• Published 25th Aug 2013
  • 10,114 Views, 354 Comments

Just Horsing Around - Darkness Shade



Seemingly lost in his life, a young man finds himself waking up in a strange new land populated by some curious residents. When certain truths are revealed and he finds there's more to his appearing there, how will he adjust to his new life?

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3rd Harvest

The following morning...

"Now why are we sneaking around quietly without waking Ryan and AppleJack?"

"I told you Twilight, I'm gonna get proof myself that those two have been getting buddy-buddy."

"Rainbow Dash, darling; while I admire your devotion to watching out for a friend, what harm is there if they are? He is a rather charming man regardless of his species."

"I'm with Rarity! He's such a cool character...you haven't even tried that awesome Ryan Special he came up with! Oh, I could totally go for one of those right now!"

"Are...aren't we supposed to be quiet?"

"Fluttershy is right, shhh..."

"...this is ridiculous, I'm going to see what's up for breakfast." Spike sighed, walking away from the group, "Seriously...Rainbow Dash isn't hiding her crush on Ryan too well."

Opening up the door, Rainbow Dash was delighted to see the two of them still sleeping and in the position they had been for the last three nights that seemed the most relaxing for both of them; Ryan shifted a bit and hugged AppleJack tighter before relaxing again.

"I don't see anything to get all excited about here." Twilight remarked before rolling her eyes.

"Yeah, I bet he's all warm and stuff so who wouldn't want to get all cuddly with him? He's like a big teddy bear if you think about it."

"Pinkie Pie is right." Rarity yawned, "My beauty sleep should not have been ended early for something so harmless."

"But, but, but, but..."

"Shhhh, morning voices Rainbow Dash." Fluttershy commanded before smiling and pulling the door shut, "Let's give them a few minutes to wake up."

"I don't...but you guys....I mean...we still don't know if he's good or not." Rainbow Dash sighed, "What if he hurts AJ?"

"Rainbow Dash, I understand your worries but Ryan hasn't shown himself to be anything but a kind...person? Is that the word he used to describe himself?" Twilight mused before shaking her head, "Anyway, we're all grown ponies and Ryan appears to be around our age so why make such a big deal about it?"

"...."

"...I see; Ryan was right wasn't he?"

"I...I...I need some more air."

"Rainbow Dash...." Twilight sighed before shaking her head and seeing the door open again, "Oh, we didn't wake you did we?"

"Naw, we're good T-Sparks." Ryan yawned, before stretching, "We've actually been up for a bit but we were too comfortable to want to move."

"Oh, I see then. So...how much of that did you hear? Also...T-Sparks?"

"Enough to be surprised I was right. And why not? I've been trying to come up with unique nicknames for all of ya and that one came to me last night before I fell asleep." Ryan explained, "I'm not sure what to do about Dashie though...hmmmm."

"Well, for now let her have her space. I'm sure she needs to do some thinking." Twilight explained, "Anyway, perhaps we should make like Spike and check out the breakfast situation?"

"That sounds like a fine plan Twi." AppleJack remarked, having joined the two, "Ryan's stomach has been rumbling since the sun rose and boy howdy is it loud."

"Apps!"

"Hee, oh mah stars, did I say something I shouldn't have?" AppleJack cheekily stuck her tongue out at Ryan, winked, then dashed off to the dining car.

"Heh, she's such a brat sometimes...but that just makes her all the more charming."

After a rather pleasant breakfast (despite Rainbow Dash not saying much and avoiding eye-contact with Ryan as much as possible), everyone readied their luggage as they were just about to pull into Canterlot's station.

"So...is there anything I should know about Canterlot that might help before we meet the Princess?" Ryan asked, feeling nervous for some reason.

"Just be yourself and you'll be fine. The ponies here are a little more, uhm, posh I suppose so you might get more stares than in Ponyville but don't let it get to you." Twilight cautioned, "The Princess won't care though, she's very understanding."

"I must say though, that outfit is quite perfect." Rarity remarked upon seeing Ryan's attire, "It looks positively amazing on you but won't you be warm wearing those pants?"

"Well, I figured shorts were too casual for the Princess but the short sleeve shirt helps balance it out." Ryan explained, "Besides, black and purple is like one of my favorite color combinations...especially this shade of purple. Thanks again Rarity, your expertise in clothes making is amazing."

"Flatterer, but thank you all the same." Rarity giggled as the train pulled to a stop, "Oh, but darling I forgot to tell you...those pictures?"

"Yeah?"

"Well, they might've already been published so...while it might not happen, you might get recognized here since fashion is high on the list in Canterlot. I wouldn't worry but...just do stay on your guard okay dearie?"

"Okay Rarity...the last thing we need is for everypony to mob me out of curiosity's sake." Ryan laughed, "Seriously...being at the bottom of a pile of ponies sounds painful."

With that the group disembarked from the train, and right away Ryan could feel the "burning" feeling of numerous sets of eyes staring oddly at him; trying his best to shake it off he continued on with the girls and followed them through the town towards the castle.

'Hmmmm, interesting looking place; definitely a lot more hoity-toity than Ponyville is.' Ryan thought, noting all the shops and stuff, '...I'm already missing the simple life back in Ponyville and I've only been here two minutes. Hahahaha, crazy.'

"Are you alright darling? You have the oddest look on your face."

"Hmmm? Oh yeah, I'm okay Rarity; just intrigued by how different Canterlot is from Ponyville, that's all." Ryan explained while staring up at the castle, "I assume the Princess lives there? It's rather majestic looking."

"Ha, this is nothing Ryan! You should see when the streets are all decorated for the holidays, especially Hearth's Warming Eve! Oh yeah!" Pinkie Pie chimed in, bouncing about as she tends to do, "The lights, the trees, the decorations! Oh I can't wait to show you! It's amazing!"

"Haha, well I get the feeling I'll be around for it so I can't wait to see what kind of holidays you guys have here in Equestria."

"Halt! Who goes there?"

The group came to a stop when an armor-clad pony lowered a spear towards them, blocking the path.

"Oh come on guys, it's me Twilight Sparkle." Twilight sighed, rolling her eyes, "You guys see me like....how often up here to see the Princess? And usually with my friends in tow."

"Relax newbie, she's cleared to come in. Sorry everypony, he's new so he hasn't met any of you yet." Stated another armor-clad pony, though this one seemed to recognize Twilight right away.

"Hey, it's cool." Ryan remarked with a smirk, "No harm no foal you two; keep up the good work."

"Wheee, he did it again!" Pinkie giggled while most of the others groaned, "I'm gonna like this!"

"Thank you for understa-wait, what are you sir? I've never seen anyone like you before."

"Relax big fellah, he's with us and here to see the Princess." AppleJack explained, "He's what you call a human and he's still rather new to Equestria."

"I see....well, the Princess did tell us to expect someone unusual to show up with her favorite student. Very well, head on in as I'm sure her Majesty is waiting for you."

"Thank you very much sir." Ryan politely replied before they headed in and he truly got a view of how grandiose her castle was, "My word...this place is amazing looking."

"I reckon y'all don't have anything like this back on yer Earth Ry-Ry?"

"Well, we have castles and stuff Apps but the country I live in doesn't really have much in the way of them. I've only seen pictures and stuff but I've never been to an honest to goodness castle...let alone one that was still occupied and being used and kept up." Ryan explained, "...I don't know why I'm feeling nervous."

"Haha, we were all like that when we first met Princess Celestia Rysy-wysy, so don' worry." Pinkie reassured him, hopping in a circle around him, "You've got your friends here and she's so nice. Her sister is too so don't be scared of her either!"

"...her sister?"

"Yes, Princess Luna...though I don't know if she'll be here since it's the middle of the day." Twilight added, "Anyway, let's get our luggage settled in our rooms and then head to the main chambers; if I know the Princess she's already aware we've arrived."

"...so she's omniscient?" Ryan mused, making a puzzled face as he followed Twilight and the others, "Curious...now I'm quite eager to meet her."

"Right this way everypony, the Princess is waiting for you in the throne room."

"Well, this is it." Ryan remarked before the large doors were opened and the group walked in to see not one, but two quite tall (pretty much the same height as him best he could tell) horned Pegasi not too far in, "Wow. They're so beautiful."

"Heh, your compliment is most welcome."

"I agree with my sister, thank you and thank you everypony as well for coming when I have asked. I am Princess Celestia and this is..."

"Princess Luna." Ryan noted as he looked to the darker of the two Pegasi before taking her hoove and kissing it, "Nice to see you again my lady."

"Oh my, but yes that is my name. How do you know my name human?" Luna asked, blushing slightly at Ryan's actions, "...wait, of course."

"Yes, I wasn't sure about it...but I saw someone that looked very similar to you in my dreams that first night I was here your majesty." Ryan explained, "If I were to guess, I imagine you have the ability to go into nightmares?"

"Why yes, I can project into dreams...heh, I'm surprised you saw me as I was trying hard not to be seen as the energy of your nightmare was quite different from any I had ever encountered. Still, you are a resident of Equestria and part of my duty is to help aide those with nightmares when I can."

"Something to which I'm sure they're grateful for." Ryan replied, giving her a polite bow, "I do hope you will continue to watch out for me as well."

"Hey, AJ, what's he talking about?"

AppleJack turned to Rainbow Dash's whispering self and smirked, "Well, he was having a bad dream since he was sleeping alone...that's kind of how we started getting, as you put it, "buddy-buddy"."

"Princess, I was hoping that since you asked us here you actually knew more about what Ryan is...and possibly why he's here." Twilight spoke up, nudging up next to Ryan, "From your letter it sounded as if you knew all about humans."

"That is correct; however, while I do have some knowledge about humans, it has been a long, long time since one has ever been here in Equestria." Princess Celestia explained, "You might be surprised to learn that we once co-existed with them here a long time ago."

"Are you serious?" Twilight asked, her eyes sparkling at this new knowledge, "Ryan's kind used to live among us? But...there aren't any books detailing anything about that. In fact...as far as I could research, all that I could find was gibberish."

"Indeed, my sister does speak the truth; it is only from keeping the information hidden away that over time our world has forgotten about the humans that once called Equestria home." Princess Luna added, "...I must say though, something about your friend Ryan here...you've sensed it as well, haven't you sister?"

"Indeed...there is something interesting about you." Princess Celestia remarked, glancing towards Ryan who seemed a bit puzzled, "Something about you seems familiar."

"Familiar? How so Princess?" Ryan asked, giving a shrug, "Maybe if you explained a few things about humans from here it might help."

"Of course, allow us to explain while we walk; I have a feeling what I'm about to talk about will have a need for us to head there in the end anyway."

"Where is there?" Ryan asked as they walked.

"It's somewhere that only few have access to: it is where any knowledge about humans from long ago is." Princess Celestia explained, "Long ago, we all lived in peace with one another as you all no doubt know thanks to Hearth's Warming Eve and the tales told with that; what is left out of that is that humans played their part in existing with us and, though nopony knows this anymore, were originally occupants of the country we now know as Equestria."

"Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait." Rainbow Dash butted in, "Are you telling me that the true story and what we put on every year aren't the same?"

"That is correct; over time the original knowledge was lost and, as you'll see the reasons why shortly, it is perhaps for the best to avoid such sorrow in our hearts."

"Such sorrow? Why would we feel sorrow if we knew about them?" Rarity asked, a bit confused, "As far as I can tell from Ryan, humans are a rather charming lot."

"You would be right Rarity, as the humans were more than happy to share their land with us after hearing of the plights and troubles we overcame to find a new land. While the way they lived, mostly due to their dietary habits being somewhat different from ours, did cause minor strife, we happily lived in peace for some time...until he appeared." Princess Luna continued her explanation, before pausing a moment, "I believe all those but Ryan know to whom I'm referring."

"You don't mean...that meanie Discord?" Fluttershy quietly chimed in, "Just thinking of him makes me feel all jittery."

"Discord?" Ryan asked, slightly puzzled, "That name alone doesn't sound good..."

"Your senses serve you well; Discord was a malevolent force of chaos that turned our poor land into a nightmarish realm for many years. He seemed particularly fond of tormenting the humans, though one could only wonder why." Princess Celestia continued as they made their way down a long spiraling stairway, "The reason my sister and I find you strangely familiar Ryan is that the strange aura around you, and your mannerisms so far...they remind us of one human in particular that played a key role in helping us find the Elements of Harmony."

"But yer majesty, I thought you and Princess Luna always had the Elements of Harmony?"

"While it is true that we possessed them since that fateful day AppleJack, at least until you six took over ownership of them, it was thanks to that young man that we were able to locate them in the first place without Discord catching wind until it was too late."

"Princess...." Ryan asked, having an odd feeling about the question he was about to ask, "What was this guy's name?"

"He was a strange man, who never really gave his true name. He claimed to not know it, which is why we, and the others that came to call him friend, knew him simply as...Darkness Shade."

Ryan paused for a moment, catching himself so he wouldn't fall down the staircase and tumble down all over the others; finally remembering to breathe he took a moment before looking at Celestia and Luna.

"Can...can you say that again?"

"Darkness Shade....does this name mean something to you?" Luna asked, carefully analyzing Ryan, "Ryan?"

"Ry-Ry, isn't that there one of the nicknames you told me you went by?" AppleJack asked, staring at a very befuddled Ryan.

"Yes...Darkness Shade was the name of a character in the stories I write that I came up with. He had dark grey hair, a smirk always on his face, a very cocky but caring attitude, was always very friendly with the ladies, and did his best to make sure his friends were safe." Ryan gulped as he thought on all this, "His trademark was a pair of shades and a leather jacket he always wore...that and a rather random sense of humor and acting."

"But darling, weren't you wearing a leather jacket when you showed up?" Rarity asked, to which Ryan gave a nod.

"That's right Rarity...Princesses...does...does any of what I said match up with this Darkness Shade?"

"How very curious...but it does. For you see, he was so dedicated to the cause of freeing us (despite being a very random man himself) from Discord's uncontrolled chaos that most of us saw him as much of a pony as he was a human. I'll never forget the last time we saw him." Princess Celestia remarked as they finally entered a small library with a large statue situated in the center, "He had found the Elements...risked his life to get them to us...and bought us the time we needed to wield them and attack Discord."

"Princess?" Twilight asked, noting she seemed on the verge of tears, "Are you okay?"

"Discord was furious...while he'd always been maniacal, that was the first time I had ever seen him truly malicious as he..."

"Princess?" Ryan asked, placing a hand on her shoulder, "He killed him didn't he?"

"I'm not quite sure what he did, but I still remember Dark clearly from that day as he used everything he had learned: his glasses were cracked and shattered, his jacket ripped and torn, his clothing quite scuffed up, and his body covered in cuts and injuries but still he held Discord off so we could attack." Princess Celestia sighed slightly, turning to face Ryan, "Just as we were ready to finish Discord off, Dark fell to his knees in agony and so Discord took his shot....but Dark, he just grinned and looked at the two of us with a, thumbs-up I believe is what it's called, before he was engulfed in a bright light."

"Whoa....that human sounds more than twenty percent cooler....he's like eighty percent." Rainbow Dash muttered in awe, "But what about the other humans?"

"That's right, that's right! That just accounts for this Dark guy!"

"Pinkie, relax; I'm sure the Princess is getting to that." Twilight added, "Well Princess?"

"As you all know, my sister and I used the Elements of Harmony to turn Discord into stone...but as one last spiteful act of vengeance he cast a spell that made our human friends disappear from this world." Princess Luna added with a frown, "While we tried desperately for a long time to find our human friends we were never able to figure out the spell he had cast...while we created this statue to honor Darkness Shade for his sacrifice, over the years the knowledge of humans slowly faded away and we felt it best that no one remember save for those like us. The heartache of losing ones we cared about, and an entire species from Equestria, was too much to let everyone bear."

"That's some tale...Ry-Ry, what do ya...Ry-Ry?"

AppleJack turned about to see he was missing and soon spotted him in front of the statue, gazing at the unmistakable image of what seemed to be his other self.

"Darkness Shade....you've even got the wings. How very curious this all is." Ryan remarked, reaching out and touching his hand, "It's nice to know I was right about you, and that you really were a hero; granted you weren't a half-demon in this world, but you still looked the part none-the-less."

"Ry-Ry? You gonna be okay?"

"Hmmm? Yeah, I'm okay AppleJack, it's just really interesting that whatever small voice I had to create Dark in the first place when I was writing seemed to somehow know that he did exist somewhere, a long time ago. Curious, this placard said he did his mentor, Star-Swirled the Bearded, proud in his final moments. Who's Star-Swirled the Bearded?"

"He was taught by Star-Swirled the Bearded?!" Twilight gasped, rushing over and reading the plaque, "Amazing...so then he must have been an exceptionally magical human."

"He was...and to be honest with you Ryan, the aura I sense around you is very reminiscent of his."

"Of mine? So then....does this mean I could learn magic like Twilight Sparkle, Rarity, and I guess any unicorn?" Ryan asked, turning to look at Princess Celestia who was carrying a box over to him, "Hmmm?"

"Seeing as you don't have a horn like us to focus your magic, I feel it only right that, given the similarities to him, you use his wand."

Ryan took the box and opened it slowly, revealing an elegant looking wand of swirled purples, grays, and blacks that, for some reason, had....

"A lemon?" Ryan asked, staring at the lemon shape etched near the top of the wand, "Why..."

"As you know, humans do not have cutie marks like us ponies; Dark, in his random ways, somehow deduced that a lemon was his cutie-mark." Princess Luna explained, "He never really said why, but we found it charming that he would do such a thing."

"Heh, I shall do my best to honor his memory my ladies." Ryan gave another thankful bow before smirking, "After all, can't let down my brother can I?"

"Haha, he certainly does act like him doesn't he?" Princess Celestia laughed at his antics, "Now then, I hope you'll be able to join us both for dinner tonight...though, I'm a bit sheepish in saying this but even with what I remember of humans I don't really remember what they eat."

"Hahaha, no worries; well, while I've mentioned this to the girls, and Spike, before, humans do eat meat but things are a bit different here so that's not really an option." Ryan sighed awkwardly, "I'd love a hot dog but I'd rather not make anypony feel awkward. Hmmm...fish."

"Fish?"

"Yes, you wouldn't have a problem serving fish would you?"

"That would be a wise compromise as we have been known to dine on fish as well; very well, with that matter solved I would like to ask my favorite student to give Ryan a tour around the castle."

"Yes Princess! I won't let you down."

"Heh, knowing T-Sparks I'll be sure to learn quite a bit." Ryan joked before noting the two Princesses looking at him oddly, "Hmm?"

"T...sparks?"

"Oh yeah, that's the somewhat clever nickname I came up for Twilight."

"T for Twilight...and Sparks for Sparkle...aw! I get it!" Princess Luna remarked, laughing loudly, "That is clever!"

"Thank you my ladies, I do try my best."

"Alrighty there Casanova, I think yer time here is done; let's get a move on showing you the rest of the castle." AppleJack laughed, smirking as she grabbed a hold of Ryan and started heading back upstairs.

"Wait! One question for the Princesses." Ryan remarked, feeling AppleJack pause so he could ask, "So, I've been wondering...how exactly do you get your hair to wave like that when there's no wind down here?"

"Haha, that my dear human is a trade secret." Princess Celestia laughed, "Now go, enjoy yourselves and we shall see you tonight."

"Goodness, you all have had some adventures haven't you." Ryan remarked, looking over the beautiful stain-glass windows depicting major events in Equestria, "So this Discord fellah came back and caused trouble again huh? Y'all must be pretty tightly knit with friendship to beat him back...though I am surprised to learn that Luna used to be evil; I'm glad she reformed, I've always been a big fan of the redeemed villain."

"Speaking of...if you wanted to, would you like to see Discord?"

Ryan turned to Twilight and tilted his head; what did she mean by see?

"See? As in, he's here? But I thought..."

"Yeah, yeah, he turned to stone but the Princess keeps him here so we know if he ever tries anything again." Rainbow Dash added, "You should go check him out though, just to see what he looks like at least."

"Well, if you think I should let's go take a look." Ryan remarked, "So...a thought occurs to me."

"Oh yeah, what's bouncing around that thing you call a head now?"

"Cute Dashie...it was something the Princesses said, about how they were there back then. If they were, and are here now, does that mean they're like...immortal or something?" Ryan asked as they headed out into the garden maze area, "I vaguely recall T-Sparks telling me they control the sun and moon rising and setting so I'd at least put together they have some amazing powers."

"To be honest, I don't know if they're immortal per se I guess...the species that inhabit Equestria tend to live rather long lives but the Princesses don't necessarily show they've been around for a good thousand or so years." Twilight explained, "The only thing I can think is that they're magic is so powerful, they don't really age at any rate we could perceive."

"I suppose that answer suffices...and after you show me this Discord fellow I feel like tackling that hedge maze! I've always wanted to try something like that!"

Soon enough, after passing a good number of other statues that Ryan was assured were actual statues and not transformed chaotically mischievous entities, they came upon the one and only petrified form of Discord.

"He...kind of looks discordant as well; fitting name then I suppose." Ryan remarked, examining him and noting the slightly surprised look he was frozen with, "I'm guessing he didn't expect you six to beat him."

"Heck no! He used all sorts of low-down, dirty tricks to turn all of us against one another." AppleJack replied, clearly still annoyed at Discord's underhanded tactics.

"Yep! He made us all the total opposite....and made Rarity completely obsessed with a giant worthless rock she called Tom!"

"Pinkie!" Rarity gasped at her giggling form and blushing as she glanced at Ryan's smirking self, "We promised to never speak of it again remember? Anyway darling, Discord is certainly a troublesome fellow but he's safely imprisoned."

"I sure hope so...I never want to act like that again." Fluttershy added, shaking her head, "I couldn't believe how mean he made me."

"Huh...and Darkness Shade took on this guy single-handedly huh?" Ryan paused for a moment, pulling out Dark's wand before glancing at Discord and doing a double-take, "What?"

"Something wrong Ry-Ry?"

"I...I think I'm seeing things everypony; for a second there I could've sworn that..." Ryan paused before shaking his head, "It's nothing; I must just be feeling a bit weak from hunger. How about we take a look at the town and catch some lunch?"

With an agreement from the group, Ryan hung back for a moment staring at Discord's statue before feeling someone tugging on his pant-leg; looking down he saw Spike giving him a worried look and frowning.

"What's the matter little dude?"

"....you saw it too didn't you?" Spike asked before feeling himself getting lifted up and hoisted on Ryan's shoulders as they hurried to catch up with the girls, "For a brief moment Discord's facial expression changed..."

"...yeah, when I pulled out the wand and both of us were in view." Ryan paused for a moment to glance back at the statue but saw the same surprised look from before, "...let's not say anything at the moment; I don't want to worry the girls."

"Sounds okay to me...hopefully nothing comes of it."

As expected, Ryan got many a stare as they walked the more hoity-toity streets of Canterlot and even dining was a bit of a hassle as the waiter was quite, not so much rude, but very belligerent in regards to Ryan's presence.

"...so much for everypony being accepting; you'd think I cut his tail off or something." Ryan sighed, sipping his tea and shaking his head, "Oh well, just like on my Earth I can't expect everypony to be decent."

"Y'all shouldn't have to deal with that though sugah." AppleJack huffed, "Ya want me to have some words with the management?"

"No, no...there's no need to cause such a ruckus Apps. It's not that big a bother and I'd rather not possibly risk getting someone fired."

"Heh, ever the classy gentleman I see." Rarity teased, "Still, that's quite considerate of you."

"He could just be having a bad day too so...is there anywhere of interest we should check out after we eat?" Ryan asked, noting the server returning with their food, "Thank you sir."

Getting a huff in return to his statement, Ryan resisted the urge to roll his eyes and merely waited till everyone had their food before speaking again.

"You've got some coolness in you to handle yourself like that. I guess that makes you about ten percent cooler than I thought before."

"Heh, thanks for the compliment Dashie."

"Well, to answer your question we could go check out an art gallery; I think we're too late to catch a play at the theater." Twilight remarked as they ate, "Hmmm..."

"Oh! We could watch the Wonderbolts race at the track!"

"Sorry Rainbow Dash, but they're off on tour in Los Pegasus remember?"

"Darn it!" Rainbow Dash huffed, staring at her lunch before angrily eating it.

"I wouldn't mind seeing what art looks like in Equestria. I'd be curious to see if it's comparable to anything from my Earth's history." Ryan gave a nod and smiled, "Looks like we've got a plan then before dinner tonight with the Princess."

With that the group of friends had some laughs, ignored the waiter being a compete jack-ass (with no offense intended to any donkeys in the audience), and enjoyed their meal before making their way to the art gallery.

"...hmm, I'm noting a unusually quieter mood around here; we seem to be missing a certain hyper, pink pony."

"....Pinkie did take off." Fluttershy quietly noted, "She said something about...looking for a surprise?"

"Surprise?"

"I'm...I'm sorry but I don't know what she's talking about."

"Heh, that's okay Flutters." Ryan remarked, ruffling her mane, "Whatever she's up to, I'm sure we'll find out soon enough."

Fluttershy blushed and quietly smiled, avoiding eye-contact with Ryan briefly out of her trademark shyness before finally speaking up again.

"Thank you Ryan."

"Yer welcome." Ryan remarked as they came to a stop outside a massive, beautifully designed building, "...yep, this looks like an art gallery. Haha."

At first glance, Ryan was quite surprised that it seemed a many number of styles were similar to ones he'd seen...which the exception that the artists all seemed, in some cosmic joke only he seemed aware of, to be ponified names of famous artists from his world.

"While I can't really draw all that well, I've still been able to appreciate the intricacies it takes to do such varied forms of artistry. I will say T-Spark, that so far I haven't seen any kind of works that are surprising."

"Really? I wonder why? Perhaps the similarities between our worlds that you've already noted could be a reason as to why." Twilight replied, "You seem to be snickering too when you read the artists' names..."

"Oh well, let's just say the similarities are even deeper than you might think." Ryan laughed softly before heading into an open garden full of statues, "Hey, this is that Star-Swirled fellow the Princess was talking about....he certainly fits the wizened old mage look well."

"So, do you think there's any truth to what Princess Celestia said?"

Ryan turned to his current companion (the others, with their varying degrees of interest, had wandered about on their own to explore leaving Ryan alone with Twilight) and gave an unsure look.

"I'm not sure; the coincidences do kind of stack up too much to just be coincidences." Ryan mused, before looking at the wand again, "The aura...the name...the mannerisms...I can't rightly deny their words seem to have some truth behind them. As for this, I'll have to get Rarity to make a holster of some sort for me."

"...I'm sorry, but did you say Rarity? As in Rarity from Ponyville?"

Ryan and Twilight paused from their discussion and turned to this new voice that apparently belonged to, what Ryan could tell at first glance, a very posh pony indeed.

"Well yes sir, that is the Rarity I'm speaking of." Ryan replied before offering his hand to shake, "My name is Ryan...and you are?"

"Oh yes, yes, how rude of me dear boy." The posh pony replied, taking Ryan's offered hand and shaking it before looking at him oddly, "My name is Fancy Pants. I must say...I've never met someone as unique looking as you."

"Well, I guess you could say I'm a rarity myself." Ryan laughed softly, though it was partially to not laugh at this pony's amusing name, "I'm a human...and apparently the only one in Equestria as far as the Princess tells me."

"Ah, so you are friends with Princess Celestia as well. Tell me, did Rarity make that rather eye-catching ensemble you're wearing?"

"Hmmm? This?" Ryan asked, looking at his black slacks accented by a simple embroidered diamond at the bottom cuff and his purple shirt, "Why yes; in fact all of my clothing has been made for her since I showed up in Equestria."

"...wait a moment. Ah! Now I know where I've seen you before; in the newest issue of Stylish and Rich Ponies." Fancy Pants remarked, "So you're this new mystery model that Rarity sent in! You're the Ryan!"

"Shhhh...I'm trying to keep that on the down-low so I don't get mobbed." Ryan whispered, making a hushing movement with his hands, "I stand out as it is so I'm surprised nothing has happened yet but..."

"Wait...did Fancy Pants just say that was Ryan?"

"Ryan? Oh, that peculiar model in the newest Stylish and Rich Ponies?"

"The one that has all those amazing poses?"

"And all those marvelous clothes designed by Rarity?"

"...but where's his partner? That adorable southern lass?"

Ryan merely blinked for a moment, hearing all the murmurs building and building before he noticed how many pairs of eyes were now staring at him.

"...oh cow patties." Ryan sighed, slowly walking backwards before glancing to Twilight, "T-Sparks...time to hoof it!"

With that Ryan began running off with Twilight in tow as a crazed mob of ponies chased after them.

"Oh dear, I say old boy I'm quite sorry for bringing this on you!" Fancy Pants yelled out, hoping Ryan would hear him.

"Think nothing of it dear sir! I'm sure this was not your intention! Till next we meet!" Ryan shouted back, quickly dashing down a hallway and huffing as he tried to outrun everyone, "This is gonna be trouble."

Meanwhile the others had regrouped and were milling about before they felt a shaking sensation and looked around for the source of it.

"...what do you guys think is causing that?" Spike asked, trying to stay balanced against the rumblings, "And earthquake?"

"No...this doesn't seem cool enough to be one." Rainbow Dash remarked, "Hey wait...isn't that?"

"Ry-Ry? What in tarnation is he doing running like that?" AppleJack noted, seeing him coming closer and closer before running pass them with Twilight, "Darlin'? What the heck is wrong with them?"

"Oh AppleJack dearie, I think that is the reason why." Rarity remarked, pointing at the charging herd and panicking, "I think he may have been uncovered; I suggest we run!"

With that the other ponies of the Mane Six, and Spike too, began to run for their lives (or maybe not so much, either way Ryan didn't want to get buried in a wave of fashion-crazed ponies) in a hilarious sequence of events rather reminiscent of old Saturday morning cartoons.

"Why is this place so damn big?!" Ryan grumbled, huffing, "I'm not sure how much more I can keep this up girls."

"...while I can't say I approve of cursing, this is a bit of a situation so the frustration is shared and understood." Twilight replied, surprising Ryan that swears were apparently the same here too, "Rarity! You come here often! Which way is the exit?"

"I'm sorry darling but even I fear I'm lost this time."

'...trust your instincts.'

"What?" Ryan looked about for the strange voice he heard but as far as he could tell no one had talked, "That was weird..."

"What was sugah?" AppleJack huffed, giving Ryan a push when he started slowing down, "Hang tight Ry-Ry!"

"I just...heard a strangely gruff voice but....okay!" Ryan remarked, getting a slight second wind, "Follow me!"

"What's gotten into the big guy?" Rainbow Dash asked, easily keeping the pace.

"I don't' know, but he seems confident...let's follow him!" Fluttershy quietly shouted, "Come on girls!"

Through whatever strange miracle that happened, Ryan was able to find the way out of the art gallery and, once they were back into the open, quickly ducked down an alleyway and crouched behind some dumpsters while staying quite silent.

Sweating he could see the crowd that had been chasing them pause and look around before deciding to run in the opposite direction they had and so, finally, he could breathe a sigh of relief.

"That....was enough exercise for today everypony." Ryan sighed, flopping back and unintentionally leaning against AppleJack, "....I can honestly say that's a first for me."

"Are you going to be okay?" AppleJack turned to see a very tired and still panting Ryan collapsed against her, "I have to say though, you kept pace with us pretty well."

"Heh, well...it's not like I'm completely unathletic." Ryan laughed softly, taking a deep breath and standing, "So...how about we casually and inconspicuously make our way back to the castle? After all that I need a shower...and a nap just to get back my energy for dinner."

"Somehow that doesn't surprise me big guy, but....ya know...all this coolness is making you about ten percent less suspicious." Rainbow Dash remarked before blushing when Ryan ruffled her mane.

"Thanks Dashie, nice to know I'm earning that trust." Ryan joked before poking his head out of the alleyway, "Okay everyone, let's get moving."

"I do have one question darling."

"And what's that Rarity?"

"How's it feel to be such a wanted and famous star?"

"....exhausting. Those models can have it! I just wanna have a nice, steady, peaceful life in Ponyville on Sweet Apple Acres surrounded by mah friends."

"Heh, I can sympathize Ryan." Fluttershy giggled, "Right Rarity?"

"Indeed; it is not the life for everyone, that much I do know."

Without any further hassles, the group had been able to make their way back to the castle no worse for the wear and so, while the girls were doing what they wished to, Ryan was currently napping with AppleJack in order to recover from the harrowing ordeal at the gallery.

As it was his outfit has gotten slightly torn and, though Rarity said it was no bother and she'd fix it right up as soon as she could, he had still felt bad that the nice outfit she'd made for him got all banged up...but AppleJack was quick to settle his mind about all of it and so he'd been able to get a peaceful nap in.

This was why he wasn't really aware of the gentle knocking on the door before Rainbow Dash poked her head inside and saw the two of them still snoozing away, AppleJack's hat pulled down over Ryan's head for some reason.

'....Ryan.' Rainbow Dash felt something inside her ache slightly, though she wasn't sure why, '...I can't have a crush on him! That's just...twenty percent dumber!'

And yet, seeing him lying there contently with AJ made it all the worse; knowing that Twilight had asked her to wake them up so they could get ready, she gave a sigh before walking over to the bed and looking at Ryan.

"....no more time to be any percentage of sleeping big guy!" Rainbow Dash shouted before poking his stomach, "Wakey-wakey!"

"Hmmmm?" Ryan sleepily mumbled before shifting about and putting his other arm around Rainbow Dash in his sleep-stupor-state, "....Shhhh."

'Oh my gosh, oh my gosh!' Rainbow Dash hurriedly thought over and over, '...I...uhm...what do I do?!'

Cracking one eye open and seeing AppleJack looking back at him as well, the two shared a secret gesture before he felt her nod slightly against him; with that Ryan smirked and tugged Rainbow Dash up and pulled her into a hug as well before getting settled back into bed.

"Ack!"

"Shhhh Dashie...just a few more minutes okay?" Ryan whispered before getting settled, "Besides, I figure I owe you some kindness after teasing you so much earlier. Apps agrees, right?"

"Eyup."

"I...well...that is...who said I even wanted to...to...to cuddle like this?" Rainbow Dash quickly stated, but she made no movement to break out of his hug, "....whatever, just don't let anyone catch us like this or I'll be so many percentages less awesome."

"Ry-Ry wouldn't let that happen sugarcube." AppleJack laughed softly, "Now shhh; y'all can't rest if you make noise."

Figuring that was the end of that, Rainbow Dash just got settled in and closed her eyes before smiling at a silly thought.

'Ya know...Pinkie Pie was right; he is soft and warm like a teddy bear.'

"I'm not sure where they are Princess, I....oh, there they are." Twilight remarked, seeing Ryan, with AppleJack and Rainbow Dash in tow, come walking down the hall, "You've been gone for like twenty minutes...what happened?"

"Oh, we just had a little talk and spent some quality time together." Ryan chuckled, sharing a smirk with Apps and Dashie, "Anyway, as far as I can tell we're still on time...maybe not T-Sparks time, but normal human and pony time."

"...another light jab at my crazy task oriented self." Twilight sighed, before smirking at him, "As AppleJack has noted, you're quite adept at pushing a pony's buttons."

"Heh, blame my father; he was a master at that. Hahaha."

"Haha, he certainly sounds as charming as you." Princess Celestia remarked, "Based on its design, I'd almost dare say that outfit you're wearing was based on my sister."

"Is it?" Ryan looked at the midnight blue slacks he was wearing, black outlines running down the seams and curling around the cuffs along with a black polo shirt embroidered with a stylized crescent moon, "...I'm beginning to think that dear Rarity used many ponies as inspiration for my clothing line. Hahaha, I hope Luna doesn't mind."

"Considering her and Darkness were rather close, I don't think she'll be too upset." Princess Celestia teased, snickering softly before leading them into the dining hall, "So then, do you like Pinkie Pie's decorations? She seemed insistent on making it look, how did she put it? "Party-riffic"?"

"Heh, that sounds like Pinkie...where is she anyway?" Ryan asked before turning away from the Princess and seeing a cannon pointed right at him, "Ack!"

"PARTY!" Pinkie shouted, firing her cannon at Ryan and laughing at his reaction.

"...I'm not dead?" Ryan was puzzled, till he opened his eyes and saw he was covered in confetti, "...A Party Cannon. I APPROVE!"

"Hee-hee, I'd hoped so!"

"Well then, shall we sit? From what I've been told you had a bit of an adventure in town."

"Oh Celestia, you don't know the half of it...you know, I just realized I've been calling you and Luna by your names directly. I hope I haven't offended either of you princess."

"Now now, no need for such actions." Princess Celestia noted, smiling kindly at Ryan, "I myself know that always having to add 'princess' before mine and my sister's name can be tiresome."

"Indeed; while it is the royal way, we are all friends here are we not?" Luna walked up beside her sister before looking at Ryan's outfit and smirking, "My, my...it would seem I'm quite the trend-setter."

"Heh, you'd have to ask Rarity about that one." Ryan laughed, "She made all my clothes save for what I poofed here with."

"Well, you see Princess, I just thought that if I was going to make him various outfits, the citizens and royalty of Equestria had such wonderful color schemes and...."

"Calm yourself Rarity, I am truly flattered you felt my colors...oh, and even my cutie mark I see, that you felt those worthy for such a rare undertaken." Luna laughed softly, much to Rarity's relief, "Besides...I think Darkness would've looked good in my colors."

"That's understating it."

"Sister!"

"Hahaha, I'm so sorry; I could not resist a playful joke." Princess Celestia calmed her laughter, "Now then, let us relax and enjoy each other's company; I'm quite curious to find out about the humans from your world as well Ryan."

"I'm more than willing to talk about my kind...though not everything is sunshine and puppy dogs."

"Well, we ponies have had our rough times as well so I'm sure it's fine."

With that the group sat and were served a wonderful dinner, Ryan talking about the many things his world had that were different from Equestria and vice versa as everyone listened and had their own comments to make.

"A pick-up truck? I don't know what that there thing is, but it sounds like somethin' I'd have some fun with." AppleJack remarked with a grin, "Is it like them car things you were trying to talk about before sugah?"

"Yeah, it's basically a car but bigger, more rugged, and usually more powerful; the only drawback is it isn't as efficient since it's using more power to pull than go far distances."

"I must say, the humans in your world seem to have a magic all their own."

"Well Luna, science is magic in a way; while it's fundamentally different from the magic here, they're still both ways of achieving great things while still having their own logic about them."

"...he certainly speaks in the same manner."

"That much is true sister." Princess Celestia laughed much to Ryan's feigned annoyance, "Ah, he can make that same face too."

"I want to hear about these computer things more!" Twilight's eyes sparkled brightly in rapt attention, "Something that has a ton of information, thousands and thousands of books worth, all in the space of a table?"

"Even smaller than that to be honest." Ryan remarked, reaching into his pocket and pulling something out, "This little thing here could do all sorts of things."

"But that's only the size of your hand...that's amazing."

"Well, I guess where it wouldn't exist it is Flutters." Ryan laughed softly, "I would surf the internet, read books, use special programs to do anything, take pictures..."

"Whoa, whoa, whoa! That little doo-hickey can take pictures? I thought it was a music player!"

"It does that too Dashie...in fact, how about we take a photo to commerate this moment?"

"...you can take a photo just like that?" Twilight asked, leaning over and looking at his device, "Hmmm...why does it have an apple on it?"

"Oh, that's just the logo for the company that made this." Ryan explained, before noting AppleJack smirking a bit at the coincidence, "But yes...though sadly I'm not sure how I could print it out for everypony since I don't have a printer...or anything to hook it up to. I wonder if I could build a computer here? Maybe magic could substitute in places..."

Ryan shook his head, realizing such a thought wasn't the most important at this moment; standing up he asked everypony to gather together before he looked about and had a thought.

"Hmmm...I'd like to be in the photo too but....oh! I can use the timer!" Ryan remarked, quickly arranging something together on the table to hold the camera in place, "Okay...I'm gonna jump in-between the princesses so everypony say cheese!"

Pressing the button, Ryan quickly hoofed it and took his position before smiling; just as he noted Dashie getting impatient, the clicking noise sounded signifying he'd gotten the picture taken.

"And voila, I give you our photo."

"Oh my gosh, it totally is!" Twilight gasped, magically grabbing his device and staring at it, "This is amazing!"

"Oh and I simply look marvelous; such a sharp image." Rarity added, "Pity then that it's stuck on your little computer thing."

"Well, I'll have to put my head together with T-Sparks on that..."

"Ry-Ry, you've been here a few days...how'd ya keep this thing going?"

"Well Apps, it just happened that the park I was heading to in my world has outlets and I was gonna bum off their power to charge up my player; so I just happend to have the plug and cord. I wasn't quite sure it was going to work, but plugging it into the outlets here actually charged it and, ya know, didn't fry it and turn it into an expensive paperweight."

"How very convenient."

"Yeah, I know, but my luck is all weird like that. Haha."

Spike, after wrestling it away from Twilight, was eager to see how well it had turned out too but frowned when took a look at it.

"Hey! It cut off my bottom half!"

After getting another group picture (this time leaving Spike whole), the group had enjoyed some music, some laughs, and had even ended up doing a conga line after continued pestering from Pinkie Pie about it.

All in all, Ryan felt it was curious how normal the Princesses acted...and wasn't sure what to think of how friendly Luna was towards him but he figured she just had some longing for the man from so long ago he just happened to remind her of.

"I feel bad for her too....that's two people that are hurting because of me." Ryan sighed, sitting on the bed and drying his hair out, "I mean, it's indirectly but still..."

"What y'all talking about hon?" AppleJack turned and looked at the still slightly damp human, "Two ponies?"

"Dashie with her crush, as you're aware of....but apparently Darkness and Luna, from what Celestia mentioned and with how she kept looking at me, were rather close. I don't know what a humans lifespan here in Equestria was, but it sounds like not getting to have the time she should've with him thanks to Discord was rough."

"Makes a pony wonder if perhaps something like that had a role in eventually making Princess Luna become Nightmare Moon."

"Perhaps Apps, the ache of love can be a powerful thing; having a crush and not being able to fulfill that crush is bad enough as I've been on that side a few times in my life." Ryan flopped back into bed and sighed, "But...to have someone you do like...that you love, as there isn't any way those two weren't from the look I saw in her eyes tonight, and then to lose them for the remainder of the time you should've had...that's just the worst pain."

"Golly...I can't rightly even think of how such a thing would feel." AppleJack quietly spoke before looking at Ryan, "Ry-Ry?"

"Heh, I can Apps...that's how I lost her."

"The girl you mentioned that first night?"

"Yeah...the thing that sucks the most is I still wonder sometimes if she's okay but...she probably isn't."

Ryan gave out a long sigh before rolling over and hugging AppleJack; sensing his distraught thoughts she hugged him back and held tight.

"Hey, it's okay Ry; no need to be all sad and stuff when you've got plenty of friends here by yer side."

"Heh, I know, just...that heart of mine being all caring and stuff."

"It certainly is quite big and caring with how easily you've fit into the herd with your warm actions."

"Apps, you just seem to know just what to say to make me feel better..."

"Well shucks, I guess us southern belles just know how to make southern boys feel happy."

Ryan gave quite a laugh before messing her mane up something fierce, much to her dismay.

"I do declare Apps, you're starting to pick up some of the humor of mine." Ryan sighed happily as he rolled back over and got settled, "Well then, we've had quite a day...but I'm looking forward to getting back to Ponyville tomorrow...or I guess the day after with the train trip."

"Canterlot not to yer likin'?" AppleJack asked as she shifted over and got comfy with Ryan.

"Let's just say I'm not ready for the fame quite yet...I need to get a little faster first."

The next day, after saying goodbye to the Princesses (and Luna giving Ryan quite a hug that required her sister's assistance to break) the group boarded the train and began their journey back to Ponyville at last.

The train trip home was pretty uneventful, which was fine with Ryan after how exciting the last day had been; as it was he simply enjoyed watching the scenery go by as AppleJack was stretched out, her head resting in his lap as she lightly dozed.

"Anyway Twilight, you were saying?" Ryan asked, watching as she was still looking over his player fervently.

"Right, well, as far as I can tell it shouldn't be too difficult to do what we talked about the other night; the components, from what I can read with my magic, seem to be comprised of items that all exist in Equestria. It's just getting our hands on them."

"Well, that's something to write Celestia about then; I still don't get how that whole letter thing works involving Spike's fire but...magic has logic that I'm trying to get ingrained into my noggin."

"Well, like you said, science is yer magic Ry-Ry." AppleJack noted, opening her eyes and lifting her hat up to look at him, "By the way, what happened to all that relaxin' mane caressing?"

Ryan gave a short laugh before resuming his caressing of her mane, much to AppleJack's amusement.

"Anyway, I guess we've got a side-project to work on then when I'm not helping Apps out on the farm. As far as I can tell you've got pretty much everything in place that's needed...it's just trying to make it work with how physics and logic is in this world."

"You guys and your big word talk is making my head hurt." Rainbow Dash groaned, "Great, now we've got two Twilights to bore us to death."

"Hey!" Ryan and Twilight replied in tandem.

"Now Rainbow Dash, we should be happy that someone here seems to not only understand the things that Twilight says, but that dear man also knows how to simplify it for those of us that don't quite speak that unique way she does."

"Rarity is right! In fact!" Pinkie exclaimed, bouncing in her seat, "He seems quite adept at being around any of us: he talks like Twilight, can be all fashion-fancy like Rarity, has an attitude like RD, loves being crazy and silly fun like me, is kind and a bit bashful like Fluttershy, and of course is quite fond of the simple southern life with AppleJack!"

"Boy howdy is he...he's also great with kids; them little fillies just seem enthralled with him." AppleJack teased, smirking at Ryan's blush.

"Ladies...." Ryan sighed into a laugh, "I suppose it's all true as stated; I'm just adaptable in that way."

"...hey, you left out me!" Spike shouted, much to everyone's amusement.

"I reckon we did and that's just not right little dude." Ryan remarked, "Hmmm, let's see..."

"Oh, I know! I know! You both really like helping people! And you both understand Twilight when she gets all fancy talking!"

"Hmmm...okay Pinkie Pie! That sounds good to me!" Spike happily proclaimed.

"Heh, that and liking people that aren't your species." Rainbow Dash teased, watching as Ryan and Spike both sputtered a bit and coughed, "Hee."

"You brat!" Ryan mumbled despite his smile, "But hey, looks who's talking."

Now it was Rainbow Dash's turn to cough and sputter before smiling as well; with that the whole group laughed softly as their train ride continued in peace.

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