High Seas

“So,” said Applejack, “this is the low dive of a tavern, eh?”

Uni blinked in puzzlement. “I do not understand?”

“Ah mean, the one with sailors,” explained Applejack. “Real sailors. Rowdy dirty sailor ponies, know what I mean?”

It didn’t appear that the Neighponnese earth pony, wife to Mugennokaijitsu the rare foods trader, knew what she meant.

“This is the tavern,” she explained. “I will wait outside. Go ahead and drink. It is near the harbor, is that not low? It is not on a hill, yes?”

“Uhh, true enough…” said Applejack.

“It does not dive,” said Uni. “It might fall over, does that help? I will stay outside so it does not fall over.”

“Uhh, thanks?” said Applejack.

Uni bowed her head. “For my honorable guest, it is not too much to ask.”

Applejack left the little Neighponnese cutie standing quietly outside the tavern, and approached the doors. It did seem just a little like a low dive, at least those she was acquainted with: she wasn’t sure what a low dive looked like in Neighpon, but she’d seen many nasty sailor bars plus the taverns of Appleloosa, and she took heart and trotted forward, kicking the doors open with a bang.

They remained attached: she’d used forehooves.

“Hi!” said Applejack, boldly.

Heads turned, eyes focussed on her and took her measure. That was good, a good sign, and she welcomed it.

Some of the eyes didn’t focus. Also, the number of eyes wasn’t exactly the same as the number of heads times two. Applejack smiled. That was an even better sign.

“Mornin’, gentlemen,” said Applejack quietly. Her eyes narrowed just a touch, as she watched for a reaction.

Somewhere in the gloom, a sailor pony laughed a not-very-nice laugh. Nopony moved. In front, a fierce-looking pegasus with a twisted wingtip pursed his lips and spat on the floor, directly in front of her.

Applejack’s smile narrowed, too.

The signs just kept getting better and better…

She walked forward, past a table, studying the bar and seeing that there’d been a mirror along the back, but it had been smashed. Only fragments, stuck in the frame, remained.

That’d save time.

Before anypony could react, Applejack had banged the table with a forehoof. Three beer mugs arced into the air, and she whirled and kicked with just Bucky for swank and so she could say, “The other leg’s even quicker, gents”.

One, two, three beer mugs creased the ears of the bar-ponies and exploded against the wall behind them.

“Any questions?” asked Applejack, cheerfully. “Now, I…”

She trailed off, eyes narrowing. At least one question would be asked with hooves and not words.

Though most ponies didn’t betray a reaction (another good omen), one in the back was getting up. And up, and up… He was a huge earth pony on the scale of Big Macintosh, his eyes were crossed with drink and red with rage, and as some other ponies tactfully ducked aside, he bellowed like a bull and he charged at Applejack, headlong.

Her smile didn’t waver… and she whirled again, and planted a rear hoof right in the center of his forehead. He dropped, out cold.

“Any other questions?” she asked.

The ponies looked at each other.

“Yeah, what’ll you have?”

And with that, they were crowding around her, laughing, slapping her back in congratulation. “Over here!” one cried. “Quick, before he wakes up!”

“You fixin’ to hide me?” asked Applejack. “Cos that ain’t happenin’. Ah got a whole other leg, y’know.”

“No, no!” protested the pegasus with the twisted wing. “That’s Bucket. You know, big like bucket, useful like bucket, sturdy like bucket, smart like bucket? He’s already forgotten who you are, so if you’re sitting with us when he wakes up, he’ll assume you’re our friend.”

“Huh,” said Applejack, joining them. “Am I?”

The pegasus grinned. “Hell yeah! That was great. Makes me sorry I busted the mirror yesterday.”

“Makes me sorry I didn’t use my magic to fix it again!” said one of the one-eyed unicorns.

“So it’s a pleasure to make your acquaintance,” said the pegasus. “They call me Twirly. This lazy fucker is One-Eye, and this is The-Other-Eye. You already met Bucket. This fellow’s Tripod, you can see his leg’s still attached but it’s an interestin’ shape now. Over there is Bean Soup…”

Applejack looked, and a toothless pegasus mare grinned gummily at her.

“And there’s Flinchy and Crooked-Horn and Wall-Eye…”

“Pleased ta meet y’all,” said Applejack. “Twirly, huh? How come you’re called Twirly?”

One-Eye spoke up. “He can still fly! And fight! Twirly never gives up. He just has to fly in a different sort of way now. Looks kind of like crashing in about five directions at once. When he gets his hooves going as well, strong pirates run screaming just to see him coming.”

“Ah!” said Applejack approvingly. “You’re workin’ sailors!”

“Some kinds of working,” winked One-Eye. Applejack wondered for a moment how she knew it was a wink, with him, but everything about the seedy unicorn was insinuating and suggestive, and of course he could only wink, and leer.

“Business before pleasure?” suggested Applejack. “Seems you ain’t amiss to a lil’ pleasure. Hmm? You that sort?”

Tripod chimed in. “Don’t let it fool you, ma’am. We might be a scurvy crew, but don’t underestimate us. One-Eye and The-Other-Eye climb masts together. They link their magic, and both get a-lookin’, and there ain’t nopony who can judge distances better. Them’s navigators!”

“Do a lot of fightin’, do you?” asked Applejack. “Quarrelsome? Did Twirly there tangle with ol’ Bucket on one dark night?”

“Not him,” said Twirly.

Bucket twitched, and rumbled a curse, grabbing his head with his hooves. He got up, and returned to his seat, and just as promised didn’t even blink to see Applejack sitting there among them.

“We’re the best pi… er, sailors, you’re ever gonna meet,” boasted Twirly. “There’s nopony on Neighpon’s seas that will stand against us.”

“Even when they bust you up and poke your eyes out and break your leg into interestin’ shapes?” asked Applejack.

“Not them,” said The-Other-Eye. “There’s no pirate crew out there who can lay a hoof on us, we’re so tough and mean.”

Applejack beamed at them.

“Good! I’ll take ya. You see, I need a crew to help me take my boat back to Manehattan. I reckon what you do there after I leave ya, is your affair.”

“Oh, yeah?” said Twirly. “And who are you? You’re quick with your hooves, but what makes you captain?”

Applejack’s grin got three shades wickeder.

“Ah’m Applejack,” she said, “but you might just have heard of me… as the D…”

She stopped. Every single pony in the bar had frozen in terror, not even breathing. Total panic.

“Ah ain’t even TOLD you yet,” said Applejack.

There was a faint noise behind her. Applejack turned, and Uni was standing there.

The cute little earth pony mare was impassive, showing no expression. She addressed Applejack, not even looking at the others.

“Why did you say crew?” she asked, quietly.

“Well, I got to pick out a proper crew to get back home with the ship, sugarcube…”

Uni abruptly scuffed a hoof on the floor, making a loud scraping noise. Every single other pony in the tavern except for Applejack went from frozen, to pressed up against the far wall in a big pile of scared pony, with seemingly no time in between.

Applejack’s jaw dropped.

“I am your crew,” said Uni.

Against the wall, all the pirate sailors frantically nodded in agreement.

Uni nodded, once, and turned to leave. Applejack watched her go, dumbfounded.

“Well, don’t that beat all…”

“Why didn’t you tell us?” whispered One-Eye, one-wild-eyed.

“Yeah, what do you need US for?” gasped Twirly, shivering.

“Give a horse some warning next time, will you?” complained Tripod.

“Back to getting drunk!” grumbled The-Other-Eye, morosely.

Applejack stared at them, in disbelief. Pirates that were so battle-tested, but gave up so easily, were outside her experience.

“Well, jes’ a minute here,” she said. “Do you mean that lil’ thing is a good sailor?”

Twirly looked at her as if she’d gone mad. “A good sailor?”

Tripod, too, seemed stunned. “A GOOD sailor?”

There was a snigger. Then, a chuckle. The pirates began laughing, as Applejack stood there, speechless. The laughter built, with an edge of hysteria, until it rocked the tavern…


Applejack turned. There it was: Uni’s little impassive, expressionless face in the doorway.

As Applejack watched, Uni gave a little smile, and a nod. And then she was gone, her sensibilities satisfied.

“Dang,” said Applejack and took off her hat. “Well… have fun drinkin’, gents. I guess I got me a crew already.”

She trotted out the door, calling, “Hey, Uni! What’re we doin’ for provisions? I done left you all my apple turnip cakes!”

Time passed.

“One-Eye?” said Twirly.


“Can you see out the window from there?”


“Just tell us when the ship is gone…”

“Away we go!” called Applejack as she cast off. She flicked her tail ebulliently, still feeling tingly. That Kirin fellow had fixed her up good! She felt fertile as anything, incredibly feminine, and couldn’t wait to bed Dash and get herself pregnant. All that time mothering Northern Spy, all that effort and magical trickery just to do things like nursing, and still she hadn’t been able to do the real thing!

For all that she felt so feminine, there was still a cocky self-confidence in Applejack’s bearing. In her estimation, foaling weren’t nothing she couldn’t manage. She had Granny, and Dashie’d learned a lot about it when it was her time, and Applejack saw no incongruity in being both feminine, and tough as barn nails.

And it seemed she wasn’t the only one on the boat who could say that.

The shore slowly receded, leaving Applejack and Uni alone in a bright, empty ocean. Applejack walked over, and sat with Uni. Uni had brought a little mat, and sat on it with her legs crossed in a funny way and her forehooves turned up, resting on her legs. It seemed a comfortable position to rest in. Her body calmly adjusted for the gentle tilting of the yacht in the waves, and her eyes were nearly shut.

“All right,” said Applejack, “what’s th’ deal?”

Serenely, Uni’s eyes opened and focussed on her traveling companion.

“I will travel to your Ponyville, and negotiate with your Diamond Tiara, if possible for an exclusive license to the wonderful Apple Turnip Cakes…”

“Oh, no,” said Applejack. “No, no. Din’t mean that. What’s the deal with them sailor-ponies, Miss Uni?”

Uni’s face had fallen at Applejack’s first reaction, but she brightened as she understood. “All are good ponies,” she said. “Our town of Kabochaebi is peaceful and calm, and all the sailor-ponies are good and kind.”

“So good an’ kind they smash mirrors in their bar?”

“They did not smash the mirror,” said Uni. She considered this, and added, “They did not intend to smash any mirrors. Forgive them their small errors.”

“And what small errors might that be?” pressed Applejack.

Uni paused, thinking. “Unicorns cannot fly.” She smiled, apparently expecting her remark to be enlightening.

Applejack snorted, grinning. “A lot you know. Back home, our unicorns get up to all kinds of stuff, and I wouldn’t put it past them. Are you sure that’s what you want to say, Miss Uni?”

Uni considered this, still with that preternatural calm. “Unicorns cannot fly well,” she amended.

“Meanin’ that you can get ‘em airborne,” suggested Applejack, “but they ain’t much for steering? Sounds a bit like my Rainbow, to be honest.”

Uni nodded. “Forgive them their errors. They are good and kind ponies at heart.”

“Takes a little convincing?” suggested Applejack, her ears perking up. “To stop them from flyin’?”

Uni frowned, and weighed her words carefully. “They don’t fly by themselves. They’re all good ponies…”

Applejack leaned in, with a stare like her mother Applesauce. “Jes’ us two here, and the big ol’ ocean. It don’t tell no tales and neither do I, less’n I want to. And I don’t want to, unless I’m treated like I’m a dern fool… so, little miss Uni, answer me this. What makes the unicorns fly?”

The ocean was patient. It’d heard a lot of silence. Applejack was less patient, but had a suspicion that this little mare couldn’t be bullied in any sense. However, Applejack also had a secret. She was the Dread Pirate Booties (or one of them: perhaps one of the best and fiercest there’d ever been) and she sensed a counterpart across from her. A proud, capable counterpart who’d not faced a rival worthy of her dainty hooves.

But Applejack didn’t propose to be a rival. ‘Friend’ seemed like a worthwhile goal. And friendship didn’t grow out of nothing: it sprang from small honesties and little moments of trust. And so, she stared but not unkindly, and she waited, and her little halfsmile was much like the one Uni had offered the pirates of Kabochaebi. As if to say: I know you, and you know that I know…

Uni coughed, a little. She looked down, abashed. She looked up, and a tiger was in her gaze, just for a moment, yet Applejack didn’t flinch. Uni looked down again, even more chagrined. It seemed she had not meant a gaze with such ferocity. It gave her away.

What makes the unicorns fly? Uni answered it, pouting and chastened and cranky at her own admission.

“I do,” she said.

“Thought so,” said Applejack with a big smile. “You’re a stubborn one! Don’t you know sailors like that need the occasional bucking to set ‘em right? Ah don’t see why you’re so bashful about it. It’s written all over you, soon’s I saw you walkin’ into that room. It’s written all over them, too. Prob’ly in hoof-prints. Is that how you do it? I confess I find it hard to imagine you whuppin’ some of them ponies, they’re twice your size.”

“Three,” corrected Uni.

“Beg pardon?”

“Three times my size,” said Uni calmly. “It does not matter. I am the Kabochaebi, and they will not stand against me.”

“I thought your town was Kabochaebi!” said Applejack.

The little halfsmile was back. “It is my town,” said Uni. “Why am I telling you this? I am not threatening you. I promise, I am not.”

“I bet I know!”

“What do you bet?” replied Uni quickly. “More apple turnip cakes?”

“No, I mean it’s jes’ a manner of speaking. I do think I know why you fessed up,” said Applejack. “Ah was about to tell… heh… dare I say it, your crew?”

Uni frowned, thinking. “Fess… confess? I confess nothing. There is nothing to be concerned about. You are quite safe. Safer than you ever imagined you’d be.”

“Heh! I daresay,” chuckled Applejack. Uni’s frown warred with her amusement, and began to erode in the face of Applejack’s obvious cheerfulness. Applejack continued, “Prob’ly safer than even you know. What the heck—I’ll go first!”

“Don’t go!” said Uni quickly. “This is no time for sea madness. Beautiful the rippling waves may be, but you cannot gallop across them! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to stop my c… hmph.”

“Gotcha!” teased Applejack. “Mine too. In case you were wonderin’.”

Uni glowered in a grudgingly respectful way. “What do you mean by, ‘mine too’? I ask, of course, just out of curiosity, without implying anything.”

“Suuuure ya don’t,” snickered Applejack. “It’s just us here, Uni, if that’s really your name. And call me a crazy filly, but somehow I get the idea that you would not be prop’ly terrified to learn you’re sharing a boat with… the Dread Pirate Booties!”

Uni blinked. “Who?” she asked politely.

It was Applejack’s turn to glower. “Hmph! A lot you know. Shoulda plundered out this way more often.” She shrugged. “What’s done is done. You really never heard of me? Ah kicked the flank of Blackmane and made him flee me an’ my crew in a lil’ rowboat.”

Uni’s eyes widened. “Butattosupuritta!” she sputtered. “Blackmane?”

“The very same,” boasted Applejack proudly. “I was his first mate for a brief an’ embarrassin’ period. I took his crew an’ kicked his butt and woulda kilt him stone dead if I could. No lie.”

“WHEN?” demanded Uni, astonished.

“Plenty of years ago,” said Applejack. “Don’t worry, I ain’t seen hide nor hair of him since. I was jes’ a filly. I don’t tell everypony that story, y’know, Uni.”

Uni’s eyes were more shocked than Applejack had ever seen. She bowed her head, and then her eyes came up under lowered brows, burning, pinning Applejack to the spot.

“I am the Kabochaebi,” she hissed, “the Mantis Shrimp. I have seen the pirate Blackmane. I have known the pirate Blackmane. And… and… me too.”

“Beg pardon?” blinked Applejack.

Uni shook herself, and glanced up, bashful at her outburst. “Yes, Dread Pirate Booties. I did that. He must have gone and found another crew after he left you.”

Applejack began grinning. “No shit. No SHIT. Really? Seriously? That lot ya got back there in the town, they’re like Blackmane Crew Mark Two?”

“No!” snapped Uni. “They are good ponies! They’re mine! They are the crew of Kabochaebi, the Mantis Shrimp. Not his! Never again!”

Applejack sat back. “Whoa there. I respect your position, there, missy. Happens I felt pretty much the same way. Before you get all snappy with me, I’d like two things if you can manage ‘em.”

Uni quieted, with a visible effort. “I will not be snappy with you, Booties. What do you wish?”

“First… a hug,” suggested Applejack. “And then, I’ve just got to hear more of this story!”

Uni gulped. Her face twisted with emotion, and then she was giving her fellow pirate captain a big hug, and then right away she was sitting again in her meditation position, taking deep breaths, calming herself.

“An’ also,” added Applejack, “how you kin fling full-growed unicorns around. Me, I’m more expert at jes’ droppin’ them where they stand, so I can’t imagine how you get ‘em airborne like that.”

Uni twitched. “Oh, that is only martial arts. I can show you, but not here, it might hurt the boat.”

“All righty.”

Uni shot her a fierce look. “Why would you need to know that? Are you trying to train more pirate crews, for wicked deeds?”

“Do you SEE me doin’ wicked deeds?” Applejack shot back, unhesitatingly.

It made Uni pause. “No. And the Kirin did not flinch at you. They would have sensed it, I am sure.”

“They din’t flinch at you either,” said Applejack. “What happened? I feel like maybe I kin guess some of it. When I stole my crew from Blackmane, we sailed around raisin’ hell for a while but then I din’t want to be mean no more. I decided they oughta straighten out and be nice, too.”

Uni nodded slowly. “For no reason?”

“Naw, ‘cos I was gonna kick six kinds of hell outta them if they didn’t…”

“No,” said Uni. “I mean, you turned good for no reason?”

Applejack sat back and blinked. “Ah was always good. Do you mean, you needed a reason? You weren’t good?”

Uni’s gaze was complicated. It combined pride, scorn, sadness, even some guilt. “I am the Kabochaebi. I terrified the seas around Neighpon, and rejoiced, and I was alone, commanding my crew. Nothing stood against me. And then… there was the small town, and… him.”

“A bad ‘un?” guessed Applejack.

Uni shook her head wonderingly. Tears glistened in those commanding eyes. “Mugennokaijitsu.”

“Oh, him!” said Applejack. “Your sweetie-pony!”

Uni nodded, a weepy, quivery smile threatening to take over her face. “He is fearless! He cares only about flavors. And so intelligent. I captured him, Booties. He served me, and he became my lover, and it was a terrible discipline problem. The crew could not understand.”

“About you fuckin’ the help?” said Applejack wisely. “Best not play favorites, I worked that one out in a hurry. You gotta either jump ‘em all, or just kick them until they’re sensible. I tried both. Fuckin’ em all was a dern sight friendlier, though it gets tiring…”

Uni was shaking her head. “I did not do that. My martial arts were enough. No, he behaved like he could talk openly to me. He expressed opinions. I could not make him crawl before me like the others. He would say he loved me, and knew I didn’t want to be that way. And it was true… I wanted to be his partner, not his captain. He would defer to me just as readily, but he knows nothing of seafaring! And then he began asking if it was right, for us to pillage the high seas. He would ask if we were being kind…”

“Aw,” said Applejack. “I think I see where this is goin’. He was a spoilsport and consarned good influence, huh?”

“Con… sarned?”

“He offered you love,” said Applejack, “but he stayed true to himself. Ain’t that right?”

Uni nodded. “It is right! I love him. We had wealth, but lived the lives of pirates. He didn’t wish that. We had destroyed his town and stolen him from it. He wanted to return home.”

“You’d ruined his home.”

Uni gave that look full of pride and grief, again. “We RESTORED his home. We sailed back, in the end, and rebuilt the town we had smashed. We could not restore the ponies who’d fled or died, but we moved into the town ourselves, and we waited. Some of the crew fled across the sea in terror. The most loyal of my crew remained, with me and my love, and we waited. We waited for our doom, because there was nothing else for us to do.”

“Beg pardon?” asked Applejack. “Did you think Blackmane would come get ya?”

“Kirin,” explained Uni. “We were not marauding off the coast. We weren’t running away. The Kirin would come, at some point. We would not fight them, Mugennokaijitsu didn’t wish it. He had befriended the crew, once we decided to stop pirating. He trusted us, especially those who remained after some had fled. Mugen swore the Kirin would smile upon our town.”

“I think I’m beginnin’ to see why y’all were so scared,” said Applejack. “So what did you do?”

“None of us will ever forget that day,” said Uni, softly. “We knew Mugen believed in us. But when we heard him calling out, saying the Kirin were here, we expected death. I gathered my crew. We walked out to the docks, because One-Eye and The-Other-Eye swore they would only go to their deaths if they could be by the sea they loved when it happened. I understood: we all felt that way to some extent. We walked out, and Mugen was there, and the Kirin were with him, and we lined up and we bowed to the Kirin and awaited our judgement.” She gulped. “I remember feeling so sorry for Mugennokaijitsu, knowing in my heart that I was about to be executed in front of him. Poor, beautiful Mugennokaijitsu. He didn’t understand how we felt…”

“Wow,” breathed Applejack. “And?”

“I looked up and all the Kirin looked like Mugennokaijitsu,” said Uni. “There were five of them, all glittering with scales and magic as if they were going to war, but they were looking upon us and weeping with joy. They were terribly upset! And Mugennokaijitsu, my Mugennokaijitsu, he spoke and he said, I told you so! And then the Kirin were rushing forward, but rather than destroy us for the terrifying and wicked pirates we were, they began hugging us and crying…”


“Also, shaking us, and yelling, and swearing to help us, and threatening us with a terrible fate if we returned to evilness,” said Uni. She shrugged. “You know the drill! And so, the town of Kabochaebi was born. It is the first and only town in Neighpon composed of only the most terrible pirates, turned good. We play host to many Kirin: we think it is a sort of tourism thing. Mugennokaijitsu thinks they bring young Kirin to Kabochaebi to teach them not to judge. I keep telling him, if they are bringing young Kirin to our home, it’s to teach them HOW to judge. And as long as I am there, Kabochaebi will remain good.”

“Woohoo!” cried Applejack. “Good for you! That’s one heck of a story. I’m not sure Ponyville’s got anything to match it.” She thought. “Or maybe we do. Seems like ponies are the same all over, in some ways. Back at home we’ve done everything from tamin’ a draconequus, to harboring Equestria’s first good vampire-pony, to bringin’ a notorious outlaw pony home from the wide-open prairie. Hell, he even built a house, though it does face away from Ponyville. I guess some hearts always roam.”

“I feel true hearts will return home,” said Uni. “Mugennokaijitsu is my home. I merely build a place for him to live and be happy.”

Applejack frowned, a little. “The WHOLE town’s full of th’ most terrible pirates? Are you sure you should be traveling to Ponyville, then? It seems like maybe you oughta stay home keepin’ an eye on them.”


“In case some feller gets obstreperous,” explained Applejack. “What if one of them ponies got drunk an’ hurt Mugen or something?”

“They will defend Mugen,” said Uni, simply. “They must.”

“Ya sure?”

For a moment, Kabochaebi, the Mantis Shrimp, looked out of Uni’s eyes.

“Yes. If he is harmed, I will hunt down and murder every single one of them without exception, before killing myself.”

Applejack’s jaw dropped.

“Killed, I mean,” said Kabochaebi. “If he is only harmed, he would talk me out of it.” She blinked, and shook herself. “This is not good, I should not talk that way. I don’t have to live that way anymore. I have learned to trust.”

Applejack’s eyes were wide. “Uhh… good! That’s good, trustin’ is good. Mostly it’s served me well.” She winced, thinking of old memories. “Pretty much the times I ain’t had trust for my loved ones, were the worstest times in my whole entire life… let’s both trust, okay?”

“Of course,” said Uni, the pirate queen gradually leaving her eyes.

“A hug might do me some good right now,” admitted Applejack.

Uni obliged. “You can be the Kirin, while we’re at sea!” she said.

“I kin be the what now?”

“Every day, at least one Kirin comes to Kabochaebi,” explained Uni. “And every Kirin who comes to Kabochaebi, expresses their love by hugging me. Sometimes they hug very fiercely, and their manes seem to explode with energy! They also hug the other townsponies, but they always hug me! So I am used to hugs now.”

Applejack stared, wide-eyed. “Dang. Um. I, uh, I guess they can’t get enough of ya, huh? They probably never knew anypony who turned half as good as you.”

Uni smiled happily, and the Mantis Shrimp glittered cheerfully behind her eyes, kept in perfect balance by a diet of love and serenity.

“Nopony is as good as Mugennokaijitsu,” she said. “I am only as good as myself.”

The Ponyville street was quiet. Scootaloo and Sweetie Belle trotted along.

“I don’t know if that kind of dancing is really for me,” said Sweetie Belle. “It would be even harder than that melty dancing DJ Pon-3 showed us. Anyway, if we were going to get our cutie marks from dancing, wouldn’t we have got them when we won the dance contest?”

“That’s the thing!” said Scootaloo. “I feel like we were really close to it. I was copying what those other pegasi did, just like you were copying the unicorns. Of course we won, we were fucking awesome. But was that really, like, cutie-mark material? It was great, but I don’t know… it maybe wasn’t totally US.”

Sweetie sighed, tossing her mane. “Wherever you go, I go, darling. If your insistence on dancing makes me have muscle cramps, I expect you to massage them out of me. Just so you know.”

Scootaloo kissed her, without breaking stride. “I knew I could count on you! Not much farther. And it’s the dance contest that gave me the idea. Think about it. He’s my dad… well, my earth pony Dad, and totally the awesome one. He has a whole kind of dancing of his own, and it’s so stalliony that he even pops boners doing it, and you know I’m all about getting in touch with my, like, inner maleness. And I bet he’d show us about that dancing, and his house would be a good pl… a g…”

Braeburn’s house came into view… sort of.

It had been kicked to splinters, until not a single wall was standing. Everything lay flat, and there was no sign of the renegade cowpony, Scootaloo’s Dad.

Kicked from the inside, until nothing remained in Ponyville to confine him.

Braeburn was gone.

Sweetie Belle gasped. “Oh, no! Did he get mad at something? What got into him? Do you know, Sc… SCOOTALOO!”

But Scootaloo had taken one look, and grasped the essential truth of the situation. She was already gone, running and half-flying as fast as she possibly could, bound for the Ponyville house she shared with Flight Lightning.