"Well Sweetie Belle... Until we get our cutie marks I don't think we'll be coming back. Did you guys leave letters?" she asked. The others nodded. "I guess that's it then. I'm gonna miss Rainbow Dash, but we've got to do this! One last crusade! We'll venture all over Equestria!" She jumped into the wagon and pulled out the map they got from Twilight's house. "First stop? Manehattan! Come on girls, we need to pick up our other crusader!"
The girls all whooped in excitement. Apple Bloom raised one hoof in the air, and waited for the other girls to join her. Scootaloo and Sweetie Belle copied the gesture and together they did their trademark hoofbump.
"It's time for an adventure!"
Scootaloo strapped her blue and yellow wonderbolt themed helmet on, and tightened her kneepads before wrapping her hooves around the handle bars of her scooter and taking off away from Ponyville, ready to head through the Everfree Forest and out on the adventure of their lives.
The three fillies didn't know what awaited them out in the world. They didn't know they would experience adventure, and tragedy, nor did they realize they would be inspirations to all...
What they did know, is that they were gonna find their purpose, no matter what.
The Cutie Mark Crusader's last adventure begins now.