Applejack had just enough time to get back to Sweet Apple Acres and take care of a couple of chores before she started back towards Ponyville to take care of Opalescence. Even still, the clock mounted above Ponyville's city hall was chiming seven o'clock as Applejack trotted up to Carousel Corner. No sooner had she opened the door, Applejack began to regret agreeing to playing pet-sitter.
On the plus side, at least Rarity's boutique wasn't on fire.
And yet, over the course of those few hours, Opalescence had hit the boutique like the world's tiniest, angriest hurricane. Applejack could hardly believe that what had once been the fru-fru-iest place she'd ever set foot could now look like … this.
Great rents had been torn into Rarity's curtains, and into several bolts of cloth she'd left laying around, and even several items from Rarity's own wardrobe. Applejack glumly reflected on how the filmy black thing with the lacy bits was far less enticing once it'd been reduced to its component threads.
Opalescence had hit the kitchen, too. A bag of flour lay disemboweled on the tiled floor. The half-shredded label had read five pounds, but Applejack swore there must have been ten times that amount of white dust coating everything in the room.
Mostly, Applejack just swore.
Seizing on what silver lining she could, Applejack could at least track Opalescence's path through the boutique by the little white pawprints. She followed the serpentine trail through Rarity's house 'til they came to a halt beneath one of Rarity's wardrobes. Or was it an armoire? Or a portable closet? Applejack briefly wondered what the proper fancy-pants term was.
The important part was the flour covered, angry cat hiding beneath.
“Alright li'l critter.” Applejack crouched down to peer into the shadow beneath the heavy cherrywood wardrobe. “Y'all's made enough trouble. Let's get ya fed, and then let's get you cleaned u, and then- DAMMIT!” Applejack clutched at the quartet of little red gashes that Opalescence left across her nose.
“FFT!” Opalescene spat. She glared out from her hiding spot, dug in as stubbornly as any soldier.
“No good li'l varmint!” Applejack swept a foreleg beneath the wardrobe, only earning more flour-lined scratches for her trouble. She gritted her teeth against the pain, and pushed herself forward with her back legs. She wedged herself beneath the the heavy wardrobe. “Get out here!”
Opalescence shot out from her hiding spot and zoomed past Applejack in a powdery streak. The cowpony swore, and twisted around to follow. But, with her front leg still underneath the heavy armoire, Applejack found herself momentarily wedged in place. Without time to think of a better idea, she fell back on the oldest of earth pony solutions: brute strength.
The wood of the armoire pressed into Applejack's shoulder as she levered it upwards. She then realized, too late, that she'd pushed it too far. The heavy piece of furniture tottered precariously upon two legs, listing heavily to the side.
“Nononononono-” said Applejack.
“Yesyesyesyes,” said Gravity. Translated into English, it came out as more of a “CRASH.”
The doors of the armoire flew open as it hit the floor, and last winter's fashions spilled out like the brightly colored entrails of a fabric beast. There were lots of socks, for whatever reason. Applejack got back onto her four hooves, and winced as she looked over the damage.
Seeking higher ground, Opalescence leapt onto a set of curtains, and scrambled upwards. The delicate cloth tore beneath her claws. Applejack at least noted that the cat had shredded the bottom part of the curtains anyway, so it's not like a few more tears would matter. Optimism.
Opalescence perched upon the curtain rod and glared down at Applejack with hateful disdain.
Applejack just smiled. “Got you know, critter!” She galloped across the room and seized the curtain in her teeth. With a single yank, she pulled the curtain rod out of its fasteners, and the whole lot (including Opalescence) clattered to the floor.
Applejack put her rodeo skills to good use. It took a bit of improvisation, but after a few frantic, hissing and clawing filled seconds, Applejack bundled Opalescence up in the remnants of the curtain, and tied the impromptu bag off at the top with a sturdy knot.
“That'll hold ya!”
Opalescence yowled her disapproval, and kicked a clawed paw against her curtain-based prison.
“-fer a li'l bit.” Applejack said. Improvising again, Applejack tossed the sack into the toppled armoire, slammed the doors shut, and jammed a ruler she'd found on Rarity's sewing table through the handles to bar it closed. “That's better.” Applejack concluded. She wouldn't put it past Opalescence to somehow claw through the thick cherrywood, but at least that would take her some time. Whatever winter fashions were left in the wardrobe would just have to be acceptable losses
“Okay, so … this ain't … too bad.” Applejack mused. “Just gotta get everythin' cleaned up. That's it.” She wondered briefly if she was talking to herself, or to the cat, and which of those was worse.
Opalescence's mournful yowl echoed from within the barricaded wardrobe.
“Right. Talkin' to myself 's better.”
The cat's imprisonment gave Applejack time enough to dab her wounds with iodine, and time enough to concoct a plan.
Cleaning Carousel Boutique would be a daunting task, but not an impossible one. There wasn't much Applejack could do for the shredded fabric and curtains, but knowing Rarity, the unicorn would take it as an excuse to redecorate. Applejack groaned a little, imagining the hours of minor adjustments and comparisons that she knew she'd get roped into. It'd happened several times before, even prior to when she and Rarity had become an 'item.' Applejack still wasn't sure what the difference between 'ivory' and 'pearl' was.
Applejack knew she'd have to deal with that later. She also knew it wouldn't do to clean up the Boutique only to have a flour-encrusted cat demolish it again.
Opalescence would need a bath.
Applejack filled the kitchen sink with soapy water, and, for good measure, she wrapped her front hooves in some strips of heavy fabric she found laying around Rarity's workshop as a sort of makeshift armor. She hoped the thick cloth would be enough to stop Opalescence's claws.
So equipped, Applejack carefully opened up the armoire. The cat hadn't yet clawed her way out of the impromptu sack she'd been imprisoned in, which made the transport over to the kitchen sink all the easier.
Applejack held the bag above the sink and shook the knot on the ragged bundle of curtain loose. Opalescence toppled out in a fury. Immediately, the cat lashed out with teeth and claws at everything within reach, but Applejack was ready for it, and leaned out of the way just in time to avoid more wounds.
“Huh. So that's what that sayin' means.” Applejack mused.
Opalescence's fit lasted just for only a split second. As she tumbled through the air, the flour-encrusted cat registered the gleam of water below her. With the sort of dexterity that would put circus acrobats to shame, Opalescence twisted around in midair, planting each of her paws at the four corners of the sink. She braced herself, keeping herself out of the water- though stretched out, there was no way to get anywhere else.
In a rare instance of self awareness, Opalescence realized her precarious position. Once the epiphany hit her, the cat did the only thing she could.
“Oh, c'mon! It's just soap n' water!” Applejack said. “Stop yer' whinin'!”
Opalescence stared at the cowpony, and yowled louder. It was a high pitched, mournful sound, the sort of lament natural to the unjustly bathed. Bereft of hope, Opalescence sang her own funeral dirge.
Applejack grit her teeth against the pain rising in her eardrums. “Stupid cat.” She placed a hoof on Opalescence's back, trying to push her down into the water. The cat turned her head to bite at Applejack in retaliation, but she couldn't twist around properly to sink her teeth into flesh. Denied the violent option, Opalescence only cried louder.
“C'mon!” Applejack leaned on the cat, but she stayed put. “Get. In!” In her own way, Applejack was trapped in her own conundrum. She had to get Opalescence into the water … but at the same time, if she used the full extent of her farm-honed, apple-bucking earth pony might, Applejack ran the risk of breaking Opalescence's spine in half.
For the briefest of moments, Applejack was tempted.
Applejack shook her head, however- she simply couldn't bring herself to hurt Opalescence, even if it was more out of affection for the cat's owner rather than sympathy for the feline herself. And so, pony and cat found themselves locked into a stalemate; Applejack couldn't force Opalescence into the sink without hurting her, and Opalescence couldn't hurt Applejack without falling into the sink.
With each nudge of Applejack's hooves, Opalescence screeched louder, and louder still, like the world's most horrible musical instrument. The cat spat and cried, while Applejack muttered and swore. The two might've been stubbornly locked into their back and forth for the whole night, if it weren't for the sudden interruption.
“Don't worry, kitty cat!” Fluttershy kicked in the door to Rarity's boutique with the urgent might of a pony twice her size. “I'm coming!” Her sides heaved with the effort as she dashed into the shop.
“Fluttershy!” Applejack blinked, and looked over her shoulder at her friend. “Thanks Celestia you're- OW!”
Seizing opportunity with all the instinct due to an ambush predator, Opalescence twisted around and pounced upon Applejack while she was distracted. Claws extended, she scrambled up the length of her foreleg, scurried over Applejack's back, and leapt off of her apple-emblazoned rump before streaking between Fluttershy's legs and out the door.
“Applejack?” Fluttershy skidded to a halt, shocked. “What're you doing here? You didn't hurt Opalescence, did you?”
Applejack rubbed at one of her fresh scratch marks, and shook her head. “I was tryin' to give that damn cat a bath, that's what!”
“Oh.” Fluttershy said, “that's all? Because from the sound of it, it sounded like someone was trying to hurt her. A lot.” The righteous fire in Fluttershy's eyes faded away, as if someone had flicked a switch. “You know I can't stand it whenever anypony's mean to animals, so I just had to help. Oh dear.” She looked over her shoulder at the shattered doorjamb. “Rarity's not going to be upset about the door, is she?”
“She's gonna be more upset that her lousy cat's done a runner!”
“Oh no! Opalescence has lice? No wonder you wanted to give her a bath!”
“That ain't what I-” Applejack shook her head, and ran for the open door. “Nevermind! You gonna help me catch Opalescence, or do I gotta do it by my lonesome?”
“You know I'll always help, Applejack. At least, you know, whenever there are tiny animals that need helping.”
“I was hopin' you'd say that. Now c'mon! We gotta get that critter 'fore she really gets into somethin'!”