• Published 11th Aug 2015
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Home is Where Your Curse is - SFaccountant

Ranma Saotome has been brought to the fanciful land of Equestria, and finds himself surrounded by its majesty and wonder. He is not happy about this. Equestria isn't very happy about it, either.

  • ...

Escape from the Acres

Home is Where Your Curse is

a My Little Pony/Ranma 0.5 crossover fanfiction

by SFaccountant

Chapter 2

Escape from the Acres

Ranma had quite the jaded view of physics.

Really, that was hardly her fault. Even if she hadn't spent the majority of her life training her body far beyond the practical limits of the human form, she had an absurd amount of experience with magic and supernatural phenomena for someone who didn't call themselves a wizard. She had seen people crack open boulders with a single poke of the finger, men who casually fired bolts of pure force from their hands, and tiny, gnomish seniors that could demolish skilled warriors with contemptuous ease. So her idea of what was possible was not exactly grounded in scientific theory.

And turning into a flying horse was definitely not helping.

"Gah! This is way harder than I thought it'd be!" Ranma complained as her wings flapped desperately. She was flying just a few feet off the ground, right outside Zecora's hut. Well, less "flying" than "jerking around in the air and trying not to smash into any trees". She was finding it enormously difficult to put the proper amount of force into her wing flaps to maintain basic lift.

"Clearly, horses just aren't meant to fly. Not what nature intended," the martial artist pony said solemnly as she fell back onto her hooves. She closed her eyes and took a deep, cleansing breath.

"Well, the hell with you, nature! You never stopped me before, and I'm not going to let you mess this up for me now!" Ranma declared to the trees above in her native language. "If I have to be a horse AND a chick, at least I want to get flight out of the deal!"

With that declaration, Ranma leapt toward a tree and then deflected off of it, leaping to nearly the height of Zecora's roof. Then she spread her wings, catching the air and swooping into a glide.

"Ha-HAH!" the redheaded mare shouted triumphantly as she soared through the forest clearing.

Right into the forest non-clearing, and the thirty or so branches sitting directly at her flight level.

The branches snapped and tore as Ranma proceeded to prune the trees with her face, and even she was quite impressed by how many she broke through before she lost the last of her momentum and dropped onto the ground like a feathered stone.

"... Okay, well, those branches were totally in the way. Now they're not," Ranma mumbled as she stood up and spent a moment spitting out bark, "let's try that again."

"It's good that you are an early riser, but your flying practice could be wiser. The trees make aerial stunts complex, the air is humid and the currents vex."

Ranma glanced behind her to see Zecora walking out of her hut, a smirk on her face.

"Sorry, Zee. Did I wake you up?" Ranma asked, switching back to English as she sat down and shook the leaves out of her mane.

Zecora puzzled under the sudden nickname for a moment, and then shrugged. "It is no burden for me to be up at this hour, I greet each morning as a gift, no matter how sour." Then she poked a hoof at the redheaded pony. "Although I do not resent my waking, I wish to keep my home from quaking. Let us depart for Ponyville without delay. This forest will suffer if you stay."

Ranma really didn't see what the big deal was about shredding some branches, but nor did she have a reason to want to stick around. "Okay, if you say so. Let's go to..." Her face suddenly twisted into an expression of exasperation. "Wait, 'Ponyville'? Really?"

Zecora nodded silently as she passed the pegasus by. "That is what the pony village is called. Is there a reason your belief has stalled?"

Ranma turned to follow the zebra, folding her wings against her back into their resting state. "It's just silly. Who names a town like that? It would be like if Tokyo was called 'People City' or 'Humantropolis'. And I guess Nerima would be called 'Crazy Town'."

After a few seconds, the human-turned-equine continued. "Which it was, a few times. In the papers. And that one issue of National Geographic. And all of the real estate guides. But they were just making fun of us."

"I have not heard of any town by that name. Is this place real, or is your madness to blame?" Zecora asked, glancing back.

"Nerima is a real place. Just, you know, not on this planet," Ranma explained, "aaaaaand that didn't really help my case for being sane, did it?"

Zecora smiled as she turned back around. "So you think yourself from outer space? Part of some intergalactic alien race?"

"Nah, not intergalactic. At least, I don't THINK so. I have to be honest, I'm not totally sure how I got here," Ranma grumbled, "I'd tell you more about my species, but I don't think there's a point when you don't believe that I'm human in the first place."

"Whether based in madness or memories true, do not let my skepticism bother you," Zecora said encouragingly as they approached the edge of the Everfree Forest, "If you could, I wish to hear more of this far-flung race. Whether they are from your mind, or the depths of space."

Ranma brightened instantly. "Well, if you insist!"

So it was that Ranma spent the entire walk to Ponyville describing her native species to her equine acquaintance. She explained how humans ruled her home planet, covered it with cities and towns, and domesticated the terrible and horrific monsters known as "cats" (although in her opinion, the wretched creatures would have been better off left in the wild). She told her of the wondrous power of human technology, the rather reclusive and more annoying power of human magic, and how the latter may or may not have destroyed her entire world. She described how human society was divided into two classes of people: nerds, who ran everything important and did all the boring jobs, and fighters, who (other than herself, of course) usually wasted their time trying to kill other people over a love interest.

So it could be judged that Ranma Saotome's understanding of sociology was also somewhat warped.

Most importantly, Ranma explained how she had been raised to be the best fighter of them all, trained as the heir to the Musabetsu Kakutou Saotome Ryuu. Zecora had looked quite alarmed at the title, no doubt mentally searching for words to rhyme with if she was ever compelled to explain it to anypony else. Ranma put her mind at ease somewhat by explaining its English translation: Anything-Goes Martial Arts.

And then, before she could get to the part about the small tribes of humans who lived in closed societies and wielded magic and occasionally showed up in Nerima so that she could beat up their crown princes, their journey was over.

Ranma's eyebrow arched as she stared up at their destination. "Woah, this Twilight lady really lives in this tree?"

"Indeed, and it serves as the village's library," Zecora replied with a smile.

Ranma looked over at her, suddenly looking nervous. "Wait, are we doing the thing where we rhyme off of each others' sentences? Because I screwed that up before and you got mad."

The zebra chuckled as she stepped forward. "There is no need to be so anxious, my friend. The rule of my rhymes I am willing to bend." She knocked a hoof on the door. "It is still early, so the library is closed. Miss Sparkle should have time to have questions posed."

Ranma tilted her head to the side as they waited for the door to be answered. "... Oh, wait. I forgot something," the pegasus said suddenly, "I'm not really used to asking this question, but what IS Twilight Sparkle, exactly? I don't think we covered that."

"She is a pony Princess, an immortal equine, blessed with a body some consider divine," Zecora explained, "given the wings of a pegasus and a unicorn's horn, she is a subject of ponies' love and evil's scorn."

"... Pony Princess, huh?" Ranma mumbled, sounding completely unimpressed by the description. "Yeah, okay. Why not." She decided to defer any judgment on what a "Pony Princess" would be like and simply wait to meet her. She was still having a hard time taking any of this seriously, and the only reason she hadn't run off already was the distant hope of getting her human body back.

The front door opened, and Ranma's eyes shifted downward. A small, scaly, bipedal creature stood in the doorway, scrutinizing her and Zecora briefly before offering a warm smile.

"Hello, Zecora! Who's your friend?" Spike asked, giving a sidelong glance to the unknown pegasus. Ranma stared back, her expression unreadable.

"Saotome Ranma is this pony's name. A recent arrival, whom the Everfree couldn't tame," Zecora chuckled to herself, "I bring him to Miss Sparkle, for he is loon. By any chance might she be free sometime soon?"

Spike furrowed his brow as he stared at the pegasus. There were a few things odd about Zecora's introduction, but the thing that immediately stood out was that the pony in front of him didn't match the gender pronouns Zecora was using. Spike couldn't exactly check for sure from his angle (and anyway he knew better than to try that), but either Zecora had misspoken or this was the prettiest stallion he had ever met.

"This young dragon is Spike, ward of the Princess, a role which I hear entails its fair share of duress."

Spike grinned as he stepped aside. "It has its moments. Come on in! I'll tell Twi you're here!"

The two equines entered, and Ranma softly kicked the door closed behind her. The inside of the tree was, as had been explained, a library, with big bookshelves lining the walls.

Zee says "Princess", but I'm definitely getting a "geek" vibe from this place. Ranma thought to herself as she looked about.

"Oh, Zecora, hello! It's been a while since I saw you last!" announced a pleasant, feminine voice.

Ranma glanced up at the stairs and beheld the "divine body" of the Equestrian Princess: a lavender pony about the same size as she was, with a plainly styled dark purple mane that had a pink stripe in it. A starburst pattern surrounded in white sparks adorned her rear leg, and her tail, like her mane, was neat and simple. Although she did have both a horn and wings, Ranma couldn't really see a hint of royal elegance or divinity in the mare to match Zecora's claims.

Not that she thought the zebra might have been lying, or that Ranma particularly cared about Twilight's royal status, but still, she was going to stick with her initial assessment: Twilight Sparkle looked like a geek. Which was fine. Most of the royals she had met in her life had been lunatics and jerks anyway. It was actually quite a relief that Zecora's magic expert was a nerd with a good reputation.

"Greetings, Miss Sparkle, and good morning! I apologize for my lack of warning." Zecora bowed her head deeply. Ranma kept quiet. "I bring to you a pony in dear need of assistance, found wandering the Everfree despite all resistance."

Twilight chuckled a bit self-consciously. "Please, relax. You don't need an appointment or anything to see me, Zecora." Then she turned her attention to the unfamiliar face. "May I have your name, Miss?"

"It's Mister," Ranma said, "Mister Saotome Ranma."

Awkward pause.

"That will make sense eventually, trust me," the pegasus said as Zecora smirked.

"Oh... kay..." Twilight said, pursing her lips. "That's a very unique name. May I ask where you're from, Mister Ranma?"

"Japan, which is a human country on Earth, which is my home planet," Ranma stated calmly, "that part probably won't make sense, but it's true."

Twilight's gaze slowly tracked from the redheaded pony back to Zecora, her expression silently and desperately requesting further input.

"His troubles are complicated, that much is certain," the shaman chuckled, "may we talk - so to speak - behind the curtain?" She gestured up to Twilight's room.

The alicorn glanced between Zecora and Ranma, carefully noting the former's pleasant demeanor and the latter's mildly bored one. Deciding that there wasn't any particular danger in leaving Ranma alone with Spike, she started ascending the stairs again. "All right. Let's talk upstairs. Spike, could you get Mister Ranma some tea?"

"Okay, sure. I already put some on," the young dragon replied as Zecora and Twilight went upstairs. He left for the kitchen as the bedroom door closed.

Ranma was left without anyone to talk to or anything in particular to do. She briefly debated spying on Twilight and Zecora's conversation, but decided against it. Zecora hadn't been anything but helpful so far; she probably just didn't want the martial artist to hear a frank discussion of her sanity. It was pretty hard to imagine the apparent Princess and shaman secretly plotting against her.

Ranma turned to the books as the most obvious and immediate form of diversion. She was instantly disappointed.

"They're all in English. Of COURSE," she grumbled as she walked along the bookcases and looked over their spines. Ranma had learned to speak English quite well growing up during her long international training trip, since it was much, much easier to find people fluent in English than in Japanese. As much as that had helped, however, she hadn't had much formal instruction in the language, and hadn't had as much need to read it. Her reading skills in anything but Japanese were abysmal.

"Well, I suppose I should be pretty glad that I can still talk with everyone," she grumbled as she looked over the shelves packed with gibberish, "I hope I can get back home."

"Back home? Like, your home planet?" Spike asked as he waddled back into the room. He was carrying a tray with teacups and a steaming kettle.

"Yeah," Ranma said casually as she sat down on the floor, "not that this place isn't nice, but I've got stuff to do." That wasn't really true, but the lizard didn't need to know that.

Spike put the tray down on a table, and then fixed Ranma with a discerning stare. "So... you're a dude and an alien? Because you look a lot like a pegasus mare to me."

"Well, I am. Right now," Ranma admitted, "but that's the unicorns' fault. The pegasus thing is, I mean. Not the mare thing. That was someone else's fault. Long story. Anyway, as soon as I finish up here I'm going to track those two racists down and get them to change me back. Then I'll see about figuring out how to get back home. I think a magic rock might be able to do it."

Spike gave Ranma an odd look as he slowly poured some tea.

"Zee thinks I'm insane," the redhead mumbled.

"She's not the only one," Spike remarked. Then he shrugged. "Then again, I can't say it would be THAT weird. We've had a lot of strange things happen around here." Then he paused. "Soooo... what are you, then? When you're not a pony, I mean?"

"I'm a human," Ranma said proudly, pressing a hoof to her chest, "we're like monkeys, but BETTER."

"Ah. Right," Spike said skeptically, holding out a cup on a saucer.

Ranma stared for a moment, and then shifted his weight to her back legs. Then she lifted up her forelegs to try to take the cup. The resulting fumbling dropped first the saucer, then Ranma's face, and finally the teacup onto the floor.

"... I miss having hands," the redhead grumbled as she pushed herself up again.

"They ARE pretty great," Spike said smugly while flexing his claws in front of him.

The door to Twilight's bedroom creaked open, and Ranma's ears perked up.

"I now leave this poor equine in your care. His malady is strange, and most likely rare. If any can help him, I don't doubt it's you. I will be back tomorrow, to see if you're through." Zecora trotted down the steps ahead of Twilight, smiling warmly at Ranma to reassure her that everything was going to be fine. Ranma didn't really believe her, but the gesture was nice. "I am glad to have met you, Saotome. But for now I must get on with my day."

"That's fine Zee, and thanks for your help," Ranma declared as the Zebra passed by, "if any of those video game monsters in the forest come around again, let me know. I'll take care of them for you."

"I shall keep your offer in mind, but I strive to avoid such a lethal bind." The zebra bowed. "Farewell Saotome Ranma; may we meet again. If you regain your senses, come see me then."

"I'm really not crazy," the pegasus mumbled as Zecora exited the library. With a sigh, she turned to regard Twilight Sparkle.

"Sorry that it took a while. Zecora had to borrow a rhyming dictionary to give me your diagnosis," Twilight explained before clearing her throat, "so, you're suffering from false memories and perhaps partial amnesia, but Zecora found no evidence of neurotoxins or concussion."

Yeah, I definitely hit the nail on the head. Nerd. "Well, I don't think the memories are false, for what that's worth."

Twilight stared at Ranma silently, her eyes narrowing. "Hmmm ... My initial hypothesis is magical manipulation. You seem very calm, rational, and lucid for somepony being bluntly accused of being fundamentally insane. That doesn't quite explain the gender confusion, though. Enchantment magic shouldn't be THAT strong."

"Oh, did Zee not get into that? Weird, I can think of lots of words that rhyme with 'curse'," Ranma said, tilting her head to the side.

Twilight frowned. "There's no such thing as curses."

Ranma immediately started laughing, surprising Twilight. "Yeah, and there's no such thing as unicorns, either! But here we are, right?"

"...... What? What does that even mean? Why wouldn't there be such a thing as unicorns?" Twilight was completely perplexed by the comparison.

"Never mind. Inside joke, I guess," Ranma chuckled, "anyway, you can call it what you want, but it's real. My Jusenkyou curse turns me into a girl when I'm splashed with cold water. Or, in this case, a mare. I return to a man with hot water. Er, I mean... a stallion? Yeah. Geez, I never thought I'd need to know all these horse-related words..."

Twilight's horn glowed, and Ranma tensed up immediately. She relaxed somewhat when a quill pen and sheet of parchment floated over to the alicorn, with the former rapidly scratching against the latter.

"Are you writing about how crazy you think I am?" Ranma asked suspiciously.

"Yes. I need a clear evidence base to determine how extensive the delusions are, and hopefully to confirm your recovery after treatment," Twilight said. Ranma wanted to feel annoyed, but the perfectly pleasant tone Twilight used while discussing her alleged condition was strangely soothing. It felt kind of nice to have others going so far out of their way to help her, even if all of them were wrong.

Then the purple pony smiled brightly. "At the very least, though, we can confirm right away whether this so-called 'curse' is real. Spike, can you heat up a cup of hot water? Then we can-"

Ranma slapped a hoof on the edge of a saucer on the counter next to her. The cup on top of the saucer flew directly into the redhead's face, drenching her with hot tea before bouncing off of her head and landing on the floor.

Twilight's eyes bugged out and her jaw fell open.

"Wow..." Spike mumbled, clearly surprised and impressed as he beheld a male earth pony where before there was a female pegasus. "So, does this mean you actually ARE an alien?"

"Of course I am," Ranma said confidently. Even his voice was different and more obviously masculine. "Although that one might be harder to prove. I don't know if there's any kind of switch for that." He frowned as he looked back to Twilight. "Which reminds me, I really have to hurry this up and hunt down the pair of unicorns that zapped me."

Twilight took a few more seconds to stare, and then quickly scratched out several lines in her notes. "W-Well, I, uh, still don't know if this is a... curse, per say, but, uhm..." She shook her head, obviously flustered. "Okay! So obviously the gender switch is not a delusion! Good! This is progress!"

"You still don't believe me about the other stuff?" Ranma asked, frowning.

"I'm not sure," Twilight admitted, "on the one hoof, you don't appear to be lying, and the gender switch is clearly real. On the other hoof, there's a big difference between transformational magic and claims of extraterrestrial origin. There isn't any logical reason to believe that one extraordinary claim being true proves that another, unrelated, and even more extraordinary claim is also true." She paused briefly, looking over Ranma's body while trying not to look like she was looking over Ranma's body. "Uh... so... is the change..." she trailed off and broke eye contact, suddenly feeling incredibly awkward.

"Yeah, it's complete. Guy parts turn to girl parts and the reverse," Ranma said breezily. This was obviously not the first time he had fielded these sorts of questions.

Twilight immediately regained her earlier demeanor once it was obvious that Ranma wasn't uncomfortable with the topic. "I see! That's actually quite fascinating! I've never seen shape shifting magic like this before! Normally it shifts the body one way and stabilizes it with a passive mana construct, or creates a sort of bio-reactive 'glamour' that's mostly illusory! The amount of magic charge necessary to change your body back and forth based on such an arbitrary trigger mechanism must be enormous! Changelings can affect such shifts mostly at will, but in their case the cellular structure..."

NEEEEEERRRRRRRRRD... Ranma drawled in his head as Twilight babbled on about magic. She had long ago left the scope of English words he was familiar with, and he was starting to feel less like a patient and more like a science experiment. Time to nip this in the bud.

"Yeah, look, the curse is a big deal, but honestly I've mostly gotten used to it," Ranma interrupted just as Twilight was getting to the principles of organic transmutation, "if you can cure it, great. If not, whatever. What I'm really worried about is the spell the unicorn lady hit me with."

Twilight blinked. "Uh, okay..." she took up her quill and parchment again with her telekinesis. "Can you describe the incident for me?"

"Sure. Well, kind of. It was really confusing," Ranma admitted, scratching his head with a hoof, "I woke up in these underground ruins, and there were these two unicorns there. Talking unicorns." He paused at seeing Twilight furrow her brow. "Right. That isn't exactly weird to you, I guess. Anyway, they start freaking out and calling me a mutant ape, and then they started attacking me with magic. There was this red stallion that tried first, but his attacks were pretty weak and didn't work. Then this green mare gave it a shot and yelled..." he paused again, frowning. "Uh... paw... pall? It started with a 'P'."

"Polymorph?" Twilight guessed. "That's the go-to spell for changing a form offensively, although it's a very difficult one."

"Yeah, I think that was it!" Ranma agreed. "Then: BAM!" He smacked the table next to him, and the surface instantly broke in half, spilling a tea pot onto the floor. "Next thing I know, I'm a horse!" Ranma scowled and lowered his head. "... Sorry about the table."

"Oh, it's no problem. Spike, could you clean that up?" Twilight asked, still scribbling down notes. The purple dragon sighed as he looked over the multiple tea stains, annoyed at seeing his earlier work mostly used to create later work.

Twilight finished writing with a nod. "Okay, so you said you 'woke up'? Where did you fall asleep?"

"On my planet, right before this kid I knew was about to destroy it with some magic rock," Ranma said irritably. Twilight's eyes widened again. "Oh, right, that might be important too: the unicorns that did this to me also have this gem called the 'MacGuffin Stone'. It can destroy a planet. Maybe. And teleport guys to other planets. Probably. The kid I knew said it needed some kind of power source to work, though, and the mare was complaining about how it had no power left. So it might not be important. Or your planet could be on the verge of total destruction. Not sure."

On the parchment in front of her, Twilight had drawn out three columns to organize her notes: one labeled "Facts", the next labeled "Plausible Claims", and the last labeled "Crazy Talk (Probably)". The final column was filling up fast and had the words "MacGuffin Stone" at the bottom, underlined and surrounded by question marks.

"Okay, maybe we should focus on the polymorph spell after all," Twilight said with a nervous smile, "the rest of the events surrounding your arrival seem... less verifiable." Then she cleared her throat. "I'm going to perform a simple spell on you to detect magic enchantments. That may not necessarily tell me WHAT spells you're under, and I'm certain it will return a positive given your... 'curse'," she said the word uncomfortably, like it left a bad taste in her mouth, "but it will still return helpful information."

Ranma nodded slowly. "Okay... will it hurt?"

"Not at all," Twilight assured him as her horn lit up with a purple glow, "I can promise you that this spell is completely safe and harmless." She spoke with the utmost confidence and a warm, reassuring smile as she cast her spell.

Which is why Ranma was so surprised when he was horribly and painfully electrocuted.

"HYIII-AH-AH-AH-AH-AAAAAAAUGH!!" the martial artist screamed as arcs of power writhed around him, and his skeleton briefly flashed through his skin as he flailed about in agony.

Twilight also screamed in surprise, although her shock was somewhat less dramatic and much less literal. Spike merely flinched away and shielded his eyes, hoping that he wouldn't have to clean up a dead body along with the table and broken tea set.

After several seconds of uncontrolled magical lightning coursing through him, Ranma landed back on the floor on his side. Smoke wafted from the ends of both his mane and tail braid, and his body twitched and spasmed in pain.

"Oh my Celestia! I am so sorry! How did that even happen?" Twilight cried, her eyes tearing up at the sight of the smoldering stallion.

Ranma coughed up a cloud of black smoke, and then tilted his head slightly to look up at her. "So... that wasn't SUPPOSED to happen?"

"NO! Absolutely not!" Twilight said, prancing anxiously from hoof to hoof as her head swung left and right. "Wait! My first aid kit! I have burn tonic! And bandages! I can-"

"Calm down," Ranma said flatly as he sat up again, "I'll walk it off when we're done here. Did it work?"

It took Twilight a moment to answer, as she was slightly incredulous that he was in state to walk, much less "walk it off". If the big black scorch mark that now decorated her floor was any indication of the amount of amperage he had just absorbed, he was quite lucky to still be alive. "Uh... well... let me think..."

Ranma gave her plenty of time as he started dusting the soot off of his coat. Spike, meanwhile, left the room to gather up all the tools he'd eventually need to clean up after Twilight's newest guest.

"Okay, well... no matter how I think about it, my spell shouldn't have been able to cause that discharge. The elemental mechanics and energy translation are all wrong," Twilight said as she chewed her lip nervously, "which means that it was a magic reaction."

"Which matters... why?" Ranma asked.

"It means that there's some magic in you already BESIDES the gender-switching enchantment and this alleged shape shifting spell. My own magic didn't zap you, but apparently it agitated something else in your body," Twilight explained, trying her best to used laypony's terms.

Ranma considered her words carefully. "... So, it's like a... magic allergy?"

"That is... actually a very good way to put it, yes. Let's call it a magic allergy," Twilight said with a shaky smile, "it seems your 'allergy' didn't like my diagnostic spell and released an electrostatic discharge to disperse it. An EXTREMELY energetic reaction if I've ever seen one, too. I'm, uh... quite certain that we should have you looked at by a medical professional."

"Sure. I'll do that later," Ranma lied, "so where do we go from here? Can you change me back into a human?"

This gave Twilight pause. "Well... the thing is, without knowing the specifics of why and how your reaction occurred, I can't guarantee that a spell to neutralize a potential polymorph transmutation - or, for that matter, the proven aquatranssexual enchantment - won't cause an equally adverse reaction."

"So there's a chance it could cure me, or it might just zap me again?" Ranma asked, raising an eyebrow. "No problem. Go for it." He stood up and braced his legs, his eyes narrowing.

Twilight gulped. "I... don't know if I'm comfortable with this course of action. I could seriously hurt you! There are other tests I could run that might take longer, but are almost certainly safer! Let's run some of those first, and-"

"I don't have time for that," Ranma interrupted with a snort, "look, if you don't want to try it, you don't have to. But I'm a busy vagrant and there's a pair of probably evil horses out there in need of a beating. So if you won't do your spell, I'm leaving."

Twilight winced. "That also reminds me that we haven't fully explored your mental condition..."

"The only mental condition I have is being MAD, because I don't have HANDS anymore," Ranma insisted, "so, what's it going to be?"

Twilight looked around the room, as if hoping she would find somepony else to help talk some sense into the pigtailed stallion. "... Are you ABSOLUTELY sure you want me to do this? You could DIE!"

Again, Ranma snorted. "I've almost died for WAY worse reasons than this. Hit me, Sparkle."

The purple pony wet her lips, took a deep breath, and then nodded. "Okay. If you insist. I... I'll do everything I can to ensure I don't hurt you again, but I need you to understand that you're subject to a magical condition that I may not be able to regulate or predict."

The martial artist looked somewhat surprised by her admission. "Wow. Uh... okay... Thanks. Most people who almost kill me aren't NEARLY this nice about it." Then his stance firmed again. "Go ahead. I'm ready."

Twilight backed up a few steps, and once again her horn began to glow.

Zecora waved pleasantly to Fluttershy as she spotted the pegasus filling the bird feeders on the edge of her property, near the rear of her cottage. The yellow pony seemed surprised at first, and then arced a wing up in a return wave before flushing and quickly going back to her chores.

The shaman continued on her course toward the forest, and then paused at the edge of the tree line. She glanced back at the village of Ponyville, and her eyes settled on the boughs of the library that rose just a bit higher than the surrounding treetops. Whether Ranma was a victim of hysterical delusions or a series of bizarre and generally violent magical incidents, she was sure that there were many secrets surrounding the cursed pony that needed to be uncovered. Not that Ranma himself was hiding things; he was, quite frankly, more honest and forthcoming than a pony in his situation really should be. But his understated and casual strength, and the violence of his passage through the Everfree, had convinced her that there was a subtle importance to Saotome Ranma.

But whatever his condition, and whether Ponyville was the beginning or the end of his journey, Zecora was sure that Twilight Sparkle could unravel the mysteries that clung to the pigtailed stallion.

And then Twilight's house exploded.

Fluttershy shrieked and ducked onto the ground, and Zecora flinched back as an enormous fireball blasted up over the tree that hosted Ponyville's library. Flaming branches were flung into the sky every which way, and a smoldering object rocketed into the air while trailing black smoke. A tremendous roar swallowed the village briefly, and Fluttershy's animals scattered every which way in terror and confusion.

"I DIDN'T DO IT!" Discord shouted from the cottage.

Zecora started backing away, her mind reeling. Had some sort of fight broken out between Ranma and Twilight? She could hardly fathom such a thing. Even if Ranma's sanity had proven much more badly frayed than she'd guessed, Twilight wasn't the sort to fling around massive magical explosions at the first sign of danger, especially not in her own home. Perhaps some third party had attacked? The unicorns Ranma was talking about?

Zecora shook her head and set her jaw. Speculating from afar wasn't going to help anything. She had to make sure Twilight was safe and get to the bottom of this before things got worse.

And then things got worse.

A low, rumbling growl rolled out of the forest behind her, as if in answer to the earlier detonation. To her side, Zecora caught sight of Fluttershy's animals again taking flight. This time, however, rather than the general confused, scattering retreat prompted by the explosion, they all fled in a similar direction. The caretaker pegasus herself released a high-pitched squeak as her eyes bulged in fright, focused on a spot within the forest behind Zecora.

Then, Zecora heard them: heavy footsteps and snapping branches. It was the sound of something traversing the forest that was much too large to do so without tearing its own path through the ancient trees and choking brush. Given how large many Everfree creatures were, the forest paths were adapted to allow for their passage, and it was only the truly massive beasts that couldn't navigate the Everfree without making its own.

With a deep breath and an ever-increasing sense of dread, Zecora turned her head toward the approaching sounds of destruction.

The creature was enormous, obviously, its head sitting thirty feet off the ground in a bipedal stance. Two thick legs ended in three-toed feet that crushed smaller trees to splinters and boasted long, curved talons. Its arms were altogether smaller, but still quite large and powerful, and it was with these that the beast pushed the larger flora out of its path or slashed through branches with serrated claws. Its head was blocky and - naturally - full of vicious, knife-like teeth, while at the other end was a long tail topped with bony fins. It had an obviously reptilian nature, but given its size Zecora was quick to conclude that this monstrosity was related to the dragons in some way. Thick, gray scales like slabs of stone armor covered the creature from head to tail, while a crest of dark bone added a few more feet to its total height.

It took a few moments for Zecora to place the species as she watched it emerge from the trees, shoving them aside as a pony might push away some tall grass. The trees were uprooted and shattered, breaking upon the ground to be crushed into pulp beneath the monster's tread.

"By the sisters of dusk and dawn, this animal... is a dragonspawn."

The dragonspawn passed her, its massive golden eye rolling down to stare at the zebra as it walked by. Its pace didn't slow at all, and its attention quickly broke away from the striped equine without incident. Whatever the creature's purpose, Zecora concluded, it hadn't emerged to cause general havoc or seek food. It completely ignored Fluttershy, her home, and the veritable stampede of animals sprinting away.

Its eyes were fixed on Ponyville, and the pillar of smoke that marked out the town library.

Ranma lay on his back, staring up at the sky.

His vision was a little hazy, on account of the smoke. And the intense concussive force of his landing. Probably a little more of the latter than the former, since the smoke immediately above him was clearing up pretty quick.

Still, as his sense returned to him he could tell that he had made the transition from inside and surrounded by a single large tree to outside and surrounded by several normal-sized trees. The events that had led to that transition had been very loud and had involved fire.

"I got better flight distance as an Earth pony than as a pegasus!" Ranma observed, chuckling to himself. "Heh heh heh... ow. It hurts to laugh."

With a pained grunt, Ranma rolled to his side so that he was lying on his belly rather than his back. He was dug into the end of a long furrow in the dirt, and a glance behind him revealed that there were numerous trees that had been knocked over or smashed by his landing. A curl of dark smoke rose into the sky in the direction of the furrow, indicating that the library he had been explosively ejected from probably hadn't fared well in his exit.

And to add insult to injury - to say nothing of the collateral damage - he was STILL a pony.

"Damn it. All that exploding for nothing," Ranma grunted before he started brushing off dirt and soot. Then he paused as something else occurred to him. "I hope Sparkle's okay. I'm pretty sure she was even less prepared for that than I was." Sure, the pony Princess had twice hurt him rather badly with her magic, but she'd been super nice about it. That was worth a lot, in Ranma's opinion.

"Well, I guess I'd better go check on her," he mumbled as he pushed himself up. Turning toward the smoke, he started trudging back toward Ponyville.

His hoof bumped against something on the ground. This wouldn't have distracted him normally - he was very experienced in these sorts of impacts, and debris around the landing site was common - but the object's bright red color caught his eye. It was an apple. It didn't take much exploration for him to realize that the ground was, in fact, littered with apples jarred loose from his landing, and that the surrounding trees were all apple trees.

This was interesting, but not especially important. Or, at least, it didn't seem like it until he heard a shout of distress from behind him.


"Twilight! Twilight! Are you okay? Please, wake up! You have to wake up!"

"Oh, geez! C'mon Twi! Pull it together, girl!"

Twilight stirred as she heard voices shouting above her, along with nudging sensations against her legs.

Her aching, searing legs.

"Wh-What... What... happened?" the alicorn mumbled as he eyes started fluttering open. She heard voices above her, but her ears were ringing and she couldn't make any of them out.

"Oh, thank Celestia you're all right," Spike let out a relieved breath and stopped tugging on Twilight's leg.

"I told you she was okay!" Rainbow Dash said with a firm nod. "That explosion barely scratched her!"

Twilight's eyes snapped open as the past few minutes all fell back into place in her thoughts. "Explosion?!" She tried to jump to her hooves, but immediately got dizzy and fell back over again.

"Easy, Twi! Just calm down!" Spike insisted. "You're okay! Somehow! Everything's going to be fine!"

Twilight found that mildly reassuring, if not rather surprising. "I remember a flash of light, and then releasing a barrier spell I had set to protect myself. But... where AM I? What happened?"

"You landed under my place," Rainbow Dash explained. She was hovering overhead, and occasionally cast nervous glances to the side. "As for what happened, I was hoping you could tell me. Spike just said you blew up some guy."

Twilight's fur spontaneously turned several shades lighter. "Oh, Celestia... I blew up Saotome!"

Rainbow furrowed her brow. "What's a 'Sow-toh-may'?"

"That's the guy she blew up," Spike explained.

"Weird name. So what'd he do?" the pegasus asked.

Twilight shuddered, and a few tears gathered in the corners of her eyes. "He asked me to cure him!"

"Oh. Well... Mission accomplished?" Rainbow offered a half-smile, trying her best to inject some levity into this unmitigated disaster. "I'm pretty sure he's not sick anymore."

"AAAAAUGH!" the lavender Princess collapsed onto the ground, covering her eyes with her hooves. "This is horrible! I killed him! I actually killed a pony who was asking me for help! I'm a murderer!"

"Nah, that's not murder," Rainbow Dash scoffed, "if you didn't mean to do it, then it's 'ponyslaughter'. Totally different. Hardly any jail time." She paused, and her eyes darted back and forth. "Don't ask how I know that."

"This isn't about going to prison, Rainbow!" Twilight growled, glaring up at her friend. "I just ended an innocent pony's life!"

"Besides, there's no way she'd do time," Spike reasoned, "she's a Princess, remember? Pretty sure she could get away with ACTUAL murder."

"Not helping, Spike!" Twilight groaned as she collapsed onto the ground again. Her body ached, her head throbbed, and her ears were still ringing slightly, but such physical discomfort seemed paltry compared to the guilt weighing down on her like a lead saddle. "Why didn't I refuse? I knew it was dangerous! This can't possibly get any worse!"

Spike sucked in a breath through his teeth.

Twilight's hearing hadn't recovered well enough to catch the subtle sign of anxiety, but she was quite aware that her friends fell silent rather than refuting her claim or trying further to comfort her. "...... Right?"

"So. You remember how you blew Saotome up inside the library, right?" Spike asked, fiddling with his claws.

Twilight jumped into the air and whirled around, her wings flapping and her expression even more deeply horrified. "MY HOUSE!! MY BOOKS!!" she shrieked.

Indeed, the Golden Oaks Library was a towering inferno. Flames leaked from every window and danced along every branch, and one wall was entirely blasted open. A column of smoke wound upward into the sky, high and dark enough to be seen from Canterlot. Ponies were gathered in clusters in the streets, gaping at the sight from a safe distance away.

"... I'm fine, by the way," Spike mumbled, "fire resistance. Dragon. Yeah."

Twilight wasn't listening. She moved to take a step toward the library, then stopped and took a step in a different direction. Then her head whirled the other way. She stuttered the entire time, and her eyes spun in their sockets.

"Twi! Cool it!" Rainbow Dash shouted. "Look, I already have Thunderlane on it! The rest of the weather team is getting some rain clouds to put this out! They should be here in just a few minutes!"

"The books! What about the books?!" Twilight howled, practically dancing on the spot with her eyes wide and pleading.

Rainbow Dash cringed. "Let's not worry about that just yet, okay? The important thing is that everypony is okay."

"Except for that guy you killed," Spike added.

"Spike! Not helping!" Rainbow Dash shouted. "Anyway, we'll be able to contain the fire before it spreads, so NOW things can't get any worse."

A terrified shriek came from deeper in the village, and Rainbow Dash slapped a hoof against her face. "Aw, SERIOUSLY?"





Twilight jumped into the air and spread her wings as a veritable stampede of ponies galloped through the streets, letting them pass underneath her. Rainbow Dash was already building altitude, trying to get a better view of the town past the smoke column, and Twilight followed her lead.

Spike was still down there, but she was pretty sure he'd be fine.

"Oh, ponyfeathers," Rainbow Dash cringed, staring at the enormous gray shape tromping through the village, "I hope you've got a few more magic explosions left in you, Twi."

Twilight spared a moment to glare at the pegasus. "I didn't blow up Saotome on PURPOSE, Rainbow!"

"Well, if you want to start blowing things up on purpose, now would be a pretty good time. Just saying."

Growling lightly, Twilight glared down at the dragonspawn making its way through Ponyville. "...... Okay, something's off, here. I don't think that thing is attacking Ponyville."

Rainbow shot her a look. "You'd have to argue with all the ponies fleeing for their lives on that one, Twi."

Twilight shook her head. "But look. It's not chasing them. It's not smashing any houses or causing any extra damage."

Rainbow Dash thought about pointing out that the beast was causing plenty of damage just walking through town; its feet smashed carts to splinters and its tail shattered windows just by brushing against adjacent houses. As she considered Twilight's argument, however, she admitted to herself that it did seem pretty strange. The dragonspawn was traveling by road and constantly sniffing the air, but hardly gave any attention to the shrieking equines running away from it.

"So, what, is it just passing through?" Rainbow asked.

Twilight's expression tightened as she tracked its path. "I doubt it. Even the larger monsters know better than to just wander through a populated area. It almost seems like it's... looking for something."

The mares continued watching for several seconds as the enormous beast turned a corner, its tail smacking a pair of vendor stalls and smashing them apart.

"So, should we do something, or what?" Rainbow asked impatiently.

"Hold on... it looks like it's heading toward... the library?" Twilight mumbled.

The dragonspawn growled as it raised its head to the sky, following the column of smoke rising from the tree house. The sound nearly shook the windows of the houses nearby; or, at least, those that hadn't already been blown out by the library's explosion.

The beast inhaled deeply, its nostrils flaring as it swept its head left and right.

Its target had been here. Recently, in fact. But it had left.

The dragonspawn caught a lingering trail of sulfur in the air, and it grabbed on to the side of the burning library to pull itself up straighter as its nose searched the sky. The flames licked at its scales, but the heat didn't even irritate the monster.

A new trail.

With a short, angry roar, the dragonspawn whipped around and stomped off once more down the street, moving even faster and with more purpose than before.

It was now headed straight for Sweet Apple Acres.

Applejack stared slack-jawed at the scene of devastation that had cut through her orchard. Trees were uprooted, the ground had been carved open, and her apples, the literal fruits of her labors, were littered all over the dirt, smashed and dirty.

She didn't know what to make of any of it. Her immediate, emotional response was dismay and anger, and her instincts led her to direct this response at the unknown stallion standing in the middle of it. She had a hard time constructing any sort of rational accusation, though; how had this pony cut a trench through twenty feet of orchard and smashed apart half a dozen trees? Why would he do such a thing? He also looked badly scorched and rather haggard. Was he maybe a victim of... whatever had happened here?

Applejack fell back onto her haunches, looking dizzy as she stared.

Ranma was frozen like a deer in the headlights, mentally braced for a barrage of angry accusations or a violent assault. Nothing came, however. This new pony was a bright orange mare with three apples for a cutie mark, a shining blond mane, and an absolutely ridiculous-looking American cowboy hat, and she seemed too confused to be upset.

Applejack scratched her head under her hat, and then pursed her lips as she looked over the stranger. "Um... ya all right, sugarcube? Ya look like ya just crawled straight outta Tartarus."

Ranma had to restrain a snort at hearing the mare's rural American accent. Apparently the aliens around here were fans of Earth Westerns. Go figure. "Oh, you know. Been better." He glanced up in the direction he had come. "Not one of my best landings."

Applejack furrowed her brow, and her eyes darted over to her damaged land again. "Landin'?"

"Yeah. There was an explosion. Not my fault, though," Ranma explained. His body was still tensed, ready to sprint away at a moment's notice, but he felt compelled to stay and explain himself. He was guessing this pony had something to do with the farm he had obviously landed in, and she had been very understanding and patient so far in not immediately blaming and attacking him for the damage. He figured she at least deserved an explanation before he ran off.

Applejack looked over toward the town, spotting the curl of dark smoke coming from the middle. She looked back toward the stallion. She glanced down at the trench in the dirt.

"... Who ARE you, anyhow?" the farmer finally asked, setting her jaw into a frown.

"Saotome Ranma," Ranma said curtly. He decided to refrain from any elaborate addition to the introduction, such as "lost human-turned pony", "visitor from another world", or "martial artist horse". Every pony he had talked to (plus the lizard kid) had decided he was a loon after hearing his story, so it was probably best to withhold certain details until necessary if he didn't want to get thrown into some kind of sentient animal crazy house.

Applejack tilted her hat back. "Name's Applejack. And this here orchard you... uh... landed in, apparently, is mah farm: Sweet Apple Acres."

"Nice to meet you," Ranma said, still obviously tense, "sorry about the trees. Accident."

This prompted Applejack to take another look at the distant smoke, and then the impact zone of Ranma's landing. She again met Ranma's eyes, her own expression teetering between suspicious and concerned. "Ya say there was an EXPLOSION, and ya ended up crashin' here? Ya expect me to buy that?"

Now Ranma was confused. "What do you mean? What else could have happened?"

"Well, Ah don't rightly know. But ya look pretty spry fer somepony who just blew up and crash-landed near a mile away," Applejack drawled, "though ya do look pretty roughed up. Ya sure ya didn't hit yer head?"

Damn. She thinks I'm crazy anyway. Ranma groaned. "Well, yes, I did, but I'm fine." The mare's eyebrow arched up, and Ranma pointed toward Ponyville in an attempt to change the subject. "Not sure about Sparkle, though. I should really go and check on her."

Applejack's demeanor changed instantly. Her eyes widened, and Ranma swore that her hat actually jumped on her head. "Sparkle? Twi's in trouble? What happened to her?"

"She's the one who blew me up," Ranma explained, "she was pretty close, so she might have caught the edge of the blast. Don't know."

For the life of him, he couldn't figure out why this caused Applejack to stumble and then stare at him in shock. These all seemed like perfectly clear-cut, simple concepts to him. What was this pony's deal?

Applejack was still struggling to piece together her next incredulous question when a furious roar erupted from the edge of the orchard.

"Aw, geez, really? I thought I was done with monsters already," Ranma grumbled as his ears twitched. He couldn't see whatever was causing the ruckus, but judging by Applejack's increasingly rattled expression, it wasn't anything that usually happened around here. He wondered if he was EVER going to get the chance to go back to chasing after those unicorns.

Heaving a sigh, Ranma chose a good branch and then leapt up onto it. Applejack was quite impressed by the feat, as she had never seen a non-pegasus make such a jump and alight on a tree branch like some kind of bird. Still, she was mostly concerned with the sound of distant apple trees being smashed aside.

"What in tarnation is goin' on here?" Applejack demanded. "Ah got ponies fallin' from the sky, stories 'bout Twilight explodin', and now some kinda big critter tearin' up mah orchard?!" She stomped the ground irritably and glared up at Ranma. "Whaddya see, anyhow?!"

Ranma sat on the tree branch, his jaw hanging open. "It... It can't be..."

Applejack blinked, and then she gulped. "Wh-What is it?"

The gray stallion slowly raised a foreleg, his entire body trembling. "It's... It's..."

"What? What's comin'?!" Applejack asked, the hair on her back standing up.

"GOJIRAAAAAAAA!!" Ranma howled, pointing the hoof off into the distance and flailing his other foreleg.

Then he froze, glancing down at the farmer below. She looked as confused as ever.

"... No? Nothing?" Ranma asked, looking disappointed. "Okay, well, where I come from, that would have been HILARIOUS. Trust me."

Then a fireball blew up the apple tree he was sitting on.

"OW! OW! DAMN IT!" Ranma hit the ground on his side, and then quickly rolled across the ground to put out the licking flames that had found purchase on his tail and mane. A bone-chilling roar blasted over the orchard as bits of flaming wood and scorched apples bounced across the dirt, but Ranma concentrated on preventing further burn damage.

"What in Sam Apple's name is THAT? That a dragon?!" Applejack cried as she backed away from the enormous form plowing through her orchard. Unlike the Everfree forest, the trees of the Apples' farm were planted as densely as possible, and no allowance was made for enormous predator-beasts that might have wanted to walk through. Apple trees were splintered and uprooted two or three at a time as the dragonspawn pushed forward, relentless in its fury.

Ranma jumped to his hooves and shook himself, and then groaned as twinges of pain rolled over his body. He hated to admit it, but the ordeal at Twilight's place, followed by the landing at Applejack's place, had taken its toll on him already. If this new monster had showed up in the morning, when he was fresh from a good night's sleep, then he would have gladly taken the opportunity to run rings around it and maybe try out some new martial experiments with his pegasus form and its wings. At present, the only experiment he wanted to try out with his new wings was flying far, far away from this thing.

Whatever. First things first. Clear out the farmer chick.

"Hey, Apple! Get clear!" Ranma shouted as he considered a list of diversions to attract the dragonspawn's attention. "I'll draw this thing away from-"

The dragonspawn roared and clutched an apple tree with one of its forearms, ripping it straight out of the ground. It flung the obstacle straight at Ranma, not paying the slightest attention to the much closer and brighter-colored pony off to the side.

Ranma hopped up before the apple tree crashed beneath him. It bounced off the dirt, and then hit another tree hard enough to knock its apple harvest down. "Okay, never mind," he grunted as he landed, "looks like it's after me. That's convenient."

The dragonspawn roared, and flames blasted from its maw as it stomped another tree to a pulp of wood and apples and shouldered its way forward.

"... Yeah, real convenient," Ranma grumbled while he galloped away.

Applejack watched with wide eyes as the dragonspawn chased after the strange trespasser, ignoring her completely. A trail of shattered apple trees and upturned ground lay in its wake, and that path of destruction could only grow as the beast tore a path after the agile gray pony it sought.

Applejack had very strong feelings about this turn of events, but couldn't help but feel that she was reflecting upon it from a point of profound ignorance. She just had too many questions. Who was this mysterious pony? Did he really survive a landing that could knock over a full-grown apple tree? Did Twilight really blast him with magic? If so, why? What connection did any of that have with the thing rampaging through her apple orchard? What WAS that thing, anyway?


The farmer snapped her head up, and she was fairly relieved to see Twilight Sparkle and Rainbow Dash hovering overhead.

"Oh, thank Celestia you're okay!" Twilight heaved a sigh and then turned her head, watching the dragonspawn's progress through the orchard. "I wonder what happened? It's headed out of the farm now, and seems way more agitated than-."

"Hey, Twi!" Applejack interrupted. "Ya know a gray stallion? Dark mane in a braid? Some kinda arrow wheel cutie mark?"

Twilight cringed. "Uh... yes. I know him."

"Knew him," Rainbow Dash corrected.

Twilight shot her a glare, and then glanced back down at Applejack. "Did you meet him earlier this morning?"

"Naw, Ah met him just now. 'Fore that big'un over there started chasin' him through the orchard." Applejack pointed a hoof at the trail of trampled trees, and she raised an eyebrow as Twilight's eyes bulged. "Did ya really blow him up? What'd he do?"

"Oh, snap! He's alive?" Rainbow asked.

"Yeah, he is," Applejack confirmed. Then she once again turned her head to stare at the wake of the dragonspawn. "Not fer long, if we don't do somethin'."

Twilight's head snapped up toward the dragonspawn's back. "He's alive?! Really?!" She promptly bolted after the monster, her wings pumping and her horn aglow.

Applejack scratched her head some more as she watched the purple Princess fly off. "Ah don't get it. If she didn't wanna off him, why'd she blow 'im up?"

"It was an accident, I think," Rainbow said as she hovered lower, "I don't really have all the details. Busy day."

"And the dragon varmint?"

"No clue on that one. Twi seemed confused to see it." Rainbow Dash shrugged.

"So'd he, actually." Applejack sighed.

"On that matter I may be of assistance, to divine its purpose and plot resistance."

Applejack could hardly be any happier to hear the familiar verse coming from behind her, and she smiled broadly when she caught sight of Zecora and Fluttershy trotting through the trail of destruction left by her draconic visitor. "Well, shucks! Am Ah glad ta see you two!"

Fluttershy waved meekly as Zecora strode ahead purposefully.

"Hey, Zecora! You got any idea what's going on?" Rainbow Dash asked, jabbing a hoof at the dragonspawn. The beast was quite some distance away by now, although its path had become a zigzag pattern with no clear heading. No doubt a strategy to slow its progress, although it definitely wasn't doing the orchard any favors.

"The dragonspawn's arrival has caused quite a fright, though it has not yet attacked a pony in sight," the zebra began, only for Applejack to interrupt her.

"Actually, any y'all know a feller by the name of Sow-toh-may?"

Zecora sighed. "I didn't know this would happen, though I had a feeling. Predators seem to find him strangely appealing."

"Well, I'm sure the burning meat smell doesn't help," Rainbow Dash mused, "Twi roasted him pretty good."

Zecora and Fluttershy looked shocked to hear this, and Rainbow quickly shook her head. "You know what? Forget it. We can explain things later. The guy's kind of running for his life right now." She pushed higher into the air, pointing a hoof toward their gigantic target. "Let's GO!"

"Saotome! You're really okay!"

Ranma heard a feminine voice calling above him, and he craned his neck back as he galloped through the trees.

"Oh, hey! Sparkle! You're really okay!" he shouted back.

Twilight was understandably surprised to hear and see an expression of genuine relief and gratitude on the stallion below her. "Of course I'm okay! Why wouldn't I be?"

"Well, it was a pretty big explosion! I couldn't be sure!"

"But you were at the center of it!" Twilight protested. "I really have no idea how you survived!"

"Pff! Don't even worry about it! I'm fine!" the pigtailed pony insisted.

A jet of flames cut across the ground in front of him, and Ranma skidded to a stop before the wall of fire.

"Mostly fine, anyway," he grumbled before changing direction. The earth-shaking footsteps and sound of trees breaking apart followed at a steady pace behind him. "Do you know why there's a giant lizard thing trying to kill me, by any chance?"

"I don't! I was hoping you knew!" Twilight replied.

A frustrated groan came from Ranma as he hopped to the side, neatly dodging a small fireball. "No, I don't! I mean, if it just wanted a horse for a snack and decided that I happened to be the tastiest-looking one, whatever, but I get the feeling this is personal, somehow!"

Twilight frowned. "I do, too! But unless we can figure out specifically what it wants, I think our best option is to escape!"

"Well, I can run WAY faster than this thing." Ranma leapt over another flung tree as he discussed the matter with the alicorn hovering above him. "I just didn't want it to tear up the place looking for me. You want I should just make a break for it?"

Twilight was briefly stunned by the display of casual agility and absolute calm, but shook her head to focus on the matter at hand. "No! The monster is tracking you by scent! If you just run away then it will keep following you!"

"Ah, good point! You wanna just blast it, then?" Ranma asked. "I can take out its legs first, if you want. One-two-combo?"

Again, Twilight pushed aside her incredulity to concentrate on resolving the problem. "I have a better idea! If I teleport you far enough away, then there will be a gap in your scent trail! It won't be able to track you anymore and everypony else can clear out of its way until it gives up and leaves!"

Teleport me, huh? That sounds pretty sketchy. "I dunno..."

Twilight's expression hardened. "I'm afraid I'm going to have to insist that you cooperate! This creature is a serious threat to Ponyville and the lives of my friends, and this is the best immediate course of action!"

"Oh, fine." Ranma stopped running and leapt up onto a tree branch next to Twilight, again startling the lavender Princess. "Better hurry, though. If it sees you magic me away, it might get on YOUR case too."

"R-Right. Hold still." Twilight's horn started to glow, and Ranma grimaced as he felt the familiar tingle along his back. "Just a warning: You might feel a sense of nausea from the unfamiliar sensation of air displacement."

"Yeah, and I'll bet the magic allergy thing won't help, either," Ranma grumbled.

"The what?" Twilight's eyes bulged as Ranma was suddenly swallowed by purple magic. "Wait! I forgot about the-"

The spell finished, and the aura dissipated. Ranma was still there.

His eyelids slid closed, and he promptly slipped off the branch and landed on the ground in a heap.

Twilight swore that her heart stopped for a moment while she hovered over the insensate body. Only once she heard a rumbling snore come from the stallion did her faculties return to her. "It... It put him to SLEEP? How? Why? The conditions for a synaptic reaction to the threshold mana-"

The sound of a tree breaking in half some ten feet behind Twilight drove home the point that there wasn't anypony to listen to her complain about the blatant violation of magical principles. Twilight landed next to the fallen stallion, and then summoned a dome barrier around them before turning around.

"All right, that's close enough! Back off!" Twilight shouted as the dragonspawn charged forward.

Unsurprisingly, the monstrous animal didn't listen to the tiny purple equine barking orders at it. Flames surged from the dragonspawn's mouth in a thick stream, washing over Twilight's shield. She winced but held her ground, waiting for the fire breath to recede.

"I'm warning you!" the young Princess said once the fire had settled around her barrier. "I don't know what you want with this pony, but I can assure you he isn't worth the trouble! Turn around and go back where you came from!" Her horn flared brighter, and arcs of pure energy crackled around its length.

The dragonspawn's eyes narrowed as it slowed down and finally gave its full attention to the lavender equine. A warning growl came from the beast, and a puff of fire curled around its lips.

"You want him? You'll have to get through me!" Twilight barked, spreading her wings in a fairly fruitless effort to look larger and more intimidating. "This pony has suffered enough today!"

The dragonspawn trembled in rage for a moment, and then released an ear-splitting roar into the air. Twilight flinched, but she held her barrier firm as the draconic beast reared back its claws.

"Everypony, wait! Please, stop!"

Fluttershy breathed heavily as she stumbled over a pile of shredded wood. Zecora, Rainbow Dash, and Applejack all followed behind her, although they approached more cautiously.

The dragonspawn twisted its head around, a growl rumbling through its teeth.

Fluttershy, surprisingly, showed no fear of the monster and walked right up to one of its rear legs. "Miss Dragonspawn, please, listen! I know you're upset, but we don't know what's wrong!" Her eyes glistened as she implored the massive beast. "Please, talk to us! We don't want to fight!"

Twilight gaped as the dragonspawn hesitated. The massive, golden eyes flickered over to Ranma's prone body as the martial artist stirred.

Then the dragonspawn growled again.

"Yes, we thought so," Fluttershy nodded, "but what did that stallion do? None of us know WHY you want to kill and eat him."

Ranma stretched as he entered full consciousness again, blinking his eyes sleepily. He felt oddly refreshed, which was certainly a nice change from what the last three magic spells had done to him. When he pushed himself up, however, he was treated to a strange sight. Zecora, Applejack, Twilight, and two pegasi he didn't know were surrounding the giant dragon-monster-thing. Said thing was growling something at the yellow pegasus, who was listening with an expression of deep concern.

"... Yeah. I definitely get ALL the weird mythical creatures," he sighed.

Fluttershy nodded sympathetically as the dragonspawn recounted her tale in a stream of rumbling growls, ignoring the perplexed expressions from the other equines.

"Rrrrgh. Hrrm. Rrrr-rrarh. Rrrrm!"

"Oh, yes, I see. You must have been so worried!"

"Rmrrm. Rrrrg, rrahr rrrghm."

"Are you sure it was him, though?"

"Rrgh. Hrmrrrgh rahr rrrgh."

"Oh, dear..." Fluttershy pursed her lips and then turned around, facing the incredulous ponies. "Uhm, okay... Miss Dragonspawn is trying to kill this stallion because she thinks he broke into her child's nest and hurt it."

Ranma arched an eyebrow. "I did what, now?"

The dragonspawn turned its head around to face him, and flames puffed out of its nostrils. Ranma ignored her, his attention on the yellow pony who was apparently acting as a monster translator.

"She says she tracked you from her home all the way through the Everfree forest," Fluttershy explained.

"Rrrgh! Raaar! Rmrn!" the dragonspawn snarled, snapping its jaws.

Fluttershy nodded again. "Miss Dragonspawn demands that you apologize immediately, or she'll kill you, and probably Twilight, too. She hasn't decided yet." She gulped. "I, uhm, don't mean to pressure you, but I think you should probably apologize."

Twilight heaved a sigh of relief. "Oh, thank Celestia. Is that all she wants? Then-"

"Hey, wait a minute!" Ranma shouted, stamping a hoof on the ground. "That giant lizard that jumped me underground was your kid?!"

The dragonspawn snapped her head up in surprise.

"I'm not apologizing for anything!" Ranma shouted, much to the ponies' shock. "He jumped me out of freaking nowhere and tried to eat me! Of course I kicked his teeth in! You should be apologizing to me!"

A threatening grumble came from the dragonspawn's throat as the other ponies started stepping away.

"Faultless though your defense may have been, you may wish to express regret for her kin," Zecora warned, her ears flipping down, "the dragonspawn's terms are reasonable and concise. I think it may be wiser to try to make nice."

"No way, Zee," Ranma scoffed, glaring up at the creature, "you can't let these giant aliens boss you around like they own the place. Once they can make you apologize for being attacked, they can get away with anything!" He pointed a hoof over at Applejack. "You may as well make her apologize for all the apple trees that were in the freak's path!"

Fluttershy started sweating as the dragonspawn mother spat another series of angry growls. "Uhm, Miss Dragonspawn insists upon receiving apologies, or she will begin a violent reign of terror and will not stop until everypony in the immediate vicinity is blood and ashes." She gulped again. "First, she insists that you apologize for assaulting her daughter. Then, she insists that you apologize for referring to her daughter as a male, and for referring to her as a 'freak', which was both completely uncalled for and very hurtful." Fluttershy chewed her lip anxiously before she glanced over at Applejack. "Finally, Miss Dragonspawn actually would like an apology from the owner of the orchard. She says she may have sprained an ankle smashing so many trees underfoot."

"SAY WHAT?!?!" Applejack snapped, her face turning red.

Ranma snorted, his blue eyes glaring into the dragonspawn's golden ones without flinching. "Well, I guess I can say I'm sorry about mistaking your kid for a guy. Although that isn't really my fault, either. Clearly she got her looks from YOU."

There was an audible snapping noise as a vein pulsed over the dragonspawn's head.

"Ooh, burn!" Rainbow Dash interjected. The dragonspawn snorted out a sharp retort.

"She says, 'Yes, you will'," Fluttershy whimpered.

Ranma veered out the path of a stream of fire, marking the continuation of the previous chase. "Okay, so we're back to this again! Great!"

"And whose fault is that?!" Twilight shouted as she soared overhead, shouting down at Ranma through the treetops. "Why didn't you just apologize?!"

"I explained why! I didn't do anything wrong!" the martial artist protested. A tremendous roar boomed from behind him, and Ranma swore the ground shook from the sound.

"That's not the point! You could have resolved this easily and painlessly! Are you crazy or some..." Twilight trailed off, blinking. "Oh. Right. Now I remember. Never mind."

Fluttershy appeared next to the Princess, flapping her wings desperately to keep up. "Miss Dragonspawn contends that she's just big-boned, and doesn't appreciate your insensitive remarks!" she gasped out. "She says her first marriage didn't work out for exactly that reason, and your comments bring back-"

"Okay, seriously, you can stop translating! We're done with that, now!" Ranma grimaced as he dodged away from another fireball. "Hey, Sparks, your thing is over with, right?"

Twilight blinked. "'Sparks'? What did you-"

"Your plan where you teleport me or whatever and Miss Dragonspawn gives up! That didn't work, right?" Ranma clarified.

Twilight was still a little curious about the nickname, but admitted to herself that it was very unimportant right now. "Yes, obviously!"

"So, can I stop this thing now, or what?"

Yes, he was definitely crazy. She was fully confident in her data set at this point. "This isn't just an oversized Everfree predator, Saotome! A dragonspawn is serious!"

"Then I'll get serious too!" Ranma declared. "You two clear out! And keep the other horses away, would you?"

Twilight gaped as Ranma suddenly vaulted backward into the air, twisting over another fireball and then landing to face the oncoming monster.

"All right, Miss Freak! How about you lay off the apple trees and pick on someone a fraction of your size?!" He jumped forward as the dragonspawn lunged at him, ducking under her claws and then jumping over her swinging tail. "Come get me, scaly!"

"... He's insane," Twilight mumbled, her eye twitching. "He's insane, and he's going to die."

Fluttershy chewed her lip as she hovered nearby. "Oh, dear. I hope he doesn't force her to chase him much further. That sprain can only get worse, and she needs to walk home after this!"

"... They're insane," Twilight mumbled, her eye twitching faster. "They're all insane, and he's going to die."

Rainbow Dash swooped by, keeping one eye on the battle going on below. "Hey, what gives? Why isn't he running anymore?" She would have guessed that the stallion had exhausted himself, but that didn't seem likely. Ranma was bouncing and sliding all over the place, dodging furiously as the dragonspawn stomped and swiped at him.

Twilight planted her hooves on her temple as she shook her head. "He said to get clear! He thinks he's going to fight that thing!"

"Really?" Rainbow glanced down again, her eyebrows rising. "Should we back him up?"

"I don't know! Give me a minute!" Twilight's breath started heaving as sweat crawled down her brow. "This is a morally ambiguous situation!"

"I don't think there's anything 'ambiguous' about what's about to happen to that guy," Rainbow pointed out.

"He did ask us to stay back, though," Fluttershy mumbled, tapping the points of her hooves together nervously.

"Yeah, and I'm real impressed and all, but he's not going to look very cool as a big red spot on the ground. I don't even know what he's trying to do down there besides not get himself smashed; he's not even attacking or anything." Rainbow Dash snorted. "Also, I feel like he has a point. If the dragonkid jumped him, then he was just defending himself."

"That is not the problem here, Rainbow!" Twilight shouted.

"Besides, she was just a child! She didn't know any better!" Fluttershy chided.

"Also not pertinent to the situation, Fluttershy!" Twilight shouted.

"Well, I still think..." Rainbow frowned as she trailed off, and a shudder ran through her wings. "Hey... do these wind currents feel kind of... off to you guys?"

Ranma hit the dirt on his shoulder, rolling across the ground before a massive draconic foot slammed down behind him. Frost covered the ruined dirt that he touched, and an ephemeral shroud of cool mist followed him as he jumped to his feet.

Jets and balls of fire crashed down all around, but the soul of ice clung to the air wherever Ranma passed, cutting through the heated air in a wide spiral around the furious dragonspawn. Normally this particular technique was fueled by the heat given off by an opponent's battle aura - a subtle mixing of Ranma's ki with that of an enraged foe - but literal heat could fuel it just as well. Those apple trees nearby that had not been destroyed or uprooted shuddered as the first waves of air whipped through them, shearing off leaves by the dozen.

Ranma skidded underneath another sweeping blast of fire, and then leapt over his opponent, bouncing off of her back. The dragonspawn's tail followed, slapping down after him, but the pigtailed stallion hopped to the side and evaded by mere millimeters. The dragonspawn whirled around, one arm reared back to slash at her opponent.

She caught sight of him, and she paused in confusion. The obnoxiously agile pony was standing on his hind legs, right in front of her. It was a strange pose for a quadruped under any circumstances, but seemed especially bizarre for one trying not to get smashed into a bloody paste.

"Greetings from Earth, 'Miss Dragonspawn'." Ranma smirked and thrust one foreleg into the air. "HIRYUU SHOUTEN HAAAAAA!!"

"Grrgh?" mumbled the dragonspawn, which Fluttershy would have helpfully translated as "The buck is this?"

The monstrous matron was lifted off her feet almost instantly as a cyclone slammed into her, carrying her skyward in a full-strength wind funnel. She flailed about helplessly, eyes wide and panicked, understandably confused as to how things had ended up like this. Nearby apple trees, both those already uprooted and not, were picked up from the ground and dragged into the tornado, and soon the draconic beast was being smacked around by large hunks of wood as she was carried ever-further into the air.

Ranma stood at the center of the tornado, his aura pulsing an icy blue as his body struggled to stay upright. He hadn't given it much thought up until now, but this pose was actually very difficult to hold for a pony, especially with the air currents buffeting him. His rear legs started trembling as his hooves started to slip against the churning dirt.

"No... no... no no no no nonononononoNONONOOOOOOO..." Ranma screamed to the heavens as he finally fell over and was immediately swept up into his own tornado. "GOD DAMN IT THIS IS NOT PART OF THE TECHNIQUE!"

Ranma was carried up higher through the cyclone, quickly surpassing the dragonspawn in altitude before being flung into the sky.


"......" Applejack pursed her lips as she watched the sudden, inexplicable tornado stretch toward the sky, carrying off yet another group of hapless apple trees into ruin. An enormous head of blazing azure power surged from the top of the localized natural disaster, streaking upward in the shape of a dragon's head.

Her brother, Big Macintosh, sat on the ground behind her, having been attracted to the scene by all the commotion. Zecora waited next to him, scratching her head.

"... That there's a tornado, ain't it?" Applejack asked.

"Eeyup," Big Mac replied, chewing on a stalk of wheat.

"Didn't come from nowhere. Ain't goin' nowhere. Just sorta showed up, huh?"

"Eeyup," Big Mac replied, shifting the wheat stalk to the other side of his mouth.

Zecora opened her mouth to say something, thought better of it, and then went back to frowning silently.

The distant tornado suddenly collapsed, breaking apart into waves of highly pressurized air that slashed through the surrounding orchard. A swarm of shredded leaves blasted up over the trees, having been torn off by the wild currents.

"An' now it's gone," Applejack observed.

"Eeyup," Big Mac agreed.

Zecora pawed at the ground uncomfortably. She really felt like she should be providing some token, wisdom-filled limerick, but absolutely nothing came to mind that could add to Applejack's plain observations.

"Well... I don't hear that dragon-whatsit crashin' about no more," Applejack mumbled, "Ah guess one way or another, that worked itself out."

"Eeyup?" Big Macintosh hadn't arrived in time to catch all the details, so he wasn't totally sure what his sister was talking about.

The orange mare sighed. "Well, we sure got our work cut out fer us, don't we? This is gonna take weeks ta clean up."

"Eeyup," her brother had no doubts on that subject.

"But hey, at least it's over," Applejack shrugged.

"Nnope," Big Mac disagreed, his head craned up and looking at the sky.

Applejack tipped her hat up, her eyes narrowing at the bright crimson stallion. "Whaddya mean it aint'-"

The dragonspawn smashed into the Apple family barn like a snarling meteor, plowing through the roof and then bouncing through the wall. Every part of the structure that wasn't crushed directly was blasted away by the shock wave, and a vast burst of hay bloomed over the ruins in a mushroom-shaped cloud.

Applejack turned back toward the barn and sighed. "Gonna be another lean year."


Author's Note:

I cannot seem to stop destroying Applejack's farm in my stories. I may have a problem.