• Published 1st Jun 2022
  • 25,877 Views, 1,773 Comments

Hold It Together - OverUnderCookened

If Ponyville's new repair-pony gets his way, the Mane Six won't even know he exists - and nopony in Ponyville will miss him for long once he's returned to Earth.

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The Summer Sun Celebration, Part 1

It was the day of the Summer Sun Celebration, and an exhausted-looking unicorn with a pair of saddlebags slung over his back was walking down the main road of Ponyville, his eyes sweeping the street and rooftops as if he were looking for something.

Besides his fatigue, there wasn’t anything special about this unicorn. His coat was a creamy parchment-white, and his mane and tail, which were both roughly cut to average length, were dark blue. His mane, which stopped just above his brown eyes, had a thin, clear gray streak, but he wasn’t old by any stretch - in fact, he looked pretty young, twenty years at most. His brown canvas saddlebags half-covered his Cutie Mark, which was a small, four-pointed white star on a clay tablet, a crack in the tablet’s side disappearing beneath the spark.

The unicorn looked as if he had stayed up all night. His lower eyelids were dark and swollen, and a few strands of his mane had come loose. He still seemed alert enough, though, his ears up and forward as he scanned the rooftops.

He stopped as he spotted something on the side of a nearby roof, and a coat of magic wrapped around his horn - his magic was the same light-brown color as his eyes, somewhere between hot cocoa and coffee with cream. A single, cracked shingle popped off the rooftop, then floated down until it was a couple feet away from the unicorn’s face. The unicorn shut his eyes, and the spark on his Cutie Mark glowed a pale blue - then, a flash of light engulfed the shingle.

When the light cleared, the crack in the shingle was gone. The unicorn opened his eyes and looked the shingle over - then grinned, and levitated it back into its place on the rooftop. The unicorn scrutinized it, satisfied, but he still seemed uneasy as he kept inspecting his surroundings.

A pigeon fluttered down from the rooftop, perching on the unicorn’s back and covering a yawn with one of its wings. The unicorn looked back, and was only briefly surprised to see the bird.

“Hey, Nikki. Late riser, huh?” he chuckled. “Can’t say I blame you.”

The pigeon rolled her eyes, then turned and started taking in some of the decorations for the Summer Sun Celebration. So far, there wasn’t much - an extra-fancy flower basket here, a pennant hung on a door there, the occasional sign bearing holiday greetings.
The other citizens were definitely more impressive than the decor. None of them were really dressed up - though, most of their manes and tails looked a little neater than usual, and one or two of the ponies were wearing small ornaments like ribbons or jewelry. All of them, regardless of getups, were busy - most were in pairs or groups of three, trucking supplies towards the Town Hall, where they’d end up staying awake all night to watch Princess Celestia raise the sun. Most of them were chatting as they went, excitement plain in their voices.
One or two ponies, though, were getting a head start on the commercial side of the festival, setting up little market stands with striped awnings on the sides of the road. The unicorn glanced down the rows, then paused when he saw an Earth-pony mare with a brown coat and a green-and-yellow mane placing a bag full of seeds on one of the counters.

“Excuse me, miss,” the unicorn called out, trotting over. The mare looked up, then set another bag of sunflower seeds down on the counter, the seeds shifting over each other with a dry rustle.

“Sorry to bother you,” the unicorn said. “Are you selling yet, or do I have to come back later?”

The mare shrugged. “Depends on whether I’ve unpacked what’cha wanna buy. I’ve got just sunflower seeds, just wheat, just oats, and…”

She blinked, recognition lighting her eyes. “…Say, aren’t you the new repair-pony in town?”

“Huh? Oh, yeah, that’s me,” the unicorn said. “Lapis Print, but please just call me Lapis.”

“Nice to meet you! My name’s Yellow Petal,” the mare replied, smiling. She looked over Lapis’ shoulder, saw the pigeon perched there, and her smile widened. “So, anyway, those are my big bags, but I’ve also unpacked a few little snack-bags with mixes of oats, wheat, and sunflower seeds.”

Lapis grinned. “One of the little bags sounds perfect. How much?”

“Five bits.”

“Done.” Lapis floated five small golden coins up onto the counter, and Yellow Petal slid them out of sight before ducking down to grab one of the bags. Lapis, meanwhile, looked back at the pigeon, and saw that she was gaping up at him.

“Jeez, Nikki, what’s with the look?” Lapis said, chuckling. “What, you thought I was kidding? I said you’d earned a bag of birdseed, and I meant it. Just don’t get any shells in my coat, and…”

The unicorn trailed off as he noticed something approaching the road from above. Huh, he thought. UFO coming in. Looks like a… golden chariot, maybe?

Lapis’ eyes widened as the chariot got closer, and he was able to distinguish two winged figures ahead of the vehicle’s bulk. Those are pegasi… armored pegasi. Their armor was in a vaguely-Roman style, and was the same golden color as the chariot. Guards, maybe?

And if those are guards, then… wouldn’t it be the Princess in that chariot?

“Huh.” Lapis turned around, and saw that Yellow Petal had popped up from behind the counter. “Well, I don’t think it’s the princess. It might be one of her officials, though.”

“Really? How come?” Lapis asked, levitating the small bag of seeds off the counter and onto his back.

The merchant chuckled. “This’ll be your first time seeing the Princess, huh?”

“Uh, maybe.” Lapis grinned, his ears tucking back as he rubbed the back of his neck.

Yellow Print nodded. “Don’t worry about it. Trust me, she’s pretty hard to miss. My guess is, that’s some organizer-pony, come to make sure the Mayor knows what she’s doing.”

“Yeah, that makes sense,” Lapis said, turning to watch the carriage. That look of unease was back on his face, and it was intensifying by the second. This festival, the chariot… they mean something important, but what? “Uh, thanks for the seeds, Yellow Petal. And happy Summer Sun Celebration!”

“You too!” the merchant called, as Lapis walked a few buildings down the road. He kept his eyes on the chariot, eventually stopping under the shade of an awning. The pigeon on his back, Nikki, wasted no time pulling open the bag of birdseed and stuffing her beak, her expression blissful as she crunched away at one of the sunflower seeds.

Lapis, meanwhile, was laser-focused on the chariot as it came in for a landing, his eyes narrowed, his ears forward as he strained to learn anything about the chariot’s occupants.

“…I am her student, and I’ll do my royal duty,” a mare’s voice was saying. “But the fate of Equestria does not rest on me making friends.”

The carriage touched down with only a tiny bump. A second or two later, a lavender unicorn with a purple mane walked into view, turning to address the drivers. “Thank you, sirs.”

Lapis stared for a second, then leaned back and relaxed as he recognized the purple unicorn. Oh, it’s Purple McBookface, he thought. Right. She arrives like this during… the first episode, right?

He grinned as the details came flooding back. Yeah, and then she meets the rest of the protagonists while checking on the town, and then the princess’ evil twin sister shows up or something, and…

…Wait a minute.

Lapis froze as several puzzle pieces fell into place at once. I showed up… before the show started. I showed up before the show’s plot-lines happened, and that means…

“Shit,” Lapis whispered, a look of barely-contained panic on his face.

The purple unicorn, whatever her name was, had started walking away from the chariot, accompanied by her lizard-thing sidekick. Baby dragon, maybe? His name is Stick or Poke or something, I think. The baby dragon was talking, leading the other unicorn towards a bubblegum-pink pony with a large, puffy mane. “…Come on, Twilight, just try!”

“Twilight… guess we have a name for her,” Lapis muttered, prompting Nikki to pull her head out of the bag of birdseed, blinking a couple of shells off her eyes. Then Lapis noticed who Twilight was talking to, and his eyes shot wide open.

Pinkie Pie, Lapis thought, slowly backing towards the nearest alley. Don’t see me, don’t see me…

“Uh…” Twilight said to Pinkie, her ears tucking back nervously. “Hello?”

Pinkie glanced over Twilight’s shoulder, and her eyes met Lapis’.


The pink pony gasped comically, jumping three feet clear into the air, shock on her face - then, midair, she launched towards Lapis in a pink blur, halving the distance between them at a terrifying pace.

Shit! Lapis grabbed Nikki’s bag of seeds with his magic, sprinting into the alley, Nikki letting out a surprised coo as she was brought along for the ride. He rounded the corner of a house, and wasted precious seconds fumbling for something in his saddlebags. Bits, spare request form, book, c’mon where is it?!

Lapis yanked something - a full face-mask with eyeholes, that had a picture of a barrel crudely drawn on it - out of his bag and over his face. He straightened up and stood stock-still, sucking in a deep breath and holding it just as Pinkie rounded the corner.

Don’t… move… Lapis thought, silently praying that Nikki got the same idea. Pinkie Pie stared around whoever’s-backyard-this-was in confusion, looking over a trash bin, a recycling bin, Lapis, and a rain barrel with the same determined squint. She looked back -

Oh no.

- at the trash can, then approached it with slow, deadly silent steps - before yanking the lid off with one hoof. “Ah-ha!” she squeaked.

A raccoon poked its head out of the bin, rubbing its eyes and chittering in confusion. Pinkie blinked and pulled her head back in surprise, then smiled awkwardly and lowered the lid back onto the bin. She let out a small, disappointed sigh, then glanced around the yard again, her gaze sweeping over Lapis as if he really were a barrel, before finally settling on the middle distance.

“I’ll find you, new pony,” Pinkie said, her tone serious. “I’ll find you…”

She frowned. “Huh. New pony. Hmm…” She scrunched her face in thought for a moment, scratching her chin with one hoof - then gasped again, before disappearing in a bubblegum-pink blur, Lapis’ mane ruffling in the wind as she shot past him.

Five seconds passed. Ten. Twenty.

…She has to know, Lapis thought. There’s no way. She’s messing with me. She has to be.

“You know what?” he muttered, as he took the mask off and put it back in the bag. “As long as it works, I don’t care. You alright back there, Nikki… Nikki?”

Nikki’s beak had dropped, and she was staring at the space where Pinkie had been with a mixture of disgust and disbelief. As Lapis watched, Nikki made a helpless gesture towards the space, then at the mask inside Lapis’ saddlebag, then back towards where the pony had been, until finally she face-planted into the bag of birdseed.

A few seconds passed, and then Lapis grinned as he heard the crunching of birdseed from somewhere near Nikki’s face. Yep, she’s fine. Wish I could say the same…

Lapis’ grin faded as he remembered his earlier realization, what he’d put together as soon as he’d realized what episode he was in. He could hear himself asking Mayor Mare how the position of repair-pony had come open, could hear parts of her response echoing in his ears…

“I’m sure you’ve heard the rumors, that Ponyville is a bit of a ‘trouble magnet…’ It has been pretty quiet for the last five years…”

The quiet hadn’t been because the show had started. It had been because the show hadn’t started. Yet.

Oh, and also, the Princess’ evil twin sister was on the way. That’s important. Should probably panic about that first.

About ten seconds of silent panic later, Lapis took a deep breath, put on his business face, and marched back onto the main street. Pinkie was nowhere in sight, so he headed toward his favorite restaurant in town. He hadn’t seen any of the show’s six protagonists there yet, and avoiding them was second-highest priority.

First priority, right now, was a cup of coffee. Lapis might’ve been riding an adrenaline high right then, but he knew he’d be dead on his feet - uh, hooves - as soon as it wore off. So, when he reached a triangular building at an intersection, he wasted no time hurrying inside, whisking the still-faceplanting pigeon on his back through the door with him.

The Corner Cafe, which the Mayor had previously insisted was “not the same place as the Cafe Hay,” was a cozy little brick-and-mortar building that looked like a Waffle House and smelled like a fresh pot of coffee. Not just any coffee, either - the good stuff, fresh-ground and right out of the pot.

“Got any empty tables?” Lapis started to ask the waitress, but before he could finish he heard a voice calling his name. “Hey, Lapis! Over here!”

He looked over and saw an earth-pony waving him down from inside a booth. She had a pale, creamy-yellow coat - almost like his, now that he thought about it - and a curly mane and tail which were half pink and half navy blue.

“You know what, never mind,” Lapis told the waitress, and trotted towards the booth. “Hey, Bon Bon, how’s it going?”

“It’s going, that’s for sure,” Bon Bon muttered. “I haven’t even opened the candy shop yet, and half the town’s knocked on my door already!”

The other pony in the booth, who Lapis hadn’t noticed previously, giggled and piped up. “Maybe if you stopped giving them sample bags, they’d stop knocking?” This pony was a unicorn, and she had a mint-green coat with a white-striped mane that vaguely reminded Lapis of toothpaste.

Bon Bon scoffed and rolled her eyes, but there was a hint of a smile at the corners of her mouth. “It’s called customer retention, Lyra. Just because I don’t want customers yet doesn’t mean I don’t want them at all. Oh, Lapis, this is my friend, Lyra Heartstrings. Lyra, this is Lapis Print, the town’s new repair-pony.”

“Hi!” Lyra chirped, scooting further down on the bench. “Nice to meet you!”

“Hey, nice to meet you too,” Lapis replied, smiling and taking the seat, Nikki landing on the table with her now-empty bag of birdseed.

Lyra’s eyes widened as she watched Lapis get into position. “Oh, hey, I thought I was the only pony in Ponyville who sat that way!”

Lapis blinked. “What?”

“On your rump, with your back hooves sticking out like logs,” Bon Bon said, cocking an eyebrow. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen anypony but Lyra sitting that way before, either. Doesn’t your back hurt after a while?”

“Not usually, no,” Lapis said, frowning and looking over Bon Bon. Now that he paid attention, he could see that she was sitting like a dog, with her front hooves on the seat in front of her tucked-in back hooves - meanwhile, Lapis and Lyra were seated like humans. “Well, not unless I’m like this for more than two hours. What’ve you been up to, Lyra?”

“Well, I’ve mostly been tuning my lyre.”

“For three hours,” Bon Bon said.

“Well, sometimes that’s how long it takes,” Lyra said. “I’ve also been helping Bon Bon with last-minute stocking-up. I helped her make enough drizzle for five hundred peppermints!”

“And I’m going to need every last bit of it, too,” Bon Bon said, grinning. “How about you, Lapis?”

“Mostly, I’ve just been wandering around and fixing anything that breaks,” Lapis said. “Although, I also bought my little friend here a bag of seeds, since she was able to help me figure some stuff out earlier.”

Nikki lightly cuffed Lapis with her wing, rolling her eyes and smirking. Lyra, meanwhile, seemed to have only just noticed that there was a pigeon on the table. “Oh, I didn’t know you could talk to animals! I’ll have to look for you the next time I can’t find Fluttershy!”

“I’m pretty sure any of you could talk to animals,” Lapis said, grinning. “Just use the same words you use normally.”

“What she means is, she didn’t know you could understand the pigeon,” Bon Bon replied. “What’s her name?”

“Well, I’ve been calling her Nikki,” Lapis said, “and I can’t actually understand most of what she’s saying, but she’s been nice enough to hang around anyway. …Who’s Fluttershy, though? Can she understand animals or something?”

“Oh, yeah, she’s Ponyville’s animal expert,” Lyra said. “She’s amazing! Kinda shy, but amazing. I hear she’s getting a choir of birds to sing for the Summer Sun Celebration!”

“She is?” Lapis frowned, then his eyes widened as he remembered. “Oh, wait. Is she a pegasus, who hangs around with a bunny-rabbit? Kind of canary-yellow, long pink mane and tail?”

Bon Bon nodded. “That’s her. You’ve seen her around? I’m surprised, she usually avoids stallions.”

“I think I saw her once in the market street or somewhere,” Lapis lied. “Think she might cause any trouble today?”

“What? No, never,” Bon Bon said, cocking an eyebrow. “That pony apologizes if she trips over your hooves, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen an animal do something she doesn’t want it to.” Bon Bon’s expression became suddenly ominous. “Now, Pinkie Pie, on the other hoof…”

“Oh, I actually got an invitation from Pinkie earlier,” Lyra chimed in. She levitated a small card up from under the table, and Lapis saw that her magic was the same vivid orange color as her eyes. “’You’re Invited to Twilight’s Welcome-To-Ponyville Surprise Party.’ Who’s Twilight?”

“Purple unicorn with a baby dragon,” Lapis said. “I saw her earlier. She arrived in some golden chariot thing, I think the Princess sent her to check up on the festival preparations. I… don’t think she’s really the social type, though,” he added, remembering what she’d been saying to the dragon.

“Yeah, well, I’ll probably be busy selling candy all day anyway,” Bon Bon said.

Lyra shrugged. “I’m going. Pinkie’s Welcome-to-Ponyville parties are great! You know that already, right, Lapis?”

Uh-oh. “Uh, yeah, about that,” Lapis said. He felt his ears flick back, and he consciously flicked them back upright with an annoyed grimace. “I’ve actually… kinda dodged my welcome party so far.”

The reaction was immediate. Bon Bon’s eyebrows nearly shot off her face, and Lyra’s jaw dropped.

“WHAT?!” three voices shouted at once. Lapis flinched, then frowned. Three voices?

Lapis, Lyra, Nikki, and Bon Bon all looked off to the side of the booth, where the waitress - a pegasus with a dark brown coat and a fluffy white mane and tail - was standing and gaping at Lapis. She blushed, then sheepishly smiled. “Uh, I mean… may I take your orders?”

“Okay, let’s go over this again,” Bon Bon said, propping her forehead up on her hoof. “How did you end up not meeting Pinkie in the first place?”

“I don’t know,” Lapis admitted. “I walked into Ponyville three days ago, I remember seeing her right before I turned a corner onto the main street. Ten seconds later, I bump into Mayor Mare, who had somehow just finished talking to Pinkie about me, and then I didn’t see Pinkie for the rest of the day.”

“No, wait. There’s no way she lost you just because you turned a corner,” Lyra said. “Last time I tried that, she rounded the corner before I did!”

“Uh, I’m not sure how it happened either,” Lapis lied. He’d actually done everything he could to blend into the crowds as soon as he’d recognized Pinkie as one of the show’s main characters, but there was no reasonable way to explain that. “Maybe I just got lucky, or something? It’s… I don’t know, but it happened, and here I am.”

“Right,” Bon Bon said. “So, after that, you started avoiding Pinkie on purpose, because you didn’t really want a Welcome-to-Ponyville party.”

“Pretty much,” Lapis said. That was the truth - as he’d reasoned it, one of Pinkie’s parties would’ve been sure to put him into the main characters’ radars, which was the last thing he wanted.

“Okay. How?”

Lapis blinked. “What?”

“How have you been hiding from Pinkie?” Bon Bon said, cocking her ears forward. “I know a couple of ponies who’ve tried it, but nothing worked. Her Pinkie Sense just leads her right to them.”

Cartoon logic, Lapis thought. “Well… here, it’ll be easier just to show you,” he said, reaching back into his saddlebags with his magic. Across the table, Lyra raised a bite of omelet to her lips, while Bon Bon peered intently forward.

Lapis glanced around, then put the mask on the table. “I wear this.”

For a second, all three of them stared at it in silence. Then Bon Bon gave Lapis a flat look, while Lyra snorted before breaking into a giggling fit.

“No, really,” Bon Bon said. “How?”

Lapis picked up the mask, and Nikki gestured to it with her wing. “Really, this is it. If I wear it, and I don’t move, she doesn’t find me. I came up with the idea as a joke, but since then, I’ve done it four times. One of them was… about fifteen minutes ago, actually.”

“Not a very funny joke,” Bon Bon said, raising an eyebrow.

Lapis shrugged. “Well, it’s more like a reference, but yeah.”

“So, wait,” Lyra said, trying to suppress her continued laughter. “You’re telling me, that you stick that on your face…”


“And you hold… reeeeally still…”


“And Pinkie looks at you, and thinks, that you’re a barrel?”

“I guess?”

Lyra’s giggles broke into snorting laughter. Lapis sighed, then tucked the mask back into his saddlebags with a grin. “Honestly, I’m half-convinced Pinkie thinks it’s a game, and she’s playing along for the laughs.”

Bon-Bon seemed to actually consider the idea for a second or two before shaking her head. “…No, I don’t think this fits with her sense of humor. But let’s get back on track. Why don’t you just go up to her, introduce yourself, and get it over with?”

“Uh, well, I’m still not completely settled in,” Lapis said, as Nikki cocked her head towards him with sudden interest. “My house is still a mess, everything’s in boxes, you know. And if she does decide to make room for the party by unpacking everything-”

Lapis paused. “Which doesn’t sound like it’ll happen, now that I say it out loud.”

“No, she’s done that before,” Bon Bon said, waving a hoof. Lyra nodded in confirmation, still giggling.

“…Alrighty then,” Lapis said, cocking an eyebrow. “Uh, yeah, if she does that, then I’ll have to re-organize everything. And that’ll take weeks to do, if all the repair jobs I’ve been getting are anything to go by.”

“Ooh! I’ve heard about some of those,” Lyra piped up. “You know, there’s a rumor going around that you’re actually using Mend-All spells for everything?”

Lapis hesitated, his ears tucking back. “I… don’t know if that’s true. I mean, I’ve fixed a lot of stuff, so it’s tough to-”

A sudden gust of wind blew open the door to the cafe, setting the bells above the door jingling and knocking a tray of drinks out of the waitress’ hooves. A few seconds passed - then, in the distance, some distinctly scratchy laughter began to echo into the shop.

Lapis recognized it immediately, and Bon Bon huffed. “Rainbow again… How many times this week do you think somepony’s asked her not to try any of her flying tricks above Ponyville streets?”

“About half as many times as I’ve had to pull tie-dye mane hair out of a crater in someone’s thatch,” Lapis muttered.

Lyra’s eyes widened. “Wait. What?! She crashes into ponies’-”

“Roofs, yeah. Luckily for her, most of the roofs around here are thatch, so it’s basically like landing in a big ol’ hay bale - I’d hate to imagine what would happen if she hit a tin roof.” Lapis shivered, then stood up. “Speaking of which, something else is probably broken by now, so I’d better get going.”

“See you at the Summer Sun Celebration!” Bon Bon called out as Lapis left, Nikki flapping off the table and onto his back just before the door closed.

As soon as Lapis was out of sight of the restaurant windows, he glanced around, then turned toward the edge of town and picked up his pace, only slowing down for a moment when Nikki took off and landed on his head.

“What?” Lapis asked, looking up towards the pigeon now glaring at him over top of his horn. “Yeah, I know I’ve got nothing to settle in. It’s just… listen, it’s for the best if nob-” He paused, rolling his eyes. “Sorry, if nopony, or as few ponies as possible, spend any time inside my house. Especially not Pinkie, or any of her friends.”

Nikki cocked a feathery eyebrow, folding her wings across her breast, and Lapis sighed. “I know it’s weird, but I’ve got too much to keep track of without having to take any pony’s involvement into account. For now… I really hate to ask again, but I could use a little help. You mind standing by a window, making some ruckus if Pinkie starts heading this way?”

Nikki huffed, then shrugged and sat straight on top of Lapis’ head. Lapis smiled awkwardly, then sighed.
The truth was, Lapis’ hope was to figure out some way of getting back to Earth. Not that he missed living in the same world as war, plague, and inflation, it was just that he had too many problems back on Earth that would get bigger if he left them alone. His student loan debt, for example. And if he got remotely caught up in whatever the show’s protagonists were doing, well, he could kiss his spare time for research goodbye.
What he had to do was clear: stay alive, don’t get too attached to any of the ponies here, don’t make any more problems before getting back to Earth, and definitely don’t get any of the protagonists’ attention. Especially not Pinkie Pie.
Just like social distancing, sort of. Ish. …Yeah, not really.
Grimacing, Lapis turned to face his destination: what looked like a tree, except with windows, lanterns, and a three-part door beneath a hanging sign: The Golden Oak Library.

Here’s hoping Pinkie hasn’t started arranging that surprise party yet, Lapis thought. He took a deep breath, then pushed open the door and stepped inside.

Much to Lapis’ relief, Pinkie was nowhere in sight. No decorations, either - he and Nikki had the library to themselves.

Nikki flew straight up to one of the windows and started peering around for any sign of Pinkie. Lapis, meanwhile, started working his way along the shelves, trying to figure out how the place was organized.

1001 Beetles,” Lapis muttered, scanning the spines of the texts. “A Hoofbook of Butterflies, An Abbreviated History of Weevils, An Amateur’s Guide to Keeping Bees… Am I in arthropods? Biology? Entomology?” He glared at the lower spines of the books. “Sure, keep the English language and alphabet, but asking for the Dewey Decimal system is just too much, huh?

Just for a moment, the titles of the books flickered, and Lapis’ eyes widened in shock as the crisp, clean letters were replaced with a multitude of small, simple pictograms - butterflies, spirals, and the like. Then, he blinked, and the texts were back in English.

“…You know what, that’s fair,” Lapis said, then went back to scanning titles without comment. C’mon, c’mon, magic magic magic, where’s the section on magic when you need it… Bingo!

An entire three bookcases’ worth of shelves, all devoted entirely to works on magic. The books here were older than the rest, and looked to be bound in some kinds of thick sheets of treated canvas - the corners gilded with ornate swirls and engravings, the spines dotted with tiny images. Lapis briefly considered looking for any books that matched his Cutie Mark, but didn’t see one in the first few seconds. Instead, he returned to scanning titles, sliding three volumes off the shelf and into his saddlebags with magic: The Horn is Quicker Than the Carriage: Transportation for the Time-Pressed Unicorn, Shape-Shifting and Other Ways of Escaping the Sordid, and a textbook-sized behemoth of yellowed parchment titled The Totaled Theories of Harmonick Resonance, and Their Applickation to Mending the Otherwise Irreparable.

Then, a golden glimmer at the corner of his eye caught his attention. He turned, and saw a decent-sized, red-and-gold volume tucked between two treatises on elemental spirits, pressed far enough back into the shelves that it was almost out of sight. Frowning, he pulled it forward with his magic, peering at the title.

“The Elements of Harmony: A Reference Guide,” he muttered. “Elements of Harmony… aren’t those the McGuffins, or holy relics, or ideals or something?”
He pulled the book over and flipped it open, quickly scanning through the pages. Yep, that’s what they are. Kindness, Laughter, Generosity, Honesty, and Loyalty… plus mystery element number six. Last known location… ancient castle of the royal pony sisters, in what is now the Everfree Forest.

“While their exact capabilities are unknown,” Lapis muttered, now reading aloud, “we know some of their power from the legends of their use by the Princesses Celestia and Luna. Among these, some of the most notable-”

A sharp coo from the window shattered Lapis’ concentration, and he glanced up to see Nikki pointing to the window.

Pinkie. Lapis looked around for a back door, but only spotted an open window - so, tucking the fourth book into his saddlebag, he jumped through with a grunt, Nikki following soon after.

A moment later, Pinkie burst through the door, carrying a massive basket full of rolled-up streamers and banners. “And not a moment to lose!” she chimed, setting down the basket and grinning, then scanning the shelves. “Ooh! Cozy!”
Pinkie grabbed a hank of pastel ribbons from the basket with her mouth, then zipped past the shelves towards a balcony, trailing confetti in her wake. A single, shining piece of crimson paper swung through the air, eventually settling on the shelf where moments before, the reference guide to the Elements had sat.

Not long after, Lapis had found himself a quiet, wooded spot not far from the edge of town, and he was taking the opportunity to skim the book on shape-shifting spells. So far, he wasn’t understanding a thing.

Lapis sighed, then shut the book and leaned back against the tree trunk, levitating a blueberry out of the small, woven basket at his side and over to Nikki, who was perched on a nearby branch. He’d been hoping to figure out a better way to disguise himself than hanging a badly-drawn mask off his horn, but that was turning out to be a longer-term project than expected. The author kept referencing things he didn’t understand, like “starswirls” and “channelling spirals” and “accordant conduciveness,” in ways that implied the reader already knew about them. Lapis felt like a kindergartener trying to read a doctoral thesis - confused, frustrated, and in need of a snack and a nap.

Absently, Lapis levitated the shape-shifting book back into his bags and took in his surroundings for a bit. Heh. Not too ugly, for a cartoon.
He and Nikki were in a lightly-wooded glade, nestled behind a small-but-substantial wall of thorny blackberry bushes. The thorns hadn’t been a joke, and Lapis had the hole in his saddlebag to prove it - but getting inside was well worth the effort. The sunlight slanted down through the branches in just the right way, casting dappled patches of gold-outlined shadow across the grassy floor of the glade. Peaceful and quiet, save for some…

…Oddly synchronized birdsong, now that Lapis bothered to stop and think about it. Lapis paused, cocking his ears, then sighed and turned to look in the direction of the noise.

Sure enough, there was an organized choir of birds sitting on a tree branch a few dozen yards down the road, singing a simple, regal fanfare in near-perfect harmony. Lapis stared at the birds for a few seconds, his head cocked to the side, then froze as he saw the conductor of the orchestra: a pale-yellow pegasus with a long, flowing pink mane and tail.

Flutterbye- no, wait, Fluttershy. Man, I really need to find somewhere besides my house to actually read in peace. Lapis grimaced, looking back at the glade. I’d hoped this was it… Dammit.

“C’mon, Nikki,” he muttered. “We gotta go… Nikki? Nikki!”

Over on the branch, Nikki jerked awake with a questioning coo.

“Twilight’s about to show up… I think,” Lapis said. “Sorry to wake you up, but I gotta go. You can stay here, if you want - shouldn’t be doing anything too exciting, I’m just heading to my house until-”

Nikki rolled her eyes, yawned, then flapped over and landed on Lapis’ head.

“…Or you’re still coming with,” Lapis muttered. “Alright. Let’s-”


Lapis flinched, and Fluttershy squeaked in surprise from down the road.

“Oh my.” Lapis looked over to see Twilight addressing the pegasus. “I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean to frighten your birds. I’m just here to check up on the music, and it’s sounding beautiful…”

Man, she moves quietly when you’re not expecting her. Do either of them see me? …Nope, they don’t see me. Let’s get outta here, quick. Lapis glanced around, then squeezed past the thorn bushes and onto the main road, heading back toward Ponyville at as quick of a trot as would seem casual.

Not long after, Lapis had arrived at his place of residence in the village. It was a low, smallish wooden building that looked like a storefront. The outer walls were painted a warm, cozy hue of reddish-brown, and the roof was probably the only metal roof in the village (treated copper, painted over to look like ceramic shingles… for some reason.) To the right of the door, a broad, protruding series of square, yellowed glass panels created a large, curving window that reminded Lapis of a sixties diner - meanwhile, to the left of the door was a corkboard with three wooden buckets underneath.

Lapis wasted no time pushing open the door and hurrying inside, into the store proper. Warm sunlight poured in through the giant window, flecks of dust glinting like gold as they swirled through the air. Lapis’ hoofsteps echoed through the building as he turned to shut and lock the door, Nikki’s wingbeats no less jarring as she landed on the counter to the left.

Lapis looked around the room, taking in the single table and set of two chairs sitting beside the window. He’d only moved in three days ago, and taken the job of repair-pony on from the mayor the same day.

The show’s only just now starting… Dammit! Lapis sighed, his conversation with the mayor on that day echoing in his ears.

“…While it has been pretty quiet for the past five years, for the five years before that… well, there were six events that are now in history books, and all of them started or ended here.”

“All of them?” Lapis asked, trying to appear surprised.

Mayor Mare nodded, her expression weary. “Yes, all of them. I know the official story behind the Bullbear migration is that it started near Manehattan, but if you ask anypony in town, they’ll tell you that the Bullbears walked out of the Everfree first.”

Lapis nodded again, trying to appear as if he knew what those words meant. His nervousness must’ve passed for astonishment, because the mayor carried on.

“Anyway, if I said that the… strangeness… is the only reason that this town’s had trouble keeping a repair pony, I’d be lying. But it wouldn’t be a very big lie, and claiming that Ponyville’s been ‘pretty quiet’ for the last five years is only true by Ponyville standards. So, what I’m trying to say is… this job is not an easy one. It was very hard to keep up with the number of orders, even for seasoned repair-ponies with the best equipment they could get their hooves on.”

Mayor Mare sighed. “…And that’s really all that I’d say about it, if I weren’t in such a desperate situation. Right now, if some part of a pony’s house breaks, they have to either repair it themselves, or buy parts from out of town. And, well, to make a long story short, that means there are a lot more bits headed out of Ponyville than in.”

“Whoa-whoa-whoa, hold up,” Lapis said, cocking an eyebrow. “Are you telling me that your entire village’s economy is in decline because you’re missing ONE repair-pony?”

“Shh!” Mayor Mare had suddenly pressed her hoof against Lapis’ muzzle, almost faster than he’d registered her movement. She glanced around almost frantically, her ears tucked back against her head, then returned her gaze to his. “Not in decline, no. Just headed towards a temporary little recession.”

“Right,” Lapis said, pulling her hoof down. “I think I’ve got that.”

“And again, it’s really because we’re missing any repair-ponies, not just because we’re missing one,” Mayor Mare finished. She sighed again. “But yes, you seem to have the gist of it.

“So.” The mayor took a deep breath, suddenly all business. “With that in mind, my original offer still stands - and on top of that, I would be willing to rewrite a few bits of paperwork, which means that the cost of those monthly payments would be after taxes, instead of before them. Your job would mean that, on paper, you’d be an employee of the Town Hall, which would net you complimentary invitations to local events… that is, should you feel inclined to attend. And finally, if you accept, I’d be able to provide you with a five-hundred-bit bonus, to help you get your hooves on the ground. It would be… less than I feel you need, let alone what I feel you should have, but I’m afraid it’s the best I have to offer…”

Lapis shook his own head, dislodging himself from his memories, then sat at the table and took out the reference guide to the Elements, looking over the opening section as best as he could.

He’d taken the Mayor’s offer, of course. Based on her mentions of how “relatively quiet” Ponyville had been in the last five years, Lapis had assumed he’d arrived after the show’s protagonists had started solving local problems on a regular basis. He’d assumed that he’d have an easy job, he'd assumed that he wouldn’t get stuck cleaning up too many of the gang’s messes.

There was a saying about making assumptions, and Lapis wasn’t going to say it out loud - he had a sneaking suspicion that it might contain a racial slur, here.

I’ve gotten myself stuck fixing everything those six ponies break, Lapis thought, his eyes widening at the realization. I am going to die from overwork.
Focus. One problem at a time. For now… the Princess’ evil sister is coming back down from the moon tonight, and Twilight and the rest end up… turning her good with the Elements, I think. So, what does that mean for your average citizen of Ponyville?

“It means a few extra hours of night, then business as usual,” Lapis muttered. Nikki glanced over at him, and he waved a hoof. “Don’t worry about it. Thinking out loud.” Should probably stop doing that.

Lapis glanced out the window, stifling a yawn with one hoof. The sun was only just setting - he had time before the Mare in the Moon happened. A lot of time, actually. But he probably should try to stay awake. Tonight was important.

For the average citizen of Ponyville… a few extra hours of night, and then business as usual. But those few extra hours are going to be pretty terrifying. Lapis shivered, then stifled another, larger yawn. Wow. Really terrifying, actually. I can’t even imagine what’d it be like, not knowing when the sun’s going to come up. I mean, I know everything’s fine, but… the rest of town, not so much.

…Eh. They’ll be… fine…

Reading further into the Reference Guide, Lapis began to lose his train of thought, diverted instead to making a mental list of the Elements’ capabilities. And, according to legend, there were a lot of them - the two biggest ones seemed to be petrification, as in turning some kind of goat-thing into a statue, and banishment, as in sending-the-Princess’-evil-sister-to-the-moon. But there were also a lot of less-certain things about the Elements, and Lapis found that it was growing harder for him to focus on those as he read on. Possible origins, secondary abilities, effects on… Changelings, supposedly-resistant… forces…

Somewhere outside, a heavy oaken door came shut with a thunk, and Lapis yelped as he jerked awake, the book falling off his face and onto the ground. From a corner of the table, Nikki trilled as her own eyes snapped open.

“What the…” Lapis muttered, looking outside. It was late evening… really late evening, and there was a sparse crowd of ponies headed toward the Town Hall. Lapis frowned, confused, then facehoofed as he realized that he’d almost slept through the Summer Sun Celebration.

“Sorry for waking you up, Nikki,” Lapis muttered, rubbing his eyes, picking up the book and tucking it back into his saddlebag. “I don’t think I can miss this one. Try and get some sleep, I should be back pretty soon.”

Nikki yawned, then shut her eyes and dozed off at once. Lapis, meanwhile, headed to the door, slung his saddlebags over his back, and set his jaw.

Let’s get this over with, he thought. Then, he opened the door, marched through, and set off towards the Town Hall, allowing it to swing shut behind him.

As Lapis walked into Town Hall, he kept his head down - partially to avoid attracting attention, and partially because his nose was buried inside of The Reference Guide again. He wasn’t really reading so much as skimming, looking for anything that vaguely resembled a blast radius - so far, the Elements of Harmony seemed precise for magical superweapons, but Lapis still wanted to be ready. Just in case there was some mess that needed fixing.

He shut the book once he was a few steps inside, tucking it back into his saddlebag and looking for someplace to stand that wasn’t too isolated. Unfortunately, Town Hall was mostly open space - there were some balconies here and there, supported by Roman-looking pillars and hung with banners and curtains, but taking shelter behind one of those would definitely be a little odd.

The goal here, Lapis thought, is to not get the attention of… Nightmare Moon, I think? Someone hiding behind a pillar or curtain before she even shows up would be really suspicious, if she noticed me… but once she does show up, what’s one more frightened face in the crowd?

The plan was simple, then - all Lapis had to do was be one more member of the audience, and everything would be fine. He set off for an open spot on the floor, taking a seat among some other citizens, glancing around for any sign of Pinkie, then whipping out the Reference Guide and starting to read.

…Moving past the realm of recorded stories and into the murky muddle of pure speculation, we must wonder what other uses, besides the protection of Equestria, such a powerful set of magical foci as the Elements could provide. If their use could send a mare to the moon, then who’s to say that they could not send other ponies to less permanent destinations? Bring their Bearer to the sites of trouble in a ray of rainbow light…

Interesting, Lapis thought. Doesn’t sound like the Elements are to blame for my arrival here, though. Still, magical foci are potentially capable of transportation-

A fanfare of birdsong began to trill through the air, and Lapis snapped the book shut, tucking it into his saddlebags and training his gaze on the center stage, the murmuring of the ponies around him fading into a hush. Spotlights came down from the banner-strung ceiling above, training on the center stage. There, Mayor Mare stood, her cyan ascot as puffy as ever below her white shirt-collar.

…Why does she even wear those, anyway? Just to look fancy? Why not wear a whole shirt, then, instead of just the collar? Who even makes just a shirt collar?

“Fillies and gentlecolts,” Mayor Mare began. “As mayor of Ponyville, it is my great pleasure…”

Lapis tuned out the Mayor’s speech, looking around the room one last time. It seemed like every face in the hall was happy at the moment, either smiling in excitement or wide-eyed in anticipation, cheering as the Mayor announced the speech.

There was only one exception. Half a dozen yards to Lapis’ left was a purple unicorn staring up at a window. She seemed to spot something and flinched away, her ears tucking back as she looked at the stage, and Lapis’ eyes widened as he recognized two things at once:

One, the purple unicorn was Twilight.

Two, she was terrified.

And for half a second, Lapis’ mouth opened to say something, to reassure her, to say that everything would be fine. And then he remembered that saying so might change the fact. He turned away, grimacing, flicking his own ears upright atop his head, and glared at the stage. Alright, Princess Edgy. Just get this over with. Don’t make these ponies worry for longer than they need to.

“…The bringer of harmony to all of Equestria… Princess Celestia!” Mayor Mare announced. The spotlights shifted to a balcony above the stage, the birds sang their fanfare, and a white unicorn pulled a rope to open the curtains, revealing… an empty platform.

“This can’t be good,” Lapis heard Twilight say. He said nothing, staring up at the balcony and tuning out the chatter. Any second now. Come on.

A tendril of sparkling indigo smoke wafted through a window, toward the balcony. It was followed by another, and another, more washing through the windows, their shape shifting like the Northern Lights. They coalesced on the balcony, concentrating into a churning, swirling mass - until suddenly, they parted, and Lapis was shocked to feel a jolt of fear run through him.

Just before he’d… arrived in Equestria, Lapis had discovered a genre of Internet videos called analog horror. A big part of the better videos were pictures of things that looked mostly-human, but were just warped enough to fall into the uncanny valley. The resulting photos showed people that seemed normal, if distorted, but some ancient part of the human psyche took one glance and flagged it as a threat - as something that looked human, but absolutely wasn’t.

The silver-armored, ink-black thing on the balcony looked like a pony. But it wasn’t one. Its legs and horn were too long and thin, its ears and wings ended in points that were too sharp, and its eyes were narrow, utterly black slits inside of shimmering teal irises. In place of a mane and tail, it had that shifting, churning indigo smoke, that twinkled with faint light like dying stars.

“Nightmare Moon!” Twilight murmured, and Spike fainted off her back, flopping to the ground with a thud. Lapis shivered, then forced down his fear. It’s just a cartoon, dumbass! Get a grip! Come on!

“Oh, my beloved subjects!” Nightmare Moon crooned, casting her gaze over the crowd before her, letting her voice echo in the stunned silence. Lapis suppressed another shiver as that slit-pupiled gaze passed over him, but she didn’t so much as hesitate at the sight of him. “It’s been so long since I’ve seen your precious little sun-loving faces.”

“What did you do with our Princess?!” a scratchy voice called, and Rainbow Dash popped out of the crowd, hovering a few yards above ground level and meeting the monster’s gaze with a glare. She tried to take off towards Nightmare Moon, but an orange Earth-pony in a Stetson held her back by her tail.

Nightmare Moon only laughed, a cold, brittle noise that sent a familiar twist of emotions through Lapis’ gut. “Why, am I not royal enough for you? Don’t you know who I am?”

“Ooh! Ooh!” Pinkie Pie began, but she didn’t ramble for long before the same orange pony shoved a cupcake in her face. Whoever that is, Lapis thought, they’re alright.

“Does my crown no longer count, now that I have been imprisoned for a thousand years?” Nightmare Moon asked, her face twisting in anger, her wings lifting her from the ground with slow, snapping beats. “Did you not recall the legend? Did you not see the signs?”

“I did! And I know who you are!”

It was Twilight, and the crowd of ponies around her took several steps away from her as she spoke, glancing nervously between the mare and the monster as if expecting a duel to erupt at any moment.

“You’re the Mare in the Moon,” she said. “Nightmare Moon.”

The monster smiled into the gasps that followed, her eyes gleaming. “Well well well. Somepony who remembers me. Then, you also know why I’m here.”

“You’re here to… to…” Twilight began, her voice faltering as she looked around her, seeing the ponies’ faces turning to her, waiting for something, anything, that might tell them how unsafe they were. And again, the monster laughed.

“Remember this day, little ponies, for it was your last. From this moment forth…” Nightmare Moon spread her wings wide, her lips splitting to show too many narrow, pointed teeth as her mane and tail grew into a swirling, thundering vortex above. “The night will last forever!”

Gasps and screams filled the air, and above it all, Nightmare Moon’s laughter continued to ring out, cold and clear and sharp as black ice. Lapis stood stock-still, paralyzed, his gut twisting with emotion more strongly than ever before. Fear, and anger, and…

“Seize her!” Mayor Mare boomed, pointing her hoof. “Only she knows where the princess is!”

Three guards took to the air. Nightmare Moon’s head snapped to face them with uncanny speed, her eyes flaring white as she reared up, and Lapis’ fur stood on end just as he recognized the smell of ozone. The guards had no time to react, bolts of lightning sending them spinning back to earth with sharp cracks. The monster didn’t hesitate, her mane and tail pulling around herself like a shield, and then rushing toward the doors, sending ponies screaming and jumping out of the way, Lapis crouching down as he prepared to-

And then the smoke cleared, and Nightmare Moon was gone, and… shockingly, no ponies seemed hurt. Rainbow escaped her restrainer a moment later, zipping out the door in a prismatic blur and out of sight. Twilight was the next pony through the doors, taking off at a gallop toward the edge of town, Spike slung over her back.

…That was… unsettling. Lapis took a slow, shaking breath, letting the tension leave his limbs as the rest of the building’s occupants realized that nobody seemed hurt, save for the guards - who had only just gotten up, and were wincing as they touched the scorch marks on their coats. Lapis sat down with a thump, shutting his eyes against his fatigue, trying to clear his mind and think. What happens next? Come on! No time to waste! What happens?!

Rainbow chased Nightmare Moon for a bit, but there’s no way she caught her. Pinkie, Fluttershy, and… uh, the other two, I don’t know. But I saw Twilight heading for the edge of town, to go… where?

“Hey! Equestria to Lapis!”

A hoof came down on Lapis’ shoulder, and he spun to face its owner, his eyes snapping open. Bon Bon was standing there, her hoof halfway off the ground, her glare melting into a look of surprise.

“Sorry,” Lapis muttered, shoving his panic back down. “What is it, what’s the matter?”

“Besides the obvious, you mean? You are,” Bon Bon said, putting her hoof back down. “Are you doing alright? As soon as…”

“I’m fine,” Lapis said, then rolled his eyes as he flicked his ears back upright. “Well, as fine as any of us can be, anyway. Just trying to figure out what happens next.”

“Who knows,” Bon Bon muttered.

I do… wait, I do! The library! Lapis realized. Twilight was headed to the library, to look up information on the Elements of Harmony! Then she and her friends head out for the forest, and go through some trials or whatever, and then… they beat her, somehow. With the Elements. What do those do, again?

Mayor Mare was talking as Lapis reached into his saddlebag and pulled out the Reference Guide, but right then it was just background noise. He started flicking through the book to the Recorded Uses section, then slowed down as a set of words caught his eye. There are six Elements of Harmony, but only five are known…

“Wait a second,” Lapis muttered, as an all-too-familiar tingle settled into the pit of his stomach. “I’m forgetting something.”

“Like what?” Bon Bon said, cocking an eyebrow at him.

“Like something about this book,” Lapis muttered. “It’s about the Elements of Harmony, and-” His eyes shot wide open, and his gut lurched. “…I’ll be right back.”

“Wait, what?” Bon Bon said, but Lapis had already stood up and taken off for the door at a gallop. “Hey! Come back here!”

“Shit, shit, shit!” Lapis hissed, as the library came into view ahead of him. “I’m a fucking idiot!”

Twilight was in that library, right now, looking for information on the Elements of Harmony. A reference guide, to be exact. But that reference guide wasn’t in the library - it was in Lapis’ saddlebags, because he just had to go and stick his nose in the stupid fucking MacGuffin book!

The library was within a few dozen feet now, and Lapis slowed down, gasping and puffing for breath. There was a small crowd of ponies advancing on the library, too, and Lapis identified one of them as Pinkie by her bouncing gait. Well, there goes sneaking into the building. Plan B it is.
Grimacing, Lapis made his way around and out of sight to the window he’d jumped through previously, opening it just in time to hear a door closing.

Lapis took a moment to steady his breathing. Okay. This’ll be tricky, but I’ve got it. Get this book in front of Twilight, or else Equestria is doomed. Do it without being spotted, or else I’m doomed. I was fast enough getting here, she might not have even noticed the book is missing. It’s pretty quiet in there right now, so I should be able to-

A crash jolted him free from his thoughts, quickly followed by the sound of multiple books hitting the floor. Lapis winced, then hazarded a peek through the window.

Twilight was inside, frantically pulling books off the shelves and throwing them to the ground as soon as she’d glanced at them. “Elements, elements, elements…” she was muttering. “How can I stop Nightmare Moon without the Elements of Harmony?!”

Lapis winced. Well, so much for getting it done before she notices.

“And just what are the Elements of Harmony?!” Rainbow Dash’s voice snapped, and suddenly she was there, nose-to-nose with a startled Twilight. “And how did you know about Nightmare Moon, huh?” Rainbow’s eyes widened with fury. “Are you a spy?!


Someone inside seemed to share Lapis’ complaint, because Rainbow was suddenly yanked away from the innocent unicorn. Lapis leaned just a little further, and grinned as he saw the same Stetson-wearing Earth-pony from the town hall - orange coat, golden-yellow mane and tail, green eyes. Not far behind her were Pinkie, Fluttershy, and the white-coated unicorn who’d pulled open the curtain.

“Simmer down, Sally. She ain’t no spy,” the Earth-pony said. Then, she turned and took a few, careful steps toward Twilight. “But she sure knows what’s going on. Don’t you, Twilight?”

The other ponies all crowded forward to listen, Twilight shut her eyes and sighed, and Lapis saw his opportunity. Slowly, carefully, he levitated the book through the window and onto the nearest bookshelf, then ducked back into cover and let out a relieved sigh as Twilight began speaking. Orange, whatever your real name is, you’re a godsend. Now all I need to do is make sure they find the book…

“…But I don’t know what they are, where to find them,” Twilight was saying. “I don’t even know what they do!

The Elements of Harmony: A Reference Guide!” Pinkie’s voice chirped, and Lapis froze as he realized that she was right next to the window.

A moment later, Twilight spoke again. “How did you find that?!”

Don’t be suspicious. Don’t be suspicious. Don’t be suspicious…

“It was under E-e!” Pinkie sang.

“…Oh,” Twilight muttered, and a moment later, the sound of turning pages filled the room. “There are six Elements of Harmony…

Lapis slumped to the ground in relief, and stayed there for a few seconds. I did it… I did it. Town’s saved. …Well, not yet, but it will be.

Shaking, Lapis got up and headed back for Town Hall at a slow walk, failing to notice the patch of sparkling smoke that took his place at the window a few moments later. I need a nap, he thought.

The sound of Nightmare Moon’s chilling laughter echoed in his ears, and for a second, he remembered sitting behind a two-foot-wide slit of a window in a yellow-painted room the size of a closet, the feathery snow outside coming down thick enough to white out everything beyond arm’s length.
Lapis shivered as the knot of emotion in his gut twisted again. Or a drink. Maybe both.

He didn’t notice the sparkling indigo smoke that had been lingering in his shadow, didn’t see it stop in place after he thought of that laughter. The smoke stayed there for only a few seconds, then took off for the Everfree Forest.

Not until the sound of a door opening echoed down the street did Lapis hazard a glance back, just in time to see all six of the ponies trotting out of the library, toward the dark patch on the horizon that Lapis knew to be the Everfree Forest.
Good, they’re getting started, he thought. He turned to leave, but stopped, looking back. …Without saying anything to anyone about where they’re going? Just… leaving the entire town to worry about what’s going on?

Lapis sighed, then turned himself back toward the center of town and started walking. Heroes gotta hero, I guess. It’s not my problem, I’ve just got to wait-


“Gah!” Lapis yelped, spinning to face the speaker. “F- Bon Bon, you about gave me a heart attack just then! Don’t sneak up on ponies that way-”

“Oh, she about gave you a heart attack?” Lyra said, trotting into view from behind a scowling Bon Bon. “Lapis, the way you galloped off, we thought your house had caught fire or something! What was that about?!”

Lapis groaned. Alright, time to bullshit. “It was about Twilight Sparkle, the Princess’… emissary, envoy, student, whatever. The purple unicorn, the one who knew who Nightmare Moon was. I…” He paused, taking a second to come up with a plausible explanation. “I saw her heading out, and I thought she might be able to do something about getting the Princess back. I was able to catch her and some other ponies - Rainbow Dash, Pinkie Pie, Fluttershy, and two others I didn’t know, heading into the Everfree.”

Lyra gasped, and Bon Bon huffed and rolled her eyes. “Great. Now, on top of everything else, the Mayor needs to organize a search party, too. Describe the other two?”

Lapis blinked. Let’s maybe not get a search party, that might throw off the script… “Uh, an orange Earth-pony with a brown hat, and a white unicorn with a purple mane.”

“Applejack and Rarity,” Bon Bon muttered, her eyes narrowing. She sighed. “Well, if Applejack’s there, then they’ve got a good reason to go. She’s the orange pony,” Bon Bon added. “Part of the Apple family, has a few bits more common sense than the other ponies in the envoy’s… expedition.”

“Wait, why are they going into the Everfree at all?” Lyra asked, her ears tucked back as she stared at the forest. “Won’t all the extra night just make it even more dangerous in there?”

Lapis hesitated, watching Lyra’s knees start to quiver. She’s… terrified. They both are - hell, the whole village probably is. I would be, too.

…You know what? Fuck it.

“They were talking about some magical artifacts hidden in there,” Lapis said, and at once, Lyra and Bon Bon perked up. “The Elements of Harmony. Apparently, they might be able to stop Nightmare Moon.”

“Are you sure?” Bon Bon asked, leaning forward.

“Positive,” Lapis replied. “Twilight definitely seemed to know her magic, and she is the princess’ student. If anyone in this village knows what to do about Nightmare, it’s her.”

Bon Bon nodded slowly, and a cautious, hesitant smile crept across Lyra’s face. “So… that means we only need to hold out until they defeat Nightmare Moon?”

“If they can…” Lapis said. “…Yes.”

Lyra’s smile widened, and even Bon Bon exhaled a sigh of relief. Lapis watched, and felt half a smile creep onto his own face.

Lapis knew he shouldn’t have gotten involved. He knew that he didn’t have to do anything at all, and that everything would still turn out alright, because that was just the kind of show this was. He knew that every pony he interacted with, every pony that he made a good impression on, would be one more potential interruption on the path to getting back to Earth.
But maybe, as long as it wasn’t Twilight and her friends… maybe it was alright to make an exception. Lyra and Bon Bon had cared enough about his welfare to chase after him, it was the least he could do to help them keep calm.
Maybe, just maybe, it was okay to care about the ponies around him.

Author's Note:

Hey, everypony, and welcome to the fic! I'm a bit late to the party, I know, but better late than never, right?

So, basically we're looking at what it says on the box. One more Ponified Human in Equestria fic for the pile, except the human isn't allowed to interact with the Mane 6. I've done some plotting ahead, so I'll probably be writing this at least until Lapis is done settling in. After that, I'll keep going until I get bored of it, which sadly may not mean "until it's done." So... care about this story at your own risk, I guess?

Oh, I should mention, I am working with some ground rules here, so that I don't end up writing The 10,000th Power Fantasy Isekai Harem Anime: Equestria Edition. These are listed below, so read them if you care, head to the next chapter if you don't!

The We-Shalt-Nots
- Alicorn-ify the MC. Let's be real, here - he'd magic himself home as a human, with a great big pile of gold, and then spend the rest of his life trying to forget that one time he was a god. Which, don't get me wrong, would make for a fun short story, but would also make for a terrible conclusion.
- Build a harem around the MC. That's... kind of a lot of mane-care products to keep in one shower, and a lot of ways to split your attention away from earning enough money to successfully pay off your student loans.
- Write Edginess. I'm definitely biased about what counts as "edginess," but I'll do my best, which means no torture/self-harm/slow and gruesome character deaths. Also, I'm not going to just throw in a serial killer or a Sith Lord for funsies, and the only pony who's allowed to say stuff like "I am the shadow that stalks in the night" is Luna.
(She is required to say it with her most prim and proper voice, and to be confused when the ponies around her start giggling.)
- Write Gary-Stuage. Pronounce that word so that it rhymes with "sewage." Again, I'm probably biased, I'll do my best. He's not going to be the "All Good Characters Like Me, All Bad Characters Hate But Secretly Like Me" guy, he's going to be either "the repair guy who keeps showing up in weird places" or "uh, who?"