Thousand Hoof Crutch-Take 2
Stand Battles. The very name conjures up images of bone shaking, earth moving fights to the death where the very souls of two ponies clash in mortal combat. Each side bearing their souls in physical form, manifesting powers beyond the mortal keen as they battle for the greatest of prizes, victory and conquest. Some are clashes of physical strength each side wrestling each other into submission without their owners having to lift a hoof. Some are contests of speed where both stands unleash flurries of blows at each other hoping to overcome the other with a shear volume of attacks. Some are contests of the power each side tapping into the power from deep within their psyches in order to demolish their opponents with supernatural powers.
Needless to say, the fight between Lyra Heartstrings and Applejack was none of these. Because for every epic and monumental contest of stand power, there are fights where logic and common sense are thrown clean out the window, and lunacy abounds in spades. And super strong farm mare chasing after a eight legged spider pony screaming for her life while demolishing an abandoned park in the process was most certainly one of these fights that defied common sense.
The comical routine had continued back and forth over the course of a half hour as Applejack had chased the terrified Lyra Heartstrings around the grassy abandoned park in the middle of nowhere over magical stones that fell from the sky. And as this scene of utter depravity against all the laws of the universe is going on the ponies on the sidelines Twilight Sparkle, Rarity and Fluttershy watch on with mild amusement as if such craziness failed to affect them in the slightest.
Suddenly, Twilight speaks up. “Rarity?”
The ivory mare turns her head. “Yes, Twilight? What is it? Do you want more popcorn?” Rarity offers Twilight her bowl.
“No thanks, Rarity, I was just watching and thinking; when was it that our lives got so…. so……”
“Bizarre?” Fluttershy chimes in as she takes a deep slurp from her hay shake.
“Yeah that! I mean, what the actual buck is it with us? I’ve been here all of five days and already I’m watching…... this, like it’s some spectator sport,” Twilight protests. “When did this become my life? What in the world is the deal with Pinkie? Why in the world aren’t we helping Applejack?! This isn’t normal! It’s not rational! It’s pure and unadulterated…..”
Rarity places her hoof forcefully over the manic unicorn’s mouth, silencing her rant. “Hush now darling, Applejack seems like she has everything under control,” The ivory mare says as she gently bops Twilight on the head. “Besides, I gave up trying to make sense of all this craziness a long time ago. As the saying goes, ‘don’t question a good thing’, and I have lived by that maxim my entire life in Ponyville.”
Rarity gestures out to the scene before her of an orange earth pony mare swinging a long metal pole after a scurrying Lyra Heartstrings. “I mean think about it in this way, Twilight.” The ivory mare turns her head towards Twilight with a look of seriousness upon it. “Would you rather be sitting in Canterlot doing taxes as some random everyday Jane; or would you rather be a super magical apprentice of a mare who moves the sun and moon on a quest to recover magical stones that have rained down across the land while discovering a deep dark secret protected for a thousand years?”
“But…... logic and mathematics and probability says that this should be…..”
“I’d rather be friends with Rarity and you, Twilight, than live a predictable life,” Fluttershy says as she throws her empty hay soda in a nearby trash can.
“But…..” Twilight sighs, utterly defeated. “You are right, Fluttershy, and you are too, Rarity. Our lives might not make sense, but I’d rather have this than some dead end job. Especially with friends like you.”
Rarity pats Twilight on the back, both mares sporting newfound smiles. “That’s the spirit, Twilight, now finish your popcorn. OH! Darlings look, they’ve stopped running around. Quick, pretend we’ve been paying attention!”
Sure enough, the two mares fighting have stopped running about, both simply stand staring at each other, each one dangerously out of breath. Both have withdrawn their Stands, keeping them at arm’s length as they get their energy back, each one daring the other to make the first move.
Finally Applejack speaks up. “Ah keep telling ya, Lyra, stop runnin about like a coward and fight like a mare. This is getting silly; yawl know ya have no chance of beating me!”
“Dream on, Apple Snacks,” the green unicorn retorts. “No way I’m just standing still while you pound me into the ground.” Lyra points her hoof at Applejack’s Stand. “Besides, if you’re so tired of running around just send your Stand closer to attack.”
“What?” the farm mare asks, “What they hay are you talkin about? Move mah Stand closer?”
“Yeah move it closer. You know like moving your Stand closer towards your opponent like this.” Lyra manifests an arm directly in front of the orange mare, causing it to grow out of the ground and tweak her nose before receding again.
“Ouch! Cut it out that hurt!” Applejack says as she rubs her sore nose.
“THAT hurt? And after I hit your Stand with everything I had? All I had to do is attack you instead of your Stand…?” This causes the green mare to perk up as she realizes something.
A sly grin crosses her face as she takes a step backwards, widening the gap between her and her opponent. “I get it, it’s not that your Stand isn’t moving away from your body to attack me, it’s that it can’t! Your Stand lacks the range and speed that my Stand does so you are forced to follow me around like a little puppy while I stay safe outside the range of your attacks.”
“Hunh? What are ya talki… OUCH!” Applejack falls to the ground as a rock smacks her in the head. Rising quickly back onto her hooves, Applejack looks around her. “What in the blazes, where did that…. OW, hey!” Looking in the direction the second rock came from, Applejack sees one of Lyra’s arms tossing a rock in midair, catching it in its hand before it throws the projectile at her.
Manifesting her Stand, Applejack easily grabs and crushes the rock with Foundation’s two hooves, reducing the projectile to powder. “Enough o this playin around Lyra, fight me fair an….”
Applejack barely has time to finish her sentence as she is tapped on the chin from below. “What the…” Looking beneath her, Applejack watches wide-eyed as three arms extend upwards in a coordinated uppercut. Acting as one, the three arms of Lyra’s Stand launch Applejack upwards and send her flying into the air. With a resounding thud, Applejack hits the ground hard as her Stetson flies off of her head.
“Hehe, so you thought I was crazy hunh?” Lyra stands victorious over her downed opponent. “Well I guess that you just lost to a crazy mare haven’t you?”
Applejack pulls herself off of the ground. “Ah haven’t lost yet.”
Lyra rolls her eyes. “Please, I was trying to pull my punches because I didn’t what to cripple you or anything, but it’s obvious that I’m the winner of this fight.” Applejack dashes forward to attack once again, her Stand priming its hooves to attack. However, this time Lyra deftly dodges out of the way as her arms trip Applejack, sending her sprawling to the ground.
“You see,” Lyra continues, her adversary lying in the dirt. “Your invincible Stand has two weaknesses that I can easily exploit: first, it is as slow as, how should I put this, ‘it’s as slow as molasses on Hearth's Warming’, yeehaw!”
“Oh dear Celestia now she’s doing them too!” Twilight cries out from the sidelines.
“…… Meaning my faster Stand can get in and pound you the moment that your Stand is no longer protecting your body,” Lyra remarks confidently.
Using her Stand, Lyra throws another rock at Applejack’s exposed flank from behind, drawing blood in the process. “….. And second, it can’t attack and defend at the same time, unlike my Stand. All I have to do is wait for your slower Stand to try and attack me and I can use my greater speed and range of over 20 meters to attack you when you can’t even touch me.”
Applejack tries move forward and attack again, however this time Lyra’s arms grab the pony by the tail and drag her painfully to the ground. “You went on and on about how strong and invincible your Stand was, Applejack. However sometimes victory goes to the swift and the clever. My Stand’s radius is 20 meters! And that means that there’s nowhere you can hide from my attacks!”
Suddenly, hundreds of Lyra’s arms pop out of the ground like daisies, each one holding a rock in their hands the size of a baseball. “And that is why this match… is over. Finishing attack Stone PONY!”
Attacking in perfect harmony, each arm throws their rock at the same time, releasing a rain of rocks directly over Applejack’s head threatening to crush the orange pony flat. Unable to rise, Applejack suddenly lies prone on the ground, curling up vainly to protect herself from the rain of heavy stones about to crash down on her head. The sound of stones impacting a hard object resonates through the open field, yet Applejack feels no pain from the rain of rocks. Confused, she suddenly opens her eyes to see a shimmering barrier of purple light shielding her from the rockslide.
“Hey! NO Fair!” Lyra complains, sore about the fact that she was suddenly denied her victory. “This was a one-on-one fight! You had no right to interfere! Twilight Sparkle!”
Sure enough, the lavender mare stands resolutely in between Lyra and her friend Applejack. “You’re the one that has gone too far, Lyra,” Twilight shouts. “I understand you might be cross with Applejack but this is ridiculous!” The lavender mare swings her hoof to the side as if the brush away Lyra’s deluded notions. ”You talk about fighting fairly, but you're the one who deceived and betrayed Applejack by attacking from behind!”
Applejack shakily rises to her hooves as she tries to push Twilight back. “Stay…. Stay out of this, Twi… this… this is mah fight, Ah won’t have….”
Applejack’s words are cut off as a familiar object falls back on her head. Surprised the mare feels the thick, worn canvas of her Stetson, once again back in its place. “Mah hat? Ya, ya got it fer me, Twilight?”
“Of course, Applejack! We’re friends, after all!” Twilight turns to the orange mare behind her, a smile of genuine concern and happiness snapping Applejack out of her sorry state. “I don’t mind you being in danger, Applejack; I don’t mind you putting your life on the line, especially if it means helping your friends and family.”
Twilight places a reaffirming hoof on her shoulder and states, “That’s just a part of who you are, Applejack, and I realize that now. You want to stand up for something, and I respect that. BUT….”
Twilight scrapes her hoof on the ground like a bull ready to charge as she levels her gaze at Lyra Heartstrings, ready to fight. “If you think even for a second that I’m just going to sit here while you get beaten half to death, you had better think again. I may not have a Stand power but I promise you, Applejack, that you or any of my other friends who finds themselves in danger will never fight alone!”
Lyra opens her mouth to counter to lavender librarian’s words, to state how she is no match for her Stand, but due to a trick of fate she never gets the chance.
Eclipsing even the light of the sun, a bright white glow begins to emanate from Twilight’s bag, shining through the heavy canvas as if it were a sheet of paper. All the mares turn their heads away to shield their eyes as the bright light surrounds the purple mare, causing her very body to vanish from sight against the illuminating backdrop.
‘I couldn’t have said it better myself…… my little pony…..’
The near-blinded Twilight rises from the ground, shaking her head just as the light from her bag begins to die down. “Ugg, what was that? What happened, who’s voice was…. that?” Twilight stares forward at a strange looking double laying in front of her eyes.
The Stand is about the lavender mare size, its sparkling coat covered in star-like shapes that surround and layer it in all shapes and sizes. The flowing nature of its mane and tail gives its bright silvery-white mane the appearance of the Milky Way on a cold winter’s night. Taking the form of an androgynous unicorn, the Stand’s star-shaped tattoos are spotted all over its pristine white hooves, and flow together in a chaotic pattern of the most intricate design. Yet the most distinguishing feature of the Stand is its black saddle, encrusted with gems from every color of the rainbow. The word F.R.I.E.N.D.S, dotted across both sides in countless refracting crystals, causes the hardened obsidian saddle to sparkle like the stars on a cold and lonely evening.
She raises her right hoof and the Stand mirrors her; she waves and it does the same. She jumps up and down and the Stand levitates up and down in front of her. Suddenly, the mare blinks once and bursts out into cheering! “EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE! I MANIFESTED A STAND! FINALLY! Applejack, I finally manifested Stand! I’m a Stand user! Finally after years and years of waiting I finally get a Stand! Are you excited? ‘Cause I’m certainly excited! I’ve never been so excited!”
The purple mare practically gushes in joy as she begins to toy with her control over the figure in front of her, causing it to levitate, move its limbs, and strike countless crazy poses. Lyra Heartstrings, off to the side gaping, is completely ignored in the wake of Twilight’s overwhelming excitement that seems to fill every fiber of her being. In fact, were she not in the middle of a battle, the lavender unicorn would possibly have spent the next hour ranting on about how excited she is and how proud the Princess will be of her pupil once she finds out about her accomplishment.
“It’s the stone…..” Lyra claims, almost to herself, as she stares at Twilight’s bag with an envious look. “It’s the Miracle Stone! You have one!” The excited green mare jumps in the air with glee, mirroring the lavender unicorn, her outburst reminding Twilight that this is no time for celebration.
“You had one and it granted your desire! That proves it! The Stones grant wishes! HAHA!” Lyra straightens herself out, manifesting several arms around the purple mare. “Perfect. Now, you can hand over the Miracle Stone you have to me!”
Twilight smirks as she strikes the cockiest pose a librarian can manage. “Oh I don’t think that I’ll be handing you anything, Lyra, not into those….. big….. ugly-looking hands you have, anyways.”
Lyra looks at her, completely unamused. "Lame.”
“Well, okay that was pretty bad…. but you are the one that is going down! Get her, Standy!” Suddenly, the Stand zooms at its opponent with frightening speed, and before Lyra can even raise a guard it is on top of the mare. The Stand glares at the green unicorn with bright red eyes as Lyra realizes that there is no time to dodge, her own golden eyes widening in terror.
Readying its hoof, ‘Standy’ throws a powerful right cross, hitting Lyra right in the face as the mare screams in apparent agony. “AAAAAAAAAAAAAAA…… “ Lyra screams as the punch hits her, only to feel no pain or discomfort whatsoever from the Stand’s powerful strike.
“What the? Shouldn’t that hurt?” Lyra looks at the stand in front of her and blinks. The Stand throws another punch, and again Lyra blinks indifferently as the blow bounces harmlessly off her face.
The Stand punches again, hitting her in the face, however this time Lyra doesn’t even move, apparently unfazed by the Stand’s blow. “Wow….. that’s really REALLY lame.”
Twilight is completely shocked as she falls to her flank. “What? My Stand…. is that weak?! I don’t understand, is something wrong? Why I… why did it….?”
Putting her hoof to her mouth to stifle the giggles pouring out, the mint mare cries out to Twilight, “Hey Twilight! Something’s wrong with your Stand or something! Did you forget to change the batteries or something?”
Lyra laughs in the face of Twilight's overwhelming embarrassment as she rubs her head. “All it was able to do was give me a splitting headache, and that’s about it. What, are your trying to embarrass yourself? Because I find it hard to believe that you are this really this lame! ”
As Twilight stares agape at the powerlessness of her own Stand, Lyra bursts out laughing at the lavender mare’s apparent misfortune. “BWA HA HA HA HA! You finally managed to manifest a Stand…. and it doesn’t do anything! HA Ha ha ha… he that is so priceless. He I really feel sorry for you, you know that, Twilly? BwaHAHAHA!!”
Lyra stifles her laughter as her Stand moves its multitude of arms, each one clutching a large circular stone it its hand. “But no worries, I’ll show you the power of a REAL STAND and put you out of your misery real fast.” The arms juggle their rocks with deadly precision as they take their aim at the stunned purple unicorn. “I’ll make this quick. Finishing move….. Stone Pony!”
In a literal hail of rock and mortar, Lyra’s Thousand Hoof Crutch sends her attack flying. The stones spiral through the air threatening to crush Twilight Sparkle, who sits on her haunches staring at the form of her powerless Stand manifested not a hoof’s-length in front of her her. “My Stand…. Useless….. There……….. there’s just no way……..”
“TWI look out!” Moving with all the speed she can manage, the injured Applejack moves her Stand in the path of Lyra’s attack. As if moving in slow motion, Applejack’s Foundation curls itself around the purple mare and her Stand, ready to absorb the impact of Lyra’s attack with her own body.
However, as Applejack’s Foundation touches the body of Twilight’s Stand, the two Stands mesh together, their bodies merging to form a single whole. Twilight and Applejack look on with glowing white eyes as their Stands flow together; the storm of rocks flying toward them fall to the ground, crushed by intense gravitational forces as the two Stands complete their transformation.
Yet the physical merging of the two Stands is nothing compared to what is going on in the minds of the two mares. As if a barrier between Applejack and Twilight has been demolished, the glowing eyes of the two mares show them everything they could possibly conceive about the mare at their side. Likes and Dislikes, Fears and Family, Memories and Feelings of one mare become crystal clear to the other as their thoughts mesh together in perfect harmony.
And as if symbolizing this mythic unity between the two friends, in a flash of starlight their two Stands have now combined together from a single able-bodied Stand. The strong oaken armor of Foundation is now adorned with Twilight’s six-pointed stars, which form a layered pattern over the dark brown wood. Its grassy mane now red as autumn flows gracefully, dark ruby berries sparkling in a non-existent wind. The horned crown of Foundation, now adorned with gems of every color, complements with the black saddle on its back, the gems in the saddle now spelling out the word FRIENDS in dark green emeralds.
Lyra sputters, unable to understand the incredible scene that has happened before her. “What the hay is going on, what did you do? This had better not be another trick!”
Twilight and Applejack’s eyes continue to glow as they both stare at the defiant mint unicorn before them. Together, as if psychically linked, they raise their hooves towards the green mare.
“Lyra…” Applejack says, “your next line is going to be…”
“…. Don’t insult the fight, you two…” the purple mare finishes.
“… And that’s the one!” they both say simultaneously.
“….. Don’t insult the fight, you two!” Lyra yells angrily. Suddenly, she realizes that something is very wrong. “What the!?! Can you… can you read minds?”
Twilight smiles. “You still don’t get it, Lyra. And to tell you the truth, I didn’t either for the longest time, but now I do.” Applejack and Twilight, their eyes glowing with arcane fire, step towards Lyra just as she takes a step back. “For the longest time I tried to take on the world by myself. But just recently I’ve learned something; that when two ponies work together as one, when they have an unbreakable bond with each other, their power grows immensely!”
In perfect unison Twilight and Applejack strike a daring pose, as the new version of Foundation stares down at Lyra Heartstrings. “An that’s the power of FRIENDS!” Applejack shouts, “It’s a Stand that creates a mental bond between us two, causin two Stands ta merge tagether!”
Applejack cracks her hooves. “… And that means yawl are fighting two ponies in perfect harmony, with twice the power as before! Yawl won’t stand a chance!”
Lyra glares angrily at the two as her Stand’s arms pick up more projectiles to attack them with. “So what? Your Stand is still too far away to touch me! All I have to do is attack outside your range and I…… HEY what’s going on?!”
Raising its hoof, the ‘FRIENDS’ Foundation lifts the green mare into the air as if by will alone. Small rocks orbit around the frightened Lyra Heartstrings as she flails about, desperately trying to pull herself back to earth, her Stand’s arms just inches short of pulling her back to the ground. Fear begins to fill Lyra’s senses as she floats weightlessly in midair, unable to attack, defend or move before the power that the two new ponies have just displayed.
“This effect isn’t simple levitation, Lyra, It’s Gravity,” Twilight states as Foundation holds Lyra weightless. “Applejack’s original power allows her to create an unbreakable gravitational bond between two solid objects or dispel gravity all together for a split second or two, causing the objects to lose their footing.”
Applejack continues, “Now, with Twi’s ‘friendly’ Stand boostin mah power, it allows us to control gravity at a distance, turnin a pony completely weightless or strengthenin gravity to crushing force.”
Twilight smirks. “And guess what the effective distance of that power is?”
“I reckon it’s about twenty meters,” Applejack smirks, “the same as your Stand.”
“… So I guess….”
“…. That you’re out of luck!” Applejack shouts.
“Take this!” Twilight shouts as both she and Foundation raise their hooves high above their heads. “Gravitational…….”
“…… Multiplication…..” Applejack raises her hoof up as well as Foundation raises its other forehoof up for the finishing blow.
“……OVERDRIVE!” both mares cry out at the same time as Foundation swings it’s hooves to the ground.
Lyra barely has time to think as she is instantly hit by several gees of gravitational pressure, being hurled to the ground below at subsonic speeds. In less than the time it takes for her to blink she finds herself smashed into the ground, her body creating a crater in the earth from the force of her impact. For a few moments the mint unicorn manages to keep herself barely conscious, as colorful purple, brown and orange shapes spin before her vision. But eventually and mercifully the badly beaten Lyra Heartstrings passes out, her consciousness drifting away as the blurry figures close in on her.
“So let me get this straight, darling, you can read minds?”
“No, Rarity, it’s a mind link not telepathy.”
“Well…. um, forgive me for asking but isn’t that the same thing? I mean, I’m not an expert on it or anything but it sounds like the same thing.”
‘Ugh, my head, what’s going on…..’
“No, Fluttershy, it is not the same thing. Telepathy is one mind manipulating or accessing the thoughts, memories and personalities of others. It’s why such magic is hard to perform and even harder to learn. It requires an immense amount of skill, and most of it is labeled black magic because it can be so easily abused.”
“So…. What is this mind link thing? Is it illegal? Cause if it is……”
‘My body…. feels heavy… What happened…..’
“Well…… it’s sort of illegal but….”
“Illegal? Twi! Ah don’t want to go to jail, just because Ah did that mind thing with yawl! I’m innocent!”
“Applejack, if you would let me finish. It’s not illegal because it breaks any law, but because it can go wrong if you aren’t very, very……”
‘The voices…. Who are they.....’
“Did it do something to mah head? Oh sweet Celestia it did, didn’t it? What do I do what do I MMMUUUMMPPPHHHHH!”
“Thank you, Rarity, and no, Applejack, it didn’t do anything technically wrong. A mind link or a mind meld as it is called was used by sorcerers to boost magical powers by linking two or more minds together. It’s not illegal because it requires consent in order for it to work properly, so it can’t be done on anypony against their will. If you try to do it on some pony against their will….. well, the mental feedback causes the spell to falter anywhere from one point zero seven seconds to five point fifty three seconds later. And all THAT does is create mental strain on the minds of those linked, except for the one who performs the ritual of course because they’re protected by Maddy’s Fourth Law of Spellcraft….. I get it, that’s why it didn’t do anything to Lyra: she resisted the mind link so I couldn’t link with her without creating a potent mental feedback! Point for Celestia’s student!”
“Um, I hate to be so, well…… but could you please say it in terms that a normal pony would understand?”
‘Am I…. am I dead?’
“…… Two minds become one, unless you don’t allow it. If so, you get a headache. That simple enough for you?”
“But wait, Twi. Yawl know that Ah don’t mind it but I didn’t really agree to that mental shindig we did, so how did it work?”
“I was getting to that, Applejack. In order to do a mind link you have to trust the other pony who you are doing the mind link with; that’s probably why you and I were able to do it, because you trusted me. Once the mind link is successful the two can pool magical power and mental focus, allowing them to accomplish greater spells than they would normally be capable of.”
“All right ah get that. That Stand of yers sure boosted my - or our - power, whatever yawl wanted to call it. But what was with the whole reading minds thing? While we were…... together…… ah could see a few of yer…… um…… thoughts, and ya could see some of mine. Is that normal?”
‘No calm down! I’m not dead, I was fighting some pony… for something…..’
“Well…… That’s a part of a mind link, Applejack. And I understand if you were uncomfortable with it and didn’t want to do it again! But during a mind link ponies can freely share knowledge with each other. So when we - well, mind merged - you became able to see my surface thoughts and I became able to see your surface thoughts. It’s why we were so in-sync we could tell what the other was going to do as they thought to do it.”
“Oh….. so did you…… um…… look at anything…… important like?”
“Of course not, Applejack! I would never! Like I said it only works with surface thoughts, so unless you directly….. thought about something…… I wouldn’t be able to see it unless I really looked for it. And if I forcibly tried to look at something deeper in your unconscious and you didn’t want me to look at it, you could easily resist my attempts to read your mind just by willing it!”
“Oh well then you didn’t see…… That’s good then, real good!”
“It’s like I said, Applejack: a mind link is built upon trust between one pony and the other; if that trust is broken, the link fails. And I know it helped us win, but if you don’t feel comfortable with it any more, then….”
‘Who was I fighting? What was I fighting for in the first place? I can’t remember….’
“Nah that’s fine, Twi! It just caught me off guard somethin fierce. But after that it was like…... like looking off a mountain top and seeing all the land beneath ya.”
“Yes, I got that impression too, Applejack, just from looking at your surface thoughts I could tell like there was a whole world of you that I hadn’t ever seen. I was just unsure that you would think the same. I was afraid that you would be…… well, averse to something so intimate.”
“Well Ah wouldn’t think about doin it all the time… but if we have to throw down Ah could imagine doin it again. Ah’ll tell ya, Twilight Sparkle, there’s a lot more ta ya than meets the eye.”
“TWILIGHT SPARKLE!” Suddenly Lyra Heartstrings bolts up with a start, seeing the faces of the four ponies that foiled her masterfully laid plans.
“Well look at who just woke up!” Applejack smirks condescendingly. “It seems that our darling friend Lyra’s just woken up from her little nap.”
Quickly the willful unicorn tries to activate her Stand but fails miserably, as it seems that the white binding rings holding her arms to her barrel are preventing her from manifesting her Stand or shooting more than a spark of magic. “Oh, and in case you were getting any funny ideas, those binders around your forelegs are anti-Stand collars manufactured by the Red Stone Group of Canterlot.”
Twilight taps on the white rings with her hoof. “There’s no plausible chance of breaking out of those. Well, there is a one in five million four hundred thousand and ninety-eight chance of breaking out of them with an intense magical discharge, but like I said that chance is negligible.”
Despite the lavender mare’s words, Lyra continues to thrash about on the ground for a few seconds before finally running out of breath and calming down. “Now that you’ve gotten your little temper tantrum out of the way, are you finally willing to reason?” In response to Twilight’s question, Lyra pants for a few seconds more before nodding her head.
“And you’re not going to give us any more trouble, right?” Lyra thinks again for a few seconds before nodding yes again.
“Good,” Twilight states as she sits down next to the green mare. “Now, first question: you have to see now that attacking a governmental official was really crazy.” Lyra growls. “Were you really so desperate to collect these stones as to risk the rest of your life in prison?”
Stunned by the brashness of Twilight's question, Lyra looks deeply into the eyes of the purple mare and, for the first time that day, Twilight doesn't see a cocky, arrogant pony. Twilight sees the eyes of a pony consumed with desperation. Lyra sighs and looks away. “You wouldn’t understand, you’re the Princess’s apprentice. Everypony loves you just for being who you are. Me? Everypony hates me just for what I believe. How could you possibly understand it?” Lyra states with a twinge of sadness. “I’ve spent my entire life slaving away to prove humans are real, to earn everypony’s respect, and all I’ve gotten is loneliness.”
The green mare chuckles darkly. “Heh, I must have done something terribly evil in a past life if destiny itself hates me this much. I know it’s crazy to believe in Humans. I really do! It’s just…. it’s just…… I don’t know. I just don’t know why I don’t just quit….”
Suddenly Applejack walks up to Lyra Heartstrings, turning her over so that she’s looking the farm mare straight in the eye. “That’s cause you ain’t a quitter.”
“What? I’m not….. a quitter?”
“Ya heard me, Lyra,” Applejack states with certainty. “Ya may be annoying, and be crazy bout humans. But if Ah’ve learned one thing from trading blows with ya it’s that ya don’t give up. Even when things get hairy an things look against ya, ya find a way ta win. Yer no quitter, that’s why you don’t give up on yer dream.”
The human-obsessed mare stares at Applejack with surprise in her eyes as Twilight chimes in from the sidelines, “Applejack is right, Lyra. It may SEEM crazy to believe in humans, but that doesn’t make you crazy for following your dream.” Twilight looks down. “And you’re wrong, even I make mistakes; if I had just accounted for the feedback of the Stone’s energy none of this would have happened….”
Twilight places her hoof on Lyra’s shoulder. “But if I have learned anything here in Ponyville it’s that, when life beats you down, you just have to get back up and try again.” The purple mare smiles broadly. “Cause if you don’t give up, even if you never reach your dream, even if you never prove humans are spying on us with ‘televisions’, amazing things will happen. I promise you.”
“Twilight is right, darling,” Rarity chimes in. “Being lonely is painful, have no doubts about it. But giving up on one’s dreams, giving up on the things that make a pony happy…. That is simply unbearable!”
As the group of ponies she once thought of as enemies circle around her with smiles on their faces, the green mare begins to tear up. “Twilight….. You……”
“Lyra Heartstrings!” All eyes and heads jerk behind them to see a steaming mad cream-colored mare with a cutie mark of three wrapped candies on her flank. Her pink and blue mane bobbing along with her head as the mare snorts like a charging bull. And - most disturbingly - her face covered with a scowl that would scare a dragon into giving up meat. Her mane practically ripples in the wind as she steps menacingly towards the green mare who, even in her bound state, is struggling to get away.
“What in Equestria are you doing?” the candy mare shouts. “Running around town, bothering the Princess Representative, and….. Are those anti-magic binders? What have you got to say for yourself!?!”
The green mare breaks out in a cold sweat as she realizes there is no easy way out of this situation. “H-H-Hey, Bonnie. What’s up?”
“Don’t you ‘hey Bonnie’ me!” Bonnie snaps. “What are you doing tied up like a common criminal, and in front of a government representative no less!”
“Well…. I… Well…….”
“You didn't do anything illegal again did you?! You remember the last time? You were lucky the Corns were willing to let you off with community service after you destroyed their barn with that missile of yours!”
“It was an airplane, Bonnie! And I said I was sorry! I was just explaining how humans were real and how they’re spying on with their….”
Anything else the green mare could have said after that was cut off as the cream-colored mare slams into Lyra’s muzzle with a flying jump kick. “YOU IDIOT!” Bonnie screams as the groaning unicorn falls to the ground, writhing in pain. Landing on her hooves the cream-colored mare then proceeds to turn on a dime, dragging now crying Lyra Heartstrings in front of Twilight Sparkle.
“Princess Representative Twilight Sparkle….” ‘Bonnie’ begins to say, “I apologize profusely for Lyra and any stupid behavior she may have bothered you with today. We all know that you have more important things to do today than put up with Lyra and her shenanigans. I’m sorry If she bothered you about her ‘humans are spying on us’ nonsense, she really is quite ill.” The cream-colored mare glares at Lyra with a look that could peel paint “I’ll have to straighten her out when we get back to the house.”
“Bon Bon! I’m not crazy, humans are real as….” The green mare is shoved into the dirt, in simulated bowing.
“Please!” Bonnie bows down in front of Twilight. “Please forgive her! She’s just a stupid pony who doesn’t think about her actions. I’ll cover for her if need be but I can promise you she’s not a bad pony. She doesn’t need to go to jail. I’ll make sure that she takes accountability.”
“Please….” The bowing is practically begging now. “Please forgive her.”
Twilight looks at the two mares in front of her for a long time before smiling. “There’s really nothing to forgive ….. Bonnie was it? After all it was Lyra who volunteered to help us out!”
“What?” The cream-colored mare asks skeptically.
“What?!” The surprised Lyra Heartstrings yells.
“What?!” The rest of Twilight’s friends shout in unison.
“Oh absolutely!” Twilight nods like a con-artist scamming a pony out of their last bit. “Lyra has been a great help! Not only did I enjoy her…. unique…. perspectives on anthropology, but she volunteered to try out the anti-magic collar we brought in case of emergencies.”
Twilight illuminates her horn, causing the bindings to fall off the green mare. “I’m sorry about the misunderstanding, Lyra isn’t in any trouble and she’s free to leave at any time!”
Bonnie rises from the dirt. “So Lyra wasn’t bothering you? She was helping you out? She’s not guilty of anything?”
Twilight grins. “The only thing that she is guilty of is being a good citizen. You must be very proud of her.”
Bonnie shakes her head as if the act of some pony complimenting Lyra were a sign that this was an elaborate dream. The cream mare turns to Lyra. “Lyra? Is this true? Did you help Twilight out today? And you didn't cause any trouble?!”
“What.” The stunned green mare stands frozen, until a sharp jab from Applejack brings her to her senses. “Oh yeah! Of course I helped Twilight out today! Come on, Bonnie, did you ever need to doubt me like that?! That’s a pretty serious blow to my self-esteem right there.”
Taken completely by surprise, Lyra is suddenly enveloped in a tight hug. “I never doubted you Lyra. I was just worried for you.” Bonnie then breaks the hug to stare Lyra in the eyes. “And I am proud of you. I couldn’t have a better sister.”
Lyra looks back at the cream-colored mare “….. and I’m just happy to be your sister. You emotional fuzzy tail!” And with a happy heart Lyra pulls her sister back into one last hug.
Their emotional display finished, the cream mare turns around to leave. “You have fun playing with your friends! I’m making you your favorite tonight so don‘t take too long!” Bonnie, now sporting a smile on her face, walks off into the distance while Lyra watches her back until she is out of sight.
Applejack, touched by the scene, puts her hoof on Lyra’s shoulder. “Yawl have a good sister. Not many ponies would put their necks on the line fer kin like that.”
Lyra risks a last look at Bonnie. “Yeah….. she is. We’ve never been actual blood, but that never really mattered much. She’s always been there for me, supporting me even if I failed, and loving me even more when I did. If that’s not family I don't know what is.”
Lyra turns to face Twilight, her visage unnaturally serious. “Twilight? Can I ask you a question?”
“Humm? Oh yes. What question did you have in mind?”
“Why did you cover for me like that?” Lyra asks with honest confusion. “I mean, I practically assaulted you! I went all out and I…. could have really hurt you. You even held back your attack so that I wouldn't get hurt, so why? Did you feel pity for me or something…..”
“No, Lyra.” Twilight shakes her head “It was nothing like that.”
“Well what was it then!?”
Twilight stops to think for a second. “I guess it’s because….” Twilight taps her chin as she thinks hard about her answer. “Because I'm here to help other ponies; ponies like you. So when I slammed you into the ground or when Bonnie apologized for you, I realized that you had ponies that you cared about, friends and family. And I wouldn’t want to make them sad.”
Twilight turns her head toward the path the cream-colored mare went down. “Besides, it looks like you already have one friend who cares about you. That mare Bon Bon may seem brash but it shows that she is really worried about you.”
Lyra stares at the mare before her as if she has just encountered a saint or a lunatic. She blinks several times, mind in a daze, her mouth agape for a few seconds more, before she can take it no longer and bursts out laughing.
“What? What’s so funny?” The purple mare pouts. “Stop laughing…. I’m trying to be serious!”
“Hehe you’re saying that for real? He He! You must be incredibly naïve!” Lyra chuckles. “You aren’t just a good fighter, but you have a good heart as well. You’re noble. Not like those snobby nobles of Canterlot; it’s like you’re noble even on a spiritual level.” The green mare walks up to the lavender one, placing her hoof in hers. “I really have been utterly defeated by you, Twilight sparkle. I concede.”
Feeling something in her hoof, Twilight opens it up to see a piece of stone. “Is… Is this….”
“That’s the Miracle Stone that I found. From now on it’s yours! Think of it as a memento of our fight.” Her piece having been said, Lyra Heartstrings turns cooly on her hooves and begins to walk away. “But don‘t think this is over! Not by a long shot! Like you said, I never give up! I’m still searching for the Stones.”
The crazy human-hunting mare smiles back at Twilight Sparkle with a look of mischief on her face. “So if we meet in the future, Twilight Sparkle, it‘ll be as rivals and not just friends!” Lyra raises her hoof in triumph, defeated in body but not in spirit as the small group watches her follow her sister Bonnie’s path home.
Twilight looks down the path the brave mare just took, as a look of contentment and happiness passes over her face.
“Are ya sure that was all right, Twi?” Applejack asks, walking up to the lavender mare. “Just letting her go like that? Ah mean, Ah don’t mean ta say throw the book at her, but that mare seems like she’s trouble. What if she starts fightin us an other ponies fer these Stones?”
Twilight shakes her head. “I don’t think that she’ll be intentionally hurting ponies anymore to get their Stones. It seems that she’s begun to realize that she has to be responsible for her own actions.” Twilight looks at Applejack with complete assurance in her eyes. “I don’t think that she’ll risk getting her sister in trouble by intentionally attacking ponies anymore.”
Applejack looks down the road as she becomes lost in thought. She thinks of her own family, of everything she has done and everything she will do for them as long as she lives. She thinks of her sister still in a coma and how she would do anything to see her waking face again. But suddenly these somber thoughts are replaced by the loving look she saw in Lyra’s eyes as she watched her sister Bonnie stick up for her. “…… Guess yer right, Twi. No sister would risk their siblin’s hide like that.”
Twilight nods. “I’m glad you agree, Applejack, because we’ve got bigger things to worry about now.” Twilight extends her own hoof revealing the black Stone in it. “Like these Strange Stones….”
“Um…” Fluttershy raises her hoof, “You mean Miracle Stones?”
“No, Fluttershy, Strange Stones not Miracle Stones,” the lavender mare says sternly. “I discovered these Stones and analyzed their properties, not Lyra! No way in Tartarus I’m going to let her name something that I discovered!”
Fluttershy meeps at this outburst as Twilight turns back to Applejack. “Now where was I? Oh yes. These STRANGE STONES seem to possess strange abilities that we can’t quite understand. They seem to be a pure version of the Red Stones that we are searching for, and they seem to react to or draw out Stand powers for a reason.”
Twilight taps the Stone in her hoof tensely. “This can be confirmed by the fact that Applebloom seems to have Stand sickness from touching it, as well as the fact that both Applejack and I have gained……” Twilight’s words die in her throat as she freezes on the spot, the hairs on her mane springing up off her head.
Seeing her friend just freeze up, Rarity trots cautiously to inch towards her. “Um… Twilight darling, are you okay? Can I….”
Twilight explodes outwards, grasping Rarity in a monumental bear hug and bouncing around. “EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE! I HAVE A STAND RARITY! AFTER SO MANY YEARS I HAVE A STAND! NOW THE PRINCESS CAN REALLY BE PROUD OF ME AND STOP LOOKING AT ME IN DISAPPOINTMENT LIKE I KNOW SHE DOES WHEN SHE THINKS I’M NOT LOOKING AND I CAN SHOW UP MY BROTHER AND DO RESEARCH TO MASTER MY POWER AND…. EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!”
“Twilight, darling, please! You’re overreacting again!” the ivory mare calls out while bouncing up and down against her will. “Please you’re upsetting my mane!” Twilight, realizing that she has just caught one of her friends in one of her patented episodes of crazy, stops immediately and pulls herself off of Rarity, blushing in embarrassment.
Rarity brushes her mane to the side, instantly curling it out with her magic. “That’s better. Well I’m glad that our work is done for the day, but my coat is all dusty and in desperate need of a shower so if you don’t mind I shall be departing until tomorrow.” Preparing to leave, the purple-maned mare looks down the path Lyra took. “To tell you the truth, darling, I’m glad that everything worked out fine with Lyra. She did seem like a nice, though not very mature pony.”
Rarity smiles as she takes her first step back home. “Now let’s….. OW!”
Rarity falls to her knees as Applejack rushes up to her. “Rares, are yawl all right?”
“Ugh, it’s nothing, Applejack; I must have injured my hoof in the little scuffle we had,” Rarity assures her friend. “Just a little scrape, that’s all.”
Applejack looks at Rarity’s hoof, her eyes opening in fear. “A little scrape, nothin! There’s a hole in yer hoof!” Applejack turns Rarity’s hoof up to show her that the hardened bottom has a small but sharp hole in it that is leaking blood. “That Lyra! She’s gonna…”
“Applejack!” Rarity chastises Applejack’s brash threat. “Be reasonable and try to think! Lyra, the dear, never hurt either of us and even though I couldn’t see her Stand power or whatever, it was clear that she never touched the bottom of my hooves. It was an accident, Applejack; I probably just stepped on a nail is all.”
Twilight looks at the wound as she flows some of her healing magic into it. “Rarity’s right, this wound isn’t consistent with that of Lyra’s Stand. Now, I’ve healed the wound but you probably shouldn’t put too much pressure on it. Fluttershy, can you walk her home? …… Fluttershy?”
Fluttershy seems stuck in a daze, her eyes locked on the wound in Rarity’s hoof; then she slowly looks at her own hoof for comparison. “You… you couldn’t see it? Those arms….”
Twilight smirks. “Of course either of you couldn’t see it. In order to see a Stand you either have to have a Stand like Applejack, and now me (EEEEEEEEEEEEEE!),” Twilight clears her throat. “Or you have to possess a ton of magical energy, or have been exposed to the Red Stones for years; and despite your talents I doubt either are very plausible.”
Twilight looks over to the stunned yellow pegasus, who looks more apprehensive than usual for Fluttershy. “Fluttershy, are you okay? You look a little out of it…”
Suddenly Fluttershy stands at attention. “I’m OKAY! I’ll take Rarity home!” Picking up Rarity from the side so she can rest her wounded leg across her back, Fluttershy begins to walk off in a hurry. “Don’t worry, Rarity, I’m sure with a little bubble bath and the newest magazine from fashion week, you’ll be right as rain after a nice long rest.”
Applejack wipes her brow of sweat as she watches Rarity and Fluttershy limp back to her house. “Well, Rarity will be fine now, Fluttershy will take her home safe an sound. Now that that’s done Ah should be getting home now.”
Applejack turns to leave, finding the way back to her house blocked by a staring Twilight Sparkle. Thinking little of it, Applejack tries to walk past her only to find her path blocked by Twilight teleporting in her way, the purple mare giving her a funny look all the while. “Uh, Twi? Ah know you told us to tell you when you were doing it so here it goes. Yer acting strange again.”
Twilight continues to stare at the orange mare. “What is it, Twi?” Applejack asks, “What? Is there somthin on mah face?”
“….. Do you have a crush on Rarity?” Twilight asks, causing the strong farm mare to nearly collapse in on herself from shock.
“W-W-WHAT! Why would ya even think that, Twi!” Applejack shouts in outrage, “T-T-That’s ridiculous!” Applejack fumes as a dark red blush crosses her muzzle. “Y-You must have got yer head stuck in too many of those bad romance novels er s-somethin. Rarity’s mah best friend ah’m just concerned about her prissy self.”
However Twilight is undeterred. “Why are you so adamant that you don’t? Rarity’s a great pony, she’s got good looks, loves this town and you are both good friends. Why aren’t you….”
“‘Cause she’s a friend that’s all!” the orange mare states as she tries to hide her raging blush with her Stetson. “She’s mah best friend and thinking of her in….. that way……. feels wrong. Especially ‘cause she’s a mare and well…... In case yawl didn’t notice ah am too.”
“…… You have a thing about same-sex couples, Applejack?” Twilight tilts her head in confusion.
“Yes! No! Ah mean urrgh Ah have nothing about who other ponies live their lives with, but Ah come from a strong family line, that Ah have a duty ta continue, that’s all.” Applejack places her Stetson back on her head as she recovers mentally from her own outburst. “Look, Ah’m sorry fer that, Twi, it’s just yawl were getting pretty personal there. Ah didn’t mean to say anything offensive to any pony.”
Applejack crosses her arms in defiance as she looks off at the white mare in the distance. “Sides, Rare’s about as old fashioned as me! She’s always goin on about fairy tale endins and white stallions! She’d never go fer a gal like me…..”
Applejack’s eyes shoot open, realizing how her own words have trapped her. “Not that Ah’d want her to! Ah mean Ah’d sure be flattered if…. Ah mean Ah wouldn’t want a mare to…… URGH! Ah just happen to be s-s-straight, Twi, and that’s all!”
Twilight’s ears droop a little, suddenly aware of how uncomfortable she is making her friend with her difficult questions. “I’m sorry for being nosy, Applejack, I was just curious if you and Rarity were, well, an item, because you always speak so highly of her and you seem to have some history.” The lavender mare waves her hoof. “…. That, and what I saw there…. But that was probably just a dream fragment.”
Every hair stands up on Applejack’s coat and her hat nearly flies off her head at Twilight’s last few words. “What did yawl see..…?” Applejack asks while her orange pelt grows whiter by the second.
“Oh well I didn’t want to say because everyone was around and it seemed personal,” Twilight begins, completely oblivious to Applejack’s rising terror. “But when we mind merged I saw this image of you sitting on a picnic blanket with this unicorn mare who I couldn’t make out and she had her hair up in a bun and she was giggling and then you and her…...”
“WOW WOULD YOU LOOK AT THE TIME I SHOULD REALLY BE AT HOME NOW! WELL SEE YA LATER TWILIGHT BYE!” The orange mare bolts away as fast as her hooves can carry her.
Twilight puts her hoof to her chin as she watches her friend galloping away like Discord himself was after her. “But why would she be blushing like that if it was just a…… oh my Celestia, I’m so stupid.” Twilight leaps to her hooves and begins chasing after Applejack. The two mares then proceed to bolt down the empty country outskirts as fast as their hooves can carry them, each one yelling at the top of their lungs.
“Applejack, I understand now!! You don’t have to be ashamed that……”
“AH CAN'T HEAR YOU!!! LALALALALALALALA!!”
“Seriously, Applejack, I know that this is a sensitive topic. But you can’t hide from the truth! You taught me that!”
“I don’t think any less of you and I know this might be a big family issue but none of your friends would think it was awkward if you came out and said that you’re….…..”
“Though it does make sense in a town with such a high mare-to-stallion ratio that you would…… That is, not to say that environment is entirely responsible for being…… that is, not to say it’s a bad thing to be….”
“LALALALAALALALLALALALALALALALALALALALALALALALALALAALLA! I CAN’T HEAR YOU! LALAlALAlA!” the orange mare shouts at the top of her lungs, practically flying over the ground in an attempt to outrun the lavender mare behind her. And as the sun finally sets off in the distance and the night takes over the sky, the two friends chase after each other in the dark, yelling at the top of their lungs as they run through the outskirts of town; each one losing themselves in the moment as yet another day draws to a close.