Dusk Shine reluctantly poked his head out of his tent, bracing himself from the blinding morning rays of sunlight. The sun hung just above horizon.
"6:30..." he muttered groggily as he gave a large stretch and a yawn. Being the student of the great Equestrian warlord, Solaris, he was taught how to use the sun to do many things. Finding the time was one of them.
"And here I thought he was just bragging about..." he chuckled as he rubbed an eye.
Solaris rubbed a hoof to his stinging nose, looking as if he needed to catch his second wind. Horn still glowing, Celestia turned to him.
"Are you alright?" Shaking his head, he refocused on the task at hand. Raising the sun.
"I'm fine. But..."
"Have you ever gotten the feeling...someone's talking about you?"
Celestia raised a brow, then gave a chuckle.
"You're so strange, Solaris."
Solaris blushed as the princess laughed beside him at his silliness.
Dusk Shine made his way across the camp, trotting softly to keep the others asleep. Heading for the camp's edge, Dusk eyed the bags that dangled from the trees hungrily. Horn glowing brightly, one of the many bags untied itself from a tree limb and floated gently on one of the picnic tables. He seated
himself at the table and undid the knot on the top of the bag. Several apples rolled out, looking very appetizing for a snack.
Minutes later, Rainbow Blitz emerged from his tent, a dark green bag dangling from his teeth.
"Good morning, Blitz. Apple?" he asked, handing his one. Blitz made his way to the table and set the bag down beside him before he took the apple hungrily.
"So, I wanted to go over the plan one more time with before we start." Blitz slurped. "Now if we're going to find this thing in five days, we need to start tracking it now."
"Woah, woah, woah." Dusk interjected in shock. "You don't think we're STILL gonna find that thing, do you? The girls are here, we can't put them in that much danger."
"Which is exactly why I told you guys NOT to tell the girls about this trip, they're always butting in, but nopony seems to know how to keep a secret." Blitz ranted, crossing his hooves over his chest. "They're not coming anyway. They'd get in the way."
Blitz bent down underneath the table, returning once again with a bag in his mouth. He dumped the contents of the bag onto the tabletop: a sealed scroll, a compass, a few matches , and a torch. Blitz broke the seal with a flick of the wrist and rolled it out. They stared at a large map of the Everfree Forest that took up half of the table. Drawn beautifully in detail, with several outliers marking on the map: red paw prints.
"I managed to track it here," he said, pointing a hoof at a paw print on the map. "It's not that far from here, like a one and a half hour hike. But if we go up this way,-" Dusk Shine slammed a hoof down on the map in anger, making Blitz flinch.
"ARE YOU INSANE?!?" Dusk Shine roared. Blitz's eyes grew wider in frustration as he tried to shush Dusk Shine up, but the lavender unicorn could not be tamed as he continued to rant.
"What if we're no match for that-that THING and it comes here?!? The girls would be totally defenseless!"
"No fur off my back..." Blitz said flatly.
"ARE YOU LISTEN TO YOURSELF? I-"
Just then, Fluttershy poked her head out of her tent. "Is everything alright?" she asked drowsily. Dusk Shine and Blitz shared a glance and a moment of realization. Dusk Shine cleared his throat in embarrassment. "Yeah Fluttershy, everything's fine. We're just...setting the table for breakfast, that's all."
"Oh, would you like some help?" she asked slowly pushing herself outside.
"NO!" the two shouted in unison. The pegasus instinctively recoiled back into the tent in fright.
"Uh, sorry Fluttershy. It's good, we can set the table." Blitz replied apologetically. A soft smile returned to her face as she nodded and retreated back into her tent. Dusk's angry expression returned as he continued in a hushed tone.
"You see? Fluttershy will freak out if that thing comes romping and stomping into the camp. The girls wouldn't know how to handle it, let alone stop it. Somepony might get hurt and I'm not going to risk that because you wish to be reckless."
"So that's just all the more reason to find it. Better we find it than it find us." Blitz reasoned optimistically. " Saving the girls from the big scary monster is one of the best ways of earning your strips, think about it. We bring back the head of the beast to the girls, the girls tell their marefriends in Ponyville, they tell THEIR friends, next thing you know," Blitz said, wrapping a hoof around Dusk Shine's shoulder for the big finish. "We are neck DEEP in mares, my friend. Mares, mares everywhere." He whispered with determination. " And all we need to do is get that thing."
By now, a blush had worked its way onto Dusk Shine's face as he envisioned all of those mares doing things for him.
"That would be nice, but still... it's too dangerous." He said finally. Blitz drooped in disappointment , until he had gotten another idea, perking right up. "What if we sent the girls home a little early?"
Dusk Shine raised a brow in confusion. "Huh?"
"Yeah, we send the girls home early, then we go find the beast, that way the girls stay while we go find it."
"That would be a good idea," Dusk considered, rubbing a hoof on his chin. "Only, one problem..."
"US! That thing will mangle us!" Dusk shouted. "And I would like to return home in one piece!"
"So you WEREN'T serious when we were planning this 'big hunt' at home?" Blitz asked accusingly.
"I was high on Testosterone and Adrenaline!" Dusk defended with a slightly cracked voice. "I bet the others were too. No one was serious about the hunt."
Blitz crossed his hooves over his chest and let out a snort of hot air. "Well, I'm still going. See you from the back of my MILK CARTON, 'so called' friend." He lifted his nose in disgust at Dusk Shine. Moments later, he peeked to see if his disposition had changed.
Dusk sighed. "Fine."
The ponies had all gathered 'round the picnic tables for breakfast, caught up in their own conversations. Bubble Berry squirted a mountain of ketup atop his home fries and omelet. He licked his lips hungrily as it oozed out of the bottle, spattering into every nook and cranny on his plate. Berry wasn't a very picky eater. He'd eat anything if it looked good, and for whatever reason, he never got fat. He hit the bottom of the bottle a few times as the flow of ketup started to slow, until the bottle was completely empty. Beside him, Pinkie did the same, hitting the bottle until empty. They tossed their forth bottle over their shoulders in unison.
"Ready?" Berry said with his usual enthusiasm. Pinkie gave a curt nod and like that, the two sunk their faces into the mounds of ketup.
Berry slurped with all his might, sucking up the red slime off of the plate. About 3/4 of his ketup gone when he heard Pinkie yell, "DONE!" Berry yanked his face off of his plate to see for himself. Her face was as red as a beet, but the plate was squeaky clean.
"Darn it!" Berry whined. He snorted out a puff of ketup as Pinkie bounced around the table gleefully.
"I win! I win!" she cheered.
"Alright Pinkie," Berry smiled, shaking the ketup off of his face. "What do you want to do today?" Pinkie stopped in mid bounce and fell to the ground. She reached into her tail and pulled out a scroll. Upon opening it, it rolled out onto the ground, extending to about five feet.
"Wow." Berry said in awe. "That's a lot."
"But it can be done by the end of the day." Pinkie said with determination. "First we're going on a hike with Butterscotch and Fluttershy this morning. Then, everypony is going to hang out at the lake. About 2 hours in we're going to have a chicken fight tournament. Come back to camp, and go looking for new fruits and veggies for dinner. Then finally, marshmallow roasting at the end of the day."
"That sounds great, Pinkie! But, uh, why is the list that long?" Berry asked, pointing at the list. Pinkie snapped the roll of paper back into its original state and tucked it away back into her tail. "The rest is, you know, Pinkie-Berry sense and randomness stuff." She said as she trotted passed him.
"Oh. Cool!" he beamed.
Pinkie and Berry led the way through the woods, with Fluttershy and Butterscotch trotting close behind. Pinkie had found these woods inside the forest (Weird, right?) long ago. The woods were in the very center of the forest, making it the safest place to hike. Here, the light shined brightly through the thin canopy, making the trees and plants grow wildly. It was teaming with rare and exotic creatures that roamed freely. They'd finally stopped, settling down for a rest.
"This is...amazing." Butterscotch breathed in awe.
"I know, right?" Pinkie agreed as she bounced passed. "And I've always have wanted to take Fluttershy here," she turned to Fluttershy. "But I knew she would never come into the Everfree Forest, even for an superbly amazing place like this."
Fluttershy opened her mouth to reply, but just then, a magnificent monarch landed on her nose. It beat its wings slowly as she looked upon it with awe.
"Hello." She smiled. The butterfly fluttered its wings faster in greeting.
"Oh my..." Then, another butterfly landed on her head, then another on her hoof. She giggled as the butterflies fluttered around her, taking a major liking to her.
A few feet away, Butterscotch had a large bird perched on his shoulder. He fed the bird a treat from his saddlebag. After consuming it, the bird gave a regal squawk of delight. Soon after, three more birds landed near Butterscotch.
"Oh, would you like one too?"
He reached into his bag and pulled out three more treats, giving one to each of them. With screeches of approval, they flew up and perched on his back. They removed his saddlebag, placing it on the ground. They, then, began preening his wings and mane, getting deep in between his feathers.
"Come on, guys! That tickles!" he giggled.
Pinkie and Berry watched lazily from afar as they lounged on a pair of bushes, being fed grapes by native monkeys.
"This place is great," Berry said sleepily, giving a large stretch. "I feel like taking a nap..." He scratched his belly as a monkey popped another grape in his mouth.
"Well, we do have a good 30 minutes until we have to leave, so a nap would be nice." Pinkie said drowsily. She waved a hoof at the monkeys and they took to the trees, hooting and hollering as they dispersed through the treetops. Berry's eyes began to grow heavy as he lay there, listening to the forest sweet serenade that lulled him into slumber.
That is, until he felt a light pressure on his chest. He peaked a look over his muzzle and found a large lump of pink rub into his chest, followed by a soft murmur and a snore. Berry's eyes popped open, the need to nap no longer a handicap.
Berry began to sweat bullets as he continued to stare at the peaceful mare; a red blush overtaking his already pink face.
"P-P-Pinkie?" he stammered softly. The sleepy pony snuggled deeper in response. Berry laid there, stiff and motionless. Berry always had hung out with Pinkie like this before. Ever since they've met, they've been inseparable. Heck, the Cakes even let them sleep in the same room.
But somehow, this was different...
And for the first time in Berry's life, he didn't know what to do.
Should he wake her? Laugh it off? Be random, as always? All of these solutions popped into his head, and one by one, he shot them down. These were all things he would normally do when...well, when ever.
But for some reason or another, he didn't move.
He didn't want to.
He watched her as she slept peacefully on his chest. Her sides rising and falling with every small breath she took, her soft murmuring in her sleep, her candy scented mane, the warmth of her body....
He felt his heart pounding heavily in his chest, slowly crawling up his throat. He felt his hooves growing sweaty after a time, as well as his brow as he waited. Waited for something, ANYTHING to stop the madness!
"Berry?" Berry snapped out of his panic, turning his attention to the two pegasi standing expectantly to his right.
"Huh?" he blurted. The yellow stallion's gaze dropped quickly, a hoof dragging on the ground.
"I said it was time to go, but you and Pinkie look busy so we'll wait..."
Fluttershy nodded shyly in agreement.
"No!" he exclaimed. The pegasi jumped back, quickly making themselves look as small as possible.
"I mean, no...we can...go..." Berry trailed off as his gaze rested on the mare on his chest. Butterscotch and Fluttershy shifted uneasily on their hind hooves as they waited for Berry to wake Pinkie up.
"Uh, Berry?" Fluttershy asked. But she received no answer. The two shared a quizzical look. Several more moments passed until one of them decided to do something.
"Pinkie?" Fluttershy called softly.
The mare lifted her head off his chest, yawning drowsily.
"Huh? Whatisit?" she slurred.
"It's about time for us to go, Pinkie." She explained. Pinkie then got up, gave a stretch and a yawn, and bounced off of the flattened bush. "Alrighty, let's go!" She bounced along side Fluttershy as the two made their way toward the exiting path. But even as they left, Berry remained motionless. Staring blankly off into space, he could have sworn he had heard somepony calling his name.
"Berry, we need to go..."
Berry, once again, snapped out of his thoughts as Butterscotch shook him gently with a hoof. "Huh? Uh, yeah...sure."
Berry lagged behind as Butterscotch moved hastily, meaning to catch up with the girls. He trudged through the leafy trail alone, head hanging low in exhaustion. Berry felt as if he had ran across Equestria. Or hit by a train. Or both. He could hear Pinkie's inaudible voice echoing over the buzzing of the forest.
'It was probably nothing.' Berry thought. 'Pinkie is my friend, after all. Maybe something bit me while we were in the forest or something... But
still, maybe I should tell the guys about it.'
Blitz hovered above the lake lazily as everyone below set up their beach umbrellas and laid down their beach towels. He focused on each one of the girls, measuring them up to be his partner.
'Defiantly not her. She would probably freeze up during the competition. And she's not all that strong, either.' He thought as he flew passed Fluttershy as she set up one of the beach umbrellas with Butterscotch.
Blitz rolled his eyes with uncertainty as he drifted by the partying ponies, splashing playfully in the water. 'She's... A LITTLE too crazy for me to handle.'
'She wouldn't even CONSIDER being my partner,' he rolled his eyes once again as Rarity trotted by. 'Even if she did, Elusive would kill me for even asking.' He concluded as she made her way to the white stallion, giving him an affectionate nuzzle.
'Maybe her... if I run outta options.' He thought, wincing at the notion of Twilight being his partner.
He skimmed over Rainbow Dash as she passed by on a cloud, getting a tan.
'Fast, strong, willing to do anything to win-'
"-But there's no way in the Chrysalis Kingdom that will EVER happen!" he exclaimed. Blitz broke into a fit of uncontainable laughter, unable to catch his breath.
Rainbow Dash looked up from her cloud nap to see Blitz laughing hysterically. She shook her head disapprovingly at the sight.
"What's so funny?" she asked lazily. Blitz looked at her, his laugh slowly dying into a chuckle until his smile had gone completely. He took a moment to recompose himself.
"I don't see how that's any of your business..." he replied flatly.
"It is, when you're laughing in my face." She came back sharply.
"Well, with a face like that, I'd feel insecure too." He said, casually checking his hooves for imperfections.
"What?!" she snapped.
"Oh, did I stutter? Or are you just slow? Need me to repeat myself?
W-wi-ith AH f-f-fa-ace-"
A.J. shook his head shamefully as he watched Dash and Blitz argued about nothing. Again. In fact, everyone had stopped to see where all the angered shouting had come from.
"Those two are like water and oil..." Applejack muttered as she came along side him.
"Yeah, they've been at each other's throats ever since we've gotten here."
"In the forest?"
"Naw, in this world. They've been a'itchin' to fight ever since we set hoof in Equestria."
Applejack shook her head in confusion. "But Ah don't get it. WHY don't they like each other? Everypony else seems to be doing fine with their opposites."
"Ah honestly don't know..." A.J. sighed. They both stood there in silence as the Rainbows' argument raged on.
A.J. started to notice that all around the lakeside, the ponies started pairing up, no doubt for the tournament. Dusk Shine and Twilight were already going over their strategy in the shade. Pinkie and Berry stretched their legs on the grass beside each other. Fluttershy and Butterscotch tested the water and Rarity and Elusive practiced their form.
That just left two other mares to partner up with.
And one of them was standing right next to him.
"Hey, uh Applejack?" A.J. asked turning to the earth pony.
"Applesauce has CALCIUM in it, stupid! Not IRON!" Rainbow Dash spat with a burning, red face.
"Oh yeah, well then-"
Blitz paused. He turned back to the shore of the lake with a look of horror .
Everypony was pairing up. His eyes scanned the shoreline, completely ignoring the shouting pegasus behind him, looking for a spare mare. But all of the girls were taken.
Except for Rainbow Dash.
"Hey, uh Applejack?"
Blitz's ears swiveled toward the conversation, followed by his head.
"Ah was sort a wonderin', that is if y'all don't already have one..."
'He didn't ask HER yet!' Blitz thought hopefully. Blitz tore through the sky, wings beating wildly with a newfound purpose.
"Hey, I'm not done with you yet!"
"Ah was hopin'-"
A.J., cut off short by a large cloud of dust and dirt, started coughing and sputtering. His eyes watered, dust flew up his mouth and nose. It was only when the dust cleared, he could see exactly what happened.
"Hey Applejack, how 'bout you and I partner up for this compo-tish?" he spoke confidently with a sly grin.
"Uh sure, I guess..."
"Cool." A.J. watched in horror as Blitz opened his wing, leading her off toward the other teams. He didn't even get to ask her.
Moments later, another cloud of dust appeared.
But just as soon as it came, it had cleared, revealing Dash flapping her wings.
"Sorry about that A.J. I might have touched down to hard. Have you seen Rainbow Blitz anywhere?" she asked with a hint of irritation. "The game is about to start and I want to get this thing over with."
"Wait, he asked you to be his partner?"
"Well, no. But I figured that everypony was gonna pair up with themselves, so ya' know..." she explained, circling a hoof in the air to put two and two together.
A.J. shook his head. "He must have not known that."
"What do you mean?" she pressed, cocking her head.
"He just walked off with-" he sighed heavily. "-Applejack. He asked her to be his partner..."
She looked over his shoulder. Applejack laughed heartily as Blitz strained to get her off the ground.
"It's alright if y'all can't do it." She laughed.
"Its. Alright." He wheezed from under her, just barely getting her off the ground.
Dash turned away.
"Dash, you alright?"
"You're my partner for the contest, ok?"
"I said you're my partner, alright!" she snapped viciously at him. He flinched. She stalked off away from the lake, away from him, and flopped down into the grass.
A.J. could have sworn he had heard her crying.
Rainbow Dash waited on the sidelines for the second to last match to begin, her mane and tail drenched in water and sweat. Twilight had already managed to steady herself on Dusk Shine's shoulders. Across from them, Rarity and Elusive struggled to do the same.
"Sweetie, you must relax." He cooed as they swayed unevenly. He was surprisingly calm for one getting his hair pulled. It must have been the usual for him...
"I am Not getting my hair wet!" she barked angrily.
"I managed to keep it dry so far, haven't I?"
Dash got a quick look at her mane: perfect as usual. Her own mane was a wet, frizzy mess like the rest of them and she knew Rarity would pin them down the moment the tournament ended and straightened their manes.
Rarity sighed. "Alright." She loosened her grip on Elusive's hair, which was as equally as dry, and did her best to balance herself. Slowly, Elusive made his way to the leaf rope, custom made by Butterscotch and Fluttershy, ringed Arena. Dusk Shine did the same, only quicker. A.J., sitting next to her, leaned over and whispered: "Who do you think is gonna win this one?" Dash rubbed a hoof on her chin as she considered her options. "Well, I know Twilight goes to the gym every week, so she's got that going for her."
A.J. nodded. "True. So Twilight then?"
"But," she said, stopping him with a hoof. "Rarity AND Elusive both work at the boutique."
"The truck that delivers the fabric comes in the morning, and Unicorns can't use strong magic in the morning."
"What are you saying?"
"How do you thing they get those large rolls inside? The company doesn't hire movers..."
"Ohhhh, ok then." A.J. nodded again. "So this match could go either way."
They turned back to the fight.
Eveypony was silent.
Berry moved to the center of the ring with a blank expression. He turned to the crowd.
'Are you ready to RRUMBBLE?!"
The crowd cheered wildly.
"In this corner," Berry announced. "At a combined weight of 600 cupcakes, give it up for.... THE BOOKWORMS!"
The crowd snickered. Twilight and Dusk Shine blinked. "Berry, what's the big-"
"In THIS corner," Berry exclaimed, ignoring the two unicorns. "Weighing in at 440,987 dollops of whipped cream, it's... the FASHION DIVAS!"
The crowd snickered again. Elusive turned an unflattering shade of red.
"Don't worry, my dear. You'll always be my little fastionista." Rarity said patting his head lovingly. The crowd laughed as Elusive's blush darkened.
"You're not helping..."
"Are you ready?" Berry asked the teams. They nodded.
"In that case, on your mark, get set, wait for it...GO!" Berry threw up his hoof like a flag and the fight began.
"Woah..." A.J. watched as Twilight paraded around on Dusk Shine back as they made their way back to the shore.
"WOHOO!" She cheered, waving her hooves in the air wildly. Everyone greeted them as they arrived; giving them hugs and pats on the back.
"Well that was unexpected..." Dash laughed.
"Ah had no idea Dusk Shine could do that with his tail...."
A.J. pushed himself up. "You ready?"
She narrowed her eyes. "I was born ready." She said, flapping her wings eagerly. A.J. flashed her a warm smile and together, they made their way into the water. Applejack and Blitz did the same from the opposite end of the shore.
They waded near the center of the ring so that when they stood the water was at their waists. A.J. sunk between Dash's hind legs, lifting her out of the water with a strong neck and back. Dash steadied herself with ease. Across the lake, on the other hoof, Blitz and Applejack were having...complications. Blitz had submerged his head between Applejack's legs like A.J. had, but instead of lifting her out of the water, his back kept arching repeatedly.
And Applejack was blushing.
Dash felt movement beneath her. Looking down, she saw A.J. making his way toward the other team.
Which meant, she was making her way to the other team.
"What are you doing?" she whispered angrily.
"Ah'm gonna see what's wrong." He replied calmly, never taking his eyes off of his goal.
"Why? If he can't even get her on his shoulders, they have to forfeit and we win!"
"Now Rainbow Dash, Ah know you and Blitz aren't on talkin' terms right now, and would love to see the other lose at all cost, but Applejack and Ah are playin' too, so you're gonna play fair this once."
Dash put on a pout as A.J. made their way to toward the two, still struggling to get into form.
"Need any help?" A.J. smiled. Blitz reemerged from the water, taking a gasping breath. "We... Don't.... Any... Help..."
"Well, how 'bout instead of Applejack on you're shoulders, you get on her shoulders." He offered, ignoring Blitz's previous statement.
The cold lake water lapped at A.J.'s stomach as he stood tall with Dash on his shoulders. She kept squeezing his head with her thighs in anticipation.
They were really warm.
Applejack stood directly across from him, standing just as easily with Blitz on her shoulders. She smiled, "You ready?"
"As ready as Ah'll ever be." He said with a chuckle. But in the back of his mind, he was having second thoughts. He didn't want to go AGAINST Applejack, he wanted to be her partner. But he couldn't back out NOW! Rainbow Dash would be heartbroken.
Lost in his own thoughts, A.J. was easily caught off guard Applejack as she plowed right into his gut with a breathtaking "OOF!"
She set him back a few inches, which was more than he had anticipated. And the thrashing going on above him didn't help his balance either. He swayed awkwardly as Rainbow Dash pulled his top-half to and fro.
"Come on, A.J.! We got this!"
A.J. quickly regained his balance, "Alright then..." he said warily. With a hint of hesitation, he charged into Applejack with full force.
He had to admit, she was stronger than she looked. She caught his hooves within her own, holding him back.
"Now that's the spirit, sugarcube!" she grinned. He could feel his own grin spreading contagiously across his face. He and Applejack trembled with effort as they pushed with all their might against each other. But despite her efforts, A.J. started to slowly inch forward. She struggled to find her footing as she continued to get closer to the edge of the ring. Feet turned into inched as the ring grew closer. Applejack struggled harder as she grew more desperate. Above them, the fight raged on. A.J. could feel Dash shove and be shoved on his shoulders. As far as he could tell, they were at a stalemate; neither one losing or winning.
"A.J.!" she cried. "Hurry up, down there!"
'Aw, shucks!' he thought in a panic. 'Ah can't do this, ah just can't! Especially not to her..."
A.J. knew what he had to do but....
He took a deep breath and took one final look at her. Sweaty, panting, tired, red in the face. The very picture of perfection. And with that, he did the deed. With a mighty push, he sent Applejack flying out of the ring, 4 feet away, and crashing into the water. He couldn't watch.
A moment of silence fell over the lake, everyone watching in shock.
"We... won." Dash panted heavily. Her panting grew into broken fits of laughter. "We won!" she cheered, grabbing A.J.'s face and tilting it up to her's. The crowd cheered wildly, the ref even threw up his penalty flags like confetti.
"Here's you're champions," Berry announced proudly, lifting A.J.'s hoof in the air. " THE...uh, what's your team name?"
"Oh, it doesn't matter Berry." Dash waved it off. She took off of his shoulders and hovered over a spot in the lake.
"All that matters is that we won! Hear that, doofus? WE WON-AH!" she teased loudly. Blitz resurfaced moments later, gasping.
"I want a rematch!"
"Rematch, my flank!" she scoffed. The two resumed arguing as usual.
Back on land, the excitement had died down and the others started taking part in their own activities, leaving A.J. alone in the water. His ears twitched at the slightest sound of coughing. Turning around, Applejack rose out of the water, coughing and sputtering. Her hat floated casually by his hoof. With a sigh, he grabbed it, twisted the water out, and made his way to her.
"Applejack, are you ok?" he asked nervously. She tilted her head to the right and tapped the left side lightly. "Yeah, Ah'm ok."
"Look, Applejack, Ah REALLY didn't mean to push you that hard. Ah-" She stopped him with a hoof. "No need to apologize. It was a game, after all."
She twisted her long ponytail tightly, releasing all the water trapped in her hair. "'Sides, it seems you've made Rainbow Dash really happy." She smiled. "Ah saw how unhappy she was before the matches and Ah'm really glad you were able to make her smile again, even if ah got soakin' wet in the process." She took her hat back gratefully.
A.J. laughed shyly. "So, no hard feelings?"
Applejack tapped a hoof on her chin for a second, then grinned evilly.. She shoved the unsuspecting farmer into the water. He resurfaced moments later, gasping for air.
"Now we're even."
The sun had set once again on another day of fun and adventure. Everyone was full on hay and apples as they sat around the campfire yet again, sharing light conversation.
"And I have to say, that was the largest cupcake I have ever seen. But this was way before the great cupcake famine of '08." Berry finished. Everypony blinked.
"Wow.." Pinkie said in awe.
"Berry, we were telling scary stories..." Twilight deadpanned. Berry gasped.
"That WAS a scary story! Imagine getting hit in the face with a cupcake the size of a watermelon!" Berry wrapped himself in his hooves, murmuring something in horror. Pinkie hugged him tight and glared at Twilight. "How could you be so insensitive?!"
"Yeah... so who's next?" Dusk Shine raised his hoof eagerly in the air.
"Ooh, I've got one!" He leaned in, letting the fire light his face in such a way that it was spooky.
"This is the legend of....Slendermane." The ponies all gasped collectively.
"-And with that, they were never seen again...." Dusk Shine finished. Most of the girls had found a stallion to squeeze for protection. The rest of the ponies had broken into a cold sweat, shaking. "So remember, if you think you're being followed by Slendermane, NEVER LOOK AT HIS FACE! For if you do, you will meet your doom..."
Everypony was silent.
"So, what did you guys think?" Dusk Shine smiled.
"Dusk Shine," Blitz spoke up from the other side of the circle.
"You're one twisted dude..." Everyone laughed out loud heartily. After the laughter had died down, Twilight rose up.
"Ok everyone, time to go to bed." The all let out a collective groan. One by one, they all got up, saying their goodnights as they made their way to the tents.
"Wait!" Dusk shouted. Everyone turned around. "I actually have to talk to the guys really quick, so you ladies can go ahead to bed.."
Twilight cocked her head. "Talk about what?"
"Uh, we're... just going to go over tomorrow's plans... and stuff." Dusk stammered, scratching his mane.
"Oh well, we could help you with that."
"Oh no, Twilight! We want... it to be a surprise." He smiled. Twilight smiled back, accepting his reasoning. Dusk let out a quick sigh of relief.
The boys sifted themselves out of the group, saying their goodnights to the girls. A dainty hoof stopped Elusive: Rarity.
"Goodnight Elusive." She said dreamily and left him with a goodnight kiss.
"Goodnight, sweetie." He called after her. She trotted passed Rainbow Dash. The scene must have reminded her of something because she smacked a hoof to her forehead. She trotted quickly to catch up with the large apple farmer.
"Hey A.J.?" The stallion turned around. "Hmm?"
"I never really thanked you for helping me win the contest, did I?"
'Well, Ah don't see why'd you have to do that. Ah had fun."
"Yeah, but still-" she pressed herself on the stallion's broad frame with a smile. "Thank you, A.J."
A.J. blinked. "You're...welcome."
She turned around and trotted back to her tent. She smiled at him one last time before turning in for the night.
As A.J. made his way back to the circle, the fire lit up his face, revealing a blush: red and obvious.
"What the hay was that about?" Blitz snorted angrily as A.J. sat down.
"She thanked me for being her partner in the chicken fight competition."
"So, you LIKE her now? What about your thing with Applejack?"
"What 'thing', Blitz? There is no thing. Even if there was, you certainly didn't help things today..."A.J.'s words were laced with irritation.
"And what is that supposed to mean?"
"Ah mean, what was all that fancy wing work about before the competition? You knew I was gonna ask Applejack to be my partner, but at the last second, you swooped in!"
"There was no way in HELL I was gonna pair up with Dash. Besides, I thought it was cool. Whatever happened to bros before hoes with you guys?!"
"And, who might Ah ask, are you callin' a hoe?"
"All of them!"
"Rarity is NOT a WHORE!" Elusive boomed angrily, quickly standing up at the statement.
"Neither is Fluttershy!" Butterscotch added angrily.
"And Applejack and Rainbow Dash!" A.J. finished.
"Yeah, Blitz! Take it back!" Berry growled.
"Shut the hell up, Berry!"
"BITCH, I will cut you in your sleep!!!" Berry shouted angrily, a do-rag appearing on top of his head and a box of cupcake mix in his hoof.
The angered stallions all turned to Dusk Shine who held a hoof to his lips and pointed to the tents. They all slapped their hooves over their mouths. They listened in suspense, praying the girls hadn't heard them and charge out of the tents, hooves ablaze. They turned back to Dusk Shine after several minutes of snoring and silence.
"You guys are so stupid! What if the girls had heard you? You would all be dead!" he scolded in a hushed tone. He turned to Blitz. "Now I don't know what you're problem is with the girls, but it has to stop."
"I don't got no problem with the girls. Just Rainbow Dash..."
"And that problem ends NOW." Dusk said sternly. "Especially if you want to continue with the hunt."
Blitz sighed. "Sorry guys. I didn't mean all that stuff about the girls." He rubbed his hoof on the back of his head in embarrassment. "Things between me and Dash are... complicated, but I didn't mean to take it out on you guys."
Elusive sighed. "I forgive you, Rainbow Blitz."
One by one, the boys made up with each other. Berry sat up with his arms extended. "Aw, group hug everybody!" he said happily, clomping onto Blitz lovingly. The rest followed, patting each other in brotherly love. AS everyone finally let go, Berry pushed Blitz out of the hug, gripping his shoulders with a firm hoof.
"But seriously," he said in all seriousness. The box of cupcake mix reappeared just long enough for Blitz to get a good look at, then disappeared again. "Don't talk about Pinkie Pie..."
"Ok, ok!" Blitz agreed with worry.
"So, if we're all done with the apologies, let's get down to business." Dusk started. "Do you guys remember that meeting we had when actually we planned this trip?"
"Oh, Ya mean the one with all that apple cider?"
"Oh man, we got SO wasted..." Blitz said dreamily and slapped a high hoof with A.J.
"Yeah, and remember that plan we made for the end of the trip, on the last day?"
They all shook their heads in response. Blitz rolled his eyes. "We made plans for a hunt, you guys."
"I am NOT hunting an innocent creature." Butterscotch said firmly.
"Well luck for you, this creature is not-so innocent. Men, on that fateful day we had made plans to hunt the dreaded Ursa Major and will become legends because of it."
He said, flexing a muscle to signify power. They stared at him, thunderstruck.
"Is this a joke Rainbow Blitz, because it's not very funny!" Elusive spoke loudly at the absurdity.
"This is no joke, Elusive. He's serious." Dusk deadpanned.
"And why on earth would he even what to go through with this cockamamie scheme?"
Blitz jumped up. "The same reason YOU GUYS want to go along with this brilliant idea!" he declared. "Mares!"
"Mares. Just like I told Dusk Shine, the mares in Ponyville will go crazy for us if we do this thing. They be all over us for months. Mares for breakfast, lunch, and dinner." He said wiggling his eyebrows suggestively. They all let out little chuckles of delight, except for Elusive.
"Rarity is the only mare for me." He said flatly. Blitz facehoofed. "And what do you she's gonna do when we come back with the head of the beast? 'Oh Elusive,'" he said in a high voice, fluttering his eyelashes. " 'You're such a brave stallion! Oh Elusive, take me! Right here, right now! Let your inner beast ravage me for your pleasure!"
Elusive narrowed his eyes. "Oh yes.... That would be nice." Elusive growled.
Blitz snickered. "So we're really going to do this?"
Everyone nodded, except for Butterscotch.
"But it's still an innocent creature, Blitz. It's not right."
" 'Innocent'? That bear has roamed around Ponyville at night, causing ridiculous amounts of costly damage. And on top of that, it has taken a lot of ponies. That's why we don't get that many tourists. Mayor Mare and Mayor Mustang been planning to get rid of it anyway, but no pony is willing to step up. We're be doing everyone a huge favor." Blitz reasoned but Butterscotch still looked unconvinced. "Look, I was able to get some 'sleepy time' injection from Zecoro. He'll go peacefully."
Butterscotch nodded with a sad smile.
A.J. raised a hoof. "Blitz, that plan is fine and dandy and all, but what about the girls? There's no way they'll let us go through with this plan."
"Already thought of that. We just need to send the girls home a little early. They'll never know until we come back." Blitz shrugged. The guys murmured in agreement.
"Tomorrow, we can go over the details. But for now, let's go to bed." Dusk Shine yawned.
"Are you sure this is a good idea?" Twilight asked warily. Dusk Shine trotted steadily beside her. "Why, Ya scared?" He asked, leaning in bulgy eyed. "N-n-no..." she lied. The night sky barely lit up the dirt path as they wove in and out of the trees. She had no idea what he was trying to find, but she was just happy spending some alone time with him. She did her best to make subtle contact with him like Rarity told her, fluttering her lashes when he spoke to her, brushing by his coat as they turned corners, flagging her tail when she took the lead, giving him a good look at her rump. But he didn't react to any of it. He may have been her male counter part, but he was really thick...
'Maybe it's a guy thing.' She thought.