• Published 28th Jun 2012
  • 17,954 Views, 1,427 Comments

A New Hero - Alex The Lone Wolf

What if there was another pony who joined the pony gang? (Look at longer description...)

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Leap of Faith

Episode 85 – Leap of Faith

I was walking alone in the Everfree Forest, preferably heading towards the Castle of the Two Sisters. For some reason, I didn't find it odd. In fact, I was merely observing the twisted trees around me. I seemed to not even mind the possible dangers lurking around the forest.

Everything seemed to be going well until something stopped me. My hooves ceased to walk when I noticed this familiar figure a few steps away from me. Normally, I seemed to react hostilely after I realized it was the thief that had been able to escape from me twice now.

As he stared with an unclear but dark expression, I furrowed my eyebrows to yell at him.

"Hey!" I pointed out my hoof towards him. "I'm not finished with you until I get that hoodie back!"

As a reaction, he pointed past me, as if he was trying to warn me of something. I was puzzled at first, but as soon as I cautiously looked behind me while trying not to lower my guard, I noticed those creepy plant things that attacked Twilight when the Tree of Harmony was under attack. It tried to bite at me, but I quickly jumped back and shot at it with my magic. However, there were many more beginning to surround us.

As I was too busy fighting these things off as much as I could, it took me a while before I actually noticed the thief fighting alongside me. Not only was this odd, but the thief was using a different kind of magic now! Every time I had a few seconds to breathe, I was able to notice that the thief was using some kind of…light magic, literally. What baffled me was it was the kind of power that was completely opposite of what he was using before when I was stuck in Fillydelphia. He was good at it too. Wait a minute…is this magic? Or…is it light...just like the light that comes from within me?

As many questions as I had, I couldn't think about it as I had to worry about the rising threats around the both of us. At some times, the thief would use some kind of light rays that would attack multiple targets, saving me from attacking myself. I found it even weirder how I wasn't able to use my light as easily as he did. In fact, my light only really came in dire situations, and this guy was using it like nothing! If it wasn't for the bad history we already had, I would have said we were pretty good working together back-to-back style.

We finished off what was left when it died down. Breathing in a bit heavily to catch my breath, I turned my head back to face the thief in confusion, feeling my guard lower for some reason. I knew it totally wasn't safe…but I kind of…allowed myself to relax a bit after seeing him help me out. I would have thought he'd just team up with those creatures and finish me…but he didn't.

We both stared at each other for a moment, but the experience wasn't as hostile or aggressive as before. Actually, one thing I noticed was that he didn't seem to try to be mocking me at all. Other than that, the time allowed me to notice a few things I didn't notice before the ambush.

For some weird reason, he wore black coverings on his legs, which didn't seem to do much but make them darker. His legs were already pretty dark if I remembered correctly. However, when I looked into this a little more, I noticed that this same covering was on the whole body as well. It looked like the coat-tight hoodie Twilight had us wear when she was freaking out about time, but it was worn under the stolen hoodie. It wasn't just that, his muzzle was covered up as well, and his tail seemed to be wrapped and covered too.

What was he trying to do?

The thief seemed to jump a little, possibly seeing that I was analyzing his outfit. The jump seemed to come from surprise actually. Before I could look and think any further, he turned and ran away. I tried to run after him, but he disappeared from sight…again.

I finally returned to the real world when I opened my eyes and stood up from bed. I held a hoof to my head and felt almost drained, even though I had just woken from slumber. There was a kind of sinking feeling inside me, and it wasn't exactly the greatest way to start the day. I was able to recall my dream enough to know that I had encountered the thief again in a weird way. However, this recent dream must have been an actual made-up dream because I knew the thief didn't act the same way the one did a moment ago.

There was a knock downstairs, to which I descended to the first floor to answer. Applejack was standing outside, looking to the side towards her tree. When she realized I was in front of her, she turned back to me and chuckled lightly. "Howdy."

"Hey…" I responded, feeling she was up to something different.

"Feel like swimmin'?" She asked unexpectedly.

My answer didn't rely on the swimming part. Instead, I was more inclined to the thought of spending some time with her, seeing as I hadn't truly in a long while. "Yeah, sure." I answered with my widened eyes, still surprised by her sudden question.

"Well, come on then." She gestured her head to her side. I glanced back inside my house, but then walked out and closed the door behind me. Applejack waited as I caught up by her side to begin walking. "How've you been?" She inquired.

"Okay, I guess…" I returned, feeling influenced by the weird dream I had today.

"Just okay?" She turned her head towards me with a light smirk.

"I had a weird dream. A lot of weird stuff has been happening to me lately." I specified.

"Really? Like what?" Applejack yearned.

"It's…things you wouldn't really understand. Even I don't understand them." I admitted.

"Ah… Dreams can be weird." Applejack contributed. "A lot of the times, I think I have dreams I kind of wish were true instead of them being weird."

"Oh…" I expressed. "You mind if I ask what exactly?"

"Let's just say, seeing some important ponies." She cut short.

"Hm." I didn't really know what to say to that, so I decided to return back to our walking. "Where are we going?"

"Swimmin' hole." She responded.

"Swimming hole?" I repeated in question.

"It's like a pool…but hoof-made." She described. "Well…sometimes it's not hoof-made…but you get the idea."

"Oh." I tried to recall any experiences of actually swimming before. "I don't know if I've even swam before."

"It's real fun." She assured. "Especially on a warm sunny day like this. The water is so refreshin'."

"Oh, good. I'll get to see you in a swimsuit then." I light-heartedly joked.

"I thought you said you never went swimmin' before?" Applejack turned her head to me with raised eyebrow and suspicious eyes.

"I never said I didn't see other ponies go swimming." I replied truthfully.

Applejack chuckled and formed a smile. "I'm sure as heck you'd like to somepony else in a swimsuit." She referred to somepony specific. I already knew who she was talking about. However, she continued talking before I could fish out a proper reaction. "Anyway, I don't wear one. It's not like you need one anyway."

"Are you good at it?" I asked.

"Swimming? Yeah, I suppose so." She returned. "You just gotta be calm about it."

"Uh-huh… Well, I guess we'll see how I handle it." I focused back on the road until Applejack let me know she wasn't finished conversing yet.

"Hey, uh, there's been something on my mind for a while now." She mentioned.

"What's that?" I replied.

"Well…I kind of noticed…out of our other friends…we're the only ones who have actually really…argued a bit with each other." She stated.

"What do you mean?" I requested, feeling a little concerned.

"I believe we've said a few things to each other that weren't exactly nice…" She added.

I think I knew what she was talking about. As far as I could remember, we did have a few times where tension was a little high. "Uh-huh…?"

"That's not necessarily bad, is it?" She questioned a little worriedly.

"We're still friends, aren't we?" I reminded. "Sometimes…nopony can help but get into an argument with another. Actually, arguments can even show how much you care for someone, in a good way."

"You sure about that?" Applejack seemed to doubt.

"What?" I wondered. "You care about me, don't you?"

"Yeah." She nodded. "I just mean…" She paused and sighed shortly. "Never mind. I guess you're right. As long as we're still friends, right?"

"Of course. After all, you're not the only one." I remembered. "Rainbow and I have heaps of…heated talk…but I know she still loves me." I kind of said that in a joking way, knowing Rainbow wouldn't really associate love in a sentence in such a way, due to her tough ego.

Applejack chuckled at that as we made our way to the swimming hole.

"And…here we are!" Applejack presented as it was revealed to us. There was this pond-looking area, which probably was a lot deeper than I thought it was. Already inside was Big Macintosh and Applebloom. Staying on the sidelines outside of the hole was Granny Smith. She was casually resting on a lawn chair. Applejack furrowed her eyebrows in a competitive spirit. "Comin' through!" She yelled out to the others and galloped towards the swimming hole. Then, she ended with a mighty jump and crashed through the water, sending waves at a certain radius outside the hole that even wet me a bit. When she resurfaced, she shared a laugh with the others inside.

I looked at the pool and began feeling queasy for some reason. The sight of it made me feel uncomfortable, and even my legs began feel a little limp. I didn't really have any interest of going inside, so I stayed out of the water as well as Applejack continued to have a blast with her relatives.

To kind of prevent any awkwardness of me just sitting there and either staring or looking around with no clue on what to do, I walked over to the swing around where Granny Smith was sleeping in her chair and sat on it. I looked at the ground for a moment and didn't really feel the urge to actually swing. I just continued sitting there while motioning ever so lightly.

"Just one more time? Please?" I heard Applebloom beg and lifted my head in curiosity.

"Alright, but this is the last one." Applejack responded.

Applebloom grinned widely and began running towards the hole. "Woo-hoo-hoo-hoo-hoo!" She hopped onto a rock and then onto Big Macintosh. He pushed her up onto the air, leading her to flip several times until she landed on Applejack's back legs. From there, she was thrown onto the air again to dive back into the water. "Woooo!"

This splash threw water out to both Granny Smith and me, but it was mostly Granny Smith that took the hit. She sputtered out in surprise as she awoke from her nap. "Who done that?!" She asked frantically after coughing and spitting a bit.

"Sure wish you'd come swim with us, Granny." Applebloom wished.

"Uh, sorry, dear. I just can't bring myself anywhere near that there swimmin' hole." Granny Smith pointed out, as if she had a grudge against the thing.

"How come?" Applebloom wondered.

"Well, I wasn't always this way..." Granny Smith responded, readying herself for another story from the past. "Time was, I was an aquapony all-star! In fact, I was the only Apple to ever come close to breaking the Equestria high-diving record! Falling six stories into a deep dish pie pan takes a toll on the hindquarters. Oh, I was so sore, took years before I could even look at the water again! Just the idea of swimmin' makes my whole body ache!" She creakily pushed herself off her chair. "Besides, these old legs can't even paddle fast enough to stay afloat." She walked towards the water, but then suddenly almost slipped when coming across a small puddle. However, she managed to worriedly balance herself out.

"Boy, I sure would hate to be afraid of swimmin'." Applebloom expressed with great disbelief and fear. "You think I'll ever be scared of the water?" She asked Applejack.

As soon as she said that, this shark fin appeared in front of them, sending Applebloom running out of the water. Big Macintosh then popped out, revealing that he had been wearing one of those unnecessary shock hats for scaring people in the water. "Nope."

Both he and Applejack laughed, all while I keep watching silently. My silence must have caught Applejack's attention though because she turned to look for me until she spotted me at the swing. "Alex? Whatcha doin' over there? Don't tell me you're afraid of swimmin' too!"

"I don't know." I shared. "I don't really feel like getting in now…"

"Why not?" Applejack began making her way out. "The water's great! You'd have to be sick to miss out on it!" My lips only pushed towards the left side of my face, showing my uncertainty. I just couldn't feel confident about going in, which was a weird thing. It wasn't like I've been in there before and experienced a bad time. "If you're a little scared, that's okay." Applejack assured while still staying in her friendly playful mood. "You can hold on to me, if you want. After all, Big Macintosh has his little duck thing. Applebloom has her floaties. You don't need to be embarrassed about being scared." Applejack showed me the accessories her siblings wore, but it definitely didn't have anything to do with that.

"It's not really that…" I replied.

"Well, whatever it is, I'll be right next to ya." She mentioned honestly. "As long as I'm around, you don't need to be afraid of somethin' happening to ya here."

That was reassuring, but it still didn't help me much from going in. Weird, I know.

"Thanks…but…" I looked away, clueless of what to do.

"Why don't I get you up and runnin'?" She offered as she walked around behind me.

"What are you doing?" I asked before I was pushed.

Since I remained on the swing, Applejack was beginning to swing me, actually raising my fears if anything.

"This is going to be fun. Applebloom loves this trick!" She said as she continued pushing me to bring me higher.

"Applejack, I don't feel so good…" I felt so many uncomfortable tugs inside of me.

"Your call!" She did one last final push that didn't matter whether I gripped my hooves tightly on the sides of the swing. I was sent flying towards the swimming hole. I wasn't sure if it was nervousness or not, but at the moment, I didn't even think of flying to remove myself from that tense situation. Even if I tried, my wings were probably too locked up from the scary feelings inside.

"Nice one, Applejack!" Applebloom observed from the side with an astonished face.

Immediately, I was driven towards the water. From what I could see, the bottom of the hole wasn't too far in. Either way, I began panicking more than ever. I still didn't know what was wrong with me. It wasn't my first time in the water, but I still overreacted fearfully. I swung my forelegs around a bit, but before I could even try to get myself out, my body just shut off as if I knocked out.

I was coughing when I woke up. Included was the feeling of water being forced out of my mouth. It wasn't exactly a good feeling, but I was too out of it to care. When I was able to focus on what I saw, I noticed Applejack's worried face and the sky behind her.

"Sugarcube, are you alright?" She asked.

I groaned a bit and managed to rub my face with my hooves. "What just happened…?"

She sighed in both relief and worry. "So sorry." She apologized. "I wasn't expectin' for that to happen. It was my fault. I didn't know you absolutely couldn't swim."

"H-huh?" I slowly sat up and noticed the rest of her family looking our way a little further away. "What?" I was still confused.

"You almost drowned because of me." Applejack admitted.

"Drowned?" I continued to question.

"When I pushed you over to the swimmin' hole. We were all waitin' for you to come back up, but you never did, so I went in there after you. Afterwards, I had to get you up again with some CPR. Good thing I was here to because nopony else here knows squat about—"

"Hold on a second." I cut her off, clinging on to another idea that worried me. "You had to use CPR?"

"Yeah… Why?" She seemed to wonder why, out of everything else that happened, I focused on that.

"So…that means…you…" I began feeling worse than before. My heart sank as I feared the future.

"What? What's wrong?" She questioned.

"What's Fluttershy going to think?" I began fretting internally. "How's she going to react?"

"What in Equestria are you talkin' about?" Applejack couldn't understand my behavior.

"CPR includes mouth-to-mouth…so that means you…"

Judging from the way she positioned her eyebrows and eyes, she was unable to understand what I was trying to get across. However, after a moment, she managed to finally get the point. "Seriously?" She formed a near-laughing smile, which I couldn't get because of the current situation. "After everything that happened, that's what you're worried about?"

"I don't want to see Fluttershy cry again!" I shook my head, desperately wanting to avoid any re-experiences.

"Sugarcube, calm down. Everything's going to be fine." Applejack assured.

"But, what about Fluttershy?" I did not yet cease to worry.

"You really think she cares more about that over a life?" She answered my question with another.

As I heard that, the worry began to fade away, as it had made sense. "Well…no…" I thought more about it. "Of course not…"

Applejack continued to smile as she sat next to me. "I didn't think you'd react so sensitively."

"Sorry…" I apologized for overreacting. "It's just…ever since that uh… 'incident'… It really got me worrying about another accident like that happening again." Even though I was vague about the event, it was pretty clear after putting two and two together.

Applejack chuckled lightly. "I understand. Even then, that was an accident. This was to save a life. Imagine if I was to be 'You know what? Fluttershy might get upset, so I better go get her instead.' You probably wouldn't be here speakin' if I did."

"Yeah, yeah…" I agreed, seeing her point. "You're right."

I guess I was the one at fault when everyone packed up and left the swimming hole. It was understandable. After all, how could anypony else find the mood again to swim after seeing somepony else almost lose their life? I, for one, am not sure I even want to try swimming again. Thinking this, I inevitably formed a small frown as we walked away from the area where the swimming hole was at.

"Aw, don't worry now, young'un." I heard Granny Smith express in the opposite mood I was in. "Lots of ponies always almost drown in the water all the time."

"I don't think that's helping, Granny…" Applejack stated. "…or entirely true for that matter…"

"It's not that." I pointed out. "It's just…" I sighed. "I hope you guys aren't mad at me for kind of ruining the whole swimming thing."

"Pffft." Granny Smith brushed off in an elderly kind of way. "I was getting tired of the water anyway."

"You didn't even swim, Granny." Applejack mentioned while smirking a bit.

"Good thing I didn't neither!" She responded loudly.

"Anyway…" Applejack continued. "You don't need to fret, Alex." She assured. "We had our fun, and safety always comes first, no matter what."

"Thanks…" I managed to smile softly and felt a bit better hearing that from her.

"Hey, Granny…" Applebloom now spoke. "You were a high diver, right?"

"The best one in Ponyville!" Granny Smith replied proudly.

"So, don't you ever think about going into the water again?" Applebloom asked.

"Not at my age, child." Granny Smith stated.

"Well…" Applebloom looked away and then brought back her eyes to her grandmother with a hopeful grin. "Do you think I could be a high diver?"

"Nope." Big Macintosh immediately came out of his silent form to address to Applebloom.

"Absolutely not." Applejack joined in sternly.


"Now you hold your horsefeathers, little seed!" Granny Smith clarified. "I never said bein' a high diver was a smart decision! It's incredibly dangerous!"

"I know, but—"

"But nothin'!" Granny Smith strictly ceased. "It is the riskiest, scariest, darn-fool thing I ever did do! That's not to say I didn't wish I was still young and spry and confident, but let's leave the flyin' through the air to the Pegasi." She ended with a wink.

"Wow, when you put it that way, it doesn't sound so fun…" Applebloom said.

"I wouldn't do anything as dangerous as that for fun anyway…" I added in at the same time I began hearing noises of a crowd growing louder.

All of us then noticed ponies passing by us on the road. They all seemed to have something wrong with them, such as a handicap or sickness. Either way, they all seem curiously excited for something.

"Wow." Applejack expressed after noticing the huge unexpected crowd. "I wonder where everypony's headed."

My left ear twitched with a strange tune coming from the distance. "You guys hear that?" I asked.

"That sounds fun!" Applebloom responded after listening for a moment.

Granny Smith actually took the first step towards joining the crowd, leading Applebloom to walk on after her.

"Now where in Ponyville do you two think you're goin'?" Applejack asked, as if this certain direction or place was bad.

"Aw, quit bein' such a worry-worm and follow your ears!" Granny Smith returned.

"Come on, Applejack, aren't you curious?" Applebloom asked her before she continued walking.

Applejack sent me an uncertain look, and then another to her brother. Eventually, she decided to follow along as well. The music was playing loudly now at our ears when we came across this stripe-colored tent, which provided a carnival type theme. Applejack, Big Macintosh, and I walked in to see the crowd aligned as if they were about to see some show. Granny Smith and Applebloom were joining them.

As the crowd continued chattering, I looked around, feeling a sense of déjà vu. "Is it just me, or does this seem familiar?" I asked with a questioning face.

Before Applejack could give an answer, the lights dimmed and spotlights formed on the stage. Magic grasped the crank on the cart on the stage and began turning it. This led to steam being puffed out of the cart. Yeah. Definitely familiar.

A silhouette banner appeared in front of the cart and two almost immediately-recognizable voices sounded from behind a curtain.

"Thank you, one and all, for your attendance, and we guarantee that your time here will not be spent in vain!"

"In fact, we think it will prove to be the most valuable time you've ever spent!"

Two ponies revealed themselves, having us immediately recognize their identities.

"The Flim Flam Brothers!" Applejack pointed out in a soft exclaim. "What are they doin' here?"

"I'm guessing to cause trouble again?" I assumed, feeling a bit of anger hit me.

"Eeyup." Big Macintosh shared.

"Welcome, one and all, to the demonstration of a lifetime!" Flim started.

"A demonstration of a better life!" Flam carried on.

"A demonstration of a better time!" Flim continued on the turn-taking announcement. "And if we haven't captured your interest just yet, by the time we've finished, an unfortunate phenomenon practically guarantees that we will!"

"A phenomenon? What's that?" Flam joined his brother to question.

"It's a circumstance perceptible by the senses, but in this case, it's the simple fact that…" Flim then proceeded to work into another song, just like last time. "There's ailments all around us in everything we touch and see"

"A sickness that lies waiting there in every breath you breathe" Flam exaggerated.

"Disease will up and grab you as it crawls from land and sea" Flim pointed out using pictures on his cart.

"It's amazing how infected that the natural world and all its things can be" Flam ended the section for the song.

"Now I understand that some of you don't think you're sick." Flim spoke.

"But twisted hooves and aching joints don't heal all that quick." Flam added.

"Consider just how dangerous this world is! You might..." Flim once again prepared for song.

"Slip and fall, break or sprain something here tonight" Flam started this time.

"But luckily for you, we've got the thing you need" The two began singing together.

"And it's easier when all you need's the cure

The Flim Flam Miracle Curative Tonic

Is just what the doctor ordered, I'm sure" They now presented their product.

"Now I know our claims seem fantastical." Flim returned to speaking.

"Impractical." His brother added.

"Improbable." They popped up in random places of the crowd.


"And magical!" The two appeared back on stage after a smoky entrance.

"So we welcome every suffering pony to make their way up to the stage." Flim encouraged.

"Now don't crowd." Flam requested.

"And we'll prove our tonic's effectiveness before your very eyes."

"You there!" Flam oddly singled out a pony with glasses and crutches from the crowd. "Come up here, good sir." He did so as if honored to be called out.

"I'll wager you're tired of those crutches, my friend." Flim guessed.

"Try taking a sip of this!" Flam presented a bottle of their product.

As soon as he drank a mouthful, he began busting his forelegs out from the crutches and then proceeded to shimmer in glee. Everypony in the crowd was shocked and surprised, including Granny Smith and Applebloom.

However, I felt skeptical. Knowing these guys, there had to be a catch.

"That's why you're so lucky we've got the thing for you

Just come on up, we've always got some more" They sang with the recently disabled pony as they all danced together.

"Of the Flim Flam Miracle Curative Tonic" They revealed the stock they had behind the stage.

"I won't need these crutches to dance out the door!" This now "cured" pony threw his crutches away and did so out the exit.

"Now how do ya like that?" Granny Smith asked Applebloom.

"I don't." Applejack answered Granny Smith's question, but it didn't seem she bothered listening. "There's somethin' funny about this whole thing."

I couldn't agree any more.

"Now some of you may suffer from feelings of despair" Flim targeted an elder pony.

"You're old, you're tired, your legs won't work, there's graying in your hair"

"Just listen and I'll tell you that you don't need to fear" Flam assured the pony.

"Your ears will work, your muscles tone, your eyes will see so clear"

"Luckily for us, you've got the thing we need" The crowd began joining…just like last time!

"The answer to our problems in a jar

The Flim Flam Miracle Curative Tonic

Is the greatest ever miracle by far!"

"It cures the reins, the spurs, and the Clydesdale fur blight." Flim began pointed out different illnesses.

"Hooferia and horsentery cured in just a night." Flam joined.

"You've got swollen hooves and hindquarters or terrible bridle-bit cleft."

"Saunter sitz and gallop plop or give your tail some heft."

As I listened to all these things it was able to cure, I felt a lot more skeptical after hearing each one. There was no way it could cure everything!

"Mane loss, hay fever, or terrible tonsillitis."

"You heard it here, folks - this is the only place in all of Equestria you'll find it!"

"It can make you shorter, taller, or even grow old"

"But who'd want that?"

"When with one drink"

"You can be young again—"

"SOLD!" Granny Smith suddenly threw up her money high into air, cutting Flim and Flam from properly ending their song.

"Congratulations, Granny Smith! You just made the purchase of a lifetime!" Flim easily and shadily accepted her money while exchanging a "tonic" to her. I honestly couldn't believe that she didn't seem to take into account of the damage they almost caused last time they were here.

"Are you as worried as I am?" Applejack asked us uncomfortably.

"Eeyup." Big Macintosh answered for me as well as I was too busy thinking into the situation.

The large group of ponies that attended this advertisement began crowding around the stage. I felt the need to confront these two salesponies before anything else damaging could happen.

"Excuse me." I expressed as I spread out my wings and flew over to the stage. "What do you think you two are doing here?" I asked, not really surprising them.

"Well, well, well." Flim began. "If it isn't, Prince Alexander."

"Care for a complimentary free bottle of tonic?" Flam tried to persuade, holding over the bottle near me.

"No." I pushed it away with my hoof. "I'm wondering what you two are trying to do here after your little mess from last time."

"What? Can't two innocent salesponies not sell an innocent product that is designed to help and support the community and fine fine ponies of Ponyville?" Flim questioned.

"Not if there's something shady going on here." I emphasized subtly.

"And what proof do you have of that?" Flam asked smugly.

Thinking back, I didn't have anything. And so, I couldn't do much. "…nothing yet…" I returned. "…but how are you so sure this tonic cures everything you just mentioned so far?"

"Didn't you just see that nice stallion dance out of here without his crutches? I'm pretty sure that's enough to believe our product works!" Flam responded.

"Even so, that was one pony." I reminded. "It doesn't mean it will work for everypony with any illness."

"We've sold our product all over Equestria and have received nothing but positive feedback." Flim said. "Now, if you so kindly let us sell it to these fine eager ponies, we'll be happy to serve and make everypony happy."

Returning a lightly glaring eye, I realized there was nothing more I could do, so I lifted off over the crowd and joined Applejack by the exit.

Granny Smith had seemed to disappear from the crowd right after she received her purchase, which left the rest of us behind to ponder somewhat negatively over what Flim and Flam might have been up to.

Big Macintosh silently fished at the top of this small cliff, possibly going over the events that just occurred. So, Applejack, Applebloom, and I also sat nearby. Applejack was still looking absolutely worried while Applebloom was happily recalling what happened.

"Boy, I just can't believe all the things that Flim Flam Tonic can do!" She exclaimed.

"When somepony says somethin's too good to be true, it usually is." Applejack referred to my confrontation. "Maybe you should've took the bottle, Alex. See if it worked."

I groaned a bit. "Ugh… I probably should have." However, I stopped feeling a bit stupid for my choice after thinking a bit. "But there isn't really anything wrong with me." I pointed out. "At least…I don't think so. Even if I wanted to become taller or something, I don't see how the tonic will know I want to be taller. See, that's another thing!" I began feeling angry that my thinking wasn't enough to prove Flim and Flam's product wrong. "How does the tonic even work to what you want? And how is the tonic able to cure everything, and anything, at one time? It just doesn't make any sense!"

"Are you two sayin'… that Granny wasted her money?" Applebloom responded with a slightly saddened tone.

"Well, I don't know about that, but I don't think there's a tonic in Equestria that can cure anythin', much less make an old pony young again." Applejack answered.

"We just need to find some way to prove them wrong." I believed. "It can't be that hard…"

"Howdy!" We unexpectedly heard happily sung from the river below us.

"Granny?!" Applebloom shouted out in complete surprise as we saw Granny Smith casually and calmly backstroking along the river.

"Hang on now! We'll get ya!" Applejack assured worriedly as she ran ahead to help, even though Granny Smith didn't look like she needed help at all.

Big Macintosh tried throwing the thing he always wore around his neck as a lifesaver. However, Granny Smith clearly ignored it and swam around it. As she worked on another swimming technique, Applejack ran over to a huge tree and managed to buck it straight across the river. Granny Smith yet ignored this again. I caught up with the rest of them as they met up with Granny Smith when she got out of the water.

"Granny, I thought you were too afraid of the water to swim!" Applebloom ran over to her. "And, and what about your hip?!" Applebloom reminded worriedly.

"Well, I reckon it might have been a problem before I had myself a dose of that there Flim Flam Tonic!" She mentioned and pulled it out.

"I'm not so sure that tonic really does anythin'." Applejack stated.

"Doesn't do anythin'?! What d'you call this?" She took another drink of it and began dancing in such a way that a pony her age would find impossible to do while humming a song. It was…quite surprising.

"I'm glad you're feelin' good, but how do you know it's from the tonic?" Applejack shared an interesting point.

"I looked out at the water this mornin' and I felt the same terrifyin' aches and pains I always do." Granny Smith began explaining. "But one sip of that magic elixir and it all went away! Why, I might even get a head start on my chores! What do you say, Big Mac-a-doo? Up for a little afternoon applebuckin'?" She even kicked her legs up in the air with ease.

"Uh, no." Big Macintosh looked away in a disturbed kind of way.

"Oh, quit your bellyachin'!" Granny Smith directed before she took him away from us.

"Gee, it looks like that tonic works after all!" Applebloom mentioned to Applejack and me. "I wonder what's in it."

"I think maybe it's time we found out." Applejack suggested and turned to me. "What do you say, Alex? Up for a lil' investigatin'?"

"Yeah." I nodded acceptingly. "I'm all up for exposing whatever these guys are doing behind the stage."

Applejack and I decided to take another visit later on in the night while Applebloom followed. As we heard another repeat of the song in the distance as we made our way through, it was presumed that they were playing to a later crowd.

"So you're just gonna walk up and ask them how it works?" Applebloom questioned.

"I guess." Applejack didn't seem too planned on how to confront Flim and Flam. "Though if it's a genuine cure, I don't suppose they'll be too keen on sharin' the recipe."

"I think if it was a genuine cure for anything, they'd be looking at broader ways to advertise their product." I mentioned. "In fact, I feel it'd become a thing known all over Equestria before they started selling he—"

"–out the door!" We heard a highly familiar line from earlier escape through the tent.

"Wait a second!" Applebloom shouted out, pointing towards the pony that was wiping the sweat off his face. "That's that same pony from before!"

Immediately arousing suspicion, Applejack narrowed her eyes greatly at this pony. He instantly reacted by galloping out of sight.

"Hey!" Applejack called out and ran after him, bringing Applebloom and me with her. We followed him around the carnival tent where Flim and Flam were. It seemed to be the "backstage" part of the area. It appeared we brought him across a dead end because he stopped and quickly looked around for an escape. Applejack resumed her speaking. "Now hold it right there, Mister...uh…?"

"Shill. Silver Shill." He answered weakly as he trembled and flinched cowardly. "Ooh, what do you three want?"

"Our Granny took some tonic and we want to know how it works." Applejack demanded, confronting him as he was cornered.

"Granny couldn't swim before, and now she can. Just like you couldn't walk and now you can." Applebloom included doubtfully. "But what are you doin' back here? I mean, if the tonic cured you and all..."

Studying the surroundings and the reason why he was seen walking out the tent in the same fashion as earlier while the conversation was spoken, it clicked to me on what was going on. It was plainly obvious why this pony repeated his take on the song. He never needed crutches… He wasn't even a part of the crowd! "He's part of the act!" I pointed out. "Flim and Flam wanted to convince the crowd their tonic worked, so they made it look as if they chose a random pony out in the crowd so he can be miraculously 'cured' by the tonic!"

Applejack found this reasonably true. She looked towards the shaking pony with glaring eyes and intimidatingly brought herself closer to him. "What's really going on around here? And don't bother lyin' to us neither! We want the complete truth!"

"I, uh..." He struggled before he looked around and unexpectedly hit a lever nearby. The lowering of the lever caused steam to spew out on us from some pipes close by.

"Hey!" Applejack exclaimed as we heard a gallop of hooves run off. As soon as we were able to see, he was nowhere to be found. "Applebloom, go around. We'll go this way!" Applejack directed, receiving a nod from her sister. We ran back the way we originally came from to be back at the corner near the entrance of the tent. There we saw the late crowd of ponies exiting the tent, but most importantly, the pony that had disappeared was seen running back inside.

As soon as we threw the flap of the tent to the side to enter, we were confronted by the two unreliable ponies.

"Well, if it isn't our most favorite visitors!" Flim greeted.

"What brings you two back to our humble abode?" Flam asked, as if he didn't have the slightest clue for the reason.

Silver Shill had popped out from behind Flim, using the two brothers as protection from us. Applejack only returned an angry glare at him before focusing on the two real problems. "You two charlatans sold my Granny a bottle of tonic, and now she's off actin' like a filly again."

"What's so bad about that?" Flim questioned after exchanging a smug look with his brother.

"If she keeps gallavantin' around like a yearlin', she's apt to drop from exhaustion or worse! What's more, we know for a fact that your friend here is dressin' up as a different pony every night so he can pretend to be cured!" Applejack pointed out, having them quietly gesture Silver Shill out of the area.

"Well, well, well, that's quite an accusation." Flam began calmly.

"But let's say that it's true..." Flim continued.

"Hypothetically..." Flam pushed over the mountains of bits they had on a table.

"Theoretically..." Flim pulled out what appeared to be some kind of juicing machine.

"As I understand, your Granny was a famous aquapony." Flam mentioned, somehow already knowing this.

"The star of the show, once upon a time." Flim contributed, bringing Applejack and I to send a look to each other expressing curious concern.

"But hasn't set so much as a hoof in the water since." Flam emptied out a sack of apples on the table.

"Until today, that's right." Applejack uneasily admitted.

"Well, then even if our tonic were nothing more than a mixture of apple juice and beet leaves..." Flim listed.

"Hypothetically..." Flam tried to cunningly disengage the thought of the actual list of ingredients being true.

"Theoretically..." Flim repeated, throwing an apple he had received from his brother into the juicer.

"The fact is that Granny is happier now than before she tried it." Flam stated as he poured in the produce from the juicer into an empty bottle.

"I guess..." Applejack replied hesitantly.

"You know…" I thought about it for a moment. "I really hate to say this…but…in a way…they kind of are right about the product working…" Applejack turned her head to me with widened eyes, as if she could not believe that that statement actually came out of my mouth. "Even if the product itself doesn't do any of the work, as long as it gets the job done either way…then…" I paused and then shook my head. "But it can only go so far!" I turned to the brothers before they could get any idea of believing they were off the case. "You might get the ponies thinking that they are feeling better, but it still won't do anything physically! If they're old, the pain might stop from doing an activity, such as swimming, but that doesn't mean it keeps their bodies or bones from being fragile!"

"Yeah!" Applejack seemed to be relieved when seeing that I was still against them. "You could easily put ponies' lives in danger! All for some bits!"

"So, say everything you said is true…" Flim began.

"You'd rather not give those ponies a chance to be happy again and let them be miserable for the rest of their lives, just to make sure they're safe?" Flam appeared to twist words around in his favor.

"What are you gettin' at?" Applejack inquired heatedly.

"The question is..." Flim approached.

"Do you really want to be the pony who takes all that happiness away?" Flam questioned, placing a bottle of tonic on Applejack's hoof.

Applejack was baffled at the moment with her choice. "I..."

"There you are!" We unexpectedly heard Applebloom exclaim. We spotted her walking inside. "I've been lookin' all over! Did you find out what's in the tonic?"

Applejack looked absolutely troubled. She glanced over to me, and then to the brothers, whom reacted confidently. After looking once more at the tonic, she sighed heavily and responded. "Honestly, Applebloom... as long as it works, I... don't suppose it really matters."

"Well, if it doesn't matter to you, then it doesn't matter to me either, sis." Applebloom reacted in the way I thought she would, since Applejack was her role model after all…

Applejack smiled back at her, but immediately released a worried frown when turning away from her to walk out. As always, I wasn't too sure how to react myself in the given situation. The choice that was given wasn't something that could be answered on the spot. It needed to be thought over, so I felt Applejack's reaction was appropriate. Either way, I only followed after her, having the plan of talking it over with her later on.

"That's the spirit!" Flim encouraged from the tent as we left.

"Come back anytime!" Flam shared, waving along with his brother.

After Applebloom had gone to bed for the night, I stayed with Applejack in her room to discuss about what to ultimately do with the tonic situation.

"So…are you really thinking about…just letting it go?" I asked her.

"I don't know…" She replied with uncertainty. "What they said back there really got to me. Who am I to take somepony's happiness because of what I think."

"But you said it yourself." I recalled. "If Granny Smith ends up doing something dangerous, there's no way a fake tonic is going to keep her safe."

"I know." She acknowledged. "But…she's just so happy swimmin'. Maybe she knows her limits?"

"I don't know." I felt jumbled about it as well, and plopped down next to Applejack on the bed. "You know what? Maybe you're right."

"Really?" Applejack questioned a little surprisingly.

"Yeah…I mean…" I thought a little and remembered back to their first visit. "Last time they were here, it was Ponyville that drew them away, remember? When everypony tasted their messed up cider, they complained and caused them to leave. If it really causes a problem in Ponyville, I'm pretty sure everyone will let them know and scare them out again if they have to. As of right now, though, I guess I would just keep Granny Smith from doing anything extreme." I rolled my eyes around the room. "Casual swimming should be fine."

Applejack managed to grin a bit. "Hearin' you say that makes me feel a little better about the decision I made… Thanks."

I smiled in response as I looked over to her. "You should probably sleep on it. You'll probably feel a lot better in the morning."

"Uh-huh." She nodded. "I will."

I stood up to prepare to leave. "Goodnight, Applejack." I mentioned and wrapped a hoof around her for a farewell embrace.

When I pulled away, she smiled lightly and a bit tiredly as well. "Night."

I turned and began walking out the room until I remembered something else from earlier today. "Oh, and…" I placed a hoof on the part of her wall near her door. "…thanks…" I turned my head towards her. "…for saving my life today."

She chuckled lightly. "Anytime, partner."

I felt a little sheepish with my last smile. Nevertheless, I nodded and then proceeded to head back home to sleep.

In the next day, I headed to the swimming hole, thinking I'd find Applejack there. However, something preoccupied my mind during the walk. I realized that I didn't remember visiting Spirit the night before. I didn't even remember being on the balcony with her. It was just like as soon as I went to sleep, I dreamt regularly. No ice cream intermission in between. It got me a little worried, but I decided I would focus on that next after Applejack's issue was resolved.

I heard water splashing, which meant a good sign that she was there. However, I noticed she was actually sitting quietly on a swing while watching the other members of her family play around in the swimming hole, including Granny Smith.

"How are you doing?" I asked, taking a seat next to her.

"I'm fine, I guess…" She returned but didn't take her eyes off of those in the water. "But…I'm kind of finding it hard to relax…"

"Hm." I stood up and placed myself behind Applejack to lay my hooves on the ropes of the swing. "Usually, I'd think you'd be in the water yourself to keep a better eye on Granny Smith." I mentioned as I began to lightly push her.

"I don't feel like swimmin'…" She replied gloomily.

"Still worried about whether or not to say that the tonic really doesn't do anything?" I guessed.

She sighed after being reminded. "I feel like it's somethin' I need to take care of now. Waitin' just seems to be buggin' me all over."

"I guess I understand that." I responded. "I wish there was more I could do to help."

"Hey, Granny! Think you can buck me over the water?" We heard Applebloom exclaim over at the water.

"I don't see why not!" Granny Smith positively accepted the challenge. "Come on, Big Mac, toss her this way!"

In a sign of distress, Applejack threw herself from the seat of the swing to gallop over to the water. "Granny, wait!"

"Woo-hoo-hoo!" Granny Smith expressed, stopping Applejack in her tracks. Granny Smith tossed Applebloom delightfully in flips over the water as the two laughed. It amazed me to know how much strength and stamina Granny Smith actually had, considering the tonic was really fake. "Uh, what were you sayin', dear?"

"Granny, don't you think you should take it kinda easy?" Applejack concerningly suggested as she walked backwards to sit back on the swing.

"I've been takin' it easy for too long!" Granny Smith replied as she continued to hold Applebloom on her shoulders, whom decided to later dive back into the water. "And now, thanks to that Flim Flam Tonic, I don't have to!"

"Granny, you think I could be an aquapony like you?" Applebloom asked with soft excitement.

"Of course you can, sapling. There's nothin' to it but to do it!" Granny Smith answered, which, for some reason, brought Applejack to place a hoof to her mouth in thought.

"Well, the Ponyville swim meet is comin' up." Applebloom brought up as they all began getting out of the water. "We could enter together! A legendary water pony like you? We'd be a cinch to win!"

"Mm, ee, uh, I don't know..." Granny Smith proved to be uncertain about the idea. "Bein' back in the water is one thing, but a competition is a pony of a different color." That was actually a good thing for Applejack. Knowing Granny Smith wasn't so keen on doing dangerous stuff, it could probably allow her to breathe easier.

"Oh. Okay." Applebloom lowered her head down sadly once hearing the news.

I noticed Applejack immediately have this sort of guilty look on her face. Taking a moment before speaking, she surprised me a little with what she said. "I don't know, Granny. A swim meet sounds pretty safe." She encouraged and got off the swing to walk towards Granny Smith. "And after all, if that tonic lets you swim in a river and a swimmin' hole, a pool should be no problem at all."

"Well, I'll be a tart turnover, you are right!" Granny Smith changed her mind. "All we need now is more tonic!" She pulled out a bottle of tonic she had apparently been keeping inside the headpiece of her swimwear.

Applejack only looked away with an uneasy and forced grin.

I stayed with Applejack when she tagged along with Granny Smith to buy more tonic. However, Applejack was silent the whole way through. I could tell she had a lot of worries and stress in mind.

"I'm a little surprised that you suggested Granny Smith to go to the pool…" I told her softly.

"I don't know if it was the right thing to do." She worriedly responded. "But when I saw the look on Applebloom's face…I don't know…I just said it…"

I sighed. "Flim and Flam are better at selling pressure instead of useful products…" I felt a little resentment towards them.

"Welcome, friends, and step right up! The next show starts in five minutes!" I heard Flam announce and looked up to see a huge line of ponies wanting to buy a bottle of their tonic.

"But why not buy your tonic now and avoid the rush?" Flim used an old trick from the book of selling products.

"Right this way, good sir!" Flam led, speaking to who I could now tell was Silver Shill in another costume. That guy was really starting to bug me now.

"We'll take the whole case!" Granny Smith shouted out, catching everypony's attention as she dropped the large bag of bits she had been carrying.

Flim and Flam walked up, noticing the huge sack of money to add to their profit. They both looked at each other in accomplishment and grinned in interest.

"Are you saying this stuff actually works?" A pony that had her back legs on a wheelbarrow for support and a bandage on her head asked.

"It seems to work for Granny…" Applejack tried to answer in the most honest way she could.

"You heard it here first, folks!" Flim shouted out, using Applejack's statement to their advantage. "Flim Flam Miracle Curative Tonic is Granny Smith-tested and Applejack-approved!"

Applejack formed a certain face that clearly revealed she wasn't expecting that.

"If Applejack says it works, that's good enough for me!" The same pony held up her money.

"Hey!" I tried intervening to make clear that Flim and Flam actually took Applejack's words out of context, but everypony rushed through to make their purchase. It was too loud and busy to get anypony's attention.

The crowd continued rushing past us in a close manner.

"Move your caboose!" We heard Granny Smith from behind the large group of ponies. She was already ready to leave with her bottles of tonic close by. "We gotta a competition to win!"

From there on, there was nothing much to do than to head to the pool with Applejack for the competition.

Ponies were seen diving and performing watersport tricks, which is what they would be graded on by the three judges in a stand on top of the audience. Applebloom and Granny Smith were busy preparing themselves for whatever they had to contribute with. "Hoo-ha, hee-hee, ha-hoo-ha!" They somewhat chanted as they warmed up and stretched.

"Just remember, you two." Applejack stated as she approached them. "The most important thing is to be safe and have fun, right?" She questioned with a worried grin.

"Fiddlesticks!" Granny Smith threw out confidently. "With the routine we've been workin' on, I'll be a plum puddin' if we don't win this thing!"

"Uh... good luck, then!" Applejack seemed to not know what else to say.

"Luck? Pfft, who needs luck?" Granny Smith returned with Applebloom following her attitude. "We got tonic on our side!" Granny Smith pulled out another bottle of tonic she had stashed in her headpiece.

"Flim Flam's Magical Curative Tonic!" Flam specified from afar.

"Get your Applejack-approved tonic!" Flim brought in attention to the stand by using Applejack's statement yet again. "Granny Smith drinks it – why shouldn't you?" He was going too far bringing Applejack into this.

Applejack sighed after observing at what was going on at the stand, along with Granny Smith drinking the last of her next bottle of tonic. "Right…"

"Now, if'n you'll excuse us, we got some swimmin' to do!" Granny Smith stated, having Applejack and I remove ourselves from the performing area.

"I think I'm going to see if being a Prince holds anything up to what they're doing…" I mentioned to Applejack. I was already starting to head to Flim and Flam's stand until Applejack stopped me.

"Don't!" Applejack held out a hoof and released a stressed sigh. "Let's just…try to breathe for a minute and watch what Granny Smith and Applebloom do."

Almost reluctantly, I turned back and stood near Applejack. "I'm getting really worried about you, you know?" I expressed as she continued to observe the performance Granny Smith and Applebloom put up. "Flim and Flam are putting everypony's trust on you now, so if their product fails, which it probably will soon, they're going to use you to take the fall. You don't want that, do you?"

"I…" Her head lowered in thought. "…I don't know… I can't think straight right now… Everythin' is happening so fast. So many things to worry about. Sometimes, I don't even know what's going on anymore." Our conversation was momentarily halted when everypony watching the performance cheered out loudly. "Well, I'll be..." Applejack shared a bit in astonished after noticing the immense positive feedback the two Apples had received.

Afterwards, they received their trophy immediately. Then, their pictures were taken and were questioned by a photographer. "That was some of the most amazing aquabatics I've ever seen! How in Equestria did you do it? Hard work? Lots of practice?"

"Yeah, but mostly it's the tonic!" Granny Smith directed.

"That's Flim Flam Miracle Curative Tonic, to be precise." Flim stated while he and his brother joined in with the two to advertise their product.

"Buy it now while supplies last." Flam added.

Their arrogance distracted me into losing sight of Applejack. She was no longer by my side, and as I turned my head around to look for her, I heard a loud yelling of "Hey! Heeey!"

It had sounded like it came above the seats that contained most of the ponies before they left for Flim and Flam. I looked around that area before my eyes were caught onto a pair of aquamarine hooves waving in the air. I noticed a certain pony waving right at me. She looked very familiar, so I made my way up there to see her.

She actually seemed to have been one of the judges, as she stood in the stand they had been in. "You called?" I asked.

"Yeah!" She cheerfully clarified. "Do you remember me?"

"Yeah, I think so." I rubbed my hoof on my chin. Her name was right on the tip of my tongue. It took a few seconds of silent name-throwing before the right one came to mind. "Lyra Heartstrings, right?"

"Yeah!" She said and then rested her head on both her front hooves. "You know, from the wedding and stuff?"

"Right. Uh… How are you?" I asked. I wasn't sure what type of conversation to have with her other than small talk.

"I'm really good!" She expressed lively. "What about you? I'm sure things are all busy and stuff since you're a prince now, huh?!"

"Um…" I wondered how to answer that until I heard Applejack's voice shout out.

"No!" I noticed she was getting bombarded with cameras.

"Sorry. I have to go." I informed Lyra. "I'll see you another time."

"Bye!" She waved her hoof as I rushed over to Applejack.

"This has gotta stop!" She continued, appearing to be fed up with the tension that had been building up in her. "If ponies keep believin' that tonic can do things it can't, who knows what'll happen?"

"Maybe something like that?" Silver Shill, who was now selling those bottles of tonic himself, notified Applejack.

"Applejack!" I called her as I reached her side, but she seem way too focused on something else.

"Granny!" Applejack cried out and ran over to the platform where the long-distanced diving board was at. I looked up to see that Applejack was frantically panicking because Granny Smith was about to dive off at such a height that her brittle bones were no match for. I rushed after her. "What in blazes does she think she's doin'?!" She inquired about to Applebloom, whom was bringing over a small pool of water that only a little foal could enjoy.

"Granny's gonna break the Equestria high divin' record!" Applebloom explained happily.

Applejack noticed the small pool and the height Granny Smith was diving from. "Land sakes!" She ran over to the ladder of the platform while I remained standing and kept an eye on Granny Smith. At the top of the diving board, she proceeded to take a swig of her tonic. As I noticed her preparing to jump off, I quickly readied and hoped to catch her successfully with magic before she hit the ground. At the same time, I was worrying greatly that we'd see something tragic instead of stunning all over the news.

My heart began pounding the second I saw her lay on air. She was coming down fast, and I could only hope with all my might that she'd be caught with my magic. However, that didn't happen. Fortunately, neither did the worst case scenario either. She had been caught on with rope and dangled right in front of the pool she was apparently supposed to land or dive in. Still seeing the two try to work was absolutely and ridiculously insane. Applejack was at the top, holding her with her strength from the impact of the drop.

"Now what in tarnation did you do that for?!" Granny Smith bitterly asked, believing that the tonic would really keep her invincible from harm.

Applejack released the rope once she had safely stepped back on the ground. "That was the most fool-pony thing I've ever seen anypony do in all my life!" Applejack argued back. She ran over to the ladder and quickly slid down to meet with us. "You can't do a dive like that!"

"Oh, quit your fussin'! I had enough tonic to do a dive ten times as high!" Granny Smith estimated.

"Twenty times, by my count." Flim horribly encouraged.

"Thirty, with a favorable breeze." Flam also added into the ill-mannered intention, holding up another bottle of the tonic.

"Shut up!" I exclaimed out of anger, accidentally shooting out a beam towards the bottle of the tonic and shattering it to pieces.

The area grew quiet, and Applejack was left staring as the beverage inside fell towards the ground. I turned towards her, and was caught motionless for the same time she was. I felt a connection being made inside and my heart endured this weird feeling. I was finally able to focus once again when Applejack spoke out loud.

"I hate to disappoint everypony, but there's no way Granny could have made that dive, because this tonic is a fake!" She pointed out the shattered pieces and spilt liquid of the tonic that laid on the ground.

The entire crowd gasped.

"But you gave it your stamp of approval!" The pony from before mentioned.

"Are you saying you lied?" Another pony had questioned from the crowd.

"...I am." She submitted willingly…but the way I saw it was different. Technically, she lied about lying without really knowing about it. After another gasp, Applejack went on to give an explanation. "I didn't mean to! But everypony seemed so much happier, I couldn't bring myself to tell you when I found out the tonic wasn't real." She grabbed ahold of her hat and lowered it respectfully. "I know it was wrong. I just hope with time, I can win back everypony's trust."

"Hang on, Applejack." I intervened and began to speak clearly so everypony could hear what I had to say. "You didn't lie." The crowd now reacted with a big "Huh?". "You might have not said the whole truth, but you didn't lie. You said that it 'seemed to work for Granny', which was the truth. You didn't say 'Hey, everybody! Flim and Flam's tonic absolutely works! Their tonic cured my Granny!'. Flim and Flam themselves pretty much did that for you." I switched my sight towards the crowd before me. "Everypony, Flim and Flam took Applejack's comment out of context and used it to seem like Applejack approved this tonic, which she really didn't. All the pressure Applejack had been feeling was because of how Flim and Flam worked. In fact, they used everypony's happiness to keep her hesitant from saying the whole truth. If there's anypony you should be mad at, it's them right there." I directed towards the brothers, whom were now looking around nervously and pulling on their bowties.

"Hold on a second…" Applebloom possibly saved them from being mauled right there as she turned back the attention of the crowd. "If the tonic is a fake, then how come Granny can swim again, and what about all that aquabatics stuff we just did?" She questioned.

Applejack shared a thanking kind of look to me after what I had said and then went on to answer Applebloom. "I reckon sometimes you can forget what you're capable of, and it just takes a little extra confidence to remember that it was inside of you all along." She also walked over to Granny Smith to exchange a hug with her.

"As cheesy as it sounds, you really just need to believe in yourself and mean it." I included in. "Like pain, it's really all in the mind. But that doesn't mean you can be completely invulnerable to harm."

"And tellin' ponies your tonic can do things it can't is just wrong!" Applejack stated angrily while glaring right at Flim and Flam.

"But you just said it boosts confidence!" Flim cunningly fought back.

"No, she didn't!" I furiously shot out, fed up with their tricks.

"And that's not all it does, folks—" Flam merely ignored my take to try to distract everypony's ears with their loud talk.

"Yes, it is!" Another pony brave enough to cut in exclaimed. "In fact, it's not a tonic at all!" It was Silver Shill, who began removing the uniform he had been wearing for the tonic. "I know, 'cause I helped make it!" Flim and Flam both began sweating nervously as their own employee was siding against them. "Watching everything that just happened right now, well, that made me realize I was making ponies believe in a thing that just wasn't so!"

"Believin' in somethin' can help you do amazin' things." Applejack hemmed in. "But if that belief is based on a lie, eventually it's gonna lead to real trouble."

"Thank you, Applejack." Silver Shill approached us and held out a shiny bit. "I got this through dishonest means. That was a mistake I won't be making again! I'd like you to have it…" He placed the bit on Applejack's hoof. "…as a reminder of how you helped me finally see the truth."

"I don't know..." Applejack felt uncomfortable accepting the bit.

"Oh, don't worry." Silver Shill assured. "I'll track down the pony I sold that worthless tonic to and give him another bit to replace this one! Honest."

Trusting him, she released a small smile but then turned to Granny Smith to speak with her. "I'm sorry, Granny. I hope this doesn't mean you'll stop swimmin'."

"Why in tarnation would I do that?" Granny Smith asked in such a tone as if Applejack's question was ridiculous to ask. "I just can't believe those two salesponies had me believin' I could near fly!" She looked towards the crowd until another question raised to her head. "Hey, where'd they go?"

Everypony looked around to try to find them, but they had disappeared from sight a lot quicker than last time.

Seeing that they had gotten away practically scot-free, I sighed loudly and stomped my hoof on the ground. "Darn it!"

"See. That wasn't so bad." Applejack told me as we walked away from the hoof-made pool.

"Yeah…I know." I responded. "I don't really know what came over me last time."

"Maybe it was because of the swing into water thing." She recalled. "Still sorry about that…" She expressed with an apologetic face.

"It's fine." I chuckled off. "Thanks for helping me to swim, I guess."

"Anytime, partner." She led me to this particular apple tree on a short cliff. "Alright! Twilight dropped it off."

"Huh?" I questioned with a bit of confusion.

"Our journal." Applejack clarified and turned around to sit down and open it. She grabbed ahold of the bit she was given from the inside of her hat that was hanging on a branch of the tree. She placed it near the blank page she brought up in the journal and smiled. "Now how's this?" She grabbed a pencil with her mouth and fumbled around with it as she lifted her eyes in thought. She wrote for a bit until she paused, nodded her head, and placed down her pencil. "Bein' honest sure gets hard when it seems like the truth might hurt somepony you care about." She read out loud."But I think believin' a lie can end up hurtin' even more. Maybe some ponies don't care about that – but I sure ain't one of them."

I smiled lightly after reading and hearing this from her. "Sounds good."

She reacted in the same manner to me and then turned to face the pool we had been in a while ago to see Applebloom and Granny Smith. "Now you take it easy there, Granny!"

"Oh, I plan to!" Granny Smith shouted back, standing on the much smaller diving board. "Hoo, ha, ha-whee!" She hopped off and landed safely in the water that now wasn't far at all from the water.

Applebloom laughed in glee as she exchanged water splashes with Granny Smith.

I heard Applejack chuckle as I turned my head to glance at the bit Applejack had received as a gift. At that moment, my eyes were locked on and I couldn't move away until I felt this feeling pass through inside me. My heart released this almost chilling emotion and I was able to shake my head out of it.

"Alex, you up for another swim?" Applejack cheerfully invited me.

However, I began feeling almost ill out of the blue. I began feeling light-headed, and at that moment, I felt what I needed was rest. "Actually…Applejack…" I stood up on my hooves to get ready to walk home. "I'm not really feeling good. I think I'm going to go home to get some rest…"

"What's wrong?" Applejack began feeling concerned for me after noticing the damaged look on my face. "Do you want me to come with you?"

"No…no…"I was starting to feel a headache come on. "I'll um…see you later, okay?"

"Okay…" Applejack sounded hesitant to let me go. "Let me know if you need anything." She stated a little louder as I began walking off.

"Right." I returned, but wasn't sure if she heard it.


"Spike!" I knocked on the bathroom door. "Hurry up! You've been in there for hours!" I stayed by the door, waiting to get an answer, but I didn't, as usual. "Ugh!" I groaned loudly and began walking away. I walked over to one of the desks I used for studying and reading to grab ahold of my notepad. "I swear, I need to make some rules about how long a baby dragon can stay in the bath." I flipped open a new page and began making a note. "Note to self… Find a way to get Spike to stop taking such long baths…" I softly told myself as I scribbled it with my quill.

"Twilight." I heard a female voice behind me, startling me greatly.

"Ahh!" I screamed out loud as I dropped my quill and jumped in surprise. I quickly turned around to see a familiar pony, but she didn't seem as bright and cheery as before. "Spirit…?" I recognized her face, especially because of her eyes. "What are you doing here?" I questioned her sudden visit.

She remained silent for a few seconds as she stared at the floor. Then, she managed to bring them back up to meet with mine. "I have a favor to ask of you."

"What is it?" The tone of my voice became more sympathetic, as I was somehow able to feel she was dealing with a great amount of pain.

"I need you to…" She paused, as if she was having trouble getting the words out of her mouth. "…I need you to watch over Alex."

"Huh…?" I was confused to why she was saying this all of sudden.

"Please, Twilight." She requested a little louder and bolder, almost sounding as if she was begging me.

I stopped my confusion and questions running in my head to accept her favor. "Of course, Spirit." It wasn't like I already didn't try to take care of him as much as I could. "But…why are you telling me this? What's going on?" As I heard myself say that, I began to feel fear linger, as if something bad was going to happen to Alex.

She sighed deeply and turned her head away. "You just have to trust me." She turned her head back to me. "You don't have to worry about, Alex. All I'm saying is…" She took another moment for a pause. "Just take care of him…"

"Spirit…" I called after her, but she walked away and eventually vanished.

I had no idea what was going on besides knowing that I had to take care of Alex. But what was she thinking? It both frightened and disturbed me. I didn't know what to make out of it…but all I really felt was that it couldn't be good…


Instead of hearing the soft gentle breeze and feeling my coat warm with indescribable sunlight, I heard distant roars of thunder and felt a drop of water every now and then. I opened my eyes to be immediately welcomed by not a great sight. The first thing I realized was that I was in the Everfree Forest. It was dark and pretty creepy, but I was able to see the Castle of the Two Sisters through the forest. It didn't look too far, but another thing scared me. Spirit. Was she okay? Did something happen to her? I shook my head and ran towards the direction of the castle, desperately wanting to know the condition of Spirit.

I made my way back to the front of the castle. By that time, I was already feeling out of breath, along with a few more drops of water hitting against me in the face. I looked up to see that rain was coming down from a slow pace to a faster one. Beyond the castle, thunder roared louder and closer. Lightning flashed and crashed brightly. This only increased my worries even more.

"Spirit… Please be alright…" I hoped. As I turned my head back to the front of me to keep moving and head inside the castle, I noticed something different. There was somepony in my way and it was no question to who it was. "You again?!" I spotted the pony in the hoodie, still wearing those full coverings from the morning before. He didn't answer. I gritted and clenched my teeth, beginning to feel anger for not receiving answers. Either way, I felt this pony was the cause for what happened. The reason why it was dark and stormy instead of bright and sunny. I growled before speaking again. "You better have not hurt her or I swear I'm gonna—"

Before I could finish my sentence, it only took a second before this pony was in front of me. I quickly, without thinking clearly, formed a magical shield in front of me. This pony used his light powers from before and it was stronger than I expected. I was having a hard time keeping him off me as both our powers clashed. After a couple of seconds, more light surrounded me. But it didn't harm me. Instead, it only blinded me temporarily.

When I was able to see again, I noticed that I was in yet another familiar place, but I wasn't able to exactly recall when I had been in it at the moment. I stood on top of a lit platform, and everything else was dark. I looked across me to see the same hooded pony staring at me. He stretched out his hooves and prepared to fight. Since he spared no words, I had no choice but to fight as well.

I couldn't tell if I was hearing right, but as soon as this pony appeared to be charging an attack, I thought I heard a female voice. But I didn't have time to think about it. In only a few seconds, this pony released a sort of burst of light around. I managed to block it from damaging me, but the impact was still very strong. I had never felt magic as strong as this. Not even from Twilight. Something about it was different…

The pony then charged at me and began releasing a flurry of beams of light. As they each were released, the pony continued to let out grunts and sounds of effort, all sounding very feminine! Either way, I had to jump/step out of the way or block it if I couldn't avoid it in time. After the last beam of light, this pony jumped back a bit and then seemed to fly straight towards me at a high velocity. I wasn't expecting anything like that, so I was somewhat both grazed and hit. I fell towards the floor, but managed to place out my hooves before hitting the floor. I shook my head to see my adversary, whom was now beginning to seem like a she for whatever reason due to the sound of the voice, at a certain distance away from me. However, that didn't stop her.

As another surprising move, she literally moved around at the speed of light! Light would form around her as she dashed spot to spot. It seemed she tried to use this to confuse me where she was going to head next. But I tried as hard as I could to keep my eyes on her. She continued moving to different places until she suddenly dashed straight at me. For a moment, it felt like I was able to keep up with her. As she was coming right at me, I managed to move to the right, with added speed coming from my wings. I was then able to deliver a few blows with my magic, ending with a burst from my horn that sent her in the air.

However, she quickly recovered and spiraled down at me. I jumped out of the way as quickly as I could, but there was no slowing down whoever this was. As I distanced myself, she then proved how persistent she was. She began summoning rays of light that acted on its own, depleting any breathing space for me. As she cut down on the spaces I could escape to, she once again charged right at me. This time, I concentrated the magic in my horn and prepared to perform a sort of "magical tackle", so that hopefully it could work against the pony coming at me. I attempted to time it right and then pushed my hooves to advance forward.

I heard a light grunt of pain as I passed by, and then I felt something empower me. I turned to see the pony still stunned by my tackle, so I took the opportunity to attack her more with my magic. But more power came unexpectedly. For some reason, the light now worked in my favor. As she suffered the attacks from my magic, the light also added in a few extra hits. As she endured those hits, she released even more small cries of pain before they stopped.

Nevertheless, as soon as she was able to recover, she quickly dashed away to distance herself. Possibly afraid of me coming straight towards her, she began summoning as much light as she could to protect her. Although, it seemed to be a distraction instead when she swerved around the light and came towards me. There, she was ready to cause a small explosion of light until I quickly flew out of there.

Now, I was becoming hesitant to attack. So many questions and concerns arose with this power of light. As far as I knew, I was the only pony capable of doing anything like that. I decided to put down my gloves but not my guard.

"Who or what are you?!" I asked.

The pony didn't respond as usual. She released a grunt and then headed for the middle. There, she caused a spiral of light to form around her. Then, she began lifting herself up as her body seemed to glow of light. After, she let out a louder and longer cry. These very familiar orbs of light shot out from, what appeared to be, within her body. Many of them were coming at me, having me to widen my eyes in surprise and hurry to have them miss.

I tried to avoid as many as I could, but they didn't end until I was already feeling exhausted. The challenger took a moment for a breather, seeming to have exhausted herself after that release of energy. I didn't want to take too long to catch my breath. This pony appeared to have tired herself out, and it was a great opportunity to finally get some answers.

After I took my last breath, I galloped straight towards her. Just as I was able to take her down, she lifted up her head noticed me. There, she blocked me from tackling her with her light. I fought with my magic to try to break through, but at the point, I was able to see somewhat under the hood. I was faintly able to see the eyes, along with the form of the hair. I needed more than this.

"W-who are you?!" I questioned furiously after a growl. She gave up the clash battle and forced herself back, leaving me to stand there and pant more to regain my energy after using that magic. As I panted, I continued glaring at this mysterious pony, desperately wanting to hear at least a word come out from her mouth. When all she did was stare back at me, I felt even angrier. "Answer me!" I barked.

This pony seemed hesitant. When she finally had the courage, she dashed towards me and tried to attack me more, but I managed to parry instead what I could with my magic. This then caused her to try to attack physically, but fortunately I seemed to be more skilled at that area than she was. When I had the chance, I blew her a short distance away with a burst of my magic. She was pushed back and practically fell backwards. She appeared to be shaking her head and slowly got up on her hooves. She just stood there as I began readily walking towards her. In what seemed to be a state of panic, she quickly turned and tried to run, but I wasn't going to let that easily happen.

"Hey!" I called out and lunged after her. Instead, I got a grip of the hoodie and was at the brink of forcing it off. However, she quickly turned and began to insanely attack me with everything she had in a desperate manner. I tried to defend myself at that moment with whatever I had, but it was too much to handle in the end. She was able to lose my grip on her hoodie and kicked me to the floor. I tried to get back up, but she only pushed me back down.

From there, I could only stare in loss as she looked to hold me captive. I grunted and growled a bit as I closed my eyes. I needed her… I needed her help…

"Spirit…" I called. "I need you…"

The pony in front of me seemed to be struck with something. She lowered her guard and began backing off slowly. As I noticed this, I didn't lose any chances. As soon as I could, I fired a large beam of magic at her. One that she didn't dodge. I saw her be thrown and struck against the floor from the large force of the impact. I was panting as the area seemed to go insanely and disturbingly quiet. I stared at her defeated body for several silent seconds.

Afterwards, I saw her hooves move. Actually, they more like…twitched. Nonetheless, she managed to achingly and stutteringly place them in front of her as if to get back on her hooves. She did try to get back up, but the first time was a failure. Her hooves gave up on her and she fell back on the floor. She tried again and was barely successful.

She remained kneeling against the floor. And at that moment, I was startled to hear…crying…real crying. At first, it started with a few sniffles and whimpers. But then, it burst out into almost uncontrollable sobs.

"I…" I heard. "…I can't…!" I heard her voice break.

After those words, my heart immediately drained and fell. The sound of those words absolutely terrified me. It couldn't be…

I began walking carefully towards her.

When I was close enough, she whimpered as she looked up to see me approaching her.

Then, she quickly got up as fast as she could and turned around to run away.

"Wait!" I called out and reached for her, grabbing her by the hoodie.

This time, she tripped almost horribly. She fell to the floor, and her hoodie came off from being securely over her face. I stood there, paralyzed in fear. Holding her own hooves against the floor, she slowly turned around and made eye contact with me. Both her hoodie and covering for her muzzle had come off, clearly revealing her face. I could barely find the words to speak. My eyes only remained completely widened in absolute shock.

"…Spirit…?" I managed to say.

I could see the tears brim in her eyes and fall against her cheeks as she looked at me for what felt like hours. But at the same time, it ended too fast. She managed to escape the hold of my sight and run off, disappearing…like usual…

I was left standing there…confused…horrified…scared…sad…a bunch of feelings I really couldn't explain at the moment.

"…what…just happened…?"

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