My Little Pony Bizarre Adventures - Part 1: Ponyville Central

by LateBronyWriter

First published

One Thousand years ago, the saints Celestia and Luna drew upon the power of the Red Stone of Aja to defeat the demon Discord. Now one thousand years later the Stone is destroyed, beginning the tale of six ponies and their quest to redeem the world.

The Red Stone of Aja: An object with power to transcend time and space; a power that can make one's darkest desires a reality. On the thousandth year of Nightmare Moon's Banishment Celestia after drawing upon it's divine powers to purify her sister this power is broken, dispersed across the breadth of Equestria.

Now Princess Representative Twilight Sparkle, must venture to the town of Ponyville, and with the aid of her newfound allies discover the mystery behind the Stone's power. But can she fend off the dark forces that seek the power of the Stone? Or will Equestria be returned back to the darkness from which it came?
Embrace the spirit of Romanticism!
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(P.S. JoJo's Bizarre Adventures is owned by Shueisha Inc. and Warner Bros. Entertainment who retain all rights and publications. My Little Pony is of course owned by Hasbro who retains all rights and publications. Support the official release or you will die around the age of eighty realizing that you have wasted your entire life.)

(P.S. In addition please don't sue me. I have no money.)

(P.S.S. Props to my Premiere Editor: Cross Lament Who I couldn't have done this without.)

(P.S.S.S.Why are you still reading this? Read the story or scroll down already!)

Prologue

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“Long, long ago in the magical land of Equestria, the three pony tribes lived in harmony with one another. Escaping the destruction of their homeland the three races of ponies, the pegisi, the unicorns and the earth ponies, lived in tumultuous but lasting harmony. All of this changed with the coming of Discord. It is not known where this monster arose or how he possessed such frightful powers that allowed him to bend the order of the world itself to suit his will. What is known is that he possessed a resentment and hatred for pony kind that eclipsed any other. For a hundred years this creature perpetually tormented the ponies of Equestria with wanton chaos, and the ponies of Equestria despaired.

However all was not lost for there arose two sisters who drew forth power form the very heavens. It is not recorded where these goddesses came from or who they were before, but it is known that they were the ones to finally stand up to Discord’s madness. One drew fourth power from the moon at night and another drew it forth from the sun at dawn. However even their great powers were unable to defeat him alone. And so in order to quell the madness that was Discord, the sisters harnessed the powers of a sacred relic, THE RED STONE OF AJA. With its holy power the sisters were finally able to destroy Discord and reestablish a civilization for the three races of ponies.

However this peace would not last, for evil can find refuge in even the purest of hearts. The younger sister who controlled the night, slowly grew jealous of her sister who controlled the day. Her elder sister was beloved by all and could do no wrong, while she was treated with suspicion and fear. The ponies of the world revered her as a saint for her ability to control the power of the Red Stone of Aja, while they looked down on her younger sister for her inability to tap directly into its infinite powers. “Only Celestia, Goddess of the sun can control the power of the stone, why should we show our respect for her little sister, the Goddess of the night?”

Consumed by her hatred and jealousy for her sister the princess of the night drew upon the darkest magic and transformed herself into a wicked mare of darkness, Nightmare Moon. Threatening to bathe the land in perpetual night and destroy all life, the eldest sister was forced to use the power of the Stone against her own sister, sealing her away in the moon. For the next thousand years the eldest sister Celestia, would rule the land of Equestria with fairness and mercy establishing a lasting peace that spanned for one thousand years.

But behind the one thousand years of peace that has blossomed in Equestria, a dark malevolence flourishes; a hatred has festered in the dark corners of the world now sets its sights on pony kind once again. A dark shadow of a cursed destiny begins to bring the peaceful land of Equestria to ruin and wash away all that pony kind holds dear. Will a hero emerge that can challenge this as of yet corrupted destiny? Will pony kind prevail against this dark hatred that seeks to destroy it? Or will this dark curse destroy everything, wiping away the future?"

"This is the story of those who sought to challenge fate itself and secure a lasting peace not built on the strength of their magic, but on the strength of their hearts.”

Chapter 1-Ponyville Central-Take 1

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Part One: Ponyville Central:


Ponyville Central-Take 1


Knock, knock, knock

A loud and disruptive knocking echoes through a private bedroom in Castle Canterlot, its sound reverberating off of the countless bookshelves filled to the brim with priceless tomes from only the most esteemed sources.

Knock, knock, knock

This bedroom, though similar to almost every other room in the castle, had several key differences that set it apart.

Knock, knock, knock

For starters, the room was covered in arcane diagrams and charts which left little room for anything else. Any personal effects that could have been visible, choked out by the incredible amount of information that would take any ordinary pony years to properly understand.

Knock, knock, knock. “Ma’am? Are you in there?”

In the very corner of the room stands what could be classified as a bed, if it was not covered in enough books to form a kind of paper shell over the soft cushioning. And hiding underneath this paper shell, like a dragon in its hoard, the creature within began to shake and stir in its slumber.

Knock, knock, knock. “Ma’am? Are you there? This is important.”

The movement of the covers on the bed grows greater as the hibernating creature attempts to ignore the affronting sounds disturbing her slumber, trying with all her might to drift back into the realms of sleep.

Knock, knock, knock.

“Ma’am? You need to open the door! Seriously, magi and their magical locking mechanisms….”

A purple hoof slowly extends from under the covers, gently pulling the heavier books on top of her prone form. Though her mind is not in top shape, having just woken up, she knows it is a scientific fact that there is no way she is waking up this early. Not without several more minutes and an entire pot of coffee.

KNOCK, KNOCK, KNOCK!

“Ma’am! The princess’ secretary sent me to get you. She said that you were taking a nap now of all times. You need to open the door and come with me.”

‘Why won’t the annoying voice go away?’ The slumbering creature thinks. ‘I’m comfortable here, why can’t he just leave me alone.’

KNOCK, KNOCK, KNOCK “MAM! You need to wake up now! You were supposed to report for preliminary tasks over ten minutes ago!”

The slumbering creature’s eyes widen in terror and, in the fraction of a second, the bed and all the contents on it explode into the air in a burst of magical telekinesis. Her eyes as wide as saucers, the lavender unicorn mare looks at the door as though it was a dragon pounding at the gates. Reaching up with her petite hooves, the mare grasps her three toned mane, composed of a dark purple body and pink highlights like a dark and a sunset sky, in a nervous fit as a single hair pops up from her mane in a curly shape, as her bloodshot eyes scan frantically around the room. Her cutie mark, a mark that signifies every pony’s special talents and skills, is that of a large six pointed purple star, surrounded by five white stars as white and radiant as a real star. Her mark signifies the mare’s skill in the magical arts, as well as her composed and bright personality. However, at this very moment, the mare is anything but composed and bright.

“……I’m….. tardy?” the purple unicorn mare’s bed head becomes even more frazzled as she comprehends the magnitude behind those words “……I, Twilight Sparkle, am... Tardy?”

“Seriously, why do I get stuck with this job?” the guard sighs as he prepares to knock on the door again.

KNOCK, KNO…… BOOOM!

With the subtlety of a steamroller, the door explodes off its hinges, sending the guard in front of the door skidding across the floor while screaming for his life. Barely managing to open his eyes, the unlucky guard manages to see the most demented mare in Castle Canterlot running past him, carrying several objects in her telekinesis as she bolts down the hall with reckless abandon. Strapping her saddle bags to her side, the mare begins to brush her untidy mane while brushing her teeth and eating her breakfast at the same time. And, if the scene wasn’t improbable enough, the mare manages to do all this all while running full force down the hallways, screaming at the top of her lungs about being banished to the moon for daring to be late.

"Ohmygoshineedtogettotheprincessnow!Pleasedon'tbanishmetothemooni'msorry!!"

In other words it sounded something like that.

The guard groans as he barely manages to slowly pick himself off the ground. With an impartial glance, the stallion gazes upon the destruction left by Celestia’s private apprentice.

“Yep, just another day in Canterlot…” The jaded guard remarks as he prepares to go back to his post, unwilling to think about the destruction the mare just wrought on his watch.

Meanwhile, the mare, having tidied her mane, eaten breakfast and brushed her teeth, runs down the hall at full force. “I’m late! I’m late! For the most important date! OF MY ENTIRE LIFE! I need to get there ten minutes ago!” In her panic, Twilight Sparkle, most magically talented unicorn since Starswirl the Bearded, builds up a magical charge large enough to destroy a small house, and molds its power to suit her purpose. Imagining the location that she is supposed to be at, and distributing the magical charge over her body, Twilight fades from reality over the space of a single second and in a flash of brilliant purple light…….

Pop!

……..reappears at another location.

In contrast to the quiet atmosphere of her room, or her previously frantic pace down the halls, the open-air stadium Twilight now finds herself in is one of quiet awe. The octagonal shaped room provides a perfect display of the stars above, yet is enclosed enough to protect from prying eyes. The walls of the room around her are emblazoned with countless pricelessly ordinate runes. Each rune designed not to keep ponies out, but to keep aether in, and prevent rouge magical power from surging out in case of disaster. Performing other idle tasks of the side are various master magi and full-fledged ponies of the solar guard, ensuring that their tasks are carried out and everything is in its place.

Yet dominating the room and surpassing the importance of all the ponies in it, lies a large jet black boulder. Set upon an octagonal patio, engraved with one of the most complicated and powerful magical arrays known to ponykind, the boulder presides over the entire room, as if the room was designed around this single inconspicuous object. The stone, though it appears from simple sight to be no more than a black rock, emanates an aura that makes it unmistakable that it is an object of immense importance, an object that can…..

“Enjoying what you see, my dear?”

“GWAH!” Jumping three feet in the air, Twilight hits the ground with a thud; with a startled expression Twilight glances behind her to see the source of the voice that succeeded scaring her out of her skin.

A zebra mare, adorned with a long white coat that barely obscures her toned flank and surrounds her barrel, chuckles a bit at Twilight’s overt reaction. Straightening up the other mare’s appearance with a handy hoof-brush, the mare touches up Twilight’s disheveled mane, while dexterously wielding the brush with her hoof. The Zebra’s black and white mane, tied in an Asian style bun, bobs up and down in perfect unison with the zebra’s bare arms and legs, as she finishes up combing the unicorn’s stray hairs. “Relax, dear Twilight, you have nothing to fear. Be content with the fact that you have not missed anything of importance.” Placing the brush back in her pocket the Zebra extends her hoof to the prone mare with a smile of concern.

Twilight sighs and pulls herself to her hooves with the help of her friend. “Thanks Zecora. I guess that I’m just nervous. I mean, this is what I've been preparing for for ten whole years, ever since I became Celestia’s apprentice. And to top it off I was running late and…..”

Twilight’s eyes widen as she begins to panic. “OH my gosh, I’m late! I’m Ten minutes late! I can’t believe you convinced me to take a nap when I was supposed to be doing preparations! Oh Celestia’s going to kill me. What do I….. mmmhhh?”

Twilight’s rant is cut off by Zecora’s gentle hoof. She chuckles again. “I am sorry Twilight, I did not mean to aggravate you any further. What I was trying to say is, I recommended you take a nap because it was important that tonight of all nights. After all it is only during a lunar eclipse on the summer solstice, that we will be able to release Nightmare Moon from her prison.” Zecora remarks impartially.

“I know that Zecora. Remember that whole preparing for ten years thing?” Twilight waves her hoof at the room around her, pointing to the octagonal pedestal. “I know everything there is to know about Nightmare Moon and the mission that we are supposed to be doing tonight.” Twilight lowers her head. “And I know that I am supposed to be at my best, so that I can help to prepare the Arcanum that will purify Nightmare Moon. It’s just…… I don’t know. Now that I’m here, I just don’t feel very ready.”

Zecora’s face presents a gentle smile. “Twilight Sparkle, you are a talented and unique mare and I know for a fact that you are one of the most talented magi in Equestria in one thousand years. You are more than ready for this task.”

Despite Zecora’s comforting words, Twilight still cannot shake the feeling that she is missing something. “But I don’t even have my stand power yet!” Twilight looks over to the giant black stone in the middle of the room. “If I am really the best mare for the task, and one of the best magi in Equestria, how come I can’t even manifest my own stand, even after countless attempts?”

Twilight restates, unable to accept her friend’s assuring words. “If I can’t even handle manifesting a stand power when almost every member of the royal guard can do it in their sleep, then what kind of unicorn am I?” Looking over towards the dark black stone in the center of the room, the enormity of the task ahead of the mare suddenly begins to seem all that more daunting. “Maybe Celestia is better off finding a new pony to handle a task as important as this…”

“Do not doubt yourself so easily my young student; you are far more talented than you know….”

Twilight’s breath nearly stops in her throat, as a gentle reassuring voice begins to fill her very being with endless confidence. Falling gently from the sky like a sunbeam, the princess and monarch of the sun gracefully steps down in front of the two mares. The full grown alicorn mare, possessing both a majestic horn and a large pair of pegasi wings, lands on the ground with the slightest noise possible, as she demonstrates her natural born grace. From her alabaster coat, whiter than any silk sheet, to the flowing three toned mare of teal, sunset pink and a light purple that puts Twilight’s coat to shame, it is evident to all that the mare before them is a goddess in physical form. Her cutie mark of the invincible sun defines her as the picture of illumination and leader of the entire Equestrian Empire. With untold grace, the regal leader’s flowing mane ripples off to the side as she addresses her doubting student.

“…..And as for manifesting your stand….” The Goddess of the Sun chuckles “……I remember telling you to simply be patient. It will manifest when it is ready, and not before.”

Twilight bows her head in shame, still unwilling to admit her friend’s confidence in her is well founded. “But Princess…..I’m just a filly. I may be a pretty good at magic, but I don’t have half the experience that other ponies have. What about the head magister? Can’t she look over the circle in my place?”

Suddenly Twilight Sparkle’s eyes widen in realization of what she just said, her mentor chuckling at her student’s slip of the tongue. “I mean…… well I know that she can’t…….. You know what I mean! She’s the head magus; she was your student before me! Surely she should be more qualified for this than I am!”

The Princess smiles gently as she looks at the magic pedestal. “True she was my student as well at one time, but you are my student now. And let me assure you, Twilight, nopony, not even the head magister, has as much knowledge in magical theorem and arcane runes as you.” Celestia gestures over to the nearby circle with her wing. “Why you practically designed this magic yourself Twilight, and I could think of no pony more qualified to conduct final preparations than you.”

In a comforting gesture Celestia drapes her free wing over Twilight’s back. “And while the other ministers are managing the ambient energy fields to insure optimal conditions and to protect Canterlot, I know that you will insure that the Arcanum functions properly.”

“But…. But…..”

“No buts, Twilight Sparkle. You really must have more faith in yourself than that. I realised from the day we first met, that you were a filly that would pour all of her talents and energies into things that would enrich the world.” Removing her wing from the timid Unicorn’s back, Celestia looks with purest pride over to the magic circle inscribed into the patio. “And now you are poised to help me save my only sister from the darkness that consumes her. And you know what Twilight? I wouldn’t have any other pony helping me than you.”

Zecora walks forward, putting a gentle hoof on Twilight’s shoulder. “Celestia is right. I am certain that if, Celestia on high forbid, something bad should happen tonight, it would not be your fault. After all, there is no pony that has given more to make this project succeed than you have Twilight.”

“Yeah Twilly! Don’t worry!” Twilight turns around to greet another familiar voice, one that fills her with joy to hear. Trotting up to Twilight’s side is an official looking stallion, dressed in glistening gold armor, adorned in a centurion’s helm covered in blue accents that match his mane and tail. If his uniform wasn’t any indication of his occupation his toned muscular physique, his structured disciplined appearance, and spotless white coat would be be a dead giveaway that he was a stallion at arms. Upon his flank is his cutie mark, that of a gleaming shield, representing both his desire and ability to protect, and his face is a smile of unbridled happiness. “After all, when you have a handsome older brother to protect you, there’s no way that anything bad can happen, am I right?”

Not missing a beat, the lavender mare smiles as she turns to face the white coated stallion. “Yes, Shining Armor, but then I’d need a HANDSOME older brother.”

“……Touché Twilley.”

Despite his demeanor, or perhaps because of it, Twilight Sparkle can’t help but smile as she rolls her eyes. “Yes, Shining Armor, I am happy that you are my older brother as well, however all the brotherly love in the world won’t help me if this circle isn’t completely and utterly perfect!”

Shining Armor frowns at this and glances over towards the giant magical circle. “I just don’t see why we even need this big of a magic circle anyways. My Stand power, Bastion, is an unbreakable barrier, and the magister is handling the backlash fields, I don’t see why we shouldn’t be able to handle any feedback without some fancy magic circle.”

The group looks at the captain of the Royal Guard with looks of shock and surprise on their faces. Twilight even manages a face hoof as the captain of the royal guard glances at their disappointed looks. “What?” Shining asks “Was it something I said? OUCH! Hey sis that hurt!”

Twilight groans. “Shining do you even know the first thing about the Red Stone? Or why we need a powerful Arcanum that is so complex and powerful, that it encompasses the combined knowledge of almost ten entire generations?” The purple unicorn states with an upset tone. “Do you even remember why I’m freaking out here? DO YOU?!?”

Shining leans his neck back to put as much distance between his sister and himself.“Uhhhhhhhh, because you’re obsessive compulsive and have a deep seated fear of failure?”

Celestia can barely suppress a chuckle as Twilight begins to fume from Shining Armor’s response. “I am not! I am just…… Ugh never mind! Let’s take this from the top since SOME PONY can’t seem to get this right.”

Clearing her throat and adjusting her posture, Twilight raises her head in pride, as she begins to indulge in one of her most well-loved hobbies, elaborating on complex magical theory. “Normally, in order to perform magic, three things are necessary, a power source, a method of molding said power, and a method of activating and or controlling said power. In the case of ponies, magical power or aether/manna/magic whatever it has been called through the ages, is drawn forth from the world around them, or more specifically from their element. Earth ponies draw their magical power from the earth, Pegisi the sky and unicorns from the astral plane.”

“This magical power is drawn in through the body naturally by eating, drinking, resting and breathing, to replenish the body’s own magical supplies that are lost from moving, thinking, fighting or, yes, preforming magic. This magic can then be focused through parts of the body, such as the horns, wings and hooves, to perform spells, such as telekinesis, flight and superior strength and heightened resistance. Once the part of the body has a supply of magical power, the user can activate the power by simply willing it. Earth ponies, pegasi and sometimes even unicorns can manifest their powers unconsciously without even having to think about it, which is why many ponies even believe that pegasi and earth ponies don’t even have magical power.”

Shining raises his hoof cutting off his sister. “Uh, Twi, thanks for the magic 101, but I don’t see what this has to do with the circle. Plus, I think that you forgot stand powers.”

Twilight levels her gaze on her brother again and lightly bops him on the head with her hoof “Don’t interrupt when the teacher is talking. I was just getting to that Shining.”

Clearing her voice, Twilight begins again “Stand power, as it is called due to the fact that it manifests a magical construct that ‘stands’ by the user’s side, is a form of magic that is drawn forth by exposure to the Red Stones. In simple terms, it is a manifestation of the ‘soul’ of the user; their magical energy in their body taking physical form. The user can then direct this magical construct with their will, since the magic forming a stand’s body is technically part of their being, allowing the construct to perform any task that the user designates. The stand can also manifest a special power based upon the user’s desires and needs that corresponds in some way to the user’s psyche. And, because it is made in the form of the user’s soul, it can take almost any form varying its shape and powers based on its user’s psyche. For example Shining, your stand takes on the appearance of a giant bubble…”

“Twi! I told you it’s a 360 degree protective shield!”

Twilight laughs, glad that for once she was able to upset her brother. “…. Like I said, a giant bubble, and its power makes it unbreakable. This power is due to the fact that you are a born protector and you desire a power that allows you to better protect others. This is the kind of power that can be drawn out of others by Red Stone of Aja, a national treasure of Equestria that is unknown outside the highest levels of Equestrian’s government.”

Shining smiles at the complement. “That’s right, sis. I will always be there to protect the ponies that need me the most, that's what makes me a soldier. And though I REALLY enjoyed the long boring lecture ….” Twilight shoots her brother a hostile gaze, letting him know that his sarcasm will not be tolerated, causing the stallion to fearfully back away from her. “….It still didn’t answer my question of what does this have to do with the Red stone of Aja and that Arcanum thing.”

“Right” Twilight clears her throat again, more than willing to continue. “If the Red stone was normal magical power, the Arcanum would be completely unnecessary. However, as you might have guessed by its ability to cause living beings to manifest strange powers known as Stand, the Red Stone’s magic doesn’t obey the normal rules of magic because it’s magical power is entirely different.”

“Wait. What?” Shining asks

“It’s an anomaly, Shining.” Twilight clarifies with a somber tone of voice. “It’s an object beyond time and space. Even our greatest scientists and theoretical physicists can’t understand how it fully works. Even Princess Celestia, who has studied the Red Stones for years and established the Red Stone Group to research it, barely has any idea of how its powers seem to defy time and space.” With all the caution of a physicist picking up a bar of uranium, the mare points to the black stone sitting on the altar. “And because the stone is an anomaly in space time, it is incredibly difficult to control its power. Even the princess, who has more magical experience than any living being on the planet, has trouble with directing such power.”

“And we’re just going to fire it off randomly and hope it all goes right?” Captain Shining Armor remarks sarcastically as he imagines the entire project literally blowing up in their faces. “Great idea.”

“That’s why we have the Arcanum, Shiny.” Twilight corrects the stallion “Even if the Red stone is an abnormality in space time that taps into a power beyond our understanding, it still follows quite a few laws in our dimension. By using the Arcanum, it allows us to use the stone as a catalyst and a power source, allowing us to achieve feats of magic that would normally be impossible due to their scale and difficulty.”

With no small amount of pride, the lavender unicorn walks up to the stage tapping a hoof on the well inscribed magical circle surrounding the Red Stone of Aja. “This Arcanum is specifically designed to separate and destroy the almost limitless evil that is contained within the soul of Nightmare moon. It’s similar to the way in which the stone allows ponies to physically manifest aspects of their psyche physically though a stand power. This Arcanum will draw out this evil and subsequently destroy it, freeing her from the corruptive influence of the dark magic affecting her actions. I personally helped Celestia design this circle, along with many of the top mages in Equestria. It’s a project that I myself have been working on for ten years Shiney, TEN YEARS, and even I barely understand the inner workings of the Red Stone.” Twilight suddenly glances over to the large black bolder in the center of the room her face masked with worry. “I only hope it the Arcanum works after all of this….”

Celestia smiles benevolently, wrapping her wing around Twilight. “Twilight, the circle is perfect. As you said before, the Red Stone of Aja will provide the power, the circle will focuses it, and the rest is up to me to direct and control the power of the Red stone.”

Shining Armor looks at the dark monolith of black, a sudden look of awe in his demeanor. “To purify your sister’s inner evil……I had no idea that the stone could even be used in this way….”

“What was that Shiny?”

Shining immediately snaps back to attention “Nothing! It’s nothing, little sis.” Turning his back leg, Shining begins to make a hasty retreat towards a very official looking group of unicorn guards. “Anyways, I need to work on the barriers with the rest of the guard. Catch you later Twilly!”

“I should get going as well.” Celestia states as she glances up to the sky above her, the dark face of a pony drawn into the surface of the moon reminding her of the mission’s importance. “The Arcanum will do most of the work, drawing forth the corpse’s power and focusing it. However, it is up to my will and strength to purify my sister. And to do that I need to…… to prepare. Prepare to once again face my sister….” A look of deep melancholy crosses the goddess’ face, a regret so heavy that it could break lesser mortals like matchsticks.

For the first time since she arrived Twilight becomes worried about something beyond her own insecurities “Celestia…..”

Celestia snaps out of her mental daze. “I am fine Twilight; my magic will draw my sister to me when the lunar eclipse occurs. And if the Arcanum is successful, you will have reunited me with my sister and that is worth any amount of emotional discomfort.” Celestia turns away from the Arcanum, her eyes locking on her apprentice. “I’ll say it once again Twilight, I have absolute faith in you. I trust you to make sure the Arcanum is ‘up to snuff’ as those youngsters these days say.”

Zecora coughs, getting the attention of the goddess and the giggling purple unicorn. “Ummmm, princess, I don’t think any ‘youngsters’ these days say that.” the Zebra says.

“Oh. Really I could have sworn that was the right ‘lingo’. Are you sure that ponies these days don’t use ‘up to snuff’ anymore?”

Zecora sighs. “No, princess, ponies do not use ‘up to snuff’ anymore.”

Celestia blushes slightly. “Goddess, I feel old now. Oh well, learn something new every day I suppose. Come along Zecora, we have important matters to attend to.” With brilliant illumination, Celestia charges her horn preparing for a quick teleport. “Oh and Twilight, remember what I said, I have faith in your judgment.” And with that Celestia and Zecora disappear in a flash of light, leaving the lavender unicorn once again alone.

Though originally disheartened by every pony’s sudden absence, Twilight wastes no time. With urgency befitting her situation, she slaps her cheeks with her hooves, waking her mind and body up for the important task she is about to begin. “All right Twilight! It’s up to you now. All you have to do is go over the Arcanum and every rune in it in order, to make sure that everything is in its proper place. Compared to your other work this should be a breeze.”

Leaping to her hooves, Twilight begins to walk over the layers and layers of carefully choreographed runes that lie upon the ground. With peerless perception and years of photographic memory on the circle’s from and composition, she goes tirelessly over every sigil, every bump, and indent on the stage, strengthening the marks and insuring every letter of the magical alphabet is spell checked to reduce any margin of error. Seconds drag unto seconds, minutes into minutes until finally, the empty room around her begins to fill with serious looking ponies, each member a master in the magical arts, as Twilight resolves to make sure her greatest work is nothing short of perfect, no matter how long it takes.

…………… two hours and twenty three minutes later……………

“FINISHED!” Twilight wipes the sweat off her brow, breathing a sigh of relief as she takes pride in the brain child of her ten years of research resting beneath her hooves. “That was exhausting, I almost thought that I had made a mistake on review number three on the fourth wall but luckily I was wrong! I guess this circle is about as perfect as I can make it. That means, all I have to do is sit back and…….what?”

However just as Twilight is about to turn away, her eye catches the sight of something out of place. “Hunh? That’s not right….” Looking to the left and the right for signs of anypony else, Twilight walks carefully forward, to the center of the circle, where the red stone is. Tip hoofing over the detailed magical runes (many that she helped craft), she stops near the center of the circle and stares agape at a single syllable slightly outside the center of her perfectly crafted ritual.

“There’s no way….” Twilight peers that the circle like a soldier staring at an active land mine, as a single horrifying thought worms it’s way up from her subconscious. “I…. made a mistake? NO! That’s impossible! I checked and double checked this rune at least four times! This shouldn’t be here! Celestia herself said that she would go over this part of the Arcanum! And there’s no way that Celestia of all ponies would make a mistake!”

Twilight states with a tone of finality as she tries to convince herself otherwise. “This must be a new addition to the Arcanum to boost its power, yeah that’s it! Celestia must have just changed this part of the Arcanum without telling me! There’s no way that this could be a mistake. ”

Twilight looks around her again, gulping deeply in fear. “However……This could cause a catastrophic magical surge if it is not properly handled…. And Princess Celestia DID say that she trusted me to go over the circle for any errors……”

Twilight falls to her rump, her mind in deep concentration ‘OK. Twilight. this is the moment that you have been trained for; fix the circle and risk Celestia’s wrath or don’t fix the circle and risk Celestia’s wrath. There are no wrong answers, only two equally dangerous decisions that could end up with me banished to the moon or Nightmare Moon rampaging free across Equestria. This moment will decide the fate of your entire life, and you can’t afford to mess it up.’

Looking up at the moon, Twilight thinks of Celestia’s long lost sister corrupted by dark magics. She thinks of this magical circle the only real hope of purifying her from the darkness that consumes her. She thinks of her own brother, and how she would do anything to save him if she was in Celestia’s place.

Suddenly her mind is made up. “The princess trusted me and my judgment to make sure that this Arcanum would drive out the evil in her sister. If there is even a single error in it is my duty to make sure that it functions properly! Besides, such a textbook mistake can’t be considered worthy enough to bother Celestia, especially since she needs all her focus for tonight. I’m sure she would understand.” Igniting her horn, Twilight fires a beam of magical energy at the opposing rune, causing it to glow. Slowly, the affronting rune takes on a new shape, better conforming to the circle’s pattern.

Twilight smiles and nods her head, content that now the circle will do its purpose. “Whew. I’m glad that moral dilemma is over. I just hope that this won’t have any far reaching consequences!”

Suddenly Twilight’s train of thought is cut off by a familiar voice, the voice of her brother “Twilly! We’re about ready to start! Get over here.” Shining Armor cries out, waving his hoof off to the side of the Arcanum’s platform.

Twilight turns around with a look of shock on her face. “Coming shinny!” Building her magic in her horn, Twilight teleports off of the dais, directly to the side of her brother. “Don’t worry I’m done! No magical catastrophes or anything!”

Shining Armor smiles at this. “That’s good, Twilight. Now get ready to watch the real show put on by yours truly.”

Before Twilight can retort on the fact that it is Celestia that will be invoking the circle’s power and he’s only playing a supporting role, the blaring voice of Zecora cuts them both off. “Quiet everypony! This is no time for a fuss! The time has come for us to perform our tasks! To your stations!”

Zecora’s booming voice causes the soldiers and magi around her to immediately scurry around as they frantically prepare for the eclipse. “Man your posts! There is no time to spare! The lunar Eclipse is almost upon us!”

No sooner than the words leave the Zebra’s mouth, a brilliant flash of light emerges from the center of the circle. Covered head to hoof in glimmering runes and shining armor, the monarch of the sun emerges in front of the red stone of Aja, her face grim and resolved. Facing the red stone with the reverence of a saint, Celestia raises her horn to the heavens, as the four stars near the cardinal points of the moon.

“All right stallions, Secretary Zecora is right, enough horsing around.” Shining bellows as he dawns his gleaming helm. “The moment that Nightmare Moon lands in the circle, I will use my stand to trap her inside while Celestia does her part. Mages, flow your magic through the inscriptions on the stone to help control the power of the Red stone. The rest of you form a perimeter and get ready for a heck of a show!”

Following his commands, several prominent magi, including Twilight Sparkle, ignite their horns around the stage forming a pentagram of prismatic light suspended in midair. Clearing their minds, unicorn mares and stallions alike touch their horns to the side of the octagonal platform, causing the light from their horns to slowly spread through the runes underneath the monarch’s feet, their magical pentagram meshing together with the runes of the circle. Finally, the entire circle gives off a dull illumination and the magi raise their heads again, their will and magic bound to the Arcanum in a dramatic display of arcane power. As the Arcanum glows bright white, the monarch of the sun stares stoically at the dark shadow on the moon, preparing for the confrontation to come as the moon begins to turn blood red against the dark and foreboding sky.

“Thirty seconds until Lunar eclipse! All ponies stand by!” Zecora bellows.

The guards stand ready, forming a perimeter around the stone dais upon which Celestia stands.

“Twenty seconds until Lunar eclipse!”

Celestia herself stands ready, raising her horn to the heavens as the last white sliver on the moon prepares to give way to the blood red that spreads across it.

“Ten Seconds until Lunar Eclipse!”

Shining armor readies his horn, igniting its pinkish hue, his face stern and unmoving.

“Five seconds!!”

Twilight gulps heavily ‘All right Twilight, this is it!’

“ZERO!” Zecora shouts, her voice echoing off the enclosed room with the intensity of a thunderclap. The shadowy face on the moon disappears. All is deathly silent as everypony holds their breath and waits for the horseshoe to drop.

Ten seconds pass……

Twenty……..

Thirty…….

Everypony is too scared to even breathe. Each one, mare and stallion alike, holding their breaths as they prepare to plunge into an uncertain future. Yet, each pony stands at the ready, prepared to do their part though each one is uncertain of what will happen next.

Suddenly, as fast as a thunderbolt, a dark shadow falls on Canterlot. A fell wind blows as a creature that could only be conceived of in a night terror lands in front of the monarch of the sun. Its wings sickly and bat-like flap in the night air like those of the ancient devils of old. Its teeth pointed and jagged, as if designed to consume the very flesh of living things in boiling rage. A mane as dark and shimmering as the water from a well that has never seen the sun, ripples in a nonexistent wind as the few glimmers of starlight contained in its’ vestiges are choked out by its pervading dark. The creature’s body, black as coal, is adorned with ancient cobalt blue armor that is etched with the foulest runes made from the blood of countless innocent creatures. However, most terrifying of all are its eyes. Staring at them with malice that freezes the blood in their veins are eyes devoid of compassion, mercy and any trace of goodness. Its reptilian alien slatted eyes are more akin to one of the near extinct dragons of the fiery plains than a pony of flesh and blood.The eyes that stare back at every pony in the room are eyes devoid of a very soul.

This creature, not pony, but creature, shakes off the dust from its coat as it looks upon the princess of the sun and it does something more terrifying than simply existing.

The monster opens its mouth and contorts its razor sharp teeth into a broken grin.

Nightmare Moon has arrived.

Chapter 2-Ponivile Central-Take 2

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Ponyville Central-Take 2


The goddess of nightmares, a being known as Nightmare Moon stands poised on the stone pedestal in the middle of the room her hooves spread apart as she faces her one time sister, Princess Celestia invictus Solaris, the goddess of light with malefic intent. These two Goddesses one with a coat of pitch black night, it's appearance drawn from the most mind shattering nightmares and one as radiant as the dawn, cloaked in gleaming golden armor, stand in the middle of the stone pedestal like dancers as a cosmic stage. With each glint of their keen eyes the two goddesses size the other up, glare at each other with force enough to sunder mountains as they both prepare for the inevitable clash.

“SHIELDS!” Shining Armor cries out. In a flash, the entire circle is surrounded in a purple barrier that cuts the mortals off from the two gods standing face to face in the circle. And though they are safe from physical harm, the haunting image of the dark pony has engraved fear into their souls.

Without wasting a single breath, the dark mare manifests a dark shadow from behind it. The image she manifests behind her is a shape of utter darkness, a shadow of the darkest night devoid of any features aside from its pony shaped body. Its dark mane of the brightest white is the only colorful feature on its body. The shadow lacks a horn, wings, even eyes, yet it stands suspended in midair, its malice and intent almost palpable as its hoof moves like a bush in the wind.

Suddenly, the dark stand extends its arm like a tentacle straight towards the heart of Celestia, its’ sharpened point ready to skewer her without giving her a chance to defend. However, at the last second, the arm of the creature is sheared clean off by a burst of the brightest sunlight, the remainder of the stump sizzling as the heat from the laser eats away at its arm.

With a look of resolve in her eyes Celestia makes a calculated step to the left, her stand emerging out from her right side in a flash of light. As if a complete contrast to Nightmare Moon’s stand of pure darkness, the stand that Celestia manifests is a creature of pure white sunlight. It’s illuminated body coated in plate mail that extends across its torso, like a thousand tiny vines of purest gold. All its limbs, from its wings to its hooves, are covered in emblazoned golden armor that glimmers with every movement of the mare, refracting every glint of light in the air around it. Its armor is scaled and plated, covering its entire body save its face, belly and mane with armor so fine and luminous, it almost seems transparent. And upon its head is a brilliant war helm, accenting a foot long golden horn and blazing red eyes.

“Hello…. Sister.” Celestia states. “How are you?”

Laughing maniacally, the creature offers up an evil grin as its stand regenerates its entire arm that seconds before was reduced to dust. “Me? You are concerned about me? I suppose that there is a first time for everything Celestia. In the past you cared more about your pathetic mortal subjects than I. Is it only now that I have returned that you feign concern?” The nightmare mocks. “Typical of a weakling such as you to try and take the easy way out of your defeat by attempting to ‘win over’ me like a common filly having a temper tantrum.”

Confronted with an image of absolute evil, Celestia still manages to stand her ground, her voice fair and benevolent. “I’m not trying to deceive you Lulu, and I am not trying to win you over to my side.” Celestia states with a stern look. “I don’t want to be right, I don’t want the power and prestige of an empty crown, I only want my sister back.”

“Humph, then I guess that you are going to be very disappointed now, aren’t you Celestia.” The nightmare grins as it circles around the mare testing her opponent's mental weaknesses and probing her physical defenses. “That pathetic filly Luna is gone now. Nightmare Moon is all that remains of her, and currently Nightmare Moon wants to mount your head on a pike. Now how does that sound?”

Celestia recoils as if struck with a whip, her hooves shaking as she stares into the pits of the monster’s eyes, realizing that the creature before her was at one time a pony she cared about more than any other. Starring her sister straight in the eyes with a sorrowful look that would cause stones to weep, the celestial monarch begins to tear up as she attempts once again to reach the mare before her. “I was wrong Luna, I was so very wrong and it ended up hurting you so badly.” Celestia sheds a sole tear. “I just….. I tried to think of what I could say to……”

“You can say NOTHING! SUN WITCH!” the nightmare screams as the dark mare’s hooves slam into the ground beneath her. Breathing heavily Nightmare Moon stares hatefully at the Princess of the sun, her eyes wide as if realizing a dirty secret “Ahhhhh I see now. You think that this, this rebellion is a bit of teenage angst, some pathetic cry out for attention hummmm? You think that deep down I just want ponies to love me again so you try to tempt me with your sappy sisterly love and acceptance.”

The nightmare takes a step closer to the monarch of the sun “You think that this is about ‘IT’ don’t you? You think that this is about the love of the common ponies that you stole from me. You think that this is about the loneliness and isolation that you filled my every waking moment with. You couldn’t be more wrong.”

Celestia’s face immediately freezes in terror. “What are you talking about Luna?”

The nightmare grins, as it once again begins circling around the princess of the sun. “I realized long ago the greed and selfishness of the common pony Celestia. Yet you always made the mistake of trying to live your life, slaving away for these worthless mortal shells, for these beings that would take everything that we so openly offered to them and give nothing in return. You think yourself their ruler, HA! You are their slave Celestia, a slave to their desires and whims! And I do not desire to be a slave.”

Celestia recoils again. “Luna what do you…..”

“There is only one true way to free this world of their corruptive influence.” The Nightmare continues, her voice gaining momentum and pace with every word she utters with her forked tongue. “And that is to show these pathetic mortals what life would be like without light or mercy. To show them who truly rules over their lives and their destinies. It is time to show them a world without the sun and see how long they hold their haughty heads high as they freeze to death in the darkness!”

Celestia stands straight, lowering her head ever so slightly as she closes her eyes in deep thought “….you would kill any pony who opposed you, Luna? You would literally kill every living creature on the planet simply because you can? You would kill me if I tried to stop you?”

The nightmare grins. “Just the ones that refused to bow down and submit to my will. And as for my poor misguided sister, heh, I would kill you anyways for being such a pathetic waste of existence.” The dark alicorn flares her wings, revealing her terrible majesty. “There is only room for one at the top of the world, Celestia, and it shall be me.”

Celestia raises her eyes at her sister, her own flesh and blood with a ferocity and anger that could put the flames of the sun to shame. “YOU are not my sister. Luna loved the night and all her ponies. She was as generous and loyal to her ponies as if they were her own blood.” Celestia stamps her hoof in her furious rage. “And she would NEVER allow herself to fall so far that she would believe she had to resort to genocide, simply because she had a little power. I don’t know how much of you is left in there Luna, but I will save you, and I will protect my little ponies at the same time.”

The nightmare lets out a bellowing laugh that this “HAHAHAHAHAHA! Such fierce resolve from so weak a pony. Then try it! Go ahead and kill your little sister! Oh that is right, you can’t because you love me! HAHAHAHAHAHA!” The shadow continues to bellow for a few more seconds before she cuts herself off.

“Enough of this Foolery Celestia.” The nightmare glares at her sister. “I can tell from looking at your stand that your connection to ‘it’ is gone. You may have the stone hare but you cannot use ‘IT’S’ Power.” The shadow looks off to the stone at her side as a evil look crosses her muzzle. “You may have thought that your strong desires would have been enough to allow you to harness the true power of the Red Stone of Aja, but you were gravely wrong. And in doing so, you have placed before me the means by which I might make my dream a reality!”

“NO!” Celestia shouts. However, she is too late as she shadow sweeps over the Red stone. The previous princess of the night solidifying again as she comes to a rest atop of the black rock. Raising her head to the night sky above, the nightmare lets out a howl to the moon above, as she basks in her self-proclaimed victory.

Standing on top of the Red stone, the nightmare lets out another mighty laugh. “You are far too late Celestia; the power of Harmony is now MINE!” Looking down at the rock beneath her hooves, the nightmare licks her lips. “Now ,‘stone’, you will obey me and my will! Bask this world in eternal night and make me the ruler of all!”

Celestia, wasting no time, taps her horn to the stone and charges her horn’s magic in an aura of brilliant illumination, causing the entire stone beneath Nightmare Moon’s hooves to glow bright red. “You were right about one thing Luna; I have always been slow and cautious. After all, it took me so long to see how much you were suffering.”

Celestia grins as the Nightmare’s dismay becomes apparent. “However, in your haste you forgot three very important things. One, even if ‘it’ is not a part of me there is more than one way to use an Arcanum, and more than one way to tap into its power. Two, I have spent the last thousand years researching and developing an Arcanum that can remove inner evil, all that is necessary it to make sure that the victim lands inside of the Arcanum for it to work.”

The stone beneath the nightmare glows bright red as the entire Arcanum comes online, it’s previously invisible markings illuminating the night sky. “…And three, I may be too slow, but you were always too easy to fool, and far too eager to jump to conclusions.”

The Nightmare stands stunned, completely surprised as she now finds how ironically the tables have turned on her. Realizing too late that she is now caught her sister’s trap, the Nightmare spreads her wings in a vain attempt to take to the air as the entire sphere is illuminated with the brightest light imaginable. The figures inside the sphere blurs and vanishes under the immense onslaught of magical energy, as those outside the sphere do everything in their power to keep the spell from falling apart.

“URRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHH It’s too powerful!” Shining screams as his invincible shield quakes from the intense magical energy. “I can barely hold it all in!”

“Shield guards one through seven Support Captain Armor!” Zecora bellows out. No sooner than she speaks, several concentrated beams of magic converge with Shining’s shield, causing the purple sphere to take on a rainbow hue. “Twilight, how is the Arcanum holding up?!”

“The buildup is a concern Zecora!” Twilight screams out over the din of the advanced magical reaction taking place a few hooves away. “Isn’t the Arcanum and the shield supposed to prevent this kind of backlash?”

“That should be the case little one!” Zecora yells. “The new runes that we added today were supposed to help channel the magic into the participants better so that it would not put a strain on the Arcanum.”

“New Runes? But I didn’t see any new…..” Twilight’s heart stops. “Wait. What do you mean new runes?!”

However Zecora cannot hear Twilight, as the blaring sound coming from inside the circle grows from simply uncomfortable to almost ear splitting in under a second. All the ponies surrounding the Arcanum begin to struggle as waves of magical power and deafening sound course through their very beings. The light from the dome grows brighter and brighter eclipsing even the sun. All the while, what few ponies that are able to stand their ground through the reverberations of the magical reaction, cover their eyes and ears in an attempt to withstand the immense sensory bombardment.

Thinking on her hooves, Twilight pushes even more power into the Arcanum in an attempt to analyze the status of the circle. ‘Let’s see, from what I am reading from my sensory spell, the circle is working perfectly, all seven layers of the Arcanum are fine. So why are we getting this magical feedback?’ Twilight expands her consciousness through the Arcanum. She remembers what Zecora just said. ‘Wait a minute. Zecora said that the rune was added last minute to channel the excess magical energy through the participants. But if that rune was changed that would send all the excess magical buildup straight through……..’

Twilight’s face is consumed with equal parts dawning comprehension and absolute terror as she realises where all the magical energy of two alicorns is being channeled through. Realising she has precious few seconds Twilight raises her voice above the din of the deafening magical reaction taking place in front of her. “HIT THE DECK!” Twilight yells as she breaks free of the Arcanum, running for cover as fast as her little hooves can take her.

Those left in the stadium barely have time to react as all the pent up magical energy explodes outward from the center of the Red Stone of Aja in a catastrophic explosion. Like the sound of a thousand pounds of fine china being blown to bits, the single most priceless artifact in Equestria explodes. The barrier around the stone, unable to withstand its might, instantly crumbles to pieces in a single flash of Crimson light. Every mare and stallion falls to the floor from the sheer force of the blast as hundreds of thousands of shards of the Red stone are sent spiraling far into the atmosphere, their trajectory directed upwards from the Arcanum’s feedback.

Like a rain of shooting stars streaking across the skies, thousands of pounds of magically charged stone begins to rain down all over the land of Equestria. Each shard and fragment glows with an eerie red light that refracts the starlight above as it tumbles through the stratosphere. This single event, an accident of epic proportions, would go on to be known as the night of shooting stars, and, at the time, was celebrated by ponies all across the land as a beautiful accompaniment to the Lunar Eclipse.

Countless ponies would never know that what they thought of as a display of their princess’s power over the stars was a massive catastrophe, that would have such dire and longstanding consequences, that it would change the very shape of their world.

And that night, unknown to the ponies of the land of Equestria, would signal the beginning of all the things that were to come.

……………………..

As the dust begins to settle around her, Twilight coughs out some of the latent magically charged dirt, a lingering effect of the ionized Red Stones, as she slowly rises to her hooves. “Well…. I’m alive I guess….” Looking around at the scene of disarray around her, Twilight makes out the silhouettes of her brother and Zecora, as well as other disoriented members of the Royal guards. “We’re all alive….. We took a point nine magical blast point blank and we’re all right! Wow I guess I have to thank Shining after all, if it wasn’t for that barrier I’m not sure that we would have made it.”

Twilight sighs as she lowers her head in shame. “Good. Now maybe I’ll live long enough for Princess Celestia to banish me to the…… CELESTIA!”

Her own imminent banishment forgotten, Twilight turns around to see the stage behind her to find her mentor lying prone and scorched upon it. Celestia’s body, normally the picture of pristine beauty, is now covered in countless wounds and magical burns as she lies on her side completely still.

“Princess!” Teleporting over to her mentor in the space of a second, Twilight buries her face in her Princess’s chest. Trying to drown out the sound of her own frantic heartbeat, Twilight listens for any signs of life in her mentor. Seconds blur into years as the lavender mare begs any powers that will listen that her princess still lives. Her own life, her fate, her failure is completely inconsequential as she begs fate that life will return to a mare she loves as a mother, to a mare that is truly irreplaceable to her in every sense of the word.

Ba-Dump.

Twilight’s face brightens as hope once again returns to her tumultuous heart.

Ba-dump.

Her smile returns as her fears fade away, banished by a small and simple sound that she had taken for granted her entire life, the sound of a heart beating. Suddenly, the white goddess begins to stir, groaning as if awakened from sleep. Her eyes blink groggily, as she registers the presence of her student by her side. Twilight, unable to endure the emotional tension another second longer, lets loose a cascade of gentle tears, overjoyed that in this merciless world that sometimes things turn out for the best.

“…..Twilight?” the goddess asks.

“Yes, Celestia, I’m here. It’s all over now, you’re going to be fine…” Twilight assures with tears in her eyes.

“…..Lu…… Luna…. Is she…. Is my sister….. Is she…….”

Nightmare moon! Twilight completely forgot about her! Her entire body tense, the mare looks across the stage, spying another prone shape off to the side. Twilight’s body becomes almost frozen in fear, as the thought of a great dark demon rising from the ashes to suck their blood fills the crevices of her mind.

However, to her great surprise, the figure that she sees is not a notorious demon, but a very pony looking creature with a light dark blue coat and light blue mane. All in all, the figure before her looks like any normal pony she could find on the street, save perhaps the fact that she possesses both a horn and wings, as well as the black blot surrounding her cutie mark of a crescent moon, no doubt the residue of left over dark magic. Though the figure’s mark was strikingly similar to the Nightmare’s, her mark seems to represents the beauty and majesty of the night, rather than the terror of the dark that Nightmare Moon represented not too long ago when she descended from the moon seeking revenge and death.

‘But is she still the same’ Twilight muses ‘or is this really……..’

Twilight’s train of thought is cut off suddenly, as the blue mare opens her eyes, staring directly into the unicorn’s soul with frightening powers of perception. The two mares retain contact, as the blue mare rises shakily to her hooves, both mares staring the other down, unwilling to give the other any ground mentally or physically. Eventually the silence is dissipated as Twilight, being the younger of the two, cannot hold her tongue any longer. “Um, Princess Luna? Is… is that really you?”

The blue mare counters with silence.

“You’re not going to go all evil on us again?” Twilight asks.

Again silence.

“Are you hurt? That was some explosion…..”

The blue mare stares into her eyes, judging her with an intensity that can scarcely be understood. Finally she responds “I don’t know….. I feel better than I should, but…..” The blue mare looks to the prone form of her elder sister, her body exhausted and scorched, her golden armor rent and singed from the force of the spells beyond mortal ken.

Suddenly the eyes of the two siblings lock and, after what seems like an eternity Celestia manages to muster enough strength to speak “…..Sister……… you…….. You…….”

The blue mare recoils in terror from her sister, as if she were a ravenous beast. “I need to get away from here!” she declares with no small amount of fear. Without another word the alicorn charges her blue horn with an intensity rivaling that of the brightest star, as she prepares to teleport away from her locale.

Twilight rushes towards her “Wait! Princess Luna! Wai….” However before she can reach the long lost alicorn the princess of the moon vanishes into thin air leaving Twilight falling to her rump in defeat.

“………Luna……..” Celestia moans.

Realizing that she has just left her teacher alone in her hour of weakness, Twilight rushes back over to her Princess, clasping her hoof reassuringly. “Don’t worry princess, I don’t know for sure, but from the look of it, it appears that the Arcanum worked. Nightmare….. Princess Luna…. That is…. Ummmmmmmmm.” The student fumbles with her words as she tries to assure her mentor.

“She probably just needs some time to herself!” Twilight states with faltering certainty. “Yeah that’s it, she probably just needs time to sort all this complicated stuff out, that’s all! And once she comes back it’ll all be fine and everything will be sunshine and rainbows and you can be sisters again….. and …….. and…..” Twilight fumbles as she works at combining as many comforting phrases together as possible in a vain attempt to alleviate the mood of her heart-stricken mentor.

Celestia is as silent as death, as all she can do is stare vacantly at the space that her sister used to occupy.

“Princess Celestia?” Twilight says “I know that I really messed up today….. but you said that you trusted me.” Twilight dons the greatest look of resolve that she can muster. “Then you can trust me on this. Your sister Princess Luna is fine. Everything is going to be fine, I promise.”

After what seems like the longest and most disappointing night of her life a gentle smile crosses Celestia’s tired muzzle. “….she’s …… fine? Good…… as long as she’s fine……. Then……… I am……. Too…………….” The monarch of the sun, exhausted from her day and her near death experience finally drifts off to sleep, cradled in the arms of her most trusted student.

Twilight breathes a sigh of immense relief as she stares down at her mentor. “Well, at least one thing went right tonight…….”

“Twilly!” A familiar voice calls out.

“Twilight dear!” another voice joins in as both Shining armor and Zecora rush up towards the lavender mare and their monarch.

“Shining! Zecora! Thank goodness you’re alright. Is everypony else okay?”

Zecora lowers her head in shame. “There are no casualties here my dear. But the destruction of the stone is a concern almost as great as Nightmare Moon’s escape.”

“Zecora is right. The destruction of the Red stone is nothing short of a national catastrophe! What did you do Twilly?”

“Hunh?” Twilight asks, trying to play as dumb as possible, a difficult feat for a genius with an IQ of 180. “I don’t know what you are talking about big brother! What makes you think that I had anything to do with what happened?”

Zecora stares down Twilight with her piercing gaze, causing her to back up as Zecora’s condemnation grows ever closer. “Twilight Sparkle. This is a matter of national security. This is no time for games. When I mentioned the new runes that we were adding to the circle you seemed ignorant of them and seconds before the blast occurred you told us all to run for cover.” Twilight’s retreat finally fails causing her to fall on her rump. “Now, Twilight, I know that you have only the best intentions but I must ask. What. Did. You. Do?”

Twilight’s normally razor sharp mind stops functioning almost instantly in the wake of Zecora’s accusations. Twilight’s brain freezes over, as the various high magi and military ponies gather around the purple mare in order to hear her ‘valid’ and ‘logical’ explanation for why everything went wrong, her amazingly high IQ producing no ways to escape the hole that she has dug herself into.

“Well Twilight?” Shining Armor chimes in. “Please, tell me Zecora is wrong. Please tell me that you didn’t have anything to do with this!”

Twilight’s brain finally comes back from vacation as her stalled mind begins to think again. ‘Alright, this is no time for stalling now. Come on, think brain! This is the one chance you have to explain yourself before you are banished to the moon for a thousand years. Think of something clever and logical that explains you just wanted to make the circle magic circle more efficient and better able to cleanse Celestia’s blood sister of corruptive magics. Then they will see that it is not your fault that a priceless artifact that is tantamount to the military strength of the nation exploded!’

Twilight, demonstrating amazing resolve in the face of pressure, rises to her hooves with dramatic flair. With social grace befitting the private student of the ruler of the country, she clears her voice in a solemn way, and raises her hoof, her entire body prepared to deliver the most eloquent speech in her life. The speech that her entire life depends upon. Finally her mouth opens and a torrent of words pours out.

“wiuhiuahifuwadhuaifhiuauriwweeygytrewwqasdfvgyyuhkikjnkkolllkjhggfvbnjnnggfdxsxszazszsswefghhuiopopoijukuhrfhguiufvkhdhughufhuuhdshilssdjicslkmsfjkjfdvmdsudgrurungnhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.” And with that brilliant piece of literary genius, Twilight Sparkle falls over, fainting dead away from the waking world.

………… 12 hours later…………..

The same lavender mare who had fainted away in front of a crowd of twenty, stands before the throne in front the highest power in the land of Equestria, none other than princess Celestia. Channeling her inner tapeworm, Twilight crouches as low to the ground as possible, as she stands in judgment at the very hooves of she has spent her entire life trying not to disappoint. The very goddess that raises the sun and the moon, one of the strongest and wisest creatures in the world, a living god in body mind and soul, and Twilight had failed her. Standing before the solar throne in a room devoid of any pony aside from her aide Zecora, the solar monarch stares down upon her apprentice, as Twilight seems to be melting into the floor.

The lavender mare muses on the fact that she could be disintegrated on the spot and no pony would even know. But even more painful to her is the fact that she knows, despite everything, that she deserves it. More crushing than the mare’s disappointment in herself, is her abusing the very faith Celestia had put in her skills and abilities. Celestia trusted her, Twilight Sparkle, to help her save her sister and now Luna is gone to goddess only knows, and the most valuable object in Equestria has been destroyed at her hooves. Banishment to the moon is far too good for ponies like her.

‘Why doesn’t she just say something already?’ The scum known as Twilight Sparkle thinks to herself. ‘Why doesn’t she just banish me to the moon already? I can’t take the pressure anymore! Just say something! Anything!

Finally, after minutes of complete silence, the princess opens her mouth. “Well…..” the princess of the sun begins “…..it seems that we are in a bit of a pickle now aren’t we.”

“A bit of a pickle…….” Twilight stares aghast at her mentor. “A BIT OF A PICKLE!?! Princess Celestia I destroyed one of the most valuable and priceless objects in the entire kingdom with nothing to show for it! A bit of a pickle doesn’t even begin to describe the mess that we are in now!” Twilight lets her frustrations out on a fury of self destructive words. “Now thanks to me the means to obtain powerful magical abilities, to obtain Stand powers, is now scattered across the whole of Equestria!”

“Twilight…”

“I don’t understand why you are not taking this seriously! I deserve to be banished from Equestria!”

“Twilight……”

“…..Or be thrown in a dungeon!”

“Twilight…………”

“Or be banished and be thrown in a dungeon in the place that I’m banished to! I don’t deserve to…”

“ENOUGH TWILIGHT SPARKLE!” Manifesting the full power of the royal canterlot voice, Celestia breaks her student out of her manic rant. “HOLD YOUR TONGUE HENCEFORTH SO THAT WE MIGHT CONVEY WHAT WE HAVE TO SAY TO THOU!”

The purple unicorn cowers on the ground as she prepares to face judgment for her crimes against the kingdom of Equestria, her entire body shivering in fear at the wrath of her mentor.

As suddenly as it appeared, the wrathful visage of the monarch of the sun fades away, leaving behind the mentor Twilight knows and respects. “Forgive me Twilight, but what I what I have to say is something that you need to hear.”

Twilight leans forward gently in order to better hear the princess’s words. ‘This is it! This is the point where the ever so perfect princess banishes the foolish failure of a mage! Goodbye Equestria! Goodbye Shiny! Goodbye Canterlot!’

“What happened to the Red Stone of Aja….” Celestia takes a deep breath. “Was not your fault.”

Never had Twilight been more surprised in her life than she had in this moment. In fact, if one had keen ears, they might be able to hear all the gears in her brain grinding to a complete and sudden stop. As if doubting her own senses, Twilight pulls herself off the floor and cleans the wax out of her ears with the aid of her magic. “That’s funny, my ears appeared to have malfunctioned there for a second, I thought you said that what happened to the Red stone of Aja wasn’t my fault.”

Celestia chuckles. “That Is because it wasn’t your fault Twilight Sparkle.”

“What.” Twilight’s entire mental being breaks down in the wake of an inconceivable possibility.

Celestia smiles gently. “After I recovered from magical exhaustion, I went over the entire Arcanum myself and from what I say your last minute modification actually improved the spell’s effectiveness, just as you predicted.”

“What.”

“What I mean to say…” Celestia resumes “Is that your change to the Arcanum had no effect on the Red Stone of Aja’s destruction. You are completely in the clear my dear student.”

“What.”

“Twilight, do you understand what I am saying to you?”

“What.”

Celestia rolls her eyes. “It seems Twilight’s train of thought has crashed again.”

“Shall we wait for her to regain her senses?” Zecora asks.

“What.”

“No this looks like it’s going to be a long one Zecora, and as it stands now we have precious little time.” A faint glow illuminates from the monarch’s horn, as she spins a storm cloud into existence directly above the stuttering unicorn.

“What.”

“I am sorry, Twilight, but desperate times call for desperate measures.” Igniting her horn with a flash of yellow light, a single bolt of lightning from the cloud shocks the mare to her senses; her body shivering from the brief display of electro-shock therapy.

“Uggggggggggggg” The singed purple mare groans on the floor as she body discharges small arcs of electricity.

“Twilight? Are you okay now?” Celestia asks timidly.

“Uggggggg thanks Princess I really needed that.” Pulling herself off the floor, Twilight stands before the princess again. “Now where was I………….. Oh yes, WHAT?! How could I not be responsible? There wasn’t a problem with the Red Stone and there wasn’t a problem with you, so the problem must have been the Arcanum! And since I was the only one to modify it before the ritual, it must be…...”

“Actually Twilight….” The princess interrupts “….in a way it was my fault that the ritual failed.”

“What.”

Celestia’s voice rumbles like thunder. “Do not start that again Twilight Sparkle.”

Twilight gulps “C-Continue Princess.”

“As I was saying….” the princess continues, her voice tinged with regret, “It seems like I heavily underestimated the strain that two goddess level entities would put on the Red Stone.” Celestia admits. “I had thought that between Shining Armor’s Shield and the Arcanum that any excess magical power would be dealt with. However, our two energies combined were far too much of a strain for the Red Stone to handle. It’s like two professional wrestlers decided to fight on top of a table, no matter how strong it is, even the most stable of objects can fall apart if enough strain is placed upon it.”

Twilight’s mind wheels about as all her previous expectations of banishment and guilt are smashed to pieces. “Sooooo……. You aren’t going to banish me and throw me in a dungeon in the place that I’m banished to?”

Celestia chuckled at this. “Twilight Sparkle, believe me when I tell you this. Even if you were responsible for the destruction of the Red stone, I would never banish my precious student for something that they had no control over.”

Twilight’s eyes begin to tear up “Princess…”

“That being said….” The princess of the sun rises from her throne and begins to walk down the steps in front of her. “I have an important task for you Twilight. One that I only trust you to perform.” Coming to a stop in front of her student, Celestia stares into her eyes. “The question is, do you feel up to it?”

Leaping in the air in excitement and the opportunity to redeem herself, Twilight cries out in joy. “YES! YES, I Would love to help out in any way I can Princess!”

Realizing that leaping around her mentor like a school filly might not be the best way to demonstrate her maturity and readiness to embark upon a dangerous task, Twilight adjusts her intensity level. “I mean, if that is you desire princess.” Twilight says as she breaks into a short bow.

Celestia smiles at the childish display of her student, however she quickly takes on a stern demeanor as she prepares to explain the importance of the task she is to assign her student. “Twilight, do you know what the common ponies are calling the incident that took place last night?”

The unicorn shakes her head ‘no’ as Celestia continues. “They are calling it The Night of Falling Stars. Fortunately, since the summer Sun Celebration was in full swing, the ponies of Equestria thought the thousands of Red stones falling across the sky were an attempt at celebration. They even took the lack of the mare on the moon as an artistic change.” Celestia chuckles. “In fact, I have received several compliments from members of the nobility about the ‘artistic liberties’ that I am taking with the night sky.”

Twilight giggles at the idea of ponies thanking Celestia for something as frivolous as changing the appearance of the moon. However, her mirthful behavior is immediately cut off by her mentor’s serious appearance.

”This is no laughing matter Twilight.” Celestia states. “I spent hundreds of years denying my own sister as a mere legend for fear that when she did return to me, her past crimes would haunt her and drive the ponies whom she loved away from her. As a result few ponies even know the reality of my sister or her return.”

“But….. But she’s not evil any more. Right?” Twilight asks cautiously. “You said yourself the circle worked, and I saw her! She didn’t have any of that evil aura that I felt coming from Nightmare Moon. And you said yourself that the Arcanum worked…. Right?”

Celestia looks at her student with a haunted look in her eyes. “I certainly hope so, Twilight. I certainly hope so.” Her mentor, the goddess that moves the sun and moon, does something that Twilight has never seen her do before, she looks worried. However, realising she is in the presence of her student, Celestia quickly brushes these worries aside. “But that is not your that task that I have assigned to you. I shall handle finding my sister, what I am having you do is a far more immediate concern.”

Gesturing to the window, Celestia leads her student to a view that looks over half of the nation of Equestria. “Twilight, do you know why we gradually expose those in our solar guard to the red stone and subject them to rigorous psychological testing?”

“That’s easy Princess” Twilight chirps, as she is once more immersed in her element of facts and academia. “It’s because manifesting stand power takes a great deal of latent magical power in order to properly manifest, and if the pony who manifests a stand is not of sound mind, they might manifest a dangerous power, or worse yet, be unable to control their own stand.”

“That is correct, so please tell me Twilight.” Celestia, monarch of the sun, turns to face Twilight with a grave look on her face. “What would happen if a pony with insufficient magical power and a week will was exposed to the Red Stone?”

“Well….” The purple unicorn thinks deeply at this question. “There are not many documented cases in the guard since they train so rigorously mentally, spiritually and physically. But if a pony who had insufficient will or magical power was exposed to enough of the Red Stone, it would force their stand to manifest too quickly and…… oh no.”

Celestia’s grave face reveals her inner worry. “I believe you now see the problem Twilight.”

“If-if the user’s magical power isn’t strong enough the stand…” Twilight’s voice cracks as she gulps heavily “…..will drain the user’s vial life-force until they…….. until they die. And even if the user manages to survive, if they are unstable or possess a week will their stand may go berserk or develop a power that actively harms others!”

Celestia nods. “And now that the red stones are scattered over Equestria there is no telling how many ponies might be exposed to its effects.”

Twilight raises her head as she looks out the window, picturing the myriad of horrible possibilities that could be taking place in the kingdom of Equestria. “We have to find the Red Stones as quickly as possible!”

Celestia nods affirmatively. “I have already dispatched most of the solar guard across Equestria, with their stand powers they should be able to locate the Red Stones and deal with any rogue stand users that they encounter, and you must join them.”

“ME?” Twilight asks. “But I… don’t have a stand….”

Sensing her student’s distress, Celestia drapes her large left wing over her student in an comforting gesture. “You will manifest it when the time is right. But now I need as many capable ponies as possible to help protect my subjects and I cannot think of any pony more capable, resourceful, and kind than you Twilight.”

Twilight looks at the ground, thinking over her current situation. On one hoof, she feels utterly unprepared for the task ahead of her; she’s never been outside in the world, everything that she knows is here in Canterlot. And what if she’s not prepared? What if somepony depends upon her to save them and she fails?

Her heart sinks into her stomach as she feels a gentle alabaster hoof raise her head. Celestia raises Twilight’s vision away from the ground so that she is looking straight into her eyes, eyes that could never be disappointed in her student so long as she tries her best.

Suddenly it all becomes clear to her, Celestia trusts her because she knows that the purple unicorn always tries. It is because she refuses to give up that her mentor trusts her so absolutely, and as long as she tries her best she will not be fail.

Raising her hoof to her head, Twilight gives the princess an official salute of the solar guard. “You can count on me Princess! I’ll give it my all, just point me in the right direction!”

Smiling at her student’s newfound confidence, Celestia focuses her magic into her horn, causing a fully packed saddle bag to appear on Twilight’s back. “I have already taken the effort to send you to a small town nearby that according to reports should have a large number of ponies affected by the Red Stones. Knowing that you would most likely want to leave as soon as you heard, I had Zecora pack your bags, so that you could leave the moment you were ready.”

Twilight, opening the bag with her magic finds that it indeed is filled to the brim with everything she could need. “You’ll find the train ticket in your bag that will take you to the town. There you will act as the princess representative there and insure that not only are the towns ponies taken care of, but that you gather the Red Stones and any other dangerous artifacts found as secretly as possible. And should you find any other strange magical forces, you should report them to me immediately.” Raising her head in pride Celestia looks over her student again. “Now that won’t be a problem will it?”

Brimming with enthusiasm, the purple mare looks her mentor in the eyes. “No Princess, it won’t. And don’t worry, I’ll make sure that no pony comes to harm in the town of…… What town am I going to again?”

“Ponyville, my precious student.” Celestia smiles. “You are going to Ponyville.”

“Right, Ponyville.” Twilight turns around awkwardly as she prepares to trot out the door. “Well…… I should be on my way…..”

Raising her hoof demurely, Celestia calls out to her student just as she prepares to leave “Wait Twilight, there is one more thing that I have for you before you leave.”

Twilight cocks her head to the side. “Something else Princess? Is it a book!? Is it the Magical Spell craft and practicalities By Silver text? You know the one that I have been looking forward to getting ever since, well forever. Is it a book?”

Celestia shakes her head. “No, my precious student. It is something far more valuable than a simple book.”

“More valuable than a book? What could possibly be more valuable than a…” Twilight’s words are cut off as the monarch of the sun pulls her student into a deep embrace, hugging her student gently as warmth both physical and spiritual seeps into Twilight’s very core. This is not an embrace of lovers; it is a soft and caring act, an act of familial love and intimacy. The kind of thing that a caring mother would give to a frightened child on a stormy day, to assure them that everything will be all right. Twilight immediately melts in the embrace, all the mistakes of the past, the tension of the present and the fears of the future fading away in the magnanimous intensity of her mentor’s love for her.

Letting her student go, Celestia speaks gently to her. “Be safe, Twilight. Above all, the things you have to do, out of all the troubles that you will have to face, your most important task is to come back safely to me. Do you understand now how important it is for you to come back safely?”

Twilight lets a single joyful tear drip down her mentor’s coat as she begins to realize once again how much she means to her mentor. “Princess……” Wiping the faint remnant of tears from her eyes, she looks again at her mentor. “You’ve got it Princess! Don’t worry about me, I’ll be back soon.”

Now with nothing else holding her down, she bolts out of the throne room door, only stopping once to wave goodbye to her mentor as she leaves behind the only home that she has known for an adventure of enormous proportions. As she leaves, a smile of both faint sorrow and immense pride graces the Monarch’s face as she watches the mare that she thinks of as her own child leaves home for the first time into the world beyond.

“She’ll be fine.” Celestia assures herself “I know her and trained her myself. She is at that age where she has to begin to learn things for herself now, and I know that she will be ready to face whatever comes her way.” With a flick of her magic, Celestia shuts the doors to her throne room, leaving her alone once again.

“Ahem, Princess.”

Well almost alone. “What is it Zecora?” Celestia says as she turns to face her secretary behind her.

“Princess, I am relieved to see that Twilight is doing better.” Zecora clears her throat. “But was lying to her for the best? I do not mean to question your highness but is this some form of test for her? Or did you just seek to spare her feelings?”

Playing coy with her aide, Celestia puts her hoof to her mouth to hide the slight smile that is forming beneath her hoof. “Oh Zecora? Whatever do you mean?”

Zecora shakes her head “As the Shamans of my land say: To tell a lie is sometimes right, but the truth is better not to fight.”

Caught of guard by Zecora’s curt response Celestia blinks, “You mean that telling her that she was responsible for the destruction of the Red Stone would be better than telling her it was my fault?”

With a curt nod Zecora confirms Celestia’s suspicions, causing Celestia to sigh heavily in response.

Looking at the door where her prized student left, Celestia responds. “It is true that she is responsible for this looming catastrophe in the loose sense of the word. However, it is the truth that Twilight is not guilty of the crime of destroying the Red Stone because she lacked the intent behind such an action.” Celestia remarks sagely as she turns back to face Zecora “Without the burden of her actions to weigh her down, I am sure that Twilight will succeed in gathering up the pieces of ‘it’ without any great trouble.”

“And who knows?” Celestia continues “perhaps this is part of some divine plan, and everything will work out for the best.”

Zecora is shocked at this. “Princess! With all due respect, you surely don’t mean that. The loss of a national treasure such as the Red stone and the exposure of countless of our own citizens is anything but a good thing.”

“I do not claim to know the future Zecora.” Celestia admits as she looks out the window over her empire. “Despite all my wisdom and insight, I can only guess what it has in store for us. Perhaps this so called catastrophe will pave the way for a new tomorrow.” Signaling for Zecora to follow her Celestia walks out the door to the throne room “Now come Zecora, we must turn our own attention to a more important task. The task of finding my only sister.”

Chapter 3-Foundation-Take 1

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Foundation-Take 1:


I never wanted this.

I never wanted my parents to die.

I never wanted to work from the age of thirteen for thirteen hours a day in harvest, when other foals my age were playing around and making friends.

I never wanted to have to tell my little sister, why she doesn’t have a mother or father.

But most of all, I never wanted to have to wait here, in the waiting room of a worn down hospital, to find out how sick my baby sister really is. All while being given a run around by government type ponies rather than getting straight answers from the doctors that I have known for years Like Dr. Stable and nurse Stable Pulse.

The rest of the family of course wanted to come too, however we can’t leave the farm completely unstaffed, even with hire-ons like Thunderlane and Carrot Top picking up the slack. Goodness knows Granny and Big Mac both need their rest at this time of night.

So I did something I hate to do more than anything in the world, I lied.

I told them that it was just a bad cold that would keep her out of school for a few days tops, and she would be right as rain in a few days with plenty of food, water and rest.

I told them that instead of the truth, which is ever since she go that nasty cut from that piece of a shooting star that fell in our south field, she has been battling a fever that makes me afraid; not for myself but for her.

I hate lying, I hate sitting here, reading the same magazine article over and over, but more than anything, I hate being so gosh darn powerless.

But if there is even a snowball’s chance in Tartarus of helping my flesh and blood, than I’ll endure anything, cause if there is one thing I am, it’s the most reliable of ponies.

And that’s because when it comes to the important things in life, I never back down, I never give up, and I walk to the end of the earth if I have to; all to see to it the job gets done.

“Number fifty six, number fifty six, the Government representative will now meet with you. Once again, the Government representative Twilight Sparkle will now meet with you.”

My name is Applejack and I’m about to get some answers.

……………….

Slumping out of her chair, an orange earth pony mare with a purposeful look in her eyes stares at the slip of paper that she was given when she asked to meet the pony ‘in charge’. Satisfied that she is indeed the pony whose turn it is, she picks up her hat, a worn brown Stetson, staring at it for a few seconds before letting out a repressed sigh. “Give me a Break. Ah knew they were tryin to stonewall me, but they kept me waitin fer half the night. Any longer an i would have had ta buck down the doors mahself…..”

The orange well-built farm mare slips the hat on her head like she had done it a million times before, her dark green eyes narrowing as she glances towards the double doors in front of her that lead to the inner labyrinth of the hospital. Her untrimmed golden blond mane, though obscured by her hat still, reflects light with a golden hue, as even her blond tail seems to reflect every stray beam of light from the fluorescent bulbs above. Her Cutie mark, that of a trio of Apples, marks her as not only a farmer, but a member of the illustrious Apple family, a family known throughout Equestria for their strength, endurance and adamant personalities that could move the earth itself with their sheer stubbornness.

Narrowing her gaze towards the double doors that she was told to enter when her number was called, the mare paces forward. Yet, despite her eagerness and endless frustration at the night’s events, the mare manages a leisurely gait towards the door, as if her sister’s life didn’t currently hang in the balance. Pushing aside the double doors with a glancing shove from her hoof, Applejack walks inside to the hospital proper to see an unfamiliar face if ever there was one.

A purple unicorn mare with a cutie mark of a sparkling purple star, whose demeanor and behavior practically scream high class Canterlot, stands talking to one of the many extra doctors that were ‘reassigned’ to ponyville following the mysterious outbreak that had affected her sister. Walking right up to the new faces in the middle of the hall, Applejack clears her throat, not willing to wait any longer for bureaucratic processes to claim more of her time. However, despite her loud coughing sounds, the orange mare’s voice is ignored by the two ponies in front of her, ponies who are currently engaged in a heated conversation.

“….. and make sure that the youngest of the patients receives the best of the medicines,” The purple mare orders.

“And as I said before, Mrs. Twilight,” the grey unicorn stallion with a black mane claims, as he pushes up his tortoiseshell glasses on his face. “You may have been directly assigned to this little burg by the princess, but I am a senior doctor from the RSD, who, in case you didn’t realize, specializes in these kinds of cases.”

“Your status doesn’t mean a thing here, Doctor,” the unicorn snaps back. “We aren’t here to progress any agendas, our only goal should be to help those ponies. So I am ordering you to get these civilians the best of the medicines from Canterlot; NO excuses.”

Countering back, the doctor gets up in the mare’s face as he too refuses to give any ground. “Now, who is trying to pull rank? As I already tried to explain to you, Mrs. Twilight, we need to conserve the best of the medicines if the situation changes, and only using them when it is prudent. Rationing the rarest, and may I remind you the most expensive of the medicines, should be our policy here, not doling them out on every John Doe.”

Before the unicorn mare can retort, she is cut off by another loud throat clearing noise that draws their attention to the orange mare that has seemingly appeared out of thin air. “Pardon me there, DOC.” Her voice dripping with enmity, “but from what ah was gatherin there, yawl were talkin about denying yer patients, patients like my sister, the treatment they need, cause of some issues of supply an demand?”

The doctor sneers at her allegations. “Humph I wouldn’t expect some…. Some…. What is it you do for a living, Mrs…….”

“Applejack. Mah name’s Applejack and yes, Ah’m a farmer.”

The doctor grins evilly. “Oh yes, a farmer. Forgive my impudence, Mrs. Applejack, but I wouldn’t expect a lowly farmer to understand the nuances of advanced medicine. You see….”

“Ah don’t need some fancy degree, ta tell a snake from a sheep, Mr. ‘I’m too good for other ponies’.” A sly grin crosses the mare’s face. “Ah just thought the ‘lowly farmers’ and common ponies of this town would feel about yer ‘rationing’ of medicines when their loved ones are sick.”

The doctor’s pale grey coat turns even paler. “That would be a gross breach of contract, to reveal that information. I’ll have you know that violating the nation of Equestrian’s secrets can elicit a penalty ranging anywhere from….”

“That ‘lowly farmer’ is right, Doctor Healthy Flesh,” the Purple unicorn interrupts, seizing the initiative. “And you were right about one thing, I am pulling rank. Celestia, the monarch of the sun, put me in charge of the patients in this town, and that means if I even hear a whisper that you are denying any one of them the best treatment that you have to offer, you will be cleaning medical supplies by hoof for the rest of your life.”

The previously overconfident doctor visibly blanches at this threat, fumbling with any proper response. “But I have..... Special clearance…….. And…….”

“Do I make myself clear?” the unicorn finishes.

Grimacing at the trap he has now found himself in, the doctor suppresses his rising anger as he hides his rage behind his own indifference. “Fine, Mrs. Twilight. Since you are pulling your rank, I guess I have no choice but to follow your lead….. For now.” The doctor backs of, as he begins to trot away from the purple mare. “But if we run out of supplies before the day ends, don’t come crying to me!” The doctor unceremoniously flees the scene of his defeat, allowing the purple mare the space to she needs to recover.

“Whew. That was exhausting.” Twilight clutches her chest, as she begins to breathe freely for the first time that night. “I have to deal with dozens of concerned family members and now this. Forgive me for the ‘esteemed doctor’s’ behavior.” Twilight extends her hoof to the orange mare in front of her. “My name is Twilight Sparkle.”

“Twilight Sparkle?” Applejack asks skeptically, cocking her eye at the mare before her. “Are you sure it ain't Twibright Sparkle?”

“Urgh?! Why do ponies here always think that?” Twilight asks with a twinge of frustration. “Is there a Twibright Sparkle here in ponyville or something? I swear you’re like the fourth pony to make that mistake,” the unicorn states with her hoof still outstretched, a small smile crossing her face, demonstrating the fact that she is pleased to meet a new pony. “No, my name is Twilight Sparkle, I’m the newly appointed princess representative here in ponyville.”

Looking suspiciously at the hoof for a few seconds, Applejack swallows her suspicions of the unicorn before her, and shakes hooves in a dignified and proper way. “Applejack, proprietor of Sweet Apple Acres.”

Breaking their hoof shake, the unicorn puts on her best face, as she tries to make a positive impression on the embittered pony in front of her. “Well, Applejack, let me be the first to assure you that whoever your friend, coworker, family member, or significant other is, they are currently receiving the best treatment in Equestria.” Twilight walks down the hall as the farmer mare follows on her heals. “The moment that we heard about this epidemic that is going around, we allocated spare doctors and medical supplies from canterlot to better face the problem at hand. I can assure you that we have everything under control.”

“Everythin under control hunh….” Applejack muses. “That’s pretty good, considerin yawl arrived not a few hours ago.”

Twilight beams with pride at this compliment as she trots down the hall. “What can I say, we move fast when our subjects are in danger. It’s one of the great things about Equestrian healthcare.”

“……And yawl received news of this here epidemic … when was it? Like I said, yawl moved awful fast.”

Twilight’s pace slows to a crawl as she struggles to properly answer the orange mare’s accusations. “He He….. well, we received news from scrying pool sometime this morning, so we just got everything together and rushed over here as soon as we heard how bad it was here in Ponyville.”

“That’s mighty impressive!” Applejack says with mock gratitude. “Ah mean, the day that an outbreak happens, yawl just happen to respond in under half a day. I mean, I knew that Canterlot doctors were fast, but whoee, that’s really fast.”

Twilight stops in her tracks as she begins to break down in the face of Applejack’s piercing insinuations. “Well…. That is…….. Canterlot doctors are just better! I mean, it is the capital of our kingdom for a reason after all!”

Applejack gives Twilight a deadpan stare. It is obvious as the hat on her head that she is not buying any of what Twilight is selling. “Shug, let’s quit the act and stop talking turkey like this.”

“What?” The shock on Twilight’s face is readily apparent. “I mean, whatever do you mean, Applejack? I’m not talking like a turkey! Turkey gobble, I’m a pony not a turkey! I know, let’s check on your sister, that will dissuade any further questions! I mean that will…...”

Applejack rolls her eyes, not knowing what is worse, the mare’s blatant lies, or the fact that the mare in front of her was about as bad as a liar as she was. “Ah mean, yawl should quit spewin out these half truths!” Applejack states sternly but plainly. “Yawl are a terrible liar and an even worse pony, if you can keep the truth from us common ponies like we’re stupid or somthin.”

In the wake of the unicorn’s weakness, Applejack decides to push the advantage intimidating Twilight with her bubbling anger and rippling muscles. “Now hurry up an spill! What’s’ really goin on round here! Ah’m a tax payin citizen and ah reserve the right ta know what’s’ goin on around here!”

“What!? I’m not a bad pony…….” The mare states as she is mentally backed into a corner, flashbacks of her failure with the Red Stone demolishing her self-esteem as she tries to repel the farmer’s sharpened words.

The sudden meek response of the unicorn in front of her makes the farmer realize painfully that she might have pushed the mare too hard. With a steady deep breath, the farm mare quiets her growing rage, as she prepares to discuss things like a civil pony. “Sorry about that, I didn’t mean to insult ya none. I’m sure that yawl are at least better than that snobby doctor I just met. However, it’s clear as the blue sky that yawl are hiding somthin from the common ponies, and that somthin is currently threatening the life of my little sister.”

“H-h-h-hiding something?” Twilight asks, fearful of discovery. “What do you mean?”

Raising her voice ever so slightly, just enough to display urgency, Applejack counters, “I mean this whole setup here! First off all tha normal doctors are replaced with these here shifty canterlot types, and now the entire hospital is guarded by the soldiers and all the medical staff that weren’t kicked ta the curb are as silent as a mouse in a cupboard.”

Twilight attempts to counter with a well-rehearsed bluff. “That is because the princess is very worried that this infection will spread to others in the town. She’s just making all the efforts necessary to insure that the ponies in the town are safe.”

“And about all that sudden help.” Raising her voice even more. “An infection breaks out, infecting tens of different ponies in a single day, directly after that little light show in Canterlot, and not a day later doctors arrive even before news reaches Canterlot ready to ‘help out’.”

Twilight literally backs herself up against the wall as her arguments fall completely apart. “Well… that’s…..”

“AND FINALLY!” Applejack practically shouts, “the Apple Family is known for being as strong as the earth itself. I got the pony pox when I was six and I was back up on my hooves in under two days. This ‘little pandemic’ must be something deathly powerful if it can make one of our kin this sick.”

Applejack presses her muzzle directly up to Twilight, pressing her further into the wall. “Now I’ll give ya one chance ta come clean. What is mah sister, my flesh and blood really sick with? What crazy magic ya unicorns conjured up is responsible for this, and just what in the hay are you covering up. Talk darn you or so help me…..”

Twilight babbles incoherently at Applejack’s scathingly accurate observations, all the while struggling to find a story that will convince the orange mare of her good intentions. However just as the purple mare was beginning to crack, Applejack was sent falling back on her flank by a sharp sudden blow, her Stetson flying in the air, as the butt of a guard pony’s spear comes to rest on Applejack’s chest, pinning her to the ground.

Dressed in the armor of the solar guard, a pegasus mare with a mane of various yellows stands over the orange earth pony, glaring down at her with piercing yellow eyes. Her helmet, though obscuring most of her face, cannot obscure her hostile gaze, or hide her light green coat that is well brushed and maintained even after long hours of duty. Her cutie mark, that of a lightning bolt surrounded by stars, stands as a testament to her speed and suddenness of her arrivals, as well as her stunning blows.

With flair the mare flips the spear around, pointing the business end of her spear at the Applejack's throat in a display of her power over the hostile threat beneath her. “I’d keep your hooves off of the princess’s personal protégé if I were you. The penalty for assaulting nobility is usually one hundred hours community service minimum, and that’s IF you’re lucky enough to survive a scrap with the royal guard.” Turning her head to face the recovering purple mare “Sorry for not arriving sooner, Mam. I’ll get rid of this troublemaker now.”

Straightening her head out and now able to think clearly after being mentally and physically backed into a corner, Twilight rises to her hooves. “No…. that’s not necessary, Sergeant Lightning Dust. I can handle this from here.”

The solder chafes at this, glaring at the orange mare with an even more hostile stare. “Permission to speak freely, ma’am? This mare is a troublemaker who just assaulted you; she is an obvious threat and needs to at least be taught a lesson against assaulting ponies in clear view of the guard.”

“……. dismissed, Sergeant”

“But ma’am!” Lightning Protests.

Walking over to the orange mare lying on the ground, Twilight begins to speak. “This mare is just concerned about her family. She’s just distressed and worried.” Twilight pushes the spear away from Applejack’s chest with a brief push of her magic. “You can understand how that feels, can’t you, Sergeant?”

Looking at Applejack with a slightly softer look in her eyes, Lightning Dust suddenly breaks out in a snide smirk. “Looks like you get off easy, farmer. It’s a good thing the princess’s protégé is a kinder mare than me.” Removing her spear from Applejack’s chest, she returns to her normal guard pose. “However, don’t let it get to your head. I’ve got my eye on you, and this spear isn’t just for show.” Saluting sharply to the purple mare, the Pegasus dismisses herself.

Applejack rubs her throat where the point of a spear was a few moments ago, as she rises to her hooves. Internally she thanks her lucky stars that Twilight was forgiving like that. As much as she hated to admit it, that guard was right; that was far too out of character for her to just back a mare into a wall simply because she was being lied to. Just as she is about to apologize to the purple mare for her behavior and thank her, she is cut off by an apology from the mare she just offended.

“Sorry about that,” the unicorn states. “Lightning Dust is a good soldier and she means well, despite her demeanor. She was just trying to do her job.” Twilight lifts the orange mare’s Stetson off the ground, as she presents the hat as a peace offering to the orange farmer.

Picking up the Stetson in her grip, Applejack puts it on her head. “Thank ya kindly, Twilight.”

“Don’t mention it, Applejack.” The purple mare gives a warm smile. “Forgiving others is a part of life. I just hope that you can forgive me….” The mare lowers her head in shame, rubbing her arm. “You see….. You are right Applejack; I am hiding something from you about what is going on, something that I can’t tell you about. No matter what.”

“What?!” Applejack is surprised at the mare’s sudden confession. She expected that after that display of her authority, she would cling to her story like a captain clings to their sinking ship. Instead, the purple unicorn in front of her came out and openly confessed to lying, even when she could have easily gotten away with it.

“But I promise you Applejack,” Twilight resumes, “your sister will be fine. I give you my word. Not the word of a government employee, but as a fellow pony that she will be fine.” Twilight crosses her heart. “I promise you, Applejack. That is all that you need to know right now.”

Stunned by the sudden truthfulness of a mare she has just met, a mare she has wronged, Applejack stares into Twilight’s eyes, searching for a confirmation of her words. More than anything she wants to believe in the promises of the purple unicorn she’s just met; she wants so desperately believe that her sister will recover from whatever illness has infected her. However years of being able to tell a fib from the kernel of truth and the uncertain look in the unicorn’s eyes, tell Applejack all she needs to know.

“Horse Apples.”

“What?”

“Ah said Horse apples, Twi,” the farmer states calmly. “Twi, it may not be the best policy in every situation I know, but I am a mare that needs the truth. Ah can’t just stomach yawl telling me what I want ta hear just cause I’m concerned about my sis.”

Applejack looks into her eyes, her earlier anger and frustration replaced with genuine concern and worry. “Do you have a sibling, Twilight?” she asks almost pleadingly.

“Yes….. Yes, Applejack, I do.” Twilight replies hesitantly understanding exactly where Applejack is going with her argument.

“Then yawl understand that I need to hear how my sister is doing, an what’s goin on with her, not some false assurances.” The farm mare stands in front of Twilight, her face creased in worry but her body still standing strong under the weight of her own concerns. “Ah don’t want some government horse apples, I want the truth, no matter how painful it might be. And if yawl respect me than you’ll give me it.”

They both stare each other down for a few seconds, neither one willing to break under the pressure of the other’s conviction. However, eventually, Twilight caves in to Applejack’s demands, sighing deeply as she prepares to become the bearer of bad news. “Your sister’s name is Apple Bloom, correct?”

The look of sadness in the purple mare’s eyes almost stops Applejack’s heart cold in its tracks “Ye…. Yes.”

“Your sister…… like all the other ponies here, has experienced an adverse reaction to a magical substance that is a matter of national security.” She breathes in deeply as she prepares to deliver more bad news “Her condition was….. bad…… so we, in order to better treat her……”

“Yea? Spit it out!” the orange mare wrings her hat in dreadful anticipation.

Twilight fumbles with the next words, choosing every one carefully. “So…. We put her into a magical induced coma in order to better treat her.”

Applejack’s heart stops. All her vital reactions slow as her mind tries to vaguely comprehend the magnitude of what she has just heard. The first stable thought that passes through her mind is one that chills her soul down to the bone ‘my sister may never wake up again’.

As if sensing the mare’s internal turmoil, Twilight rambles on. “It’s only a temporary procedure, Applejack!” the purple mare cries, shaking the shocked mare with her hooves to bring her out of her stupor. “She is fine, your sister is fine! We just put her into a deep sleep to slow her conditions until we acquire more medicine for the patients to better treat their conditions! Once she is better stabilized, we can work on bringing her out of the coma. All we need, is a few more pounds of poison joke in order produce more of the medicine, I promise.”

At the mention of this Applejack’s shocked mind immediately snaps back into the conscious world. “Then we Just need more of that plant?!? If we had more of that poison joke plant, mah sister would be okay?”

Now it is Twilight being shaken by a fanatic Applejack, her head being rocked back and forth by Applejack’s sudden display of strength. “Y-y-y-yes, A-a-a-a-applejack. Stop sha-a-a-a-aking m-m-m-me-e-e-e.”

The orange mare relinquishes her hold, as twilight continues. “That’s better, and yes, Applejack, the Poison Joke is a light blue flower with dark blue marking that has many mysterious properties,” twilight repeats, as if reading the response from a textbook. “If brewed properly, the transformative nature of the plant can be made to better combat changes in magical auras. Once we gather more of it, we can begin better treating the patients.”

Applejacks’ body surges with hope. “Then we just need to gather more of that there flower! I’ll gather up members of the town and we’ll gather it lickedy split!”

Applejack is about to turn and run out, but is stopped by Twilight’s telekinetic aura holding her fast. “NO, Applejack! You can’t just go running around, rallying up the town to search for Poison joke. The flower is rare and only found consistently in a few difficult to reach places.”

“Like where?” the pleading mare asks. “Where can it be found? I’ll go get it, you name the place an I’ll be there!”

Twilight gulps. “W-Well, Applejack, the nearest place, that is the place that you could conceivably reach within the shortest amount of time is……”

“Yea? Spit it out filly!”

The unicorn gulps again. “The Everfree Forest.”

Applejack’s blood runs cold at the mention of that cursed woods. Everypony knew that the Everfree Forest was not a place anypony would willingly go. Despite being a hop skip and a jump from the civilization of Ponyville, the Everfree Forest was filled to the brim with poisonous plants, wild fluctuations of weather and most appallingly, thousands of hungry beasts which would enjoy nothing more than to snack on the unsuspecting pony that was foolish enough to wander in. Applejack knew from a young age that the few ponies who had tried to brave the forest never made it out alive.

“The Everfree forest?” the farm mare asks with a twinge of fear. “Like the same everfree forest that is filled with quicksand, and timberwolves and poisonous plants and…. “Applejack nearly passes out, as she mentions the next part “Manticore?”

“Yes.” Twilight nods her head, as she prepares to deliver even more bad news. “That’s why I didn’t want you rallying up the town’s ponies or tell them that we need more of the flower to treat their loved ones. The Everfree is a dangerous place Applejack. For anypony that is not completely prepared, it would be suicide to walk into its depths, especially now that night has fallen.”

Applejack falls to her flank in despair as tears begin to fall gently from her eyes. In an act of cruel irony, the farm mare was told her sister was dying and shown the smallest light of hope, only for it to be extinguished before her very eyes. It is a level of despair that few should ever know.

“I’m sorry Applejack.” Twilight apologies, knowing her words are an empty balm for the mare in front of her. “I’ve already assigned a contingent of the guard to scour the forest in the morning to search for more Poison Joke. Until then, you should go home and get some rest.”

“So…. So there’s nothing that I can do?” the mare sobs. “There’s no medicine for mah sister?”

Twilight nods sadly. “It’s why the flower is in so high demand. It’s almost impossible to cultivate the plant in natural settings, and due the great demand across Equestria, we have almost none of it here. We have to ration what little of it we have for the most high profile cases, and those who need it the most.”

Applejack’s ears perk up at this the sorrow in her blood begins to take on a new form, that of anger. “Those who need it the most, hunh? So my sister, who’s in a coma right now doesn’t fit on that list?” Applejack asks menacingly.

“What? No Applejack of course all patients get the best treatment, it’s just some ponies need more treatment than others and….”

“So mah little sister isn’t a ‘high enough’ priority for her to get the best treatment?” Applejack growls.

“What? No, Applejack, that’s not what I…”

Backing Twilight into a corner, Applejack gets into her face with all the aggression of a raging bull. “Is it because we’re ‘lowly farmers’ that we ain't getting the proper care!? We all get pushed off to the side while you the fancy government unicorn gets to decide who gets treated while others like my sister are dying!”

The Unicorn begins to visibly cry at this point “A-Applejack, please….”

“Shut UP!” Applejack screams as she stomps her hoof into the ground. “Ah know yer type, Sparkle. Yer just another callous stuck up noble from Canterlot that thinks that she can tell all us ‘common folk’ what to do cause she’s naturally better than anypony else!!”

Twilight falls to the floor, her legs losing their support under Applejack‘s cruel allegations “A-A-Ap-p-p-plejack……”

“Does playing with our lives give ya a thrill? Does it?!?”

Suddenly, for the second time that night, Applejack’s rant is cut off by the well placed butt of a spear that knocks her flat on her back. Standing in front of the sobbing mare, Lightning Sust stares the farmer down with anger equal in intensity to the anger Applejack had displayed moments prior. “Ma’am, you may have told me to let you handle this, but from the look of it you were handling it poorly.”

Taking a menacing step towards Applejack, she strikes an aggressive pose, her wings unfurled as if she were prepared to strike the farmer down with the point of her spear. “Now you, the farmer with an attitude problem. Harming a government official is a serious crime as I stated before. So if you are aiming to start a fight, then I can oblige you. If not, then get the buck out of here, and leave Miss Twilight alone.”

Raising from the floor, Applejack straightens her Stetson as she stares at the Solar guard. “That’s fine then, cause ah was just leavin.”

Turning towards the double doors that lead to the lobby, Applejack walks towards them with the same controlled gait at which she entered, preparing to leave the hospital and it’s depressing setting behind. However just as she reaches the door, she turns her head to look behind her, her eyes locking with Twilight, whose eyes are still dripping wet with tears. Then, not willing to stay a second longer, Applejack walks out the swinging door, leaving behind the scene of her shame.

……………………………………….

“STUPID STUPID APPLEJACK! Why in Tartarus did ya go an do that!” the farm mare berates herself, as she walks the long dirt road home, the cold night air doing nothing to alleviate her fiery anger at herself and the world.

“She was just tryin ta help and what do yawl do? Ya blow up in her face not once but twice!” In her anger she bucks a tree off to her side, causing the wood on it to splitter and crack under the force of her hooves.

“Shoot, ya even forgot to give her that piece of the shootin star ya got from Applebloom!” fumbling through her apple emblem saddle bag, she produces a small black stone with jagged edges that seem to glisten in the moonlight.

“Maybe had ya given it ta the fancy doctors, then they might have been able to help her better, but no! Ya plumb forgot on account that ya have pa’s fiery temper!” Putting the stone back in her bag, the mare walks along the fence posts that border her property, slightly relieved that she has finally reached home. The mare sighs heavily as she trots along the path leading up to her house, utterly disgusted in herself as she slowly stews in her own guilt and self-loathing.

Finally, after what seems like days to the disgruntled mare, Applejack reaches the front gate to her property, the sign ‘Sweet Apple Acers’ clearly visible in the moonlight. “Well, home sweet home as they say.”

However, just as she prepares to enter through the gate and bring this long day to a close, Applejack’s hoof stops mid stride, as she realizes that she returned without Applebloom. Once again the farm mare realises, that she is the one who will have to explain why her little sister hadn’t come home with her.

Applejack collapses in the dust, face dripping with tears as she finally begins to release all the pent up anger and sadness that had been brewing in her from the moment she brought Applebloom to the hospital. Applejack cries; she cries for her losing herself to her anger, she cries for lying to her family, but most of all she cries to herself for once again being so powerless in a hostile world that seems dead set to destroy her.

Content to sob in the dirt for a few moments, Applejack finally raises her eyes to the stars above her that are still clear enough to be seen against the glow of the moonlight. “Ah’ve already lost mah parents! Do ya want mah sister now? What’s next?!? Mah farm? Big mac? Granny? Mah friends?”

Applejack screams up to the sky. “What more do ya what from me?!?” Applejack snivels, as she is greeted to her questions by the same thing she has always been greeted with whenever she asked life why it could be so unfair: silence.

Wiping her eyes with her hoof, Applejack finally picks herself off the ground. “Heh, it’s not like I was expectin an answer or nothing…..” Adjusting her Stetson, Applejack prepares to walk through the gate, when for the first time in her life she is answered.

‘………To be strong.’

All the hairs on Applejack’s neck stand on end, as a mysterious voice seems to emanate from nowhere. Her body freezing in place “What!?”

‘The world, and the ponies in it, wish for you to be strong. That is why tragedy befalls you mare of apples.’

Spinning around, the mare tries to locate the source of the voice that has decided to speak to her. “Who’s there? Come out where ah can see ya!”

‘You call yourself the most trustworthy of ponies, and you are correct for you are a foundation upon which others can base themselves. You are a pillar of strength in hard times, and that is why trouble seems drawn to you, because you alone can endure it.’

The mare wheels around, again backing up past the gate to her property, confusion taking the place of the surprise that dominated before. “Who’s there? What are ya doing on mah land?”

‘If you wish to be the kind of pony that others can depend upon, you must be like a tree growing in the middle of a raging river: unmoving to the trials the world throws at you, and growing with every passing day.’

The mare spins around and around, the source of the voice seeming to elude her as she tries to find the source of the wisdom seemingly coming from nowhere. “Who’s there? Show yourself!”

‘You must find your own resolve and found yourself on the rock that is your resolve. Only then will you possess a firm foundation which cannot be moved in times of trouble. Only then will you be strong. ‘

“AH said who’s... WOAH!” the mare shouts out, succumbing to her circling around herself, as she falls flat on her flank in the dust. Scrambling around on the ground in surprise, her saddle bags fly open from the force of her fall sending her personal effects skidding across the ground. Spitting out the dust from the road for a few moments, Applejack jumps to her hooves again, her face a mask of anger and confusion.

“Ah won’t ask again! Who’s there?!” Yet once again as before the mare is only greeted by silence.

“Now I may be a patient mare, but I won’t take being made a fool of. I’ve had a rough day so yawl come out NOW!” silence again.

“…..hello?” once again only silence greets Applejack as her pulse returns to normal.

Content that the hallucination has passed, the farm mare breathes out a nervous sigh of relief. “Heh, Ah really be plumb tired. Now Ah’m hearin things when no pony’s there.” Applejack takes one last look around, seeing the various items that have spilled out of her saddle pack lying on the ground. Apples for a snack, Applebloom’s medical records, and the wrappers of various energy bars and snacks litter the ground beneath her.

“Heh, look at me chasing after voices in the dark like this, ah must be crazy.” Applejack states to herself as she begins to pick up her lost items.

Finally she manages to pick out the last of the items of the ground, the strange piece of stone Applebloom discovered as she holds it cautiously in her hoof. “Seriously, hearin things? Ah may even need ta get mahself...… checked out….”

The stone in Applejack’s hoof, as if possessing a life of its own, slowly moves on her hoof, inching towards the path lying in front of her. And looking up from her hoof Applejack can clearly see the direction the path leads in, the Everfree Forest. Yet, even with the dark forest in front of her, the stone moving on her hoof seems to be pointing unflinchingly towards the path ahead of the mare without wavering in the slightest.

‘The Everfree is a dangerous place Applejack,’ Twilight’s voice resonates through Applejack’s head. ‘For Any pony that is not completely prepared, it would be suicide to walk into its depths, especially now that night has fallen.’

Looking behind her, Applejack glimpses for the first time the fork in the road that she had never noticed before. One path, the road to Sweet Apple Aches, the road home. There she can close her eyes for a moment and forget the tragedy of the world around her. There she can wait for her sister to hopefully recover while she lies safe in her bed.

And on the other road, the path to the Everfree, a forest filled to the brim with hundreds and hundreds of the most vicious monsters known to Ponykind, but at the same time, it is the path that holds a chance, the smallest of chances, of helping her sister recover, of seeing her sisters’ smiling face once more.

Applejack looks back and forth between the two paths, each one holding possibilities that could decide her fate. “Give me a Break……..” Applejack straightens her Stetson on her head. “Like there was any choice in the matter anyways.” Mustering up all her courage and resolve, Applejack stuffs the stone back in her pack and bolts at the fastest speed that she can manage down the path leading straight into the heart of The Everfree Forest.

…………………………….

At the same time, walking down the hallways of the nearly empty hospital, Twilight Sparkle is faring little better than she was two hours ago. Her mane is disheveled, her eyes bloodshot, her body jittery from several dozen cups of coffee and her attitude sour from a long day’s work, far past her bedtime. Her sour attitude not just the result of a long day, but also the fact that the hospital will soon run out of the much needed medical supplies without a resupply by next day’s end. Yet these things are far easier to deal with than the still lingering words left by a mare she might have called friend.

‘Yawl are a terrible liar and an even worse pony if you can keep the truth from us common ponies like we’re stupid or somthin’

“No, I don’t think I’m better than any pony.” The purple mare tries to assure herself “I didn’t mean to lie; I just had to, for the Princess.”

‘Ah know yer type Sparkle Yer just another callous stuck up unicorn from canterlot that thinks that she can tell all us ‘common folk’ what to do cause she’s naturally better than anypony else.’

“NO! I’m not a bad pony! I’m just……. Just trying my best to help every pony that I can…..”

‘Does playing with our lives give ya a thrill? Does it?!?’

Finally Twilight Sparkle has had enough and with a single deft blow she slams her head into the wall in front of her. Her head throbs from the impact, however for the price of being able to purge her mind of the infecting thoughts, it was well worth it.

“Ms.?” A nearby nurse walks up to the disturbed mare “Are you okay?”

Waving her hoof in an assuring fashion the unicorn responds “I’m fine nurse Fair Weather, just a little distracted. You can carry on now.”

“As you say milady.” The nurse bows and without another word walks off.

Finally able to breathe again, Twilight stares in her reflection in the glass window to her side and is greeted by her horrid reflection. Her eyes are bloodshot, her coat is a mess and her mane is disheveled from one to many emotional confrontations. “Eek. No wonder the nurse asked if I was okay. I look worse than the time my brother told me that changelings laid their eggs in pony’s stomachs while they slept.” Twilight chuckles as she remembers the panic she instilled in the castle when she, a twelve year old filly, triggered the emergency wards and locked down the palace under the guise that changelings were infiltrating Canterlot.

Conjuring up a steady glow of her magic, the adept magi straightens her mane, clears the bangs from under her eyes and soothes her rumpled coat as she grooms herself after a stressful day. Finally, after five minutes, her reflection is back to her good old self. Twilight smiles that at least one thing has gone right today. “Okay, Twilight, focus. There are still patients who need your amazing supervision skills. Get it together.” Recalling an exercise taught to her by Celestia, Twilight raises her hoof to her chest and breathes in. As she slowly extends her hoof she breathes out, falling into a steady, relaxing rhythm.

Breathe in

Breathe out

Breathe in

Breathe out

Breathe in

Breathe o- BOOM!

Before the mare can even respond, she is bowled over flat on her back by a pink torpedo that pops out of nowhere. “HI THERE! I’M PINKIE PIE!”

“Guhhh!” Twilight screams in terror, as she thinks of calling for backup to protect her fragile body from further assault.

However, much to Twilight's’ apparent relief, the mare standing on top of her seems to be anything but a threat. Her cotton candy pink coat, though silky smooth to the touch, seems to be wilder and haphazard as a fox in a hen house. While her matching Pink mane, so wild and curled that Twilight believes that it has never been brushed a day in her life, bobs up and down with every single movement the pony makes. Her Cutie mark, that of a trio of balloons, designate her as some kind of ‘super-duper party pony’ informing any pony that stares at her flank that her goal in life is to have a blast. Yet the earth pony mare’s most distinguishing feature is her smile, a broad cheerful and brutally honest that says to the world ‘I am genuinely happy just to be alive, and there’s nothing you can do to take that away.’

However, even Twilight’s razor sharp mind is having trouble thinking while the pink mare above her rants on with the speed and careful foresight of a summer thunderstorm.

“Oh my gosh, are you okay, not from the flying tackle to the ground, but from the saddies that you were going through. I was just bouncing around when my pinkie sense told me that some pony was feeling crummy. My pinkie sense is always right, and it told me that you were feeling crummy, so I WOOOOOOSSSSSSSHHHHHHHHHHHHed right on over to cheer you up, because I’m Pinkie and I love to see ponies smile on the inside and on the outside. And not on the inside in the literal sense, because I got in real trouble for that when I tried to swallow a pair of dentures. What I really mean, I want my smiles to come from the heart because if you aren’t smiling in your heart then you aren’t smiling at all.” The pink mare stares at Twilight with beady eyes. “So annnnnnyyyyyyyways are you smiling in your heart?

“Uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu.” Twilight’s one in a million genius mind falls to pieces as she tries to comprehend what the pink disaster is saying. “I’m sorry, can you go back to the part where you said that you swallowed a pair of dentures?”

“YEEPERS! I certainly did. You see, old Mr Flanagan was having a ‘I got a new pair of dentures party’ so I decided to try and swallow a pair of those chattering dentures that are SO funny so that when I broke out into a musical number I could open my mouth and they would be sitting on my tongue! That would have been a riot! But it actually turned into a riot when the chattering dentures got a taste for pony blood and went on a rampage of death. Cause that’s what I do, I throw parties for all the ponies of ponyville. HEY, you may be able to help me out with something Mrs. ‘I’m not sad anymore’.”

“uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuhhhhhhh.”

“Come on, it's real simple!” Pulling out a magnifying glass from her hair, the mare scours the surrounding room with the precision of an ace detective in a dime store novel. “My pinkie sense told me that there’s a new pony in town! And not a new pony in the sense of all the guards and doctors that are here to treat all the sick ponies, cause I already threw them a party with lots of cake!”

‘hummmmm, so that’s why the entire break room was covered in frosting. And silly me, I thought it was a prank to spite me. Instead it was just an out of control hyperactive party machine.’ Twilight muses cynically.

Leaning in as close as physics will allow, the pony puts her magnifying glass directly up to twilight’s muzzle. “So have you seen any new pony around here? Is she hiding from me? I just want to throw her a party? Why is she hiding from me?!”

‘I can think of half a dozen reasons why a pony would be hiding from you.’ Clearing her throat Twilight responds “well, I don’t know if you are looking for a pony that is moving here with your ‘pinkie sense’.” Twilight makes air quotes to emphasize how ridiculous it is that a pony could have a sense that could detect new ponies. “But I am a princess representative, staying here in Ponyville for an extended period of time, or at least until all the patients are better and……. other business has been taken care of.”

The pink party pony’s face beams as she points her hoof at the lavender unicorn. “SOOOOOOOOO you’re the new pony!”

And in the space of time of hearing those five words, Twilight Sparkle, genius, realizes that she has just made a terrible mistake. “Wait, hold on there Pinkie!”

Pulling out no less than an entire carnival style wagon, four flippers, a pair of fake mustache glasses and a small toothless alligator from out of thin air, the party pony beams with joy. “Do ya hear that Gummy? A new guest for ponyville! And you know what that means!”

“No……” Twilight stares in abject terror at Pinkie pie.

“That means we get to sing our patented ‘WELCOME TO PONYVILLE PARTY SONG’!” Pulling out a tuba from behind her back, the party mare fills her lungs to the brim as she prepares to blow the loudest most offensive sound known to musical instruments. Thankfully however, before the offending note could be blown, the mouth of the pink pony finds itself zipped shut by a magical zipper, courtesy of none other than Twilight Sparkle.

“Pinkie Pie was it?” Twilight asks with the level of caution a bomb maker might use. “Look, I know you just want to make me feel better, but this is a hospital and it’s the middle of the night! In case you didn’t know, ponies are sick and need their rest and the doctors here don’t need any of your distractions!”

Unzipping her magically sealed mouth, Pinkie Pie continues her tirade. “But you HAVE to have a party! If you don’t have a ‘welcome to ponyville party’ how will you make friends! Or eat cake? Or eat cake while making friends?!”

Twilight gapes at the pink mare. “How did you…… that spell was one of my highest silencing spell and you just……”

“Come on there Grumpy Mc. Grumpy pants!” Pinkie drapes her free arm around the mare. “This your first chance to have a real Pinkie Pie party! Come on, It’ll be fun! I’ll make sure that it’s super quiiiiiiieeeeeeeet……” Preparing to blow another note on her Tuba, the brass instrument is suddenly yanked out of the pink mare’s hooves and thrown off to the side by Twilight’s telekinesis.

“NO Pinkie Pie!” the purple mare yells. “No parties, no music, no….. no…… nonsense... I have an important job to do here and ponies’ lives depend upon me and the decisions that I make. The fate of Equestria does not rest on me making friends! I don’t have time for silly parties and the ponies that throw them! I can’t……” Twilight sags as she remembers her earlier confrontation with Applejack. “I can’t be callous to the needs of others….. not anymore.”

Pinkie Pie visibly deflates at Twilight’s sudden statement, her mane losing its ordinary bounce and luster. “Oh…… I see.” The mare removes the flippers and the fake mustache glasses and with a halfhearted nudge pushes the cart off screen. “I understand, you just have too many important things to waste time with silly party ponies and their silly parties.” Pinkie Pie sighs as she prepares to walk off. “I’ll leave you alone then. Sorry for bothering you…..”

Seeing the normally happy mare this distraught fills Twilight’s heart with a sense of sorrow. Yet what stings even more, is the fact that once again her words had hurt a pony who was only trying their best to help. Suddenly a great idea comes to Twilight, causing a broad smile to cross her muzzle “Wait! Pinkie!”

The pink mare’s appearance visibly brightens as her hair returns to its normal fluffy appearance “Yes, Twilight? Did you change your mind about the party?”

Twilight shakes her head. “No, Pinkie. Like I said, I’m very busy.”

The party pony lowers her head again “Oh..…”

“But, there is a pony that I know that really needs some cheering up right now.” Twilight turns over to the clock on the adjacent wall. “Well not right now because it’s in the middle of the night, but you get the idea. Her sister is really sick and I may have hurt her feelings. Could you do me a favor and cheer her up for me?”

Pinkie Pie spirit fills with happiness at the idea of cheering up a depressed pony. “You bet! What’s her name?”

“Her name is Applejack, and she lives in Sweet Apple Acres. If you could go by in the morning or just whenever and cheer her up, that would make me feel a whole lot better.”

Pinkie laughs at this. “Silly filly, Applejack isn’t at Sweet Apple Acres right now!”

“Really?” Twilight asks with a curious expression. “I thought for sure she lived at Sweet Apple Acres.”

“She does, but I just saw her running into the Everfree Forest not too long ago, so technically Applejack isn’t at Sweet Apple Acres now, she’s in the Everfree Forest!” The pink pony bops herself on the head in a cute manner that completely ignores the fearful expression covering every inch of Twilight’s muzzle. “Silly me! I forgot the reason that I came to the hospital in the first place was to get some medical supplies for Applejack including some manticore antivenin! My pinkie sense told me I would really need it. So I whipped over here and ran into you! Funny story hunh?”

Twilight turns pale as she thinks of Applejack wandering into those cursed woods in the dead of night. “The Everfree Forest? You saw Applejack run into the Everfree Forest?”

“Yep!”

“The same perilous forest covered in head to hoof in ravenous hungry animals and various dangerous forms of flora and fauna?!”

“Yep!”

“AND YOU DIDN”T TELL ME SOONER?!?”

Pinkie rubs her hoof on her chin. “Well, it’s like you said, you have all this important stuff that you are doing here, so I thought that I would be rude to interrupt you. Plus this way we get to advance the plot!”

“Just what are you…. Never mind, it’s not important! Because right now Applejack has gone into the Everfree Forest, and it’s all my fault.” Twilight stomps the ground in an attempt to relieve the intense frustration she feels towards herself. “If only I hadn’t told her about the Poison Joke flower, she never would have risked her life like that! I just didn’t think that she would be foolish enough to go into the Everfree Forest at night!”

Taking in several deep breaths, Twilight manages to calm herself down and think through the situation she now finds herself in. “Calm down Twilight, keep it together. Panicking won’t accomplish anything here. We need to rescue Applejack, but I sent all that was left of the royal guard to fly in supplies from Canterlot, and I can’t leave the ponies here completely unprotected especially when they could manifest a dangerous out of control stand power.”

Twilight looks down the hall, glancing at the royal guards stationed there, each one willing to put their lives on the line at her slightest command. “And I can’t order these guards to leave their posts to go on a suicidal quest into a dangerous forest in the middle of the night! Even if I am a princess Representative, I can’t go against Princess Celestia’s orders.”

Twilight looks at the door in behind her, the door that leads out of the hospital. “And if I try to leave and find her, I can’t lead the guard in the case of an emergency. That and i won’t be able to address the public on the outbreak if it begins to leak out that this infection is more than it appears.” Twilight stands like a statue unable to make a decision one way or another “I can’t abandon the princess’ order….. but Applejack…...”

Twilight stands still, her eyes closed in intense thought as she weighs her options, flawlessly debating the pros and cons of such a vital decision. Seconds pass as twilight weighs every possible choice and decision and how it could affect not just her, but the ponies in her charge whose very lives may hang on her decision. Even Pinkie is silent as she pays witness to an enormous internal battle that rages in Twilight’s Psyche.

Finally, Twilight opens her eyes. “Like there was any choice in the matter anyways… I can’t abandon my task, it’s too important to fail at…”

Pinkie gasps “Twilight! You can’t mean….”

“That is why…” The purple mare continues “….I have to go as quickly as possible and save Applejack. That way no pony will die on my watch.”

The party pony’s expression changes immediately from surprise to joy as she embraces the purple unicorn in a full on bear hug. “I knew deep down you weren’t a grumpy-mcGrumpy pants!”

With a little magic and a great force of will, Twilight manages to free herself from the hug of the boisterous mare. “Thanks…. I think. Now Pinkie, I know that it is dangerous but can you guide me to the entrance of the Everfree Forest?”

“Yeppers!” The pink mare states as she pulls out a first aid box from behind her back. “I already got all the medical supplies that we’ll need while you were standing there all quiet so we’re ready to go!”

“That’s great Pinkie! Now hold on.” Clenching her face into a grimace of deep concentration, the lavender mare’s horn glows bright purple as an aura of magic surrounds the two ponies. All of a sudden space snaps around them, as both the mares find their locale dramatically changed.

Now outside the doors of the hospital proper, the lavender mare looks around, as she manages to make out the outline of the scary forest off in the distance. Wasting no time, the two mares begin galloping off at full speed towards the forest as Twilight turns continues her open dialogue with the party pony running at full gallop next to her. “All right. Once I get to the forest, I’ll go in to find Applejack. But I can’t ask you to risk your life by going with me, so you can go and get help. If I don’t find my way out within an hour, go back to the hospital and send the Royal guard in after me!”

Pinkie grins at this, as she keeps pace with the purple unicorn to her side. “That’s okay Twibright! I can handle my little old self! Besides, I would have gone into the forest to save Applejack if you hadn’t!”

“Wow Pinkie! That’s really kind of you.” The purple mare suddenly is struck by a lingering thought “Wait a second! My name’s not Twibright, it’s Twilight! You’re the fourth pony to mistake my name this night.”

The pink pony points to a white sticker on Twilight’s chest, reading ‘Hello My name is Twibright Sparkle.’ “Name tag.” Pinkie says like it was the most obvious thing in the world.

“Oh.” Twilight remarks. “I see…. And I don’t suppose that……”

“It was there the whole time.”

“And you wouldn’t be so kind to….”

“Nope! I’m telling everypony I meet!”

“Then could you at least……”

“YOUR NICKNAME IS TWIBRIGHT SPARKLE FROM NOW ON!!!”

Throwing control and moderation to the wayside, the lavender mare lets out an earth trembling groan of frustration as the two mares trot as fast as they possibly can in the direction of the Everfree Forest.

Chapter 4-Foundation-Take2

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Foundation-Take:2


“Dang nabit!” Shouting out her mounting frustrations, the angry farm-mare curses as she chips her hoof for the seventh time that night on yet another sharp and pointy rock. “Why the hay did ah think it was a good idea to just go wanderin in the forest in tha dark? Ah should’ve brought a flashlight, or a rope at least.” Applejack muses, as she walks down the overgrown, ivy filled road.

Originally driven on by courage and optimism at the thought of finding medicine for her sister, Applejack had become bogged down by the endless winding trails that meandered through the Everfree. And worse, even though she had avoided several nasty creatures in her time wandering, her attempts at evading danger or just trusting her instinct had left her hopelessly lost. Now the mare, though still not bereft of hope, was beginning to doubt finding her way out of the labyrinth again. “……could of at least brought my rope….”

Looking over to a nearby tree, Applejack spies the same broken branch she left fifteen minutes ago as she kicks the tree in defeat. “That settles it, ah’m lost as a pig in a cornfield. Oh, why didn’t ah think this through? Now whose gonna help little Applebloom……” A roar tears through the forest, shaking the mare to the core “…. an whose gonna help me?” The mare hangs her head in defeat at her current situation.

However, just as quickly Applejack snaps her head back up slapping herself in the face with her hoof “Snap out OF it filly! Yer an Apple and Apples never quit. This ain't no time fer doubtin yerself, now focus. All you gotta do is find a blue flower with blue markings. That shouldn't be too hard in a forest now shape up!” A sudden burst of resolve courses through Applejack’s veins, as she prepares to once again resume her search.

Placing one hoof in front of the other, Applejack slips on another errant rock and with comic fashion begins a long tumble down a steep ravine in front of her. Desperate to stop herself, Applejack tries to slow her descent with her hooves, but is unable to get any traction as she continues to slide down the steep cliff. Flailing her arms about in terror, Applejack finally reaches a stop, as her tumbling fall is stopped by a dense field of shrubbery. Lying in the bottom of a ravine, Applejack once again curses her own stupidity for bringing her to the everfree at night. Cursing her clumsiness, Applejack slowly rises to her hooves, her body sporting various cuts and bruises sustained though a night of fruitless searching.

“Who was ah kiddin common here alone at night.” Applejack says. “Ah could spend mah whole life searchin this here forest and never find it! It’s just too big fer one pony ta find.” Looking up to the stars in the sky, the mare imagines the fates themselves laughing at her grand situation.

“But ah can’t just give up!” Applejack states “Not like this! Ah can’t just go home empty hooved without that blue flower. So even if I have to search this entire forest, top to bottom ah’ll find…..hunh?”

Looking around her, Applejack finds that she has tumbled down the cliff right into a large patch of blue flowers with distinct blue markings. Without even trying, the mare has found herself in a dense field of the Poison Joke Flower. Applejack blinks for a few seconds, not quite convinced this isn’t some kind of elaborate hallucination, yet after clearing her eyes, the flowers remain as real as ever. She rubs her face, convinced that the flowers will disappear the moment she looks away, yet he flowers remain, as permanent as the earth itself.

“Hunh…… Well would you look at that…….” A surprised Applejack pokes her head into the flower bed, looking at it as if it was there all along. The flower moves gently as the orange mare’s breath blows the flower back and forth.

Suddenly satisfied that she isn’t dreaming, Applejack leaps into the air with a mighty: “YEEHAW! Ah found it! Ah found it! Ah foun…..”

MUUUUUUURRRRRRRRAAAAGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHH!!!!!

The far off cry of a timber wolf cuts off the orange mare’s jubilation. Putting her hooves over her mouth to silence any further noise, Applejack becomes acutely aware of the fact that she is still in a monster infested forest and her life is technically still in danger. Nearly holding her breath, the mare waits in silence, listening for the sound of any approaching predators that would seek to devour her. Minutes pass until the mare finally is convinced she is alone “…..nd it.” Applejack finishes with a snicker.

Chuckling to herself, Applejack discards her worries for the future in the joyous celebration of the present. In her giddiness in finding her sister’s salvation and avoiding an untimely death, Applejack opens her arms wide and swan dives majestically into the poison joke, making flower angels by the faint moonlight above. Laughing all the while Applejack proceeds to roll around in the flowers her Stetson and her worries falling off to the side as she temporarily forgets her woes.

Finally the foalish behavior catches up to Applejack, as she begins to realize how silly she is acting. Catching her breath from her tiring antics, Applejack reaches for her hat and places it back on her head, giggling slightly to herself all the while. “Wowee, would yawl talk about good luck. Ah still can’t believe that I just wound up findin the one flower I needed just by blindly gropin my way through the forest! Well enough horsin around, onto business.”

Emptying her saddle bags of any extraneous items, Applejack begins to hastily stuff as many of the poison joke flowers that she can manage into her bags. Needless to say, she quickly she fills the first of her saddlebags, compacting the precious product with her hoof to enable her to fit as much of it as she can. She then switches the full pouch for its empty twin on her left and mechanically repeats the process, filling both her bags to capacity

In a few moments the task is completed and her bags are stuffed to the brim full of the life saving medicine. Applejack nods to herself on a task well done, and puts the bags on her flank, impressed by the fact that they barely weigh anything at all. “Well, that’s bout all ah can make in one trip.” She says to nopony in particular. “An I doubt I’ll be able ta find this place again, on account I found it on accident.”

The farm mare looks at her packed bags a faint look of pride on her face. “….But on the bright side, this is for sure enough flowers for little Bloom to get better with. An all ah have ta do is….. Convince Twilight ta make it fer her.”

Applejack painfully remembers her previous behavior towards Twilight. “Dang nabit! Why’d ah have ta blow up on her like that!?” Finding a faint dirt road on the forest floor, Applejack begins to follow it, hoping for a way out while she thinks over her options.

“Ok calm down Jackie, Twilight is a reasonable mare, ah’m sure she won’t hold nothing against ya on account yer sister was sick. And ah’m sure that if ya give her some of the extra poison joke as payment, she’s sure ta give bloom the best of that there medicine.” Applejack nods in confirmation. “Yes sir, things are looking up for me.”

However, Applejack stops dead in her tracks, as she makes out a figure sitting directly on the path ahead, the farm mare making out a glowing yellow pair of eyes that stare through her very being. These are the eyes of a predator, a creature that will tear ponies to pieces without mercy or remorse. The creature’s slight growling makes it known to the mare that it has seen her and all of a sudden Applejack realizes that everything is not looking up for her.

Frantically Applejack looks around, hoping to find some way to hide from the approaching creature moving through the shadows towards her. However, she is gravely disappointed, as she sees the paths to the left and right of her cut off by steep cliffs impossible for a normal pony to scale, especially when pursued by a hungry beast. The creature growls louder as Applejack flees, running back down the path behind her. Her mind empty of any ideas, she runs frantically back to the clearing of poison joke, hoping beyond hope for a way to escape the hungry predator. However, yet again, destiny has conspired against her as it appears that the valley is a dead end.

As if rejecting the fact that he way behind her is the only way out, Applejack frantically runs around the clearing like a chicken with its head cut off. “Come on! Come on! This can’t be it! There’s gotta be a way out there’s gotta!”

Applejack knows in her heart that there isn’t, yet the belief that there is a way to escape is far more appealing than the fact that she is trapped. Suddenly, Applejack hears the sound of a heavy paws brushing through the foliage behind her and turns behind her to catch a glimpse of a figure from her darkest nightmares. The monster’s brown lion mane is stained with small splotches of dried blood, its teeth razors, sharper than any knife made by pony hooves. It’s bat like wings possess several small holes as they are risen in a predatory stance. The scorpion tail rises above the creature’s head, as it’s loin paws tread the ground as quietly as death itself. The creature that stands before the frightened farm mare is the same one that she fears more than any other for good reason. The creature before her is a manticore, but more terrifying is the fact that it is the worst kind of manticore, a hungry manticore.

Applejack falls to her flank, her bravery consumed by pure terror. “It’s……… It’s a m-m-m-manticore….. Just like the one that killed ma and pa!”

The monster growls with ferocity and that is enough to send the mare into a blind panic. Running with all the force that she can muster, the mare tries vainly to dash up the steep slope behind her. Yet, no matter how much she struggles, she gets no closer to the top of the gorge and only suceeds in sliding back down to the bottom of the slope. The monster roars again, ready to claim it’s prey, as the farm mare finally lays down in the dirt and surrendering to her fate.

“This can’t be happening,” Applejack tells herself, lying on the ground. “Mah mom and dad died ta this beast, and now it’s going to kill me to? It just can’t end like this, this has to be some kind of nightmare!” However, this is no bad dream, no comforting veil of sleep that she can shake off to free herself from the nightmare before her.

“An just as ah got the medicine for Applebloom! now I’m gonna…” Suddenly, like a torch being lit in the dark or the explosion of a star, Applejack’s thoughts turn in a flash towards her family. She remembers her first harvest she was allowed to help with, her fist slice of apple pie, and family dinner after a long day of work. Her thoughts turn to her friends in Ponyville, and the impact they make in her life simply by existing. But most of all, her thoughts turn to her family, her grandmother who raised her, her brother who supported her, and her little sister who needs her, now more than ever. Her thoughts turn to her parents, not their untimely deaths, but their lives filled with gratitude for the simple things: love, life and family as she wonders what they would do in her situation.

And suddenly it all becomes clear to Applejack; her fearful shivering ceases, and she rises to her hooves staring the monster in the eyes all the while “……ah’m a pony who can be depended upon, It’s just like that crazy hallucination said.”

Applejack takes a step forward. “Ah’m a pony that other ponies can depend on. Not cause ah’m strong or because ah’m special. ah’m a pony who can be depended upon cause ponies need ta depend on me.”

Her resolve steady and unwavering, Applejack takes another step towards the ravenous monster baring her way. “An right now, ah’m the only pony that can get this medicine to my sister, an ah’m the only pony that can come back alive to my family.”

Another step and Applejack is now close enough to smell the breath of the hideous monster in front of her “THAT is my resolve on which ah base my strength on.”

Nearly muzzle to muzzle with the hungry manticore, Applejack stares it in the eyes with a threatening gaze. “Ah’m getting this medicine to my sister, rain er shine. So ah guess that you are out of a meal, now anchya?”

Unwilling to be intimidated or surrender to it’s food, the manticore pounces on the orange farm mare. However, this is not the same mare that was seconds ago cowering on the ground, now the hunter faces prey that is determined to survive.

Turning around on her front legs, Applejack coils her back legs like a spring, as the monster’s pounce comes within range of her most powerful weapons, her iron hard back hooves. Just as the monster is almost upon her, Applejack converts all her power into a single well timed attack, as her legs snap out like a shotgun blast. The resulting blow pounds the monster straight in the nose, sending a crack like thunder reverberating through the clearing as the manticore falls backward in pain.

The resounding feeling of her hooves smashing into the monster’s unprotected face, causes Applejack to rejoice prematurely. “HA! Take that ya varmint, ya may be tough but ya aint apple tough! Now just stay down an let me pass, unless ya want another round of punishment from Bucks Mcgillicutty and Kicks Mcgee!”

As if responding to this taunt, the monster pulls itself shakily off the ground, leering at Applejack with its beady yellow eyes. The farm mare now realizes her mistake in celebrating too soon as small drops of blood fall from the monster’s muzzle. Now the creature in front of her isn’t just hungry, now it is angry and hungry.

The manticore sweeps forward with its claws, each tallon as sharp as a razor, slicing the air itself with every swing it throws. Keeping on her hooves, Applejack manages to barely dodge each swipe of the claws as the monster attacks in rapid succession. ‘Ah can’t win like this.’ Applejack thinks to herself as she ducks underneath another swipe. ‘Ah may be tirin this fellow out with mah dodges, but ah gota finish him off soon or one of these swipes is gonna get me.’ Suddenly, the manticore overextends its blow, tumbling on its face with a loud thud.

Seizing her one and possibly only chance, Applejack changes her dodge into a spinning back kick. With the precision and strength of a mare who can buck trees from their foundations, Applejack’s blow hits true for the second time that night landing upside the manticore’s head. As the monster skids back on the ground, Applejack is rewarded with the monster’s yelp of pain as sign that she has scored another decisive blow.

Weaving back out of the monster’s range, Applejack watches as the monster rises from the dirt yet again. “Heh, ah’ll give it to ya that yer mighty stubborn, but from where I’m standin it seems that ah’m the prime contender.”

Confident in her sudden victory, Applejack prepares to advance once again and finish the monster off only to stumble and fall to her knees in exhaustion. “What the? what’s goin…” Applejack’s eyes widen in horror, as she looks to her flank behind her, her eyes spying a large detached stinger protruding slightly above where her cutie mark is. Shifting her gaze back to the monster that is rising from the dirt, Applejack realizes she was the one who had lost their last exchange.

With a quick jerk, Applejack rips the stinger out of her flank and throws it off to the side, yet from the mare’s reeling senses and shaky posture Applejack begins to realize that it is far too late. Sensing the prey’s weakness and hungry for revenge, the manticore advances claws extended, and this time Applejack barely is able to turn off to the side as the creature’s claws rake painfully across the side of her barrel. Applejack screams in agony as she falls to the ground from the pain, pushing herself as far from possible from the advancing monster. The manticore licks its bloodied lips eager to satisfy its hunger for the first time in a week as it advances upon the prone pony with bloodlust in its eyes.

Applejack attempts to stand up against the monster, but the poison has done its lethal work, as she falls quickly back on her injured flanks. Applejack looks back on the monster in front of her, her eyes still burning in the same intensity that she possessed when she wandered into the forest. “Ah can’t die. Not here…. Not now….. mah….” Applejack hacks up a small glob of blood “…mah sister needs me….” The monster, oblivious to the mare’s suffering, spreads it’s paws apart, preparing for another pounce on the prone farm mare. Applejack mustering what remains of her willpower rises to her hooves, barely managing to stay up as she stares down the creature.

“Just….. Just one more buck…….” She cries to herself, begging her body on the verge of shutdown to give just a little more energy. “If ah can throw just one more buck….. ah can win! Just one more buck…. I can stand mah ground an send that critter flyin!”

The manticore leaps once more with a mighty roar. Its wings spread in a predatory fashion, it’s bloody claws glistening in the moonlight as it prepares to strike.

“JUST…. ONE…. MORE….BUCK!” Spinning around with all the remaining strength in her body, Applejack swings out her back legs to intercept the charging monster.

A flash of light, the blow connects, and in a single instant the six hundred and fifty pound manticore is sent flying into a tree behind it with a level of force that would be impossible for any normal pony. “What the….I can’t believe ah had that much strength left…. “ Suddenly becoming aware of another presence, Applejack’s eyes turn off to her side as her eyes catch sight of a strange creature. Stunned by the ghostly figure sudden appearance, her mind reels not from the poison but the strange appearance of the figure standing beside her.

The ghostly figure’s body, almost half as large as the mantincore and covered from hoof to toe in wooden armor, is built like a tank, it’s every limb rippling with muscle and sinew. Its wooden armor, knotted and worn with age, covers its entire body save it’s green leafy face, which is covered only by a layered helm. Surrounding its head sits a large set of deer horns that seem to circle around the Creature’s head as majestically as any crown. Bushes of the finest green leaves blossom where its tail and mane should be, giving it a majestic earthy appearance that would put any dryad to shame. Yet, despite the fey and otherworldly appearance of the creature staring at her, it’s sharp green irises locked on to her body, Applejack feels no fear of the creature that stands by her side, only awe that appropriately reflects the beauty and power of the creature that has come to her aid.

“What the…. Am ah halucinatin again?” Applejack asks herself. “What…. what are ya…”

Turning it’s empty gaze at the orange mare, the spirit speaks with a voice that seems to resonate in the core of her very being “FOUNDATION……”

“Foundation…..” the mare repeats absent mindedly. Applejack blinks once, then twice before finally shaking her head. “All right, now ah know that ah’m crazy.”

The Manticore, peeling itself off the ground growls menacingly at the farm-mare with magical powers. Though any normal creature would have run in terror at such a display of strength a manticore is the top of its food chain in the Everfree forest, not even dragons mess with one willingly. The enraged creature roars loudly as it charges swinging its razor sharp claws at the mare that has angered to the point of blind fury.

Unable to dodge the sudden blow, Applejack raises her hooves to defend against the sudden charge, her mysterious shadow moving between her and the monster almost instinctively. The claws fall upon the magical construct with a furry of blows; the manticore attacking the prone pony with enough strength to send the flowers in the field flying left and right in a fierce windstorm. After a straight minute of blind attacking, the manticore relinquishes its assault, satisfied that no creature could survive such an attack. Backing up, the monster expects to see a scene of bloody carnage, yet, as its eyes focus on the scene before it, the monster is shocked to see that not only is the orange pony still alive, but the strange plant pony has taken every single blow from its razor sharp claws without retaining a single scratch. The manticore barely has time to comprehend the scene before it, as it feels a sharp throb in its front paws. Looking down the monster sees that it’s paws are indeed covered in blood, its own blood. The mangled paws and broken claws a testament to the intense toughness of the magical plant creature that has come to the pony’s aid.

For the third time that night the monster screams in pain as Applejack looks on in awe at the sight of the fierce monster whimpering like a filly with a skinned knee. “Well alright then!” Applejack states. “Hallucination or not, this is mah only chance, an I’m gonna take it!”

Swinging her front hoof forward in a quick jab, the mare is surprised to find that the mysterious plant mimics her actions producing a fierce result, the light jab breaking even more of the monster’s sharpened teeth. The manticore screams in pain as it tries to raise its paws to swipe at the invader, however the monster is quick to find it has no defense against the plant creature’s powerful punches. Struggling as if it has been rooted to the ground itself, the manticore tries vainly to raise its paws in defense or even move out of the way as the orange mare’s barrage of quick punches hit one after the other in rapid succession.

‘Amazin’ Applejack thinks to herself ‘ah don’t know if what’s ah'm seein is real er not, but this creature seems ta follow mah lead like a shadow, an boy howdy is it a strong sucker!’ Blow after blow hits the monster as Applejack begins to wind up for a finishing attack. Shouting at the top of her lungs, Applejack feels the very earth itself lend its power to her, as her life force surges within her.

‘Mah heart, is beatin! beatin with the breath of the earth itself!’ Winding up a powerful buck Applejack succeeds in launching the half ton monster into the air as easily as a foal might toss an apple.

As the monster falls down towards her Applejack raises her hooves to intercept the monster’s fall, all her fear and doubt replaced with righteous anger. “Uuuuuuuuuuuuoooooooooooo. Take this!”

The monster falls, its body directly over the poised plant creature whose hooves are poised to strike “Raging Earth…….” With all the strength remaining in her body, the mare and her stand working side by side throw a countless number of punches on the falling form of the monster, both stand and master crying out to the heavens above

“OOOOOOOOOOOOVVVEEEEEERRRRRRRRRRRDDDRRRIIIIIIIIIIVVVVVVEEEEE!”

With all the grace of a falling rock, the monster is sent tumbling into the darkness of the forest beyond landing with an unceremonious thud off in the distance. Utterly defeated, the manticore cries out in pain, it's every bone broken, its tail shattered, it’s claws shredded as it barely manages to crawl whimpering back into the dark from which it came.

The mare breathes in once, twice, three times as she listens for the sound of another predator, another obstacle in her way home, only to be greeted by silence. Every inhabitant in the forest stands in awe as the victor in the struggle for survival puts her Stetson back on her head. “Whew, that was…… tough, but I did it.” The mare limps forward, her previous adrenaline all but extinguished. “Now I just got to….. get that medicine….. to Bloom……”

Her body finally calls it quits as she collapses on the forest floor, unable to endure anything more. The mare tries to move, to get back on her hooves yet she fails to accomplish anything aside from a few twitches in her legs. “Heh, I can’t believe I came all this way just to die here.” The mare comments on her current situation, not with hopelessness and fear, but with a strange sense of peace. “Oh well, I guess life’s funny like that, it’s not like cryin will make things better.”

Applejack accepted the idea of her own death quite well, no fear, no pain, no remorse “I did what I could”. That is what she tells herself as her consciousness begins to blur, the poison obscuring her vision. Face to face with absolute finality she is only offered an icy and lucid look at her own demise, to be poisoned to death in the middle of the forest.

“Ah only hope….. ah only hope that ma and pa are still proud of me.” The mare’s words stumble out. “Even if ah failed, ah hope that they don’t think any less of me for qutin before the job is done.” Applejack’s consciousness starts to falter as her vision darkens around her, a shadowy figure standing before her as her soul is prepared to embark upon the final journey.

“Heh… I never….. imagined… that the afterlife………. Was so………blue…………” Finally Applejack’s vision turns dark, as she finally succumbs to sweet unconsciousness.

…………………….

“Applejack.”

“Hunh, I can even hear mom’s voice. I guess it won’t be long now.”

“Applejack?”

“Wow she sounds cross. Guess she was more angry than ah thought fer letting bloom down…..”

“APPLEJACK!!”

“Hunh, that doesn’t sound like ma’s voice.”

“Oh sweet Celestia, she’s not breathing! She’s bleeding all over! Quick Pinkie make room!”

“What’s going on, who’s moving me? Am I already dead?”

“She’s shows signs of being poisoned, too. Her injuries are too severe for normal magic, I didn’t want to use the red stones I found so far but saving her life takes precedence..….”

“That’s strange…. The voice sounds familiar…… but where have I…...’

Applejack’s internal monologue is cut off as something almost foreign courses through Applejack’s veins. Her body recoils in shock as warm nutrient rich blood begins to course freely through her veins once again. Her mind is pulled back into reality as her body becomes filled with copious amounts of energy that seems to well up from within her very being. Suddenly, her eyes comprehend the purple and pink blobs before her, as she begins to make out the figures of her friends, the exceptionally worried Twilight Sparkle and none other than the crazy party pony herself Pinkie Pie.

“Oh thank merciful Celestia!” Twilight remarks as Applejack opens her eyes “It looks like she’s going to be all right. Pinkie, great call on bringing that portable defibrillator, it was just what I needed to give her a jump start. Now you just need to tell me how you had the foresight to carry a defibrillator around.”

Pinkie breaks out into a salute. “A wild flower scout is prepared for any situation any time! Rain or snow, sleet or shine, I never fail to protect what’s mine!”

“…….uhhh, I’ll just file that away under ‘coincidence’.” Twilight turns her head back to the orange mare “Applejack, how are you feeling? Well, obviously you feel great since I used the vital energy of a red stone to rejuvenate your severely depleted life source, but I mean I the sense how are you doing mentally, because let’s face it, WHAT WERE you thinking?!”

Twilight embraces the orange farmer in a tight hug, only to break off and slap her face. “What in the world were you thinking Applejack? Running into the everfree at night?! I know that you were worried about your sister, but you could have died!” Twilight takes a deep breath as she prepares to continue yelling in Applejack’s face. “You almost did die! What were you thinking?”

“Twilight?” the orange mare manages to speak, “what are ya doing here? How did ya find me?”

“Ohh, Ohh, Ohh! Pick me pick me!” the pink mare raises her hoof enthusiastically. “I love story time! Can I tell the story please?”

Twilight sighs. “Pinkie, I really don’t think…”

“It all started on a dark stormy night! Just. like. this one, except there wasn’t a storm at all. We were prowling through the forest filled with hundreds of horrible pony eating creatures, looking for a lost mare when suddenly out of the shadows…..”

Placing her hoof over the pink pony’s mouth, Twilight breathes a sigh of relief. “What Pinkie is trying to say is, that we were worried about you, so we ran into the Everfree looking for you.” Twilight says. “I’ll admit, at first we couldn’t find one way from another and we had no idea where we were. However I saw a pony shaped figure rustling in the bushes and thought it was you, so we followed the figure to a clearing where we found you just lying there.”

Applejack stammers “Ya….. ya mean a pony of shadows? Like a ghost er somthin?”

“A pony of shadows…” Twilight muses to herself ‘could it really be her? But why would she be here of all places?’

Twilight’s sudden silence earns stares from both of the other mares. “Ummmmm, Twilight?” Pinkie asks, knocking on her head. “Earth to Twilight. Are you there? It wasn’t really a shadow pony right? Cause if it was I need to throw it a ‘thank you for helping us save Applejack party’!”

Shaking of her suspicions, Twilight returns to the present “No, Pinkie, it was probably nothing, just a trick of the light.” Twilight turns back to her patient concern etched on her face. “What is important is, we got here just in time. Another few minutes, and you would have……. Anyways, I’m just glad that you are alright, Applejack.”

Looking down at her previously injured side and flank, Applejack finds that her gruesome wounds have been completely healed. Looking at her pelt, Applejack begins to tear up as she realizes the extent which the mare in front of her risked her life. “Ya…. yawl came to help me? Even after all the horrible things ah said?”

Twilight smiles. “Applejack, you were worried about your sister, you didn’t mean any of that! And even if you did mean it, that’s no reason to let you die.”

“Yeah, Applejack!” Pinkie chimes in, “and you should have seen Twilight. I thought you were in pretty bad shape, even I was worried, but Twilight just whips out her horn and this amazing sparkly stone and whoosh! You’re all better just like that. I mean, I knew that the princess’s student was going to be really talented, but WOW, she was so awesome! Almost like a super magical version of Rainbow Dash!”

Twilight blushes at the copious amounts of praise as her modesty begins to kick in. “Like I said, it was nothing, Pinkie! You provided the manticore antivenin, all I had to do was give her body a quick jump start with the red stone that I had on me from earlier to strengthen her regenerative capabilities and amplify her depleted magical energy. Any pony could have done that, I’m nothing special, really!”

Applejack is about to launches into another barrage of praise, commending the unicorn for saving her life, when something the mare says strikes her as funny. “Hold on their shug. Just what do ya mean by these Red Stones?”

Twilight freezes “Red Stones? What do you mean? I didn’t say anything about red stones? You must have misheard me!”

Ignoring the mare, Applejack continues. “From the sound of it, this red stone thing seems to be the thing that can heal any wound er somtin.” The sudden insight jogging her memory, Applejack rises to her hooves. “so if it can heal anything, why isn’t it being used to help these there ponies in the hospital?”

Twilight freezes on the spot, unable to deny or confirm Applejack’s suspicions once again. And once again she begins to stammer on like a broken record. “wellllllllllllllllllll ummmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.”

Applejack narrows her gaze, ready to pursue the thread of truth that she has followed to this point when her tongue stops dead in its tracks. ‘Ah’m doin it again!’ Applejack thinks to herself ‘Gosh darn it! This is what I did last time, I dogged Twilight so much about the truth that I ended up hurtin her somtin fierce. Well, no more.’

Suddenly Applejack’s face takes on a kinder expression, surprising the purple mare’s preconceived expectations. “You know what, Twi? It aint important none. If ya say I don’t need to know, then I don’t need to know. Simple as that.”

Twilight is shocked. She had fully expected to have to fight tooth and hoof to keep the truth from Applejack, and yet she was giving up without a fight. “Hunh? Really Applejack?”

“Yep, it aint worth losin a friend over now is it? And as long as this here medicine will help my sis, then I trust ya.” Applejack nods as she slowly rises to her hooves, pointing down at the path ahead of her. “Now, let’s get home. Time’s a wastin here in the middle of nowhere. We got ponies like mah sis ta treat.” With eager steps, Applejack begins to walk down the path out of the clearing when she finds herself stopped by a familiar voice.

“Wait!”

Applejack turns around to find her purple friend, Twilight Sparkle, her hooves rooted to the ground and a look of great internal conflict plastered on her face. “Yeah Twilight? What is it?”

The unicorn rubs her arm with as she looks at the ground in front of her “Applejack… the red stones, are what’s making the ponies here sick.”

Applejack stops dead in her tracks “WHAT?”

“Yeah Twilight! What gives?” Pinkie states while scratching her head. “I thought that red stone thing helped ponies? Why is it making them sick? That makes even less and I’m me!”

“It’s not supposed to make ponies sick!” Twilight’s outburst continues. “The reason that they are making ponies like your sister sick is, because Red stones have the power to draw out a special kind of power from a pony’s soul called a stand.”

“Stand?” Applejack asks curiously.

“Yes, Applejack, or more appropriately stand power.” Twilight nods her head. “It works by drawing out the pony’s magical essence, and causes it to take physical form outside their body and stand beside them, hence the name. But…..” Twilight states with no small amount of fear, “if a pony doesn’t have a sufficient supply of magical power or doesn’t possess the will necessary to control a stand, the stand itself slowly draws the life-force out of the pony resulting in illness.”

“But you used the stand to help Applejack right?” Pinkie says “something that makes ponies better can’t make them sick right?”

“The Red Stones don’t just draw out stand powers..….” Twilight shamefully admits, “The Red Stones amplify all magical reactions, including magic, strength and regenerative rate, meaning all I had to do was use the stone to amplify my healing spell. If you had a stand, I could have just fed it to and that would have increased your regenerative rate through the roof healing your wounds.”

Twilight lowers her head in shame. “But exposing you directly to the red stone might have caused you to succumb to the same stand illness that affected your sister. And the process of creating a stand from your own body's manna would have started to drain your own life force. It’s only because a Stand takes so much magical power to form that causes ponies with lesser wills to get sick. Otherwise, any pony would be able to call a stand after being exposed to a Red Stone.”

Twilight raises her eyes to the sky; her gaze locked on the rapidly disappearing moon on the horizon Twilight contemplates her part in the tragedy occurring in Ponyville. “You were right, Applejack. It was a magical disaster that caused your sister to get sick. We attempted to use the stone to amplify a powerful magical reaction, but it went out of control and the stone exploded, scattering it across Equestria.”

“That’s why I was really sent to Ponyville.” Twilight admits shamefully as she rubs her arm. “Not just to help ponies, but to keep this entire incident secret so we could search for the pieces of the red stone. You were right all along, Applejack; at the end of the day my job is just a self-centered excuse to look for something we lost…...”

The group is silent for a few moments, none of the ponies knowing what to say. Each one thinking of how to best break the awkward silence that has been created by Twilight’s decision to reveal the truth.

Applejack is the first to break this awkward silence “Sssoooooo…. this red stone thing, causes ponies to ‘manifest’ some kind of ghostly power or somtin?”

“Yes, Applejack, that’s correct.” Twilight confirms with a nod. “However, it normally takes years of practice and self-discipline, as well as gradual exposure to a large supply of Red stones and deep magical reservoir to be able to manifest a stand that you can control at will.”

“Ya mean like this?” Applejack raises her hoof towards Twilight and rippling out from her pelt, the strong tree like creature that appeared before, appears again. It’s leafy mane flowing in the wind, the stand touches the ground as it rises to it’s true height, standing a good head higher than the mare. With natural flourish, the creature trots forward, taking a stance beside its master as it stares down at Twilight.

Twilight’s mouth gapes open, unable to even talk as she babbles like an infant. “how did you…… when did you….. Applejack! How are you doing that? I’ve been exposed to the red stone for years and have an amazing reservoir of magical energy! How the heck did you manage to manifest a stand in one day?!”

“Huh?” A very confused Applejack asks. “Oh I just, I don’t know thought about it and poof it appeared. Guess that fighting with a manticore will really draw it out of ya like that!”

“But…. But…” Twilight stammers “You didn’t even have a red stone!”

With a deft movement, Applejack pulls a black stone out of her saddle bags. “Ya mean this? It don’t look very red ta me, but after Bloom cut herself on it she got real sick. I thought if ya had it then you might be able to help her.”

The orange farm mare lowers her head in shame, as her stand fades back into her body. “But when I got there, there were all these strange doctors and snobby canterlot types. I was surrounded by ponies that I couldn’t trust, so I kept it to mahself instead of comin clean.”

Applejack walks over to the purple mare, each trot measured and accurate. “See, ah was just scared of being lied to and deceived as ah was of tellin a lie, so ah kept things that ah should have told ya a secret.”

Applejack comes to a stop right before Twilight sparkle, and just as quickly as she grabs Twilight’s hoof and places the stone in it. “But ah can’t tell a lie, Twilight Sparkle. Ah trust you. You told me the truth when others told me lies. Ya came to help me, even after ah treated ya like dirt, and ya did what ah couldn’t. Yawl came clean, even when yawl had nothing ta gain by tellin me the truth.” Applejack smiles back at the lavender unicorn. “Out of all the ponies that I could have met in that there hospital, ah am proud to say that ah know a mare as honest and kind as you are, Twilight Sparkle. ”

Looking the purple unicorn in the eyes, Applejack beams. “Ah’m the kind of pony that others can rely upon, so instead of takin this whole mess on by yer lonesome, why don’t ya lean on yer friends instead?”

Twilight is stunned by Applejack’s sudden profession. “My..… friends?”

“Hehe, yes, silly filly! We’re your friends!” Pinkie wraps Twilight in a tight hug. “We wouldn’t charge blindly into a dangerous forest in the middle of the night for just any pony! Well, maybe if that anypony had a cake with them, then we could throw a party IN the forest! That would be amazing! Could we throw a party In the forest sometimes Twilight? Because that would be great!”

“Pinkie….”

“Oh sorry, Jackie! Anyways, what I was saying is we’re your friends! We’ll always stick by you and help you out when you are in trouble, so of course we’ll help you with your super special mission for the princess!”

Twilight begins to tear up at the blatant expression of friendship from the pink mare. Never in her life would she have thought that she would have made such inseparable friends so quickly. “Really? You really mean it?”

“Course shug!” Applejack slaps Twilight’s back. “We’ll help ya gather all these Red Stone things if it helps our town and our friends out along the way! That is, if ya can promise ta do everythin in yer power to help mah sister, then ah swear ah’ll follow you to Tartarus itself.”

Twilight wipes the tears from her eyes as she savors the fact that she, a complete recluse who brushed off everypony she had ever met, has friends who she can really depend upon in her hour of need. With a solemn gesture, she extends her hoof as towards the farm mare in a solemn pledge. “Deal”

Applejack, smiling all the while, spits the biggest loogie on her hoof that physics will allow and shakes hooves with her new best friend. “It’s a deal then! I have ta say, Twilight, this is definitely not mah idea of what ah wanted or how mah life ta turn out. But all that doesn’t matter now, cause for the first time in my life, ponies other than my family are dependin on me, so I have the duty to help em out,” the farm mare claims, as they break their sacred spit shake.

Her promise bound to her very heart, Applejack pulls her Stetson down over her eyes in a smug expression. “Sides, ah need to repay ya for saving her life like ya did.”

Pinkie, ever the enthusiastic one, pulls the both of them into a fierce bear hug as she contemplates their amazing future. “This is so exciting! New friends, crazy adventures and heart stopping action! And in the next chapter, I’ll get to show all of you my stand! Could this get any better? I don’t know! But i can tell you that this is adventure is going to be EPIC!”

Twilight smiles in genuine joy at the thought that her adventure with her friends is just beginning, and tha from this point on, she’ll never truly be alone. “Yeah, Pinkie, it's’ all for one and one…… Wait A Second! Pinkie what did you say about having a……”

Chapter 5-Surprise!-Take 1

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Surprise!-Take 1


With the rising of the sun, many of Equestria’s ponies begin their fruitful lives. Each morning ushers in a new day, each one presenting an opportunity in which one can play, learn and grow. On this morning, like any other in Equestria, the cock crows as the sun peeks over the horizon, his shrill voice greeting the new day with gusto and excitement for what is to come.

However just as there are creatures that frolic in the day there are those that are ‘slow to rise’ with the morning sun.

Twilight sparkle is one of the latter.

In the middle of town sits the town’s library, The Golden Oaks Library: a large hollowed out tree that still blooms with foliage and bright green leaves that refract the beams of the rising sun. Its interior first floor is crafted from the very same light red wood of the tree, its walls holding countless books with each one containing the wisdom of a bygone age. The second floor of the library - reached by a circling flight of stairs - houses the personal areas of the building including the bedroom, the guest bedroom and the spacious bathroom, all designed for the librarian’s personal usage.

Inside the bedchambers, a young unicorn mare with a striped purple mane lies in her bed as the sun rises outside her window. Curling up in the covers unwilling to begin the day, Twilight Sparkle plays for as much time in her unconscious state as possible. As the morning sun shines in through the windows illuminating the day, Twilight Sparkle tries vainly to hide from the Light that seems to follow her head around her pillow. Last night was far too busy to wake up this early; she needs to sleep in at least another three hours to be at her best. Surely, sleeping in another few hours wouldn’t be a crime, would it? The mare curls up against her pillow as she prepares to drift back to the realm of dreams.

Yet not all creatures are as lax in rising with the sun as Twilight Sparkle is.

“YYYYYYYYEEEEEEEEEEEEEHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHAWWWWWWWWWWW!” Applejack shouts as she bucks open the door to Twilight’s room. “Rise and shine cowgirl! This ain’t no time for rest! Up and attum!”

With all the grace of an epileptic patient, the student of Princess Celestia flails about in shock as she tumbles face first out of her bed. Recoiling from the pain of impact, she is barely able to discern the voice of her friend Applejack as she curses the very existence of light itself under her breath.

“Yes siree we got ourselves a rich and busy day today!” Applejack claims with far too much excitement for Twilight to stomach. “We got ponies ta meet places to see and all the world to explore! And yawl can’t really expect to do or see those things from the comfort of a bed now can ya?”

“Ugh…... What’s going on Applejack?” the sleepy unicorn asks. “Where are we going so early?”

“Heh still got yer head in the clouds there Twi? Let me refresh yer genius memory.” Applejack clears her throat. “Today’s the day that we’re taking that there tour of Ponyville. Since ya just happen to be speaking to the grandchild of Ponyville's founding matriarch, ah decided ta give you the grand ol’ tour mahself.”

“………….”

“Yeah, see after we dropped off all that medicine at the hospital for mah sis an the others ya said that ya needed at least one full day of rest, to ‘recover’ from all that excitement. An since there was nopony stayin in this here library, an bein the good friend that I was, ah talked Mayor Mare into letting ya crash here till yer business in Ponyville is finished.”

“………..”

“An don’t try and talk us out o this Twi, yawl said in very clear terms that ya wanted to get a nice early start so that yawl could get to know everythin about this here town of Ponyville.”

As if conjured out of thin air Pinkie Pie pops out of the door frame “Applejack’s right sleepy pants! You can’t expect to meet everypony from your bed! I mean bringing everypony in Ponyville to your bed is something that I would totally do for you if you asked but I don’t think everypony in town would like me dragging them to some strange pony’s bedside; they’d think that you were dying or something and that would be really sad!” Pulling a spatula out from behind her back Pinkie continues, “Oh by the way I made you a big Pinkie Pie Breakfast so you need to get up and eat it while it’s still hot, otherwise it’ll be a cold Pinkie Pie Breakfast.”

With a look that could boil water, Twilight gives the two a deadpan stare causing both the mares to freeze up on the spot. For a straight minute all the mare does is stare at the two ponies whose very existences are a crime against sleeping in.

Applejack coughs as Twilight continues to stare at her. “Well as yawl said yerself, scoutin out the town would help ya out in findin all these red stone things,” Applejack claims. “And you couldn’t have chosen any better ponies fer the job. As a pony who has spent her whole life in this here town ah know every nook and cranny that this little town has to offer.”

“Yeah!” the pink pony comments, “and I can tell you everything known about the Ponivilians because I know everything about every pony that there is to know about Ponyville, well at least not the super-secret stuff that I Pinkie-promised not to reveal; that stuff is off limits. But of course I’ll tell you everything that I can!”

“………….”

Applejack coughs again as she prepares to put as much optimism that she can manage into her next few words. “Well Twilight, are you ready to begin the day?”

Never breaking her intense stare Twilight rises from the floor, her mane a complete tangled mess, and begins to walk out the door of her room, ignoring the early risers. Both of her friends watch nervously as the purple mare walks without a word down the stairs of her home and into the kitchen on the first floor. Unwilling to follow a mare obviously not in her right mind, the orange farmer and pink party pony listen for any sounds that could come from the dark kitchen below them. Silence fills the entire library as the two mares’ sharp eyes begin to see a faint purple light emanating from the kitchen’s dark expanse.

“What do you think that she’s doing?” Pinkie asks.

“Ah don’t know shug,” Applejack replies “I just don…….”

“GGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGG”

An enormously loud grating sound fills the library, causing the books to shake off their shelves from the intense rattling vibrations. “What in Sam hill?!” Applejack shouts as she falls prone from miniature earthquake filling the library.

“W-E-E-E-E-E-E-E-E-E-E-E-E-E-E-E-E-E-E-E-E!” Pinkie gleefully cheers as the vibrations of the earthquake cause the party pony to skid across the floor.

Attempting to drown out the sound of the noise, Applejack plugs her ears with her own hooves, putting all her efforts into enduring the affronting sound that seems to assault her very being. Then just as suddenly as it began the noise ceases, returning the entire library to a state of quiet.

“Awwwwww. It’s over!” Pinkie says. “I liked Twilight’s mini-earthquake. Oh! Do you think she would do it again if we asked?”

“Twilight did that?!” Applejack asks with surprise. “Why in the blue blazes would she…”

“Ahh much better!” Both of the mares look to the doorway of the darkened kitchen to see a much calmer and composed Twilight Sparkle. Her coat is smoothed over, the bags from beneath her eyes are gone and even her mane is straight and in order, signifying her sudden drastic change from ‘I hate everything’ to ‘BRING IT ON!’ And there, resting in her telekinetic field like the soma of the Gods, is the cause of such an abrupt change in the unicorn’s demeanor: a single steaming cup of coffee.

“Oh…” Applejack realizes the reason for Twilight’s abrupt change in mood.

“Sorry about before, girls, but I really needed that. Can you believe that there isn’t a single coffee grinder in the entire library?” Twilight remarks. “Luckily I grind my coffee beans magically with ‘Mordechai’s Grinding Hooves of Death’. I find that the coffee tastes better when the beans have been ground into subatomic particles by intense magical pressure, but that’s probably just me.” Twilight takes another sip from her cup and shivers in delight. “OH boy that’s the stuff!”

“Okay then…” Applejack begins, unsure whether she should be less or more frightened of the mare before her. “Now that yawl are all fresh and ready ta begin the day we best be on our way. We’re burning daylight every second here.”

With no more words needing to be said Applejack and Pinkie Pie turn to open the door leading outside, only to be stopped by Twilight’s assertive voice. “Not so fast Applejack, Pinkie.” Both of the mares stop dead in their tracks, Pinkie actually managing to defy physics and stop in midair. “There is one more thing we need to discuss before we head on out.”

Twilight takes another sip of her coffee, slowly savoring its taste. “Pinkie, you said the day before yesterday that you had a Stand power, a fact that was confirmed when you were able to see Applejack’s Stand, Fountainhead.”

“Foundation,” Applejack interrupts.

“Right, Foundation.” Twilight nods impartially. “Anyway, only another Stand user or a pony who has been exposed to Red Stones for a long period of time would even be able to see a Stand, given it’s composed of a pony’s essence.” Twilight takes another sip of her coffee. “Pinkie, I know that this might be a bit sensitive, but manifesting a Stand requires a red stone in order to manifest. So my question is: do you really have a Stand power? How did you get it? And why did you wait until now to tell me?!”

Pinkie stares at Twilight. “Ummmmm Twilight I may not be as good at math as you are…. But that sounds like three questions.”

Twilight groans. “Whatever, Pinkie I know that. And I know that it might be something that you don’t want to talk about but…”

“Okie dokie!”

“… we really need you to….. wait what?”

Pinkie laughs, “Of course I’ll tell you Twilight, you’re my friend!” Pinkie claps her hooves together as she pulls out a large felt board from behind her back. “Besides, this will give me the chance to try out my ‘flashback board’! I’m so excited!”

Twilight is stunned again. “Pinkie… how did you do that?”

Pinkie cocks her head. “Do what, silly?”

“How did you pull that board out of nowhere?” Twilight shouts. “Come to think of it, didn’t you do the same thing yesterday with a tuba and a miniature alligator?”

Pulling out a rolled up newspaper Pinkie bops Twilight Sparkle on the head. “Save all questions till the end of the lesson! That means NO disruptions, Ms. Sparkle,” Pinkie says in her most authoritarian voice.

“But I… Ugh! Never mind just get on with it Pinkie!”

“Perfect, now where to begin!” Pinkie taps her chin. “Oh yes, where better to begin the story than at the beginning!”

With super pony speed, the pink mare places several figures on the board in quick succession. A father and mother ponies stand in a field of rocks surrounded by four daughters, one of them a bright pink color. “Once upon a time there was a little pink filly that lived on a rock farm with her parents. However, her life was boring and hard without any time for fun, can you imagine that?”

Pinkie moves the pink figure around on the board. The pink figure moves about the field of rocks all alone until she finds a strange-looking black rock. “That was until one day she found a lucky rock in the field that was different from every other rock that she had ever seen. The pink pony wanted to have fun and have a happy life, so using all her pinkie powers she wished on the rock for some fun.”

Then the pink mare places a large felt rainbow in the sky complete with all the colors of the spectrum. “No sooner than she wished on the rock then she saw a blinding flash of light in the sky that filled her with a sense of happiness and wonder. Immediately she knew that, just like that flash of light, her purpose was to make others happy. And that’s when her cutie mark appeared.” Pinkie giggles as she waves her cutie mark in the faces of her two friends, oblivious to the blushes of embarrassment on their faces.

Turning back to the board Pinkie moves the felt figures around with her hooves as she illustrates a new scene. Once again the scene changes: this time the pink figure is setting up a room with streamers and cake. It is clearly obvious from the image that the filly is having a hard time putting the party together. “She set out to make a party for her whole family so they could be happy too! But then she realized that she didn’t have any cake or streamers or party favors at all! I mean how could you have a party without cake? She was stumped, but then she had a super fantastic idea.”

Moving the pink felt pony on the board Pinkie illustrates the pink figure drawing pictures on scrap pieces of paper. “She drew out the things she needed on paper and since her special magic stone had granted her wish the first time, she wished on it again. But this time since she already knew that her purpose in life was to make ponies happy and she didn’t need to wish for that she wished that she could have the power to throw her hardworking parents the greatest party ever!”

Moving the figures around, Pinkie introduces a new figure to the board, this one a white pegasus-shaped creature with cartoonish eyes all over its body. “Then no sooner than she made her little Pinkie wish, a magical mystery friend appeared and pulled those supplies right out of the paper. All the cakes streamers and all the piñatas a filly could ask for!”

Moving around the figures Pinkie demonstrates all the felt images dancing around and playing, the father and mother looking on in joy as their children celebrate. “The filly’s parents and siblings were really surprised at how she was able to put together a party from nothing, but they were so happy that they didn’t care! Even though the filly couldn’t pull things she created out of paper any more after that; her special friend allowed her to take everything she could ever need with her by folding it away on her cute little felt pelt.”

Pinkie arranges the board to show the pink felt figure throwing another party with the white filly dropping various party-themed objects out of the sky around the pink filly. “Now the filly could take her parties anywhere she needed them to go and since her imaginary friend was such a surprise that’s what she decided to call her. Surprise! Eventually the filly’s parents stopped trying to figure out how she was able to do such crazy stuff and they just accepted it! After all who would question a good surprise party?”

With a flash of panache the party pony folds up the entire board in the space of a few seconds and stores it behind her back. “And that’s the story of how I, Pinkemenia Pie, made my first ever super special friend! Surprise! Say hello Surprise.”

In a flash Pinkie manifests a white figure that stands beside her, its body hovering in the air completely weightless as a cloud. The pegasus-shaped Stand with a bouncy mane of sunlit yellow and a body composed of felt-like texture manifests itself directly next to the pink party pony with a flair all its own. Across its entire body are hundreds of cartoonish eyes of every shape and color, and various objects ranging from felt boards to cartoon glasses, from cakes to eye patches. Almost every empty spot on the Stand is covered in doodles of various objects that all seem to be made out of the same felt texture as its pelt, the tattooed Stand’s button eyes and stitched smile looking ahead at the two very confused mares.

“H-Hello…..” the white pegasus figure says in a high pitched tone of voice, without ever moving its mouth.

“See, every time I need a special object for my special parties…” The party mare reaches out to her Stand’s barrel, touching a picture of a thermos made completely of felt. “…All I have to do is reach out…” With a quick tug the felt peels off the Stand; however, as it peels off, the two dimensional shape takes on a three dimensional appearance, turning into a real physical object. “…And Abra-K-Pinkie! One hot thermos of coffee!” The Stand picks up the thermos and with expert control tops off Twilight’s depleted cup. With its task complete the Stand places the thermos back on the exact spot on its flank that it came from, causing it to once again turn back into felt.

Twilight looks at her cup of coffee with no small amount of surprise as she inhales the fragrance of perfectly warm coffee with absolutely no hint of staleness “Amazing! It’s like an advanced bag of holding spell! Except the spell can preserve an object perfectly in time as well as in space.” Twilight takes a sip of her brew with satisfaction. “This coffee is as fresh as when it was brewed! How many objects can you store like this Pinkie?”

The pink pony shrugs at this question. “Humh? I don’t know, one time I tried to stick a whole kitchen on my Stand cause I was going to do this super cool baking party but I ran out of room to stick things onto even when i pulled off almost all my Pinkie eyes to make room so I just turned the oven into felt and stored the felt in my hair! Boy was Mr. Cake surprised when he came home to find out that his oven was gone!”

Twilight blinks at Pinkie’s comment. “Hold on Pinkie, back up there. Did you say you can turn anything into felt? Meaning that you don’t have to stick it onto your Stand to keep it in felt form to preserve an object?”

“Heh He, don’t be silly, Twilight! I can’t turn everything into felt! That would really silly even for me! I mean I can’t turn ponies into felt, which is a pretty good thing cause I guess that being turned into felt would be really boring!” Sticking her hoof into her mane Pinkie pulls out a small toothless alligator. “Well except for Gummy! He’s really special like that! Could you imagine if I could turn felt into felt and place it on Surprise’s felt where it could be felt by a pony who loves felt?!”

Twilight rolls her eyes as Pinkie laughs at her own little joke, Applejack looking on suspiciously at her strange looking Stand all the while.

“Hold on there, Pinkie,” the farm mare says as she points at the surprising Stand. “Ah get this whole turn-things-into-felt thing but what’s with those eyes yer Stand is covered in? Y’awl don’t expect me ta believe that ya……” The farm mare gulps deeply, “……. That yawl can take off ponies eyes or somthin?”

The farmer chuckles nervously. “Ah mean ah’m just confused cause yawl said that you couldn’t turn living things inta felt…… so ah’m not tryin ta be offensive or anythin……”

“Oh you mean my Pinkie Eyes?” Pinkie materializes her Stand as she looks back at the sewn-on eyes. “Yeah they sorta came with the package and everything! At first I was all like ‘GASP’ cause it looked kinda creepy but then i realised that I could pull them off and place them places so then it was sorta like a game where I pulled them off and put them on and pulled them off and put them on and pulled them off and put them on and pulled them off and put them on and pulled…”

‘All right we git it Pinkie!” Applejack shouts. “Ah just didn’t want ta hear that yawl pulled the eyes offa ponies er somethin…” Suddenly Applejack claps her hooves over her mouth, realising that her off-hoof comment might have gone too far.

Pinkie Pie looks like she just saw a ghost, her bright blue eyes locked on Applejack as her head creaks eerily off to the side. “... Hehe…… he… he he he……” Suddenly the pink mare begins to chuckle softly, her laughter growing louder by the second until she is rolling over on her back laughing at the top of her lungs. “BWA HAHAHAHAHA Applejack… You’re… You’re so funny BWA HAHAHAHA!’” Both Twilight Sparkle and Applejack look on the party pony in dawning horror as they slowly inch away from Pinkie Pie, terrified expressions on both of their muzzles.

Suddenly Pinkie’s laughter stops as she leaps to her hooves, looking into Applejack’s eyes with a serious emotionless gaze. “No Applejack, the eyes that appear on my Stand are natural part of it. They were there when I first got my Stand, and sometimes I do have to remove some of them to make room to store my other party supplies. They don’t come from other ponies.”

Pinkie’s eyes suddenly begin to tear up as she looks her friends in the eyes, her sadness almost palpable as her poofy mane begins to deflate a bit. “But seriously Applejack, h-how could you?! Do I look like the kind of pony that would hurt other ponies like that? That i would…..” Pinkie places her hoof on her mouth, her cheeks growing a twinge greener. “...Collect pony eyes?! What in Equestria is wrong with you?!”

Twilight looks her normally-joyous friend in the eyes and sees the extent of sadness that such a casual comment has made on the enthusiastic pony’s demeanor. Where a pony would normally see Pinkie’s face plastered with a genuine grin, the current face of the pink party pony is creased with a deep frown, her puffy hair deflated, even her pink coat seems less bright as her bright blue eyes threaten to erupt in tears at any moment.

“Of course not, Pinkie!” Twilight assures her. “You are one of the kindest and most considerate ponies that I know! You could never hurt anypony like that.”

Turning her head towards Applejack, Twilight gives her the most threatening gaze she can muster, letting her know exactly what will happen to her if she doesn’t make things right in the next four seconds. “In fact…” Twilight levels a death-gaze at Applejack, “ANYPONY that would even think that Pinkie Pie would do such horrible things to other ponies is a sick monster! Pinkie Pie a pony that lives to make others happy she would never ever hurt another pony! Isn’t that right APPLEJACK?!”

Mustering all the intensity of her Librarian’s stare, Twilight’s glance conveys a simple message to Applejack: ‘comfort your friend or die’.

“Y-Yeah!” Applejack states, her response spurred on both by her desire to comfort her pink friend and her desire to live. “Of course ya would never do any of that stuff Pinkie! I just thought you know it was strange and all that ya had all those creepy eyes on yer Stand. I meant it as a joke that’s all!”

Pinkie’s face instantly returns to its normal joyous appearance as she embraces the two ponies “Awww it’s okay girls! I forgive you! I was just messing with you guys too! I know that you know that I know that I would never do any of those horrible things!”

Pinkie taps her chin as she looks out the window. “At least not in this universe……... Besides I need my little Pinkie eyes to pull off my other special power.” Breaking out of the hug Pinkie bounces over to the door and flings it open with a loud clattering sound. “Now come on! Fillies, we’ve got a town to explore!”

As Pinkie bounces out into the world beyond, Twilight can’t help but stare at the strangest pony she has ever met. “Wow, is Pinkie always, like that? Or is it only when she’s around ponies she likes?”

Applejack smiles as she drapes her hoof over her friend’s shoulder “Twi, ah’ve lived in Ponyville mah whole life and ah haven’t met a pony yet who Pinkie Pie doesn’t like.” Pulling her hoof off Twilight’s shoulder Applejack begins to trot out the open door. “Now come on; Pinkie’s right! We’ve got a whole town to explore and only few hours ta do it in. So saddle up and lets’ head on out!”

Applejack bolts out the door as Twilight looks at the sunny world outside. “Well it does look like such a nice day outside now that I’ve had my caffeine, so I guess that…”

Twilight stops her hoof mid-stride “Wait a second…… Did Pinkie say that she had more than one Stand power?!” Twilight dashes out of the door fully intent on catching up with the pink menace and extracting everything that the party mare hasn’t told her from her balloon-headed mind. “Pinkie! Get back here and tell me everything!”

……………………..

“……. And this is Time Turner: he’s the local clock maker stallion guy or something. He likes blue telephone booths and hangs out with the mail mare Derpy all the time for some reason, and Derpy is sooooooo cool Twilight! You’ve got to see how good she is at stunt flying! Cause you know she’s the mail pony here and she always flies in a really crazy way! What was I talking about again? Oh yeah Time Turner! He loves banana cakes and banana splits and he’s always running around all over Ponyville for reasons no pony really understands and……”

‘This is so NOT what I had in mind!’ Twilight thinks to herself as she listens to Pinkie explain the backstory of the fifty-sixth pony that they have met today. Twilight grumbles as she thinks of how much better this time could be spent looking for Red Stones than meeting random ponies who - like her - find themselves at the mercy of the Pink Asylum patient.

“Applejack?” Twilight asks, “Wouldn’t it be more prudent to look at areas where the Red Stones might be found? Or search for ponies acting out of the ordinary?”

Applejack turns to Twilight to resume their conversation. “Shucks Twi you asked Pinkie to introduce ya to some of the ponies in town, ‘sides we would have had all the time we needed had we left when we were supposed to, cause of yer little coffee break we had to eat breakfast on the go.”

Pinkie Pie, finishing her expertly crafted tirade on ponyville's 106th resident, Time Turner, moves onto the next pony in sight: ponyville's 4083th resident, Raindrops, who tries vainly to fly away in the face of Pinkie’s rambling voice which is revealing her most intimate secrets to the world.

Twilight sighs. “Oh Applejack, naive foolish Applejack,” Twilight says as if chastising a child. “Any danger or discomfort we could have experienced by taking a late start would have been miniscule compared to the discomfort of dealing with me without my morning coffee.”

Pinkie continues disclosing various bits of personal information to any pony in earshot about her good friend Raindrops as the mare attempts to do everything in her power to shut her up.

No pony past or present ever succeeded in getting Pinkie to be quiet for more than five minutes without having an aneurism. To this day the record for getting Pinkie to be quiet is five minutes, and that one time was simply because she was chewing an especially large wad of cotton-candy flavored taffy. And even then she spent most of her time trying to describe the taste to every pony at the candy maker’s convention despite the fact that her mouth was filled to capacity.

“What da ya mean Twi?” the perplexed farm mare asks.

“I mean Applejack…” the purple unicorn explains “…. that any morning in which I DON’T get my morning coffee is a morning that you and everypony in town will rue your very existence.”

If there is any indication that Pinkie is aware that her friends are ignoring her, she either doesn’t care or she is so focused on disclosing vitally personal information to the world around her that it completely slips her mind that the ponies that she was tasked with explaining all these things to aren’t listening.

Applejack gulps in fear at Twilight’s comment. “Point taken. An ah guess yawl are right bout one thing: we really need to pick up tha pace here.”

“I’m glad you see things my way, Applejack!” Twilight says with a grin. Trotting up to Pinkie, who is in the process of explaining what kind of teddy bear Snips got for his birthday last year, Twilight snaps her friend out of her behavior by clearing her throat. “Ummm Pinkie I don’t mean to be rude, but when I asked you to introduce me to some of the more important ponies in Ponyville, I meant that you should introduce me to some of the ponies who are actually important.”

Pinkie turns around, gripping her friend with her two immensely strong arms. “But TWILIGHT!” the party mare says as she shakes her friend back and forth, “ALL the ponies of Ponyville are important! I mean what if… Muummmmppphhhhh!”

Twilight cuts off her friend with a hoof to her mouth. “Pinkie, I know what you are going to say, and I think everypony in Ponyville is special and unique, but I want to meet the ponies in Ponyville who have important jobs and tasks that they alone can perform. The kind of ponies who would know if a pony was acting strange or had found a mystical magical object while doing their job. Now Pinkie do you know any ponies like that?”

A serious look crosses Pinkie’s face as she raises her hoof in a solemn pledge. “Mmmmmummmmph Mumph Mmmmumph Muumph Muuummmmppppphhhh!”

Twilight removes her hoof from Pinkie’s mouth. “What was that Pinkie?”

“I said that I’d totally help you find a pony like that Twi!” Pinkie says, “and I won’t rest until I… Hey look there’s Rainbow Dash let’s go meet her!” Pinkie bounces up to the mare with the speed of a shark smelling fresh blood before pouncing upon the completely unsuspecting pegasus. “HI RAINBOW HOW ARE YOU DOING?”

Twilight sighs in frustration, “GGGGGGGGGGggghhhhhhaaaaaaaa. I give up Applejack, there’s absolutely no way of getting Pinkie to follow any kind of schedule.”

Applejack chuckles to herself. “Yeah Pinkie’s a handful Twi, but she always manages to come through in a pinch. Take mah friend Rainbow Dash there.”

“Rainbow Dash is your friend too, Applejack?” Twilight looks up at the farm mare as her mind fills with hopeful thoughts. ‘Maybe if things work out I can be friends with Rainbow too! Wait what am I thinking?! I’m not here to make friends I’m here to find the Red Stones. Prioritize, Twilight!’

Applejack chuckles “If by friends ya mean rivals then yeah, we’re the best of friends. An’ if anypony knows if somethin’ rotten is going down around Ponyville then she’s the one to ask. After all, she’s the captain of the weather patrol and Ponyville's resident stunt mare.”

Her eyes filling with awe, the Twilight mare looks upon the mare in front of her in a new light. The pegasus’ sky-blue coat belies her powerful muscles underneath, each muscle grouping toned to physical perfection after years of rigorous exercise. Her cutie mark - a rainbow colored lightning bolt cutting through a white cloud demonstrates her desire for speed as well as her natural born talent at achieving it. Her cocky grin and maroon eyes demonstrating an unparalleled amount of confidence that seemingly fills her very being. Her very body language resonates with pride and confidence. And most noticeably of all, her six colored mane representing all the colors of the rainbow seems to catch every slight breeze as it ripples beautifully through the air. In fact the only faulty mark on her entire body is a medium sized bandage placed right above her left cutie mark.

“Ponyville's captain of the weather patrol…… You’re right, Applejack, if any pony would be witness to any strange things around Ponyville it would be the one who patrols it regularly.” With enthusiasm in her every step Twilight walks up to the Rainbow mare with a cheery grin, trotting up to the her just as pegasus mare turns to greet her.

“Hello there, I’m Twilight Sparkle, Princess Representative assigned to Ponyville,” Twilight says with a cheery voice. “I must say I haven’t heard many things about you, Rainbow Dash, but from what Applejack and Pinkie Pie tell me you are the pony to know here in Ponyville.”

Twilight extends her hoof to the Pegasus who looks over the Lavender mare twice before finally breaking out in a small grin and shaking her hoof. “Well if you haven’t heard anything about me then you really must be a new pony to Ponyville! And if you could get that stubborn apple farmer to give you a good word then you must be pretty cool yourself.” Breaking the hoof shake Dash strikes another cocky grin. “Of course you’re still nowhere as awesome as I am!”

“Really,” Applejack asks, unwilling to accept Dash’s arrogant attitude this early.

“Yeah Jackie!” Pinkie says, “Even I hate to admit it, but Rainbow Dash is way cooler than Twilight Sparkle! In fact of the nine thousand two hundred and forty seven ponies currently in Ponyville Rainbow Dash is undoubtedly the most daring of them all! Why she’s practically a shoo-in for the Wonderbolts next year! Um no offense Twilight?”

Twilight nods her head. “None taken Pinkie, but trying out for the Wonderbolts, you must be a pretty impressive flyer Rainbow Dash.”

Dash raises her hoof to her eyes admiring it impartially as she flaunts her coolness. “Heh. What can I say, I’m just awesome like that.” Dash points her hoof to the newcomer. “But enough about me and how obviously awesome I am. I know everypony in Ponyville, so what makes you so special?”

‘What?’ Twilight thinks, ‘is she trying to be rude? No, she’s friends with Pinkie and Applejack; she must just be intimidated by the fact that they have a new friend’. “Well, like I said I’m a Princess Representative for the designated region of Ponyville.”

“Pfft, that’s nothing special.” Dash waves her hoof dismissively. “All anypony has to do to get a position like that is kiss the flank of the Princess. And that doesn’t take any talent. Come on, there must be something awesome about you other than the fact that you’re a Canterlot snob?”

Twilight is about to blurt out there is far more to being a Princess Representative than flank-kissing when she is interrupted by Pinkie Pie’s well-timed outburst. “OH NO! Not only is Twilight a super Princess Representative but she’s Princess Celestia’s private student! She’s super magical and has all these cool spells that go whoosh and boom and she healed Applejack in an instant with her magic and even guided us clear out of the Everfree Forest in the dark!”

“The Everfree Forest?” Rainbow asks, genuinely impressed. “You, a stuck up noble, went into the Everfree Forest? At night?”

Twilight seizes the opportunity to finally get a word in edgewise as she clears her throat. “Yes Dash I went into the Everfree Forest to help Applejack, and for your information I happen to be from a common…”

“Yeah yeah that’s great Twibright…”

“TWILIGHT! It’s Twilight Sparkle!”

“Whatever…... Just so long as you aren’t a prissy frou frou unicorn like that Rarity you’re cool in my book.” Rainbow Dash snickers. “Cause if you were looking to take the job of town fancy pants then you’re about ten years too late.”

“Dashie!” Pinkie rushes into Dash’s face, a menacing look in her eyes. “That’s not nice, Rarity is a great pony. Just because you two are very different and you share almost nothing in common doesn’t mean you can’t be friends! And it doesn’t mean that you can just make fun of her like that!”

Dash, realizing that she may have gone too far with that last comment, rubs the back of her neck shamefully as she looks Pinkie straight in the eyes. “Sorry Pinkie, I guess I got carried away, sorry about that.”

Rainbow Dash points at Twilight. “I just didn’t want the new pony getting any funny ideas about this town or anything. Ponyville may just be a shadow of the Capital of Equestria, but it’s no playground for any high-class nobles or anything. If she thinks that she can come to our town and tell us how to live just because she’s some Princess Rep or something she’s in for a rude awakening.”

“Dash!” Now it is Applejack who chastises the speedster. “Ah think Pinks is right! yawl are goin too far now. Twi is here to help us out, not to oppress us like some foreign tyrant. She’s just doing her job helpin ponies out. Somethin YOU should be doin right about now.”

“Ehhh, I’m on break, Applejack,” the rainbow mare states nonchalantly. “If it came down to it I could clear these skies in ten seconds flat.”

“Oh! I had a great idea guys!” Pinkie says as an idea takes form in her mind. “Since Dash is so fast and is a good friend maybe she could help us with our super secret mission! We could be secret agent buddies!”

The group stands in stunned silence as the Pink mare blows any semblance of secrecy that they had in the most overt way possible. Part of Twilight can’t believe that Pinkie just went and did the opposite thing that she was told to do. Then again, she is Pinkie Pie. The air itself seems to be as heavy as lead as Twilight hopes to dear Celestia that Dash thinks that the pink mare is joking. ‘Please please think that this is a joke,’ the purple mare pleads. ‘Pinkie loves jokes! There is no secret mission it’s just another one of Pinkie’s senseless jokes, please believe it's a joke!’

The deadening silence is finally broken by Dash scratching her head. “Secret mission? What secret mission? Applejack, do you know what Pinkie is talking about?”

Twilight face hooves. “Pinkie! Can I speak to you in private? NOW.” Grabbing the Pink mare with her telekinesis, Twilight teleports the two of them just out of earshot of the rainbow mare as she prepares to give the lecture of her life to the pink menace.

“What?” Pinkie asks, “Too subtle?”

“More like incredibly overt, Pinkie!” Twilight shouts. “I thought I told you that this was a SECRET mission for a reason; nopony else is supposed to know about it!”

“Nut-ah. You said ponies who weren’t our friends or couldn’t be trusted. And Dash is our friend so she can be trusted! Besides, Dashie is the most loyalist of loyal ponies that I know!”

“You’re joking right? Tell me you're joking, Pinkie.”

“To quote a great stallion, ‘Noooppppeee!’” Pinkie states with absolute confidence. “Rainbow Daring Dash is my friend! And that’s the truth.”

In the face of Pinkie’s naivety, Twilight can only rub the bridge of her horn as she tries to suppress a rising headache. “Pinkie, your ‘friend' has been rude and insulting to me ever since we met her. She’s stuck up, self-righteous and to top it all off she’s a bigoted airhead with rude manners! She is the exact OPPOSITE of a pony who we want to put our trust in!”

“You’re not such a prize yourself, little Mrs. Sparkler.”

“GRUGH. Dash, for the millionth time my name is Twilight…..” Twilight turns around to see the rainbow maned mare hovering two hoof lengths from her muzzle, her forelegs crossed in obvious frustration. “Oh hello, Dash! Um, hear anything you didn’t like? Hehehehe……”

However, it is obvious from a quick glance that Rainbow Dash is not appeased or amused by Twilight’s apologetic behavior. “So you think that I’m a blow hard, hunh? So you just think that me and the other ponies in this town are stupid? You think that you're so much better than everypony else? That we’ll just let you run through this town of ours doing Discord knows what just cause you have a fancy title? HUNH?!?”

Twilight flinches a bit with every accusation that comes from Dash’s mouth. “H-H-Hey! I didn’t say I was better than anypony else! And for your information…”

“Yeah well you certainly implied it,” the Rainbow mare interrupts. “With your ‘secret Princess missions’ that the rest of the town ‘doesn’t need to know’. Well, I may not be an egghead like you but I can totally tell a government conspiracy when I see one!”

Dash lands on the ground with a loud impact and begins to stomp right up to the lavender mare, giving her a stink eye. “Well, I’m not falling for your lies! And as captain of the weather patrol I demand to know what sort of ‘secret mission’ that you are doing around this town.” Rainbow stares at the unicorn in front of her, her suspicions becoming more apparent by the second. “Are you a spy?”

“It aint none of yer beeswax, Dash!” Applejack yells, butting heads with Rainbow Dash. “Fer yer information, Twilight was only trying to be friendly to yawl, an’ you darn near take her head off. She’s a guest, Dash, leave her alone!”

Pushing back on the farmer, Rainbow Dash makes it clear she’s not going to back down “She’s a government spy, Applejack! And if it’s not important then why is she hiding it from every pony? It’s exactly what a SPY would do!”

The rainbow mare suddenly turns to the ‘spy’ in question. “Well, little miss spy? Have you got anything to say in your defense?”

“You’re bleeding, Dash…”

“HA! She admits it! She’s a…… wait, what did you say?”

Twilight points her hoof over to the bandage on Dash’s side, the white cloth covering her wound sporting a new blotch of red under the bandage. “Your wound is bleeding, Dash,” Twilight comments. “You did a good job of bandaging it, but injuries to parts of the body like your back experience a lot of movement, so they tend to open back up a lot of the time.”

Dash looks back to her injured flank with a small look of fear on her face, beginning to break out into a cold sweat. “Uhhhhhh…..”

Twilight moves over to Dash's injured side, determining the state of her patient with her precise and analytical mind. “Hummmmhhh……Your excitement and increase in blood pressure must have caused the wound to reopen, Dash. But from the size of the wound and the small amount of blood, I can tell that it’s come a long way in recovering.” Lighting her horn, the lavender mare points the tip of it towards the wound on Dash’s side. “Don’t worry; like Pinkie said before, I’m pretty good at healing magics, so I’ll just need a second to…..”

“NO!” The Rainbow mare leaps into the air in a panic, clutching her flank to prevent it from being touched. Yet, realizing that her behavior was ‘very uncool’, Rainbow Daring Dash lands back on the ground with a light step, coughing gently into her hoof as she assumes a more natural stance. “I mean, no way like I would trust a spy like you to play doctor. You probably would poison me or place a spell on my flank so you could track my movements, or something creepy like that!”

“What!? That would be a terrible breach of medical practice!” the purple mare claims. “I’m just trying to help you, Dash! Why do you have to be so paranoid?”

Seeing an opportunity to get back at her rival for her rude behavior, Applejack smiles evilly. “Oh so ya didn’t know, Twilight.”

Twilight turns in confusion to her orange friend as Dash’s face grows several shades paler. “What are you talking about, Applejack?”

Applejack shrugs. “I just thought that everypony from here to Canterlot would have heard by now about the fearless Rainbow Dash.”

Dash glares at the farmer. “Applejack, don’t you dare!”

Applejack’s beaming face perfectly contrasts Dash’s enraged behavior as she continues to goad the pegasus. “I just thought that she would like to know…”

“Shut UP, Applejack.”

“That the fearless Rainbow Dash…….”

“I said shut it.”

“Captain of the weather patrol......”

“Not cool, Applejack, not cool at all.”

“Future wonderbolt extraordinaire…...”

“I swear to Celestia, Applejack!”

“Is actually..…..”

“I swear to Celestia if you even……”

“Is totally scared of doctors!” Pinkie says as she pops out between the two mares. “Isn’t that funny, Twilight, hunh? Cause I thought it was totally funny when I found out!”

Rainbow Dash slumps down over herself in pure embarrassment as her shameful secret is revealed to the mare she currently despises the most. Applejack smiles, unable to keep herself from enjoying her rival’s humiliation. “Yes siree! In fact, if ah had any say in it, ah’d say that Dash has a deep seated fear of any pony in authority, not just doctors. But then again ah wouldn’t know anything about that, after all Rainbow here’s the only pony ah know that’s afraid of doctors!”

Twilight’s eyes light up at this. “Fear of doctors? That’s perfect! I get a chance to try out my psychologist’s license!”

With a poof of magic, Twilight conjures up a pair of professional glasses and a wooden clip board. “Now Dash, tell me, when did you first start having these irrational fears of ponies in positions of authority? Do you know that your paranoia is not normal, or do you feel your concerns are perfectly justified? What’s your relationship with your parents like? Am I doing a good job? Please tell me I’m doing a good job.”

Suddenly Dash springs into the air, unable to take the mocking criticism a second longer. “That’s it! I’m done dealing with this. If you two want to ditch the most awesome pony in Ponyville to hang out with the egghead then be my guest! That’s your problem.”

Unwilling to leave without getting in the last word, the rainbow mare then flies right up to Twilight. “And don’t think this is over, Twibright Sparkle. I’ve got my eye on you.” With a sudden burst of speed the rainbow mare vanishes into the wild blue yonder, leaving behind a prismatic trail as the only evidence that she was ever there.

Chapter 6-Surprise!-Take 2

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Surprise!-Take 2


With Rainbow Dash's rainbow contrail fading into the distance, speeding away from the center of Ponyville at a breakneck pace, Twilight Sparkle watches regretfully along with her companions Applejack and Pinkie Pie as the prismatic speedster vanishes from sight. With the cocky mare now out of earshot, Twilight sighs, thoroughly disappointed at her inability to befriend such an obviously important member of the town. “….Well…….. That was pleasant.”

“I know, right?!” says the ever oblivious Pinkie Pie. “Dashie is one of my best ever friends, I’m so glad that you could get to meet her!”

“That’s Dash for ya,” Applejack remarks. “To tell ya the truth, ah think she’s a little intimidated by new ponies. She thinks that having more friends means that yer less loyal to the ones ya do have. That, and Dash is as paranoid ‘bout newcomers as a beehive in bear season.” Applejack slaps Twilight on the back. “Don’t ya worry none, once she gets over her rash behavior and cools off a little she’ll come around, she always does!”

“Yeah!” Pinkie slaps Twilight on the back as well, mirroring Applejack and ignoring Twilight’s protests. “Dash may be slow to making friends but once she forms that super special bond of friendship she’s a friend till the end!”

Twilight looks upwards to the colorful streak left behind in the sky, the only remnants that the rainbow mare was even there. “I really hope so girls……... Anyway, I heard Dash mention something about another Canterlot unicorn in town?” Twilight asks with curiosity abounding, “I thought that because this is a prominent earth pony town, and because of all these anti-Canterlot sentiments, that there weren’t any other high-class unicorns around.”

Applejack suddenly stares Twilight in the eyes, a look of utter seriousness being conveyed by a mere glance. “Shug, yer wrong about two things, one of them getting the more serious. First, there aint no anti-whatever attitudes here in Ponyville. We don’t take to hating any kind of pony no matter what they worship or where they’re from…...”

“Or what or who they love!” Pinkie chimes in. “In fact just yesterday I threw a wedding anniversary for Golden Harvest who is married too….”

“YES, Pinkie, we know!” the farm mare says, cutting off the party pony from saying things better left unsaid. “Anyway, we won’t hate ya just because yawl come from a certain town or somthin.”

The purple mare lowers her head in shame. “But there have been so many ponies that don’t seem to like me just because I’m from Canterlot……”

“I know Twi, but it’s not because of where ya are from. Most ponies here in the shadow of Canterlot just don’t like the government. All those stuck up nobles going around telling us what to do and how to live, like they’re the greatest thing since sliced bread,” Applejack growls. “It’s those ponies that are so pompous that they believe they’re right about everythin and that everypony who isn’t a noble is garbage that we don’t like.”

Applejack smiles reassuringly at the mare in front of her. “And Twi, I’m happy ta say ya aren’t like any of those ponies, you are you, no matter what others believe; so don’t go running around like everypony is after you.”

Twilight perks up visibly. “Thanks, Applejack, that means a lot to me. But what was the second thing that I was wrong about?”

Applejack chuckles at that. “The second thing that you were wrong about is the fact that Rarity is a Canterlot snob. I’ve been friends with Rarity since ah was a filly and I can tell ya personally that she’s the most generous, gracious an sophisticated pony ah know.”

Applejack nods her head in a direction, urging the others to follow her. “Don’t get me wrong; Rarity may not have been born in Canterlot, but from her ‘de-cor-um’ ya wouldn’t guess it. She’s about as high-class as ya can get round these parts. In fact, we’re on our way to visit her now!”

“Why?” Twilight asks inquisitively, “is she a member of the town council or a prominent magi?”

“Well I don’t know how talented she is in magic compared ta you, Twilight. After all yer are probably in a whole other ball game compared to most unicorns, from what ah can figure.” Twilight blushes at this compliment. “But other than the fact that she’s a good personal friend, Rarity has an ear for gossip like no other mare ah know.”

“Really?”

“Yeah, Twilight! Rarity’s really good at figuring things out!” Pinkie comments. “This one time I ate this pie she baked for the town bake sale in one whole bite and she knew I did it, even when I said I didn’t do it! But it was okay because I helped her bake a new pie in time for the contest with a really cool song!”

Applejack groans. “Pinkie, she knew it was you cause ya had pie crumbs all over yer face!” Pinkie shrugs as Applejack turns to face Twilight again. “Anyway, like ah was saying we may not see eye to eye sometimes but, hoowee, if there is a rumor in town that Rarity doesn’t know it’s not worth knowing. If there are any strange happenings around town she’ll find out faster than a hungry squirrel finds its nuts after winter thaws.”

“…….. Applejack, I know that you enjoy them a lot,” Twilight asks as carefully as possible, “but PLEASE lay off the southernisms for now; it’s still way too early for me to deal with them.”

Applejack chuckles at this. “Heh, Rarity says the same thing, except she says it no matter what time of day it is! Ah think that you an her are going ta get along just fine.” Applejack comes to a stop at the front door of a circular shaped building that resembles, at least in Twilight’s eyes, a giant cake. “Looks like we’re here yawl: Carousel Boutique! Home of the one and only ‘Miss Rarity’.”

Taking them to the door of Carousel Boutique, Twilight looks up at the building in front of her. “What beautiful architecture; you were right, Applejack, she certainly has good taste.”

The building itself, though unremarkable from a Canterlot perspective, is intricately decorated with various signs of a fashionista’s trade. Ribbons that look sewn on, lights that resemble buttons, and the ponykins looking out through the window dressed in the most cutting edge clothes are all signs that this is a place of fashion. The fresh pink checkered coat of the building and embellished metalwork making it a match of any fancy Canterlot architecture.

“Yeah, Rarity may be a small town girl but she’s got real talent with the needle,” Applejack confirms. “Ah may be a simple farm pony who doesn’t understand much about high society, but ah can tell ya that it’s a fact that she’s the best dressmaker this side of Canterlot, even if she’s a bit of a drama queen.”

Twilight arches her eyebrow in sudden confusion of this overwhelming support from Applejack. “You speak very highly of her for somepony that does such different work.”

Applejack locks gazes with the skeptical Twilight. “She’s my friend, Twilight, why wouldn't ah speak highly of her? Sides, she entered several Fashion contests in Canterlot with her skill and always finished in the top five.”

“But not first? Why?”

Applejack’s glower reveals her feelings on the matter. “Cause those stuck up noble ponies always judge the contests on nobility and royalty and all that other hogwash. There’s no way they'd let some ‘impure’ unicorn from a backwater town win. No matter how good she did she never got a lick of recognition.”

Twilight seeing her friend upset moves to comfort Applejack by draping her foreleg over her shoulder. “I’m sorry, Applejack, I didn’t think her skills were poor, I was just curious. Besides, from what little I can see through the windows I can tell that she’s a whole lot better than most designers in Canterlot.”

Applejack’s demeanor softens a bit. “Thanks, Twi, that would mean a lot to Rares if you were to tell her that. You know Rarity may be a Canterlot mare at heart but, she’s tha good kind of Canterlot, like you Twi.”

“Yeah Twilight!” Pinkie bounces her way into the conversation. “You’re gonna be such great friends! You already have soooooooooo much in common. You’re both magicky unicorns! You both love Canterlot and both of your manes are purple!”

Applejack tips her hat as she opens the door to the store. “Well, enough small talk y'all let’s get on inside an’ out of this cursed heat.”

With no small amount of excitement, the three friends walk through the door into the designing room of Carousel Boutique where they can already make out some of the amazing designs housed there by the fashionista. Twilight, her apprehension growing by the second, resolves to not let another great opportunity to make a new friend go to waste. “Well it will be good to meet somepony with some Canterlot sophistication here, as long as she isn’t half as crazy as……. GOOD SWEET CELESTIA WHAT IS SHE DOING!?!”

Standing in the middle of the room, pinning up a top notch dress, is a peerlessly beautiful ivory unicorn mare with curled purple mane. She carries herself with high standing and an inner sophistication that usually takes years for even the most top notch of the Canterlot elite to learn. Her Fibonacci-curled mane and glamorous grey-purple eyes, accented by dark thick eyelashes, are a sign of the enormous time and effort the mare takes in maintaining and accenting her natural beauty. Her cutie mark, that of a trio of diamonds, displays for all the world to see her talent in good taste and her desire to seek beauty in all things.

In front of the ivory goddess is a butter yellow pegasus mare with an aura of natural beauty that eclipses the previous mare (if that alone is possible). Her dainty hoofsteps betray her shy predisposition, but makes her even more petite and glamorous than one would think possible as she shuffles nervously from side to side. Her pink mane is expertly styled and so long it almost reaches to the ground, flowing from her scalp with the smoothness of running water. Her cutie mark that of three butterflies practically screams grace and poise, demonstrating a level of natural charm so peerless that even feral beasts would die before harming her.

Yet it is not the beauty of these mares that has stunned Twilight Sparkle, but what the yellow mare is adorned in. For the dress that she is wearing, a bright red dress that sparkles in the glow of Rarity's magic, is covered in a small multitude of the Red Stones. The dress itself is magically enhanced so that the copious numbers of Red Stones continually gleam, producing a bright red glow around the wearer.

The sound of the chiming doorbell echoes through the store, informing the proprietor that customers have arrived. However, from her focused gaze on the dress, it appears that Rarity barely recognizes the presence of the ponies who have entered her store. “I’ll be right with you in a moment darlings, I’m in the zone as it were. Just have a seat over there for a moment and I’ll be right with you. Now, Fluttershy, strike a dignified pose here while I compare which shawl goes best…….”

“Um, Rarity…..” the pegasus says in the meekest and quietest voice possible, “I don’t mean to interrupt you but our frie..…”

“Fluttershy, please, no talking. I need all my artistic focus for this one moment,” Rarity states as she levitates two different shawls. “Now, the hot pink or the mahogany? Which goes with the dress best…….”

Rarity mumbles to herself as Twilight gapes at the fact that a national treasure is being used for a fashion accessory. “What in Equestria is she doing!? Does she have any idea what she is doing with that priceless magical artifact?! Is……. Is that embroidery?!?”

“Now shug, I’m sure Rarity means well.” Applejack places her hoof on her friend’s shoulder. “Ah’m sure that she’ll be receptive to giving us the Stones when she understands how portant it is.”

Twilight smacks the hoof off. “That’s not the point! Here’s an incredibly powerful and sacred magical item and she’s using it for dressmaking! It’s…..…it’s a crime against nature!”

“Yeah that is a crime!” Pinkie jumps up a look of disgust in her eyes.

“See, Pinkie understands!”

“That dress needs more blue! Everypony knows that blue is a great party color!” With a hop skip and a jump the pink party pony jumps right next to Rarity. “Hey Rarity! That dress needs more blue!”

Rarity groans, unwilling to even pull her eyes off the dress to chastise the pink party pony. “Pinkie… I know you just want to help but I am TRYING to work here.”

Pinkie rubs her chin. “Maybe you’re right, Rarity…”

“I’m glad you’ve seen reason, darling. Now if you would just...…”

“Polka dots would look way better!”

Rarity turns around, nearly foaming with rage as she stares down the pink oppressor. “Pinkiamenia Diane Pie, please, you are just being ridiculous and it is not funny. Now please wait there with Applejack and the others while I…..”

Rarity blinks twice, and with expert comic timing performs a double-take to see Applejack waving back at her. “Applejack darling!” Rarity jumps off the stage and hastily trots up to the friend she kept waiting. “I’m so sorry, I simply did not know you would be stopping by today! I am terribly sorry for ignoring you like that.”

The ivory mare’s face suddenly brightens. “Have you finally decided to join Fluttershy and I on our spa date? I know you’re not into that whole prim and proper thing that we do, but...”

“No, Rarity, ah’m not goin to the spa with you.” The orange mare shivers. “Not after what happened last time…”

“I swear, Applejack, you simply will not forget. Well a filly can hope. Anyway, what brings you here to my humble abode?”

“Oh right!” The Farmer steps off to the side and sweeps her foreleg open to reveal Twilight Sparkle, who is still staring at the red dress with such distress one might think she were witnessing a book burning. “Rarity, this is Twilight Sparkle. She’s a friend of mine and she happens to be the new Princess Rep from Canterlot.”

Before the Princess’s protégé can even get a word in edgewise, she is cut off by the ecstatic unicorn’s gasp, “Canterlot! Why, it’s always been my dream to make it in Canterlot! The glamor, the sophistication why there’s... Mph!”

Twilight places her hoof on the white unicorn’s mouth, breathing a sigh of relief. “Rarity, it’s great that you love Canterlot and that you love the fact that I love Canterlot, but I really need to ask you about that dress…”

The purple manned Fashionista looks at Twilight with a look of confusion. “… What about the dress?”

Twilight’s brain shifts into overdrive. ‘Great. How do I get to learn how she found those Red Stones without arousing her suspicions? Think, brain, think!’

Clearing her throat, Twilight resumes, “That is, I hate to weigh in with you when it comes to fashion but…”

“Oh there’s too much red on here isn’t there?” Rarity looks off to the side at Fluttershy with a look of suspicion. “I knew it! But Fluttershy refused to admit it!”

“Ummm, actually… Um Rarity… that is… I really… ummmmm…”

“Oh no no no no! It’s the perfect amount of red!” the purple mare assures the fashionista nervously. “It’s just that there’s an awful lot of those strange looking sequins on your dress and I was wondering where you…”

“Oh darling, please, one can never have too many sequins, bwah ha ha ha.” Rarity’s laughter dies down instantly at the cross gaze of the purple unicorn.

Seeing how unamused the purple unicorn is at her joke, the ivory mare laughs emptily and tries to divert the conversation in a more appealing direction. “He he….. Ahem. But I can see that you have a particular eye for the best, my dear. Though of course that should not surprise me in the slightest, being that you hail from the most fashionable city in all Equestria. You see, there was a particular coincidence upon how I obtained these magnificent gems that I feel deserves a bit of elaboration.”

With her telekinesis Rarity moves four cushions over to the mares in the room before grabbing one for herself. With grace that surprises nopony, Rarity then lowers the cushion to the floor and sits gracefully upon it, motioning for the others to follow. Taking their cue from Rarity, and realizing that this will be a long story, the mares sit down on their own cushions as the ivory mare begins her tale.

“You see,” Rarity begins her tale, “I was out for one of my weekly gem hunts to provide for my fashion wares. You see, my cutie mark specializes me as an expert in gems; although I do possess an unnatural perchance for designing clothes, which I have to admit is my true passion. Anyway, I was out near the southern gem fields a short while after the Summer Sun Celebration, and while I was looking for my normal supplies of gems, I found a new kind of gem in the soil that was totally foreign even to me. Now, I’m not one to brag, darlings, but I know almost every kind of gem in existence and I had never even seen this kind of gem before. True, I could only find these amazing gems at short range even with my most powerful gem locating spells, and they all looked like normal rocks. However, when I picked them up with my magic they produced the most beautiful inner light that I could possibly imagine. It was then that I knew that I simply had to have them; so I have been going out and around Ponyville looking for these strange gems, which I have personally dubbed, ‘the Stone of Great Rarity’ - catchy I know - and I have now just gathered enough to finish this idea for a designer gown that I have been working on. And since it is our spa day Fluttershy decided to help me out by modeling the dress for me. But I can tell that you are interested in the design, so can I put you down for one; I have to agree this shade of red goes so perfectly with your coat. Though I will have to warn you that it will be quite a while before I am ready to produce enough of these dresses for the general public, as the gems are so awfully difficult to… to…… Twilight, dear, are you okay, darling?”

The pillow underneath the posterior of Twilight Sparkle actually begins to smoke as Rarity continues her story, to the point that it actually bursts into flames beneath the purple mare. Suddenly, Twilight’s rage counter reaches max as her mane and tail burst into terrifying orange flames. Her nose snorting hot steam, Twilight rises from the smoldering ashes of Rarity’s’ pillow and with an ear splitting voice she yells at the top of her lungs: “Are you BUCKING KIDDING ME! You find an infinitely powerful magical treasure and you use it as a fashion accessory?! Do you have ANY idea how priceless the stone you are using is!? How dangerous it can be!? And you are using it…… using it…... for jewelry?!?”

Rarity stares open mouthed at Twilight’s raw fury and anger a scant few seconds, before stupidly commenting, “… Do you think that it would make good jewelry?”

Twilight screams for a moment, before teleporting away in a blast of fire that scorches the ground beneath her.

The frightened ivory mare turns to Applejack. “A-A-Applejack, did I say something wrong? Gasp! It wasn’t that my taste in fashion was bad, was it? I knew that my wares weren’t good enough for a Canterlot eye! Everything those snobby Canterlot fashion designers said about me was right!”

The orange mare shakes her head. “Nah Rares. It’s not yer taste in fashion at all. It’s something a whole lot more important than that.”

Rarity gasps again. “More important than Fashion? Explain, Applejack!”

Sighing, Applejack removes her stetson to look Rarity in the eyes. “Well, Twi told us not to tell anypony else, but seeing how she’s……. indisposed, and since Twi already spilled the beans, then ah might as well tell ya both the whole story…”

………….

Minutes later, Applejack has finished her story, leaving the four mares with nothing better to do than wait for Twilight to return. Pinkie and Fluttershy are playing cards in the middle of the room while Rarity and Applejack spend their time catching up on current events in the town. Suddenly, in a flash of purple light, a much calmer unicorn appears in the middle of the room looking visibly ashamed of herself.

“Twilight!” Pinkie jumps up and hugs her friend. “I missed you! Where were you? Never mind! Lookie what I won!” Pinkie points to the large pile of circular plastic buttons. “I really hit it big against Fluttershy; she has no poker face at all. Now look at me! I’m totally loaded!”

Looking back and forth between Pinkie Pie and her ‘pile’, Twilight can’t help but sigh. “Pinkie, that’s a pile of buttons.”

“Silly Twilight! Of course they’re buttons, we were playing for fun! And I won! So I got the most fun of all! And since I already have a lot of fun, and now I have Fluttershy’s fun, I’m like the super banker of fun for all Ponyville!” Pinkie whispers in the lavender mare’s ear, “Plus I’ll never have to worry about needing a button ever again. It’s the perfect plan!”

“… Anyways,” Twilight turns to Rarity with a look of sorrow in her eyes. “Rarity, I’m really sorry that I just blew up on you like that. I didn’t mean deride you like that; I guess that it’s just been one of those days where everything seems to spiral out of control….…”

Rarity smiles gently and pulls Twilight into a side hug. “Apology accepted, Twilight! I can understand that feeling perfectly. Why just the other week I had to make five dresses a day by hoof while looking after my little sister. I’m just glad that Fluttershy was able to help out, otherwise I don’t think that I would have made it.” Rarity looks Twilight in the eyes. “The point that I am making is that I go through the exact same thing from time to time, so I can understand exactly how you feel right now, what with all those horrible Red Stones around.”

“Red Stones? Wait, Rarity, how do you…”

“…nd your little outburst wasn’t a complete waste, darling. When you left to, ahem, ‘clear your head’, it allowed my dear friend Applejack to explain what is going on around town with these ‘Red Stones’ and all that.” Rarity smiles. “And I have to say that I am impressed with your resolve in helping ponies, and your courage in saving my dear friend Applejack’s life from that wretched monster.”

The ivory mare tears up with a smile on her face. “I… I simply cannot thank you enough, Twilight Sparkle. I don’t know what I would have done if Applejack…… You saved my friend’s life, Twilight Sparkle, you saved Applejack, and for that I will be eternally grateful.” With poise and precision the fashionista lowers her head, not in shame or fear but in endless gratitude.

Twilight is suddenly aware of the importance of what she has done as she tries to dismiss the ivory mare’s thanks. “It’s fine, Rarity, Applejack is my friend too! Of course I would save her. I’m just glad that somepony is supportive of me for the first time since I’ve gotten here.”

Rarity lifts her head. “Oh that reminds me, since you haven’t been properly introduced to her before and since you… left… before you got to meet her, I would like you to get to know my friend.”

Despite her friend’s generous introduction, the shy butter yellow mare brushes the ground with her hoof, trying to look anywhere but where the unicorn is.

Smiling awkwardly at the pegasus’s painful shyness, yet unwilling to give up, Twilight makes an attempt at small talk. “Ahem, I’m Twilight Sparkle, Princess Representative. What’s your name?”

“Um… I’m… Flutte…………”

“I’m sorry, what was that?” Twilight asks.

“Um……. My name…… is… Flutter…”

“… Um, didn’t quite catch that,” Twilight states with confusion.

Emitting a noise halfway between a mouse’s whisper and a whimper, the mare responds in octaves barely recognizable, only making the scene between them even more awkward.

With an enormous force of will, Rarity manages to avoid rolling her eyes. “Oh for Celestia’s sake, Fluttershy, She’s not going to bite your head off, even if her mane was made of fire. You always talked about making new friends, darling, well now is that chance!” Nodding reaffirmingly to the shy yellow mare, the fashionista gives the pegasus a slight nudge in Twilight’s direction.

Suppressing her fears in the wake of Rarity’s encouragement, the timid pegasus tip toes up to the purple unicorn. “Hi, I’m Fluttershy. It’s… um… it’s nice to meet you!” she says as she ducks behind her mane.

‘Oh no, look at the poor dear, she’s completely terrified!’ Twilight thinks ‘But why? What did I…..’

Twilight’s previous behavior suddenly comes back into the forefront of her mind as she remembers her terrifying abuse of magical power. “Oh, I’m sorry Fluttershy! This is about me exploding into flame and burning the floor and yelling at your friend Rarity. I’m really sorry that I did those things and I’m so sorry that I scared you that badly!”

The butter yellow Pegasus apologizes, “Oh it’s not that, Twilight. Your ummmm, ‘freak out’ wasn’t very scary. That is, it wasn’t very scary, compared to one of Rarity’s freak outs.”

“Ahem.” The purple maned unicorn taps her hoof at on the ground as she stares judgmentally at the pegasus in a way that implies ‘I thought we agreed to never talk about that’.

“Um that is herfreakoutsthatIshouldnevertalkaboutaresomethingI’mgoodatdealingwith! SoIwasn’tscaredandI’mreallygladtomeetyouaswell!” The pegasus takes a breather as she tries to catch her breath from her speedy response, while Rarity herself calms down as well.

“All right then, it’s a pleasure to meet you both of you,” Twilight states. “Any friend of Applejack is a friend of mine, Rarity. And of course by extension any friend of Rarity is a friend of mine as well, Fluttershy. I hope that we can be on good terms in the future as well.”

Twilight nods her head as she looks at the surprising diversity of the ponies surrounding her. “Well then, on to business: since Applejack was able to fill both of you in on the importance of the Red Stones to the nation of Equestria, I hereby formally request that you hand over the Stones to my possession in Golden Oaks Library so that they might be adequately protected and studied by the Princess Representative.”

Twilight looks Rarity over, fully expecting her to comply with her reasonable and expected request. Yet to her surprise the fashionista begins to chuckle again. “Darling, you simply must stop reading those dusty old books! You sound like a military manual or something.”

The fashionista chuckles to herself despite the stunned look of her friend’s face. “No, Twilight, despite our new rapport I simply can’t turn over the Red Stones for nothing at all. After all, it took a great deal of effort for me to locate them, and if I am to assist you in locating more of the Red Stones…”

Twilight manages to catch this. “Assist me? Why would you want to assist me? You’re not a Stand user.”

“Of course I’m going to help you, Twilight. After all, what are friends for?” Rarity flutters her eyelashes. “And of course I’ll have to tag along as well, now that you’ve disclosed how important your little mission is. Not only is your little group in need of some beauty and skill, but after what happened in the forest it is painfully clear that I have to come along to keep an eye on SOMEPONY, so that she doesn’t go rushing off into danger again.”

Under Rarity’s intense stare it takes everything that Applejack has to look away and whistle to herself, hoping Rarity’s wrath will pass over her and onto somepony else.

“… And as for why you should let me help, I believe I told you,” Rarity resumes without missing a beat. “My natural talents for locating gems, (though it might be more difficult to locate them than ordinary gems, I admit - makes me far more valuable than a platoon of soldiers in your task.” Rarity smiles at her proper labeling of her skills as she continues on. “Now as I was saying, if I end up helping you for nothing at all, my fashion business will undoubtedly suffer as well. I may be generous Twilight but I’m not completely selfless and if I am expected to help you locate the Red Stones I require that I be reimbursed for my troubles.”

Twilight thinks this over in her head, her mind analyzing both the pros and cons of Rarity’s assistance. ‘True, Rarity’s gem hunting power means that it would be very good idea to have her help look for the Red Stones. But if she is involved she’ll be in danger, and it would be unforgivable if something happened to her as well. After what happened to Applejack I should just tell her that we don’t need her assistance and…….’

Applejack’s voice resonates through Twilight’s mind: ‘Ahm the kind of pony that others can rely upon, so instead of takin this whole mess by yer lonesome why don’t ya lean on yer friends instead?’

Reconsidering her own thought, the mare looks at the fashionista, taking in her generosity and her willingness to risk it all to protect a friend in need. “….. Alright, Rarity, you can help,” Twilight relents.

The ivory mare beams. “Really?”

“Really. Now, how much do you want for your services?” Twilight asks. “I’ll have to warn you, the Princess’s budget is tight, so I can’t give you a fortune or something but it’ll certainly be better pay than most jobs out there.”

Rarity shakes her head. “Oh Twilight, I don’t need money; my business though small is incredibly lucrative, and between that and my gem finding I could probably go….. let’s see……. four, maybe five months without filling an order?”

Twilight’s jaw drops. “What?!” the purple mare exclaims, “You’re that rich!?!”

Applejack shakes her head. “I thought ya knew, Twi. Rarity’s a small town girl. But cause of her gem findin and her popular hoof made fashion lines she’s the third richest pony in town. Just behind Filthy Rich, Silver Strike, and Filthy’s wife Gleaming Earing, an he owns Backyard Bargains!”

“Applejack, you flatterer, you.” Rarity blushes under Applejacks’ compliment. “But yes, I have little need for money; besides, all the money in the world can’t get me into Canterlot without the proper… connections.”

“Hunh?”

“It’s quite simple, Twilight darling,” The ivory mare brushes her purple mane out of her eyes. “You are the Princess’s protégé, are you not? If I help you out I want to have my clothes be backed by the Crown. That is, I want the Princess and her special protégé to wear only outfits that I myself make.”

Rarity trots over to the window, looking out towards Canterlot. “If the Princess herself is wearing my clothes, NO noble will be able to tell me that my best outfits are cheap rags, that my clothes are nothing but potato sacks for the common peddler… NO……..”

The mare’s eyes burn with a silent fury. “NO, THEY WILL NOT BE ABLE TO DENY ME ANY LONGER. NO, THEY SHALL ALL BOW BEFORE ME, THAT ARROGANT PHOTO FINISH, AND THAT HORRIBLE SURI, AND THAT ROTTEN HOITY TOITY!! THEY SHALL ALL BOW BEFORE THE UNDENIABLE BEAUTY AND PRESTIGE OF THE GREAT RARITY!” With a voice that chills the bones of every pony in the room, the ivory mare laughs a dark and cruel laugh, anticipating her dramatic rise to power over the ponies who ruined her life.

“Told you,” Fluttershy whispers in Twilight’s ear.

The mare suddenly becomes aware of her incredibly unladylike behavior as she clears her throat and turns around to face Twilight again. “Sorry about that, darling. Well, what do you say? You get not only my amazing services but the right and privilege to wear the best of the best that I can offer. Quite a bargain, no?”

Twilight looks around at Rarity’s wares, her every dress a perfect masterpiece of woven cloth and embroidered gems. Even Twilight has to admit that Applejack is right; Rarity is a mare of skill and passion. “Well, normally the Princess never directly advocates things because it causes so much trouble. However, she does always need formal wear for one reason or another.” Twilight gestures around the room, “And from what I have seen of your work, I would be proud to forward some of it to her.”

No sooner than the words leave her mouth, the lavender mare finds herself embraced in a bear hug that could crush a manticore. “ThankyouohthankyouTwilightSparkleyouarealifesaverandyou’rehelpingmemakemydreamscometrue! Thankyou!Thankyou!Thankyou!”

Twilight tries to use all her power to pry herself from the grasp, to speak, to use her magic; however the lack of oxygen to her brain has made all three of these things impossible as she simply waits for it all to end.

Pinkie laughs, “He He Look at the color her face is turning! I never knew there were that many shades of purple!”

Applejack taps Rarity on the shoulder. “Um, Rarity…” She points to the nearly unconscious mare, which causes the ivory unicorn to relinquish her grip.

“I’m so sorry, Twilight! I simply don’t know what came over me!”

Taking great wheezing breaths of ever so precious oxygen, the lavender mare barely manages to respond, “Don’t worry about it Rarity. It’s just one of those days, I guess.”

“Well, that still does not excuse my behavior. Now I know managing business and friendship is tricky so I simply have to ask, are we still friends despite all this?”

Rarity extends her hoof, and without thinking for a second Twilight grasps it, giving the fashionista a certain and clear sign of their friendship. “Yes, Rarity, yes we are.”

Unable to restrain her joy any longer, Twilight beams at the numerous successes she has achieved today. They have already seen so much of the town, she has made two new friends, one of which can greatly help in her mission, and already they have gathered so many of the Red Stones thanks to Rarity, all on the first day of looking.

Twilight asks herself, “Could this day possibly get any better?”

…………

“… This day couldn’t possibly get worse,” the now-ragged unicorn states as she drags her hooves through the dirt.

“WOWIE wasn’t that a great day, Twilight?” Pinkie says as she bounces next to the obviously exhausted and frazzled mare. Celestia’s sun is setting off in the distance and the entire town is winding down as the ponies of the small town prepare for a relaxing evening. “Too bad Applejack couldn’t join us for this walk back home, I’ve had almost as much fun explaining everything we did today as I had actually doing it. Let’s see, we met almost every amazing pony in town including Raindrops! We looked at every important building in Ponyville and took our pictures next to each and every one. And you only freaked out a whole three times! That’s gotta be a personal record!”

Her library in sight, Twilight breathes an immense sigh of relief that her day is almost over and puts all her remaining willpower into ignoring the pink menace behind her. “And you know what the best part of all is Twilight? Hunh? Do you? Hunh? Do you? Hunh? Do you? Hunh? Do you? Hunh? Do you? Hunh? Do you? Hunh? Do you? Hunh? Do you? Hunh? Do you? Hunh? Do…”

Finally reaching the door, Twilight wrenches it open. “No. What is the best part Pinkie?”

Pinkie smiles brightly. “Tomorrow we get to wake up and do it all over again! Isn’t it exciting?”

Twilight visibly shudders at this as she freezes in the doorway. “So Twilight, what’s your opinion of Ponyville?” Pinkie asks, oblivious to the lavender unicorn’s torment. “It’s the greatest town in Equestria right? Did you learn something new? How were Mrs. Cake’s brownies? Did you think that Mayor Mare is a silly name? Because I certainly did!”

Her mane begins to curl as the lavender mare’s eye twitches in its socket. As slowly as Twilight can manage, she cranes her neck behind her, her beady twitching eye blinking erratically at Pinkie Pie. “Why yes, Pinkie, I did learn something about the town of Ponyville today!”

Pinkie leans in to hear Twilight’s thoughts as the mare clears her throat and raises her hoof demurely, before shouting at the top of her lungs: “ALL THE PONIES IN THIS TOWN ARE CRAZY!” With the force of thunderclap Twilight slams the door of the library shut, leaving Pinkie Pie and all the craziness that she represents outside.

Rubbing her sore horn, Twilight walks through the ground floor of the library. Finally able to relax, the mare tries to restore her frazzled nerves before she has to wake up tomorrow and deal with Ponyville and all it’s crazy all over again.

“Maybe from now on I’ll have two cups of coffee in the morning instead of the normal one. I have a feeling I’m gonna need it from now on, seeing as how things are only going to get more hectic from here on out.” Twilight looks out the library window to see the pink menace bouncing off in the distance, almost missing the presence of a pony so bright and full of energy. “I still can’t believe that I made friends with such crazy ponies, a stubborn farmer, a dramatic fashionista, and… Pinkie.”

Closing her eyes as she rests her head on the center table in the library, Twilight thinks back to everything that happened today. Pinkie’s felt boards, Rainbow Dash’s fear of authority, Applejack’s unflinching support for her fillyhood friend, Fluttershy’s grace and poise in the wake of her outburst, and even Rarity’s terrifying rant and her deep seated concern for the fate of her friends.

“They’re all completely crazy,” Twilight states as she smiles to herself. “But you know… I wouldn’t have anypony else by my side in all this.”

Twilight slaps her face with her hooves, causing fresh blood to once again rush to her head. “Okay it's only seven oh seven. I still have plenty of time for Stand meditation and practicing magic. But just to be safe I should probably have a cup of coffee and try some of those new beans that I…” Twilight suddenly remembers what she forgot to get while she was out. “…… coffee beans. And by now all the stores are closed so there’s no chance of getting any fresh coffee for tomorrow morning.”

Twilight prepares to utter a string of obscenities that could make ears bleed as she takes in as much air as physically possible. Thankfully, Twilight’s imminent outburst is stopped when she spies an open thermos on the library table that she hadn’t noticed before. Amazed at the item’s sudden appearance, Twilight trots over to the table and gives the steaming cup a deep whiff. Twilight shudders, unable to suppress a shiver as the smell alone reinvigorates her entire body.

“Its coffee all right! But who…” Next to the now-familiar thermos Twilight spies a note.

HI TWILIGHT

THOUGHT YOU MIGHT NEED THIS FOR LATER! I KNOW I DO WHENEVER I PULL ALL NIGHTERS AND HAVE THOSE SLOW MORNINGS THAT KEEP ME FROM BEING MY PINKIE BEST! THANKS FOR LOOKING AROUND PONYVILLE WITH ME AND MY OTHER FRIENDS! I LOOK FORWARD TO HANGING OUT WITH YOU TOMORROW, AND THE DAY AFTER THAT, AND THE DAY AFTER THAT, AND THE DAY AFTER THAT, AND THE DAY AFTER THAT.

SINCERELY PINKIE PIE

P.S. AND THE DAY AFTER THAT AND THE DAY AFTER THAT AND THE DAY AFTER THAT…….

Twilight smiles as the picks up the thermos filled to the brim with piping hot coffee. Her hoof practically trembling as she takes a big swig of its delicious caffeine. “Like I said, I wouldn’t have anypony else…”

Chapter 7-Thousand Hoof Crutch-Take 1

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Thousand Hoof Crutch- Take 1:


Toying lazily with her mane In the middle of the library floor, Rarity twirls her hair in yet another graceful curl while her stylish mane-do bounces back and forth. “Twilight darling, have you seen Pinkie Pie?” the bored fashionista asks. “Because the last that I heard from her, she was saying some dreadful nonsense about a new pony and gravity control and bubblegum of all things! Do you think she’ll be here soon? All this waiting up is simply not good for my mane.”

“Well, Rarity, if I could predict Pinkie’s behavior, which I can’t…..” the lavender mare says as she practices one of her many spells, turning a random book into an orange and back several times in a row. “....my guess would be that she would arrive anywhere from two seconds to a week from now.”

Looking at the door with an impatient glance, Twilight sighs heavily and mourns yet another of her well-laid plans reduced to ruin by the machinations of Pinkie Pie. “And here I thought that because I told her we’d be doing some important work today, she would finally take things seriously and arrive on time. Silly me..…”

Looking around at her friends, who have been waiting for no less than fifty six minutes and twelve seconds, Twilight quickly goes through her figures calculating the effect the lost time will have on their schedule. Already, Fluttershy, Rarity and Applejack have arrived, and Twilight knows that with every second they waste, her plan becomes more prone to failure; and even more abhorrent to Twilight, she becomes more tardy than she was a second ago.

Twilight sighs once again. “We’re better off not waiting on her. Clear out, everypony.” Charging her horn with the glow of her magic, Twilight smiles as her aura fills a big empty space in the middle of the room. “All right: adjust aura, limit effect, perfect control and… Open!”

In a dramatic flash of light an octagonal center table reappears in the center of the room, causing Fluttershy to squeak in surprise as the large, cumbersome object relocates right in front of her. The table, though ordinarily bare, is covered this time in a full scale model of the entire town of Ponyville and its surrounding areas in near perfect detail.

“Now, you can all probably guess by what I’m drinking right now,” Twilight waves her handy thermos of coffee around with her telekinesis, “…But I didn’t get much sleep last night. However, all that lost sleep was worth it to construct this working model of Ponyville for our mission today. It’s made from the weather patrol’s maps and the town records so I’ve made sure it’s as accurate as physically possible.”

Applejack looks in amazement at the map, whistling in pride. “Wow, Twi. Ah have ta admit that’s mighty impressive, but when did yawl have the time to throw this whole thing together?”

Twilight smiles awkwardly. “Oh it’s amazing what you can do when you don’t have to sleep, Applejack! I just couldn’t sleep with how nervous I was for this mission, so I just stayed up all night throwing this together!” The lavender mare chuckles, sipping from her coffee thermos as the farmer takes a measured step away from the caffeine crazed mare.

“Anyway, enough questions.” Twilight magics up a crystalline pointer, pointing it to the center of the town at a location that looks startlingly like Golden Oaks Library. “Now, last night while I was putting this together, I organized a plan to survey the entirety of the town’s more easy-to-reach places, searching for Red Stones before they could be subsequently discovered by the residents of the town.”

Levitating her mug for another sip of coffee the mare points to several locations at the border. “Given the plans of the town and calculations that I developed from the explosion, I was able to guess a trajectory at which a large majority of the Red stones have most probably landed.”

The mare points her stylus to one side of the town, the side farthest from the Everfree Forest. “Here on the western side of the town, the side farthest from Canterlot, is where we will begin the search. According to my calculations and Rarity’s information, thank you Rarity…” The white unicorn nods. “…..all the easily found Red Stones were either already found or were recovered by her. Therefore our mission for today is to get our hooves on as many of the Red Stones still undiscovered in this west portion of town.”

Slapping her pointer down on the table like a general-at-arms, Twilight makes her point with gusto. “Once that’s done then we can focus on getting the Red Stones out of the hooves of other ponies, and locating some of the Stones hidden in more difficult-to-find places.”

Waving her pointer around with such enthusiasm that she nearly hits Rarity, Twilight takes another sip of her coffee and elaborates on their plan of attack. “And now for the plan of attack. Rarity and Fluttershy will take one group and search the south-west side of the map here. You two will use Rarity’s gem-finding spell and Fluttershy’s ability to fly to get as many of the Red Stones that you can from hard-to-reach places.”

Twilight groans, “And I had planned for Pinkie to help me out, so there’s going to be a change of plans.” Pointing her stylus at Applejack’s forehead, Twilight resumes, “Applejack.”

The mare swallows nervously in the face of Twilight’s aura of command, saluting as sharply as an officer on duty. “Ye-Yes, Twilight Ma’am?”

“I had planned for you to see if any of the ponies around town were acting strange or have begun hoarding strange objects recently, like the Red Stones, but the plan has changed. I need you to come with me and help me search the north-west side of the town.” Twilight moves her pointer along a larger portion of the town.

“Between Rarity’s gem-finding spell, which I just learned, and your ability to distinguish Red Stones by passing a magical current through it with your Stand, I estimate we should finish around…” Twilight looks outside to the position of the sun. “.... 6:25 pm, just before sundown, with time allotted for lunch breaks, bathroom breaks and travel for good measure. By then we’ll have surveyed the west side of town and taken the Red Stones that have been infecting ponies off the streets.”

With a wave of her horn the entire table and the pointer disappear in a flash of light, leaving behind only an empty floor between the mares. “Questions?” Twilight asks.

Fluttershy shakingly raises her hoof. “Um… Twilight, not to …. um criticize you or anything but are you sure that you are okay? I mean… I know that you want to help and all but….. Are you okay?”

Twilight groans. “Ugh, what is it with you guys? First Applejack, then Rarity and now you, Fluttershy. I keep telling you guys I’m used to all-nighters like this. I’ll be fine with a little coffee and a delayed sleep spell; it’s nothing I can’t handle.”

“Um it’s not that…..” Fluttershy mutters, “… though it probably is the reason why…”

“Yes, Fluttershy? What was so important that you had to interrupt the group to point it out?”

“It’s just that…. ummmmmm….”

“YES? What is it?”

“…. Um I didn’t really want to be a bother….. but,” Fluttershy shuffles nervously on her flank, “But you’ve been holding your thermos of coffee upside-down for the past half hour.”

Twilight processes the words for a few seconds before looking at the thermos she has been drinking from for the last twenty minutes. Sure enough, the bottom half of the thermos - the side designed to serve as a bottom - is facing up at her, mocking her intelligence with it’s very presence. While the lip of the cup - the part that is designed to hold the liquids placed into it - is on the bottom of her thermos, the container empty of the dark brown ambrosia she so craved. Twilight looks back to the door of the kitchen, staring at her brand new coffee maker (that Pinkie generously donated to the Ponyville Library) only see an offensively large amount of spilled coffee dripping from the counter. The stain no doubt the result of trying to pour coffee down the bottom end of a thermos. And as if things couldn’t get any worse, the dark brown coffee is staining her purple coat.

“Oh…” The mare realizes now why the rest of the group was snickering all morning. “Well that explains the mystery of why I seemed to never run out of coffee, and why I feel an unquenched need for caffeine.”

Twilight ignites her horn causing a gentle glowing aura to flow across her coat, cleaning her from excess stains while patching a simple illusion spell over herself to try and cover the remainder of the blemish. With another spell she then levitates the same pot from the kitchen and pours herself a cup of coffee in the right way, before taking a long, much-needed sip. “Better, now were there any more questions, anypony?” Twilight states as humorously as possible.

Applejack grins sheepishly. “Now, Twi, I tried to tell ya sooner but… it was so gosh-darn funny and yawl were…..”

“ARE. THERE. ANY. MORE. QQQQUUUUUUUEEEEEEEESSSSSSTTTTTTTTIIIIIIIIIOOOOOONNNNNSSSSSSS?”

“Nope no questions from this here farm mare! What bout you Rares?”

“No. No questions! Fluttershy?”

“meep…..”

“Yep we’ve got no more questions to ask yawl, so let’s go!” The orange farm mare turns to leave, however she is stopped once again by a familiar voice.

“I just have one more thing to address before we leave…” Twilight takes another sip of her coffee.

With an almost permeable feeling of deja-vu the orange farm mare turns to face Twilight. “….. Give me a break….. Twi, what is it with yawl and ‘one more thing?’ Now Ah know yer upset an all, but why da ya have to bring somethin important up when we’re all about to leave?” Applejack asks indignantly.

Twilight narrows her gaze at Applejack. “I don’t know, Applejack, maybe heavy southern accents just cause me to forget what I was going to say.”

Applejack narrows her gaze back at the purple mare. “Touché. Continue, Twi.”

“Good.” Twilight nods her head as she pulls a familiar black stone out of her saddle bags with her hoof. “It’s about this.” Twilight places the black stone on the table, causing the others in the group to circle around it.

“Twilight,” Rarity comments as she removes a pair of her fashion spectacles from her bag to get a better look. “Correct me if I am wrong, but that seems like a normal Red Stone. Not that they are supposed to be normal in any sense of the word.”

Twilight continues to stare at the stone. “That would be the case of this WAS a Red Stone of Aja..…” Lighting up her horn Twilight picks up the Stone with her magic.

In response to her magic, the Stone breaks out in a brilliant white light that banishes every shadow in the room with its overwhelming brilliance. The light, though incredibly bright, is not blinding or painful to the eyes in the slightest, allowing all the mares to stare enthralled by the Stone’s unknown power. Then, with the suddenness with which the light appeared, Twilight places it back on the table, returning the room to its normal illumination.

“This is the Stone Applejack gave me not to long ago,” Twilight says. “It’s the one that Applebloom cut herself upon. I’m concerned because, though it superficially resembles the Red Stones of Aja, it is fundamentally different in terms of density and magical essence.”

Applejack looks nervously at the black rock. “Define ‘fun-da-mentally different’.”

“That’s easy!” Pinkie says as she pops out from underneath Applejack’s hat, causing the farmer to fumble about in terror. “Twilight means that though it may look like those funny stones we’re looking for, the Red Stones of Abra, it isn’t! Even though it looks like one. It’s like bagels and doughnuts! A bagel looks like a doughnut and is shaped like a doughnut but it isn’t one! Doughnut?” the pink mare says as she pulls a box of doughnuts out from behind her back.

Before Twilight says a word, Pinkie Pie stuffs a delicious sugary treat into the dumbfounded unicorn’s open mouth. “Speaking of which do you like it that I brought doughnuts to our secret meeting? Do you? Of course you do! I know, ‘really cool Pinkie’, it’s just one of the many perks of having a cool friend that works in a bakery!”

Twilight gapes. “Pinkie, where were…”

“I was throwing a new party for the new pony in Ponyville! Gravity Well! He was really grumpy for some reason luckily I brought lots and lots of bubble gum! He loved bubble gum!”

“Pinkie, I’m trying to….”

“Oh and don’t worry about your whole plan Twibright! I’d be happy to ask around and see if any ponies are acting super strange around town. That is ask of any ponies are acting super strange other than me of course because everypony thinks that I’m really strange for some reason.” Pinkie taps her hooves together nervously. “You guys don’t think that though, right? But even if you did think I was really strange I’d totally forgive you cause you’re my best friends!”

Twilight’s mouth opens and closes, unable to conjure a word that encompasses how strange Pinkie Pie really is. Twilight doesn’t think that there’s a word in any language that could encompass the enigma of Pinkie Pie. Unwilling to risk derailing the conversation any further than it already has, Twilight glares Pinkie into silence and continues. “Anyways, the two Stones seem to be related somehow, since they too seem to be able to produce the same ability to manifest Stands as the Red Stones.”

Twilight taps the black Stone on the table with her hoof. “However the most interesting thing about this ‘Strange Stone’, as I have dubbed it, is it seems to produce the same unknown energy the Red Stones produce but on a much more concentrated and purer level. From what little I have seen of it so far, it seems to have amplification far beyond the norm, surpassing the Red Stones hundreds of times over.”

With deft hooves Twilight slips the stone back into her bag. “I’ll be keeping the Stone with me today to see if we do find any more of these Stones that I can use it for a comparison. So if any of you do happen to find any of these ‘Strange Stones’, be sure to collect them carefully and bring them to me immediately.” Twilight glances at her saddle bag nervously. “We don’t know how powerful these Stones are, or what they can do, so I would like to treat them with as much caution as possible.”

Twilight stretches her legs as she addresses the group, “Okay, now we’re ready to leave.” Everypony starts to rise. “But before we do, I just have a few safety precautions that….”

Everypony groans at the idea of another Twilight safety lecture. “Now everypony, nothing bad should happen today, Ponyville is a relatively safe town. However, untrained Stand powers can play with the minds of ponies that aren’t used to controlling them.”

Rarity interrupts, “You mean Stand powers can brainwash their users?”

“No, nothing like that Rarity. Think of it….” Twilight taps her hoof to her chin deep in thought. “Well, think if you just obtained the ability to fly, or if an earth pony just grew a horn. Gaining that much power instantly can corrupt and mislead a pony pretty easily.” Twilight rolls her eyes nervously. “Well…. unless they used a Darkness Pact…. But that could never happen here!”

Twilight gazes at her friends, a serious look in her eyes. “Now, I believe that nothing bad or dangerous will happen today - we’re not doing anything exotic or hazardous. If worse comes to worst and you encounter a dangerous Stand user, just run away.”

Twilight gestures to everypony. “We can call members of the Royal Guard to deal with any overt threats, and between me and Applejack we can handle anything that comes our way. So just focus on the task at hoof: finding as many of the Red Stones - and these Strange Stones - as possible before the day is up.”

Sticking her hoof towards the other girls, Twilight grins. “Now, are you all ready?”

Looking at Twilight’s hoof, Applejack smiles and places her hoof alongside it. “Ready.”

Pinkie smiles as she sticks her hoof in the center. “Yeppers! I’m Always Ready, Twilight!”

Rarity places her hoof as well. “Fashionably ready, darling.”

Everypony looks over at Fluttershy, the butter-yellow mare hesitating for a single moment before placing her hoof in the center with the others. “I’m… I’m here for you too, Twilight. We may have just met a short time ago, but I feel as though we’ve known each other for a lot longer.” The mare smiles. “So… so if you say that you REALLY need my help….. then I’m with you,” Fluttershy states with level of dedication one would not expect from the demure mare.

They break the five-way hoof shake as Twilight beams. “I feel the same way, Fluttershy.” The lavender mare looks around her. “I still find it hard to believe that I made friends so quickly with you four. It’s like we have a connection that we all never knew about……”

Twilight quickly pulls herself out of thought as she teleports over to the door. “Well, enough of that.” Twilight throws open the door in front of her with pizzazz. “We’ve got a job to take care of, so everypony get out there and do your best!”

…………………

The day passes quickly for the mares as the individual members of the team split up to cover more ground, each of them finding quite a few pieces of the Red Stone located across the town. The day passes uneventfully like this; talk to locals, find a Stone in an unexpected place, test for validity and repeat. It is in this monotonous state, as the sun rises past noon, that Fluttershy and Rarity slowly pick up the pace of their own work, eager to finish up their daily task.

“Hot,” Rarity says, as Fluttershy flies a little closer to the thatched roof of a nearby house.

“Colder,” the mare repeats as Fluttershy flies lower, looking at the glass-paned window sills.

“HOT! Boiling hot, darling, it’s right in front of you!” Looking at the underside of the roof Fluttershy spies a small sharpened fragment of the Red Stone embedded deep in the wood. Extending her hoof with surgical precision, the yellow mare grabs a cloth from her saddlebag and wraps it around the Stone, carefully pulling it out of its prison.

“Great job, darling! Now be a dear and come down so we can put it away.” Fluttershy sighs to herself as she drifts down over to Rarity. Unfolding the cloth, Rarity pinks up the Stone with her magic, causing it to glow a bright red. “Success! That’s another Stone collected by team Rarity! I’ll daresay that Twilight and Applejack aren’t even doing half as well as we are.” Rarity claps her hooves excitedly with a giggle.

Rarity stuffs the Stone in her bag and begins to trot leisurely away. “Come along, Fluttershy, we’re ahead of schedule, and I just can’t wait to see Twilight’s face when we arrive early with more Red Stones than she could ever…. Fluttershy? Are you coming?”

Standing as rooted to the ground as a tree in a field, Fluttershy whispers to herself. Her voice just out of earshot of the ivory unicorn’s hearing, she paws the ground with her hoof as nervously as possible.

“What is it, Fluttershy darling?” Rarity asks as she backpedals to her previous location. “Are you all right? I haven’t been pushing you too hard, have I? Goodness look at you! You’re sweating; let’s get you to some adequate shade!”

Finally, the yellow pegasus raises her voice to an audible level. “Why… why did you bring me along, Rarity?”

Rarity blinks in confusion. “Why? Darling, whatever do you mean? I thought that you were keen on spending some time with me and making new friends like Twilight? Is it about your job?”

Fluttershy shakes her head. “No, it’s not that. I was able to get a leave of absence from the veterinarian’s office since it’s been slow lately. And Twilight’s pay is generous enough that I don’t have to worry about money…. It’s just…..”

Rarity tilts her head in confusion, unable to process her friend’s concerns. Rarity had known Fluttershy from when the yellow pegasus had moved to Ponyville, and they had instantly bonded over their respective love of beauty and impeccable manners and etiquette. And despite the fact that she never quite got along with her childhood friend Dash, she had always thought of Fluttershy as one of her closest friends in Ponyville. However, the shy mare’s lack of overtness and her tendency to beat around the bush left the pegasus a flighty enigma to the fashionista, if only for the fact that she would fail to communicate properly.

Rarity mentally debates the cause of the pegasus’ sudden reluctance, when suddenly a dark and oppressive thought begins to take root in the unicorn’s mind. “Do you just not want to spend time with me anymore?” Rarity asks, almost dismayed by the very utterance of her statement. “I know that we haven’t been very close lately; I even had to cancel a few of our little spa dates because of…..”

“NO! It’s not that, it would never be that, Rarity, you’re a great friend and I’d never imply that you weren’t being a good friend.” Fluttershy lowers her head in shame as she paws the ground. “It’s just I wonder why you would want to involve such a useless pony in something as important as this….”

“Fluttershy, surely you can’t believe that, can you?” Rarity asks as she drapes her arm over the filly next to her. “Now darling, you really…….”

Brushing off the ivory unicorn’s closeness, the pegasus suddenly finds her voice. “But it’s true! I’m useless in all this…… this stuff.”

Fluttershy trots in place as she begins to nervously list all her deficiencies and failings, to illustrate her point. “I’ve always been frail…… I’m afraid of everything…… I can’t stand up for myself…… my only good talent is taking care of animals.”

Fluttershy points her hoof to Rarity tears dripping down her face. “But Rarity….. you’re the kindest and smartest mare that I know. You’re so generous and you care about everypony and you’re so rich and successful.”

The yellow mare turns away from Rarity, unwilling to face the mare before her. “It’s the same with everypony else who is helping…… Twilight is really good with magic…… Applejack is really strong…… And Pinkie always makes ponies feel better…… I….”

The mare gulps down her tears, unwilling to let the pony behind her see her cry. “…… I’m just in the way…… I can’t do anything to help you…. so why do you even want me helping you?”

“I-I don’t even feel like I’m your friend, sometimes……” Fluttershy sobs, “…… I just feel like a nuisance…. A pony who can only leech off the ponies around her……” Fluttershy lowers her head to the dirt in shame at her own apparent failures, utterly convinced she is making life worse for the ponies around her just by merely existing.

However, the pink-manned mare’s pity party fails to even make a dent in the mind of her friend. Mustering up an assuring smile that would make Pinkie Pie proud, Rarity trots over to the yellow mare and raises her face up with a gentle hoof.

“Even if that were all true, Fluttershy, even if you were the most useless pony on the planet - and I can assure you that you are not...” Rarity lifts the face of the pegasus, looking her straight in the eyes. “You would still be the most considerate, the kindest, and the most genuine friend that I have ever known. I have never known you to upset anypony, Fluttershy, and you never abandon your friends when you know that they need you. “

Rarity brushes off the tears that are slowly streaming off Fluttershy’s face with her magic as she smiles at her friend. “And I promise you, darling, it may not be today or tomorrow, or the day after that. But I assure you that you will have a moment in which all your friends depend upon what you can do.” Rarity smiles. “And I know when that moment comes you won’t let us down.”

Fluttershy smiles a bit, her earlier fears and uncertainties unforgotten but suppressed under the immense level of confidence Rarity has placed in her.

“Besides,” Rarity remarks off hoof. “It may just be my opinion, but our little team needs a bit of culture in it, don’t you agree?”

Rarity brushes her mane off to the side as she demonstrates her superior looks and class. “Pinkie is a dear and Twilight is from Canterlot, but no pony carries herself with the grace that you do, Fluttershy. Could you imagine it? Taking Pinkie out to high tea? She wouldn’t last thirty seconds before the entire greens erupted in chaos!”

Rarity wraps her hoof around her friend. “Besides, darling, with what Twilight is paying us we would be fools to not take this job. Twenty-two bits an hour, with expenses? How could anypony pass that up?”

Fluttershy raises her hoof to her mouth in a cute giggle. “It IS really silly….”

“Oh?” Rarity asks with a bemused expression, “And what is that, darling?”

“Well, the idea of Pinkie sitting down for tea! I don’t think that she would last thirty seconds without breaking into a song about cupcakes!” And with their fears forgotten both mares break out into laughter, the two of them basking in the joy simple companionship can bring.

“Don’t worry about you lack of confidence, dear,” Rarity once again assures her. “Even I have times when I wish that I had more confidence……” The ivory mare looks off in the distance, her eyes filling with worry and fear. “The confidence to tell a certain somepony close to my heart the truth…...”

Fluttershy drops her mirthful smile as she looks at her friend’s face, seeing an expression that the yellow mare had never seen before: one of shame. Never before had Fluttershy seen this side of Rarity, a side that knew fear. To her, Rarity was always so confident and brave; how could she be afraid of something? Fluttershy nudges the mare to her side. “Um, Rarity? Are you okay?”

The quick shake knocks the ivory mare out of her daydream and back into the world of the living. “Oh I didn’t mean to worry you, dear. Really, it’s nothing,” Rarity states with dismissive flair. “Well come along, Fluttershy, we’ve got a long ways to go today. And I do not want you to have any more pity parties, is that acceptable, dear?” Rarity smiles reassuringly as she trots down the street in front of her.

Fluttershy nods and prepares to follow her friend, when suddenly as if on instinct the yellow mare turns her head left, feeling an almost magnetic pull drawing her gaze off in the distance.

There, resting just barely on her field of vision, sits an abandoned playground, its gates covered in long dried ivy. As if drawn by a siren song, Fluttershy takes a step towards the yard’s rusted gate, then another, and another, each step more automatic and devoid of thought than the last. By the time she realizes how strange she is acting, Fluttershy is practically galloping towards the gate, as Rarity calls out behind her. However, Fluttershy does not hear her friend, any voices that she could possibly hear drowned out by a mythical haze that is filling her mind.

She feels it, that in that abandoned place is something, something that fills life with meaning, something powerful and ancient. She suddenly comes to a stop in the middle of the park, in an area of hoof high weed-covered grass.

Suddenly, the haze clears from her mind as she looks around in fright. “Where… where am I…? How did I get… OW!” Raising her hoof with a wince of pain, Fluttershy lifts the bottom of her hoof up to see a small sharp rock embedded in the boney bottom of her hoof. There in her hoof is the same black stone that she has been searching for, surrounded by pinpricks of her own blood.

Whimpering in pain, Fluttershy reaches shakily out to her hoof, her limb shaking more from fear than the pain of having a sharp object being driven into it. Clenching her teeth and closing her eyes, the mare winces as she pulls out the small black stone, placing the rock to her side as she fishes around her saddlebag for a bandage. “H-H-How c-could I be so dumb?! I need to get this b-b-bleeding under control! From what Twilight told me, getting cut by these Stones can make you really…. sick?”

Looking at the bottom of her injured hoof, Fluttershy had expected to find a gaping wound, a sore testament to her mistake. However, instead she sees her hoof looking as perfect as it was before, as if her injury and exposure to the Stone were but a brief illusion. “W-W-What?! B-But I was sure that…..”

“Fluttershy!” The yellow mare turns around to see her fashion-minded friend completely winded behind her. “There you are. Ugh, and now I’m covered in sweat! Fluttershy darling, why did you run off like that? I was calling out your name but you just kept on ignoring me and…. Hello? What’s this?”

Rarity’s keen eye suddenly spots the black Stone lying not a hoof from the mare, and with caution in her breath she picks up the Stone with her magical aura. Suddenly, just as Rarity’s magic touches the stone, it erupts in a cascading stream of white light that seems to reflect off everything around them with equal radiance. The sudden surprise of the light causes Rarity to relinquish her magical hold on the Stone, its inert form once again falling to the ground, as black as obsidian.

“GASP!” Rarity gasps. “This must be one of those Strange Stones that Twilight told us to collect, oh good job, Fluttershy! Not even my gem-finding spell can locate these fragments! And you just so happened to find one out of the blue!”

“But…. I…… there was a voice…… and hoof…… and then blood…… and……”

Not even giving the shy mare a chance to respond, the Fashionista embraces the yellow mare. “I knew that I could rely on you. See, Fluttershy? What did I tell you? You’ve already proven yourself useful; just picture the look on dear Twilight’s face when we come back with one of these marvelous Stones that she asked for!”

Rarity embraces the yellow mare in a tight hug, causing Fluttershy to blush with pride. She did find the stone….. Even though it was an accident. It was just like she felt called in its direction. Maybe, maybe she did have a role to play; maybe she could help her friends.

But what about her hoof? Was she going crazy or……

Rarity breaks off the hug and looks around the park with her horn illuminated. “Humh, my spell doesn’t seem to have located any more of the Red Stones around us, so we best be on our way to give this Stone to Twilight…”

“You two are going nowhere!” The two mares turn towards the sound of the voice. “And neither is that Stone that you are holding!”

The mares both turn to see that their only way out of the park blocked by a unicorn mare with a light green mane with whitish silvery highlights. Her mint green and well-groomed coat sits in stark contrast to her scraggly, free flowing mane that seems to sway in an imaginary wind. Her golden yellow eyes, locked on the two mares with the intensity of a predator, make it well known that she isn’t playing around. Her cutie mark, barely obscured by her white and golden saddlebags, is that of a golden lyre, professing her pursuit of passion and of her skill with musical expression. “So in case you didn’t understand the first time….” The mare crosses her hooves confidently as she stands on two hooves. “Empty your saddlebags now. You’re going to turn over those Stones you’ve been collecting to me!”

Rarity gasps at the threats of this new stranger. “Why you ruffian! Trying to rob a pair of sweet defenseless mares in broad daylight! I will not stand for being mugged like this. I have friends in high places in the government, including the Princess’ protégé! And to top it off, I am a fourth dan in Judo, so I would just walk away and…...”

The light-green mare rolls her eyes at Rarity’s antics, amused by the unicorn’s beliefs that her opinion could stop a mugger. “I’m not mugging you.” The mare lands back on all fours. “I just want you to empty your bags and leave the Stones that you’ve been collecting. Do that and we both walk away no pony the wiser to your little ‘secret mission’.”

“Um…” Fluttershy chimes in. “I don’t mean to be rude miss….. But getting someone to give up something that they own IS stealing… So technically you are mugging us.”

The mugger sighs. “Uh, news flash fillies, the Stones that you’re collecting fell out of the sky! That means they don’t BELONG to anypony. They’re fair game! Plus…” The mare takes a menacing step forward. “If you feel ‘inclined’ to leave them behind for me, then it’s not stealing now is it?”

Fluttershy shakes like a leaf, however not every pony is so easily intimidated. Raising her nose up at the pony in front of her, Rarity responds to the mugger’s threats with indignation of a whole other kind. “I simply do not know what your problem is,” Rarity says, as if the mugger’s manners are an affront to good culture. “But I will not be intimidated by a thug! And I have no intention of letting you steal the Stones that we have been searching all day for!”

Standing battle-ready and glowing horn pointed at her opponent, Rarity tries her hoof at her own brand of intimidation. “Now kindly step aside before I am forced to do something drastic!”

The green unicorn shrugs. “Suit yourself! We’ll just have to do this the hard way.” The green mare takes a similar combat stance, mirroring her opponent. “However, if you thought that your ability to use some Judo would allow you to take me down, I just wanted you to know beforehand, you are dead wrong.” Lyra stares intently at the sputtering Ivory mare.

“How dare you!” Rarity shouts. “You think that simply because I am a lady I can’t defend myself? I’ll have you know… AAAAAAAAAAAAA!” before she can even register what is going on, the ivory mare finds herself picked up off the ground. Her four hooves flail futilely against an invisible force, her mind in limbo as her body is slammed against the hard, unforgiving ground.

“Rarity!” Fluttershy rushes forward to her friend’s side, making it half a step before she too is tripped by the same invisible force that just defeated her friend. Both mares try to rise but struggle vainly against the invisible force binding them, as it feels like their bodies are bound in the coils of a serpent.

“Heh, too easy. And you thought your little Judo skills would bind me? Looks like you two are the ones tied up!” Suddenly, the same invisible force pulls the saddlebags off of the two mares, carrying them over to their subduer. “And to the victors go the spoils.”

Rarity grunts against the force holding her to the ground, all the while her horn radiating a light blue aura. “All right, don’t say that I didn’t warn you!” With expert precision, Rarity fires a bolt of arcane energy that shoots towards the mint green mare. Yet just as it looks as though Rarity has turned the tables on her attacker, the bolt of magic is brushed into the sky courtesy of the same invisible force.

“Wow that was close,” the green mare states as she glances at the stray beam of magic spiraling into the sky. “I take it back prissy pony, you’ve got guts….” The mare strikes a dramatic pose “….. but fighting my Stand, Thousand Hoof Crutch, without a Stand yourself is totally impossible!”

Her well-laid plans having failed, Rarity struggles vainly against the force holding her prone, if only to feel that she is doing something to escape. “I-If you do a-anything to u-us then our friends w-won’t….”

“Oh quit your sniveling!” the mint mare snaps. “I take back taking back what I said! You totally don’t have any guts.”

The green mare levitates the two mares’ saddlebags in front of her. “I’m just after the Miracle Stones! It’s not like I was going to do anything weird to you or anything! Now let’s see here….”

The green mare opens the bag and with her golden yellow aura pulls them out with one by one. Time after time she pulls out a glowing Red Stone, only to throw it behind her in disgust. “Junk, junk, garbage, garbage, no…. Aha! Here we go!” Holding up the eerie golden-white Stone that Fluttershy just found, the mare jumps for joy as she gazes into its depths. Stuffing the Stone into her white saddlebags, the mare throws the two mares’ saddlebags back to them and turns to leave.

“Well, that’s all I needed.” Waving her hoof over the two mares, they feel the bonds holding them to the ground fall off. “Later you two, and remember if you find any more of the Miracles Stones that they belong to me…. Lyra Heartstrings.”

The green mare is about to walk away when Rarity leaps to her hooves. “Wait! Weren't you after the Red Stones like us? Why are you just letting us go? What do you know about these other stones? Are you crazy?!”

Fluttershy puts her hooves over her mouth as the green mare freezes at the sound of the word ‘crazy’. With terrifying slowness, the mare turns her head around, inch by inch, revealing an angry stare that would chill the blood of a Cockatrice.

The green mare turns slowly around to face the two mares, an obviously angry look on her muzzle as she takes a step towards them. Holding her ground before the ivory fashionista, the mare takes a long deep breath as the angry glare vanishes from her face. “Well, since you asked, no, I’m not after these whatever you call them ‘Red Stones’, why would I be? First, I already have a Stand in case you didn’t know. Second, I’m letting you go because you’re gonna find more of the Miracles Stones for me. Third, I want them because the Stones can grant you wishes…..”

Rarity gasps, “Those Stones….. grant wishes!? What in the wide wide world of Equestria would make you believe in that hogwash?”

“…… As I said,” Lyra continues over the ivory mare’s protests. “The only reason that I’m after these Stones is because they grant your ‘greatest desire’,” Lyra says with pride in her voice. “When I found my piece of the Stone it granted me a Stand power and claimed that the Stone existed to grant the desires of its user or something like that.”

“That means whoever possesses the pieces of this Stone will have their wishes granted!” The Mare looks towards the heavens with hope in her eyes. “And when I gather all the pieces, then I, Lyra Heartstrings, will finally and irrefutably be able to prove the existence of Humans!”

The entire park goes completely silent as both Rarity and Fluttershy stare - mouths agape - at Lyra, with the look a new pony to Ponyville might give Pinkie Pie. The only sound that can be heard is the blowing of the wind as an ironically-timed tumble weed rolls on the ground in front of them

“…. Um Lyra, was it?” Fluttershy raises her hoof. “Not to rain on your parade….. but humans don’t exist.”

The green mare practically explodes. “That’s a lie! Humans DO exist! They were once a plentiful species that invented many great inventions that we ponies use today! Explain bowling balls! Humans existed! It’s a fact! I’m not crazy!” the crazy mare rants.

“Um, I’m sorry Lyra, but human existence has been debated for thousands of years but no certified evidence has ever been found to support the existence of humans,” Fluttershy states with the calm analytical logic of a seasoned animal expert. “In all zoological studies the closest thing to the mythical human is the monkey tribes of the southern islands and they went extinct five hundred years ago. I'm sorry but there’s just no evidence supporting their existence.”

“Humans DO exist,” Lyra insists strongly. “They even possess a technology that allows them to peer across the dimensional fabric of space time! They call it ‘Television’ and they’re using it to spy on all of us all the time!” Lyra’s eyes bulge. “Imagine it: they are all watching us in our most private of moments right now for their own sick entertainment!” Lyra hysterically explains. “That’s why I have to prove that they exist, I’m the only one that can stop their creepy spying!”

If silence could be any more awkward it would have broken the very dimensional fabric of space time. “Um…. Darling?” Rarity asks, “I don’t mean to be rude and all but are you always so….”

“DON’T SAY IT!”

“…… crazy?” Rarity winces.

The green mare nearly tears her mane out. “I’m NOT crazy! Why does everypony think that I’m crazy?! Cause I’m not! Humans are real, it’s all a conspiracy to cover up their existence! Why can’t anypony else see? This is why I need to gather the magic wish granting Stones! To prove that a race of two-legged hairless apes are spying on us and writing down our movements in their fan fictions! I’M NOT CRAZY!”

“Ah don’t know bout you, Twi, but that sounds plenty crazy ta me.”

“Agreed, Applejack. It’s a good thing that Rarity signaled us when she did; this mare looks like she needs some help,” Twilight remarks. “It may be that her Stand is affecting her judgment, but what she said sounds really crazy.”

Suddenly, the out-of-breath green unicorn breaks out of her rant just in time to see an orange earth pony and a lavender unicorn behind her, cutting off her escape. “Who are you?!” The green mare suddenly gets defensive as she moves to confront the two newcomers. “How did you find me? What are you doing here in the first place? Are you after the Miracle Stones as well?”

The purple mare strikes a pose demonstrating her authority and elegance. “I am Princess Representative Twilight Sparkle, and on behalf of the Crown I hereby command you to release my friends and turn yourself over to the government for your crimes against said agents of the Crown.”

“An as fer how we found ya…” The orange mare points up to the sky, a large light blue cloud of smoke remaining motionless in the air. “… Yawl probably should have noticed that there flare now?”

Lyra looks up in the sky in utter surprise as Rarity gloats behind her back. “I said that I had friends in high places, didn't I? I wasn’t begging and trying to distract you with small talk, I was stalling until my friends could arrive!” Rarity brushes her mane off to the side. “That’s what you get for underestimating a fashionable lady!”

Lyra finally closes her mouth and looks at Rarity. “Well I’ll be fooled…… That blast of magic wasn’t to hit me; it was a flare to draw your allies to you.” Lyra can’t help but grin. “Clever, I officially take back my taking back my taking back the fact that you actually have guts, you prissy pony.”

The green mare turns to face her new opponents, her entire body raring to go. “But don’t get too cocky! You may be with the government but I have no intention of turning over these magical wishing stones to you. I am going to make my dream come true and show everypony they were wrong to doubt me. If you want me to surrender you’re going to have to use force!” Lyra takes a resolute step forward as she prepares to attack. “And my Stand, Thousand Hoof Crutch, has never been beaten!”

Cracking her forehooves, Applejack takes a step forward. “Fine by me, Ah like having ta do things the hard way!” Leaping forward, Applejack manifests her Stand in a single moment, its heavy wooden body floating in front of her. Its glistening green mane shines as the setting sun reflects off of the Stand’s crown and body, it’s every muscle coiled to attack.

Suddenly, in a single blow Applejack’s Foundation shatters the ground where Lyra once was with a powerful right straight. With strength to spare, its hoof contorts the earth from the force of impact, yet Lyra is nowhere to be found. “She’s….. gone?” Applejack gapes. “Where did that there slippery varmint….”

Twilight points her hoof. “Applejack, above you!”

Applejack looks up to see the green mare hanging from a lantern post above her head, her body suspended from the pole by several strange looking arms, each one ending in five blunted claws of varying length. The dark iron arms seem to have grown out of the pole itself, their base seemingly a mix of the metal of the pole and the dark metal of the Stand’s ‘limbs’. Looking down on her opponent, Lyra breathes out a sigh of relief as another of the arms pops out of her back, wiping the sweat off her brow. “Whew, that was too close. If that had actually hit me, it would really be all over….”

“What in tarnation?” Applejack shouts, “Are ya a spider-pony er somethin’?”

Lyra laughs. “It looks like your Stand is pretty strong, I’ll give you that, even off the owner is short on brains.” The mint green mare crosses her hooves in confidence. “Fine I‘ll tell you! Thousand Hoof Crutch allows me to create arms and hands that can grow out of any non-living object within my range (well, including me as well), allowing me to create an army of arms. It’s how I so easily defeated your friends before, and it’s how I’m going to defeat you!”

Suddenly, several dozen arms grow out of the ground around Applejack, each one growing up from the soil with their twisted fingers outstretched. Then with remarkable precision each and every one of the metallic arms reaches out, grabbing a part of the farmer’s body. Her friends call out in distress as the dozens of arms grapple Applejack from every angle, rendering the orange mare unable to move even a muscle.

“Ha! Bet you didn't see that coming did you?” Lyra mocks. “You seem to have a lot of raw power but you can’t defend against a lot of attacks at once, can you? Bet that’s why you didn’t even bother to dodge, hunh? You realized it was futile, hunh?” The green mare crosses her hooves in pride. “Yes sir, my Stand is unbeatable, it’s only logical that even you’d give up struggling against it!”

Applejack, not even wiggling against her constraints, spits in the dirt to her side. “Nah, I just didn’t move ‘cause dodging’s too much trouble.”

“What?”

“‘Sides, it’s cowardly.” Applejack grins “‘Scaping’s easier.”

Lyra’s laughter stops instantly. “Escape? Ha, you think you can wiggle out of a twenty-three-arm grapple? Dream on! But since you seem so confident that you can beat me I’ll knock you out quick with my signature Thousand Fist Barrage!”

“….. Give me a break,” Applejack sighs. “Fine, just make it quick, Ah got harvestin’ ta do tomorrow.”

Manifesting even more arms around the paralyzed mare, the hands curl up their digits into a ball as they all arch around the farm pony like snakes coiling to strike. Then, as if moving with one mind, all the arms snap out like bullets, each one striking with incredible precision as they pound the paralyzed orange farm mare with a tremendous volley of blows, while Lyra shouts from the sidelines.

“Vola,Vola,Vola,Vola,Vola,Vola,Vola,Vola,Vola,Vola,Vola,Vola,Vola!VVVVOOOOOOOLLLLLLAAAAAAA!!!”

However, despite being on the receiving end of a savage beating, Applejack doesn’t seem bothered at all by Lyra’s attack. Leaning her head down she manifests her wooden Stand over her own body, it’s skin covering her like a shell of armor as the fists rush in, attacking her from every direction. Blow after countless blow impacts the orange mare and her Stand as Lyra mercilessly beats Applejack with everything she has. Yet the as the attack dies down Applejack appears to be completely unfazed, the fists that attacked her shattering into hundreds of pieces. The entire group - aside from Applejack - can only stare completely dumbfounded as Applejack has just endured a savage beating of supernatural origins without even being bothered by it.

“Yawl done yet?” the farm mare asks, brushing her coat off with her Stand “Standin here’s borin so Ah’d like to beat yawl and move on if you please.”

“How….? Why……? My Stand…. How did you endure……? DO YOU EAT CEMENT OR SOMETHING?!?” Lyra screams, “That was my best attack! What are you made of? Stone?!”

“Nah,” the farm mare claims, “Mah Stand’s power just makes it or anythin it touches impossible to move, is all, and since mah Stand is tougher than cousin Braeburn’s apple jerky, well yawl might as well have been punchin a brick wall for all Ah care.”

“SOUTHERNISIMS!” Twilight calls out from the sidelines. “Applejack, you promised, no southernisms!”

Applejack tilts her hat. “Sorry, Twi, it’s a habit, me and what you call them ‘southernisms’ are as close as peas and gravy!”

“UUUURRRRRAAAAAGGGGGHHHHHH!” Twilight screams.

“Well…. Well…. You still can’t break free!” Lyra states as her arms grip Applejack and her Stand even more tightly. “Ha, I got you there! I might not be able to injure you but if you can’t move then I win! Victory is…. ”

“UUUUUUUUOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!” Applejack cries out as she and her Stand push outwards against the strength of dozens of arms holding her to the spot at which she is rooted.

“Heh. Fool,” Lyra says, amused by Applejack’s struggling. “You plan to break the grip of my Stand? A regular pony like you? I’ve been given power by the Miracle Stones and I still have trouble with it. There’s no…”

“UUUOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! Shattering Earth……” With the immense strength of her Stand and her own potent physical strength, honed over a lifetime of hard rigorous work, Applejack rips all of the arms out of the ground. The simple force of her power creates a shockwave as she breaks out of the hold with nothing more than physical strength. “…. Overdrive!” Earth and stone fly into space as the Stand stamps it’s weathered wooden hooves into the ground with an intimidating thunderclap.

Lyra stares, unable to even think as she tries to comprehend the monstrous level of strength she just witnessed. With nothing more than brute strength, she overpowered twenty three times a normal pony’s strength like tearing a tissue in half. The arms ripped out of the ground fade back into the ether as Lyra gapes at the sight she has just witnessed.

Dusting off her coat, Applejack smirks. “Oh, I forgot ta mention, mah Stand can also remove any object from its foundation by touchin it as well. So long as Ah got the strength to rip it out of the earth like that.” Narrowing her gaze at the stunned green mare, Applejack stands battle ready, her hooves itching for battle. “Now Is that all yawl got?”

“But…. Stones… and… humans…. I…”

“Well it’s been a hoot, Lyra, with yawl funny Stand and yer silly talk bout humans,” Applejack chuckles. “But Ah’ve got to be home in time for supper so I hope that yawl won’t think me rude fer finishing up our little ‘fight’ right now.”

Still stunned from Applejack’s superior strength, Lyra is just able to pull herself out of the way as Foundation bends the metal post that she was has hanging from like a bundle of straw. Scared out of her wits to be on the receiving end of a Stand that could do that to metal, Lyra puts her Stand’s many arms to the best advantage; in other words, using them to run away from the angered orange farm mare as if her life depended on it. Like a spider fleeing from a burning house, the many arms popping out of Lyra’s back carry her scurrying body across the ground while Applejack follows hot on her heals.

“Lyra! Stop running around like a chicken in the farmhouse an get back here so Ah can punch yawl good!”

“NO!”

“Ah mean it Lyra, get back here now and let’s end this little charade!”

“NO you can’t make me!”

“Lyra, stop runnin about like a coward and git back here or so help me, ah'll pummel yawl inta next Thursday! Now git back here!”

"You'll Have to Catch me first!!"

"UUUUUUAAAAAAARRRRRRRRGGGGGGHHHHHH!!!!"

Chapter 8-Thousand Hoof Crutch-Take 2

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Thousand Hoof Crutch-Take 2


Stand Battles. The very name conjures up images of bone shaking, earth moving fights to the death where the very souls of two ponies clash in mortal combat. Each side bearing their souls in physical form, manifesting powers beyond the mortal keen as they battle for the greatest of prizes, victory and conquest. Some are clashes of physical strength each side wrestling each other into submission without their owners having to lift a hoof. Some are contests of speed where both stands unleash flurries of blows at each other hoping to overcome the other with a shear volume of attacks. Some are contests of the power each side tapping into the power from deep within their psyches in order to demolish their opponents with supernatural powers.

Needless to say, the fight between Lyra Heartstrings and Applejack was none of these. Because for every epic and monumental contest of stand power, there are fights where logic and common sense are thrown clean out the window, and lunacy abounds in spades. And super strong farm mare chasing after a eight legged spider pony screaming for her life while demolishing an abandoned park in the process was most certainly one of these fights that defied common sense.

The comical routine had continued back and forth over the course of a half hour as Applejack had chased the terrified Lyra Heartstrings around the grassy abandoned park in the middle of nowhere over magical stones that fell from the sky. And as this scene of utter depravity against all the laws of the universe is going on the ponies on the sidelines Twilight Sparkle, Rarity and Fluttershy watch on with mild amusement as if such craziness failed to affect them in the slightest.

Suddenly, Twilight speaks up. “Rarity?”

The ivory mare turns her head. “Yes, Twilight? What is it? Do you want more popcorn?” Rarity offers Twilight her bowl.

“No thanks, Rarity, I was just watching and thinking; when was it that our lives got so…. so……”

“Bizarre?” Fluttershy chimes in as she takes a deep slurp from her hay shake.

“Yeah that! I mean, what the actual buck is it with us? I’ve been here all of five days and already I’m watching…... this, like it’s some spectator sport,” Twilight protests. “When did this become my life? What in the world is the deal with Pinkie? Why in the world aren’t we helping Applejack?! This isn’t normal! It’s not rational! It’s pure and unadulterated…..”

Rarity places her hoof forcefully over the manic unicorn’s mouth, silencing her rant. “Hush now darling, Applejack seems like she has everything under control,” The ivory mare says as she gently bops Twilight on the head. “Besides, I gave up trying to make sense of all this craziness a long time ago. As the saying goes, ‘don’t question a good thing’, and I have lived by that maxim my entire life in Ponyville.”

Rarity gestures out to the scene before her of an orange earth pony mare swinging a long metal pole after a scurrying Lyra Heartstrings. “I mean think about it in this way, Twilight.” The ivory mare turns her head towards Twilight with a look of seriousness upon it. “Would you rather be sitting in Canterlot doing taxes as some random everyday Jane; or would you rather be a super magical apprentice of a mare who moves the sun and moon on a quest to recover magical stones that have rained down across the land while discovering a deep dark secret protected for a thousand years?”

“But…... logic and mathematics and probability says that this should be…..”

“I’d rather be friends with Rarity and you, Twilight, than live a predictable life,” Fluttershy says as she throws her empty hay soda in a nearby trash can.

“But…..” Twilight sighs, utterly defeated. “You are right, Fluttershy, and you are too, Rarity. Our lives might not make sense, but I’d rather have this than some dead end job. Especially with friends like you.”

Rarity pats Twilight on the back, both mares sporting newfound smiles. “That’s the spirit, Twilight, now finish your popcorn. OH! Darlings look, they’ve stopped running around. Quick, pretend we’ve been paying attention!”

Sure enough, the two mares fighting have stopped running about, both simply stand staring at each other, each one dangerously out of breath. Both have withdrawn their Stands, keeping them at arm’s length as they get their energy back, each one daring the other to make the first move.

Finally Applejack speaks up. “Ah keep telling ya, Lyra, stop runnin about like a coward and fight like a mare. This is getting silly; yawl know ya have no chance of beating me!”

“Dream on, Apple Snacks,” the green unicorn retorts. “No way I’m just standing still while you pound me into the ground.” Lyra points her hoof at Applejack’s Stand. “Besides, if you’re so tired of running around just send your Stand closer to attack.”

“What?” the farm mare asks, “What they hay are you talkin about? Move mah Stand closer?”

“Yeah move it closer. You know like moving your Stand closer towards your opponent like this.” Lyra manifests an arm directly in front of the orange mare, causing it to grow out of the ground and tweak her nose before receding again.

“Ouch! Cut it out that hurt!” Applejack says as she rubs her sore nose.

“THAT hurt? And after I hit your Stand with everything I had? All I had to do is attack you instead of your Stand…?” This causes the green mare to perk up as she realizes something.

A sly grin crosses her face as she takes a step backwards, widening the gap between her and her opponent. “I get it, it’s not that your Stand isn’t moving away from your body to attack me, it’s that it can’t! Your Stand lacks the range and speed that my Stand does so you are forced to follow me around like a little puppy while I stay safe outside the range of your attacks.”

“Hunh? What are ya talki… OUCH!” Applejack falls to the ground as a rock smacks her in the head. Rising quickly back onto her hooves, Applejack looks around her. “What in the blazes, where did that…. OW, hey!” Looking in the direction the second rock came from, Applejack sees one of Lyra’s arms tossing a rock in midair, catching it in its hand before it throws the projectile at her.

Manifesting her Stand, Applejack easily grabs and crushes the rock with Foundation’s two hooves, reducing the projectile to powder. “Enough o this playin around Lyra, fight me fair an….”

Applejack barely has time to finish her sentence as she is tapped on the chin from below. “What the…” Looking beneath her, Applejack watches wide-eyed as three arms extend upwards in a coordinated uppercut. Acting as one, the three arms of Lyra’s Stand launch Applejack upwards and send her flying into the air. With a resounding thud, Applejack hits the ground hard as her Stetson flies off of her head.

“Hehe, so you thought I was crazy hunh?” Lyra stands victorious over her downed opponent. “Well I guess that you just lost to a crazy mare haven’t you?”

Applejack pulls herself off of the ground. “Ah haven’t lost yet.”

Lyra rolls her eyes. “Please, I was trying to pull my punches because I didn’t what to cripple you or anything, but it’s obvious that I’m the winner of this fight.” Applejack dashes forward to attack once again, her Stand priming its hooves to attack. However, this time Lyra deftly dodges out of the way as her arms trip Applejack, sending her sprawling to the ground.

“You see,” Lyra continues, her adversary lying in the dirt. “Your invincible Stand has two weaknesses that I can easily exploit: first, it is as slow as, how should I put this, ‘it’s as slow as molasses on Hearth's Warming’, yeehaw!”

“Oh dear Celestia now she’s doing them too!” Twilight cries out from the sidelines.

“…… Meaning my faster Stand can get in and pound you the moment that your Stand is no longer protecting your body,” Lyra remarks confidently.

Using her Stand, Lyra throws another rock at Applejack’s exposed flank from behind, drawing blood in the process. “….. And second, it can’t attack and defend at the same time, unlike my Stand. All I have to do is wait for your slower Stand to try and attack me and I can use my greater speed and range of over 20 meters to attack you when you can’t even touch me.”

Applejack tries move forward and attack again, however this time Lyra’s arms grab the pony by the tail and drag her painfully to the ground. “You went on and on about how strong and invincible your Stand was, Applejack. However sometimes victory goes to the swift and the clever. My Stand’s radius is 20 meters! And that means that there’s nowhere you can hide from my attacks!”

Suddenly, hundreds of Lyra’s arms pop out of the ground like daisies, each one holding a rock in their hands the size of a baseball. “And that is why this match… is over. Finishing attack Stone PONY!”

Attacking in perfect harmony, each arm throws their rock at the same time, releasing a rain of rocks directly over Applejack’s head threatening to crush the orange pony flat. Unable to rise, Applejack suddenly lies prone on the ground, curling up vainly to protect herself from the rain of heavy stones about to crash down on her head. The sound of stones impacting a hard object resonates through the open field, yet Applejack feels no pain from the rain of rocks. Confused, she suddenly opens her eyes to see a shimmering barrier of purple light shielding her from the rockslide.

“Hey! NO Fair!” Lyra complains, sore about the fact that she was suddenly denied her victory. “This was a one-on-one fight! You had no right to interfere! Twilight Sparkle!”

Sure enough, the lavender mare stands resolutely in between Lyra and her friend Applejack. “You’re the one that has gone too far, Lyra,” Twilight shouts. “I understand you might be cross with Applejack but this is ridiculous!” The lavender mare swings her hoof to the side as if the brush away Lyra’s deluded notions. ”You talk about fighting fairly, but you're the one who deceived and betrayed Applejack by attacking from behind!”

Applejack shakily rises to her hooves as she tries to push Twilight back. “Stay…. Stay out of this, Twi… this… this is mah fight, Ah won’t have….”

Applejack’s words are cut off as a familiar object falls back on her head. Surprised the mare feels the thick, worn canvas of her Stetson, once again back in its place. “Mah hat? Ya, ya got it fer me, Twilight?”

“Of course, Applejack! We’re friends, after all!” Twilight turns to the orange mare behind her, a smile of genuine concern and happiness snapping Applejack out of her sorry state. “I don’t mind you being in danger, Applejack; I don’t mind you putting your life on the line, especially if it means helping your friends and family.”

Twilight places a reaffirming hoof on her shoulder and states, “That’s just a part of who you are, Applejack, and I realize that now. You want to stand up for something, and I respect that. BUT….”

Twilight scrapes her hoof on the ground like a bull ready to charge as she levels her gaze at Lyra Heartstrings, ready to fight. “If you think even for a second that I’m just going to sit here while you get beaten half to death, you had better think again. I may not have a Stand power but I promise you, Applejack, that you or any of my other friends who finds themselves in danger will never fight alone!”

Lyra opens her mouth to counter to lavender librarian’s words, to state how she is no match for her Stand, but due to a trick of fate she never gets the chance.

Eclipsing even the light of the sun, a bright white glow begins to emanate from Twilight’s bag, shining through the heavy canvas as if it were a sheet of paper. All the mares turn their heads away to shield their eyes as the bright light surrounds the purple mare, causing her very body to vanish from sight against the illuminating backdrop.

‘I couldn’t have said it better myself…… my little pony…..’

The near-blinded Twilight rises from the ground, shaking her head just as the light from her bag begins to die down. “Ugg, what was that? What happened, who’s voice was…. that?” Twilight stares forward at a strange looking double laying in front of her eyes.

The Stand is about the lavender mare size, its sparkling coat covered in star-like shapes that surround and layer it in all shapes and sizes. The flowing nature of its mane and tail gives its bright silvery-white mane the appearance of the Milky Way on a cold winter’s night. Taking the form of an androgynous unicorn, the Stand’s star-shaped tattoos are spotted all over its pristine white hooves, and flow together in a chaotic pattern of the most intricate design. Yet the most distinguishing feature of the Stand is its black saddle, encrusted with gems from every color of the rainbow. The word F.R.I.E.N.D.S, dotted across both sides in countless refracting crystals, causes the hardened obsidian saddle to sparkle like the stars on a cold and lonely evening.

She raises her right hoof and the Stand mirrors her; she waves and it does the same. She jumps up and down and the Stand levitates up and down in front of her. Suddenly, the mare blinks once and bursts out into cheering! “EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE! I MANIFESTED A STAND! FINALLY! Applejack, I finally manifested Stand! I’m a Stand user! Finally after years and years of waiting I finally get a Stand! Are you excited? ‘Cause I’m certainly excited! I’ve never been so excited!”

The purple mare practically gushes in joy as she begins to toy with her control over the figure in front of her, causing it to levitate, move its limbs, and strike countless crazy poses. Lyra Heartstrings, off to the side gaping, is completely ignored in the wake of Twilight’s overwhelming excitement that seems to fill every fiber of her being. In fact, were she not in the middle of a battle, the lavender unicorn would possibly have spent the next hour ranting on about how excited she is and how proud the Princess will be of her pupil once she finds out about her accomplishment.

“It’s the stone…..” Lyra claims, almost to herself, as she stares at Twilight’s bag with an envious look. “It’s the Miracle Stone! You have one!” The excited green mare jumps in the air with glee, mirroring the lavender unicorn, her outburst reminding Twilight that this is no time for celebration.

“You had one and it granted your desire! That proves it! The Stones grant wishes! HAHA!” Lyra straightens herself out, manifesting several arms around the purple mare. “Perfect. Now, you can hand over the Miracle Stone you have to me!”

Twilight smirks as she strikes the cockiest pose a librarian can manage. “Oh I don’t think that I’ll be handing you anything, Lyra, not into those….. big….. ugly-looking hands you have, anyways.”

Lyra looks at her, completely unamused. "Lame.”

“Well, okay that was pretty bad…. but you are the one that is going down! Get her, Standy!” Suddenly, the Stand zooms at its opponent with frightening speed, and before Lyra can even raise a guard it is on top of the mare. The Stand glares at the green unicorn with bright red eyes as Lyra realizes that there is no time to dodge, her own golden eyes widening in terror.

Readying its hoof, ‘Standy’ throws a powerful right cross, hitting Lyra right in the face as the mare screams in apparent agony. “AAAAAAAAAAAAAAA…… “ Lyra screams as the punch hits her, only to feel no pain or discomfort whatsoever from the Stand’s powerful strike.

“What the? Shouldn’t that hurt?” Lyra looks at the stand in front of her and blinks. The Stand throws another punch, and again Lyra blinks indifferently as the blow bounces harmlessly off her face.

The Stand punches again, hitting her in the face, however this time Lyra doesn’t even move, apparently unfazed by the Stand’s blow. “Wow….. that’s really REALLY lame.”

Twilight is completely shocked as she falls to her flank. “What? My Stand…. is that weak?! I don’t understand, is something wrong? Why I… why did it….?”

Putting her hoof to her mouth to stifle the giggles pouring out, the mint mare cries out to Twilight, “Hey Twilight! Something’s wrong with your Stand or something! Did you forget to change the batteries or something?”

Lyra laughs in the face of Twilight's overwhelming embarrassment as she rubs her head. “All it was able to do was give me a splitting headache, and that’s about it. What, are your trying to embarrass yourself? Because I find it hard to believe that you are this really this lame! ”

As Twilight stares agape at the powerlessness of her own Stand, Lyra bursts out laughing at the lavender mare’s apparent misfortune. “BWA HA HA HA HA! You finally managed to manifest a Stand…. and it doesn’t do anything! HA Ha ha ha… he that is so priceless. He I really feel sorry for you, you know that, Twilly? BwaHAHAHA!!”

Lyra stifles her laughter as her Stand moves its multitude of arms, each one clutching a large circular stone it its hand. “But no worries, I’ll show you the power of a REAL STAND and put you out of your misery real fast.” The arms juggle their rocks with deadly precision as they take their aim at the stunned purple unicorn. “I’ll make this quick. Finishing move….. Stone Pony!”

In a literal hail of rock and mortar, Lyra’s Thousand Hoof Crutch sends her attack flying. The stones spiral through the air threatening to crush Twilight Sparkle, who sits on her haunches staring at the form of her powerless Stand manifested not a hoof’s-length in front of her her. “My Stand…. Useless….. There……….. there’s just no way……..”

“TWI look out!” Moving with all the speed she can manage, the injured Applejack moves her Stand in the path of Lyra’s attack. As if moving in slow motion, Applejack’s Foundation curls itself around the purple mare and her Stand, ready to absorb the impact of Lyra’s attack with her own body.

However, as Applejack’s Foundation touches the body of Twilight’s Stand, the two Stands mesh together, their bodies merging to form a single whole. Twilight and Applejack look on with glowing white eyes as their Stands flow together; the storm of rocks flying toward them fall to the ground, crushed by intense gravitational forces as the two Stands complete their transformation.

Yet the physical merging of the two Stands is nothing compared to what is going on in the minds of the two mares. As if a barrier between Applejack and Twilight has been demolished, the glowing eyes of the two mares show them everything they could possibly conceive about the mare at their side. Likes and Dislikes, Fears and Family, Memories and Feelings of one mare become crystal clear to the other as their thoughts mesh together in perfect harmony.

And as if symbolizing this mythic unity between the two friends, in a flash of starlight their two Stands have now combined together from a single able-bodied Stand. The strong oaken armor of Foundation is now adorned with Twilight’s six-pointed stars, which form a layered pattern over the dark brown wood. Its grassy mane now red as autumn flows gracefully, dark ruby berries sparkling in a non-existent wind. The horned crown of Foundation, now adorned with gems of every color, complements with the black saddle on its back, the gems in the saddle now spelling out the word FRIENDS in dark green emeralds.

Lyra sputters, unable to understand the incredible scene that has happened before her. “What the hay is going on, what did you do? This had better not be another trick!”

Twilight and Applejack’s eyes continue to glow as they both stare at the defiant mint unicorn before them. Together, as if psychically linked, they raise their hooves towards the green mare.

“Lyra…” Applejack says, “your next line is going to be…”

“…. Don’t insult the fight, you two…” the purple mare finishes.

“… And that’s the one!” they both say simultaneously.

“….. Don’t insult the fight, you two!” Lyra yells angrily. Suddenly, she realizes that something is very wrong. “What the!?! Can you… can you read minds?”

Twilight smiles. “You still don’t get it, Lyra. And to tell you the truth, I didn’t either for the longest time, but now I do.” Applejack and Twilight, their eyes glowing with arcane fire, step towards Lyra just as she takes a step back. “For the longest time I tried to take on the world by myself. But just recently I’ve learned something; that when two ponies work together as one, when they have an unbreakable bond with each other, their power grows immensely!”

In perfect unison Twilight and Applejack strike a daring pose, as the new version of Foundation stares down at Lyra Heartstrings. “An that’s the power of FRIENDS!” Applejack shouts, “It’s a Stand that creates a mental bond between us two, causin two Stands ta merge tagether!”

Applejack cracks her hooves. “… And that means yawl are fighting two ponies in perfect harmony, with twice the power as before! Yawl won’t stand a chance!”

Lyra glares angrily at the two as her Stand’s arms pick up more projectiles to attack them with. “So what? Your Stand is still too far away to touch me! All I have to do is attack outside your range and I…… HEY what’s going on?!”

Raising its hoof, the ‘FRIENDS’ Foundation lifts the green mare into the air as if by will alone. Small rocks orbit around the frightened Lyra Heartstrings as she flails about, desperately trying to pull herself back to earth, her Stand’s arms just inches short of pulling her back to the ground. Fear begins to fill Lyra’s senses as she floats weightlessly in midair, unable to attack, defend or move before the power that the two new ponies have just displayed.

“This effect isn’t simple levitation, Lyra, It’s Gravity,” Twilight states as Foundation holds Lyra weightless. “Applejack’s original power allows her to create an unbreakable gravitational bond between two solid objects or dispel gravity all together for a split second or two, causing the objects to lose their footing.”

Applejack continues, “Now, with Twi’s ‘friendly’ Stand boostin mah power, it allows us to control gravity at a distance, turnin a pony completely weightless or strengthenin gravity to crushing force.”

Twilight smirks. “And guess what the effective distance of that power is?”

“I reckon it’s about twenty meters,” Applejack smirks, “the same as your Stand.”

“… So I guess….”

“…. That you’re out of luck!” Applejack shouts.

“Take this!” Twilight shouts as both she and Foundation raise their hooves high above their heads. “Gravitational…….”

“…… Multiplication…..” Applejack raises her hoof up as well as Foundation raises its other forehoof up for the finishing blow.

“……OVERDRIVE!” both mares cry out at the same time as Foundation swings it’s hooves to the ground.

Lyra barely has time to think as she is instantly hit by several gees of gravitational pressure, being hurled to the ground below at subsonic speeds. In less than the time it takes for her to blink she finds herself smashed into the ground, her body creating a crater in the earth from the force of her impact. For a few moments the mint unicorn manages to keep herself barely conscious, as colorful purple, brown and orange shapes spin before her vision. But eventually and mercifully the badly beaten Lyra Heartstrings passes out, her consciousness drifting away as the blurry figures close in on her.

……………………..

“So let me get this straight, darling, you can read minds?”

“No, Rarity, it’s a mind link not telepathy.”

“Well…. um, forgive me for asking but isn’t that the same thing? I mean, I’m not an expert on it or anything but it sounds like the same thing.”

‘Ugh, my head, what’s going on…..’

“No, Fluttershy, it is not the same thing. Telepathy is one mind manipulating or accessing the thoughts, memories and personalities of others. It’s why such magic is hard to perform and even harder to learn. It requires an immense amount of skill, and most of it is labeled black magic because it can be so easily abused.”

“So…. What is this mind link thing? Is it illegal? Cause if it is……”

‘My body…. feels heavy… What happened…..’

“Well…… it’s sort of illegal but….”

“Illegal? Twi! Ah don’t want to go to jail, just because Ah did that mind thing with yawl! I’m innocent!”

“Applejack, if you would let me finish. It’s not illegal because it breaks any law, but because it can go wrong if you aren’t very, very……”

‘The voices…. Who are they.....’

“Did it do something to mah head? Oh sweet Celestia it did, didn’t it? What do I do what do I MMMUUUMMPPPHHHHH!”

“Thank you, Rarity, and no, Applejack, it didn’t do anything technically wrong. A mind link or a mind meld as it is called was used by sorcerers to boost magical powers by linking two or more minds together. It’s not illegal because it requires consent in order for it to work properly, so it can’t be done on anypony against their will. If you try to do it on some pony against their will….. well, the mental feedback causes the spell to falter anywhere from one point zero seven seconds to five point fifty three seconds later. And all THAT does is create mental strain on the minds of those linked, except for the one who performs the ritual of course because they’re protected by Maddy’s Fourth Law of Spellcraft….. I get it, that’s why it didn’t do anything to Lyra: she resisted the mind link so I couldn’t link with her without creating a potent mental feedback! Point for Celestia’s student!”

“…..Um, darling?”

“Yes, Rarity?”

“Um, I hate to be so, well…… but could you please say it in terms that a normal pony would understand?”

‘Am I…. am I dead?’

“…… Two minds become one, unless you don’t allow it. If so, you get a headache. That simple enough for you?”

“But wait, Twi. Yawl know that Ah don’t mind it but I didn’t really agree to that mental shindig we did, so how did it work?”

“I was getting to that, Applejack. In order to do a mind link you have to trust the other pony who you are doing the mind link with; that’s probably why you and I were able to do it, because you trusted me. Once the mind link is successful the two can pool magical power and mental focus, allowing them to accomplish greater spells than they would normally be capable of.”

“All right ah get that. That Stand of yers sure boosted my - or our - power, whatever yawl wanted to call it. But what was with the whole reading minds thing? While we were…... together…… ah could see a few of yer…… um…… thoughts, and ya could see some of mine. Is that normal?”

‘No calm down! I’m not dead, I was fighting some pony… for something…..’

“Well…… That’s a part of a mind link, Applejack. And I understand if you were uncomfortable with it and didn’t want to do it again! But during a mind link ponies can freely share knowledge with each other. So when we - well, mind merged - you became able to see my surface thoughts and I became able to see your surface thoughts. It’s why we were so in-sync we could tell what the other was going to do as they thought to do it.”

“Oh….. so did you…… um…… look at anything…… important like?”

“Of course not, Applejack! I would never! Like I said it only works with surface thoughts, so unless you directly….. thought about something…… I wouldn’t be able to see it unless I really looked for it. And if I forcibly tried to look at something deeper in your unconscious and you didn’t want me to look at it, you could easily resist my attempts to read your mind just by willing it!”

“Oh well then you didn’t see…… That’s good then, real good!”

“It’s like I said, Applejack: a mind link is built upon trust between one pony and the other; if that trust is broken, the link fails. And I know it helped us win, but if you don’t feel comfortable with it any more, then….”

‘Who was I fighting? What was I fighting for in the first place? I can’t remember….’

“Nah that’s fine, Twi! It just caught me off guard somethin fierce. But after that it was like…... like looking off a mountain top and seeing all the land beneath ya.”

“Yes, I got that impression too, Applejack, just from looking at your surface thoughts I could tell like there was a whole world of you that I hadn’t ever seen. I was just unsure that you would think the same. I was afraid that you would be…… well, averse to something so intimate.”

“Well Ah wouldn’t think about doin it all the time… but if we have to throw down Ah could imagine doin it again. Ah’ll tell ya, Twilight Sparkle, there’s a lot more ta ya than meets the eye.”

“TWILIGHT SPARKLE!” Suddenly Lyra Heartstrings bolts up with a start, seeing the faces of the four ponies that foiled her masterfully laid plans.

“Well look at who just woke up!” Applejack smirks condescendingly. “It seems that our darling friend Lyra’s just woken up from her little nap.”

Quickly the willful unicorn tries to activate her Stand but fails miserably, as it seems that the white binding rings holding her arms to her barrel are preventing her from manifesting her Stand or shooting more than a spark of magic. “Oh, and in case you were getting any funny ideas, those binders around your forelegs are anti-Stand collars manufactured by the Red Stone Group of Canterlot.”

Twilight taps on the white rings with her hoof. “There’s no plausible chance of breaking out of those. Well, there is a one in five million four hundred thousand and ninety-eight chance of breaking out of them with an intense magical discharge, but like I said that chance is negligible.”

Despite the lavender mare’s words, Lyra continues to thrash about on the ground for a few seconds before finally running out of breath and calming down. “Now that you’ve gotten your little temper tantrum out of the way, are you finally willing to reason?” In response to Twilight’s question, Lyra pants for a few seconds more before nodding her head.

“And you’re not going to give us any more trouble, right?” Lyra thinks again for a few seconds before nodding yes again.

“Good,” Twilight states as she sits down next to the green mare. “Now, first question: you have to see now that attacking a governmental official was really crazy.” Lyra growls. “Were you really so desperate to collect these stones as to risk the rest of your life in prison?”

Stunned by the brashness of Twilight's question, Lyra looks deeply into the eyes of the purple mare and, for the first time that day, Twilight doesn't see a cocky, arrogant pony. Twilight sees the eyes of a pony consumed with desperation. Lyra sighs and looks away. “You wouldn’t understand, you’re the Princess’s apprentice. Everypony loves you just for being who you are. Me? Everypony hates me just for what I believe. How could you possibly understand it?” Lyra states with a twinge of sadness. “I’ve spent my entire life slaving away to prove humans are real, to earn everypony’s respect, and all I’ve gotten is loneliness.”

The green mare chuckles darkly. “Heh, I must have done something terribly evil in a past life if destiny itself hates me this much. I know it’s crazy to believe in Humans. I really do! It’s just…. it’s just…… I don’t know. I just don’t know why I don’t just quit….”

Suddenly Applejack walks up to Lyra Heartstrings, turning her over so that she’s looking the farm mare straight in the eye. “That’s cause you ain’t a quitter.”

“What? I’m not….. a quitter?”

“Ya heard me, Lyra,” Applejack states with certainty. “Ya may be annoying, and be crazy bout humans. But if Ah’ve learned one thing from trading blows with ya it’s that ya don’t give up. Even when things get hairy an things look against ya, ya find a way ta win. Yer no quitter, that’s why you don’t give up on yer dream.”

The human-obsessed mare stares at Applejack with surprise in her eyes as Twilight chimes in from the sidelines, “Applejack is right, Lyra. It may SEEM crazy to believe in humans, but that doesn’t make you crazy for following your dream.” Twilight looks down. “And you’re wrong, even I make mistakes; if I had just accounted for the feedback of the Stone’s energy none of this would have happened….”

Twilight places her hoof on Lyra’s shoulder. “But if I have learned anything here in Ponyville it’s that, when life beats you down, you just have to get back up and try again.” The purple mare smiles broadly. “Cause if you don’t give up, even if you never reach your dream, even if you never prove humans are spying on us with ‘televisions’, amazing things will happen. I promise you.”

“Twilight is right, darling,” Rarity chimes in. “Being lonely is painful, have no doubts about it. But giving up on one’s dreams, giving up on the things that make a pony happy…. That is simply unbearable!”

As the group of ponies she once thought of as enemies circle around her with smiles on their faces, the green mare begins to tear up. “Twilight….. You……”

“Lyra Heartstrings!” All eyes and heads jerk behind them to see a steaming mad cream-colored mare with a cutie mark of three wrapped candies on her flank. Her pink and blue mane bobbing along with her head as the mare snorts like a charging bull. And - most disturbingly - her face covered with a scowl that would scare a dragon into giving up meat. Her mane practically ripples in the wind as she steps menacingly towards the green mare who, even in her bound state, is struggling to get away.

“What in Equestria are you doing?” the candy mare shouts. “Running around town, bothering the Princess Representative, and….. Are those anti-magic binders? What have you got to say for yourself!?!”

The green mare breaks out in a cold sweat as she realizes there is no easy way out of this situation. “H-H-Hey, Bonnie. What’s up?”

“Don’t you ‘hey Bonnie’ me!” Bonnie snaps. “What are you doing tied up like a common criminal, and in front of a government representative no less!”

“Well…. I… Well…….”

“You didn't do anything illegal again did you?! You remember the last time? You were lucky the Corns were willing to let you off with community service after you destroyed their barn with that missile of yours!”

“It was an airplane, Bonnie! And I said I was sorry! I was just explaining how humans were real and how they’re spying on with their….”

Anything else the green mare could have said after that was cut off as the cream-colored mare slams into Lyra’s muzzle with a flying jump kick. “YOU IDIOT!” Bonnie screams as the groaning unicorn falls to the ground, writhing in pain. Landing on her hooves the cream-colored mare then proceeds to turn on a dime, dragging now crying Lyra Heartstrings in front of Twilight Sparkle.

“Princess Representative Twilight Sparkle….” ‘Bonnie’ begins to say, “I apologize profusely for Lyra and any stupid behavior she may have bothered you with today. We all know that you have more important things to do today than put up with Lyra and her shenanigans. I’m sorry If she bothered you about her ‘humans are spying on us’ nonsense, she really is quite ill.” The cream-colored mare glares at Lyra with a look that could peel paint “I’ll have to straighten her out when we get back to the house.”

“Bon Bon! I’m not crazy, humans are real as….” The green mare is shoved into the dirt, in simulated bowing.

“Please!” Bonnie bows down in front of Twilight. “Please forgive her! She’s just a stupid pony who doesn’t think about her actions. I’ll cover for her if need be but I can promise you she’s not a bad pony. She doesn’t need to go to jail. I’ll make sure that she takes accountability.”

“Please….” The bowing is practically begging now. “Please forgive her.”

Twilight looks at the two mares in front of her for a long time before smiling. “There’s really nothing to forgive ….. Bonnie was it? After all it was Lyra who volunteered to help us out!”

“What?” The cream-colored mare asks skeptically.

“What?!” The surprised Lyra Heartstrings yells.

“What?!” The rest of Twilight’s friends shout in unison.

“Oh absolutely!” Twilight nods like a con-artist scamming a pony out of their last bit. “Lyra has been a great help! Not only did I enjoy her…. unique…. perspectives on anthropology, but she volunteered to try out the anti-magic collar we brought in case of emergencies.”

Twilight illuminates her horn, causing the bindings to fall off the green mare. “I’m sorry about the misunderstanding, Lyra isn’t in any trouble and she’s free to leave at any time!”

Bonnie rises from the dirt. “So Lyra wasn’t bothering you? She was helping you out? She’s not guilty of anything?”

Twilight grins. “The only thing that she is guilty of is being a good citizen. You must be very proud of her.”

Bonnie shakes her head as if the act of some pony complimenting Lyra were a sign that this was an elaborate dream. The cream mare turns to Lyra. “Lyra? Is this true? Did you help Twilight out today? And you didn't cause any trouble?!”

“What.” The stunned green mare stands frozen, until a sharp jab from Applejack brings her to her senses. “Oh yeah! Of course I helped Twilight out today! Come on, Bonnie, did you ever need to doubt me like that?! That’s a pretty serious blow to my self-esteem right there.”

Taken completely by surprise, Lyra is suddenly enveloped in a tight hug. “I never doubted you Lyra. I was just worried for you.” Bonnie then breaks the hug to stare Lyra in the eyes. “And I am proud of you. I couldn’t have a better sister.”

Lyra looks back at the cream-colored mare “….. and I’m just happy to be your sister. You emotional fuzzy tail!” And with a happy heart Lyra pulls her sister back into one last hug.

Their emotional display finished, the cream mare turns around to leave. “You have fun playing with your friends! I’m making you your favorite tonight so don‘t take too long!” Bonnie, now sporting a smile on her face, walks off into the distance while Lyra watches her back until she is out of sight.

Applejack, touched by the scene, puts her hoof on Lyra’s shoulder. “Yawl have a good sister. Not many ponies would put their necks on the line fer kin like that.”

Lyra risks a last look at Bonnie. “Yeah….. she is. We’ve never been actual blood, but that never really mattered much. She’s always been there for me, supporting me even if I failed, and loving me even more when I did. If that’s not family I don't know what is.”

Lyra turns to face Twilight, her visage unnaturally serious. “Twilight? Can I ask you a question?”

“Humm? Oh yes. What question did you have in mind?”

“Why did you cover for me like that?” Lyra asks with honest confusion. “I mean, I practically assaulted you! I went all out and I…. could have really hurt you. You even held back your attack so that I wouldn't get hurt, so why? Did you feel pity for me or something…..”

“No, Lyra.” Twilight shakes her head “It was nothing like that.”

“Well what was it then!?”

Twilight stops to think for a second. “I guess it’s because….” Twilight taps her chin as she thinks hard about her answer. “Because I'm here to help other ponies; ponies like you. So when I slammed you into the ground or when Bonnie apologized for you, I realized that you had ponies that you cared about, friends and family. And I wouldn’t want to make them sad.”

Twilight turns her head toward the path the cream-colored mare went down. “Besides, it looks like you already have one friend who cares about you. That mare Bon Bon may seem brash but it shows that she is really worried about you.”

Lyra stares at the mare before her as if she has just encountered a saint or a lunatic. She blinks several times, mind in a daze, her mouth agape for a few seconds more, before she can take it no longer and bursts out laughing.

“What? What’s so funny?” The purple mare pouts. “Stop laughing…. I’m trying to be serious!”

“Hehe you’re saying that for real? He He! You must be incredibly naïve!” Lyra chuckles. “You aren’t just a good fighter, but you have a good heart as well. You’re noble. Not like those snobby nobles of Canterlot; it’s like you’re noble even on a spiritual level.” The green mare walks up to the lavender one, placing her hoof in hers. “I really have been utterly defeated by you, Twilight sparkle. I concede.”

Feeling something in her hoof, Twilight opens it up to see a piece of stone. “Is… Is this….”

“That’s the Miracle Stone that I found. From now on it’s yours! Think of it as a memento of our fight.” Her piece having been said, Lyra Heartstrings turns cooly on her hooves and begins to walk away. “But don‘t think this is over! Not by a long shot! Like you said, I never give up! I’m still searching for the Stones.”

The crazy human-hunting mare smiles back at Twilight Sparkle with a look of mischief on her face. “So if we meet in the future, Twilight Sparkle, it‘ll be as rivals and not just friends!” Lyra raises her hoof in triumph, defeated in body but not in spirit as the small group watches her follow her sister Bonnie’s path home.

Twilight looks down the path the brave mare just took, as a look of contentment and happiness passes over her face.

“Are ya sure that was all right, Twi?” Applejack asks, walking up to the lavender mare. “Just letting her go like that? Ah mean, Ah don’t mean ta say throw the book at her, but that mare seems like she’s trouble. What if she starts fightin us an other ponies fer these Stones?”

Twilight shakes her head. “I don’t think that she’ll be intentionally hurting ponies anymore to get their Stones. It seems that she’s begun to realize that she has to be responsible for her own actions.” Twilight looks at Applejack with complete assurance in her eyes. “I don’t think that she’ll risk getting her sister in trouble by intentionally attacking ponies anymore.”

Applejack looks down the road as she becomes lost in thought. She thinks of her own family, of everything she has done and everything she will do for them as long as she lives. She thinks of her sister still in a coma and how she would do anything to see her waking face again. But suddenly these somber thoughts are replaced by the loving look she saw in Lyra’s eyes as she watched her sister Bonnie stick up for her. “…… Guess yer right, Twi. No sister would risk their siblin’s hide like that.”

Twilight nods. “I’m glad you agree, Applejack, because we’ve got bigger things to worry about now.” Twilight extends her own hoof revealing the black Stone in it. “Like these Strange Stones….”

“Um…” Fluttershy raises her hoof, “You mean Miracle Stones?”

“No, Fluttershy, Strange Stones not Miracle Stones,” the lavender mare says sternly. “I discovered these Stones and analyzed their properties, not Lyra! No way in Tartarus I’m going to let her name something that I discovered!”

Fluttershy meeps at this outburst as Twilight turns back to Applejack. “Now where was I? Oh yes. These STRANGE STONES seem to possess strange abilities that we can’t quite understand. They seem to be a pure version of the Red Stones that we are searching for, and they seem to react to or draw out Stand powers for a reason.”

Twilight taps the Stone in her hoof tensely. “This can be confirmed by the fact that Applebloom seems to have Stand sickness from touching it, as well as the fact that both Applejack and I have gained……” Twilight’s words die in her throat as she freezes on the spot, the hairs on her mane springing up off her head.

Seeing her friend just freeze up, Rarity trots cautiously to inch towards her. “Um… Twilight darling, are you okay? Can I….”

Twilight explodes outwards, grasping Rarity in a monumental bear hug and bouncing around. “EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE! I HAVE A STAND RARITY! AFTER SO MANY YEARS I HAVE A STAND! NOW THE PRINCESS CAN REALLY BE PROUD OF ME AND STOP LOOKING AT ME IN DISAPPOINTMENT LIKE I KNOW SHE DOES WHEN SHE THINKS I’M NOT LOOKING AND I CAN SHOW UP MY BROTHER AND DO RESEARCH TO MASTER MY POWER AND…. EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!”

“Twilight, darling, please! You’re overreacting again!” the ivory mare calls out while bouncing up and down against her will. “Please you’re upsetting my mane!” Twilight, realizing that she has just caught one of her friends in one of her patented episodes of crazy, stops immediately and pulls herself off of Rarity, blushing in embarrassment.

Rarity brushes her mane to the side, instantly curling it out with her magic. “That’s better. Well I’m glad that our work is done for the day, but my coat is all dusty and in desperate need of a shower so if you don’t mind I shall be departing until tomorrow.” Preparing to leave, the purple-maned mare looks down the path Lyra took. “To tell you the truth, darling, I’m glad that everything worked out fine with Lyra. She did seem like a nice, though not very mature pony.”

Rarity smiles as she takes her first step back home. “Now let’s….. OW!”

Rarity falls to her knees as Applejack rushes up to her. “Rares, are yawl all right?”

“Ugh, it’s nothing, Applejack; I must have injured my hoof in the little scuffle we had,” Rarity assures her friend. “Just a little scrape, that’s all.”

Applejack looks at Rarity’s hoof, her eyes opening in fear. “A little scrape, nothin! There’s a hole in yer hoof!” Applejack turns Rarity’s hoof up to show her that the hardened bottom has a small but sharp hole in it that is leaking blood. “That Lyra! She’s gonna…”

“Applejack!” Rarity chastises Applejack’s brash threat. “Be reasonable and try to think! Lyra, the dear, never hurt either of us and even though I couldn’t see her Stand power or whatever, it was clear that she never touched the bottom of my hooves. It was an accident, Applejack; I probably just stepped on a nail is all.”

Twilight looks at the wound as she flows some of her healing magic into it. “Rarity’s right, this wound isn’t consistent with that of Lyra’s Stand. Now, I’ve healed the wound but you probably shouldn’t put too much pressure on it. Fluttershy, can you walk her home? …… Fluttershy?”

Fluttershy seems stuck in a daze, her eyes locked on the wound in Rarity’s hoof; then she slowly looks at her own hoof for comparison. “You… you couldn’t see it? Those arms….”

Twilight smirks. “Of course either of you couldn’t see it. In order to see a Stand you either have to have a Stand like Applejack, and now me (EEEEEEEEEEEEEE!),” Twilight clears her throat. “Or you have to possess a ton of magical energy, or have been exposed to the Red Stones for years; and despite your talents I doubt either are very plausible.”

Twilight looks over to the stunned yellow pegasus, who looks more apprehensive than usual for Fluttershy. “Fluttershy, are you okay? You look a little out of it…”

Suddenly Fluttershy stands at attention. “I’m OKAY! I’ll take Rarity home!” Picking up Rarity from the side so she can rest her wounded leg across her back, Fluttershy begins to walk off in a hurry. “Don’t worry, Rarity, I’m sure with a little bubble bath and the newest magazine from fashion week, you’ll be right as rain after a nice long rest.”

Applejack wipes her brow of sweat as she watches Rarity and Fluttershy limp back to her house. “Well, Rarity will be fine now, Fluttershy will take her home safe an sound. Now that that’s done Ah should be getting home now.”

Applejack turns to leave, finding the way back to her house blocked by a staring Twilight Sparkle. Thinking little of it, Applejack tries to walk past her only to find her path blocked by Twilight teleporting in her way, the purple mare giving her a funny look all the while. “Uh, Twi? Ah know you told us to tell you when you were doing it so here it goes. Yer acting strange again.”

Twilight continues to stare at the orange mare. “What is it, Twi?” Applejack asks, “What? Is there somthin on mah face?”

“….. Do you have a crush on Rarity?” Twilight asks, causing the strong farm mare to nearly collapse in on herself from shock.

“W-W-WHAT! Why would ya even think that, Twi!” Applejack shouts in outrage, “T-T-That’s ridiculous!” Applejack fumes as a dark red blush crosses her muzzle. “Y-You must have got yer head stuck in too many of those bad romance novels er s-somethin. Rarity’s mah best friend ah’m just concerned about her prissy self.”

However Twilight is undeterred. “Why are you so adamant that you don’t? Rarity’s a great pony, she’s got good looks, loves this town and you are both good friends. Why aren’t you….”

“‘Cause she’s a friend that’s all!” the orange mare states as she tries to hide her raging blush with her Stetson. “She’s mah best friend and thinking of her in….. that way……. feels wrong. Especially ‘cause she’s a mare and well…... In case yawl didn’t notice ah am too.”

“…… You have a thing about same-sex couples, Applejack?” Twilight tilts her head in confusion.

“Yes! No! Ah mean urrgh Ah have nothing about who other ponies live their lives with, but Ah come from a strong family line, that Ah have a duty ta continue, that’s all.” Applejack places her Stetson back on her head as she recovers mentally from her own outburst. “Look, Ah’m sorry fer that, Twi, it’s just yawl were getting pretty personal there. Ah didn’t mean to say anything offensive to any pony.”

Applejack crosses her arms in defiance as she looks off at the white mare in the distance. “Sides, Rare’s about as old fashioned as me! She’s always goin on about fairy tale endins and white stallions! She’d never go fer a gal like me…..”

Applejack’s eyes shoot open, realizing how her own words have trapped her. “Not that Ah’d want her to! Ah mean Ah’d sure be flattered if…. Ah mean Ah wouldn’t want a mare to…… URGH! Ah just happen to be s-s-straight, Twi, and that’s all!”

Twilight’s ears droop a little, suddenly aware of how uncomfortable she is making her friend with her difficult questions. “I’m sorry for being nosy, Applejack, I was just curious if you and Rarity were, well, an item, because you always speak so highly of her and you seem to have some history.” The lavender mare waves her hoof. “…. That, and what I saw there…. But that was probably just a dream fragment.”

Every hair stands up on Applejack’s coat and her hat nearly flies off her head at Twilight’s last few words. “What did yawl see..…?” Applejack asks while her orange pelt grows whiter by the second.

“Oh well I didn’t want to say because everyone was around and it seemed personal,” Twilight begins, completely oblivious to Applejack’s rising terror. “But when we mind merged I saw this image of you sitting on a picnic blanket with this unicorn mare who I couldn’t make out and she had her hair up in a bun and she was giggling and then you and her…...”

“WOW WOULD YOU LOOK AT THE TIME I SHOULD REALLY BE AT HOME NOW! WELL SEE YA LATER TWILIGHT BYE!” The orange mare bolts away as fast as her hooves can carry her.

Twilight puts her hoof to her chin as she watches her friend galloping away like Discord himself was after her. “But why would she be blushing like that if it was just a…… oh my Celestia, I’m so stupid.” Twilight leaps to her hooves and begins chasing after Applejack. The two mares then proceed to bolt down the empty country outskirts as fast as their hooves can carry them, each one yelling at the top of their lungs.

“Applejack, I understand now!! You don’t have to be ashamed that……”

“AH CAN'T HEAR YOU!!! LALALALALALALALA!!”

“Seriously, Applejack, I know that this is a sensitive topic. But you can’t hide from the truth! You taught me that!”

“LALALALALALALALALALALALALALALALALALALALA!!!”

“I don’t think any less of you and I know this might be a big family issue but none of your friends would think it was awkward if you came out and said that you’re….…..”

“LALALALALALALALALALALALALALALALALALALALALALALALALALLLLLLLLLLAAAAAAAAA!!!!!”

“Though it does make sense in a town with such a high mare-to-stallion ratio that you would…… That is, not to say that environment is entirely responsible for being…… that is, not to say it’s a bad thing to be….”

“LALALALAALALALLALALALALALALALALALALALALALALALALALAALLA! I CAN’T HEAR YOU! LALAlALAlA!” the orange mare shouts at the top of her lungs, practically flying over the ground in an attempt to outrun the lavender mare behind her. And as the sun finally sets off in the distance and the night takes over the sky, the two friends chase after each other in the dark, yelling at the top of their lungs as they run through the outskirts of town; each one losing themselves in the moment as yet another day draws to a close.

Chapter 9-Valkyrie-Take 1

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Valkyrie-Take 1


I am a winner.

It’s never easy being awesome, but it’s worth every second.

Even on my worst of days I take pride in the fact that I can personally take down anything that comes my way.

I can face anything that comes my way because I know that I am a winner.

And the secret to being a winner? It’s real easy, but only the most awesome could ever think of pulling it off. And that means of course I know it.

So do you guys really want to know want makes me such an awesome, extreme, unstoppable winner!? It’s simple. The key to being an awesome winner is to never let anything stand in the way of your dreams.

Like I said, real simple, but it’s a belief that I’ve held to for almost my entire life. And I don’t allow anypony - not bullies, not condescending teachers, not my parents, No Pony - to keep me down.

I’m a winner and nopony can tell me otherwise. And I can do anything I set my mind to and I can conquer any foe. This is what I’ve told myself, over and over, day after day until I turned blue in the face.

…… Well I was already blue; but you get the idea!

And that is what makes me a winner.

I never back down, I never abandon my beliefs, and I’m always the first one to fight for the ponies that need me the most.

And that’s all I need to know.

……………………..

A blazing rainbow trail streaks through the perfect blue sky, looping through the air almost effortlessly before touching down by a pristine lake. Rainbow Dash, stunts-mare extraordinaire, stops by the pond, lapping up a mouthful of water before wiping her mouth. “AHH nothing like water straight from the source! Well, that’s it for another awesome morning routine. One hundred wing ups, three laps around Ponyville and a few ab crunches just for the heck of it!”

The confident mare looks to the sky, reflecting on the rest of the day and looking at her exposed flank, now free of injury. “Finally, after that wound I‘m back up to one hundred percent. I was actually pretty worried that I would have to go to….” The mare shivers. “…. The hospital for stitches. But there’s nothing the great Dash can’t bounce back from! Take that, doctors everywhere! Who needs ‘em?”

Looking at her flank Dash smiles at the fact that there is barely a visible scar where her wound used to be. Snuggling back into the green grass beneath her, Rainbow Dash watches the clouds above with a free heart. “Besides, if I had to go to the hospital I might have run into TWILIGHT, and her brainy…. brain.”

Dash’s mood immediately sours as she thinks about the purple mare. “Ever since she’s arrived, strange stuff has been happening around town. And, as if it couldn’t get any worse, she’s brainwashed all my friends into some secret club! And they’re all ignoring me! What’s up with that?!”

Dash lies on her back as she goes over her options mentally. “I could just go ask Applejack what’s up, but despite her whole honesty thing she is really good at keeping secrets. Besides, groveling for answers isn’t my style anyways; I’m more of a secret agent kind of pony!”

Rainbow Dash jumps to her hooves jabbing at the air as if she were punching out ninjas, and sneaking low to the ground as if she were main character of an action adventure novel. “Finding out all the clues, jumping out of explosions, punching the villain in the face and getting the hot mare in the end. STALLION! Getting the hot STALLION in the end. URRRRRRRRRRR.”

Dash slaps herself. “All right that’s it! Twilight’s up to something and I’m going to find out what it is if it’s the last thing I do!”

Snapped out of her reverie by a familiar humming, Dash looks up to see a light green mare with a two-tone silvery green mane; a figure who she immediately recognizes as her friend Lyra (she never did get that soda out of her mane from that one time), who appears to be walking through the park looking around for something while humming the government-mandated Winter Wrap Up song. Ever since Celestia had made it a government requirement to be able to sing while working (or at least carry a tune), songs had been a crucial part of the Equestrian workforce, motivating (or punishing) workers (captive audiences) to work harder (wear earplugs).

“Lyra! Perfect,” Rainbow says to herself as she rubs her hooves gleefully. “Lyra always knows about what’s going on in Ponyville. She’s sure to know something incriminating about Twibright Sparkle! And as Indiana Colt explains in his novel ‘The Temple of Floom’, the first step in being any kind of detective is interrogating witnesses.” She tip-hooves towards Lyra from her blind spot, her full intent focused on keeping her element of surprise.

Lyra, being completely oblivious to the oncoming threat, gazes around the park with a cheerful look on her face, then stops to literally smell the roses from the town’s rose bushes. All of a sudden, her peaceful walk is completely ruined as a rainbow maned pony jumps out of said bushes and tackles her to the ground! “All right, Lyra! Spill the beans! What’s up with Twilight? Why is she running around town with all of my friends? Am I pulling off the intimidating-detective shtick well? ‘Cause I really want to know if I have it down. Talk!”

Lyra only blinks for a moment before answering, as if what Dash is doing is perfectly normal. “Oh, well Twilight is just here looking for the Miracle Stones around town, and she’s recruited Applejack, Pinkie Pie, Rarity and Fluttershy to help her out with that. And yes, if it were any pony that isn’t used to the level of craziness that I do every day, your intimidating detective shtick would work really well! At least, that’s what I think!”

“Don’t try to play dumb with me! I… wait what?” the brash young mare asks, “You’re trying to help me? Just like that?”

“Well of course!” Lyra states happily, “Why wouldn’t I want to help you?”

Dash shrugs while still sitting on Lyra’s chest. “Well… um, I just didn’t expect things to be so easy. I kind of thought that I’d have to go deep undercover to get answers to what Twilight was up to and everything. I even had a super-cool theme song raring to go in my head the moment that I got into danger!”

“Well….” Lyra looks up as she cranes her neck. “To tell you the truth, I was acting pretty crazy when I first found out there were stones that granted ponies’ wishes scattered across Ponyville. But Twilight set me straight and now we’re rivals! In fact...” Lyra muses, “…. I was thinking of putting together my own team to look for the Stones! It’s like a giant Easter egg hunt; I’m sure that I could get ponies on-board with it!” Lyra’s eyes widen. “OH! Just don’t tell Bon Bon, she thinks I’m doing a community service.”

“Wait, you’re on Twilight’s side? Criminy not you too, Lyra! I thought you had more sense than…. Wait, back up.” Dash asks, cocking her eyebrow. “You lost me there; just what the hay are these ‘Miracle Stones’ that Twilight is after?”

“Oh that’s easy!” Lyra waves her hoof. “Twilight’s after these magical stones that grant ponies magical powers and grant wishes. They fell out of the sky on the day of the Summer Sun Celebration! I really don’t understand, but when I touched one of the Miracle Stones it told me it could grant my deepest desire, so that’s why I’m hunting for them. Do you want to help?”

“Maybe later,” Dash blows her off as she flies off of Lyra’s body. “I don’t FEEL like gathering ‘magic’ stones.” Dash replies with air quotes. “What I FEEL like is exposing Twilight’s nefarious deeds. Not go searching for something that doesn’t exist.”

Lyra snaps to her hooves, a serious look suddenly on her face. “Now hold on, Dash. It may just be me but it sounds that you’re jealous of Twilight and the fact that your friends are hanging out with her.”

“I am NOT!” Rainbow denies, crossing her hooves in a pout. “Who’s jealous? I’m NOT jealous! I just seem to be the only pony who sees that she’s up to no good!”

Lyra’s hard face gives way to a gentle smile. “Dash, I know that you can get carried away sometimes and your paranoia can get the best of you, but I’m your friend. And believe me Twilight is a good pony at heart.” Lyra lowers her head slightly, reminiscing about their first encounter. “She’s the pony that taught me that it’s easy to be so swept up in what you believe that it can cause you to do pretty stupid things. But Twilight showed me that even when you think that you are lost, good friends can shine a light when you are going astray.”

Dash grumbles as she looks off to the side, unable to face the option that her suspicions might just be that: suspicions. Lyra, seizing the moment, walks up to the rainbow-maned mare, grabbing her hoof in two of her own as she looks into her eyes. “So, Dash? What do you say?”

“Hunh…. Wellllll…… I….”

‘Is Lyra right?’ Rainbow asks herself. ‘Is all this just in my head? Is Twilight really a good pony? Is it….. Is it just me that’s messed up?’

Lyra stares in her eyes with a sudden look of enthusiasm that would terrify any normal pony. “Great! Then you’ll join MY Miracle Stone-looking team!”

“What?!” Dash tries to break out of Lyra’s grasp but fails as the mare hugs her shoulder in a vice.

“I knew you’d join me! Welcome to team LYRA!” Lyra hugs the mare beside her so tight that Dash begins to fear for her ability to breathe. “It’s going to be great! We’ll go on adventures and have our own theme song and fight evil villains and eat pizza together and have fun and do all sorts of extracurricular activities together. And soon we won’t be just friends, we’ll be comrades. And in the heat of battle, when our lives are on the line, some of us might come terms with the billowing romance in our hearts that we have for each other. Then in the peace of the night we’ll pull in our soulmate for our first-time, muzzle to muzzle, in an earth shattering kiss. And then in the heat of the moment two bodies will……”

‘NONONONONONONONO!’ Dash mentally screams as she struggles against the grip of the psychotic green mare. Finally, after what seems like hours of listening to Lyra’s ‘plans’, Rainbow Dash manages to pry herself from her grasp and take to the air. “Sorry, Lyra, that sounds great but I already have a lot on my plate now so I’m going to have to say no.”

Rainbow Dash’s gaze shifts around as she tries to think up a lie to get her out of her situation. “Besides, I have to…. Uh…… Go visit Twilight! Yeah that’s it, she’s new in town so I have to go pay her a little visit. Later, Lyra!”

Dash bolts off into the wild blue yonder. “Yeah right, witching stones; if witching stones are real then I’m an earth pony. What was I thinking? Listening to Lyra like that?”

Watching as the retreating rainbow pegasus vanishes from sight, Lyra shrugs in disappointment. “Heh, her loss.” And with that, Lyra the Brave continues to search for more party members in her righteous quest.

……………………..

Soaring through the air with the speed of an eagle, it doesn’t take Dash long to reach her destination: Golden Oaks Library. So as not to draw any undue attention to herself, Dash slows down her speed and hits the ground rolling. Then with a sudden dash the mare jumps into the row of bushes that line the house.

“Danger Dash, duu duu duu duu dudt, She’s a super mare! Duu duu duu duu dudt, solving the crime with her superior mind duu duu duu duu dudt, defeating the evil Twiiiiiillllllliiiight! Duu duu duu duu dudt!” Dash ‘sings’ to herself as she silently spies through the window of the library. With narrowed eyes ‘Danger Dash’ sees the accursed mare herself, Twilight Sparkle, along with her ex-friends Pinkie and Applejack.

“Heh look at them, lounging about, conspiring their little…. Conspiracies.” Staring through the window, Dash looks upon her friends with envy. “Look at them fawning over her like she’s the best thing in Ponyville, when they should be fawning over me! I’m a way better friend than that bookworm!” Dash settles into a comfortable position as she looks upon the scene inside the library. “Well, might as well get comfortable here and wait for something interesting to happen.”

Quite coincidently, Dash does not have to wait long before something interesting does happen. Just as Twilight extends her hoof a ghostly figure manifests out of her own body, scaring the stunt-mare out of her skin. Dash barely has time to put her hooves over her mouth to suppress a fillyish scream.

‘Holy…..’ Dash thinks to herself, ‘I knew something was up with that mare! She’s possessed by a ghost! Though it wasn’t like any ghost I’ve seen…’ She shakes her head. ‘No, it seems like the ghost is doing something…’ Dash looks on in horror as the evil ghost… picks up a cup of water and brings it to Twilight’s lips. ‘What the…? The ghost is obeying her? Did she bind a demon to her will like in Indiana Colt number seven? How is she…..’

Suddenly Lyra’s words spring to mind, of magic stones granting magical powers. “So that’s it!” Dash slams her hooves together as she reaches her irrefutable conclusion. “Those stones gave Twilight freaky powers and she’s using them to brainwash my friends! That explains everything!”

Dash smiles as she has apparently discovered the truth behind Twilight’s plot. “Well she’s not getting away with it! Now all I need to do is exactly what Indiana Colt would do! And that’s waiting for the villain to slip up and reveal a crucial element of their master plan! Then I just bust in and save the day!”

Dash crouches by the window, a look of determination on her face as she waits for the right moment to strike. “All right now all I have to do is wait…… any second now she’ll be spelling out her evil plan…… any second now……”

Rainbow Daring Dash is many things: athletic, brave, and loyal to a fault; but if there is one thing that she is not, it is patient. Not thirty seconds later of listening to Twilight, Dash is ready to bash her own head into the window frame from sheer boredom as she stifles a loud groan.

“Uggggghhhhhhh this is so lame!” Dash complains, “I thought detective work would be all busting down doors and taking in villains, but I’m just listening to Twilight’s nerdiness! This isn’t cool at all! Well, aside from those creepy evil spirits coming out of her body! But I can’t arrest her for that!”

The mare looks inside towards her two friends. “And it’s not like I could jump in there and beat her up. From what I can tell Twilight has my friends under her evil control! If I bust in there and start kicking flank I’ll just get arrested! Guragh! Why is real life so hard?”

The disgruntled mare leans against the underside of the window as she thinks over her plight. “Come to think of it, I can’t really arrest Twilight without some hard proof, ‘cause she’s a fancy-pants Princess butt-kisser. It’s not like I could go to the police and tell them that she’s using some creepy power to force my friends to listen to her.” Dash crosses her hooves in a fierce pout. “And it’s not like I would be able to bust her for something like being a jerk, or gathering some - pfft - magic stones that fell from the sky.”

Dash sighs to herself in disappointment, just as she hears a snippet of conversation come from the library. “NO! I mean there’s no need to tell the Princess about it……”

“Hunh.” The speedster’s ears perk up. “That sounded like Twilight!” Rainbow puts her ear to the glass.

“Don’t you see? The Princess didn’t know about these Strange Stones!” Twilight says. “She didn’t tell me to look for them which means that if I don’t discover what they are before I tell her I’ll be a disgrace! What kind of student reports something without telling her teacher what she is reporting!? The kind that gets sent back to magic kindergarten! That’s who!”

Dash grins at Twilight’s mini freak-out. “Hellooooo. It seems miss snooty is not as calm and collected as ponies would like to believe. And it sounds like she’s hiding something……”

“…. Regardless, I’ve stored the remainder of the Strange Stones that I’ve gathered so far in a hidden location in the basement. Nopony is going to abuse them or report this to the Princess until I know exactly what we are dealing with….”

Rainbow Dash hoof-pumps in midair with a loud “YES!” before putting both her hooves over her muzzle and getting out of sight. Realizing that she might have given herself away, she waits in silence for a few seconds, content that she has not been discovered. “Score!” Dash cheers to herself. “It sounds like little miss book worm does have something that she doesn't want the princess to find out, and that’s just what I need to send the egghead packing!”

Confident in her imminent success, Dash envisions her victory while lying against the Library wall. “I can see it now……”

………………………..

“Bwa Ha Ha Ha Ha! Nopony can stop me now,” an evil version of Twilight Sparkle (complete with mustache, top hat, and black cape) says while she sits on top of her doomsday machine.

“Eeeeekkkkkkk save us, Dashie!” a bound Fluttershy says as she is hoisted on top of the machine.

“Ah’m sorry for being so pig-headed fer all those years an failing to recognize yer greatness. Now please save us…. Ya sexy, sexy mare!” Applejack says while scantily clad in an old-timey bar maid outfit.

“Yes save us! You sexy, sexy mare!” Pinkie Pie says as she swings from the rope binding her to the machine. She too is clad in a skimpy bar maid’s outfit.

“Ha Ha Ha you are too late! Not even the great Dash can save you!” Twilight cackles as she strokes her evil mustache. “My Evil-O-Matic is fully operational! All I need is my evil power source and all Equestria shall be mine! Bwa Ha Ha Ha!” the mare laughs as lighting strikes in the background.

Suddenly a heroic figure swoops in on a rainbow, her face a mask of determination and rugged beauty. “looking for these, Twibright?” The mare holds up a collection of valuable gems in her ruggedly-strong hooves.

Twilight gasps, “My gems of power! How did you….”

“Please, when you are awesome as I am, it takes more than that to stop me! One thousand zombie ninja warriors are nothing to the great Dash!”

The captive mares cheer as Twilight’s machine sputters and falls to pieces without any explicable cause. “NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!” Twilight cries out. “Without my source of power my machine can’t function! Curse you Daaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaassssshhhhhhhhhhhhh!”

Rescuing her friends with her awesome speed, the mare of justice undoes the ropes with her awesome heat vision, saving her friends from the wrath of Twilight Sparkle.

“Dashie! I knew that you’d save me!” Pinkie jumps up and hugs her savior, giving her a light smooch on the cheek. “My hero!”

Removing her skimpy maid hat Applejack bows down to the dirt. “Ah could never have done what yawl just done Dash. Ah finally admit how much better you are than me…...”

“I just hope that you can forgive us!” a distraught Fluttershy says, “We ignored you and sided with the evil Twilight! Can you ever forgive us for being so dumb?”

“Of course I forgive you!” Dash flexes her mighty muscles. “What are friends for! After all I’m the best at being humble AND forgiving those that have wronged me!”

“I just can’t believe you defeated Twilight so easily!” Pinkie bounces up and down. “Tell us, Dashie! How did you do it?”

Dash chuckles as she places a pair of sunglasses on her muzzle. “What can I say….? I guess Twi-bright....” Dash removes the glasses with dramatic flair. “... Wasn’t very bright!”

Everyone laughs as the curtain falls on another adventure of the great and undefeatable Rainbow Dash!

…………………..

“Yeah…… It’ll happen just like that!” Her delusion having finished, Dash rubs her hooves as she prepares to move into the most fun part of the investigation: breaking and entering. “Now to find a way into that basement.”

Luckily for Dash, in order to air out the library Twilight had happened to leave a window to the basement open. Unluckily for the librarian this window was just a few feet from where Dash was sitting, and with a little squeeze the rainbow mare found herself in Twilight’s basement with no trouble. The entire room is exactly as one would picture a scientist’s lab to look: beakers line the table tops, papers are lined up methodically on the tables, and results of various experiments are tacked to the walls in the most haphazard ways possible.

“Now,” Dash places her hoof on her chin. “If I were a lame nerd, which I’m totally not, where would I hide something that I didn’t want anyone to find?” Looking around the room for any signs of a safe, Dash spies a single lone bookshelf sitting up against the wall. “Pffttt. Nah. Not even Twilight is stupid enough to hide something behind a bookcase; that’s like the oldest hiding place in the book!”

Walking up to the shelf Dash tugs on it. “There’s no way…” Suddenly the bookcase opens up, the secret door sliding silently to the side to reveal a single well-fortified safe. “No way.”

Searching for any traps, and skeptical that it could really be that easy, Dash stares at the safe with apprehension. Finally she grows tired of waiting, and drags the heavy safe out of the secret compartment into the center of the basement floor as quietly as possible. “Wow. I just can’t believe that Twilight was that dumb. I mean come on, that’s like most cliché hiding place ever. Now how do I open this thing?”

Tapping on what appears to be a data pad of some sort causes a voice to emanate from the safe. “Welcome!” Rainbow Dash falls backwards in surprise. “Please say the password aloud for easy access to the contents of this storage device!”

“Uhhhhhhhhhhhh,”

“Password not accepted, please try again!”

“Wait.” Dash gets back up on her hooves. “That wasn’t a try!”

“Password not accepted, please try again!”

Turning away so that the safe can’t hear her, Dash groans loudly. “Ugh, come on brain, think, what would Twilight use as a password…… I’ve got it!”

Clearing her throat the rainbow mare turns towards the safe. “The password is ‘password’.”

“Password not accepted, please try again!”

“Wow I guess Twilight isn’t that stupid… uhhhhhh books?”

“Password not accepted, please try again!”

“Lots of books?”

“Password not accepted, please try again!”

“Ummmmmm I’m a stupid egghead?”

“Password not accepted, please try again!”

“I’m a really stupid egghead??”

“Password not accepted, please try again!”

“I’m a really stupid egghead that’s brainwashing Rainbow Dash’s friends?”

“Password……”

Rainbow Dash holds her breath.

“…… not accepted, please try again!”

“Urgh!” Dash screams as she hits the safe. “Come on this isn’t funny, open up!”

Dash’s rant is cut off by a voice that seems to originate from upstairs. Dash freezes in terror as the door to the basement opens, sending a large beam of light just short of where Dash is sitting with the safe. “….. Alright, Applejack, you gave it a shot but it seems that….. WHAT IN THE NAME OF TARTARUS!” Dash nearly panics as an even greater light begins to shine down the stairs, illuminating the entire basement.

Dash’s eyes widen and her pupils turn to pin pricks. “I’ve been discovered! Darn it!” Seconds away from getting caught, Dash doubles her efforts on the safe and begins to frantically pound the metal box with her hoof. “Come. On. You. Stupid. Safe. Open. Up!” Punching the box with every word, the mare tries vainly to get the fortified metal box to open.

Dash lays her head against the box. “Come on! It’s right in here! All I have to do is get what’s in this box and I can save my friends! Why won’t it open? URRRRRGGGGGHHHHHHH!” She begins pounding on the box again but this time it is obvious she is far more desperate. Yet as Dash continues to pound the metal safe, she fails to notice as a rainbow colored aura, like the kind of liquid rainbows that you find at a weather factory, begins to flow down her hoof.

“Just……” The rainbow sheen spreads over her hoof.

“Open….” The aura covers her hoof completely, its aura shimmering in the ambient light from upstairs.

“UP!” Dash’s hoof connects with the box and suddenly the entire world around Rainbow Dash explodes in a prismatic shockwave of pure energy. Closing her eyes from the force of the blast, Rainbow flails her hooves about as the explosion rips through the room, leaving her completely unharmed. As the dust settles, Rainbow Dash hacks the sawdust out of her lungs and slowly opens her eyes. And sitting before her is the open safe with door blown clean off its hinges, its frame pulverized into the ground beneath her.

Dumbstruck, the mare looks down at her hooves, the rainbow aura surrounding her forelegs flowing and mixing together. “Wow…. Did…. did I do that?” Suddenly, as if with a thought the aura fades away, leaving her alone in the basement again. “The Sonic Rainboom!” Dash cheers, “It wasn’t a fluke! I did it again! Ha take that everypony at flight camp, take that dad, take that…..”

“Who’s down there?!”

Dash’s internal celebration is cut off as she recalls that she is technically trespassing. Remembering what she came here for, she quickly grabs the box with the Stones from the now-open safe and makes a mad dash for the window, pushing herself through the frame as the sound of her adversary trotting down the basement steps reaches her ears.

“What the! What happened….?” Twilight asks herself, looking around at the mess. “RAINBOW DASH is that you? What are you…? When I get my hooves on you……”

But it is too late for Twilight to do anything. Just before the unicorn can get her hooves on the speedster Dash slips through the window, leaving Twilight eating her dust as Dash flies to safety, far from where the unicorn could ever hope to catch her.

…………………Five minutes Ago……………………..

“Check it out!” Manifesting her Stand, Twilight manages to easily pick up a glass of water from the library’s table and lift it to her muzzle, taking several deep gulps before putting it back.

Applejack stares at Twilight. “Well that… was…… impressive?”

“Yeah Twilight picked up a glass of water! That was impressive!” Pinkie claps her hooves.

“What?” Twilight looks at Applejack with confusion. “No, picking up the glass wasn’t what I wanted to show you when I called you here today. I just wanted to show you how much better I’ve gotten at understanding my Stand. Great, hunh?”

Applejack raises her eyebrow. “….. And yawl can pick up a glass of water. Good fer you.”

Twilight facehoofs. “No, Applejack, that isn’t it. Remember when I fought against Lyra a few days ago and my Stand didn’t do any physical damage?”

Pinkie laughs, “How could I forget that was so funny when you hit her face and she was going AAAAAAAAA! like that and it didn’t do anything! That was a great prank!”

Twilight stares at Pinkie. “But you weren’t…. never mind the point is I thought my Stand didn’t have any physical strength since it didn’t inflict any damage, but after testing I sure proved myself wrong!”

Applejack raises her other eyebrow, completing the expression of surprise. “So your Stand isn’t as weak as a pig with a fever?”

“No, actually, my Stand has about as much strength as I do, and from rigorous testing I’ve determined my Stand is about 2.37 to 3.89 times more durable than I am…..”

“Gee, Twilight, how did you figure..…”

“Don’t interrupt, Pinkie, I’m on a roll.” Twilight clears her throat with a grin on her muzzle. “It turns out, my Stand not inflicting any physical damage is a result of the mind link I talked about before. My Stand naturally prevents itself from damaging any living creature even though it can still break and move inanimate objects.”

Applejack lowers her eyebrow again, completing her trademark skeptical look. “…. And that’s what yawl dragged us out here for? To show off?”

Twilight flinches at Applejack’s tone of voice. “…… Noooooooo, I just wanted tell you all, in light of the existence of the ‘Strange Stones’, I’ve taken more secure methods of storing them that I think that you should know of.” Twilight cranes her neck, looking at the peeved farm mare. “But for now I’m more concerned about you, Applejack. Are you all right? Was it something that I said?”

“Yeah!” Pinkie chimes in, “you look like Big Mac on a bad day! Most ponies say they can’t tell when he’s having a bad day since he seems to barely move his face. But I have a Pinkie Sense that can tell when a pony is frowning mentally! And girl you are frowning up a storm!”

The hurt look in Twilight’s eyes brings Applejack out of her stupor. “Sorry, Twi, I didn’t mean to snap at ya like that. It’s just I was on my way to visit Bloom, that’s all.”

Twilight puts her hoof on her friend as a comforting gesture. “I’m sorry, Applejack, I don’t want to get in the way of your visit so I’ll make this quick.” Applejack nods, permitting Twilight to continue. “With the Stone that Fluttershy found in a bird nest yesterday I decided to move the Strange Stones to a more secure location until further notice, seeing as how everypony seems to be after them.”

“So you moved them to Canterlot?” Pinkie asks.

“No, not really…” Twilight admits, “actually the Princess…. That is she doesn’t…… exactly know that I found them.”

Pinkie’s eyes brighten. “So you didn’t tell her yet? That’s great I’m really good at composing letters!” Pinkie pulls out a piece of paper covered in frosting and a fuzzy glitter pen. “Just say the word and I’ll get it to her…..”

“NO!” Twilight blurts out. “I mean, there’s no need to tell the Princess about it!”

Pinkie blinks twice before she puts the letter and pen away. “Hunh, but why? I thought you were her super special eyes and ears here in Ponyville? And if eyes and ears don’t see and hear then they really aren’t eyes and ears, they’re…. well I don’t know what they are but whatever they are it’s not good if ears can’t see and eyes can’t hear. So why wouldn’t you tell the Princess?”

A single hair comes out of place on Twilight’s mane as she rushes right up in Pinkie’s face. “Don’t you see? The Princess didn’t know about these Strange Stones! She didn’t tell me to look for them, which means that if I don’t discover what they are before I tell her I’ll be a disgrace! What kind of student reports something without telling her teacher what she is reporting!? The kind that gets sent back to Magic Kindergarten! That’s who!”

“Um…. Twilight,” Applejack says.

“WHAT!” Twilight shouts as she turns towards the source of the offending voice.

Applejack points at the several stray hairs popping out of Twilight’s mane. “Yawl are freaking out again.”

“Oh,” Twilight says as objectively as possible. Materializing a mane brush Twilight quickly straightens out her mane. “Thank you, Applejack, I really needed to hear that. Regardless, I’ve stored the remainder of the Strange Stones that I’ve gathered so far in a hidden location in the basement. No pony is going to abuse them or report this to the Princess until I know exactly what we are dealing with. Just please PLEASE promise not to tell the Princess till I know what these Stones do. Please?”

Both Pinkie and Applejack look at each other with worry in their eyes before looking back to Twilight. “Well….. if yawl think that it's a good idea, then I’ll support ya in it, Twi,” Applejack states.

“Yeah! It’s a Pinkie Promise!”

“YES!”

Twilight breathes a sigh of relief at this. “Thanks, guys, I already talked to Rarity and Fluttershy about this, and they think that it’s for the best as well. We have no idea what these Stones do, I don’t want to worry the Princess before I’ve done some more testing with them.”

Applejack scratches her head, slightly moving her hat. “I thought that they granted wishes, that’s what Lyra said.”

“Yeah,” Pinkie says, “Don’t they grant wishes?”

Twilight groans, looking at the ponies in front of her like they just graduated from kindergarten. “Applejack, I’d expect Pinkie to believe in that nonsense. But I would have expected a pony with her hooves firmly on the ground like you would have better sense than that!”

“Hunh?”

Twilight rolls her eyes. “I mean, come on! Granting wishes? What a load of horse apples!”

“Hey!” Applejack retorts, “don’t use mah cousin’s name as a curse. And fer yer information Ah believe Lyra.”

“Seriously, Applejack?” the ever skeptical Twilight asks, “all right, if you think that the Stones can grant wishes then let’s hear your logic.”

Applejack straightens her hat. “Simple. When Ah was first walking out home that night we first met, Ah heard a voice that told me to go into the forest ta look for the medicine that saved Bloom. And that time ya fought Lyra the Stone lit up all shiny and ya got yer Stand just like ya wanted. Those Stones have some kind of mystic power Ah’m sure of it!”

Twilight rolls her eyes. “That night you were sick with worry and I had been working to manifest my Stand for years,” Twilight retorts gently. “I don’t believe in coincidences, Applejack, I believe in science and facts, not crazy wish granting Stones.”

“But Twilight!” Pinkie states from the roof as she walks on the ceiling with plunger hooves, “we see crazy stuff all the time; I mean look at me! I’m illogical and you believe in me right?” Pinkie hangs from the ceiling by her back hooves, seizing Twilight in a desperate grab. “You do believe in me, don’t you, Twilight? Oh please believe in me! I don’t what to cease to exist like in that movie!”

Twilight rolls her eyes. “Pinkie, of course I believe in you.”

“Whew.”

“What I don’t believe in is something that goes against the laws of probability and physics,” Twilight says as she pulls Pinkie from the ceiling, placing her on solid ground. “Stands are a logical power manifested by the soul, not science fiction.”

“Ah don’t know, Twi,” Applejack says, “it may just be a farmer’s wisdom talkin, but some things in the world can’t be explained….. And those Stones just seem to defy explanation.”

Twilight sputters at Applejack’s statement as if someone had just told her that the sun was made of hydrogen and helium, and not concentrated magical energy like every kindergartner knew. Finally Twilight stops as a grin crosses her face. “Fine, you think rocks can grant wishes, then let’s put it to the test!” Walking over to the wall of the library where her saddle bags are stored, Twilight pulls out a strange black stone by hoof then walks back towards Applejack, setting it on a table.

“There! I just so happened to find this Stone earlier today while cleaning out the upper branches of the library. So let’s put your little theory to a real scientific test!” Twilight points to the fragment of Stone as the other two look at it with awe. “If your little rock can grant wishes then make a wish! Maybe if you wish hard enough it might come true!”

Unfazed by Twilight’s mocking, or more likely driven on by it, Applejack nears the Stone, its gentle unknown majesty seemingly reaching into her very soul. However, before she can even touch it the Stone is snatched off the table by Pinkie Pie.

“Me first! ME first!” the pink mare cries out. “Alright, magical wishing stone, I wish for a whole tub of ice cream!”

The entire room is racked by silence as all three mares wait for anything to happen. A full minute passes, and yet all that seems to fill the room is the level of silence and peace only a library could possess.

Finally Twilight pipes up, “See? Nothing! I knew it, wish granting stones don’t exist!”

“What are you talking about, Twilight?” Pinkie asks as she pulls out a tub of ice cream from behind her back, flinging the black Stone back on the table. “I got my wish, see? A tub of ice cream!”

“… Pinkie, did you pull that off of your Stand?”

“Maybbbbbbbeeeeeeeeeee! But I still got my wish!” Pinkie takes a bite of the ice cream with a spoon she just found. “Yech, prune flavor! I guess I should have wished for a better flavor of ice cream!”

Twilight groans. “Pinkie! That isn’t science, that’s just...”

“I know what I would wish for..….”

All eyes turn towards the orange mare holding the black Stone in her hooves as if it is the most precious thing in the world, the somberness of her voice and the shaking of her hooves a testament to her emotional state. “All Ah want….. All Ah really want….. Is mah sister back. Ah just want little Bloom back. Ah want her to wake up again and play around like a filly should. Ah…. Ah don’t want to see her in that bed….”

Applejack sheds a single tear over the black rock as her own insecurities and fears about her sister come crashing down upon her. “Ah already lost ma…. And pa…… we’ve lost so much already…. Ah just want…. Ah just want us to be a family again.”

Her emotional dams breaking, Applejack cries out, “Please….. Please…. If ya can really give her back... Ah know that it’s silly wishin on stars or stones like this….. But if there’s….. if there’s any chance… then please….. Please give me mah sister back……”

The two ponies sit there watching Applejack cry to herself for what seems like hours, afraid to do or say anything. Even Pinkie doesn’t try to crack a joke as they watch over their friend, who has already lost so much. Finally, Twilight musters up the courage to move up to her and put her hoof on her friend’s shoulder. “I’m sorry, Applejack, I really am; but just wishing for something won’t make it come true. No matter how much you want it…..”

“It just… it just ain’t fair…”

“I know, Applejack. I know….” Walking over to the door of the basement Twilight flings it open, then turns around to her friend. “We might as well put the Stone in my safe in the basement now,” the downcast librarian states.

Applejack doesn’t move as Twilight trots up to her and the glittering stone. “….. Alright, Applejack, you gave it a shot but it seems that….. WHAT IN THE NAME OF TARTARUS!”

The entire room in consumed in a holocaust of light that floods the senses of anypony that would be fool enough to glance at it. As the light consumes the room, a gentle, forgiving voice seems to emanate from all around them, speaking to them with the gentle strength of rolling thunder.

‘So shall it be…..’

Then, as suddenly as it appeared, the light vanishes and the world returns to its normal hues and colors.

Twilight rubs her head. “Uggghhhh not again; I’ve got to start carrying around a pair of sunglasses. Applejack, are you okay?”

Pulling herself off the floor Applejack begins to rub her head. “Ah think so….. What happened?”

“Yeah!” Pinkie says as she removes a pair of sunglasses from her face. “That was sooooooooo weird! First you were just sitting there crying which wasn’t very good, and then you made a wish on that shiny stone and boy did things get bright!”

Applejack recollects, “Yeah, Ah was just sittin there hopin, wishin that Applebloom would be able to wake up and then….” Applejack’s eyes suddenly grow wide. “…… Applebloom!” With all the quickness her body can muster, Applejack grabs her Stetson and bolts out the door.

Twilight barely has time to teleport over to the door frame as Applejack rapidly disappears out of sight. “APPLEJACK?! Where are you going?”

Unwilling to stop, Applejack turns her head and shouts behind her, “To the hospital! Mah sister’s gonna wake up!”

Twilight yells for Applejack to try and see reason, that wish-granting stones don’t exist, but before she can even pose a logical argument the orange mare is gone. Twilight groans, “Great, now Applejack is going to be even more upset when the magic wish-granting stone doesn’t heal her sister. Could anything else go wrong today?!”

BOOM! A giant explosion of light and rainbow color rocks the library. “That wasn’t an invitation!!”

Stumbling inside from the after-effects of the explosion, Twilight catches her breath. “What was that? Was that an explosion? Pinkie, you wouldn’t have happened to wish for an explosion on the Strange Stone would you?”

Pinkie shakes her head. “Don’t look at me, Twilight; if I were you I’d ask Dashie! She’s in the basement right now.”

“Dashie…. As in Rainbow Dash?!” Twilight exclaims with wide eyes, “she’s here?”

“Yeppers! I saw her watching us from outside! After you went on about how you were so afraid that the Princess would find out that you were hiding things from her she decided to go in through the basement! Which is a really great way to get into anywhere!”

Twilight facehoofs. “And you didn’t bother to tell me?!”

“Well yeah, Twilight! I mean this is a library. Ponies come in here all the time to borrow things so of course I wouldn’t question Dashie coming in to borrow things.” Pinkie puts her hoof to her chin. “Although she didn’t show me her library card... oh well I’m sure that Dashie of all ponies is good for it! Hope there wasn’t anything valuable in that basement of yours, that explosion sounded like a doozie!”

Twilight’s eyes narrow and she suddenly darts into the basement. “Who’s down there?!” the purple mare cries out as she illuminates her horn to blast any errant trespassers.

The scene that greets her eyes below is one of utter chaos, all her scientific glass equipment is in shattered pieces, her papers line the floor in disarray and, most impressively, someone found the magical safe she had hidden behind the bookshelf and nearly blown it into two pieces in the middle of the floor.

“What the! What happened…..?“ Suddenly her keen eyes spy the culprit responsible, a rainbow mare who is currently squeezing her way through the basement window like a rat caught in a trap.

“…… RAINBOW DASH is that you?! What are you…. When I get my hooves on you……” But it is far too late; just as Twilight is able to charge up her patented binding spell Dash succeeds in wiggling through the window, escaping into the wild blue yonder. Twilight looks out the window and watches Rainbow disappear from sight, with the entire box of Strange Stones in tow. Dejected and defeated the lavender mare lowers her head and trots back up to the library proper, where an energetic Pinkie Pie is waiting for her.

“Sooooooooooooo?” the pink mare asks, “How was it? Are you and Dash friends now?”

Twilight throws up her hooves in exasperation. “No, me and ‘Dashie’ aren't friends yet, Pinkie Pie.” Twilight slumps down to the floor. “Now Rainbow Dash of all ponies has stolen the Strange Stones! She could be anywhere by now! Thanks a lot, Pinkie.”

“You’re welcome!” the chipper pink mare comments. “But don’t you worry, Dashie will be sure to return those nifty Stones of yours before you even know they are gone! ‘Cause if there’s one thing that Dash is good at it's returning things. Why this one time when I lent her the entire series of Indiana Colt……”

“Don’t you get it, Pinkie?” Twilight says while practically yelling, “Dash isn’t going to return them! She’s… she’s…... well I don’t know what she’s going to do with them but it’s probably not good.” The lavender mare begins pacing the floor muttering to herself.

“But,” Pinkie stutters, “but that doesn’t sound like Dash! Dash would never keep something that didn’t belong to her……”

Pinkie is ignored by Twilight, who walks back and forth debating her course of action. “She could be practically anywhere in Ponyville now! I could contact the weather team to find her but that could take hours! By then she could have already hidden the Stones! And since I didn’t tell Celestia I had them then…. then…...”

“The practice field…” Pinkie says.

Twilight turns towards her pink friend. “I’m sorry, Pinkie, what?”

“The practice field! That’s where Dashie is right now!” Pinkie beams. “It’s her own little field right near the Everfree Forest, five minutes north of the park’s jogging trail. It’s where she practices all her best stunts away from prying eyes! She always goes there whenever she pulls off something big.”

Twilight blinks. “Well that would be a great place to hide, I admit…. But she knows that you know so there’s a high chance that she….”

“Oh she’s there right now!”

“….and you kno…..”

“Pinkie Sense,” Pinkie Pie says, as if it is the simplest thing in the world.

Twilight stares at the beaming mare in front of her, again at a loss for words. Suddenly she picks up a piece of paper with her magic, scribbles a few lines on it, and then incinerates it with green fire. “There; I just sent a letter to Rarity and Fluttershy telling them to meet us there. Hopefully Fluttershy can talk some sense into Dash, since you told me they were childhood friends. Now hold tight!” Grabbing Pinkie with her hoof, she presses her closer to her side.

Pinkie struggles uncomfortably against Twilight’s frame. “Um, Twilight, I know we’re friends and all but if you wanted a hug you should ask! Its common courtesy and I’d offer you one any..…”

“No, Pinkie, I already know where the park is so I’m teleporting us there so try and cut Dash off,” Twilight states as her horn glows brighter. “You said that it was a five minute trot from there, so I’m counting on you to lead from the park to Dash’s practice field.”

Pinkie salutes as Twilight’s magic grows stronger around her. “Yes ma’am!”

Twilight gives Pinkie the stink eye. “And don’t think that this conversation is over! I want to hear what this Pinkie Sense is for myself after this is all over!”

Without giving the pink mare time to pout, they both disappear in a flash of light, pulled into the space between spaces that all ponies know instinctually.

Chapter 10-Valkyrie-Take 2

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Valkyrie-Take 2


“Ha ha Ha! Sweet.” Rainbow Dash catches her breath on a nearby cloud, resting her wings from the sudden exertion. Panting rapidly, the mare’s exhaustion quickly gives way to jubilation as she glances over her shoulder. “Nopony followed me! Wait till Twibright realizes that her little charade of pretending to be a good friend is over!”

The rainbow-maned mare opens the box containing the mythical artifacts as she savors her victory. “Meh. If I didn’t know any better I’d say these are normal rocks; they don’t look all magicky and stuff.” Dash slams the lid tight. “Oh well, if it gets Twilight out of my mane and exposes her for the fraud she is, it’s all the same in my book.”

Her eyes suddenly widen as she opens the box again. “And if they really grant wishes… this could be my chance to get into the Wonderbolts in style!”

“Rainbow Dash!” Twilight yells behind the speedster, causing Dash to jerk in surprise. “You are currently in possession of Government property! Return the Stones that you have stolen and get on the ground!”

Rainbow throws up her arms in exasperation. “Oh for crying out loud!” she yells as she turns to face the ever persistent Twilight Sparkle below. “How did you find me? Almost nopony knows I hang out here! No pony except for Fluttershy and……”

“Hey, Dashie!”

“….and Pinkie Pie.” Rainbow Dash facehoofs.

“Hey, Dashie, great hiding place! You really do a great job of playing hide and seek!” Pinkie smiles while bouncing in place. “But you’ll have to hide better if you want to hide from meeeeeeee!”

Twilight nods to Pinkie. “Thank you, Pinkie, for leading me here; that was very kind of you, but if you could please leave the rest of the talking to me.” Twilight turns to face Dash again. “You realize this goes beyond a normal prank, Dash! I’ll ask again nicely, hand over the Stones.”

“Dream on, Twi-bright!” Dash blows a raspberry at her. “I don’t give a flying flip about any magic stones. But if they can expose you for who you really are and what you’re doing to my friends, then I’m bringing them to the Princess!”

“What?“ Twilight yells, “what are you talking about!?”

“Don’t play dumb with me! Even though you are really good at it……” Dash snickers at her own joke. “You’ve been using your creepy ghost thing to mess with my friends’ minds and turn them against me! You’ve been conspiring against me since day one, Twilight!”

Dash leaps to her hooves and flares her wings in anger. “Well I’ve got news for you! I’m not going to let you use my friends like they were your personal Hench-ponies in your crazy schemes.” Leaping from the cloud, Dash lands on the ground three pony lengths from Twilight and strikes a menacing pose. “So here’s an idea. Why don’t you give up and surrender to me? I promise that I’ll make your defeat as awesome as possible.”

Twilight stares with profound pity at the rainbow-colored mare before her, taking a cautious step backwards. “You really are delusional, Dash….” Suddenly Twilight takes a combat stance in front of the pegasus. “But I can see you aren’t leaving me much of a choice. I’m sorry, Dash, but if you are going to let your paranoia control you then I’m going to have to use force!”

Dash laughs at Twilight’s attempt at intimidation. “HA, you - a librarian - beat me? You’re not returning overdue books, Twi-bright! But please…” She rises in the air, hovering horizontally in front of the angry unicorn. “Make me surrender. That is, if you can.”

Twilight grinds her teeth. “Fine, we’ll do this the hard way. Pinkie!”

“Humh, yeah, Twilight, what is it?”

“Get out your Stand. We’re fusing.”

“Yeah! We’re going to make a Pinkie-and-Twilight Smoothie, yeah!” Pinkie cheers. “Actually no yeah, that sounds really wrong like you and me were going to……”

“Just get out your Stand, Pinkie!”

“Okie Dokie Lokie!”

Both Twilight and Pinkie’s Stands manifest in front of them as they face down Rainbow Dash. Twilight musters up her intense concentration as she breathes slowly in and out, and even Pinkie is staring ahead seriously. Gracefully, Twilight extends her hoof towards Pinkie’s white tattooed Stand, her hoof growing ever closer up till the moment of contact. All of a sudden the two Stands touch, only to be blown apart by the resulting force.

Twilight rubs her head as her Stand picks itself off of the ground. “Ughhhh how many headaches… how many headaches do I have to get before you’ve punished me enough?”

“Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee! That was fun Twilight! Can we do it again?”

“What the…? Pinkie… your mind…..” Twilight tries to put into words just what she saw.

“Yeah, what about my mind? Wait don’t tell me! It’s filled with chocolate frosting! I knew it, Mr. Cake said that you couldn’t store things in your head but I was like ‘but there’s so much room in your imagination’ so I put a can of spray fronting in my ear and…..”

“No, Pinkie…. Your mind… it’s chaos itself!” Twilight groans as she rubs her horn. “Why can’t you control your thoughts?”

“I don’t know, Twilight? Why do you organize your mind like everything has to go in every place it is supposed to?” Pinkie criticizes. “Ponies just think differently from each other! It’s a beautiful fact of life!”

“Bwahhhaaahhhahahahahaa!” Rainbow Dash laughs at them from above, having settled herself on a passing cloud while the two were bickering. “Ha ha ha seriously egghead, you should just quit while you’re ahead and apologize for turning my friends against me while you still have a mouth of unbroken teeth.”

Realizing that they are still in the middle of a fight, the lavender mare takes a defensive stance again. “Puff….huff…. I’m not trying to turn anypony against any other pony. It’s you that’s being paranoid!”

Turning her head towards the pink mare, Twilight apologizes, “Sorry, Pinkie, but the time for conversations is over. I have to bring her down! Even if it means that I have to get a little rough in order to do so.”

“Beat me? Ha! Is your head messed up from all those musty books?” Dash waves her hoof at her. “I don’t want to sound negative, but that’s impossible! With your level of power you couldn’t even defeat this mare here!”

“Well, um, you couldn’t even um….” Twilight’s eyes flicker back and forth as she tries to think up a witty comeback. Suddenly comprehension dawns as she spies a flying bird. “AH! Well, Dash, you are so weak that you couldn’t even defeat a Columbidae!”

Dash rises to her hooves, looking down on the lavender mare. “I totally could I could beat a Columbiadia…. Um, what’s a Columbidae again?”

“Ha! I thought you wouldn’t know that! Point one for the eggheads! Haha!” Twilight hoof pumps at her clever insult.

Dash rolls her eyes. “Yeah whatever. What’s this Columbidae-something that I’m supposed to be weaker than?”

Twilight clears her throat. “A Columbidae is the class of flying avians that includes the common birds such as pigeons and doves.”

“…… So let me get this straight.” Dash cocks her head. “Your insult is that I couldn’t even beat a pigeon?”

“That’s right! How’s that for a comeback?”

“……”

“…… Well? How was it?”

Pinkie shakes her head in pity as she places her hoof on Twilight’s shoulder. “Twilight, I’m still your friend and all. But PLEASE! Pretty pretty PLEASE! Leave the comebacks to me from now on?”

“What? What was the matter?” Twilight asks in genuine confusion, “Wasn’t it good? I thought that it was so clever and original! Maybe I should try it agai……”

“ENOUGH!” Dash shouts, “I’m sick of your nerdiness and lame comebacks, Twilight! If you thought that your lame ghost brainwashing my friends was cool, then keep your eyes open cause I’m about to show you something that’s really awesome!”

Jumping into the sky with enough force to flatten the cloud underneath her, Dash leaps into the air, her wings ripping through the sky with the force of a blade. Soaring higher and higher into the blue sky, the speedster reaches the zenith of her climb at a height so great that her rainbow mane can barely be seen from the ground. Arching down, she suddenly pulls a one-eighty, rushing towards the ground with a burst from her wings. Flapping with all of her wing power, Dash’s Rainbow Aura spreads across her body as she soars hoof-first towards the unforgiving ground like a living thunderbolt.

On impact, an immensely powerful shockwave of color explodes in a mushroom-shaped column of smoke over the clearing, a prismatic aurora trail expanding across the practice field’s sky. The mere force of the thunderous crash knocks the wind clean out of Twilight as she tumbles back from the force of the blow. Luckily she lands on a soft object with a thud, groaning in pain - alive but definitely not in perfect shape. Looking over to where Dash landed, Twilight is dumbfounded to see an enormous crater scaring the earth, Rainbow standing in the center of the blasted ground; a testament to the rainbow mare’s power.

Raising her head high, gloating all the while, Rainbow Dash rises into the air. “Ha! You see that! Was that cool or what?!” She raises her hooves to her face as familiar rainbow sheen covers them. “That was a Sonic Rainboom! The most legendary move in all of pegasus history and I just pulled it off.”

Landing on the ground Dash picks up a random stone. “Pretty awesome huh? All I have to do is think…..” The mare throws the stone in the air, smacking it with her hoof and causing a familiar rainbow shock wave to completely demolish it. “And BOOM! One Sonic Rainboom! I call this little power Valkyrie! And it’s way cooler than your little brainwashing power!”

Twilight snaps at this, unfazed by Rainbow Dash’s Stand power. “I’m not brainwashing anypony! Now give me back the Stones!”

Jumping into the air just out of range of the unicorn’s telekinesis, Rainbow hugs the bag closer to her sides. “Sorry Twi-Bright! But I think that I’m just going to hang on to these little babies.” Rainbow taps her chin. “In fact, I think that I’ll keep them! How do you like that?!”

Pinkie bounces up, grasping Twilight in a sideways hug. “See, Twilight? I knew that you could trust Dashie! She said she’s going to return your Stones to you as soon as…. Never?!”

The pink mare’s mane visibly deflates a small amount as she looks back at her all time favorite friend. “NEVER?! Dashie…. Why? That’s not very nice! Twilight and the rest of us looked really hard for those! It’s not nice to take something if you’re not going to return it! That’s…….” Pinkie leans back as she whispers, “……stealing!”

“Then I’m stealing them!” Dash exclaims. “Sorry, Pinks, but I need these babies to expose Twilight for the fraud that she really is! Once the Princess finds out that her precious student was keeping secrets from her, she’ll be booted out of town!”

Pinkie’s normally bouncy mane begins to deflate even more as she begins to tear up. “But….. But why would you want to get Twilight in trouble?? Why, Dashie? Twilight’s nice and she’s my friend and……”

Dash audibly groans. “Wake up, Pinkie! Twilight isn’t your friend! She never was! I’m your friend! And you ignored me and what I was saying all along! Twilight’s just using you!” Dash exclaims. “She’s the bad pony! I’m trying to save all of you from her brainwashing scheme! Like a snobby canterlot unicorn would want to be friends with you…...”

Pinkie’s eyes grow wide as her mane completely deflates. Her eyes begin to fill with tears as she backs away from Dash with a hurt look on her face. From her expression Dash can immediately tell that she has gone too far, and desperately tries to make things right again. “Oh… come on, Pinkie, I didn’t mean it like that..…”

“I can‘t believe it…. Twilight was right!” Pinkie’s mane instantly bounces back to its normal puffiness, a fire burning in her eyes. “The Dashie I know wouldn’t act this crazy; she wouldn't accuse a pony of not being my friend!”

The pink mare takes an accusatory step forward. “And she would never, EVER take something that didn’t belong to her!” Pinkie Pie manifests her white pegasus Stand, preparing to attack. “Dashie…. I don’t know why you’re acting this way. And I really really care about you in more ways than a party pony can say. But you’re going to stop being super crazy right now! For starters, give those Stones back to Twilight! And apologize for being a meanie-pants!”

“No way!” Dash shouts as she leaps into the air. “I can’t believe you’re betraying me like this, Pinkie! This is only more proof that Twilight is messing with your head! She’s gotten you to think I‘m the bad guy!”

Pinkie closes her eyes gently before opening them again. “Dashie, from where I’m standing, you are the bad guy.” Pinkie’s Stand surges forward, grabbing the blue mare’s saddlebags and dragging Rainbow Dash to the ground. “Now give Twilight’s stuff back!”

Reflexively Dash bats away the attacking Stand with her charged hoof, blowing away Pinkie’s Surprise and causing her to fall to the ground. Breathing heavily, the cerulean speedster picks herself off the ground as Pinkie rises directly across from her, recovering from Dash’s blow with minimal damage. “Pinkie…. I don’t want to hurt you,” the blue mare begins, “but if that’s what it takes to get my friend back…” The rainbow aura covers her hooves as Dash growls in anger, “…. then I will!”

Rushing forward to attack with her hooves, Dash’s lightning fast jab is dodged by Pinkie as her Stand moves in to defend. The blue mare attacks again, punching in a combo at Pinkie Pie, each razor sharp jab missing her by mere centimeters as the pink mare stumbles backwards, pulling off an impressive triple somersault to get out of Dash’s range. Seeing her friend’s speed at dodging, Dash flies directly at her again, this time twisting her body at the last second and turning her double hoof punch into a sweeping kick. Dodging below the spinning kick, Pinkie flattens her body against the ground as Dash swings her forelegs down, shattering the earth in an explosion of light and sound. Pinkie rolls out of the way just in time, throwing a cylindrical object straight at Dash. Yet Dash’s superior speed allows her to shatter the incoming object with a single punch, causing an entire king-sized jar’s worth of raspberry jam to cover her coat in its sticky sweetness. Dash flails about as she tries vainly to peel off an jar of jam off of her coat, barely managing to clear the gunk out of her eyes. “Ugh.. Pinkie! Stop playing around with pranks and just give...” Dash’s eyes widen in surprise, just as she is hit dead on with an expertly-swung frying pan.

Soaring through the air the blue mare lands in the lake, treading water like an epileptic fish as Pinkie grins at her misfortune. “I guess you could say that Dash is….” The pink mare pulls out a pair of sunglasses, placing them on her face only to take them off a second later. “…. all washed up! Get it? ‘Cause she’s all wet! He He!”

Twilight sighs as she walks up towards her friend. “Yes, Pinkie, I get it. I’m glad that you were able to stop Dash without any trouble…..” Twilight looks at the bubbles coming out of the lake. “Are you sure she’ll be okay? She hasn’t come up yet.”

Pinkie waves her hoof. “Nah, Dashie’s really tough! Plus I held back. She’ll be fine! Why this one time….”

Pinkie’s reminiscing is cut off as the entire lake explodes, a cascading wave of water four ponies high rushing directly at the two mares. Twilight barely has time to scream as the wave of water crashes over them, covering the field around them in over a foot of water. As the water recedes back into the lake Twilight pulls herself from the mud; looking around her she manages to locate Pinkie staring perfectly straight at the lake where Dash flying.

“Ha! Now who’s all wet?” Hovering inches above the lake is the loudmouth herself, the jam and water blown clean off her coat in the resulting explosion. “Pretty cool hunh! It seems like I can’t make a Rainboom without hitting something solid. So I swam to the bottom of the lake and just pummeled it as hard as I could! And man was that awesome! Hey Pinkie? When you’re not brainwashed any more let’s wait till Rarity comes by and splash her! Are you in?”

Pinkie stands facing straight ahead, looking at Dash with a dumb grin.

Dash coughs. “Pinkie? Come on, even you’ve got to admit that was awesome! Come on!”

The mare remains motionless, staring straight at Dash.

“So….” The rainbow mare seethes, “you’re so caught up in being friends with Twilight that you can’t even give me a compliment anymore? Is that it?!”

Pinkie doesn’t respond, looking straight ahead.

“Well? Answer me!”

The pink mare stands, not even acknowledging her friend’s presence.

“Fine,” Rainbow scoffs, “I was getting tired of your pranks too, Pinkie. I just hoped that you of all ponies would…… Forget it, it doesn’t matter. Let’s end this.” Generating all the speed that she can muster, Dash rushes directly at Pinkie with such suddenness she doesn’t have time to dodge. In a single instant the blow connects and the explosion of horrible power rips through the party pony’s body, shattering it into pieces. Both Twilight and a Dash look on in terror as the fragments of Pinkie’s body fly all over the field.

Dash is understandably horrified. “NOOOOO! Pinkie!” Looking down at her friend’s bloodless remains the mare begins to cry. “I’m… I didn’t mean to….” Flailing about, she picks up the pieces of her shattered friend. “I’m sorry, Pinkie! And don’t you worry, I’ll put you back together again. Those Stones grant wishes, right!? Don’t worry, I’ll gather all your wooden pieces and…” Rainbow stops in mid syllable, looking at the pink painted pieces of wood that she is gathering.

“You Hoo! Dashie! Look behind yoooou!”

Turning her head behind her Dash comes muzzle to muzzle with two things she would rather not see. One is a crazy pink mare her maniacal grin who is legitimately scaring her with her twisted smile. The second is a three hundred and fifty pound Party Cannon Mark 1.1.

Pinkie laughs at Dash’s apparent terror that she is staring down the barrel of the cannon. “Boy those wooden cut outs are sure realistic, now aren’t they, Dashie! It’s a shame you had to break it, but it did its duty admirably. Like getting a certain pony in just the right place for her surprise! I hope you like cotton threaded streamers cause you‘re getting one hundred of them per square inch.”

Dash stares in abject horror down the barrel of an armed Party Cannon, too shocked to even move. “Buc….”

Pinkie pulls the string, and in an instant Dash is hit with a thousand Newtons of force as several hundred streamers wrap around her like a cocoon. Ricocheting off the ground Dash takes in several deep gulps of air, struggling to breathe against the oppressive cloth bandages.

Satisfied with her work, Pinkie nods in appreciation at the prone Dash before bouncing over to Twilight. “Alright, smarty pants! Now’s your chance! Do your stuff!”

Twilight flinches as Pinkie puts her hoof on her shoulder. “Hunh? What do you mean? You’ve beaten Dash! Just what am I supposed to do?”

Pinkie giggles. “Twilight! I may have stopped Dash but now you need to make friends with her!” The pink mare taps her hoof over Twilight’s heart. “You need to show her that she’s just being silly by showing her what is really in here! And I think that you know exactly how to do that.”

Twilight looks from the struggling Rainbow Dash, who is flailing against her restraints, and back to her friend Pinkie. Suddenly a look of comprehension dawns across her face as she looks deep in Pinkie’s eyes. “Pinkie… You’re right! Dash isn’t a bad pony at heart and neither am I! I just have to show her that and everything will be all right.” Walking past Pinkie, the lavender mare trots cautiously to Dash, who is flailing against her restraints.

The rainbow mare snorts and stares at the unicorn as she approaches. “Well? Come to gloat? Or have you come to brainwash me like you have all my other friends?! Well I won’t give into your little tricks so easily! So come on, Do your worst! ‘Cause you’re not going to get me!”

“Dash… I’m not trying to hurt you… I just want to show you….”

Dash spits in her face, causing Twilight to flinch. “Liar! You’re against me! You’re all against me! You’ve turned everypony in this Celestia-forsaken town against me! Now let me out!”

“Dash….” Twilight points her hoof. “Your next line is going to be ‘let me go! I don’t need you guys! Leave me alone!’”

Struggling against the binding streamers Dash thrashes back and forth. “Let me go! I don’t need you guys! Leave me alone!” She suddenly stops thrashing. “What….. What am I…”

Twilight looks at the mare with sadness in her eyes. “Dash… Look at yourself…. You’ve become so wrapped up in your suspicion of me that you’ve pushed your best friends away! You stole something out of spite and you tried to hurt your friend Pinkie Pie! I may not know you very well, Rainbow Dash, but I do know that you never want to be alone.”

Twilight ignites her horn as she manifests her Stand inches in front of Rainbow Dash. “I have nothing to hide, Dash, and I’m about to prove it…” Lowering her horn to Rainbow’s head Twilight activates her Friends’ power, her eyes illuminating with a bright white light. Instantly, Twilight makes mental contact with Dash as their minds come together in a flash of color. Twilight’s mental-self fumbles about in a storm of thought and feeling, foreign ideas and images flashing into existence around her as she tries to retain her sanity. ‘Stop,’ the lavender mare thinks to herself. ‘STOP!’ Images swim before the eye of Twilight’s mind, racing and flowing through her very core.

‘STOOOOPPPP!!’ All of a sudden everything stops. The images come together and out of chaos comes order, forming into a single memory.

Twilight finds herself on a simple airstrip surrounded by clouds, the airstrip itself on a plateau hundreds of feet off the ground, as various pegasus ponies fly about through colored rings collecting yellow flags. The lavender mare shakes herself off as her mental avatar comes together. “This is the Wonderbolts training field… but why would Dash…?”

“So you’re going to do it!?” Twilight turns her head to see a very familiar filly in front of her. Her coat is light blue, her mane still prismatic, the filly bounces like a top around the legs of an older mare wearing a Wonderbolts uniform. “You’re really going to do it?”

“Well...” The older mare thinks while tapping her hoof to her chin. Her pink coat and blue mane fitting snugly within her Wonderbolts uniform. “Nopony was ever recorded to have done the Sonic Rainboom before. Even I might not be able to pull it off…”

“Aww but mom! You’re the best flier in Equestria!” The rainbow filly pouts. “And if you don’t pull it off, then all these ponies who came out to watch you try it would be really disappointed!” The filly gives her mother the most adorable and cute look a little filly can muster. Her eyes expand to the size of small dinner plates as her mother chuckles.

“Well, I suppose that I can’t disappoint my fans, now can I?” The Wonderbolt pats the filly, rustling her mane. “Especially my number one fan!”

The filly beams. “You mean….?”

The adult nods. “I’ll give it my all! But only on one condition, my little Dashie.” The mare puts her hoof on her daughter’s chest. “I’ll try my best, I won’t quit, only if you don’t. So when I’m out there today I want you to give me your biggest cheer!” The mare leans in close. “Is that a promise?”

The filly salutes with pride in her eyes. “Yes Ma’am! I won’t let you down!”

The mare tickles the filly’s belly. “That’s my little girl. Now go on back to your father and let your old mare warm up before her big show!”

The filly nods to her mother and rushes over towards her father, taking only a single look back before rushing up towards a rainbow-maned stallion with a darker blue coat.

“So?” the stallion asks the filly, “did you give your mother the encouragement that she needed?” The filly nods. “Good! ‘Cause that’s what she needs right now.”

The filly waves her hoof. “Psht! Mom doesn’t need encouragement; she’s the Blue Valkyrie of the Wonderbolts! She’ll pull of the Sonic Rainboom in ten seconds flat! You’ll see!”

The stallion nods at his filly, however his eyes locked staring at his wife betray his nervousness. “I hope so, Squirt….. Your mom is the best flier in Equestria, no doubt. But sometimes I wish that she would calm down with her routines and think about how dangerous they are. Sometimes I wonder why she has to pull off such dangerous tricks like this.”

The filly rubs her face against her father’s hoof. “That’s cause lots of ponies are depending on her, dad! She can’t afford to mess up!”

The father looks down at his daughter and smiles. “You’re right, Dashie. Your mother always was the kind of pony who others could depend on, and she’s always the first one to waltz into danger with a smile on her face. That’s what I love about her.” The stallion gently takes his daughter’s hoof. “Now come on, the show’s about to start. Let’s get to our seats.”

The bright sunny scene fades away instantly before Twilight’s eyes, the bright hues of the sky fading away into the chaos of the void. The purple mare flails around. “Wait! What was that? That was… Dash’s Father, and her Mother… was a Wonderbolt! And she was the Blue Valkyrie no less! No wonder she wants to be one so much,” the mare thinks aloud, “but what happened next? From what I could tell everything was fine…. Just what happened?”

Twilight turns away from the scene in front of her as if to quash her own curiosity. “You know what, forget it. This is obviously private so I should just find my way…”

Her peddling through empty space gives way as another scene forms around her. However, whereas the previous scene was bright and sunny, this one is as dark and gloomy as a funeral procession. The young filly from before stands at the entryway to a small ramshackle house, standing much taller and stronger after years of growth. Though obviously still a filly, she stands with the disposition and maturity of a mare many times her age. Upon her flank is a cutie mark of a cloud shooting a bolt of rainbow-colored lightning.

“…. I can’t believe it….” Twilight turns her head towards the side to see a stallion, his coat and mane the colors of Rainbow’s father. However, from his disheveled appearance and bloodshot eyes it is obvious this is not the stallion that she saw before. “I just can’t believe you would be that stupid!” the stallion slurs. “You raced with my boss’s son after he I explicitly told you to leave him alone, and you embarrassed him and his friend by cheating him in a race? What were you thinking! Do you want me to lose my job!?!”

“I didn’t cheat!” the rainbow mare yells at the stallion as she takes a step forward. “And for your information, it’s kind of hard to ignore a stallion that’s relentlessly bullying me and my friends!”

The stallion laughs as he picks up a bottle, taking a large draught from it before speaking again. “Friends? You mean that shy filly that won’t speak to anypony else? She can barely fly let alone make friends with a ruffian that would rather pick fights with the boss’s son.”

“That boss’s son was going to shave off her mane! What was I supposed to do, WATCH?!”

“…… At least she’s mature enough not to go leaping into trouble……” the stallion says as he takes another swig.

“I didn’t go looking for trouble! Trouble came looking for me!” The mare turns her flank to give her father a visible display of her cutie mark. “Besides, you were so caught up in yourself that you missed the most important part! I got my cutie mark! And I got it for being a speedster! Take a look!”

The stallion stops mid rant, putting his bottle on the cluttered coffee table before taking a step closer to his daughter. Squinting his eyes he takes a look at the cutie mark his daughter is presenting in front of his face, only to break out into cruel laughter. “Cutie mark for being a speedster my flank! Like any daughter of mine is going to waste their lives being a ‘daredevil’. HA!” The stallion walks over to the couch and slumps down, picking up his bottle again. “That cutie mark stands for weather control, just like mine. It’s nothing special…”

“It is so!” the mare yells, taking a step forward. “It stands for being a speedster just like mom’s. It stands for being daring and standing up for something! Unlike what you do! Sitting around drunk all day!”

The stallion growls, “Don’t you dare speak of your mother that way. She was five times the mare you would ever be……” as he once again turns to his drink. “You know, I’ve decided. This ‘flight camp’ is filling your head with all these ridiculous thoughts. I’ll work on switching you over to the weather factory training camp tomorrow.”

“No!” the filly yells, “I did get it for being a speedster! I got if for being fast just like mom! And I did it! I did it Dad! I pulled off the Sonic Rainboom! I did it just…” A thrown bottle hits the rainbow mare in the face, sending her falling to the ground. Blood drips from her muzzle as the stallion stands to his hooves, breathing heavily.

“LIAR!! Like you, the most clumsy flier in her class, could beat a pair so stallions two years older than her!” The stallion sneers. “And a Sonic Rainboom! That’s the biggest load that I’ve ever heard! You know that you fly like a ditz! Why do you insist on lying to yourself like this all the time; you’re not some ‘super athlete’ so why do you insist on believing these lies?”

“Because I can!” the filly cries, “I did do it! I did the Sonic…..”

“Bull,” the stallion repeats himself. “If your mother, the greatest flier in Equestrian history, couldn’t pull off something she spent her whole life preparing for, what makes you think a little deluded filly who is the clumsiest flier I’ve ever seen could ever pull it off?”

The filly gives the stallion a glare of righteous anger that immediately cuts him off; the look in her eyes not one of hatred but a look of pure determination and resolve. “Because I’m my mother’s daughter. That’s why.”

The stallion stops his rant immediately at this, his mouth hanging open as if struggling with what to say. Finally the stallion grunts and lounges back on the couch, reaching for another round of his ambrosia. “Fine….. You want to fail? You want to be some ‘hero’? You want to believe that you’re any good? Fine, be my guest! I won’t stop you!” The stallion drinks deep of his liquid as his voice turns deadly cold. “Just walk out that door.”

The little filly turns towards the door, her eyes suddenly widening as she pictures life outside; and suddenly Rainbow Dash is not so brave. “Out… Outside?”

The stallion grins. “I won’t stop you from chasing a pipe dream, SQUIRT! But if you want to chase it you’ll have do so alone.” The stallion takes another drink. “That means no money for flight school, no roof over your head, no dinner at night, nothing. You’ll get nothing and you’ll get nowhere without me to provide for you. I may be a drunk but I make more money in one day of supervising the weather patrol than a talentless filly like you could in a month.”

The filly rises to her hooves, turning her head towards her father. ”……. You would really do that…. You would really do that… to me?”

The stallion takes a look at his drink. “I already lost my wife…… I lost her because she was stupid and impulsive, just like how you are acting. As far as I’m concerned, if you are so dead set on living this delusion that you’re some kind of ‘speedster’,” The stallion laughs darkly as he takes another swig of his drink. “Then you’re just as dead to me.”

The filly takes a looks at the stallion behind her, then she takes a look at the door, and all of a sudden her mind is made up. “Then I guess that I’m dead to you.”

The mare walks over to the door, no longer a scared little filly, and opens it looking into the dark night outside. Turning her head to look at the stallion behind her, Dash hopes beyond hope that he has changed his mind, that he was bluffing all along. Yet the mare is heartbroken to see that the stallion isn’t even looking at her anymore. “Good bye…. Spectrum.” The mare walks out and slams the door, causing the entire world to shatter around Twilight.

Suddenly she falls backwards on her flank, landing on the green grass beneath her. Looking before her, she sees the rainbow mare in front of her, crying tears of pain. Realizing that she has returned to the real world Twilight gets back up on her hooves. “Dash…. Dash are you okay? I’m sorry for peeking in your mind, I’m sorry, it just happened and…..”

“… How dare you….” Dash mutters to herself. “HOW DARE YOU DO THIS TO ME!” she yells at the top of her lungs. In her anger she tears through the ribbons holding her to the ground, ripping them to pieces with her overwhelming rage at her memories being defiled. In an instant the rainbow mare is on top of Twilight, her fists raised to attack as the crying librarian lies beneath her. “…… A dirty loser Like YOU!” Twilight is unable to close her eyes as the terror overtakes her, Dash’s hoof moving in slow motion as she prepares to strike a lethal blow against the prone mare.

“RAINBOW DARING DASH, YOU STOP THIS INSTANT!” Just as the blow is about to fall upon Twilight’s brow, it stops dead in its tracks. Twilight turns her head to see the angered face of Fluttershy, staring Dash down with a look that could burn wood, with a panting and out-of-breath Rarity beside her. “How dare you… HOW DARE YOU!”

The rainbow mare backs up off of Twilight as Fluttershy advances. “NOW LISTEN HERE MISS! JUST BECAUSE YOU’RE UPSET THAT WE’RE NOT SPENDING TIME WITH YOU DOESN'T MEAN THAT YOU GET TO BE A BULLY!”

Rainbow Dash, the most athletic pony in Ponyville, trips over her own hooves falling, flat on her flank. “YOU MAY BE STRONGER THAN ME! FASTER THAN ME! AND OVERALL BRAVER THAN ME! BUT YOU DO NOT! I REPEAT!”

Once again Dash backpedals trying in vain to put as much distance between herself and the yelling yellow pegasus. “YOU DO NOT HURT MY FRIENDS!”

Rainbow Dash now stares into the depths of Fluttershy’s eyes, looking for some hint of mercy, only to find an empty and merciless void of endless darkness. “You got that? WELL?!”

Rainbow Dash sputters on the ground, trying to come up with a vain justification for her actions. “But…. But Twilight and brainwashing… and all you guys….”

“And I am very sorry that you felt left out,” Fluttershy apologies. “But I think that Twilight is right.” Waving her hoof around her, she draws Rainbow’s eyes to the devastation around her, caused by her and Pinkie’s fight. “You’re stronger than she is, but surely you can see that all this is doing is hurting the ponies that care about you! You’re hurting me and Pinkie and even Applejack with this. We’re not trying to exclude you from anything, and we don’t think any less of you.”

Fluttershy shakes her head. “And I certainly know that it was wrong to keep secrets from you like that. But can you see just exactly what you have done by not talking about it?”

Dash looks around her to see the faces of her friends, Fluttershy, Pinkie and... and even Twilight Sparkle. Yes, even her; Dash realized that, while in her mind, Twilight never had any intention of separating her from her friends. ‘It was me…’ Dash thinks to herself, ‘it was me all along…’

“Well, Dash?” Fluttershy asks, “what do you think?”

And with those few words, the dammed-up emotions come crashing down. All her fear of abandonment, all her hatred of Twilight, all her disappointment in herself, all the bitterness she has been bottling up inside of her ever since her mother passed away comes pouring out. In the blink of an eye, Fluttershy finds herself grasped in the tightest, most desperate hug Rainbow Dash can muster as she bawls like a baby into her coat. Dash cries into her best friend’s arms, sobbing as the weight of what she has done comes crashing down on her head; the guilt at her actions and the ways in which she had hurt her friends becoming as crystal-clear to the mare as the sky above.

Abandoning her selfish pride, Dash begins to cry out in nonsensical syllables how sorry she is, how much of an idiot she was, and most importantly how much her friends really mean to her.

She does this as she comes to grips with her own worst enemy; not Twilight and her ‘scheming’, but her own fears of being abandoned by the ponies she cares so much about.

And with that, Rainbow Dash continues to cry as she finds herself surrounded and embraced by friends both new and old.

…………………Later in the Golden Oaks Library…………………

“….. Well,” Fluttershy says to the group sitting around the table, consisting of her, Rarity, Pinkie Pie, Rainbow Dash, and Twilight Sparkle. By now Dash has visibly calmed down, her cool demeanor and posture having returned; however, her face is still creased with a look of shame that is mirrored by Twilight. “Now that we’ve all calmed down, is there anything that we have to say?”

Rainbow Dash turns her head towards the lavender mare. “Sorry for destroying your library and attacking you, Twilight. It was very wrong of me to let my suspicions get the better of me and for that I am really sorry.”

“And I’m sorry too,” Twilight says, “for insulting you behind your back while keeping secrets from you. And I am very sorry that I looked into your mind like that; I know that what I saw was…. private.”

Dash waves her hoof. “That’s okay, Twilight. I know that you don’t have the best control over your Stand yet.”

Twilight suddenly grows serious. “Dash….. How did you know that? About my Stand and….”

Rainbow Dash taps her head. “Mental link, remember? While you were digging around in my head I was taking a look in yours. I know all about Stands and the Strange Stones; that’s why I knew you weren’t a bad pony and it’s how I know that you won’t tell anypony what you saw.”

Rainbow Dash grins like a devil. “Besides, I had the opportunity to look into your mind as well! And I just so happened to take a look at something really private of yours!” Rainbow Dash gets back up in Twilight’s face. “So if you ever think of telling anypony what you saw, then the next morning everypony in town will know who your first crush was!”

Twilight gulps in fear as she remembers something she had rather forgotten. The chocolates, the awkward blushing, and all those hoof written cards. Twilight fearfully crosses her heart with a Pinkie Promise. “You have my word, Dash, nopony will ever know what I saw in your mind.”

Dash stares into her eyes for a moment as if judging her truthfulness, before nodding in confirmation. “Good. Now, next order of business: I want in!”

“Dash….” Twilight puts her hoof on her shoulder.

“Look you guys, I know that what I did was lousy and hurtful to all of you, but just hear me out!” Dash takes a deep breath in and lets it out. “I guess, I guess that I was just so convinced you were up to something, that you were trying to steal what friends I had, and turn them against me, that I sort of lost my better judgment. That was seriously uncool of me.” Dash looks up. “That’s why I have to help out; I have to make up for……”

Twilight places her hoof over Dash’s mouth, cutting off the weather pony. “Dash… I was going to say ‘welcome aboard.’”

As the lavender mare takes her hoof off of her lips, Rainbow Dash’s surprise is evident. “A what?! But I attacked Pinkie! I tried to attack you!”

Pinkie laughs at this. “Silly Dashie! We’ve already all forgiven you. Besides, that was a pretty fun scrap we got into and nobody got really hurt so it’s all okie dokie lokie! And even if it wasn’t okie, dokie or lokie I would still really really REALLY like you anyways!”

Rarity walks up, placing her hoof on Dash’s shoulder. “We’ve all forgiven you, darling. I must admit that, though I wasn't there for most of it, it seems to me that you did what you did because you thought your friends were in danger, and I can understand why you would seek to protect them like that.”

Fluttershy moves up, placing her hoof on Dash. “It’s all right, Dashie. I know that getting a strange power can be really upsetting and you can easily be tempted to abuse it. But the Dash that I know would never fight somepony unless she thought she was protecting her friends. That’s just the kind of pony you are.”

They all pull the blue speedster into a tight hug, letting her know that all her crimes and suspicions are undoubtably forgiven. And it is this wonderful, heartfelt moment that is ruined by Twilight’s mind catching up to what her pegasus friend just said. “Wait a minute!” the lavender mare explodes. Suddenly all of the ponies in the room are looking at her. “Fluttershy! You used some kind of power to stop Dash. How did you do that?”

Fluttershy immediately backs away. “Oh… well…. Ummm you see…”

Now Dash is curious. “Yeah, Fluttershy. I’ve never seen you do that before. I mean, it was scary as Tartarus and all when you caught me in that stare of yours, but mare was that cool! How did you do it? Did you learn it before or after flight camp? ‘Cause if you did, why didn’t you use it before when you were bullied? I mean, I didn’t mind standing up for you and all…”

The butter-yellow mare’s rear hits the wall as she tries to think her way out of her present situation. “Um… well… that was….. Um. Nothing special! Yes, that’s right, I mean it was just a very important lecture from a friend that stopped Dash! It certainly wasn’t anything that I did! That is…. Um…”

Twilight looks at Fluttershy with an ‘are you kidding me’ expression that lets her know that she is not so easily fooled. Suddenly, the lavender mare manifests her Stand, throwing a fast punch inches from the yellow mare’s face.

“EEEPPPPP!” Fluttershy falls to her hooves in terror.

“Well would you look at that. Fluttershy can see my Stand.” Twilight smiles as she looks at the cowering yellow pegasus. “That must mean she has a Stand power. Could you imagine that?”

Fluttershy, realizing that the jig is up, slowly pulls herself off the floor as her friend Rarity walks to her side. “Fluttershy darling, is that true?” the fashionista asks.

Shyly, the yellow pegasus nods. “Um… I didn’t want to scare any of you….. but yes. I kind of got it when we found that first Miracle St..…”

“Strange Stone!” Twilight barks out.

“…. Strange Stone and I kept it secret so that I wouldn’t frighten any of you.”

Rarity nearly swoons. “But daaaarrrrrrlllliiinnnggggg? Why in Equestria would you want to hide such a fabulous and magnificent ability from us? Why would you think that we would be scared of your Stand power?”

“Well….” The Fluttershy shuffles her hooves. “When I first found out that I had this power I… kind of used it to….. threaten Carrot Top…..”

“What?!” the group shouts.

“It was an accident!” Fluttershy blurts out as she begins to panic. “I just wanted her to share some of her carrots with the hungry rabbits but she was so rude telling them to take a hike like that. So I tried to tell her nicely that sharing was important and she emptied her entire cart to them and the bunnies swarmed her and she lost her entire day’s produce and…… and the screams…. Oh the horrible horrible….” Fluttershy looks around to see the gaping mouths of the group. “Well, um…….. she recovered, but I just didn’t want to scare you like that. Besides, making ponies do something that they don’t want to is….. Mean……”

Walking up to the timid mare, Twilight puts her hoof around her shoulder, pulling her into a comforting hug. “Well I understand that you aren’t entirely comfortable with your Stand, and if you don’t want to use it I won’t force you to. It’s your power, and you are the one that decides how and when to use it.”

Fluttershy perks up at this. “Wait… you’re…. you’re not going to force me to do something that I’m uncomfortable with? But my power….. I mean it can do so much! You all would really be fine…. If I didn’t want to use it?”

“Yeah!” Dash blurts out. “You don’t have to do all the heavy lifting when you have an awesome pony like me to pick up the slack! Between me and Applejack we could find all these ‘Stone’ thingies in less than ten seconds flat!”

Fluttershy looks very comforted by these words. “You guys… thank you….. I just don’t know what to say.” The mare straightens up. “No, I do know what to say! I want to help you to! And if you really need me to, I’ll fight too..….” Suddenly the mare’s confidence and enthusiasm die completely. “That is, within reasonable limits….” Fluttershy shuffles her hooves. “That is to say, if you don’t mind……” Finally, Fluttershy begins to blush and mumble. “That is to say….. Um…… never mind……”

Reaching a sudden realization, Dash looks around the room as if searching for something. “Hey? I don’t mean to spoil the moment like this, I mean you are all my friends….” the rainbow mare states as she looks around, “but where‘s Applejack? What, was she too busy to help out or what? I don‘t mean to say we’re joined at the hip or something but I would expect my greatest rival to show up and stop me when I went on a rampage. Where the hay is she?”

Rarity looks around. “Not to be so brash, darlings, but I mirror Dash’s sentiments. Where is Applejack? I would expect that she would be the first to help in a situation like this.”

Twilight puts her hoof on her chin, remembering just when she saw Applejack last. Suddenly interrupting her train of thought, the door bursts open, a familiar orange mare in the doorway. “Ah’m right here, yawl!” The group turns to see nopony else but Applejack, beaming like the winner of the ‘Best Apple Products in Equestria’ award.

“Applejack!” Rainbow Dash shouts, “‘bout time you decided to show up! What kept you?”

Applejack tips her hat. “Sorry, yawl, Ah had other business to attend ta. But enough a that. Ah have great news!” Walking towards the table, she stares Twilight in the eyes with a smug grin. “Heh, Twi, yawl said Ah was crazy. Yawl said ‘magic stones granting wishes were illogical’. Well let’s see yer evidence refute this!” Turning towards the door, the orange mare let out a loud holler, “Applebloom, come in here an meet mah friends!”

Entering the doorway is a small filly whose very presence dumbfounds the ever-punctual and always-factual Twilight Sparkle. A normal earth pony filly of around ten to thirteen years of age, possessing a yellow coat slightly darker than Fluttershy’s and a blazing red head of mane, is none other than the youngest of the apple Family, Applebloom. Sporting a smart pink ribbon that contrasts with her bright red mane is the filly that Twilight had to resort to putting in a coma in order to save her life. The same filly that for all logical reasons should still be in said coma. Twilight’s eyes widen as she recalls Applebloom’s supposed condition and how it so blatantly contrasts with the fact she is walking across the floor towards the table. Twilight’s mouth gapes as she tries to process what she is seeing. “….. Do you know what this calls for, everypony?”

Pinkie jumps up out of nowhere, throwing up a cloud of confetti. “An ‘I‘m glad that you’re not in a coma anymore’ party?”

“No. But definitely later,” Twilight comforts the disappointed Pinkie. “No, this degree of chaos and disorganization calls for something only I can deliver.”

Everypony leans in as Twilight take in a deep breath. “This, my friends, calls for a Group Meeting.”

Chapter 11-Sprout-Take 1

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Sprout-Take 1:


“Heh, magic wishes…… Just how dumb am I?” Standing before a hospital bed, her coat drenched in sweat, stands the farm mare Applejack. Having run the entire distance from Golden Oaks Library to Ponyville Central Hospital - a seven mile distance - in under twenty two minutes the mare is significantly winded. However, upon seeing her sister Applebloom still lying in her bed as cold as death Applejack’s breath stops in her throat, her hopes dashed to pieces as she watches her sister’s chest shallowly rise and fall.

“I told you, MISS Applejack!” A grey-coated, black-maned unicorn stallion walks up, arrogantly scolding the mare “But no, you refused to believe the words of a professionally-accredited doctor. Now as you can plainly see, your sister is still in a coma.” The doctor says sporting a smug grin. “Now do you have any other ridiculous accusations of magic wishing stones? Or can I get back to my job?”

The orange mare looks down at her sister and sighs deeply. “No…. No doc. I just…. I just want to visit her now, if that’s all right.”

“Are you kidding me?” the doctor exclaims, “You disrupted the entire hospital with your deluded antics, pulled me away from some very important paperwork, and you just showed up here this morning! Why on this good Equestria would I…”

For the first time since he encountered the supposedly ignorant and impudent farmer, the doctor stops and looks at the mare herself: her slumped, defeated posture; her disappointed frown and eyes that radiate sorrow; and suddenly he realizes depth of sorrow this common farmer is going through. He sighs in defeat. “Fine, you can have extra visiting time despite the fact you showed up this morning! But ten minutes only, then the nurses have to care for her.”

Applejack weakly nods as the doctor turns and opens the door out, looking at her one last time before closing the door behind him. Applejack, seeing that she is finally alone, takes off her hat and stares at her unconscious sister, the lights from the fading sun outside reflecting off Applebloom’s coat. “Hey Bloom. How are you doing?” she asks.

“The farm’s doing fine, case you were wondering. Big Mac has been handling a lot of the new hire-ons, an with the money Ah’m making with this new job with Twilight we’ve got quite a bit saved up till harvest time. May even have room to expand….”

The orange mare fiddles with her hat. “Granny took it the hardest, you being here. She pretends to be tough as nails but Ah can tell how she’s really doin. An Twi, bless her heart, she’s never met ya but she provides the best care and expenses fer ya for nothin. You …. You ‘d like her, Bloom.”

A lone tear falls down Applejack’s face, landing on her sister’s sheets. “She’s snobby and opinionated most of the time but she is a good pony who will do all she can to help out others. An she’s always got a plan, even when things look their worst. But most importantly she never gives up, just like you Bloom; she puts her all into everything she does even when… Even when…..” A teardrop falls on Applebloom’s face, making it appear as though Applebloom is crying along with her big sister.

Now the orange mare can no longer hold back her tears. “Ah…. Ah miss ya, Bloom. There’s no point dancin’ round it. Ah’m not upset yer chores aren’t done” Applejack sniffles “Ah’m not upset that ya tried to play it tough when ya first got sick, heck I ain’t even upset about ya whining fer yer cutie mark.” The mare cries over her prone sister, knowing her words can never reach her. “So please. Please come home.”

Applejack lays her head on the bed spread, letting her tears soak into the sheets, not caring who is looking. And there she cries, not a loud sobbing but a gentle stream of tears that slowly lets out the deep seated sorrow that has been building up in her soul. She had hoped, she had prayed, but in the end it had meant nothing at all. Life was really too cruel. So caught up in her tears and sorrows, the farm mare almost misses the soft sound of rustling sheets and a gentle voice.

“A-Applejack…..?”

Applejack’s ears immediately perk up at the sound of a familiar, long-lost voice. The voice speaks again.

“…..Sis….. Is that you…..?”

Applejack’s head snaps up with such force it rustles the bedspread with the air currents alone. There, looking her dead in the eyes, are the small inquisitive pupils of her sister, her head craned towards her, eyes wide open and awake. Applejack stares, unable to even speak as her little sister blinks back at her.

“Applejack….. Are ya really not upset fer skippin out on mah chores?”

“APPLEBLOOM!!” The orange mare surges forward with tears in her eyes as she embraces her waking sister for the first time in weeks. She holds her sister in a fiercely-loving hug as the surprised filly slowly wraps her arms around her in return; and no matter what troubles and calamities the future may hold for those two, for that moment, for that single moment everything is right in the world.

“Humph, will you look at that,” the doctor mutters to himself as he looks in on the two sisters, hugging and greeting each other with open arms and hearts filled with joy. Unwilling to join them, the harsh stallion is content to watch on through the glass window above the doorway as Applebloom and Applejack embrace tearfully.

“In all my years I’ve never seen a patient wake up from a coma that deep, it’s a scientific improbability.” Though the doctor wants more than anything to rush in and apply cold hard science to the filly’s miraculous recovery, not even he can bring himself to tear apart the two sisters for even a second.

“Dr. Flesh who are you kidding,” The doctor chastises himself. “You’ve spent your entire life studying more improbable happenings in the RSD. You just can’t stand to accept that such a miracle could occur without it being documented and recorded.”

“Perhaps… perhaps there is more to this line of work than science and research,” the doctor remarks half-heartedly to himself as he ceases looking in on the two sisters, walking down the hall with a new spring in his step. “I may hate to admit it but, behind all the glamor, being a doctor is really about reuniting ponies like these two.”

However, the doctor’s new perspective on life is suddenly cut off as a deep fit of exhaustion begins to overcome his previous excitement. “Goodness, what’s gotten into you, doctor? S-So tired all…. of a….. sudden?” To his great surprise, the doctor’s steps become more and more heavy by the second. His breath grows shallow as his senses begin to shut down without reason or cause, one after the other.

“Wh-What’s going on?” the doctor asks himself as he props himself in a nearby chair. “I-I feel so…. tired……” Dr. Healthy Flesh remarks to himself, his incredible intelligence no longer able to function under the debilitating onslaught of exhaustion that overtakes his every thought.

“I…. guess a little nap….. wouldn’t……” And with that the good doctor, completely overwhelmed by an unexplainable exhaustion, falls into a deep and troubled sleep; his very presence ignored by the two happy sisters walking hoof-in-hoof out of the hospital, happy as can be.

…………….

“…. An that’s what happened more er less, Twi.” Applejack finishes her story for everypony at the table as she looks back at her sister. “Ah’m just glad that things worked out the way that they did! Ah don’t like to admit it, but Ah was really scared fer ya, Applebloom.”

The filly looks up at her sister with utter appreciation in her eyes as she rubs her head. “Ah just can’t believe Ah was out fer two an a half weeks! It feels like just yesterday Ah was bucking apples…”

“AHEM!” The orange mare taps her hoof impatiently.

“… All right helping to buck apples and the next thing Ah know Ah’m sitting in bed starin up at Applejack! It’s like magic!”

Applejack wraps her hooves around her sister, crushing her with a hug. “An it was magic! The best kind of magic: the one that makes wishes come true!” Dropping her sister like a sack of potatoes, the orange farmer points accusingly at Twilight Sparkle. “SEE?! An you doubted me when Ah said that Ah heard voices from the Stone! It’s just like Lyra said: the Stones Grant wishes, and Bloom here is proof!”

Twilight looks at the little filly, rubbing her hoof to her chin. “Wellllll…… it is true that Applebloom recovered quite coincidently, and your claim isn’t entirely without merit.”

Twilight sits steadfast and closes her eyes as if reciting an element of her moral code. “Nevertheless, a theory is still a theory, and evidence that these Stones really can grant wishes is shaky at best. However I will admit that there is evidence that could be attributed towards wish-granting.”

Applejack rolls her eyes. “ Give me a break…… Twi, yer as paranoid as a squirrel protectin its nuts in an early winter.”

Dash jumps to her hooves. “Yeah! What Applejack said! Except less country. Why can’t you just accept that the Stones are magic? I mean, you use magic all the time!”

Twilight glares at the pegasus. “Because I’m a scientist! That’s why! Now I’m sure we are all very glad that Applebloom has recovered, but we have other matters to attend to in this meeting. So if Applejack is done with her story I’d like to move on.”

The entire table looks towards Applejack for a sign, who after a few seconds tips her hat signaling that she is fine with Twilight moving on. “Thank you, Applejack.” Twilight says. “Well then, with Applejack’s story told and everyone finally on the same page I call the first ever meeting of the Stardust Crusaders into order!”

“Wait hold on there, Twilight…” Dash rises up to her hind hooves placing her forehooves on the table. “‘Stardust Crusaders’? What the heck?”

Twilight tilts her head. “What? I thought that it was clever! We’re crusading for pieces of magical stones that fell from the sky like stardust; so: Stardust Crusaders. Given that the night this all started was called the Night of Shooting Stars I thought it was a perfect name for our team!”

Applejack and Rarity look at each other with concerned faces. “Um, darling, I don’t mean to insult your creativity but that name, oh how do I put it…..”

“….. It’s as horrible as cider made from rotten apples.” Applejack finishes.

“What?!” the lavender mare shouts, “it is not horrible! It’s creative and original! Back me up, Fluttershy!”

Fluttershy immediately flinches at Twilight’s requests as she begins to sweat profusely. “Um….. I don’t mean to…. ummm….. be offensive or anything….. but that name does seem really plain and generic…… I mean what if somepony is already using it? We could be sued! And I don’t want to go to jail!”

Pinkie smiles. “I like ‘The Mane Six’ cause there’s six of us and we all have manes and we’re main characters!”

“I’M NOT CHANGING THE NAME!” Twilight shouts, “I’m the government employee and I’m footing the bill so I get to decide what we call ourselves.”

Giving her friends a look that lets them know that this discussion is over, Twilight clears her throat and resumes, “Now, on to the main topic of tonight’s discussion….” With a deft moment of her hooves the unicorn picks up a box filled with the Strange Stone fragments and places them on the table proper. “What do these Strange Stones really do? Thoughts?”

The entire table face hoofs as everypony, save Twilight, realises that their entire conversation is going in circles. Everypony except for Pinkie that is. “Oh! Oh! I know, pick me!”

Twilight points to the Pink mare. “Yes, Pinkie?”

Pinkie lowers her hoof and excitedly exclaims, “They grant wishes!”

Now it is Twilight who is facehoofing. “No, Pinkie, I just got through explaining that’s illogical and it’s only a loose theory. We need a real, scientific hypothesis, not mystical mumbo jumbo!”

Pinkie puts her hoof to her chin and thinks as hard as her mind will allow before speaking up. “Okay I got it! Not only do they grant wishes, but they also talk to ponies as well! Is that a good hypothesis?”

Twilight double face hoofs. “NO! When will you ponies get it? Granting wishes is illogical and unscientific!” The lavender mare declares. “There’s a rational reason for all of this and if we can pull ourselves out of superstitious behavior we can figure out what it is! Now any real contributions?”

Applebloom tensely raises her hoof, causing Twilight to point to her. “Yes Applebloom? You have something to say?”

The filly lowers her hoof. “Are you always this crazy or is it just today? Cause this is mah first time meetin ya and Ah don’t want to jump to conclusions.”

“Well, Applebloom, that’s a very good question… you see…… WHAT?!” Twilight slams her hooves on the table, fuming at the filly’s accusations. “What kind of question is that?”

“Applebloom!” Applejack snaps at her sister “That was a very rude question to ask! But to answer yer question, yes she’s always this crazy.”

“ENOUGH!” the unicorn yells, “I’m sick and tired of all this…. this…. NONSENSE! I know that all of you are set on the idea that wish-granting magic exists but I am……”

“Oh lighten up, darling!” Rarity says as she is filing her hoof. “I know that you are upset that your theories aren’t going anywhere, but please.”

Throwing her hoof file off to the side Rarity clears her throat, preparing to take up the role of the voice of reason. “Dash just let her own inability to see the error of her ways backfire on her and I for one am not eager for a repeat.”

Twilight is about to yell at her ivory friend when she realizes the reason behind Rarity’s words. Taking several deep breaths, she calms down before addressing Rarity again. “Thank you, Rarity. You’re absolutely right; getting frustrated won’t solve anything now. Thank you.”

“It's quite all right, darling,” Rarity replies, nodding. “I’m glad you were able to see how crazy you were acting……”

“I’m not CRAZY!” the lavender mare shouts, slamming her hooves into the table as her horn glows menacingly. Yet Twilight quickly realizes all her friends are moving away from her, scared stiff by her outburst. Calming herself, Twilight clears her throat as she blushes profusely. “Sorry…… Again.”

“Like I said, quite all right, darling; what are friends for?” Rarity looks towards the center of the table at the box of Strange Stones. “To be honest, it feels nice to be good for something around here, for once.”

“Hunh?” Fluttershy asks, “what do you mean, Rarity? You’re a great help! Your gem-finding spell has helped us find so many of the Red Stones in town. We never could have found them without you!”

Rarity turns to Fluttershy, a look of sadness in her eyes. “Yes, I suppose that you are right, Fluttershy. I know that I have already been an immense help to you all. It’s just that..…” The ivory mare hesitates. “It’s just that I hate being helpless in a pinch. As a matter of fact, the main reason that I joined this little group was to keep Applejack and later all of you out of harm’s way.”

The fashionista looks down at her hooves. “Yet when Lyra attacked us I was completely powerless, I could only sit on the sidelines and signal for help. I mean it was Fluttershy of all ponies who was able to stop Rainbow Dash, no offense, darling?”

Fluttershy shakes her head graciously. ‘”That’s fine, Rarity. I never expected to be able to stop Rainbow like that; it just happened. And besides, you’re the one that taught me that we can do what we are able and let our friends to do the rest.”

“I know, darling…. I know. But is there a problem with wanting to do more?” the ivory mare asks. “Now you all have such fantastically flashy powers and I feel so….. So powerless in the face of adversity. I know I am always putting my everything into everything I do. But to be unable to do anything……”

Rarity’s eyes fill with tearless sorrow, her face twisting into a visage of one haunted by ghosts of the past. “To watch helplessly as ponies precious to you die; that is something unbearable to me……”

Applejack looks at her friend, concern etched on her face. “Rares… Ah had no idea that ya felt that way…”

Seeing her friend’s concern, Rarity instantly brushes her sadness away. “Oh don’t worry about me, Applejack. It’s just my silly feelings getting in the way again. It’s just that I wish….” The fashionista closes her eyes. “I just wish that I had the power to help you all better, that’s all….”

Responding to the mare’s sudden profession of her desires and much to the shock of everypony at the table, the Stones ignite once again in a flash of light that fills the room, causing all the ponies in the group to cover their sensitive eyes to prevent blinding. Twilight particularly flails about as she tries to make sense of the situation. “What’s going on? This had better not be another light show!” However, the purple mare’s scientific inquiry is cut off by a gentle voice that resonates through the library.

‘You seek to better express your desires to aid others and bestow upon them a gift of your creativity.’

‘There’s… there’s that voice again!’ Applejack thinks to herself ‘That’s the same voice that came out of nowhere; Ah knew it came from the Stones!’

‘You seek power, not for your own sake, but that you might aid others and in doing so atone for your own mistake.’

‘A mistake?’ the orange mare thinks. ‘Rarity made a mistake? What could it be?’

‘A mistake that drives you to be generous. You, Rarity, are worthy. Now find your inspiration and create.’

The light bursts again, leaving the room exactly as it was before as the mares right themselves. Rarity in particular seems to have trouble standing on her own four hooves. “Ugh… darlings, this bright light is simply not good for my skin, or my eyes. Twilight, dear, do those dreadful Stones always flash that bright? Because if so I think that I’ll need a pair of sunglasses!”

A pair of sunglasses forms around Rarity’s eyes shielding her from the light of the room. “Thank you, Pinkie; a bit too late, but it’s the thought that counts.”

Pinkie sits on the other side of the table, pointing her hoof at Rarity’s’ glasses. “Ummm, Rarity? I’m over here.”

Rarity looks to see that the pink mare is indeed on the other side of the table. “Oh, then I suppose it was you that provided me with these stylish silver glasses, Fluttershy?”

Fluttershy nervously shuffles in her seat as she stares at Rarity. “Um. No it wasn’t me, Rarity.”

“Oh?” Now the ivory mare is truly stumped. “Well, if you didn’t give them to me then where did they come from, Fluttershy?”

Applejack stares, mouth agape at the ivory mare. “Rarity….. Ah think that you made them…”

Rarity scoffs at this. “Oh, Applejack, hush now. You know that I am a fabulous designer of fashion but forming something out of thin air, like a new umbrella is simply….” Rarity picks the glasses off her face with the gentle glow of her telekinesis, causing it to take the form of a smart silver umbrella.

Rarity stares at the silver object; then closing her eyes intently, the silver umbrella then changes shape into a beautiful silver dress. Blinking again, Rarity wills the dress to change form into a solid silver sphere about seven hoof lengths across, each molecule of the quicksilver ball moving and flowing like water at its user’s slightest will.

Twilight stares in shock as Rarity forms the liquid metal Stand into various shapes with her glowing horn. The Stand itself seems to flow like water as Rarity molds the shimmering metal, completely absorbed in her newfound powers. “My goodness gracious….”

Twilight’s imminent burst of obscenities is cut off by Rainbow Dash’s perfect timing. “Oh come on!” Dash yells, “Now Rarity gets a Stand? Now it works? Why didn’t the Stone grant my wish to have a mountain of bits or be captain of the Wonderbolts?”

Rarity fiddles with her amorphous Stand like a foal with a new toy, constantly forming it into new shapes or levitating it in the air with her telekinesis while moving it around.

Applejack gives her friend a bemused look. “Dash, Ah don’t think that that’s a good wish. From mah experience the Stones seem to only grant the real important-like wishes.”

Dash slams her hooves on the table. “But me being the fastest most Awesome Wonderbolt in Equestria is real important!”

Applejack rolls her eyes. “Whatever, Dash…” Dash grumbles as the orange farmer turns to face her ivory friend. “More importantly……” Applejack watches as Rarity shapes her Stand into the form of a glimmering sword.

“Rarity has one of them there stand powers!” Applejack stares intently as Rarity moves the liquid shape with her mind alone. “Rarity, Do you know what this means?!”

Rarity looks at Applejack, her lack of attention causing the liquid to pool and fall to the floor before evaporating into thin air. “It means that I can design my dresses at twice the normal rate at which I normally craft them?” she asks excitedly.

Applejack looks at Rarity as if she just grew a third head. “Uhhhhh yeah that, but more importantly……” The orange farmer trots up to Twilight, dropping to her plot only a hoof-length away from her and staring at her unnervingly.

“Ummm, Applejack, what’s with the staring?” Twilight asks, unnerved by Applejack's behavior.

The orange farmer begins to smile like a mare that has cheated death itself, all the while staring at Twilight. “Why are you smiling like….. Oh no.”

The farmer licks her lips slowly wetting her mouth. “Don’t do it, Applejack!”

The mare coughs as if to pave the way for saying something important. “I know the disintegration spell, Applejack, and I’m not afraid to use it!”

Applejack slowly opens her mouth. “Applejack, I swear to Celestia! If you even think of saying it, IF YOU EVEN THINK of saying those words there will be DIRE consequences!”

Slowly…. ever so slowly the orange mare opens her mouth, and says the most painful and embarrassing words a pony who is wrong can possibly hear. “Ah told you so.”

Twilight freezes up like a statue, Applejack’s words echoing through the corridors of her mind, each time chipping away a little bit of her sanity. Suddenly the mare can take it no more and fires a light blue beam of magic at the filly Applebloom.

Her sister gasps in terror. “TWILIGHT! Ah know that was kind of tasteless but how dare ya take it out on mah sister like that!” Turning to her sister, Applejack begins to coddle her in her hooves. “Applebloom, are yawl all right?”

The filly raises her hoof to her ears with a quizzical look. “WHAT?”

Applejack raises her voice. “Ah said, ARE YAWL ALL RIGHT?”

“WHAT?”

“She can’t hear you, Applejack, my deafening spell has made sure of that.” Twilight says as she takes in very deep breaths. “Don’t worry, I can easily dispel it later.”

“Deafening? Why would yawl deafen mah sister ta punish me?”

“Applejack, I didn’t deafen your sister to punish you,” Twilight says “I did it so that she wouldn’t hear this.”

Suddenly, with the force and intensity of the royal canterlot voice, Twilight begins to cuss with such depth and creativity that it makes Applejack very glad her sister can’t hear anything. In great detail, and using almost every curse word known in the equestrian language (‘101 words not fit to be said’), the lavender mare begins to curse the laws of physics, probability and the utter defeat of the scientific process. But more than anything she curses the universe itself that seems to be conspiring to make a deliberate fool out of her. The mare continues and continues to curse as her friends look on with mixes of horror, admiration, laughter and bashfulness simultaneously, until she finally runs out of steam and falls to the table in exhaustion.

Her rant concluded, Twilight dispels the spell she cast on little Applebloom. “All right, Applebloom,” the lavender mare sighs, “you should be able to hear now…..”

“WHAT?” the filly asks.

Twilight sighs as her head hits the table, all her friends watching her and respectively trying to recover from her barrage of profanity. Finally, the butter-yellow pegasus builds up the courage to walk up to her. “Um…. Twilight? Are you okay?”

Twilight raises her head. “Yes of course I’m fine, Fluttershy! It’s not like the universe is conspiring against me or anything!” The lavender mare laughs emptily before slamming her head into the table again. “Now I just have to find a way to send a letter to Princess Celestia saying that magical wish-granting stones are falling from the skies all around Equestria.” Twilight sighs again as she looks around the table. “I just… I just don’t know what to do. What do I do now…..?”

The entire group is silent as they gather around their sarcastic leader, all of them not knowing what to say while Twilight Sparkle slowly bangs her head into the table. Suddenly Pinkie Pie’s hoof shoots straight up in the air as she bounces excitedly in place. “Ooo! Ooo! I know what to do! We should throw a party!”

Twilight groans as she pulls herself off the table. “Pinkie! A party is your answer for everything!”

“I know, Twilight, but please, hear me out,” the suddenly-serious tone of the party mare causing everypony to pay attention. “When you first came to Ponyville you were super alone! You didn‘t trust anypony and you didn’t even want any friends. But now….”

The pink mare pulls all of the ponies in the room into a single giant hug, defying all possibility. “… Now you have lots and lots of friends that really care about you! You said once that I couldn’t throw you a party cause you didn’t have any ponies to celebrate with. But now you do and no matter what’s going to happen we’ll be able to face it together!”

Pinkie extends her hoof to her friend Twilight. “So I say we throw the biggest ‘welcome to Ponyville’, ‘we all have Stands’ and ‘Applebloom’s not in a coma’ combo party ever! What do you say?”

Twilight tears up a little as she looks across the room to see it filled to the brim with all of her most important friends. All of them willing to stand by her through thick and thin, whatever the dangers the world can throw at her. With a smile on her face she takes Pinkie’s hoof. “You know what, Pinkie? You’re right! We’ve all gotten Stand powers, Applebloom has woken up, and we’ve all solved a major mystery about the Strange Stones, all while retaining our health. I would never have thought that I would be saying this when I was living in Canterlot, but let’s have a party!”

Without another word Pinkie disappears in a cloud of smoke; and before a pony could say Yahtzee! the room is covered in streamers, banners and several kinds of cake, all a courtesy of Pinkie’s party cannon. “Then without further ado… Let’s party!”

Applebloom’s eyes widen as she looks across at the colorful display. “Wow! Can Ah party too? Ah just love Pinkie’s parties!”

Applejack looks at her sister with worry. “Ah’m not so sure of that, Bloom. Ya just got out of the hospital an all. Doctor said that ya needed rest an….” Applejack is cut off by the sight of the filly‘s pouting, her little eyes widening to maximum cuteness. Not even Applejack can resist. “Well…. Ah suppose it is yer party….. But no stayin up past yer bedtime! Ya need yer rest.”

The filly looks disheartened. “Aww, but Applejack…..”

“No buts, missy. Ya can stay fer the first half of the party but no later!”

“Aww……” The filly begins to pout against the injustice of it, no sooner than getting out of the hospital and she gets groused by her sister.

However, the filly’s plight does not go ignored as a rainbow-maned pegasus flies down next to her. “Hey, kid, don't sweat it! You’ll be able to stay up and do all the best and most awesome things like the grown-ups do!”

“Really?” the hopefully filly responds.

“Yeah!” Dash snickers, “in about ten years! Ha!” Dash slaps the filly’s back in her cruel jest. Yet the moment her hoof lands on the filly’s back Dash is sent flying backwards, landing head over hooves on the hardest, most fortified part of her body: her head. The entire room looks over in surprise at the speedster groaning on the floor, a victim of her own malice.

As Twilight walks over to the embarrassed pegasus, Rainbow Dash looks up at her. “How…. How did I get on the floor? Did we break out the cider already?” the rainbow mare asks, her eyes spinning in her head.

“I have no idea, Dash, but I know for sure that that certainly wasn’t normal,” Twilight muses as she picks her impulsive friend off the ground. “But it seems like you just fell over. Applebloom, did you do anything to….. Applebloom! Look!”

All eyes in the room turn to the yellow filly and the strange object that seems to have shielded her from harm. The object appears to be a small sapling comprised of brass that has only three small branches, a hoof-full of golden leaves sprouting from each one. The brass plant appears to be growing out of Applebloom herself, its roots completely invisible as only the stem juts out of her back. However the strangest feature of the Stand is the fact that its branches and stem are curled up into the shape of circular springs, giving the plant a bouncy and flexible look as it bobs back and forth along with every movement of the filly’s body.

“GUAH!” The surprised Applebloom, seeing a plant growing out of her, falls flat on her flank, the plant disappearing almost instantly as she stares at where it popped out of her body. “A-Applejack? Is this because Ah ate that watermelon seed when yawl told me it would grow inside of me? Cause if it is I’m sorry that Ah ever doubted ya.” The filly looks on her elder sister with pleading eyes. “Please remove it before a watermelon grows inside of me, Ah don’t want ta explode.”

Applejack tilts her head, looking at her sister with confusion and slight fear. “Uh, sis? Ya didn’t eat any watermelon seeds while you were in the hospital did ya? Ah mean ya were in a coma all that time, right?”

The filly tilts her head. “Uh yeah, Sis….. Ah woke up, we spent the next two hours fillin out discharge paperwork an stuff an we came straight here. Why?”

The orange mare throws her hooves up in exasperation. “Well if ya didn’t eat a watermelon, why would ya think one was growin in yer stomach?! Sides, watermelons don’t do that; now, thimble melon seeds…. Whoee! Now yawl don’t want ta see what happens when ya eat those!”

“Well Ah didn’t know! What else could that have been?” Suddenly the filly’s mind catches up to her sister’s words. “Wait! Yawl were lying to me about the watermelon seeds?! Ah was so terrified of a plant growin in mah belly Ah never ate a single Watermelon all last summer! Why in Equestria did yawl lie….”

“Well Ah don’t know Applebloom?” Applejack rolls her eyes. “It may have something ta do with the fact that we’re the APPLE family an Ah don’t want mah kin eatin any ‘lower class’ fruits on mah watch.”

“Anyways!” Twilight walks between the two sisters. “I think that the bigger issue is that Applebloom sent Rainbow Dash falling to the floor without even touching her.” Twilight looks inquisitively at the filly as the lavender mare gently manifests her own Stand in front of her. Tapping Bloom in the side with her Stand, Twilight’s prodding causes the plant like object to spring out of Applebloom again, this time with much less force.

Twilight nods and withdraws her Stand. “Well it’s official. Applebloom has a Stand power.”

“What!” Applejack yells. “What….? But how….? What….?”

Applebloom fares little better. “Ah…. Ah have a Stand?”

Twilight taps her chin. “Well it seems to be an automatic Stand power; that is, it automatically activates its power once the pony wills it to work, like a shield. And from what I can tell it doesn’t seem to be able to move at all, so it’s an Ability type Stand like Fluttershy’s.” Applejack, her eyes widening, prods her sister causing the plant to appear at the point of contact and sending Applejack’s slight prod shooting back on itself.

“And more interestingly,” Twilight continues, “it seems to respond automatically to the stimulus of being attacked so you won’t have to worry about it going out of control or having to learn how to use it. But yes, it seems like now even a little filly with no formal training can develop a Stand power. Ugh! Just how many more ponies are going to get Stand powers?! Who’s next? The mail mare?! I should really start with a……”

Twilight’s rant is cut off by Applejack tapping her on the shoulder. “Uh..… Twi?” The farm mare points to her sister, who looks as though she has drank an entire liter of coffee in under three seconds. Her body bounces around in excitement, her words streaming out of her mouth like a river of fire.

Applebloom gasps. “Ah have… A Stand? Just like mah sis?” Twilight nods, causing the filly to woop in glee, jumping in the air and clicking her hooves. “This is great! We can go on adventures together! Ah can help out a be part of the team an have mah own theme song an…”

Applejack sighs. “No ya ain’t, Applebloom.”

The filly stops her prancing immediately. “What? Why not? Ah got a Stand an everythin!”

Applejack stamps her hoof. “Because it’s dangerous! That’s why. An just cause ya have a Stand that..… That…. What does yer Stand do anyways?”

Twilight looks at Applebloom inquisitively as she trots around the filly unnervingly. “Well, from Dash’s initial response and the fact that the ‘counter’ activated the second after she was ‘attacked’ by Dash…. I would say that Applebloom’s power is some kind of kind of kinetic energy rebound.”

Applejack blinks with a vacant stare.

Twilight suddenly realizes she’s talking to a farmer. “Uhhhhhh it returns an opponent’s attacking force back on them.”

“…. Right, that.” Applejack turns back to her sister. “Anyways, it’s one thing ta have a Stand, it’s another ta be able ta use it. Sides our work’s too dangerous fer a little filly.”

“But Ah can use it!” Applebloom protests, “an Ah can help!”

“The answer’s no, Bloom.” Applejack puts her hoof down. “Yawl can help by stayin out of the grown up ponies way, an stayin out of trouble.”

Applebloom is ready to begin another round of protesting when Pinkie grabs the two sisters with a surprise hug, squeezing them both together. “Come on, girls, let’s stop with this moping! We’ve got a party to celebrate! This is no place for an argument! Unless it’s about what kind of cake is best, that in that case it‘s triple mocha chocolate fudge deluxe!”

Applebloom’s further protests are cut off by Applejack. “Pinkie’s right, this is no place fer arguin, Bloom, we’re here to celebrate yer recovery.”

“But Applejack! You were arguin too!”

“Applebloom!” Applejack stamps her hoof with the sound of thunder, laying down the law. “Now Ah don’t want ta hear any more o yer bickerin. Yawl are too young an that’s that. An if Ah hear any more sass you’ll be sleepin through the rest Ah the party. Understand?”

Applebloom opens and closes her mouth repeatedly, however in the end her desire to stay at the party and not be sent home early overrides her indignity and she nods affirmatively.

“Good!” Applejack nods. “Now run along an have fun. Ah see Pinkie brought yer favorite cake so have a slice er two and remember it’s yer party too.”

As the slightly-less-disappointed filly (Pinkie’s cake will do that to a pony) trots off, the remainder of the group comes together as Pinkie hands each one a mug of fresh (non-alcoholic) cider. Raising her glass high in the air Pinkie shouts, “A toast! To a great party, and even greater friends!”

Applejack raises her mug. “A toast!”

Rarity Raises hers as well. “A toast darlings!”

Fluttershy raises her glass with much more gusto than normal. “A toast….”

Rainbow nearly slams her glass into the others, raising it with such gusto. “An Awesome Toast!”

“A slice of toast!” Pinkie smiles as she holds up a cooked slice of bread.

Twilight beams as she raises her glass to her friends’, a look of sheer joy on her face. “And a toast to great friends!”

“HERE HERE!!!” they all yell at once, downing their drinks with mighty gulps.

Pinkie, seeing the mood is just right, jumps up on the table. “Well then, ponies, without further ado, let the triple party jubilee, the greatest celebration ever held in a library, BEGIN!”

And with that the six new friends - with the exception of one little filly who was sent to bed early - celebrated all night, excited at the fact that their journey was just beginning.

Chapter 12-Sprout-Take 2

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Sprout-Take 2:


As most parties go, the party to celebrate Applebloom’s recovery, Twilight’s welcome to Ponyville and everypony getting Stands was one of the greatest triple combo parties Pinkie Pie had ever had the pleasure(s) of throwing. However, as all parties must, the party ended far too soon and the next morning a certain yellow filly found herself grumbling as she trotted down the road to go to a place that she rather would not go.

“Stupid Applejack,” Applebloom mutters as she kicks a stone on the path, the yellow filly‘s saddlebags filled to the brim with books paper and pencils. “Sendin me ta school while she an her friends have a super-secret club meetin! It ain’t fair!”

The filly punches a nearby post as she walks unwillingly along the path to the schoolyard. More than anything, she wants to turn around and run back to the Golden Oaks Library, to where her sister is, and do something - something important! She hates being excluded because of her age and she hates being babied even more. However, Applejack made it very clear just what would happen if she heard from Miss Cherilee that she decided to skip school. Applebloom shudders at the thought of Applejack’s punishment, and so the filly continues to walk unwillingly to the schoolyard ahead of her.

Finally the yellow farm filly comes into sight of the large bright red building, the yard filled with the sounds of foals like herself laughing and playing. Part of Applebloom wants to be excited for this, her first year of real schooling at an actual school. With life on a farm, she had been homeschooled by granny Smith most of her life. It was a lot more effective and more practical when you could adjust the schedule for harvest or didn’t have to plow fields when you were learning your multiplication tables. But it also meant the little filly had few close friends outside her family, few fillies and colts her age with whom she could relate. It had taken weeks of begging and chores to convince her sister she could handle both the farm work and her new schooling at Ponyville elementary. And now she was here on the cusp of a new experience a new adventure for her to delve into.

“Maybe,” the filly optimistically hopes, “maybe this won’t be so bad at all?”

“BLANK FLANKS! BLANK FLANKS!” A loud voice resonates over the fences of the schoolyard.

The filly’s ears droop immediately. “Or not….” She recognized that voice.

Walking through the gates to the schoolyard, Applebloom comes within name-calling distance of a familiar filly that she had rather hoped not to see. A pink filly with a well-groomed two-toned mane of white and mauve and a cutie Mark of a shiny crown, an exact duplicate sitting on her pompous head. Her cocky self-righteous grin permanently plastered on her muzzle displays her cutie mark’s true calling, to stand over others and dominate them in her own way.

“Diamond Tiara,” Applebloom mutters under her breath. And of course flanking the queen of the universe herself is the pink mare’s crony, Silver Spoon.

She wore her trademark fancy glasses and accusatory gaze, the grey filly with a greased silver mane, done in an intricate ponytail, and a silver spoon stamped on her flank, symbolizing her talent for manners, etiquette and unbreakable decorum. The filly had made it her mission in life to follow her master and aid in her mission to make everypony‘s life miserable. True, she wasn’t as bad as Diamond, but her appearance would herald the coming of the spiteful filly so Applebloom liked to avoid her anyways.

Applebloom and Diamond had been bitter enemies since either could remember. Though the Apples and Filthy Rich, Diamond’s father, had been business partners since before either filly was born, the two fillies’ relationship had soured into a bitter and aggressive rivalry. Ever since Filthy brought his daughter to the Apple’s farm and she had called Applebloom’s sister a ‘country hick’, the two had been at each other’s throats. Both families had hoped that the two fillies would be fast friends given their common ancestral history in the founding of Ponyville. However after the subsequent beating Applebloom had given Diamond for her insult of her sister, and Applebloom’s subsequent ultra-heavy duty secret prohibition free maximum grounding, the two couldn’t be farther from companions.

Applebloom would have prepared for her ‘insult of the day’ by now and given a witty retort; however it appeared that fate had decided to smile on her today, as it looked like Diamond had decided to pick on somepony else today. Or rather, someponies else……

“Well? Got anything to say for yourselves?” Diamond walks around the two fillies in a circle. “You just thought that you could splash me with mud and get away with it? Did you, Blank flanks?” Diamond says as she walks around the fillies like a vulture circling her meal.

“So what?!” an orange pegasus filly yells as she buzzes her wings in an attempt to intimidate her opponent. “So we threw a ball and it splashed a drop of mud on your coat? Look, it’s not even visible!”

“I don’t know,” Diamond says as she flanks the mares. “Silver, what do you think? Should I just forget about it?”

Silver, who is currently mirroring Diamond by circling around the fillies, begins to smile. “I don’t know, Diamond. I mean they refused to apologize even after insulting your word, and they’re like totally rude… I don‘t think that you should let them off so easy….”

The white filly in the center huddles closer to the ground, her two-toned mane of light purple and pink shaking as she looks up with her green eyes. “Just…. Just leave us alone! You… You bullies!”

Diamond stops in her tracks directly in front of the white filly, causing her to whimper in fear. Diamond taps her chin. “You know what, Silver? I think that I will forgive them!”

“What?” Silver stops, looking both surprised and relieved at the same time.

“Yes,” Diamond says, “after all… It’s not like I would expect any civil and polite behavior…” Diamond leers at the two fillies. “… From BLANK FLANKS!” The entire playground laughs at Diamond’s tasteless joke as even the brave orange filly begins to tear up against their combined laughter.

“I mean, if they are willing to admit that they are uncivilized blank flanks with no redeemable qualities whatsoever, of course I’ll forgive them! It’s not like they know any better.” The laughter continues, embarrassing the fillies even more as Applebloom watches on.

Well at least I'm not the object o ridicule on mah first day. Maybe Ah might actually be able ta make some friends before Diamond tries ta make a fool out of me.” Applebloom looks around, searching for some pony to make friends with: a spotted colt with a brown mane, a light blue pegasus filly, a teary-eyed orange pegasus and her white….

Suddenly Applebloom can‘t look away from the tormented fillies, their situation a perfect window into her past bullying experiences. ‘Except these fillies don‘t know how ta fight back…. They can‘t handle Diamond.’ The yellow filly shakes her head suddenly, remembering something critically important. ‘What am Ah thinkin? Ah can‘t let Diamond make fun of any pony! Not when Ah have the power ta stand up fer them! Sides…… That’s what Applejack would do!’ Bravely, the yellow filly steps forward through the crowd as Diamond Tiara continues to mock the two defenseless fillies.

“Well?” The pink filly swishes her hair to the side. “Are you going to apologize? Or not? Blank Flanks.”

Silver looks at the two fillies with her accusatory gaze. “I don’t think that they’re going to, Diamond.”

“Well of course!” Diamond laughs, “after all, everypony knows that Blank Flanks are young, immature….”

“Yawl got a problem with Blank flanks….?” Every head on the playground turns to face the newcomer as Applebloom’s pink ribbon blows in an arriving wind. “Ah said, ‘do YOU, have a PROBLEM, with Blank Flanks?’ Do you, Diamond Tiara?”

Diamond’s body immediately tenses up as she turns to face her eternal enemy, her body instinctively reacting to the presence of a real challenge. Diamond turns her head, looking at Applebloom out of the corner of her eye as if she were far beneath her notice. “Well look who decided to show up! If it isn’t the princess of the blank flanks herself! What’s wrong, worried that your little wittle subjects are crying?”

The playground fillies circle around the two, knowing that this is going to be an epic showdown between the rivals. Applebloom takes a step forward. “Well Ah may just be a poor country farmer,” she drawls, unwilling to let her rival put a negative spin of her heritage, “but Ah just thought that the princess of snobs had better things ta do than hang around with blank flanks. Or is it that yawl’s Crony Silver is getting too boring fer ya, so yawl are reduced to hangin round us blank flanks? If ya needed a new friend yawl could have just asked, Diamond.”

The entire playground ‘ohhs’ at Applebloom’s righteous burn, causing Diamond to grind her teeth in her rage. ‘Looks like Applebloom brought her A game today, I’ll have to step it up!’ “Oh but I was bored!” Diamond says as she steps off to the side, looking off to the heavens. “How would I be able to survive a single day without hearing your butchered country accent and uncouth stories about shoveling mud on your dirt farm. And I thought that you were too scared of little old me to show up!” Diamond smiles as she turns back to her opponent. “After all, you skipped the first two weeks of school! What’s the matter, Apple-loser? Were you to chicken to face me?”

Now it is the other filly‘s turn to grind her teeth in anger as the playground around her chuckles at Applebloom’s response. “Ah was in the hospital, Diamond….”

“For what?” Diamond smirks. “To get that ugly wart removed? Well I guess you weren't able to get it off after all. I guess that removing your entire crushed face and replacing it with something that doesn’t make me want to barf was out of your family’s price range.”

Now the entire playground is laughing uproariously at her as Applebloom tries to slump away from their jeers. Diamond holds her head triumphant in her victory, knowing not even Applebloom can come back from that insult.

A normal filly might have shrunk down and bowed her head at such embarrassment, letting the alpha dog on the playground have her day. But Applebloom was anything but a normal filly. “Well at least Ah wasn’t born ugly like you Diamond Tiara!” the yellow filly retorts. “Fer all yer money and class ya couldn’t fix yer ugly mug or yer ugly attitude! At least Ah have an a good heart! Ya might have money, Diamond, but ya are as rotten as a moldy old stump!”

The entire audience is struck dumb at Applebloom’s sudden scathing comeback as Diamond fumbles about to find any retort to silence her aggressor. “Well…. Well….” The pink mare comes up blank as she tries to counter. “Well…. You….”

“An another thing!” Applebloom lurches forward, her eyes only a hoof-length away from her enemy. “No pony here likes yawl’s bullyin! In case yawl haven't noticed, lots of foals here are blank flanks! An yawl just walk around usin it as an excuse to make other ponies miserable!” The yellow filly‘s advance pushes Diamond back as she tries to put as much distance between herself and her advancing foe. “Ordinary ponies might be impressed by yawl’s fancy money and snobby attitude and insultin ways, but Ah aint! Cause Ah know that deep down ya ain’t a brave strong an smart filly like ya try ta make yerself seem by tearin other ponies down!” Applebloom stops, eyes mere inches away from the mare. “Cause deep down yer just a lonely little filly beggin fer attention. An that doesn’t scare me, not. ONE. BIT.”

Finally the pink mare reaches the end of her rope, both figuratively and physically, as her attempts to back up causes her to trip over her own hooves into a puddle of mud with an unceremonious splat. The entire audience who moments ago were struck dumb with awe now begin whooping and hollering at the fall of their old tyrant and the rise of a new benevolent ruler. Diamond Tiara has taken a tumble off the social status ladder and Applebloom has moved into her place.

However even the most soulless tyrants have a loyal follower; a pony that will stand by them thick and thin and tend to their wounds when all goes wrong. Silver Spoon rushes over to her friend through the mud, picking her up off her rump. “Come on, Diamond, let’s get out of here….”

Diamond however doesn’t move, her eyes glaring at Applebloom with all the hatred she can muster. Her eyes seem to bore a hole into Applebloom’s very soul causing even the yellow filly to shiver in fear.

Silver’s prodding continues. “Come on, Diamond. She’s not worth it. I brought your favorite shampoo today just in case, we can wash all this muck off in the school showers.” The pink mare continues to stare as the groups around the playground shy away from the defeated filly.

“Come on Diamond!” Silver pulls her friend’s arm. “Do you want the mud to dry and get stuck in your beautiful mane?”

This finally grabs the pink filly’s attention, however she refuses to cease her hateful glaring at her enemy. “Yeah…. You’re right Silver…. Let’s go…..” Diamond Tiara finally breaks her stare as the two walk off of the playground and into one of the school’s side buildings.

The foals laughing at the retreating mare finally begin to disperse as Diamond Tiara walks out of sight. Every filly and colt talks among themselves, spreading rumors of the recent confrontation and playing with each other by the light of the sun, savoring every second before school begins. Applebloom sighs in relief that her first day of school, and her first confrontation with Diamond at school, hadn’t backfired horribly on her like all her ordinary antics had. The yellow filly begins to believe that the day is finally looking up for her as two familiar fillies walk up to her.

“WOW!” the orange-coated, purple-maned Pegasus shouts, her small wings fluttering in excitement. “That was so cool! Not as cool as Rainbow Dash but still…..”

Her white companion sighs. “Scootaloo? Do you really have to compare everypony you meet to Rainbow Dash? I’m beginning to think your obsession with Rainbow is unhealthy….”

“Aww what do you know, Sweetie?” The orange mare turns her head with an upset frown to look at her white friend beside her. “What are you, a psychoanalyst or somethin?” The orange pegasus turns back to Applebloom. “Sorry about Sweetie there, she can be a real wet blanket sometimes.”

The orange filly extends her hoof to Applebloom. “My name’s Scootaloo! Thanks for handling that bully Diamond there, I could have taken care of her but I just thought that since ya seemed to know her that I should let you handle it.”

Applebloom takes one look at the orange pegasus in front of her. Brash, arrogant and strong willed; Applebloom already feels a deep affinity with her. Applebloom takes her hoof. “Yeah Ah know Diamond, like a bad cold. Don’t worry bout her none, ya just got to know how to handle her an she won’t give ya too much heartache.”

“But you made it look so easy!” The white unicorn exclaims, her voice cracking in the process. Embarrassed, the filly clears her throat. “I mean, even when she said all those mean words you weren’t fazed at all. Ya just stood up to her and got her to back off! That was amazing!” The white filly shifts her balance. “Oh, and I’m Sweetie Belle by the way.”

Applebloom looks at the purple maned unicorn. Though shy and a bit clumsy, Applebloom could tell right out that she was the brains of the two, and she had a cute demeanor that could win over any adult. “Sweetie Belle… it’s nice ta meet ya. And it’s like Ah said, ya just have ta know how to handle her.”

Applebloom waves her hoof nonchalantly. “Why, the first time she started pickin on me, Ah learned quick that throwin hooves would just get me a groundin, so Ah just took her own words an threw them back at her. That shut her up real quick. So from then on every time Ah got in a scrap with her Ah just took whatever she threw at me and threw it back, guess that’s just a part of my ‘psy-chi’ like Twilight would say…..”

Suddenly her mind turns to something Twilight said to her before she left, something about Stands gaining powers based on their user’s mindsets. “Hey…. That’s probably why Ah got that kind o Stand power in the first place! Whenever somepony tries to beat me down it only makes me stronger. An Ah take what they throw at me and… send it back? Or somethin?” The yellow filly sees her two companions staring at her. “Uh... What’s up guys?”

Sweetie chirps up, “What’s a Stand?”

“Uh oh,” Applebloom gulps. “Ah wasn’t supposed to talk about that….”

“Yeah…” Scootaloo rubs her head “I’ve never heard of standing giving you magic…. is that why you were at the hospital?”

“Yeah!” Sweetie Belle confirms as she backs away. “Is it contagious? Why would you come to school if it was contagious?”

“No it’s not, it’s just that……”

“I just don’t understand how you could get some kind of special power from standing?”

“Can it make you really sick? Can it…” Sweetie gulps. “….Kill you?”

“No! Ah mean yes…… Ah mean no you can’t…..”

“How’d you get it, Applebloom? I want a special power too!”

“Yeah, Applebloom, if you’re sick you shouldn’t be around other ponies.”

“What’s the secret?”

“….. cause if you are then you should be…”

“Enough!” The yellow mare’s outcry silencing the random gibberish of her two friends “Now yes Ah was in the hospital for somethin, no Ah’m not contagious, and no, Ah can’t tell you why it’s a secret, so please stop asking.”

Scootaloo groans. “Aw come on! And here I thought you were cool! Why can’t you tell us? Are you afraid that you might get in trouble or something?”

“No it’s not that…” Applebloom thinks back to this morning and Twilight’s words.

‘Now Applebloom I know that you are excited to have a Stand power, but what we’re doing here in Ponyville and what we’re looking for are matters of national security. If word leaks to the population about…… yada Disaster, yada yada yada yada, bad news, yada yada yada yada Banishment……. Applebloom are you listening?!’

‘Um…. Yes….. But just to be sure…… say everything you just said now.’

‘Ugh! All right, Applebloom, the bottom line is that it comes down to trust and endangering the ponies of Ponyville. If average ponies learn what the Stones can do they might try to abuse them, or use them to give them Stand powers which could end up killing them. And second, the ensuing panic from discovering Stand powers would send the public into an uproar and cause other countries to seek means of obtaining Stand powers to boost their militaries. In other words it could lead to war, something ponykind hasn’t experienced on our soil since the Nightmare Wars.’

‘Now Applebloom, I know that you are sore that you aren’t helping directly with our search, but by keeping this secret from untrustworthy ponies you are saving lives. I hate to admit it but right now there are many ponies that we can’t trust with this information…. But you are Applejack’s sister and she attests to your honesty. So please promise me that you won’t tell anypony… Because if this information is shared with the wrong ponies… Just promise me that you won’t….’

Applebloom takes in a deep breath, calming herself for what she is about to say. “Ah’m sorry, girls, but Ah made a promise not to tell anypony bout Stands and all that other stuff.” Applebloom imagines the image of her upset sister holding a giant cake and her punishment if she were caught revealing something she promised not to. Applebloom shudders. “Sides, mah sister would be real sore if Ah said something Ah wasn’t supposed to…”

“But…..” Sweetie tears up. “But aren’t we friends? Can you….” Sweetie begins to sniffle, her mere presence seeming to wear down any desire to keep a secret from her. “Can’t you trust us?”

Applebloom flinches. “No! No it’s not that… it’s just Twilight said that this is real secret-like and Ah wasn’t supposed to tell anypony that we couldn’t trust…..”

“So you can’t trust us?! Do I look like a filly who would give up a secret?” Scootaloo accuses. “I guess that she just can’t trust us…”

Applebloom begins to panic as she becomes painfully aware she just questioned the trustworthiness of two ponies who could very well be her friends. “No it’s not that Ah can’t trust ya, it’s just that…..”

“… Well?!” Scootaloo says, “then why can’t you trust us not to tell?”

Applebloom pauses, looking at the faces of the first two ponies that she ever met at school, ponies that could very well be her friends. Sure it was wrong to go back on a promise, but when it came down to it Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo were right; keeping a secret from them would make it seem like she couldn’t trust them, and that would demolish any chance of them being on amiable terms. Twilight’s words ring in her ears……

‘So please promise me that you won’t tell anypony…… Cause of this information is shared with the wrong ponies…..’

Applebloom shakes her head, dispelling any lingering notions of her promise. ‘Buck this!’ the farm filly thinks, ‘if keepin a secret fer mah sister and her friends that have done nothing but push me away costs me mah friends, then Ah don’t want ta keep it. Mah friends aren’t tha wrong kind a ponies.’

Applebloom raises her head. “Ya know what, yer right. It may just be that we met today, but if ya promise, an Ah mean a bonafide Pinkie Promise not to tell anypony, then I’ll tell ya what Stands are.”

Sweetie immediately ceases her crying as if on command, a smile gracing her lips. “Great! If you hadn’t told us after that I would have had to use my real pouting face, and that would have been really bad.”

Applebloom looks at the white filly. “Wait… You were actin?”

“Well…” Sweetie shuffles her hooves nervously. “I was sad that you kept a secret from us just as soon as we met…… but I just wanted to know if you knew what was going on around town because my sister Rarity has been acting strange lately.”

Sweetie looks back at the yellow filly, her eyes brimming with hope and confidence. “But my sister told me that she could trust Applejack, so since you are Applejack’s sister I thought that you might know something. But it was wrong of me to try and force you to tell something that you promised not to. So if you don’t feel like telling us……”

Applebloom pulls Sweetie into a side hug. “No Ah want ta tell ya. Not cause ya tried to force me, but because we’re friends, and friends don’t keep secrets from each other.”

Both Applebloom and Sweetie smile as they admire their newfound friendship. “Enough chitter-chatter!” Scootaloo shouts as she stamps her hoof, “let’s get onto the story! So, Applebloom, what’s a Stand?”

Applebloom clears her throat. “Well, if Ah’m to tell the story right Ah need to start from the beginnin. See Ah was out lookin at the stars at night……”

…………….

From there Applebloom tells her two friends everything she has heard from her sister about what has been going on around Ponyville recently. While they all lie on the grass in the schoolyard field, Applebloom tells them everything that is really going on. About the Red Stones and how sick they can make a pony, the Strange Stones and their wish-granting powers, and most importantly Stands and how getting one gives their users strange and unnatural powers. She talks and talks as her new friends listen in awe to Applebloom’s story, and her heroic representations of all the adults as they fought to recover the mysterious stones that rained down from the sky. No sooner has Applebloom finished her tale of heroism and bravery than the bell rings, signaling the start of a new school day and all the learning it brings.

“Alright, students,” a mulberry earth pony mare with a cutie mark of a trio of flowers yells from the door to the school, “time for class!” The three fillies look at their teacher, Miss Cheerilee, and then back to each other.

“Awwww class?!” Scootaloo moans. “If I knew that going to school meant that we would have to go learn boring stuff I wouldn’t have come!”

Sweetie punches the orange pegasus in the arm. “Going to school is about learning things, Scootaloo. Anyways, Applebloom, is all that true, the crazy magical powers and magic stones and everything?”

Applebloom nods her head. “Yep, everythin! Though it doesn’t matter none cause the ADULTS….” She rolls her eyes “…. won’t let us help. They say that we fillies are too young to help out.”

“That’s bogus!” Scootaloo says as she gets up from the grass. “I mean Rainbow Dash wouldn’t lay down and take that! We can’t just turn our backs on everything that is going on!”

Applebloom lowers her head in shame as she too rises to go to class. “But mah sis won’t let me join their group, ‘the Stardust Crusaders’, er something like that. And Ah mean what could Ah do alone…”

Suddenly Sweetie Belle puts her hoof on Applebloom’s shoulder, giving her a heartfelt look of confidence. “You’re not alone, Applebloom! You have your friends!”

Scootaloo mirrors the unicorn in putting her hoof on her friend. “Yeah! We’re your friends, Applebloom! No way that we’d let you go it alone! And if the adults won’t let us join their group then we can just make one of our own!”

Applebloom’s face lights up at this idea as the gears in her mind begin to turn. “Our own group…… Yeah. Applejack said that Ah couldn’t join them but if we make our own group we can search fer the Red Stones without them.”

Applebloom walks a distance away from her friends as she mulls over the details. “Yeah… we could do it together, ferget the ‘Stardust Crusaders’; if they won’t let us help then we don’t care.” Applebloom strikes an epic pose as the wind blows, causing her mane and ribbon to flutter in the breeze. “From this point on, us three are ‘THE CUTIE MARK CRUSADERS’!”

Both of the stunned fillies look at Applebloom, their mouths agape as they try and think up any word to say. Applebloom, finally noticing her friend’s states, looks cautiously at them. “Um? Girls, what do you think?”

Scootaloo is the first to mare to be able to move her mouth. “Applebloom…. That name…..”

Applebloom nods. “Yep Ah thought it up all on mah own! Ya see the adults called themselves Crusaders, and we’re crusading fer the Red Stones too. But we don’t have Cutie Marks, cause we’re not adults like them. So Cutie Mark Crusaders! Nice hunh?”

Now Sweetie Belle is able to speak. “Applebloom….. That name……”

“That name……” Scootaloo resumes.

Both of the fillies look at each other as their horror fades away. Then with a force rivaling the Royal Canterlot Voice they scream, “... IS TOTALLY AWESOME!”

Applebloom blinks. “Ya think so?”

Scootaloo nods. “Yeah! Totally awesome, right Sweetie?”

“Yeah!” Sweetie nods. “It’s the perfect name for a group of fillies looking for something.”

Applebloom nods as she holds out her hoof toward the other two. “Then it’s decided, from this point on we’re a team, and we’ll look for the Red Stones, Miracle Stones, Cutie Marks and everything else that comes our way, TOGETHER!”

The two fillies join their hooves with Applebloom and raise them in the air simultaneously. “TOGETHER!” All the fillies grin and giggle at each other as they look at their newfound friends, picturing all the amazing adventure they will have together.

“Applebloom! Sweetie Belle! Scootaloo!” The three are broken out of their reprieve by the voice of their teacher. “Girls! All the other students are inside! If you don’t come in right now you’re going to be tardy! And I don’t think that you want me to have to talk to your parents, now do you?”

The three fillies look at each other with fear on their faces as they rush inside without further a word. Running inside, they all take their assigned seats in the bare-bones classroom as their teacher takes attendance, and begin their day. However in their minds the three excited fillies are already running through grassy fields and having fun together like good friends do.

…………………..

“Stupid Stupid Applebloom,” Diamond Tiara mutters to herself from the back of the classroom, glaring daggers at the red-maned pony in front of her. Not only had that mud taken forever to get out of her mane, no thanks to Silver, but because of it she had missed all of recess washing out the offensive gunk.

But even worse, Applebloom’s words had struck close to home and everypony in school had seen it. She had been thoroughly embarrassed in front of the entire school, and though she still knew that they respected and feared her status, her credibility had taken a major blow that would take months for the others to forget.

Worse still, her actions might have put some backbone in her opposition, ponies might start to question and resist her will rather than be in awe in her presence like they rightly should. Even those new ponies, Scottaloser and Sweetie Dunce, look completely un-cowed and if ponies like them learn to resist her, then her status as queen bee of school is ruined. “Stupid Stupid Stupid Applebloom! Why did she have to make a fool of me like that? It’s not fair!”

As the teacher takes roll, Diamond plots and plans on how to get even with her adversary for her actions. if she can just bring Applebloom down a peg, if she can show them all just how lame Applebloom really is then they will all come flocking back to her again. Then everything will be as it should be, she’ll be at the top and Applebloom will be at the bottom.

Diamond smirks. “Heh, so you want a fight now, Applebloom? Alright, I’m game. But there won’t be any mercy then…..” Suddenly a strange pony-shaped figure leans down from the ceiling directly beside Diamond Tiara. The figure sports a diamond-lined opera mask, its hooves ending in two plain white operating crosses like the kind you would find at a high class puppet show. Its lower half seems to be embedded into the ceiling itself while its upper half is a pristine white, covered in fancy lace and an impressive diamond collar. “I’ll embarrass you to no end and show everypony who exactly is on the top of the social ladder here! And with my new power ‘Baltimare Tea Party’ it’ll be as easy as cake.”

Chapter 13-Baltimare Tea Party- Take 1

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Baltimare Tea Party-Take 1:


“Gravitational Upheaval….. Overdrive!!”

The floor of the Golden Oaks Library shudders as Applejack and Twilight test out the extent of their combined power, causing all the books in the library to flutter off their shelves and into the air. Even Twilight’s other four friends are not immune as they float into the air waving their hooves around in a vain attempt to gain traction. Rarity looks incredibly distressed as her mane’s normal curl begins to unravel with the lack of gravity.

“Um… Twilight, darling…” Rarity conjures her Stand into the shape of a brush and is frantically trying to put her mane back in shape. “I know that you are excited and all that to be trying out your little Gravity trick, but if it isn’t too much trouble could you LET US DOWN FROM HERE!?”

However, in their intense concentration the pair seems to be unable to hear the pleas of the ivory unicorn.

“Hello there!” Rarity shouts, “earth to Applejack!”

The two mares’ focus snaps back to the world of the living as they apologize simultaneously. “Sorry there…”

“….. Rarity. Ah guess that Ah was….”

“….. Just so caught up…..”

“…. In what Ah was doing…..”

“…. That I completely forgot….”

“….. That Ah had guests.”

Both of the mares close their eyes as their two combined Stands separate back into their individual halves, ending the gravitational effect and sending all the mares falling to the floor. Fluttershy and Rainbow, being pegasi, flutter to the floor with the gentle beat of their wings; and while it looks like Rarity and Pinkie would be in for a rough landing, Pinkie pulls out a red velvet couch at the last instant, placing it below them. Rarity and Pinkie land safely on the couch as the fashionista wipes the sweat off her brow. “Whew…. And you said that a fainting couch had no practical purpose, Pinkie!”

Pinkie shrugs. “What can I say? I guess that you proved me wrong!”

“Okay everypony!” Twilight says, “now that we…. Oh hold on a second….” Igniting her horn, all the books in the library glow with a faint magenta light and fly back to their shelves. “Whew, that was a mess. It’s a good thing that I enchanted all the books for automatic re-shelving! Anyways, with that little display we’ve successfully tested the extent of my Stand’s ability to boost your respective Stand powers through a mind link, as well as test some of the base abilities of your newfound Stands.”

With a flash Twilight teleports out a clip board and a pair of professional glasses, gazing at the fruits of a day’s successful experiments. “To start off, we tested Fluttershy’s ability which I have subsequently dubbed ‘Thousand Yard Stare’!”

Fluttershy shyly raises her hoof. “Um actually, Twilight…. I kind of thought since it was my Stand that I might be able to name it…… I mean….. I actually thought up a few good names…..”

Twilight however, being in full researcher mode, seems to ignore the butter-yellow pegasus. “Now the Stand itself seems to have powerful will-suppressing abilities that allow the user to subvert a living being’s will power, making them incredibly susceptible to suggestions. However it does not seem to be able to affect beings if the user can’t make eye contact with them; and though the user can affect ponies at a considerable distance, the user has to be within ear shot to give commands and do anything more than prevent a pony from moving…...”

“Um… Twilight, I actually had a name…. for my Stand, that is…..”

“However when I combine my Stand with Fluttershy’s Thousand Yard Stare…”

“Um…. the name I had…. I thought was really good……”

“By touching her eyes with my Stand……” Twilight continues.

“Um the name is……”

“I can boost the power of Thousand Yard Stare…...”

Suddenly the yellow pegasus shouts with a force that silences the lavender mare completely. “THE STARE!”

Twilight recoils from the sudden explosion of noise from the quiet pegasus. “Um…. What?”

Fluttershy clears her throat. “Um, I had actually thought of a name for my Stand already……”

Comprehension suddenly dawns on Twilight’s face as she rolls her eyes. “Fluttershy, we just finished this discussion via mind link! Now I respect your ideas, Fluttershy, but that’s just not a very good name and…..”

Fluttershy suddenly stares down the lavender mare with her newfound power. “Oh I’m so sorry miss I get to name everything because I’m in charge!” Fluttershy snaps with such assertiveness that Twilight finds it hard to believe she is the same mare. “I just let you name our group that ridiculous name, even though I’m more than one hundred percent sure that I’ve seen it somewhere before. So please since you’re soooo good at naming things please give my poor little Stand a name since I obviously lack the imagination to make up my own names! Go on! I DARE you!”

Twilight stutters at Fluttershy's sudden act of defiance. “But…. But……” Finally she relents. “Fine, you can keep the name…”

Fluttershy nods. “That’s better. Continue.”

Twilight clears her throat. “As I was saying…. by boosting Fluttershy’s Stand, The Stare, with my own, Fluttershy can command any pony within ear shot without having to make direct eye contact with them. All she has to do is look at them and they are under her complete control.”

“Whoa Whoa. Back up…..” Rainbow extends her hooves. “Seriously? The Stare? That’s not cool, Fluttershy, I mean Twilight’s suggestion wasn’t much better…..”

“HEY!”

“…But come on? The Stare? What kind of name is…..” Fluttershy uses The Stare on Dash, her eyes suddenly expanding to the size of dinner plates and her pupils contract to pin pricks, her entire vision consumed by the power of Fluttershy’s Stare.

“I’m sorry, Dashie? Did you have a problem with my name?” the yellow mare asks menacingly. “WELL?!”

Dash flies directly behind Twilight to avoid the enormous pressure of Fluttershy’s Stare. “NOPE! No problems here! In fact I think it’s a great name Flutters! So original!”

Abruptly the vengeful demon disappears, transforming into the face of a smiling beauty. “Good! I’m glad that you all like it, I thought really hard to come up with it…. And….. I just don’t know what I would have done it you didn’t like it.”

“Anyways!” Twilight says, “Moving on! Next we did a recap of Pinkie’s power, the ability to store an almost infinite number of objects by turning them into felt and sticking them to her Stand.” Twilight picks up her clipboard, flipping through the pages. “She can’t store living things in her Stand…”

“Except for Gummy!” the pink mare points out.

“….. Except for Gummy,” Twilight repeats, “and it seems to be covered in these eye-like things that Pinkie refuses to elaborate on…..” Twilight gives the pink mare a dirty look.

Pinkie giggles hysterically at Twilight’s glare. “That’s because it’s a surprise! I mean a surprise wouldn’t be much of a surprise if I told you what it was, would it? I mean you could try to forget what the surprise was if you tried really hard but you’d probably fail. I mean this one time someone spoiled the ending for Indiana Colt and the Malted Falcon to me before I even read it so I hit myself in the head really hard to try to forget! But It didn’t work so I decided to read the book backwards since I already knew the ending, that way the rest of the book would be a surprise!” The mare bounces up to Twilight, poking her barrel with a hoof. “And believe me, sister, you don’t want me to have to hit you in the head to make you forget the surprise that I’m going to surprise you with cause then I would have to hit you really really……”

“OKAY!” Twilight shouts, “I get it! It’s a surprise! Your Stand’s name is Surprise! It’s a joke!” Twilight groans heavily. “After trying to hold a serious conversation with you for more than five minutes I honestly don’t care anymore.”

Dismissing her blatant failure with Pinkie Pie, Twilight picks up her clipboard, fully prepared to move on. “Besides, with how Pinkie and my minds seem to be polar opposites, mind linking with her seems almost completely impossible at this point. Even attempting a mind link causes horrific backlash.”

“Really?” Pinkie cocks her head. “I just thought that we couldn’t do your whole fusion thing because your mind was all serious librarian stuff and mine was all super happy crazy fun stuff! I didn’t know it was because our minds were at the North Pole and South Pole! Wow, you learn something new every day!”

Twilight stares at Pinkie, then continues on, not willing to touch that conversation with a ten foot pole. Mentally, the mare makes a note to never use logic OR expressions around the pink mare ever again. “Alright, next we tested Dash’s power….”

Dash lands next to the lavender mare and hoof pumps. “All right! It’s about time!”

“…. Dash’s power….” Twilight flips through her notes on the clipboard looking for the exact page. “Dash’s power….. Ah ha, here it is: Valkyrie!” Twilight points to the page with the notes she was looking for. “Valkyrie…. Its power allows Dash to create a powerful vibrational shockwave with physical contact that is capable of incredible destructive feats.”

“Uh Twilight...” Dash taps on her shoulder. “Less nerd please?”

“Oh, Right! Basically Dash’s power charges her hooves or any part of her body with a latent energy that is instantly converted into kinetic energy the moment it contacts a physical object.” Twilight flips a page on her notepad. “The power of this explosion seems intrinsically linked to velocity as well. In other words, the faster Dash attacks the more powerful the explosion. Your Stand is most assuredly the most powerful Stand offensive-wise that I’ve seen so far. It could even blow over eight thousand gallons of water out of a lake in one attack!”

Dash leaps up in the air flaunting her obvious superiority. “Aw Yeah. Who’s the mare? It’s me! Rainbow Dash! Best Stand-user ever!”

Applejack sighs and tilts her hat over her eyes at Dash’s trademark arrogance and single mindedness. “Give me a break……. Dash, get off yer high horse, yawl might have a smidgen more power than another pony, but that’s no excuse fer thinking yer better.”

“Applejack is right, Rainbow.” Twilight flips another page. “Your Stand may be impressive offensively but it has two main weaknesses, well three really.”

“What!” The rainbow mare lands on her rump with a thud. “THREE?!”

“Yes Dash,” Twilight states, “three. First, your Stand is limited to your own reach; you can’t manifest your Stand in physical form like Applejack’s or Pinkie’s, meaning your Stand has a much shorter range.” Applejack holds her head high in the air as Twilight continues. “Second, like I said your Stand derives its power from your velocity, so if you’re not moving you can’t use it. It’s why you got trapped by Pinkie’s streamer attack; you weren’t able to build up enough velocity to tear through the streamers.”

“Hey! That’s not a weakness!” Dash complains. “Besides, I was able to break out of that straitjacket in ten seconds flat!”

“Only because you were lividly angry, which allowed you to move enough of your body to generate a velocity strong enough to break out of the cotton threaded bindings.” Twilight continues unfazed, “And finally at the issue of most concern, your Stand might be…. overly destructive.”

Dash dismisses Twilight with a wave of her hoof. “Pfftt! Twilight, I know that you are jealous that your Stand isn’t as awesome as mine. Ya know since your Stand is so weak that it can’t even swat a fly….”

“Hey! I’ll have you know that I was able to swat a fly with my Stand earlier this week!”

Rainbow Dash gives her friend her best ‘are you kidding me’ stare - one that she has used on Applejack for years. “Did it get back up?” Dash asks.

Twilight fumes. “What? I mean, what kind of….. I mean…..”

Rainbow Dash arches her eyebrow.

The defeated Twilight Sparkle hangs her head low. “….. Yes.”

“… As I was saying,” the rainbow mare resumes, “there’s no such thing as too destructive! I mean, my Sonic Rainbooms never hurt me! And our fusion is hooves-down the most awesome!” Dash waves her hoof over to a large gaping hole in the library proper. “I mean look at what it did to the library! Is that cool or what!?”

Twilight internally cringes at the hole, rueing the fact that she’ll have to repair it later that day. “Yes…. Impressive.” Twilight scribbles away on her board. “Nevertheless, be careful Dash. A Stand-user needs to control their power, not the other way around. Meaning if you accidently blow me to pieces with your Stand I’m going to haunt you for the rest of my un-life.”

Rainbow looks her friend in the eye. “Twilight, I know you’re concerned but I’ve got this. I’m all through going commando and going out of control. Trust me, I’ve learned my lesson.”

Twilight smiles back as the rainbow mare lands on the ground again. “Good, Dash, as long as you’re careful. That’s all I ask.”

Twilight flips to her next page in her notebook. “And now we just finished analyzing Applejack’s power: the ability to strengthen or nullify gravitational forces on objects. It seems that her power works by strengthening an object’s gravitational attachment so an object cannot move, or weakening it to a point that it loses its hold on the earth and falls over immediately. And with our boost in power it allows her to use that ability over a radius of no less than twenty meters. Overall it’s a very strong and resilient Stand with a flexible power.”

Applejack, having the manners not to interrupt a mare when she is talking, only tips her hat in thanks for Twilight’s praise. “Much obliged, Twilight.”

However one mare has an objection to this. “Hold It!” Dash yells. “Twilight, what’s’ the big idea? You couldn’t stop talking about my Stand’s weaknesses! What about Applejack’s? I bet it’s something really lame.”

Applejack suddenly turns to face her rival, nearly getting in her face. “Now Dash… just cause yer Stand is as wild as a bull at a rodeo doesn’t mean ya should be poking into….”

“Oh right, Applejack’s weaknesses,” the lavender mare says without removing her eyes from the clipboard. “Well Applejack’s Stand is enormously strong, but in exchange it needs a lot of time to bring that power to bear; in other words the faster Applejack attacks the weaker her blows become. That’s why her power is so important; not only does it allow her Stand to withstand more powerful blows by making her stationary, but it also prevents her opponents from moving so she can wind up for a powerful attack.”

Applejack cringes as Dash snickers. “And second, her power only works if a pony is standing on a physical object, so it would have no effect on a pegasus or any object that wasn’t tied to the ground.” As if forgetting something, Twilight flips a page. “Oh and the Stand is only about as fast as Applejack is, which though impressive is only about half as fast as my Stand and a third as fast as Pinkie’s……”

“HA!” Dash laughs in her rival’s face. “See? Against my Stand you wouldn’t have stood a chance! You can’t hit an object in midair so I would win hooves….”

“….. However when combined with my Stand, Applejack’s ability to control gravity compensates for her Stand’s lack of range by allowing it to control gravity at a distance as well as boosting her mental reflexes.”

“….down.” Dash finishes.

Flipping through the notebook Twilight comes to a blank page. “All right, all that is left is Rarity, her power seems to be the most flexible of all of us. Her Stand has no real form but seems to be able to take almost any form that the user imagines. In addition, the user seems to take no damage when the Stand is attacked - unlike normal Stands - allowing the user to defend with it, constantly reforming the Stand whenever it’s damaged.”

Rarity nods affirmatively at Twilight’s observations. “Thank you, darling, though what I can do is nothing special and I still have difficulties with, how do you say….. ‘manifesting’ and ‘controlling’ my Stand, and it can’t take a pony like shape like yours can…..”

Twilight places her hoof reassuringly on Rarity. “That’s because your Stand is an object-type Stand; you’re just selling yourself short, Rarity. your Stand might not be able to take pony shape, but it is virtually indestructible and has no real weaknesses. In my opinion it’s an amazing power.”

Rarity nods her head. “I guess you are right, Twilight, I got so caught up in….” The ivory mare stops. “… Come again, Twilight? What did you mean by ‘object-type Stand’?”

Twilight grins, excitedly teleporting out a set of notecards. “I’m glad you brought that up, Rarity! Because I was prepared especially for that!” THe librarians clears her throat. “You see there are three types of Stand forms: there are ‘creature’, ‘object’, and ‘body’ Stand types which basically depend upon how the Stand chooses to manifest itself.”

Closing her eyes Twilight manifests her Stand, striking a simple pose with it. “Creature-type Stands, or pony-shaped Stands as you call them, take the form of a creature that is itself capable of movement. It can extend a distance from its user’s body and perform physical actions on the owner’s behalf like attacking or picking up an object.”

Teleporting next to Fluttershy, Twilight wraps her arm around the yellow pegasus who meeps in surprise. “Now Fluttershy, here, has a body-type Stand. The Stand doesn’t manifest apart from the user’s body. Instead the Stand grants the user a powerful magical ability that usually involves augmenting the user’s body like Dash’s does, or granting special powers like Fluttershy’s does.”

Twilight points her hoof towards Rarity. “Your Stand is an object-type Stand. Object Stands take the form of an object and have unique powers and - notably - their users suffer no damage if their object Stands are damaged.” The lavender mare continues. “However, they usually have limited or non-existent movement powers, and often require special conditions or actions from the user to manifest their power properly. Your Stand for example can’t move itself, meaning you have to move it with your telekinesis if it’s not attached to the ground.”

Peeling her eyes from the clipboard Twilight takes a long look outside. “Technically, Lyra’s Thousand Hoof Crutch is an object-type Stand as well because, even though it possesses a limited degree of movement, it has to spring from a physical object and Lyra herself suffers no damage if it is destroyed.”

Rarity manifests her Stand, watching it intently as it forms and moves in the air. “Well it is quite impressive, though I never knew that there were so many types and forms of Stand to begin with.”

Twilight puts her hoof over Rarity’s. “And that’s the fun part: your Stand is already a flexible object-type Stand that can take any shape the user imagines. When we combine our powers using my FRIENDS Stand I bet its flexibility and control will improve dramatically. I mean its basic mental physics, with two minds working together at once I’m sure that we….”

“NO!” Rarity recoils as if visibly struck, ripping herself free from Twilight’s grasp. Panting heavily, Rarity looks around to see the entire group staring at her strange behavior. Realizing her situation, the ivory fashionista works quickly to calm herself. “I mean….. I understand where you’re coming from, Twilight darling, but I just don’t feel ready to, as you say, ‘kick it up a notch.’ It’s like you said, my Stand requires a great deal of control so…… I feel that I should learn better control of it.”

Twilight looks at her friend with concern in her eyes. “But Rarity…. Everypony else has…”

“Now Twilight,” Rarity firmly states, “you said to Fluttershy that you wouldn’t force her to do anything that she was uncomfortable with, and I feel that applies to all of us as well. And the fact remains that I am simply not comfortable with boosting my power when I can’t fully control it. Besides….. We wouldn’t want an accident, now would we?”

Twilight looks on as Rarity curls her Stand around herself, subconsciously trying to protect herself from Twilight’s judgmental eyes. In Twilight’s opinion, Rarity already had great control over her own Stand, control that she wished Rainbow Dash possessed. Yet her reaction to her offer to mind link…. It was true she had a problem earlier when she tried to boost both Fluttershy’s and Dash’s powers simultaneously, but that had just given her a major headache and confirmed that she could only boost one Stand at a time. So why was Rarity so concerned? Then again Rarity had two good points: she had only had her Stand for a short time, and she was uncomfortable with the idea of a mind link…… So, as a good friend she should respect Rarity’s decision regardless of the subtext behind it.

Twilight sighs.“You’re right, Rarity… I wouldn’t want to force you to do anything. If you feel uncomfortable with it then I’ll respect that.”

Rarity nods her head in thanks. “Thank you, Twilight, I knew that you would understand.”

Twilight turns to address the rest of the group. “Alright everypony, take five! We’ll work on controlling our Stands individually for an hour before going out on patrol for more of the Red Stones.” All the mares break off into groups and begin to talk amongst themselves, save one. “Not you, Applejack, we need to talk…”

All the mares look at the orange farm mare, who appears as though she has no idea what is going on.

“OOOOOOOOO!” Dash snickers, “looks like somepony’s in trouble with the teacher! What happened, Applejack? Forget to do your homework?”

Applejack groans. “Honestly, Dash, yawl can be worse than a foal sometimes.” Quickly and without a trace of nervousness the orange mare trots up to Twilight, a curious look in her eyes. “Alright Twi, we’re out of earshot now. Now what’s up? Is there a problem?”

Twilight shakes her head. “Not really, Applejack. It’s not a really big problem if that’s what you’re asking. I’m just worried.”

“Worried?” Applejack blinks. “Worried bout what?”

Twilight puts her hoof on Applejack’s chest. “I’m worried about you being worried, Applejack. I didn’t mean to pry while we were… linked… I know that you don’t like that, but your worries about Applebloom were so strong I almost lost control of the fusion.”

Now Applejack looks nervous. With her cover blown, her cracked façade slowly bleeds through with worry. Not for herself, but for her little sister. “Oh. Ah kind of fergot ya had that whole mind thing going there, Twi. Sorry, Ah know that it can be difficult ta keep it together when a pony’s… not stable an everything. Not ta say that Pinkie’s not stable er anything…. no offense, Pinkie?”

The pink pony pops up from under Applejack’s hat, this time barely surprising the farm mare. “None taken!” The hat falls back on Applejack’s head causing the pink mare to disappear.

“That’s not what I’m worried about, Applejack,” Twilight says. “I mean if we can’t fuse properly that would be bad, but I’m more concerned about you and how you are doing. Not the status of your Stand power.”

Applejack shifts her weight back and forth between her hooves, prancing nervously in place. “Ah know Twi. It’s just…. Oh Twilight. Ah know Ah’m probably just bein silly, but Ah know Ah’d feel a heap better if Ah could just check on Applebloom one last time….”

“Applejack…..”

“Ah’m worried about her! Ah can’t help it! She just got of the hospital! What if..… Mmmmph!!”

Applejack’s runaway train of thought is stopped by Twilight placing her hoof on her mouth. “Applejack, it’s okay to be worried, but Applebloom’s out of danger! Her life is safe and she’s out of harm’s way. And from here on out she’s never going to get involved in the dangerous world of Stands.”

“Besides, Applejack….” Twilight places her hoof on her friend’s shoulder. “Applebloom is at school, watched over by an attentive, responsible adult! I mean, what could possibly happen at school? Paper cuts? Not turning in an assignment? Pop Quiz? Face it Applejack, Applebloom is safe and out of trouble.”

Applejack looks at her friend then back out the window as if she could see her sister from miles away. Suddenly she smiles and looks back at her friend. “Ya know what, Twi? Yer right! Ah just got so plumb tuckered out woryin about her that Ah didn’t realize how funny it was. Ah mean, school? Not even Applebloom could get into any trouble there. She’s as safe as a prairie dog in a four foot deep hole on a hot summer’s day!”

“Southernisms, Applejack,” the unamused unicorn reminds her.

“Heh sorry, Twi….” Applejack tips her hat. “Ah just meant ya were right, ta not worry bout bloom. Ah mean school of all places! What could possibly go wrong?”

…………………

Everything that could have gone wrong for Applebloom that day had gone wrong. Since she had attended school, her spirit high after defeating her hated enemy Diamond Tiara, she had thought that her life was looking up again. Now she was just counting the clock for the minutes to end so she could go to lunch and eat her meal in peace.

At first it had been nothing, spit wads launched at the back of her head from random locations. Initially she had suspected Diamond Tiara; however the sticky bolts had seemed to come from every direction and angle, as if the entire class was in on Applebloom’s torment. Eventually she had just tried to ignore it and that worked for a while, until they started to throw heavier objects, like erasers and textbooks. Eventually the bombardment had worn her down and she snapped behind her, demanding that anypony that had the guts to mock her do it to her face. Diamond whistled innocently as the rest of the class looked dumbstruck at the yellow filly, as if she had lost her mind. Cheerilee had reacted much harsher than the rest of the class did; demanding to know what she thought was so important she had to yell over her.

Applebloom blushed of course and apologized to the class for her disruption, as Diamond grinned behind her. Their teacher Cheerilee had then used Applebloom’s disruption to her advantage, giving them a pop quiz. All the class groaned as the teacher handed out her test, telling them it was just a simple recap quiz of things they should already know. And upon receiving the test, Applebloom was surprised to find out that she did already know the answers to all the questions; life was looking up for her again. Cheerilee gave them ten minutes and Applebloom buckled down, confident that she could ace this test easy. However something strange happened yet again: every time she tried to mark her answer her pencil, as if possessed of a mind of its own, would move randomly across the page. Applebloom tried to control it, however using too much force made her look crazy and using too little just created scribbles on the page. By the time that Cherilee called time, the only thing that Applebloom had managed to legibly write was her own name. When asked by the teacher why she had saw fit to fill her quiz with scribbles, Diamond had launched into a witty remark about her intelligence that the entire class had laughed at, and though Cheerilee had managed to calm the class down the damage had been done. Applebloom could only look behind her with a dirty look on her face as Diamond had grinned in triumph; now Applebloom knew beyond the shadow of a doubt that Diamond had done something to sabotage her.

Cherilee the well-meaning teacher had tried to help Applebloom by allowing her to do an easy problem on the board. However the moment that Applebloom tried to get out of her desk she had her front hoof tugged out from under her, falling flat on her face. This earned another smart remark from Diamond and more ridicule for the yellow filly. Finally Applebloom had managed to get up to the board, despite tripping again, and began to solve the math problem Cheerilee had set out for her. Applebloom knew the answer yet, once again, when she grabbed the chalk to write the answer her hoof had been sharply pulled to the side, creating a ‘four’ on the board in place of the correct answer, ‘one’. Applebloom was forced to look in horror as Cherilee confirmed that the answer was wrong, earning more taunting from the class. This, for the third time that day, earned a sharp remark from Diamond to which the entire class, save Sweetie and Scootaloo, joined in on. The yellow mare had had enough of her ridicule, and though her sister was known for her patience and self-control, her younger sister had yet to master such virtues. In no small words, and using a word or two that fillies her age were not meant to hear, Applebloom displayed the brazen honesty of her sister by telling Diamond EXACTLY what she thought of her.

Now she was sitting in her desk nineteen minutes late for her fifty minute lunch break, watching as all the other fillies played outside without her. Applebloom looked at the clock again, willing time to move faster, if just to let her out of her prison of a desk. Finally by act of god or just good luck, the clock hit 12:45 and Cheerilee said the yellow filly was free to go. However, as Applebloom was about to leave the teacher made it very clear that further disruptions would not be tolerated, causing the filly to gulp in fear and hastily rush out into the fresh air outside. Now outside and free from the watchful eye of Cheerilee, Applebloom sighs in her despair, thinking upon the fact that she can’t afford to make another mistake and rueing what she thought would be her best day ever. However, as the yellow mare lowers her head in defeat, she finds that despite her embarrassment in class that she is not entirely forsaken….

“HEY APPLEBLOOM!” The yellow filly raises her head from the dirt, recognizing the voice of Scootaloo. “Come over here, we saved you a seat!” Scootaloo shouts over the din of the playground from a nearby wooden picnic table.

Smiling broadly that she has not yet been abandoned, the yellow filly trots up to the table where her two friends are sitting and takes a seat. “Thanks guys! Ah thought that little thing in the classroom had ruined mah chance at popularity. Good ta know that ya decided to stick by me!”

“Of course, Applebloom!” Sweetie Belle squeaks, “it’s one for all and all for one! Just because you messed up with problem on the board…. And you failed your quiz…. And you made a fool of yourself in class, it don’t meant that we’re any less your friends!”

Applebloom throws her arms up in exasperation. “I didn’t mess up! it wasn’t me!”

Sweetie tilts her head. “Um…… how is that possible? I mean unless you were replaced by a changeling in the middle of class then….”

“No, no Sweetie.” Applebloom shakes her head. “Ah mean that Ah was up there on the board and sitting down fer the test and Ah knew the answer but mah pencil and mah arm moved like they was possessed!”

Scootaloo shivers at the implications. “You mean…” She gulps heavily. “That the schoolhouse is…. HAUNTED?!”

Applebloom groans. “No, Scootaloo, Ah don’t think that the schoolhouse is haunted.”

Sweetie nods her head. “Yeah, Scootaloo. Ghosts don’t exist! There’s no reason to be scared!”

“I’m not scared of ghosts!” Scootaloo yells, “I mean…. I wasn’t scared at all…. Great story, Applebloom!”

Applebloom rolls her eyes at her orange friend’s efforts to conceal her fright. “Whatever… let’s just get to eatin our lunches…” Applebloom opens her lunch box with gusto. “Ah don’t know about yawl but Ah’ve been looking forward to this ….” The yellow mare’s eyes widen. “…oh no…”

Scootaloo takes a bite of her sandwich. “What’s up, Applebloom? Did your sister pack you a pear?”

Applebloom tears through her lunch pack. “MY APPLE FRITTER! It’s gone! Applejack packed that especially for me and it’s gone now! Applejack makes the best apple fritters in Ponyville and its gone!” Applebloom whines, “Ah was looking forward to that all day….”

“Aw… I’m sorry to hear that, Applebloom…” Sweetie’s ears lower but then perk up again a second later. “You can have some of my cookies that I made!” Sweetie opens up her lunch bag and offers a strange object to Applebloom with her outstretched hoof. And speaking of a ‘stretch’, to call the object Sweetie has just handed her friend a ‘cookie’ would be an insult to baked goods everywhere.

The thing that Sweetie offers to her friend is colored bright white with green splotches covering its flakey form, as if the entire pastry were covered in mold before baking it to a blackened crisp. The smell of the cookie itself is strong enough to kill rats and, if smell is any indication of taste, the taste alone would be able to kill an adult pony in seconds.

The filly shies away from the cookies as if from death itself. “Ummm… no thanks, Sweetie, the rest o mah lunch is fine. Thanks fer offerin though.”

Sweetie shrugs. “Suit yourself!” As Sweetie pops the ‘pastry’ into her mouth, every pony at the table can’t help but stare at her as if she had grown another head. “What?” Sweetie asks, “is it something that I said?”

“NO! It’s nothing! Right, Applebloom?”

“… Yeah…. Nothing…..” Applebloom looks to the other side of the playground at the privately-reserved table of her nemesis. “…. Ah bet you right now Diamond Tiara is laughing her little crown off at mah situation. And Ah don’t know how but somehow Ah know that she’s the one to blame for all this…..”

………..

“Nice apple fritter, Diamond! It looks really good!” Silver Spoon says to her indifferently-eating friend. “That looks like a Sweet Apple Acres fritter. Where did you get it? Did your butler get it for you?”

Diamond snaps out of her mental haze and gives her friend a surprised look, before answering in her normal indifferent way. “Oh, this? I just happened to get it from Applebloom. Think of it as a donation.”

Silver scratches her head. “but Applebloom hates you. She’d never give you one of her sister’s apple fritters, unless……” Silver’s eyes grow wide. “Diamond?! You didn’t…. you didn’t steal it from her? Did you?!”

Diamond looks at her friend with contempt. “And? What if I did? She’s just a nameless blank flank, who cares?”

Silver puffs up. “I care!”

“About that blank flank? I thought you loved picking on her?” Diamond barks. “What about our friendship? Do you want to be friends with Applebloom now?” Diamond glowers at Silver. “Are you TRYING to betray me?!”

“What? No! Diamond why would you….” Silver is obviously hurt from Diamond’s accusations; however, mastering her emotions quickly and logically, she calms herself down as she attacks the problem with poise and self-restraint. “Look, Diamond, picking on Applebloom cause she beat you up and defending yourself from the accusations of other ponies is one thing. You’re my friend and of course I’ll always defend you. That, and teasing ponies is really fun.” Silver giggles as Diamond stares on.

“But I’m more concerned about you, Diamond. You were sick for a few days with a really bad fever and now you seem even meaner than ever.” Silver looks across the playground, extending her hoof to accentuate all the happy, playful foals. “You teased Applebloom before, but now you seem to be deliberately insulting any pony just because you can. I mean, you always have a quick wit, Diamond, but this is taking it too far. It’s… It’s not like you, Diamond…”

Suddenly Diamond seems break free of her paranoia, thanks to the earnest words of her friend. True, ever since she got her power she has been a little meaner to everypony…. But that’s because she’s better than them, right?!

Diamond sighs. “You’re right, Silver, this is very unlike me…. I guess that I just let my emotions get to me. I mean stealing from a blank flank like this…” Diamond finishes the fritter, jumping off of the table with a quick leap. “…It’s like so low class. When have I ever needed to stoop to petty thievery?”

Silver breathes an immense sigh of relief as she jumps down from the table to join her friend. “I’m glad, Diamond. You know that I’ll always stick by you and all. I was just worried about you.”

Diamond smiles. “Of course; you wouldn’t be a good friend if you didn’t!” Diamond gives her friend a side hug. “And things will go back to normal, just as soon as I put that blank flank in her place.”

“That’s good, Diamond, cause I was getting… Wait? What!?”

Diamond takes an affirmative step towards the table Applebloom is sitting at, as if declaring war. “She embarrassed me, Silver. She ruined my reputation in front of the entire school. But most unforgivably, she attempted to throw me off the top rung of the social ladder. And treason like that cannot be so easily forgiven.”

“But Diamond…”

Diamond turns sharply towards Silver. “Once I put that troublemaker in her place everything will go back to normal. I’ll be at the top again and everypony will love and respect me.” Diamond twists her head to glare at her adversary from across the playground. “I promise, Silver, once I’ve put that blank flank in her place, everything will be as it was again.”

Silver breathes deeply and looks with worry at Diamond Tiara, realizing that her words will no longer reach her friend where she is right now. In her heart, Silver hopes that it will really be the end and that once Applebloom learns not to mess with Diamond, her friend will return to normal. However, something that has emerged from her friend’s psyche, a cruel streak that seems to delight in spreading misery, worries her far more than she cares to admit. It is as though an insidious shadow of power has taken residence in Diamond’s soul, stifling the light she once saw and nurtured. And in her mind Silver fears that Diamond Tiara will never stop, not as long as she has the will to crush those that would defy her……

…………….

The bell rung and class had continued like normal. However this time it became impossible for Applebloom to ignore her phantom bully. Spitwads became more numerous, her coat became pelted with various objects from every direction and she had even fallen out of her seat a couple of times. From that point on it became impossible for Applebloom to deny that Diamond Tiara was behind it all, as she would snicker and laugh at every one of Applebloom’s misfortunes. Diamond would react with surprising speed every time Applebloom stumbled and fell, responding with a quick joke every time Applebloom was embarrassed.

And worse yet it had been only thirty minutes since lunch.

Applebloom still has more than two hours to endure till school is out, and she is dead certain she will be unable to make it another two hours without either attacking Diamond Tiara or going crazy. Another spit wad hits her mane with enough force to send the filly jumping into the air in shock. Fortunately, or perhaps unfortunately, Cheerilee was too absorbed in her lecture to witness Applebloom’s plight, lecturing with her back to the class as she drew shapes and diagrams on the board.

With things only getting worse for her, Applebloom’s mind is forced into high gear as she struggles to think up any way to get away or get back at her tormenter. ‘If only Ah could lure Diamond some place and confront her, then Ah bet that Ah could get her ta stop,’ Applebloom ponders, looking at her teacher as she draws another pie chart. ‘But Cherilee would never let me leave unless it was a medical emergency or somethin. Aw! If only Ah was still sick then Ah….’ Applebloom suddenly shoots up in her desk ‘THAT'S IT! GET SICK!’

The yellow filly raises her hoof trying to look as sick as possible. “Uggggggg, Miss Cherilee…..”

The teacher turns around to address her student, a look of concern on her face. “Yes Applebloom? Is something the matter?”

Using all the skill that she possesses, the yellow filly attempts to do the one thing her sister could never succeed at doing: lie. “Uggggggghhhhhh! My stomach…. It hurts….. Can I… urp…… can I go to the nurse’s office?”

Fortunately for her, Applebloom was much better at lying than her sister. Unfortunately she was trying to lie to a middle school teacher. Despite the yellow filly’s best attempts at acting, Cherilee hadn’t gone through half a decade of college learning and accumulated years of classroom experience to be done in by a little filly’s excuse. “Honestly Applebloom? A stomach ache? Now I know that you haven’t been having the best of days today….”

“Uuuugggghhhhhh,” the filly groans louder.

“…. But you simply can’t make up a story like that in the middle of class and expect to get away with It.” The teacher looks at her compassionately. “What would Applejack say if she caught you lying like this?”

Applebloom groans again. “Ugggghhhhh…. It was… urp… Sweetie’s….. Urp…. It was her cookies……urrrrhhhhh…. Shouldn’t have…. Tried….”

Catching onto Applebloom’s plan, Scootaloo quickly plays along. “Oh no! You tried Sweetie Belle’s cookies, Applebloom?! No wonder you are so sick! You should really go to the nurse’s office before your stomach explodes!”

“Enough!” Cherilee shouts firmly but fairly. “Now I know that you want to get out of class early, Applebloom, but this is ridiculous!”

“Try one, Miss Cheerilee!” Scootaloo insists, “then you’ll see that Applebloom is telling the truth.”

Cherilee rolls her eyes. “Oh very well, if this will put a rest to this ridiculous moaning and fibbing then I suppose that I can give it a try. Sweetie, if you don’t mind….”

Throwing open her bag Sweetie pulls out a spare cookie with the speed of an assassin drawing a lethal weapon. “Of course, Miss Cherilee! As it so happens I have plenty of spares since nopony wanted any.”

Without opening an eyelid the teacher picks up the cookie with an outstretched hoof and raises it to her mouth. “Now let’s go on and end this…” Cherilee takes a bite, her eyes growing wider than dinner plates as her mouth is assaulted by a taste so powerful that it freezes her mind in place. The teacher chews once….. twice….. then spits the putrid pastry all over the floor. “GOOD SWEET CELESTIA!! WHAT IS THAT TARTARUS-FORSAKEN TASTE!?!?” Cherilee spits out as much of the poison as she possibly can, wretching from the taste.

“Oh that’s easy, Miss Cheerilee!” Sweetie responds, oblivious to her mentor’s suffering. “You see, ponies always add things like mustard and ketchup and mayonnaise to make things taste better right? So I thought if I cooked my cookies with some of them they would taste better! So how was it? Be brutally honest, should I have included more mustard or pepper?”

The teacher turns to Applebloom, her face turning whiter by the second. “How many of these…. these…..” The teacher holds up one of the half-chewed pastries up for the class to see. “THINGS, did you eat, Applebloom?”

“Um…. I don’t know, Miss Cherilee? Two?”

“GOOD EMPRESS! WHY WOULD YOU EAT MORE THAN ONE?!?!”

Applebloom fidgets in her chair. “Well… I didn’t want to seem rude to Sweetie Belle….” Applebloom points to the gently weeping white filly.

Sweetie Belle sniffles. “My… my cooking isn’t that bad….. Is it?”

Realizing the extent of her hysteric behavior, Cherilee takes a deep breath in and out before placing her hoof on the white filly shoulder. “Sweetie, I don’t mean to sound rude, but your cooking is Death itself. And there’s nothing wrong with that, some ponies are just better at things than others. And I assure you, Sweetie, you will find a talent that will make ponies very happy and get your cutie mark. But I can also assure you that cooking will never be that talent.”

Cherilee turns to face the yellow filly, tossing her a small yellow piece of wood. “As for you, Applebloom, you are a far braver pony than I am, here is the hall pass; nurse Long Sleeves is not in today, however you are free to spend as much time resting in the nurse’s office as you feel you need. If you are still feeling ill after school I will take you to the hospital myself, but until then I have to continue to teach class.”

Cherilee looks with a terrified expression at the pastry on her desk before promptly throwing it in the trash. “I understand after consuming….. THAT…. you might need more attention but I simply cannot leave these students unsupervised for any reason, so I’ll have to ask you to wait for a while until the lesson is done.”

Grabbing the hall pass in her mouth, the filly thanks the goddess for giving her friend super horrible cooking powers and bolts out the door before anything else can happen to jeopardize her plan. Running out into the hall the filly finally breathes a sigh of relief. “Whew…. Alright, that went pretty well if’n Ah do say so mahself. Ah’ll have ta thank Scootaloo and Sweetie later. But fer now step one is complete…..”

The yellow filly walks over to the door outside, throwing it open and letting in a subtle breeze. “….. Now it’s time fer step two.”

……………..

Diamond taps her hoof impatiently on her desk, listening to another boring lesson of another boring day of school. Surprisingly, Cheerilee was still at it, talking about something to do with integers or something that Diamond didn’t care about.

How can she possibly be expected to pay attention to a boring lesson when the object of her attention - or rather the object of her ire - has been able to evade her wrath thanks to a lame excuse from her blank-flanked friends? I mean, a stomach ache from Sweetie’s cooking? How lame can an excuse get? Then again, there was that one time she had gone to get a dress from Rarity and Sweetie had tried to prepare her tea… Diamond shakes her head, trying to purge her mind of that memory. She needed a whole new toilet after that day…

No, she needs something else to occupy her time, anything to distract her from that horrific memory.

However there is nothing. Her plan today was to crush the will of Applebloom, but she had coincidently fled her presence, meaning she has to wait until tomorrow to make a fool of her. Normally if class gets too boring she will pass notes with Silver or try to talk with her, if the teacher isn’t looking; after all, she is in the desk right next to her. However, ever since lunch Silver has seemed really downcast, like she doesn’t want to talk to her friend at all.

Diamond simmers inwardly. ‘Why can’t Sliver understand? It’s all Applebloom! She’s trying to make a fool of me! She’s the one at fault here!’ Diamond groans and decides to do something truly desperate: pay attention to Cheerilee's lesson. Diamond looks ahead to the front of the room, searching for anything there that can distract her from her boredom: the back of Sweetie’s rat’s nest of a mane; Cheerilee's crazy bar graphs representing numbers or something; Applebloom making a face at her from the window; Alula and her cute….. Diamond does an immediate double take to see none other than her rival making a ridiculous face at her from the window. Diamond stares as Applebloom stretches her smile in the creepiest way possible.

“MISS CHEERILEE!” Diamond yells, pointing out the window.

Cherilee sighs, muttering under her breath; how many more interruptions will happen today? “Yes, Diamond?”

“Applebloom’s making faces at me!”

Cherilee rolls her eyes. “Diamond, I know that you and Applebloom don’t get along but she’s in the nurse’s office right now.” A haunted look crosses Cheerilee's face. “… Any pony would be in need of medical attention after that.…”

“No, Miss Cherilee! She’s outside, look out...” Diamond looks out the window where Applebloom was just a second before to see that the yellow menace has disappeared.

Cherilee looks out the window where Diamond is pointing. “Diamond, that’s just your imagination. Now I have had enough interruptions today and I would like to finish this lesson on prime integers, if you would please. That means no more interrupting the class.”

“But Miss Cherilee!”

“Do you understand, Diamond Tiara?”

Cheerilee's stare silences any further protests from the pink filly as she slumps back into her seat, crossing her hooves in a pout while the ignorant teacher resumes her lesson. However just as Cherilee turns her back, Applebloom appears in the window again, this time with an even more insulting face. Diamond is about to call out to Cherilee again but stops, realizing that the same results will only occur: Cherilee will look, Applebloom will disappear, and Diamond will get in trouble. And worst of all her power can’t work on Applebloom from this range, not with her outside!

As Applebloom makes another mocking face that no one else in the class can see, Diamond stares forward at the board, realizing that now the horseshoe is on the other foot, and she has to endure Applebloom’s bullying. Diamond calms herself with a deep breath, steeling herself for the rest of the day. ‘Don’t worry, Diamond, you can do this, it’s just one day… tomorrow she won’t be able to use the same excuse and you can get her then. Yeah just wait it out and then you can….’

Diamond makes the mistake of looking out the window to see a sight that she wishes that she could forget. Apparently, Applebloom has grown tired of making faces and has just opted to wave her butt in Diamond’s face through the window. Diamond burns in anger and embarrassment as she tries to look away from the offensive, disgusting sight but finds herself completely unable to. Despite how much she tries, Diamond cannot tear her vision away from Applebloom as she waves her blank flank at her from the window, mocking her in a way that is visible to nopony else but her. Diamond blushes furiously in anger as she hopes, to no avail, that the blank flanked loser will switch back to her normal insulting-ugly face. However, despite her concerns the yellow filly continues at it, waving her curvy flank as if to mock Diamond’s integrity. Diamond gulps heavily, as it looks like she is stuck staring at the offensive posterior of her worst enemy: Applebloom. Yes, Diamond Tiara was stuck staring at Applebloom’s cutie petite…..

Diamond’s hoof snaps in the air. “Miss Cheerilee, I have to go. Bad.”

The teacher sighs deeply at the tenth interruption that day. “All right, Diamond, you can go, but TRY and make it fast…”

Diamond jumps from her chair and walks with calm malevolence towards the door. “Oh don’t worry, Miss Cherilee, it’ll be over quickly.” As she shuts the door behind her she swears under her breath, “One way or another, it all ends today..….”

Chapter 14-Baltimare Tea Party- Take 2

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Baltimare Tea Party-Take 2:


Outside on the playground, the two fillies Applebloom and Diamond Tiara, stare each other down like the cowponies of old in a face-off of epic proportions. The rivals had met there without a word, and both knew that one way or another their teasing and fowlish name calling had evolved into something far more. And They both knew one way or another that this would not be another exchange of insults or pointless bickering, it would be a fight to the finish.

“Well, blank flank?” The pink mare is the first to speak. “You’re the one who dragged me out of class with your immature behavior, so what do you want? I’m a busy mare so, if you don’t have anything to say, then…”

“Actually Diamond, ah’ve got a question..…” The yellow mare interrupts the pink mare with such force that Diamond flinches. The yellow filly looks the bully in the eyes, the force of her stare unnerving the pink bully. “What the heck is wrong with you, Diamond?” The farm filly snaps. “Pickin on ponies makin them feel bad, an all because you’re lonely. Yawl have to realize that…”

“Don’t you get it, blank flank? I don’t pick on ponies because I’m lonely.” Diamond smiles as she seizes the upper hoof.

“… an … What? What are yawl talkin bout, Diamond? Ain’t yawl just pickin on ponies ta get attention er somethin like that?” Applebloom scratches her head. “Ah mean why else would ya make ponies miserable if ya didn’t want attention, it makes less sense than a snowstorm in June…”

‘Poor, poor Applebloom…..’ Diamond Tiara thinks. Diamond looks at the uncouth farmer before her, half of her wanting to just put her in her place so that she won’t have to hear her butchered Equestrian anymore. But the other half…

“All right, I suppose this is as good a time as any.” Diamond Tiara smirks as she closes in on Applebloom. “You may be a mindless dolt but I’ll try to make you understand the importance of what you have done to me, by standing up to a pony that is far more superior to you.” Diamond looks at her adversary with an expression of pity. “Have you ever been to a fancy dinner party, Applebloom?”

“Wha….. A fancy dinner party? What kind of question is that!?” Applebloom takes an angry step forward. “Make some sense Diamond! Why are you such a bully?”

“HUMPH! I’m guessing by the way you’re acting that you’ve never been to a fancy dinner, so let’s just use our imaginations shall we?” Diamond brushes her mane to the side, showing off her obviously superior beauty. “If everypony at a dinner party were to sit at a fancy dinner table with silverware and napkins to their left and right. What would determine which silverware the pony picks up?”

Applebloom is completely lost at Diamond’s words, tilting her head in confusion. “HUNH? Now yer talking about silverware? Diamond, this is serious not some game, Ah asked ya a simple question an Ah want a….”

“And I’m trying to explain it to you, you nitwit!” Diamond yells. “Now answer the question. What would decide which silverware a pony picks up; the one on their left or the one on their right?”

Seeing that arguing with the filly before her is getting her nowhere, Applebloom blows out some hot air from her nose. “Fine then, if ya want to play at riddles then it depends upon whether the pony pickin up the silverware is left- or right-hoofed.”

Diamond giggles. “A simple answer from a simple pony, I expected as much. That answer may be correct from your lowly country view, but that answer is wrong.”

“What?”

Diamond smirks. “That’s right, Applebloom, the correct answer is that it is determined by the pony that takes his or namely ‘her’ silverware first. For example I am left hoofed, so if I took my silverware first then everypony else at the table would have to take the silverware from the left because that would be the only pair left to them.”

The bully responds like a well trained lawyer making her point. “If the first pony takes her silverware from the left then there is no choice but for the other ponies to also take the left silverware. They do so because they have no other option since there would only be a fork and spoon to the left of each pony.”

Applebloom continues to scratch her head. “Ah still don’t get it, what do napkins have to do with bullyin?”

Diamond groans. “Fine, Applebloom, I’ll only ask you one more question, and then we’re done. At this table, what determines who takes their silverware first?”

Applebloom thinks really hard at this as she scratches her chin. “Ah don’t know much bout fancy dinner parties but…. If it were anything like a normal dinner, the pony at the head would be the first to take the silverware?”

Diamond breathes an immense sigh of relief. “Very good, at least you got one right. Yes, the pony at the head or the master of the table will take their silverware first because..…?” Diamond asks, leading Applebloom on.

“…… Because they set the table?”

Diamond facehoofs. “It’s because they’re respected! It’s because they have status! The one who takes the silverware must be respected by everyone there,” Diamond shouts in exasperation. “For example, if Celestia herself sat at the table and she took her silverware from the left, no matter who you were you would have no choice but to take the silverware after Celestia wouldn’t you? That is because she is respected, that’s why ponies follow her!”

Applebloom looks at Diamond as she begins to piece her argument together. “So what yer sayin is the one that is the most respected decides what to do?”

Diamond grins evilly. “Now you begin to understand! I knew it was so simple that even a blank flank like you could get it.” THe bully states proudly. “In society, nay, in the world at large it is the ones with status and prestige, the ponies of the upper class that decide everything with their slightest whims. I mean, if a rich pony can decide which silverware another pony eats with, they can easily decide another pony’s minimum wage, the jobs they take and the lives that they live.”

“Ponies get cutie marks for a reason. For example, my cutie mark,” Diamond reveals her flank, her cutie mark the standard of perfection, “is that of a crown, which demonstrates my right to power and prestige that surpasses all the lower classes that I rule over.”

Diamond takes a step forward, her eyes filled with rage. “In other words, it is the ponies that possess high class and the respect of other ponies, those born marked to rule over others, who decide a pony’s fate. That is true power and those under this power’s influence can only be allies.”

Applebloom scoffs at this. “What? That’s the most pompous and ridiculous thing Ah’ve ever heard!” Applebloom yells. “Ponies can be anything they want! That’s what a cutie mark means!”

Diamond laughs. “Only a low class pony would resist such a universal truth. Face it, Applebloom, you were born on the bottom ladder of society. You were born at the bottom of society because you belong there, and by embarrassing me and resisting that fact you’ve spread chaos in my perfectly orderly world.”

Diamond Tiara states. “Face it, Applebloom, you were born to farmers and you’ll die a farmer. While I, a rich business pony, will climb to the top of society while you wallow in mud the rest of your life.”

Applebloom’s eyes ignite with an intensity that rivals her sister, burning with righteous indignation at her words. “So let me get this straight. Yawl think that just because yawl got money and a fancy cutie mark that yer better than any pony?” Applebloom snorts like a bull. “And that gives ya the right to push other ponies down, cause they’re not as good as you?!”

Diamond smiles and nods. “I’m glad you understand, Applebloom. Now you know what will happen if you go against your designated place in society, don’t you? You’ll…”

“Yeah, Ah know what will happen…” Applebloom spits off to her side. “You’ll get a black eye!” Before Diamond can even react, the yellow mare leaps forward tackling the pink filly to the ground.

Diamond, unused to such physical combat, flails about as Applebloom pins her in the dirt. Applebloom smiles evilly as her tormenter lies beneath her. “So yawl like tormenting me, hunh?” Applebloom raises her hoof to strike. “Well it looks like the horseshoe is on the other foot, now ain’t it, so let’s see how you like…..” The yellow filly lowers her hoof to Diamond’s head. “A Noogie!”

Diamond shrieks in pain. “NO! My perfectly-styled mane! Ruined!” The pink filly flails about as Applebloom harshly presses her hoof into Diamond’s hair. However, in her flailing Diamond is able to get her back hooves free. “I said… let GO!”

With the force of an earth pony’s buck Diamond Tiara launches a powerful blow directly to the yellow filly’s middle, causing Applebloom to clutch her stomach. “Ha! Take that Apple….” The pink filly’s eyes widen. “….Bloom?”

The blow that Diamond thought that she delivered directly at Applebloom seems to have stopped in its tracks, her hooves absorbed into some kind of silvery plant that is growing out of Applebloom’s coat. No sooner does Diamond realize this than the plant rapidly expands with the force of a gunshot, sending the pink filly sprawling backwards in the dirt. Staring at her opponent with a look of surprise and shock Diamond pulls herself to her hooves, using the bars of the swing set next to her as support “What the…? how….?”

Applebloom smiles as her rival pulls herself from the dirt. “Yawl like that? That’s the power of mah Stand!” Applebloom takes a leisurely step forward. “Ya see, it’s like mah sis Applejack said ‘Ah am rubber and yer are glue’ When somepony throws somethin at you, yawl just got to throw it back.”

Applebloom takes another step. “That’s how this rivalry o ours has gone fer a long time: ya throw somethin at me an Ah throw it back.” Applebloom strikes a stylish pose as she manifests her beautiful plant Stand out her back, its branches beginning to blossom like an apple tree in June, “An with mah Stand, Ah can send any attack ya launch at me right back at you. It’s over, Diamond.”

Applebloom walks up to Diamond and grabs her with her hoof, propping her up against the bar with no small amount of force. “Now, Diamond, Ah know that ya think that ya have the right ta make fun of any pony ya want, but this has ta stop now before yawl go too far.”

Diamond looks off to the side as if trying to avoid Applebloom’s gaze. “… Stand…. I see…. So that’s the power that causes you to manifest some kind of spirit…. And that’s what that bush on your back is……”

Applebloom shakes her head. “Yes! Ah mean no! From what Twilight told me it’s some kind o mane-if-istation of who you are or something… but that’s not important now, Diamond. Anyways, like Ah said, yawl need ta stop all this bullin or else….”

“Or else what?” Diamond snaps, “You’ll beat me up? You’ll bully me too? You think that you’re some kind of saint or something, Applebloom?” The yellow filly, shocked by Diamond’s harsh words, loosens her grips ever so slightly. “Face it, Applebloom, you just want to push me in the dirt so that you can stand over me just like I was doing to you! The only difference between us is that I’m doing it for the betterment of society!”

Applebloom flinches. “That’s….. That’s a lie!”

“No it isn’t, Applebloom, it’s a fact,” Diamond states with a level of certainty that shakes even Applebloom’s foundation. “Ponies are born into poverty and ponies are born into riches, and the rich and influential ponies rule over the lower classes. That’s what creates an orderly society.”

Diamond breaks out a wicked grin, her every word seeping with arrogance and haughtiness. “But don’t worry, Applebloom, if you promise to submit to me and my wishes then I’ll go easy on you. After all, for a blank flank you seem to have all this important knowledge about the strange things that are going on in Ponyville. You even knew what to call this power that I have gained recently…. Stand was it? You could be very useful to me….”

Suddenly, before she can even respond, Applebloom finds herself hoisted into the air as if by some invisible force. The yellow filly flails about as she looks above her to see a puppeteer figure draped in lace and diamonds. The figure’s arms end in what looks to her like a kind of puppet tool and each point ends in a string that is attached to her arms and legs. The yellow filly, trapped in Diamond’s web, struggles for freedom while Diamond laughs beneath her. “You like that, blank flank? That’s my power; it allows me to attach strings from a ceiling or other object above my head to control any object that I wish, causing them to dance to my will like puppets.”

Diamond brushes her hair to the side, fixing her crumpled mane and driving off the dust on her coat. “It’s truly a power fitting an upper class pony like me. The power to control the plebeians born below us is a power that is destined to come into the hands of an upper class pony such as myself.”

Applebloom continues to struggle. “Ya…. Ya were the one responsible…. Fer everything! The test…. The spit wads…. The board…..”

“Uh Duh!” Diamond deadpans. “Did you miss the entire ‘put the lower class ponies in their places’ speech I just gave? Well, no matter, once there is a solid object above my head my Stand is invincible! It’s why I lured you over to the swings.”

Diamond looks over to the schoolhouse as an idea crosses through her head. “But I think that now it’s time for a little change of scenery…”

As Applebloom continues to flail, Diamond’s Stand pulls tight on the strings, swinging the yellow filly back and forth under the swing set, causing Applebloom to gain a bit more altitude with every swing. With explosive power the Stand suddenly releases the yellow filly, sending her barreling through the air straight towards the open schoolhouse door. With a thud the yellow filly lands in the empty hallway of the school, thankful that her Stand was there to absorb the impact of her heavy fall.

Her head still spinning from sailing through the air like a kite on a windy day, Applebloom rises slowly to her hooves just in time for a dark shadow to fall over her. The brave blank-flanked filly turns around to face her rival Diamond Tiara, the pink mare’s very presence blocking out the sun as the bully advances with malevolence. Applebloom looks to the left and the right for a way to escape, but is distressed to find that she is in the locker room of the school where foals store their things for the day. She is far from earshot of the class and the only way out is through the bully blocking her escape.

“What’s wrong, blank flank?” Diamond mocks. “Still dizzy from your little flight? You know that you can try and hit back if you want…”

“Shut up, Diamond!” Applebloom yells.

“… could it be?” Diamond smiles with glee. “Oh I think I know what it is.” The bully giggles. “See, I was confused why you didn’t try to attack me with your ‘Stand’, but then I realized my Stand can move because it’s a pony shape. Yours is a plant.”

Diamond points at Applebloom and with the most mocking voice that she can muster laughs at her. “It’s not that you aren’t attacking, it’s that you can’t! Your Stand can’t move an inch! Not that I expected much from a blank flank’s Stand, it’s only more a sign of how useless you are…”

Now Applebloom is no longer able to control her temper as she surges forward. “Ah said Shut UP!” Applebloom leaps forward only to fall flat on her face a hoof’s length from Diamond. Looking behind her the yellow mare sees her back leg snagged in another of Diamond’s wires, the Stand itself hanging from the ceiling. Applebloom tries to yank the string off of her with her free hooves, but she quickly finds her limbs bound by the strings as she is hoisted - completely powerless - into the air.

As Applebloom flails about, Diamond takes a moment to bask in her victory over her eternal rival. Finally, after all these years, she has defeated Applebloom. “What’s the matter?” Diamond mocks, “Is your blank flank Stand unable to do anything against my Baltimare Tea party?” Applebloom yells in anger as Diamond nods. “Good. That is the way it should be. Lower-class ponies like you should be cleaning my boots. And now with an entire ceiling above me and not just a swing bar I can use my power to its utmost potential.”

Lifting both her hooves in the air like a composer before her orchestria, Diamond swirls them around in the air causing several strands to wrap around Applebloom’s mane and legs. Then with a sharp yank of her hooves Diamond causes her Stand, BTA to tug Applebloom’s mane with enough force to cause the yellow filly to yelp in pain. Smiling, Diamond swings her arm again, this time tugging hard on her left arm. Applebloom yelps again as she flails about to escape. “Don’t bother, blank flank,” Diamond says, “maybe if your Stand could move you might be able to break free. But your Stand can only absorb a physical blow, not a grapple like this!”

Diamond pulls on Applebloom’s mane again, this time the filly managing to stifle a scream. “Or more than two attacks at once, like this!” Diamond pulls both her arms apart as she stretches Applebloom’s body like a pony on a rack. Diamond abruptly stops her assault, allowing her opponent to hang limp in the air panting heavily and trying to suppress her rising discomfort at her situation. Applebloom catches her breath, recovering from the light torture as Diamond looks on. Diamond stares at Applebloom with a mixture of pity and compassion as Applebloom stops squirming. “Enough of this, Applebloom. If you had any brains at all you’d realize it’s over. I’ve won!”

Applebloom stares back at her adversary, breathing heavily. “… No ya….. Ain't won….. Yet….”

Diamond Tiara sighs. “Your insistence on not giving up might be cute if it wasn’t for the fact that it was annoying as buck. Wake up, you dunce! You’re helpless before my power; you can’t move and you can’t attack. Just give in and submit, Applebloom. It’s your destiny to be a lowly farmer just like it’s mine to get rich off your labor! No matter what you do that will never change. So submit to my will already!”

In that very moment part of Applebloom did want to give in, to just bow down to Diamond’s trivial demands and let her have her way. After all, she thought, how could a blank flank, who didn’t even know what to do with her life, fight against fate? Applejack was right; she was just in the way, a burden to others. If her Stand couldn't do anything to stop one little bully how could she fight against her destiny of hard work on a farm. She should just give in, endure Diamond’s taunts in silence and go back to Scootaloo and Sweetie….

Suddenly, fire ignites in Applebloom’s eyes once more. How could she have forgotten her friends?! If she let Diamond win she wouldn't be the only one to suffer! If she let Diamond prevail here her friends would be targets for Diamond’s cruel jokes. Her sister may be right… She was in her sister’s way. But the only pony standing in the way of her own destiny wasn’t a cutie mark, or her heritage as a farmer, it wasn’t even Diamond Tiara or Applejack. The only thing standing in the way of her life, was herself, her self-doubt; her fears and her indecision were the only things encumbering the farm filly, all of them waiting to be thrown off like excess baggage.

Applebloom yanks on the strings binding her with such force and suddenness that Diamond flinches, her Stand struggling to hold Applebloom in her bonds. “Ah’ll never give up ta you, Diamond. An yer wrong, Ah can change. An most important, Ah can protect mah friends. So do yer worst, cause Ah’ll never let ya have yer way with me or mah friends…. Not as long as Ah gots the strength to fight back.” Applebloom subconsciously manifests her Stand over her back, the plant beginning to flower and grow, the silvery buds blossoming into bright red flowers before Diamond Tiara’s eyes.

Diamond is initially shocked by Applebloom’s resistance, however after a few seconds she sighs disappointedly. “Why are blank flanks so thick headed? All right, Applebloom, have it your way! I didn’t want to go this far…. But if your only goal is to make trouble for me and my rule then you’ve forced my hoof!” In a sudden jerking movement Diamond’s Stand swings the yellow filly on her line, sending her careening towards the floor. “I’ll just have to knock you out in one blow before you can defend with your Stand!”

Applebloom hits the floor with a flash of light as the plant-like Stand all over her body erupts in a blossoming explosion of red flowers. The silvery spring-like plants thicken and grow at high speed, spreading over Applebloom’s back as they reform into four solid branches. Two pony-shaped arms form from a large brass coil, springing out of the bramble’s sides, the arms clad in shining pewter gauntlets covered in pressure gauges. Two back legs display changes, with the same brass springs and silver leg guards that mark the Stand’s battle ready appearance. The central bramble dissolves as a torso emerges, formed from a multitude of springs and with a pressure gauge over its heart. And finally an armored head emerges, completely formed from the bramble, it’s red flowery mane complementing its silver mask and brass muzzle. Its transformation completed, the final Stand stands perfectly formed, no bigger than the filly from which it has sprung. With a stunning display of power and speed the Stand smashes into the ground with its hoof, stopping Applebloom’s fall as it’s spring-like arm coils from the impact.

“What the…..?” Diamond barely has time to react as Applebloom’s new Stand plucks the string holding its user with no more thought than flicking a fly. The vibration travels up the string and into Diamond’s Stand, causing the string to explode and sending the Stand recoiling from the impact, its strings flying off Applebloom’s arms and legs as the filly lands safely on the ground.

Applebloom’s Stand turns to its master, emotionless but not cold, standing majestically as Diamond Tiara picks herself off of the floor, her muzzle bleeding from the feedback from her Stand. “What… What was that…? Were you just hiding your power?” Diamond wipes the dribble of blood from her muzzle as she scowls at the filly in front of her. “Were you hiding this potential from me…. Applebloom?!”

“Potential…..” the yellow filly says as she watches her Stand in awe. “Potential! That’s it! Mah Stand had potential, ta grow! It’s like a tree! It grows stronger an bigger tha more Ah get beaten down!” Holding up her hooves the filly savors the new movement of her Stand. “It's like Twi said, Stands mane-if-est to grant desires. Ah needed it to grow, Ah needed to get stronger an Ah did!”

“That’s…” Diamond hacks, “that’s impossible! A Stand getting stronger…. Just by thinking about it!? No way! And even if such a power existed there’s no way a blank-flanked loser like you would possess it.”

Applebloom shakes her head in pity. “Ya just don’t get it, Diamond….. Yer right, Ah may be a blank flank now but that doesn’t mean mah place in this world is fixed ta one path! That’s what bein a blank flank means…” Applebloom takes a resolute step forward as Diamond takes a step back. “Ah can be great at anything, mah possibilities for growth are endless. And that means that no matter how much you try and beat me down, Ah know that Ah can get better, that Ah can improve, and that’s something that not even you with all your money can take away.”

For a second it looks like, somehow, Applebloom’s words made it through to the pink bully. Her eyes seem to soften as she looks upon the yellow mare in front of her in a new light, as if seeing something that she had never seen before. However just as quickly as it appeared the look vanishes, her face contorting into a visage of rage and embarrassment. “SO WHAT!?” Diamond’s Stand appears above her, releasing her strings all around the hall.

With a dramatic wave of her hooves the lockers around them fly open, releasing a storm of books and heavy objects to the floor. Diamond smiles as her Stand picks up these books with its multitude of strings, and flings them with all the force that she can muster at Applebloom and her new Stand. “SO YOU THINK THAT YOU CAN IMPROVE HUNH?! YOU THINK THAT YOU ARE BETTER THAN ME? Well let me tell you something, Applebloom! It doesn’t matter how much you think that you can improve; as long as I have a ceiling over my head my Stand, Baltimare Tea Party, is invincible!”

Applebloom gestures with her Stand causing it to rapidly block the books, paperweights, and assorted items that Diamond is flinging at her. In the midst of this assault Applebloom smiles. “Then it’s a real good thing that Ah’ve got a new power now, ain’t it, Diamond?”

Diamond visibly flinches at this, the books and heavy objects hanging in midair as she momentarily ceases her assault. “A new power?” Suddenly she shakes her fear off. “You’re bluffing! It’s got to be a lie!” Diamond resumes her attack, throwing more and more objects at the yellow mare and her Stand in an attempt to hit her.

Applebloom only grins as she looks at her Stand, which is blocking against every blow. “Yeah Ah thought it was silly too…. But ya saw what happened when mah Stand touched the line, all the force of hittin tha floor traveled through it.” Applebloom taps the gauges on her Stand which seem to grow with every hit the Stand blocks. “See, all the energy of yer attacks are stored within mah Stand waitin to be released, like a battery. An every attack you have thrown so far has only been making it stronger….”

Diamond’s eyes widen as she sees the gauges on Applebloom’s Stand grow higher and higher, the stored energy of all Diamond’s attacks fueling the Stand’s power and speed. “Mah ability has far surpassed a simple Sprout….. It’s not some useless plant anymore!” Applebloom shouts, “now it can take yer bad vibes an send em back at ya, so Ah think Ah’ll call it Vibrations!”

With a single solid hit, the Applebloom’s Vibrations strikes the support beam of the entire locker room, causing the beam to shake like a leaf. The vibrations travel through the wooden beam straight to the ceiling, causing it to crack around the body of Diamond’s Baltimare Tea Party. “Yawl said that as long as ya had a ceiling over yer head that ya were invincible? Ain’t that right, Diamond? Well what happens when that glass ceiling of yers comes crashin down on yer head!?”

Diamond can only stare up in horror as the wooden ceiling directly above her, the same part where her Stand is hanging, breaks and shatters into a hundred tiny pieces, causing a large segment of the ceiling to fall directly on top of her. Diamond tries to flee but finds herself tripping over one of the many books and school supplies that she has scattered over the floor, falling flat on her back. Raising her hooves in a vain attempt to defend herself, Diamond closes her eyes and braces for the end as the large chunk of timber and plaster threatens to crush her flat.

The air around Diamond explodes with sound and pressure as the wood splinters around her, the pink bully shivering like a leaf as she prepares for her death. A second passes in complete silence as Diamond’s body fails to record any sensations of pain. Opening her eyes apprehensively, Diamond looks up to see a familiar yellow body above her, the filly Applebloom’s arms and legs spread far apart over Diamond’s body. Above her, the entire weight of the ceiling rests on Applebloom’s back as the yellow filly struggles under its weight. Acting like a living bunker, Applebloom pants from the heavy weight, shielding Diamond from the ceiling’s collapse.

Diamond blinks, her mind struggling to decipher the riddle of what she is seeing. ‘It can’t be real, it simply can’t,’ she thinks. ‘Applebloom? A lowly farmer. Saved my life….’

The pink filly shakes her head. “What…?” Diamond’s shaky words fumble in her mouth. “Just what is your deal, blank flank?! First you try to kill me with that attack of yours, then you try to save my life? What is your game?!” Diamond sneers. “Oh I get it. You just saved my life for my money, is that it?! Well you can forget it, like a mare of my status would ever…..”

Diamond feels a powerful hoof slap her across the face. “Will ya shut up about money and status and all that nonsense!? It’s makin me sick!” Applebloom shouts. “Ah didn’t try an kill ya! Ah didn’t even want to fight ya except ta stop yer bullyin mah friends! Ah don’t care bout money or any of that hogwash that ya were spoutin…”

“Then…..” The bully fails to understand. “Then why? Why, after I…..”

“Cause!” Applebloom shouts. “Ya may be a bad apple, Diamond Tiara, but that doesn’t mean that yawl will be like that forever......” Applebloom looks Diamond Tiara in the eyes, straight into her soul, as she inches towards the pink filly. “Ponies can change, Diamond, even a bully like ya can be a good pony if ya try. An even if yawl were ta be mean ta me the rest of mah life Ah wouldn’t want ya to up and die……”

Diamond blushes as Applebloom’s muzzle approaches her own; the two of them that have brushed so close to death now find themselves so close to each other in heart and body.

“Applebloom…”

“Diamond Tiara…”

“Applebloom….. What the hay do you think you are doing?! GET OFF OF ME!” Diamond shouts.

“Urrrh! Ah can’t help it, Diamond, this ceiling is heavy. It’s pushing me down towards you.”

“It had better just be the ceiling that’s moving your muzzle closer to me!”

“What the hay are you….” Applebloom finally realizes what Diamond meant as she notices her position directly over Diamond. “Oh bleh! Gross! what kind of filly do ya think ah am?”

“Never mind that, just push it off so we can both leave!”

“What do ya think Ah’m doing? Push-ups?!” Applebloom complains.

“I thought you were trying to take advantage of a beautiful and helpless damsel in distress.”

“Well ah ain’t, cause you ain’t no beautiful damsel.”

“Why you… when I get out of here….”

Suddenly another familiar voice enters the two fillies range of hearing. “Applebloom! Diamond! Is that you? I heard a loud noise, are both of you all right?”

Diamond breathes in relief. “Oh thank Celestia! It’s Cherilee. It’s about time….”

“Mrs. Cherilee, it’s Applebloom an Diamond! We’re trapped here.”

“Don’t worry girls, I’ll save you, urrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.” The mulberry mare struggles as she tries to remove the ceiling off of the two fillies.

“Hurry, Mrs. Cheerilee, mah legs can’t hold out much longer.” Applebloom cries.

“Urrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr…… I’m so sorry, Applebloom!” Cheerilee shouts as she wipes the sweat from her brow. “I can’t lift it off of you. You will just have to wait until I can find the jack.”

“An how long should that take, Mrs. Cheerilee? Mah legs are gettin tired…..”

“Oh it shouldn’t take more than ten minutes to find.”

“Ten minutes?!” Both fillies cry out at the same time.

“Or maybe twenty, goodness knows where I left it. Just hold on girls, I’ll go find it.”

As the teacher dashes off, Diamond crosses her forelegs and begins to pout. “Well this is just perfect; stuck in this awkward position for who knows how long and your Stand can’t even help us out.”

“… Uh, Diamond”

“What is it, blank flank?”

“Well, yer Stand can pull up objects as long as it has a ceiling over it, right?”

Diamond Tiara sighs. “Um, weren’t you listening to the whole ‘my Stand works like a marionette’ speech I gave back there? Yes I can do that, blank flank. That’s my power.”

“Well can’t yawl just pick up the ceiling with yer Stand?”

“Well I could if there wasn’t a big hole where the ceiling used to be right above us!” Diamond’s eyes begin to roll. “Seriously, use your brain for once, blank flank.”

“Yeah but wouldn’t yawl be able to use your strings ta pick up the ceiling fragments from the ceiling round us? You know like you could swing your strings over from the not damaged parts of the ceiling above us till ya could attach them to this rubble on top of us, and then ya could just lift it off!”

“……”

“Uh Diamond, you okay?”

“…… I am seriously going to kill you, Applebloom.”

“Hunh? OW! Diamond, that hurt! Just what did I do wrong?”

………………………

With a quick use of her power Diamond herself and Applebloom so that when Cheerilee returned with the jack twenty five minutes later they had managed to convince her that they were able to slip out from underneath the rubble without her help. Fortunately, Cheerilee had blamed the collapsing ceiling on faulty repairs and canceled school for the day due to construction problems, which caused no small amount of excitement among the student body. As the rest of the students left the school and Cheerilee ran to town to procure construction ponies, five fillies that were previously mortal enemies decided to convene on the school grounds in the first cease-fire in their long histories.

“……. Well that was a totally lame day,” Diamond remarks, “first I get embarrassed by a lousy blank flank, and then I have to end up being saved by the same blank flank. Seriously, does trouble follow you around everywhere? Cause it sounds to me like you are a walking disaster zone.”

Silver prods her friend, reminding her why she is truly here. “Diamond, you said that you were going to apologize to them, even if they are lousy blank flanks.”

“Fine.” Diamond clears her throat, obviously unused to giving an honest apology. “Thank you, Applebloom, for saving my life even though I was the one bulling you in the first place. It took real guts to stand up for yourself and even more to forgive me so quickly.” Giving her signature sly smirk, Diamond looks at the yellow filly with a new sense of admiration. “I guess you are not half the loser I thought you were.”

Applebloom seems genuinely grateful at this statement, not expecting an apology and a compliment from such a bitter filly. “Gee, Diamond, than..…”

“Don’t you dare get the wrong idea, blank flank!” Diamond shouts as she points to Scootaloo and Sweetie Belle. “That goes double for the two of you. This isn’t over between us. You are all still blank flank losers and are all still going to get called out for being blank flank losers. I’m not going to stop being myself simply because of one small act of kindness!”

Silver nudges Diamond causing her to snap at her friend. “What? Is there something in my teeth?”

Silver gestures over to Applebloom, who is staring her down with a mature and threatening gaze, like the kind given by a scolding mother. Sure enough, even Diamond Tiara isn’t immune to this, and she takes a single step back.

“But……?” the yellow filly encourages.

Seeing that there is no way out, Diamond takes a deep breath to prepare for her first concession. “But I’ll try and lay off the more overt bullying in the future, that is unless you really deserve it.”

“And…..?” Applebloom continues.

“…. and I promise not to use my Stand to torment you again.”

“Aaaaaannnnnnnnddddd?” Scootaloo asks hopingly.

The glare Diamond gives could melt iron, causing Scootaloo to hide behind Applebloom. “Don’t push your luck, Scootalooser…..”

Applebloom gives the bully one last stare before giving an affirmative nod. “…… Well, I suppose that is the best that we’ll get for now. You okay with that girls?”

Sweetie belle nods, and Scootaloo tries to look as indifferent as possible as she comes out from behind Applebloom’s back. “I’m cool with that, as long as she keeps her teasing to a minimum I guess we can put up with her.”

Silver nudges Diamond. “Well, do you think that you could get along with them, Diamond?” Silver winks “I mean they are blank flanks……”

Catching her friend’s drift, Diamond plays along. “Oh I don’t know Silver….. I think that I could get along with them better……”

“IF THEY HAD A CUTIE MARK!” both of them shout at the same time, giggling at both their perfect timing and perfectly executed burn of their opposition. The two friends, satisfied that things are again right with each other, perform their signature greeting, “Bump! Bump! Sugar Lump RUMP!” The two fillies put their flanks together, displaying their cutie marks and laughing together at the Cutie Mark Crusader’s embarrassed faces.

All three blank flanks burn in embarrassment at Diamond’s jest, Scootaloo sighing heavily, “Gee thanks, Diamond, man you save her life and she’s still a jerk, can you believe it?”

Suddenly Diamond fishes around in her saddle bag. “Oh I have one last thing for you here, Applebloom….”

Applebloom rolls her eyes. “Let me guess…. Its somethin that’s goin to make a fool of me? Gasp how did Ah ever know?!”

Diamond extends her hoof, placing an object in Applebloom’s hooves. “Oh just take it! You cry baby!” Applebloom turns her hoof over revealing a strange piece of black stone.

Applebloom gasps. “This… this is one of those Strange Stones Twi’s searchin for!”

Diamond shrugs. “I don’t know what it is, but when I touched it I got sick for a while then I got this power. And since I don’t like to leave myself in another pony’s debt, you can have it as payment for saving my life.”

“But….” Sweetie interjects, “but this stone can give you magic powers! And it’s really important! Don’t you need it?”

“Need it? Ha!” Diamond scoffs. “I don’t need some crazy magic stone! I’m rich!” And with that the pink filly begins to walk away. “Now let’s go, Silver, this blank flank party is cramping my style.”

Silver turns to leave, but just before she does she turns to Applebloom, offering her a word of quick thanks. “Thank you, Applebloom. You may be a blank flank but you really helped Diamond out! Thank you for giving me my friend back.”

Applebloom simply nods. “It’s all right, just try to keep in mind that she’s supposed ta be nicer from now on an we’ll be cool.”

Silver turns to leave. “I don’t know about that….. I mean, this is Diamond Tiara we’re talking about!” Silver quickly runs to catch up with her friend, as Applebloom and the others look at the strange piece of stone in her hooves.

Scootaloo pipes up impatiently. “Well, that settles our bully problem. But now what do we do?”

Applebloom puts her hooves around her friends, pulling them together. “Ah’ll tell you what we’re goin to do, we’re goin to find all of these Strange stones ourselves, an we’re goin to do it TOGETHER! That way, when we show up mah sister, Rarity, an Rainbow Dash, we’ll prove that they should never have underestimated us! What do ya say?”

Sweetie puts her hoof around both Applebloom and Scootaloo. “Make a fool of my sister!? I’m game! That’ll teach her to try and bar me from the kitchen!”

Scootaloo joins in completing the Cutie Mark Crusader’s triangle. “I’m in too! The opportunity to show Rainbow Dash what I can do…. It’ll be awesome!”

Applebloom looks around at her friends, a fire burning in her heart as she thinks of the goal ahead of her. “Good, then it’s settled! Now our first act as the Cutie Mark Crusaders is.…”

“APPLEBLOOM!” a thunderous voice erupts over the horizon, and all the fillies turn to see Applebloom’s sister running towards them at full tilt, her nose snorting like a bull. Stopping on a nearby hill, Applejack narrows her gaze on her sister. “Applebloom! Ah just ran into Cherilee in town an she just told me exactly the foul language that ya used in class today! Stay Right There! Ah’m comin down now!”

Applebloom gulps heavily as she remembers the last time Applejack punished her for language, so much cake… “Crusaders, our first mission together is ta get as far away from mah sister as possible, are ya with me?!”

“We’re already in the wagon!” Sweetie Belle shouts. Applebloom turns her head to see Sweetie Belle attaching the end of a wagon to Scootaloo’s scooter, the orange pegasus revving her wings as they prepare for a hasty retreat.

Applebloom takes one look at her advancing sister and one look at the wagon, and jumps in as if Discord himself were on their tails. “FLOOR IT!” she yells, causing the trio to take off just as Applejack is about to reach them.

“APPLEBLOOM!” the orange farm mare yells, “yer not makin this easier on yerself! NOW GET BACK HERE!” However Applejack is too late, even if Applebloom had tried to hear her sister’s threats she was already out of earshot.

Sighing heavily, Applejack straightens her hat on her head. “Looks like mah sister’s made some good friends… that’s great!” Applejack sprints after her sister. “But that’s not goin ta save her from all that cake!”

Chapter 15-Magic Mare-Take 1

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Magic Mare-Take 1:


In the City of Canterlot, royal capital of the Empire of Equestria, lives a true goddess in every sense of the word. Princess Celestia, ruler of the day and warden of the night, is the de facto leader of an entire nation and through her guidance and direction the ponies of Equestria have prospered and flourished. Yet she has not done this through abject cruelty or force of arms, but rather through diplomacy, peace, and the magic of friendship. The Princess of the Sun has created an empire where ponies were free to live their lives in peace without tyrannical rules or threat of force, but rather through benevolence. It is no small wonder why every pony in the entire kingdom thinks of her as a second mother, a protecting and nurturing figure that will never abandon or forsake them. However, despite how revered and respected she is by her little ponies, the common pony barely know anything personal about their Princess other than common public knowledge.

That is, few ponies aside from Twilight Sparkle.

Though she has only known her for ten short years compared to her more than one thousand, and has a place in her heart for every single pony in her kingdom, the Princess Celestia’s heart burns for Twilight. Not out of a base lust (though even Celestia has to admit that Twilight Sparkle is a very cute mare) but out of an overwhelming love that transcends boundaries of age or gender or species. Celestia adores Twilight Sparkle in a way only a mother might, supporting her, helping her and loving her to the best of her abilities. The mare could almost believe that the sun rose and set on her young apprentice, if it was not for the fact that she rose and set the sun herself.

Therefore, in the depths of her private chambers, while going over a countless reports from her agents all over Equestria scrambling to find pieces of the Red Stones, it is no surprise that the ruler of the entire nation of Equestria stops and actually takes the time to read over Twilight’s reports from the past few weeks. She chuckles at the antics of Pinkie Pie; she grins at Applejack’s southernisms and Rainbow Dash’s headstrong nature; she mentally approves of her handling of Lyra Heartstrings and her deal with the gem hunter Rarity; and genuinely glows in pride at the mention that her student has finally gained her Stand. Finally finishing the last of Twilight’s many reports Celestia removes her reading glasses, chuckling gently at what she has just read.

“Well it’s good to finally hear some good news. Twilight herself is doing very well, and I am very happy for her. She had rarely ever spent time with other ponies other than me, Zecora, and her brother; it is amazing that she was able to make such good friends in a short period of time.” The solar monarch lifts her eyes from Twilight’s many reports to look at a cluttered board on her wall. Sighing heavily, the solar mare rises. “However, for now I must turn my attention to the dangers at hoof.”

Pacing up to a board filled to the brim with confidential and well founded intelligence from only her brightest agents, Celestia begins to pin up official intelligence, status updates and reports, piecing the situation together from the countless facts available. “It seems that despite our great efforts, the collection of the Stones is going slowly; many of my Stand users in cities and towns across Equestria are encountering unexpected resistance from new Stand users.” The Solar monarch continues to pace as she computes the facts. “But even more frightening, rogue Stand users are beginning to appear from the shadows, ponies who have much more experience in using their powers and seem to possess much darker ambitions. Even Shining Armor and Spitfire had their own troubles in acquiring pieces of the corpse….”

The mare tacks more reports to her board as she tries to make a connection. “Though many do not possess adequate knowledge on the nature of the Stones, the simple fact that I am looking for them seems to draw them like moths to a flame.” Celestia concludes as she glances sorrowfully at a nearby causality report. “It is as though a malicious force from the shadows is guiding these foes out into the light, as predators drawn by the scent of fresh blood. Our enemy has sensed opportunity and they have attacked quickly and cohesively at the points at which we are weakest.”

Celestia stops looking as she spies a report with a very specific name on it a name that gives even a goddess Pause.

‘Starlight Glimmer spotted near Manehattan’

Celestis shudders. She had forgotten in the excitement of the Arcanum and her plan to redeem her sister that Starlight Glimmer was still out there. Could she be responsible for this sudden resistance? Goddess only knows what the former head of the RSD is up to now and how she was handling this new development. ‘No doubt she is using it as an opportunity to bolster her ‘research’. A chill descends over the Goddess. No, Starlight is probably taking advantage of this situation, Celestia has no doubt; but the inside knowledge and the well timed nature of the attacks points to a traitor within their own ranks, not a loose cannon like Starlight who would only be in it for her own reasons. And with the head magister hot on Starlight’s trail after her sudden reappearance, there is little chance she would have the time to coordinate all the attacks in Equestria simultaneously .

The attacks indicate another hoof, somepony meticulous but interested only in reports of the Stones, the complete opposite of Starlight Glimmer’s signature. Her guard would find large supplies of Red Stones, they would report it and almost instantly they would be attacked by well-coordinated Stand users. This points to somepony with intimate knowledge of Equestria’s Royal Guards as well as their movements; not a scientist, but a shrewd tactician and merciless enforcer. Starlight would gain nothing from these attacks that she did not already possess. After all by the time she flead Canterlot Starlight had already stolen a large supply of fragments from the Red Stone of Aja, she had nothing physical to gain from these thefts. Unless of course she was after ‘IT’, which was unlikely as she spent half her time in the RSD trying to discredit its very existence.

Therefore, Celestia concludes, there is a new enemy who has recently surfaced who is planning these attacks. Somepony who knows the inner mysteries of ‘IT’, somepony with a grudge against the solar throne.

Somepony like Luna.

Celestia ceases her pacing, looking up at the moon as she walks towards the comfort of her royal balcony. As if lured she opens the glass doors to her chambers, letting the cool night air into her warm abode. Her mind, previously so focused. seems to wander to matters closer to her heart and more personal than any pony would ever know. “And what of you, Luna; where are you, sister? Are you still so angry with me that you hide your presence even now? Or are you still possessed, a slave to the darkness within you?” Celestia stops to look at a single large shard of the Red Stone of Aja on her desk, being used as a paperweight, as she thinks back to the night of the ritual. “The circle seemed to have done its job, despite the loss of the Red Stone of Aja, as I felt all the dark magic corrupting her dissipate; but then why does she hide from me?” A single tear graces the monarch’s face. “And despite all my information I still can not find her.”

Looking at the moon with a nostalgic glint in her eyes, Celestia recounts the days of her youth. Long ago, before she was a monarch, before her ascension, before nations and day court, before Discord. Days filled with childish things and playful moments with her best friend and closest relative. “Luna, you were always far better at hide and seek than I was, I could never find you when you wanted not to be found. You would only come out from wherever you were when I would bake those cookies you loved so much.” Celestia stops “But I fear even if I prepared a mountain of baked goods it would not repair the rift between us.”

Looking at the moon once again Celestia begins to right herself, emotionally and mentally, shaking off her private doubts and fears. “No. Thinking of the past will not change the future. It will not repair our relationship, to dwell on the past. Wherever Luna is, ever since that night she has taken over the raising and setting of the moon. She has taken back her duty as Princess of the Night, and she has even lowered the moon to make way for the day, something that the Nightmare would never do.”

Hope fills Celestia’s heart. “Wherever my sister is, she is still there in spirit, and she is still my little Lulu. She is angry and afraid, but that is nothing we cannot bridge.” Celestia walks back into her room, closing the door behind her with a gentle glow of magic. “I will find her again, all I have to do then is find some way to apologize to her, some way to convey how important she is to me, and how important the Red Stone of Aja is to Equestria. But for now I must turn my focus to the task at hoof: the Stones.”

Celestia looks back at Twilight’s letter, reading between the lines, a thousand years of wisdom and intimate knowledge painting a vivid picture of the writer’s state of mind. “Twilight is obviously hiding something from me, and that troubles me even more than my sister.” The monarch concludes. “Could she be beginning to suspect the true nature of the Red Stones? Could she already understand their true power and significance?”

Celestia looks at the letter even more intently, as if a secret that she has kept for more than a thousand years threatens to reveal itself in the most damaging way possible. “If she were to discover their true purpose, I still feel she would still take my side; Twilight would understand how important its existence is to this nation’s survival.” The monarch stops dead in her tracks. “But what if I’m wrong? What if this deception is just enough to turn Twilight and her friends to the enemy’s side?” Celestia hesitates. “Should I tell her first?”

Celestia stares at the board in front of her, the myriad information and countless reports meaningless in helping her decide upon a course of action. Closing her eyes and filtering out all unnecessary information, Celestia thinks back to all the times and wonderful memories that she has shared with Twilight over the years. She remembers her thirteenth birthday party, her first teleport, and all the hours she slaved working and sharpening the Arcanum to purify her sister. “No.” Celestia opens her eyes, a fire of resolve beginning to fill the void of logic. “I cannot allow such secrets to endanger her life in any way. The less Twilight knows the better. When all the pieces are gathered and Luna is safe, then I can begin to make her understand.”

Her mind made up Celestia begins to gaze upon the board in front of her “For now, Twilight is gathering the pieces of the Stone; that is what is most important.” She concludes. “Yet I still worry for her: she has recovered so many pieces and that could attract the enemy. If only there were some way to protect her physically and shield her from the truth, while at the same time ascertaining what she is hiding.”

Celestia stops her pacing as her eye spies a nearby report. “Of course!” The monarch realises in a moment of dawning comprehension .

With a simple act of magic Celestia conjures up a bell formed of pure magic in front of her. With a simple act of telekinesis she rings the bell causing it’s beautiful curt sound to echo through the room and beyond. No sooner than the ringing ceases, a familiar striped figure opens the door to the room, closing it behind her. The royal secretary to the Princess, Zecora, straightens her white coat as she adjusts the clipboard in front of her. “Yes, Princess? Is there a cause for me being called at this hour? And using a spirit chime no less? I thought that Cool Breeze was to take over for the night shift?”

“I am sorry Zecora, but this cannot wait,” the solar monarch apologizes. “There is a matter of utmost importance that requires attention.”

Zecora’s eyes widen. “Is this about our magister? I assure you that despite the breach in security the leaks have been apprehended and…”

“Has her condition changed?” Celestia interrupts, her face suddenly filled with worry. “Has there been another attempt on her life? Have the ponies in custody revealed anything of value? What is her status as of now?”

Taken off guard by her princesses sudden barrage of questions, the zebra quickly regains her mental footing. “N-No, Your Majesty! Please calm down, there have been no more attacks, the thieves are in custody and have revealed nothing. And the magister is still fine.”

Suddenly realizing she is acting quite foolish, Celestia immediately calms down, realizing how silly she is acting. When she had heard news that an attempt had made on the magister’s life Celestia had originally been terrified. Not only was it an attack against somepony close to her but it might be signaling a rash of political assassinations. However, in the end it had been revealed to be a ruse by Melodia to recover Red Stones transported to Canterlot, and the magister just so happened to catch wind of it. And even though the issue was resolved, the concern and fear was still fresh in her mind. “And you are sure she’s fine?” Celestia asks again just to be sure. “She’s not in anymore danger?”

The secretary nods. “She assures you, Princess, that her life is in no danger. In fact,” Zecora chuckles, “I think that she is more sore about being confined to bed rest than the actual attack; you know how much she hates being coddled.”

Celestia can’t help but chuckle at this. When she had heard that her head magister had been attacked she had originally feared the worst. Dropping everything she was doing she had raced over to the hospital, only to find her giving the doctors a run for their money, insisting, despite her profuse injuries, that she was completely fine. It had taken a royal decree to force her to rest and take it easy for a few days, and even then she had insisted on using the time to catch up on her paperwork. She really is an incurable workaholic, small wonder who she gets that from.

Zecora clears her throat as she peels back her clipboard to look at a certain paper. “I am pleased to report that her condition remains stable, despite her extensive injuries she is recovering nicely and the assassin is still in our custody. The magister says she will be able to return to her post within the week.”

Celestia sighs, knowing that it would be impossible to convince her to stay away from her job any longer than absolutely necessary and take a vacation for once in her life. “Sometimes I forget how strong-willed she can be; it’s just....” Celestia takes a deep breath as she turns to glance at a small picture on her desk. “I worry for her; I almost lost her once I don’t want that to happen again. The last thing in the world we need is another Infinity Mirror disaster.” Realizing the burden she had inadvertently placed on her secretary, Celestia turns back to face Zecora. “Once again, sorry to bother you, Zecora; I know you already have a lot on your plate but…”

Zecora bows. “No, forgive my rude remark; to serve you is my goal, Your Highness.” Zecora rises from her bow, looking directly at her monarch. “Now, what would you ask?”

“Thank you.” Celestia turns back to the board with gusto, eager to put her previous worries behind her. “Zecora, I remember reading a report recently about Stand Inspector number 7 being in the area of the Canterlot outskirts not a day from here, would that be correct?”

Looking down at the reports, Zecora nods her head curtly. “Yes, Celestia, Inspector number 7, aka Magic Mare, has just finished dropping off her supplies of Red Stones that she has been hunting after, as well as two Stand-using criminals from the criminal organization Melodia. She is currently on her way to Neigh Orleans to assist the local law enforcement there.”

“That will not be necessary, tell her that I have a special task for her.” With a quick tug of telekinesis Celestia picks up a nearby file, placing it in Zecora’s hooves. “She is to take a file detailing methods of Stand control to several new Stand users that have appeared in a certain town nearby. These Stand users are new to their powers and could be a great asset to us.”

Zecora takes one look at the file and then back to her monarch with a quizzical look. “Babysitting? Forgive me for inquiring but does that not seem like a waste of her talents? She is one of our best investigators, not a nursemaid.”

Celestia looks out the window towards the small town of Ponyville, her thoughts racing a mile a minute. “That is only a cover story. Her real objective is to monitor the Princess Representative there, and protect her at all costs while secretly reporting her movements to me.”

Zecora nearly drops her file at this, looking up at Celestia with suspicion. “You want her to spy on Twilight Sparkle? Why?” Zecora looks back and forth as if in danger of being overheard whispering to Celestia. “Do you suspect that she is the one who is giving away our movements? That’s she’s the traitor in our ranks? Because if you do…”

“No, I would never believe Twilight would be capable of betraying her country, or me, without a just cause.” Celestia’s thoughts suddenly turn dark as she thinks of what Twilight might do if she discovered what her real goals were. Shaking her head, she dispels such images of Twilight betraying her. “No. I feel that she is beginning to suspect the true nature of the Red Stones. But more importantly I feel that she is in great danger, despite her new friends, and allies”

Celestia turns to the zebra in front of her, giving Zecora her undivided attention. “That is why I am sending Agent number seven there; she has never failed in her missions and she is as dedicated as they come, even if she is a bit… unpleasant at first. I do this not because I fear Twilight,” Celestia assures the Zebra, “but because I fear for her. Tell Inspector seven to set out for Ponyville first thing in the morning; that will be all Zecora.”

…………………

Harnessing years of intense magical training, Twilight channels her magic on the Stone in front of her. Her horn flickering with the purest spark of arcane energy, the mare concentrates as she attempts to filter her magic through the Stone in an effort to harness its unpredictable power. With the library closed till noon on Sundays, the center room of the building was the perfect size and shape for the proper wards of protection allowing Twilight to pour more magic through the Stone resting on the pedestal in the center of the room without worrying about the backlash.

Ever since the Stone had granted Rarity a Stand power almost a week ago, they had all been silent and inert, reacting to none of Dash’s pleading wishes for a bazillion bits. In fact, other than a faint glowing, Twilight could barely get any of the Strange Stones to react at all. Her best guess is that using their power had depleted the Stones somehow, yet that defied all her logic. Whenever a Red Stone was used up it crumbled into base dust; if the Strange Stones were truly depleted of magic they should have crumbled apart like the others. Instead the Stones seemed to be regaining their power slowly, as a living being would when tired. Therefore Twilight’s experiment today was to try and replenish the Stone’s power artificially by attempting a magical transfer. Once the Stones were back to full power, then she could resume her tests to determine what exactly they were. And to Twilight’s great joy it seemed to be working as the Stones regained more and more of their brilliant white glow.

“Almost done…. Almost…..” Suddenly in a flash of green smoke a letter appears directly in front of her, causing her steady beam of magic to explode outwards and burning a nearby book to ashes. “Son of a…” the purple unicorn curses at the top of her lungs. “Who in their right mind would be stupid enough to interrupt me in the middle of such an important…”

Twilight picks up the letter with her magic, looking at the sender. “…oh my mistake, it’s from Princess Celestia!”

Tearing open the letter, Twilight begins to read over the contents passage by passage as if there would be a test on it the moment that she finished. Pouring over every detail, Twilight commits to memory the information as her subconscious begins to interpret the letter. Twilight’s eyes grow as wide as dinner plates just as Pinkie Pie bursts into the room. “Twilight you’re never going to believe what my Pinkie Sense just told me!”

Twilight, still caught up in the letter, barely notices the pink pony bouncing around her which, considering it was Pinkie, was quite a feat. The pink pony, not used to being ignored, begins knocking on Twilight’s head. “Equestria to Twilight! Anypony home?”

“Gwah!” The frightened unicorn falls on her back, finally looking up at the pink party pony. “Oh, Pinkie, you startled me… I was…. the Princess just sent me a letter….”

“…. Telling you that she sent somepony to help?” Pinkie finishes.

Twilight gets back up on her hooves. “… telling me that she sent some pony to monitor and…” Twilight blinks as she tries to comprehend the immensity of what Pinkie just said. “Pinkie… how did you…. Pinkie, don’t do that! Guessing what a pony is going to say is my thing!”

Pinkie begins to giggle. “Sorry, Twilight, but the readers are getting tired of these longer chapters so we’re going to have to speed this up!”

“What are you…..” Twilight shakes her head as she mentally reminds herself not to combine Pinkie Pie with reason. “Never mind; according to the letter that I just got from Princess Celestia, she’s worried about me confronting so many Stand users, and given how many Red Stones I’ve sent to Canterlot she’s sent an agent to help with retrieving the Red Stones.”

Pinkie gasps heavily. “Another new pony?! I’ll break out my welcome wagon! That’s wonderful news…..”

Pinkie is about to bounce off to tell all her friends when Twilight levels a gaze that stops the pink mare in her tracks. “…..or not?”

Twilight groans. “Pinkie, it’s Stand agent!”

Pinkie’s head tilts in confusion. “…. and that’s bad?”

“Well… maybe.” Twilight begins to pace. “See, when a bad pony gets ahold of a Red Stone and uses it to gain a Stand power, a Stand agent will bring them to justice.” she says. “They’re like a Stand police force, traveling the land and using their power to stop rogue Stand users.”

Twilight stops pointing directly at the pink Pony. “You found a Red Stone at a young age and by using it you gained a Stand power, so Stand agents search for rumors of strange things happening or unsolved crimes and track down ponies who might be Stand users. You were relatively safe due to the fact that you grew up in a small town, but if you committed a crime or drew the attention of the law you would have been tracked down by a Stand agent.”

Pinkie’s head tilts in confusion. “… and that’s bad?”

Twilight groans like a teacher attempting to explain calculus to a ten year old. “That means that she’s here to assess whether ponies who have just gained a Stand without the knowledge or consent of the government are a danger to society.”

Twilight takes a step forward. “That means every pony, you Applejack, Dash, Lyra, everypony is subject to her jurisdiction! And if she thinks that they’re a danger to society and to others then they’ll be shipped off to…” Twilight gulps nervously “… an RSD holding cell, where only the most dangerous and life threatening Stand users go! Where they are kept in maximum security cells until the day they die!” Twilight grabs the pink mare with her two hooves squashing her face. “do you KNOW what that means!?”

Suddenly Pinkie looks deathly serious as Twilight frees her from her grasp. Her mane, though still puffy, freezes in place as the pink mare considers the implications. Crouching, the pink mare opens her mouth to say a word of wisdom in a dark time.

… And promptly makes a fart noise. “Ppppppppppffffftttttttttt! Come on, Twilight, you’re being all crazy again! I’m certain that she’s not going to do that!” Pinkie waves her hoof dismissively. “I mean, she’s throwing a party in the middle of the town square! What kind of bad pony would do that?!”

Twilight continues to pace. “… and to top it off I have no idea who this agent is going to be! She could be anypony and come from anywhere! Celestia didn’t even tell me anything about the agent other than the fact that she would be ‘easy to spot’! And to top it off….”

Twilight’s paranoia is immediately cut off by a loud explosion coming from outside, snapping her out of her rant. “What the…..” Twilight looks out the window of her library just in time to see another barrage of fireworks erupt in the sky, filling the town with their bright red blue and green lights. “That came from the center of town…. But who….”

Pinkie flings open the door to the library. “That’s the new pony, Twilight! My Pinkie Sense told me she would be coming and even better that she would be throwing a party!” The pink mare rushes over to Twilight and, before she can resist, the lavender unicorn is dragged to the door. “Come on, Twilight, this is a chance to get outside and meet new friends! I’m sure the standing agent won’t be that scary!”

Pinkie runs off, leaving Twilight’s mind reeling. “Wait…. The Stand agent is there…. How did you……”

“…..secret pony monitoring system!” Pinkie shouts shouts behind her “Come on Twilbright! You’ll have to run faster than that if you want to catch up!!”

Looking at the energetic pink mare bouncing off into the distance, Twilight groans as she charges her horn. “Walking’s for suckers anyways….” And in a flash of light Twilight disappears.

……………….

Okay there, you can do this, no pressure.

Others are a hindrance but they are not your enemy. Ponies may get in your way but your true enemy is your own fear, your hesitation.

It’s your past demons, it’s your fear of failure that weighs you down and threatens who you are.

But more than anything it’s your own doubt that cripples you, that prevents you from succeeding.

You doubt yourself, you are driven onwards by fear, however even when that fear takes hold you harness it like a mighty wind to propel yourself to greatness.

You are a master of fear, constantly subject to it, but not allowing it to dominate you.

The shadows of the past or shades of the future may scare you, but they can’t stop you nor can they deny you what is rightfully yours.

Fame.

Justice.

And superiority to a certain lavender unicorn.

All these things are within your power to seize, all you have to do is reach out and grab it. RIGHT NOW!

After all, you are the Great and Powerful Trixie, the greatest magi since Starswirl the bearded, and you will not be denied your destiny.

After all, when it comes to magical ability, was there ever any doubt?

In the middle of Ponyville square a traveler’s cart suddenly explodes outward in a flurry of light in sound, smoke filling the square as a giant stage appears where there was not one before. The backdrop sparkles and flashes as blue smoke fills the stage and ponies gather around to see the festive spectacle. Emerging from out of the smoke is a light blue mare with a silvery mane and a confident gaze that could put a Dryad’s charisma to shame. Decked out in full performance gear, namely a grey-purple well-tailored magician’s hat and cape, the blue mare rises on her hooves signaling a cascade of fireworks and sparklers from the back of her trailer. And to nopony’s surprise her cutie mark is that of a wand and a light crescent moon, symbolizing her love of showmanship and dramatic flair. Her glare tells the rest of her tale, a face filled to the brim with levels of confidence (and arrogance) that would outclass Rainbow Dash on her best day.

With a loud stage-pony voice the mare addresses the entire audience at once, drawing them all in, body and mind, as she enraptures their minds with promise of spectacular feats. “WELCOME ONE AND ALL TO THE PERFORMANCE OF THE GREAT AND POWERFUL TRIXIE!!” the mare shouts, “TRIXIE HOPES THAT YOU CAME TO SEE THE GREATEST AND THE BEST PERFORMER IN EQUESTRIA, BECAUSE TRIXIE ASSURES YOU THAT YOU SHALL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED.”

The blue mare clears her throat as she magics up an official-looking board. “Now, Trixie charges by the trick so if you want to see a show, listen up and pay in the box. Small tricks are listed below and cost five bits each, medium ten bits, and large are twenty bits. You can pool your bits or pay for your own trick but payment is upfront, and if you are all nice and applaud, the Great and Powerful Trixie might have be generous and perform additional tricks. But like she said: payment. In. advance.” The pragmatic showmare raises her hooves in the air. “Now don’t miss out! Step lively now to the front and have the Great and Powerful Trixie perform for you!”

In a flash of light Twilight reappears a distance from the square, a little tired from the sudden jump but knowing that she will be fine in a few minutes when her manna fully regenerates, nine minutes and thirty six seconds to be precise. “Well. Celestia’s agent…. A showmare…. That’s surprising….”

Suddenly a pink blur pops out of nowhere, knocking Twilight down and pinning her to the ground. “….. Though not as surprising as some pony I know.” The lavender mare rolls her eyes.

“Oh! I know this one! Is it Rainbow Dash?” Pinkie asks as Twilight shakes her head. “Rarity?” Twilight shakes her head again. “Applejack?!”

“No Pinkie… the pony is you!”

“What? Really? I’m the most surprising pony you know?!” Twilight nods yes. “YEAH!” Pinkie Pie jumps off Twilight, throwing a cloud of glitter around her as she begins to dance the chicken dance in celebration.

Eager to get back to some sense of normalcy, Twilight quickly scans around for any pony she knows and is surprised to find that Rarity, Applejack and Rainbow Dash have already arrived on the scene. The three mares are watching the showmare in front of them with a mixture of boredom and disgust as the showmare saws a pony in half. Leaving Pinkie dancing around in circles, Twilight rushes over to her friends. “Hey guys, what’s up? Who’s this?”

Rarity rolls her eyes. “Apparently she’s the Great and Powerful Trixie, a bragging showmare with a garish costume.”

Applejack nods. “Yeah, Ah mean, Ah appreciate a good show as much as the next pony, but with the rate this mare’s charging and the boasts she’s just being a nuisance!”

“Yeah!” Dash shouts, “and worse of all she’s just tricking these ponies out of their money!”

Twilight looks at the rainbow mare skeptically. “Dash, a magic show IS tricking other ponies, you can’t just blame her for doing her job. Plus, Celestia might have sent her to help us…”

“What?” Dash exclaims again, “that show off?! She’s just a loudmouth!”

“……most uncouth.” Rarity finishes.

“Yeah she’s just usin her Stand ta make fools of ponies!” Applejack points to the stage. “She’s just showing it off like a school filly with fancy new ribbons.”

Looking onstage, Twilight narrows her gaze as she watches the blue stage mare holding a triad of rings. Suddenly a ghostly image appears behind the stage mare that Twilight immediately recognizes as a Stand. Its star-covered appearance is similar to Trixie’s own cape and hat except its silvery white stars contrast with its blue white coat; upon its neck is a matching blue, star-spangled coat, as well as a blue and white magician’s hat. All the stars on it’s cape and arms are connected across its body, giving the Stand the appearance of being covered in the most beautiful constellations. Its body is lithe and dressed in a smart star-spangled tuxedo with Trixie’s cutie mark emblazoned over its heart. The Stand touches the rings and in an instant they come apart, stupefying the audience who are unaware that a Stand power is at work.

“Using a Stand for profit….” Twilight thinks it over. “Maybe you guys are right…. Perhaps she isn’t the liaison….”

“You think?” Dash almost yells, “Seriously Twi, we don’t need some pony pretending to be better than everypony else!” Dash strikes a pose as she fluffs her ego. “Especially when you have me to be better than everypony!”

This earns the blue speedster a sharp glare from every pony in the group. “What?” Dash asks, “is it something that I said?”

However, Applejack’s potential lecture is cut off by a booming voice. “Who dares disturb the show of the Great and Powerful Trixie?! Who would attempt to cause a ruckus when Trixie is performing!?” the showmare shouts at the top of her lungs. The other ponies in the crowd shrink back slightly as the mare stares at Rainbow Dash, as it appears that Dash’s loud grating voice did not go unnoticed. “Does one of the poor plebeians in the audience have a problem with my magical powers? Then step forward rather than hiding in the audience, and state your grievance. Trixie promises to be merciful.”

“Do I have a problem? You bet I have a problem!” Without a second’s notice Dash flies up to within a hoof’s length away from the arrogant showmare “SO, Great and Powerful Trixie,” Dash asks in her most mocking tone, “what makes you think that you’re so awesome, anyways?!”

Trixie merely tips her hat, laughing at the ignorance of the rainbow mare. “Why, only the Great and Powerful Trixie would have magic strong enough to vanquish her adversaries in their own respective talents!”

“Say what now?” Dash tilts her head in midflight.

Trixie scoffs. “Did the Great and Powerful Trixie stutter? It is simple, though you are obviously unimpressed by the skills of the Great and Powerful Trixie this is not the first time this has happened.” The blue mare tips her hat further down on her face. “If a pony is foolish enough to believe that their miniscule talents are better than the Great and Powerful Trixie’s, then prove it! I hereby challenge you Ponyvilians. Anything that you can do Trixie can do better!”

The mare’s sudden boast earns a host of quiet murmurs from the crowd. “Any takers? Anyone? How about you?” The showmare points to Dash. “Do you have the gall to suggest that your skills are superior to Trixie’s?”

Shaking off the showmare’s boasts as easily as water off a duck’s back, Dash lands on the stage. “Heck yeah! You may talk a good game but I’m captain of the weather patrol for a reason! I could send you packing before you could pull a bunny out of your hat!”

“Well…” The showmare gives pause. “You seem to think that you can compete on the level of the Great and Powerful Trixie? Even seeing what I can do?”

“Yeah! There’s no need to go strutting around and showing off like that!” Dash smirks. “That’s my job!”

Trixie narrows her eyes. “Is that a challenge? The Great and Powerful Trixie does not take kindly to hecklers who believe their skills are better than hers.”

“Believe nothing! They don’t call me Rainbow and Dash for nothing!” Dash flies right up in the showmare’s face. “I’ll show you! This’ll be over in ten seconds flat!”

…………….Ten seconds later………………

Dash lies on the ground, her eyes spinning in her head like a pinball machine, her coat covered in mud as a bound and gagged Applejack tries to free herself from her own rope and a mentally unstable Rarity brushes her hair repeatedly, muttering something about a green mane. The ponies of Ponyville having had enough of laughing at their misfortune have retired to their homes and places of business, causing Trixie to pack up her stage and leave to camp in the park for the night, just as Rainbow Dash manages to slowly pick herself off the ground.

Pinkie bounces up to the rainbow mare. “Wowie, Dashie! You really showed her!”

“…. Shut up Pinkie….”

“Okie Dokie Lokie!”

Twilight cuts Applejack out of her bonds and the farmer is finally able to spit out the apple out of her mouth, letting loose a string of muttered obscenities as the newly-arrived Fluttershy calms the fashionista down.

“Ok, now I’m convinced…” Dash brushes herself off. “…. Not only is this Trixie not the ‘contact’ or whoever the Princess thought that it would be a good idea to send us, she’s a huge jerk. I say we run her out of town!”

Always the voice of reason, Twilight intervenes. “Now hold on there, Dash, Trixie may not have the best manners but you can’t just run a pony out of town because you don’t like them. Besides, she hasn’t really broken any laws.”

“Hasn’t broken any laws?!” Dash yells, “She sent me spinning in the dust!”

“She dang near hog tied me, Twi!” Applejack yells.

“…Green….. Mane……” Rarity mutters.

“Welllllllllll……” The lavender mare looks at her friends. “I suppose that it was pretty nasty…..”

“And funny!” Pinkie interrupts.

“…. and funny.” Twilight snickers at the memory of her friends’ embarrassment. “But she did give us this card…” Twilight flips up a card scrawled with a single line: ‘come to my trailer after the show’. “She managed to slip it under my hoof without me even noticing, and that does seem like something that a professional Stand agent would do.” Twilight turns her head off into the distance, looking at the showmare’s abode on the horizon. “…… And, despite how rude she was, I think that if she is the agent we should meet her.”

“….Well.” Rarity finally is able to speak, recovering from her shock as Fluttershy washes out the green gunk in her mane with tender hooves. “I find the whole idea of meeting….. that mare…. most troublesome. But if she is who you say she is, it would be rude and foolish to just ignore her… so we will trust your instincts, Twilight.”

The rest of the group nods in agreement, save Dash who groans heavily. “Fine I’ll come along too, but only cause if she isn’t this Stand agent or whatever, I can kick her to the curb the moment that she tries something.”

With their course of action decided, the entire group trots into the park proper and the caravan of none other than the Great and Powerful Trixie. The entire grounds are littered in various magical supplies and props that would be too large to fit inside the normal trailer: large boxes, various dummies, and strange devices for almost every occasion. The group stands in hesitation before the front door of the caravan, remembering the embarrassment suffered the last time some pony decided to try and make a fool of the blue showmare. Twilight gulps heavily and looks to her friends for support, all of them urging her on with backhanded waves of her hooves. Looking at the door with worry in her eyes, Twilight slowly walks up the steps and extends her hoof to knock, only to be bowled over as the door opens in her face. The surprise and sudden force of the door causing Twilight to tumble head over hooves down the steps, landing on her flank with a loud thud. Raising her eyes to the top of the steps Twilight sees, for the first time up close, the fire in the blue mare’s eyes; not only a powerful drive, but a profound anger that extends beyond simple spite. Twilight sees in the eyes of Trixie a gaze of wrath that finds itself focused squarely on her.

“So….” Trixie jumps off the entire flight of stairs in a single jump, landing directly in front of the startled Twilight. “…. My nemesis has decided to show herself. I take it by your appearance that you have accepted the Great and Powerful Trixie’s challenge then?” Trixie chuckles. “I commend you for not running away in fear of the Great and Powerful Trixie’s abilities and that you have decided to face her like a mare, but courage will do you little good against the Great and Powerful Trixie’s abilities!”

Before a startled Twilight can even respond Rainbow Dash pipes up, flying right up in the showmare’s face. “You bet your fancy magic tricks that I wouldn’t run away from a creep like you! And I don’t know why you would think that you could be a jerk to me and get away with it, but you're way too pathetic to even consider being my rival! Besides, Applejack kinda already has that….”

“Not you! You rainbow-maned fool!” Trixie points her hoof towards Twilight Sparkle. “I was talking to Twilight Sparkle there!”

Twilight looks around as if the showmare could possibly be addressing any other mare called Twilight Sparkle, before pointing to her own chest. “…. Me?”

“Yes, you! Do you see any other mares named ‘Twilight Sparkle’ around!?” The showmare backs off, taking a deep breath before resuming. “When Celestia herself gave me orders to rendezvous with you, I took it as a divine sign! That now, after all these years! After the humiliation I have endured at your hooves, I, the Great and Powerful Trixie, would have my revenge!”

“……. Annnnnnd, revenge for what exactly?”

The Great and Powerful Trixie stares at Twilight, mouth agape, with enough surprise and shock to suggest that she was struck in the face with a lightning bolt. It was as if one pony had walked up to another and asked who Princess Celestia was, or who raised the sun and moon; it was such an unbelievable occurrence for the blue unicorn that, for the first time in her life, she found herself speechless. “…. You….. You don’t remember my embarrassment? My defeat?”

Gaining the courage to stand again in the face of Trixie’s faltering, Twilight gets to her hooves. “Actually I don’t believe we’ve ever met before today… Wait a second! You said that Celestia sent you? That makes you the Stand agent that we’ve…..”

“YOU DON'T REMEMBER ME?!?!” Trixie roars in outrage. “After everything I’ve been through?! After all my hardships at your hooves?! You went ahead and forgot me?!? YOU WENT AHEAD AND FORGOT ALL ABOUT HOW YOU RUINED MY LIFE?!!”

Twilight flinches from Trixie’s outburst as the blue mare simmers down in her rage. Then, as if the blue mare could not be any more disconcerting, Trixie breaks out laughing. “Oh…. I get it now, Twilight! You’re playing dumb in the hopes that it would fool the Great and Powerful Trixie!” The showmare laughs mirthfully. “A clever ruse that might have fooled a lesser opponent, but not the Great and Powerful Trixie!”

“…. Um, what?”

“Well it’s obvious that you are playing dumb, Twilight Snarkle!” Trixie brushes her mane off to the side. “Nopony could forget the show-stopping charisma of Trixie! And not even you could be dumb enough to forget a pony whose life you have ruined so thoroughly.”

“…… Um sure….. Let’s go with that…..”

Trixie smirks in joy, elated that she has indeed guessed right. “What? Are you really expecting the Great and Powerful Trixie to believe that you do not remember the way you sabotaged her, the day that you prevented her from joining the magical academy, your little ‘transformation accident’?”

“Oh…..” Twilight eyes widen in horror as she subsequently remembers the most shameful and most proud day of her life, the day that she became Celestia’s private student. “You were the pony that I accidently…”

“… Yes, you, Twilight Sparkle, intentionally sabotaged your rival.” Stroking her ego with every word Trixie paints herself as the most tragic of heroes, deprived of her place in the sun by an evil villain. “Yes! You, Twilight Sparkle, were fearful of my superior magical talents, and therefore you prevented me from attempting my routine which would have assuredly earned me my spot as Princess Celestia’s prized student with your little magical ‘accident’.”

“But… but… That was a magical surge!” Twilight stutters, “I had no control over what happened to you, Trixie!”

“LIAR!” Trixie yells in denial, “It was all an act! A clever act on your part but an act nonetheless! Thanks to you, Trixie was sent home early before she even got the chance to attempt the final test before the Princess.”

“…. Um, forgive me for asking, Twilight darling…” Rarity interrupts, “but is there any truth in what this this mare is saying? What is this ‘accident’ she’s talking about?”

Twilight taps her forehooves together rapidly, almost too ashamed to even speak. “Well……. You see….” The purple mare stutters, looking more like Fluttershy by the second. “Well, when I first became Celestia’s student I had to audition for the magical academy and I had a little….. tiny…. itty bitty magical surge that….”

“Don’t you finish that sentence, Twilight, or so help me….”

“…..turned Trixie, and my parents, and the proctors…… into a trees…..” Twilight finishes as she flinches from the memory.

Dash looks back and forth between Trixie and Twilight. “Trixie got turned into a tree…..”

“…. Like an apple tree and all that?” Applejack tilts her, head trying to imagine it.

“I’d like to be a tree,” Fluttershy chirps happily.

Twilight taps her hooves nervously. “Welllllll it was more like a spruce…… But it was an accident I swear!”

Every pony in the group aside from Twilight and Trixie looks at each other with an unreadable expression, trying to decide how everypony else is feeling. Finally they start to giggle, which quickly evolves into chuckling, and then full blown laughter at the misfortunes of the Great and Powerful Trixie. Both of the two unicorns blush furiously at the memory. Finally, after what seems like hours later, the laughter dies down as the ponies at the base of Trixie’s trailer begin to calm themselves after their fit of humor.

Trixie, now thoroughly embarrassed, begins to clear her throat. “Now that that’s out of the way….”

The shiwmare looks straight at Twilight Sparkle, the force of her gaze enough to dispel any traces of humor still left in the situation. “Twilight! You may have embarrassed me before but this time it’s different! After ten years of training I have honed my magic to its highest potential!” Trixie smirks confidently. “… And not only that, but as a Stand agent, I have traveled across Equestria honing my talents in life or death battles! Trixie has something a bookworm like you could never possess….. and that’s real combat experience!”

Trixie takes a step towards the lavender mare. “I’ve trained my entire life for this moment, Twilight Snarkle, and the Great and Powerful Trixie will not be denied!” Trixie draws her breath, causing the tension in the air to thicken to the point it could be cut with a knife. “I, Trixie Lulamoon, challenge one Twilight Sparkle…. To a magical duel!” The entire yard grows silent as Twilight and Rarity gasp heavily at the implications.

“You’re on, Trixie!” Dash blurts out. “Twilight will beat you with one hoof tied behind her back!” Dash crosses her arms in satisfaction “…. By the way what’s a magical duel?”

Twilight facehooves. “First, Dash, please let me speak for myself; and second, a magical duel is a combative contest of magic that usually goes either to the death, or until an opponent cannot continue or decides to give up. It’s a very dangerous contest of magical ability.”

“What’s the matter, Twibright?” Trixie sneers, “Afraid of…..”

“HOW DID YOU KNOW!?!” Twilight asks, eyes filled with fear as she suddenly forgets the imminent life or death battle. “Has word spread even to Canterlot? Does the Princess know? I told everypony that was only one time! I was dead tired when I filled out that nametag, I swear!”

“Nametag?” The confused and surprised Trixie asks “What nametag? What are you talking about, Twibright?”

“You know exactly what I’m talking about, Trixie!” Twilight grapples the showmare, shaking her erratically. “I’ll only ask once more, WHO ELSE KNOWS?!”

Stunned by the formerly-sheepish mare’s sudden brazen display of power, Trixie struggles to formulate words as she is shaken every which way by the unicorn’s strong limbs. “T-Trix-x-xie dos-s-sen’t k-k-kno-o-w-w wh-h-ha-at yo-o-oe’re t-t-talk-k-king a-a-about!!”

Twilight immediately ceases her hold on Trixie causing the blue showmare to slump to the ground. “So…. It was just an accident? You just made up ‘Twibright’ on the spot?” Twilight breathes out a sigh in relief. “Whew then, that’s good, for a minute there I though everypony knew about ‘it’, but nopony else knows.” Twilight growls to herself. “They can never know……”

“We all know, Twibright!” Pinkie chuckles as her group of friends can’t help but break out in collective snickering.

“That’s because you told everypony in the Tri-State area about the name tag incident!” Twilight shouts.

Twilight grates her teeth both from her nickname and the collective response of Trixie’s heckling. “Alright look, Trixie, I understand you want to fight me. But I just said that it was an accident! There’s nothing to gain from us beating each other to a pulp in a magical duel.”

“This isn’t about the past any more, Twilight!” Trixie stomps her hoof with enough force to cause a dent in the soft ground. “Like you said, the past is in the past and cannot be changed, and the Great and Powerful Trixie is not so petty that she would hold a grudge, even if you did ruin her life!”

“I didn’t….” Twilight breathes, out realizing that arguing will get her nowhere against this mare. “Fine, Trixie, then why? Why risk your life and safety…..”

Trixie laughs as if her foe can’t understand a simple joke. “Why that’s simple, Twilight! The Great and Powerful Trixie wants to prove herself by besting you! Let’s face it, Twibright! If you hadn’t sabotaged me preemptively in the tests then I would have been the one to get to the Princess before you!”

“Stop calling me Twibright!” Twilight snaps.

“…. And we all know what caused you to demonstrate your extraordinary powers in front of the Princess….” Twilight’s eyes grow wide as she remembers the single incident that caused her to finally bring her magical surge under control, in front of the Princess no less. That single phenomenon that she had failed to pin down despite all her years of study “….. That’s right, Twilight, I heard what gave you your cutie mark in the first place….. The legendary Rainboom! If I had been there in your place the rainboom would have triggered my magical surge and I would have been the Princess’s student, not you!”

Trixie looks at her hooves as if picturing an opportunity slipping from her grasp. “And even though you stole my golden opportunity, I’m not resentful. Getting angry over the past won’t change anything.” The showmare offers a slight grin. “In fact, in a way I’m grateful. Because of your ineptitude I’ve only gotten stronger! Now I’m more than a match for you and I intend to prove it.” Trixie states, certain of her strength. “So how about it? Are you a mare enough to accept?”

Twilight considers Trixie’s view; it is true that she might have intentionally or otherwise ruined Trixie’s life from one perspective, but a life or death struggle? “And why should I accept?” Twilight asks. “ I understand what you want to prove, Trixie, but a magical duel? Surely there can be a better way to settle this than….”

“A magical duel is the best way to settle this, Twibright!” Trixie stares down her rival. “I intend to prove that my practical and battle honed magics are superior to your shoddy bookworm magics, and a real magical duel and not some kind of test is the best way to prove that.”

Trixie looks at Twilight’s friends around her, a devilish glint in her eye. “But I can see that you need some more incentive. Very well, Twilight, if you are successful in beating me not only will I assist you in your hunt for the Red Stones, but I won’t report your friend’s irresponsible Stand use to the Red Stone Group’s police force, my superiors. Despite the fact that most of them are emotionally unstable.”

“Hey!” Dash yells, “I’m not emotionally unstable, and you don’t have any right to……”

“The Great and Powerful Trixie has every right, Rainbow Crash!” The blue unicorn counters. “That’s what being a Stand agent is all about. Trixie determines whether a Stand user is a threat to themselves and others and based on Trixie’s reports she could be ordered to take you to a secure location, for your own safety of course…” The blue mare grins sadistically. “…. until you learn to responsibly and safely control your Stands.”

“Yawl….” Applejack gulps heavily. “Yawl can’t do that! Ya can’t just drag me away from mah farm like a common criminal! Right, Twi?”

Applejack, indeed the entire group looks to Twilight for assurance, but only find worry on the lavender unicorn’s muzzle. “Technically, if a Stand user is a threat to themselves and others then Trixie is authorized to apprehend them until they can use their power safely….. But I have a lot of authority as a Princess Representative…”

“…..That does not supersede my precedence in all matters Stand related!” Trixie finishes for her. “So if you win, no matter how repulsive your friends are, I will take no actions against them as long as they aren’t killing ponies in the streets.” THe showmare offers. “In fact I’ll even help you with your little Red Stone hunt as well!”

Twilight thinks over Trixie’s offer. “…. And if I lose?”

Trixie grins. “Well then.… if I win I assure you Trixie won’t act maliciously towards your friends.” The showmare chuckles. “That is, more maliciously than is required of Trixie’s job. But betting without a prize is very ‘uncool’ as Rainbow Crash would say.” Trixie taps her chin for a few seconds. “How about this? If Trixie wins then not only must you admit how superior Trixie is to you, but you must become Trixie’s slave for a week!”

Twilight lowers her head deep in thought, her mind considering every option before her before finally offering a curt nod. “Fine, Trixie. I agree to your terms.”

“What?!” the group yells at the same time. Dash, visibly upset, rushes up to Twilight. “Twi, I know Trixie’s a jerk and all but this isn’t the way to shut her up! Think of what will happen if you lose!”

“I’m not finished!” Twilight yells, causing her friends to quiet down. “I’ll agree to your duel, Trixie, but only on the condition that you won’t report my friends for being themselves. I know their hearts and their minds; they’re no threat to any innocent ponies,” the lavender mare points her hoof acusitorily at the showmare. “So promise that you won’t abuse your position and take out your frustrations on them.”

Trixie cocks her eyebrow at Twilight’s sudden defiance. “You’re suddenly cheeky now, aren’t you, Twilight? Good, Trixie likes that.” The blue showmare nods. “Very well, it’s agreed! A duel it is!” The blue mare lights her horn and in an instant teleports behind the group. With a quick nod the mare gestures to a prepared wooden platform standing not a two dozen hoof lengths from her house. “Follow me, I’ve already prepared the stage for our little match.”

Twilight is about to quickly follow the blue mare when she is stopped by Applejack’s hoof. “Are ya sure bout this, Twi? I have a hunch Trixie’s not gonna play fair. An yawl can’t afford ta lose! Ah’m sure that if ya just tell the Princess…”

“That’s not all that this is about, Applejack…” Twilight looks to Trixie for a sign, her confident pose, the way she carries herself on full display as she jumps up on stage. “Even if it wasn’t intentional, I did ruin Trixie’s big chance, at least according to her. And besides, if I back down now how would I be able to call myself a student of Princess Celestia?” Twilight tears herself from Applejack’s hoof. “Plus I’m not a foal, you know, I can handle myself!”

As Twilight walks towards the stage and leaps up on it, Applejack looks upon her friend in worry, a thought from before creeping into her mind. Eager to rid herself of her worries Applejack turns to her best friend, the unicorn Rarity, beside her. “Hey Rares…” Applejack asks.

“Humh yes, Applejack?”

“You remember what Trixie called that thing that gave Twi the ability to control her magic all like that? The Rainboom er somethin?”

“You mean the Sonic Rainboom?” Rainbow Dash butts in, “The Sonic Rainboom is a mythical aerial technique that….”

“Yeah yeah thanks, Dash…” Applejack ignores the blue pegasus, turning back to Rarity. “Anyways, do yawl know when that happened? Cause I think that I saw somethin like that too, it just seemed so familiar…”

“Yes, I know what you mean, Applejack,” Rarity taps her chin. “For some reason I can’t put my hoof on, a rainbow flash of color across the sky seems to ring a bell for me.”

Dash groans. “I know right, well check this out that’s because I..…”

“YEAH you’re right!” Pinkie jumps in. “And the day that I threw my first party I saw something like that! Mysterious ain’t it?”

“That’s because I’m the one…...”

“Ummm….” Fluttershy interrupts, “I also…. I mean… I think that I also saw something like that… when I was a filly….”

“Will all of you shut up and listen to….”

“Dash!” Rarity yells, “Now I know that you think that you have something important to say… but that is no excuse for telling Fluttershy to shut up! Honestly, when will you grow up and learn to use some manners?”

“But… but… I…”

“No buts there missy!” Applejack scowls at Rainbow Dash. “Now Rare’s right! There’s no cause fer your behavior like that, now apologize to Fluttershy! She deserves better than that!”

“But… but…..” The stares of both Rarity and Applejack cut her off, letting her know in no small words what will happen to her if she doesn’t apologize to the sensitive Fluttershy. Dash sighs, realizing that this is a fight that she cannot possibly win. “I’m sorry Fluttershy…”

Both of the responsible mares hold their breaths as they wait for Fluttershy’s reaction. Thankfully Fluttershy’s face, which looked close to sobbing, slowly turns back to a gentle smile that defines the yellow mare. “Oh that’s all right, Dash. I know how impatient that you can be sometimes. It’s quite all right. Just remember to wait your turn the next time…”

Dash groans so heavily that one might mistake her for a dying animal, as Applejack and Rarity give thanks for the fact that Fluttershy took it so well. Applejack wipes the sweat off her brow. “Whew. See now ain’t that easy now? Now then, Dash, what’s so important now that yawl tried to interrupt Fluttershy here to say it?”

Dash beams, finally grateful that it is her turn to tell her friend the most awesome thing she could ever tell them. “Well! You guys know that amazing and awesome Sonic Rainboom! Well guess what! I’m the one who…”

“Hey Guys! Look!” Pinkie yells at the top of her lungs. “Twilight and Trixie are about to begin their fight! Let’s watch!”

Suddenly all attention in the group turns away from Dash at the group prepares to watch the epic showdown of rivals, much to the dismay of a rainbow maned mare “but….. but……… but………… UUUUUURRRRRRRRRAAAAAAAAAGGGGGGGHHHHHH!!!!” the mare screams at the top of her lungs.

“Now Dash! What did Fluttershy just finish telling you?” Rarity levels her most accusatory gaze at the impulsive pegasus. “If you have something important to say then wait your turn! There is no cause for yelling like a banshee!” Rarity turns back to the showdown at hoof. “Alright I’m back, did anything happen, darlings?”

“Nope, Rarity, yawl didn’t miss anything,” Applejack assures her, “just them setting some ground rules and….. do yawl hear a thumping sound?”

BAM BAM BAM BAM BAM BAM BAM

“Nope and who cares?!” Pinkie screams with as much enthusiasm she can muster. “This is the showdown of the century! You’d have to be banging your head against a wood pole like Dash is doing to miss this!” Pinkie pulls out a huge assortment of snacks treats and Twilight-themed merchandise. “And I’m the exclusive vendor! He he! I’m going to make a fortune………”

Chapter 16-Magic Mare-Take 2

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Magic Mare-Take 2:


Twilight and Trixie stare each other down as they prepare to engage in a particularly heated contest of magical skill and tactical ability. Each one paws their hoof on the stage, mentally psyching themselves up for the inevitable confrontation. Sparks fly from each unicorn’s horn as they build up magical charge and every muscle in their bodies tense and flex prepared to lash out at the slightest stimulus.

“So….” Trixie begins, “Trixie has chosen the stage, so it only seems fair that the loser would decide the specifics. Does that seem fair to you, Snarkle?”

Ignoring Trixie’s jibe Twilight addresses the whole audience equally. “We will go by Crystal North rules, the first one to give up or become unable to continue loses, no lethal force, no Dark or Chaos magic, no pre-prepared magics. Is that fine by you… Twixie?”

Trixie flinches from the insult. “Twilight, that was….. that was….”

“Ha! You see, I can sling insults just as well as I sling spells!” Twilight smirks with her victory.

“….. Really really lame. It sounds like the name of a bad romance genre…..” the showmare finishes. “I mean….. You should obviously leave the quips to somepony else….”

“That’s what I said!” Pinkie yells from the sidelines.

“And I certainly hope that you DON’T sling insults as well as you sling spells!” Trixie responds. “Otherwise this will be a very short fight! I hope that you are prepared to face the Wrath of the Great and Powerful Trixie!” A barrage of sparklers go off behind her as she stands on her back hooves, making an intimidating appearance that surprises every mare in the arena.

All except one of course, a lavender mare who rolls her eyes in exasperation. “…. Can we fight now?”

“Son of a…. yes!”

With sudden display of speed and precision Trixie launches a bolt of magic directly at the head of Twilight, who weaves to the side avoiding the blast. Taking advantage of Twilight’s opening Trixie charges towards the startled lavender mare, who is unprepared for the sudden rush. Yet at the last second Twilight launches a blast of her own, hitting Trixie’s barrel straight on with a blast of eldritch force. Yet, the moment that the spell collides with the showmare she disappears into a cloud of smoke that surrounds Twilight and cuts off her field of vision to almost complete zero. Trying to back out of the mist, Twilight brain kicks into overtime as she looks for a weakness in the showmare that she can exploit.

‘It’s obvious that Trixie is an illusionist-type magic user; if I let her gain the upper hoof or close the distance I’m a goner,’ Twilight thinks, her eyes searching through the mist for any sign of movement. ‘If I’m going to win I have to keep a distance between me and her, otherwise she’ll be able to interrupt my spells with hoof to hoof combat. And if I’m able to take her by surprise……’

With a sudden gust of magical wind, Twilight quickly blows away the smokescreen and scans around to locate the troublesome blue mare before she can play another trick on her. Yet the moment that the smokescreen vanishes, she is tackled from her blind side sending her tumbling to the ground.

“Dojyaaaaaaa….n”

Trixie whispers under her breath as she stands over Twilight, taking a step towards her prone opponent. Basking in the fact that she was able to get the upper hoof on her rival in the first round, Trixie strokes her mane. “Had enough, Snarkle?”

Twilight grins as she rises to her hooves. “Please, Twixie, I’m just getting started!”

“Stop trying to make that work, you…” Trixie is cut off by another explosion as Twilight releases a purple smoke cloud of her own, giving herself almost total concealment from Trixie’s attacks. Trixie readies herself as she faces the cloud, aware that an attack could come from any direction at any time. Then with a flash of light Twilight teleports to point-blank range in front of Trixie, who is only able to backpedal once in terror as Twilight hits her with a powerful right cross across the face.

Yet once again her hoof passes harmlessly through the showmare, as the illusion dissipates into nothing. “An illusion?” Twilight recoils looking around her. “But how?! I never saw her ignite her…” Twilight’s words are cut off as the purple mare is once again tackled from her blind side, sending her skidding to the ground. Appearing from behind the purple mare, Trixie grins at another successful attack.

“Dojyaaa…..n”

This time the purple mare rises to her hooves almost instantly as the blue mare smirks in front of her. “Well that was a surprise, little bookworm knows how to throw a punch and it looks like you can take a punch as well,” Trixie remarks with a pleased tone in her voice.

Twilight smirks back. “The Boxing Compendium chapters four and six, the straight cross and the half step. Both essential moves for any close quarters fighters.”

THe showmare scoffs. “Don’t get cocky, Snarkle, your punch is still lacking compared to the Great and Powerful Trixie! If you want to win against me…..” Trixie’s horn glows bright. “You’ll have to turn up the heat!”

With a flick of her horn a wall of flame materializes around the purple mare, its flames rising high enough in a second to completely obscure her from view. Twilight’s friends look on with no small amount of fear as the walls of scorching heat rise, preventing them from knowing if Twilight Sparkle is alive or burnt to a crisp. The flames roar, the fires burn, and the heat is unbearable, yet not twenty seconds later the lavender mare walks clean through the flames, completely unharmed.

Twilight brushes her coat with her hoof as if brushing off any imaginary soot. “Making an audible and visual illusion that incorporates touch… Not bad, Trixie. But you’ll need more than petty tricks to get the upper hoof on me.” Twilight takes a step forward. “Not that I’d expect anything less from a showmare. But if ‘The Great and Powerful Trixie’ expects to beat me with light shows she had better think again!”

Twilight takes a firm stance before the showmare as she stares her down. “I trained personally under some of the best minds in Canterlot, learned magics that you couldn’t even conceive and played chess with an alicorn, so if you want to beat me you’ll have to think four moves ahead.”

The ground beneath Trixie’s hooves ignites in a sudden flash of light, blinding the showmare. “… because I’m playing three moves ahead of you.” Rushing at the blinded showmare, Twilight runs up and throws a powerful cross across trixie’s left cheek, knocking Trixie off her footing. “This one’s for the tackle.” Then torquing her body at just the right angle Twilight turns her extender right hoof into a powerful uppercut, catching Trixie just above her diaphragm and causing her to double over in pain on the ground. “And that was for calling me ‘Twibright’.”

Twilight’s friends on the sidelines let out a jubilant cheer at their friend’s victory, however their cries are short lived. Despite being on the receiving end of Twilight’s full force, Trixie slowly rises to her hooves her resolution and determination unfaltered and her body barely fazed by Twilight’s full force blow despite the ugly bruise on her cheek.

Spitting out a dab of blood on the side of the stage, the showmare rubs her bruised face as she turns back to face her opponent. “Please, you call that a punch? Don’t make Trixie laugh. She’s fought fillies who could hit better than you.”

Trixie takes delight in Twilight’s stunned expression as she paces around her foe. “Don’t look so surprised, Twibright, as a Stand agent it has been Trixie’s job for the last six years to track down and bring to justice the most hardened criminals. If Trixie was so weak to succumb to a librarian’s punch she would have died ages ago.”

“And another thing..…” Trixie stops her pacing, turning her supple body to face Twilight. “….you talked about playing four moves ahead like this was some form of chess game. Don’t delude yourself, Twilight Sparkle, this is real combat not some board game! It’s something that sheltered fillies like you would know nothing about.” Trixie raises her hoof revealing a long brown rope. “Real combat is about reading your opponent’s moves, planning for them and luring them in for the kill, like what Trixie just did to you.”

With one solid yank using both her hooves, Trixie pulls the rope tight, the previously ignored cord now wrapping itself around Twilight’s back and fore legs. The lavender mare barely has time to yelp as the rope hogties her, sending her crashing to the ground with a thud. “Did you honestly think that Trixie didn’t have a plan?” Trixie tugs on the rope binding it in place around Twilight’s hooves. “Trixie let you hit her on purpose, to lure you in for one of my signature magic tricks. Trixie’s Third Trick: Magic Rope Trap.”

Twilight flails about, her horn burning as she attempts to sever the rope with her magic. “Don’t bother, Twilight! The rope on your hooves is enchanted to resist all magics, even my own, it’s why I had to set it up manually with my hooves while you were wasting your time with that little smokescreen!”

Twilight’s horn flares as she tries to grasp the rope with her telekinesis, burn it with fire or sever it with a cutting spell, but to her great distress nothing works. Trixie, grinning in victory, walks up to the struggling mare and places her forehoof firmly on top of her head. “Well it looks like I have won our little match, Twibright! Be sure to show up bright and early tomorrow, after all a servant can’t be late for her master now can she?”

Twilight blushes furiously in embarrassment as Trixie yawns lazily. “Now if you don’t mind, your stupidity has worn the Great and Powerful Trixie out so she is retiring for the night in her…..” Trixie’s eyes widen in terror as she looks back to see her home, her caravan burning down like a grass hut. “….. Smoking ruins of her wagon?!”

The fire consuming Trixie’s home suddenly becomes apparent to the group who was so entrenched in the fight that they could not see the flaming trailer behind them. Trixie turns on the Mane Six with malice in her eyes. “YOU….. You just couldn’t stand the fact that your little friend was no match for the Great and Powerful Trixie! Could you! So you destroyed her home?! I swear that you’ll pay for th…..”

“Don’t look at us!” Dash shouts, “We weren’t the ones throwing around deadly lasers all over the place!”

“WHAT!?” Trixie looks back between her house and her own horn. “Do… do you expect Trixie to believe that Trixie was responsible for this you…. You…..”

However the more she thinks about it the more Trixie comes to the horrible truth that deep down she is the one responsible. None of the others possess the means to create a fire with such intensity in such a short time while they were all watching Trixie’s fight. Which means the blast that was currently burning her home must have come from her or……

Trixie hears the sound of ropes snapping behind her and turns to see Twilight freed, the ropes around her hooves badly burnt by an errant piece of flaming wood. Twilight breathes a sigh of relief. “Whew, those ropes were really resistant to magical fire. But luckily for me they weren’t so resistant to normal fire. It’s a good thing that there was a fire so close by…”

“YOU!” Trixie looks at the lavender mare, stomping towards her with the force of an enraged titan. “YOU BURNT DOWN MY HOME! It wasn’t enough to just embarrass the Great and Powerful Trixie and ruin her life, now you have decided to destroy her home and livelihood as well!?”

“Your home?” Twilight tilts her head in obvious confusion to the showmare’s allegations. “I just got this piece of flaming wood from over….” Twilight looks over towards where she got the piece of flaming wood to see that the small fire she found has grown into a blaze that is currently turning the showmare’s home to cinders.

“….. Fire!! Don’t worry, Trixie, I’ll have this put out in a moment! Just let me….” Twilight concentrates, her horn blazing with magical energy as a dark storm cloud forms over the Trixie’s wagon. The cloud crackles with magical energy as it explodes in a thunderous boom, releasing a torrent of water down over the caravan, and extinguishing the fire. Looking at the charred and skeleton remains of the home Twilight looks nervously back at the blue showmare. “S-S-See? As good as new!”

CRAAASSHH!!

As if waiting for the irony of the situation, the trailer falls to pieces leaving a pile of ashes and burnt wood where Trixie’s only permanent residence once stood. The showmare, witnessing her own home destroyed, gapes for a minute or two with her mouth wide open at the scene of devastation before her. Her mind struggles to process both the suddenness and destructive after effects of losing her wagon, her vehicle of business, her home to a freak accident that leveled the entire structure in less than a few minutes.

Slowly the Great and Powerful Trixie takes a deep cleansing breath, stoking the flames of her rage with the ashes of her worldly possessions. The showmare then turns to the librarian, her face contorted into a look of cool rage, the kind of cold calculating anger that makes a Twilight’s hairs stand on end. “Twilight… you used your Stand just now… didn’t you……”

Twilight backs up. “Trixie… what are you talking about? I’m sorry about your home but it was…..”

“You used your Stand just now.… to get that flaming branch, didn’t you….. I saw that your Stand had the name FRIENDS on it….” Trixie manifests her own Stand. its star covered arms folded like a wrathful djinn of old, its cape billowing in a ethereal breeze as its anger-filled eyes glint from under its wide brimmed hat. “Well if you wanted this to be a Stand battle in the first place you should have just asked. Trixie can certainly oblige you, Twilight, but she can assure you that by the time she is done with you you’ll be sipping your meals through a straw.”

Twilight shivers with cold terror as she is aware that Trixie is now completely serious. She has one chance and only one chance to explain herself before Trixie loses it. “Trixie, what happened to your house was a complete accident! There’s no reason to….”

“’It was an accident!’ ‘I’m sorry!’ ‘I’m a pathetic unicorn!’ blah blah blah!” Trixie screams in a nasally mocking voice. “Don’t you get tired of saying the same thing over and over?!” Trixie shouts in her most snide voice as she takes a step closer.

“Now then, since you are so insistent in taking this match further…” The showmare pulls out an assortment of knives seemingly from out of thin air with her Stand. “I can show you some of my most devastating magic! With the aid of my Stand, MAGIC MARE!”

Twilight’s eyes widen as fear suddenly gives way to alertness, the active threat brought on by the presence of the knives drawing out her Stand FRIENDS as Trixie stands ready to attack.

“Now take this! DOJYAAAN!” Twilight’s eyes grow wide as the mare throws a barrage of knives directly at her, her Stand FRIENDS reflexively defending against the attack. The knives scrape and bounce off Twilight’s FRIENDS causing several shallow cuts that fail to draw blood to appear on Twilight’s coat. Refusing to let up her attack Trixie throws another assortment of knives at blindingly fast speeds. This time Twilight quickly manifests a barrier that stops the knives, embedding them in a translucent purple shield.

“Not bad, Twilight!” Trixie yells as she jumps into the air. “Now try this!” Another barrage of knives are thrown and Twilight raises a stronger shield to block them, however this time the razor sharp knives vanish into thin air the moment that they contact the shield, dissipating into mist as mysteriously as they appeared. Twilight withdraws her shield in confusion as Trixie lands back on the ground, the purple mare keeping her eyes on her foe for any sign of Trixie’s usual tricks. However, what Twilight sees in Trixie’s eyes scares her even more than her knives, he look of smug victory and a mare who knows something that she doesn’t.

With a gesture filled with overwhelming confidence Trixie points up to the sky with her hoof, causing Twilight to follow her gaze upwards, just as she a razor sharp storm of knives falls all over her body. “Trixie’s Fourth Trick: Rain of Knives” The showmare coldly states.

Twilight manifests her Stand as fast as she possibly can, attempting to swat away as many of the multitude of blades as possible. Yet despite her best efforts, many of the blades manage to slip past her guard through numbers alone as they fall on top of her, cutting her coat with their jagged edges. Eventually she realizes that there are far too many to deflect and attempts to shield herself with her Stand’s body as the storm of metal continues to fall around her, praying for the attack to finally end.

Yet after a scant few seconds, the steel rain finally ceases and the storm ends, leaving Twilight Sparkle standing in the middle of a pile of blades that glint in the last light of the fading sun. The unicorn is barely standing, her body now covered in countless scratches ranging from glancing blows to long cuts that layer across her forearms and back. The purple mare pants heavily, more from the pain than the blood loss, as she channels her magic as rapidly as possible to heal the numerous wounds covering her body.

“TWILIGHT!” Fluttershy calls out as the other mares prepare to rush onto stage.

“TRIXIE! What were you thinking?! Are you trying to kill her!?!” Dash yells as she leaps up on the stage.

“Back off!” Trixie snaps at them in a tone that causes the mares to halt in their attempts to save Twilight. “All of her wounds are superficial, little more than scratches. Trixie intentionally missed her vitals and slowed the speed of the knives, so it doesn’t count as lethal force. Trixie broke no rules in this duel so none of you have any right to interfere!”

“Besides…” Trixie looks over towards the lavender mare, a slight look of defiance hiding behind the Twilight’s pained expression. “If she didn’t want to fight any more she wouldn’t have remained standing. Twilight hasn’t surrendered yet so that proves that she doesn’t want this fight to end either!”

Applejack, unwilling to let her friend get so heavily injured in front of her, stomps her hoof with enough force to crack the wood of the stage. “No way! Ah’m putting my hoof down now! This little match of yours has gone too far an Ah’m stopping it right….”

“Shut up!” Trixie yells at the top of her lungs, and with a wave of her horn throws the mares off the stage with raw magical force. “This isn’t about the magic duel anymore! It’s about my honor as an illusionist and a mare.” Trixie shouts “Twilight has taken everything from me, my future, my past and now my present! But more unforgivably… But more unforgivably…” Trixie shakes with rage as she tries to formulate a response that justifies exactly how she feels about the mare in front of her.

Twilight, exhausted and breathing heavily, manages to raise her head towards Trixie, the librarian’s eyes regaining their focus as she looks upon the star-spangled silhouette of Trixie’s stand Magic Mare. Suddenly, Twilight’s eyes light up with a flash of inspiration. Her mind clicks as she finally understands the depth of Trixie’s deceptions. “Trixie…” Twilight points her hoof at the showmare. “your next line… it’s going to be…”

“.… Twilight spit on the pride of the Great and Powerful Trixie! And now she must pay for it!” both Twilight and Trixie yell at the same time. Trixie audibly gasps at this, putting her hoof over her mouth. “Wha… What!?!”

Twilight grins seizing the initiative despite her profuse wounds. “And your next line is ‘Nopony sees through the Great and Powerful Trixie’s tricks! It’s impossible!’”

“Nopony sees through the Great and Powerful Trixie’s tricks! It’s impossible…… WHAT?!” The blue showmare seethes, completely flabbergasted by Twilight’s sudden surge of confidence and her well timed trick. “How.. how did you…. You couldn’t have…” Trixie stutters.

Twilight beams in pride as she takes a step forward. “Yes, Trixie, I did! I saw through your tricks! I know how you’ve been getting the drop on other ponies with your illusions, like how you managed to disappear at will and make knives appear out of thin air! It’s your Stand power!”

Twilight points to Magic Mare with her hoof, causing the showmare to flinch and look at the star-caped figure beside her. “I was confused because I never saw your horn ignite when you seemed to disappear and reappear, so I thought it was some form of sleight-of-hoof and not your magic!” The lavender unicorn declares. “But you were using your magic, just not your unicorn magic!”

Twilight manifests her own Stand and causes it to pick up one of the remaining knives in her hooves. “That’s how you managed to make these knives appear out of thin air and how you seemed to disappear at will! Your Stand can probably cause anything it touches to vanish into thin air and create an exact illusionary double in its place.” Twilight concludes with expert insight honed over years and years of studying magical effects. “When you threw those illusionary knives at me, you threw the real knives into the air so that I would try and block the illusions and miss the real attack.”

Trixie begins to sweat bullets, her tricks unraveling before her eyes as Twilight fiddles with one of Trixie’s knives in her telekinetic field. “From how I figure it” Twilight says “it works like the spell ‘mislead’. You mask the real object in invisibility and create an exact illusion of it at the same time. Then you use the illusion as a distraction while the cloaked object hits your opponent from a blind spot.”

Twilight throws the knives off the stage as she clears the distance between her and the showmare. “In fact…. That’s probably how you managed to vanish and reappear behind me all those times and hide a rope where I couldn’t see it! My Stand was able to hold the rope, so Stand powers work on it. You’ve been cheating from the beginning, Trixie! You were using your Stand the entire time!”

“So what if I was?!” Trixie snaps at Twilight as she takes a step forward to attack. “In a life or death battle anything goes! Besides, you decided that this would be a magical duel, and Stands are a form of magic!” Trixie manifests her own Stand, inching closer to attack. “If you’re so sore about me using my Stand you should use your own!”

The blue showmare tilts her head in confusion. “So come on! Hit me with your Stand power! You haven’t used it once since this battle began. Have you been holding back on me? Or is it that your Stand is so weak and pathetic you didn’t bother to use it, Twibright?”

Twilight gulps heavily as she tries to put on a brave front. ‘Trixie’s right!’ she thinks, ‘my Stand has no offensive power! And by itself it can’t do anything! It can only form connections!’ Twilight shakes her head as she pushes the doubts out of her mind. ‘But I can’t let Trixie know that! And I doubt that I can form a stable connection with Trixie given how much she hates me.’

An idea enters Twilight’s head as she manifests her Stand, causing the blue showmare to back off in caution. ‘Maybe if I attack her with my Stand, I can create an opening to finish her with my magic! That’s my best option now; if I keep her in the dark about my abilities I can get the drop on her.’

“Alright, Trixie…” Twilight’s FRIENDS strikes a threatening pose as it raises its hooves to attack. “You want me to attack with my Stand? You’ve got it!” With surprising speed Twilight attacks with her Stand as Trixie moves to block with her Magic Mare. FRIENDS rushes forward, it’s hooves attacking with such speed and suddenness that Twilight’s feint soars clean past Trixie’s hastily-constructed guard, connecting squarely with Trixie’s face.

“ORA…..” the Stand says as it pulls back its hoof from the face of the blue mare, the same mare who is blinking in confusion.

Twilight freezes as Trixie looks at the Stand, then back to Twilight, then back to the Stand, before laughing out loud. “BWA HA HA HA! Was that your best attack, Snarkle?! That must have been a fluke! Come on and try again, the Great and Powerful Trixie will let you!”

‘Oh no!’ Twilight thinks, ‘she knows that my Stand can’t do anything! Now I have to…’

“ORA!!!!” As if obeying the orders of the showmare, FRIENDS lashes out again with much more force, yet just as before, the blow produces no signs of physical damage on Trixie’s face.

“Well it seems as if that wasn’t a fluke,” Trixie remarks snidely, “I thought that it was strange that you didn’t use your Stand to attack… but if this is all it can do….”

“ORA! ORA! ORA!” The Stand cries as it continues to hammer away at Trixie’s stand and body, landing clean blows that produce no damage upon the increasingly frustrated showmare. Trixie glares at Twilight’s FRIENDS in frustration.

“Once might have been funny, and twice maybe, but now it’s just getting annoying…. Gruah….” Trixie rubs her horn. “Your little antics have given Trixie a headache…. But now it’s time to end this!” Trixie cries out as the magic in her horn builds to incredible levels. “Take this! DOJYAAAN!”

‘Hunh?’ Twilight thinks to herself, ‘a headache…? Didn’t Lyra complain of the same thing?’ Twilight jumps to the side, avoiding Magic Mare’s slow punch as her mind races. The pained expression of the showmare causes Twilight’s mind to go into overdrive as she weaves in and out, avoiding the Stand’s movements. ‘Why? Why did my Stand attack all on its own? Why doesn’t it do any physical damage? Why does it make ponies’ heads hurt when I can’t mind link with them? .… Wait a moment!’

A crazy idea enters Twilight’s mind as she parries one of Trixie’s blows with her own Stand, glancing at her astral projection before her in a new light. ‘What was it that I said to Applejack?! About what happens if a mental link fails?! Could it be? It doesn’t inflict physical damage because it actually inflicts……?’

Cutting off Twilight’s train of thought, a large black box appears around the lavender mare, trapping her body inside the prison as her Stand is trapped outside without its owner. Trixie’s horn flares and her Stand holds up a collection of swords as the black wooden box is surrounded by solid iron chains that quickly seal off any chance of escape. “It’s over, Twilight Sparkle! Trixie’s First Trick, the best in my arsenal…..” The large straight swords disappear from Magic Mare’s hooves, only to reappear around the black box suspended in Trixie’s magical aura. “…..Magical Cutting Boxes!”

Like a scientist testing a new hypothesis or an athlete testing a new limit of their abilities, Twilight is filled with excitement and rising terror, knowing if her hypothesis is faulty then it will mean the end of her. Glancing through one of the sword holes, she maneuvers her Stand FRIENDS directly in front of Trixie as it readies its hooves to attack the now exposed showmare. ‘This is it! If this fails there will be no second chance! I’ll have to hit her with everything I’ve got in one shot!’

As FRIENDS stands ready to attack, however, Trixie barely pays it any mind, knowing how powerless its blows truly are. “Why won’t you just give up, Twibright?!” Trixie shouts to the librarian as she lifts the black box in the air for the finishing blow. “It would take a thousand of these little foal punches to beat…..”

ORA! ORA! ORA! ORA! ORA! ORA! ORA! ORA! ORA! ORA! ORA! ORA! ORA! ORA! ORA! ORA! ORA! ORA! ORA! ORA! ORA! ORA! ORA! ORA! ORA! ORA! ORA! ORA! ORA! ORA! ORA! ORA! ORA! ORA! ORA! ORA! ORA! ORA! OOOOOOOOOOOOOOO AAAAAAAA!!!!!

Twilight’s Stand throws one punch after another, each one hitting the blue mare square in the muzzle like a volley from a Gatling gun, each blow followed instantly by another just like it. Suddenly the black box around Twilight falls to pieces, the chains dissipating into mist as Trixie falls to the ground groaning in pain.

With her concentration breaking apart the suspended swords fall to the ground with a loud clatter, the blue mare clutching her head in agony, vainly shielding herself from FRIENDS’s numerous blows. “My…. My head…… hurts so bad….. What did you…?”

Twilight smirks. “It’s my power, Trixie. I have the power to form mind links with other ponies and boost their powers….” Twilight looks at her Stand with pride on her face. “… and I thought that because of that, that I had to rely on others in combat and couldn’t protect myself. “

Now free from the box, Twilight begins to trot over to the prone showmare as she raises her Stand’s forehooves. “However, I forgot that if a pony isn’t willing to perform a mind link, that the mental feedback creates intense mental strain. In other words FRIENDS creates mental damage, not physical damage.” The lavender unicorn comes to a stop in front of the showmare. “Normally it wouldn’t be noticeable from one attempt because the initial feedback creates only mild headaches.”

Twilight raises her Stand’s hooves, smashing them together in a thunderous clap. “But a mild headache can blossom into intense migraines, dizziness, confusion and eventually unconsciousness if its effects multiply. Meaning my Stand can inflict concussions just by assaulting your mind, you can block a punch but you can’t protect your mind!”

“D-D-Defeat T-Trixie?!” The showmare rises shakily to her hooves and manages to manifest her Stand. “Y-You must be joking! T-Trixie’s power is invincible…… Y-You can’t……”

With a single blow Twilight pours the last of her strength into her Stand’s powerful left cross, hitting Trixie’s muzzle square on as FRIENDS’ hoof punches through the magician’s face. For a second the two mares and their Stands are completely motionless, then with one last gasp the Trixie falls to the ground completely unconscious.

Twilight’s friends look on as Twilight remains standing, the sole victor in a fight of rivals; many times they feared for her safety, but now their souls brim only with pride and happiness as the lavender mare stands over her enemy. However, Twilight does not share in their joy. Her body is frozen in fear, the lavender mare stares at Trixie with a haunted expression in her eyes, her face contorting itself in rising horror like a pony coming face to face with death itself, her eyes twitching as if seeing something only visible to her.

Just as her friends prepare to ask if Twilight is all right, the lavender mare lets out an ear piercing scream as if she was the witness to a crime of horrific proportions. Her voice echoes over the field with a piercing cry of pain and despair just as she falls to the ground in a dead faint, both the victor and the loser lying on top of the other as their minds drift in the immense sea of the unconsciousness and dream.

………………..

“Uuuuuggggghhhhhhhh….. my head….. what…. What happened?” Twilight Sparkle, mare extraordinaire, raises herself off the ground, her head throbbing with new information as she pulls herself upright, quickly helped up by the familiar face of one of her friends.

“Whoa there…. Take it easy, Twi…..” Applejack says, “yawl were pretty pooped after that there fight and Pinkie had ta give ya each a Red Stone to perk ya up. Otherwise yawl might have been out fer longer than an hour.”

“An… an hour….” Twilight rubs her head. “That’s right! I was fighting Trixie?! What happened? Who won?” the mare frantically asks. “Do I have to be Trixie’s slave? Because I really really….”

Dash lands by the lavender unicorn a cocky smile across her muzzle. “Relax there, Egghead, you totally….”

“It was a tie!” a familiar voice yells and every eye in the group turns to face the arrogant and self-obsessed Trixie sitting on her rump. “The match was a tie, it was a great and equal draw! The perfect ending to a Great and Powerful duel!”

Dash glares at Trixie. “Uh….. earth to loser, you fell down first that means you lost…”

“Ridiculous!” Trixie says. “I heard the details from the yellow pegasus! Who is much kinder and has better manners than a brute like you!”

Dash turns to Fluttershy who blushes nervously. “… Well um…..” The butter yellow pegasus shuffles her hooves. “…..she did ask what happened….. and she kind of deserved to know…. I didn’t want to be rude…”

Trixie nods politely. “Yes, and Trixie thanks you for being courteous and telling the truth. Thank you, Fluttershy.” The entire group stands dumbfounded by the fact that the Great and Powerful Trixie would actually thank anypony as the blue mare turns to face Twilight. “And from what I heard, Twilight collapsed exactly five seconds after I did. And according to magical duel rules a contestant has to stay alive or conscious for ten seconds or the match is a tie.”

The Great and Powerful Trixie magics her hat back onto her head with poof of smoke. “Besides, Trixie woke up first!”

“Why you…” Dash readies her hoof to strike.

“… However,” Trixie continues, cutting off Dash. “since it was a fair duel and Trixie did fall first I will honor my word and attempt no actions against you plebeians.” The mare tilts her hat, obscuring her eyes. “Trixie is a mare of her word if nothing else.”

Twilight, surprised at the showmare’s sudden shift in behavior, trots over to the Trixie, extending her hoof in friendship. “Wow, Trixie, that’s…… really kind of you. Tha….”

Trixie swats the hoof out of her face. “Don’t get all chummy with Trixie, Twibright! I still hate you; I’m just following orders to help you out. I was commanded by Celestia to watch over you and your little friends, that is all there is!”

The entire group looks at Trixie with disdain in their eyes. “Wait a second!” Dash shouts. “If you were commanded to protect Twilight why did you try and kill her with that magic cutting box thing?”

“And those flyin knives!” Applejack says.

“And that garish outfit!?” Rarity finishes. The entire group looks at the fashionista “What? Her outfit is a danger to everypony who gazes upon it! Why, I don’t know how you all can put up with it!”

“This outfit is traditional magician’s garb!” Trixie shouts. “And Trixie wasn’t trying to kill her! She was just going to defeat her to prove to Celestia how much more superior Trixie is!” Trixie crosses her hooves in a pout. “It would then be obvious to her who the better apprentice would have been and who she can really trust in this backwater town.”

Trixie lowers her head as if in shame. “And for that The Great and Powerful Trixie apologizes. She was so sure that she would beat you easily; you see it often in those pompous nobles in Canterlot. They think they know everything about using magic but most can’t even fight their way out of a paper bag.”

Trixie raises her head, looking directly in the eyes of the lavender mare. “However it is obvious now that you are different, Twilight Sparkle.” THe showmare concedes. “You are obviously not even a quarter as talented as the Great and Powerful Trixie… but you have the right stuff. The Great and Powerful Trixie was wise in choosing you as her eternal rival.”

“Well….. Thanks, Trixie.” Twilight says with surprise in her voice “….. I guess. And I know that you will be a great asset to us here in Ponyville, and my friends are more than happy to have your help too, right?”

The entire group (other than Pinkie Pie and Fluttershy) grumble to themselves, revealing their great disagreement with Twilight’s sentiments.

“RIGHT?” Twilight stares them down, causing the entire group to mutter positive conformation.

Pinkie giggles, “This is great! A new pony who loves to party! This is going to be the best welcome to Ponyville party ever! That is, aside from the party we threw Twilight…… and the party for the mayor’s reelection …. And that one time this really strange guy came to Ponyville and started stealing all my songs… and that one time….”

As Pinkie babbles on, Rainbow Dash turns to Fluttershy. “I don’t know about you, but I still don’t trust her. Call it a hunch but I think that that mare is hiding something. What do you think, Flutters?”

“Well….. um I don’t know…” Fluttershy mutters, “I think that having Trixie around could be….. nice….”

“NICE?!” Dash yells, “NICE?! Trixie is the complete opposite of nice!”

“Well… um… she complimented me…. So I think that she isn’t all bad…..”

“NOT THAT BAD? Let me tell you something Flutters…..”

The group continues to debate and talk with each other, Pinkie about her parties, Rainbow listing the reasons not to always look on ponies bright side, and Rarity remarking on Trixie’s ‘fashionable’ cape and hat. Between Twilight trying to restore order and the group’s rambunctiousness, nopony notices as Trixie walks towards the smoking rubble of her home. With a gentle glow of Trixie’s horn she pulls a magic-protected suitcase out of the ashes before walking back over towards the group. “Well, now that Trixie is homeless again, she needs a place to stay until this is all over; do any of you plebeians have a place luxurious enough for the Great and Powerful Trixie to stay?”

Dash’s eyes grow wide as she imagines what would happen if Trixie decided to start living in her house. “Not It!” In a flash of rainbow color Dash flies away as if chased by Discord himself.

“…. Well that excludes Rainbow Crash….” Trixie turns to the rest of the ponies. “Do any of you ponies have a decent place to stay? What about you, Twilight?”

Twilight taps her chin. “Well…. The library does have a guest room that I can lease out. It’s the least that I can do considering it is partially my fault that you lost your home….”

“….. And my cottage has a spare room, too!” Fluttershy shouts with suddenness that causes the entire group to look at the yellow mare. Realizing her outburst, the yellow mare blushes furiously. “That is…. I don’t mean to intrude…. And it is pretty far from town……That is…. If you needed a room that badly……”

The showmare looks between the two mares. “Two very tempting offers, Trixie is sure….. However, Trixie believes, despite her resentment towards a certain purple mare for destroying her home, she will stay in the library. From Twibright’s reports it is closer to town and the center of all your operations.”

Trixie’s eyes stop on the butter-yellow mare, the look of disappointment on her face readily apparent. “However, Trixie would be more than happy to meet up with a mare as polite as you at another time perhaps for tea… considering you seem to be the only pony in this town with any degree of civility.”

Fluttershy immediately perks up, as Twilight picks up Trixie’s suitcase in her magic. “Then it’s settled!” Twilight looks at Trixie. “Trixie will stay with me in the library for the time being. We’ll meet again at the same time tomorrow!” With that the entire group disperses as the ponies make their way to their own prospective homes.

………………….

Twilight the pack mule carries the burdensome load of Trixie’s magical props and luggage on her back. Struggling under the immense weight of Trixie’s worldly possessions, the librarian struggles up the stairs as the blue mare taps her hoof impatiently. “Come on, Snarkle! It’s just a couple more steps! Keep up the pace.”

The mare groans under the immense weight of the blue mare’s pack, placing it down on the halfway point on the stairs. “And why, oh Great and Powerful Trixie, am I the one who has to carry your things?”

Trixie taps her chin. “Trixie does not know, Twilight. Why did Twilight destroy Trixie’s home?”

“… Touché, Trixie.” Finally, with a monumental heave of magic the lavender mare finally places the cumbersome items on the top of the stairs, breathing freely for the first time in what feels like hours.

Trixie raises her nose at the purple mare. “So the little bookworm couldn’t even carry the baggage the rest of the way….. Well that’s fine, since Trixie is so generous she will carry her baggage to her room.” With a gentle glow of magic the blue mare slowly picks up the baggage, managing to shove the enormous pack through the door into Twilight’s guest room.

Twilight shuffles her hooves as she watches Trixie move her possessions. Finally the lavender mare can take it no longer and clears her throat. “Um… Trixie…”

The showmare stops removing a specific package, causing it to hang in midair as she turns to face the lavender mare. “Yes, Twibright, is there a problem? If this is about going back on giving me this room you are far too late as Trixie has already had to turn down Fluttershy and move all her things here.”

“Trixie…” Twilight continues her words as if stepping on broken glass. “Who is the bandaged pony….?”

The package falls to the floor with a loud thump as the blue mare looks at Twilight, her face pale and her eyes wide. “How…… how did you….. know about…… THAT?”

Twilight shuffles on her hooves as she looks Trixie in the eyes. “I didn’t want to say anything since my friends were there, but when I hit you that last time I saw…… I saw that memory……. Of your parents…… and that Stand…..” Twilight gulps heavily. “And all that BLOOD.”

At this the lavender mare has Trixie’s complete and utter attention. “I don’t mean to pry into anything or make you talk about anything that you wouldn’t want to talk about……. Just…. Just, what was that?”

Trixie turns her face from Twilight, resting her head against the door frame. “So…… you saw that.” Suddenly Trixie turns back to Twilight, her face resolute and grim. “Well, if you saw that then there is no point in keeping it a secret, now is there?”

Twilight is about to speak up but a simple raised hoof from Trixie stops her cold. The showmare breathes in and out with an uneven breath. “When Trixie was a filly…. long before she ever met you or took that magic exam, her parents were murdered, about thirteen years ago, by a Stand user. Trixie remembers little of that day before she blacked out: just a dark pony with a Stand covered in bandages gripping my parents’ corpses in a vice.”

Trixie breathes out, the weight of revealing such a monumental secret bringing her both relief and apprehension. “That’s the reason Trixie joined the Stand agents and the reason that she travels across Equestria. Since Trixie never found out the user’s identity, Trixie has searched town after town for years of her life, searching for that one Stand. Since every Stand is unique, Trixie would know when she found the stand that she found the pony who murdered her parents.”

Trixie’s eyes glow with a dark fire of hatred as she looks off in the distance, as if seeing the hated Stand with her naked eyes “That is the force that drives Trixie. To find the pony who took her parents from her so cruelly and attain her revenge.”

Trixie closes her eyes as her demeanor returns to normal. “Your motivations are naive, Twilight…. However, if you are truly intent on preventing rogue Stand users from hurting innocent ponies…. then Trixie is with you.” Trixie smiles ever so slightly as she extends her hoof towards the purple mare.

Twilight looks down in shock at Trixie’s outstretched hoof, before suddenly grasping it firmly. “Trixie, I think that this is the start of a beautiful friendship….”

Trixie’s grin suddenly returns to its normal, cocky nature. “Friendship… HA! As if Trixie could ever consider the mare that ruined her life to be a friend! Friends are weakness that Trixie cannot afford; you are only a tool for my own revenge, so don’t let our collaboration get to your head, Twibright!”

Twilight can’t help but chuckle. “Whatever you say, Great and Powerful Trixie, whatever you say……”

Chapter 17-Love Bug-Take 1

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Love Bug-Take 1:


“Alright class, that concludes today’s lessons!” Cheerilee, teacher for Ponyville Elementary, states happily. The bell rings throughout the schoolhouse as the sluggish students pack up to leave. “And remember to do your assigned reading on the third Zebranican civil war of 752 A.N.; we’ll be having a test on it next class period.” The entire class groans in discomfort at the thought of another one of Cheerilee's assigned readings as they trot back into the world of sunlight.

That is, all except one two-toned, purple-maned, white-coated unicorn filly, otherwise known as the third member of the newly-formed Cutie Mark crusaders, Sweetie Belle. Pulling back from her friends, the white filly looks at her teacher Cheerilee, the elder mare’s breath heavy and brow filled with sweat, then back to her friends before walking over to the teacher’s desk. “Um…. Miss Cheerilee?”

The teacher pulls her head off of her desk, looking right at the white filly. “Yes, Sweetie? Is there something that you need? You’re not going to ask for another extension on your assignments are you?”

The white filly waves her hooves frantically. “No, that’s not it, Miss Cheerilee, honest!” Sweetie relaxes. “I was just wondering are you feeling alright?”

“Humh?” Cheerilee asks with feigned surprise “Whatever do you mean, Sweetie Belle?”

“Well….” Sweetie shuffles her hooves. “You just seemed really tired when you were teaching… and you let us have small group for a whole two hours today, so I was just wondering if you were feeling okay…”

The teacher beams at the innocent curiosity and concern of her student. “Aw, Sweetie Belle… Thank you for being so considerate. However I can assure you that I always feel my best when I’m teaching my students.”

The mulberry mare pinches Sweetie’s cheeks, causing the white filly to giggle bashfully. “Especially students like you who care so much about others. Now run along, I’m sure that you and your Crusaders have big plans today so why don’t you catch up with them. Go on, and have a blast.”

Sweetie Belle takes one last look at her teacher before shrugging and running out the door to follow her friends. Cheerilee waves politely to the innocent filly as the door of the schoolhouse closes, leaving her completely alone in the building. Only when she is sure that anypony who could have heard her is out of earshot does she lay her head on her desk, taking ragged deep breaths, while her body breaks out in a cold sweat.

“I-I really….” the teacher swallows deeply, “I really shouldn’t have come to school in my condition. A teacher, a teacher should never endanger the welfare of her students by getting them sick.” Cheerilee pants. “But there were no substitutes available and I couldn’t just cancel school again! Not after it took a whole week to repair the hole in the roof.” She groans.

The mulberry mare rises from her desk. “Well…. Maybe that new unicorn Twilight would have been qualified… But she is far too busy with government matters to even be bothered. And besides,” Cheerilee remarks. “With all this panic about a mysterious illness going around town, the last thing that the foals need is to believe that their schools aren’t safe anymore.”

Picking up her bags and slinging them on her back, Cheerilee fastens the latches as she continues to talk to herself. “I’ll just have to get better by tomorrow.” Cheerilee slaps her cheeks causing new fresh blood to course through her veins. “Get better, CHEERILEE! Your students are depending on you! You can’t afford to be sick now!”

With fresh blood coursing through her head the teacher opens the door outside and breathes in a lungful of fresh clean air. “Well that worked better than I expected! I feel better already!” Cheerilee comments as she trots outside.

Unnoticed to the mulberry mare, peeking out of her saddle bags a dark insectoid shape with glowing pink eyes scans its surroundings with alien purpose. From the safety of the mare’s bag, the glowing pink bug watches intensely as Cheerilee's other saddle bag shuffles and moves, their presence completely lost on the mulberry mare as she trots obliviously on her road back home.

………………

“Run for your lives! It’s after me!”

“Lyra! Why are you always getting me into these messes! I mean, ghosts?!”

“It’s not a ghost, Bon Bon! It’s called a Stand!”

“Well whatever it is, it’s chasing us! DO SOMETHING”

Cheerilee watches with a bemused expression as Lyra and Bon Bon spirit through town as if chased by invisible forces that they can’t even begin to understand. Lyra continues to scream something about ghosts while Bon Bon criticizes Lyra for dragging her into another mess, as the teacher blinks in confusion.

“Well,” the teacher remarks to nopony in particular, “… at least since Twilight has moved into town things have been more lively.” The teacher watches the two mares vanish off into the distance as she continues on her way home. “And lively is most certainly better! Aside from Pinkie’s parties, bless her soul, there is very little in the way of action in this…. Wait, what is that yelling?” Cheerilee turns her head to look across the square as her ears begin to pick up the sound of loud arguing.

Standing before the family’s trademark apple stand is the strong and hunky stallion Big Macintosh, the most eligible bachelor of Ponyville. From his red coat, to his orange mane, and large muscular body that complimented his cutie mark of a large green apple every inch of the stallion was a picture of physical perfection. The yoke around his neck and his cutie mark symbolizing both his incredible physical strength and his enormous levels of patience. It is no small town secret that, despite his wondrous physique and rumored ‘endowment’, the brother of Applejack was single, which made him a target for almost every mare (and a few stallions) in town.

And for Cheerilee, a single mare in her early thirties, she is no exception to this rule. However what really caught her eye was the flustered expression of the stallion before Big Mac, one Filthy Rich, father of Diamond Tiara. Filthy is one of, if not the, richest ponies in Ponyville, and his status as CEO of Backyard Bargains is as well-known as Mac’s single status. In contrast to Big Macintosh, however, Filthy is far more lithe and manicured, typical of a pony who spends more time in meetings than working or exercising. His light brown coat, impeccably well groomed, is dressed up in the finest business tie and golden hoof cuffs that money could buy. His cutie mark, that of a bag of bits, represents both his talent and his love for acquiring and investing money, and few things other than that and his daughter could hold his attention for long.

From what little Cheerilee can make out from across the square, it seems as though Mr. Rich is complaining about a business deal of some kind, something about not being able to provide…. something. Suddenly, as if by magic, Cheerilee is able to hear every word of the argument, as if she was standing right beside the yelling stallion.

“… and I’m telling you, Macintosh. I need those fifty crates by week end. Supplying is the job of the supplier so pick up the pace! My stockholders are depending on your shipment!”

“…. An Ah'm telling you, Mr. Rich, that we just don’t have the horsepower to fill that order on such a short notice…. An rushing things will decrease our quality.”

“Well then hire more workers! That shouldn’t be a problem with you kissing the flank of the local Princess Representative!” Filthy sneers as he tries to comb back his rapidly-degenerating mane style. “Don’t think that I’m blind, Macintosh, the entire town knows what a hooligan your sister has turned into ever since….”

“So,” Cheerilee talks to herself as she tunes the argument out, “it’s a business argument between Big Mac and Filthy Rich… Well it’s none of my business anyways. I should do the polite thing just walk away.” However despite her efforts the mulberry mare cannot tear herself from her spot.

Cheerilee continues to stare ahead as Filthy vents his frustrations on an unreadable Big Mac. “But I can’t just leave the prospective guardians of two of her students in such a shape. What about the children? Besides….” Cheerilee grins broadly as she walks towards the two stallions, giggling all the while “… If I help out Big Mac it might just be the excuse that I need to take him on a date!”

Walking up to the two stallions, who have to this point ignored her and been ignored by everyone else in the marketplace, Cheerilee clears her throat. “Um, hello!” Both stallions turn towards the teacher. “Um, yes! Hello! I couldn’t help but hear your little argument so I thought that I might help by being an arbitrator in this discussion! See, I know both your children from school, and if I can be of any assistance…”

Filthy turns to Cheerilee, “You want to help? Then butt out.” The stallion turns back to Macintosh. “As I was saying before I was interrupted, get that sister of yours under control and have her help you fill my order. You promised me that order by the end of the week!”

Big Mac continues to stare down the business pony with a slight look of frustration. “We promised ya thirty crates of apples, not fifty.”

Filthy rich groans. “Thirty, fifty, same thing. Just make it work! I have…”

“Excuse me!” Cheerilee yells, “Now, Mr. Rich! This is positively atrocious behavior. Now I know that you are busy but that is no reason to make such unreasonable demands of….”

Filthy Rich moves so close into Cheerilee's face that she backs off immediately. “Tell me, what does a school teacher know about the finer points of business? How many multimillion-bit corporations have you run lately?” Cheerilee can only stutter wordlessly as the brown stallion backs off. “I didn’t think so. Now, as I was saying, Big Macintosh….”

Cheerilee stares blankly at the rude stallion before her as he continues to yell at the muscular hunk she admires. “All I wanted…. I just wanted them to behave…. Is that so wrong…… why can’t that thick-headed stallion see how rude he’s being? Why if I had the power, I’d…”

Suddenly Cheerilee freezes in terror as she sees a large bug, about the size of a hoof, land on the stallion’s flank. If it were not so large it might have reminded Cheerilee of a ladybug, with its round shape and pearl-studded shell that matches her own coat’s color perfectly. The insect though large would appear almost cute, if Cheerilee were not so afraid of the fact that it had extended its long needle-like proboscis and was in the process of biting into Filthy’s flank.

Acting in the same way any normal mare would if she saw a large hoof sized-bug landing on a pony’s flank, Cheerilee screams at the top of her lungs and slaps where the bug has landed, right on Filthy Rich's exposed rump. However, before her hoof can even connect the bug flies off with amazing speed, hovering in the air in front of Cheerilee as if confused by the mare’s behavior. This causes the most humorous scene of a schoolteacher spanking a business pony in the middle of the town square for everypony to see, much to Cheerilee's embarrassment.

Needless to say Filthy Rich did not react well to this, rubbing his injured flank and turning around to face his assailant. “What in the name of Dickens?! Miss Cheerilee?!? What do you think you are doing?!”

The teacher points her hoof towards the giant hovering insect. “A bug! It was a huge bug! It bit your flank and I tried to stop it but…”

“A bug?” the stallion asks incredulously as he looks around trying to locate the supposed bug hovering a distance to his left. “I see no bug, Miss Cheerilee! Have you lost your mind?! Or is this your idea of a joke?!”

“How could you miss it? It’s right in front of you!” The teacher turns to where the insect once was, only to see it fade away in front of her eyes. “W-What? It…. it flew away? No, it was like it just disappeared ……”

The brown stallion rolls his eyes. “Oh how convenient! The bug just happened to vanish into thin air after supposedly biting me! Well I didn’t feel anything and I see no bug! That means you have either gone crazy teaching those little foals of yours or you are so intent in sabotaging me that….”

“Now see here!” Cheerilee yells, her eyes suddenly glowing with an inner fire. “I may be a patient mare, slow to anger. But no pony,” The teacher gets up in the brown stallion’s face. “I repeat, NO PONY insults my students. Now you sit down and be quiet.”

For a second the stallion looks like he wants to continue to yell at the mare before him, to tell her off simply because he himself is wealthy. But at Cheerilee's words his eyes glaze over as he stares at Cheerilee with a new look of admiration and respect on his face. “Very well. I will sit down and be silent.” The brown business pony sits down in the dirt, looking at the teacher before him as if what she has to tell him is the most important thing in the world.

Impressed that she is finally getting somewhere, Cheerilee nods in approval. “That is more like it, young colt. Now I know that you need those apples for your business, but you have to see how unfair it is to Big Mac to simply be so rude to him like that. First, you should be polite and talk thing over like gentleponies…”

“Be polite….” the brown stallion echoes.

“Yes, be polite, very good!” Cheerilee nods. “Second, you should put yourself in the position of others, no more of these unreasonable demands. Need I remind you that you have a daughter that is a student of mine? You need to set a reasonable example for her sake! Your daughter is a jewel but you obviously need to spend more time as her father and less time as a business pony. And the best way to do that is be patient and kind.”

“…. No unreasonable demands…. Spend more time with daughter… Be patient and kind…” the stallion drones on.

‘Wow, this is working even better than I had ever imagined! Points for being a figure of authority!’ The teacher nods again, reinforcing Filthy’s compliance. “Good! Now, you go back home and think about your behavior, young colt!”

Picking himself off the ground, the haze clears slightly from the stallion’s eyes as he walks back home, resolute on spending some quality time with his daughter and adjusting himself into a better, more well-rounded pony.

Cheerilee, confident that she has saved the day, turns back to Big Mac. “Well, I sure showed him! Now, are you alright, Big Macintosh?”

Big Mac stares dumbly failing to process the fact that the most difficult customer he ever had the misfortune of knowing has just agreed to give him more time on his order. Turning towards the mulberry mare, he promptly displays this surprise by staring at her completely slack-jawed. Finally Big Mac is able to pick his jaw off the floor and properly thank the pony who saved him from having to put up with a pony more draconian than a dragon. “Thanks, Miss Cheerilee. Don’t know what ya did or how ya did it, but Ah thank ya for it.”

Cheerilee blushes. “Oh, Big Mac, I didn’t do anything! He just got bitten by that bug and he….” Cheerilee's mind stops in its tracks as she begins to process what just happened. ‘The bug? Could it be? It made Filthy want to listen to me? But how? True I’ve never seen a bug like it… but where did it come from? And for that matter, where did it go…?’

Cheerilee looks at the stallion as he tilts his head in confusion. “Bug? What bug?”

‘Oh! Shoot, Cheerilee! You’re blowing it! You’re blowing it! Just act natural!’ “So….” The teacher rubs the back of her head nervously. “…are you doing anything right now, Big Mac?”

Big Mac looks to his cart. “As a matter of fact, yeah.” Cheerilee beams at the implications of spending quality time with Big Mac. “Ah was just bout ta pick up mah goods and head in.” Cheerilee's previous mood instantly dissipates at the stallion fixes his cart to his harness and begins to pull the cart away.

“But… But…”

“Thanks again, Miss Cheerilee, Ah really owe ya!” Big Mac waves good bye to the mare as he pulls the cart off into the distance.

‘No! I can’t just let this prime opportunity go! If he leaves… I might never get another chance like this again!’ Reaching after the stallion Cheerilee calls out, “W-Wait!” Cheerilee rushes after the stallion, who turns back in confusion to the mare. “I-I-I mean… what’s the hurry? The day is still young! It’s barely sunset after all, surely you can spare a few minutes for the mare who helped you out?”

Big Mac chews the stalk of hay in his mouth, still utterly confused. “Bout what?”

“About… About……” Cheerilee desperately thinks up any excuse, any topic that would keep the stallion from leaving. “About business, of course!” Cheerilee beams at the cleverness of her own lie. “I mean, Filthy Rich may have been very rude about it but he was right to say that I knew nothing about it. I mean..… It was wrong to involve myself in Sweet Apple Acres’ business without knowing the first thing about it.”

Big Mac looks back at the mare with a thankful look on his face. “T’aint no problem, Miss Cheerilee. In fact Ah'm real thankful ya showed up when ya did…”

Cheerilee nervously gulps as she thinks to herself. ‘All right Cheerilee! This is your one chance! Don’t blow it!’ “So… perhaps if you were willing… You might be able to give me some pointers. Say, over dinner sometime?”

Big Mac’s face suddenly dawns in comprehension as he notices the burning red cheeks of the mare. “Look, Miss Cheerilee. Ah owe ya big fer dealin with Filthy like that. An yer a real nice mare and all… but…”

Cheerilee's heart sinks in her stomach. “But? BUT?!”

Now it is Big Mac that is the nervous one. “Look..… I’d be more than willing ta pay ya back another way an all. But Ah know what yer are after, Miss Cheerilee, and ta tell ya the truth, at this stage in mah life mah family and mah business comes first an Ah got no time between harvest, runnin Sweet Apple Acres and raisin Bloom and Jackie ta be thinkin all romantic-like.”

The stallion smiles at the dumbstruck mare, closing her jaw with his hoof. “Maybe once things slow down a bit then Ah'll have time for all the lovey dovey stuff, but until then business comes first. Ya understand right? Ah mean yer a teacher, and that’s a full time responsibility. Yawl should be able to understand…”

With that, the red stallion again picks up his cart with his strong back and waves good bye to the teacher. “Like Ah said, nice meetin yawl, an have a nice evenin.”

The mare stands dumbstruck as the potential love of her life begins to trot off, leaving her all alone. True, Big Mac had obligations just like she did, she should respect his opinions and let him say when he’s not ready…… right?

Suddenly Cheerilee looks back on her own life with a new perspective as venom seeps into her mind. But what have her obligations really gotten her? A class with so few students who actually made a sincere effort to learn? Ponies who snicker and chortle at her behind her back just because she spends more time grading papers and organizing presentations than having fun? What have her years of schooling and dedication brought HER?

And it isn’t just the children, but adults who look down on her profession; adults like Filthy Rich and his snobby wage earners, who make three times what she does in a day knowing a fourth as much as she does. And more depressing than that, night after night spent completely alone grading papers and preparing tests by candle light while lovers cradle each other in bed. What have her obligations gotten her but resentment and misery?!

And now, obligations threaten to pry a prospective lover from her arms, another lonely soul who is forced to choose between his own happiness and the happiness of others. Is she really going to let this happen again? Why can’t he see how much she is hurting? How much that he is hurting thanks to his Celestia-damned obligations?!

Cheerilee's heart breaks. “I just wanted the chance to get to know him……” The mare lets loose a single tear as she watches the red stallion walk off into the sunset. Yet as she stares at the stallion’s flank, she sees a familiar sight that moments ago was invisible: a large hoof shaped insect that has landed on the stallion’s back, its long needle-like proboscis ready to strike. Suddenly, the madness in Cheerilee's mind takes hold as an idea forms. “Oh no, Big Mac, I don’t think that you’ll be leaving anytime soon. In fact, I believe that we will be getting to know each other very well.”

In a single moment, the insect bites and the eyes of the stallion begin to glaze over……

………………….

The next morning at the library begins as any other does, slowly. Twilight organizes the town model with her magic making her plans as she waits for the last stragglers of their group to arrive. Rarity is filing her hooves in the corner while Fluttershy is talking amiably with the Great and Powerful Trixie; Pinkie and Dash are snickering in the corner about one thing or another as they both point to the bookworm Twilight. Twilight, however, is oblivious to the chatter of the other ponies, engrossed as she is in her team's success. So far their team, ‘The Stardust Crusaders’, have found a great many of the Red Stones in a relatively short amount of time, results which have greatly impressed her mentor Princess Celestia. And to make things better, this time they will be accompanied by a newcomer, the Great and Powerful Trixie, whom Twilight hopes will be a great help in their mission. Yes, things couldn’t get any better than this.

“Alright everypony, I’m glad that we could all set aside our busy schedules to meet today,” Twilight comments as the others draw into the main table. “I know you all have your own lives and jobs that require attention, but I thought that we could all meet together today to greet a new member of our team and show her the ropes.”

Trixie straightens her hat on her head as she scoffs at the very notion. “Show me the ropes? If you think that you would be able to show me anything, Twibright, you are sadly mistaken. Trixie is a Stand agent who has seen more action than your entire group combined.” the showmare chuckles. “If anything, it is Trixie who will be showing you a thing or two, being that Trixie is the strongest, most experienced and most amazing at using her Stand power.”

Trixie points at everypony at the table as she flaunts her superiority. “Why, Trixie doesn't know how you made it without her! You must have been hopelessly lost without Trixie!”

Dash rolls her eyes. “Ugh! Can we please move on before Trixie the Loudmouth starts another of her long-winded bragging storms?”

Trixie, using all her superior acting skills, puts on the most offended look that she can manage. “Loudmouth!? How dare you insult the Great and Powerful Trixie, you….”

The door bursts open with a full-force buck as a heavily-panting orange farm mare comes barging in. Applejack looks positively ragged, with large bags under her eyes and a worried look across her face that everypony can’t help but share. Every pony in the room looks at the mare with concern in their eyes, wondering what could have Applejack - the most dependably and level headed in their group - so worried.

That is, everypony except one.

“UGH!” Twilight yells, “Every time! I repair the door and the next day it is blown off its hinges! I swear the ponies in this town must want this library destroyed!”

Twilight levels her most disciplinary librarian’s stare at the panting orange mare. “Applejack, I know that you are upset for being late but I sincerely hope for your sake you have a better excuse than that for busting down my door in the middle of a group meeting!”

“No…. no time fer yer antics… Twi…” Applejack gasps, panting with every syllable. “Have any of you…. Seen mah brother…. Round these parts……”

“Her brother?” Trixie’s eyebrow perks up. “The hayseed has a brother?”

“Yeah!” Pinkie cheers. “Big Mac! He’s Applejack’s brother! You can’t miss him! Just look for the buffest pony in town and you’ve found him!”

“Pinkie dear… I think that you are over-exaggerating. I think that there is far more to Big Mac than simply his physique….” Rarity remarks. “...Then again he is quite buff.”

“Yeah, that’s him. He’s big, an has muscles like a tank….” Applejack continues, “he’s got a red coat and an orange mane an he’s got a cutie mark of a big Macintosh…”

“Clever,” Trixie sarcastically remarks.

“…… an he never goes anywhere without his yoke! He was supposed to be home with the cart yesterday! He always comes home at seven sharp but yesterday Ah had to go out lookin fer him!” Applejack begins to tear up a bit. “….But all Ah found was the cart with his yoke right by it! He’s been missin fer thirteen hours so far!”

Fluttershy moves close to the distraught mare, putting a comforting hoof around her. “There, there Applejack…. It’ll be alright…”

“Sniff…. Thanks, Fluttershy.” Applejack wipes the tears from her eyes. “Ah… Ah just don’t know why this craziness hurts our family like this…”

Twilight looks at the orange mare, her hooves covered in dirt, her mane and coat a mess, and her eyes bloodshot and tired. ‘She must have been up half the night looking for him,’ Twilight thinks to herself as she looks over the distraught farmer.

Her mind made up, Twilight turns back to the group. “Alright, everypony, change of plans. Today we need to find Big Mac.”

“Let Trixie get this straight,” the showmare works through Twilight’s logic, “we’re wasting the day combing the entire town looking for one stallion? He probably just found a cute mare to spend the night with or decided to crash at a friend’s house. Why should Trixie waste her time and resources on a pony who hasn’t even been missing a full day?”

“Big Mac ain’t like that!” Applejack yells. “He’d never abandon his family an leave us to worry like that! Heck, Applebloom was bout to skip school ta help me look; an Apple would never leave family worried sick bout them.”

“Applejack is right.” Twilight turns to face Trixie. “I may not know anything exclusively about Big Mac, but him disappearing is unnatural. It’s likely this could be the work of a Stand user. But more than that Trixie….” Twilight narrows her gaze at the showmare, causing Trixie to sweat nervously. “….Applejack is our friend, and we never abandon our friends and comrades when they need help the most. Do you understand?”

Surprised by Twilight’s sudden outburst and tone, Trixie backs off. “…Very well, we help look for the hayseed….”

Twilight nods. “Good, I’m glad that you’ve seen things my way! I’d hate to have had to……” The purple mare leans in, whispering words just out of earshot of the rest of the group into Trixie’s ear. Their effect on the showmare is readably noticeable, the blue mare’s coat flashing white from fear as she listens apprehensively to the librarian. “…… Understand?” Twilight asks. Trixie nods furiously. “Good! Now onto a plan of action!”

“Pinkie Pie, Rarity.” Twilight turns to the two mares, causing Pinkie to salute sharply, pull out a soldier’s helmet and place it on her head. “You two will search the east quarter of town for signs of Big Mac, while me and Trixie will handle the west side.”

“Okay… well what about me?” Dash asks.

“Dash, I want you to search the outlying sections of town. With your speed you should easily be able to cover Ponyville's perimeter for any strange happenings.” The rainbow pegasus salutes sharply as the purple mare turns to address the rest of the library. “No matter what, we’ll meet back here in two hours to coordinate our finds and report on our status.”

Applejack stares at Twilight perplexed for a few seconds as the rest of the group is about to rush out the door. Suddenly, just as Fluttershy is about to speak, the orange mare shouts over the din. “W-Wait! Twi, I think that ya fergot somepony! What bout me! I have to help yawl find Big Mac! He’s mah brother.”

Twilight turns back to Applejack with a look of worry on her face, walking up to the farmer and placing a hoof on her shoulder. “I’m sorry, Applejack, I really am, but you’re just too close to this to think clearly…”

“Too close ta this?! But….”

“No buts, Applejack, look at yourself!” Twilight points her hoof to the orange mare. “You’ve practically run yourself ragged already! You’re almost dead on your hooves.” Twilight pulls the orange mare into a tight hug. “I promise you, Applejack, we’ll find your brother.” Twilight releases her hold on the farm mare. “But in your state, you’d be doing more harm than good. That’s why I need you to stay here to wait for any leads we may get.”

Applejack looks deep into the eyes of the purple mare before her, part of her mind wanting to believe Twilight and trust her friend. But the other, larger part of her psyche is telling her that right now her brother is in trouble and that completely overrides any rationality the sleep-deprived mare possesses. “Ya can’t stop me from wantin to go, Twi….”

Twilight sighs. “I thought that you would still feel that way…” The purple mare scoots aside, whispering something into Fluttershy’s ear that causes the orange mare not a small amount of worry. “…That’s why Fluttershy is going to stay here to keep an eye on you.”

“Fluttershy?” Applejack snickers at the very thought of the yellow mare stopping her. “Yer serious? Fluttershy? Yer goin ta have ta do better than that! Fluttershy has bout much chance of stoppin me as a….” Before the farm mare can even finish her southernism she locks eyes with the butter yellow mare in front of her and gazes into the void of Fluttershy’s Stare. Applejack tries to move, to muster up any amount of willpower and manifest her Stand, however she finds herself unable to do anything apart from breathe and stare into the eyes of the pink-maned pegasus.

“I’m sorry, Applejack? What was it you just said?” Fluttershy continues to stare into the motionless mare’s eyes. “Now I know you want to help your family, Applejack, but this isn’t healthy. Right now what you need is rest….”

“N-N-No… Ah….” The orange mare struggles with the gaze of Fluttershy. “….Ah don’t need…. Rest…”

Twilight looks at Applejack with a sorrowful expression on her face. “I’m sorry, Applejack….” The purple mare turns back to the group. “All right let’s head out! Keep Applejack here, Fluttershy!”

“No……. Ah can….” However, despite the orange mare’s protests she is able to do little more than watch out of the corner of her eyes as her friends leave without her. Suddenly her exhaustion catches up with her and the merciful darkness of sleep overwhelms her senses.

………………

Applejack awakes with a start from formless nightmares created from her worries and she instinctively reaches for her Stetson on the night-table across from her.

‘……. Wait? Night-table?’ Applejack looks down to see that she is laying on a comfortable reading couch, her hat and a glass of milk lying across from her and a light green blanket resting over her body. Reaching for the glass from her couch, the mare gulps down the warm milk and places the Stetson on her head as she tries to make sense of her surroundings. The mare combs through her memories as she tries to piece together why she was lying on a couch in the middle of the library. The last thing that Applejack could remember with certainty was the fact that she was out looking for her brother……

Looking for Big Mac……

And it all comes flooding back.

Without a second thought, the orange mare rushes over to the door and flings it open with a single fluid motion as she prepares to run outside. Only for her to run face to face with Fluttershy and her momentum-stopping stare. “Going somewhere, Applejack?”

Under the complete influence of the Stare Applejack has no choice but to shake her head ‘no’. “Good, I thought so…” Fluttershy comments. “You need your rest and your good friend Fluttershy would be ever so upset if you just up and abandoned her, so why don’t you just stay indoors for the time being.” Walking back with all the caution a pony backpedaling from a hydra would demonstrate, Applejack trots back indoors as Fluttershy walks in behind her, closing the door behind her.

“That’s good, Applejack, now you certainly look better after your little nap but you still need plenty of rest, It's only been an hour since the others left!” Fluttershy takes Applejack’s Stetson off her head placing it gently on the night table to Applejack’s side. “And don’t worry about Big Mac, I’m sure that the others have found him by now and are on their way back.” The yellow mare picks up the blanket off the couch and delicately drapes it over her friend. “It’ll be alright… you’ll see….”

Applejack wants to scream, to tell her that everything's not alright, that her family is in peril; however all that she can manage is a defeated sigh. “Give me a break, Ah don’t want ta admit it but…… I guess yer right, Fluttershy…… Ah'd just be in every pony’s way in mah state…” Applejack painfully smiles as she is forced to concede to her own weakness. “Ah'm so pathetic all Ah can do is just lay here, some ‘dependable pony’ Ah am….”

A look of immense compassion crosses Fluttershy’s face as she takes in Applejack’s defeated posture. Never in her life had she seen the confident, proud mare look so defeated before; it brought a tear to her eye that such an event could wound Applejack so greatly. To Fluttershy, Applejack had seemed invincible, now she was beginning to see a side of a pony who she thought she had all figured out, to see all the doubt and fear that she kept bottled up inside while she was out there being brave.

“It’s not that’s Ah'm upset with Twi for leavin me behind like this, she’s a true friend….” Applejack looks down at the floor as she clutches the blanket around her. “Twi was in the right, I’m more upset in myself fer letting my emotions get hold of me like this again. After Applebloom…… Ah just promised myself that I wouldn’t let it happen again. Guess that didn’t last long now did it?”

Applejack snuggles tighter into the blanket draped around her sitting form, needing the emotional comfort more than the physical. “Ya know what the really sick part is? When I heard my brother was missing I wasn’t angry at him or getting himself into trouble or whoever took him………. Ah was angry at myself.”

Gentle tears flow across Applejack’s face as she recounts her feelings to a mare who she barely even knows. “Even now, even though I love my brother more than anything, I’m angrier at the fact that I am unable to help him than him being missing. I’m…I’m just so tired of being so gosh darn powerless when ponies need me the most. Ah really am pathetic now aren’t I?”

A strong yellow hoof lashes out with speed and unpredictability that leaves the orange mare stunned as Fluttershy backhooves her across the face. Applejack blinks in shock as she puts a hoof up to her face rubbing the sore area as she stares back into the angry eyes of the pegasus before her. “Fluttershy… wha….”

“THAT IS ENOUGH, APPLEJACK!” Fluttershy stares deep into Applejack’s eyes. “Now you quit that thinking right now, missy! You are not powerless! You are personally one of the strongest ponies that I know!”

Fluttershy rips the blanket off her friend, not even giving the orange mare a chance to respond. “Now you quiet down and listen here! The Applejack that I know is always trying to help others even at her own expense. She is brave and always comes through when ponies really need her. I…… I always admired that Applejack….”

Fluttershy suddenly looks down at the floorboards away from her friend’s gaze “I could never… Could never be relied on like you were, Applejack. I was always afraid and doubted myself because I thought that I didn’t have anything to offer… And because of that…. I was always the first to run away from my problems….”

The yellow mare pauses as if in deep thought as Applejack rises back up to her hooves. The silence goes on for so long that Applejack is about to speak up when she is interrupted by Fluttershy. “But…. But I’ve realized something, Applejack and you need to realize it too. Rarity, your best friend and mine as well, taught me that one pony can’t do everything… But a group of ponies can do anything.”

Fluttershy takes Applejack’s hoof and places it in her own. “Sometimes If you want to help others, you have to depend on them. You have to be willing to let others do what you can’t do and just do what you can. So please, Applejack, don’t say that you’re weak. You’re not weak, just let the others do what they can… and do what you can in turn.”

The yellow mare smiles as Applejack begins to smile back. “And I promise you, it may not be today, or tomorrow or the day after that. But I promise you, Applejack, that ponies will depend on you and what you can do… A-And I know when that happens that you will step up to the plate because Applejack is the most dependable pony that I know!”

“…Fluttershy….” The orange mare’s face brightens considerably as she wipes tears from her eyes. “That’s mighty good words there! An Ah'm……”

BAM!

Both mares heads turn sharply to the front door of the library where an exhausted orange pegasus filly with a scooter and helmet drags herself into the library proper.

Applejack picks her hat off the side table as she looks at the pathetic condition of the library door. “…Twi was right…. That happens way too often……”

“Which one…” the orange filly gasps, “which one of you is Twilight…… Need help….”

Fluttershy, always sensitive to the injured and woes of others, rushes over to the tired filly. “You…. You’re Scootaloo aren’t you? Applejack says that you’re friends with her sister Applebloom?”

The filly smiles as she collapses into Fluttershy’s outstretched arms. “Heh is that how everypony knows me…… as Applebloom’s friend? Man I really need to work on my image….”

“Well for what it's worth I’m glad to see you too, Scootaloo.” Managing practically the lightest slap in existence Fluttershy spanks the filly. “But still, shame on you! How could you just skip school if you’re Applebloom’s friend? I knew that Applebloom and Rarity’s sister Sweetie Belle got into trouble on occasion. But this……”

“What the…. Never mind that!” The filly slaps aside Fluttershy’s hooves, standing on her own. “I had to escape from school as fast as I could! Cheerilee was…”

“You deliberately ran away from School?!” Fluttershy shouts. “And your teacher?!”

“Would you let me finish?!” Scootaloo shouts.

“Gladly!” Applejack slaps Fluttershy upside the head. “Let Scootaboom finish.”

“Scootaloo!”

“Scootaboom, Scootaloo, same thing, now what’s the rat in the grain silo?”

“…… Like I was trying to say…” Scootaloo continues, “Miss Cheerilee's lost it! We were just starting class, you know, talking amongst ourselves, being rowdy, throwing paper balls… You know, the usual when she sort of snapped!”

The orange filly extends her hooves creepily as if telling a ghost story. “Suddenly all the students started looking like zombies from Indiana Colt and the graveyard of the Brain Munchers!” Scootaloo scratches her chin. “That and her guest speaker looks really out of it! I mean Big Mac is usually really quiet anyways but he just looked really…. weird, and he didn’t talk much unless he was complimenting Miss Cheerilee.”

“BIG MAC? He’s at yawl’s school?!” Applejack yells.

“Yeah! Applebloom thought that was strange as well cause he was supposed to be missing or something. All of a sudden Applebloom told me to get Twilight as soon as possible and told me to get going. She even punched Big Mac in the face so I could escape.” Scootaloo picks up her scooter brimming with pride. “So I got on my trusty scooter and got here in ten minutes flat! Pretty awesome, wouldn’t you say?”

“Yeah, yeah, Scootaboom. Whatever you say.”

“Scootaloo!”

Applejack narrows her gaze, letting the filly know she’s not taking any backsass. Parking her Stetson on her head the orange farmer looks down on the little filly. “Scootaboom, yawl rest here and when Twi gets back tell her what happened.”

Scootaloo gives Applejack a skeptical look. “Why? What are you going to do?”

“Me?” Applejack places one hoof confidently outside the broken library door as she looks back at Scootaloo. “Well, now that Ah know where ta go……Ah’m gonna have me a little parent-teacher conference with mah two best friends Kicks Mcgee and Bucks Magillicuddy in attendance.”

However the orange farm mare once again finds her way outside blocked. “NO, Applejack!” Fluttershy shouts barring Applejack’s way. “I know that you want to help your brother but you’re in no shape! Let’s wait until Twilight gets back like she asked……”

“We ain’t got time fer that, Fluttershy!” Applejack takes another step forward causing the yellow mare to back off. “All the others are scattered round town, we can’t leave our foals at a crazy teacher’s mercy. Ah’ve seen how Crimson Harvest ends! And that aint right!”

“Oh…” Fluttershy nervously shuffles her hooves. “I’m sure that Scootaloo is just over exaggerating everything… I know Cheerilee. And she’s a calm reasonable pony… I’m sure that Applebloom and her friends are…”

“We can only do what we are able to do, ain’t that right, Fluttershy?” Applejack tilts her hat as if acknowledging Fluttershy’s past point. “Well now we are the only ones that can reach the school in time, so it is up to us to do what we can. An that means both of us, together!”

Fluttershy looks at Applejack, her confidence swelling as she feeds on the confident aura that seems to pour out of the farmer without limits. Taking a deep breath, Fluttershy stares back, her own confidence returning. “All… all right then… I guess… No, you’re right! Now it’s our chance to do something!”

Applejack nods. “Good, that’s the spirit, Flutters! We’ll make a brave warrior out of you yet!”

Chapter 18-Love Bug-Take 2

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Love Bug- Take 2:


Applejack looks at the quiet schoolhouse before her as Fluttershy shivers behind her in terror. ‘So much fer a brave warrior…’ Applejack thinks.

Applejack, originally put off by the silence, walks in through the front gate, scanning the grounds. “It’s quiet… Too quiet. This yard here is usually packed round this time fer recess and the like, now it’s as silent as a ghost town populated by tumbleweeds!”

“Well, that’s good!” Fluttershy rambles, “No noise means no ponies! So we can just search somewhere else now!” Fluttershy attempts to fly off only for her tail to be grabbed by Applejack in midflight. With a mediocre amount of force the orange mare pulls her back to the ground and jerks her back up to her hooves just as quick.

“Look, Flutters….” Applejack says while dusting Fluttershy off, “I know yawl are scared an all but Ah need yer help. Mah brother an all the other fillies are in trouble an Ah can’t do this alone.” The farm mare smiles encouragingly. “So can Ah count on ya, Flutters?”

“……. No.”

Applejack rolls her eyes. “Just come on already, Fluttershy; yawl can hide behind me if things git bad.”

Though still visibly scared the yellow mare perks up and nods. “All… alright, Applejack, I-if you insist nothing bad will happen.….” They both look to the door leading into the schoolhouse classroom. “Now we just have to knock and hope some pony answers…”

WHACK!

With a single dexterous movement built up over years of apple-bucking, the orange mare shatters the door with a patented Apple Family kick, leaving hundreds of fragments of red wood on the floor and crude torn hinges as the only sign that a door ever existed.

“…or that works too.”

Both of the mares walk in through the back of the classroom, and are completely surprised with how silent the room is compared to how many young fowls are in it. Row upon row of students sit straight as measuring rods at their desks, working on problems displayed clearly on the chalkboard in the front. The little fillies and colts are so absorbed in their work that none even notice the fact that their back door has been bucked down with the force of a thunderclap. Only the sound of pens scribbling on parchment permeates the room as the mares make their way to the front and the proudly-grinning teacher who stands there. Sitting behind her desk like a ruler on her throne, Miss Cheerilee is so completely engrossed in the sound of her students working that she almost fails to notice the two mares.

“Well Well! Class, it looks as though we have some more guests!” Cheerilee applauds as all the students look up to the two mares. “Class, may I introduce Miss Applejack, proprietor of Sweet Apple Acres, and Fluttershy, a good friend of mine who had the top scores of her class in veterinarian’s school! Applaud.”

The entire class claps their hooves mechanically and without any passion as they stare at the mares before them. Applejack looks at the students in fear and disgust at how devoid of life and vigor they seem, how empty their souls are; granted it was a school but still it was way too creepy to be anything but abnormal. The orange mare looks over the class until she spies the face of her sister.

“Applebloom!” Applejack rushes over to her vacantly staring sister. “Applebloom! What’s going on here? Are yawl all right? What’s going on here?”

Suddenly a bit of the youthful vigor returns to Applebloom’s face as she interacts with her sister. “Oh, Applejack! Everything is more than fine! I’m at school and nothing bad ever happens at school. You simply worry too much!”

Noting a substantial lack of something in her voice, Applejack cringes. “Applebloom…. What’s…. what’s wrong with yer voice? Where’s yer accent?”

“Oh that!” Applebloom waves her hoof dismissively. “Cheerilee just helped me with a voice lesson so that I could learn to speak normally. Now others can better understand my diction!”

“Wha… what?”

“It’s nothing special, sister. Just some vocalization and proper Equestrian in addition to my normal school work. It took a little more effort but it was no trouble when I buckled down and did my work for once!” Applebloom beams with pride. “If only I had realized how important it was listen to my elders before, then I would have saved you a great deal of trouble. Just imagine how much schoolwork I can do now that I’ve learned to work quietly without any interruptions!”

“…Aaaannnnnnddddd Applebloom’s been brainwashed.” Applejack turns back to the teacher in the front of the class. “Cheerilee! What the buck do you think that yer doin?!”

“Applejack! Language please! Remember that there are fillies and colts in the room.” Cheerilee raps her hoof on her desk. “Class, forget that word.”

“YES, MISS CHERILEE,” the entire class responds in unison before turning back to their papers.

“And for your information, Applejack…” Cheerilee continues, “I am doing my job, which is to educate these students to the best of my ability using whatever means at my disposal…” Cheerilee extends her hoof as a large hoof-shaped ladybug lands on it. “And with my little friend here all it takes is a little love bite and they all hang on every word I say.”

Applejack readies herself as she looks at the strange-shaped bug. “Ah Stand power… That’s how she’s been doin it! Twi was right.”

“You brainwashed all these fillies? How could you?!” Fluttershy shouts.

Cheerilee rolls her eyes as the bug crawls off her hoof and onto her desk. “Well, every filly except for Diamond Tiara… I gave her the day off so that she and her father could spend some quality time together…”

………………

“Diiiiiaaaaaaammmmmoooooonnnnnddddd…. Come out of your rooooooommmmm!”

“NO! Now go away! Come back when you’ve gotten some intense therapy!!”

“No door can keep out my love, Diiiiiaaaaaaammmmmoooooonnnnnddddd! So you had better come out! We have so much to do together!”

“And as I told you the last seven times, NO. BUCKING. WAY.”

“Aw, Diamond… you're breaking your father’s heart!”

“You’re not my father! My dad loves coffee and the morning paper and is always serious about his work… not… this……”

“That was the old Filthy Rich! Now I’m new and improved!

“…more like new and deluded……”

“……And I want to spend all my time with you, Diamond! I’ve even read all those self-help books your mother bought for me! I’m a better father now!”

“Good! Come back when you’re a sane father again!”

“But, Diamond……”

“The answer is NO! I am not dressing up in my filly clothes and retaking all the pictures from the key moments in my life! Now go away!”

“………”

“………Phew, he’s gone…. Finally. This will give me a chance to reinforce my barricade. I thought that my dresser would be enough. But with how crazy Daddy’s acting I’d better barricade the windows too…”

THWACK!

“Um… What was that…?”

THWACK!

“It sounds like…. It’s coming from the door….”

THWACK! THWACK!

“OH MY GOD! HES GOT AN AXE!”

THWACK!

“I told you, Diamond, no door can separate you from my love!”

THWACK! THWACK! THWACK!

Through the splintered and cracked wood, the bloodshot and giddy eyes of a middle aged stallion peer at his daughter on the other side. Grinning like a foal who has found a new puppy, the stallion laughs manically, “HHHHHHEEEEEEEEEERRRRRRRRRREEEE’SSSSSSSSSSSSS DADDY!!!”

…………….

“……she should be fine,” Cheerilee concludes. “It’s you naughty mares that should be concerned! I mean, running into class unannounced…. And without a hall pass of all things!”

“Ah don’t have time fer this…” Applejack takes a menacing step forwards. “Put mah sister and the rest of the class back ta normal right now! Or things are gonna get ugly.”

“And like I said Applejack…” Cheerilee looks at the farmer with disdain. “I’m doing nothing wrong! Look at this class!” Cheerilee points to the students. “Before, they were completely disruptive and unfocused; now every single one of them is reading at a tenth grade level! Before, they would barely listen to me! Now they hang on my every word!”

The teacher leaps to the table, a crazed look in her eye. “And guess what?! I happen to like it! I’m tired being the butt of everypony’s joke, the lonely spinster that wastes her life away accomplishing nothing! Now ponies can’t help but pay attention to me! They love me now!”

“Isn’t that right…… smoochikins?” She turns her head as a familiar red stallion come walking out of the hall. Big Mac’s eyes, though filed with a light of passion and awareness, seem off somehow as the stallion stares completely love-struck at the mare before him.

“Big Mac?!” Applejack stares dumbstruck at her brother as he continues to lose himself in Cheerilee's eyes. “Big Mac! Snap out of it!”

The red stallion turns to face his sister. “Oh, hi Applejack! Fancy seein you here! Do you want ta meet mah new marefriend?!”

“What.”

“Yep!” Big Mac nods multiple times with enough force to give him brain damage. “Cheerilee's mah new marefriend. Sorry if’n Ah didn’t come home ta tell ya. Ah didn’t mean to let ya worry, Ah was just so lost in mah date that…”

“Big Mac! Snap out of it! She’s not your marefriend! She’s manipulating you!”

“Nope,” the stallion responds. “She is mah marefriend, she said so. Isn’t that right, smookiekins?”

“You bet, snuggly bear.” Cheerilee responds.

“Aaaannnnnnnnnnddddddddddd, now Big Mac’s lost his mind too.” Foregoing any more attempts at small talk, Applejack leaps forward and manifests her Stand as she prepares to pummel Cheerilee with a flying tackle. Yet just as Applejack is about to bring a world of hurt to Cheerilee, a familiar red stallion steps between her and her prey. Big Mac stands, arms spread wide, in front of Cheerilee and the orange mare skids to a halt just inches away from her brother. “Big Macintosh!” Applejack says in her most authoritative voice possible, “Out of the way… NOW!”

“No sis.” Big Mac, unintimidated, stares right back at his sister. “I ain’t letting you hurt mah special somepony.”

“What… that… why….hunh…” The flabbergasted orange pony fumbles for any word to better express the lunacy of what is happening right now.

“Now, Applejack,” Big Mac explains in his most calming voice, “Ah know this might come as a shock ta you, and ya might not approve of mah relationship with smoochiekins….”

“There is no relationship, you big galoot!” Applejack yells, “Yer bein brainwashed!”

“But that ain’t no excuse fer violence. If ya just gotta know her…….”

“Big Mac, I’ve known her fer all of five minutes and she’s brainwashed her class, threatened me, and held mah brother against his will.”

“I know….” Big Mac looks back to the mulberry mare with googly eyes. “Isn’t she the best?”

“Do ya even hear yerself?!”

“I think snuggly bear understands perfectly.” Cheerilee walks up to her special somepony, giving him an intimate nuzzle that many foals in the class would retch at if not for the fact that their noses were embedded in their papers. “I love him and he loves me. It’s not his fault that you can’t respect our love….”

“That aint love, you….”

“In fact,” the teacher continues over the orange mare, “you’re the one who is causing trouble here…. Disrupting my class…. Yelling at your brother… and running around town like a banshee for Celestia only knows what reason.”

With a confident, cocky grin Cheerilee extends her hoof, causing the insect to appear, it’s proboscis ready to strike. “In fact… If you insist on being a disruption in my classroom, then I’ll have to silence you myself.”

Cheerilee flings the bug at Applejack, the creature flying towards the mare at incredible speeds. Applejack, sensing the danger even a small bite can inflict on her, manifests her Stand causing the bug to run into Foundation like a pegasus into a brick wall. With a quick and dexterous movement Applejack grabs the bug with her Stand, completely immobilizing it in the grip of Foundation’s strong hoof. The bug squirms and wriggles but finds itself unable to escape from the immensely powerful grasp, as the green leafy mane of Foundation drifts idly. Cheerilee flinches from the impact but looks completely unharmed as she stares at the ghostly figure that Applejack has manifested in front of her.

“Like that, hunh?” Applejack smiles. “That’s the power of my Stand, Foundation. Yer Stand seems to be fast an all that but has less power than Twilight’s. An now yer Stand is helpless. Now I’ll ask only once more, Cheerilee: give up, Ah don’t want to hurt you….”

“Stand?” the teacher mouths, “what’s a Stand?”

Applejack groans. “Yawl don’t know what a Stand is? It’s what yawl have been usin ta make these ponies listen ta you! Now I’ll ask again undo all this brainwashing right now……”

“Stand…. I see, that’s the power that I’ve gained, the power that allows me to summon my little love bugs……” Cheerilee smiles as she walks forward. “And when they bite a pony they have no choice but to listen….”

“That’s right, now… Wait… did ya say bugs?! As in plural?” Every hair on Applejack’s body stands erect as she feels multiple tiny feet on her flank, as if an insect were crawling over her body. Suddenly the orange farm mare feels a tight pinch on her flank and falls over as a strange new sensation begins to course through her veins.

“Yes, you’re right, Applejack.” Cheerilee extends her hoof causing two identical bugs to land on her outstretched arm. “I can manifest two of my little pets at once, and once they bite ….”

Applejack tries to shake the venom off as she stands to her hooves, charging at Cheerilee her Stand prepared to strike.

“Applejack! SIT DOWN!” the magenta mare yells with a voice of authority, causing Applejack to slump down to the floor unmoving. Applejack, unwilling to accept how easy it was to subdue her, struggles and wriggles like a mad mare trying to pull herself off the floor. “And stop flailing around like that, you’ll hurt yourself!”

Applejack stops moving, staring straight ahead. “Good, now see? Isn’t that better?” Cheerilee asks. “As you can see my power is very difficult to break out of, as long as the commands aren’t overly unreasonable. For example let’s try a very simple one….”

Cheerilee grins manically as she clears her throat. “Applejack, why don’t you apologize for disrupting the class like this? You were so disruptive earlier it would only be right if you apologized for your rude behavior.”

Applejack’s eyes widen like saucers as her mouth begins to open of its own accord. The farm mare struggles with all of her might, attempting to clamp down on her mouth. However, despite all her resistance and her best efforts Applejack finds her mouth opening and contorting itself into words she hates to say. “Ah’m… Ah’m sorry, everypony…” The words turn to ash in her mouth as the mulberry mare grins excitedly.

“Good job, Applejack! I’m glad that you’ve seen the error of your ways…” Cheerilee smiles gently as the orange mare turns back to Fluttershy, who is hiding behind one of the desks.

“Fluttershy… Help…. Me….” Applejack whispers just below the teacher’s range of hearing. Fortunately for Applejack, Cheerilee was ranting on and on to her ‘special somepony’ and completely missed Applejack’s near silent plea for help.

“Welllll… ummmm….” the pegasus mare stutters as meekly as possible, “Cheerilee isn’t really hurting anypony… and her students are so nice and quiet…… and…….”

“FLUTTERSHY!”

“Oh! I’m sorry, Applejack!” the yellow mare cries, “I’m just not good at standing up to ponies. If she were actually hurting them then…. But…”

Applejack raises her eyebrow, expressing the full range of her skepticism towards the pegasus. “Fluttershy, yawl were here for the brainwashing and the forcing ponies against their will, weren’t you?!”

Fluttershy gulps heavily. “Well…… maybe I should talk to her……” Applejack rolls her eyes as the yellow mare pulls herself out from behind the desk and tip toes towards Cheerilee, who is currently completely engrossed in her stallion friend. “Um…. Excuse me…… Miss Cheerilee…” The yellow mare raises her hoof gently as the teacher turns to face her.

“Yes Fluttershy? Is there something that you need?” Cheerilee asks amiably.

“Well, I was just wondering……” Fluttershy shuffles on her hooves. “... if you might… Maybe…… let everypony go and stop trying to brainwash them? Pretty please?”

Cheerilee blinks once at the mare, before breaking out in a short giggle. “Oh Fluttershy, you are so polite! But no, the students are staying like this.” Cheerilee puts her hoof over the yellow mare’s mouth. “I’m just making sure that they do their duty as students and pay attention to their teacher. I’ll put them back to normal after class is over, and they’ll be none the wiser. Well, that’s not entirely true; they’ll still remember all their knowledge, so they will be wiser!”

Cheerilee chuckles as Fluttershy mutters under the teacher’s hoof. “Now I know that you think that this might be ‘amoral’…” Cheerilee says as if reading the pink-maned pegasus’ mind, “….or wrong but rest assured they’ll be fine by the end of the day.” Cheerilee finishes as she removes her hoof from Fluttershy’s mouth.

“….Even Big Mac?” Fluttershy asks hopefully.

“HA Ha ha…. No. Big Mac is my special somepony. We love each other and are going to get married.” The yellow mare tries to object and is once again stopped by Cheerilee. “However, I greatly appreciate making your concerns made known to me and asking politely. Have a cookie.” Fluttershy tries to talk again but finds a large sugar cookie shoved into her mouth.

Cheerilee smiles at the stuttering pegasus, patting her on the head and walking back towards the class. Completely ignoring Fluttershy’s muttering, Cheerilee turns herself to face the rest of the class. “Alright, now that that inconvenience is out of the way every pony pull out your frogs!”

WHEEZE…. HACK….

Fluttershy chokes on the cookie in her mouth as she spits out the offending pastry. “…F-Frogs?” The yellow pegasus pulls a one eighty turn to face the teacher with a perplexed look on her face. “What frogs?”

“Oh, Fluttershy! Come now, surely you haven’t forgotten this project!” Cheerilee watches as every student in the class pulls out a tin with a frog on it out from inside their desks. “After all, it’s a requirement for anypony to pass their middle school biology. And being that you’re a veterinarian you must have done this before….”

Fluttershy gulps heavily, her throat drying up as she watches the students pull out long sharp instruments and plenty of needles. “Y-you don’t mean….”

“That’s right, Fluttershy!” Cheerilee sweeps her hooves across the glass as if literally embracing the knowledge. “Today is Class Dissection day! Now class, ready your scalpels!”

Every student in the class raises their miniature knife. “Now I know that this experiment may make many of you squeamish but it is a required part of coursework and is necessary for you to receive a passing grade in biology.”

Cheerilee pulls the yellow mare beside her into a deep hug. “Why even Fluttershy here was required to do such a course when she was a filly. Isn’t that right, Fluttershy?” Cheerilee turns her head, looking towards the yellow mare for confirmation, and their eyes lock for a moment.

Cheerilee jumps back from the quaking yellow mare as she gasps desperately for breath. Like a cornered animal Cherilee backs herself against the wall as she looks into the pegasus’ eyes, shivering in fear at what she sees. Two orbs of pure hatred and malice stare back at Cheerilee as Fluttershy turns to face the schoolteacher. “You’re asking me… if I would willingly allow… Nay, that I would take part in the torture of innocent animals……”

“What… what are you talking about, Fluttershy?” Cheerilee asks desperately, “you must have done a dissection if you passed….”

“SILENCE!” Cheerilee gulps heavily as Fluttershy continues to advance. “I would never… I repeat, NEVER, condone such cruelty to little animals, no matter how small they are. How could you even think of killing defenseless animals for your own amusement!? You’re sick!”

“But… But It’s not for amusement… it’s for science… and the frogs are already……”

“I said SILENCE!” Cheerilee flinches visibly as a very angry Fluttershy comes to within inches of her face. “The main reason that I DIDN’T graduate veterinarian school was because I refused to participate in this sick experiment when I was a filly. Now you are going to use your fancy-shmancy Stand power to force these innocent fillies to rip apart animals? I. THINK. NOT.”

Cheerilee sweats heavily on the ground as the mare continues to stare her into oblivion, every second that her eyes are fixed on Fluttershy’s becoming a moment of pure agony. Realizing that, unless she does something imediately, she is finished Cheerilee thinks up a clever scheme on the spot, a false smile crossing her face. “Oh Fluttershy, you’re right!” Cheerilee states as she places her hoof over her eyes, cutting off Fluttershy’s Stare. “How could I ever force my students to participate in something so evil! I’m such a bad pony……”

Fluttershy, relieved that her friend is beginning to see the light, relaxes her guard ever so slightly. “You… You mean that, Cheerilee?”

“Of course, Fluttershy!” Cheerilee says, “It was wrong of me to try and force these fillies to do something that they were obviously uncomfortable with, especially with ponies like you present who are so sensitive to the needs of animals.” Cheerilee turns her head and mutters under her breath, “... even if it was required coursework….”

Fluttershy perks up immediately, glad that another crisis has been averted. “Well I’m glad to hear that, Cheerilee! Apology accepted! I’m just glad that you decided to come to your senses before you did anything rash…”

“Yes… yes, Fluttershy…” Cheerilee extends her hoof up towards the yellow mare. “Say, could you help me up? I seem to be forced into a corner, pardon my expression.”

Fluttershy blushes as she realizes that Cheerilee has indeed been forced down into a corner by her Stare and is lying on the floor. Fluttershy extends her hoof to help her friend. “Well of course, Cheerilee! What are friends…”

“Fluttershy, no! It’s a trap!” Applejack yells.

Fluttershy turns her head to the farm mare as Cheerilee makes her move. Her Stand Love Bug manifests itself on Cheerilee's hoof as she tightens her grip. Fluttershy, feeling the intensity of the grip, turns her head back to the teacher just in time to see the bug bite her arm, injecting her with its poison. Fluttershy stares, betrayed, at the mare before her as the venom courses through her veins. “Cheerilee… What……. WHY?”

Cheerilee grins. “I’m sorry, Fluttershy, but this dissection is twenty percent of a pony’s biology grade and despite your feelings my students and their grades come first. It’s like I said to Applejack, if you are going to get in the way of my class you will to be made to behave.” Cheerilee laughs giddily. “And now you have to behave, Fluttershy! All I have to do is speak the word and…”

Fluttershy’s eyes ignite in red hot fury, pinning the teacher in the spot. Cheerilee tries to flinch, to move, to close her eyes from the visage before her but fails miserably each time.

“Teacher……” Fluttershy says with a voice full of mocking rage, “I have a question…. You said that once you bit ponies with your Stand that they would have to listen to any command you gave them. But let’s say that you were unable to give a command…… what would happen then?”

Cheerilee is stuck staring straight ahead, looking into the infinite pits of blackness that seem to encompass Fluttershy’s eyes. Her mouth dries up in fear as she attempts to manage the slightest of sounds only for her will to be crushed by the intensity of the visage before her. She tries to utter the one word that will save her from the mare’s wrath, ‘stop,’ however despite all her willpower she finds herself completely unable. To Cheerilee's rising terror she can’t even blink as Fluttershy pulls closer to her.

“Now you listen here, Cheerilee…” Fluttershy flies right up in Cheerilee's face, hovering a few centimeters away from the mulberry mare. “You’ve brainwashed fillies, kidnapped one of my best friends’ brother, and brought my friend to her knees……”

Fluttershy’s mane and tail burst into burning pink flames as all in the classroom gaze upon the terrible majesty of Fluttershy the Conqueror. “BUT DON’T YOU EVER THREATEN A CUTE LITTLE ANIMAL AS LONG AS I AM AROUND! NOW, YOU UN-BRAINWASH EVERYONE YOU HAVE FORCED TO GO ALONG WITH YOUR SICK SCIENCE PROJECT, GIVE BACK BIG MAC, AND APOLOGISE TO THE SOULS OF THE SWEET LITTLE FROGS YOU HAVE MURDERED RIGHT NOW!”

In the face of such a power, a mortal body has few defenses against such mind rending fear. Her senses overloaded in fear, the teacher is just able to groan weekly in response and fall to the floor as every pony in the classroom looks around in complete confusion. As Cheerilee lies on the floor covered in her own sweat and shame, the spell binding the fillies and colts breaks and they look around the classroom, free for the first time since the day started. And the sight that greets the fillies and colts is perhaps the third strangest one they have seen in Ponyville: their teacher Cheerilee lying face down on the floor covered in a foul smelling liquid of her own creation, as a vengeful demon with burning pink hair stands over her with eyes as empty as the abyss.

Applebloom blinks erratically as she walks up to her sister. “Um, Applejack? What’s going on? Why is Miss Cheerilee lying on the floor? Why is Fluttershy’s mane on fire? And what smells so bad?” The little filly looks around as her eyes spy another familiar face. “Big Mac?! There ya are? What are ya doin? We’ve been looking everywhere fer ya!”

Applejack looks over to her sister. “Applebloom? Are ya feeling better?”

Tilting her head, the filly looks back at her sister in confusion. “Um… I think so? Should I not be feeling better? Why would I not feel good?”

“Nevermind, Bloom, just go on home fer the day…” The orange mare turns back to the class. “In fact… all classes are canceled fer the day, so go on out an play er somethin….”

Needing no other excuse than that, the entire class piles out of the room, each filly and colt eager to leave behind the trappings of school. Even Applebloom dashes out of the room to meet up with her friends for another day of crusading, completely forgetting the entire incident. Applejack sighs contentedly that at least one thing went right as she watches the yellow mare’s mane return to normal.

“WHO’S THE MARE!? WHO'S THE MMMMAAAAAARRRRRE!?!” Fluttershy screams to the heavens as she lands on the floor with the force of a diving eagle. “YES I AM!”

Fluttershy suddenly looks at the teacher in front of her, scared half to death and sitting in a pool of her own urine. Her mane returning to its normal not-on-fire state, the pink-maned pegasus dotes on the distraught creature in need of some nurturing. “Oh, Cheerilee, I’m so sorry for that! Please forgive me!” All her bravery and strength forgotten, she tends to the shell shocked mare before her.

“Um… Fluttershy?” Applejack steps attentively forward. “How'd ya get yer mane ta burst inta fire like……”

“Twilight.”

“Figures.” The Applejack sighs.

Cheerilee, beginning to recover from the shock of a full force Stare, gazes at the floor with a look of shame on her face. “What… what have I done?” The teacher asks, “I abused my powers to force others to do what I wanted… Without any considerations for what they wanted…… I’m a bad teacher…… I was just…”

Cheerilee sniffles as tears stream down her face. “… I’m not a monster… I just wanted ponies to like me… I wanted Big Mac to like me… and I ruined it…”

Applejack looks into Cheerilee's hope-shattered eyes and sighs a deep, familiar sigh. “Give me a break… This always happens, every time a mare falls in love with Big Mac it ends in trouble.”

The red stallion walks up to his sister, his mind completely free of tampering. “Sis! Don’t be like that! All mah dates weren’t a disaster! What bout Crimson Blossom?!”

Applejack stares at the stallion. “Mac…. she set the barn on fire and threatened to call the police if you tried to take her out on a date again.” The orange farm mare sighs again. “Look, you two just wait outside for a while, I got ta have a talk with Miss Cheerilee fer a while.”

“But… but you won’t hurt her will you, Applejack?!” Fluttershy asks, “I know that she did some pretty bad things to you but….”

Applejack smiles. “Don’t worry, Shy; Ah'm not gonna hurt her. However she will wish that she was bucked in the head instead of having ta hear what Ah'm gonna tell her…”

……………

Fluttershy and Big Mac sit outside in the dust as Applejack continues to talk to Cheerilee about something that would best be left unsaid about Mac’s luck with dates. Fluttershy herself doesn’t know how much time has passed since she and big mac had sat outside. However from the deafening silence between the two most silent ponies in Ponyville she figures it must have been hours. Finally the mare’s sanity can endure it no more and she ventures into the forbidden zone of conversation.

“Sooooooooooo, nice day isn’t it?”

“Eeeeeeyup…”

“…… Is the farm doing well? I know that we’ve been needing your sister more and more often lately……. It isn’t interfering with your harvest… is it? Because if it is……”

“Nnnnnnope…”

“Um…… I’m lost, ‘no the farm isn’t doing well’, or ‘no Applejack being away isn’t causing you trouble’?”

“Eeeeeeyup…”

“…… ‘Yes it is causing you trouble’?”

“Nnnnnnope…”

“…. So Applejack being away doesn’t bother you?”

“Eeeeeeyup…”

“…… It does or does not bother you? Yes or no.”

“Nnnnnnope…”

“It doesn’t bother you that your sister is doing Celestia-knows-what and might be in danger?!”

“Nnnnnnope…”

“Well why not?!”

“… Jackie is strong; she can take care of herself.”

“…. Oh…. well, I guess that you’re right…”

“…………”

“………………….”

“…………………………”

“………………………………………”

“… are you doing anything latter?”

“WHHHHHHAAAAAAAAAATTTTTTTTTTT?!!” Fluttershy nearly jumps out of her skin as an enormous shout comes from the inside of the schoolhouse. Big Mac just sighs as he straightens up a little more, knowing with the way his sister handles explaining things it will soon be over and they will be on their way.

“Um… Big Mac? Was that Miss Cheerilee?” Fluttershy is interrupted as the door to the schoolhouse opens and out walks and incredibly red-faced and flustered schoolteacher.

Miss Cheerilee looks thoroughly embarrassed, and without any grace or poise walks over to the red stallion and flings herself in the dirt with a bow. “I’m SO sorry, Big Mac! I know that it was very, very inconsiderate of me…… I just… Well, love can make you do pretty crazy things…” Cheerilee rubs the back of her neck as she smiles awkwardly. “And I promise you, from this point on, I will never use this power for evil purposes. I just hope that you can find it in your heart to forgive me…….”

The three ponies look back and forth between each other, searching for a sign of confirmation before turning back to the mulberry mare.

“Of course we forgive you, Cheerilee! We know that you weren’t yourself.”

“Yeah, wouldn’t be the first time a mare’s lost her marbles over my brother here!”

“Eeeeeeyup!”

Fluttershy takes the teacher’s hoof in her own. “We’ve already all forgiven you, Cheerilee, there’s no need to beat yourself up any further. In the end everything worked out for the best.”

Cheerilee looks back at the mare in front of her with tears of joy running down her face. “That… That is very… mature of you, Fluttershy, and you too, Big Mac! I…… Just, thank you. I’d give you a hug but I seem to be covered in……”

Cheerilee pulls her hoof free from Fluttershy’s as she prepares to leave. “You know, it's not important, now if you’ll excuse me I have to prepare lessons for tomorrow… A teacher’s work is never done!” And with that Cheerilee trots briskly off into the distance, sparing a single look back at the stallion behind her before muttering darkly under her breath.

“Well… I’m glad that Cheerilee is all right now….” Fluttershy looks at her bare wrist. “Oh would you look at the time! Based off the shadow of the sun from behind me…” Fluttershy judges the angle of her hoof’s shadow. “Two hours have passed! We really need to get heading back to the library. I hope Twilight isn’t too upset we left….”

“Aw, Twi will be fine as a pig in mud once we show her we found Big Mac.” Applejack slaps the yellow mare across the back. “And wait till I get to rub it in Dash’s smug face! Won’t they be surprised that we found Big Mac on our own?”

The entire group giggles as they start walking towards the library together. “…. So sis….” Big Mac turns towards his savior. “What excuse did ya use this time? Family curse? Purple spots? Familial marriage customs?”

“Applejack?! You…” Fluttershy gulps. “You lied?!”

“Yeah well….” Applejack blushes. “Ah learned real quick that honesty isn’t always the best policy, especially when Big Mac is involved. But no, Fluttershy, this time Ah didn’t lie Ah, just told her the truth….”

Big Mac narrows his gaze at his sister, the rumble in his voice evident. “An that would be….”

“Simple, Big Mac. Yer gay.” And with the force of those two words a half ton stallion and a petite mare fall over in complete shock, their eyes wide and their faces frozen.

Fluttershy’s mouth gapes open and closed as she stares at the stallion in front of her. “… I should have known…”

“Wait there a sec, Fluttershy.” Big Mac turns to his sister. “Applejack! Ah thought we had this discussion already! I aint gay! Just cause I don’t spend all mah time staring at mare’s flanks and just because Ah put all mah time ta making this farm successful doesn’t meant that Ah'm gay.”

Fluttershy paws the ground with her hoof, making hearts in the dust. “I should have known…. Why are all the good ones already taken or gay?! Why can’t I find a special somepony? I have neeeeeeedssss!”

“Right, Big Mac, right.” Applejack nods humoring her brother. “You ain’t gay. And I suppose that all the time ya spend with Turner and Thunderlane is just a coincidence.”

“Those are mah friends, Applejack! We go out fer drinks and have fun.” Big Mac continues to glare at his sister. “Ya don’t see me accusing you of being gay. An Ah've seen how ya look at Rarity when ya think that she’s not lookin. And that new unicorn, Twilight….”

“Now see here, Big Mac!” Applejack retorts, “Ah won’t have you saying anything…”

“It’s because I’m not assertive, isn’t it?!” Fluttershy sadly says as she continues to draw broken hearts in the dust, completely ignored over Applejack’s rant. “Everypony wants somepony assertive. IS IT BECAUSE I’M NOT ASSERTIVE?!”

This gets Big Mac’s attention and he turns to comfort the mare. “No, Fluttershy, yawl are perfect the way ya are and ya don’t need any stallion to tell ya otherwise!”

As Fluttershy’s tears begin to dry, Applejack gives her brother a knowing wink and a little nudge. “That’s right, Fluttershy, ya don’t need a stallion ta tell ya yer pretty. Just Like big Mac doesn’t need a mare ta tell him he’s handsome…”

“I. AIN’T. GAY!” Big Mac roars, “Just why in Sam Hill are ya jumpin ta conclusions like that, Applejack?”

Applejack rolls her eyes. “Well……yeah, Big Mac, maybe ya aren’t gay. Maybe ya keep that poster of Soarin hidden under yer bed because ya are a fan of the Wonderbolts. Isn’t that right?”

“And Ah told ya! That. Was. A. Gift! Sides, I happen ta like the Wonderbolts.” Big Mac turns his head to the side. “An Ah thought that Ah hid that well……”

Applejack laughs uproariously as she wipes the tears from her eyes. “Don’t worry, Mac. Yawl ‘little secret’ is safe with me and when yawl are finally ready to ‘come out’ Ah'll be here fer ya…”

“I aint GAY! I just haven’t met a mare Ah can take past one date! And ya better stop that snickerin right now, Applejack. Ah mean it!” However, despite all his false anger the red stallion finds himself just short of catching his sister as they both run down the path in front of them, back to the library and their good friends who are waiting on them.

Chapter 19-Danger Zone-Take 1

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Danger Zone-Take 1:


It begins on a day like any other day. The sun is shining, the birds are chirping, not a cloud in the sky….

KABOOM!!

…..and an explosion detonates at the Golden Oaks Library. Truly this is an ordinary day in Ponyville.

Twilight pulls herself out from behind a heavily reinforced table in the basement of her library, coughing up smoke. “Well that confirms Hypothesis number fourteen: thermal energy creates no visible effect on the Strange Stones. You okay back there, Trixie?! You owe me five bits.”

The showmare pulls herself out from behind the table on the opposite side of the badly singed Strange Stone, her entire body covered in soot and dust from the resulting explosion. Even her trademark hat and cape are stained black. The mare coughs up a small cloud of black soot as she walks towards Twilight, hoofing her the bits. “Despite your wordy and long winded explanations, Trixie still fails to grasp the importance of launching fireballs at magical artifacts. If one were to ask the Great and Powerful Trixie, she would say that our time would better be spent looking for more of the Red Stones, or better yet ponies who have abused the Red Stones to their own ends,” The showmare gestures to the countless scribbles of scientific observations lining the walls. “Not…. this.”

“Trixie, I had to give the others a day off; they threatened to strike if their demands weren’t met!”

Trixie scoffs. “Some friends they are, forcing their leader to surrender like a frightened foal.” Dusting off her coat Trixie Strikes a confident pose. “Now if the Great and Powerful Trixie were in charge then she would throw any pony who would disobey her like that into the royal dungeon!”

“Trixie! That’s horrible!” Twilight gasps, “Even though their healthcare demands were pretty biased, those are our friends that you are talking about!”

“Humph, perhaps your friends, but the Great and Powerful Trixie possesses no friends!”

Picking up a roll of newspaper Twilight promptly bops the showmare on the nose. “Oh stop, you. You know as well as I do it is that it would be completely unreasonable to expect our friends to work all the time. They have their own lives and jobs that need their attention.” The librarian comments as she recalls her friends’ occupations. “Rarity has that new fashion line that she’s sending over to the Princess, Applejack has to take time off for the zap apple harvest and spending some ‘quality time’ with her sister…”

………………

“Applejack? Are ya sure that this is the best way ta harvest zap apples?”

“Positive, Bloom. Ah’ve harvested more zap apples this way than any other! It’s practically a family tradition.”

“But Applejack…. Not to dismiss a family tradition an all... And I know that zap apples have funny magic an all, but this seems a little……”

“……Applebloom, quit yer whining and get in the trebuchet!”

……………..

“…….and Fluttershy had to cram for her final so she can become a full-fledged veterinarian.” Twilight remembers with a smile “It’s a good thing that I was able to give her another chance at that, it’s amazing what a little word from the Princess Rep can do! Besides, giving them all time off to tend to their jobs and relax will make them better able to handle the stresses of their jobs when they all get back to work.” Twilight levitates a clipboard into the chest of the blue mare as she turns back to the Strange Stone on the pedestal. “Alright, Trixie, prepare to record the results of experiment number fifteen, exposure to extreme cold.”

Trixie looks at the lavender mare and scoffs, looking at the clipboard in her hooves with destain. “The Great and Powerful Trixie does not need petty breaks, as searching for Stand abuses is her job! Besides, how is almost being blown to smithereens by your crazy experiments a relaxing break? Why does Trixie have to help you?”

Twilight sighs as she continues to jot down more notes. “I don’t have an assistant and I’m giving you free room and board so the least you could do is help me.”

Trixie narrows her eyes at the librarian. “You destroyed my home.”

“And I’m providing you room, but if you want to keep being fed you have to start pulling your weight around here.” Twilight pulls herself away from the Strange Stone’s pedestal looking directly at Trixie. “That means you, the Great and Powerful Trixie, helping manage the library, clean dishes and help me with my experiments.”

“The Great and Powerful Trixie is beyond such menial labor!” Trixie barks as she throws the clipboard to the ground in frustration. “Find some other banal servant to perform such meaningless tasks.”

“Help or I’m cutting cheese and crackers from the shopping list.”

Trixie hesitates for a second, her mind balancing and comparing the pros and cons of helping Twilight Sparkle with her life-threatening experiments and cheesy crackers. “…..pass the notepad, Sparkle.”

…………………..

“BWAHAHAHAHAHAHA! That was hilarious! Did you see Rarity’s face when she sniffed those flowers?! It’s like her body couldn’t decide whether or not to yell at us or collapse in a fit! That was priceless!” Dash continues to roll on the ground (out of earshot from a certain ivory unicorn) laughing her face off along with her good friend Pinkie.

“He He he! Yeah, Dashie! The great thing about a prank is that it makes lots of ponies happy, especially the ponies who pull it off, and everypony appreciates it……. Eventually.” Pinkie looks out from behind the building at Carousel Boutique. “At least, I’m pretty sure that Rarity was kidding when she said that she would skin us alive if we got in the way of her completing her order…… “

“Of course she was kidding, Pinkie!” Dash wraps her arm around the pink mare causing her worry to melt away. “You know Rarity. Always a drama queen. So, Pinkie, what’s our status?”

With plenty of dramatic flair the party pony pulls a long list out from behind her back, making a quick mark before continuing. “Wwwweeeeeeellllllllllll……… we’ve already gotten all of our friends! Rarity just now with a sneezing bouquet, Applejack with dying her apples, Twilight with invisible ink, Trixie with that banana cream pie, and Fluttershy….. Well, Fluttershy is way too sensitive for pranks and she said that she would do some pretty nasty things to us if we got in the way of studying for her test, so she’s off limits…… But we’ve gotten everypony else!” Pinkie nods affirmatively as she mentally checks the final ponies off the list. “ Yes sir-e, Dashie, I’d say that we’ve done a great job so far!” The party pony says as she throws the list behind her, creating a potent explosion.

Dash cracks her hooves as she hovers in the air on her back nonchalantly. “Yep there’s no doubt about it. My pranking skills are truly the best in Ponyville. A whole league above the rest. If only all the ponies in Ponyville could finally realize how awesome my pranks really are they’d have to make a holiday after me, Rainbow Dash, and give me the respect that I deserve.”

Pinkie giggles. “Well I don’t know about best, Dashie, I think I know one pony who could give you a run for her money….”

“What?! No way!” Dash dismisses Pinkie’s words with unbridled confidence. “A better pranker than me? And I don’t know about them?! Who could possibly be a better pranker than me!?”

“Oh I don’t know, Dashie…..” Pinkie pulls a small string chord to her left causing a multitude of flashing signs to appear all around her, every one of the neon arrows converging on Pinkie’s exact location. “I think that you know hr pretty well. Hey! I know, how about we play a guessing game? You guess who this mysterious pony could be and I’ll tell you if you’re right! All right! Ready…. GO!”

“….. Is it you, Pinkie?”

The party mare throws a storm of confetti in the air. “Hooray! You got it, Dashie! And in one try! I knew that you would get it eventually!”

“……. Well of course you’re a great pranker, Pinkie! Just not the best.” Dash puffs out her chest in pride. “Your pranks lack style…. moves…… and awesomeness. They just don’t have the impact that pranks made by yours truly have.”

“He He yeah, your pranks always seem to make a splash, and I’m not just saying that because you like to use clouds and weather in your pranks cause that would be really predictable, just like all your pranks.” Pinkie giggles as she flaunts her own self-image as a master prankster. “I, on the other hoof, am the most crazy unpredictable and overall most surprising party pony in Ponyville! I mean, even Fluttershy could see your pranks coming a mile away and I’m not just saying that because her Stand’s name is kind of Thousand Yard Stare cause despite that name she doesn’t have that good of eyesight. I mean she’s not like eagle eyes but she’s not bad either. The point is that your pranks are way too easy to see through, that’s why I’m the best pranker. Sorry, Dashie, but you might as well throw in the towel and admit it.”

Both mares laugh good naturedly at the other’s comments for a few seconds, each one enjoying the mirth of the moment. Yet in the space of a single second both mares stare each other down, muzzle to muzzle, with the most intense and serious gaze each one can muster. They simply stand, neither one making a move, waiting for the first one to make the mistake of claiming to be a better prankster.

“So, Pinkie…… it has come to this, has it? After all these years you finally think that you can out-prank the Dash, do you?”

“Yeppers, Dashie, it’s nothing personal, it’s just a mare’s gotta do what a mare’s gotta do……”

“And you know that there is only one way to really settle this, don’t you?”

“Yep, there is only one true way to settle a rivalry as epic as this……” From behind her back the pink party mare pulls out a large caliber revolver, smiling crazily. With a single deft movement the mare flicks out three of the six bullets and spins the chamber, before pressing the cold steel barrel to her temple. “RUSSIAN ROULETTE TO THE DEATH, ME FIRST!”

“Yeah… an epic prank……. WAIT PINKIE NO!!!”

However Dash is far too slow. Pinkie smiles grandly and pulls the trigger, the echoing explosion of the gun resonating against the buildings with the sound of rolling thunder as the mare recoils from the force of the round. The pink mare falls to the ground, the gun clattering emptily against the sidewalk as the rainbow mare stares aghast at the scene she has just witnessed.

“Pinkie……..” Dash stands teary-eyed at the prone body of the mare before her. “Why do you have a revolver that shoots confetti?”

Pinkie leaps up off the ground, dusting the gobs of confetti off her face. “Oh you mean my Party Popper Two Thousand and One? Well I keep that as a spare for parties that are less than a shindig and slightly more than a quiet evening with friends. See, I used to use my party cannon for all parties but then I learned from Rarity how to be a little more….” Pinkie pulls the rainbow mare in close, whispering in her ear “….discrete.”

The pink mare stashes the revolver away. “See, that’s why I’m going to win that amazing prank contest that you were planning on having, cause I’m discreet and super-unpredictable! Because nopony can see me coming!”

“Um yeah, fine.” Dash looks at her pink friend with a mixture of admiration for such an unpredictable prank and fear that she might go overboard. “Just promise not to do that again, it might give some ponies the wrong idea or something. You know like you’re offing yourself or something……”

“Silly Dashie, that would be way too dark for this fan fic, at least until chapter nineteen!”

“Um……. Yeah, just no more Russian Roulette. That’s not my idea of a contest.”

“No kidding! Besides I’m no good at Russian Roulette. For some reason I always lose.”

“What I was thinking…..” Dash hovers in the air with the rising tension. “Is a town-wide pranking contest to see who’s the best prankster in Ponyville!”Dash suggests with a level of flair that only a professional stent mare could muster. “Whoever plays the biggest and most awesome prank on the other by the day’s end is dubbed the Master Pranker of All Ponyville, no take-backs.”

“Yeah! I like that idea!” Pinkie claps her hooves. “And the loser has to throw a party for the winner! That’ll be really awesome!”

Dash facehooves. “Um, Pinkie. The objective of a punishment is to make a pony not want to lose.”

Pinkie tilts her head. “I don’t get it.”

“…….If the loser has to throw a party, and you lose…… then you would have to throw me a party…..”

“……….. I still don’t get it.”

“Pinkie, you love throwing parties………”

“Oh………… should I throw two parties?”

Dash facehooves again. “Alright how about this! Whoever loses has to be the winner’s slave for three whole days! Does that sound like a good bet to you?”

Pinkie taps her chin for a few seconds, humming to herself. “Hhhhhhhhhhhuuuuuuummmmmmhhhhhhh. Well when you put it that way, that sounds like a great idea!”

“Alight then, it's agreed!” Rainbow spits a large loogie on her hoof, extending it to Pinkie. Pinkie responds in kind as the two mares double spit shake on their new arrangement.

“Perfect! Then it’s a best friends bet! And when I win…..” Pinkie’s mane slightly deflates, taking on a more wavy and flowing appearance rather than its normal bouncy tone. “…. You and I are going to spend a little more….. intimate time together…… and play some really fun games,” the pink mare says in her most sultry voice.

“Uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu……… Pinkie what are you…….” The blue mare tries to back away from her crazy friend as her face turns a dark crimson.

“Don’t worry, Dashie. I promise that I’ll be gentle…….. and merciful……..” The pink mare’s mane suddenly springs to its original bounciness again. “When I beat you in Tic Tac Toe twenty to zero! HA! Now if you excuse me I’ll have to get planning my prank to make you my slave! See you later!” The rainbow mare can only stand looking in stunned horror as the pink mare bounces off, singing a song about the joys of jellybeans.

After a few minutes Dash breathes out a sigh of relief, satisfied that Pinkie is finally out of earshot. “Whew that Pinkie Pie….. alright, time to get planning my own prank!” The rainbow mare prepares to take off into the wild blue yonder only to take one longing glance at the direction that Pinkie took off in. “Then again….. If I let Pinkie win……”

The blue mare shakes her head. “Snap out of it, Dash! This is about your pride as a pranker! Not Pinkie’s… weirdness.” The blue mare takes off into the sky, thinking up the perfect prank to get Pinkie with. “Besides, if I win then Pinkie has to do what I say; no way I can pass that up!”

…………………….

“Now THIS is the absolute best prank of all time!” The rainbow mare lifts the last of her contraption onto the roof of Sugarcube Corner, the residence of one pink party pony. Dash snickers to herself as she raises a large empty dumpster to the roof of the gingerbread building, placing it gently over the rear door. Satisfied with her placement of the large container, she quickly swoops around the vicinity with her lightning fast speed, grabbing several clouds and condensing them into a large dark storm cumulonimbus. Placing the cloud over the open portion of the dumpster Rainbow Dash gives the cloud a solid buck, filling the empty dumpster with gallons upon gallons of fresh rain-water. Propping the dumpster at a slight angle on the roof using a sturdy pole, the mare ties a long string to it and files down to the door with the other end. One quick half-knot later the other end of the string is tied tightly to the door handle. Rainbow Dash snickers as she plucks the string, sending a pleasing vibration through the air.

Rainbow Dash smiles gladly at her expert prank. “Heh! This is sure to ‘wash away’ the competition! Pinkie thinks water is a boring idea for a prank Hunh? Well this is sure to blow her out of the water!” Rainbow Dash looks at the door, visualizing the prank in action. “I’ll tell her I have a surprise waiting for her out front, and since this she is ‘the unpredictable Pinkie Pie’ she’s sure to do the unpredictable thing and rush out the back door! And when she does…….”

“Hi Dash!”

“GWAH!” Dash leaps into the air in fright before quickly turning around to face the source of the voice. “Pinkie, how did you….”

Dash is cut off as she sees that it is not Pinkie that has surprised her from behind but the town mailmare, Derpy Hooves. The grey pegasus mare with her flowing blond mane possessed a unique cutie mark of an assortment of bubbles that represents her free spirit and inner grace. Derpy was the town’s mailmare and delivery mare for three years running despite conditions that would normally get her fired in a larger city. The wall-eyed pegasus was known for several things around Ponyville: her cross-eyed ‘condition’ that no pony in town would dare discuss in polite company, her ill-timed clumsiness, and her legendary love of muffins. However despite all her eccentricities the pegasus’ adorable nature and kind hearted attitude, as well as her sincere love for her daughter Dinky, quickly endeared her to the vast majority of Ponyville.

Few ponies could stay angry with her for long, not even Dash. However the fact that she had almost made her pull her trap early certainly didn’t put the speedster in a good mood. “Geez, Derpy! You nearly gave me a heart attack!”

The pegasus looks at Dash apologetically. “Sorry Dash. I just wanted to know what the weather would be like today!” The pegasus walks over to the string attached to the door, plucking it musically. “Ooooo! Dash, are you turning the Cake’s building into a musical instrument?”

The rainbow mare quickly swats the grey pegasus’s hoof away. “Be careful with that, Derpy!” The quick swat earns Dash another reward for jerky behavior as Derpy begins to tear up a little. “Oh gosh. Look, Derpy, I’m sorry I snapped at you and all, it’s just me and Pinkie are in the middle of a prank war and…..”

“A prank war?!” Derpy’s sorrows are immediately forgotten. “that sounds great! Well as long as it’s safe……” The pegasus ears swivel downwards. “No pony’s going to be hurt, right?”

Dash’s eyes roll. “No, Derpy, nopony is going to get hurt, just look.” Dash points up at the dumpster and the grey pegasus follows her gaze. “See, when Pinkie opens the door it’ll pull the string and she’ll get all wet. It’s all in good fun.” Dash suddenly brightens as she thinks up a clever idea. “In fact, how would you like to help me out here?”

Derpy shuffles with uncertainty in her hooves. “Oh I don’t know, Dash, I only came down to ask about the weather, and grab a quick bite. I really should get back to my route.”

“I’ll owe you two muffins of your choice. Think of it as an apology for my outburst earlier.” Dash wraps her hoof around the grey mare. “So what do you say, Derpy?”

“Well….” The grey mare thinks it over. “When you put it that way….. and since it’s all in good fun then why not!”

“Great! I knew I could count on you!” Dash smiles as she point to the contraption on the roof elaborating on her genius plan. “Alright, now since the trap is set all you have to do is tell Pinkie that I’m waiting for her outside from the front door. Pinkie will suspect a trap and come through the back door, and when she gets all wet I’ll be able to jump out and surprise her!”

Derpy blinks. “That’s all?”

Dash nods. “That’s all, and in return I’ll get you two muffins of your choice. In the meantime I’ll be hiding behind that bush to jump out and surprise her.” With an acrobatic leap the rainbow mare jumps behind Derpy, hiding in a bush of dense foliage right next to the door.

Derpy looks back at the rainbow mare, who obscures herself in the bush once more, before trotting around the side of the building to the front door. As the mailmare walks out of sight, Dash snickers in joyful anticipation of her prank succeeding. The mare watches through the back window and waits as hears a sound similar to a herd of buffalo stampeding down the stairs. ‘Heh, the unpredictable Pinkie,’ Dash thinks to herself, ‘Won’t Pinkie be surprised when she finds out that I anticipated her so easily…. Then she’ll have to admit that I’m the best...’

Yet in the excitement of the moment something truly unpredictable does happen. Unfortunately for Dash, the roof she placed the dumpster on was uneven and as if by divine intention or simple bad luck the jostling of Pinkie running down the stairs was enough to dislodge the dumpster proper, causing it to skid down the side of the roof. And this in turn caused the entire crate of water to fall off the roof directly over a certain group of bushes where a very certain pegasus was hiding. Seeing the string snap right before her eyes, Dash barely has time to look up as she sees the entire crate of water falling right on top of her. Her eyes grow wide, and the last thought that courses through her stunned brain as the basin filled with gallons and gallons of water fours down on her head is that it would be really funny if she pulled out a small umbrella right now.

With a crash loud enough to wake the dead, the entire dumpster full of water falls on top of the blue mare, top down, drowning the speedster in a torrent of her own water-based trap. Half-thankful that the dumpster itself didn’t land on her and crush her flat, the mare flails her arms about in the darkness, trapped like a bug under a cup. She sputters and coughs erratically as the water soaks every inch of her body, an entire rainstorm released in the space of a single second. As the water settles the waterlogged rainbow mare lifts the dumpster off her body, wet, soggy, and defeated by her own trap. Dash spurts out a jet of water from between her teeth as she pulls the dumpster off of her head. “Ugh, washed out by my own prank. Could this get any worse…..”

As if sensing the dramatic irony, the back door flies open revealing a grinning Pinkie Pie. “….. And since she’s probably waiting for me at the front door….. Oh hi, Dashie! Fancy meeting you here!” Pinkie greets her foe amiably. “Why are you so wet? Did you decide to take another cold shower, and in the middle of Ponyville?”

“NO! I mean…. Ummmmm. Yes, I was….. taking a shower…….” the rainbow mare lies, red-faced.

At this Pinkie rolls on the ground laughing. “Silly Dashie! You can’t fool me! I saw you planning that old super large water bucket over the door a mile away thanks to my good old Pinkie Sense! I knew you were trying to prank me the moment I came down the stairs!”

Pulling out a bath cap and a scrub brush from behind her back, Pinkie equips the rainbow mare. “But I got to admit, I totally did not see that coming! I mean pranking yourself is super priceless and original! If you were planning to prank yourself you would have totally won! But now I’ve got to run and plan my prank for my special little target, namely you! So if you want to beat me you’ve got to be more unpredictable than that!” Leaving Dash to stew in her own utter embarrassment and shame the pink mare bounces off into the distance, humming the same cheerful song that she always does.

………………….

“HuuuumHummmhMummh! HuuuumHummmhMummh! HuuuumHummmhMummh! LALA-LALA-LA!!!”

“Now then, Pinkie, you old party pony!” the pink party mare says to herself as she walks around Ponyville proper, taking in the sounds and sight of happy ponies around her. “What would be the best prank to get my good friend Dashie with? It was sure a surprise that her own prank backfired on her but Dashie won’t let that keep her down! After all, a prank war of THIS magnitude calls for extreme measures: PINKIE PIE STYLE!” Sitting on her rump she applies all her Pinkie Brain as she muses to herself on the best possible prank that she can pull to win her the title of Best Pony Prankster or something like that, as well as the right to have Dashie do whatever she desires.

Unable to suppress her imagination, Pinkie drools as she thinks of all the possible things that she can have Dash do for her, like make her a cake, or have her take her shift at the cake’s bakery or something with chocolate icing.

“Now let’s see here, little brain, what can I do with…..” The mare pulls her patented party cannon out from behind her back. “…A party cannon…” she pulls out each item in turn, “a snorkel and fins, three rubber chickens, four cans of brightly colored paints, a bowling ball and a bottle of instant fresh water. Humhhhhhhhhhh……..” Pinki thinks to herself when suddenly her stand Suprise! pops out behind her holding a lit lightbulb over her head. “AH HA! I know what to do!”

Picking up the bottle of instant fresh water Pinkie carefully places it on a nearby unoccupied park table, writing a quick barely-legible tag to place on it. The tag, which reads ‘Drink me Dashie,’ causes the mare to snicker to herself, sure that Dash won’t be able to resist such a complimentary drink. Then, judging the trajectory with both her hooves pointed outwards, Pinkie works out the perfect angle for a shot: a nearby alley that is conveniently hidden from view. Pinkie laughs as she zips over to the alley and pulls out her party cannon, positioning it so that it is perfectly aimed at where the bottle of water is. Pulling out several cans of paint, Pinkie pours the semi-viscous liquid down the barrel, laughing all the while. “HE He he! What a great idea, Pinkie……… He he!”

“What’s a great Idea, Pinkie?”

Pinkie pulls her head up to see a familiar mailmare standing on the tip of her cannon. “OH! Hey, Derpy! What’s happening? What’s up? Well other than you of course, pegasi are always up! Well except when they land on the ground, but then they can always go up!”

Derpy nods at the sage advice. “That is so true, Pinkie! But I was really wondering what is up with you? Why are you pouring paint into a cannon?”

“Well that’s a funny story, Derpy! Have you heard about me and Dash’s prank war?”

The mailmare tries to hide her surprise. “Um…. Well I might have heard of it….”

“Great!” Pinkie throws the empty can of paint to the side. “That saves me a long explanation! And I hate long explanations! You see, this is my little prank for Dashie. When she stops to sample the water on that table there,” Pinkie points to the table off in the distance as she walks around the cannon to the back, “then I’ll pull the trigger here and launch a storm of polka-dotted paint right at her! You see, it’s really funny because she just took a shower and got wet, so after this prank she’ll have to take ANOTHER shower!”

“Wowie that sounds a lot better than Dash’s prank!” the grey mailmare remarks as she turns around on the barrel of the cannon to face Pinkie. “But um, I’m confused, how do you get paint to make polka dots?”

“That’s easy, you just buy polka-dotted paint!”

A look of sudden realization crosses Derpy’s muzzle. “Oh! I should have known. You know how to get everything, Pinkie!”

“Yeah I’ll say, Derpy! Um can I ask you something, Derpy, old pal?”

The mailmare blinks. “Yes, Pinkie, what is it?”

“Um well how to put this. You’re sort of standing on my party cannon and I’m trying to aim it, so……”

“Oh OH! I’m sorry, Pinkie I didn’t want to get in your way or anything!” The mailmare takes to the air, allowing Pinkie to once again focus on the aiming module.

“He He! That’s okay, Derpy, I know you didn’t mean it!” Pinkie is about to finish her preparations when she pulls a magnificent double take. “Say, want to stay and watch? It’s going to be really good!”

Derpy’s normal cheerful attitude dissipates instantly into an aura of fear and uncertainty. “Um…. Well, I’m not sure, Pinkie… I mean, I know this prank is going to be really cool and all. But I think I’ve had enough of pranks for a while….”

Noticing the immediate change in Derpy’s behavior, Pinkie beams even more to cheer her up. “Hey that’s okay! I wouldn’t want you to stay if it made you unhappy! You go on and have a fun time delivering mail!”

Derpy smiles and turns to fly away. “Thanks, Pinkie! You always know what to say to make me feel better! Oh by the way!” The grey mailmare reaches into her sack, pulling out a brown wrapped package. “This is for you! I was going to drop it off at your room in Sugarcube Corner…. But I forgot.”

With absolutely zero grace and no concern for the condition of the package the mare rips the parcel to shreds, revealing a large orange book. Pinkie gasps dramatically. “The 22nd edition of 1001 puns! Thanks, Derpy I’ve been waiting on this for four weeks!”

Pinkie stuffs the book in her mane before turning back to the mailmare. “Thanks for delivering it in pony, Derpy! You’re always so considerate!”

Derpy, surprised to be complimented for forgetting a delivery, rubs the back of her neck. “He he! Yeah, just doing my job! He he.” Suddenly the grey mare gets very serious. “Say, Pinkie…….”

“Yes, Derpy?” Pinkie asks, as if completely oblivious to Derpy’s sudden change of mood.

“If there were something really bothering me……” The grey mailmare taps her hooves together shyly.

“Humh?” Pinkie yells over the loud clanking of her cannon as she adjusts the accuracy and aiming. “You’ll have to speak up there, Derpy, I can’t hear you!”

Derpy looks at Pinkie deeply as if she has a load on her chest that she has to get off, a weight that is crushing her body and soul. Finally after what seems like minutes the grey mailmare shakes her head dismissively. “Never mind, it’s not anything that you can help me with anyways! Have a nice day.” And with that the grey mailmare flies off, leaving the Pinkie to focus again on her prank.

“Boy, that Derpy…..” Pinkie remarks, “always so mysterious and… Hunh?” Pinkie stops her preparations of her cannon, instantly looking down the barrel. “That’s strange, it looked like something landed on the barrel….. Maybe it was one of Derpy’s feathers?” The pink mare turns back to the sky. “HEY, DERPY! YOU DROPPED SOMETHING!”

Seeing as how the grey mare is gone and out of earshot, Pinkie shrugs and walks around the barrel of the cannon, pulling it down to her eye level as she inspects it for any damage or sign of the mysterious object. “Good….. now let’s see what the little problem i…” The party mare looks down the barrel just in time to see it erupt in her face, the explosively-propelled paint sending her tumbling hooves-over-head out of the alley and into a cheap park table. Her head spinning and her body covered in thick creamy polka-dot paint, the not-pink party mare picks herself up on shaky hooves, managing to stand just as a familiar pony lands besides her.

“Hey, Pinkie! Look!” Dash shouts, holding up a bottle of water in Pinkie’s muzzle. “Somepony’s handing out free bottles of my favorite water! And it even has my name on it! Sweet!” The mare guzzles the entire bottle down in a second, throwing the bottle into a nearby recycling bin. “Ugh, Pinkie, what happened to you? Is that your new fashion statement? I may not be Rarity but I can easily tell you that polka dots ain’t your color, Pinkie.”

“Well, I wasn’t trying to give myself polka dots!” Pinkie crosses her arms grumpily. “And I didn’t mean to prank myself! My prank just happened to backfire on me!” Pinkie suddenly jumps to her hooves, staring Dash down “…As if somepony was trying to sabotage me! Somepony like you!”

“What? ME?!” Dash points her hooves to her chest.

“Yes you! I bet it was all part of your big plan! You knew that you couldn’t beat my surprising pranks so you rigged my cannon to blow up in my face early and cover me in polka dots! Now look me!” Pinkie tries to brush off the globs of paint congealing on her coat. “I’m all sticky and wet now! I’m so embarrassed…….”

“UUUUUUUUUUHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH………..” Rainbow’s brain stalls as she tries vainly to keep from thinking certain thoughts, trying at the same time to suppress a monstrous blush consuming most of her face.

“And it's all your fault, Dashie!” Pinkie pouts again, her arms crossing sloppily as the flecks of the paint splash on Dash’s coat. “You think I’m fooled? Well I’m not! That wasn’t a very good prank anyways, it was just mean!”

Dash sighs as she tries to clear the blush from her face. “Alright, first, I never touched your cannon! And second, you are the one who sabotaged me! You just knew that your running down the stairs would cause my trap backfire, admit it!”

“Shows what you know.” Pinkie Pie sticks her tongue out at the rainbow mare, wincing as she gets a dollop of paint on her tongue. “I blame your shoddy construction. It’s not my fault that your own trap fell apart on you!”

“What! Alright, this has gone on long enough, Pinkie.” Dash paws her hoof on the ground. “Just admit that you’re the one who sabotaged my prank and we can get on with this contest!”

“Nut-uh!” Pinkie presses back against Dash, muzzle to muzzle. “You apologize for sabotaging my prank! Cause I know for a fact that I didn’t sabotage yours!”

“Oh really? Is that a fact!?” Dash asks as sarcastically as possible.

“Yes, Dash, it’s a fact!”

“Well I know that I didn’t prank you! So who was it?”

“Oh, have both of you been pranked by the master pranker of Ponyville too?” Both mares turn suddenly to see a brown-colored earth stallion with a brown ponytail mane and cutie mark of a cup of water. The stallion, a random background pony known as Swift Service, gulps nervously in the face of the two mare’s intense gazes. “That is…. If you were pranked by the master pranker, you wouldn’t be the only one. He’s gotten almost every pony in Ponyville. He got me twice since last week…. Um, am I saying too much?”

Both mares blink at each other simultaneously before turning towards the stallion again. “Whoa, whoa. Back up there…..” Dash says, “what are you talking about, ‘the master pranker of Ponyville’? Cause the only master pranker in Ponyville is yours truly!”

“Oh, well, since you were arguing like that I thought you already knew….” Swift Service clears his throat and signals the two mares to sit down. Once the two mares are seated, Swift Service resumes his tale with the same level-headedness that he began with; that is to say, not a lot. “Okay, basically ever since about two or maybe three weeks ago, I can’t really remember when exactly….. anyways ever since about two and a half weeks ago a mysterious pranker has been pranking ponies indiscriminately all around Ponyville. That means the pranker pranks any pony that he can and he never leaves a calling card or a hoof print or anything that could give us a clue of who he is! True, nopony’s been hurt by his pranks, but the pranks always strike at the most inconvenient times and nopony has no clue who is doing it, so it’s really frustrating!”

The now-polka-dotted mare pulls out a detective hat and a bubble pipe, blowing bubbles in deep thought as she listens to the stallion’s tale of woe. “Of course!” Pinkie pounds her hooves together in a downward motion. “We must have been counter-pranked by the legendary pranker! He’s heard about our completion and wants us to know that there is no better pranker in Ponyville than him! It’s the perfect crime……”

Dash blinks in surprise that, for once, Pinkie is the one making sense of the situation. “Yeah….. Yeah! That makes total sense! He must be intimidated by my superior skills so he’s trying to get the drop on us!” THe speedster rises confidently into the air. “Well he had better think again if he thinks that he can make a fool of the two of us and get away with it!”

The rainbow mare turns heroically to the stallion. “Don’t worry, Swift Service, I personally promise as the most awesome pony in Ponyville to find the master pranker and prank them back hard!”

“And I second that emotion!” The party mare responds “We’ve got to work together to find this mare, stallion, or whatever it is! I love a good prank as much as the next pony but is sounds like this prankster is going too far! I mean, polka dots!?” Pinkie gestures to her paint covered coat. “What kind of pony uses polka dots?!”

Swift Service breathes an immense sigh of relief as Dash and Pinkie shake hooves, each one agreeing to put aside their differences for a common cause. “Then it’s settled! Truce until we catch this master pranker!” Dash exclaims as she lets go of Pinkie’s hoof. “But just how does a pony go about catching a mysterious super pranker?”

“Well….” Pinkie remembers, “My great uncle Trout Line taught me that if you want to catch the right prey than there is only one thing that you really need!”

Dash raises an eyebrow. “And that is?”

“Easy!” Pinkie points towards Swift Service. “The right bait…….”

………………………….

Thus it came to pass that Swift Service the pony became living bait for the mysterious prankster, shuffling nervously outside his own house with a large kick me sign on his back and wearing a pair of united shoes. Truly there could not be a better example of a sitting duck than Swift Service. So it was to the great surprise of both Pinkie and Rainbow Dash that it was taking so long for the mysterious prankster to find the live target that they had so carefully set up as the perfect pranking target. In the depths of their super-secret mobile fortress that looked conveniently like a bush the two mares watched their bait, waiting for their chance to strike back at their nemesis.

“URGH!”

“Dash, be quiet! We need to be quiet if we want this to be a surprise!” Pinkie whispers harshly.

“But Piiiiiinnnnnkkkkkkkiiiiiieeeeeee!” Dash moans, “it’s sooooooooooo boring!”

“Well, just think of funny thoughts!” Pinkie continues to stare at Swift Service through her pair of binoculars. “Like kumquats and cheri-changas! Or kumquat flavored Chimi-Cheri-Changas! That always helps me pass the time!” Dash groans once again as Pinkie watches the increasingly more terrified stallion standing outside his house waiting for disaster. “Wow, is Swift Service brave or what? I wonder why he agreed to play pretend and be our bait so easily?”

“Oh that,” Dash snaps a stray stick in her hooves. “Yeah, I just had to promise him a saucy picture of Applejack, and he agreed to do it easy. I mean, I would have promised him two but he agreed in less than ten seconds…….”

Dash lifts her gaze to see Pinkie Pie looking back at her with judgmental eyes. “It’s not like I was going to actually give him one!” Dash responds with a blush. “I mean, it’s not like I have one!”

Pinkie bops Dash on the head. “Normally I would be more sad at the fact that you decided to lie to Swift Service. However, I’ll make it up to him later. His birthday is in a week after all and I have a great present for him! A five-layered fudge cake!”

“Whatever, as long as he’s off my back.” Dash peers out of the bush, looking at Swift Service. “Are you sure that this is tempting enough? Do you think we should have made him more of a target, or do you think that would have been too suspicious?”

“Relax, Dashie!” Pinkie pats Dash on the head, much to the blue mare’s discomfort. “No real prankster could possibly pass up a good ‘kick me’ sign! All we have to do is watch and wait so that we can take this mysterious prankster by…..”

“SURPRISE!”

Both mares flail backwards as a familiar grey mailmare sticks her neck into the bush. “Hi ya, guys? Are you still pranking each other?”

Pinkie blinks at the mailmare. “Wow, Derpy, are you related to my aunt Surprise? Cause you’re really surprising!”

“No, sorry, Pinkie, I don’t know your aunt Surprise, she sounds really nice though.” Derpy hovers in the air as she gestures over towards Swift Service. “I’m just here to deliver Swift Service’s mail and I saw you two hiding in a bush so I thought that I would tell you both hi!”

The mailmare stops in mid-sentence as she sees Swift Service shuffling his hooves nervously. “Ummmmmmm why is Swift Service dancing like that? And why is he wearing shoes? Nopony wears shoes, like ever. Nopony even needs shoes! I mean i guess that if you hurt your hoof…..”

“Derpy….” Dash growls at the Grey mailmare.

“OH! Right! I almost forgot!” The grey mailmare reaches into her saddlebags and pulls out a medium-sized box that radiates heat, the mare smiling as though she is holding a chest of gold as she flips open the lid of the box. “You both looked so down ‘cause your pranks backfired on you guys, so I got you a pick-me-up!”

Pinkie grins as she quickly picks up a muffin and puts the entire pastry in her mouth in one bite. “Trhaks Berpy! Yer murfins afre the befts!” the mare says while spewing crumbs all over the ground.

Dash is more hesitant, looking over the muffins for a few moments before finally grabbing one and taking a cautious bite of it. Dash’s eyes light up immediately and she quickly finishes the rest of the muffin. “Yeah, thanks, Derpy. It’s good that something is finally going our way today. But if you don’t mind, we are doing something really important that requires our full attention so if you could help us stay on the down low…..”

Derpy snaps into a quick salute. “You don’t need to say another word! I’ll get back to my job! By the way…..“ Derpy looks at various items lying in the bush. ”…..what are you doing?”

Pinkie grins as she holds up a pair of binoculars. “That’s easy! We’re setting a trap to catch the mysterious prankster that’s playing all these mean pranks on Ponyville! Want to help?”

“Pinkie!” Dash clops her hoof over the party pony’s mouth. “Never mind that, Derpy. You have a job to do right? So just leave this to us! We’ll catch this master prankster and bring them to justice in ten seconds flat!”

Derpy looks at the two ponies with a strange look in her eyes, one might say it were a mixture of sorrow, fear and shame. “O-Okay. I’ll just….. deliver Swift Service’s mail now. Bye, you guys.” The grey mare turns tail and flies off towards the house in the distance.

Satisfied that the mailmare is out of earshot the rainbow mare removes her hoof from Pinkie’s mouth. “Pinkie? What were you thinking?”

“Hunh?” Pinkie cocks her head. “Well, I thought that I was thinking of clouds that rain sprinkles? It least I think that I thought that thought. What did you think I was thinking? Did you thought you know what i thunk?”

Dash groans as the mailmare greets Swift Service off in the distance. “I mean about asking Derpy to join our secret mission! She’s nice and all, but she can be a bit… Well, I just think that she would get in the way of our chance to nab the legendary prankster.”

Pinkie taps her chin as she considers Dash’s point. “Well, she did think that muffins were a kind of cupcake when she first came to Ponyville.”

Dash nods as Derpy puts Swift Service’s mail in his mailbox and waves politely to the stallion, flying off into the distance. “That’s exactly it. She’s nice and all but she always gets in everypony’s way. If you ask me I think that she’s a few muffins sort of a bushel.”

Pinkie gasps heavily and punches Rainbow in the shoulder, hard. “Dashie! How dare you! You can’t just say mean things like that behind a pony’s back! And especially about Derpy!”

Pinkie crosses her hooves and pouts. “She’s a really kind mare with a wonderful daughter! Why, she even went out of her way to give me a book that I had been waiting months on while I was in the middle of my prank.”

“Woah woah, Pinkie!” Dash waves her hooves cautionary. “I wasn’t saying she’s not smart or something, it’s just that she has a bit of trouble when it comes to common sense, and trust me Pinkie, we all struggle with that. I mean, when I was in the middle of my prank she almost triggered my trap early. Seriously, what kind of pony does that?”

Off in the distance, Swift Service reaches into the mailbox to retrieve his mail only to find his hoof stuck in the confines of the box, quite possibly due to the large shoes he is wearing. Pinkie looks at the ground as she considerers Dash’s point. “Well, she may be a bit... Derpy. But she’s a wonderful mare who’s always there when you need her and you shouldn’t……” Suddenly, Pinkie’s mane partially deflates as a horrible thought comes to mind. “Um, Dashie?”

“I know I know, Pinkie, she’s a good pony and all but that doesn’t excuse her, MUuummmph!” Dash is stopped in mid rant by Pinkie’s hoof.

“Dash,” Pinkie gulps as the stallion in the background pulls more on the box to try and free his hoof. “When did you say Derpy appeared?”

Pinkie removes her hoof, allowing Dash to speak. The rainbow mare coughs. “Like, she appeared just before my prank went south and it backfired on me, why?”

Pinkie looks into Dash’s eyes, her normal puffy mane beginning to return along with a burning realization. “Because the same thing happened to me, Dashie! Think about it,” Pinkie says in her most serious voice. “We’re looking for a pony that has been as the scene of our pranks and could prank all of Ponyville. And Derpy is a mailmare, she goes everywhere in Ponyville!”

Swift Service continues pull on the mailbox in attempt to free his hoof, bending the pole like a bow, and building up all the potential energy of a catapult. “What?” Dash looks at her friend, surprised. “Well, it is suspicious that she was at the scene of our pranks, but Pinkie, this is Derpy we’re talking about! There’s no way…..”

“AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!”

Both mares look just in time as Swift Service is sent flying off into the distance from the released force of his mailbox. They both gape at the trajectory of the stallion as he crashes into a nearby hay roof, smashing through it with a loud thump. Both mares stare mouths-open as both their minds reach the same concussion at the same time.

“Derpy’s the master pranker,” Dash says dramatically.

“M-humh,” Pinkie agrees.

With all the speed that their four hooves can muster, the two ponies leap out of the bush hot on the train of the wall-eyed mailmare.

Chapter 20-Danger Zone-Take2

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Danger Zone-Take 2:


“…… And you’re sure that she went this way?!” Dash’s gaze narrows at the direction Pinkie pointed her in her eyes reflecting the glint of the setting sun in the distance and reflecting off her magenta eyes.

“Absolutely positively! My Pinkie sense is never wrong. Well except on April Fool’s day, and even then it is sometimes right!” Pinkie points towards a small alley a short distance from Carousel Boutique, away from any prying pony eyes.

“My Pinkie sense said she went down that alley. Besides….” The pink mare pulls out a long list from behind her back. “…. According to the town postal guide, this is Derpy’s corporately-designated break spot. She is contractually required to take a midday snack break here from four thirty to five.”

Ignoring Pinkie’s usual jests Dash looks at the entryway to the alley, knowing that the pony that made a fool of her is just around the corner. “Good. Now maybe we can finally get some answers from a certain somepony. You go left, Pinkie, and I’ll take the right side” In a prismatic flash the mare flies around the corner, landing with enough force to crack the ground beneath her hooves. Sure enough, sitting on a small bench enjoying a bite of muffin and a beaker of apple juice is none other than Derpy Hooves.

Raising her lopsided eyes to the sound of the approaching hooves, Derpy spies Dash and waves cheerfully towards her friend. “Well hey, Dash! What’s going……” Now, Derpy may not have been the sharpest knife in the drawer like Dash said, but she was far from stupid. In fact, her natural empathy meant that she was far more sensitive towards the moods and emotions of ponies than she let on. And from the mannerisms that Dash was giving off, namely her slightly clenched jaw, her spread posture and her burning magenta eyes, Dash wasn’t there to talk. “…… um, Dash? What’s wrong?”

“What’s wrong?” Dash rhetorically. “I’ll tell you what’s wrong: namely, you!”

“What?” Derpy points to herself ignorantly. “Me?”

“Yes, you!” Dash takes a step forward. “I know your secret: you’re the mysterious prankster that’s been making a fool of everypony, including me and Pinkie!”

The grey mare’s eyes widen as she leaps off the bench, her legs begin to shake and a look of fear fills her eyes. “I-I don’t know what you’re talking about.” She turns around as if to retreat, however she finds that her other way out is cut off by a familiar pink party mare.

“Oh, trying to play dumb, are we?” Dash rolls her eyes sarcastically. “Well I know for a fact that you have been sabotaging us all day! What, was being nice to us all some kind of game? Do you like making fools of other ponies?”

“Derpy….” Pinkie looks sad-eyed at the mailmare before her. “Is-is it true? Were you just pretending to be nice to us, to me? Just for a prank?”

“NO, Pinkie!” Derpy actually begins to cry a little at Pinkie’s allegations. “No, I didn’t mean to make you sad. It’s just….” The mare clenches her eyes shut, suppressing her tears. “…… just leave me alone!” The mailmare tries to escape to the air only to find her way out blocked by Dash.

“Oh no you don’t!” Through careful maneuvering and midair technique the blue mare forces Derpy back to the ground. “Now look! I don’t know what your deal is and what you’re really after. But I’m not leaving here without some answers!” Dash crosses her hooves as she hovers over Derpy Hooves. “So start talking. What’s your angle? What do you have to gain by tormenting everypony like this?”

“Nothing! It’s none of your business! Just…… leave me alone!” Derpy falls to her haunches, hoping that Dash and her problems will just go away if she ignores them enough.

“Derpy…..” Pinkie walks forward and places her hoof on the sacred mailmare’s shoulder. “I know that you are pretty scared right now. It’s sometimes scary to have to tell the truth.” Derpy looks at the pink mare behind her, as her watery eyes begin to leak actual tears. “But I know deep down you’re a good pony that wouldn’t want to make others unhappy. So please tell us why you’re doing all these mean pranks. Pretty please?”

For a moment Derpy’s eyes brighten in hope as she looks into Pinkie’s smiling face. “Pinkie, I……” The grey mare turns away from Pinkie in shame, pulling herself out of the Pinkie’s grasp “I-I can’t explain it, I can’t control it! That’s why you just have to forget what you think you know and leave me alone!”

“What? You can’t control your pranking?” Dash scoffs, “is that some kind of joke? Cause you’ve been intentionally targeting us since we began our little contest. That shows that you’re intentionally trying to make fools of us!”

“Dash, stop it!” Pinkie turns to the blue mare a looks so scorn on her face. “You’re scaring her!”

“She should be scared!” Dash practically yells at Pinkie, “she’s been attacking ponies all over Ponyville for some kind of sick prank and now she’s caught! She’s lucky that nopony’s gotten hurt so far from her ‘surprise praning’.”Dash lowers her head shamefully “I know how what that can be like to hurt somepony because you’re reckless…..” THe speedster raises her muzzle with a look of resolve “And that’s why she has no excuse for pranking without a pony’s best interests at heart!”

Dash gets further into the grey mare’s face in order to drive the mare into confessing. “So what is it, hunh? Is your little friendly act to make yourself less suspicious or something? What are you after, cough it up! And stop it with these pranks!”

Harnessing the force of her frustrations the grey mailmare cries out in anger. “I said, Leave. Me. Alone!” As if responding to her anger, a ghostly figure appears from behind her and shatters the hard cement before her with it’s spinning hoof, reducing it to rubble in an instant. Both Pinkie and Dash back away from Derpy in awe and anxiousness as the ghostly figure fully manifests itself. The dull steel-grey Stand is lanky and limber, possessing a thin iron body and frame. The thickest part the torso looks to be composed only of iron hoops and a tightly-pulled faux-leather pilot’s jacket that matches the color of Derpy’s mane. Though the Stand appears to be shaped like an earth pony it has four wings, one on each limb, each one fluttering in the wind as if it were wearing them like a bracelet. Stranger still, the Stand appears covered in multiple propellers that spin and rotate as if powered by an invisible breeze. The pilot’s capped head turns itself towards Dash and its eyes narrow at the aggressor before it.

“So…. that’s your secret,” Dash remarks as the presence of the vengeful figure forces her to step back. “You’ve got a Stand power. That’s how you were able to prank us and everypony in town so easily! You just had to use your Stand power to do it.”

Derpy’s eyes shoot open in a moment of recognition and surprise as she looks back and forth between the ghostly figure and Dash. “W-Wait! You can see this? I thought I was going crazy! Or worse, that I was possessed by an evil ghost or something like that.” Derpy’s ears flatten. “Wait, I’m not possessed by an evil spirit am I? It’s not contagious, right?!”

Dash looks at Derpy with a deadpan stare. “Uh, no. A Stand is, well it’s kind of like a ghost ‘cause only ponies with Stands of their own can see them. But it’s not a ghost, it’s like a ‘mani-fest-ation’ of your soul, it's a part of you that comes out when you touch a rare stone.”

Derpy muses over this new information. “When I touched that rock I found on my route two weeks ago I got sick, and then this evil spirit appeared and started following me.” Derpy leaps to her hooves in hope. “That means you can get rid of it, right? Or keep it from hurting other ponies right? How do you……”

“That’s enough! I’m the one asking the questions here!” Dash takes a step forward, reclaiming lost confidence and ground from before Derpy manifested her Stand. “Alright, you’ve got a Stand, but the question still remains: why are you using it to attack everypony?”

“W-What!?” Derpy shouts in clear surprise “I’m not hurting anypony! I love everypony in this town! Why would i want to hurt the ponies i care about!?”

Dash muses over Derpy’ response for a few seconds when suddenly a powerful idea takes plant in her mind. “It’s because you’re after the Red Stones and Strange Stones, isn’t it!” Dash suggests in an intimidating tone of voice. “You’re using your pranks to check and see if they have Stands too, ‘cause if they have Stands it’s likely that they have Red Stones too!” Dash beams with pride at her well-formed theory, confident that Derpy can’t talk her way out of her watertight argument.

“Red….. Stones? What are Red Stones?” Derpy asks, genuinely confused. “Are they rubies or something? Because the stone that i touched sorta looked like a ruby…..”

“What?!” Dash interjects, “Don’t try to play dumb with me! Red Stones are what give ponies Stand powers, so you would obviously be after them because we’re after them.”

“So these Red Stones gave me this ‘Stand’ thing?” Derpy asks. “Why would I want more of these Red Stones in the first place? I’m not trying to prank any pony! I can’t control this ‘Stand’ thing. It leaves these ‘marks’ behind that cause dangerous things to happen!” Derpy rants, desperate to be heard out “I’m not interested in these Red Stone things! I just…. I just want to be left alone…….”

Dash pauses a moment for Derpy’s excuse before promptly blowing her off. “A likely story. From where I’m flying it looks like you can control that thing pretty well to me. You targeted us because we’re with the big-shot Princess Representative and you thought that we’d be easy to take down……”

“I think that she’s telling the truth,” Pinkie states with certainty

“See? Even Pinkie’s agreeing with…. What!?” Dash shouts as she lands on the ground next to her party loving friend. “Pinkie, come on! You’ve got to admit that it’s just way too coincidental that she just ‘happened’ to attack us with her Stand’s pranks! And she just ‘happened’ to shatter the ground with her hoof!”

“Well I’m sorry, Dashie,” Pinkie states clearly and concisely, “But Derpy’s a good pony and if she says that she can’t fully control her power then I believe her.”

“P-Pinkie……” Derpy begins to tear up a little “Thank you. Just…. thank you…..”

“..... all right fine,” Dash concedes. “But I still say that we bring her in to Twilight. If she can’t control her Stand and it's hurting ponies automatically maybe she can help Derpy out. Oh hey and check it out!” Dash reaches behind her back and pulls out a double white band. “Twilight gave me this cool Anti-Stand hoof cuff so we can bring her in all cool like!”

“Well I suppose that would be okay.” Pinkie muses to herself. “Derpy, would you like to come with us and talk to Twilight? She knows more about Stands than any pony so I’m sure that she could help you out!”

Derpy shuffles her hooves nervously, debating her options. On one hoof she really trusted Pinkie; despite Pinkie’s usual zaniness she could be very reliable at times, and if Pinkie thought Twilight could help then it was usually worth trying. However, on the other hoof what if her Stand couldn’t be cured like Pinkie said? What if there was no controlling this power that she had? What if they took her away to those special prisons that she heard about where ponies who couldn’t control their magic go? What about her daughter, who would take care of her if she wasn’t there? “Well, I’m not so sure, Pinkie, I mean……”

“Yack-Yack-Yack.” Dash trots up to Derpy. “Let’s just get these babies on so that you won’t ‘accidently’ prank us! I’m telling you Pinkie, ever since Twilight used these on Lyra I’ve wanted to…..”

Derpy’s Stand turns to face Rainbow Dash, a fierce yellow glow in its eyes. Perhaps it was due to the suddenness that Dash dropped down. Perhaps it was due to Derpy’s worries over whether or not going with Dash and Pinkie was the best idea. Or perhaps the Stand just didn’t like the rainbow pegasus’ attitude. The motives behind it were quite possibly unknowable. However what could not be denied was that the moment that Dash tried to slip the cuffs over Derpy’s hooves, her Stand shot out and with one power-packed jab sent the rainbow mare sailing flat on her back. The hoof-cuffs clinked on the ground a second later as the Stand lashed out again, breaking the cuffs into pieces with three chaotic punches, contorting the steel of the cuffs beyond recognition.

The grey mailmare looks on in fear at the prismatic pegasus. “Dash! I’m so sorry! I didn’t mean to… I mean you just frightened me and…. Are you alright?”

The rainbow mare flips herself over, wiping a little blood from her muzzle as she rises to her hooves. “So that’s the way it's going to be, you’re going to lure me in close so that you can sucker punch me, hunh?” Dash turns to face Derpy, the fire of combat burning in her eyes. “Alright, you want to do this the hard way? Fine, we’ll do this the hard way.”

Derpy backpedals as the rainbow mare takes another step forward, her entire body ready to pounce at the slightest movement from the mailmare in front of her. Raising her hoof to take another step forward Dash prepares to leap ahead and finish the battle quickly when she is suddenly stopped by Derpy’s voice.

“Stop, Dash!” Derpy points her hoof towards the rainbow mare. “Don’t step there! Don’t step on that bubble!” Rainbow Dash stops her hoof in midair as she looks where she was about to step, and sure enough the ground where she would have stepped has a small bubble protruding from the cement cobblestone.

“What’s this?” Dash asks “ Is this a bubble?”

Derpy nods. “I was telling you about this before, Dash, my Stand leaves marks behind that create dangerous zones! If you step on that mark I won’t be able to prevent myself from hurting you!”

“Is that a threat?!” Dash glares at the grey mare, her resolve returning as she becomes more and more convinced of Derpy’s guilt. “I knew that you were an enemy! Well thanks for the warning, but it’s totally not necessary!”

Dash takes to the air, hovering over the mark on the ground. “In case you forgot, I can fly. You won’t be getting any of our Strange Stones or making a fool out of me with your little prank bubbles.”

With a quick snap of her wings the rainbow mare rushes Derpy, her arms raised to attack. Lashing out reflexively, Derpy’s Stand swings its propellered hoof at Rainbow, missing her by a large margin as Dash punches the mailmare with a heavy stomach clenching uppercut. Derpy gasps as she falls to her elbows, trying to regain her breath as Dash backpedals out of the mare’s range. “Give it a rest, Derpy, you don’t stand a chance; just give up and deactivate your Stand already.”

Looking Dash in the eyes, a sudden intensity of anger fills the mare. “I told you Dash! I can’t control it! It’s attacking on its own! And I don’t want to fight you!” As if responding to her anger the Stand advances and throws another swift, however Dash doesn’t even need to put effort into dodging it as the Stand’s inaccurate punch misses her by a mile.

“Right, and your Stand is just coincidentally trying to beat the stuffing out of me. I should have known.” Dash lands on the ground as she circles around the mailmare to get a better angle of attack. “If I remember right, you’re the one that attacked me first! But at the end of the day it doesn't matter, no matter who started it, I’m ending it.”

“Dashie! Just stop!” Both Dash and Derpy stop and turn all their focus on the Pink mare on the sidelines. Pinkie falls to her rump as her eyes fill with tears as her mane begins to deflate. “Just….. stop! I don’t want my friends fighting like this.” Pinkie sniffles. “If Derpy really can’t control what she’s doing then…… Then you shouldn’t be fighting! I just don’t want…… I don’t want anypony getting hurt……Especially you Dashie….”

Dash’s fire is quenched as she watches her friend sob pitifully off on the sidelines. As she gazes into Pinkie’s eyes, Dash begins to realize the depth of her own actions and the impact that they have: she is literally subduing a pony to go with her against her will, a pony who is also a mother. And regardless of what she has done or what she will do that pony has ponies, like Pinkie, who care deeply about her, ponies who depend on and rely upon her being there. Looking at Pinkie, Dash takes a deep calming breath in and out, smothering her anger and frustration directed at Derpy in favor of empathy.

“I know, Pinkie,” Dash sighs as she looks back into Pinkie’s eyes, giving a stern but assuring look. “I know that it’s hard for you to watch, but this has to be done.” Dash states firmly as she looks at the scared mailmare in front of her. “Whether it’s intentional or not, Derpy’s been hurting ponies and if she’s going to get better than I need to bring her down and bring her in.”

Dash turns to Derpy, her fire rekindled. “And if you are telling the truth, and you really can’t control your Stand, then that’s all the more reason to knock you out so you can’t use it to hurt anypony.” Dash cracks her hooves as a grim look crosses her face. “Then I’m going to bring you to Twilight so she can make sure that your power won’t endanger my friends, or anypony in this town anymore.”

Dash raises her hoof to eye level as she judges the Stand’s range and speed. “From what I can tell your Stand is really powerful but it can’t hit the broadside of a barn. I’m guessing that it can only hit something when it’s right in front of your muzzle.” The speedster pounds her hooves together, a rainbow aura encasing them. “So to show you that I’m not doing this to spite you, I’ll bring you down in one punch! With my own Stand, Valkyrie.”

Launching off the ground like a prismatic torpedo, Dash sails through the air past Derpy’s guard and her Stand’s flailing attack. In the space of less than a second the mare uppercuts Derpy with a single rainbow-powered explosion, sending Derpy corkscrewing into the air with the force of Dash’s Valkyrie. Landing on the ground dramatically, Dash turns her back to her opponent as Derpy hits the dirt with an unceremonious thud. “Sorry, Derpy…..” Dash cranes her neck behind her to look at her opponent. “But your Stand was a thousand years too early to lay a hoof on me.”

Walking a distance away from the grey mailmare Dash walks up to Pinkie, putting a reassuring hoof on her shoulder. “Hey Pinks? Are you okay?”

Pinkie looks between her friend Dash, and the prone Derpy behind her as a melancholy but kind smile returns to the party pony’s face. Wiping a few errant tears from her eyes, the pink mare’s curly mane begins to return. “T-Thanks Dashie, I don’t know what came over me back there; it’s not like me to cry like that.”

“Hey, don’t sweat it.” Dash brushes a tear from Pinkie’s eye. “You were worried about your friends, it’s natural.” Dash turns to look at Derpy’s’ prone form. “Don’t worry, once we bring her to Twilight we’ll know what to do with her.”

“Y-Yeah….” Pinkie looks at Derpy. “That’s what I’m worried about. What if she really can’t control her power? What if she really does have to be taken away? What if…..”

Pinkie’s rant is cut off as Dash places her hoof over her mouth, silencing the mare. “What if a giant meteor falls out of the sky and crushes us flat? Like I said, don’t worry about it! Twilight’s a wiz at this kind of stuff.”

Her friend comforted, a childish grin spreads across Dash’s face. “But now that it’s over, did you see me back there?! How awesome was that? I totally defeated a rogue Stand user and the legendary prankster! That means I win the contest!”

“WHAT!?” Pinkie gapes “You’re still thinking about that! Dashie……”

“What, Pinkie? Jealous that you lost?”

“Pfft. No way! I was going to say that I should have won!” Pinkie says with sass as her normal smile returns. “Just cause you defeated Derpy doesn’t mean that you’re a better pranker. The winner should be me!”

“What? And why should you win? All you did was sit on your rump and cry like a baby!”

At the mention of the word ‘baby’ Pinkie begins to tear up, her eyes threatening to overflow as her mane slowly deflates.

“Oh, Celestia. Look, Pinkie, I’m sorry! I didn’t mean to call you a baby I was just….”

Leaping up the mare bops Dash on the nose, instantly returning to her normal cheerful self. “Ha Ha! Got you, Dashie! You’re just way too easy to fool! Just like you were before.” The pink mare swoons backwards as if acting in a fancy play. “T-Thanks, Dashie, I don’t know what came over me back there… BWA Ha Ha!”

Dash blushes crimson as small bubbles fall over her from above. “What! No way that was an act! You were actually crying your eyes out there!”

“Maybe….” Pinkie smiles coyly as bubbles continue to rain down. “Or maybe I was just pranking you!”

“Bull,” Dash states defiantly, “…and will you stop with these bubble? it’s not much of a prank if it’s not funny…..”

Pinkie immediately stops laughing. “Um, Dashie, I’m not making any bubbles. I left my bubble machine at home today because I thought that I wouldn’t need it.”

Dash swats at the bubbles which shatter into oblivion at the slightest touch from her hoof. “Seriously, what the hay? Bubbles? Where did these come from?” Dash freezes as she remembers something that Derpy said before. “Wait a second, Pinkie, didn’t Derpy….”

“Is that….. Is that all you’ve got?” Dash freezes as the hairs on her neck stand on end. Both mares turn around slowly with stunned expressions to see the very same grey mailmare that they thought was completely unconscious rising shakily to her hooves.

“If you thought…..” Derpy stutters as small amounts of blood trickle down her muzzle. “If you thought that you could just knock me down like that, and take me away from my daughter…… from my home, you had better think again. I’ve taken worse blows than that…..”

Derpy takes a step forward, pointing an intimidating hoof at Dash’s forehead. “I told you I didn’t want to fight you, but if you are going to pick on me…. then I have no choice, I’ll fight back with everything I’ve got.” Derpy strikes a sudden confident pose, her wall-eyes lining up for once in her life as she stares Dash down. “And this time, you won’t see me back down.”

“Derpy,” Dash states, visibly shaken at the mailmare’s sudden change in personality. “I mean that was a really cool one liner and all, but Look at you! You’re barely standing, just give up and come with us and I won’t have to hurt you.”

Derpy smirks. “Is that a threat?” Derpy points her hoof towards the stunned speedster. “Sorry, Dash, but I just don’t feel like losing to you anymore.”

Dash narrows her eyes. “What do you mean by….”

“Dash, look out!” All of a sudden Dash finds herself pinned to the ground by a pink party mare as a barrage of random items falls out of the sky right on top of the two ponies. Dash and Pinkie’s forms are lost in the dust as no less than a flowerpot, an anvil, a cart full of hay and a grant piano falls right on top of the two unlucky mares, the intense weight of the items alone capable of felling a young drake with ease.

Meanwhile, one hundred hooves in the air above, the Ponyville moving crew looks down sheepishly at the several items that they just let fall out of their moving van, each member looking at the other as they speculate the cost of the times that they’ve just inadvertently destroyed. Whistling innocently to themselves the moving crew flies off in a hurry, hoping to Celestia that no pony would discover the extent to which they screwed up.

Back on the ground a certain cerulean mare, convinced that she and Pinkie have been crushed to death, screams out in agony. “AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!”

“Dashie……”

“AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!”

“Dashie………..”

“AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!”

The pink mare takes a large draught of air. “DASHIE!!” Rainbow Dash stops screaming as she looks over at Pinkie across from her. “Dashie, we’re fine. No need to scream, silly filly.”

“Bu…What?! But there’s no way!” Sure enough, even though booth mares are pinned under hundreds of pounds of rubble both are perfectly unharmed, suffering not even minor breathing troubles from the monumental weight above their heads. “That makes no sense! We should be crushed to death! Was it something that you did, Pinkie?”

“No, I did that.” Derpy walks up to the two mares, manifesting her Stand. “That’s the power of my bubble markings.” Derpy extends her hoof to her flank, pulling off a round bubble-shaped sphere from her cutie mark and presenting it before the two mares. “True, the bubble traps may be pretty nasty, and they may make ponies sad, but they never really hurt anypony even if the ‘prank’ normally would. That’s why all that stuff could fall on you and you’re not even hurt.”

Dash flails about, trying to dislodge herself from under the rubble but to no avail, as Derpy walks up to Dash with a disappointed look on her face. “I’m ashamed of you, Dashie….” Dash literally winces from the kind mare’s reproach. “I tried to warn you not to touch the bubbles that my Stand creates. I tried to tell you that I didn’t want to hurt you. But you… you picked on me anyways! Even when I told you to stop! And you never listened!”

Lifting her muzzle at the mare in reproach, Derpy puts the bubble back on her flank as her Stand strikes a pose. “So I hit you with a special attack that I just made up, I call it Bubble Launcher!” Derpy grins goofily as she admires her handiwork. “Pretty cool, hunh? I didn’t think that I would be able to throw my danger bubbles like that. But I guess I’m getting better at using this Stand power thing.”

Derpy’s face suddenly brightens as a brilliant idea fills her head. “Say, you gave your Stand thing a name, hunh Dashie? I should give my Stand a name too!” Derpy taps her hoof to her chin and sits on her rump in deep thought. “Well, my Stand is kind of dangerous and it has propellers on it….. Pinkie?” Derpy turns towards the pinned party mare. “You always have good ideas, what do you think?”

Pinkie scrunches her face in intense concentration as she puts her best brain cells on the case. “Well, there’s no real rule for naming Stands other than it has to be a title of something, most often a song or a movie title. But I named my own Stand Surprise, ‘cause it was so surprising! So if you asked me I would say name it after what it does.” Pinkie shrugs under the pile of rubble. “Or whatever floats your boat! You’re the boss, Derpy!”

“Wowie! You have a Stand too, Pinkie? That’s so cool! And that’s some great advice, too! I knew that I could count on you, Pinkie!” Pinkie beams with happiness at Derpy’s compliment as the grey mailmare puts her mind back on track with thinking up a name for her Stand; her eyes rolling in her head as she concentrates with all her might. “Humh…… well, my Stand is pretty dangerous…… and it creates these zones where bad things happen…… Oh I’ve got it! Danger Zone!” Derpy puffs out her chest in pride. “Yeah! That sounds really cool! What do you think, Dash?”

Dash laughs insincerely at Derpy’s name for her Stand as the grey mare poses in front of her. “He He! Yeah that’s a great name, Derpy! A real go getter.” Dash struggles one last time against the pile of debris as she looks pleadingly into Derpy’s eyes. “Now if you don’t mind pulling all this stuff off of us we can just put all this behind us and laugh it off like good friends do. What do you say, Buddy old pal?”

Derpy looks at Dash with a wall eyed stare for a moment before grinning sheepishly. “Oh no, I can’t let you go yet!” Derpy claps her hooves together as her Stand mirrors her actions menacingly.

This action does not go unnoticed by a certain cerulean pegasus, who gulps heavily. “Uh, Derpy, what are you doing? Um, could you not, I don’t know, go waving that Stand around? You’re kind of making me nervous.”

Derpy points her Stand’s winged hoof at Rainbow Dash as she lines up her perfect shot. “Now I’m sorry if this will hurt a little. But you need to learn that bullying ponies is never acceptable! You can’t just go around picking on ponies for something that they can’t control!”

Derpy winds up her Stand as she readies the most intense haymaker of all time. “Trust me……” the mailmare whispers under her breath, “.....I know that feeling all too well.”

Dash flails about as she tries to move an inch, to dodge, to move out of the way, to do something; but both her and Pinkie are completely and utterly pinned. Both are sitting ducks for an attack from a vengeful mare that there is no getting away from. “Derpy! Come on Mare! Let’s just talk this out like civilized ponies!” Dash laughs nervously as she realizes that there is no way that she can dodge Derpy’s blow, and from experience she knows that the wall-eyed mare packs a real punch “I’m sure that we can come to a nice, reasonable………”

AAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRROOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!

With one single punch, Derpy’s Danger Zone sends the two prone mares flying at near supersonic speeds, crashing through the building behind them with enough destructive force to send them careening through the multiple walls of reinforced plaster and drywall. Wall after wall crumbles behind them as the two mares smash through everything in their trajectory, their unconscious flailing forms shattering the solid walls in their path as easily as a sledgehammer tearing through wet paper..

……….Meanwhile in Carousel Boutique…………

“……..Rarity darling, you have truly outdone yourself.” The ivory mare smiles to herself as she cuts the last lacy ribbon off of her latest creations, several Gala dresses designed solely for the Princess of Equestria and her royal entourage. The dresses stand magically suspended above the floor, encased in her magic as the mare makes her final touches. Normally she would use a poniquin, but this was no normal order; after all, this was for the Princess and her frame was much bigger than a normal pony.

Ever since Twilight had promised the fashionista the rights to make dresses for the highest levels of nobility in Canterlot, the ivory mare had been enduring moment after agonizing moment crossing her hooves, hoping beyond hope for the immortal ruler of Equestria to consent to wearing her fashion. Finally, after what seemed like eons, the Princess had come across Rarity’s request forwarded by none other than her prized student and kindly requested a demonstration of her talents, saying that she would be happy to try on anything a friend of Twilight made. Rarity’s heart might have stopped at the news of this moment if it were not for uplifting feeling of euphoria that filled her every essence. She, Rarity Everygem Belle, was the official dressmaker for the Princess. All of a sudden, all the losses she suffered at the hooves of ‘more capable’ Canterlot show ponies meant nothing, for she was a designer for royalty after all! No longer could a pony look down on her work, her dresses were now the pinnacle of fashion and fabulousness.

And indeed her dresses were majestic, the two most perfect outfits that Rarity could design. After all, nothing short of her absolute best would do for the god-ruler of Equestria, and so Rarity had put all her efforts into these two dresses. A full three days and nights of sweat and tears of careful stitching embroidering and sewing that was preceded by two whole weeks of flawless designing in the early hours of the morning. However, standing back to admire them Rarity couldn’t help but feel that all of her work was worth it: the dresses were stunning.

For the first dress, Rarity chose to embroider the majesty of the sun and all its glory: a long flowing ball gown embroidered with a flawless representation of Celestia’s majestic sun in red diamonds. Lace of the purest white flowed out of every sunbeam on the dress like water from a stream, crisscrossing over each other as they covered the dress in a thatched pattern. Around the neck of the ball gown a white hoof-stitched ruff accentuated the wearer’s long neck and left room for Celestia’s royal peytral.

The second outfit was the polar opposite of the first, designed to represent Celestia’s dominance as the warden of the night, an elegant black cocktail dress highlighted with dark blues and a wavy black shawl bedazzled with shimmering diamonds to represent the multitude of stars in the sky. Long strings of sapphire and diamond beads lined the dress’ sides, each one never longer than six inches, and would give the impression of the moving night’s sky with every step the wearer made. The short sleeveless foreleg coverings more resembled armor than a dress and were designed to convey the mysterious power of the night.

Rarity looked upon her creation and saw that it was good. Surely these two dresses would make her the cornerstone of Equestrian fashion, and would also make a flawless gift for the Princess. “Flawless, Rarity….” Rarity tells herself as she looks upon her creation “…..Absolutely flawless. I daresay that I really think that you have outdone yourself this….”

BOOM!

With force enough to shatter the dreams of one thousand children the wall to Rarity’s left explodes in a cacophony of sound. Before the mare can even process what has happened two Pink and Blue projectiles sail through her store and tear through her dresses before flying out the other side of her shop with a resounding crash. The mare blinks in dumbfounded surprise as she stares at the spot where her dresses were magically suspended. “What?”

Pulling her head through the wall where the projectiles came from, Derpy looks through the gaping hole in Rarity’s shop and gasps in horror. “Oh no! I didn’t mean to hit Pinkie too! I’m so sorry, Pinkie!”

“What.” The stunned fashionista’s mane springs a little out of place. “What just happened to my dresses?” Half-stunned, the ivory mare cranes her neck to look out the gaping hole in the other side of Carousel Boutique, her heart stopping at the sight her eyes are transmitting to her already-stalled brain.

Hanging by a flagpole outside her shop and dressed in the torn and dirtied remains of her fabulous dresses are the unconscious forms of the two most troublesome ponies in Ponyville, Rainbow Dash and Pinkie Pie. Each one is tangled up in the cord of the flagpole, hanging upside down, giving each and every pony in the town square an unflattering presentation of the two mare’s spanked rears, a large horseshoe shaped mark a testament to their thorough flank-kicking. The entire town square stands stunned at the sight of the two most mischievous ponies dressed up like princesses and hanging from the flagpole, nopony able or willing to say even a single word. Suddenly, as if unbidden, a small snicker escapes from a nameless pony in the crowd, only for it to be quickly suppressed. Yet the offending noise is soon joined by another snicker, and then another as the snickers evolve into chuckles, more and more ponies unable to suppress the wellspring of mirth born from the absurdity of the situation. Then, as if no pony can stand it anymore, the entire crowd breaks out into uproarious laughter at the sight before them, each one bellowing at the top of their lungs at the two unconscious figures hanging from the flagpole like piñatas.

Everypony except a stunned fashionista, her eyes twitching and her mind spinning at the destruction of a dress she spent weeks in preparation for. Her mind finally catching up to what she is seeing, the mare looks upon the destruction of her beautiful dresses and despairs.

Raising her hooves to the heavens the ivory mare shouts over the crowd with the anguish only a denied drama queen can muster

“CURSE YOU, PINKIE PIE!!”

“CURSE YOU, RAINBOW DASH!!”

“CURSE YOU, CAUSALITY!!”

“CURSE ALL OF YOU TO TARTARUUUUUUUUUUUSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!!!!!!”

……………………………..

Her forehead throbbing and her mind hazy, Rainbow Dash the defeated groans in pain as she tries to make sense of her surroundings. Looking around, Dash can clearly see that she is no longer outside. It seems as though she has been placed on a green couch inside an average home of some kind, not too nice but not a bad place to live either. Looking down at her torso the rainbow-maned mare notices a light yellow blanket covering her, a soft pillow rests under her head, there is even a glass of milk sitting on the coffee table to her left. ‘Okay, so wherever I am at least it’s friendly.’

The cerulean mare groggily throws the blanket off her body as she better positions herself on the couch, sitting herself up and propping her back against its back. “Don’t move….” Dash spins her head to see Derpy Hooves walking towards her, a tray with a piping hot kettle of tea on her back. “…..You shouldn’t move so soon. You were out for quite a while. I guess I hit you a little too hard.”

Dash’s imminent interjection is cut off by a smaller, harsher voice. “Mom? Are you okay in there?” Dash turns her gaze to the newcomer in the room, a small grey-coated unicorn filly with a scraggly blond mane and a worried look on her face. Dash guesses that she can’t be older than that filly that always watches her tricks, Scootaloo or something, as the filly also lacks a cutie Mark.

Derpy turns to the filly giving her an assuring look. “It’s all right, sweetie, I’m just having a conversation with Dash here. Why don’t you go and help Pinkie in the kitchen?” The grey filly looks between the two mares in the room, worried but not nervous as Dash finally pieces together the fact that this must be Derpy’s daughter. Dinky takes one last look at Dash, giving her the most intimidating look a filly can muster before walking back out of the room.

“Sorry about Dinky,” Derpy apologizes, “she worries about her mother more than she should.” Reaching behind her back the mailmare picks up a cup with her hooves while simultaneously picking up the boiling kettle with her mouth. Pouring a cup of the light teal liquid into the cup she hooves it over to Dash with a smile on her face. “Here. Drink this, it’s an old herbal remedy the previous mailmare taught me, it is amazing at relieving sore muscles and body tension. Trust me, I know that it works.”

Dash looks suspiciously at the cup before gulping the entire cup down in half a second, not even bothered at the piping hot temperature of the tea. Smacking her lips the mare judges the taste. “Not bad, it’s got a good taste, though I’m not much of one for tea parties.” Dash looks around the room. “So this is your house, hunh? Why am I here?”

Derpy chuckles. “Well, silly, I sort of brought you both, that is you and Pinkie, here after I sort of……. Well, I knocked you clean through Rarity’s boutique and into the town square.” Derpy puts a hoof over her mouth as she points to Dash’s torso. “And you kind of picked up some fancy new clothes on your way!”

Dash looks down and immediately regrets it as she sees herself wearing a frilly white dress, the kind that she would never be caught dead in. Dash blushes as she vainly tries to cover her un-exposed body. “Derpy, please tell me I wasn’t passed out in the town square wearing this.”

“No, don’t worry, Dashie……...”

Dash breathes a sigh of relief. “Thank the Goddess.”

“…….You were hanging by a flagpole in the town square wearing that!”

Dash groans as her face lands heavily into her lap, her body temporarily losing its ability to stand straight due to the shame she feels over the loss of her awesomeness. Seeing Dash’s condition, Derpy pats the blue mare on the back and comforts her. “Don’t worry about it, rumors and things like that come and go. Ponies will forget about it in a week……”

“A WEEK?!”

“……Well, it could be three days if something else happens, but a week is the usual norm for ponies forgetting stuff. But I don’t think that Rarity will be as forgiving.” Derpy shivers as she remembers the face of the fashionista, the full wrath of a scorned mare. “She looked pretty steamed.”

Dash groans again. “Rarity’s the least of my worries; ponies will never forget this!” Dash turns to the grey mailmare as she rants on. “I mean, I have a reputation to uphold! What kind of pony gets knocked out and dumped in the middle of town square in a namby-panby dress?” The speedster shouts as she tears the offending white fabric off her body.

Dash grabs Derpy, looking her dead in the eyes. “I’ll tell you who doesn’t, the Wonderbolts! And now even if I do impress them with my super cool tricks they’ll still know about this!” Dash looks up at the ceiling as she pictures the look on her idol Spitfire’s face. “And that’s not all. Ponies know that they can depend on me because of my flawless image! If ponies don’t think that I’m cool then no pony will trust me, they’ll think ‘oh it’s Dash the loser’; no pony can depend on a pony like that! What will my friends think about me if I can’t……”

“I’m sorry!” Derpy blurts out.

“Excuse me?”Dash stop mid rant as she sees the wall eyed mare beginning to cry in front of her, her face filled with shame and regret. “Derpy what are you….”

Derpy’s wings bristle as she repeats herself. “I said that I’m so sorry! I never meant to pull those pranks and make a fool of anypony, especially a pony as cool as you, Dashie.” Derpy looks down at the ground, tears streaming down her face and dripping onto the floor. “I got really sick one day and I was so scared for Dinky because I thought she would get sick too. When I got better I… I thought that it was all over but then this invisible thing started following me and nopony else could see it so I thought I was going crazy and all these accidents started happening around me and I didn’t know what to do and……”

The grey mare is practically sobbing at this point. “…..and…. and you just came out of nowhere and started yelling at me and I…… I……” Derpy takes a deep steadybreath, calming herself down. “I have no excuse for how I acted. There is never any excuse for hurting a pony like that even unintentionally. So I’m sorry.”

Dash mind stalls as the looks upon the face of the crying Derpy Hooves; however, this time Dash is able to glance beyond the superficial labels that she and ponies like her have forced upon Derpy hooves. Labels of a klutz, of a dunce incapable of complex thought, of a walking spiteful disaster. Instead, she sees the face of a frightened mare who loves her family and obtained a curse that caused her to unintentionally bring harm to others. “…..So your real purpose wasn’t to prank any pony? It was to deliver the ponies of Ponyville’s mail?”

“I’m so sorry!” Derpy bows her head.

Dash places a reassuring hoof on Derpy’s shoulder as she raises her head. “No, Derpy, I’m sorry. I should have realized it earlier, Pinkie was right; you would never hurt anypony if you could help it. I just got, well I got carried away with all that was happening.” THe speedster asks with absolute sincerity filling her voice. “Can you ever forgive me for being an awful friend?”

Derpy sniffs as she wipes the tears from her eyes. “R-Really?” She asks.

“Really really.” Dash nods.

“Really really really?!” Pinkie says as she jumps out from between the two giving them both a mild fright. However this fright is forgotten as the pink party mare pulls the two into a warm embrace. “Don’t worry, Derpy, I forgive you too! And I’m sure that everypony in town would forgive you if they knew it was because of a Mean old Stand.” Pinkie looks up as she remembers something “Well, Twilight said that I couldn’t tell anypony else about Stands, or that I couldn’t tell anypony to tell anypony about Stands, or that I couldn’t tell anypony to tell a pony to tell another pony about Stands. But I bet that even if they didn’t know that it was a Stand and if they knew that you were the legendary prankster they’d still forgive you because they all love you so much! In fact, some of your pranks were really funny so I bet a lot of ponies enjoyed them, they were just scared cause didn’t know who was pranking them and why they were pranking them!”

“Pinkie’s right, mom.” Derpy turns to see her daughter carrying a small tray of muffins in the yellow glow of her levitation. Placing the tray on the table Dinky looks at her mother. “You taught me and every pony in this town that it’s wrong to hate or dislike ponies for something that they can’t control, so they’d never be upset if you knew that it was an accident. And even if you did mean it….”

Dinky rushes forward, hugging her mother, rubbing her teary eyes into her mother’s coat “….you’d still be the best mom in the world, and nothing could change that.” Derpy’s tears cease as she proudly holds her daughter in her arms, demonstrating the depth of her love in a way that requires no words or language to express.

“Besides…..” Dinky breaks the hug, giggling a little to herself. “….Some of your pranks were pretty funny.”

“I know, right!” Pinkie leaps up, displaying her new frayed black dress. “I mean, who would have imagined that me and Dash would look so good?”

Dash glares at Pinkie as the rest of the room breaks out into a fit of giggles. Even Derpy begins to cheer up. “I just wish that I could control my power better.” Derpy begins to droop again as the laughter in the room dies down.

“I mean, I seem to lose control of my Stand when I’m really emotional, but I just wish that I could control my Stand all the time; like I could during that fight with Dash.” The mare taps her hooves nervously as her lazy eye drifts off to the side. “I mean, then it was a dangerous fight but it was almost like Danger Zone was a part of me, like it listened to my every command.” The mailare sags. “But I guess now I’ll have to be taken in to Twilight since I can’t control it anymore….”

Suddenly, a lightbulb goes on above Dash’s head. “That’s it! Thanks, Pinkie!”

Pinkie takes the lightbulb that she placed over Dash’s head and stores it in her mane. “No problemo, Dashie! Now, what’s your brilliant idea?”

Dash pulls the pink mare into a huddle. “Follow my lead,” Dash whispers into Pinkie’s ear, much to the confusion of Derpy. “Yes Pinkie you’re right! That was an awesome prank, it probably had to be the best prank of all time! It was so much better than ours.”

“Well I don’t think that it’s very fair to say that her prank was the best of all time. I mean, there was this one time when I….” Dash elbows the pink mare, who remembers her role. “….Oh yes! I mean how could Derpy’s prank not be the best of all time? I mean it was so Derpy!”

“Yes it was so awesome I think that there is no question about it! What do you think, Pinkie?”

“Well I don’t know what you’re thinking but I agree with what you agree with, Dashie!”

“Then it’s settled.” Dash raises her hoof ceremoniously over Derpy’s head. “Derpy, in the name of the Lather….” Dash taps Derpy’s left shoulder, “…..the Pun….” Dash taps Derpy’s right shoulder, “and the Holy Boast, I hereby dub thee the Master Pranker of Ponyville and the winner of our prank contest!”

“What!?” Derpy exclaims. “But it was a complete accident! I didn’t mean to prank anypony!”

“That’s why you’re the obvious winner, Derpy!” Dash smiles confidently. “You’re a natural!”

Derpy facehooves. “…..That’s not what I meant!”

“Don’t forget about your prize!” Dash exclaims. “According to the rules of our prank contest, the losers have to serve the winner for three days!”

“What!?” This time Pinkie is the one yelling. “But, you, and me, and slave, and….”

“Pinkie’s right!” Derpy exclaims, “I don’t want you to be my servants! I don’t want any of….”

Dash stops Derpy by placing her hoof over the mare’s mouth. “Nu-uh! Not another word! You’re not getting off that easily! As your servants for the next three days Pinkie and I,” Dash points to herself in boast. “As master Stand users, will be training you nonstop! To better fulfill your desires we will train you for three days and nights, instilling in you all the skills and talent to control your Stand like you request.”

Derpy and Pinkie stand stunned as the cerulean speedster places her hoof reassuringly on the mailmare’s shoulder. “And by the end of our studious sessions you will have finally learned to control your Stand powers so that you, Derpy Hooves, will never hurt another pony by accident ever again!” Dash smiles as she extends her hoof towards Derpy. “So….. What do you say, do we have a deal?”

Suddenly realizing the extent of what the blue mare is sacrificing for her, Derpy begins to once again tear up from the thoughtfulness of the mare before her. Just this morning she was terrified of what the future would bring; it seemed like her life was spiraling out of control, and that she would end up losing everything she cherished. And now she is standing here, supported by ponies who care about her and are willing to do everything in their power to help her in her hour of need.

Taking in her sudden and complete reversal of fortunes with an open heart and mind, Derpy wipes the tears off her face stares straight (or as straight as one can with cross-eyes) into Dash’s eyes, her fire ignited. “Well if that’s the case……. Then I accept and promise to take both of your training seriously!” The grey mare snaps a smart salute. “I won’t let you down!”

“All right then!” Dash leaps into the air. “Come on! Training starts now! Let’s head on out to the back yard for some sparring, last one there is a rotten muffin!” With no more words needing to be said, the rest of the group rushes out the back door and into the open air as the sun slowly lowers itself from the sky.

Pinkie however doesn’t move, her mane visibly deflating as she stares at the empty door frame. “But…… But……. I wanted to spend special times with Dashie……”

Dash sticks her head in through the door. “What was that, Pinkie?”

Pinkie's mane springs back into place. “Nothing! It’s nothing, Dash!”

“……Yeah whatever…” Dash rubs her neck shyly, emulating a certain yellow pegasus. “Um, Pinkie………”

“…Yeah, Dashie?”

“Do you want to…… um…….. get a cupcake together after this? As friends, of course!”

“You mean, like a friend date?” Pinkie asks, cocking her head.

“Yeah! As a friend date…. and nothing else.”

“Nothing else?” Pinkie’s mane turns wavy as her sultry voice returns. “Are you sssssssuuuuuuuuurrrrrrrreeeeee you don’t want anything else? Not even a little…. dessert?” Pinkie says as she pulls out a pink frosted cupcake from behind her back.

Dash visibly sweats as she looks at Pinkie. “Well……. Ummmmm, mayb…..”

Dinky shoves her head through the door frame, the sound of her barking voice snapping the two lovebirds out of their trance. “Geez, you two! Can you go two minutes without shipping each other? Well you’re not getting all lovey-dovey in my home.” Dinky rolls her eyes. “Seriously you two, get a room!”

Dash looks around. “….Um, kid? We kind of are in a room.”

“…… Just get outside and help my mom already.” Dinky walks out of the room in a huff. “Seriously, adults are so gross.”

Chapter 21-Dirty Trick-Take 1

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Dirty Trick-Take 1:


“Trixie! I swear this is the last time! Where are you?”

Startled out of her reading, The Great and Powerful Trixie looks around the library foyer for sign of the Lavender unicorn who had disturbed her Great and Powerful reading time. So far it had been a very slow morning at the golden Oaks Library (Twilight had only caused a small fire in the kitchen when she had tried to cook breakfast); however, from Twilight’s little outburst from the kitchen Trixie could tell that the cease-fire between the two was just about to end. Putting down her book ‘Torture and You’ that she had been reading over or the past hour, Trixie sighs lamenting that that she would once more have to put up with her tyrannical roommate. “And Trixie was just on the chapter on psychological interrogation. What could Twilight Sparkle possibly want from Trixie now?”

Trixie watches in slight amusement as a flustered lavender mare trots up to her, carrying a white carton in her telekinesis. Twilight stomps to a halt right in front of her as she pushes the carton into Trixie’s face. “Trixie? What is this?”

With the slightest flick of her horn Trixie magics her hat back onto her head, sparing just enough effort to glancing over at the other unicorn to look interested. “…and here Trixie thought that you were the smart one.”

Not even bothering to rise from the pillow she is sitting on, Trixie squints as she looks at the object in front of her. “Well, Trixie may not have a college degree like some lavender dimwit, but from her limited knowledge Trixie supposes that that object is a carton of milk.”

Twilight stutters in embarrassment. “But….. I know what it is, Trixie! What I want to know is what is it doing here?!”

Trixie blinks. “Well perhaps it’s because you brought it from the kitchen? Wow, a college degree doesn’t count for much these days, now does it?”

“NO! I mean YES! I mean arrrggghhhh!” Twilight raises her hooves to the heaven in exasperation before calming herself down. “Look, my question for you today is this: after you ate your breakfast, which left a mess all over the table, did you leave the milk out again, or not?”

Trixie taps her hoof to her chin. “Hmmmhhhhhh…… Trixie is going to guess, by your angry behavior and her infallible memory, that the answer to your question is answer number one. That I, Trixie Lulamoon, committed the unforgivable sin of leaving the milk out!”

Twilight nods, ignoring Trixie’s sass in favor of actually getting somewhere in this argument. “Very good, Trixie. Now as for question two……” Twilight leans forward into the blue mare’s face. “Why did you think that it was a good idea to leave the milk out again and not clean up after yourself in MY house?”

Trixie inspects her hoof nonchalantly. “Now that is an easy question! The answer is as simple as your mane-style; Trixie saw no problem in it! You were going to get milk for your coffee this morning, no? So Trixie just left it out so you didn’t have to get it! You should be thanking Trixie’s thoughtfulness, not condemning her for your own failure to see her greatness!”

“…….and the mess?

“Trixie was just too busy to bother with such trivial tasks.” Trixie picks up her book with her magic. “Trixie is a big thinker, not a maid, and her time is too valuable to be spent cleaning simple messes.”

Twilight facehooves from the blue showmare’s flippant attitude. “Look, Trixie, I know that you are used to living on your own but your manners are atrocious!” Twilight sighs. “And you’re living in somepony else’s house now, so you have to show some consideration for others’ property and feelings, not just your own.”

Twilight turns to leave, reaching the halfway point between the kitchen and Trixie before the blue mare gets out a snide comment. “Well at least my manners are not as bad as your taste in organization….”

Twilight stops dead in her tracks, her fur bristling as she turns around to face the blue mare. “….What did you say?”

‘Bull’s eye!’ Trixie thinks. “You heard Trixie! I mean, what kind of pony in their right mind uses the LCC method of organizing books? It’s a sham.”

Twilight growls; this time, Trixie has gone too far. “The Princess herself uses the Library of Canterlot Classification system….”

“Yes, yes, the Princess uses it! That’s such a quaint argument!” Trixie rises to her hooves. “I mean, the Princess eats like, what, forty pounds of cake a day; does that mean Trixie should as well?”

“The Princess has a higher metabolism than the average pony!” Twilight argues, “And don’t change the subject! The LCC is the perfect form of literary organization for every library! There’s no problem with it!”

“And I am telling you now, Twilight, your trust in the Library of Canterlot Calcification system will only lead to your own downfall; everypony knows that the Dewey Decimal System is far superior.”

“And that’s why I’m telling you are being completely illogical! The Princess herself has used the LCC system in the royal archives for over a thousand years. Compared to that track record the DDC barely holds a candle.”

And once again the two residents of Golden Oaks Library, one Trixie Lulamoon: Stand Agent, and Twilight Sparkle: Princess Representative, prepare for their mutually-shared pastime of arguing until both mares are blue in the face, or in Trixie’s case until she is purple in the face. Though a library is normally a place where one might hear the quiet sound of pages turning, any place where the two unicorns, each one as different from the other as night is from day, would gather would quickly become a place of conflict between them.

Preparing for yet another intense argument, the blue showmare adjusts her hat. “And once again you cannot hold true to the changing of the times. It is clear from looking at the various libraries NOT in Canterlot that the Dewey Decimal system is the logical choice. Your LCC may be an organization standard in the narrow-minded corridors of Canterlot, but the rest of the world sees the superiority of Dewey’s methods. ”

“The LCC is far better suited for the research-intensive and studious-minded ponies that often frequent libraries,” Twilight retorts, “though I wouldn’t expect a hard-headed, stuck-up pony like yourself would blaspheme against a system that has aided scholars for thousands of years!”

“How dare you! And you dare to call Trixie illogical!” Trixie fumes stomping her hoof. “You have just proven yourself that the LCC is not the best kind of organization system for this library! The Great and Powerful Trixie can easily see that the LCC is only suited for scholars and bookish nerds like yourself, who are too set in their ways to see the truth of progress. The Dewey Decimal system is far superior and more appealing to the masses than your outdated models. Or are you so sheltered and alienated from the common pony that you can’t even realize that?”

“You want to debate who is more illogical, hunh miss ‘wheels can’t be trusted’?” Twilight remarks with venom. “You went into a thirty minute rant that wheels are dangerous and destructive, all before breakfast, despite the fact that your wagon rolls on them.”

“WHEELS ARE DANGEROUS! Anypony with half a brain can see that they are a resource that must be used as sparingly as possible. That is why Trixie places three charms on each of her wheels to protect others from their untapped wrath.”

“What? That is the most ridiculous thing that I have ever heard!” Twilight remarks with exasperation, just as a sly grin crosses her face. “…..Though I suppose that I should have expected such an antiquated belief from somepony that never went to magic college!”

“You’ve crossed the line, Sparkle!” Trixie buts heads with the lavender unicorn. “Normally Trixie would resort to violence, however Trixie is feeling merciful today. So for the last time, let me state my demands. Purchase more cheesy crackers, stop belittling Trixie’s obviously superior talents, and rearrange the entire library to adhere to the much more superior Dewey Decimal system instead of your outdated Library of Canterlot Classification system that only serves to infuriate the local populace!!”

“And I have a demand for you, Great and Powerful Trixie:” Twilight counters. “Stop being such a stuck-up freeloading jerk! Your snoring wakes the dead, you’ve left out the milk Celestia-knows how many times, you can’t go five minutes working with our friends without complaining, and you are consistently rude to anypony that you meet!” Twilight shouts over her adversary, adrenaline rushing through her veins as she pushes back against Trixie’s despotism with sheer physical force. “I’m letting you stay in this library to repay a debt and because I respected your abilities, but if you keep acting like a savage slob all the time then you can find somewhere else to sleep!!”

Both mares stare each other down, eye-to-eye, horn-to-horn, magic-to-magic, with a enough anger and pride that could move mountains. However, the first to break this epic stalemate is Trixie, who simply shrugs off Twilight’s glare with a superiority complex and a level of emotional control only an experienced performer could pull off.

“Humph, this is getting Trixie nowhere; arguing with you is a complete waste of time,” Trixie remarks as she turns away from the purple librarian, trotting up the stairs of the treehouse without a single word more.

Stomping up the stairs, Twilight recovers from her self-induced rage just in time to see Trixie open the door to her room. “Trixie, come down here! I haven’t finished talking!”

“Yes, Twilight, but Trixie has finished listening,” the showmare states with finality. “Now if you can excuse me, I will be taking a nap in MY room and will not be disturbed.”

Trixie slams the door with her fury, sending a vibration through the entire tree house and leaving the lavender mare staring dumbstruck at the closed door. Unsatisfied with the conclusion of their argument, both mares simultaneously growl in primal fury, expressing their deep frustrations with the other.

“URRRRRRRR!! Why does that mare have to be so stubborn!?!” Both Twilight and Trixie shout out at the same time, their anger at the other mare and their own stubborn pride getting the best of their better natures.

Content that she is safe from the purple aggressor once more, Trixie casts a simple voice-proof charm on the door so that she won’t have to hear a certain annoying pony’s obnoxious voice. The Great and Powerful Trixie breathes in and out several times in repetition, an old trick but a good one for calming frayed nerves and soothing soaring tempers.

Taking a long steady breath, Trixie counts backwards in an effort to calm her nerves from her recent spat with the librarian. “Ten……. Nine…… eight…… seven…… six…… five…… UGH! This isn’t working!” The showmare stamps the ground furiously. “Twilight Sparkle! Why do you have to be so infuriating?! Why can’t you simply see that Trixie is in the right?! URGH!” The blue mare kicks a nearby bookshelf, sending a book falling onto her head with a loud thump.

The caped showmare once again attempts to calm her raging temper as she rubs her sensitive head. “Do not lose your cool, Trixie, that is only what Twilbright Snarkle wants.” The showmare removes her hat and throws it on her bed. “Just think through the situation like you always do.” Trixie paces to her left. “Pros and Cons of living in the library with Twilight. Pro: free room and board. Well, relatively-free room and board.”

Trixie pivots as she paces to her right. “Con: annoying roommate. Pro: Strategic location in the center of town, allowing easy access to any part of Ponyville.”

Trixie turns again this time to the left. “Con: really annoying roommate. Pro: access to key pieces of intelligence in gathering pieces of the Red Stone and monitoring Twilight Sparkle. Con…” Trixie falls to her plot in exasperation. “…….. Con: really REALLY annoying roommate, AKA: Twilight Sparkle.”

The blue showmare sighs, falling to her rump as she realizes her base problem is both her means of shelter and her mission. Celestia had assigned her to not only watch Twilight for anything suspicious, but also to protect her from any danger. But why of all ponies did it have to be HER?! Why did fate have to be so cruel that it would have her protecting the very pony she despised the most? True, Twilight was talented and considerate at times, but she was so pig-headed and naïve. How she managed to not die while facing down dangerous Stand users was beyond the showmare’s comprehension. How could she expect to complete her mission when she kept trying to befriend everypony she met?! How could Twilight Sparkle be so smart, but so incredibly stupid at the same time? It was infuriating!

“I mean, FRIENDSHIP?! How dumb could you get? Everypony knows it’s every mare for….. OW!!” Another book falls on Trixie’s head, causing the mare to wince in pain as the slighter heavier volume rebounds off her head. “Trixie thought that that was the last time a book would get the better of her!” Trixie looks up to see the very bookshelf that she kicked falling right on top of her, hundreds of pounds of literature threatening to crush her flat.

Reacting with reflexes honed over hundreds of life-or-death battles, the mare’s Stand Magic Mare leaps out in an instant, stopping the collapsing bookshelf before a single book can slide off and hit her in te cranium. “Ha! Take that, faulty literature container! You will have to try better than that if you want to stop the Great and Powe…… OW!” A small spurt of blood falls from Trixie’s hoof as her Stand’s hoof is injured, the feedback causing Trixie’s own hoof to open up and bleed painfully. The bookshelf quakes as Magic Mare winces from the pain; however, Trixie re-exerts her control over the Stand, moving the bookshelf back into place on the floor.

With the shelf now firmly on the floor Trixie extends her hoof, looking at the small but painful gash on her foreleg. “Humh. That was odd, and this wound…… This is not a paper cut or a wound you would get from a bookshelf.” Trixie’s eyes scan the room as she applies her twenty-twenty vision with the aid of her Stand. “In fact, it looks more like a form of bite than anything.”

Finally Trixie’s eyes catch something as she looks up to see a dark shape hanging from the chandelier, its vacant white eyes reflecting ambient light from the shadows above. Trixie prepares to call out and readies her Stand to strike only to once again feel a book falling on her head. Trixie turns sharply this time, just as she sees the same bookshelf that she stopped a second ago falling towards her again. Yet this time Trixie is far too slow to react and the entire bookshelf falls on her, burying her under a mountain of letters and pages.

……………..

Meanwhile, on the ground floor of Golden Oaks Library, a very distracted unicorn rereads the same book’s passage over again. Twilight is doing what she always does when she feels flustered: reading. However despite her cathartic actions, the blue showmare and her stinging words have a way of buzzing in her brain like a fly in her ear, and Twilight finds it very difficult to focus on what she is doing. Suddenly, a loud crash echoes through the library and the lavender mare sighs in defeat. “Ugh, now she’s wrecking the guest room, too. Well, I had better go up and stop her before the Great and Angry Trixie destroys something of real value.”

Building up a familiar magic charge in her horn, Twilight teleports up the flight of stairs, unceremoniously landing on her hooves at the door to Trixie’s room. Clearing her voice, Twilight knocks. “Trixie! Open up. I know that you are angry about the ‘wheels’ comment, but destroying the library isn’t going to help.” Hearing nothing significant from inside, Twilight knocks again.

Meanwhile, on the inside of the door, The Great and Powerful Trixie, thanks to her own noise-proof charm, fails to hear Twilight’s voice, or her knocking. As she pulls herself out from the ruins of the bookshelf, she flings several of the books off her back. “That didn’t just happen. Somepony please tell Trixie that she didn’t just lose to a bookshelf.”

Trixie shakes off the damage as she clears her mind. Noticing the wound in her hoof is still bleeding she uses a minor healing spell to patch the wound, stopping the bleeding and leaving a small but significant scar as the only sign of her damage. Scanning the room, Trixie spies her hat on her bed and reaches to pick it up with a hoof. Yet, hearing a clunk from above Trixie removes her foreleg just in time as a flaming chandelier falls from the ceiling, smashing into the bedding right where her arm was half a second ago. “What the…… this is no coincidence! Whoever you are, show yourself! The Great and Powerful Trixie demands it!”

A snide and winy laughter fills the room as Trixie’s head begins to spin. “Oh, we don’t think that you are any position to demand anything, Trick-less. Not after the little gift that we gave you….” Trixie’s head continues to swim as she takes a knee on the floor, looking at the injury in her hoof with open eyes as a look of realization crosses her muzzle.

Meanwhile, just outside Trixie’s door, Twilight finishes her knocking as she stares at the door in front of her with a frustrated look. “Alright, Trixie, enough playing around, I’m coming in.” Twilight’s telekinesis grabs the door handle, turning it sharply as she charges… right into the closed door. Sliding to the ground after her failed attempt to open the door with her face, Twilight picks herself up groggily. “Uh. way to lock the door, Trixie…….”

Twilight blinks in confusion. “Wait, this is odd, Trixie never locks her door.” Twilight resumes her frenzied knocking. “Trixie! Why have you locked the door? Open up right now!”

Twilight nearly considers teleporting inside when she hears the familiar click of the lock, and the door opens from the inside. Standing in the doorway is a Not Very Great Trixie, her hat is missing, she is covered in several books, and her mane appears to be a complete mess. However, what Twilight notices first is the fact that her room is a complete mess.

Twilight gapes as she sees her priceless bookshelf demolished and her books are lying unceremoniously on her floor. Trixie’s bed has scorch marks over it and is currently filled by her flaming chandelier. And, most disturbingly, there is a small but noticeable trail of blood on the floor, and Twilight sees a small blotch of red on Trixie’s right hoof.

“Trixie? What’s going on? Why are you bleeding and why is the bed on fire?”

Trixie pants heavily as she takes a shaky hoofstep out of the door. “Twilight…… Just….. Leave…….”

“What? You trash my library and you expect me to leave?!” The outraged librarian shouts in protest. “What in the wide wide world of Equestria has gotten into you, Trixie!?”

Extending her hoof, Trixie gives the mare a weak but attention-grabbing slap across the face. “Twilight, you idiot….. We need to leave….. It’s an attack…… by……” Yet, the mare fails to finish her statement, her body swooning forward and landing in Twilight’s outstretched arms.

Twilight looks down at the heavily-breathing mare as a pit of worry begins to fester in her heart. She had never seen Trixie this weak, even after their magical duel Trixie had possessed far more energy than this; and the fact that anything could bring the normally exuberant showmare so low worried Twilight more than the abysmal condition of her room. “Trixie, I sincerely hope that this is a joke to get back at me for saying that you didn’t go to college.” Twilight extends her hoof, placing it over Trixie’s forehead. What Twilight feels leaves no doubt to Trixie’s condition.

‘But she was just fine a second ago,’ the lavender mare thinks to herself, as she feels the heat radiating from the showmare’s face. ‘and no illness works that fast unless it’s a……’ Twilight gasps as she looks back at the wound on Trixie’s arm. “…..Poison? Trixie, what happened to you? What’s going on?”

Trixie raise her gaze to look wearily into Twilight’s eyes. “You…… idiot…… we need to run……. Stand…… it’s crawling in the walls…….”

Twilight’s ears immediately perk up at the mention of a Stand, her eyes glancing side to side in an attempt to locate this mysterious attacker. Seeing nothing, Twilight quickly deduces that she and Trixie are at a distinct disadvantage fighting a Stand that they themselves can’t locate. And worse than that, from Trixie’s condition she needs to get her to a proper doctor as quickly as possible.

Twilight feels the mare’s head again and checks her pulse, wishing that she could properly diagnose Trixie’s afflictions. Potions and poisons were never a strong area for Twilight, as the art of advanced poison-making was regulated by the Equestrian government. Besides, Zecora, being one of her best friends and a Zebra shaman, had always been there to help her with her potions. However, despite her lack of experience in anatomy, the signs Trixie is giving her tell her that the blue mare is not faring well.

Flinging the blue mare on her back (and struggling a bit against her weight), Twilight trots down the stairs. “Don’t worry, Trixie. I’ll get some help.” Upon reaching the front door, Twilight grabs the handle and yanks on the handle with her magic before charging into it, learning from her last mistake of trying to open doors with her skull. However Twilight struggles in vain as she looks to see that some pony has nailed the door shut completely from the top and bottom.

“Oh Come ON! Can this get any worse?” Hearing a snapping rope Twilight looks up to see a large, heavy box of books swinging on a long rope towards her head. Conjuring a quick shield Twilight blocks the attack, causing the box to fall to pieces from the shock of the recoil.

“As if I had to ask……” Twilight looks around the room. “Great, now how will I get out of here when the door is locked?” Twilight spies the back door through the kitchen, several windows, and the upstairs balcony, all of them promising exits in their own right. “And If I had to guess, I’d say that every door and window in the library is booby trapped, so there is no real easy way out of this.”

Twilight wracks her brain as she considers her situation: she is under attack and being held hostage in her own library by a rogue assassin of some kind, and she needs to get Trixie to a hospital. All the doors and windows are booby trapped, and it’s not as if she can just teleport out. The assassin had probably placed wards around the library to prevent that. “……But I just teleported up the stairs, which means……”

Concentrating a small burst of magic as not to hurt herself should the teleport fail, Twilight conjures up magical forces beyond a normal unicorn’s comprehension. With expert precision, Twilight and her passenger jump through space, landing completely unharmed four hooves away. Twilight blinks in skepticism. “Wow, I can’t believe that worked! This assassin must be an idiot if he expected to trap two magically adept unicorns without sealing their teleportation with runes.” Twilight builds up a much larger charge in her horn this time as the glow of her magic fills the room. “Well, you know what they say: one pony’s incompetence is another pony’s blessing.”

The spell is nearly complete when several voices, speaking in unison, call out from around the library. “Not so fast, Twilight Sparkle! We wouldn’t leave if we were you! That is unless you value the life of your little fillyfriend there!”

The glow of Twilight’s horn dims slightly as she places the spell on hold, searching the surrounding room for her assailant. “SHE IS NOT MY..…. Never mind, just who are you and what do you want?”

Directly in front of her, Twilight watches as a strange shape crawls out of the wooden floor, the wood rippling and bending as the small figure crawls out of solid ground. Taking the shape of a sickeningly yellow mouse, its tail completely missing and its hole filled ears twitching every which way. Its milky-white eyes and gaunt appearance make it all the more terrifying and otherworldly, and the mouse smiles evilly at her with its yellowed crooked teeth. “Now then, allow me to introduce myself. I am one of many, and believe me when I say that we are many. This is the Stand Dirty Trick, and you have been watched by us for quite some time.”

The rat paces through the floor with the same ripping effect it created when it appeared circling around the lavender mare with ill intent. “And in case you were beginning to doubt our powers, we could have finished you and your little marefriend any time we wished. However we have been given an objective at this point that is of far more importance than your filthy lives.”

“And that would be….?” Twilight circles around the rat as well, trying to get to a more advantageous position to defend again the Stand’s attack should it strike.

“I am talking about the objects that you call ‘Strange Stones’; the objects currently locked in that safe of yours under this library.”

Twilight’s breath catches as she realizes that the Stand was telling part of the truth; if it knew about the Strange Stones then it really had been watching her and Trixie foran extended period of time,an idea that was as dangerous to them as it was creepy. Twilight shudders inwardly at the image of being watched in her most private moments by the creepy rat thing in front of her, but retains her cool none the less. “And you just expect me to hoof them over to you? What a great plan. Let’s ask the unicorn nicely to hoof over an object of immeasurable power; I’m sure that’ll work.”

“Oh, you will hoof over the Stones to us!” The rat crawls up a nearby bookshelf, staring down at the mare from above. “You have little choice in the matter. You see, before I bit that mare’s Stand I coated my jaws with a rare and powerful poison. Needless to say, if you chose to take her to a hospital she would not survive the night.”

Twilight yells in rage as she fires a beam of powerful magic through the wall right were the Stand was. Yet Dirty Trick slips through the wooden shelf as if passing through water, completely avoiding the blow. “Well, it seems somepony doesn’t have a lot of patience so I will cut to the chase:” the rat stand states with a senar. “I have the antidote to the poison that is killing Trixie and you have the Strange Stones, so let’s make a trade, shall we?”

The chuckling of rats echoes off the walls, and the mare can almost feel the wretched beings circling her. “The deal is simple: you hand over the, what is it you call them, the Strange Stone pieces. And in exchange I’ll give you the antidote to the poison that I injected into Trixie!”

Another copy of the Stand lounges on the bookshelf like a tiger staring at its prey as Twilight struggles with the offer placed before her. “It’s not like you have any other choice, Without another Stand to fuse with, you are completely helpless before me, so you might as well give in now and save me the trouble.”

Twilight lowers her head, looking at the ground beneath her in deep thought. A lesser pony would think that she was considering giving up, of surrendering to save her friend’s life. However, any companion of Twilight’s could tell you that if there is one thing she was bad at, it was throwing in the towel and giving in, especially when a friend’s life was on the line.

“Heh, you may have been watching me for days, but you still don’t seem to know anything.” Twilight raises her head, her eyes brimming with newfound confidence “My Stand may work well with others, but you seem to forget that I’m the personal student of Princess Celestia, Alicorn of the Sun, and I don’t need a fancy offensive Stand power to crush a measly rat.”

Turning to the mare on her back, Twilight watches as Trixie breathes in and out with laborious breaths. “Don’t worry, Trixie, this will be all over soon. I’ll finish this guy and get the antidote…… in ten seconds flat!”

……………….

“…and another thing, Pinkie! You can’t just expect........”

“Um, Dashie? Are you okay?”

“………..”

“Hello there! Earth to Dashie! IS ANYPONY HOME!?!”

“………..Twilight just used my catchphrase…….”

“Really? How did you…..”

“Dashie Sense.”

“…….You have a Dashie Sense?”

“No, I can just tell when someone uses a copyrighted trademark of the series.”

“That makes sense! So what are you going to do about it, Dashie?”

“Same thing I always do. Crash into her library, scattering all her books in a thousand different directions the moment she finishes reorganizing them.”

“Wait, you crash into her library on purpose? Ha! I knew crashing into her library wasn’t an accident! You’re way too good for that, Dashie!”

“Well, the first time was sort of an accident, but after that I just liked messing with the egghead…. Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah, you can’t just expect something to be a good cupcake ingredient just because……”

………………

Twilight takes a cautious step towards the evil, rat-like Stand, her horn blazing with fury as she prepares to strike at a moment’s notice. Suddenly, with a flick of her horn Twilight slings another of her spells, trapping the rat in a bubble of force. As the rat struggles to escape from its new confinement Twilight flings the creature into the air; manifesting her Stand in an instant, the mare pounds the rat with a single powerful punch that connects perfectly. The rat falls as Twilight raises her own hoof, bringing it down to crush the rat flat against the ground, grinding its body against the hardwood floor. A second passes, then two, yet the mare doesn’t feel any resistance from the creature she is crushing into the ground. Twilight raises her hoof and sees no sign of the rat Stand. Taking advantage of the unicorn’s surprise, the rat leaps from beneath the ground, it’s teeth bared to bite and fill Twilight’s veins with its deadly poison. However, Twilight reacts too quickly for the stand’s attack to have any meaning, and jumps back onto the table in the middle of the room, blasting away at the rat with a bolt of her magic.

The rat vanishes beneath the ground as the bolt hits, the ground rippling like water as the rat swims through it. A feral hissing fills the room as Twilight looks around to to see not one, not two, but three rats, all as ugly as the first, peering at her, their heads sticking up from under the ground. “Hsssssssss! Fool, you cannot harm us! And even if you could, my Stand does not inflict damage to my body when it is injured! Hsssssssss! Do you get it now, filly? Your little Stand cannot harm me! Surrender the Stones.”

Twilight, however, retains her level head as she looks at the Stands around her, unphased by the Rat’s intimidation. “That may be……. There are many Stands that don’t transition damage to their user’s bodies.”

Twilight raises her Stand, its hoof pointed right at the main rat. “However, I learned something from Rarity’s Stand, which also doesn’t convey damage to her body. My Stand’s attack isn’t a physical one; it’s purely mental, and so it can affect even Stands like yours, since a Stand is a manifestation of a pony’s psyche!”

Twilight laughs with bravado as she tries to get the scheming rat to back down. “Amazing, isn’t it? What I once thought of as a weakness turns out to be a golden strength. Now I’ll make a demand of you, Dirty Trick, give up the antidote and I’ll let you leave here with your mind still in one piece.”

The rats glare at Twilight as they attempt to stare down the confident mare before them. After a few seconds their ears twitch, and all three sink back into the walls of the library. “You seem to have spirit, little filly……. But spirit can’t help you against us.”

Twilight hears another snap of chords and feels a weight press down on her back, pushing her flat against the table. Twilight struggles against the force holding her down until she looks above her, just in time to see another book trap swing past, right where her head was a mere second ago. Twilight turns to see Trixie lying on top of her, pressing her against the table, her face strained but serious. Twilight opens her mouth to say something, however Trixie presses her hoof against her mouth, silencing her as Trixie scans the room for signs of the Stand. Confident that she can see no more traps, the blue showmare lights her horn, casting a translucent bubble over the table and breathing a sigh of relief. “Whew, now that’s better…….. Another…… successful plan from….. Trixie…….”

Twilight looks around her at the barrier as she taps her hoof to the translucent shield. “A sound-proof bubble? Trixie, what is the point of this? We’re in plain sight!”

“You imbecile, do you think….. Do you think that the Great and Powerful Trixie would just lie there……” Trixie coughs into her elbow as if she is struggling with every breath. “…….while you did all the work? While you were flinging spells like a mad mare……. I was watching, learning; and I learned something important about the Stand while you were panicking.”

“I was so not…..” Twilight is interrupted by Trixie’s hoof again.

“Listen well, Twilight…… we don’t have much time before the other Stand catches on……..” Trixie gasps heavily in and out, catching her breath before she continues. “First, I noticed the Stand…. there are three of them… can travel through solid objects like the library and a hoof… But not magic like Stands and shields…… it’s probably how he caught us by surprise.”

Twilight rolls her eyes. “No duh, Trixie, I already figured that out.”

Trixie smirks at the lavender mare’s attitude. “Yes, but you missed the most important part of the Stand. If it can travel through solid objects…… how can it find its prey?” Trixie taps the barrier, exhaustion leaving her voice as she stares with a focused gaze out to the library proper. “The answer is ‘sound’. If you haven’t noticed already, all the rats are blind, so it finds its prey and makes traps based on vibrations sent through the air…… and the ground.”

Twilight eyes widen at Trixie’s logic as the lavender mare thinks through Trixie’s words carefully. With flawless logic, Twilight analyzes her claims and filters through the list of possibilities to determine if Trixie is correct. “Trixie…… that’s amazing if it’s true! But are you sure? What if he can attack us right now? We’re sitting ducks here.”

“It’s the job of a Stand agent to be able to quickly analyze a Stand’s powers. So, yes….. I am sure.” Trixie takes a single book off the table in her telekinetic magic. “Just be quiet and watch.” Throwing the book out of the shield, the heavy tome lands on the ground with a thud. Not a second later, several sharpened pencils and broken scissor blades fly out from the shadows, embedding themselves deeply into the book itself.

Trixie adjusts her posture, kneeling down on the table. “The Stand can only hear us……..that means as long as this sound-proof bubble surrounds this table, we have time…… time to plan and counter-attack the target.”

Twilight scans the room, looking for any sign of the enemy and his tricks. “Well, I can’t see him anywhere. Plus, we’ll know if he tries to come from underneath since he can only come through one of the four table legs on the floor, as they are wider than the body of his Stand. If I had to guess, because the user seems cowardly and because he can’t locate us till we make a move, he’ll simply wait to strike us from somewhere we can’t attack.”

Twilight turns her gaze to the mare next to her and she sees the Great and Powerful Trixie breathing heavily, and from what Twilight can tell, she is not in the best of states. “But…… But we can’t let this turn into a waiting game; if we do, they’ll have the advantage. That means that we simply have to make the first move, and counter-attack when he pops-up his ugly head.” Twilight manifests her Stand, moving its hoof closer to the blue mare. “Maybe if we combine Stands then we’ll be able to boost your power, and …….”

The blue mare slaps the hoof of Twilight’s Stand away with her own. “Don’t worry about Trixie! And keep your pathetic Stand away from her!”

Trixie glares at the floor as she scans for sign of the Stand. “Besides, didn’t you hear him? Destroying his Stand has no benefit! So combining our Stands wouldn’t help us win!” Trixie narrows her gaze out the window. “If we are to win, we need to find the real user and beat him to a pulp before he can defend himself……. That is the only way we can win.”

“But Trixie! You’ve been poisoned! We need to beat the user now! Before the poison spreads!” Twilight begins to tear up. “Otherwise….. otherwise…….”

Twilight looks upon the face of a dead mare trotting, as Trixie does something a dying mare could not possibly do: sigh in flippant disappointment. “Twilight, you imbecile……. Don’t you get it? Didn’t you hear the user’s claim about HOW he injected me with his poison?” The blue showmare looks accusingly at Twilight. “I thought that you could see through tricks like Trixie’s? Or was that a bluff said casually during our last match?”

“Trixie……. What are you talking about?” Twilight moves closer to the blue mare. “What trick are you…….”

“WHERE ARE YOU BRATS?” A loud hissing voice resonates from the walls as he mares snap to attention. “Where are you? How can I not hear you? Is this some kind of trick? Did you find out how I find my opponents? Clever girls, but not clever enough.” Twilight and Trixie look around as the sound of scurrying from the walls becomes impossible to ignore. The mares press their backs together as they prepare for an imminent attack.

“You think that you little brats can hide from me? Well think again!” Dirty Trick yells. “It’s true I usually locate my prey by sound, but if I can attack the whole area where I know my prey is, I don’t even need to know exactly where they are.” Twilight and Trixie continue to watch the room for any sign of attack, peering at every dark corner and shadow. Suddenly, a small cold object lands on Twilight’s back, and she almost leaps three hooves into the air in shock.

“Twilight, stop jumping around! You need to stay inside the barrier!”

“It was an attack, Trixie! The Stand attacked me with……” Twilight raises her hoof as another drop of clear liquid lands in front of her, the drops becoming more and more frequent as they continue to fall down like rain. Looking up, both mares see drops of liquid falling from holes in the ceiling, with more and more holes being made by the second. “….Great. Now he’s tearing apart my ceiling. Now there’s no way that I’m getting my deposit back.”

“But still…. “Twilight extends her hoof, catching a drop of the mystery liquid in her palm. “What is this? Is this water?” Twilight lifts her hoof to her nose, sniffing the unknown, clear compound. “No it’s not water, it smells like….. like……”

“Gasoline,” Trixie finishes, her eyes growing wide. Both mares look around the library in a blind panic as they realize that now they are surrounded in a potential holocaust of fire. “Twilight, whatever you do don’t panic or try and leave the soundproof shield! He’s trying to force us out into the open!”

“Hear that?” Dirty Trick laughs, “That, my friends, is the sound thousands of gallons of highly flammable gasoline raining down from the ceiling! Now all I have to do now is light it and you will all burn to death along with your precious books!”

Twilight raises her hoof in righteous fury. “No! Not the Books! You Tartarus-forsaken monster!”

Trixie facehoofs at Twilight’s list of priorities. “Twilight….. Focus, please.”

“Ha ha, that is right! The only way to save yourselves is to agree to my demands and open this safe right now.” Twilight and Trixie watch in fascination as the safe itself comes up from the ground, bobbing on the floor like a cork in water. “See, look how nice I am, even brought the safe up from the basement so you won’t have to leave your little friend to hoof them to me. If only I could move through the safe, then I could have just finished you off; but no, I had to do things the hard way.”

Twilight watches the safe rise and settle on the floor in fascination as a practical thought passes through her mind. “Wait, how did you even find the safe?”

“In case you were wondering how I found the safe…..” the Stand says, as if reading Twilight’s mind, “it was behind a false bookshelf; I mean, talk about a cliché hiding place.”

“…. I knew I should have moved it somewhere safer.” Twilight looks grudgingly at her safe, deep in thought.

True, Twilight thinks, if she gave up the Stones to this Stand user she might never see them again; they would disappear, and she and her friends would never get to the bottom of the mystery surrounding them. On the other hoof, what choice did she have? The Stand was right: if so much as a spark was lit, the entire library and the two of them as well would go up in flames, and the user would take the safe away and open it elsewhere. And Trixie - Twilight looks back at the showmare - Trixie was obviously trying to put on a brave face, but if she didn’t get the antidote soon then there was no question that she would die. Even if they succeeded in defeating their opponent, it would be a shallow victory if she lost a friend, even one like Trixie. Twilight’s mind is wracked with indecision as she considers her only two options, give up the Stones, or lose a friend.

And the stakes couldn't possibly be higher.

Chapter 22-Dirty Trick-Take 2

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Dirty Trick-Take 2


Twilight looks at Trixie resting beside her, then to the safe that contains the priceless Strange Stones, the only object she can exchange for the only antidote that can save the show mare. Twilight's mind rushes at a hundred miles per hour, considering every option, knowing every choice she could make could change the fate of everypony she cares about. Suddenly with a magical glint in her eye the unicorn makes up her mind, and with a flick of her horn Twilight dispels the sound proof barrier. Trixie watches the barrier fall apart around her, however her complaints are cut off by the strong voice of the lavender mare. “Alright, Dirty Trick, you win. I’ll give you the Stones but only if Trixie gets the antidote first.”

Trixie gapes. “Twilight! What are you doing?”

The Stand laughs. “What she is doing is her only real choice! And a wise one it is! Now then, Twilight, open the magical safe for me.”

“Not so fast, Dirty Trick,” Twilight states, “antidote first!”

“It seems that you have overestimated your position, Sparkle,” the Stand speaks as if surrounding her. “You forget that I can kill you with a thought by lighting the library on fire. Rest assured, once I have the Stones I will have no need for either of you, and I swear on the stones themselves that I will give you the antidote that you so crave.”

Twilight narrows her gaze at the safe as she prepares to utter the password to open its door, only to be stopped by Trixie’s strong hoof. “Twilight, what are you thinking, you idiot! Trixie told you not to worry about her. You do know that if you do hoof the Stones over to him, there is no assurance that he won’t try and kill us after!?”

Twilight looks back at the blue mare. “Don’t you think that I know that? I’m literally giving up something that has no value, something truly priceless.” Twilight looks down at her hooves in shame. “But I have to do this, I have to take a chance if it means saving your life.”

Twilight raises her eyes, looking at Trixie with resolve. “No matter how important the Stones are, they’re not as valuable as your life, Trixie. That’s why I have to take this chance, because I can’t abandon my friends, even for all the Strange Stones in Equestria.”

Trixie looks at Twilight, staring at the mare before her as she begins to understand the depth of Twilight’s concern for her. Trixie turns her head away from the lavender mare as she pouts. “…..Fine, but only for one second.”

Trixie’s sudden change of mood and a slight blush cause the lavender mare no small amount of confusion. “What? Trixie, what are you…..”

“Do I have to say it? Mind link!” An embarrassed Trixie blurts out. “If we mindlink for even a second we’ll know what the other is thinking, and you’ll understand the Great and Powerful Trixie’s powerful plan.” Trixie manifests her Stand, its hoof outstretched towards the unicorn in a display of trust. “So hurry up and let’s get this over with!”

Twilight raises her Stand’s hoof toward Trixie’s until they’re only inches from each other. “Alright, are you sure, Trixie?”

“Just do it before Trixie changes her mind! And no, that is not a telepathy joke!”

The two Stands touch, for an instant their hooves melding into each other, as two very different minds connect in a way that few ponies could ever experience. In the space of a wink, these two ponies, who had once only despised and looked down on the other, learn more about each other than they could in a full hour as their minds mesh on an intimate level. Then, as quickly as it began, the meld ends, the Stands separate, and both mares look at each other in a new light, as if they have only met each other for the first time.

“Trixie…..” Twilight stares at the mare before her. “That is…… some plan.”

Trixie boasts. “Of course it is! The Great and Powerful Trixie thought it up! However….. Trixie was also impressed with your concerns for her.”

The showmare blushes slightly as she tries to whisper the next words under her breath, ashamed to be heard making a heartfelt confession. “Trixie was greatly surprised to find your concerns for her were not ….. forced, I am surprised that…. I mean…..” Trixie fumbles with her words. “Trixie is surprised that your concerns are genuine.”

Twilight smiles warmly at the mare before her as a loud grating voice interrupts their moment. “Enough talk! Are you hoofing over the Stones to me or not? Because if you aren’t…… well, I can promise you that things will be getting a little hot around here!”

Twilight snickers as she levitates the safe over to the table with her telekinesis, placing it on the table directly in front of Trixie and herself. “Sorry about that, Dirty Trick, I’ll get you the Stones right now.” Twilight clears her throat “Password 123.”

The safe beeps. “Password accepted!”

The door flies open with a steely creaking and Trixie grasps the box inside housing the Strange Stones, just before hoofing it over to Twilight. Twilight picks up the box in her magic and nods once to Trixie, the blue mare nodding affirmatively back to her, and Twilight throws the box on the ground in front of the table.

“There. Here’s the box that the Strange Stones are kept in.” Both mares watch as the box vanishes into the ground, dragged by the Stand Dirty Trick. “Now it’s your turn, Dirty Trick; give Trixie the antidote.”

The mouse-like Stand raises its head from the ground as a diabolical grin crosses its muzzle. “Yeah, that’s not going to happen.” Dirty Trick bursts out laughing at the mare’s scorn. “Don’t worry, it’s not that I never planned to give you the antidote, it’s just that no antidote exists for the poison I injected into Trixie. HaHaHaHaHa, you fools!”

A blast of magic nearly engulfs the rat in front of Twilight Sparkle, only for the foul creature to slither underground again. “Fools! Now I have the Strange Stones! Didn’t your mother ever teach you not to trust strangers?”

The voice of the Stand surrounds the two mares on all sides, mocking them all the while. “You dumb Stand users with your fancy-shmancy powers think you are all invincible, don’t you? You think those of you with your flashy abilities makes you cooler than the rest of us? Well you’re not! I beat the two of you with my Stand power, that proves that my Stand, Dirty Trick, is the best!”

The ditch rat Stand reaches out from the ceiling with its head and strikes a single, match holding it above the two mares. “And now that I have everything that I need, there is no reason to keep you all alive. Given that you and your little marefriend are doomed to die anyways, be a good little filly and burn. To. Death!”

Both mares try to extend their auras to catch the match with their telekinesis, however both fail as all the gasoline in the library combusts in a fiery explosion around them. The two mares gasp in terror as the entire library is engulfed in unholy fire, the heat of the flames closing in around them while they struggle for breath. The flames grow, consuming over a hundred years of combined knowledge as the raging fire feeds off every book of history, nonfiction and smutty romance novel alike with heartless destruction. Twilight would doubtless be panicking to save such a collection of priceless knowledge if it were not for the fact that all her magic was going into keeping herself from going up in flames. Dirty Trick smiles gleefully as the two mares try vainly to keep the flames from expanding, while they slowly lose ground as the fire expands ever closer towards them. Finally, having seen enough to know that there is no escape for the two mares, the Stand nods and slithers through the library, leaving the two mares to their fates.

………………

A safe distance away, three large rats skitter on the ground completely unnoticed in the chaotic situation, as the ponies within earshot begin to panic at the copious amounts of smoke spewing out of the library. Somehow, despite the lavender mare’s propensity for strange explosions and fires, the townsponies know, perhaps instinctively, that the large fire beginning to rage out of control in the library is anything but routine. Quickly joining in in an effort to save the library from burning to ashes, a group of fire-ponies arrives on the scene, ready to save the two mares trapped inside. The fire brigade, a separate department of the weather patrol, are trained to combat fires by use of wind and rain, and drawing on their elite training begin to douse the flames with water-filled rainclouds. But even these brave stallions and mares are obviously having trouble with the raging inferno. Despite the aid of the nearby ponies, attacking the fire with mud and dirt to save Twilight Sparkle and Trixie, the blaze only climbs higher, threatening even the tallest leaves of the treehouse. Yet the fire seems only to expand at their efforts, while a nasty and buck-toothed pony snickers in glee at the blaze consuming the library.

The pony in question - if one could call such a gangly, dirty, yellow-grey coated creature a pony - sits off to the side in a nearby alleyway. His unremarkable brown eyes survey the damage the fire is inflicting on the library as his broken laughter goes unheard by the frantic ponies trying to put out the fire. His untidy brown mane, and cutie mark of three turnips, as well as his horrendous teeth were capable of conveying to a blind pony how stereotypically backwater he was. That, and his dirty cut-off shirt, rusty antiquated tool belt, and garish green baseball cap that could only be thought of as fashionable at a moonshining convention, only made it more difficult to ignore his blatant oafish nature. And if this dark figure lurking in the shadows wasn’t obviously evil enough, he was rubbing his hooves together while cackling like a cliché supervillain who had just stolen a pile of used toys from an orphanage.

“Hu-uck! Hu-u-uck! Huck!”

Well, maybe cackling like a hillbilly supervillain would be more appropriate, if such an oxymoron could exist. And speaking of morons…..

“Heh, what a bunch of dopes!” the pony obscured by the shadow of the alley says. “All it took was a little lie and they just hoofed over those Stones to me! And to think that I was worried when I heard they had Stands! Not to say that Ah was afraid of a bunch of fillies……. It’s just that Ah’ve never had to kill Stand users before.”

The sickly pony grins like a demon as three rats slip through the wall next to him, carrying a box on their shoulders. The pony grins with crooked teeth as he picks up the box, rising to his hind hooves as he raises it to the heavens. “But in the end it was me, Hayseed Turnip Truck, who got the Stones from them!

The dirty stallion snickers as he revels in his victory. “Huck huck! And the rest of the gang said I was ‘a no good rat’! Making fun of mah…. Ah mean, my country accent! Making me do all the hard jobs, even when I’m the best thief in the gang!” The stallion stops. “Well, second best….. but that filly doesn’t count! She can turn invisible, for crying out loud! How can I compete with that?!”

Shaking his head, the earth pony dismisses his anger and suspicions while laying the box on the ground. His Stand fades into the aether as he looks at the box before him, smiling at his imminent recognition. “Well, joke’s on you guys! Ah’ve got no country accent no more, after taking that discount speech therapy class and all! And even the boss will have to admit how fancy Ah am now when he sees that this ‘Rat’ came back with….”

The pony throws open the box. “……Nothing?” Hayseed gasps in dismay at the lack of contents in the box. Sure enough, the box contains nothing but a single folded sheet of paper.

Hayseed stares at the box for a minute or two before throwing it to the ground in a rage. “What is this? Is this ah trick?! That there’s just a piece of paper! Oh I knew that I shouldn’t have killed them so quickly!”

The pony growls as he stamps his hoof on the ground. “Well, that blaze wasn’t too big. If one of them may still be clinging to life, it’ll probably be that blue one. Once I’m done with her she’ll wish that she never lied to me! Huck! Ah’ll make her tell me where the Stones are, one way or another!” The pony kicks the box then lets out a yelp of pain as he clutches his injured hoof, rubbing it as the single piece of paper falls to the ground.

Hayseed, having finished nursing his hoof, opens his eyes and sees a small amount of writing on the paper, and the gears in his tiny head begin to turn. “Wait a second, yawl, that there’s something written on the paper……. It must be the location all the Stones are hidden at!” the rat-like pony grins in realization. “Hayseed, ya clever hunk you, they hid the location of the Red Stones on this here paper! And Ah thought that I had lost the Stones for a second, there.”

Hayseed grins for the second and last time that day, completely sure that he has finally won in his game of wits. In fact, the country hick is so enraptured in the single piece of paper that he is completely oblivious to the two looming shadows falling over him from behind. He waves behind him without even looking as he stands engrossed in the paper in his hooves. “Whoever yawl are get out of my light! Now let’s see, the paper says ‘look behind you’; what does it mean? Is it a message of some kind? Or maybe……. it’s one of those there secret codes or a……”

DOJYAAAAAA!!!

With a single straight punch from a star-spangled Stand the earth pony goes crashing into a trio of garbage cans at the end of the alley. He groggily props himself against the wall as he looks behind him, to see who would dare attack him.

“Or maybe…. just maybe, it’s a warning. After all, the Great and Powerful Trixie does not enjoy sucker-punching a pony, even one as distasteful as you.” The blue showmare, complete with magician’s hat and cape, stands cracking her hooves as she blocks off the yellow earth pony’s retreat.

Hayseed Turnip Truck’s eyes grow wide as a lavender unicorn walks out from behind the blue mare. “No fair, Trixie! You said that I got the first punch! That guy singed my library! If it wasn’t for the fact that I shelled out the alchemical ingredients for the complex flameproofing spell the day I moved in, all my books would have been ashes by now!”

Trixie smirks at the lavender mare as she savors her small victory. “First come, first served, Sparkle.”

Not wanting to stay around for a very savage beating, the earth pony turns tail to run, only to find his way out cut off by a large brick wall. Only now does the Stand user remember that he is literally on a dead-end street. If only he could use his Dirty Trick to slip him through walls, but his power doesn’t work on him, and besides, his Stand can’t possibly compare to the speed and strength of Trixie’s, let alone Twilight’s. Unwilling to accept the fact that he is trapped Hayseed paws at the walls, looking around for anything that would offer him escape from the two advancing mares.

Trixie continues to crack her hooves as she advances on the panicking pony. “Hey bookworm, what’s that analogy that applies to rats? Trixie forgot it.”

“You mean ‘trapped like a rat’?” Twilight smirks playfully. “Yeah, I can see how a brainless, stuck-up pony like you would forget such a simple quote”

“Well, Trixie just couldn’t help but think about how apt the quote is here.” Trixie cracks her neck. “What with a cowardly rat of a pony being trapped like one.”

“Well for once, Trixie, I would agree with you wholeheartedly.” Twilight illuminates her horn as she advances on Hayseed. “This is a pretty ironic fate for a pony who uses a rat-shaped Stand, especially when he looks so much like a rat in the first place.”

Hayseed Turnip Truck’s mind stalls as he tries to dismiss the horrible illusion in front of him. “B-b-b-but, you’re…. you’re both dead! How did you escape that inferno?! There was no way out!”

Trixie taps her horn. “Uh, we’re both unicorns, duh.”

Twilight rolls her eyes at Trixie’s simplistic explanation of the magical forces. “…….And being magically-adept unicorns, we’ve both mastered short range teleportation; all we had to do was teleport out once the library caught fire.” The incredibly upset librarian says. “You’re probably kicking yourself for not putting up teleport-daening runes; that is you’d probably be kicking yourself if we weren't about to start buckin your face in ourselves.”

Hayseed scoots farther back against the wall, his mind frantically trying to find a way out of his present situation. “But that’s impossible! Even if you could escape, how would you ever find me?”

“Fool!” Trixie scoffs as she rises to her back hooves. “There are no animals on earth that cannot be tracked. It matters not how fast an animal can run and hide, it will never be as smart as a pony like Trixie. Stand agents such as Trixie are adept at inspecting and studying landscape, the direction of prevailing winds, as well as the habits and tracks of our prey. It was a simple matter of applying Trixie’s Great and Powerful…..”

Trixie is cut off as Twilight smacks her upside the head. “Or the Great and Powerful Twilight could have just used a tracking spell on the box……..”

“……..That works too……” Trixie straightens her hat. “But do not mock Trixie! Had she not switched the box with the Stones in it for a fake using her Stand, you would have had to hand off the real Strange Stones. It was Trixie’s switch, not your tracking spell, that lead us to victory.”

If a pony had exceptional hearing, they might be able to hear as Hayseed Turnip Truck’s heart fell into his stomach, his pulse betraying the sudden intense fear that is coursing through his veins. “Oh! That’s right, I have the antidote to your poison, Trixie. Huck huck huck, see, I lied when I claimed there was no antidote to the poison you were injected with.”

The stallion reaches behind his back, pulling a small vial out from his ratty tool belt. “So all ya have to do is let me go and I’ll give it to you, no harm no foul. I’ll leave forever, you will never have to see me again Honest!”

Trixie turns, her face unreadable as her eyes lock onto the pony before him. “Oh that’s right, the poison that you tried to inject Trixie with, the one you have the antidote for.” Trixie smirks as she adjusts her hat. “Well, Trixie appreciates the offer but it is completely unnecessary. You see, you never poisoned me in the first place, so Trixie does not need an antidote.”

The vial falls from Turnip Truck’s grasp, shattering on the ground as his mouth gapes in complete bafflement. “Uhhhhhh…….. What?”

“It is easy, rat brain.” Trixie smirks. “Your Stand bit Trixie’s Stand, not Trixie herself, and a Stand cannot be poisoned. So Trixie did what she does best: she acted. Trixie pretended to be poisoned to lure you out of hiding, an easy task for a mare of such show-stopping talents as Trixie, no?”

Hayseed blinks. “What?”

The blue showmare fakes a swoon, dramatically continuing her long monologue. “It was all foals-play, to fake Trixie’s ‘sudden illness’ to lure you out, to make you think that she was weak. All the while I was watching, biding my time for the perfect moment to strike.”

“Oh by the way, Trixie,” Twilight interrupts, “remind me to pay you back for making me think you were dying and forcing me to carry you on my back when you were PERFECTLY FINE!”

Trixie smirks as she sticks her tongue out at the lavender mare. “Have you seen your flank, Twibright? You were in desperate need of exercise anyway. And now that we have this little hayseed exactly where we want him, the only question is…” Trixie cracks her hooves again as she turns back to the cowering stallion. “…how to inflict as much suffering as physically possible without killing him!”

“W-W-Whaaaat!?” Hayseed continues to press himself further against the wall, as if his cowardice alone would allow him to push himself through the bricks. “W-W-Wait a minute! There ain’t no reason to be hasty…..”

Thinking on his hooves the stallion reaches into his tool belt, pulling out a large bag of coins that he throws at the advancing mare’s hooves. “You like money? I was paid in advance for my services! It’s all yours! One thousand bits! Surely yawl can be mature and forget all of this…… Purty Please?”

Twilight manifests her Stand, its hooves poised to strike as she steps over the bits on the ground. “No amount of apologies or wealth can make up for your actions…..”

Trixie manifests her Stand. “….. After all, we never had any intention of forgiving you in the first place.”

“You fool, what you owe……” Twilight raises her hooves.

“……..Can’t be repaid with money.” Trixie finishes.

DOJYAN! DOJYAN! DOJYAN! DOJYAN! DOJYAN! DOJYAN! DOJYAN! DOJYAN! DOJYAN! DOJYAAAAAAA!!

ORA! ORA! ORA! ORA! ORA! ORA! ORA! ORA! ORA! ORA! ORA! OOOOOOOOOORRRRRRRAAAAAAAAA!

Hayseed is only able to whimper vainly as two powerful Stands proceed to beat him within an inch of his life, each blow assaulting his body and mind like a battering ram against a pillow fort. The wall behind him cracks from the force of their combined blows as it finally collapses, sending the pathetic pony spiraling through solid stone, his broken body landing in a puddle of mud as the dust settles on Hayseed Turnip Truck’s game of wits.

………………..

Thirty minutes later, the two mares find themselves in the slightly-charred library once again, with an ‘honorary guest’ dressed in a nice comfy pair of shackles. After sending the fire ponies away, claiming that it was just another of her famous experiments gone wrong, the two ponies had set about repairing the damage that had been wrought to their residence. Thanks to Twilight’s enchantments not a book had been harmed, and no major damage had been done to the building; however, there were still traps to disarm and various cosmetic damages inflicted by Hayseed's malice to be addressed. Despite their newfound tolerance for each other, the two mares were still thoroughly bored by the mundane tasks, and not even pleasant conversation between the two could alleviate the repetitive nature of their tasks. So when their prisoner awoke from his pleasant slumber over a tank filled with (illusionary) sharks and the library was wracked by his girly screams, the two fillies gleefully left their mundane tasks for something more exciting, namely torturing a certain yellow pony.

“NNNNNNNNNOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!! OHSWEETCELESTIAGETTHEMOFFOFMEAHDON’TWANTTODIEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!! AH’LLTELLYOUANYTHINGYOUWANTTOKNOWJUSTLETMEOUTOFHERE!!!!!”

Twilight smiles at such a sudden success as she levitates Hayseed off of the rope hanging him from the ceiling. “See, now that wasn’t hard, was it?” Twilight pats the shivering wreck of a pony as she turns to face Trixie. “And you said that piranhas were better.”

“Very well, Trixie concedes that sharks are better for intimidation, but piranhas are far fiercer than sharks!” Trixie grabs the shivering wreck, pulling him to within an inch of her blazing eyes. “But Trixie is still going first.”

Twilight begins to pout. “But I was supposed to go first! The bet was how long he would last and I guessed ten seconds, while you guessed twelve, so I won, Trixie. Besides, I read up on interrogation techniques in ‘Torture and You’ just so I could…..”

“Silence, Sparkle! Trixie has real experience in interrogation and real questions to ask.” Trixie turns her head away from the lavender mare to look at the sickly yellow pony before her. “It is obvious that somepony hired this assassin, and Trixie intends to find out who, even if she has to do it……” The blue showmare presses the pony’s face to the glass tank, his eyes bugging out as the illusionary sharks smile menacingly at him. “……piece. By. Piece.”

Hayseed takes one look at the sharks, and one look at the pony who wants to throw him to said sharks, before making perhaps the smartest decision in his life. “Ah’ll tell ya anything! Anything!”

“Trixie appreciates your cooperation. Alright then, first question of the day….” Trixie pulls up a small, empty vial from Hayseed Turnip Truck’s personal effects, waving it in his face. “The poison that you put on your Stand…. the one you tried to use on me…. Trixie has determined that it is a poison for subduing ponies, not killing them. Why would you use this kind of poison if your intentions were to kill myself and Twibright?”

Twilight looks in shock at the vial that Trixie is holding in her magic. “What? Trixie, are you sure?”

“Yes, Trixie is positive.” Trixie turns around as she throws the vial to Twilight, who catches it effortlessly. “It’s not something a bookworm like you would know, but this is a fake death syrup, used by magicians for ages to slow vital signs to mimic death or survive in enclosed spaces where oxygen is sparse.”

Trixie grabs Hayseed by his throat, pressing his already-battered body against the glass wall. “So talk, why were you trying to subdue me? You attacked me first to try and make it so that you could capture me? So, why? Who put you up to attacking us? Who is responsible for your actions? TALK!”

Trixie’s anger burns as she continues to press the pony further into the wall with every question, her eyes filled with a silent fury that threatens to boil out of her control. However, in response to Trixie’s potent intimidation Hayseed begins to laugh his backward, nasal laugh, holding what little knowledge he has over the unicorn’s head like a guillotine’s blade. “Hu-uck! Hu-u-uck! Hu-u-uck! You really don’t know, do you, Trixie Lulamoon. It doesn’t matter if yawl beat me, there’s no way yer gonna survive anyways! Do ya think that I’m the only one after yer life!? Wroooong!”

Trixie pulls the pony off the glass wall, throwing him harshly to the floor. “Explain to Trixie! Who is after her life!? Is it part of Trixie’s work as a Stand agent? Who are you working with? ANSWER!”

Hayseed continues to chuckle through Trixie’s accusations like a madpony. “Ya may be tough an all, but even I’m not that stupid. Ah know what happens to those that betray the boss’ secrets! But if you really wanted to know all the details, just ask that bandaged pony!”

Trixie flinches at the mention of the bandaged pony, her face turning white as a sheet. Hayseed, seeing the fear in her eyes, rants on. “The reason I was after your life wasn’t just because yawl had the Stones! It was because this pony promised two thousand bits fer your capture! There’s a bounty on your head! Two thousand bits alive, Trixie Lulamoon!”

In an instant the blue mare’s Stand lashes out, snapping Hayseed Turnip Truck’s leg like a matchstick. Obviously not expecting this level of violence from the showmare, Hayseed screams as Trixie presses her own hoof into his shattered leg, accentuating his screams with labored breathing. “TELL. ME. WHERE. HE. IS.” Trixie yells vehemently.

Hayseed continues to bawl as he tries to crawl away from the crazy mare with his arms shackled and only one good leg. “A-A-A-A D-D-D-Don’t k-k-k-know! A-a-a-and even I-I-if I did, Ah’d never tell you! No pony betrays Melodia or the boss and gets away with it! He’ll skin me alive! ”

Trixie extends her hoof to crush his other leg, her patience running shorter by the second. “You’re lying! You know where the bandaged pony is! You’re hiding him from Trixie!” The mare swings down with her Stand’s full strength, the blow snapping against Turnip’s chest with a resounding thud as her Stand prepares to strike again. “And if you won’t talk, then Trixie will just have to beat the truth out of you!”

Trixie swings her hoof once again to strike but finds her blow stopped by the lavender mare’s own Stand. “Trixie, stop!” Twilight shouts as the two Stands make contact; Twilight and Trixie’s minds flowing together for a single second and Trixie becomes aware of the extent of her actions. The silver maned mare shudders as she looks at the writhing pony on the floor sobbing his eyes out, realizing how close she was to ending his pitiful life in a fit of rage. And what frightens Trixie more than her sudden loss of composure is the fact that somepony watched her in her darkest moment. The mare before her, Twilight Sparkle, watched her indulgence of violence, her sudden display of brutality, with a wordless expression that conveys her newly acquired fear of the showmare.

Suppressing her emotions once more, Trixie withdraws her Stand and turns her back on the two ponies in the basement. “Turn him over to the local police, and get him out of Trixie’s sight. Trixie’s done with this hayseed. ”

Twilight watches dumbstruck as the showmare climbs the steps of the basement. “Trixie, where are you going? We need to talk about this!”

Trixie stops at the door to the library proper as she turns her head towards the lavender mare, her face filled with sorrow and regret. “Yes, Twilight, but Trixie has finished listening.” Twilight’s heart sinks as she hears the same line again; this time she can’t help but feel the pain in Trixie’s voice. “Now, if you will excuse me, Trixie will be taking long walk to cool off and will not be disturbed.”

Trixie slams the door behind her with such force that the door bounces off the basement’s lock chain, leaving a wide open door as the only evidence of Trixie’s sudden departure. This single opening, as if by coincidence, creaks open just enough so that a single streak of light illuminates the lavender unicorn below.

Twilight had thought that perhaps she and Trixie had become a little closer, that the cocky showmare had opened herself up just a little more through their unexpected life-or-death struggle. Now, as she looks at the empty doorway at the top of the stairs, Twilight can only bring her hooves together in a futile prayer for the showmare’s soul. For, in looking into the blue mare’s mind, Twilight had seen a depth of sorrow, despair and overwhelming hatred that would have crushed a lesser pony like dust. She had seen her loneliness in the orphanage she grew up in, her focused rage towards everything, and her distrust of everypony she had met in her short life. But more than that, the last time they touched Twilight had actually felt a part of Trixie that she normally had kept buried deep within her psyche, her shame. Twilight had felt Trixie’s festering hatred of herself for letting her parents die, her inability to pass the magical exam that Twilight had passed so easily, and her failure to bring down the bandaged pony that was still as free as a bird. Her self-hatred and loathing had shocked the lavender mare to the point of tears, as the blue mare had left without a single word to drown in her own boiling rage that threatened to consume her.

Twilight had thought that Trixie was so easy to figure out, that she put on a big act for attention, and to be adored. However, it ran deeper than that. Trixie didn’t become a braggart who brushed her ego at every opportunity because she wanted attention, she just couldn’t stand hating herself any more than she already did. More than her longing for her parents, her longing for justice, Trixie wanted to be respected, to be a pony that changed the world, not a puppet pulled by the threads of fate. Trixie wanted to have pride in herself because deep down she believed she wasn’t a pony worth being, and she hated it more than she ever could that bandaged Stand.

Twilight had thought that living together would have allowed her to polish up Trixie’s social faults, that they had become real friends, and not just comrades or friends of convenience.

Now Twilight could only look out at the empty door, praying to any higher power that would hear that she would be able to reach Trixie before it was too late.

Twilight had thought that she and Trixie had become closer…….

Now, Twilight couldn’t help but think of how far away the blue mare was………

Chapter 23-Dreamweaver-Take 1

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Dreamweaver- Take 1:


The sun rises on a cold morning in Ponyville; summer has come and past, autumn has just arrived, and the cold nip of the morning mist gives sign that the winter months are fast approaching. Two-and-a-half months from now the ground will be completely encased in a deep snow, and two months after that it will be time for Winter Wrap Up. However, these thoughts are the furthest things from the minds of the ponies who have gathered this morning in the open space of the park, each one carrying a heavy load on their backs.

The six mares, each of them friends in every sense of the word, make their own last-minute preparations for the journey ahead of them. Though they are surrounded by a small crowd of their families and well-wishers, none talk, causing a deep and pervasive silence to fall over the group as they secure saddlebags and packs in the wide open grassy field. Their silence is not borne from resentment of each other or perso