Creeping Happiness

by LanceOmikron

First published

Applejack is happy, but something feels off.

Happiness is something sought by all ponies, and Applejack and her friends have been lucky enough to obtain it. They have everything they ever wanted, and all is right with the world. But in that case... why can't Applejack shake the feeling that something is amiss?

Cover art by WhiteDiamonds.

Chapter 1: Life is Wonderful

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"...And when the catalyst is activated, the completed spell matrix will contain and stabilize the reaction!"

As Twilight finished reading, sounds of comprehension and wonderment issued from her two companions. The three of them had managed to reserve the Grand Library of Canterlot for the day, and they planned on making the most of it. Tables and chairs had been pushed away from the main reading area in favor of a mountain of cushions that the trio lay upon.

"That was great, Twily!" said Shining Armor, nuzzling her, "Your reading gives such incredible life to Starswirl's works!"

Twilight giggled and blushed, snuggling up closer to her brother.

"I think the material speaks for itself in this case, B.B.B.F.F. After all, this is Starswirl we're talking about. He was a genius beyond his time!" she explained as she closed the tome and placed it upon a pile of finished books.

A large white wing draped over the unicorn siblings from Twilight's other side, pulling all three ponies even closer together.

"I'll have to agree with Captain Armor on this one, my faithful student” said Princess Celestia, "It's clear that your understanding of Starswirl's theorems and formulae is deeper and more thorough than any ordinary scholar. The sheer clarity of your interpretation most certainly enhances the experience."

Twilight grinned at the praise, allowing herself a bit of self-indulgence.

"Well, I suppose I have studied these works quite a bit..." her grin receded to a simple smile, "Really though, I'm just so glad we could do this. We hardly get to see each other as it is, so us all being able to spend the day reading together is a better present than I could ever ask for."

Celestia and Shining nodded.

"I completely agree, my faithful student. And I think I'll see to making this a regular occurrence. With how demanding our work can become, we could always use more time to relax in each others' company. I understand your studies have been particularly taxing as of late, Twilight."

Twilight chuckled, "You've got that right, Princess. And after the debacle with that monster you warned us about a few days ago, this break couldn't have come at a better time."

Shining Armor raised an eyebrow, "Oh? Do tell."

"Alright, alright Big Bro, you dragged it out of me,” Twilight joked, "It was pretty nuts, this thing was like something right out one of your Ogres & Oubliettes monster manuals. It was called the Alu... uh... Al... u..."

Twilight fell silent. For some reason that she couldn't fathom, the name of the creature escaped her. This was particularly vexing, as Twilight had even encountered this creature just... how many days ago? She couldn't quite recall. Things felt off. Come to think of it, when exactly had she, Shining, and Celestia met up today? What day was toda–

“Don't worry, Twily. It's probably not important.”

Her brother's words snapped Twilight out of her daze. The odd feeling passed.

“You're absolutely right, Shiny,” Twilight smiled and kissed him on the cheek. Enveloping another doorstop-like book with her magical aura, she called it over and turned to the first page.

“Now that we're done with Starswirl's Magical Matrix Theories, let's start on Amniomorphic Formulae vol. XII!

With two hearty agreements to the proposal, Twilight began to read once more. It was a beautiful day, and Twilight the unicorn was spending it doing her favorite activity with her two most favorite ponies in all of Equestria.

Twilight Sparkle was happy.


In the bustling city of Manehattan, a successful air show starring the famous Wonderbolts had just wrapped up, and the autograph-signing event had begun. Just about every big-name Wonderbolt was there, but no name was bigger than their captain, Rainbow Dash.

Rainbow was fully in her element, able to handle three separate lines of autograph-seekers with the lightning-fast efficiency that made her famous. All the while, she practically fed off the adulation they gave her. Whether it was a fellow athlete admiring her professionally, a standard fan gushing over her radicalness, or the odd mare or stallion who proposed marriage, Rainbow couldn't get enough.

But best of all were the children.

"You're so cool, Rainbow Dash!"

"I wanna be just like you when I grow up, Rainbow Dash!"

"Can you pleeeeeaaase come to my birthday party next week? All my friends will be so jealous!"

"Captain Dash, you're even better than the superheroes in my Power Ponies comics!"

That last one in particular threatened to make Rainbow's eyes roll back in her head from the sheer ecstasy of the ego-stoking. She puffed herself up and put on her most confident grin.

"Darn right I am! I even beat down villains in real life all the time."

The children's eyes lit up with wonder.


"Yep. Why just this week my friends and I took out a Mane-iac wannabe in ten seconds flat! It all started when... when..."

Rainbow's smile faltered. For some reason, she found that she couldn't seem to recall the details of this no-doubt epic battle. Strange, usually her victories were burned into her brain. Something felt off. For that matter, since when was she the ca–

"So what happened, Captain Dash? What awesome move did you beat the bad guy with?"

And just like that, the feeling passed. Rainbow hitched up her cocky grin again.

"Ah, who knows? They were so lame that my awesome brain refused to even grant them the honor of being recorded in my memory banks."


And so, the pegasus captain continued to sign autographs while having her praises sung by an endless legion of adoring fans.

Rainbow Dash was happy.


Typically, the Pie Family Rock Farm was a rather dreary place. Not so tonight. Tonight, it was a site of celebration the scale of which Equestria had never seen before. Balloons, lights, streamers, music, dancing, games, eating, drinking, fun, fun, and FUN! Everything one could ever want from a party was there, and then some! The celebration grounds extended out for miles around, as far as the eye could see. The master of ceremonies for this tremendous gathering was, of course, none other than Pinkamena Diane "Pinkie" Pie.

Currently the party planner extraordinaire was taking a bit of a break from the heart of the festivities (as unbelievable as that may seem) to peruse the food court with her parents and sisters.

“So whaddya think? Isn’t this just the most superawesomazingest party you’ve ever seen!?”

Igneous Rock looked about the fairgrounds with a nostalgic smile on his face.

“I must say, Pinkamena, thou hast truly outdone thyself.”

Beside him, Cloudy Quartz nodded in concurrence while Marble was happily bouncing her head to the music.

“It’s nice, Pinkie,” came Maud’s roaringly ecstatic approval, the corners of her mouth turned upwards a whole centimeter more than usual. Even the often-grumpy Limestone couldn’t keep a smile off her face.

“Credit where it’s due, Sis, I think this is gonna be really good for the farm. I talked with some business investors a little while ago, and they were having such a good time that it’s pretty much guaranteed that we’ll be able to take our operations up a notch.”

Pinkie’s smile practically expanded beyond the borders of her face.

“Limey, that’s WONDERFUL!! I can’t wait ‘til the Pie Family Rock Farm is a household name!” Pinkie cheered as she zipped to and fro across the grounds, visiting stalls and purchasing various foods at ludicrous speed.

Cloudy tittered at her daughter’s exuberance.

“Pinkamena, I think we might already be famous after we finish up this celebration. Though, what was it for again?”

Pinkie screeched to a halt in front of her mother, carrying a veritable feast on her back, “I told ya mom, it’s to celebrate my friends and me defeating the Loola-Loonay.”

“Wait,” Limestone couldn’t help but raise an eyebrow at this, “The what now?”

“The Loola-Loonay! It was a big ol' meanie that the girls and I beat, and so I decided to throw a party because we did such a good job! The Loola-Loonay isn’t really its name, but it sounded like a Loola-Loonay, so that’s what I’m callin’ it! Although usually I’m better at remembering names than that. I wasn’t gonna invite it, but I definitely wanted to cross its name off the guest list! Hmm... that’s kinda strange, even feels a little off. And if the girls and I took it out, why isn’t this party back in Ponyv–”

Marble gently put a hoof to Pinkie’s lips, silencing her ramble.

“Mm-hm,” said Marble with a smile.

With that, the feeling passed.

“Ah shucks, Marble” said Pinkie sheepishly, “You’re right, it’s no big deal. Now let’s EAT!”

And so, the Pie family sat down at a nearby table to share a meal together. Ponyville’s premier pink party pony was enjoying a lavish feast surrounded by her adoring family, who was in turn surrounded by a sea of wondrous celebration.

Pinkie Pie was happy.


“And the ‘Best in Show’ winner of the Canterlot Couture Conference is… Alluring Black Rose, by Rarity of Canterlot Carousel!”

Ever since she was a filly, Rarity could tell that her destiny lay in the marvelous city of Canterlot. It was close enough to see from her bedroom window, but felt like a whole world away. It was a dream come true to finally open up a boutique here, but there had still been one more vista left to aspire to: The Canterlot Couture Conference, the biggest and most prestigious fashion show in all of Equestria. Everypony who was anypony was here. The results of this exhibition would shape the landscape of the fashion industry for the next… well, until the next CCC! And the highest honor of all was the ‘Best in Show’ award. To win that was to be recorded in the annals of fashion history as one of the greatest designers of all time.

And Rarity had done just that.

The audience stamped their hooves in thunderous applause as Rarity stepped out onto the runway alongside her chosen model, Fleur de Lis. Fleur was clad in a gorgeously intricate black dress, Rarity’s contest entry.

“Good show, Rarity!” called Fancy Pants.

“Simply magnificent! Bravo, Rarity!” cheered Hoity Toity.

“Woohoo! There’s nopony else like you, Rarity!” hollered Charity Sweetmint.

Coco Pommel and Sassy Saddles squealed with joy at the success of their employer and friend, jumping up and down in a half-hug. For her part, Rarity was wearing a million-bit smile and fighting tooth and nail to prevent her tears from falling and ruining her mascara. She motioned with a hoof and the noise began to die down, replaced with bated breath.

“As many of you ponies know, this has been a dream of mine since I was a young filly. It’s been a whirlwind of adventure getting here, but finally being here… it feels absolutely unreal. One thing I can say with absolute certainty is that I could not have done it without each and every one of you!”

More passionate applause came forth. Rarity carefully dabbed at her eyes with a hoofkerchief, having lost the battle to keep her tears in check. Eventually the applause died down once more as a spotlight illuminated the Mistress of Ceremonies, Photo Finish, who was preparing to personally give Rarity her award.

“Wunderbar, Rarity! Zis victory is vell deserved! It goes vithout saying, but zis gown you have crafted-”

Another spotlight descended on Fleur, who immediately began to pose and show off the dress in question.

“-is simply divine! Ze vine-like patterning, ze embroidered roses, it is zo striking! You simply must tell us of vat inspired you!”

Rarity nodded, “Oh absolutely! The theme of the Alluring Black Rose is that of mysterious beauty enhanced by a sense of danger. It was inspired by something that my friends and I went through rather recently. What exactly happened was… was...“

Rarity’s pupils shrunk. She couldn’t remember what had happened. This was disastrous! She had come this far, only to choke during the award acceptance? Sweat began to bead on Rarity’s forehead. Why couldn’t she remember?! Then again… that was actually a legitimate question. Why couldn’t she remember? The event had been on her mind the entire time she was making the dress. Right? Something felt off. Even the process of making the dress was feeling haz–

“Ooh, you keep us in suspense!” came Photo’s voice.

The feeling passed. With a clear head, Rarity reevaluated the situation. She had to tell the crowd something, so decided on the next best option: be coy.

“What exactly happened shall remain a secret, but suffice it to say that every rose has its thorns, and is all the more beautiful for it.” she finished up with a wink.

The crowd applauded and cameras flashed as Photo Finish presented the award to Rarity, securing her place in fashion history. At that moment, Rarity stood at the absolute pinnacle of her chosen craft in the city of her fillyhood dreams, surrounded by friends, colleagues, mentors, and admirers.

Rarity was happy.


“Fluttershy, thank you so much. you’ve truly done a wonderful service for our town!” said Mayor Mare.

It was a beautiful day in Ponyville, all the moreso due to the recent changes that took place there. All around the town, countless animals could be seen alongside ponies. All manner of birds perched on rooftops as well as ponies’ backs. Families of bunnies ran through the streets playing with foals, past a cragadile that was lazily snoozing in the midday sun. At a nearby construction site, beavers gnawed pieces of wood into shape while bears lifted them into place. Elsewhere at an open-air restaurant, a pony waiter took a manticore’s order. And still elsewhere colts and fillies and even full-grown ponies clambered up a hydra’s back to slide happily down its four necks.

“Oh Mayor,” Fluttershy began, blushing at the praise, “You don’t need to thank me, I didn’t do all that much. I’m just happy that we’re at peace with the Everfree’s animals. That’s worth the world to me.”

The Mayor looked to the Timber Wolf that was sitting placidly by her side and scratched it behind its wooden ears.

“You’re selling yourself short. Most ponies thought that some of these creatures simply could not be tamed, but you’ve made peace with all of them! You’ve well and truly accomplished the impossible!”

Fluttershy shook her head.

“Oh no, not all of them,” she clarified, “While most of them are normal animals, there are a few evil beings from the Everfree that really can’t be reasoned with. The girls and I had to fight one of them, sadly. It was an awfully frightening creature. It was...”

It still filled her stomach with dread to try and picture it, but she suddenly realized that she couldn’t actually remember just what sort of monster this was. Something felt off. This thing definitely wasn’t a mammal. She was certain it wasn’t a reptile, insect, or bird either. But then, just what sort of creature was

“Well thanks all the same, Fluttershy. We all appreciate it!” said Mayor Mare.

The feeling passed. Fluttershy’s smile returned.

“It’s truly my pleasure, Mayor."

And it really was. All around her and throughout Ponyville, animals of all shapes and sizes were living in perfect peace and harmony with the townsponies.

Fluttershy was happy.


Applejack woke up.

From habit, she could tell that it was around seven in the morning. Despite usually waking up around this time, though, she still felt much more tired than she typically did.

Ah well. The farm ain’t gonna turn upside-down if I sleep in just this once…

Her alarm clock did not agree.

Applejack nearly jumped out of her skin at the cacophonous ringing, hurriedly reaching out to silence the wailing device. Her hoof fell short, making her scooch across to the edge of the bed, which felt larger than usual. Finally she slammed her foreleg down onto the clock, ending its protests and knocking it askew. Her nerves frazzled, Applejack took a moment to calm down.

Welp, so much fer sleepin’ in. When did I even get that consarned thing?

Shrugging off the odd thought, she started to get out of bed. Complications arose when the floor turned out to be further down than she had assumed it was, causing her to tumble out of bed in a tangle of blankets.


The pony in question only heard the call at the periphery of her senses, and ignored it in favor of muttering expletives and trying to extricate herself from the blankets.

Ponyfeathers! Well this is just a great start to the day. Am I sick or somethin'?

Finding success in freeing herself from her bedding, Applejack picked herself up and walked over to her dresser, staring into the mirror situated on top. Her freckly teenage face stared back at her, same as it always did. And yet… something nagged at the back of her senses, as though she were forgetting something. She couldn’t place it, but had a difficult time shrugging off the feeling.

“Applejack, are you awake?”

This time she heard the call of her name more acutely, along with two sets of hooves coming up the stairs. Applejack did a mental double-take. The voice seemed familiar, and yet… not. She didn’t have much time to ponder, as her door opened shortly thereafter to admit two ponies.

“Well look who’s up and at ‘em! Our little sleepyhead is finally startin’ to rise with the dawn!”

“Did you sleep well, sugarcube? Come on down, breakfast is nearly ready.”

Something felt off. Despite it being one she had seen countless times before, the sight of these two cheerful ponies had Applejack lost for words. Save for two.

“Mom…? Dad…?”

Chapter 2: Life is Bittersweet

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Applejack’s father chuckled.

“Well yep! That’s us as usual, sugarcube.”

He was a rugged and powerfully-built stallion with a bright green coat and eyes to match, a blonde mane and tail, and his flank adorned with the image of a bountiful apple tree. His wife stood beside him, a stunning orange-coated, blue-eyed beauty. Her mane, atop which sat a Stetson hat, was mostly deep orange-red with lighter streaks of orange and yellow within. Her cutie mark was of an orange quarter next to a glass goblet full of the fruit’s juice.

AJ’s father raised an eyebrow at his daughter’s silent wide-eyed stare, looking slightly concerned.

“What’s the matter, Jackie’? Did'ja have a bad dream?”

Applejack hesitated. Something felt very off about this. Despite the simplicity of her father’s question, she was having difficulty in finding an appropriate answer.

Did I?

“Well!” said Applejack’s mother, half-laughing, “Judgin’ by the state of the bedside, our lil’ filly had quite a battle with her alarm clock. I bet she’s still tired, Bloomberg.”

Bloomberg Apple followed his wife’s gaze and let out a full laugh when he spotted Applejack’s sheets and blankets spilled all over the floor.

“Ha! Ah’m thinkin’ you’re right about that, Clementine,” Bloomberg said, “Nothin’ a hearty breakfast won’t fix, right? Ah made apple pancakes and haybacon!”

At the sound of the proposal, Applejack’s stomach rumbled loudly, snapping her out of her daze.

“Heh, that does sound pretty nice right about now,” Applejack said, blushing, “Mom’s right, I’m probably just groggy. Let’s eat!”


Entering the dining room revealed a downright picturesque scene. The table was neatly set for six, with three of the places already occupied. Macintosh was chattering up a storm between bites, regaling Granny Smith at length with some tale or another. For her part, Granny smiled and listened politely to her grandson’s story while she ate, nodding and murmuring in acknowledgement at key moments. Seated in a high-chair nearby was a small yellow foal who gurgled happily as she devoured a bowl of applesauce. Granny Smith and Macintosh turned around upon hearing their family’s returning hoofsteps.

“Mornin’ Sis! Ah gotta say, you actually gettin’ up with yer alarm is a right ol’ surprise! I was sure you were gonna sleep well past noon, like usual. We’ve already started eatin’, but there’s still plenty left for ya.”

Granny nodded and gestured to the table with a hoof. Lo and behold, there was absolutely no shortage of food. A gigantic stack of apple pancakes was the centerpiece, surrounded by a mountain of haybacon, several different fruits and vegetables (including plenty of apples, of course), a bottle of pure maple syrup, and a large pitcher of orange juice. The very sight of the morning feast set Applejack’s mouth watering, which did not escape her parents’ notice.

“Heh heh! Whatcha’ waitin’ for, sugarcube? Have at it!” said Bloomberg.

Applejack needed no further prompting. While Bloomberg casually resumed his place at the table and Clementine helped little Applebloom eat her applesauce, Applejack practically flew to her seat, which already had a fully-loaded plate. She licked her lips and bit into the apple pancakes. To say it was delicious would be an incredible understatement. The taste simply wasn’t possible to describe with words like “sweet” or “savory”. The pancakes tasted like nostalgia. They tasted like home. They tasted like togetherness and love. She proceeded to take several more bites, the beautiful flavor pervading her senses as she listened to her family happily chatting and laughing around her.

“So have I ever told you kids why I wear this hat?” Clementine asked.

“No ma, I don’t think ya rightly have!” said Macintosh.

“Well you see,” Clementine began, adjusting the hat in question, “Back when I lived in Manehattan, my older sister Valencia was in charge of strikin’ deals with farms and orchards across Equestria. One day, she was busy with other assignments, and we needed somepony to close our deal with Sweet Apple Acres. I volunteered. But while Valencia was typically all business, I wanted to really try and fit in with our new country clients. So I bought this hat to try and look the part, but I had never actually been out to the country before and… well...” Clementine sighed, smiling sheepishly, “Bloomberg, do you wanna tell ‘em this part?”

“Ah’d be delighted to!” Bloomberg replied eagerly, taking a quaff of orange juice, “So here ah am, waitin’ to meet with this business representative, when all of a sudden this mare- clearly from the city -walks up to me wearin’ this big ol’ hat right out of a Calamity Mane show. Then she says, and ah quote,”

Clementine rolled her eyes, bracing herself for Bloomberg’s re-enactment.

“Well howdy there, pardner! Clementine Orange’s th’name, an’ Ah’m lookin’ ta see if’n y’all’d be amenable ta circlin’ our wagons an’ strikin’ a bargain with us Oranges to have a rootin’ tootin’ shindig of a time sellin’ yer vittles!”

Bloomberg and the others cracked up as Clementine half-smiled and half-cringed, putting a hoof over her face.

“And so Ah just looked at her and said ‘Uh… you do know that we speak Equestrian here too, right?’”

A second wave of laughter burst forth, and even Clementine couldn’t help but giggle.

“I certainly had a lot to learn back then,” Clemetine said, “It’s funny now, but back then I was absolutely mortified when I realized how off the mark I was. I thought our deal was over before it began. I’m still amazed you were able to laugh it off the way you did.”

Bloomberg smiled. “Well when Ah saw how embarrassed ya looked, Ah knew ya couldn’t have meant any harm by it. Wouldn’t have made sense to get mad.”

Applejack gulped down her latest bite of food, “So ya kept that hat to remind ya of when you first met?”

“That’s exactly right, Jackie! It kinda became our own little in-joke from then on, we had a lot of laughs about it. Of course…” Clemetine gave Bloomberg a half-lidded gaze, “Eventually though, it stopped being a joke.”

Bloomberg grinned widely, “And judgin’ by the state o’ things today, that deal went better’n either of us expected!”

The whole family chuckled with mirth, sharing in the heartwarming memories. Applejack was at home, surrounded by all the ponies she loved most as they enjoyed a wonderful breakfast at the start of a promising new day.

Applejack was ha-

“Jackie? Why are you crying?”

Applejack blinked. Still giggling, she lifted a hoof to her face. Sure enough, there were tears. Quite a lot, in fact. She tried to stop laughing, but her breath caught in her throat.

“Sugarcube? What’s the matter?”

Applejack looked left and right at her family’s concerned stares. Nothing had gone wrong. Everything was perfect. And yet, tears were streaming out of Applejack’s eyes, her chest was tightening, and her laughs were becoming more and more anxious. This situation wasn’t at all strange, and yet it felt impossible. A thought suddenly entered her mind.

With a strangled gasp, Applejack’s laughs morphed into hysterical sobbing, her parents rushing to her side.


“Now are you sure you’re alright, darlin’?”

Having brought Applejack out to the porch of their home in the wake of her episode, Bloomberg and Clementine Apple comfortingly sat on either side of their daughter. Applejack nodded. Her eyes were red and her nose was slightly runny, but she was otherwise calm.

“Yeah. I’m not too sure what got into me. I think… I think maybe I really might’ve had a bad dream, and it just caught up with me.”

Clementine gently nuzzled her.

“There’s no shame in that, Jackie. Happens to the best of us every now and again.”

Bloomberg nodded in agreement.

“Still, you gave us quite the scare, Sugarcube. How's about you take the day off from your chores? The farm won’t suffer if you just take one day to relax.”

At this suggestion, Applejack furiously shook her head.

“No! I’m tellin’ ya, I’m fine! Lemme do my chores with you. I’ve gotta learn to pull my weight if I’m to run this farm someday!” She felt a pang as she said this, though she hid it.

Clementine and Bloomberg looked at one another and smiled.

“Alright, Sugarcube,” Bloomberg stood up and started walking towards the fields, Clementine following suit, “But ah’d like you to take one of the less-strenuous chores, just to be safe. How's about you follow us as we’re applebucking and de-weed the orchards?”

AJ nodded, jumping off the porch and onto the grass.

“Sounds good to me! Where’s the weeding equipment?”

“It’s in the barn, Jackie. In the cupboard behind the big stack of hay bales. We always keep it in the same spot.”


Sweat rolled down Applejack’s brow. She certainly wasn’t complaining though, as it was the result of very satisfying work. She used her small, mouth-held sickle to cut away excess plant matter, giving her the access she needed to pluck out the offending weeds, and then apply herbicide (all-natural, of course) to prevent it from regrowing. And the orchard definitely needed it; dandelions, ragweed, and small creeper vines were out in force. But AJ’s efforts gradually lessened them, tossing them into a sack to be used as compost later.

Nearby, heavy thumps and the pitter-patter of falling fruit could be heard as Bloomberg and Clementine harvested the apples from their trees. Applejack and her parents worked in tandem in comfortable silence as the sun shone through the trees overhead and a soft breeze rustled the branches. Bloomberg wiped his own brow after he bucked the last tree in the immediate area.

“Alright, that does it for this group. What say we finish up one more and then take some rest?”

“Sounds good to me, Bloomberg,” said Clementine, “Might be nice to go into town, too. I hear the Ponyville Fair is going on for the next few days. How does that sound, Jackie?”

“That sounds great! Let’s go, time’s a’ wastin’!”

Applejack cantered over to the next area and recommenced her weeding as her parents went back to applebucking. Quickly dispatching several dandelions, Applejack looked around for her next target and spotted something odd amongst the shadows of a denser group of trees. Trotting closer for a better look, Applejack saw plants like no others she had seen before. The bases had shiny, purple-black leaves above which sat clusters of black rose-like flowers. From among the flowers emerged light-purple vines which either crept along the ground or wound tightly around the roots of any nearby apple trees.

“Mom! Dad! Come take a look at this! What sorta weeds are these?”

Following their daughter’s call, Clementine and Bloomberg quickly cantered to her side. Upon inspecting their daughter’s discovery, Clementine put a hoof over her mouth and Bloomberg let out a low whistle.

“Boy howdy… good eye, Sugarcube. We’ve gotta get rid o’ these, pronto.”

“But what are they?”

“They’re called Une weeds, Jackie,” Said Clementine.

Applejack raised an eyebrow at the unfamiliar word. “Oo-nay?” she attempted.

“That’s right, Sugarcube, Une. These lil’ buggers wrap around a tree’s roots and make it produce way more buds, flowers and fruits than usual. We got here just in time.”

Looking up, Applejack could indeed see that the affected trees were practically bursting with apples.

“Ah, I getcha! But wait a minute… if they make the trees put out a bumper crop, ain’t that a good thing?

Clementine shook her head. “No, Jackie. It ain’t good at all. The Une might make the tree feel real good, but it drastically reduces their lifespan. If they go unchecked, these trees’ll be dead within the year.”

“They make the trees feel good, but they’re killin’ ‘em? Why?”

Bloomberg shrugged. “Well, Ah’m sure some egghead from Canterlot could go on a spiel ‘bout the exacts, but Ah really think it comes down to this: sometimes the most dangerous things in life… are the ones that don’t really seem all that bad at first.”

“That’s right, Jackie,” said Clementine, "It’s easy to tell if something’s hurting you if it makes you feel bad, but by makin’ them feel good, the Une tricks the trees into thinkin’ nothing’s wrong. That’s where the Une gets its other name: Creeping Happiness.”

Applejack fell silent, drinking in her parents’ words. Looking grave, she nodded softly a few moments later before speaking up again.

“So... how do we get rid of ‘em?”

“Oh, well luckily that’s easy as apple pie,” Bloomberg said, “Just cut, pluck, and spray, like what you’ve been doin’ this whole time. A weed’s a weed, after all. In fact, give yer mother an’ me some o’ those sickles, let’s do this right.”

Passing out the weeding tools, the three set to removing the Une weeds from the grove. AJ looked unusually solemn as she worked, cutting the vines, uprooting the plant, and spraying any leftover roots, being very thorough in the extermination. After an hour or so, the grove was free of any Une weeds. The sun even seemed to show through the trees much more brightly than before.

“And that, sugarcubes, is what I call a good day’s work. What say we get to that fair?”

“Sounds good to me, Bloomberg! Come on, Jackie, let’s have some fun!”

“...Alright,” said AJ with a half-hearted smile.


Bloomberg and Clementine talked animatedly as they followed the road to town. Applejack trailed a little bit behind, lost in thought. Nothing seemed to make any sense. The day had been wonderful, and it was set to get even better. By all rights, Applejack should have been happy.

So why wasn’t she?

Reaching the edge of town, the fairgrounds full of bustling happy ponies was on full display.

“Boy howdy!” said Bloomberg, “Looks like it’s gonna be one heck of a fair this year!”

“You’ve got that right! Come on Jackie, let’s join ‘em!”


Bloomberg and Clementine blinked, turning around to focus on their daughter. She looked oddly dejected.

“What’s the matter, Sugarcube? We’ve walked all this way already. Now let’s go to the fair, you’ve earned it!”

“Your father’s right, Jackie, it’s okay. Plus, I know you want to try and break your record at apple bobbing. If you win, I’ll even give you my hat!”

“No, no!” Applejack shouted, trembling, “It ain’t okay at all! You two… you aren’t supposed to be here!”

“What?!” said Clementine, taken aback, “That’s crazy talk, AJ! We’re your parents, and we’ll always be here for you.”

Tears began to fall from Applejack’s eyes as her trembling intensified. She could barely believe what she was about to say, and felt ready to choke on her words. But finally, she gave voice to the thought that had entered her mind earlier that morning.

“N-no… y-you two… y-y-you died! You’re not supposed to be alive!”

Bloomberg and Clementine stood very still. Save for Applejack’s soft weeping, silence reigned for several minutes. Finally, Bloomberg broke the silence.

“...It doesn’t have to be that way, sugarcube.”

Applejack’s tear-stained face looked up at his in utter surprise.

Clementine nodded. “He’s right. We… we didn't get to spend nearly as much time with you as we should have. But… now we have all the time in the world.”

Applejack’s crying had ceased. She fell silent again as the gears turned in her head.

“...I’d like that. My whole life, I’ve wanted that so badly. I wanted to share so many things with you. Hear all sorts of stories from you, and tell some of my own. I've wanted to introduce you to my friends, help raise 'Bloom with you... All I've ever wanted is to see you two again.”

Bloomberg and Clementine’s eyebrows raised.


Applejack cut them off, shaking her head.

“But… no. I can’t have that. Not ever.”

In the blink of an eye, Applejack’s gangly teenage form disappeared. In her place was a full-grown mare.

“Because as things stand… I’d be living one great big lie.”

Silence reigned once more as Applejack’s parents beheld their daughter. But after a moment, they smiled, positively beaming at her.

“Now there’s the filly we raised!” exclaimed Bloomberg.

“I know it’s been difficult, what with us leaving so soon,” said Clementine, “but you’ve grown up into such a strong and beautiful mare, Jackie. I couldn’t be more proud.”

“Mom… Dad… I-I have to go,” Applejack was fighting back her tears, but managed to hold herself together.

“We understand, Jackie. It was so nice to see you again. Oh, and I believe this is yours.”

Clemetine reached up and removed the Stetson hat from her head, placing it atop Applejack’s. A single tear escaped AJ’s eye.

“Go get ‘em, sugarcube. We’ll always be right with you. Say hi to your friends for us.”

Tears flowed freely from Applejack’s eyes, but she was smiling.

“You betcha. Mom, Dad… goodbye.”

And slowly, the world around them faded to white.

Chapter 3: Life is a Struggle

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Applejack woke up.

It was dark, save for a single beam of sunlight entering from a hole in the roof of wherever she was. Her head ached. From the scent of hay and dust she realized she was in her barn, but any measure of relief the familiar location granted was quickly dispelled when she looked at her immediate surroundings. All around her, ponies were bound and unconscious. Some of them she didn’t know, some she did, and with a start she realized her closest friends were among them. Even Spike was there. And every single one of them had a contented smile on their face, as though sleeping peacefully.

What in tarnation is this…?

Trying to get up, Applejack realized that her limbs were also bound. And with a thrill of horror, she discovered that her bindings were not rope, but large thorny purple vines. She thrashed against them to free herself and succeeded, the tendrils sluggishly falling away. Stepping over to her friends, she could see that they were likewise wrapped up in the vines quite thoroughly. Even Princess Twilight’s wings were held at her sides by a tendril coiling around her.

Don’t worry girls, I’ll getcha out of here in a jiffy.

Applejack took hold of one of the vines constricting Twilight and pulled, but found that they had a much more secure grip than the ones that had held her. Unable to make any progress against them, she let go and prepared to search the area to see what more she could learn about their current predicament. She never got the chance.

“Why hello, my little pony.”

Applejack gasped and jumped about a foot in the air at the sound of the voice, whipping around to face its source. Lying casually under the beam of light was… what looked to be a pony at first glance. Its body was that of a tall, beautiful, slender mare with a deep purple coat, dazzling pink eyes, and a gentle smile. Second and third glances revealed that her true nature was likely much more disturbing: Where a mane and tail would normally begin were clusters of pure-black roses, from among which sprouted forests of light-purple vines, many of which trailed off into the darkness around her. The very same vines currently binding Applejack’s friends.

“Wha-” Applejack sputtered, her head offering another twinge of pain, “What in the hay...?”

The creature giggled.

“Do not be alarmed,” she said, voice as sweet as honey, “I’m a bringer of happiness. I don’t know what could have disturbed you, but I promise I’ll return you to your dream very shortly.”

Not a moment too soon, Applejack spotted several vines creeping up on her out of the corner of her eye and kicked them all aside, quickly returning to face the creature again in one fluid motion. The being blinked in surprise.

“Is something the matter, little one?”

“Yer consarned right it is!” AJ snapped. “You… you…”

Applejack’s head throbbed once more, but memories began to surface and the pieces started to fall into place. Like a veil lifting, Applejack recalled just who and what she was looking at.

“... You’re that monster from the Everfree. The one Princess Celestia warned all of us about! The… the Alura Une!”

The creature smiled again and stood to her full height.

“Indeed, that is what I am called.”

The Alura Une began to saunter over. Passing by a few of the unconscious ponies, she pursed her lips and gently blew a sparkling stream of what looked like pollen into their faces. Their smiles widened in response to this.

“Now then, I’m not sure what went wrong with your dream of happiness, but I assure you-”


In a flash, Applejack rocketed forward with the strength of all four of her legs, her head slamming into Alura Une’s chest. The floral creature grunted and was nearly tossed across the barn, but several of her mane and tail vines lashed out and anchored her to the ground, resulting in her only being forced backwards several feet while maintaining her footing.

“Nothin’ went wrong. There’s just no way I’d wanna stay in that bad joke you call a happy dream!” Applejack’s nostrils flared in fury as she pawed the ground, “Let my friends go right now, or I’ll give ya the flank whoopin’ of a lifetime.”

Alura Une wasn’t smiling anymore, but seemed more disappointed than angry. She shook her head, clucking her tongue.

“That was terribly uncalled for.”

Out of the darkness, several more vines shot towards Applejack. With a cry of surprise, she managed to duck and weave out of their way and bolted for the door.

“I believe you’ve misunderstood what's happening. I have a symbiotic relationship with the ponies of Equestria.”

Ignoring Alura Une’s words, Applejack frantically tried to open the main door of the barn, only to find that her adversary’s vines had crept into the frame and hinges, holding it shut tight. Racing to the windows (and nearly tripping over a few sleeping ponies in the process) revealed more of the same.

“You don’t want to leave, little pony. Nor do your friends, in fact,” Alura Une’s smile returned, “I’ve given them happiness, and in exchange I get to share in it. I do love tasting their bliss. Sirens and Windigos may feed on hatred, and Changelings prefer love, but happiness is the grandest flavor of all.”

With no avenues of escape left to her, Applejack charged at Alura Une. The not-pony was ready for her, stepping away and whipping around some vines from her mane to smack Applejack aside. Recovering quickly, Applejack turned and charged again to the same effect, the process repeating several times. The fifth or sixth time that Alura’s mane-vines lashed out, however, Applejack met them head on, bit down onto them and reversed her momentum. The force of the yank caused Alura Une to stumble forward a little, and Applejack whirled around to deliver a full-force buck. But just when she was about to let loose, several vines grasped her hind legs and flung her across the barn into a wall. She fell to the floor in a heap amongst several ponies. As though nothing had happened, Alura casually bent down to blow pollen over some other sleepers.

“Look at their smiles, little one. They appreciate what I do for them. The dreams I give them are so lifelike and real that even after I've had my fill and left, they never wake up again.”

Applejack groaned in pain as she tried to get to her hooves. Alura Une approached her once again.

“I give them all what every pony truly wishes for: a blissful death,” Her grin grew dangerously wide as she looked down upon Applejack, “So... is what I do really that bad?”

Applejack found her hooves, glaring at her opponent.

“You suck out their life by feedin’ em lies. Yer no ‘bringer of happiness’, yer just a selfish weed.”

Alura Une’s smile vanished once more, replaced by an outright scowl for the first time.

“You’re an ungrateful little thing, aren’t you?”

A storm of vines flew at Applejack from seemingly every direction. She dodged, but avoiding them all proved to be impossible as she was pelted by several of the thorny lashes with many more on the way. Applejack ran like fury to escape the vicious rain of punishment. Vines on the floor shifted to trip her up, earning her a few more blows each time. She finally dove behind the cover of a large pile of hay bales below the loft. Alura Une called out once more.

“Please, little pony, don’t make this harder on yourself. I’ll give you some time to decide, but it would really be best for the both of us if you let me send you back to your dream willingly. I’ll give you a little time to think about it.”

Applejack panted, reclining against the hay bales. Her body ached and was covered in scratches, fatigue starting to set in along with a chill of despair.

Consarn it! There’s just no way I can take her. And she knows it too, it’s why she ain’t comin’ after me yet. She’s… just way too strong. Girls… Mom… Dad… sorry.

Applejack suddenly realized the direction her thoughts were going. She fiercely shook her head to clear it, then massaged her temples with her forehooves.

No! No way can I start thinkin’ like that. Come on Applejack, there’s gotta be somethin’ you can do to get outta this. There’s just gotta be! Come on, think, think! What can I do to-

Applejack’s eyes widened as she realized what was directly across from her. A hopeful smile crept onto her face.

“We always keep it in the same spot…”


Alura Une lazily traced circles in the dirt floor with a tendril. It had been nearly fifteen minutes, and she hadn’t heard so much as a peep out of the pony hidden behind the hay bales.

“Alright little one, that’s more than enough time. I wish I didn’t have to, but I’m coming over to bring you out now.”

As she approached the stack of bales though, it exploded outwards without any warning and filled the air with loose hay, dust, and flying hay bundles. Flinching back, Alura Une threw up several vines and deflected the oncoming missiles, readying herself for what she’d find when the dust cleared.

Except… there was no sign of her quarry. Nothing but scattered hay and an open, empty cabinet. Alura Une whipped her head around left and right. There was no possible way the farmpony could have escaped. Therefore, she must have fled to another hiding spot under the cover of the tumbling hay bales. It was but a minor trifle, though. After all, there were only so many places that she could hide. That being said, the farmpony wasn’t visible anywhere at ground level, and Alura Une had covered all of the obvious blind spots. Where was she?

Wait. She wasn’t visible at ground level...

Alura Une’s eyebrows rose. As if in answer to her realization, several quick hoofsteps sounded from the hay loft above, Alura Une’s head quickly craning up to locate the source. It didn’t take long to find. Applejack had leapt off the hay loft, and was careening towards Alura Une as if in slow motion. She had a bucket in her hooves, and before Alura Une had any chance to react, she forced it over the plant creature’s face. Whatever was in the bucket completely drenched Alura’s head and front, and she sputtered and struggled for a few moments before some of her vines pulled the bucket free and tossed it aside. She rounded on Applejack. Oddly, the farmpony was just calmly observing her, and was also now wearing saddlebags for some reason. No matter.

“You’re awfully persistent, my little pony. Do you really hate happiness that mu-”

Alura Une’s breath caught in her throat as a tingle ran over her body.

“H-huh? What in the world-?”

She didn’t have much time to ponder. Her joints buckled, eyes wrenching shut as she fell to the floor thrashing. Whereas she had been soft-spoken before, Alura Une now let out a horrific shriek. She was wracked with pain unlike any she had ever felt before.

Applejack smiled grimly.

“Seems Dad was right. A weed’s a weed.”

Reaching into one of her saddlebags, she pulled out a sickle from among several empty bottles of herbicide, gripped it firmly in her teeth, and charged. Her target, however, was not the Alura Une herself. Instead, Applejack opted to start running a circuit around the room, severing all the now-writhing vines that held the sleepers in their grasp.

When she was about a third of the way around, though, the vines suddenly uncoiled and receded away from their captives. That was all the warning Applejack got before she was forced to dodge several wild vine swings.


Alura Une was standing again, though it would be incorrect to say that she had recovered. The bloodshot state of her eyes, the withering of the grasslike fur on her face, and the random winces and spasms were all clear signs that the liquid agony was wreaking continual havoc on her body. But whether by adrenaline or sheer anger, she was working through it. A direct confrontation could no longer be avoided.

With a mixed scream of fury and pain, Alura Une flung every vine that she could at her would-be prey. Applejack ducked and dodged and evaded, but whereas before she had felt desperate, Applejack now felt empowered. She was well in the throes of her second wind, and the victory of shattering Alura Une’s calm had also helped clear her own head. Alura’s rage was Applejack’s greatest advantage, as the strikes were unthinking, uncoordinated, and easily predicted. With each dodge, Applejack whipped her head around to sever a vine, and this only made Alura Une more and more livid. However, it became clear that dodging and cutting vines one at a time like this would tire Applejack out much faster than her opponent. She needed to strike a decisive blow.

Whirling towards Alura Une, Applejack charged. As expected, Alura brought all of her vines to bear to stop Applejack from closing the distance. But with a few quick moves, Applejack opened her saddlebags and stopped short to catapult two bagfuls of herbicide bottles at Alura, who frantically moved to avoid them and realized too late that they were empty. This gave Applejack the opening she needed to run past Alura Une’s wall of vines (chopping plenty of them short in the process) and shift her momentum to slam herself into Alura Une’s side. On instinct, Alura anchored herself to the ground with her mane and tail vines, pulling them taut to absorb the force of the tackle. This was just what Applejack was waiting for. She leapt up over Alura Une’s back, and with a single swing of her sickle, sheared off Alura Une’s tail.

Alura Une shrieked once more, seeing red as she now physically flung herself at Applejack. The farmpony hacked away with her sickle and took a few more of the mane-tendrils, but had it knocked from her grasp as Alura Une and her remaining vines fell upon her.

“You’re mine!” Alura seethed.

She took in a large breath, only to have it knocked out of her when Applejack brought her back legs up and kicked Alura Une across the room. Pollen flew everywhere, and Applejack was careful not to breathe any in. Alura managed to catch herself before hitting the ground thanks to the vines that now encircled her prey. She tightened her grip and began to slowly but surely drag Applejack towards her.

“I’ve got you now, you unhappy, ungrateful child. Any last words before I send you to eternal bliss?”

Applejack struggled against the vines constricting her neck and torso, but managed to stand back up. She smirked and dug in her hooves, utterly halting Alura’s pull.

“Just to be clear, Sugarcube, who exactly has got who here?”

Through the grip of her vines Alura Une felt Applejack’s muscles tense up with incredible strength, and as usual Alura attempted to anchor herself down to counter whatever move came next. But with sudden terror, Alura realized that she had no other vines with which to do so. Her tail was completely gone, and most of the vines from her mane were either sheared to the scalp or shortened far too much to be usable. The remaining ones were gripping Applejack, and Alura simply couldn’t redirect them in time.

“Ya picked the wrong ponies to mess with, varmint!”

Releasing all of her built-up strength, Applejack pulled. Devoid of any anchoring, Alura Une was lifted clean off her hooves. The vines around Applejack relaxed, but the farmpony’s forelegs gripped the bundle of tendrils like a vise, refusing to let them escape. Pulling again into a turn, Applejack began to swing the plant monster in a massive circle in the air. Alura Une could only yell as she was spun around and around by what was left of her mane, her primary weapons turned utterly against her. At the peak of a large swing, she felt a sudden jerk and was pulled inward, careening towards Applejack as she saw the farmpony wind up for a buck.

“Special delivery from the Apple family!!” Applejack yelled, and released her back legs like two massive coiled springs right at the oncoming monster’s face.


Twilight Sparkle woke up.

She groaned as her head throbbed, compounding the severe disorientation she felt. She focused and took several deep breaths to center herself. She seemed to be fine, though her wings ached a bit. Blinking and looking around, she found that she was in a barn. Likely Applejack’s. Dozens of other ponies including four of her friends seemed to be in a similar state as her, groaning and trying to get their bearings. Spike was still snoozing, mumbling something about Rarity and ice cream.

What in Equestria? Why are we all-

Neurons fired in her brain as memories flooded back. She hurriedly looked around.

The Alura Une! Celestia warned us! Were we captured? Where is it now–

It wasn’t long before Twilight spotted what she was looking for, though it wasn’t quite what she expected. Unconscious and looking knocked silly was what could only have been the Alura Une. However, its viny mane and tail were sheared completely off, the clusters of black roses at the base of each having been torn to shreds. Much of the grasslike fur on its face and front was withered and falling out, and its limbs were bound with a few of its own severed vines. Piling up the remaining vines nearby was-


The pony in question turned to face Twilight and the others. She was covered in dirt and scrapes and looked absolutely exhausted, but she smiled anyway.

“Howdy girls! Have a good rest?”

Epilogue: Life Goes On

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“So it’s over?” Applejack asked.

Twilight nodded, sipping her tea. It had been several days since the Alura Une incident, and the girls now found themselves at one of Ponyville’s open-air restaurants for some much-needed R&R.

“That’s right. The Alura Une is locked up in Tartarus now, so we won’t be seeing her again for a long time, if ever. Princess Celestia assured me that she turned the key herself.”

“That’s good,” said Applejack, “I don’t even wanna think about what else that thing coulda' done.”

“I’m just relieved that nopony was seriously hurt,” said Fluttershy, taking a bite of salad, “Celestia and Luna said that Alura Une’s feeding was stopped just in time, so there won’t be any side-effects.”

“I agree, Fluttershy. And good riddance to that dreadful creature. Though I think I may just make that dress I saw,” said Rarity, sipping at her own tea, “I wonder... if it was forcing us to dream, why didn’t Princess Luna realize what was happening?”

Twilight shrugged.

“Well that’s pretty simple. Luna mainly keeps an eye out for nightmares. Since the Alura Une gave us happy dreams, they simply escaped her notice. She was pretty appalled when she realized the oversight.”

“Happy is right!” said Rainbow Dash, “I know we were kind of in danger, but it was so awesome to be Captain of the Wonderbolts for a little while.”

“Abso-posi-lutively, Dashie!” agreed Pinkie, “I wonder if we could make friends with the Loola-Loonay and have it make awesome dream parties for everypony!”

Applejack shook her head.

“Nah, not that one. Weeds like her don’t care about anyone’s happiness but their own. We’re better off with her gone.”

“Bah, you’re probably right…” Rainbow Dash looked suddenly thoughtful, “Hey AJ, the rest of us already talked about our dreams, but what about you? What was yours?”

Applejack was silent for a few moments, picking at her food while the others waited. Finally, she nodded.

“I saw my parents again.”

Immediately the other girls tensed up. Fluttershy gasped softly. Rarity reached out and put her own hoof over Applejack’s.

“Oh my stars, darling… I can’t even imagine how you must have felt.”

“Well it certainly wasn’t the easiest thing in the world, if that’s what you mean.” To their surprise, Applejack smiled. “But honestly... I feel better about the whole thing than I thought I would. Mom and Dad’s passing happened real suddenly, see. But this dream felt so real that… well, it actually felt like I was able to say goodbye this time. Really, that’s all I wanted.”

Twilight blinked.

“That’s… that’s actually a really nice way of looking at it, Applejack. And I doubt the Alura Une anticipated that somepony would actually want an endpoint to their dream.”

Applejack nodded.

“Well that, and I realize now that there was one other thing that wasn’t quite right with my dream. You girls weren’t there.”

A collective 'awww' issued forth from the other five as Applejack picked up her mug of cider.

“Now then, I propose a toast: Here’s to us and our friendship. Let’s work together and make our lives so great that no dream can compare!”

The girls cheered and joined in on the toast. The danger had passed, and their friendship had been reaffirmed and strengthened. Applejack proceeded to have a wonderful lunch with her friends, five ponies she trusted and cherished like no other. The future ahead of them looked brighter than ever.

Truly, Applejack and her friends were happy.