• Published 29th Apr 2012
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The Last Holdouts - A Conversion Bureau Story - Aedina

The last few humans who've waited for conversion bid farewell to Earth as it succumbs to Equestria

  • ...

The Willow World

The Last


By Aedina

A C o n v e r s i o n B u r e a u S t o r y

Chapter Six
The Willow World

An eerie quiet filled the Bonne Chance as Greenwind manuevered along the tilting corridor. His hooves rang out hollow echoes as he surveyed each abandoned cabin. "Feels like a ghost-ship", he thought, gooseflesh rising along his withers with a shudder. "Too many of Móraí's * stories, " he told himself. Caoineadh ** - they weren't real, not in this world. Then again, with Equestria just a thin veil away...Magic had proven to be very real after all. Who knew all of the ramifications of it's influence? Greenwind heard a variation of an old rhyming prayer, running through his brain "From ghoulies and ghosties, and long-leggedy beasties, and things that go bump in the night, Celestia, deliver us!"

"Get yer head about ye, laddy-boy, back to what ye was at!" he told himself with a derisive snort and a firm shake of his head. One nice thing about ponies, they were pretty good at taking important orders; it was almost a guarantee that anyone who would be left in the cabins would either be mid-change, or un-ponified. Greenwind knew that Florrie's request for him to check for stragglers was more perfunctory than anything else, but it still felt good to be up and moving. It took an effort of will, though, to keep him from giving in to the temptation to head for the bridge. "I'd just be in the way," he told himself, "More hindrance than help, no doubt." Indeed, the bridge wouldn't fit more than two ponies at a time in it, even if he went up.

Captain Smollette had become like a father to him. The urge to be with his new-found family was strong in Greenwind even before his conversion, now it was almost an instinctual imperative. Caught cowering in the cargo hold shortly after the ship left port, there'd been some controversial debate about how to deal with the stowaway at first. After his story had been related to Mr. Heskin, the Captain had made it his duty to keep Bobby Coppin under his watchful eye. The fear that he might be an H.L.F. infiltrator, bent on finishing the work begun with the Bureau bonfire was obviously on everypony's mind.

The transformation within Greenwind had been miraculous, even before he was allowed to ponify. Given a sense of purpose and a place he could feel safe, his former shyness and loner ways dissolved in the warmth of camaraderie.

Feeling an intense need to prove himself, he'd turn a hoof to any task available. It wasn't long before he'd earned his Second Mate post. It seemed weirdly appropriate that he'd end this journey where he'd begun it, in the depths of the cargo hold. As he approached, he could hear voices calling out instructions. "Line up over there, folks, we're not gonna be able to stand on ceremony - we're down to the wire." Mattresses were being hauled, clothing was being shed, and casks of potion were being rolled over near the coil of a long hose.

Greenwind smiled as he entered, "Everypony here?," he asked as he cantered through the door. Calls of greetings and reassurance rose to meet him as he tried to determine where he could be of the most help. Seeing their injured friend up and active even generated a small shower of applause, as he took his place beside the barrels. "Okay, it's time to Pony Up!" he joked, as they set to their very last human endeavor.

Hiromi had joined the press of pony bodies descending the stairs when the Captain announced the clearing of the deck. The herd moved as one to congregate in the huge communal mess hall. Calmly they went about trying to establish a sense of order; focusing on making dinner. One corner of the room was set up as an impromptu nursery and day care area for the young foals. Here they were kept helpfully distracted and out of harm's way. Mares and stallions alike took their turns in watching the young. Stories and coloring projects helped to keep the foals from even the hint of distress. Despite the rough motions of the rocking ship as they fled their pursuers, everypony did their best to prevent panic.

Such organization in the midst of the tossing sea - the attention to details during the ending of the world. Romi remembered how her Sensei used to say, "Life goes on, my flower, and ours is meant to drift the stream of it effortlessly."

That ponies seemed to unconsciously echo the philosophy of the Willow World both surprised and comforted her. Japan had known so many disasters, each one met with indomitable determination. Tsunamis, Earthquakes, War, Fire, Famine, Nuclear Meltdowns - somehow the tiny islands had held themselves together. Each time rebuilding, renewing themselves with a core of traditions handed down through the centuries with little variation. Even when Nippon's citizenry was forced to leave at last - domed shimmer of Equestrian incursion on their horizon, they took their unique culture with them - like so much flotsam in their wake.

"You seem very lost in thought, dear, a good one I hope?", inquired a bright orange mare beside her. Hiromi blinked, no matter how she tried she still felt unaccustomed to the casual way ponies approached and cared about each other - and their lack of any discernible etiquette. The unexpected endearment startled her, in and of itself.

Taking a moment to gather herself, she dipped her forebody, reminding herself that it was highly possible this was someone she knew, but in a form she hadn't seen them in before. "Yes, thank you, M'am.", she replied, glancing up to meet the gaze of sympathetic concern emanating from the earthpony's vibrant crimson eyes.

The mare chuckled, "My goodness, you're so polite, dear. Such nice manners. I'm Amber Flame, formerly known as Katelyn Mayborrow, in case you knew me from before." The name rang a bell in Hiromi's memory. Even with over 100 ponies on board the Bonne Chance, the months at sea and the close quarters had allowed almost everypony to meet once or twice at the very least. In her mind's eye, Hiromi could picture a matronly acquaintance of Oliver's, plump and pleasant - the very picture of a friendly storybook nanny.

"Thank you, M'am," She said, dipping another curtsy, "I believe we've met briefly, I haven't decided my new name yet, but I'm Hiromi Takahashi."

The earthpony seemed surprised. With a step back she inspected Hiromi from over her broad muzzle. "Oliver's little geisha friend?", she asked.

Hiromi nodded silently. It was amazing to her how she fell back so easily into her training. "Each situation, each client you meet, Romi-chan, each shall have a different need of you, a different picture of you in their mind." Her Sensei used to tell her. "Your purpose is to fulfill their ultimate fantasy to a state of perfection they've hitherto undreamed of."

The instructions echoed in her mind as if she was hearing them afresh. Most of the time the decision for which facet to display, which mask to wear, came to her instinctively. That was before the potion. She'd hardly been a pony for more than an hour or so, and the change was still leaving her confused. All the emotions she'd schooled herself to suppress so that her outward calm was as much a part of her as her hand or her shoulder....they flooded her now, sprang to the surface like tigers that had slipped their leashes. As a consequence, her features contorted, transforming from her old mask of "the demure little doll" to a sudden look of fear and uncertainly. She dropped her head, trying to hide the reaction. Her ears drooped, flicking in distress.

Then a warmth spread over Hiromi's arched neck. She was being hugged, pony hugged. Hiromi fought the urge to flee. She challenged herself to relax. "Thank you, M'am" she murmured as she gave a last shudder of release. The tears that wet her dainty muzzle signaled the dissolution of all her remaining masks and pretenses. "Now I'm really a pony," she thought as she abandoned herself into melting sobs within the comfort of the elder mare's embrace.

* Móraí (MO ree): An Irish term for Grandmother
** Caoineadh (kWEEn Ah): An alternative Irish term for Banshee