They entered Chowa in a sort of triumphial procession: not through anything they’d done, at least that day, but simply because ponies lined the streets from the outskirts of the city all the way to the amphitheater where they’d set up and play. The ponies stood in Neighponnese politeness, not blocking the way, not even cheering—but staring, rapt, as if they were already planning to tell their grandfoals ‘that was the day I watched Octavia and DJ Pon-3 perform for all of Neighpon’.

Big Macintosh’s ears were laid back as he pulled the cart, but apart from that he was not perturbed. He’d had mares stare at him that way before. Anyhoof, it was the cargo of the cart he pulled which bore the brunt of the attention.

Octavia took the attention impassively, looking out across the throngs of people as if there was some more important thing she hoped to see, beyond them.

Vinyl’s head was too high, her grin too wide. The trademark shades hid her eyes, if not the tendon in her neck betraying her nervous tension. Octavia gently prodded her whenever Vinyl’s teeth were grinding too obviously, that being all she could do to help.

“We’ll be fine,” Octavia whispered.

“Ssh!” retorted DJ Pon-3. “Course we will!”

At that, Octavia relented, with a little pout. It seemed they would have to trust that Vinyl’s tension could still be translated into epic performance: if she cracked, it would more likely be from friendly over-solicitousness than from the normal strains of the gig.

Octavia frowned, looking out at the sea of beaming, expectant faces. The trouble was, this gig didn’t seem normal, and Scratch didn’t seem to be happy with it.

Octavia disagreed, though she couldn’t explain herself to Vinyl with all those ponies watching, for fear of insulting them. Her opinion was that they’d be awfully easy to please. It reminded her of performing in Canterlot, at the Gala: once you got over the honor of being invited to perform, you realized that far from being more strenuous, such a gig was easier, so long as you’d kept up your practice. Those at the Gala were so thrilled at being invited to Princess Celestia’s party that they were giddy with delight, and far from harsh critics of cello intonation. This gig seemed very similar, but presumably with Kirin in the place of Princess Celestia. Either way, their experience was composed not only of the performance, but each other. Octavia had played much, much smaller events that proved more demanding, with other musicians or notable critics as her audience.

As they pulled into the amphitheater, Octavia reminded herself that Scratchie didn’t have cello intonation to worry about. She seemed to work her own magic based on… yes, based on the crowd. Perhaps this was the source of her anxiety: she had to reach and read a crowd that was larger than any they’d seen. Octavia only had to be seen playing in front of it, and get her intonation and dynamics right. For her, the crowd’s reactions would take care of themselves. For Vinyl Scratch, there was more of an interaction to pursue, and Vinyl did tend to insist on involving every single member of the crowd, as a point of honor.

Octavia looked back down the road, as the impossible hordes of ponies began to filter into the amphitheater and take their places in the audience. She frowned again. That did seem like an awful lot of ponies to involve, and she hoped Vinyl wasn’t freaking out too hard about it.

“Did you have any ideas?” hissed Vinyl, even as Octavia entertained the thought.


“Ideas, Tavi!” said Vinyl. “I gotta do something extra, somehow! Look at them all! Some kind of, I don’t know, display?”

Octavia thought hard, as Big Macintosh began dragging heavy speakers into their proper places. “In one of our first performances, you saw the unicorns doing light beams with their horns. And you played in such a way that they went into a frenzy, and they made a blinding light display and then fainted. Do you mean like that, Scratchie?”

“No!” hissed Vinyl. “They can’t do that here, it would be a big scandal and a really bad idea! Unicorns can’t appear to be firing magic bolts from their horns in the capital of Neighpon!”

“Well, then we’ll have to do something else. I… what if I stayed on stage, and when you play, I danced?”

“You dance?” said Vinyl, skeptically.

“Stout Heart likes to see me dance!” retorted Octavia.

“Yeah, what KIND of dance, Tavi?”

Octavia pouted. “Sort of shaking. Wobbling? Uh, bouncing? Usually it ends up as bouncing. I can’t do it for too long because I get tired and sore but usually within a minute he has already… um. Hm!”

“So you’re saying, if it works the same on the whole audience, you’ll end up really REALLY sore? From thousands of ponies doing what Stout Heart does?”

Octavia pouted worse. “Or really, really damp and sticky. Possibly drowning, if they aimed particularly well and wouldn’t stop. I can see that won’t work.”

“So, what are we gonna do?” pleaded Vinyl. “There’s got to be something!”

“Just a moment!” protested Octavia. “Big Macintosh! I’m certain that speaker needs to be angled out further. Don’t you see the way the crowd of ponies reaches all the way around us? We can’t just aim them forward as usual, we must widen the angle! Go over and attend to that one and I’ll shift this one.”

Big Macintosh trotted back over to the speaker Octavia gestured to, prepared to adjust its position. A short trot behind it, the shrubbery rustled, though there was no breeze.

Big Macintosh turned, ready to take Octavia’s direction. Another noise came from the shrubbery. He glanced toward it. His eyes widened…

From the shrubbery sprang Braeburn, looking like hell if hell had rolled in the dirt for a while and then skipped whatever hell used for sleep. Braeburn galloped heedlessly towards Big Macintosh, his eyes pleading.

“PRINCESS!” wailed the desperate cowpony…

Three Kirin converged from different directions, and Braeburn was captured, spread-eagled in a net of magical forces. Every limb was immobilized, and his mouth was gagged by a binding of magical aura. He was helpless. Big Macintosh gawked, stunned, terrified of what seemed like a vengeful Kirin attack carried out before Braeburn could even explain himself, or what he was doing in Neighpon. One of the Kirin was clearly in a rage…

“We have you now!” roared Kantokusha, defender of his peaceful town and protector of his wanton but cherished pegasus colt, the Great Moeru. “You will pay for the injuries you’ve caused! You die for this!”

“Hold on!” called the other two Kirin. One was Kawa, the other Yosuru: the Kirin of the neighboring seaside town of Kabochaebi, who’d finally found their Sneaking Spy. “We must ask…”

But they didn’t get a chance to ask Moeru, or anypony else, because even as they spoke, a Weird Monster dove madly out of the sky, emitting squeaks and shrieks at the same time, levelling rows of hapless audience ponies and attacking the Kirin. A wild cry of “Get off him!” came from somewhere inside it.

In the audience, Kichona the earth pony mare squealed with delight. “It’s a Weird Monster! I have seen one, hooray!”

Beside her, her lover Daitana blanched in horror, and then began to gallop bravely to the aid of his fellow Kirin, responding to their need though he had no magic left in him to help anypony or anything. His gallop was more of a weakened tottering, but his visage was grim.

Before he reached the struggle, the sky was filled with brightly colored, angular forms, and with exultant battle cries. Neighpon’s pegasi had arrived, and they tackled the Weird Monster, dragging it away from the three Kirin and their captive, and piling onto it until it was subdued.

And the crowd held its breath, waiting to see what violence would be perpetrated upon the savage Monster…

“YAY!” cried one of the warrior pegasi. “Who are you in there? You’re the best Monster ever! What are you even doing, trying to attack the Kirin? You’re crazy!”

Rainbow Dash’s head poked out of the Monster’s mouth, as Kichona gawked. Dash raged, “What do you mean ‘trying’? Let me go! I’m gonna kick their flanks!”

Kichona began to run forward as well, to be with her weakened Kirin mate, and to see what went on with the Monster.

“I love your mane!” exclaimed another warrior pegasus, entranced with Rainbow Dash.

Dash blinked. “Aw, thanks. It’s just part of my general awesomeness… hey ow OW! Flight!”

Flight Lightning punched and kicked her way past Dash, tearing her way out of the costume, and rocketed directly at the Kirin still holding Braeburn, murder in her eyes.

Three Neighponnese warrior pegasi zipped over faster than a blink and slammed her to the ground twenty feet short, pinning her down and preventing her attack.

Big Macintosh was staring back and forth, astonished. “Rainbow Dash, too? What the HAY are you doin’ here? An’…”

The Kirin paid no attention. Their concerns seemed to be with each other. Kantokusha, the stuffy and protective Kirin, was fearsome to behold. It was his magic that held Braeburn, held him so tightly that Braeburn’s face grew red and he heaved and struggled for air, and it was Yosuru from the town Kabochaebi who confronted Kantokusha. She, too, showed rage, but it was not with Braeburn.

“Stop that at once!” demanded Yosuru. “You smother him! Let him breathe!”

Hearing this, both Rainbow Dash and Flight Lightning struggled to get free, but a second pegasus grabbed Dash, and Flight couldn’t shake the three that pinned her. Others piled on, excitedly. A small orange streak exploded from another hole in the Weird Monster costume and clobbered one pegasus who swooped to intercept, but another four warrior pegasi zipped in and pinned down Scootaloo, as well as they could.

A fourth head emerged. Sweetie Belle gathered breath for a mighty squeak, but the pegasus who’d been punched by Scootaloo, and who’d reeled back in amazement, was right next to her. He quickly grabbed her and covered her mouth with a hoof. He then winced as she bit him, but remained undaunted.

“THIS is what made the terrible sonic squeak attack!” he exclaimed. At that point, Sweetie burst into tears, and he snuggled her. “It was a very nice sonic attack, don’t cry!”

Yosuru and Kantokusha continued glaring at each other, not distracted by the chaos, and Yosuru stepped closer, her horn lighting brilliantly…

Braeburn gasped, drawing a deep breath. Kantokusha had relented. The undaunted cowpony cried out “PRI…” and then was silenced again, breathing through his nose, the constricting magic warning against further outbursts. For all that, Kantokusha was finally allowing him to breathe.

Satisfied, Yosuru nodded and looked around, at the many immobilized spies and monster-impersonators, and the dumbstruck audience. She, too, drew a breath. “Why all this drama? We sought a dangerous Sneaking Spy! Who are all these other ponies? And what is this? This Kirin is starving, yet he tries to aid us! Are you not Daitana? Why are you so weak and starved, Daitana?”

Hearing this, Kichona ran over to confront the older, more powerful Kirin. “He’s fine! Except he is kind of starving, yes. Can you please help him, except he’s going to not want to take your magic, but he really should! But he doesn’t want to drink magic from unicorns, okay? Can he not do that if he doesn’t want to?”

Yosuru gawked at the lovely earth pony mare. “Who are you to speak for our Kirin so intimately?”

“I’m… his wife,” said Kichona. Daitana blushed bright red, and pressed closer to her, unable to meet the eyes of the other Kirin.

“Impossible,” said Kantokusha, wild-eyed and still angry.

“Am so,” said Kichona.

Yosuru took a deep breath. “I think,” she said formally, “we need help.” Her horn glowed brightly, like a beacon.

Much as the pegasi had converged upon the scene, eager for battle, this time the air grew bridges and paths of mist, and Kirin after Kirin appeared. They galloped gracefully out of surrounding rainbows and clouds, and came to the aid of the Kirin from Kabochaebi… and to either support, or overrule, the raging Kantokusha, who barely restrained himself from his desire to punish the stallion who’d hurt his wanton pegasus boy. They appeared in dozens, in ranks, forming up in order by age. The fat and energy-filled Kirin fed by tiny Yutakana from the lakeside town were there. Daiyam unhurriedly took his place at the front. And, toward the back, her head high and her eyes clear and bright…

“HINA!” cried Big Macintosh, galvanized.

And before anypony could react, the big red Ponyville stallion was charging past the astonished Daiyam, past the other Kirin, away from Dash and Sweetie and Braeburn and their respective captors… and toward his obsession and long-lost love.

“Hina! Mah precious love! Ah’m here! I know ya been yearnin’, I cain’t hardly sleep or nothin’ all for missin’ y… you…”

Thousands of ponies stared. Hina’s eyes were wide. Beside her, a unicorn stallion lowered his horn, stamping the ground with a hoof.

She looked well-fed.

“You!” said Big Macintosh, locking eyes with the unicorn and not flinching for even a moment. “Who th’ hell are you, and what th’ hell are ya doin’ standin’ there all barin’ teeth at me as if YOU are my Hina’s one tr… true l—love…”

The other two unicorn stallions stepped out from behind him, to face Big Macintosh.

Hina couldn’t even blink. She was steadily becoming as red as the Ponyville interloper demanding her love, and her eyes were wide as she took in the emotional and moral tone of the situation. She could only gaze at Big Macintosh in horror… until one of her unicorns pushed in front of her, physically shielding her from what could only seem like a lust-crazed plow-horse in a mindless rage and dangling a rather terrifying horsecock.

Big Macintosh’s mammoth horsecock continued to droop and dangle pendulously, because though it had burst forth at the mere sight of Hina, there was no mistaking the meaning of her companions. They could only be lovers, and kirin-feeders, and Big Macintosh was not among them no matter how much he yearned. Hina didn’t need him after all. And yet, as the largest unicorn interposed himself between Hina and Big Macintosh, and even as the three unicorns betrayed hints of horsecock themselves over the sheer drama of defending their Kirin lady from a giant rapey monster—

“STOP it, now!”

—Hina shoved all three unicorns aside, first with her curvy but elegant body, and then with a field of magic from her horn, and she faced them, cross and pouting. She took step after step, backing them off, gritting her cute little teeth in determination.

“You’re jumping to conclusions!” she lectured. “And you’re not trusting in me, and you’re not trusting the very nature of ponies! How dare you, all of you, react in such an unloving and suspicious way?” Even in her passion, her cadences rang out in pristine Kirin formality. “I’ll handle this, sirs | then you shall apologize | why are you staring?”

Hina gave a little squeal. While her back was turned, while her unicorn stallions stared and dared not challenge her, Big Macintosh had come sneaking up behind. All the gawking ponies surrounding them appeared horrified, and all the other Kirin looked anxious and confused. Just like Hina, their moral sense told them the big foreign plow horse meant no harm, rather the reverse. On top of that, the Kirin could tell from Big Macintosh’s attitude and the droop of his hose that he wasn’t about to mount Hina. However, they hadn’t bargained on Ponyville romance and Apple ingenuity—and just because Big Macintosh wasn’t about to serve a mare, didn’t mean he couldn’t express his deepest feelings. Feelings that did not trigger Kirin to attack… but feelings that, all the same, were demanding to be shown. And so he had.

Big Macintosh had pushed his face against Hina’s little hindquarters and kissed her vagina, reverently.

Alarmed, Hina whirled about, confronted by her Ponyville fling with worshipfulness pouring from his big sad eyes. She whirled again, to back off her unicorns, whose nostrils flared with outrage, whose horns lit with magic and the desire to zap the foreign offender. She whirled a third time, because her moral sense gave her a powerful suspicion that Big Macintosh was perilously close to expressing his infatuation with further public cunnilingus if given the slightest opportunity.

And as Hina drew in a breath to scream out commands and demand some decent public behavior from everyone present, two other Kirin rushed in to interpose themselves between Hina, and Big Macintosh, and Hina’s stallions.

One was Yosuru, of the town of Kabochaebi, and perhaps the influence of her beloved pirate ponies had prepared her for this moment: she confronted Big Macintosh, undaunted at the prospect of a big lusty foolish earth pony getting unmanageable. “Not the time and place!” commanded Yosuru. “Please sit still!”

The other was Daitana, Kichona’s lover… and rather than focus on Big Macintosh, he instead confronted Hina’s unicorn stallions. “Don’t you dare hurt the earth pony or I’ll, I’ll, make you be really sorry, somehow!”

All eyes turned to him. He gulped.

Hina blinked. “What’s the matter with you, sir? You speak so strangely.” Her diction remained formal and pure, even in a crisis.

“I’ve been making some funny decisions lately,” said Daitana, “please don’t mind me?”

Kichona ran up. “It’s okay! He’s not well,” she explained. “Please, my love, come with me…”

“No!” wailed Daitana. “I just know these three unicorns who’ve been stuffing this nice Kirin lady with magic are going to attack the earth pony! And though I can’t feel much anymore I can feel he means no harm!”

Yosuru turned, and blinked. “I won’t let them,” she said, joining him in his informal speech. “What’s the problem?” All around, ponies gasped at the sight of Kirin not speaking in threes, fives, sevens, elevens and so on.

Daitana stared at his fellow Kirin, speechless, and his lip quivered. Between him and Yosuru, the smaller Kirin Hina reared and cleared her throat.

“Big Macintosh, speak! What has brought you to this land? Why’d you kiss me there?”

Though the subject was outre, her use of classic Kirin five-seven-five diction soothed the crowd.

Big Macintosh gulped. He couldn’t take his eyes off her, but somehow he seemed unsettled, as if seeing her in her full power wasn’t matching a picture of her that he held in his mind. He spoke, and it was as if he spoke to that picture: spoke softly, tenderly, as if not wishing to frighten her.

“Ah’ve come to you, Miss Hina. Ah come t’ take you home. But not mah home!” he hastily added. “Ah give up mah home. For you. Ah come to take you to your’n.”

For a moment, the fragile and inexperienced Kirin mare peeked out of Hina’s eyes, startled by his obvious sincerity. “Wh—what?”

“Ah love you,” said Big Macintosh. “Ah’m yours. Let’s go home an’ be together. Uh… after my friends put on a show for y’all.”

“If you finish straightening those SPEAKERS!” whinnied Octavia, from the back of the crowd, but Vinyl quieted her. Big Macintosh didn’t even glance aside.

Hina couldn’t look away, either.


“Ain’t no ‘but’,” said Big Macintosh. “Here is where Ah will stay, for all of my days.”

Hina shook her head, and Big Macintosh’s ears wilted.

“But I already have three stallions,” objected Hina. “I mean…” She glanced around, trying to think of a way to phrase it in formal Kirin diction and drawing a blank.

“Wull,” said Big Macintosh, “that makes it harder ‘cos it reminds me of somethin’ and I was hopin’ to use mares ta be honest.”

“Mares… to be honest?” said Hina, hesitantly.

“Nah,” said Big Macintosh. “Mares ta feed ya with. You know?”

Hina frowned. She stuck out her lower lip. “I feel your generousness,” she said. “Yet there’s something about it…”

“I promise I kin do it,” said Big Macintosh. “It might hurt my heart some. Oh, an’ I hope them fellers got some stretch to their buttholes, I ain’t no cruel horse… that one there looks awful pixie-butted and it’s a caution, though I guess you could jes’ fix him after?”

Hina’s three unicorn stallions were about as wide-eyed as unicorns got. Two still had nostrils flared in anger. The third, whom Big Macintosh had indicated, kept his perky hindquarters pointed well away from the demented farm horse, but looked thoughtful.

Hina’s expression was rapidly darkening past ‘thoughtful’ to ‘aghast’, or even to ‘furious’.

“Fix his… Big Macintosh, you never even asked me whether you should do this! And now you come here and…”

“Ah tole you, I kin do it! I bet I could even git pixie-butt squirtin’ up a storm for you, on both ends, if I’m careful!”

“I didn’t mean that,” hissed Hina. “And I do remember your talents. But are you seriously proposing to join my household as my one true love, and, and USE my stallions…”

“Ah tole you I would prefer mares cos there ain’t no mare alive I can’t leave a happy puddle…”

“I can feel your emotions,” retorted Hina. “Look at my stallions, Big Macintosh.”

Big Macintosh flinched. “Rather not, ma’am. I was kinda hopin’ I could be lookin’ at you while doin’ it…”

“But you’re offering to join my house, and… Big Macintosh, this is all wrong! Yes, we had a wonderful time. But you can’t come here and become the stud-horse for my unicorns! Especially if you don’t love them!”

The pixie-butted unicorn stallion opened his mouth, wistfully. His companions glared at him, and he stopped looking underneath Big Macintosh and subsided, without having spoken out loud.

“Wull,” said Big Macintosh, “if you could git us a supply of mares to snack on…”

“No, Big Macintosh!” said Hina. She took a breath, and composed herself, and when she spoke again it was with utter Kirin formality, at least in meter. “I cannot accept | such constricted and blinded | generosity. You spend all your love | on memories, and still you | don’t know who I am. I do still love you | but I love all of Neighpon | and this is my world. Please don’t stick your great | throbbing stallion horseboner | up my unicorns. We love each other | quite satisfactorily | without your kind aid. Anyhow, the one | you describe as pixie-butt | takes it already…”

Big Macintosh was crumbling. “B—but, I’m awful good at it. Don’t you know how much I’m offering? Mares is mares but Miss Hina, there should only be one s…”

Hina cut him off. “You have understood | far too little about this | and said far too much. Your home is not here | and I will never be yours | and, on top of that… it’s not good for you | to channel your wild horse love | toward a fantasy.”

Big Macintosh’s head dropped and dropped, and he wept.

More softly, and just as formally, Hina completed her thoughts. “For the sake of love | let your heart open more wide | without me in it.”

Hina bowed her head. Behind her, her unicorns did likewise, understanding what she said, and respecting the seriousness with which she treated the matter.

There was a moment of silence, but it was short-lived.

“Daitana!” wailed Kichona, who’d been standing right there the whole time. “She speaks for me, my beloved, my heart! You must accept the way of the Kirin before you starve! Oh, I beg you, go take up with some unicorns and please them and forget about me, I cannot fulfill your needs! I am only an earth pony mare, let your heart open more wide!”

Hearing this, Daitana burst into tears and hugged her, forgetting Hina’s stallions. “No! Never! I love only you, Kichona, it is my life and my curse and I will die as no true Kirin, I am not worthy! Hina has shamed me and revealed how dreadful I truly am!” He turned to Hina, whose ears were back in utter dismay and astonishment, and he cried, “Destroy me, wise Kirin! I am too far gone, and I tell you, I do not love all Neighpon as you do! I love only Kichona!”

Kichona flung herself in front of him. “Then destroy me first, Kirin! We have journeyed far, and he’s come all this way simply because I want to hear the music of these travelling musicians! But along the journey, I saw the truth, that it was my companion alone who brings music to my heart. And as he’s tried to care for me, so I care for him, and at the end of all things where he faces Kirin justice, I ask, nay, beg you to destroy me first that I can be wherever he will go, forever! And so I don’t have to spend a moment in a world bereft of Daitana, my Kirin, my true love!”

Daitana blinked, tearfully. “But wait a minute. Then I have to see you destroyed. And I have to spend a moment in a world like that, or even several moments unless they destroy us at the same time.”

Kichona pouted. “Shit! Well then, I ask nay beg you oh powerful Kirin, destroy him first or maybe while I’m hugging him so he won’t be scared, but then destroy me real quickly after that, okay? Unless you can get us at the same time? Or would that be too much effort, or too messy?”

Daitana laughed through his tears. “You and your tidiness! You keep all your paints in their own little cups!”

“Shush, honey, this is important,” chided Kichona fondly. She turned to Hina. “So, can you like double-destroy if you get help?”

Hina gawked at them, totally unable to cope. Fortunately, the Kabochaebi pirate Kirin, Yosuru, had a few words.


Both Daitana and Kichona ceased their manic surrender, looking shocked.

Yosuru glowered at them. “Stay! You’ll keep. You’re both totally mad!”

“We know!” chirped Kichona, while Daitana sniffled.

“Hug each other and STAY, and don’t do anything else crazy,” ordered Yosuru, “while we deal with what we should have dealt with already. The Sneaking Spy! Kawa! Dear Kawa, are you keeping an eye on Kantokusha?”

From a distance, her companion called out, “Yes, Yosuru! He is still enraged and wishes to destroy the Spy, but the Spy lives!”

Yosuru nodded, curtly. She glared at Daitana and Kichona. “Listen and learn. You two are foolish and insane and should settle down. We have justice to seek, and the Sneaking Spy lured a young pegasus into a false sense of security and then crushed his skull with a savage blow from a hoof.”

The audience of thousands gasped, recoiling.

“You’re safe!” called Yosuru. “But we must seek justice. Be quiet, listen, and learn, all of you!”

She trotted away from where Daitana and Kichona clung to each other, and where Big Macintosh wept in a black cloud of his lost dreams, and she returned to where pegasi and Kirin held an assortment of miscreants quiet and still. None were more still than Braeburn, for Kantokusha would barely allow him to breathe, certainly not to move or speak.

“Kantokusha,” said Yosuru. She glanced over at the elder Kirin, Daiyam, but he just nodded and watched, as if to say ‘go on’.

“Yosuru,” replied Kantokusha.

“You understand our custom?”

“You’re making a mistake,” said Kantokusha. “He’s such a silly little pony…”

“Nevertheless, sir!” replied Yosuru. “Bring the victim forward!”

In a flurry of brick-red feathers, their presence was graced by the Great Moeru, who burst through the crowd and cried out, “That’s him, that’s him! Kushie-pie has him! Didn’t I tell you he was such a sexy horse, can you blame me?”

Kantokusha glowered. “Please, Moeru, don’t call me that…”

The Great Moeru zipped over and snuggled wantonly against his town’s Kirin. “Awww… you mean, not in public?”

“Yes, Moeru, that’s what I mean,” grumped Kantokusha. “And while we’re at it, can you respect my feelings and allow me to destroy this violent outlaw horse?”

Five Ponyvilleans stirred. Dash, Flight Lightning, Scootaloo, and Sweetie Belle all struggled madly to get free and defend Braeburn—and Big Macintosh’s head lifted, as he began to get up to speed with what was really happening, outside the lightning-lit stormclouds of his shattered fantasies.

The Great Moeru stopped it all with a word. “No. No, Kantokusha, I don’t allow it, and you know why. I told you, and it’s in my hooves not yours, and I WILL have that justice. You won’t deny me what I must have… and you don’t dare deny me, because to do so would be the cruelest thing you could do to me. Kantokusha, the justice is not yours, and I ask so little.”

Kantokusha sighed. “It is against my better judgement…”

“It’s not your judgement, Kushie-pushie!”

“Don’t call me that, Muu-muu!”

“Then give me what I require!” demanded Moeru, fiercely. “Unbind his mouth and listen to him, along with me!”

From under a pile of pegasi, Rainbow Dash squawked, “Listen to what? Require what?”

Moeru looked around, commandingly. “I want to know why he did it. This very sexy horse was about to screw me, ME the Great Moeru, and yeah he was my prisoner but it was going to be very nice and I would have treated him kindly, and he was wicked and naughty and sexy but he didn’t seem at all bad, and then he hit me in the back of the head super hard! What I want to know, is why he did that. There are Kirin all around, he won’t lie, and his fate is mine to judge because I lived despite being cruelly struck down that night. I’ve told my side of the story, but he must tell his. He must say WHY.”

Moeru said this last part staring straight into Braeburn’s eyes. Braeburn stared back, and indeed he didn’t seem bad, for he wept to meet the gaze of the naughty young pegasus colt.

“Release his mouth, Kantokusha,” said Moeru. “Why did you do that, Sneaking Spy?”

Braeburn’s mouth opened, and he made a croaking noise, drew a breath…

“‘Cos ah don’t love you, boy!” replied Braeburn tearfully. “Ah love HIM!”

“Him,” retorted Moeru, eyes gleaming. “Who is ‘him’, why does that explain anything?”

“Him!” wailed Braeburn, and from across the field Big Macintosh came stumbling, tearful, coming unglued with each step, held back by Kirin and pegasi but still pressing forward until he pushed against a wall of eager pegasi, his eyes yearning, unable to get closer.

Moeru took it all in, eyes flicking back and forth. Braeburn drew a shaking breath.

“Princess, darlin’, Big Macintosh, I jes’ had to! Ah can’t bear it, really I can’t, when you lef’ me it was like somepony ripped my guts out and dragged ‘em clear to Neighpon and I jes’ had to come. I can’t tell you what to do, darlin’, if you don’t love me no more I can’t fight it. Look at this boy, this poor boy, tryin’ ta get some cowpony action and you jes’ look at his coat there, red like yours, an’ I lost my head darlin’, ‘cos he ain’t you and I couldn’t bear it and I had to see you again. An’ if they kill me that ain’t no more’n I deserve, without you I’m a broken-down ol’ nag and crazy in the head and it jes’ hurts and they kin put me out of my misery but so long as I kin see you again… and here you is, an’ here I am. I’m sorry you stopped lovin’ me. I did all I could, darlin’ Princess. I’m sorry your Kirin girl weren’t what you thought. Jes… promise you’ll be okay, Princess. An’ then let the Kirin take me, ‘cos I’m nothin’ without you.”

Moeru was panting, licking his lips. “Let them go,” he said.

“What?” objected Kantokusha.

“Let them GO!”

And then, Braeburn was released. He fell to the ground, limbs stiff from struggling against his magic bonds. But, across from him, the pegasi had scattered with ebullient whoops and released Big Macintosh, who charged in a tearful gallop and just as Braeburn managed to rise…

And then there was nothing but the sounds of pitiful sobbing as farm horse and cowpony clung desperately to each other, weeping and kissing and cuddling in a frenzy of touch and hug and comfort.

“Feel them,” ordered old Daiyam, quietly, to the other Kirin.

Moeru watched, entranced, his lips parted. Big horse muscles knotted as the two powerful stallions wrapped around each other in fanatical passion. Moeru began to grin wider and wider, a mad rictus of delight.

“I choose mercy,” he breathed, reverently.

“But, Muu-muu!” pleaded Kantokusha. “Unwise!”

“I told you, I choose mercy!” insisted Moeru. “You have to let me. It’s for me to decide! Mercy! Let them live!”

The old Kirin, Daiyam, gave Kantokusha a stern look. “It’s his to decide—if you love this pony boy, honor his mercy.”

“Can’t you feel their love?” demanded Yosuru. “We could have solved all this just by bringing these two together earlier. It might have disappointed your Moeru, but he can’t have everything. He’s being very generous and grown-up to grant this mercy, Kantokusha, appreciate it! You can tell they’re harmless now.”

Kantokusha glowered at the ground. “Very well: mercy.”

“On one condition!” cried Moeru, his eyes wild.

Everypony fell silent. Kantokusha moaned, “Oh, Muu-muu, noooo…”

Braeburn and Big Macintosh stared frantically at the pegasus colt, just the color of Big Macintosh, who held their lives in his hooves.

Moeru licked his lips. “One condition.”

“Whut, right out here?” blurted Big Macintosh. Braeburn had gone pale, and glanced back and forth between Moeru and Big Macintosh like his dream had turned into a nightmare.

“Boy,” stammered Braeburn, “especially now, Ah cain’t rightly…”

“A kiss,” said the Great Moeru.

Braeburn’s eyes widened. “Say what now?”

“You hurt me,” accused Moeru. “And that hurt my feelings, because I gave myself to you with love. I’ll let you go be with your true love, but you have to give me a kiss to make it better.”

“Kiss your poor lil’ head?” asked Braeburn.

Moeru shook his head. “Oh no. We were gonna make hot love, Spy. We don’t have to do that, but you owe me a kiss for leading me on like that. I didn’t fail you, I was all yours. The very least you can do is give me a kiss to remember you by. Romantic. You know how, I can tell. Let me dream of you.”

Slowly, Braeburn turned and looked at Big Macintosh, his cowpony eyes totally open and vulnerable.

Big Macintosh’s muzzle quirked up at the corner. “He’s right, y’know. You do know how, mah love.”

“But… but Princess, all I want is to hold and kiss you forever an’ ever an…”

“Shh,” said Big Macintosh. He bent his head, cradled Braeburn’s in a gentle encircling foreleg, and he lingeringly kissed Braeburn… kissed him until tears sprang from Braeburn’s eyes, until Braeburn whimpered, senseless and drowned himself in Princess’s tender lips and sweet attention, forgetting everything around them, reborn like a little colt with a heart full of love, all pain washed away for a time.

They broke away to breathe. Braeburn gazed up, wonderingly.

Big Macintosh’s eyes crinkled up in amusement and affection.

“Go give ‘im that one, dearest. From us.”

Braeburn’s eyes widened, understanding. Then, he had stepped away, and Big Macintosh placidly watched, and Braeburn at first staggered and then swaggered over to the pegasus colt who was giving them their lives again, and he looked at Moeru with glittering, outlaw pony eyes… and then Braeburn reared and seized the flapping, enthralled pegasus boy in his forelegs, and bent him back, and his lips came down hungrily on Moeru’s…

Seconds went by, with Moeru’s free foreleg and wings flailing dreamily. Then, ponies in the audience stirred and giggled, for the Great Moeru was getting greatly excited. Braeburn didn’t flinch or even seem to notice as Moeru’s pony cock surged forth, stiffened more and more, flared out eagerly at the end without ever once being touched by himself or the dashing outlaw cowpony devouring him with a kiss.

Moeru let out a series of little squeaks of bliss against Braeburn’s lips, as he came. Spurts of pony come arced incredibly high in the air, and a passing bird squawked and dodged in a panic. The audience cheered politely, wreathed in beaming smiles.

Braeburn lifted his lips from Moeru’s, and warm crinkled cowpony eyes gazed lovingly down into enthralled pegasus eyes.

“Thankee,” rumbled Big Macintosh quietly, “…also from both of us.”

“I love you both,” breathed Moeru up at Braeburn. “You’re beautiful. Go home and love each other, just like that.”

Braeburn winked, rakishly. “Dang right we do!” He gently released Moeru, who was still wobbly, but grinning like mad.

“We are goin’ home, ain’t we?” said Big Macintosh.

“Ain’t jes’ us,” said Braeburn. “Hey! Hey, you there! You think you kin let our friends loose now?”

The pegasus he addressed blinked in startlement, and looked at the attending Kirin. From beneath him, a cerulean forehoof flailed, impotently. When Yosuru and old Daiyam nodded, he rolled aside and Rainbow Dash popped up irrepressibly. “Woohoo!” she squeaked, leapt into the air, and did no less than three loop-de-loops.

She landed, and smirked at her former captor. “You’ve done that before!” she teased, and he blushed.

The pile of twelve pegasi that concealed Flight Lightning took longer to move aside. Eventually, they managed it.

“Eeee hhhh eeee hhhh eeee hhhh…” panted Flight, half stunned by the weight required to hold her still, her eyes not focussing. Then, she blinked, and looked around, and saw her old flame. Braeburn stood alone, and he was looking back at her.

Flight was just a blur in the air. One moment she staggered bedraggled gasping for breath, and the next, she was right in front of Braeburn.


It was Yosuru who saved her: the pirate Kirin flung herself in front of Kantokusha instantly before he could reduce Flight Lightning to ash with a bolt of magic from his horn. The other Kirin reacted, but old Daiyam glared at them and they hesitated.

Flight didn’t even see them. One moment, she’d socked Braeburn in the jaw with a brutal hoof-punch, the next moment she stood with her lip quivering, and then…

The collected Kirin exhaled, in relief. Flight Lightning had glommed onto Braeburn exactly the same way he’d clung to Big Macintosh. She hugged him desperately, her wings rattling and shaking, her whole body shuddering in reaction. An anguished sob cut the air; just one sob that she couldn’t suppress. And Braeburn hugged her back just as tightly, not letting go, and the pony audience could see what Flight could not: his face, twisting with emotion, weeping, shame and relief and apology mingling in his expression, and he held Flight Lightning so tenderly as she silently cried out her pain, stroking her tangled mane, and he stared off into the distance as if waking from a nightmare to a cheerful Ponyville morning.

Braeburn gulped. He opened his mouth, but then he found no words to fill it, and just hugged Flight Lightning more, as if he’d been a fool to ever let go.

Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo, released, hugged each other… and then, Scootaloo wriggled, Sweetie let go, and there was another blur in the air. She came to rest in front of Braeburn, and Braeburn flinched without releasing Flight. “Aw, hell,” he blurted, “but I reckon I deserve it…”

Scootaloo gave him a look. “You… hay-brain!”

Then, ignoring his cowering, she walked demurely up and hugged her Dad very deliberately, and looked up into his eyes. Hers were tearful, but grave.

“No punchin’, Lil’ Scaper?” asked Braeburn.

“I will always love you always no matter what, forever,” Scootaloo informed him.

“Oh, honey…” managed Braeburn. “I swear to you, I’ll never forget that again. Ah’m a fool. But I’m less of a fool after all this. An’ a lucky damn fool as well. An’ you should hit me like your Ma done. Go on, Ah deserve every bit of it, hit me for the damnfool I am until it knocks some sense into me. Go on, Lil’ Scaper.”

Scootaloo didn’t even blink. “Of course not. Hold still, not done hugging my Dad.”

Braeburn blinked. “No hittin’?”

Scootaloo’s eyes were fierce, but her hug was gentle. “I don’t want to. Deal with it.”

Braeburn gulped again, overcome. Forgiveness that came with hoof-punches was one thing. This utter forgiveness, as if he could do no wrong, was a whole other story. His eyes filled with tears. “That’s a caution,” was all he could say, as he hugged back.

“Yeah it is!” retorted Scootaloo.

Kichona, distracted from her dramatic surrender with Daitana, had wandered over: drawn by the romance, but also gawking at the four little ponies who’d been inside the Weird Monster suit. She prodded the suit, in wonder. “They were a fake monster that fought like a real monster! And then they were just ponies like us!”

The Neighponnese warrior pegasi, no longer holding prisoners, all grinned, then cheered. “Hooray! Best Monster ever! Praise their valor!”

As Daitana skulked over to press against her, Kichona frowned and pondered the strange revelation. “But if they weren’t a real Monster… if they were just pretending, was it really valor?”

Moeru pranced in glee. “Look at them! They were chasing the Sneaking Spy! We all saw them attack the Kirin, and they fought off teams of pegasi like it was nothing. They are the most valorous of ponies!”

“But fighting our pegasi is stupid!” protested Kichona. “Attacking Kirin is mean and stupid! And very dangerous!”

“Very AWESOME, you mean!” said Rainbow Dash, swooping down and strutting. “Thank you thank you, and yeah I guess it’s kinda stupid but that’s Ponyville for you! We’re always fighting huge monsters or doing dumb crazy things. You can get away with all kinds of crap in Ponyville, trust me on this!”

“But we caught you!” argued a Neighponnese pegasus.

Dash’s wings drooped. “Well… yeah. But we were still extremely awesome, even if we didn’t get away with it!”

Sweetie Belle blinked. “Maybe we would have got away with it if we weren’t meddling kids?”

“Nah, then we wouldn’t even have been able to carry ya inside the costume…”

Kichona squeed with delight. “Eeee! You’re such silly ponies!”

Dash and Sweetie stared at each other, wide-eyed.

“Guilty,” said Sweetie Belle, shyly. “But we’re kind of cute?”

“Three cheers for Ponyville stupid cuteness and silly!” cried Rainbow Dash, exultantly.


Dash’s eyes were huge. One twitched. She’d forgotten the massive crowd, because they’d been silently watching the whole thing without a peep. But when she’d called for cheers, cheers she’d got, instantly.

Dash grinned. “That was coooool…”

Sweetie Belle cringed politely. “Please, PLEASE don’t do that again, Rainbow Dash? It was scary!”

There was another blur.

Daiyam stood before them, and his eyes were very wide. No pony, or Kirin, had ever seen him so excited. “Rainbow Dash?!” he cried.

Dash narrowed her eyes. “Yeah, the very same. Check the mane, and the classic moves. And you are?”

Daiyam raised his head, looking around him. “Mark my words, Kirin, ponies! This mare is protected ’til she leaves our shores | for she bears a blessing that will bring joy to one of the kindest ponies I have ever seen!”

“What the hay are you talkin’ about?” grumbled Rainbow Dash. “Can I make the crowd yell hooray again?”

“In a moment, dear,” whispered Daiyam to her.

“And who the heck even ARE you…”

“I’m Daiyam, elder Kirin!” cried Daiyam to the listening crowd. “And when we send these silly ponies back to Ponyville, their true home | this is the mare who will violate all laws of gender and reality | and will miraculously impregnate her beloved mate Applejack, as is that mare’s dearest dream and wish! I have spoken truth!”

Dash gawked at him. “Will WHAT now?”

“Go ahead,” whispered Daiyam, smiling. “You heard me.”

Kawa stepped forward. “It is true. We know you use magic dicks. Daiyam had me work with her. When next you make love | your dearest mate Applejack | will be left with foal.”

Rainbow Dash just stared at him, then at Daiyam, eyes wide, speechless. Slowly, her wings lifted until they stood bolt erect. Dash seemed too stunned to think.

“Say hooray,” urged Daiyam, smiling.

“…hooray,” responded Dash.

“HOORAY!!!!!” roared the crowd.

“Eeee!” squealed Sweetie Belle, and hid under Dash.

As Scootaloo trotted over to comfort Sweetie, Kichona and Daitana confronted old Daiyam.

“That’s all very well,” said Kichona, “but we’re stupid and silly too. They’re going to go home, but we have become unfit for our home. We cannot be parted, and poor Daitana has refused to care for Neighpon as he should. Are you going to destroy us or not?”

Hina, fascinated, drifted over. She whispered in Daiyam’s ear, and that ear quirked in surprise.

“I think not,” said Daiyam, wonderingly. “It is dawn somewhere | beneath every harvest moon | and that’s beautiful.”

He waited. Kichona pouted at him. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

Daiyam tried again. “Service is a gift | and miles are a fearsome cost | but what price is home?”

“I don’t get it,” said Kichona.

Daiyam sighed.

“Dear little pony… congratulations. You and your mad Kirin lover are now Neighpon’s ambassadors to Ponyville. Hooray.”

“HOORAY!” roared the crowd.

“STOP that!” squeaked Sweetie Belle, knocking over several rows of ponies. Scootaloo hastily shushed her.

“Now, my good ponies,” announced Daiyam, “let us enjoy the music, on this day of love!”

“I got the speakers pointed the right way!” called Octavia.

“Wait, wait,” squawked DJ Pon-3, “I know those kids!”

Through the crowd she galloped, and ran right up to Sweetie and Scootaloo, grinning, her shades slightly crooked and her mane wild. “You! I remember you! The dance contest? You guys won the crap out of that dance contest!”

Scootaloo blinked. “Yeah. So?”

“I need you!” pleaded DJ Pon-3. “This gig needs something special. Dance for me! Up on stage so they can see ya!”

Scootaloo and Sweetie Belle stared at each other, wide-eyed.

“I don’t want to do all that kicking and stuff,” said Scootaloo. “Not after fighting that way! Can I dance more like you were doing?”

Sweetie pouted. “I’m so frustrated by all this crazy stuff that I want to kick something! I’ll kick in all directions for you, towards this huge crowd of ponies that keeps yelling hooray! It would serve them right!”


“Aiiigh!” yowled Sweetie Belle, hooves over her ears.

Scootaloo hesitated, and then she felt a hug comforting her. It was Braeburn, and Flight Lightning was beside him smiling at her. They both looked so proud.

“Go on, Lil’ Scaper,” said Braeburn. “It’ll be all right. Do the best you can.”

And so they headed up to the stage, flanked by the musicians’ speakers… and the two little ponies stretched and hugged and did languid, graceful moves while Octavia performed. Scootaloo and Sweetie Belle smiled to see Braeburn, Flight Lightning and Big Macintosh snuggling together and swaying to the music… and then as DJ Pon-3 took the stage, light from unicorns and Kirin illuminated them and the young lovers began to explore their dance, even as the love-triangle in the audience began to get into it, even as cerulean and brick-red swirls encircled Braeburn and Big Macintosh and Flight Lightning—Moeru and Rainbow Dash, whooping with delight, saw fit to highlight the love-ponies with their own dervish-like pegasus air-dance.

And as the girls realized they’d made it, that the adult ponies in the audience were out of danger and had re-found each other and the Kirin were kind and that everything was going to be all right… they began a dance of ebullience and gratitude, shaking it to DJ Pon-3’s best beats, and Sweetie Belle brought the elegance of a unicorn to the fierce flailing that Scootaloo had mastered, and Scootaloo in turn brought a fluidness and sensitivity to her movements that hadn’t seemed important when they’d won the Ponyville dance contest. And the two girls synchronized and danced on and on, mingling limbs with a mysterious dexterity as if they shared a mind and soul, needing no rehearsal, improvising their moods in pure dance, lit with magical radiance as the unicorns and Kirin joined in, and as the final bass drop dropped, Scootaloo and Sweetie Belle were lifted in an aura of magic and whirled into a final pose, like the keystone in a mighty arch made of love and dance and music…

“EEEEEE!” squealed Rainbow Dash. “Look, Flight, Brae! Big Macintosh! Look!”

To the sound of thunderous applause, Scootaloo and Sweetie Belle gently twirled to a halt, locked in a joyous embrace.

Their matching, interlocking cutie marks looked just like the way they’d danced.