• Published 8th Jul 2019
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The Rains of Vanhoover - kudzuhaiku



It was raining in Vanhoover. It was always raining in Vanhoover.

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The breakfast rebellion

Orange juice sluiced down the ridged edges of the juicer like rain down waterspouts. It made a wet trickling sound, which caused several ears to prick, but this reaction was nothing compared to the various expressions that could be seen as Nut juiced his own juice. His father peered over the top of the newspaper, while his mother sat with her head tilted off to one side. She seemed almost confused. Even Gestalt seemed put off by this behaviour, and rolled his eyes several times as Nut gave his selection of oranges the business.

When he was finished, he set a glass of fresh-squeezed orange juice in front of Tater Blossom, poked in a straw, and then began again so that he too, might also have a refreshing glass of liquid sunshine with breakfast. Pod giggled, but this got her a stern eyebrow of warning from Clove. Rather sleepy, Tater Blossom failed to notice the drama surrounding her, and she yawned—which was considered quite rude at the breakfast table.

“Well”—Clove’s nose crinkled with distaste—“that’s one way to sink the economy.”

“Mother?” Nut did not pause his efforts.

“My name is Clove.” Exasperated, she rolled her eyes, inhaled, and leaned over in her son’s direction. “We employ domestics, Nut. We pay them well. If we did these tasks ourselves, we’d no longer have need of domestics… which would put many ponies out of work. Think of all that money leaving the economy before you go squeezing your own oranges.”

“Mother,” he replied, almost smiling, “just think about what never paying an electric bill does to the economy. Or paying for water. Think about how you live before you accuse me of causing an economic downturn. We’re so cut off and insulated that we don’t even pay for basic services.”

Taffy fell victim to Tater Blossom’s insidious infectious yawning, but even half-awake, she had the good manners as well as the presence of mind to cover her mouth with one hoof. Nut heard his father’s newspaper crinkle and when he looked up, he could see that both Gestalt and Bulb were now looking over at Clove. He’d lobbed the ball back into her court after her vicious serve, and now, his mother seemed to be having some difficulty.

“Why, Nut… why must you be so contrary?”

Rather than look at his mother, who’d asked him this question, Nut focused on Gestalt instead. “Grandfather… perhaps you’d like to discuss the actions of Princess Luna. You could start by explaining to my mother what the Night Lady did, and why I am a recalcitrant contrarian.”

Shaking his head, Gestalt replied, “There’s no need to be boorish at breakfast. Stop that, Nut.”

“No.” Nut applied a bit more violence to his orange, which bled out copious rivulets of juice. “I will not allow accusations of being an economic saboteur to go unanswered. Rile me at your own risk, but know that I will respond. I am no mere meek foal and will exercise my sense of free agency at any given opportunity.”

“Nut.” Bulb folded up his newspaper, set it down on the table beside his plate, and then he focused upon his son. “I understand that you work in a garage. Are you a mechanic? Where did you learn such skills? How did you go about doing this?”

Rather surprised by his father’s questions, Nut gave Bulb a bit of suspicious side-eye, but humoured him with a polite, well thought out response. “I am self-taught. Calling myself a mechanic might be a bit of a stretch. I disassemble and assemble. It started with a need to feed myself and keep a roof over my head while I am in school. Circumstances offered great motivation for self-improvement.”

“Fascinating.” Bulb took off his eyeglasses, blinked a few times, and gave his son a nod. “So you live and work in a garage while also attending university. How is it that you find the time to do all of this?”

“It’s a struggle.” Nut shrugged. “I manage. Somehow. Though it is not always easy.”

“I must confess, I’ve always wondered how the other half lives.”

“Father… it’s not even half. We are a privileged few. I have no way of knowing the numbers, but the well-to-do nobles of Canterlot are barely even a minute fraction. We have to be less than a single percentage point of the population. There’s several million creatures in Vanhoover. If you took a vast majority of them, pooled their wealth and resources together, and then ran the numbers, I doubt that their collected wealth would even come close to what we gain from interest each financial quarter.”

“Oh.” Bulb’s brows furrowed. “Fascinating. Why aren’t they more prudent with their investments then? Whomever manages their finances should be fired, forthwith. This seems like a case of bad management. Or is it not?”

Nut closed his eyes, sighed, and then opened his eyes once more.

“Do they not invest? Have they no knowledge of using money to make more money? I mean, why do they choose to be poor? Surely there must be options and resources available to help them. What of seed capital? Do the banks do nothing? How does the economy function without financial generation? It strikes me as a perplexing problem. I read the newspapers”—he patted the one beside his plate with one perfect hoof—“but nothing makes sense. Nothing about the world makes sense.”

“No, Father, it doesn’t.”

“Calling me ‘Father’ will continue to be an amusing quirk, I suppose. Even after your outburst not mere moments ago about free agency and adulthood. Fascinating.”

“Father, if all ponies had the ways and means to lift themselves out of poverty, if they had the means to secure their financial future, then who would squeeze our orange juice for us? Who would cook and serve our breakfast? If the impoverished masses suddenly had wealth and means, who then would clean our fabulous tower?”

“Well that… well… hmm. Son, you make a fine point. I fear I do not have a response.”

“Bulb… don’t tell me that you’re indulging him in this behaviour.”

“Oh, but I am, Grandfather.”

Gestalt’s eyes almost vanished completely beneath his now furrowed brows, and a great many wrinkles criss-crossed his face beneath his horn. The old unicorn snorted once, then twice, and then scowled when Taffy had the audacity to titter. Nut tortured yet another orange, while Tater Blossom struggled to stay awake because she was up well past midnight.

“Bulb, what is the meaning of this?”

“Well,” Bulb replied, “we could stand to be nicer to each other. I find Nut’s affectionate monikers endearing. What is it that we gain, exactly, from this constant state of militant formality?”

“Credibility and respect.” Gestalt cleared his throat and when Taffy tittered yet again, he turned to stare at her in the sort of way that only very ancient ponies could. “It’s bad enough that Nut infected poor Pod with his thinking. Look at how much trouble that’s caused her. Regain your senses, Bulb.”

“No, I’d rather not. I’m sick of everything. At least my son is doing something exciting and interesting.” Bulb turned to his wife and said, “Clove… we used to do exciting, interesting things. You were a rabble-rouser. Now we don’t even sleep in the same bed for fear of untoward excitement. I’ve grown weary of this excruciating boredom.”

“You… you”—Clove sputtered a bit but was quick to recover—“you were the stodgy one, Bulb. Always lecturing me for causing trouble. You were the sensible one. The self-policing one.”

“I was wrong, Wife.” Bulb shrugged. “Now that I have what it seems that I wanted, I find I don’t much like it. You were a better pony when you caused mischief. Nut is most definitely your son. He gets this from you, you know. Lambda was right about you.”

“Oh, enough!” Frustrated, Clove gave her husband a dismissive wave of her hoof. “Bulb, you were… you were… you were a tattletale! I would have gotten away with so much more if you weren’t always ratting me out, you stick-in-the-mud brown noser!”

“Oh, here we go—”

“You stay out of this, Gestalt! You bribed Bulb with candy and rewards for being a rat fink!”

“You needed to be reined in,” Gestalt retorted.

“And Pod was supposed to rein me in.” Nut’s sudden outburst caused a spontaneous outbreak of silence in the others. “A corrective or otherwise preventative measure should my mother’s more troublesome behaviours get passed on to me. Is this not the case?”

“There was a concerted effort to breed out these unwanted, undesirable traits.” Gestalt’s voice had a curious, calm quality to it. “Since these efforts failed with Clove, Pod was selected for her desirable traits—”

“There’s nothing wrong with my mother,” Nut said to his grandfather.

“How dare you interrupt me!”

“Thanks in no small part to my mother, I have all the testicular fortitude I need to interrupt you and a whole lot more—”

“I will not be spoken to in such a manner!”

“Oh, shut up you old fart! Don’t you speak to my son that way!”

Every eye at the table now turned to Bulb, who seemed to be troubled by his own disrespectful outburst. He was sweaty, the areas just below his ears were damp, and his jaw trembled enough to cause his teeth to clatter lightly together. Quivering, he pressed his front hooves together, tapped them against each other, and then he licked his lips.

“Is that all I am?” Bulb asked. “A correction?”

“Bloodlines must be maintained,” Gestalt replied as an eerie calm settled over the breakfast table.

“So… if Clove… if my wife… if the pony that I love is seen as a defective product… what does that say about me? Was I not good enough to be given the very best? How am I to feel about being paired with a defective partner?”

“Bulb, you are being irrational—”

“No, I don’t think I am, Gestalt. I’ll not be told that I am irrational for sticking up for my mate. Or myself for that matter. Nor will I be told that I am being irascible for defending my son… which my wife and I so lovingly created.”

While Bulb and Gestalt attempted to stare down one another, Nut sipped his orange juice. His father’s behaviour was quite unexpected, but not unwelcome. From the looks of things, his mother was trying to control her temper—but it was too soon to tell if it would hold. An outright volcanic explosion seemed likely. Taffy whispered something into Pod’s ear, but Nut couldn’t make out what it was.

It was now, at this most perfect of moments that the maid arrived with a cart loaded down with breakfast…


Certain fundamental truths made themselves manifest in Nut’s head as breakfast was served. He was expendable. His mother’s questionable traits made him such. Which went a long way towards explaining why Gestalt conspired to experiment with Luna. If things worked out, great. If not, no big loss. Now, Nut didn’t know if this was true, but it felt true enough for him to convince himself that it was.

Pod’s so-called failure now made a great deal more sense to him as well as more of the bigger picture revealed itself. Well, he had a way to fix this, and fix it he would. He would father troublesome foals with Pod—and inspire his offspring to acts of outright insurrection. While his mother might not take revenge for this insulting, demeaning act, he would for her sake. Gestalt would die knowing that undesirable traits remained in the bloodline, like unwanted weeds in the garden.

Of course, Luna knew about all of this—the efforts to squash these unwanted traits—and had preserved them within him. He owed Luna. What he owed her remained unknown to him, but he owed her. He had a debt to pay, and so pay he would. Once more, he thought of Secundus’ words: we pay our debts sometimes. Even as Luna was working with Gestalt, she was thwarting his efforts—which meant that Luna no doubt had a better understanding of the whole of the situation than anypony else involved.

What Gestalt wished to erase, or purge outright, Luna sought to preserve.

With this one act, Luna earned his unwavering, unfailing loyalty; he would serve.

When breakfast was on the table, the maid hurried off, rolling her cart with her. Nut waited, wondering who might break the silence first. Clove seemed to be stewing; he could see evidence of his mother’s choleric temper simmering away. As for his father, Bulb now seemed pensive and out of sorts. It was hard to say what his father might be feeling right now. Pod and Taffy remained steadfast together.

“What’s that?” asked Tater Blossom. “It looks like a pie. A pie for breakfast?”

“That’s a quiche,” Clove replied, her tone neutral and cautious. “From the looks of it, a spinach and cheese quiche. I’ll cut you a slice, dear.”

“I’ll have one as well.”

“Gestalt, you can cut your own.” Clove’s tone now had an unmistakable iciness to it.

Clove cut a slice of quiche, placed it upon a well-warmed plate, and then set it down in front of Tater Blossom. Then, almost smiling, she cut a second slice, plated it, and then put it down in front of her husband. But it seemed she wasn’t done; while Nut watched in silent astonishment, his mother cut a slice of quiche, plopped it on a plate, and set it down before him.

Before he could offer thanks, Clove asked, “What about you girls? Will you be having breakfast?” Or will you needlessly mind your figures?”

Taffy looked at Pod, Pod glanced at Taffy, and after the two of them wordlessly consulted with one another, they both nodded. Now, Clove had a vindictive smile as she cut two more slices of quiche, plated them, and levitated them down the table. This was a side of his mother that Nut had not seen, one that he wasn’t familiar with, and he suspected this was the sort of behaviour meant to be corrected.

“It’s the death of civility,” Gestalt muttered.

“And you had your hoof in its untimely demise,” Clove responded while she served herself a plate of just-cut quiche.

Nut feared that breakfast would only get more interesting.


A long, thin ribbon of drool glistened as it hung suspended from the corner of Tater Blossom’s mouth. She had fallen asleep on the sofa with all four legs kicked up into the air. Always so kind, Taffy covered her with a blanket, but Nut felt that a bucket might be in order, as the dangly strand of drool grew longer. A part of him wanted to measure it, but he showed some restraint. The quiche was an impenetrable brick of cheese, eggs, and butter, which proved too much for his poor apprentice to digest in her current sleep-deprived state.

Pod and Taffy sat in one chair together, almost canoodling.

A motivational record played on the phonograph, and the volume had been turned down a bit so that Tater Blossom would not be disturbed. Princess Celestia’s calm, reassuring voice could be heard; she had a lot to say about conviction, courage, and confidence. She had started on conviction, which Tater Blossom had listened to, and now spoke of courage—which Tater Blossom now slept through.

Half-listening, Nut read a schoolbook, because schoolbooks must be read. This one was about scat identification, because the second year students had to be able to recognise and identify four-hundred and thirty-two different types of droppings. The book had detailed pictures, along with well-written descriptions.

“—to think for oneself, that is conviction. But to think for oneself aloud, that, that my little ponies, that is courage. Courage is what I want from you—”

“What are you reading?” asked Taffy, who interrupted Princess Celestia’s lesson.

“All about feces,” Nut replied.

“Oh.” Taffy’s ears splayed out.

“Boar feces, specifically.”

“Ew.”

“—courage is the yardstick by which we measure how wide life’s doors will open for you—”

“Taffy… please. Remember that you are a mature adult.”

On the couch, Tater Blossom snorted and kicked her right hind leg.

Nut turned the page, uncertain if anything stuck in memory, but found that he was no longer in a mood to read. He closed the book, set it down upon the arm of his chair, and then turned his attention to Pod and Taffy. He watched them for a bit, attempted to determine their mood, and wondered what his future relationship with them would be. Taffy was attractive, easy to like, and there was just something about her that commanded his attention. However, there was something about Taffy and Pod together, two ponies that somehow made a satisfying whole.

It was an aspect of himself that he hadn’t explored or given much thought to.

For the first time, he noticed that Pod and Taffy wore matching frocks. Pod wore a blue one and Taffy wore a green one. How had he not noticed? They wore each other’s colours, which all things considered, was rather romantic. Pod had a good look going with her night-blue frock, which was trimmed in black and had a pleasant contrast with her pea-green pelt. Taffy similarly made a pea-green frock seem stunning. He supposed it was the sort of thing one did when one was in love.

His mind’s eye showed him Black Maple, which caused a sigh to escape him.

“When does your flight depart, Nut?” asked Pod.

“Four,” he replied.

“Ah, the teatime flight.”

“Yes, Pod. Boarding begins at three-thirty, prompt.”

“During winter break, I think we’ll come to Vanhoover for a visit,” said Pod in a low, reserved voice. “If you had a place to live, we might even spend Hearth’s Warming there. No pressure or anything. I’m merely tossing out a suggestion. If we were to holiday with each other, I would want us to stay together.”

He nodded and then mused upon the idea.

“That would be lovely.” Taffy’s ears rotated in the direction of the phonograph as Princess Celestia mentioned something about confidence. “I don’t know when Pod and I will marry. There are those who want us to wait, while others wish for us to hurry. We’ll probably marry here, in Canterlot. Don’t feel obligated to come, but we would like for you to be there to share our joyous moment, Nut.”

“It will be a huge social event—”

“Of course, Nut… and I understand how you feel about those.” A gentle smile graced Pod’s lips. “Don’t feel pressured. As much as I’d like for you to be there, I’d much rather have you happy. Mistakes were made, Nut. This is how things should have been all along.”

“The both of you deserve a huge wedding bash,” he said to them. “Just as much as you both deserve to be happy. I can’t say if I’ll be there. We’ll have to wait and see. Perhaps we can get together afterwards. Vanhoover is a nice city to honeymoon in, if you don’t mind the rain. It just gives you a reason to stay in.”

“Again, we’d need a place to stay,” said Pod. “But no pressure.”

He changed the subject; with a nudge, he steered it away from talk of home ownership, which left him uncomfortable. “You know, I can’t even recall a time that House Eccentrica married out of house. This really will be a big deal. The merging of two houses.”

“Nut…”

“Yes, Pod?”

“One small detail has escaped you. Taffy and I are two mares. There’ll be a marriage, but there will be no connection between houses. No meaningful ties of blood.”

Something in the general location of his heart sank down into his guts. “Oh… verily. I suppose you’re right. And if I act as a donor, those foals will be born on the wrong side of the sheets, as the saying goes. That’s…” He struggled for a moment, but couldn’t find the words.

“Pod and I aren’t happy about that, but that’s how it goes. Noble houses are unified through marriage and blood. We technically will not be recognised as a house, our offspring will not be heirs, and our respective family trees will terminate with our branches.”

“Taffy… I’m sorry.”

A chime could be heard from the record player, an indicator that it was time to flip the record over. Apprehensive and a bit put out, Nut squirmed in his chair while it settled upon him just what Pod and Taffy had to sacrifice. For the first time, he wondered just what sort of pressure they experienced, and he thought of all the entanglements that came with marriage when nobles married.

Which was exactly why he didn’t want to marry.

Yet… “You know, there’s an easy solution to all of this.”

“There is?” both Pod and Taffy said together.

“Well, I’m fairly certain there is.” Somewhat fretful to even mention this, he tapped his left hoof upon the hardbound cover of his schoolbook. “We marry… and divorce. Any foals you have of mine will be recognised as heirs. At least, I’m somewhat certain. Perhaps. Maybe. Might be best to look it up first. I might be wrong.”

“You’d do that for us?” asked Taffy.

“Well”—he made a circular gesture with his right hoof as the left one tapped his book—“it’s for a good cause. I rather like the idea of causing a stir here in Canterlot. As divorcees, you would be entitled to up to fifty percent of my inheritance, and so would any of my offspring. At least, I think this is the case. Law is not my speciality, but I did pay attention in class.”

“You’re just doing this to cause trouble and outrage.”

“Well, yes. Yes I am, Pod.”

“I’m fine with that. Capital idea.”

“I find I’m somewhat intrigued by the idea,” said Taffy as she rubbed her chin with her hoof. “What if somepony challenges consummation?”

“Do they even do that anymore?” Pod pulled Taffy’s hoof away from taffy’s chin so she could hold it close to her heart.

“This sort of nitpickery is what leaves me ashamed to be a noble,” he said to the two mares. “I mean, I understand why things are the way they are, and I even understand their importance. This is part of why I left. Which I am now having second thoughts about. I was a fool to think I could escape my responsibilities. However, if I am to be coerced into obeying social ritual and noble ceremony, then I fully intend to twist the rules to my own ends.”

“But Nut… twisting the rules is what brought us to the current state of Canterlot.”

“Pod”—he inhaled and realised she was right—“you make a fine point. Too many nobles abused and exploited the rules. For their own gains. But that isn’t what I’m trying to do. The system that surrounds the noble houses needs reform.”

“Which is tough to do when the ponies who could be the ones to change the system flee Canterlot.”

“Dirty pool, Pod.”

He stared at her, she glared at him right back, while Taffy maintained neutral ground. Pod had a point, and Nut found himself resenting her for it. The noble court and all of the houses were antiquated entities; he saw that clearly now. The trappings of a bygone era persisted. Society had progressed, advanced, things had changed. But the nobility had not. It had stagnated. Nut found himself thinking of Fiddle Riddle.

Yes, the potential reformers seemed to flee Canterlot.

It seemed as though all of the social institutions were in the past. Which was, for the most part, the very thing that drove him to distraction. He believed himself to be a progressive, which was difficult when surrounded by an archaic social system that demanded conformity. In what was a truly exigent moment, he found himself questioning everything about himself as well as everything he thought he knew.

As his thoughts collapsed in upon themselves, he thought of Luna preserving his rebellious streak. She’d done it for a reason, that much was painfully obvious now. Was she trying to save his family from themselves? As a princess, she very well could be. She saw things through very different eyes. While his family had made efforts to remove undesirable traits, Luna had moved to thwart their efforts.

His mind raced as he thought of all the implications.

But his thoughtful state came to an end when his father appeared in the doorway. Bulb hadn’t gone to work, it seemed. He was dishevelled. Almost sweaty and in need of a shower. Had Bulb been exercising? Then, slowly, it dawned upon Nut what his father had been doing—who his father had been doing. The realisation made Nut shudder, but a part of him was also glad, relieved in some odd way.

“We’re going out,” Bulb announced. “Be ready to leave. We’re having a family outing. There will be no arguments.”

And then, before anypony could respond, Bulb stepped out of the doorway, and was gone.


It was almost as if he were young again. A family outing. With Pod, who frequently joined them on their excursions. Only now, there was also Taffy and Tater Blossom. His father was sharp looking in his light, summer weight woollen blazer, and as for his mother, she wore a light, breezy sundress. Try as he might, Nut could not recall his mother ever wearing a sundress. She looked smashing though. Clove also had her mane down, which somehow made her appear to be about Pod’s age.

“Where are we going?” asked Pod.

“I haven’t figured that out yet,” Bulb replied.

“Well, we should sort that out.” Clove’s suggestion caused the group to slow, but not halt.

“What makes everypony happy? What can we all agree upon?” Bulb peered back over his shoulder at the line of ponies walking two by two just behind him.

“It should be something special for Tater.” Taffy’s quick, brisk trot caused her ears to bob and she smiled at the earth pony beside her. “Something memorable. We don’t know when she’ll be back to Canterlot again.”

“Oh, I know just what to do!”

“What’s that, darling?” Bulb asked of his wife.

“The Canterlot Botanical Gardens and Aviary. Philomena is on display. There’s something relevant to all of our mutual interests there.”

“Oh, capital idea, Clove.”

“Thank you, Pod.”

“This idea is for the birds—”

“Shut up, Nut,” Pod said, cutting him off mid-sentence.

“Ah,” Bulb began, “to adventure again. How I have missed this. Pod telling Nut to shut up when he is behaving in a manner most belligerent and quarrelsome. Ah!” He sighed. “To the gardens… and then maybe a nice lunch some place. No more drudgery. Smell that Canterlot air!”

“Smells like pompous pretension and—”

“Shut up, Nut.” Having repeated herself, Pod cast a harsh bit of side-eye in Nut’s general direction.

“After lunch, we’ll visit a photography studio and have a family picture taken. Guaranteed fifteen minute development, or you get half off. What an age we live in. Colour photographs. Moving pictures. The telegraph! Steam powered and electrical conveyance. New airship designs every week it seems. High-powered firearms that keep our great nation secure. The best part of all? We occasionally get a new princess or prince to keep things fresh. Keen!”

“Bulb, calm down, dear.”

“Don’t tell me to calm down… I’ll pull you into a secluded spot and take dangerous liberties with your gaskins—”

“Degenerate pervert.”

“Verily!”

It was then Nut realised that he’d be dealing with this all day…


The Canterlot Botanical Gardens and Aviary was a place of fond memories for Nut, even if he said nothing to confirm it. He and his family had come here to be quiet together. It was a restorative place, a fine location for contemplation, and he had high hopes that Tater Blossom would enjoy herself here. He and Pod had come here often, and this was a favourite place to do homework. His father and mother were married here, just like so many other Canterlot couples.

Parrots and tropical birds cawed and shouted overhead, while some of the pegasus ponies present responded in kind. It was humid; a fine mist trickled down from the ceiling of the immense glass dome, but no water actually reached the ground. Everything was a rainforest jungle in miniature, a glorious recreation that was considered one of the great treasures of Canterlot.

Nut vividly recalled an incident from foalhood in which a pegasus pony argued with a scarlet macaw. Feathers were ruffled. The memory was hazy, vague, indistinct. Nut was little more than a yearling. His mother sat him down and explained to him that ponies were different, each of them special in their own way. To his best recollection, his mind had been blown. Looking back, he saw clearly now how this had shaped the whole of his life, because he now studied why and how things were different.

The pony he was meant to be existed because of this place.

“Those walkways is scary,” Tater Blossom said while she craned her head upward.

With his thoughts scattered by the sudden distraction, Nut too, looked up. It was Taffy who moved to reassure Tater Blossom. The walkways in question were thin, delicate, almost spiderwebby constructions. A winding walkway that wound itself round and round the dome, until one reached the observatory platform at the top. That was a fine place to observe the canopy, and a great many birds liked to congregate up there.

“Look, there’s rails to keep you safe. I know they appear thin, but they are quite sturdy. Airship-grade aluminium is far tougher than it looks.”

“But it just kinda hangs there…”

“It does, but it hangs from the dome’s frame and not the glass. See, there’s ponies walking along it.”

“I dunno…”

“The view looking down is quite different than the view looking up. You owe it to yourself to see both.” Taffy offered a reassuring nudge to the reluctant filly. “We’ll go up there, together. I’ll be with you every step of the way. Nothing will happen, I promise.”

“A’ight… a’ight… I’ll go, but I might keep my eyes closed.” Though slow, Tater obediently followed Taffy, who coaxed the filly along.

“Pod.” Bulb leaned in closer. “A moment of your time, if I may. A word with you.”

“Oh? Oh. Oh, sure.” Pod allowed herself to be led away by Bulb.

Which left Nut alone with his mother. He looked at her, and she him. Something was about to be said, but he wasn’t sure what. A nearby parrot screeched, but Nut wasn’t distracted, and he watched his mother, he waited for whatever was about to happen. The air was warm and wet. Canterlot’s elite loitured, but for some reason, Nut wasn’t bothered by them in this place.

“Can you stay a little longer, Nut?”

“No, Mother, I can’t.”

“Why not?”

“I have responsibilities, mother. A job. A job which I was just away from not that long ago. Miss Blossom also has employment, which she is quite lucky to have.”

“But surely those things can wait. They can’t be that important.”

“Mother… the world doesn’t work that way. You honestly don’t understand what the world is like away from Canterlot, do you?”

“I did some travelling when I was younger… though I confess, I didn’t pay much attention.” She sighed, averted her eyes, and her tail twitched once. “Nut, I don’t understand why you’re doing this to yourself.”

“It’s my philosophy, Mother,” he replied. His mother was uncomfortable and this made him squirm a bit from the discomfort that she radiated. “The Canterlot pony is perfectly suited for its Canterlot environment. These are ideal conditions. Perfect conditions. As such, there is no need for us to evolve… to change. Nothing motivates us. The world around us has changed, society has changed, everything has changed… but we are slow to change, if it all. My change in environments has made me change. I’ve adapted. Evolution of the self, Mother.”

“You’ve certainly changed… that can’t be denied.” When Clove raised her head to look up at her son, her eyes brimmed with tears. “I feel bad because I can’t tell if the change is for the better. That bothers me, Nut. You’ve become a stranger and I sincerely can’t tell if these changes are for the better or the worse. Everything about you confuses me. You… you’re my son. I made you. Raised you. You… you left… and you changed. It feels like all my hard work has been undone. Like I’ve wasted all my time. And that… that leaves me angry. It’s all so very complicated, Nut.”

Every attempt at a response came out as a failure; after a few false starts, he gave up.

“I poured everything that I was… everything that I had into you. While I know this can’t possibly be the case, it feels like you’ve just cast it aside. Discarded it. I devoted a tremendous portion of my life to you, and with how much you have changed, it all feels wasted.” She blinked once, her eyes turned glassy, and then she stood there while her head shook from side to side. “I’ve spent my life in pursuit of rationality and now that I am besieged by emotion, it seems as though I am ill-equipped to deal with it.”

“Mother”—while he spoke to her, a nearby parrot threw a fit—“I am the way I am because of you.” He paused for a moment, collected his thoughts, and then clarified his statement just to be safe. “That’s not meant in a negative way. Because you loved me, because you believed in me, I always pushed myself harder to prove worthy of that. I only ever wanted for you to be proud of me, so I pushed myself to extraordinary lengths. Even now, I am still trying to prove myself.”

“But what are you trying to prove?”

“I… don’t know yet.” He flashed his mother a bit of a smirk. “As soon as I do know, you’ll know.”

“That doesn’t make me feel better, Nut.” She smiled, but her eyes seemed sad.

“I want to do better, Mother. Be better. This isn’t something I can do here, in Canterlot. Yes, I am aware of the fact that if I had wealth and resources, I could be doing all manner of spectacular, extraordinary things. I could be saving a whole herd of Miss Blossoms. More of my time could be directed towards my education. But those all feel like shallow and superficial challenges to me. Those are more about what can I do with what I’m given, what I have. But those do not change me or the pony I am on the inside.”

Ears splayed, she shook her head. “I don’t understand.”

“The things I want, Mother, are all intangible, methinks. There is no yardstick to measure my success. No means to calculate how much I’ve changed. I have no way to understand what it is that I wish to be until I am that which I hope to be. Now that I say it aloud, I suppose that sounds rather irrational.”

“It does, but that’s fine, Nut. As for myself, I’m not going to worry about it. When you finally become whatever it is that you hope to be, you come to me and you tell me. I’ll be there to congratulate you on a job well done, just as I always have. You just concentrate on becoming the best version of yourself that you can.”

“Thank you, Mother.”

“You’re welcome, Son.” She turned her head and peered upwards. “We should join Taffy and your apprentice. Let us make the most of the time that we have left. I’d like a chance to get to know the pony that my son is becoming.”

Author's Note:

I must ask forgiveness. This chapter was going to be larger. It would have included all of the events of the day, from the gardens, to lunch, to family photograph, etc. But I didn't want to write a 20k word chapter. So I put the darlings into the tub and drowned them one by one. Because that is what a writer do.

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