“Could somepony please explain why Mayor Mare is hiding under my bed?”
Along the road trotted a very cross Bon Bon. She didn’t so much as blink at the presence of Hina. Instead, she glared at all the ponies present, and twice at Rainbow Dash.
“Under what now?” said Dash, caught off balance. “You might not want to be grumpy, we have a Kirin. And we’re even planning to use her, and do I mean use!”
“She’s hiding under my bed,” insisted Bon Bon. “And before you make a joke out of it, yes, I know that usually she’s IN my bed, and we’re quite comfortable with that. She came from this direction. What did you do? I saw Princess Celestia fly away from here, and she hadn’t even told me… I mean, I have no idea what she’s doing in Ponyville at all, much less why that would frighten Mayor Mare! Rarity, you’re probably the most intelligent pony here, you tell me what happened.”
“Everything’s all right,” said Rarity hastily. “There was no danger, Bon Bon, don’t worry. We’re safe. Perhaps even more safe than usual. Is that not so, er, Hina-rin?”
Hina gazed serenely back, and replied, “Of course, little pony mare. I’m not only bound to look after you, I’m honored.”
Rainbow Dash snorted, and when Rarity glared at her, Dash mouthed the word ‘bound’ and tried to suppress giggling as Rarity blushed.
Bon Bon stamped a hoof. “Yes, yes, very nice, but what happened? I asked you what happened and I expect a situational report. You’ve got a Kirin from Neighpon visiting, obviously. She shouldn’t be a threat so what made Mayor Mare run away? If you don’t tell me the truth I’ll…” She caught herself, and she blushed, and scraped at the dirt with a forehoof, apparently realizing how forceful she’d become. “I’ll… cry. So there!”
Hina gasped. “No, don’t cry, little pony! Is this Mayor close to you? Why does her distress upset you so badly?”
Bon Bon’s lip quivered with ostentatious adorableness, and she convincingly portrayed a little earth pony mare flustered beyond all reason by dreadful tragedy. Rarity, seeing this, spoke up.
“I’ll tell her. Calm yourself, Bon Bon! Breathe, that’s the way. Sometimes our flower ponies get like this,” Rarity explained. “Odd, I’ve never seen Bon Bon at a loss in this manner…”
“What happened?” squealed Bon Bon fretfully. Rarity put aside her puzzlement and spoke firmly to her.
“Twilight and Trixie were here. They made one of their magic bits, to offend our Kirin, and Princess Celestia took them away in disgrace.”
Bon Bon had immediately dropped her hysteria and was staring straight at Rarity. “I see. But what does that have to do with Mayor Mare? You’re not telling me everything.”
“Pushy, much?” quipped Rainbow Dash.
Rarity shot her a wry glance. “Miss Bon Bon has been my customer, Rainbow. I would advise you get used to it. Besides, remember the Mayor is her marefriend! She’s got a right to be concerned.”
“Well, she better watch out!” said Dash. “If she’s too much of a jerk, the Kirin might zap her with a lightning bolt… poof! She should be friendlier!”
“She wouldn’t dare!” exclaimed Bon Bon, in a shocked tone rather than a frightened one. The suggestion seemed unthinkable, to her. She turned to Hina. “You wouldn’t dare! I’m a very important pony, you know!”
“Yeah, sure,” soothed Rainbow Dash. “So, you satisfied, Bon Bon?”
Bon Bon withered her with a glance. “No, because Rarity still hasn’t told me what happened to Mayor Mare yet!”
“Oh!” blinked Rarity. “You’re right, darling, my apologies. When they were done making the magic bit, Trixie tossed it to the Mayor playfully. Perhaps she was on edge from entertaining the Kirin and the Princess? I wouldn’t have thought it, but Mayor Mare caught the bit in her teeth, and you know what happened! Ah… you do know what happens? With those?”
Bon Bon looked cranky. “I remind you that I used to see Lyra, before Mayor Mare showed me the true meaning of love. Lyra had one of those stupid bits, and she had me using it on her incessantly. Yes, I know all about Twilight’s magic bit inventions.”
“Trixie’s,” corrected Rarity. “She’s always been rather proud of inventing the first one, though I understand they predate even Trixie.”
“Whatever,” said Bon Bon. “Mayor Mare caught a bit in her mouth, and grew a penis? Is that what you’re telling me? That’s all? What was it like?”
“I thought you were another super lesbian?” challenged Rainbow Dash.
“Please, don’t fight!” begged Vinyl Scratch. “I can’t stand it! Don’t you understand we’re in the presence of Hina-rin? You’re in front of a Kirin and you’re bickering! What’s wrong with you?”
“So what?” grumped Bon Bon. “Rainbow Dash just called me a super lesbian! She’s got a lot of nerve, after all the time she spent trying to get her tongue into Lyra. If only I’d known how that would end up, I’d have dumped her on your doorstep years ago!”
Dash blinked. “Huh. Got me there. I guess it was the cuteness of the unicorn crazy? She’s still pretty, even after foaling. Can’t blame me for wanting a taste.”
Bon Bon made a face. “And I can’t fault Lyra in that way, she was always a real treat. And so high strung! But not observant beyond her facts and figures, of course. There’s such a lot she never figured out. And I guess I must admit to being a super lesbian, but I’m much happier with Mayor Mare. You’re sure that’s all that happened, you just startled her with a random unexpected penis? It must have been a big shock for her.”
“I didn’t!” protested Rainbow Dash. “Trixie did. I remember being pretty surprised, but I guess you’re right, she’s never tried one, has she? I just ignored her ‘cos our guest was upset.”
“Jerk,” sniffed Bon Bon.
“Nooooo!” squealed Vinyl Scratch, jumping forth to confront both ponies. “Be good! You’re insulting our Kirin guest, I told you!”
Hina cleared her throat. Vinyl looked around, peering fretfully over the top of her half-askew sunglasses.
“Stop that, you,” said Hina-rin sternly, narrowing her eyes. “I’m enjoying their by-play. There’s no harm in it. It’s a nice change from Neighpon. Let them be!”
Vinyl reared, kicking the air with a whinny of dismay… and then, she burst into tears, and galloped off down the road.
Rarity gasped. Octavia was already galloping after her beloved best friend, but the cellist was heavier and less athletic, and as a result couldn’t beat Vinyl’s hysterical speed.
“Catch her, please!” decreed Hina-rin, and that was all Rainbow Dash needed to hear.
A blue streak burst from their midst, zipping straight past Octavia, and in mere seconds the Town Square saw its third unicorn dangling in the air with hooves curled up cutely under her. Twilight and Trixie had been giggling, however. Vinyl was sobbing, kicking, and hyperventilating.
“Bring her here!” ordered Hina-rin. Dash, her gaze a question, did so.
“My sweet child,” called the Kirin. “I am so sorry! There, there, dear.”
The other ponies watched with perplexed and disbelieving expressions as Hina-rin enfolded frantic Vinyl in a hug. It seemed to be the right move: Vinyl sobbed and whooped and got the hiccups and hugged Hina back fervently, and Hina didn’t rush her. Octavia came back, panting from her exertion and gawking at the spectacle as her best friend Vinyl shuddered and cried in the Kirin’s forelegs.
Hina glanced up and caught Octavia’s eye. She turned to the little Neighponnese unicorn she cuddled.
Vinyl nodded, tearfully.
“Dear one, you must go to bed,” insisted Hina solemnly. “Too much excitement! Do this for me, please. Let your friend Octavia take you back home. We’ll meet again tomorrow.”
Vinyl pouted like a filly, but she nodded, eyes big and tearful behind the cool shades. Octavia came forward, her manner gentle, but a certain flash just barely perceptible in her eye.
“I could have done that,” Octavia said, not quite defiantly. “It wouldn’t have been the first time, even. If I’d caught up with her, I’d have helped her, with or without you.”
“But of course,” said the Kirin gently. “And what would you do? To help her?”
A little halfsmile quirked Octavia’s grey muzzle. “Pretty much exactly your prescription,” she admitted. “Scratchie? Come on, honey. Both me and your Kirin say, little unicorn go bedtime now, okay?”
Vinyl sniffled, tried to smile, still trembled. “…kirin!” she managed.
“Yes, yes,” said Octavia, helping her along. “I’m going to make you eat a haycake, too, okay? I saw you, you’ve been silently flipping out this whole time and I wondered if you were going to melt down. Come on honey, tomorrow’s another day. I’ll play you a lullaby on my cello, won’t that be nice?”
The ponies and Kirin watched them until they were out of sight, safely inside Octavia and Vinyl’s shared house. Soon, the faint sounds of a cello wafted through the air.
“That’s lovely,” said Rarity. “Her heart’s in her bow. I see she’s got more themes than just Stout Heart, hmm?”
“That’s got rid of her,” said Hina-rin with a flick of her tail. “Well! Now what?”
“Oh now wait a minute!” protested Rainbow Dash. “That’s Vinyl Scratch! You know, DJ Pon-3? Never mind being a famous DJ-pony, she’s actually really nice, I’ve hung out with her before! What do you mean, rid of her?”
Hina wasn’t offended. “Hung out with her at parties? I know she’s a celebrity, for she told me so.”
“Is there a problem with that?” said Dash.
“May I ask if there were fangirl ponies there with you?” inquired Hina-rin politely.
Dash frowned. “Oh yeah. We kinda laughed at them together. Not in a bad way? Don’t get sparky. It’s just that they were hopeless to hang out with, because… ohhhhh. I think I see where you’re going with this.”
Hina nodded. “Your Vinyl Scratch is Neighponnese, and loves me like the Kirin I am. It’s nice, but… Can’t I hang out with ponies like a regular mare? Well, apart from the great beauty and magic…”
“Whatever,” said Bon Bon, unimpressed. “Nice horn, I’ll say that. Maybe that’s why all the unicorns are flipping out more than usual?”
Rarity drew a breath, preparing to expostulate, and then remembered her little guiltstorm and her turn being cuddled through her emotional tailspin by the nurturing Kirin. She subsided, pouting ferociously, unable to argue the point.
Rainbow Dash snickered. “Well, you came to the right place! Not only can you get laid by well-hung farm ponies, we’ll totally hang out with you like you’re just one of the girls!”
“Apart from the…” began Hina-rin, earnestly.
“You said that already,” interrupted Bon Bon, rolling her eyes—and getting a scandalized, affronted look from the Kirin, who’d not finished her courtly words.
Hina, eyes wide and clearly off balance, struggled to finish her broken sentence in a way that wouldn’t get her more good-natured mockery. It was all too plain that she’d meant to remind them how beautiful and magic she was—that she needed to finish every syllable of her sentence, for some reason—and that she’d be teased if she didn’t come up with some other distinction. Then, her eyes lit up with an idea.
“…beard!” she concluded, and Rainbow Dash cracked up and fell over laughing her little squeaky laugh.
“Leave it at that,” suggested Rarity. “If you try to explain yourself further, she might not be able to breathe! Wait for the eeps to subside, and she’ll be right as rain.”
“Baaahaahahaha! eep! Oh wow. Yeah,” said Rainbow Dash, “if you want to be just folks, you HAVE to hang out with my family! The Apple family!”
“I would enjoy that!” said Hina-rin. “Where shall we go, to do this?”
Dash smirked. “You don’t have to go anywhere. Check THIS out. ‘Scuse me for a moment, stay right there!”
As her companions gawked, Rainbow Dash blasted straight up into the air, seeming to accelerate even as she went—and a boom rocked Ponyville, a circular rainbow expanding from its source. Dash wasn’t content with just that, though. They saw her tear into an impossibly tight turn, whirling in a rough circle: it looked like Rainbow was trying to put some feature on the circle, like a flat or reversed spot at the top, such as one might use for drawing a crude picture of an apple. She wasn’t terribly good at it, but even to attempt such a stunt seemed impressive.
More impressive was the result of her fierce whirling. A cyclone formed, and its cone reached down and down, aiming directly for the Town Square and the waiting ponies and Kirin. Just as they began to seriously panic, the cyclone exploded in a great churning of winds. Dash had reversed her course, and was racing back down in a crazy spiral, disrupting the whirlwind as she went. It broke up in huge bursts of turbulence so intense that lightning crackled between the vapor clouds scudding off in every direction, and then Rainbow Dash dropped to the ground right in the middle of her astonished companions.
She staggered, panting, obviously wrecked, but grinning all the same. “Nine… hhh… eight…”
“What’s the meaning of this, Rainbow Dash?” demanded Rarity. “If you hadn’t broken up that tornado, that you yourself created, it might have harmed the town!”
“You’ll see,” panted Dash. “Three… two…”
Out of the distance, on the road to Sweet Apple Acres, came a distant screeching, accompanied by a cloud of dust that raced closer and closer. The sound dopplered higher and higher as the source of the dust cloud loomed, and then it was upon them, an explosion of speed and dust and shrill warlike shrieking, enough to make every single pony including the Kirin flinch and shy away, though there was no time…
…all but one.
Rainbow Dash, still panting and grinning, held up a hoof… and a sharp clack split the air, and suddenly a tiny green filly was standing there, not even winded, hoof raised from where she’d high-oned her Mom. Northern Spy’s eyes scanned all over Town Square, her teeth gritted in a wild grin to rival her mother’s, and she wore a black cape and a black hood that covered her ears.
“Kirins and gentleponies,” said Rainbow proudly, “introducing the Green Streak, my very own adorable kid. Hey shortstuff! I thought I told you, you don’t need the cape.”
Northern Spy continued to look all around. She frowned. “Where’s the MONSTER? Is this it?” she said, indicating Hina-rin.
“No, no! That’s a friend. I wanted you to meet her. Spy, will you look at your cape? The back edge is all frayed and ripped now. I realize you love it but it can’t stand up to your raw speed, honey. And is that why you just barely made it here in ten seconds flat?”
Little Northern Spy’s eyes widened. “Did so!”
“Yeah, but just barely,” objected Dash, “you can’t take your abilities for granted like that!”
Along the same road, from Sweet Apple Acres, galloped two more ponies: Applejack and Big Macintosh, charging heroically to the rescue. As they saw the gathering of ponies in Town Square, they slowed, and joined the group more calmly. Applejack’s eyes were wide as she looked around for dangers. Big Macintosh’s were wider, though he only looked at the Kirin.
Northern Spy glowered at Dash. “But you didn’t answer me, Mom. Where’s the monster? What’s the danger?”
“Sure I did. There’s no danger. Hi!” said Rainbow Dash brightly. “Hi Applejack, Big Macintosh. I’d like to introduce…”
“You set off the APPLE SIGNAL,” squeaked Spy in outrage, “and there’s NO DANGER? We ought to put you in pony jail! Where’s Mayor Mare, or maybe Twilight, or Princess Celestia? How am I supposed to fight the evil with you when there’s no evil?”
“Pray do not fear, child!” called Hina-rin, earnestly. “I will slay this town’s evil!”
Northern Spy whirled, and gave the Kirin a skeptical look. “Uh-huh. What the fuck are you?”
“Language!” scolded Applejack, clearly ready to ask the same question.
Spy hastily corrected herself. “What the buck are you? A unicorn who ran into a wall too hard?”
“I am Hina-rin. Which is to say, a Kirin. Do you know what a Kirin is, my sweet child?”
“Your sweet WHAT now?” objected Applejack. “Dashie, what’s with th’ freaky visitors?”
Hina blinked. “I’m sorry? Have I said something improper?”
Applejack gazed levelly at her. “Ain’t your sweet child, sugarcube. That’d be mine, and Rainbow’s. I would admit the sweet part, except we know the lil’ scaper too well. Rainbow, what IS all this?”
Rainbow Dash had recovered her breath, and hastened to explain. “She’s some kind of fancy Neighponnese unicorn! Vinyl Scratch was so excited she had to go home and lie down a while, she’s from Neighpon too. Mayor Mare was so excited she ran away screaming! Though that was mostly because of the random magic dick. Check this out: this cutie’s here and she’d like to get it on with some farm ponies! How crazy is that?”
Applejack’s eyes widened. “Aw hell. Please promise this one ain’t gonna turn into a vampire?”
She blinked, startled, as Rainbow Dash put a hoof to her lips in a shushing motion, and then slashed across her throat in a ‘silence or pay the consequences!’ gesture, and shook her head until her mane rustled. Applejack went completely silent, not understanding… but understanding was soon to arrive.
Hina gasped. “I would never turn to that! Are you mad? How essentially evil! Do you not understand the nature of a Kirin? We are creatures of pure good! Radiant, benevolent… roving judges, protectors!”
“Humble, too,” suggested Rarity, wryly. Her ears were back, for she understood the essential problem.
Hina stamped a forehoof with a flare of rippling magic fetlock, and then blushed and tried to cover up the grass blades she’d stomped. “I promise, I will personally fight your evil!”
Northern Spy was studying her. Then she gave a diminutive filly snort. “Nah,” she said.
Hina’s jaw dropped. “What?”
“That’s okay,” said Spy politely. “We got this. Right, Mom?”
Rainbow grinned, a little awkwardly. “That’s right! Thanks anyway, though, Hina-rin?”
Applejack was sticking out her lower lip, truculently. “Don’t you go fightin’ nothin here in Ponyville, Miss Hin-a-rin. We’ll handle such as needs handlin’! You just set back and enjoy your stay, you got NO call to go look for fightin’ around here. Or evil!”
“Eyup,” said Big Macintosh loyally, and Hina’s ear quirked at the bassy rumble of his voice.
The Kirin looked back and forth between the ponies, and realized that every single one shared that opinion. Even Rarity looked determined and self-reliant. Hina’s lip quivered, and her eyes glistened, and then she cried out, “Ah! You’re such brave little ponies! It’s adorable! I could just hug all of you!”
“Well, all righty,” said Applejack, relaxing.
“Best idea you’ve had since I got here,” suggested Applejack. “C’mere, you! I ain’t never hugged a Kirin before. Dang, you could use a big stack of haycakes an’ apple butter!”
With a glittery flounce of her mane and a lash of her tufted tail, Hina leapt elegantly forth and hugged Applejack, who snorted in surprise to find her face immersed in that same shimmering mane. She struggled weakly, then drew a deep breath, and vented it with a “My sakes!”
“What is the matter?” inquired Hina.
“Nothin’s the matter,” explained Applejack. “Yer mane’s all tingly!”
“That’s not all that is tingly!” replied the Kirin, enthralled. Rainbow Dash guffawed and fell over laughing again, provoking an exasperated look from Northern Spy.
“Wow, are you ever going to fit in around here!” giggled Dash.
Hina’s eyes widened. “No! Er, I mean… It is not sexual excitement that I speak of!”
“So hug her again,” suggested Dash.
“Nay!” insisted Hina-rin, and Applejack looked mildly disappointed. Hina continued, “Your ponies here are so brave! In Neighpon they rely upon me for much. I’m honored, of course. It’s my privilege to help. But you, here, are so self-reliant and strong!”
Applejack smiled. “I guess we are, ain’t we? Thankee, Miss Kirin. That’s Ponyville for ya!”
“It’s astonishing,” enthused Hina. “You speak of vampires like you’ve seen those monsters!”
Northern Spy piped right up, proudly. “Heck, I was one! And I was BAD-ASS at it, too. Rar!”
All the ponies froze, in a sudden panic. Spy looked around, perplexed. “What? I got better.”
Then, Spy squeaked, for the Kirin was staring at her oddly, moving in closer, that mane billowing out strangely.
“HEY now!” protested Applejack, but even as she said it, Hina pounced. Not to attack, but to hug little Northern Spy with an expression of fierce concentration, that magic mane swirling to enfold Spy.
“LET…” began Rainbow Dash, suddenly right in Hina’s face, but the Kirin was already retreating, completely unafraid of the ponies’ reactions but gravely troubled all the same.
Northern Spy blinked. “What was that for? Do it again, it felt nice!”
Hina gulped. “What strange magic’s this? I thought I would counsel her against such silly lies. There is no stench of undeath in her aura. Yet her mind believes the tale. What is this?”
The ponies glanced back and forth, startled by Hina’s sudden bold action. Rarity cleared her throat. “I suppose you could say it is the truth. We in Ponyville have indeed handled many alarming situations. Applejack and Rainbow’s foal, Northern Spy, is herself an alarming situation more often than not, but all the more when she suffered from vampirism. She did indeed get better, and there’s certainly nothing for you to do about it now, she’s cured.”
“What can possibly cure that?” gasped Hina-rin.
“You’ve seen them,” said Rainbow Dash. “It was Twilight and Trixie, and Princess Celestia helped.”
Hina’s ears were laid back in distress as she grappled with these concepts. She twitched. “Who bit this little pony? Where is the monster? Does it still lurk around here? I will destroy it!”
“No way!” squeaked Spy, outraged. “Don’t you fucking dare, it was Gilda and it was me who bit HER! Leave her alone!”
“What is a GILDA?” cried Hina-rin, prancing in place.
“Hey!” snapped Applejack. “Slow down, y’all, you’re scaring her!” She reared, and hugged Hina back, reassuringly. “Easy now! You ain’t so different from us, are ya? Proper flower pony, you are! It’s okay. Gilda’s a griffin. You best not consider griffins evil or we gonna have words, missy. And Twi and Trixie, they cured Gilda too. Everything’s fine.”
She released the young Kirin, who stared wonderingly at her, still shivering a bit.
“How could unicorns…” she breathed, and then she blinked and made a face. “They didn’t.”
Rarity lifted an eyebrow. “They did. For a creature of ultimate good, you’re not terribly openminded. Yes, I understand Kirin magemeld to reproduce, but even if it shocks you, we Ponyville unicorns can also manage it. Twilight and Trixie can, at any rate. There are also talented unicorns that study in Canterlot who know how to do it. And I may say I sympathize a little with your feelings about Twilight and Trixie magemelding to create sex toys and artificial magic penises, but what is so different between you kindling life and our unicorns rescuing an innocent pony child from vampiric undeath?”
Hina was wide-eyed, speechless. Her lip quivered. Rarity’s calm words had apparently cut deep.
“In fairness,” added Applejack, “they couldn’ta done it without Zecora. She’s a zebra. I guess you could say she’s kind of a shaman? Sha-mare? I heard tell she ain’t supposed to be any such thing off in zebra places, but this is Ponyville an’ we love our Zecora too, so you better not go hunting for evil there.”
Hina trembled. “But… there’s still evil! I am sure of it! Somewhere… buried underneath…”
Bon Bon stamped the ground, drawing everypony’s attention. “What? What do you mean? The foal was cured!”
“Hey!” objected Northern Spy, filly nostrils flaring in outrage at being called a foal.
Bon Bon paid no attention. “The griffin was cured, and is gone. Even Twilight Sparkle’s mad attack on Celestia amounted to nothing. Everything’s accounted for. What do you mean there’s still evil in Ponyville?”
“I just feel…” began Hina, but Applejack trotted right up to her, fixing her with a stern gaze.
“Ah TOLE you, we’ll handle things around here! You jes’ occupy yourself with havin’ your fun on the end of our fine stallions. We don’t want you huntin’ down no evil in these parts, missy! Be told!”
“If she means…” began Bon Bon, but caught herself at a desperate furious glance from Rainbow Dash. It seemed like the word ‘Fluttershy’ hovered in the air, unsaid. The Kirin’s mane stormed and sparkled with the intensity and complexity of the pony feelings that surrounded her. Her face contorted and twisted…
Hina burst into tears. “Bwaaaaaah!”
Applejack’s jaw dropped. She glanced at Rainbow, then at her Spy. “Dang! Awwww…”
The next thing Hina knew, she was being hugged some more, and comforted by the orange earth pony mare with the resolutely good wholesome aura. Then, the blue pegasus with the complicated fretful aura and the underlying laser-like purity of essence joined her, and even the white unicorn with the fiercely complex aura like a paisley pattern of love and guilt. The grumpy earth pony mare with an aura like a sword under a carpet of flower petals and crabapples stamped her hoof, glaring, her essence demanding the truth.
“She said there was still evil,” demanded Bon Bon. “What does she mean, there’s still evil here? Make her answer!”
Rarity turned her head, and skewered Bon Bon with an imperious unicorn glare. “Piss off, darling!”
“Grrrrh!” snarled Bon Bon, and she whirled and galloped back to her house and Mayor Mare.
Rainbow Dash blinked. “I thought she was, like, your loyal customer? So much for that, huh?”
Rarity scrunched her nose. “Feh! She acts like she’s the special agent of Princess Celestia herself! Such a scolding is richly deserved.”
“Shush, you two,” ordered Applejack. “Poor thing! For all that you’re here for some rumpypumpy, you ain’t the most mature Kirin in Neighpon, are ya? I guess this means you’re gonna do like we said, huh?”
Hina nodded, tearfully. “I am no mere foal. But I don’t understand this. You really mean it? No hunting?”
“Aw HELL no!” ordered Applejack. “You leave that to us! You just enjoy yourself, you hear?”
“Do you think she can promise that?” asked Rainbow. “I don’t know how Kirins are. Is she gonna be overwhelmed with like Kirin-lust?”
“Heh, heh, heh…” replied Applejack.
Rainbow smirked. “Not like that! Or maybe like that, but… you know what I mean! You’re just teasing!”
“P’raps I am,” said Applejack. “You know how it is with our lil’ scaper, we get an agreement and then we’re quickly distractin’ so she switches that filly brain over to some other thought. This here pretty an’ ravishing creature is maybe kinda like that. I think she’s gonna be good, so can we get back to the good vibes an’ help her out?”
“I’m not sure,” said Rarity. “Perhaps I can give her a make-over? Or I could, if she weren’t already so lovely. Hmph. We could sing her a song?”
A pink pony head popped unexpectedly out from behind her, as if out of nowhere. “I know songs!”
Rarity shrieked. “Pinkie Pie! Don’t do that, I beg of you! Whatever brings you here so suddenly?”
“The Apple Signal, of course!” said Pinkie brightly. “Rock said I could come along and see what was happening if I let him sneak up and case the joint first!”
Rainbow Dash stared at her. “Sure, why not? Go right ahead. I think you have that backwards, though, because here you are and look around, there’s no sign of your colt Rock C-YAAAH!”
“Hello!” chirped a white colt with pink mane and tail, in a deadpan tone that seemingly didn’t even notice Dash’s startled reaction. He’d turned up right behind her, just to be funny. Rock Candy, also known as the Rock Lobster for reasons nopony could comprehend, was on the scene and ready to team up with the Green Streak to fight all manner of evil and solve the crime, if possible even before it happened. As usual, a twinkle in his eye hinted at his delight in freaking out the grown-ups. What the Green Streak did with sheer speed and power, the Rock Lobster did by surprise and for amusement: both his own, and that of onlookers with the right sense of humor.
“He’s goooood,” mused Pinkie Pie, proudly.
The sudden appearance of an insouciant colt had shaken Hina-rin from her moping. “Hello, little one!” she said. “Who are you?”
Rock looked curiously at her. “I’m Rock Lobster, superhero. I guess there wasn’t an emergency? You’re not exactly an emergency, are you?”
“I am a Kirin,” said Hina gently. “Do you know what Kirin are?”
He studied her, wrinkling his brow in thought. “Well…”
“Then I will tell you,” began Hina, but Rock Candy wasn’t done.
“Apart from the great magical power, you’re here to do stuff with the farm ponies my Mom won’t let me watch,” he said. “You’re going to bring a lot of trouble but do good things, and leave here less dumb than you were when you came. You’ll break… hmm… one heart before you go, and make a lot of flower ponies fall over, and not be sorry at all. I don’t understand that part. How come you’re going to make flower ponies fall over but you’re okay with it?”
All the ponies stared at him in shock, except for Pinkie, his Mom.
“Pinkie Sense,” she said smugly. “Runs in the family. I didn’t understand all that either, but he’s young. And darn right you’re not gonna watch her do her thing, young mister! Gotta love Ponyville. It’s a great place for stuff Rock’s not allowed to watch! We might as well be Fillydelphia if only we had more vats of pudding. Why, ponies come from far and wide to…”
“Hello,” came a new voice, very soft, and Pinkie’s jaw dropped.
“Oh, no. You? Here?!?”
The newcomer cowered. “Mmhm…”
Applejack boggled. “Marble? Marble Pie? Well, I’ll be! Pinkie’s sister, as I live an’ breathe! What brings you to these parts, honey?”
“Mm!” managed Marble, and fell utterly silent, cringing back under Pinkie’s surprisingly aggressive stare.
“Pinkie?” said Applejack. “Pinkie? Pinkie Pie! Snap out of it! What the hay is the matter with you?”
“Nothing!” asserted Pinkie. “Why, everything’s just wonderful here in Ponyville. Especially with my marvelous Rock Candy learning the ways of Pinkie Sense…”
“Marble sense,” offered Marble Pie meekly.
“What did you say?!”
“Mm!” squeaked Marble, blushed, and went silent again.
Pinkie hyperventilated for a moment, and then put on a great big disturbing smile. “Nothing’s the matter and everything’s fine and we don’t need anything ‘cos we’re good just the way we are! And we especially don’t need HER!”
Pinkie whirled on her little sister, younger by seconds. “Or is it your creepy destiny thing, Marble? Is this the time you’ve been talking about since we were little? The one time you have sex, and it’s very amazing but scary and you survive it and then creep off home to be a spinster pony, content in the knowledge that, that WHAT are always clopping off over you? It’s not even a real word!”
“…bronies?” whimpered Marble Pie, cowering back a little more.
“That! Is that what you’re up to? Is it this weird new unicorn thing you screw, this weird girl here?” demanded Pinkie, indicating the Kirin, whose mane was flaring up. “Is it her?”
Marble was past even being able to speak, shaking like a leaf, but there was special assistance forthcoming right away. Hina sprang forward, hugged her, and turned to Pinkie. “Noisy pink pony! Do not scold your dear sister. She means you no harm!”
Pinkie wasn’t comforted. “This is MY turf! If anypony’s gonna be spooky with a Sense around here it’s me! Ask her, go on, just ask her. Is it her creepy sex destiny thing?”
“Not this chapter,” managed Marble Pie, to puzzled looks from the surrounding ponies.
“You see? You SEE?” said Pinkie. “What does that even mean? She never stops with that stuff!”
Hina-rin drew Marble closer. “Calm yourself, you’re safe! Sweet little pony. Do you come here to have sex?”
Marble nodded a bashful little nod. “Mmhm…”
“There you are,” soothed the Kirin. “That wasn’t so hard! Calm yourself, pink miscreant. She only wanted to come here and have sex.”
“And warn Pinkie about the evil,” said Marble in a teeny-tiny but clear voice.
Pinkie’s ears laid flat back against her head. “What?”
Applejack’s ears had perked up, by contrast. “Say that again, honey? This Kirin keeps goin’ on about evil in town.”
Rainbow Dash hovered with thoughtful wingbeats. “Maybe they’re thinking of the same thing? And not just… stuff that doesn’t concern them? That’s two of ‘em now saying it.”
“Hmm,” said Applejack. “Kirin ain’t too specific. See here, Marble, what’s th’ problem?”
Marble whimpered. “I don’t know either! They find out by the end of the next chapter but I don’t see it! I never do see it, I get scared and go back home where it’s safe!”
“Huh,” said Applejack. “Huh. That don’t make sense, Marble, you’re talkin’ Pinkie crazy, except she raves and babbles when she says stuff like that and don’t remember what she said. How come Pinkie ain’t sayin’ this stuff, then? Why just you and the Kirin? Kirin’s supposed to be special good at sensin’ evil. Why not Pinkie Pie?”
Marble directed a gently sulky look at Applejack, and didn’t dare meet Pinkie’s furious gaze at all.
“She’s not sensitive enough…”
“How about,” demanded Pinkie Pie, “you screw this Kirin, if that’s what it is, and go home!”
Marble blinked. “But I don’t have sex with her. It’s him,” she said, and pointed a hoof at Big Macintosh, whose eyes went wide.
“AAAARGHH!” screeched Pinkie Pie.
“Easy, there, Pinkster!” urged Rainbow Dash, worriedly.
“No!” raged Pinkie. “No way! If it’s not Rainbow Dash it’s Flutterbuttykins and then Luna and now my baby SISTER? Are you kidding? Is this big bumbling red bozo going to screw EVERY mare in the whole universe? Aaarrggh! No way! I quit! And fuck you, Marble, there’s no evil here, we’ve been through all that! I am outta here!”
With that, Pinkie departed and Rock Candy chased after her, glancing worriedly back at the other ponies. “Mom? Mom! It’s okay, Mom! You’re still a big part of everything, I can tell!”
“That’s just what I’m afraid of!” yelled Pinkie, and continued storming off.
The remaining ponies stared in awe at Marble, who trembled in the Kirin’s embrace.
“Dang,” said Applejack. “You’re more sensitive than Pinkie Pie? At sensin’?”
“Mm-hm,” said Marble faintly.
“What’s it like?” said Applejack.
Marble just trembled. Hina-rin petted her with a delicate cloven hoof. “I believe that is the truth. This one flies close to the edge. Near the cusp of awareness.”
“She’s an oracle pony?” inquired Rarity, fascinated.
“It’d explain a lot,” mused Applejack. “Seems like Pinkie’s a mite jealous. We better make sure our Pinkie Pie’s not feelin’ too hurt by all this. Evil, you say?”
Marble nodded a little nod. “Mm-hm. It’s so bad. I knew Pinkie wouldn’t like it, but I had to come warn her.”
“This might git awkward,” sighed Applejack.
Bon Bon peered under the bed. Mayor Mare was still there. She’d eaten half the apple Bon Bon had rolled under there for her, and then she’d fallen asleep.
There was nothing for it. A report would have to be filed. Duty called.
Bon Bon checked under the bed once more, and Mayor Mare was still asleep. She peered out the window. Nopony was looking. She’d have to risk it.
She trotted over to the hall closet, and three feet beyond it, where the rug lay neatly in the exact middle of the hallway. She set her jaw, reared, clapped her hooves, and did a little shake.
Quietly, the rug zipped off to the side and up the wall, revealing a dark hole that hadn’t been under that rug before.
Bon Bon took a mighty leap, and jumped in. The rug zipped back down off the wall to cover her exit.
Down a chute she went, a grimly serious expression on her face, and she flumphed cozily onto a Double Size Government Horse Pillow, that rotated into place to catch her. Next to it, the modified party cannon that shot her back into the world of her cover story, in a discreet shower of relatively subdued confetti. That would wait until she’d done her duty to Celestia and could be Bon Bon again, unsuspected.
She stood, walked forward through the special dispenser bracket that placed a set of very serious shades over her eyes, and also gave her a sugar lump to snack on for that vital pony energy to pursue her indispensable tasks. She was ready.
Special Agent Sweetie Drops was, as always, on the case.
“Mmm!” was Special Agent Sweetie Drops’ first announcement to her secret lair, and she pranced cutely as she munched on the sugar lump, her eyes closed in bliss behind the shades. Her cover story as Bon Bon was well chosen, but her Fearless Leader knew the candy-related cutie mark really just spoke of her sweet tooth. Celestia had more than once flown her in to Canterlot under cover of night, so the Princesses could team up and cure toothaches brought on by too many candies.
Sweetie Drops would have grown into a plump and round little pony, if not for the grappling hook and life of mystery and intrigue that kept her fit. Indeed, the weakness for candy helped disguise her muscle, and the occasional toothaches helped her stay in character as a bitchy Ponyville small-business mare.
It was useful to sometimes have a temper, for Sweetie Drops had a tendency to fall in love with pretty mares and long for the softer, kinder things: it was why she’d tried to please the mercurial Lyra for so long, and when the unexpectedly young Mayor Mare had begin to entice her with a earnest loving manner and a tenderness Lyra wholly lacked, Special Agent Sweetie Drops had fallen as hard as she’d ever fallen in her whole life. The most difficult thing Sweetie Drops had ever done had been to maintain the cover story, and pretend she was a cranky and arrogant mare conducting a secret affair with the Mayor.
She tried not to show too much of her utter devotion to her Mayoral darling, but she suspected Mayor Mare knew how she felt. That part was okay, and even felt good. What she couldn’t let Mayor Mare guess was the other secret… and her other love.
And that other love wasn’t carnal. You could say it was spiritual, perhaps. She saw it as no less than a sacred duty, and rejoiced to perform it.
Sweetie Drops, Ponyville special agent to Princess Celestia herself!
It had begun even before she’d met Lyra. There was a party that the Princess attended. Not in Ponyville, no, no! Sweetie Drops marvelled at how well she’d integrated into the town of Ponyville, with the aid of Princess Celestia. She’d come from out beyond Mareheim, but sure enough it was easy: a new name, being seen around town looking like she was heading somewhere important, and finally being seen as Bon Bon talking with Princess Celestia, who said that Bon Bon lived in Ponyville as if it was self-evident. It was even true… by the time she said it. Just like that, Bon Bon had always lived in Ponyville.
And in rare secret meetings with Celestia, Princess of the Sun, Sweetie Drops positively bounced with delight and begged to serve her Princess… and her pleas were answered.
First and always was the spying, though Celestia insisted upon calling it observing. Bon Bon must be known as a gossipy, rather mean busybody pony, but must never actually do anything to cause anypony any trouble. Her role was to be a clearing-house for information, privy to all the stories of Ponyville, especially the unfriendly ones. Celestia had told her that this was her big challenge, because she had to convincingly seem mean enough to attract mean-spirited gossip… and that in truth, inside that facade, ‘T-drops’ was as sweet as her cutie mark and sweet tooth.
‘Bon Bon’ had bounced and squeed for five minutes at that, and it had been another five minutes before she could convincingly be ‘Bon Bon’ in public again. Celestia hadn’t minded, and had even said it was important for Sweetie Drops to remember her good heart.
It had been months before Sweetie Drops had learned what that meant.
She’d sent in countless little cards, with her observations and judgements on Ponyvilleans, and Celestia had filed them away in a vast filing system. Sweetie Drops had seen it, once, and Celestia seemed to write just as many notes as she did, reports on all the ponies from seemingly everywhere. Sweetie Drops tried valiantly to contribute her information, remembering always to be kind but clear in judgement. She’d almost always succeeded, though she feared sometimes she’d let personal things affect her. Celestia had notes about Lyra being a thoughtless mare and a menace, and Sweetie Drops knew that stemmed in part from her complaining. She’d even put the ‘thoughtless mare’ part into a report, once, and Celestia had accepted it unquestioningly.
And then, one day, Bon Bon saw Twilight Sparkle walk into Ponyville and move into the Golden Oaks library as a caretaker and librarian, and all became clear.
Sweetie Drops had seen Twilight in Canterlot. She, herself, had a terrible weakness for mares and her gay-dar had always gone off deafeningly when she saw the Princess with her young protege. Sweetie Drops knew that Twilight Sparkle had grown up with Celestia, trained as a special student, and for that reason she’d never argued the matter with Celestia or even mentioned the statuesque alicorn’s obvious crush on her youthful unicorn.
When Celestia had finally given in and begun dating Twilight, ‘T-Drops’ had sighed a huge sigh of relief. It was like the end of an era, though she thought she could still remain useful: for so long she’d been Celestia’s eyes and ears in Ponyville, keeping tabs on everything that could threaten Twilight Sparkle. Sweetie Drops didn’t have to be told. Her little heart warmed to Princess Celestia’s urgent need to protect her protege, her forbidden and encompassing love: if Celestia needed to establish a secret agent just to protect one rather nerdy and bookish young mare, Sweetie Drops thought that the most romantic thing ever.
It had become the scariest thing ever as Twilight grew in power, played with alarming and dangerous magic artifacts, and finally even became a Princess herself and then blew it all up somehow and returned to her original unicorn self. But, finally, Celestia was happy. Twilight was happy, and spent more and more time at the Canterlot palace. And Sweetie Drops’ trusty gaydar told her that Twilight, Trixie the formerly travelling unicorn mage, and Celestia were balling like maniacs, perhaps even including Chaos, the waiflike alicorn who apparently had spent many years as Discord, conducting another tragic broken relationship with Celestia herself, and likewise had made her amends and sorted things out somehow.
Sweetie Drops was very happy for all of them. All the same, duty called. She strapped on her secret agent watch, and set up a stack of cards. A quill lifted in the grip of the watch’s magic, dipped in ink, and T-Drops, Special Agent, began to industriously write her daily reports.
“You’ll have seen the visiting Kirin, from Neighpon,” she began, “but what you might not have seen is what happened after you left. Upon being pressed for an explanation about the evil she claimed was in Ponyville, the Kirin burst into tears and cried until hugged by Applejack, also Rainbow Dash and Rarity. Kirin is more young and inexperienced than the usual Kirin found in Neighpon. Query: we know Fluttershy is a good vampony, by her actions. Is there any chance the Kirin will erroneously target her?”
“In the event of an attack on Fluttershy, I estimate a good eighty percent chance that I can break cover, reveal my identity, and smuggle her out of town. If she weren’t a flying pony (vampire, whatever) I would use the grappling hook to get her out: failing that, we could make use of the Portable Disguise in my secret agent kit. I’ve extracted as much information as I could without giving myself away.”
“Query: request reassurance about this evil? The Kirin seems very certain of it. Would like a second opinion about Ponyville evil, for I’ve not seen any lately.”
“Continuing the report, Apple Bloom continues to capably run Sweet Apple Acres as Boss Mare. The filly Diamond Tiara is trying to serve as her business manager. This causes conflict with some of the farm ponies, but Apple Bloom seems to like it. They’re young and somewhat reckless: chances that the Bloom/Tiara romantic relationship will cause discipline problems with unrelated farmponies, roughly ten percent. Bloom understands the context of being an authority figure better, but Tiara tends to undermine her without meaning to.”
“Rarity’s relationship with Derpy Hooves continues to serve both of them well: they are often seen together, and Derpy Hooves is proud of the relationship they share. As a result, some ponies such as Rainbow Dash tease Derpy openly. Will watch for signs this is bugging Derpy, but for the time being it seems to give her a sense of belonging. It’s possible I should be watching Rarity for negative reactions, not Derpy: Rarity remains capable of alarming surprises, though her mail-order selling of bondage/domination gear is down roughly twenty percent. It may rebound as winter approaches and ponies spend more time inside. To the best of my knowledge, Rarity continues to hold the opinion that selling sharpened spurs through the mail is ‘too rough for Ponyville’. I continue to watch for changes to this position, as you’ve requested.”
“Dissatisfaction appears to be largely two groups: flower ponies, and farm worker ponies, notably herders such as Silver and Hollyhock. And Pinkie Pie, of course, who’s more tense than ever these days. The flower ponies continue to entertain themselves but Roseluck in particular is often distressed at the special problems they face in breeding with stallions: none of them are really content with their workarounds. The herders are restless and alarmed at something, and perhaps they sense this evil the Kirin keeps going on about.”
“Query: I would really like guidance on the subject of this evil. Things have been as normal as can be since the Donkeys’ wedding, and though there is unrest in the town I haven’t seen anything out of pl”
Special Agent Sweetie Drops froze, for that wasn’t true. She had. It was so strange that she’d reported it to Celestia, and then forgotten it, for there wasn’t a trace of follow-up.
In her mind’s eye, she could still see the beautiful wedding, all the happy ponies, the small group of nervous children… and that one, small, silent changeling sitting off by itself.
Celestia had replied, inquiring whether it had been a friend of the groom: Cranky Doodle Donkey had traveled far and wide, after all. He’d disavowed any knowledge of the thing. It was unclear whether it was a tiny changeling, or a child changeling: it had the same size as a pony child, but that might not mean much. In retrospect it seemed all the more odd: ponies avoided the creature, but not a single pony had panicked or asked questions, because not a single pony was panicking or asking questions. It had been a day for celebration, and all the herd was together with a great feeling of collective safety. Mayor Mare had presided, showing her love for all those present. The guests were a glittering array of notable, capable ponies: the Doctor was there, several expert pegasi from Weather Patrol, Zecora the mare shaman, Big Macintosh… Shining Armor had been there. Princess Celestia and Princess Luna had been present!
Literally every powerful and important pony or creature in Equestria had been there. Everywhere you looked, there was another odd stranger, and it seemed not one pony had questioned the inexplicable presence of a changeling at the party. It wasn’t even disguised: it sat politely, watching. And then, when the ceremony was over, Sweetie Drops had looked again, and it was gone, never to be seen in Ponyville again.
OR WAS IT?
Sweetie Drops trembled. What if it never left? How could they have been such fools? It could be anywhere. If it had to assume forms similar to its mass, it could be any pony child, perhaps other creatures such as Spike the dragon. And Spike lived with Twilight Sparkle! That was a staggering security breach right where Princess Celestia was most vulnerable!
That was evil. That was the biggest evil ever! Sweetie Drops hyperventilated for a moment, just about rearing and whinnying in alarm… and then, she gritted her teeth, and grew very serious, deadly serious. Now, more than ever, Celestia needed her. She wasn’t going to fail. She briefly considered wearing the Portable Disguise as a sort of double-fake-out strategy, but it always tickled her nose and she abandoned the idea. Courage would be her only defense. She would find out if the thing had really left, and she would warn Celestia.
Special Agent Sweetie Drops poked a button on her watch, and the note cards poofed away in bursts of tame magic, to find Celestia and be magically sorted into her catalogs of notes. She shed her agent glasses, and tucked them back into the dispenser for next time. The need might strike at any moment.
She trotted determinedly over, and jumped into the modified party cannon, which clicked into place and fired her up through the secret door again, grim-eyed, her forelegs folded, amid a subdued burst of confetti.
Back in the public areas of her cozy house, she galloped over and threw the door open, charging out to sweep the streets with a ferocious glare. There was nothing, nothing at all: her neighborhood was empty. She stared, panting, and still apprehended no monsters or suspicious characters.
She remembered, and Bon Bon whirled and ran back inside to look under her bed. She left the bedroom door hanging open too, and ducked down to check on Mayor Mare.
Mayor Mare stirred. She wore a little halfsmile, enjoying some fond dream, feeling safe under the bed she shared nightly with her beloved. She relaxed, let out a gentle sigh, and as Bon Bon held her breath, her lover began to snore gently.
Second by second, Bon Bon’s heart pounded less wildly. She realized she was staring like a madmare at a happy sleeping pony hiding under a bed. This wasn’t so unusual for Ponyville, and she really had no evidence to support her worst fears. There would be no ravening Changeling sneaking in to devour her beloved, or herself. Bon Bon sagged, her cheek pressing the floor, and told herself everything was going to be okay. There was no evil, no attack, nothing but the gentle snoring of Mayor Mare…
…and the tiny, faint, strange rustling, following her frantic path back into her house.
Unwillingly, she looked behind her, afraid yet somehow sure of what she might see.
On the threshold of her home, peering around the doorframe furtively, was a small black silent chitinous creature, last seen on Ponyville’s special day.
Yellow light gleamed in the emerald-green depths of its eyes for a moment, and then it ducked out of sight, and by the time Special Agent Sweetie Drops had charged to the door and looked frantically around, it was gone.