“But… are ya sure you’re gonna be okay?” said Applejack.


“Whaddya mean ‘eyup’?” challenged Applejack.

Octavia blinked. “Excuse me, Applejack, but doesn’t Big Macintosh often say ‘eyup’? It means ‘yes’ if I’m not mistaken.”

Applejack bridled, scuffing the beautiful grass with a hoof. “But it was th’ WAY he said it!”

“Uht!” chided Octavia, motioning to the ground. Applejack blushed, and stopped her nervous scuffing.

They’d arrived in Neighpon early that morning, struck speechless by the radiance of the dawn as it broke across a jeweled shore of emerald grasses and pristinely painted pagodas. Applejack’s navigation had led them, not to Neighpon’s largest port, but to a small and obscure village with friendly ponies and curious docks that offered not only a place to tie up Applejack’s rented boat, but also the use of mysterious hoists and cranes. These proved very useful in removing the musicians’ gear, and Big Macintosh had assembled the cart that they’d be riding on.

All but him. For Big Macintosh, there were the sturdy poles that led forward to his mighty horse-collar. Faced with the need to push not only ponies but also a heavy stack of DJ speakers, they’d continued the harness past the belly-band and hooked it to the middle of Big Macintosh’s collar, allowing him to take the load on his shoulders. Vinyl had suggested a bridle to help steer him, and reins that could lay between the hames of his collar, and both Applejack and Big Macintosh had looked at her very strangely.

“Well, what are they for?” Vinyl had asked.

“Them’s part of th’ collar,” answered Big Macintosh, and Vinyl had not pressed further.

Now, Big Macintosh trotted in place, clearly eager to get underway, and Applejack fussed over him, just as obviously resistant.

“Don’t you think he can pull our cart?” asked Octavia. “Why are you so worried?”

“Aw, it ain’t that,” said Applejack.

“What, then?”

Applejack and Big Macintosh pouted at each other, and Applejack scuffed the grass again before remembering. Blushing, she spoke.

“Of course I don’t doubt our Big Macintosh. It’s jes’… well, on the one hoof I hope you all have a wonderful time in this beautiful place, an’ on the other hoof? I guess ah jes’ hope there’s a part of you that remembers our happy home, safe an’ waiting for you.”

Vinyl Scratch piped up. “It’s safe here! We have Kirin!”

“Ah know that,” said Applejack, with a sharp glance at Big Macintosh. “I was jes’ thinkin’… sweet Celestia, what do they have on that there boat comin’ in? Is that… fishes? Looks like they got a mess o’ dead fishes!”

Scratch followed Applejack’s disbelieving gaze. “Oh, that… yeah, it’s safe here but it’s kinda different. Those are fishes. You can eat fishes. We’ve got lots of those. And rice, miso…”

“Oats? Grass?” boggled Applejack. “Y’all got me shy to stomp on just plain ol’ grass, and now I see them unicorns done kilt a whole bunch of fishes and that’s okay?”

“Not needlessly!” protested Vinyl Scratch. “They’ve got to keep their strength up! The system works. I promise, the food here is good once you get used to it.”

“Strength up fer what?” said Applejack. “Dancin’ across grass? What if I din’t want to eat no pieces of fishes and I wanted to eat some grass?”


“You tell me!”

Vinyl shook her head. “You’re used to grass, plus you’re an earth pony… anyway it’s for you to tell me. Are ya hungry? I know ship food gets monotonous, because I remember what it was like coming to Ponyville when I was little. Apple turnip cakes might store well, but they certainly don’t taste as good as grass.”

Applejack winced. “Granny does her best! And I am a lil’ bit hungry now that you mention it, and what does me bein’ an earth pony have to do with anything?”

Vinyl laid her ears back. “I only mean, Neighponnese unicorns are different. It’s cultural, ya know? There isn’t as much of a need for our earth ponies to eat fish… in ancient times our samurai protected the villages and needed to be strong and fierce, and unicorns still play a special role with the…”

“Kirin!” cried Applejack.

“Yeah, you got it! Now that we’re in Neighpon it might be a good idea to tell you more about…”

“No,” said Applejack, “I mean here come some Kirin right now!”

Down they came, trotting gracefully on a rainbow that formed below their cloven hooves, calling “Greetings! Welcome!”… but the gracefulness was short-lived.

Big Macintosh, overcome with excitement, began to prance and leap.

So did the cart he was harnessed to, and the sturdiness of the harness’s attachment to his collar delivered his force undiminished.

“Hey—HEY!” screamed Vinyl Scratch. Her horn flared desperately to life, and a field of blue magic caught one of her decks as it flew over the side. She heaved a deep breath, her eyes wild. “YOU ARE SO FIRED, YOU’RE SO FUCKING FIRED RIGHT NOW…”

And just like that, the Kirin were among them, zeroing in on the panicky horses, delivering pats and soothing words. “Please don’t be upset? Whatever the problem is, we’ll take care of it.”

The results were immediate, and also opposite. The female Kirin had gone to Big Macintosh. The instant he got a close look at her, he quit capering, and blushed even more scarlet than usual.

The male had cuddled Vinyl Scratch, and his magic firmly took the turntable from her and placed it on the now-quiet cart. “There there, little one,” he cooed. She trembled madly, her face contorting, and then burst into noisy, squalling tears in his hooves.

“Whut… jes’ happened?” said Applejack, and took off her hat, surveying the aftermath.

The female Kirin, seeing that Big Macintosh had quieted, turned to Applejack with a smile. “This strong horse has never seen Kirin before! He became so excited. Please do forgive him.”

“Uh-huh,” said Applejack, wryly. “Ain’t the first pretty Kirin that’s seen him excited. You ain’t seen nothin’ yet, missy.”

“I beg your pardon?” said the Kirin.

Octavia was coaxing the other Kirin to let go. “Scratchie! Yes, excuse me, darling, I shall handle this…”

His ears were back in a fretful expression. “I fear she may rage further.”

“She won’t,” said Octavia firmly. “And Big Macintosh won’t jump around when he’s in harness. WILL you, Big Macintosh?”

“Eenope,” said Big Macintosh quietly, still blushing.

“Whatever got into you, anyhow?”


Applejack put her hat back on. “I reckon it’s blown over, whatever it was. Hello there! An’ what brings you to this fish-filled lil’ village by th’ sea?”

Vinyl Scratch wasn’t done. She glared petulantly at the male Kirin, and said, “I could have handled that.”

“You are so sure your reaction was needful?” he said, guardedly.

“Yeah,” said Scratch, “and I’m like the tour manager, and…”

“A tour of entertainers?” asked the female Kirin. “Oh, how nice!”

“And,” continued Scratch, “you took my deck away from me and grabbed me.”

The ponies fell silent, watching the unexpected standoff between expatriate unicorn and male Kirin. Octavia in particular marveled. What had got into her DJ friend, to flip her usual hero-worship of Kirin into this pugnaciousness?

The Kirin considered this. “Yes, I did. It seemed a valuable item to you and I feared you would drop it. The aura of your magic seemed somewhat… weak.”

“But piquant?” retorted Scratch bitterly. “Did you like touching it?”

She was trembling, and Octavia hugged her again. The Kirin frowned. “I don’t understand your distress about this. And of course! To love and support all unicorns is a blessing.”

His companion gave him a look. “Kawa, dear?”

“Yes, fair Yosuru?”

“Please wait over there.”

She gestured courteously with a hoof, and with a puzzled look, he trotted off to stand under a nearby tree.

“Kawa means no harm,” explained the female Kirin, “but he falls easily into his nature…”

“Yeah,” said Scratch plainitively. “I’m sorry…”

“Oh, please do not be!” protested Yosuru. “I am experienced enough to have seen these things. You… attached?”

“Ah swear,” announced Applejack, “I got no idea what y’all are talking about. Mind fillin’ me in?”

Scratch winced. Yosuru noted this, and took on an air of brisk, businesslike authority. “You are welcome here. Is it all of you? Or just some?”

“Me, and Tavi,” said Scratch, “and this big red idiot! I’m sorry, I won’t yell at him. No harm done, huh? And I’m telling you, I could have caught both decks. Is there any way you can pass word around, you know, horns off my decks?”

“How seriously would you wish us to take this word?” asked the Kirin. “Must we let your precious thing be destroyed, for fear of our touching it?”

Scratch looked miserable. “No, no. I’m really sorry. This isn’t how I wanted this to go…”

“Do not dwell on it,” counseled the female Kirin. “Though it may be distressing… will you need Kawa? For personal adjustments? Or myself?”

Scratch shook her head, even as Applejack said, “You would think this would get a mite less confusing as you keep carryin’ on, but it’s clear as mud. Personal what now?”

“Am Ah still fired?” asked Big Macintosh plainitively.

Vinyl Scratch turned to him. “You carry our stuff GENTLY from now on. Got it? And I think we’re done here. There will be lots of Kirin everywhere if we need ‘em, it’s not urgent to take care of it right away.”

“But take care of WHAT?” demanded Applejack.

Vinyl blinked at her. “Well, they can make Ponyville’s stud-horse there be firing blanks. Do you want to be infertile, Big Macintosh? You still gotta be our roadie, so don’t get too distracted by pretty tails along the way!”

Big Macintosh’s eyes widened. He shook his head frantically.

“Suit yourself,” replied Scratch. She looked at the female Kirin. “Maybe he’ll like Applejack. Not that she’s much more use to him! Uh, sorry again. I think we should hit the road, though. Is that okay? I’ll handle introducing these ponies to Neighpon. And if we need help we’ll ask, okay?”

The female Kirin nodded, and smiled. “Quite okay. Go with our blessing. May your music all be sweet!”

Scratch grinned. “That just proves you haven’t heard all my music. Tavi, ya ready?”

“I don’t know whether this is some diplomatic meeting that we’re doing wrong!” protested Octavia.

“No, no, nothing like that! It’s… services, that we don’t need. Or at least don’t need right now,” corrected Scratch. “Stop fidgeting, Big Macintosh, and giddyup!”

Big Macintosh had been trotting in place, but at that word, he sprang forward… or, rather, he stopped in mid-leap, looked embarrassed, and then pushed gently at his harness. The cart moved smoothly forward, and he added more and more muscle until the cart with Vinyl, Octavia and a load of musical instruments and DJ gear was zooming away across the ravishingly beautiful landscape. Soon it was gone, leaving Applejack blinking in puzzlement at the female Kirin, and the male Kirin at his diplomatic distance.

“Do ya need me to run off too?” asked Applejack. “Ah kin try to scare up some sailors, or find out if anypony’s travellin’ up Canterlot way. Usually there’s somepony who’ll serve as crew.” She twitched. “Uh, so Ah hear!”

“No, indeed!” said Yosuru. “Our hospitality extends to you too. Are you not the brave Applejack who battled terrible vampires?”

Applejack’s eyes widened. “Well, one was proper terrible an’ no mistake, and the other’s our little cuddle-fangy-pie and don’t you go fretting her. Oh, wait, there was two bad ‘uns, not countin th’ home team. Sorry! To hear Fluttershy an’ Pinkie tell it, Snowy was even worse’n Hollyhock!”

Kawa, the male Kirin, wandered back over, fascinated. “Then it is all true? In Ponyville the simple earth ponies fight monsters?”

Applejack scratched her head. “Well, there’s th’ vampires of course. A chimera tried to git Apple Bloom one day, but I settled its breakfast. Discord ain’t prop’ly a monster, more of a disaster… um, the occasional dragon, not countin’ Spike obviously… griffons is more a hot roll in th’ hay, at least Gilda, but watch out for them claws and I ain’t tellin’ you how I learned, oh and of course the hydra, and mustn’t forget the bugbear. Parasprites ain’t so bad when you leave ‘em be and don’t have unicorns playin’ fancy tricks with ‘em, Diamond Dogs ain’t prop’ly monsters at all except you got to step lively and not make silly mistakes with ‘em, Timberwolves is just part of the Zap Apple harvest to us…”

The Kirin gawped in astonishment. Kawa’s eyes were wide. “I see it is true.”

“Feel her pony heart,” said Yosuru appreciatively. “Not even a grudge!”

Applejack eeped, jumping back. “Er, that’s okay! My heart is jes’ fine where it is!”

“No, kind mare!” soothed Yosuru. “You need not fear us! I meant through Kirin methods.”

Applejack narrowed her eyes. “Right. I do remember the Kirin who came to town when we broke out in vampires. Cain’t fault her for feelin’ up a storm but I’m not quite sure where the methods come in.”

Kawa gasped. “A Kirin came to your town? All that way?”

Yosuru touched a magic-fetlocked cloven hoof to his muzzle, quieting him. “I know about this. She was very young. Still unweaned. She learned much.”

“Young and unweaned, my pony ass,” quipped Applejack. “She went with Big Macintosh, and that ain’t milk, I’ll tell ya right now. She made a big impression.” Applejack frowned.

Yosuru’s eyes widened. “Your aura!”

“Nay, her tears,” said Kawa.

It was true. Applejack’s banter had broken down as soon as she’d raised the issue of Hina, and her eyes welled up with tears. The Kirin fretted, trotting in place on the grass and not counting the bent blades for a change. Kawa glanced at Yosuru, the elder, deferentially. Yosuru bit her lip.

“Please, may we comfort your hurts?” said Yosuru, keeping her distance but directing an open, pleading gaze upon the visiting earth pony.

Applejack gulped, and tried to smile. “Ain’t you some fluffy, huggy critters… reminds me of home.”

“Is that yes?” asked Yosuru, trying to sense Applejack’s emotional state without digging too deeply into her psyche.

“Sure. C’mere.”

And Applejack cried into the Kirin mare’s untroubled mane, as she and her male companion cuddled and petted their charge. “There, there, there,” soothed Yosuru. “You can talk when you’re ready. There is no hurry. We devote ourselves to you.”

“Y’do, huh?” grumbled Applejack. “Ah shouldn’t be carryin’ on this way. Some monster-fightin’ tough mare I am!”

“Not at all,” chided Yosuru gently. “The harness-horse, he is surely your brother. The bonds of family love! How can that be wrong?”

“Nice of you to say it… maybe I’m jes’ imagining things… we’re gonna miss him so dang much…”

“The ties of the heart chafe when they are first stretched,” said Kawa.

“He has not travelled before?” said Yosuru.

Applejack sniffled. “Not sure Fillydelphia really counts. Dammit! Back in Ponyville he was more fretful than a unicorn usin’ a porcupine for a mane-brush, how come we got here and he’s dashin’ off with high steps an’ it’s me who’s the cry-filly?”

“Would you not give him the gift of joy in his journey?” suggested Kawa.

“Say what now?”

The male Kirin hugged her closer. “He seems a good horse. Won’t it hurt him to know he left you lonely?”

“Aw, now,” said Applejack, “that’s puttin’ it kinda strong. I’m worried for him, to tell you the truth. Ain’t the first time he’s left home for love, assumin’ I’m right about that. He ran away to Appleloosa once, with our second cousin Braeburn. And brung him back to live with us, even!”

“Do you see?” said Yosuru. “Pony love and family is a powerful force. Let your brother enjoy his travels with us. You’ll be there to welcome his happy return.”

Applejack sniffled, and grinned. “With a young Kirin in tow! What’d you say, unweaned? Hate to say it but our boys in Ponyville kin make use of that behavior. Hope she likes protein.”

“Who?” said Yosuru, puzzled.

“Hina! You know, the Kirin that visited us. I’m his sister, you think I don’t know his mind? He won’t say nothin’ but I’m convinced it ain’t just music he’s after.”

Yosuru blinked.

“I think not,” she said. “I don’t know Hina… but she is still a Kirin. Even in her naivete she would not presume that. We don’t work that way.”

“Did ya check her cooter when she got back?” suggested Applejack. “I reckon you manage jes’ fine. In fact from what little he was willin’ to say, she’s a real prize, top class cooter and Big Macintosh has had th’ chance to compare a few. He got mad when I tried to find out if she was better’n an alicorn Princess, and that alone speaks volumes.”

“No, I mean… We belong to all Neighpon,” said Yosuru earnestly. “Of course she could satisfy. It’s our gift.”

“Heh!” said Applejack. “You sound like Dashie! I’m sorry you din’t get to practice on our visiting farm pony. I think he’d have given you a shock!”

“There are Kirin everywhere,” said Kawa, with a shrug. “They will attend him. If he needs our services.”

“I reckon,” said Applejack. She gave him a hug, then Yosuru. “Thankee! I’ll get movin’, I need to ask about crew for sailin’ back to Canterlot. Might need to stay the night, but I don’t mind workin’ and I’m sure somepony can put me up. I surely do appreciate your snuggly ways, this is a nice country…”

Kawa cleared his throat. “YOU as well, no less than he, stand as our guest.”

Applejack froze, and glanced back at the handsome male Kirin. “Ya don’t say?”

Yosuru tsked. “Kawa, she has expressed her wishes to us.”

“Even so,” replied her companion. “Hospitality demands that I offer.”

Yosuru’s retort died in her throat, as the visiting earth pony mare not only stopped leaving, but turned to face the male Kirin with an inquisitive gaze and a flicking tail.

“Well, now,” said Applejack. “You wouldnt’a known this, but I got this friend, named Twilight Sparkle. And she’s got a friend named Trixie. And they’re a pair of unicorn mischief-makers the likes of which you ain’t never seen, but there’s one story they never would tell. Said it’s not fair to tease, ‘cos ponies don’t get to just go to Neighpon…”

“Please go on,” said Kawa.

“I intend to,” said Applejack. “Seems as they departed Neighpon with Discord an’ our Princess Celestia, somepony saw fit to entertain our unicorns and alicorns with a little Neighponnese send-off. With Kirin. Male Kirin. Four of ‘em. And the sheer smugness on these unicorns, well, it told a story all its own. And that’s around when Twilight Sparkle refused to tell any more, on account of it would be rude to Princess Celestia. Which I’ll tell you is purest horse-hockey, ‘cos she’s a mare jes’ like anypony and I’m kinda proud of her for gettin’ out and shakin’ it a little, after all those years!”

Yosuru and Kawa studied her for a while.

“What are you asking?” said Yosuru. “If, indeed, you are asking?”

“Dang right I am,” said Applejack. “Do you have special Kirin stallions with rare talents for fuckin’?”

Kawa gave a little half-smile, and Yosuru gently cuffed him with a fluffy, cloven hoof. “Oh, tell her.”

“All Kirin stallions,” corrected Kawa. “It is our duty, and our preciousest gift.”

“Bein’ a proper mare-melter?” said Applejack.

“Life,” said Kawa solemnly.

Applejack’s ears went back for a moment, and she re-settled her hat on her head.

“Run that by me again?” she said. “Are Twi and Trixie gonna pop out with Kirin twins?”

Both Kirin flinched, but covered it with practiced diplomatic poise.

“You misunderstand,” said Yosuru. “It is not that sort of gift. Kirin exist alongside pony society. We don’t seed ponies. We provide comfort. And we make possible what would be impossible…”

“For unicorn mares,” concluded Kawa.

Applejack’s brow scrunched as she worked it out. “Mebbe… kinda like they done for the Princess Luna… Ah got it! Unicorns, huh? Do you mean that in Neighpon, earth ponies and unicorns can make families and have foals all they want because you critters get in there and prime those pussies for ‘em?”

Yosuru’s diplomacy was sorely tested by the ebullient crassness of the Ponyville mare. Kawa, on the other hand, looked gloriously smug.

“Any unicorn pussy,” he confirmed. “And health care. And for when they wish no foals.”

Applejack turned to the female Kirin. “And kin Kirin pussy do the same thing for a stallion? Make him gush like a zebra, or cork up? Uh, except that’d hurt somethin’ awful, don’t ask me how I know…”

Yosuru’s smile was awkward, but sincere. “We have other magic gifts. All Kirin have great powers. Kirin mares devote themselves to pleasuring. We are very good at absorbing magic. We share that. But it is the stallions who excel at husbandry.”

“Works on stallions, too,” admitted Kawa, “but some don’t like it that way. And it’s far more difficult.”

“How so?” pressed Applejack, swishing her tail again.

“There is no direct connection to the parts…”

Applejack laughed. “Got ya! You’re right. Mind you, we got plenty of stallions up each others’ tails just for sport! Damn. Here’s your Kirin doctor, takin’ your temperature! Don’t mind when he blows his load, it’s just cooling fluid!”

“It could be,” noted Kawa. “If a pony is running a bad fever…”

It was Applejack’s turn to flinch. “Sweet Celestia. Ya come COLD spooge?”

He shook his head. “Kirin are magic! You misunderstand. We are not horses.”

“But…” stammered Applejack. “whaddya come, then?”

Both Kirin looked smug.

“Just magic,” said Kawa. “For all purposes.”

Applejack studied him, in awe and trepidation. “Okay. Lemme get this straight. Just ‘cause I’m here on your shores, good old Captain Applejack out of Canterlot ferryin’ passengers to Neighpon, you’re gonna give me a magic hocks-wobbler and send me on my way?”

Kawa cleared his throat. “Anything you wish,” he said, and Yosuru nodded.

Applejack seemed frozen in place, her eyes very wide. She gulped. “Ya mean it?” she said.

“Anything you wish,” he repeated, earnestly.

Applejack licked her lips, feeling a little light-headed. She giggled, nervously. “Husbandry…” she said.

“It is our calling…”

“Kin ya… help two mares to conceive? Jes’ between them, I mean?”

That broke the spell. Kawa and Yosuru looked at each other, startled. They glanced back at her, apologetic.

“Regrettably, no… because mares produce a kind of egg, not semen…”

Applejack’s heart was pounding. “What if she kin? I mean, I can. We can…”

“No, you can’t,” began Kawa, and Yosuru shushed him again.

“Let her speak.”

Applejack took a deep breath. “Okay. Here’s th’ thing… I got half an idea this here might be shocking to y’all, but it’s our way. Least it is now… our Twi and Trixie, they came up with this way to make lil’ magic bit things. You bite down on it, you get a magic dick, maybe not so little in that case, and y’ go to town. Switch back an’ forth, go all night or until your pegasus is losin’ too many feathers from all the erotic explodin’ she gits up to. They kin fly so you kin keep going even after they can’t walk… the point being, we’re mares but we can have it both ways, kinda.”

The Kirin looked on, stunned.

Applejack pressed on. “And I can see this don’t sit well with ya but it’s our way and my Rainbow, she’s foaled sort of with me but also sorta… not. But I ain’t talkin’ about her, I mean I ain’t talkin’ about her gettin’ pregnant again, she probably don’t want to now that she’s back in top flyin’ shape though she was gosh dern good at it, being pregnant I mean. But… Aw, dang it. Kirin, kin I please have my Dashie lay me and I’ll get pregnant by it? I won’t make it no habit or nothin’. But I’ve raised our foal an’ with the help of some unicorn magic I even nursed her for a time and I’ve had just a lil’ taste of what Dashie had. And now that you’re talkin’ this way, there is nothing that I want more than to be my Rainbow Dash’s mare.”

Yosuru looked at Kawa. Kawa looked at Yosuru.

“Pregnant mare,” clarified Applejack. Her legs were trembling as she stood. She bit her lip, dropped her gaze, blushing.

“Feel her,” suggested Yosuru.

“Sure, if ya want,” said Applejack, “but what I mean is…”

“Sh! No, I mean, Kawa, feel her heart!”

He gulped. “The purity…”

“Actually I was hopin’ it’d be kinda dirty, that’s just my way,” added Applejack. “It’s the Ponyville way, don’t you dare make foals if you ain’t got the sense to come your tail off doin’ it…”

“Please be quieter,” said Yosuru, “we must combine and consult.”


“I’m not qualified. We need permission.”

Applejack fell silent, scuffing the grass and then remembering and smoothing it down again. The Kirins’ horns lit and wove a tracery of light, and a streamer of magic shot off into the sky. Then it cut out, and they waited.

Then, just as Applejack was about ready to stampede off home from sheer tension, a rainbow cut through the sky, forming with uncommon speed. Applejack gulped, hoping it was a good omen. A speck of light moved along the rainbow. It was a Kirin, almost completely draped in magic that went beyond mane and fetlocks… tail, eyebrows, everything was luminous and shining. Its goatee reached nearly to the rainbow it ran on… and run it did, galloping for dear life, at a pace that would have exhausted most any normal pony and would challenge even the fastest pegasus.

Applejack gulped, hoping she wasn’t about to be arrested.

In what seemed like an instant, the newcomer arrived. It was a male Kirin, and startlingly old, though his bearing betrayed no weariness even after his mad gallop. He trotted down to the grass without so much as bending it, nodded to Kawa and Yosuru, said “Children.”

“Daiyam,” murmured the younger Kirin reverently.

He lifted his chin, and with just a look, they fell silent. He turned to Applejack, and his eyes just drank her in, as no expression passed across his face.

Applejack blushed, scuffed the grass yet again, caught herself, smoothed it and gave him a truculent look… but, somehow, still pleading. Her lower lip poked out, just a bit, and as it did, Applejack looked much like her foal Northern Spy. Her jaw tightened, and a hint of Granny Smith entered the mix. And then the barest hint of frightened tears suggested that hidden, vulnerable side of Rainbow Dash, but Applejack didn’t lower her gaze, not for some Celestia-damned Neighponnese elder d…deity…

“This mare has a mother’s heart,” said Daiyam, casually.

“Ah beg your pardon?” blinked Applejack.

He smiled, then, and her heart leapt. He nodded, thoughtfully, speaking: “How precious the vase / trusted to hold the water / permitted one crack?”

Applejack whispered to Yosuru, “Is he askin’ whether he gits to have a turn?”

“Sh,” whispered Yosuru.

The exchange seemed to amuse Daiyam… but then, the smile faded. He looked sternly at Yosuru and Kawa, particularly at Yosuru. “A tumbling rock / strikes the wind chimes so sweetly / and then moves along.”

Yosuru paled. She nodded. “Understood.”

The smile was back, as if it had never left. “Yes,” said the old Kirin. He nodded slowly, smiled again at Applejack, and sprang lightly onto his rainbow. And, with no further remarks, he trotted unhurriedly up the rainbow, which dissipated after him. They watched him go.

“Dang,” said Applejack. “What was all that? You know, Dursaa once talked about Shy havin’ a fiercely churning crack an’ Pinkie was really offended. Is that really a nice way to talk about mares?”

“No, no!” protested Yosuru. She gathered her composure, and added, “No. Daiyam speaks forth in beauty. It is for us to hear him. I know what he meant.”

“Mind fillin’ me in?” said Applejack. She snickered, and prodded Kawa with a hoof. “I’m happy enough it’s this feller lookin’ to fill me in. The old geezer seems spry enough but he’s so dang serious!”

“This is serious!” retorted Kawa. “You will see.”

“Don’t undervalue Daiyam,” chided Yosuru. “It is honor just to have his permission. Our culture’s the vase. The crack is what we will do. It is his way of saying that there’s no harm in this. You will move along. Ahhhhh… please don’t bring magic bits here.”

Applejack blinked. “Hadn’t occurred to me. He said that?”

“Yes… the rock. Both in the second poem, and implicit in the first. I’m quite sure. Forgive us? They have no place here.”

“Well, all right. Hmph. Y’know, we let Kirin in, and a dern fussy Kirin it was too,” said Applejack, and pondered. “But now that I think about it, she didn’t get up to this sort of stuff when she was in Ponyville, apart from walkin’ on some rainbows.” She chuckled. “At least, until my own Rainbow blew it up and caught the lil’ sweetie in mid-air, for a joke. An’ she was a good sport about it, too. All right. Let Ponyville be Ponyville, and you kin be Neighpon.”

“We thank you,” said Yosuru.

Applejack was quiet for a moment. Then she said, “You ain’t foolin’ me? About me and Dash, I mean? There… there might be a chance that you kin make me fertile to her with a bit and dick an’ all?”

“Not a chance,” said Kawa.

Applejack’s face fell. She looked down, and then back up at him with angry eyes. “Well, shit, son, weren’t that a lot of fuss for nothin’?”

“No, listen!” he urged. “I mean it literally. It is not a chance. It is certainty. Kirin know of these bit things. But not that you would wield one! We sent lots of information to Daiyam. Many Kirin joined. Though it is a one time thing… we are confident. It pleases us to give a mother a foal. Because that mother is you.”

Applejack gaped at him. She tried to speak, but her lip was quivering too hard. His smile had gone blurry, or else it was her brimming eyes, or both. Applejack took a deep breath.

“My sakes, Mister Kawa. Ya got me so emotional I forgot to be horny. Dashie would be ashamed of me for that. Gimme a minute? I mean, if we’re gonna get busy out here an’ all?”

He shook his head. “We know this town well.”

“They won’t stand for it?”

“They will offer us the finest suite in the tavern. It’s good fortune to favor any Kirin: how much more, when I perform service for an honored guest from far Canterlot?”

“Dang,” marvelled Applejack.

They walked sedately along the docks, into the little town. The Kirin walked decorously to either side of Applejack, as if part of a small parade.

After several foreleg-hugs, she’d got them to snuggle up closer, and they all walked slower, to have time for nuzzling and kisses.