A Journal Between Two Worlds (NMP)

Mar 19th, 2019
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  1. >Unreal.
  2. >It’s the thought that keeps popping in your head since you first came to this world.
  3. >Every other moment you would feel the smooth crystalline walls of your room just to convince yourself that this isn’t a dream.
  4. “I’m here.” you squeak to yourself, “I’m really here.”
  5. >Even if that’s the twentieth time you told yourself that, it does little to ebb your excitement.
  6. >What you are certain is real is the only possession you were summoned with.
  7. >Within your arms is a canvas bound book.
  8. >It’s bindings have scuffed and it’s brown color has dulled from to years of wear and tear.
  9. >Inside are hundred of pages that weigh heavily on you, but you’re adamant to keeping it cradled within your arms.
  10. >You’ve never really pictured yourself anywhere else but your home after some many years.
  11. >The old book is the only thing familiar to you.
  12. >For now, you wait until they call for you.
  13. >You open the book to look inside.
  14. >Years of text is written inside, but half of it in pencil, the other half in black ink
  15. >You scroll through the books contents until you come upon the books last entry written ink.
  16. >”Happy 18th birthday, Anon! After so many years, I can’t wait finally to meet you! -Sumi Brushstroke”
  17. “Sumi..”
  18. >Your thumb brushes over that name as you repeat the name in your head.
  19. >You sigh as you tap your feet on the floor as fast as racing heart.
  20. >You’ll finally get to meet her, but you’ll have to come out and be honest with her.
  22. >Looking back at your life now, there wasn’t much to say about it.
  23. >You’ve never got to know about your parents.
  24. >All you’ve ever known is the orphanage.
  25. >A building at the edge of some countryside side town overlooking a sea of flowing grass.
  26. >You can count all the rooms in the orphanage, recall the where the keys to pantry is kept, and pinpoint which of the floorboards creak.
  27. >New caretakers join and then leave, and boys and girls get dropped off and adopted.
  28. >Friendships come and go like the seasons, while you remained.
  29. >That all changed one once you turned eight.
  30. >You woke to find a present at the foot of your bed.
  31. >It’s a gift wrapped in a paper with blue hearts with “to Anonymous” written on a tag.
  32. >You never did get presents before, never allowed.
  33. >Just cookies and a cake for the whole orphanage.
  34. >You thought it best to keep this to yourself.
  35. >You whispered a silent thank you as you ripped into the present to find that book.
  36. >It wasn’t much to it, just a canvas notebook.
  37. >It was when you opened book that something was already written in the book.
  38. >”Hello?”
  39. >You didn’t know what to make of it.
  40. >A chance to get the jump on you for laughs.
  41. >You waited for a moment but nothing happened.
  42. >regardless, you wrote down your name on the first page and closed the book.
  43. >Who knew what this person thought you would use this notebook for?
  44. >The young you already had an idea.
  46. >There wasn’t much to do in the orphanage, but once every week, everyone got to go to the library.
  47. >It was a big library regarding the size of the town, with numerous hallways and different sections each containing multiple genres.
  48. >It’s vast halls filled with the squeaks of a moving book cart, the pitter-patter of your peers, and the yawns of its few attendants.
  49. >Simply, a place to study or read for the next two hours.
  50. >Notebook and pencil in hand, you rushed to your favourite book in the kids .
  51. >It was a picture book, “Places Around the World.”
  52. >Sandy deserts, towering mountains, humongous cities, and natural wonders.
  53. >With as much paper you could get away, you like the spend the time drawing what you see.
  54. >It gives you a smile as you feel liked you were somewhere else.
  55. >Now it got a lot more easier with a notebook.
  56. >Safe from prying eyes, something to save with you.
  57. >You took a seat at the kiddy tables with your book and prepared to draw.
  58. >Once you opened your notebook you noticed another message written inside.
  59. >”Hello? Anonymous?”
  60. >You coughed and sputtered.
  61. >You jerked your head around expecting to see your tormentor laughing, but there was no one to be found..
  62. >You huffed and decided to appease your tormentor as you gripped your pencil.
  63. “Hello?!” you scrawled into your notebook.
  64. >After a heavy sigh you finally started to draw.
  65. >A series of jagged triangles atop warped rectangles completed stubby stickman walking through accompanied by a malformed horror that was supposed to be a deer.
  66. >Well, it was start for the young you.
  67. >That was when the words started to appear before your eyes.
  68. >”That’s a nice drawing!” it came in black ink, “Is your name Anonymous?”
  70. >It was quite a shock to see.
  71. >You stared at those words, before you finally decided to respond.
  72. >”Yes.” you wrote back, “What’s your name?”
  73. >There was always a saying about never talking to strangers, but that was something you would brush off.
  74. >Living in orphanage, it seems you always had to do that every few months.
  75. >Kinda became routine and probably explained why didn’t ask how the two of you were talking to each other.
  76. >”My name is Sumi Brushstroke.”
  77. >You crooked your head.
  78. “Some I?” you whispered to yourself, “Su-some Eye? Brushstoke?”
  79. >You began to write down the first thing that came to your mind.
  80. “That’s a weird a name.”
  81. >Sumi quickly wrote back, “It’s not a weird named!”
  82. “I never met anyone named after a brush.”
  83. >”And I never met anypony named Anonymous.” she retorted back, “What’s really weird is you with anyone. It’s anypony, not anyone.”
  84. >You shook your head.
  85. “No! It’s anyone not anypony. Do you not go to school?”
  86. >”Duh!” Her response taking up a portion of the page. “They taught me that!”
  87. “Well that’s dumb.”
  88. >”No! You’re dumb!”
  89. “No you!” you countered with an angry face.
  90. >”You!” she scribbled back with an even bigger face.
  91. >The both of you wrote back and forth with more insults and frowny faces.
  92. >It filled up the entire page even covering your previous artwork, until there was no more space to be seen.
  93. >You turned the page and saw another sentence.
  94. >”They told me you were going to be nice, but you’re a jerk and dumb too.” she finished with a frown.
  95. >You just slammed the journal shut.
  96. >You were done for the day and just spent the rest of your time looking through your book.
  97. >The first of many conversations that you would share with Sumi.
  99. >You tried to avoid using the journal.
  100. >If it meant having to talk with Sumi, you wanted no part of it.
  101. >Problem was, The orphanage was cracking down on saving costs.
  102. >Paper of any kind would only be handed out for assignments.
  103. >What little spares you could get wasn’t enough for you.
  104. >You didn’t want to go back to the journal, but what else was there for you to do?
  105. >You solved all the puzzles pieces in the rec room, You were sure you already spent a quarter of your life on the old swing set, And what fun is tag in an open field without a place to hide?
  106. >Nope, you weren’t gonna let yourself succumb.
  107. >With your mighty willpower, you were able to last an entire day before you cracked.
  108. >Before light’s out, You thought you would be able to make a drawing.
  109. >Turns out, you weren’t the only one to have that idea.
  110. >You saw lines in black ink appear under Sumi’s words calling you a jerk.
  111. >Three sharp triangles took up most of the page, with squiggly lines wrapped around their jagged edges.
  112. >They were mountains.
  113. >large puffy circles appeared above the mountains as clouds.
  114. >You just stared at the work of art coming before you, completely forgetting about being pressed for time.
  115. >The piece was completed with two circles, one with four stick legs, and a smaller one with a smiling face and two triangle ears.
  116. >All by itself.
  117. “A-a cat?” you thought to yourself.
  118. >You had to say something, but you were a little scared.
  119. >If she was still angry, she might cover the page calling you dumb, and you won’t get anything drawn.
  120. “That’s a cool drawing,” you wrote on the next page.
  121. >”Thank you,” Sumi responded, “I like to draw too.”
  122. >You breathed and thought about what next to say.
  123. ”Can I add something to it?” you asked
  124. >There was a pause before Sumi wrote back, “Ok.”
  125. >You knew just what to add.
  126. >You drew your own stickman next to the lone figure.
  127. >Now it wasn’t so lonely anymore.
  129. >”I like it,” Sumi scribbles down.
  130. >A smile came to your face.
  131. “I thought that cat was lonely.”
  132. >”I’m not a cat!”
  133. >You huffed and sighed,
  134. “What?”
  135. >”I’m a pony, a Unicorn, and a filly.” Sumi corrected you.
  136. >You buried your face within your hands as you tried to make sense of Sumi’s word.
  137. “Is That why you use ‘anypony’ because you’re a Pony?” you finally responded.
  138. >”Yes. So, that would mean you’re a One because you use ‘anyone’, right?”
  139. ”No. We’re called Humans, and I’m a boy. We use anyone because it includes”- you quickly thought of the best way to explain it- “anyone.”
  140. >”Well, we just use everycreature instead.”
  141. “Why’s that?”
  142. >”Because it includes Dragons, Changlings, and Yaks, but we mostly use everypony where I live.”
  143. “Really?” you scoffed to yourself.
  144. >You tried to make sense of Sumi’s words, but they were too incredible to believe.
  145. >Instead, you jumped to another topic you could understand better.
  146. “So you’re a girl?”
  147. >”I think so. We have colts and fillies, and you have boys and girls, right” she quizzed you.
  148. “Yeah”
  149. >”Well then you’re like a colt, and I’m a girl.”
  150. >The revelation caught you by surprise.
  151. >You did live in a building half populated with girls, you just were never keen on becoming friends with anything.
  152. >You could hardly stay friends with any of the boys for long as.
  153. >Why even try with the opposite sex?
  155. >Before you could think of what to say next, Sumi opens with another question.
  156. >”So how do you write?”
  157. “I use my fingers.”
  158. >”And what are those.”
  159. “The things on my hand.”
  160. >There was a pause before Sumi wrote back.
  161. >”That’s not helping!” She whined, “Can you draw your hand so I could see?”
  162. >You slapped your hand on the next page and started to trace it with your pencil.
  163. >Once finished, you drew an arrow pointing to your work and wrote a question beside it.
  164. “How do you write?”
  165. >As you waited, you saw a large circle be drawn over your hand.
  166. >It was about the same size.
  167. >”We have hooves, but we can’t use them to write.” Sumi pointed out, “Since I’m a Unicorn, I just use magic to write and draw, while everypony else has to use their mouths.”
  168. >Magic, dragons, fillies, and what else.
  169. >Each time she writes, you had to fight back the urge call her bluff.
  170. >No one has ever gotten you so flustered before.
  171. >You were so used to a routine, but with her, she really does throw you off.
  172. >”Anonymous your hand is so big!” Sumi hastily wrote.
  173. >You never thought that something so normal would be quite a shock to the filly.
  174. >You placed your hand over your tracing and buried Sumi’s hoof.
  175. “It’s true!” you laughed.
  176. >Maybe you were just as weird to her as she was to you.
  177. >As your hand rests on the page, you felt a sense of warmth breath through your hand.
  178. >It felt good.
  179. >You were content to keep your hand there for the rest of night.
  180. >It was when Sumi appeared in your head when you recoiled your hand from the page.
  181. >Despite tearing from the page the warmth from your hand didn’t dissipate from your hand.
  182. >In fact, it rushed to your head and your chest making your mind blur and heart pace like a galloping horse.
  183. >It was all foreign to you.
  184. >It made you sag as you remembered the previous conversation you had with her.
  185. >You wanted to apologize, but you didn’t know what to say.
  187. >Then a voice echoed out from the hallway.
  188. >”Light’s out!” a staff member rang out.
  189. >Everyone obeyed the command as you hear lights flicker off left and right.
  190. >You knew better than to disobey the rules.
  191. >You turned off the lights and crawled into bed with your journal.
  192. >You were able to save the page that had your hand.
  193. >You had to be quick because the staff would soon inspect the rooms.
  194. “Sorry,” you scribbled in the dark, “Have to go to sleep.”
  195. >You slammed the shut the journal and hid it under the sheets beside you.
  196. >You sealed your eyes as you heard the door creak open.
  197. >After you heard it closed you breathed a sigh of relief.
  198. >You pulled out the journal from its hiding place.
  199. >Writing in the dark was impossible.
  200. >All you could do was stare and think of Sumi on the other side.
  201. “Right now she has a journal that both of you share,” You pondered, “And she probably has it next to her too.”
  202. >The strange heat was making its return.
  203. “Too close!”
  204. >You quickly moved the journal to the corner of your bed and hid underneath your mattress.
  205. >It felt eternity for the heat to settle so you could sleep again.
  206. >The following morning, you fished the journal from its hiding place.
  207. >You gazed at your last message to Sumi.
  208. >It was in the middle of the tracing of your hand and Sumi’s hoof.
  209. >Under it was a message from Sumi.
  210. >”That’s okay, Anonymous!” Sumi wrote back, “I have to go to sleep too. My parents will get mad if I go to sleep too late. You’re very weird, but you’re not really a big meanie. I’ll be up tomorrow if you want to draw together again. Promise!”
  211. >Sumi ended with a smiley face.
  212. >When you saw that, it made your lips crack into a smile.
  213. >A promise of another tomorrow with a friend.
  214. >You had no doubt she would be waiting for you as you would for her.
  216. >Since that night, It seemed the days were brighter than usual.
  217. >You walked with a spring in your steps as you looked forward to days with Sumi.
  218. >After your school lessons, you would pepper Sumi with questions about her.
  219. >You learned that she lived in a town called Ponyville, that Pegasi can rest on the clouds, and ponies could control the weather.
  220. >”So Anonymous,” Sumi wrote, “what’s it like living in your world?”
  221. >It was a question you dreaded.
  222. >How could your world even compete with Sumi’s.
  223. >Before you could think of what to say Sumi asked another question.”
  224. >”How do Humans control the weather where you live.”
  225. > You gulped.
  226. “We don’t” you answered back, “It just happens.”
  227. >”What!?” Sumi underlined, “So how do you change the seasons?! Can you even move clouds”
  228. >That wasn’t a response you were expecting.
  229. “We can’t, it just happens by itself. For moving clouds, maybe if we use a big fan.”
  230. >”That’s scary!”
  231. “It’s different wherever you live.” you informed Sumi “Like where I live, we have tornados.”
  232. >”Oh, you have tornadoes? Do you make them carry water to make clouds?”
  233. >You couldn’t help but laugh.
  234. “No, they appear on their own and scoop up houses and people.”
  235. >”No way, Anonymous! You’re lying! There’s no way that’s true! That’s just too scary!”
  236. “It so is! I’ve even seen it in a movie once.”
  237. >”I’m pretty sure you’re lying about tornados, but I think it would be cool to live in your world. Everything moves on its own.”
  238. “I think your world is much cooler, Sumi.” you countered, “You use magic to change the weather. Think. Endless snow days means no school forever!”
  240. >What followed was a passion of you and Sumi talking about your respective worlds.
  241. >The day’s to the library were days you would look forward to.
  242. >If you were gonna talk about your world in greater detail, now was the chance for some research.
  243. >For that, you were gonna need some help from the librarians.
  244. >They obliged to help you with your quest in exchange for you helping them sort out the books.
  245. >You didn’t actually have to sort out books, but they allowed you to push the squeaky cart.
  246. >It was pretty fun.
  247. >Once done, you would read the books at the reception desk next to one of them.
  248. >In between helping attendees they would help you with words you couldn’t understand.
  249. >You soaked up and all that you learned and took it to share it with Sumi.
  250. >The best part after sharing your new-found knowledge was to draw it with her having an adventure.
  251. >The two of you rode on black ink, humpback camels across the graphite sands of the Sahara.
  252. >You both sailed on a cloud to the black and white, floating city of Cloudsdale as rainbows of various shades of gray cascade from its fluffy surface.
  253. >Sumi scaled the dark imposing mountain that was Everest with you underneath a veil of ebony snowflakes.
  254. >A favorite of yours was riding in barrels down Neighagra Falls.
  255. “You know, Sumi,” you wrote down, “I wish that we can go exploring for real.”
  256. >There was a long pause from her before she wrote back.
  257. >”Are you sure? I’ll probably just slow you down.”
  258. “If you’re scared, don’t worry!” You assured with a winky face, “I’ll be there to help! I’ll even carry you if you need me to.”
  259. >”Well, ok. Promise?”
  260. “Promise!”
  261. >You knew you couldn’t do much back then.
  262. >Not as an eight-year-old.
  263. >You were just happy to have Sumi draw with you, giving your eyes a visual spectacle that the sea of grass outside your room couldn’t provide.
  264. >As longs as you had hands to draw with, it didn’t matter that you would have to wait till you turn Eighteen.
  266. >”Anonymous,”
  267. >A knock from the crystal door brings you back to the present.
  268. “Come in,” you mutter.”
  269. >As the door swings open you see a pink pony.
  270. >With her wings, horn, and her golden regalia, it's hard not mistake her for anything else but Princess Cadence.
  271. >She gives a light bow.
  272. >”Hello, Anonymous.”
  273. “Hi, Princess.”
  274. >”I was surprised to hear that you’ve hardly left your room.” Cadence remarks, “You are free to explore the castle grounds as well as the city with others of your kind.”
  275. ”I’m sorry, Princess,” You apologize.
  276. >“Oh, I didn’t mean to worry you!” Cadence reassures you, “I just want to make sure you feel welcomed in the Crystal Empire and not stuffed in this room.”
  277. “I don’t want to be a bother.”
  278. >“That’s nothing to be concerned about,” The alicorn giggles, “My daughter, Flurry Heart loves to give tours!”
  279. “Well, honestly. I’m waiting for someone else to show me around in person.” You confess.
  280. >”I see.” Cadence nodded with a sly grin.
  281. >Cadence closes the door to the chamber and speaks up.
  282. >”I suppose you have several questions,” Cadence guesses, “Feel free to ask me what’s on your mind.”
  283. >Several things did linger in your mind that you would like to clear up.
  284. >Your summoning was rather abrupt.
  285. “Ok,” you nod, “How did I get here?”
  286. >"Simple, I summoned you here with the use of the Crystal Heart. It pairs members of your kind to the mares of this world and pulls them here. It unites soulmates together to fill the world with more love. No matter where they are or how old they are.”
  287. >It makes your heart flutter to know that some kind of cosmic force deemed you worthy of belonging to someone else, especially with Sumi, but it came with a sobering realization.
  288. “These past ten years,” you grumbled, “You mean to tell me you could’ve pulled me here anytime you wanted?”
  289. >Those words makes your headache as well as your hands.
  290. >You gasp and try to massage your hands.
  292. >Cadence places a hoof upon your hand.
  293. >”The Doctors gave me a report. We can heal up you”
  294. “Why?” you hiss, "Why now and not earlier?"
  295. >”It was to avoid causing strife in your world.” She sighs, “Most Humans we pulled from your world were adults close to the age of their match. Pulling you from your home at such a young age? The Crystal Heart isn’t omnipotent.”
  296. >You try to speak up when your hands flare up.
  297. >Cadence closes her eyes and points her horn at your hands.
  298. >A pink aura envelopes your hands and the stabbing pain quickly disappears.
  299. >”But I know that isn’t a valid excuse for whatever happened to you.” Cadence apologizes.
  300. “That’s ok Princess,” you wave off, “Besides, you weren’t the ones who bashed my hands.”
  301. >”D-do you want to talk about it?”
  302. “No, let’s just move talk about the journal. Tell me about it.”
  303. >”Yes, It’s a special piece of work thanks to my sister-in-law to establish communication without being too intrusive.” Cadence remarks, “She enchanted your book so it could exist in two places at once to allow for two way communication. You both received it as soon as Sumi turned eight. Your book is actually the first item from Equestria to arrive in your world.”
  304. >You raise your eyebrows.
  305. “Never thought about making a third copy?”
  306. >”Yes," she admits, "It had crossed our minds. My sister thought it would be a great way to observe your progress. It’s the first time we used the Crystal Heart to match a filly to a child. I objected to this.”
  307. >Cadence cracks a guilty smile. “There are some things between some Ponies that are too personal to share.”
  308. > She gives you a quick wink by instinct but quickly realizes her mistake.
  309. >”Oh Anonymous, I’m so sorry! I didn’t mean-”
  310. >You freeze still just as a start you understand the connotation of Cadence’s wink as you remember many events with Sumi that are best kept secret
  311. >Especially the ones when you were both teenagers.
  313. >”Anonymous?” Cadence mutters.
  314. >You furious blaze of heat overtakes your cheeks as your face turns red.
  315. ”Yeah you’re right,” you squeak, “Thanks for that, Princess.”
  316. >Seeing you turn red, Cadence starts to giggle.
  317. >You then join her and start to laugh.
  318. ”You know what?” you say out loud, “Here’s something I’m willing to share.”
  319. >”Oh really?” Cadence smiles.
  320. “Yeah. It’s when I got my first kiss.”
  322. >It happened when you were ten.
  323. >It’s been roughly two years since you first received the journal and met Sumi.
  324. >Not much has changed in those two years: You had grown taller, people came and went, and you’re starting to help out at the local library as a regular volunteer.
  325. >If There was one thing you were happy about that never changed was Sumi being with you the next day.
  326. >The both of you have improved with your drawing.
  327. >No more were the days of stick men and ponies.
  328. >Sumi utilized hatching in her drawings to produce, while you were a bigger fan of stumping to produce a fine texture.
  329. >As both your respective skills increased so did your desire to compete with each other.
  330. >You would both one compete on who could draw what better.
  331. >Each would have their own page and draw something, whether it would be a bear, castle, or a tree.
  332. >You would take turns in deciding what to draw next.
  333. >Often, they collapsed into shouting matches as you both took turns hurling insults at each other.
  334. >”I don’t know why you think stumping is a good method of art!” Sumi marks down, “You’re a slob who’s getting his page all dirty!”
  335. “And you think I would be willing to wait for you are your hatching method?” You rebuked, “I’m glad I decided on a time limit! I would’ve died before you finished making a gazillion lines just for a baseball!”
  336. >Somedays, there were times you were sure Sumi was the victor.
  337. >Not like you’d ever admitted it to her.
  338. >One day, when it was your turn on what to draw next, you came up with a devilish idea.
  339. >”Sumi,” you called, “Let’s see who can draw the greatest lips!”
  341. >”Anon this is just weird,” Sumi protested, “Why?”
  342. “Why not! Don’t tell me you’re scared you’re gonna lose!” You teased her.
  343. >”You’re gonna regret saying that.” Sumi announced.
  344. >With her provoked, You clapped your hands together as you chuckled,
  345. “Excellent!”
  346. >Sumi was quick to work once the game began.
  347. >She was already drawing the general shape of lips, while you did nothing.
  348. >You wouldn’t be using your pencil today.
  349. >Instead you fished a stick of lipstick from your pocket.
  350. >Sometimes, the staff would lose an item and forget all about it.
  351. >There was one staff member who was a total klutz.
  352. >She lost three chapsticks in two months without batting an eye.
  353. >What difference was one piece of lipstick gonna be?
  354. >You unscrewed the cap and slashed rouge lipstick across your lips.
  355. >”Anon what’s going?” Sumi scribbled, “Was it really all just talk?”
  356. >Now was the time to strike.
  357. >You popped your lips and planted them within your journal.
  358. >You giggled as you stared at the hot red stain.
  359. >”Really!?” Sumi scratched into the journal.
  360. “Bet you can’t top that huh?” you taunted.
  361. >You guffawed from your joke while you waited for what Sumi waited.
  362. >After several minutes of waiting, Sumi wrote back.
  363. >”Watch this.”
  364. >Suddenly, your page became marked with a peach kiss, covering your own mark.
  365. “Ha! You missed!” you pointed out.
  366. >”Nuh uh.”
  367. “Oh,” you mutter to yourself.
  368. >You felt your cheeks become flushed red as you stared at the peach stain.
  370. >”Looks like I’m the better artist!” Sumi teased.
  371. >You were not gonna let yourself get upstaged.
  372. >Defeat wasn’t an option, or that’s what you told yourself.
  373. >You brought your face to the journal again, but it was much more difficult than before.
  374. >Your heart wanted to burst from your chest, as it beats the air from your lungs.
  375. >You closed your eyes and delivered another kiss over Sumi’s mark.
  376. >With that done, you crawled into your bed and buried your face within your hands.
  377. “Oh man.” you moaned.
  378. >The journal rested on your bobbing chest as your hands grasped its edges.
  379. >You knew you had to look back inside.
  380. >You took a peek inside and saw another peach kiss over yours.
  381. >The sight of it made your stomach flutter and brought a smile to your face.
  382. “Sumi, I think I like you a lot,” you confessed as you planted another kiss.
  383. >Sumi returned it with another kiss.
  384. >”Anon, I don’t ‘think I like you.’ I know I like you, and I’ll keep liking you for as long as I live.”
  385. >Reading that made you wipe your eyes, because of all sweat of course.
  386. >You sniffed your nose and gave the journal another kiss.
  387. >Sumi gave another.
  388. >Soon the both of you covered the page in a harmony of peach and red kisses.
  389. >You turned the page and saw another sentence from Sumi.
  390. >”I love you, Anon.” she ended with a heart.
  391. “I love you too, Sumi.”
  392. >You tenderly closed the journal and hugged it close to your chest.
  393. >You wiped your eyes again.
  394. “Oh man,”
  395. >There was a lot of sweat coming from you.
  396. >You were happy to rest in your bed and go to sleep, but you remembered the lipstick.
  397. >You left for the bathroom to wipe and you’ll return to bed to nap.
  398. >There would be more time for Sumi the next day.
  400. “And that was that.” you finish.
  401. >You end up giggling halfway through your story as you turn crimson.
  402. >Cadence on the other hand, remains silent throughout the entire tale.
  403. “What?” you ask, “Not funny.”
  404. >Cadence just smiles at you. “No Anon, not at all.”
  405. >She giggles, “It just reminds of me of the times when I was a filly. Oh, the things Shiny would do to try to impress…”
  406. “Any funny moments?” you interrupt.
  407. >”Plenty,” Cadence giggles, “But that’s not to say any of them worked. I’m happy for you Anon.”
  408. “Thanks” you nod.
  409. >A knock on the crystal door brings the conversation to a halt.
  410. >”Princess,” speaks a muffled voice, “I’ve brought the journal as requested.”
  411. >Cadence nods, “Good.”
  412. “Journal?” you mumble.
  413. >The door opens to a crystal guard.
  414. >On his back is a rucksack, which Cadence levitates to you.
  415. >”I believe This used to be yours.” she declares, “Open it.”
  416. >You slowly undo the straps and unfurl the flap to reveal the contents.
  417. >What’s inside makes you shudder.
  418. >It’s canvas bindings is marked with scratches and tears, and its edges are caked in a dry burgundy substance that once seemed to ooze from within its yellow pages.
  419. >It weighs like a heavy textbook.
  420. >Your hands tremble at the touch as they try to wrap its old but familiar cover.
  421. >You open the book to the first page and read out the first word to appear.
  422. “Anonymous.”
  423. >Below is an old jagged forest defaced by an old argument from ten years ago.
  425. “I..uh. I..How did you get this?”
  426. >”We summoned this the day after your arrival. I thought you might appreciate it.”
  427. >Your mind starts to blur as you hold onto your first journal.
  428. >Memories flood your vision.
  429. >A soft smile breaks out as you recall the events of your early years.
  430. >Suddenly, your smile fades away as you remember the last moments you had of this book.
  431. >Your chest feels like it is being pressed as it had before on that day.
  432. >The book jitters within your grasp as your hands begin to shake on their own.
  433. Cadence rushes to place her hooves on your shoulders. “Anon, are you okay?”
  434. >You try to squeeze the book close to you, but an old pain returns.
  435. >It feels like all the bones in your hands are shattering into every direction.
  436. >The book slips through your aching fingers and hit the crystal floor with a resounding whack!
  437. >You jump up from the bed screaming as you shoot your hands up into the air away from the book.”
  438. “No!” you screech
  439. >A plea you once made before.
  440. “No! No! Ahhh!”
  441. >”Anon!” Cadence jumps
  442. >The castle guards storm into the room to investigate the noise.
  443. >”It’s ok!” Cadence waves them off before turning back to you. “Anon!”
  444. >She wraps her hooves around you to soothe your nerves.
  445. >You crumple back to your bed and bury your face into her pink fur.
  446. >As the pain starts to pulsate through your hands you begin to sob.
  447. >”Shh..” Cadence consoles you, “It’s ok, Anon. It’s ok.”
  448. >She eases the pain in your hands once again.
  449. “I-I’m sorry” you sniff, “I didn’t mean to-”
  450. >Cadence hushes you.
  451. >”It’s my fault. I didn’t know how you would react I should’ve known better.”
  452. >You remain within her grasp until you fall asleep.
  454. >Your first year in high school was awkward.
  455. >At that point, you were the oldest the child in the orphanage, and the only one who attended high school
  456. >For transport, you had to ride the short bus with the disabled kids to school.
  457. >The school itself wasn’t anything special.
  458. >Just a couple of red, brick buildings within the sea of brown grass filled with an aura of apathy.
  459. >Inside, students would trudge through the grid halls of the school into their class.
  460. >Classes were filled with monotone lectures with talking heads and countless heads stuck in the clouds.
  461. >There was the exceptional few who actually did pay attention.
  462. >They studied hard, did their assignments, and aced the tests.
  463. >They were the ones who actually had a chance of snatching a college scholarship and leaving town.
  464. >Everyone else was stuck here, as their parents probably couldn’t afford the cost of college.
  465. >There was no way you’ll ever get a scholarship.
  466. >Besides geography and bit of history, you were just average all around.
  467. >No, your head was in the clouds like everyone else, only you were thinking about the next time you’ll be able to write to Sumi.
  468. >”Anonymous?” the teacher called out.
  469. “Ye-yes?”
  470. >”I’ve been calling you three times.” he sighed, “Now answer the question.”
  471. >There were several chuckles cracking the silence.
  472. >”Hmph. Reject.”
  473. >You crooked your head to your right.
  474. >The voice was unmistakable.
  475. >He sat slumped against his chair, a suave smile plastered against his face as his eyes focused on a pencil he was twirling in his hands.
  476. >His name was Charles, named after his father who was a football star back high school long ago before he broke his leg in an accident.
  477. >Everyone, called him Junior, a living an echo of his father who breathes and lives football.
  478. >He’s was two years your senior and many colleges were already scouting him.
  479. >He had a future.
  480. >You did your best to ignore him.
  481. >He and his team were nothing but a thorn on your side.
  483. >Despite Junior, the school did have its highlights.
  484. >It had its own library.
  485. >It wasn’t as large as the one in town, but it was a safe haven when lunch period starts.
  486. >You would always be the first to finish your food and rush to the library safe from prying eyes to write to Sumi.
  487. >Inside were bookshelves, tables, computers, and glass trophy cases filled with trophies from Junior and his father’s teams.
  488. >Funny thing.
  489. >The librarian was a close friend to one of the staff at the library in town who would talk about the oh so helpful “sweet, little Anonymous.”
  490. >Small world.
  491. >There was even a special arrangement where the school librarian would drive you back to the orphanage after school if you stay and help.
  492. >Of course, as long as you maintained good grades and showed good behavior
  493. >So in between writing to Sumi, you helped out in the school library as well.
  494. >Of course, it wasn’t without its problems.
  495. >The Librarian was loathed by the football team for preventing one of their prized linemen from participating in several games due to some overdue book.
  496. >His absence cost the team the year’s championship.
  497. >For that, it became a yearly tradition to mess with the Librarian and anyone associated with her.
  498. >That’s how you received the moniker “Reject” from them.
  499. >Tripping you during passing period and calling you that was just some of the ways to get to you.
  500. >It didn’t matter though as long as you could get the chance to chat Sumi.
  502. >”Look at this Anon.” Sumi called
  503. >Sumi made a sketch of herself.
  504. >A young mare with a flowing mane that ends like the tip soft of a round paintbrush.
  505. >The sheepish smile the mare had only made the Sumi’s piece all the better as her sparkling eyes stare at you, winning an extra bump from your heart.
  506. “I love it.” you complimented the piece.
  507. >”It’s not nearly as good as yours, Anon”
  508. >You took a look at the sketch you made for yourself.
  509. >The legs and arms weren’t anatomically correct, and the face looked crooked.
  510. “You really sure about that?” You asked.
  511. >”Well, yeah. But I bet it wouldn’t be as good as seeing you in person.”
  512. >You chuckle to yourself.
  513. “Way to steal the words right out of my mouth.” you ended with a winky face, “You think that’ll ever happen?”
  514. >”They told me that you can come to Equestria once you turn 18,” Sumi informed you.
  515. >You scribbled a sad face.
  516. “But I want to see you now!” you protested.
  517. >Sumi drew one as well, “Me too, but they told me it’s to avoid causing trouble in your world. But that doesn’t mean you’ll be alone. Don’t forget that, Anon.
  518. “Yeah. We’ll meet together and we’ll go an adventure together like we promised. Someday Sumi.”
  519. >”I’ll be looking forward to it. I have to go now, my bell rang. I love you.”
  520. >You copied your favorite words to read from Sumi and shot it back right at her.
  521. “I love you too.”
  522. >Those two years took a long time.
  524. >Weeks and days passed, seasons came and went with hardly anything noteworthy to speak of.
  525. >Same daily routines with Sumi as before, though it never felt like a chore.
  526. >You got to know some of her family members, you even had the chance to talk with some of them through the notebook.
  527. >Besides that, all you could do was just countdown the days to your 18th birthday.
  528. >Then there was the “pyramid incident.”
  529. >It happened when it was close to the end of the school year when you were sixteen.
  530. >With end of the year pranks, your school was more than familiar to this concept.
  531. >What better way to break the monotony than a good joke?
  532. >You heard stories of the pranks in the past: a mountain of manure on the parking lot, the locks to the bathroom doors replaced, and a car placed on the school’s roof.
  533. >Just the year before, someone was able to sneak three cows to the second story of the school.
  534. >The principal was cracking down on the pranks that year.
  535. >Rumor was, he was able to get security to stay and monitor the parking lot late into the night for any big pranks.
  536. >An idea was circulated throughout the school that it was the Principal’s car that was placed on the roof.
  537. >A major problem, was that the school was next to the grass field that anyone could sneak through.
  538. >So, Some of the teachers and staff “volunteered” to stay after school and monitor the premises as the last line of defense.
  539. >The Librarian even chose to stay to watch over her domain.
  540. >You even volunteered your services to help her.
  541. >”Thanks, Anon, sweetie!” She praised you as she offered you a treat.
  542. >Her snickerdoodles were as big of an incentive as a moment of peace in her library.
  543. >Both of your monitoring took place in the Librarian’s office as the both of you focused on your respective tasks.
  544. >Her with paperwork, and you studying for your finals as well as chatting with Sumi.
  545. >This went on for a week as nothing happened.
  547. >Many of the teachers were fed up with the principal’s personal vendetta.
  548. >That’s what you heard from the giggling Librarian anyway.
  549. >At that point, the volunteers after school were reduced to a skeleton crew.
  550. >That all changed the day of the “pyramid incident.”
  551. >It was halfway through the finals, and you were already drained.
  552. >The hardest thing to do was to keep awake.
  553. >It was hours after the school, and thought nothing would happen again as the day before.
  554. >Just as you and the Librarian were gonna get ready to leave, The Principal charged in.
  555. >”They’re here!” He shouts, “In the parking lot!”
  556. >There was a mad glint in his eyes as he spoke, something you never assumed from the normally deadpanned principal could have.
  557. >Everyone rushed out joined with the other staff and you could hear it.
  558. >Firecrackers crackling in rapid succession in the distance.
  559. >”Let’s go!” the principal screeched as he charged forward.
  560. >His sinister smile making you imagine what kind of divine administrative punishment he would invoke.
  561. >Eager not to miss out, all of the staff tailed after him even the Librarian.
  562. >”Anon, sweetie!” the Librarian huffed, “Be a dear for me and hold the fort me? Thanks!”
  563. >You weren’t gonna argue.
  564. >You shuffled back into the office.
  565. >Content that the would-be prankers been caught, you can rest easy now.
  566. >You rewarded your diligence by resting your eyes for a bit.
  567. >You didn’t how long you slept, but you heard scraping noises and chuckling rouse you from your sleep.
  568. >At first you thought it was the staff patting themselves on the back, but the scraping continued.
  569. >You pulled yourself from your chair and trudged into the rest of the library.
  570. >That’s when you saw the pyramid.
  572. >A construction assembled from all the desks and chairs that seemed to almost reach the ceiling.
  573. >There were was group five all wearing a black hood over their heads moving chairs to the top.
  574. >Then one of them saw you.
  575. >”Fuck!” One jumped, “Reject!”
  576. >He accidentally hit the pyramid, and the delicate structure began to collapse.
  577. >It looked like a metallic avalanche as it buried some its builders under a torrent of metal.
  578. >The cacophony of metal scared you stiff as well as the rest of the builders spared from the falling chairs.
  579. >It still kept going.
  580. >To everyone’s horror, the wave of metal crashed into the trophy cases in the Library.
  581. >The case shattered as the trophies and countless pieces of glass rained all over the floor.
  582. >You barely had the chance hear the groans of the buried builders before the burglar alarms began to blare out.
  583. >”Fuck!” one of them cursed, “Fuck, shit!”
  584. >”Get me the fuck outta here!” another screamed under the debris
  585. >The masked builders abandoned all sense of subtlety as threw the chairs aside to free their partners before the staff returned to investigate.
  586. >You just stared dumbfounded at the sight.
  587. >Once free, everyone fled to the exits.
  588. >Those that couldn’t run, leaned on their partners’ shoulders for support as they stumbled out.
  589. >You followed them out.
  590. >There were even more hooded pranksters out about in the school grounds.
  591. >They fled the scene into the grass fields like field mice.
  592. >You saw some of the work they left behind.
  593. >The lunch tables were stacked into a massive triangle, while the trash cans were stacked in a giant pyramid.
  594. >You sure there was more inside as more flooded from the main building and retreated to the grass fields.
  595. >That’s when the firecrackers from earlier made sense.
  596. >It was a distraction to for the real prank to happen, and you screwed it all up.
  597. >Before you could even question the idea, one of the pranksters made it crystal clear to you.
  598. >”Fuck you, Reject!”
  600. >You buried your face in your hands as the staff returned.
  601. “Oh, fuck.”
  602. >Fury was already painted over the principal’s face.
  603. >Guess he didn’t catch his culprit.
  604. >”Over there!” one of the faculty pointed to the pranksters scrambling through the grass fields.
  605. >Several of them broke off to pursue them, while the principal charged straight for you
  606. >”What the hell happened?!” he shouted over the alarm, “Tell me now!”
  607. >his face boiled red as murder filled his eyes.
  608. “Th-they just came out from the fields!” you stammered.
  609. >”And you didn’t think to shout out to the-” The principal pointed to the library “-Can someone shut the damn alarm off!”
  610. “I-I was tired. I fell asleep…”
  611. >”Bullshit!” The principal cursed, “As if you could be asleep in the middle of that!”
  612. >The Principal edges closer, his index finger threatening to stab you through.
  613. >”No, you played some role in this!” He accused you, “I could have sheriff put you away for this!”
  614. >”Jonathan, stop!” The Librarian interrupted, “I’ve known Anonymous since his freshman year. There’s no reason for him to just be part of this.”
  615. >”And you’re just gonna believe he slept through this?”
  616. >”It's finals week! Who wouldn’t be tired?”
  617. >”Not good enough!” He turned to you. “Boy, you better have something to prove you weren’t a part of this. The very least, I want names.”
  618. >You gave yourself a moment to think.
  619. >It’s not that you had trouble on who you suspect.
  620. >It was obvious the moment you heard your given name that the football team played a part in this
  621. >No, the hard part was measuring the consequences on whether you should tell or not.
  622. >It was obvious at the time.
  623. >You were focused on the danger in front of you; the principal threatening you with juvy.
  624. >How long would you be gone from Sumi?
  625. >The thought made you ill.
  626. >You picked the obvious choice.
  627. “I have an idea who did this,” you answered.
  629. >”Tell me now.” The Principal ordered
  630. >”Yes, Anon,” The librarian agreed, “Please tell us.”
  631. “I think some of the prankers are from the football team.”
  632. >The principal’s anger has finally started to be subdued as he takes in your words.
  633. >”Hmm… Possible.” he nods, “Any proof for that?”
  634. >You shrug.
  635. “Well, they called me ‘Reject.’ Pretty much the only people I ever heard call me that is mostly them..”
  636. >Many of the faculty hummed in agreement.
  637. >The librarian was the only one to frown at that name as she muttered, “Brats..”
  638. >She won a small smile from you.
  639. >”Any physical evidence?” The Principal asked, “Can’t just round up the entire football team on just testimony alone. I need evidence physical evidence.”
  640. “Yeah,” you sighed, “They just panicked when they saw me, and the thing they were making fell on top of some of them. So, some of them would have cuts and bruises. Since it’s finals week, they’ll have to come, right?”
  641. >The principal glared into your eyes.
  642. >You tensed up within his piercing stare ready to drop dead on command.
  643. >”Ok,” The principal huffed as his eyes turned to the Librarian, “If someone as stubborn as Nancy is willing to defend you, I’ll put some stock into your words. For now.”
  644. >The Principal marches into his office while the rest of the staff stayed to help clean up the damaged library.
  645. >The Librarian hugged you.
  646. >”Don’t worry, Anon” she reassured you, “I know you’re not guilty of any of this.”
  647. >Now all you had to worry about is what happens the next day.
  649. >Coming to school the next day made you uneasy.
  650. >You could just felt several eyes laying on you as you walked and you saw several heads turn away from you as soon as you gave them a quick glance.
  651. >Some dressed light for the warm spring weather.
  652. >Others wore a sweatshirt and tugged at their sleeves to hide their arms under the fabric when you stared at them.
  653. >The Library was closed; its doors were cordoned off with yellow tape.
  654. >The school bell rang, signaling the start of another school day as everyone started to shuffle into class.
  655. >On the grim looks of some it looked as if they were marching to their execution.
  656. >A portion of the first period was spent unstacking the chairs.
  657. >The pyramid won a few chuckles and giggles from your peers, all just from seeing the displeasure on your teacher’s face.
  658. >Before the tests began, the Principal entered your classroom.
  659. “Good morning, students,” he addressed, “Roll up your sleeves and hold out your arms.”
  660. >Many of the students questioned the command but crumpled under his deadpan gaze.
  661. >The Principal walked through each quarter of the room inspecting everyone’s arms.
  662. >You tried to avoid his cold stare as he passed you by.
  663. >He finally stopped at one student wearing his sweatshirt.
  664. >”Roll up your sleeves.” The principal repeated.
  665. >You already knew who he was: a junior from the JV football team.
  666. >A shake of his head was all he could muster as he tried to hide his face from the principal and the whole class.
  667. >Undeterred, the principal whistled.
  668. >That was when two deputies marched into the room.
  669. >He beckoned them forward to where he stood.
  670. >”Come with us, Son.” The principal said.
  671. >The student turned white as the whole class turned silent.
  672. >Before he slipped into the hallway, he looked to you.
  673. >A look of scorn that makes that has you grabbing the edge of your desk.
  675. >The day continued, but an eerie silence reigns over the school as the principal’s justice fell on it like a hammer.
  676. >The school-wide prank had taken its effect and everyone was talking about it although in hushed whispers.
  677. >During passing periods or in the middle of class, deputies and staff would march the halls with a student in tow to the office.
  678. >It was the students that showed bruises that were first taken to the office for questioning.
  679. >It wasn’t long before at least one of them cracked, because more students were being driven to the office like cattle.
  680. >Each period after would have fewer students.
  681. >Anyone that even thought of escaping would either have to break through the blockade of staff watching the fields and a deputy in his car monitoring the parking lot.
  682. >Even Junior wasn’t spared.
  683. >He was already gone by the fifth period.
  684. >You did your best to avoid the office.
  685. >You tried your best not to be seen.
  686. >You heard that the punishment was steep.
  687. >Anyone involved would be forced to attend summer school, and pay for the damages caused by the prank.
  688. >As many of them were part of the football team, the next season would be canceled as punishment.
  689. >The notoriety of the prank wasn't restricted to just the school.
  690. >It became the talk of the town and throughout the county.
  691. >This prank would leave a black mark on everyone’s record, not that it mattered much to most of them.
  692. >For the rest of school, the prank and the following aftermath would remain in the heads of its students for many years.
  693. >You just wished it never happened in the first place.
  694. >After a long ordeal you just wanted to vent to Sumi.
  696. >”Wow, Anon! That’s really bad!” Sumi wrote
  697. “I know! Pretty much a chunk of the whole school was caught!” you laughed
  698. >”Still that’s impressive, stacking chairs not in just one room but throughout the whole school!”
  699. “I bet no one ever did something on that scale before, huh?” you boasted
  700. >”Well there this one Pegasus, Rainbow Dash.” Sumi recalled, “She once gave the entire town rainbow mouth.”
  701. “'Rainbow mouth'?”
  702. >”There was a cookie drive. She replaced all the cookies with something she made herself stuffed with ink that turned everypony’s teeth into a rainbow after they take a bite. Hence, rainbow mouth”
  703. “By herself?”
  704. >”By herself.”
  705. “Wow, that’s really impressive.”
  706. >”I bet, but I know a few tricks myself.”
  707. “Oh really?” you smirk, “Like what?”
  708. >”Well, Whenever my brother gets on my nerves, sometimes, I mix ink in his tea and turn his teeth all black.”
  709. “Well, I better watch what I write until the day we meet.”
  710. >”Oh, with the things you’ve written in these past years, I’d say you’re way overdue!”
  711. “Very bold of you to say that, what makes you so sure you can get me?”
  712. >”You’ll let your guard down, just you wait.”
  713. >You drew a winky face.
  714. ”Sure, when we meet”
  715. “When we meet.” she ends with a heart.
  717. >You wanted to move past the pyramid incident, and for a moment, you thought you could.
  718. >It’s was the start of a new week and finals has just finished.
  719. >The recent drama from the incident has passed and punishments have been dealt with.
  720. >All there was to do was wait till summer break starts, allowing you the luxury to be lost in thought.
  721. >You already have an idea on how to spend most of it: At the Library.
  722. >You just pondered about what will happen in two years ahead when you finally meet Sumi.
  723. “What’s gonna happen?” you asked yourself.
  724. >You sure that when you turned 18, it was going to be a one-way trip and you don't even have any skills besides drawing.
  725. “What can you do for her? Can you live up to her? Can you make her happy?”
  726. >As you brood on this, you worked on another sketch of Sumi. Since you’ve received a sketch of her face, you’ve been practicing.
  727. >Of course, on a separate piece of paper.
  728. >You didn’t want her to see you bungle on recreating her beauty.
  729. >All this time you’ve been making her face only.
  730. >You never made a sketch of the two of you together.
  731. >It was the hardest thing to make because you couldn’t picture it in your head.
  732. >You've done it before countless times when you were both little kids.
  733. >Why was it so hard at that point?
  734. >Of course, she probably wouldn't have a hard time with this.
  735. >Drawing was the only thing you were good at, and she could do better than you by a mile.
  736. >So, you repeated the questions in your head.
  737. >Then period bell just rang.
  738. >It was time to go P.E.
  740. >Despite finals being over everyone in the class still had to change in the school locker rooms.
  741. >Whatever the class was doing was at the whim of the teacher.
  742. >Sometimes it’s playing soccer on the field, dodgeball in the auditorium, or a mile around the track.
  743. >It was just another class, but on that day, you felt a sense unease that twisted your stomach.
  744. >It compounded the problem the moment you caught a glimpse of some of your classmates' eyes.
  745. >Piercing glares that stab through your peace of mind.
  746. >A stark reminder of your involvement in last weeks events have not gone unnoticed.
  747. >You thought they were trip you, maybe accidentally “bump” into you, but nothing happened.
  748. >They didn’t even call you “Reject.”
  749. >A part of you wish that would happen.
  750. >You didn't want to imagine what was brewing in their heads.
  751. >Same when the class was in the soccer field, nothing.
  752. >Just more eyes focusing on you.
  753. >You just wanted to get out of there.
  754. >When the class returned to the locker rooms to change you raced to get done first.
  755. >You got dressed and quickly checked your backpack.
  756. >Nothing was stolen.
  757. >You got up to leave, but suddenly, someone blocked your path.
  758. >”H-hey.” you complained.
  759. >He only stared you down.
  760. >You thought for a moment to force yourself through.
  761. >Before you could even decide, Your vision turned dark.
  762. >Someone slipped a bag over your head.
  763. >That was when someone socked you across your chin.
  764. >You felt everything in your dark world shake as your body tensed up like a statue and collapsed.
  765. >You grasping at the edge of consciousness as you heard everyone in the room surge towards.
  766. >They all fell upon you, barraging you with fists and kicks filled with rage.
  767. >You felt several cracks rang out in your body as the blows knocked the air out of your lungs.
  768. >A silent scream was all that you could muster.
  770. >”Stop! Stop!” someone hissed to the mob.
  771. >Everyone respected the voice’s command and ceased the assault.
  772. >Your whole body was pulsating like a massive heart, the pain circulating through every inch of your body.
  773. >You coughed and sputtered, spitting out a tooth as the taste of copper washed your mouth.
  774. >”Grab ‘im! Come on!" The voice commanded.
  775. >You were hoisted up by several hands, their callous touch a strain on your battered skin.
  776. >”Shit!” someone cursed, “Careful. He’s drippin' blood.”
  777. >All you really wanted to do at that moment was shut your eyes and pray for the pain to pass as you drifted in and out of consciousness.
  778. >At times you felt being changed hands, and heard the snap of school doors opening and closing.
  779. >When you finally came too, you found yourself staring into the blue sky as the clouds sped by in the distance.
  780. >You tried to pick yourself up from the uneven ground only for a bump to knock you back down.
  781. >Your head was shaking and your body ached from earlier.
  782. >”Ahh, Reject!” Someone exclaimed, “Finally awake!”
  783. >You didn’t need to look to know that it was a member of the football team.
  784. >You took a look around you and found yourself in the back of a truck.
  785. >One of your captors was with you, his arm hanging out the side as he laid on the truck bed.
  786. >Next to you was your backpack.
  787. “Why would they…”
  788. >You guessed your captors didn't want any signs from the school that you were kidnapped.
  789. >Your body pulsed with pain now that you were fully conscious.
  790. >”Just relax,” your captor said.
  791. >There was a grin on his face.
  792. >You were deep inside the countryside.
  793. >The only sign civilization you could see is the road the truck is traveling on.
  794. >Everything else was a sea of flowing grass.
  795. >You looked down the road where you came from.
  796. >Your riding partner grinned again. “I wouldn’t try it if I were you.” He warned, “You could if you really want to. Course we’ll just turn round and pick up again.”
  798. >Suddenly, the truck swerved to the right into the grass fields.
  799. >”Oh!” Your partner bellowed, “Better hold on!”
  800. >The truck rocked and shook over the grass.
  801. >It tossed you up and swung you side to side.
  802. >Trying to lay down flat would only result in bumping your head against the truck bed like a drum.
  803. >Instead, you forced yourself to hang onto the side of the truck like your partner.
  804. >You groaned as your head bobbed back and forth, shaking the contents in your head until you passed out again.
  805. >”Hey, wake up,”
  806. >You felt someone patting your cheek.
  807. >You wedged eyes open to see everything still.
  808. >You were surrounded by brown grass stretching into the horizon.
  809. >It was silent save for the blowing rustling grass and the sound of the truck doors opening.
  810. >”Come on.”
  811. >Your partner opened the tailgate and motioned you to leave.
  812. >Your whole body was protesting and you refused to move.
  813. >”Alright then” he huffed.
  814. >He grabbed you by the collar of your shirt and the waistline of your pants and hurled you to ground below.
  815. >You moaned from the impact.
  816. >You tried to pick yourself but your legs gave out and collapsed back down to your knees.
  817. >Your backpack was tossed to the ground next to you.
  818. >”Should’ve kept quiet, Reject.” a familiar voice rang out.
  819. >Junior walks up to with his friends while two others scooped you up by your arms.
  820. >He had a black eye on his face and puffy cheeks on the sides of his face.
  821. >He rolled up the sleeves of his sweatshirt revealing more bruises and cuts on his arms.
  822. >Out of everyone there, You and Junior looked to be only ones to be sent through a meat grinder.
  823. >He balled his fist and smacked you across the face.
  824. >You could’ve sworn you’d be flying were it not for the others holding you.
  826. >Your head went limp as a cocktail of blood and saliva trickled from your mouth to the grass below.
  827. >It didn’t stop,
  828. >You someone jerked your head back through your hair forcing you to look up at Junior.
  829. >You just looked past him, staring blankly into the grass flowing from the breeze.
  830. >You wished for nothing more but to wake up and see that sight again from your bedroom window.
  831. >Instead you saw a close up of Junior's fist.
  832. >”It’s all because of you….”
  833. >He spoke with venom poisoning his voice and held a burning rage in his eyes.
  834. >It came again and again, to the point that the ones holding you up struggled to keep up with the former football star’s barrage.
  835. >”You fucked everything up!”
  836. >It finally came to a stop once you heard a crack in your head and felt warm blood gush from your nose.
  837. >Junior walked off to shake his hands.
  838. >Your captors released you and you collapsed like a ragdoll.
  839. >You coughed and wheezed, spitting out blood as while your broken nose forced you to breathe through your mouth.
  840. >As everyone enjoyed your cathartic beatdown, you debated with yourself whether you should keep on struggling to stay awake.
  841. >You felt your head throb, rocking your brain back and forth like a cradle that made your eyelids weigh like lead.
  842. >You sunk closer to the ground as your breathing became much more shallow.
  843. >That’s when images of Sumi flashed in your eyes.
  844. >The first conversation you shared together, the countless drawings you made together, the constants arguments the both of you started, and the moment the both confessed your feelings for each other.
  845. >The years of happiness she gave you these past years got you to smile through your blood-encrusted lips and a few tears to flow over your swelling face.
  846. >Before you faded out of consciousness, you saw one of your captors dig through your backpack.
  847. >He opened every pocket and dumped all its contents to the ground, one of them is your journal.
  849. >Your eyes jolted back to life as you watched in horror when one of your captors grabbed your journal.
  850. >He breezed through the pages seemingly not caring much for the contents inside.
  851. >”Oh fuck!” he chuckled out loud, “This some kinda diary? Oh damn...!”
  852. >He calls to the rest of his friends.
  853. >”Take a look this.” he called.
  854. >”Well shit...Who knew that Reject was good at drawing.”
  855. >”Pretty good...Hey, Reject” one of them called to you, “How 'bout you make something for us? We'll go easy after you.”
  856. >You just continued to stare at the journal with bated breath.
  857. >You remembered your promise to Sumi to meet with her once you turned 18.
  858. >”Hello?! Reject? Hello?!”
  859. >”Well whatever?” one of them shrugs, “This one’s a keeper. He's not gonna miss it soon anyway.”
  860. >He grabbed a page and ripped it out.
  861. >He might as well be flaying your skin.
  862. >Hearing your the paper turned your stomach and made your hair stand up.
  863. “No!” you screamed.
  864. >You jumped to your feet.
  865. >The pain coursing through you buried underneath a torrent of rage and fear.
  866. >You dashed towards the group and hurled a fist into the desecrator's face.
  867. >He slumped to the ground as you wrested your journal free from his fingers.
  868. >”Oh fuck!” one of your captors cursed.
  869. >You held the journal close to your chest, even as blood was dripping on it.
  870. >Everyone stared at you dumbfounded.
  871. >You wasted no time and climbed to the hood of the truck.
  872. >”Fuck! get him off my truck!” someone barked.
  873. >Maybe with a higher vantage point, you could have spotted the road, maybe even wave for help to any passerby.
  874. >You eyed the crumpled grass that the truck made but it just seemed to reach all the way to the blue sky.
  875. >The adrenaline started to wear off and you're reminded of the injuries you sustained.
  876. >Everyone started to surround you and you felt the truck shake
  877. >You turned around just in time for Junior to swipe at your legs.
  879. >You crashed onto the hood on your back.
  880. >”Fuck, dude!” Someone fumed, “Careful! You’re gonna dent my truck!”
  881. >Junior grabbed your clothes and cast you back down to the ground.
  882. >Everyone fell upon you, dragging back to where you were.
  883. >They pinned you down and you felt a hard kick crash against your ribs.
  884. >”That’s payback.” said the desecrator before he spat on your face.
  885. >You looked for the journal only for your heart to sink once you saw it in Junior’s grasp.
  886. >Junior looked through the book's content inside, from your first page to your latest entry.
  887. >”You’ve been doing this for a long time, haven’t ya?” Junior asked you.
  888. >You made no response.
  889. >He continued, “You had this since you were..what? Six? Seven? Well, I’ve been doing football since I learned to catch and throw.”
  890. >Everyone was quiet as they listened to Junior speak.
  891. >He stands still in the grass looking through your book.
  892. >He almost looked like he was enjoying it.
  893. >”’Practice, practice, practice. Gotta live up to the legacy, Junior.’ Aww shit,” he chuckles, “Talking to yourself? You’re crazy! But, I bet you had a helluva lot of fun though, huh?”
  894. >You still didn’t respond.
  895. >He squatted beside you allowing your eyes to focus on his one black eye.
  896. >”I wish I had your enthusiasm. Honestly, football... it wasn't my first choice, But my Dad, he...He had his ways of motivating me.”
  897. >Junior rose up again and sighed, “It’s all I’ve ever known. It was gonna be my ticket outta here.”
  898. >He then gestures to the rest of his teammates. “It was gonna be all of our tickets outta here! And you just had to fuck it up. The entire fucking team wasn't there!” he screamed, “We actually gave two shits!”
  899. >He took a long look at your face and then your hands.
  900. >He then clapped the book close. “Alright, team! Change of plans, I got a better idea! Hold out his fucking hands!”
  902. “Huh?” you gasped.
  903. >Junior’s team started to look at him with confusion.
  904. >”Thought we were gonna go all the way with this?” one of them protested.
  905. >”It’s not like we’re coming back to town anyway,” Junior countered, “I'm dead already. My dad’s gonna kill me next he sees me.”
  906. >Junior clenches your journal in one of his hands and swung it around in the air. “Besides, it’s better we leave a lasting impact on Reject, don’t ya think?”
  907. >Junior’s team all snorted and moaned as they waved him off.
  908. >”Sure..ya,” One of them chuckled, “We’ll all just take turns then.”
  909. >You felt the weight on you increased as one of them sat on you.
  910. >You thought that they were gonna crush your ribs like an egg.
  911. >Then they dragged your arms to the front in full view of your face.
  912. “No!” You gasped, “No!”
  913. >There was one person holding down each of your sore limbs.
  914. >you tried to wrestle free, waving every part of your body in a futile attempt to shake them off.
  915. >Your fingers dug into the earth to brace yourself for the incoming blow as tears start to spring out from your eyes.
  916. >But before that happened Junior knelt in front of your hands.
  917. >He held a small smile as he stared down at you.
  918. “Please, Junior.” You begged, “Don’t do this, please.”
  919. >His smile only deepened as he shook his head. “My hands were gonna be the keys to somewhere better than here, but that door is gone for me forever, Reject. So guess what? I’m taking your keys away.”
  920. >Junior reflected on his words and cringed.
  921. >He spoke up before anyone else had the chance.
  922. >"Yeah it's fucking corny, I know. Could've been a poet but we'll never know now."
  923. >He hoisted your journal into the air.
  924. >”Have fun drawing with your mouth.”
  926. >You clenched your eyes shut and bit into your lower lip as you tried to push everything from your mind.
  927. >Time started to slow down for just a brief moment
  928. >You felt the bristly dry grass rake against your skin.
  929. >You opened your eyes to see flowing grass as the rustling countless blades silences your sniffling.
  930. >Then you felt your journal, weighed with nearly ten years of fondly remembered memories and powered with the culmination of eighteen years of anger, crashing down on your hand
  931. >Shockwaves traveled throughout your whole body as the blow pierced every nerve in your hand like as if it were a finely tipped dagger.
  932. >You bit through your lips as you gasped.
  933. >You howled out by the time the second strike came.
  934. >Every part of you convulsed and spasmed as you tried to escape.
  935. >It finally stopped after the fourth strike.
  936. >Your head planted into the ground made red from your bloody nose and pierced lip.
  937. >For a brief moment it was bliss until you heard Junior say, “Your turn.”
  938. >He swapped with one of his partners and the beating resumed.
  939. >You could find the courage to fight anymore.
  940. >It drained from your body completely all over your pants.
  941. >You heard some of your captors complain but didn’t bother to understand them.
  942. >All that existed was you and pain as your master.
  943. >It laughs throughout your body with every sharp crack in your hand.
  944. >Then It was your other hand's turn.
  945. >How long you had to slug through the ordeal remained a mystery to you.
  946. >The last thing you could remember was your eyes trying to look at the back of your skull as you passed out.
  948. >Your head was ringing when your eyes finally opened.
  949. >You tried to push yourself up only for a stabbing pain to surge through your hands to the rest of your arms.
  950. >Your back down with a long whimper.
  951. >As you became more aware of your surroundings, you realized that your head was resting on your journal.
  952. >It was open and its pages were painted red from your bloody nose and pierced lip.
  953. >The sky was washed with orange from the waning sun.
  954. >You made another attempt, this time bearing all your weight on your elbows.
  955. >You wheezed through your teeth as you lifted yourself to your knees.
  956. >You gave yourself a moment to breathe as you struggle not to fall down again.
  957. >At the top of the blood-soaked page, a message was written to you.
  958. >“Sweet dreams, Reject.”
  959. >You looked at the bloody mess that was your journal and shuddered.
  960. >Sumi might have already seen this.
  961. >Oh who were you kidding?
  962. >Who could miss a massive blot of blood bleeding through the book?
  963. >You had to look for something to write with.
  964. >You had to tell Sumi you’re still alright.
  965. >You reached for a pencil left next to the journal.
  966. >It felt like you were squeezing your fist around a handful of tacks.
  967. >You hissed from the pain and dropped it instantly.
  968. >That was when you stared at your hands.
  969. >Your hand looked like it was already bent in two with bones of your fingers trying to stretch out from your purple skin.
  970. >You wedged your eyes shut.
  971. “No..” you mouthed, “No..”
  972. >It was better to focus on looking for help instead of dwelling on your hands.
  973. >You scooped the journal into your forearms and slid it into your backpack.
  974. >You didn’t even bother to zip it close.
  975. >It was hard enough to pick up from the ground.
  976. >After sliding your arms through the straps, you started the long walk back to civilization.
  978. >You limped along the trail of trampled grass left by your captor’s truck.
  979. >Your arms dangled at your side as you slouched to keep your journal from falling.
  980. >The mildest breeze of the wind or just the slightest brush against the grass could force a hiss out of you.
  981. >It was all one long balancing act through the grass sea.
  982. >Any misstep was punished by you having you collapse to your knees.
  983. >Everytime that happened, the intense the pain that shock through your entire being had your eyes stinging from the tears as you fought to avoid crumbling completely.
  984. “Come on…” you muttered, “Come on…”
  985. >The orange skies grew darker as you chased the sun that already hid behind the horizon.
  986. >It wasn’t long before the skies turned black and became populated with stars.
  987. >It just became impossible to see what was in front of you.
  988. >You just kept following the trail, feeling the blades of grass with your arms and listening to them crunch underneath your shoes as a way to guide you.
  989. >The only thing you could see is your breath dancing in the frigid air.
  990. >Everything was numb, especially the areas around your wet pants.
  991. >Your eyelids were weighing heavily.
  992. >You wanted to sleep badly, but you were sure you wouldn’t be able to wake up again if you did.
  993. “Keep going”
  994. >Your mantra to keep you moving.
  995. >You had to keep going because you still need to tell Sumi that you’re still ok.
  996. >No matter how long it took to slog through the grass.
  997. >it felt like it's been ages once you finally felt the hard texture of asphalt under your feet.
  998. >After a long march, your legs finally started to buckle and you crumpled onto the side of the road.
  999. >You were all spent.
  1000. >What little energy you had, you exhausted just to plop yourself on your back.
  1001. >You stared into the starry night sky, your thoughts dwelling on Sumi.
  1002. >How nice of a challenge would it be capture to wonder of the night sky on canvas with her?
  1003. >Icey tears were the final thing you felt as you closed your eyes.
  1005. >It was the beeping of the heart monitor that stirred you awake.
  1006. >You wore nothing but a hospital gown under a cotton blanket.
  1007. >On the nightstand to your left were several get well cards and a bouquet of flowers.
  1008. >You’re alive, but that’s not the only thing that concerned you.
  1009. >Where was the journal?
  1010. >You have to tell Sumi you’re still alright.
  1011. >Your hands were hoisted in the air and were wrapped in a cast that stretched down to your elbows.
  1012. >You’re gonna let her know that you’re still there, even if you have to use your mouth.
  1013. >You waited for someone to come.
  1014. >Soon, a nurse came to change your catheter bag.
  1015. >From her you learned that when you were checked, you were found at the entrance of the hospital.
  1016. >Since then, you’ve been in a coma for a week.
  1017. >That's strange.
  1018. >You were sure you passed out on the side of the road.
  1019. ”Do you know where my journal is?” You asked.
  1020. >”County sheriff took it for evidence.” the nurse responded.
  1021. >Your eyes widened so much, they could’ve easily fallen from your skull.
  1022. “But I’m gonna get it back soon, right?"
  1023. >”Sorry." the nurse shrugged, "You can ask them once they ask you some questions, but first I'll get the doctor."
  1024. >It was from the doctor that you learned about the state of your hands.
  1025. >His words echoed in your head as you gazed at the x-rays of your broken hands.
  1026. >The doctor shook his head.
  1027. >”Ah’m sorry, son.” He apologized, “Even after the bones heal, the damage already been done. Playing the piano, writing, texting, just bending your fingers are gonna be a challenge. Don’t expect everything to be the same way as it was before.”
  1028. >”Thanks Doctor.” you muttered.
  1029. >Your head slumped into your pillow.
  1030. >How were you gonna tell Sumi about this?
  1031. >You never even had to answer that question.
  1032. >Your journal would be used as evidence and would remain with the county.
  1033. >That’s what the authorities told you after you relayed your side of the story to them.
  1035. >Your stay at the hospital followed a clockwork schedule.
  1036. >There were three meals a day with snacks between each one, Pills every twelve hours to deal with the pain, then there's being escorted to the bathroom every few hours, and you making your pillow damp until you fall asleep every midnight.
  1037. >Rinse and repeat.
  1038. >All complete with a TV stuck on one channel to keep you entertained.
  1039. >One day you were visited, by the librarian from school and ones from the town library with a box of chocolates, and read a book to you about the Redwood Forest.
  1040. >It was a nice change of pace.
  1041. >When you finally got checked out, you left in a fresh set of clothes and a sling for both your arms.
  1042. >There wasn’t much changed when you returned to the orphanage.
  1043. >They replaced your doorknob with a lever.
  1044. >That was nice of them.
  1045. >Once inside, you were just about to collapse onto your bed when you saw something on your table.
  1046. >It was a present in a gift wrapping with blue hearts and had a tag with “To Anonymous” written on it.
  1047. >Seeing that pulled you from your daze as you started to crack into a smile.
  1048. >You tried to shred through the wrapping, only for the pain to erupt in your hands, robbing you of your euphoria.
  1049. >Undeterred, you clenched a pencil from the table between your teeth and stabbed it into the presents side.
  1050. >You sawed through the wrapping until it was easy enough for the item inside to slide out.
  1051. >It looked like an exact copy of the first journal.
  1052. >You grabbed the edge of the cover with your lips and flipped it open to the page.
  1053. >Inside was a message written to you.
  1054. >”Anonymous, please.” Sumi wrote, “Write something. Anything, please! I don’t know what happened to your journal, but it’s ok. Just write something. Let me know that you’re okay.”
  1056. >You took a moment to soak in the message.
  1057. >When was the last time you wrote to her?
  1058. >How long did you force her to worry about you?
  1059. >She must have been scared out of her wits when she saw the state of the journal: The eerie message left by your captors and the blood.
  1060. >You wasted no time in scribbling something back with a pencil in your mouth.
  1061. “Got hurt bad”
  1062. >The words were jagged and crooked as you scratched them onto the page.
  1063. “Hand bad sorry I scared you just hurt”
  1064. >You frowned at your poor words as the doctor's words echo again in your mind.
  1065. >Is this how you’ll be able to write for the rest of your life?
  1066. >How are you gonna be able to draw again?
  1068. >It hurts more the longer you stared at those words.
  1069. “Hard write sorry”
  1070. >Your face started to turn red as you wished for things to be different.
  1071. >You should’ve gone straight home, you should’ve stayed awake, you should’ve kept your mouth shut.
  1072. >Why didn’t you do any of that?
  1073. >You looked to Sumi’s words
  1074. “Sumi” you sniffed.
  1075. >How are you really gonna prove that you’re alright if you didn’t believe it yourself?
  1076. >Just a week ago, you had a hard time picturing yourself with Sumi in the future, now you don’t even have working hands!
  1077. >You knocked your head against the table to punish yourself until you finally crumpled into your new journal.
  1078. “I’m broken,” you wept, “I’m sorry.”
  1079. >You cried yourself to sleep as you stained the journal with your tears.
  1080. >When you woke up again, there was a message for you.
  1081. >”Anonymous, there’s nothing to be sorry about.” Sumi replied, “You don’t even need to write anything back. I’m just happy to know you’re alright. It doesn’t matter if you can’t write to me back, what matters is you know that I’ll love you no matter what happens. Get some rest, Anon, and get well soon.”
  1082. >You looked into those words and felt familiar sensation flutter inside you.
  1083. >For a moment you believed you could get better.
  1084. >Not in the same way as before, but It'll be ok as long as your favorite Unicorn is there for you.
  1085. >Nevertheless, you obeyed Sumi’s command and crawled into your bed.
  1086. >You smiled to yourself.
  1087. “Too good for me.”
  1088. >For the first time since the day at the hospital you had a full night’s sleep.
  1090. >Princess Cadence wraps her wings around you.
  1091. >”It’s not your fault, Anon. You only did what you thought was right.”
  1092. >You look down at your first journal and stare at the dents on the blood-stained cover.
  1093. “Two surgeries, six months of rehabilitation, and a lot of painkillers just to get me to flex my fingers again. Even after all that, it still hurts. So I still wonder if it was really worth it”
  1094. >”We can heal them again, Anonymous.”
  1095. “Thanks, Princess, but a lot of work has already been done on them, Princess.” you reject, "I don't want to have them broken again."
  1096. >”Well, when your hands flare up, at least let me help numb the pain, alright?”
  1097. “Sure” you nod.
  1098. >Cadence starts to get up.
  1099. >”I’m going to be leaving now, Anon. There are other duties I must attend to. Please, let me know if there’s anything else you need.”
  1100. >As Cadence leaves, you decided to speak up.
  1101. “Uh Princess.”
  1102. >”Yes Anon?”
  1103. “Thanks for talking with me," you smile, "It was nice.”
  1104. >Cadence gives you a warm smile.
  1105. >”Likewise, Anonymous,” she thanks you.
  1106. ”I...uh. You know..uh, I think I’ll be going out today and explore.”
  1107. >Cadence’s ears perk up as her smile brightens.
  1108. >”Well then, come with me!"
  1109. >For the first time in a while, you left your room.
  1110. >You tail the Princess through the crystal halls as she greets everyone that passes with a smile and a nod.
  1111. >”Sweetheart!” She calls out, “Oh sweetheart!”
  1112. >”Coming, Mom!” A young voice shouts back.
  1113. >You see a light pink Alicorn flying down the halls.
  1114. >Cadence’s mane flows from the gale created by the filly’s massive wings, while you struggle to stay on your feet.
  1115. >while the Filly lands to the ground, Cadence stretches a wing to support you from the resulting shock wave.
  1116. >”Flurry,” Cadence addresses, “I’d like you to meet Anonymous.”
  1118. >The young alicorn is small, her horn barely matching your waist.
  1119. >Her wings, on the other hand, were more comparable to her mother’s.
  1120. >Flurry gives you a curtsy and brings out a bright smile with eyes sparkling with energy.
  1121. >”Hi Anonymous!” she greets you, “I’m Princess Flurry Heart!”
  1122. >You return the smile and give a bow.
  1123. “Nice to meet you, Flurry. You can just call me Anon for short.”
  1124. >”Dear,” Cadence hums, “Anonymous would like to have a tour around the Crystal Empire.”
  1125. >Flurry gasps, “Really?”
  1126. >”But first, did you finish your homework, today?”
  1127. >Flurry’s smile starts to sag.
  1128. >”Uhh…”
  1129. >”I’ll let you go out for two hours.” Cadence informs her, “After that, I want you to return to your room and complete your studies. Do I make myself clear?”
  1130. >”Yes, Mom,” Flurry huffs before she gives Cadence a hug.
  1131. >”Alright then. Have fun you two!”
  1132. >After that, the two of you walk outside.
  1133. >You take in the cool chilly air and stretch out.
  1134. >“So, where do you want to go first, Anon?” Flurry asks.
  1135. >You pause and stroke your chin.
  1136. “That’s a good a question. Uhh…”
  1137. >You’ve been so used to being a schedule, it’s hard to decide what to do on your own.
  1138. >You’re eighteen now; you can make your own decisions.
  1139. >Going to the library is the first thing that comes to your mind.
  1140. >Probably a boring choice for a filly, but being able to freely come and go excites you.
  1141. “...I think I’d like to-”
  1142. >”Oh! I know!” Flurry interrupts, “I know the perfect place to take you! Follow me”
  1143. “Oh..ok” you mutter.
  1144. >Several of the crystal guards give the young Alicorn a salute as you both pass, which she returns with a friendly wave.
  1145. >You take notice that none of them follow after either of you.
  1146. “You don’t need any guards?”
  1147. >Flurry Heart gives you a confused look.
  1148. >”Do I? It’s safe and everypony’s nice here,” she assures you, “You don’t have to worry, I’ll be here to protect you.”
  1150. ”Oh?” you chuckle, “Well, ok then.”
  1151. >”You don’t believe me?” Flurry huffs, “Even though I’m only ten, I can fight a dragon with my eyes closed!”
  1152. “Oh really?” you smirk.
  1153. >You’re no stranger to younglings.
  1154. >You’ve been living with them all your life in an orphanage, and years of blissed filled with trading insults with Sumi has given you devilish satisfaction to seeing others flustered.
  1155. >”Yeah! I can do many things right now just to show you!”
  1156. “Like what?”
  1157. >”W-well I can’t,” Flurry stammers, “My mom told me not to abuse my powers.”
  1158. “Right, right.”
  1159. >”W-wait! A race! How about a race?”
  1160. >You chuckle and squat to meet her at eye level.
  1161. “I’m more than twice your height.” you point out, “What makes you think you can win?”
  1162. >”You’ll know once you start chasing after my tail!” she grins.
  1163. “Alright then!” you clap your hands. “Where to?”
  1164. >”To the statue of Cousin Spike down the road." She points ahead, "You can’t miss it. First one to touch it wins.”
  1165. “Wait, weren’t you gonna take me somewhere?”
  1166. >”It’s on the way! You aren’t scared are you?”
  1167. “Ok, you’re on.”
  1168. >You and Flurry start to get ready.
  1169. “On the count of three: One..”
  1170. >”Two..”
  1171. “Three!”
  1173. >With that, the two of you are off.
  1174. >Your legs gives you strong lead ahead of the Alicorn.
  1175. >A quick glance behind you and you could see that she’s galloping after you.
  1176. >Despite going at full speed, Flurry is struggling to just catch up to you.
  1177. “Aw shit.” you think to yourself.
  1178. >You don’t want to really make her sad.
  1179. >Once you begin to slow your pace, you hear something unfurl.
  1180. >You feel a shadow cross over you, and see Flurry flying above you.
  1181. “Hey!” You shout, “You’re cheating!”
  1182. >”I didn’t say that you couldn’t fly!” she argues before she sticks out her tongue.
  1183. “Oh! Now you done it!”
  1184. >You try to feign being angry but you can’t hide the dumb grin appearing on your face as Flurry giggles.
  1185. >Still, you’re not gonna give up that easily.
  1186. >You break into a full sprint after the princess.
  1188. >You see a crystal statue ahead standing in the center of an intersection.
  1189. >A large figure standing on two legs, carrying a blue crystal heart in one of its hands.
  1190. >It’s probably “Spike” as Flurry puts it.
  1191. >You’re starting to catch up to the flying filly.
  1192. >Your start to feel the perspiration collecting on your brow as you huff and puff.
  1193. >You haven’t run like this in ages but you’re not gonna let that slow you down.
  1194. >You can even see Flurry start to sweat a little.
  1195. >”Almost there!” She shouts.
  1196. >The two of you are neck and neck trying to get ahead of the other.
  1197. >It almost concerns you.
  1198. >Any faster and the two of you are more likely to end up crashing into the statue rather than touch it.
  1199. >You start to slow down a little bit and let Flurry get the lead.
  1200. >She soars close to the ground and lands on the ground to touch the statue before you.
  1201. >”Yes!” she celebrates, “Yes!”
  1202. >You wave her off.
  1203. “Oh,” you huff, “I was only going easy on you.”
  1204. >”Right,” Flurry smirks, “Right.”
  1205. >She couldn’t help but giggle which you later join in
  1206. >You extend a hand to her.
  1207. ”Good game.” you congratulate her.
  1208. >She returns the gesture and you give her a soft handshake or a "hoofshake" in her case.
  1209. >”Good game.” she smiles.
  1210. >You take a deep breath and wipe away the sweat before staring at the statue.
  1211. “So tell me about the statue.”
  1212. >”It’s the statue of Cousin Spike, the dragon. And no, he’s not really my cousin.”
  1213. “So why cousin?” you ask.
  1214. >”He was raised by Auntie Twilight, my Dad’s sister. Oh. and he saved the Crystal Empire once or twice before I was born when he was little.”
  1215. “Must’ve been some Dragon.” you hum
  1216. >” Yup! I think you would like. You’re both really silly.”
  1217. >You hear your stomach rumble.
  1218. “Ah, sorry,” you apologize, “I haven’t eaten much since I woke up.”
  1219. >” Oh perfect!” Flurry exclaims as she walks off, “The place I’m taking you has food to eat.”
  1221. >The two of you walk down the crystal streets of the city, thankfully, at a much slower pace.
  1222. >Ponies walk to and fro in the city going about their daily business.
  1223. >You can even see members of your own kind.
  1224. >Some of them alone, some accompanied by a mare, or with each other.
  1225. >All of them have a spark of energy in their eyes, and they all look older than you.
  1226. >Many wave at the Princess as they pass.
  1227. >Flurry, possessing as much grace as her mother, makes an effort to return each gesture with a hearty “hello!” or a big wave of her hoof.
  1228. >The two of you stop at one of the many crystal buildings on the street.
  1229. >It has a sign on top of the doorway named “Delectable Delights.”
  1230. >Flurry motions you inside.
  1231. >It’s a cafe adorned with smooth wooden tables with Humans and Ponies snacking on sweets and drinks.
  1232. >It’s rich with the fragrance of cinnamon and bread that makes your mouth salivate.
  1233. >Across the room is a glass display showcasing muffins, cakes, and cheese croissants.
  1234. >At the sales counter is a teal mare with a purple mane and light blue eyes.
  1235. >She smiles as you both approach.
  1236. >”Welcome Princess,” she bows, “Oh and you brought in a new guest.”
  1237. >”Hello, Mrs. Stone.” Flurry returns, “This Anonymous.”
  1238. >The mare gives you bow as well, “Moonstone. Pleased to meet you.”
  1239. >You put up your hands.
  1240. “Oh, you don’t have to bow.”
  1241. >”Nonsense,” Moonstone interjects, “Anyone brought here by the Princess is an honored guest here, like all our other customers. So, Princess Flurry, the usual?”
  1242. >”Yes please.” the Alicorn nods.
  1243. >”Excellent! I’ll be sure to tell Jonathan that his best customer is here. Please take a seat you two.”
  1245. >You both of you sit at a table for two.
  1246. ” really like this place?” you ask.
  1247. >”Yup!” she nods, “Mr. Stone makes the best cinnamon rolls in the Crystal Empire! But uh... How are you enjoying your stay here, Mr. Anon?”
  1248. “Just Anon is fine,” you chuckle, “I’m really enjoying the Crystal Empire so far, and it’s thanks to having you as a guide.”
  1249. >”Aww, thanks, Anon.”
  1250. “You know, you remind me of Sumi when I was younger,” you point out.
  1251. >Flurry gives you a puzzled look, “Wait, Sumi? You’ve already met your special somepony? How come she’s not with us?”
  1252. “Oh I’ve known for her since we were kids,“ you reply, “I just haven’t met her in person.”
  1253. >The fledgling Alicorn eyes you suspiciously.
  1254. >”Explain yourself.”
  1255. “We’re like pen pals. She's the best pony I know.”
  1256. >”Oh…. So, uh, what do you see in me that reminds me of Sumi,” she asks as she tries to hide a small blush on her cheeks with both her hooves.
  1257. “Oh.. let's see. Overconfident, quick to anger, competitive, and a little bit rude.”
  1258. >Flurry gives you deadpan look.
  1259. >”Aha. And can you tell me, why she likes you?”
  1260. “I ask myself that question a lot,” you admit. “She’s nice once you get to know her. She’s funny, tolerates me enough, and a joy to be with.”
  1261. >You silently motion your hand to Flurry with a nod, and the princess cracks back into a smile.
  1262. “We shared some kind of magical journal together since we were young, we would draw together. If you ever meet her, don’t tell her I told you this, but she’s a better artist than I’ll ever be.”
  1263. >”You think so?”
  1264. “Honestly, yeah. Just don’t tell her. It’ll get to her head and she’ll never let it go.”
  1265. >”Ok,” she giggles.
  1267. >A tall human approaches you and Flurry.
  1268. >He has a scar the runs on the right side of his head, void of any hair, while his right eye looks clear as crystal compared to his left.
  1269. >“Ah, my best customer returns, and with another new face!”
  1270. >”As if I would ever go back on our agreement, Mr. Stone.” Flurry affirms
  1271. >You look to Flurry Heart
  1272. “What agreement?”
  1273. >”The young princess promised to bring any fresh arrivals from earth to here at Delectable Delights,” Mr. Stone speaks up, “In return, I give her her most favorite treat.”
  1274. >Mr. Stone sets down the two plates.
  1275. >Cinnamon rolls covered with a warm glaze that melts over the steaming pastry.
  1276. >The Human offers his hand to you.
  1277. >”Jonathan or Mr. Stone if you want to be formal. Nice to see another fresh face.”
  1278. “Anonymous or Anon, Nice to meet you too.”
  1279. >You do your best to hide your grimace as Mr. Stone gives you tight handshake.
  1280. “So, Flurry,” you sigh, “Your mom did say you liked to give new arrivals a tour. Does she even know about this.”
  1281. >Flurry is already digging into her treat when she responds,
  1282. >”Ah’m only giving others tha best tha Crysta Empire has tah give,” she defends herself before swallowing her bite. “Besides, Delectable Delights has the best cinnamon rolls in the city! No, the best in Equestria!”
  1283. >”I’m honored, Princess,” Jonathan thanks with a bow, “But, can you say that again? Outside? Preferably In your Canterlot voice?”
  1284. >”I’d love to, Mr. Stone,” Flurry nods, ”but my mom told me not to abuse my powers. Besides that, if everyone knew about your cinnamon rolls, there would hardly be any left for me.”
  1285. >Mr. Stone snaps his fingers.
  1286. >”Darn!”
  1287. >You and Flurry laugh.
  1288. >“Oh well,” Mr. Stone shrugs.
  1289. >He pats Flurry Heart’s curls.
  1290. >”You’re a good kid, Princess. Don’t ever change.”
  1292. >With that said, Jonathan turns to you.
  1293. >”While she helps with getting some potential customers, many often leave the Crystal Empire with their special somepony to other parts of Equestria. It’s really to invite them to a get together me and the other guys have every week. We’re having a meetup tonight and I’m wondering if you would like to come.”
  1294. >”I’d like to come!” Flurry jumps in.
  1295. >”That’s out of the question!” Mr. Stone laughs, “While I’m not against anyone else coming, it’s not really for kids.”
  1296. >”Aww.” Flurry pouts.
  1297. >”So what do you say, Anon”
  1298. “Sure,” you nod, “I’ll come tonight.”
  1299. >Mr. Stone slaps your back.
  1300. >”Nice! We meet up in the outskirts of the city. It’s not that far. Just head west once you leave the castle.”
  1301. >Moonstone approaches your table with a tray of two glasses of milk in her teeth.
  1302. >”I thought the two of you would enjoy a nice a cold glass of milk,” she said after setting the tray down.
  1303. >”Mooney!” Mr. Stone whispers, “You don’t have to push yourself. You could've told me.”
  1304. >”Johnny, honey. We've been through this before. Twice! “She counters, “I can handle myself.”
  1305. >”Alright, alright. Just tell me when you need help, ok?”
  1306. >”Of course, dear.”
  1307. >Moonstone beckons for her human to bend close to her and gives him a kiss on the cheek before departing back to the counter.
  1308. >You couldn't help but notice that mare's stomach is somewhat swollen.
  1309. >Jonathan has a goofy look on his face before he snaps back to focus.
  1310. >“Uh, sorry!” He apologizes, “I’ll stop keeping you from your treat. See you tonight, Anon?”
  1311. “Don’t worry about it, Mr. Stone,” you assure him, “I’ll see you tonight.”
  1312. >”Nice! Enjoy!”
  1313. >You finally carve into your cinnamon roll.
  1314. >It’s soft and warm as your fork skewers a piece.
  1315. >And while your hands and fingers ache from gripping the silverware, your efforts were rewarded with a delectable treat that melts in your mouth.
  1317. >The two of you leave the cafe with a satisfied.
  1318. >”That was nice,” Flurry hums.
  1319. “Mmhm,” You agree.
  1320. >”Where do you want to go next?”
  1321. “You know, I want to go to the library?”
  1322. >Flurry crooks her head.
  1323. >”The library?”
  1324. “What’s wrong with that?”
  1325. >”Oh, nothing! I just eh… It’s kinda boring honestly, “Flurry admits.
  1326. “Well, the most fun I ever had has been at the library. Haven’t you ever heard ‘that having fun isn’t hard when you got a library card’?”
  1327. >”No.” Flurry shakes, “But as part of my duty as your guide, I accept your request.”
  1328. >Flurry leads the way, while you hum an old song to yourself.
  1329. >When you approach the steps of the library building, the finely carved crystal Griffons that stood guard at the entrance catches your attention as you walk up the steps.
  1330. >Flurry opens one of the large front doors for you.
  1331. >”Here we are,” Flurry drones, “The Crystal Library.”
  1332. >To say that the library is big, would be a gross injustice.
  1333. >Calling it a leviathan would be more appropriate.
  1334. >It has three levels, each one capable of towering over your old school.
  1335. >The massive glass dome on the roof illuminates the library, but much of it still remains in the shade.
  1336. >You stare, wide-eyed with your mouth so agape you could swallow a softball.
  1337. “Holy shi…oot! Shoot!” You whisper.
  1338. >Flurry doesn’t share your level of enthusiasm, instead, having more fun watching your reaction.
  1339. “This is amazing!” you whisper to her, “And this doesn’t excite you?”
  1340. >”I’ve been here enough times, Anon” she shrugs, “Besides we’re here for you.”
  1342. >”Ah! Princess Flurry Heart!” Someone approaches, “I’m grateful that you would come here. Oh, and you brought a guest here as well!”
  1343. >She is an elderly mare with gold-rimmed spectacles.
  1344. >”Hello, Miss Maresbury.” Flurry greets, “This is Anonymous. He’s interested in exploring the library.”
  1345. >”I’m honored that you would take an interest, Mr. Anonymous.” she bows, “If there is ever anything you would need, please do not hesitate to ask.”
  1346. “Ah, well," you mutter, “Would you be so kind as to lead me to any books relating to geography.”
  1347. >”It would be my pleasure, follow me.”
  1348. >You and Flurry follow after Maresbury through the massive halls of the library, until she takes you both to your destination.
  1349. >”We have books, scrolls, and maps, focusing on the lands of the Crystal Empire and Equestria.” Maresbury informs you, “Some over a thousand years old. If there’s anything else, please call for me.”
  1350. >With that said, she leaves.
  1351. >While you look for books that could pique your interest, Flurry speaks up.
  1352. >”So why geography?”
  1353. “Well when we were both little, Sumi and I would trade tidbits about the nature of our world.”
  1354. >”Oh really?”
  1355. “Yup, I studied and studied just to give her cool facts about the world lived in. Best part after that, we would draw each other having adventures together.”
  1356. >”Aww!" Flurry gushes, "That’s adorable! So why are studying about our world now?”
  1357. “Well, we made a promise to each other that when we meet that we would go on several adventures together.”
  1358. >You pause to look at your hands.
  1359. “I would even her carry across the world if that’s what’ll take,” you declare. “So, I’ll be studying on which place we should go first.
  1360. Something safe, for a start”
  1361. >You grin when you find an atlas of Equestria.
  1362. >You pull it out from the crystal shelf. It’s cumbersome weight already hell on your hands as you sit down and lay it on your lap.
  1364. >”That’s just so cute.” Flurry smiles, “So if you’ve been studying about our world with Sumi, that would mean you know a lot right?”
  1365. “I wouldn’t really say that,” you shrug, “It’s all secondhand information, honestly. It’s not like my local library would have any books from your world.”
  1366. >”Oh yeah, of course, sorry.”
  1367. “Don’t worry about it,” you assure her.
  1368. >You try to recount the pieces of information you collected over the years from Sumi as you studied the map of Equestria.
  1369. >”.....Hey, Anon?” Princess Flurry calls out.
  1370. “...Yes?”
  1371. >”On the topic of geography, could you possibly help me with one of my assignments?”
  1372. “Didn’t I just tell that all of my information is questionable at best?” you scoff.
  1373. >”Yeah, so?”
  1374. “Eh, ok. What do you need help with?”
  1375. >”Uh just give me a moment.”
  1376. >Flurry Heart’s horn starts to glow as she closes her eyes to concentrate.
  1377. >”Just let me summon my assignment.”
  1378. >Suddenly a large, wooden desk appears in a flash.
  1379. >You are able to hear an “oops” slip from Flurry just before the desk comes crashing down onto the crystal floor next to your feet.
  1380. “Shit” you squeak.
  1381. >It comes down with a resounding “Whack” as the sound of splintering wood echoes throughout the whole library.
  1382. >You drag yourself away from the fallen desk till your back is against the crystal bookshelf as your fear overpowers the pain in your hands.
  1383. >Then the whole library comes to life as all the inhabitants in the grand library raise their collective voices to “Shush!” you and Flurry.
  1384. >Flurry Heart gives you a sheepish grin.
  1385. >”Uh, sorry Anon.” she apologizes, “Anon?”
  1387. >The experience has you panting, as you feel your heart trying to break out from your chest.
  1388. >When the adrenaline starts to fade, you could feel an old pain erupt from your hands that has you tearing up.
  1389. >”Are you okay, Anon?” Flurry asks
  1390. >Flurry offers you a hoof, but you look at her with gritted teeth
  1391. “Be careful!” you hiss, “You could’ve gotten someone hurt!”
  1392. >Flurry’s pupils shrink as she recoils her hoof.
  1393. >”Sorry, sorry. I can fix this. Don’t worry!”
  1394. >She focuses her horn on her desk, and it disappears within a white flash.”
  1395. >”See! Fixed! Like it was never there.”
  1396. >Flurry approaches you, but you instinctively scoot away from her.
  1397. >Her ears droop down.
  1398. >”A-Anon, I didn’t mean to hurt you.”
  1399. “I know you didn’t.” you sigh, “And I’m not hurt. Um...Sorry for snapping at you.”
  1400. >You force yourself up, using the shelves as support while you squirm from the effort.
  1401. >”Oh no,” Flurry gasps, “You are hurt! Anon, I’m so sorry.”
  1402. >Her eyes start to tear up as she covers her mouth with her hooves.
  1403. “Oh man. I’m alright, really!”
  1404. >"No your not!" Flurry sniffs
  1405. >Unable to cheer up the sniffling princess, you scoop her up into your arms.
  1406. >”Hey,” she protests.
  1407. “Let’s get you home,” you say, “You still got your studies to do. Remember?”
  1408. >She’s not that heavy really.
  1409. >You just shift her weight to your forearms to take her off your hands.
  1410. >As much as she complains, she actually does little to resist.
  1411. >She wraps her hooves around your neck as her head nestles against yours as you walk out of the library.
  1413. >As you walk down the crystal street to the castle, you ask Flurry a question.
  1414. ”Say Flurry, you have a lot of toys right?”
  1415. >” Well, yeah I guess,” she sniffs. “I have some, but I usually get a lot of books from Auntie Twilight.”
  1416. “What do you do when your toys break?” you ask.
  1417. >”They’re special to me, Anon. My mom and dad gave them to me. I’d try to fix them.”
  1418. >You peek at your hands.
  1419. “And if they’re broken beyond repair, do you still keep them?”
  1420. >”I don’t really know,” Flurry admits, “I know I can easily replace them. I’m a princess. But they’re more than just toys to me. They’re from my parents, family, and friends. Do you kinda get it?”
  1421. “Yeah,” you nod, “I think I’m starting to get a picture here.”
  1423. >”Even if I go to Mr. and Mrs. Stone’s cafe by myself, they still give me treats. They won’t even take any bits. Do you have any toys you liked when you were younger, Anon?”
  1424. “Not really. I’m the boring guy who finds enjoyment in boring libraries,” you jest.
  1425. >Flurry giggles while you continue.
  1426. “There was only the journal me and Sumi share. To me, it's irreplaceable. You know what Flurry?”
  1427. >”What?”
  1428. “I’ve known you for less than two hours, but you’re a pretty smart kid, you know that?”
  1429. >”I get that a lot,” Flurry groans, “Especially the ‘kid’ part.”
  1430. “Hey, there’s no shame in being a kid!” you laugh, Enjoy it while you still can. You said you were ten right?”
  1431. >”Yes. You?”
  1432. “Eighteen. I remember when I was ten.” you reminisce, “That’s when I kissed Sumi for the first time.”
  1433. >Flurry stares up at you as small blush forms on her cheeks.
  1434. >”W-what? How?”
  1435. “Well, we didn’t technically ‘kiss’ each other. More like kiss the same piece paper on the journal...with lipstick.”
  1436. >”Lipstick!?”
  1437. >Flurry is whooping with laughter.
  1438. “Yeah, yeah. Well, I was a kid too!”
  1439. >”You’re so funny, Anon!” she giggles.
  1440. “So you’re better now? Can I let you down now?”
  1441. >She only snuggles more tightly to you.
  1442. >”Um...No.”
  1444. >As soon as the sun begins to set, you dress up for tonight’s get together with Jonathan.
  1445. >You throw on a cotton sweater, a wool scarf, and a pair of mittens, all of them provided by the castle staff.
  1446. >With your comfy attire, you make your way outside and head west as instructed by Mr. Stone.
  1447. >A dark, purple, sky takes up the heavens, populated with countless stars under the dominion of a pale moon that shines the brightest within the night.
  1448. >Most of the city’s inhabitants has already retreated into their crystal homes away from the cold as you walk down its barren streets.
  1449. >Your breath wisps in the cold air as you dig your hands into the pockets of your sweater.
  1450. >The tall crystal buildings give way smaller homes as you march farther away from the center of the city.
  1451. >That’s you when you start to hear the sounds of laughter in the distance.
  1452. >You approach a red crystal building with a sign called, “The Crystal Hearth.”
  1453. >Inside, you see members of your kind chatting and carousing around crystal round tables as they clank their mugs together and drink.
  1454. >At one end of the room, you can see where the building gets its namesake.
  1455. >A crystal hearth carved into the wall, filled with red glowing gems that protect its patrons from the bitter cold outside.
  1456. >The smell of sauteed beef drifts in the air and dances in your nose as you take a hearty sniff.
  1457. >”Anon!” You see Jonathan calling you, “Anon! Over here!”
  1458. >You approach him as he snacks on a serving of french fries with one hand and holds a mug of beer in another.
  1459. >”Glad you made it.” he smiles.
  1460. “It’d be rude for me to decline.” You say as you sit next to him, “Especially after you got me food.”
  1461. >”You’re a welcomed guest here, Anon!” the man chuckles, “Don’t sell yourself so short! Oh yeah, and I’m treating you to more. No complaining!”
  1463. >Mr. Stone stands up from his chair and addresses the room.
  1464. >”Attention! Attention, everyone! I think everyone’s here, so let’s begin.”
  1465. >Everyone takes a break from their drinking and eating to look at your host.
  1466. >”First of all, Thank you all for coming to another weekly Human get together!”
  1467. >”Here, here!” the patrons cheer.
  1468. >”Yeah!” he nods, “What’s start off with formalities first! As is tradition, let’s start with greeting the new arrivals! New arrivals, stand up! Introduce yourselves!”
  1469. >Jonathan slaps you on the back, as you and several others stand up.
  1470. >One by one, everyone gives their name, until it’s your turn.
  1471. “I’m Anonymous,” you announce.
  1472. “And I got a question for you, Anon!” Jonathan declares, “How old are you?”
  1473. “Uh, I just turned eighteen”
  1474. >”Eighteen!” Mr. Stone laughs, “The youngest one to ever arrive! But just old enough to drink!”
  1475. >A server comes around and delivers a mug of beer to you and the new arrivals.
  1476. >Mr. Stone raises his mug into the air, followed by the other members of the bar. “A toast to the newcomers. May you all be happy and may you all bring happiness to your mares!”
  1477. >”Here! Here!” the whole bar erupts before they knock their mugs together and drink.
  1478. >You hold your mug with both hands as you knock it with Jonathan’s.
  1479. >You take a sip and grimace from the bitter taste.
  1480. >”Oh!” Mr. Stone laughs, “First time huh?”
  1481. “Yeah.” you exhale
  1482. >”Good!” he chuckles, “You’re a good kid, Anon! Just take small sips. Have some of my fries too if you want, or anything else.”
  1483. “Anything else…” you think, “I... I smell beef. You got any meat?”
  1484. >”So you noticed, huh? Yeah, we got burgers. I was getting one myself. I’ll get you one too. You’ll get tipsy real easy if you drink on an empty stomach.”
  1486. >In between snacking on fries and sipping your beer, you talk with Mr. Stone.
  1487. “So, Mr. Stone.”
  1488. >”Just call me Jonathan, Anon.” he tells you, “We’re drinking together. Call me Jonathan.”
  1489. “Alright. How did you come up with this get-together?”
  1490. >”Like it? It's something me and the guys here started up a few years back. We get more of people here every few weeks. Smart or not, they’re all fish out of water and finding work once you leave the castle is hell. Take it from me, I’m one of the first arrivals. Guys like us got mares to support, Anon. That's why we started all this. Meet up, introduce new arrivals, help them get a job, chat, and make friends.”
  1491. “That’s very nice of you, Mister-I mean Jonathan.”
  1492. >”Just helping out our fellow man, right? Gotta admit, this meetup this has grown larger than we ever expected.”
  1493. “What do you mean?”
  1494. >”The Guys that left, they’re organizing get-togethers too. Some of them, I keep in touch. From Vanhoover to Manehattan. We’re pretty much the Cutie Mark Crusaders of guys.”
  1495. “‘Cutie Mark Crusaders’?”
  1496. >The two of you take a break when both your meals arrive. A thick burger patty served on a brioche bun and topped with sauteed mushrooms, some mayonnaise, and a slice of gooey swiss cheese.
  1497. >You chomp into the burger and savor the minced garlic as you hum with delight.
  1499. “So, good.” you moan.
  1500. >” Yup,” Jonathan agrees, “No matter how high those Griffons charge to get a cut of beef, they’re still worth every bit. Anyway, what was I talking about? Oh yeah! Cutie Mark Crusaders heard it started in Ponyville! Helps fillies and colts find their cutie marks. My oldest girl is in it!”
  1501. >You start to choke on your burger.
  1502. “Oldest!” you gasp
  1503. >”Woah, chew your food, Anon.” Lectures Jonathan as he pats your back.
  1504. “You got kids?”
  1505. >”Two beautiful girls, One eight, the other six. They’re the spitting image of their mother. If you saw them I bet you wouldn’t tell they were mine. One got my eyes, the other my bratty attitude.”
  1506. “How does that even work?”
  1507. >Jonathan blows a raspberry before taking another sip.
  1508. >”Some magic bullshit. Not like I’m complaining though. Those little ankle biters are one of the best things to ever happen to me. I also got a third one on the way. Hoping for a boy. They say that boys born will be the same species as their father. I’m thinking of naming him David, after my father.”
  1509. >He raises his mug to you.
  1510. >”To having a large family.”
  1511. >You both clink your mugs together and take another sip.
  1512. “Thanks, but that’s a little too soon for me.”
  1513. >Jonathan shrugs, “When you’re ready, you’re ready.”
  1515. >You and Jonathan continue to talk with each other.
  1516. >As more beer pass through your lips, you find it easier to talk about yourself.
  1517. >Your cheeks become red and warm as you explain to him how you Sumi first met.
  1518. >You go into detail how you would spend your days with her.
  1519. >You both share laughs as you talk about your first kiss.
  1520. >”You’re just so pure, Anon” Jonathan chuckles as he wipes a tear from his face.
  1521. >The man’s cheeks are as red as your but he seems to be handling his liquor better than you.
  1522. >”It’s so nice that you’ve known Sumi for such a long time. Bet you’re looking forward to kissing for real instead of using lipstick. And then...”
  1523. “Oh god,” you moan, “When I’m ready when I’m ready.”
  1524. >You wait for Jonathan’s laughter to die down before you ask him a question.
  1525. “Hey Jonathan, would you have preferred to have a journal to write to Moonstone before you met her?”
  1526. >Mr. Stone pauses to rub his chin.
  1527. >”You know, I’d say no.” Jonathan denies, “I was a very different person back then. It wouldn’t work out if we met that way..”
  1528. “Dang really, Why’s that? What was your life like before you met Moonstone.”
  1529. >Jonathan hugs his mug of beer closer to him as he glances away and hisses,
  1530. >”I...I’d rather not talk about it. Sorry.”
  1531. “Oh, that’s ok. I’m just nervous, really,” you admit, “Me and Sumi spent close to ten years talking with each other with only sketches to go by. Part of me feels like I’m gonna be a big disappointment to her. when we finally meet”
  1532. >Jonathan whistles.
  1533. >”Ten years. Long time for the hype to build up. You don’t have any expectations yourself?”
  1534. “No, I’ll be happy just to see her,” you counter, “It’s just me.”
  1535. >Jonathan takes another sip of his beer and eyes you up and down.
  1536. >”Something about your hands, Anon?”
  1538. >You stare wide-eyed at Mr. Stone.
  1539. “How did you…”
  1540. >”Just a guess really.” Jonathan admits, “Your handshake was a little limp when we first met. Mind telling me about it?”
  1541. >You take a long chug from your beer.
  1542. “It's not just one,” you inform him, “It’s both my hands. They were broken back when I was in high school.”
  1543. >Jonathan pats your back, “Damn, Anon.” he sighs, “Sorry that happened.”
  1544. >He waves for two more mugs of beer.
  1545. “Accidentally saw a high school prank in action,” you continue, “and I was left with two options: tell the school who could’ve done it or go to jail for collaboration. Got a lot of people in trouble,” you sigh, “Some were hit harder than others. Many got upset, and I took the biggest beatdown in my life.”
  1546. >Jonathan gawks at you as he mutters, “Jesus.”
  1547. >You sink into your arms as you caress your hands.
  1548. “Just… broke ‘em with my own journal and left me for dead in a field.”
  1549. >Jonathan turns his face away from as he shakes his head.
  1550. >His hands are balled into fists.
  1551. >”Th-that’s…” he stammers, “That’s fucking horrible. Why would they fucking do that?”
  1552. “I ruined their chances to get into a nice college, and leave town for greener pastures.”
  1553. >”That’s no excuse to beat you half to death.” Jonathan growls as he rubs his temple, “Anon, please. Tell me they didn’t get away with this.”
  1554. >You think back to the day you learned of your captors’ fate.
  1555. ”Well, many people find the act of maiming an orphan in bad taste. Didn’t take long to find them. Chased them all the way to the Rockies where it ended in them crashing and dying.”
  1556. >Your thoughts dwell on Junior as you remember the imposing figure that day in the grass fields.
  1557. “Only one survived, and he’s been in a coma ever since. Karma I guess.”
  1559. >There’s a moment between you and Jonathan as you both stare into the bubbling foam of your drinks.
  1560. “Could’ve done worse.” you shudder, “‘Go all the way’. Ringleader talked them into breaking my hands instead. Could’ve died right then and there, or I could’ve just frozen to death, but I’m still alive.”
  1561. >You visualize the bruises covering Junior as well as the vitriol in his eyes.
  1562. “You know, a part of me feels sorry for them.”
  1563. >”Anon…”
  1564. “I’m not saying I forgive them,” You counter as you stroke your hands, “Never. It’s just… I mean you’re matched together with Moonstone, Me with Sumi because of this crystal heart, right?”
  1565. >”Yeah...You think this is all part of one big plan?”
  1566. “Me being matched to Sumi, getting the journal, now here I am waiting for her to arrive. There has to be a reason for it. Those guys...what were their purpose? Were they meant for me to screw up their lives on accident? To exist only as a test for me and to be thrown away once their purpose has been fulfilled?"
  1567. >You can see Jonathan’s face twist a little as he listens.
  1568. >"And why do you care about them so much?"
  1569. "Cause I've could've easily been like them if I never had the journal. Trapped in one place your entire life and hardly able to keep any friends. I never even got adopted. It fucking hurts. I only had Sumi to look forward. If I was just another kid, it could've easily gone someone else."
  1571. >Jonathan takes a gulp from his drink.
  1572. >”Anon, I can’t tell you much about fate, but I can for people. Some are just bad,” he growls, “People have a will of their own. Did you feel ever compelled to write to Sumi out of kind obligation?”
  1573. >You shake your head.
  1574. >”No! You did it because you wanted to. These savages, they could’ve easily just not gotten involved in this prank, but they didn’t. Could’ve just owned up to their mistakes, but no, they blamed you for their fuck ups and had you maimed instead. They got what they deserved, Anon. The last thing they should have is your pity. Regardless of the context or some grand plan, they still hurt you.”
  1575. >Jonathan gazes into his brew and stares at the scars on his reflection.
  1576. >”The universe ain’t ever gonna bend over backward to make sure the right things. You'll have to do those things yourself." He pauses to a deep breath. "I’ve done things I’m not proud of, Anon. Things I would never tell my girls about, things I’m too afraid to tell you. Life can be cruel and where I came from, I used to make that point very clear to those around me a long time ago.”
  1578. “And yet, here we are,” you quip, “Why are you still here if you really believe all that?”
  1579. >Jonathan finishes the rest of his drink.
  1580. >”I’m here for Moonstone and my kids,” Jonathan answers, “I love them so much. You know, you may not believe it, but all the Crystal Ponies are older than they look.”
  1581. “Really? How old?”
  1582. >”Like, over a thousand years old. Frozen in time. Some magic bullshit and all that. Thing is, everyone here used to be ruled by a tyrant named ‘Sombra’ until Spike the Dragon saved the Crystal Empire from him.”
  1583. “‘Spike’?” you repeat, “You’re talking about that crystal statue, right?”
  1584. >“Yup,” Jonathan nods, “Though that was years ago. I bet he’s much taller now. I guess when I was summoned into Equestria, Moonstone was expecting someone like Spike. Someone gallant and selfless to watch over her at night. Instead, she got me.”
  1586. >Jonathan sighs, “Moonstone was very different back then. More meek, shy, and timid.”
  1587. >he hovers a hand over his scars and chuckles, “Oh, the first time she saw my face...oh man.”
  1588. >You scratch your head.
  1589. “So when did it finally work out for the two of you?”
  1590. >”Damn, in the early days, we were just kinda stuck with each other. Glorified roommates essentially. She did her own thing and I was looking for a job. Humans were an oddity back then and getting a job wasn’t so easy. Luckily I used to work under my dad as a baker when I was young, so there was that.”
  1591. “Ok, so how did it all work out?”
  1592. >Jonathan rubs his chin as he thinks back, ”It just... I don’t know it just happened one night. Moonstone was in her bedroom having night terrors and I heard her cry. Maybe I just got used to ponies at that point or maybe she was already growing on me, but I watched over her that night.”
  1593. >He rubs his thumbs over his finger as if it was fur.
  1594. >”That was how I learned about Sombra. After that night I promised to watch over her if she ever needs me. I guess that was when I started playing the role of a hero for her. Someone who’ll watch over her and hold her hoof until she goes to sleep.”
  1595. >There’s a small smile that creeps into Jonathan’s face.
  1596. >”And I’ve done more than just keep guard. I took her to the gym to beat up a boxing bag. She complained and asked why we’re doing this. I told her it’s to show that she can fight back. When asked why I was teaching her how to tape nails to her hooves and how to fight with them I explained that you have she can think of a plan of action and improvise. And when she was wondering why I was training her to be a more assertive it was to show that she’s capable of anything. She was a great student in that field,” Jonathan nods, “Once in the market, she cursed someone out for trying to overcharge her for some fuckin' cherries.”
  1598. “Quite a turnaround,” you chuckle
  1599. >“Yup! Every small success was rewarded with a cinnamon roll I’d make and we’d eat them together. Every day we got closer. Soon she was calling me into her room just we could enjoy each other's company. Soon we were baking together in our spare time.” Jonathan pauses, “It was a few months that I realized something.”
  1600. “What was that?”
  1601. >”It was when she made her own recipe for a cake. Got the ingredients and the measurements. I helped out with the finer details but this was her work and I followed her instructions. It was the best cake I ever had and I was so proud of her. After I told her she kissed me.”
  1602. “Doesn’t sound like a bad thing at all.”
  1603. >”No, it wasn’t. It felt amazing, just made me realize we were falling for each other. Living here gave me a lot of time to reflect on what I’ve done. I’m really just a monster keeping another monster at bay. I had to be honest with her. So, after building up some confidence myself, I told her everything about my past. Even offered to leave if she wished me to. I thought she was gonna be disgusted and tell me to leave. Hell...a part of me hoped for that. Instead…”Jonathan started to choke, “Instead, she hugged me. The confident mare I spent months building up crumbled like the false hero she had in her hooves. T-told me with tears in her eyes that it didn’t matter who I was in the past, that I was her hero in her eyes and begged me to stay.”.
  1604. >His left eye turns pink and glistens while his right remains pristine, but it fails to hide a tear running down his face.
  1606. >”Doesn’t mean I can just forget what I did.” Jonathan sighs, “My sins will catch up to me, one way or another. One day, I hope Flurry brings someone from my past. Maybe that way I can finally have the chance to say I’m sorry.”
  1607. “You really think that it’s gonna be that easy?”
  1608. >”Well I expect to be eating my own teeth or worse, But I’d feel a lot better. Anything beyond that, especially when it comes to my family, is off limits.”
  1609. >You give Jonathan a reassuring pat on the back.
  1610. “You’re a good man, Jonathan.”
  1611. >He shakes his head.
  1612. >”Nah. Just someone with a guilty conscience.”
  1613. >Jonathan’s groans, “Anon, you got me telling you my whole life story!”
  1614. >You give him a corny smile.
  1615. “Sorry, it’s a good story. know. From what you told me, it’s like as if you and Moonstone were made for each other. As if it were-”
  1616. >”Yeah! Yeah!” Jonathan interrupts, “I get it. Listen, Anon. Just because you've chosen to be with Sumi by the heart that’s no guarantee you’ll both be happy."
  1617. >You crook your head at the statement.
  1618. ”In all your years living here, have you’ve ever seen a sad couple?”
  1619. >”No, but is that ever a reason to be complacent? Take it from me. You may have known Sumi for years, but you haven’t really met her.”
  1620. >You shoot him a look.
  1621. “I’ve known her for years, Jonathan. There’s hardly anything I don’t know about it.”
  1622. >”Being pen pals, doesn’t give you the whole picture. There’s always the first impression. For humans like us, it’s always sudden and we don’t get the luxury to imagine. You’re an exception on the other hand.”
  1623. >You keep silent as you try to absorb Jonathan’s words.
  1624. >Jonathan keeps on talking and soon asks you a question.
  1625. >”So you got me babbling again about myself, Anon. Just do the extra effort to prove why you were made for Sumi, alright? Now, tell me another story about yourself. I wanna end this on a happy note.”
  1627. >You think back to the months before you turned eighteen as you tell your story to Jonathan.
  1628. >You were a senior back in high school and You just came back to your room after a night of dancing.
  1629. >You huffed as you undid your black jacket and hung it onto your chair.
  1630. >You wiped away the sweat on your brow as you tugged at the collar of your white, button-up shirt to loosen your red tie.
  1631. >As soon as you kicked off your dress shoes you sunk into your chair.
  1632. >You played with your tie as you stared at your journal.
  1633. >Like the journal, the clothes you wore were given to you much like tonight’s events.
  1634. >Even if it’s been more than a year, It’s hard to forget about the poor orphan, “Anonymous” and his beatdown of the century.
  1635. >If you were honest, you would rather have preferred to be alone.
  1636. >From the moment you were invited to prom to you dancing with the girls that approached, Pity was all you could see underneath the veneer of their smiles.
  1637. >you felt placed on a pedestal only to assure others into believing that their good people.
  1638. >A bitter hunch to make.
  1639. >Maybe some did care, but the only affection you really wanted that night came from another world.
  1640. >You grabbed a flashlight and shone it on the journal.
  1641. >It was lights out in the orphanage, but that wasn’t gonna stop you.
  1642. >You breeze through the pages of countless drawings and sketches.
  1643. >many of them weren’t made by you.
  1644. >It wasn’t until you came upon a blank page that you wrote down a message.
  1645. “Hey, Sumi,” you wrote, “Just came back from the dance.”
  1646. >You tapped your fingers on the table as you waited for a response.
  1648. >After several minutes of waiting, Sumi finally responded.
  1649. >”How was it, Anon?” she asked.
  1650. >You gazed at her words.
  1651. >Her writing was elegant and smooth, making your jagged penmanship look like that of a five-year-old.
  1652. “It was alright,” you lied, “It would’ve been would’ve been awesome if you were there.”
  1653. >There was no response from Sumi.
  1654. “Your school ever held a dance before?”
  1655. >”Well, my school is pretty small.” Sumi admits, “We don’t often have a dance, but when we do, I just stick to the sides.”
  1656. “Afraid of dancing?” you asked.
  1657. >”Well, I never got the chance to.”
  1658. >You lifted your brows in surprise.
  1659. “No one ever asked you to dance?”
  1660. >”No.”
  1661. “I don’t mind if you dance with anyone else.”
  1662. >”It’s not that! I just don’t think I’ll ever be good at dancing.”
  1663. “I don’t think it’s that hard,” you argued, “For me, all you need is two feet and I haven’t had those broken yet.”
  1664. >There was a long wait before Sumi responded.
  1665. >”Is it that easy?” she asked.
  1666. “If you’re unsure, I can show you how to dance.” you assured her, “Quick, trace your hoof on the next page”
  1667. >the outline of her hoof appeared on another page.
  1668. >You placed your hand over the image and traced it with your pencil.
  1669. >Your tracing was rough compared to Sumi’s smooth hoof.
  1670. >You stared on, entranced by the image before Sumi’s words appeared again.
  1671. >”So what now, Anon?”
  1672. >You placed your hand over the image.
  1673. “Imagine me holding both of your hooves.” you wrote with your free hand, “You’ll stand on your hind legs as I hold your front.”
  1674. >”Won’t it hurt your hands, Anon?” Sumi protested,
  1675. “It won’t matter, as long as it’s you. I won’t let go.”
  1676. >”Ponies are smaller than humans. You’ll hurt your back.”
  1677. “I don’t care.” you declare, “I’ll squat if I have to. I’ll even carry you if that’s what it takes.”
  1679. >”Anon, I don’t know why you have to be so stubborn about this!” Sumi complained,
  1680. “Can’t help it!” you chuckled, “You often seem to make a game of it!”
  1681. >There was a long pause before Sumi wrote again.
  1682. >”So, you’ll really show me how to dance, Anon?”
  1683. “I promise,” you assured her, “Is your hoof on the page?”
  1684. >”Yeah. Are you gonna tell me another thing about dancing?”
  1685. “No,” you admitted, “I just want to hold on to you. Just to hold me over until I can hold your hooves for real.”
  1686. “Darnit, Anon.” Sumi cursed, “Now I won’t be able to move my hoof until you do!”
  1687. >You laughed and sighed from the message.
  1688. >At the same time you felt damns behind your eyes break as you wiped away the tears from your face.
  1689. “Guess, I’ll just stay put for the rest of the night then.” you wrote.
  1690. >You’re not one to back on your word.
  1691. >You kept your hand in place, even as sweat started to build.
  1692. >For hours, you and Sumi filled the whole page with, chit-chat, childish insults, and heart-warming “I love you’s” that burn through your being hotter than the aching pains coming from your hands.
  1693. >When the batteries in your flashlight inevitably died, you stayed put in the complete dark until you finally passed out.
  1694. >You woke up to the sun gracing your face the following morning.
  1695. >You looked into the page of the journal and see the jagged outline of your hand over the circle that is Sumi’s hoof.
  1696. >It’s surrounded by a conversation spanning hours that turned the whole page dark with ink and graphite.
  1697. >Within the white space in her hoof and your hand was a message left behind, by Sumi.
  1698. >”You win, Anonymous. I’m too tired. Love you.”
  1700. >Jonathan snaps you back into reality by giving you a pat on the back.
  1701. >”Beautiful!” he cheers.
  1702. >His cheeks are flushing red as he finishes off another drink.
  1703. >You can feel your whole face burning hot, either from your long night of carousing or just reliving your memory for Jonathan.
  1704. >No doubt a mixture of both.
  1705. >Most of the patrons at this point has already left.
  1706. >It’s just the two of you as the rest of the staff focus on cleaning up.
  1707. >Jonathan rises up from his chair and yawns.
  1708. >”That was… That was great, Anon. Good talk.”
  1709. >He offers you a hand and as you try to shake it, he wraps you into a bear hug.
  1710. “Ha!” you laugh, “Yeah thanks! Thanks for inviting me!”
  1711. >You try to find your footing as you stretch and yawn as you barely avoid stumbling.
  1712. >”You still good?” Jonathan inquires.
  1714. “Huh? Yeah, yeah. I’m good.”
  1715. >Jonathan peers into your eyes and shakes his head.
  1716. >”No,” he chuckles, “You’re fucked up. I’ll walk you back to the castle, Anon. The last thing anyone wants is for your ass to freeze to death!”
  1717. >The two of you laugh as you both depart the bar and you quickly regret it.
  1718. >Even in your inebriated state, you can still feel the cold nip at your fingers and chill you to the core with every quick breath.
  1719. “God, Jonathan!” you chatter as you dig your hands into your pockets, “Is it winter here? How do you go through this?”
  1720. >“Nothing like a bed warmed by your partner won’t fix!” Jonathan laughs, “It’s like this all year long sadly. Either you get used to it, or stick to bundling up!”
  1721. >The two of you stagger through the empty streets of the city, as crystal lanterns light the way to the castle.
  1722. >At the castle’s entrance, Jonathan gives you a hug goodbye.
  1723. >”When Sumi arrives. Come to my place next time get the chance, alright? First-time couples eat free.”
  1724. “Wouldn’t miss it.” you hug back.
  1725. >By some small miracle you made it into your room.
  1726. >You collapse on top of your bed and sleep through half of the following day.
  1728. >Days pass since that night as you wait for Sumi to arrive.
  1729. >You’re studying with Flurry in the grand library in the city.
  1730. >While she mopes over her assignments, you read through several books, studying the locations of Equestria and deciding on where to go for your first adventure with Sumi.
  1731. ”No go on Ghastly Gorge,” you whisper to yourself.
  1732. >An interesting place, much like your world’s Grand Canyon.
  1733. >A natural marvel created through countless years of erosion, except there are man-eating eels and strong winds that could push you both into miles of prickly bramble bushes.
  1734. >You want your first trip to have little chance of getting hurt.
  1735. ”Foal mountain, maybe.”
  1736. >A relatively safe place to venture to and it even has the old structure Ponhedge. Problems start to arise the more you think about the idea.
  1737. “What do you know about camping?” you ask yourself.
  1738. >You’ve never pitched a tent in your life.
  1739. >Maybe Sumi has gone camping before, but you don’t want to rely so much on her and be burden through the whole trip.
  1740. >You’re starting to think it may be better to start off with touring the cities of Equestria.
  1741. >There some you just want to avoid outright.
  1742. >Cities like Cloudsdale.
  1743. >You may have once drawn yourself riding the clouds with Sumi to the city built in the skies, but as someone who has spent most of his life on the ground, you aren’t mentally prepared for such an excursion.
  1744. >Then another thought appears in your head.
  1745. ”How are ever gonna afford to even make a trip?”
  1746. >As you try to wrap your head around what kind of job to get, you’re interrupted by a bright flash from Flurry Heart.
  1747. >A small scroll appears before the stunned princess.
  1748. “What is it Flurry?” you groan.
  1749. >After she rubs her eyes, Flurry unfurls the scroll and starts to read it.
  1750. >She shoots a look at your direction with sparkling eyes.
  1751. >”Your special somepony is here, Anon!” she celebrates, “Sumi is here!”
  1753. >You can feel your stomach twist in three places as you hear those words.
  1754. “Huh?” you gasp
  1755. >”She’s here! She’s-”
  1756. >The entire library erupts to hush the ecstatic princess.
  1757. >Princess Flurry blushes from the outburst as she silently giggles, “Heh-heh...sorry.”
  1758. >Her head jerks back to you.
  1759. >She envelops all books you were reading within her magical aura and puts them back in their rightful place.
  1760. >”Come on, Anon!” she whispers, “Mom wants you back at the castle ASAP!”
  1761. >She wraps a hoof around your arm and tugs before you finally break from your shock and begin to make way for the exit.
  1762. “She’s here.” you repeat, “Oh god, She’s really here.”
  1763. >”Yeah! Come on let’s go.”
  1764. >As soon as you make it outside, Flurry bolts ahead of you as you try to formulate what to say to your long awaited lover.
  1765. >You slowly pace ahead, secretly wishing for time to stop so you can prepare yourself mentally.
  1766. >However, the young Alicorn isn’t going to grant you such a luxury.
  1767. >Your next step fails to make contact with the ground.
  1768. >In fact, none of your feet are touching the ground as you just realize that you're covered in a yellow glow.
  1769. “Uh, Flurry…”
  1770. >”You’re taking too long, Anon!” Flurry huffs.”
  1771. >She unfurls her mighty wings and readies herself.
  1772. “Woah! Wait, Flurry! You don’t need to do this!”
  1773. >”No time! She counters, “Not when love is at stake!”
  1774. “Love is at what-woah!”
  1775. >Before you can think of what to say next, Flurry takes off with you in her magical grip.
  1776. >You can feel the wind beat against your face as your arms flail wildly in the air.
  1778. “Fuu-fun! Fun! Fun!” you scream.
  1779. >”I know!” Flurry shouts back with a smile, “Fun, right?”
  1780. >The Young Alicorn hardly looks like she’s breaking a sweat.
  1781. “Just how strong is this kid?!” you scream internally.
  1782. >”Just stay calm, Anon!” Flurry advises you, “When flying, Mom always told me to stretch out every part of your body and lay your stomach.”
  1783. >You follow the princess’s instructions and quickly regret it as you get a good view of the ground from several stories up while you move at breakneck speeds.
  1784. >The short and frightful flight finally ends when Flurry lands on the castle balcony.
  1785. >The young princess gracefully sets you on the ground on your two feet only for you to collapse to the floor the moment she releases you
  1786. >”Come on, Anon, let’s go!” Flurry shouts before running into the castle interior.
  1787. >You pick yourself up and follow after her.
  1788. “Yeah, coming! Just give me a warning next time we go flying, alright?”
  1789. >Flurry weaves through the crystal corridors like it was second nature to her as you tail after her.
  1790. >The two of you come to stop as meet with Cadence, who is waiting in the hallway next to an entrance with two doors.
  1791. >Princess Cadence smiles at the sight of your approach.
  1792. >You wipe away the sweat forming on your brow as you return the expression with a nervous grin.
  1793. >“Hello, Anon,” she whispers to you, “Glad that you came as soon as you did.”
  1794. “Wouldn’t have been possible without, Flurry.” you sigh.
  1795. >Cadence beams with pride as she lowers her head to kiss Flurry on the forehead.
  1796. >”Thank you, dear.”
  1797. >”No problem, Mom!”
  1798. >You stare at the crystal double door.
  1799. “So,” you whisper, “Is Sumi behind…”
  1800. Cadence gives you a firm nod.
  1801. >”She’s in there waiting for you, Anon.”
  1803. >You approach the doors and close your hand around the doorknob.
  1804. >”Open the door, Anon!” Flurry peeps.
  1805. >Cadence is quick to shush her daughter.
  1806. >”When he’s ready, Flurry. When you’re ready, Anon.”
  1807. >You stand still as you try to find the strength within yourself to open the door.
  1808. >Every fiber of your body is screaming at you to open the door, but the countless fears you have in your head roots you in place like a tree.
  1809. >A part of you wants to run far away so she wouldn’t have to settle for a gimp who can’t provide anything worthwhile.
  1810. >Memories play in your mind.
  1811. >The most important ones are the one where you made your promises to Sumi.
  1812. >The many night’s where you promised to draw with her tomorrow, the promises to go on an adventure together, and the declaration that you would her hooves and show her how to dance.”
  1813. >Slowly, it gives you the resolve to push through.
  1814. >You may not be able to fulfill all those promises, but if you’re gonna fail, you’re not going to let happen because of a lack of effort.
  1815. >You take a deep breath before you press on the handle.
  1816. >You slowly open the door, using all of your power to squeeze out one word.
  1817. “Sumi?”
  1818. >You hear a gasp inside, which has you swing the door open more quickly.
  1819. “Sumi?” you repeat.
  1820. >That’s when you see her.
  1821. >In a room full of couches and armchairs, she lounges in the other side of the room on a sofa sipping from a cup of tea.
  1822. >A Unicorn with fur similar to oak with a paintbrush and a bucket of paint as her cutie mark.
  1823. >She has a short flat hazelnut mane.
  1824. >She looks at you with brown eyes and a five o’clock shadow.
  1825. >You squint your eyes.
  1826. “Sumi?”
  1827. >A voice too deep to be mare rings out from her, “Ah! You must be Anonymous.”
  1828. “Mr. Brushstroke?” you gasp.
  1830. >Mr. Brushstroke gets up from the sofa and makes his way towards you.
  1831. >“The one and only!” the stallion announces.
  1832. >As he closes in, you offer a handshake.
  1833. >He swiftly rejects it, in favor of giving you a warm hug instead.
  1834. >”It’s so nice to finally meet you, son!”
  1835. ”Son...” you mutter
  1836. >Princess Flurry peaks through the door and her mouth becomes agape.
  1837. >”Uh...Anon?"
  1838. >Mr. Brushstroke guffaws from the filly’s shock.
  1839. “It’s not what you think.” you correct Flurry, “This is Sumi’s dad.”
  1840. >Mr. Brushstroke releases you from his grasp.
  1841. >”Filbert Brushstroke!” he bows to Flurry, “Honored to meet you, Princess! Thank you and your mother for everything you’ve done for my daughter!”
  1842. >Cadence follows after her daughter and peeks through the door as well.
  1843. >”Filbert, where is Sumi?”
  1844. >”I’m sorry, Princess,” Filbert apologizes “She went to the bathroom. Didn’t want to make a fuss, so she went by herself and told me to stay put. She’s stubborn that way.”
  1845. >”It’s fine,” Cadence nods, “We can all just wait for her return.”
  1846. >Everyone went to a place to sit, while you remain standing and stare at the door.
  1847. >”Anon!” Flurry whispers, “Sit next to me!”
  1848. >You sit next to Flurry on a couch, but you refuse to have your eyes stare at anything else but the door.
  1850. >”Nervous?” Cadence asks.
  1851. “Very.”
  1852. >The Alicorn gives you a small smile.
  1853. >”It’s only natural. Don’t worry too much.”
  1854. >”Yeah!” Flurry joins in, “I’ve seen it happen so many times from both sides. Their always scared at first, but then they meet and they like each other a lot! And then they leave.” Flurry finishes with a sad smile.
  1855. >”You don’t mind if I sit here, too?” Filbert asks as he shuffles to your group with a tea in his magical grasp.
  1856. >”No, not at all.” Cadence shakes her head, “Please sit.”
  1857. >”Thank you.”
  1858. >The Unicorn turns to whisper to you, “Don’t let her know that I told you this, Anon, but if it makes you feel any better, she’s just as nervous as you are.”
  1860. “Thanks,” you nod to everyone, “It’s a little better knowing that it goes both ways.”
  1861. >You twirl your thumbs as you wait for Sumi to arrive.
  1862. >Then you notice Cadence’s ears twitch, then Flurry’s, and then Filbert’s.
  1863. >”She’s coming,” Cadence announces.
  1864. >You wait for several moments before you can finally hear it.
  1865. >A squeaking sound that becomes more audible with each passing second.
  1866. >For some reason, it reminds you of the old pushcart from your town library.
  1867. >As you start to take in deep breaths, you feel a wing from Flurry wrap around you and a tap from one of Filbert’s hooves.
  1868. >It’s reassuring but it does little slow down your fast-beating heart.
  1869. >Then the squeaking stops at the door.
  1870. >You bite into your lower lip as you watch the crystal doors creak open.
  1871. >”Dad?” a soft voice speaks out, “Princess Cadence? I’m back.”
  1872. >You burst from the sofa to your feet.
  1873. >Your eyes start to water as your head is already awash with emotion.
  1874. >Then a head peeks through the door.
  1875. >She has creamy white fur like a clean, white, canvas before its made into a work of art.
  1876. >Adorning her head is a dark-brown, wavy mane that reaches down to her shoulders that ends in one fine point as if it were a brush.
  1877. >Her brown eyes lock onto to yours and they start to glisten and sparkle like Equestria’s starry night sky.
  1878. >All the sketches you tried to make all fail once you see her with your own eyes.
  1879. >For the briefest moment, there existed only that mare whose name you’re too afraid to say as you try to contain your tears.
  1880. “Sumi,” you sniffle, “Is that you?”
  1881. >The mare trembles from that name as tears start to fall from her eyes.
  1882. >She covers her trembling lips with one of her hooves as she restrains the torrent of emotions that paints her face.
  1883. >She can only muster a jittery nod.
  1884. >“Is that you, Anon?”
  1886. >A shudder is all you could make.
  1887. > Every time you try to open your mouth you can taste the salt from your tears.
  1888. >Instead, you nod as well.
  1889. >A grin forms on Sumi’s face and you can’t help but smile as well.
  1890. >Both of you commit to mad dash towards each other to embrace the other.
  1891. >That’s when you hear squeak ring out behind her.
  1892. >She freezes solid as you pause to stare at the two metal wheels flanking her sides, connected via metal pipes that are strapped to her barrel.
  1893. >That’s when you notice something about her hind legs.
  1894. >Everything below her thighs is gone.
  1895. >Sumi’s pupils shrink to the size of pinpricks as her ears droop down.
  1896. >She tries to hide the contraption underneath her tail as she backs away from you.
  1897. >She looks away from as she clenches her eyes shut.
  1898. >”A-Anon,” she stutters, “I never knew how to tell you this. I-I’m sorry I…”
  1899. >Sumi looks ready to flee, but before she does anything, you move forward and enclose her within your arms.
  1900. “Shh... it’s ok.” you comfort her.
  1901. >The silky touch of her mane and fur has you break down in tears that want you to hold onto her as if your life depends on it.
  1902. >Sumi tries to break away at first, but the touch of your hands running her mane and gliding down her back has her frozen stiff as she pants.
  1903. “It doesn’t matter.” you blubber, “I’m so happy just to see, Sumi. T-to hold you...finally. You’re here! All these years, you’re finally here!”
  1904. >Sumi starts to wail.
  1905. >“Anon!”
  1906. >She puts her weight on you as she reciprocates your tender touch with a hug from her hooves that has you fall onto your rear.
  1907. >You welcome the waterfall of tears that wash down your shoulder, take in the smell of lavender that flows from Sumi’s mane, and melt into the warm hooves that embrace you.
  1908. >You want this to last forever.
  1910. >How long does it actually last?
  1911. >Never enough.
  1912. >When the tears have been shed and your emotions put out in display to all to see, you and Sumi slowly start to peel away from each other.
  1913. >Before you’re completely apart from her, Sumi locks your hand within her magical grip and presses it against her cheek.
  1914. >She coddles your hand with one of her hooves as you wipe away the tear streaks with your thumb.
  1915. >Your hand never felt so warm before.
  1916. >Before she frees it, Sumi gives your heartfelt kiss on your fingers.
  1917. >You place the kissed fingers on your lips, making the mare blush as she turns to hide her smile.
  1918. >As both of you slowly return to reality, the two of you turn to the audience observing your displays of affection.
  1919. >Flurry looks at the scene with twinkling eyes as she smiles.
  1920. >From the adults, you could see a calm smile on Cadence’s face while Filbert puffs his cheeks.
  1921. >Sumi hides her face away from her father and giggles.
  1922. >It’s contagious because soon you and everyone else start to join in.
  1923. >”I’m glad that first impression went off well.” Cadence chuckles.
  1924. >You get up and brush your pants.
  1925. “Very well!” you agree.
  1926. >You walk up to Flurry and motion Sumi to you.
  1927. “Sumi, this is Princess Flurry. She’s been a great host while I was waiting for you.”
  1928. >Sumi bows her head.
  1929. >”Thank you for watching over my Anon, Princess.”
  1930. >Flurry instead gives Sumi a warm hug.
  1931. >”My pleasure, Sumi! And you can just call me Flurry!”
  1932. >”Sure thing!”
  1933. >Cadence smiles and turns to Filbert.
  1934. >”You and Sumi are welcome to stay for a night in the castle,” She proposes, “You must both be tired from your long journey to the Crystal Empire.”
  1935. >Filbert shakes his head.
  1936. >”I’m sorry Princess, but we intend to leave as soon as we got Anon. We’ll be leaving in several hours.”
  1938. >Flurry’s smile weakens and her ears droop down upon hearing the news.
  1939. >”That’s alright, Filbert.” Cadence nods, “Anon, I believe now is a good time to prepare for your departure.”
  1940. “Sure thing, Princess.” you accept.
  1941. >”I’ll help you pack, Anon.” Sumi said.
  1942. >”Actually, Sumi” Cadence calls, “I’d like you for to remain here for the moment. There’s a spell I need to teach you before you leave.”
  1943. >Sumi raises her eyebrows in surprise, but nods.
  1944. >”Ok Princess.”
  1945. >”I’ll help Anon pack!” Flurry volunteers.
  1946. >”We’ll be quick.” you promise Sumi as you and the young princess exit the room.
  1947. >The two of you march to your room your.
  1948. >Your steps echo through the crystal halls before Flurry breaks the silence.
  1949. >”So it’s your last day.” she speaks.
  1950. “Yup.” you nod, “It’s a shame, I’ll miss the Crystal Empire, Mr. Stone, Cadence, and you too”
  1951. >Flurry moans.
  1952. >”What are you gonna do until your train arrives?”
  1953. “Guess I’ll walk around the city one last time, with Sumi?”
  1954. >You remember Jonathan’s offer from a few nights ago.
  1955. >”Take her to Delectable Delights for the ‘best cinnamon rolls in Equestria’,” you continue, “And of course we’ll need to take a tour guide with us.”
  1956. >”Ok!” Flurry beams as ears shoot up.
  1957. >There isn’t much work that needs to be done as soon as you enter your room.
  1958. >There’s only a few sets of clothes and some toiletries that you and Flurry pack into your wheeled suitcase.
  1959. >You just enjoy Flurry’s company as she helps you pack.
  1960. >The last thing you get is your two journals, already packed in the rucksack that Princess Cadence gave you.
  1961. >You groan as you lug it onto your back.
  1962. >With a light grip, you pull your luggage with you and leave your room with Flurry back to the others.
  1964. >You hear Princess Cadence’s voice as you open the door to the waiting room.
  1965. >”Here’s a copy of the spell, Sumi,” she says, “It’ll help Anon, whenever his hands hurt.”
  1966. >Cadence levitates a slip of paper to Sumi and sees you approach.
  1967. >”Ah. Anon! How are your hands,”
  1968. “A little sore, Princess.”
  1969. >”Time for a test,” she says to Sumi, “Come here for a moment, Anon. Hold your hands for me.”
  1970. >You walk to the pair a and do as ordered.
  1971. >Sumi turns towards you and points her horn towards your hands.
  1972. >A sense of nervousness is painted over her face as her horn glows yellow.
  1973. >”How do you your hooves feel, Sumi?,” Cadence asks.
  1974. >”Th-they feel...ok, Princess. Comfortable. Alright?”
  1975. >”Good, good. Now, I want you to share that with Anonymous’s hands. Concentrate on that feeling and nothing else,” Cadence instructs Sumi.
  1976. >Sumi closes her eyes as a yellow, magical aura envelops your hands.
  1977. >The soreness in your hands disappear, replaced with a warm sensation that soothes your hands.
  1978. >”How are feeling now, Anon?” Cadence asks again.
  1979. >You wiggle your fingers with ease.
  1980. “Pretty good.”
  1981. >Sumi looks up at you and grins.
  1982. “Thanks, Sumi,” you congratulate her.
  1983. >”That’s good,” Cadence sighs, “If you made a mistake, you’d be more likely to hurt Anon.”
  1984. >Sumi gasps from Cadence’s words.
  1985. >”But, don’t worry too much,” Cadence assures Sumi, “Just stay calm and focused, and you’ll never have to worry.”
  1986. >Filbert looks at the scene with pride.
  1987. >”That’s my girl,” he beams, “Now that we’re all here, let's just rest here until the train arrives.” He lets out a massive yawn, “I’m pretty pooped.”
  1989. “Well, Mr. Brushstroke,” you chime in, “I was thinking about taking Sumi around the Crystal Empire before we leave. Of course if, Sumi’s ok with it.”
  1990. >”I’d love to!” Sumi approves.
  1991. >”Oh, ok” Filbert consents, “Let’s all go together.”
  1992. >”Actually, Dad,” Sumi interrupts, “It can be just me and Anon. And you’re tired anyway, so you can just rest here until the train comes.”
  1993. >”But what if you get lost?” Filbert asks.
  1994. “Oh, you don’t worry about that,” You try to assure to him.
  1995. >”Yeah!” Flurry adds, “Don’t worry Mr. Brushstroke! I’ll watch over them! I know the Crystal Empire like the back of my hoof!”
  1996. >”Flurry…” Cadence hums, “I think it’s best if we left Sumi and Anon alone and let them have more time together.”
  1997. >For an instant, you can see the young filly frown before she looks to the ground.
  1998. >”Ok, Mom,” Flurry mumbles.
  1999. “Oh, I don’t mind at all, Princess,” you said, “In fact, we do need the best tour guide in the city. Is that ok with you, Mr. Brushstroke?”
  2000. >”I guess that’s alright,” Filbert acquiesces, “We can meet up at the train station then.”
  2001. >Flurry looks up again to smile at you.
  2002. “Alright then,” you address Flurry and Sumi, “Let’s go.”
  2003. >As the three of you start to walk out Filbert speaks out.
  2004. >”Uhm, Sumi! You remember what time the train will arrive?”
  2005. >”Yes, Dad.” Sumi says with a smile. "We'll leave ahead of time before it arrives.
  2006. >”And do you remember where the station is?”
  2007. >”Yes,” Sumi sighs.
  2008. >”Oh and the stairs!”
  2009. >”Dad…”
  2010. >”Don’t worry, Mr. Brushstroke,” Cadence speaks up, “I’ll help Sumi down the stairs. Just rest here for now.”
  2011. >Cadence then follows after your party.
  2013. >Sumi’s wheels squeak throughout the whole walk to one of the castle’s stairs, turning the young Unicorn pink.
  2014. >”Sorry about the noise,” Sumi apologizes, “I haven’t been able to oil my wheels”
  2015. >”Oh you don’t have to worry, Sumi.” Cadence smiles, “I’m glad you and your father came here as fast as could for Anon.”
  2016. >”Oh, well I uh.” Sumi stammers, “Yes.”
  2017. >She looks back at you to see your smiling face before quickly twisting her head back.
  2018. >When you finally approach one of the castle’s spiral staircases, Cadence addresses Sumi.
  2019. >”Sumi, Like before. Are you ready?”
  2020. >”Yes, Princess,” Sumi sighs
  2021. >”Alright. Flurry dear, would you please help Anon and his luggage?”
  2022. >While you luggage levitates in the air, Cadence has Sumi float in the air as everyone descends the stairs.
  2023. >The wheelchair-bound mare blushes as her eyes try to avoid your gaze.
  2024. >”How have you been, Anon?” Sumi chuckles, “I didn’t bring my journal with me when we left.”
  2025. “That’s ok,” you respond, “I'm Having a swell time here. I’m really moving up the social ladder! I’m already making friends with two princesses!”
  2026. >You win a giggle from Flurry.
  2027. >Once you all descend the stairs to the outside, Cadence sets Sumi on the ground before making her way back up.
  2028. >”I’ll be returning to my duties so I may not see you two depart,” she says with a bow, “Farewell, Anon. Goodbye,Sumi. I wish the two of you the very best.”
  2029. >Sumi rushes over to hug one of her legs.
  2030. >”Thank you, Princess.” Sumi says, “Thank you for everything.”
  2031. “Yeah,” you add, “Thanks, Princess,”
  2032. >Cadence smiles and her eyes sparkle as she wraps a wing around for a brief moment.
  2033. >”You’re, welcome.”
  2035. >As Cadence retreats back into the castle, you turn to Flurry and Sumi.
  2036. “Hey Sumi, this is your first time here, right?” you ask
  2037. >”Uh, yeah.” Sumi nods.
  2038. “You hungry?”
  2039. >”Yeah, I guess I didn’t get to eat a lot since morning,”
  2040. “You’ve had Cinnamon rolls before?”
  2041. >Flurry’s ears twitch upon hearing those words and releases a grin.
  2042. >Sumi giggles as she peeks at the filly’s face.
  2043. >”What? Yes, I had them before, why?”
  2044. >You pass a knowing glance to the young princess and she nods.
  2045. >”Follow me, Sumi,” Flurry calls out as she starts to move. “There’s a place I want to show you.
  2046. >Sumi gives you a crooked smile before she obeys the princess’s command.
  2047. >While Flurry leads on, you walk alongside Sumi as you lug your luggage along with you.
  2048. >Several times, you steal a peak in an attempt to read her face.
  2049. >Many times she’s off taking in the whole scenery, occasionally you'll see her staring right back at you.
  2050. >You both share a smile just as quickly you both break your gaze from one another.
  2051. >Then you feel her brush against your leg.
  2052. >”Oops” she giggles.
  2053. >You react by bumping into her side.
  2054. ”My bad,” you chuckle.
  2055. >It goes back and forth between the two of you to the point where you’re both pressing against each other.
  2056. >You hardly notice that you’re already at Delectable Delights until Flurry shouts, “We’re here!”
  2058. >You rush ahead and hold the door open for Flurry and Sumi.
  2059. >You can already hear Moonstone welcoming them.
  2060. >”Ah, Princess, Anon. Welcome back!” Moonstone greets you before her eyes rest on Sumi, “Oh! And who is this?”
  2061. >”This is, Sumi.” Flurry answers, “Anon’s special somepony!”
  2062. >Moonstone brings a hoof to her lips as she smiles.
  2063. >”Aww! The two of you look adorable together!”
  2064. >You scratch your head and stare at the cafe’s ceiling while Sumi blushes turns her gaze to the floor.
  2065. >”Oh ho!” Moonstone laughs, “Sorry. Where are my manners? Moonstone. Nice to meet you, Sumi.”
  2066. >”Uh. Nice to meet you too,” Sumi nods.
  2067. >”I’ve heard many good things about Anon. I hope he doesn't disappoint.”
  2068. >”He’s everything I could ask for.” she declares with a smile.
  2069. >Moonstone gives Sumi a big smile before she speaks again.
  2070. >”Aww… I’ve been holding you all for too long.” Moonstone motions to some vacant tables. Please take a seat. Jonathan will help you soon.”
  2071. >As you walk to a table, you swear you just saw Moonstone give you a wink.
  2072. >Flurry takes a seat, while you pull out a chair for Sumi
  2073. “Need any help?” you offer.
  2074. >”No thanks, I can do this myself.” Sumi shakes her head.
  2075. >She slides onto and rests on her stomach as she undoes the straps of her wheelchair with her telekinesis and sets the device down.
  2076. >You can finally get a clear view of Sumi’s cutie mark: a wet brush with blank, peach, canvas on an easel.
  2077. >You listen to her grunt and watch her squirm as she settles on her haunches.
  2078. >Once done, you push her chair closer to the table.
  2079. >”Thank you.” Sumi mumbles.
  2080. >You sit across from Sumi, while Flurry sits between the two of you.
  2081. >Flurry is the first to break the ice.
  2082. >”So, Sumi… I heard from Anon that you like to draw?”
  2084. >”Yes,” Sumi answers. ”I like to focus on landscape painting, But when Anon and I were growing up, we would draw together with our journals. That's where I got most of my practice.”
  2085. >”Cute!” Flurry squeaks, “Anon told me the two of you drew together for a long time.” The princess gives you a devilish grin. “I heard it from Anon, but I want to make sure it’s true by hearing it from your words. Is it true that Anon’s the best?”
  2086. >Sumi’s eyebrows shoot up from the question.
  2087. >"He said that?" She giggles, "Oh… I just let him believe that every now and then just to boost his confidence. Anon learned a lot from me over the years, honestly.”
  2088. >You roll your eyes and smile.
  2089. “Oh yeah…” You chuckle, “Gonna give me another lecture why hatching is the best shading technique?”
  2090. >”I’ll be sure to drill that fact into your head,” She proclaims before turning her head to Flurry, “Anyway… Anon may not be the best artist, he’s certainly been my best friend for all those years, as well as the best special somepony a filly could ever have.”
  2091. >You can’t help but feel your face warm up as you hear those words.
  2092. >”Ah, my favorite customers returns once again!” A familiar voice sings out.
  2093. >Jonathan Stone approaches your table carrying a tray with three plates of cinnamon rolls.
  2094. >”Hi, Mr. Stone!” Flurry greets him.
  2095. >Jonathan sets the three plates down on the table as well as three sets of forks and knives.
  2096. >"Anon, Princess, welcome back!"
  2097. >He eyes Sumi.
  2098. >“Well hello there.” He speaks gently, “Anon’s special somepony I assume?”
  2099. >Before she can answer, Jonathan jerks his head towards you and barks, “Anon don’t be mute! Introduce her to me!”
  2100. “Oh! I...this is, Sumi.” you stammer, “My match. Sumi, this is Jonathan Stone.”
  2102. >”Nice to meet you, Mr. Stone.” Sumi bows her head.
  2103. >”Jonathan is fine enough for me, Sumi.”
  2104. >Mr. Stone looks at Sumi, especially at the ends of her hind legs.
  2105. >Sumi flicks her tail over her legs.
  2106. >”Oh! Sorry!” Jonathan apologizes, “I didn’t mean any offense. Here, look.”
  2107. >He kneels besides Sumi and taps the right side of his eye, making a “clinking” sound.
  2108. >”You’re in good company here.” he consoles her.
  2109. >”I’m sorry,” Sumi utters, “I didn’t mean to react like that.”
  2110. >Jonathan throws up his hand.
  2111. >”No, no!” He laughs, “Don’t worry about it. Just uh… looking at you, For Anon’s case, you’re worth the wait. You’re a very pretty mare, Sumi.”
  2112. >”Not as pretty me though,” Moonstone chimes in, “right, Johnny?”
  2113. >”Of course, Mooney my dear!” Jonathan retorts, “Nothing can compare! I was just about to say that.”
  2114. He turns back to Sumi.
  2115. >”Anyway, welcome to the Crystal Empire. Dig in. And Anon, first-time couples eat free, so it’s on the house.”
  2116. >”What about me, Mr. Stone?” Flurry calls, “I brought someone who hasn’t been here before.”
  2117. Jonathan refutes the argument by saying, “True but they also have to be human. So…”
  2118. >”Well…can you put this on my tab?”
  2119. >”For my best customer? Sure thing.” He motions to the cinnamon rolls on the table before he retreats to the back, “Enjoy yourselves.”
  2120. >All three of you start to dig into your treats.
  2121. >The glorious trifecta of oozing white glaze, sweet cinnamon, and the warm soft bun that keeps it together melts in your mouth that delivers an experience just as good as your first.
  2122. >No, for some reason it tastes even better than before as you look up at Sumi taking a bite.
  2123. >Flurry’s already halfway through her roll before she asks Sumi through her food, “Soah… Whaat doah tink?”
  2125. >Sumi gulps down her bite before saying, ”It’s pretty good!”
  2126. >Yah mee-” Flurry swallows her food “-Like the best you ever had?”
  2127. >”Um… They’re best I ever had in the Crystal Empire.”
  2128. >”Well ok then, that’s-hey! You just got here! I'll have you know, Mr. Stone’s cinnamon rolls are the best in all of Equestria.”
  2129. >”I can’t just say that. I mean, you did eat every cinnamon roll in Equestria to make such a statement, did you?”
  2130. >””
  2131. >”Then I guess we can’t really know for sure until then.”
  2132. >Flurry starts to groan, “Ugh… You and Anon are made for each other.”
  2133. >Sumi looks at you and giggles, “Well, I learned from the best.”
  2134. “That’s usually my line,” you mumble to yourself while smiling.
  2135. >”But it’s really good, Flurry!” Sumi compliments, “It’s high up there in the best things I’ve ever eaten. Thanks for taking me here.”
  2136. >”Don’t mention it,” Flurry smiles, “It’s just my favorite place here.”
  2137. >”And thanks for watching Anon for me while he was here. I can't say that enough.”
  2138. >”I do that for every newcomer. It’s my duty as a princess.”
  2139. >”It still means a lot to me. Thanks for being a good friend to him.”
  2140. >Flurry blushes and focuses on finishing her treat.
  2141. >”Your welcome.”
  2142. >You all eat your cinnamon rolls and finish off with a cold glass of milk.
  2143. >As you get ready to leave, Jonathan and Moonstone come to see you and Sumi off.
  2144. >The man gives you hug.
  2145. >”Best of luck to both of you!”
  2146. >”Yes!” Moonstone agrees, “Have a safe trip back.”
  2147. >You return the expression with gusto.
  2148. ”Thanks for everything, Jonathan. How can I ever make this up to you.”
  2149. >He waves you off.
  2150. >”Don’t worry about it!”
  2151. “I really want to return the favor in some way.”
  2152. >”Well,” he sighs, “You wouldn’t happen to be going to Ponyville would you?”
  2154. “Ponyville?” Sumi repeats, “I live there.”
  2155. >”Oh! How convenient,”
  2156. >Jonathan digs out a small pouch from his pockets.
  2157. >The contents inside clack together as he jiggles it.
  2158. >”If you’re willing to, can you give this to Spike.”
  2159. >”You mean Cousin Spike?” Flurry asks.
  2160. >”The one and only,” Jonathan nods, “It’s for saving Moonstone and many others in the stands from a giant block of ice that was gonna crush them back when the Equestria Games were in the Crystal Empire.”
  2161. >”I remember hearing about that,” Sumi recalls, “That was a long time ago!”
  2162. >”Yup and I never would’ve met Moonstone if not for him.”
  2163. >”Johnny, you don’t have to do this.” Moonstone protests.
  2164. >Jonathan responds to his wife by scratching behind her ears, winning a coo from her.
  2165. >”It’s well worth it every time I look at you.” he says.
  2166. >He uses his free hand to hold out the pouch to see if you’re still interested.
  2167. >You take the pouch from his hand.
  2168. “It’s the least I can do. Thanks for everything. Goodbye.”
  2169. >With that said, your group departs as Jonathan and Moonstone waves farewell.
  2170. >”That was good!” Flurry huffs, “Where do you want to go next, Anon?”
  2171. “You tell me,” you reply.
  2172. >You and Sumi follow Flurry throughout the Crystal Empire.
  2173. >It’s a bit of a struggle as you maintain a balance between listening to Flurry’s words as she gives you an endless stream of info and trying to steal another peek at Sumi.
  2174. >All the while, tugging your luggage along with you.
  2175. >But it’s all fun, even if when you start to sweat after several hours.
  2176. >When Sumi finally tells you that it’s time to leave, you can’t help but feel disappointed to leave so soon.
  2177. >But it doesn’t compare to the young princess.
  2178. >Her ears sink down, her eyes gaze to the floor, and she bites into her lip as you all march towards the train station.
  2179. >This time, following after you and Sumi.
  2181. >The station is bustling with activity.
  2182. >Passengers exit and enter the trains come and go.
  2183. >Stallion, mare, Human, Earth Pony, Unicorn, and Pegasi.
  2184. >From them all, you can see a mishmash of clothing: ten-gallon hats, hats for winter, well-trimmed suits, overalls, and desert robes.
  2185. >Some move together in groups, others as a couple, and a few by themselves.
  2186. >Immediately, many greet Flurry Heart with bows while she tries to return the expression with a quick wave and smile.
  2187. >You and Sumi find Filbert already on the platform waiting for you two.
  2188. He smiles in relief as sees you approach and hugs his daughter.
  2189. >”Just in time!” he states, “The train will be arriving soon. How was your walk?”
  2190. >Sumi smiles and says, “It was fun, Dad. Flurry Heart took us everywhere.”
  2191. >Filbert brushes Sumi’s mane aside to see her smiling face.
  2192. >”Glad to hear it.” He looks to you. “Anon! You ready to go to your new home?”
  2193. “I sure am.” you nod.
  2194. >You hear a mighty whistle in the distance and see another train approaching the platform.
  2195. >”Here it comes,” Filbert announces to you and Sumi.
  2196. >You turn and kneel besides Flurry.
  2197. “Well, this is it.” you whisper, “Thanks for everything, Flurry.”
  2198. >”It was fun, Anon,” she smiles, “Will you come back to the Crystal Empire?”
  2199. “I don’t know. I’ll have to settle down in Ponyville, look for a job. It’s… it’s gonna take me a while before I can even think of returning.”
  2200. >You can see the filly’s smile crack and it stabs at your heart.
  2201. “Hey… I’m sorry, Princess,” you apologize, “I didn’t mean to hurt you like that.”
  2202. >”No, no… It’s ok, Anon,” Flurry sniffs, “Go live with Sumi in Ponyville. I’m used to this.”
  2204. >Flurry looks to you, half-expecting a response.
  2205. >You stare into her sparkling eyes and see your own reflection that has old memories play back in your mind.
  2206. >Memories of final goodbyes to friends that came and went.
  2207. >The things you could’ve done or said to help make friendship last as long as it could.
  2208. >Instead, you let it wither and allowed those memories to vanish into depths of your mind until it took a sniveling princess to dig it back up again.
  2209. “I can relate,” you mutter. “When I was little, I had friends who left me. Not because they hated me. They were also sad to lose a friend. I would just accept that as a part of life, but I knew deep down it hurts.”
  2210. >You place a hand on Flurry’s shoulder.
  2211. “I’m sorry to hurt you by leaving, Flurry. But I don't want you to go through what I did. I wanna leave you with a gift before I go.”
  2212. >You sling your rucksack forward and carefully dig out the second journal.
  2213. >Flurry’s eyes widen.
  2214. >”Is that…”
  2215. “It is.” you nod as you hold out the journal to her, “I want you to have it, Flurry. For being such a good friend to me these past few days. We can be pen pals!”
  2216. >Flurry tries to search for something to say, but the approaching train deafens the ears with its high whistle and squealing brakes.
  2217. “Keep it!” you shout, “We’ll keep in touch!”
  2218. >Flurry Heart levitates the journal out of your hands and sets it on the ground before she hops into arms to embrace with her hooves and wings.
  2219. >You hold onto her for as long as you can.
  2220. >Footsteps and the shouting of the conductors replace the sound of the train’s engine.
  2221. >”I’ll take good care of it, Anon.” Flurry sniffs as she brushes her eyes.
  2222. >You do the same.
  2223. “I know you will,” you smile, “you’re a good kid.”
  2225. >Flurry finally peels herself away and levitates you to your feet.
  2226. >”Time to board the train.”
  2227. “Yup,” you nod, “Surprise with me a cool message when I get to Sumi’s place ok?”
  2228. >”Sure thing!”
  2229. >You wave goodbye to each other as you enter the train with Sumi and Filbert.
  2230. >"Goodbye!" she shouts
  2231. "Goodbye!" you respond
  2232. >You settle in a compartment and as soon as you finish placing your luggage and the rucksack in the racks above, you take a seat besides Sumi.
  2233. >Filbert sits across from you, about ready to fall asleep.
  2234. “You don’t mind me giving my journal to, Flurry?” you ask Sumi.
  2235. >”No, I don’t.” She reassures you, “I have you now, don't I?”
  2236. >She cuddles up to you and wraps a hoof around your arm and yawns, “That was really nice of you, Anon.”
  2237. >With a shout from the conductor and a whistle from the train signals its departure.
  2238. >The entire train rocks forth, completely taking you by surprise as it throws your back into your seat.
  2239. >Sumi silently groans, her eyes already closed.
  2240. >You stare out the window to look for Flurry and see her cradling your journal with her forelegs.
  2241. >You wave to her with a free hand and she thankfully notices it and returns the wave.
  2242. “Goodbye,” you mouth as you continue to wave to your friend until disappears from view.
  2243. >The train continues until the track loops around heads back to the rest of Equestria.
  2244. >Your compartment window views the surrounding countryside.
  2245. >You release a mighty yawn.
  2246. >All that walking has you drained.
  2247. >Looking at the other side you can see Crystal Empire slowly getting smaller.
  2248. >You stare at the Crystal Palace as long as you can until you finally fall asleep.
  2250. >You look out into the rest of Equestria.
  2251. >Even with the sunset, you can see the dew drops reflect the light of the moon to reveal a rolling countryside that stretches into pitch darkness.
  2252. >It was a lot easier to sleep when you were tired.
  2253. >The rocking train keeps your head swaying and the endless beats of its engine reverberates through the whole car.
  2254. >Filbert sits across from you asleep again, while Sumi peacefully slumbers against you.
  2255. >How they’re still able to do this is beyond you.
  2256. >To make matters worse, you need to go use the restroom.
  2257. >You slowly shimmy away from Sumi’s grip and gently lay her down on her side.
  2258. >She quietly moans in protest but her eyes remain closed.
  2259. >You grasp at railings above that hold your luggage as you make way to the compartment door to the hallways outside.
  2260. >Orange lamps light the corridor to each exit.
  2261. >You keep a hand on the walls as you creep through to one end of the car.
  2262. >Sometimes when the train shakes, you use both your hands as you walk to the bathroom at the end.
  2263. >You do your business and wash your hands.
  2264. >You did it sitting down of course.
  2265. >Besides wondering why the toilets here are so comically similar to the ones back in Earth, you stay just outside your compartment and stare out the windows into the dark until you finally get the urge to sleep.
  2266. >Then you hear the door to your compartment latch click open as you hear a voice.
  2267. >”Anon?” Sumi whispers out.
  2269. “Sumi?” you whisper back.
  2270. >You walk back into the compartment to see Sumi staring at you.
  2271. >She sits upright, her mane ruffled.
  2272. >Her eyes are barely open as she yawns, “You ok, Anon?”
  2273. >You go back to your seat beside her.
  2274. “Can’t go to sleep,” you sigh, “Just a little bored, that’s all.”
  2275. >Sumi snuggles up to you, purring as her head rests on your shoulder.
  2276. >”Wanna explore the train?”
  2277. “You’re not tired?”
  2278. >”No…” she yawns again, “No…I can get moving.”
  2279. >A part of you wants to just stay like this for the rest of the night, but you are curious what the rest of the train is like.
  2280. “Well...ok!”
  2281. >Sumi gives you a tired smile and peels herself away so she can get into her wheelchair.
  2282. >Once strapped in, Sumi stretches her forelegs, before asking, “You ready?”
  2283. >You nod your head and she smiles.
  2284. >”Alright, let’s go.”
  2285. >She leads on, confident in her steps while you slowly tail behind her.
  2286. “So where are we going?” You ask.
  2287. >”We’re going all the way to the back of the train.” Sumi responds.
  2288. >Both of you walk to the door at the end of the car.
  2289. >Sumi focuses her horn on the latch and slides the door open.
  2290. >It’s like looking through some rubber tunnel.
  2291. >This entryway looks sealed, but you can hear the outside much more clearly than you would’ve liked.
  2292. >Worst of all is seeing the car sway and move as if it’s ready to snap off from the rest of the train.
  2293. >Sumi is already halfway through it before you yell at her to stop.
  2294. >”Anon!?” Sumi crooks her head back at you since the rubber tunnel is too narrow for her to turn around now. “What’s wrong?”
  2295. >You heat up from your sudden outburst but you finally respond. “J-just nervous, that’s all.”
  2297. >Sumi nods her head. “Just wait right there!”
  2298. >Sumi rushes through the second sliding door before she opens it again, this time facing you.
  2299. >She makes her way towards you and holds out a hoof.
  2300. >”It’s ok,” she reassures you with a smile.
  2301. >You wobble to her and grab her hoof with one hand while keeping the other on the moving, rubber wall.
  2302. >”That’s it!” she says as she hops backwards.
  2303. >Sumi opens the door behind her with her magic, and just like that, you’re in the next car.
  2304. “Thanks, Sumi,” you sigh, “Sorry, I’s my first time riding a train. I didn’t know we could do that.”
  2305. >”It’s ok, Anon.” Sumi pets your leg. “I should’ve asked if you were okay with this.”
  2306. “Well, don’t worry too much about it, really,” you smile, “I woulda been bored to death, without you.”
  2307. >You kneel down to fix her ruffled mane and win a giggle from the tired mare.
  2308. “You know more about this kinda stuff than I do.”
  2309. >”Not a lot really,” Sumi shrugs, “Just enough to get around.”
  2310. “Well...doesn’t matter where you take me. As long as it’s by your side.”
  2311. >Sumi smiles and turns to the opposite side of the car.
  2312. >”Alright,” she giggles, “Follow my lead.”
  2313. >The two of you walk through another compartment car.
  2314. >Some of them left their curtains open, either they forgot or they didn’t care.
  2315. >Try as you might, you can’t resist taking a quick peek at some of the inhabitants inside.
  2316. >They often remain in pairs with a few in groups.
  2317. >Man and mare cuddling together as they await their new life.
  2318. >That’s what you see most of the time as you follow Sumi.
  2320. “So…you ride trains often?” you inquire
  2321. >”Not a lot really,” Sumi admits, “I hardly leave town. I just know enough how to get by.”
  2322. “Yeah, it’s all new me. Everything. I did get the chance to feel what it’s like to fly recently.”
  2323. >Sumi shoots her head back at you with an eyebrow raised.
  2324. >”Really? How did that work for you?”
  2325. “Well…” you chuckle as you think back to Flurry, “I feel more secure with my feet planted on the ground.”
  2326. >Sumi giggles, “I don’t how I would handle being like that. I’d probably scream.
  2327. “Yeah. Did that too.”
  2328. >The two of share a laugh as you start to enter the next car.
  2329. >”Got it?” Sumi asks.
  2330. >You give her thumbs up and follow her lead.
  2331. >You enter into coach with rows of passengers resting in their seats.
  2332. >You and Sumi quietly slip through the car to avoid disturbing anyone, until you finally make it to the observation car.
  2333. >Vacant chairs silently stare through the wide windows into the night.
  2334. >Sumi isn’t content remaining here as she heads to the last exit and opens the door to the observation deck.
  2335. >The cold breeze blows through, as you listen to the clatter of the train riding on the rails.
  2336. >The wrought iron railing is the only thing keeping you and Sumi from being blown off into the cold gravel the train zips by.
  2337. >Sumi gets up to lean on the railing with her forelegs.
  2338. >You go to stand beside her, keeping a vice-grip on the railing to the point of it almost hurting.
  2339. >The two of you stare up into the night sky.”
  2340. “Pretty cool,” you shiver, “How long are you planning on staying here?”
  2341. >”Scared?”
  2342. “No, I’m just a little cold.”
  2343. >Sumi presses herself against you.
  2344. >”Better?”
  2345. “Well, a little better.”
  2347. >Sumi gasps and points a hoof to the skies.
  2348. >”Look, Anon!”
  2349. >It’s a giant mass of clouds lit by a combination of amber lights that number in the dozens and the warm, multi-hued glow of its cascading rainbows.
  2350. “Wow...” you marvel
  2351. >None of you need to state the name of the city in the skies to each other.
  2352. >A city too stubborn to remain in one place at a time, Cloudsdale slowly glides through the sky, ensuring its inhabitants a new view the next morning.
  2353. >It makes you a little envious.
  2354. “You think we’ll ever go there?” you ask Sumi.
  2355. >”Didn’t you just you wanted to keep your ‘feet planted on the ground’?” She grins at you.
  2356. “Well, yeah.” you shrug, “But after seeing that...I’m willing to adapt.”
  2357. >Sumi giggles before she nudges you with her hoof.
  2358. >”Someday, maybe. Right now we should plan about getting you settled once we get to Ponyville.”
  2359. “Yeah…” you sigh before you wiggle fingers in front of Sumi, “It’s not gonna be easy finding a job with these.”
  2360. Sumi softly places her hoof on your hand.
  2361. >”Well, we can find a way. Princess Twilight Sparkle lives in Ponyville. She was with Cadence when they gave me the journals.”
  2362. “Flurry’s aunt,” you recall.
  2363. >Sumi presses even closer to you, going under your arm.
  2364. >“But until then, what’s worry about keeping you warm and enjoy the view.”
  2365. “Sounds like a good plan,” you chuckle.
  2366. >The two of you to continue to stare at Cloudsdale until it becomes a small gray blot in the sky.
  2367. >Try as you might, you still dwell on the future.
  2368. >You’ll probably be living with Sumi’s family.
  2369. >That’s no problem, you’re used to living in a full house.
  2370. >You just don’t want to be a burden on them with your hands.
  2372. >Then there’s what career you should pursue.
  2373. >An artist?
  2374. >Wishful thinking at best, even before you had full control of your hands.
  2375. >You silently stare at Sumi, hoping to give you more advice or another command to follow to give some direction.
  2376. >You soon find yourself staring gaze at the stumps at the ends of her thighs.
  2377. >You’re a little curious as to how her hind legs became like that.
  2378. >”Anon?” Sumi asks with a look of concern, “You alright?”
  2379. >You’ll find out one day.
  2380. >Right now, it’s best not to ruin the mood.
  2381. “Yeah, yeah,” you quickly reply, “I’m just… I just remember this trick.”
  2382. >Sumi smiles at you.
  2383. >”A ‘trick’?”
  2384. >Two tricks actually, but you’ll reveal the other for later.
  2385. >You smile back at her, all the while trying to keep yourself from laughing.
  2386. “Mmhm...It’s a way to make it easier to see in the dark.”
  2387. >”Really?”
  2388. “Yup,” you nod, “Just keep your eyes closed. They gotta get used to the dark. Then, you’ll get a better look at the stars.”
  2389. >”That’s it?”
  2390. >Sumi gives you a quizzical look before she shuts her eyes.
  2391. >“Alright then.”
  2392. >She covers her face with one of her hooves as you start to kneel down.
  2393. >The only thing that’s exposed is her small muzzle and her snow-white lips, your target.
  2394. >Now for your second trick.
  2395. >You slowly edge your face closer to Sumi’s.
  2396. >You hold your breath, so as not to alert Sumi to your machination with a warm blow.
  2397. >But before you can even purse your lips, Sumi twists her head to look over the railing.
  2398. >”How long do I have to keep my eyes shut, Anon,” Sumi asks.
  2399. >For a quick second, you can swear you saw a smile from that mare.
  2401. “Uh…bout a minute,” you huff.
  2402. >You try to angle yourself the best the way you can, but a frontal, surprise kiss is impossible now.
  2403. >You stick your feet under the railings to secure yourself and try to lean over it to get a better angle.
  2404. >Your hands instantly groan from the overbearing weight that saps the strengths from your arms.
  2405. “Aw shit! Aw shit!” you silently hiss.
  2406. >You suddenly feel a strong tug pull you back.
  2407. >Sumi’s eyes are fully alert as she looks at you.
  2408. “I was just gonna spit over the side,” You make up on the spot, “I was just leaning over to remove any chance of my spit hitting you.”
  2409. >”Anon, please be careful.” Sumi sighs before she focuses her magic on your hands, “
  2410. Are they hurt?”
  2411. “Sorry,” you apologize.
  2412. >You can feel her aura, but it chills your hands.
  2413. >At the very least, it makes them numb to the pain.
  2414. >”Apology accepted.” Sumi frowns, “And I'm sorry too. So you can stop now. I already know what you're planning!”
  2415. “Oh?” you raise a brow, “What’s that?”
  2416. >Sumi gives you smirk before speaks again.
  2417. >Her mouth moves, but you can’t hear a thing.
  2418. “What?” You mumble, “Say that again.”
  2419. >You lean in closer, the same thing happens again.
  2420. >Before you move again, Sumi jolts forward and lands her lips on yours.
  2421. >Your eyes widen, but you dare not move until Sumi parts away.
  2422. >Sumi can hardly keep a straight smile as she splutters, “Something like that.”
  2423. >Her cheeks turn red as she turns her attention on your hands again.
  2424. >This time, they’re very warm.
  2425. >”You’re right, Anon!” Sumi giggles as she stares up at you, “I can see better now. I can see that your cheeks are turning red!”
  2427. “Hehe,” You chuckle, “Yeah you got the gist of what I was planning, but it’s a lot more like this.”
  2428. >You shift your head towards Sumi and return the kiss, winning a squeak from her.
  2429. >Your tongue softly prods her supple lips until they open up and let you inside.
  2430. >Your hands grow even hotter as the magical aura that envelops them is doused with a flaming passion until Sumi’s fluttering eyes shut close.
  2431. >But the young mare surprises you, as she presses her both her hooves on you and strokes your chest.
  2432. >She teases, allowing you only to taste the tip of her tongue as her teeth softly bite down on yours.
  2433. >Not to be outdone, you insert a hand between her forelegs and latch onto the fur on her chest while the other hooks around her body to bring her closer.
  2434. >At that moment, Sumi softly moans into your mouth and drops all of her defenses.
  2435. >You take full advantage and let your tongue dance with her’s
  2436. >By the time the two of you pause to breathe, you’re already on your knees with supporting herself on you.
  2437. >”You’re gonna get me addicted to this, Anon.” Sumi pants before she wipes your saliva from her mouth.
  2438. >You answer back with another long kiss before you just rub your head against her shoulder.
  2439. “Yeah,” you weakly reply with all the energy you can muster.
  2440. >”You’re bad for me,” she purrs before slumping her head over your shoulder and snuggling closer to your neck.
  2441. >Soon, your knees start to hurt, and you and Sumi got to your feet.
  2442. >”We should go back now.” Sumi comments, “I don’t want Dad to wake up and worry about us.”
  2443. “That’s a good idea,” you agree, “But, eh… let’s wait for things to cool down first.”
  2444. >“Why’s that?” Sumi asks before she turns to you.
  2445. >You tug your shirt over your pants before you face away.
  2446. >Another blush comes across her as she makes another turn away.
  2447. >”Oh. Ok. We’ll wait.” Sumi nods before she giggles.
  2449. >Time passes to the point where Ponyville is now only just a few hours away.
  2450. >In the distance something catches your eye.
  2451. >“Impressive sight, huh Anon?” Filbert smiles.
  2452. >You stare wide-eyed out the window at a towering mountain that stands alone, the tallest peak capped with snow high as it pierces through the clouds
  2453. >Just as impressive as the natural wonder is the city built onto its side.
  2454. >It’s like a tree.
  2455. >It’s stone foundations root the city in its place as its ivory towers, gilded with gold and adorned with purple, branch out into the air as if oblivious to its own weight.
  2456. >Sumi lays in her seat, amused from your astonishment.”
  2457. “I swear...This place is just full of surprises,” You exhale.
  2458. >”Well,” Filbert chuckles, “You’ll still get a good view once we get to Ponyville. It’ll wear off in time.”
  2459. >”Hey, Anon!” Sumi giggles, “Do you know we’ll be going through that mountain?”
  2460. >You tap all your fingers on the window like a drum.
  2461. “Really?” you squeak.
  2462. >”Yeah!” Sumi grins, “A lot of trains go through in Equestria have to go through Canterlot. We have to go through this massive tunnel.”
  2463. >“And after that,” Filbert joins in, “It won’t be long for us to get back home.”
  2464. >You nod and sit down besides Sumi.
  2465. >While she nestles underneath your arm, you keep your eyes plastered at the mountain slowly getting larger.
  2466. >It soon gets so large to the point that you have to crane your neck just to see the shaded underside of Canterlot As you enter the mountain’s long shadow.
  2467. >Darkness swallows the entire train, stealing your breath away as the open air outside gives way to finely carved stone.
  2468. >You tense up and clutch at Sumi.
  2469. >It’s such a shock, you feel like the mountain is closing in to crush you.
  2471. >Sumi brushes your legs as she asks her father, “Dad, can you turn on the lights?”
  2472. >She smiles up at you and adds, “So we can see better.”
  2473. >"Sure thing," Filbert rings out before turning on the lights.
  2474. “Thanks,” you exhale with a slight tinge of red on your cheeks.
  2475. >The train’s whistle echoes throughout the carved tunnel.
  2476. >As the minutes pass the tunnels suddenly open up to a massive cavern.
  2477. >Crystals the size of buildings are wedged into the solids walls and releases a glow that lights the whole cavern.
  2478. “Woah,” you mutter.
  2479. >Another whistle rings out and in the distance, you see another train on the opposite side of the cavern.
  2480. >You try to look up to see if such a cavern has a ceiling, but it stretches out to the point that the massive loads of crystal far up look like tiny bits of glass.
  2481. >It’s as if the whole mountain has been hollowed out.
  2482. >The train zips past a junction, following its intended destination while ignoring the railway leading upwards, presumably up to Canterlot.
  2483. >The cavern disappears from view as the train goes through another narrow tunnel.
  2484. >Then light of the sun blasts through your window as soon as the train leaves.
  2485. >You shield your eyes as they slowly adapt.
  2486. “That was pretty cool,” you admit.
  2487. >Filbert switches the lights back off and smiles at you.
  2488. >”Almost there!” he announces, “Look!”
  2489. >He points out his hoof and you can see a town in the distance.
  2490. >A large collection of houses with a river that runs through the whole town.
  2491. >In the center is a round building that towers above the rest.
  2492. >There’s many things surrounding the town: A farm, a forest, a crystal castle, and a sea of grass.
  2493. >”Home!” Sumi cheers.
  2494. “Home,” you repeat.
  2496. >The long trip to Ponyville ends with the hiss of the train’s break and the shouts of the conductor announcing your arrival.
  2497. >You stand up to stretch and release a long yawn as Filbert and Sumi get ready to leave.
  2498. >The three of you exit the train among the tide of passengers as you tow your luggage and step onto the platform.
  2499. >Finally free from the confines of the train you take a deep breath.
  2500. >You can smell the smoke from the train and the dust being kicked into the air.
  2501. >Behind this collection of odors you catch a whiff of grass and flowers.
  2502. >You grin and stretch your arms into the air.
  2503. >”Home!” you exhale.
  2504. >”Yeah!” Filbert yawns, “After a long trip, I just want to go to sleep!”
  2505. >”Yup!” Sumi agrees, “Come on, Anon! You gotta meet Mom and Auburn!”
  2506. >With that said, the three of you march into Ponyville.
  2507. >It’s a far cry compared to the Crystal Empire with winding dirt roads, houses with thatch roofing, and a much warmer temperature.
  2508. >Humans and Ponies go about their daily lives in the town, while children play in the streets.
  2509. >You stare at some of the children.
  2510. >Specifically the young boys standing on two legs.
  2511. >They all have a head of hair that looked like it was picked from a painter’s palette.
  2512. >The signs of their mixed parentage.
  2513. >Looking into their pastel eyes is just more confirmation to that obvious fact.
  2514. >It makes you wonder how many of the young fillies playing have Human fathers.
  2515. >Then your eyes trail to Sumi walking ahead.
  2516. >Her bouncing tail makes you recall last night’s adventurous escapades.
  2517. “Careful,” you whisper to yourself, “Careful. Far from ready. Careful.”
  2518. >You all continue on your journey to your new home when a little filly blocks Sumi’s path.
  2520. >She has pink fur and a straight, raspberry colored mane that hides one of her dark, amber eyes.
  2521. >”Pebble Pop?” Sumi mutters.
  2522. >Behind the young filly is a pink wagon with adorned with the symbol of three balloons.
  2523. >The young filly’s meek eyes are trained on you.
  2524. “Uh...what’s going on?” you whisper to Sumi as you catch up to her.
  2525. >”Um...welcome.” the pink filly squeaks with a quick bow.
  2526. >She backpedals to the wagon and presses a big red button on its side.
  2527. >The wagon starts to stutter and shake as its panels fold into the wagon
  2528. >It then jumps into the air as a mishmash of trumpets, twirling flags, steam whistles shoot out alongside some kind of oven and a display laden with cupcakes and sweet treats
  2529. >Music starts to play as the pink filly starts to sing along with it, or at the very least tries to sing.
  2530. >”Um. Welcome, welcome, welcome...”
  2531. >She sings with a reserved voice, barely audible over the exuberant tune coming from the wagon, and gently sway side to side.
  2532. >”Welcome, welcome, welcome. I say how do you do...”
  2533. >She digs up a black hat with a flat top and a blue plume with her teeth and gallops towards you to place it on your head.
  2534. >The music pauses on its own for her, and after several futile hops, she mutters, “Uhm, cahn you pwease...”
  2535. “Oh, yeah!” you realize as you squat beside her, “Sure.”
  2536. >You take the hat from the blushing filly and place it on your head.
  2537. >”Thank you,” she whispers.
  2538. >She goes back to her wagon and brings out a brass horn.
  2539. >She blows on it, producing a single quick note that sounds similar to someone passing wind, and the music starts again.
  2540. >When the song gets to its final verse, the young filly attempts to dazzle you with a pirouette and tries to spin on one of her hind legs.
  2541. >She only succeeds in tumbling onto her stomach.
  2543. >Once finished, the filly passes a worried glance at the wagon while she’s still on the ground and covers her face.
  2544. >”Uh, watch out!” she warns you.
  2545. >It confuses you.
  2546. “ out for what?”
  2547. >Sumi seems to understand this and starts to back away while telling you, “Brace yourself, Anon.”
  2548. >Your eyes follow Sumi and you realize Filbert's even farther away
  2549. “Brace myself for-”
  2550. >The oven on top of the wagon releases a blast containing a mixture of confetti and streamers that moves with such force, it blows your hat off your head and knocks your luggage to the floor.
  2551. >Thankfully, you’re able to stay on your two feet, barely at least.
  2552. >”Sorry,” The filly apologizes, “Again, welcome to Ponyville if you didn’t hear me the first time.”
  2553. >”Yeah!” another voice cheers, “Welcome to Ponyville!”
  2554. >Springing out of the bushes is a pink Earth Pony with a smile that could rival the sun.
  2555. >She has cotton candy mane and tail, each with a streak of silver hair running through it.
  2556. >Apart from that and her blue eyes, the mare looks to be the spitting image of the little filly.
  2557. >”Did I do good, Mommy?” the little filly asks.
  2558. >Her eyes are hungry for a response.
  2559. >The mare wraps her hooves around her daughter.
  2560. >”You were amazing!” she grins before she plants multiple kisses on Pebble’s head, “I’m so proud of you, Pebbles!”
  2561. >Pebble grins and buries her head into her mother’s chest.
  2562. >”Ah, Mrs. Pie!” Filbert greets as he canters to you, “It wouldn’t be a ‘Ponyville welcome’ without you.”
  2563. >”Anon,”- Sumi motions a hoof to Pebble and her mother, -“this is Mrs. Pie and her daughter, Pebble Pop Pie.”
  2564. >Mrs. Pie offers a hoof.
  2565. >”Pinkie Pie! Ponyville Party Planner! You can just call me Pinkie!”
  2566. >You take her hoof and give it a light shake.
  2567. “Anonymous. While we’re at it, you can call me Anon.”
  2569. >You squat down to look at Pebble Pop and smile at her.
  2570. “Thanks for the warm welcome, Pebble.”
  2571. >The young filly clings tighter to her mother.
  2572. >”Um, thank you.” she mutters.
  2573. >Pinkie Pie motions to the treats that lay on the pink welcome wagon.
  2574. >”I bet you’re all super duper tired from your long trip back, so please have some.”
  2575. >All three of you thank Pinkie and walk towards the wagon.
  2576. >You pick a plain cupcake with white frosting, while Sumi got one with red frosting.
  2577. >A quick look at the Pies and you can see them remaining still.
  2578. “You want one?” you offer your cupcake Pebble.
  2579. >Pinkie shakes her head.
  2580. >”Oh you don’t have to share, I made them for you!”
  2581. “I insist,” you counter as you wave the cupcake in your hand, “No way are we gonna be able to eat it all with just the three of us. We need more mouths!”
  2582. >Suddenly you feel the urge to stretch and yawn.
  2583. >You stretch out your arms and hit something with your cupcake.
  2584. >It’s Sumi, and you just smeared white frosting on her cheek.
  2585. “Uh. Sorry ‘bout that.” you apologize.
  2586. >She gives you a deadpan look.
  2587. >You hunch your shoulders and try to avoid laughing,
  2588. >”What? It’s not that bad. With your fur, you can hardly notice it.”
  2589. >Sumi levitates her cupcake and dabs your nose with red frosting.
  2590. >You match her blank expression as you blow out the frosting around your nose.
  2591. >Sumi starts to giggle.
  2592. >It’s infectious because Pinkie and even her daughter start to join in.
  2593. >You wipe off some of the frosting and slap it on top of your cupcake before sinking your teeth into it.
  2594. >It’s pillowy soft with a smooth taste of vanilla and the right amount of sugar to reinvigorate you.
  2595. >You hum your enjoyment for Pinkie to hear.
  2596. >”Get some!” you tell Pebble, “Your mom makes some pretty good cupcakes.”
  2598. >Soon, everyone's enjoying themselves.
  2599. >Pinkie Pie is chatting with Filbert about the trip here while they on a strudel made with guava and cream cheese.
  2600. >Pebble nibbles on a cupcake on the while the two adults chat.
  2601. >Meanwhile, you and Sumi finish off your cupcakes.
  2602. “Ponyville’s pretty nice so far.” You comment.
  2603. >”Yeah,” Sumi nods, “Mrs. Pie does it all the time for newcomers.”
  2604. "You think there’s gonna be any other surprises I gotta look out for?”
  2605. >”I hope not. Everypony here is gonna make such a big deal out of it.”
  2606. >She looks up to you with a smile.
  2607. >”Just having you meet my mother and brother is good enough for now. After that, we can nap and worry about stuff later.”
  2608. “Sounds like a plan,” You nod.
  2609. >You see that there’s still a bit of frosting on her cheek.
  2610. >You tap a finger on your cheek.
  2611. ”Still got a little bit on ya.”
  2612. >”I do?” Sumi blinks.
  2613. “I got it.”
  2614. >You kneel beside her and cup the side of her face in your hand.
  2615. >You use your cupcake wrapper to wipe off the remaining frosting.
  2616. >”I could’ve gotten it myself, you know,” Sumi smirks, “You just want to hold me, huh?”
  2617. >”Partly true,” you chuckle.
  2618. >You stroke her face with your thumb, winning a smile and a blush from the mare.
  2619. >Both of you turn around to see Pinkie looking at the two of you with a wistful smile.
  2620. >”I’m so happy you finally got together with your special somepony, Sumi,” Pinkie sighs as her eyes start to sparkle.
  2621. >”Thanks, Mrs. Pie.” Sumi replies, “And thanks for giving, Anon a warm welcome.”
  2622. >”Oh don’t mention it! It’s always a treat whenever anypony new comes to town! Well, I guess I should get out of your mane and let Anon settle down.”
  2624. >Pinkie Pie hauls her welcome wagon as Pebble Pop rides on her back and hugs her hooves around her neck.
  2625. >”Bye!” Pinkie waves, “Let me know whenever you need help throwing a party! Birthdays, Weddings...Foalshowers! Hehe!”
  2626. >”Mrs. Pie…” Sumi blushes.
  2627. >You try to avoid her gaze, as you release her from your hand, chuckling nervously as you did.
  2628. >”Aha!” Filbert coughs, “A little too soon for that!”
  2629. >”Buh Bye!” Pinkie shouts with a sing-song voice.
  2630. >”Goodbye.” her daughter mumbles.
  2631. >After you all wave goodbye, the journey to Sumi’s house resumes.
  2632. >Everyone’s silent, eager to hurry home without any more distractions and rest.
  2633. >”Ah!” Filbert smiles, “Finally here.”
  2634. >It’s a two-story house sharing the same color scheme as the houses that neighbor it.
  2635. >Filbert approaches the pink door and levitates a set of keys to unlock the doors.
  2636. >”Home!” Sumi cheers.
  2637. >The father and daughter eagerly enter the house, while you follow after them.
  2638. >You duck your head as you enter the house to avoid bumping into the frame.
  2639. >You walk into the living room with two couches surrounding a coffee table over wooden board floors.
  2640. >It has a staircase that leads to the second floor close to the entrance,
  2641. >”Buttermilk!” Filbert shouts, “Auburn! We’re home! Hello?”
  2642. >After a moment, Filbert just shrugs.
  2643. >”Huh? Must be getting groceries. Anyway, Anon.” He turns to you and smiles. “Welcome to our home.”
  2645. >He starts to list several things in the house as he points with his hoof.
  2646. >”Uh, we’re in the living room, in the corner is the dining area for dinners. In front of us is the kitchen with two doorways: One in front of us, the other, by the dining area. Upstairs, We got three bedrooms and a bathroom. Down the hall to your left is another bathroom and right next to it is Sumi’s bedroom.”
  2647. >He pauses for a brief moment.
  2648. >”She’ll be sharing her room with you.”
  2649. >Sumi’s eyes widen and she starts to canter to her room.
  2650. >”Uh...let me get the room ready, Anon!”
  2651. >You don’t hide your shock from Filbert.
  2652. “You’re okay with that, Mr. Brushstroke?” you ask.
  2653. >”Don’t get any weird ideas now.” Filbert chuckles as he eyes you, “The two of you will be sleeping in separate beds. So, if you want to explore the house, or just settle down if you want. Unpack, take a nap; we’ll probably have dinner later tonight. Then we can talk about house rules.”
  2654. “Sure,” you shrug, “I think I’ll just unpack my stuff now.”
  2655. >You head through the hallway with your luggage as Filbert makes his way upstairs.
  2656. >The hallway ends with two doors.
  2657. >You go to the door to your right as you hear noise coming from it.
  2658. >You turn the handle and open the door to a sea salt green room.
  2659. >A little bit of light comes from the two windows on the left, but there’s also a hanging lamp from the ceiling.
  2660. >In the opposite right corner, next to the closet, is an easel on top of some tarp with a bunch of brushes in a cup and a palette caked with dry paint.
  2661. >There are two beds on opposing sides from each other.
  2662. >You can see Sumi taking down paintings from the walls and setting them down on one of the beds.
  2663. >You quickly notice that they’re paintings of you.
  2664. >”Oh!” Sumi gasps, “Anon!”
  2666. >She starts to turn red as you step closer to see her work in recreating you.
  2667. >It’s not just paintings on canvas, Sumi has also made sketches of you on paper.
  2668. >She made art pieces of you smiling, standing alone, or the two of you together.
  2669. >It doesn’t bother you that they’re not perfect; In fact, you're more impressed with what’s she been able to do.
  2670. “They’re pretty good,” You compliment her.
  2671. >”No they’re not. Seeing you here, There are so many things I got wrong.”
  2672. >You blow a raspberry.
  2673. ”Oh please. All these years the only thing you got for references was from my sketches. It’s Impressive really.”
  2674. >You bend over to stroke her mane.
  2675. “You know, I’d be pretty nervous if you saw my work. Looking at you, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to do you justice.”
  2676. >Sumi looks away with a sheepish grin as she mumbles, “Your bed’s to your left.”
  2677. “Okay then,” you chuckle before turning to your bed.
  2678. >It’s a twin size bed that’s longer than Sumi’s.
  2679. >You’re too lazy to unpack.
  2680. >You just kick off your shoes, and put it under the bed with your luggage, before sinking into it with a long sigh.
  2681. “I’m tired,” you announce.
  2682. >A quick peek at Sumi and you can see she’s already back to organizing her artwork.
  2683. >Her wall’s pretty barren, it’s green sea salt wall marked with brighter, cleaner spots that make you guess how long her pieces have hung there.
  2684. >You then see her levitate one piece of art back on the wall.
  2685. >It’s a simple piece with two stick figures; One in the shape of a man, the other, a pony.
  2686. >They’re surrounded by a sparse collection of brown trees and jagged green leaves painted in quick diagonal lines.
  2688. >After that she turns to you and undo her straps.
  2689. >”Scoot over.” she whispers to you.
  2690. >You comply and watch her crawl into your bed.
  2691. >”I’m tired too,” she sighs.
  2692. >You smile at her.
  2693. >”You know your, dad told me not to get any ‘funny ideas’. It’s why we got separate beds.”
  2694. Sumi scoffs, “Dad’s always worried about me. I’m a mare now. And get your mind out of the gutter!” she giggles, “But, here’s something to hold you over.”
  2695. >She leans over to you and gives a slow kiss before leaning on her right side.
  2696. >"Sweet dreams." she whispers.
  2697. >You smile and shuffle a little closer to feel the warmth of her backside.
  2698. >You slowly drift to sleep as your head rests on your pillow and a part of Sumi’s mane.
  2700. >There’s a smell in the air that stirs you from your sleep.
  2701. >The warm scent of sauteed onions, garlic, and mushrooms that dances around your nose.
  2702. >It’s dark in Sumi’s room as the sun has long since set.
  2703. >Sumi still lays asleep on your bed, this time on her back.
  2704. >for a moment you stare at the sleeping mare and smile.
  2705. >Her straight mane spreads throughout the pillow like roots as her tail lays atop your thigh.
  2706. >She hardly moves except for her chest that silently rise and fall with every peaceful breath.
  2707. >You contemplate whether you should go back to sleep, but your growling stomach makes a compelling argument for you to get up.
  2708. >You place a hand on Sumi's shoulder and gently shake her awake.
  2709. “Sumi,” you gently whisper to her, “Sumi.”
  2710. >She mumbles in protest but remains still.
  2711. “Sumi,” you repeat.
  2712. >”What, Anon?” she groans.
  2713. >She slowly turns to you, her eyes still remain shut.
  2714. “I’m hungry and I smell something cooking. You wanna go out and eat?”
  2715. >”Later. You can go, I’ll catch up with you later.”
  2716. >You sit up scoot over to the foot of the bed before stepping onto the ground.
  2717. >You quickly open and close the door so the light from the rest of the house wouldn’t bother Sumi.
  2718. >Walking down the hallway, you can hear Filbert and another voice argue.
  2719. >”I told you we should’ve bought a full-size bed” A feminine voice argues
  2720. >”Butter, Honey, can we not?”
  2721. >”I saw them sleeping together, Filbert. It was so adorable.”
  2722. >”Mmhm.”
  2723. >”You can’t keep treating like a filly forever! She’s already old enough to be married for Celestia’s sake!”
  2724. >"Mom, Dad..." Another voice groans, "Please stop."
  2726. >You don’t want to just waltz into the middle of a heated argument.
  2727. >You make a loud, exaggerated yawn while stomping down the hallway in your socks.
  2728. >When you turn from the hallway and look into the kitchen, you see Filbert sitting at the table with a colt and a mare.
  2729. >Both of them are Earth Ponies.
  2730. “Must be Auburn and Buttermilk,” you silently conclude
  2731. >Auburn is at the table hovering over a piece of paper with a pencil in his mouth.
  2732. >He has a reddish-brown mane, blue eyes, and sepia fur.
  2733. >Buttermilk stands next to her husband wearing a white apron besmirched with several old, faded stains.
  2734. >She has a creamy coat of fur that lives up to her namesake and a wavy blond mane.
  2735. >She shares the same eye color as her son.
  2736. >You enter the room with a smile, hopeful that coming arrival dispelled the tension in the room.
  2737. >Filbert turns his head to you, his frown quickly morphing into a grin as he announces, “Ah! Anonymous!” He motions to his wife and son. “This is my wife, Buttermilk, and son, Auburn!”
  2738. >Auburn only looks up from his paper to give you a quick nod.
  2739. >“Hi,” he mutters before returning to his paper.
  2740. >Buttermilk on the hand she gives you a warm welcome.
  2741. >She prances towards you and gives you hug.
  2742. >“Anonymous!” she squeals, “We meet, at last!”
  2743. “Oh,” you chuckle, “It’s finally nice to see the rest of the family, too.” You sniff the air and remember the smell from earlier. “Something smells really good! What is it?”
  2744. >Buttermilk giggles, “It’s just some spaghetti with marinara sauce. Nothing special.
  2745. ”Still, I can’t wait to try it. I'm starved!”
  2746. >“Take a seat.” Buttermilk says as she moves to the stove, “Dinner will be ready soon.”
  2748. >You take a seat at the table left of Auburn so you wouldn't have to sit next to Filbert.
  2749. >While settling down, you peek at what Auburn's working on.
  2750. >It’s a math assignment.
  2751. “So…working on math, huh?”
  2752. >”Yeah,” Auburn grumbles without looking up from his paper nor letting go of his pencil. “Mehssus Cheeriee ish very searious about algebrah.”
  2753. ”Cool. Need any help?” You offer.
  2754. >”No thanks.”
  2755. “Oh. Ok then.”
  2756. >You twiddle your thumbs but soon find yourself staring at Filbert, who's gazing right back at you with a grin.
  2757. >"So Anon, how did you sleep?"
  2758. "Oh God!" you internally scream.
  2759. >Thankfully Buttermilk comes to the rescue.
  2760. >She walks to the table heaving a large bowl of pasta with some kind of glove clenched between her teeth before setting it down on the table.
  2761. >"Oh Dear!" Buttermilk giggles, "Of course he would feel well rested with that new bed we bought him."
  2762. >Well that is partly true.
  2763. "Ye-yeah!" you agree, "Thanks for the new bed!"
  2764. >"Yeah," Filbert slowly nods, "You're welcome, Anon."
  2766. “Uh... Do you need help, Mrs. Buttermilk?” you ask.
  2767. >“Well thanks, Anonymous! If you insist, you can fetch the sauce for me while I get the cheese.”
  2768. >You smile and enter the kitchen to retrieve the pot of sauce.
  2769. >You take the handles with both hands, smiling as you take a large whiff of the sweet sauce.
  2770. >You set it on the table just as Buttermilk places down a bowl of grated parmesan cheese.
  2771. >”Thanks, Anonymous!” Buttermilk smiles.
  2772. “No problem, Mrs. Buttermilk,” you reply, “And you can just call me Anon.”
  2773. >”In that case, just call me Buttermilk. And with you and Sumi being together, It’s alright if you call me Mom.”
  2774. >Sumi’s parents share a laugh as you feel your face warm up as you sit back down.
  2775. >”Auburn,” Buttermilk continues, “Take a break from homework. It’s time to eat.”
  2776. >Buttermilk looks to you.
  2777. >”Anon, can you get Sumi?”
  2778. >You scratch your chin.
  2779. “Sure. She did say would follow after me, but I guess she just went back to sleep.
  2780. >”I’m here.” you hear Sumi yawns.
  2781. >Her eyes are half-shut and her frazzled mane is tied back into a bun.
  2782. >”Ah!” Buttermilk stamps with a hoof, “The family’s all here!”
  2784. >Sumi drags a chair to the end of the table so she could sit next to you.
  2785. >”It smells good Mom.” compliments Sumi as she undoes her straps and wiggles into her chair.
  2786. >”Thanks, dear!” Buttermilk smiles, “You can all eat now, help yourselves to as much as you want.”
  2787. >She sits at the other end of the table.
  2788. >scoops of grated cheese and marinara sauce and wads pasta float through the air as Sumi and Filbert levitate food to Auburn and Buttermilk.
  2789. >Without asking, Sumi takes your plate and fills it with a hearty serving of pasta.
  2790. >”Want some cheese with that?” she asks with a smile.
  2791. “Sure,” you smile back.
  2792. >You dig into your food as you twirl your fork into the pasta and take a large bit.
  2793. >The marinara is smooth and sweet, which goes well with the al dente pasta.
  2794. >A part of you secretly wish for it to have ground beef or spicy sliced sausages, but you’re okay with it containing only sauteed mushrooms and onions.
  2795. >The grated parmesan Sumi sprinkles on top helps gives you your salty fix.
  2796. >You make no effort to hide the smile on your face as you slurp up some more noodles.
  2797. “It’s really good!” you say speak out loud.
  2798. >”Everyone else hums in agreement.
  2799. >Buttermilk takes a break to wipe her mouth.
  2800. >”Thanks Anon. So, how are you liking Equestria so far?”
  2801. “It’s awesome,” you ring as you twirl your fork to gather more, “Beautiful locales, everybody’s nice- Do I say everybody or everypony?”
  2802. >”Oh-oh” Buttermilk giggles as she waves you off, “everybody, everypony, everycreature- it doesn’t matter too much.”
  2803. “Ok then. Anyway, I really like it here in Ponyville. Thanks for having me here by the way, and the meal. Oh! And the bed too! Thanks! If there’s anything you need help with, you can let me know. Filbert also did mention house rules.”
  2805. >”We’re not gonna be asking for much, Anon.” Filbert joins in, “but as long as you live here, you will help contribute to this household."
  2806. >"Dad…" Sumi groaned, "Anon just got here. At least let him get settled first!"
  2807. >"Dear," Buttermilk chimes in, "everypony here contributes, either you go to school, or you work.”
  2808. “Even Sumi has a job?” You ask, “Anything to do with her cutie mark?”
  2809. >Sumi looks away, trying to think of an answer.
  2810. >Filbert speaks first. “Well, No. She helps watch a store with Mr. Davenport. Uh, a store selling sofas and quills. Sumi, maybe you can talk him into hiring Anon as well. Working together sounds nice.”
  2811. >Buttermilk smiles and wiggles her eyebrows at her daughter.
  2812. >”Oooo…”
  2813. >Sumi cover her face with hooves while Auburn sticks out his tongue and gags.
  2814. >”Mom...stop,” Sumi begs.
  2815. >”Yeah,” Filbert sighs as he eyes his wife and daughter, “On second thought, the both of you would be too distracted. But no rush, Anon. Take your time. Explore the town and find something you’d like to do.”
  2816. “You don’t have to worry.” you declare, “Helping out and getting a job is the least I can do.”
  2817. >Buttermilk nods.
  2818. >”Now with that settled maybe we can discuss something else. Sumi, I hope you’ve been preparing for the contest?”
  2819. “A contest?” you repeat.
  2820. >”She didn't tell you? The Young Painters of Equestria Contest. A contest that goes around all over the nation for every young pony to show off their artistic talent. Well, Sumi?”
  2821. >Sumi looks into her dish as she twirls her fork.
  2822. >”I… I haven’t been thinking about it that much. Maybe.”
  2824. >”Maybe?” Buttermilk huffs, “I would rather hear a yes or no answer. I know you have a job, but do you honestly see yourself working for Mr. Davenport for the rest of your life? Is that what your cutie mark is telling you?
  2825. >”Butter Honey…” Filbert sighs, “Sumi, you got a knack for this. Give it a try.”
  2826. >Auburn breaks his silence to agree.
  2827. >”Yeah,” he mumbles, “drawing is all I ever see you do. It only makes sense.”
  2828. >Everyone looks to you.
  2829. >”Any input, Anon?” Filbert asks.
  2830. “Yeah, Sumi” you gulp, “Give it a shot. I can speak from years of experience. You’re almost as good as I am.”
  2831. >You win a small smile from Sumi and a chuckle from her father.
  2832. >”Then maybe you should join as well. I don’t think there are any rules for any stopping any Humans. Especially someone as young as yourself ."
  2833. ”Oh, it just wouldn’t be fair if I joined,” you chuckle as you massage your hands, “Besides, I want to see Sumi win this.”
  2834. >Filbert and Buttermilk nod their heads in approval while Sumi focuses on her spaghetti, her face carrying a hint of red.
  2835. >Moments pass as everyone continues to eat their fill of spaghetti.
  2836. >”I’m done,” Auburn declares, “Thanks for the food, Mom.”
  2837. >”You’re welcome,” Buttermilk smiles, “Just leave your dishes at the sink. I’ll take care of it later.”
  2838. >”Me too,” Sumi says as she levitates her plate to the sink, “Thanks, Mom.”
  2839. >You clean the spaghetti from your plate and bring it to the sink.
  2840. >”Thanks for the food, Buttermilk. That was really good!”
  2841. >”I’m glad you enjoyed it, “Buttermilk smiles, “Goodnight! And Sumi, I want to hear an answer tomorrow.”
  2842. >"Yes Mom," Sumi sighs, "Goodnight."
  2843. >You wait for Sumi to strap back into her wheelchair before heading off together to your room.
  2845. >You wait till you open the door to the room you both share to speak again.
  2846. “So, the contest…”
  2847. >”What about it?” Sumi asks as she turns on the lights.
  2848. “You’re not gonna join it?”
  2849. >Sumi keeps silent, as her eyes drift to the floor.
  2850. >You raise a brow as you sit down on your bed.
  2851. “Scared you’re not gonna win? That's not like.”
  2852. >”I’m not that scared,” Sumi finally responds, “Well, I-I guess I am.”
  2853. “I wouldn’t blame you. ‘All over the nation.’ Sounds like a big deal. But hey”- You pat Sumi on the back- ”I know you got what it takes to make something good.”
  2854. >”It’s more than just that.”
  2855. “More than competing against hundreds of others? Thousands maybe?”
  2856. >"No!" Sumi sighs, “It's that. The contests goes in multiple stages. There’s the local level, where the five best paintings are selected and winning contestants can move onto the National Level and...tour Equestria.”
  2857. “Oh,” you realize.
  2858. >”All contestants will go from city to city showcasing the paintings all while making a second piece for Canterlot. It’ll probably be a few more weeks.”
  2859. >Sumi turns to you.
  2860. >She strokes your knee as she looks up to you with sparkling eyes.
  2861. >”If I win the first part, I’ll be gone,” She sniffs, “It’s gonna be a long time, Anon. So, after hearing that, do you think I should really go. Be honest please.”
  2862. >You pause for a moment to dwell on Sumi’s word.
  2863. >The thought of being gone from her for even just a day feels turns your whole body cold.
  2864. >You place a hand on Sumi’s cheeks and feel the warmth crawl into your fingers.
  2865. >”Well, Anon?” Sumi calls.
  2866. “You should give it a shot,” you mumble.
  2867. >”What?” Sumi blinks
  2868. “Do it.” you repeat, “Take part in the contest.”
  2869. >Sumi’s eyes shy away from you.
  2870. >She must’ve been expecting a different answer.
  2872. “You don’t want to do it?” you ask.
  2873. >”I do, Anon,” Sumi counters, “I… I just don’t want to leave you. And it’s not just you. Mom, Dad, Auburn; I never left home without them.”
  2874. “You’re afraid of being homesick.”
  2875. >You release a long sigh as think back to your younger years.
  2876. “I can relate to that.”
  2877. >Sumi looks up to you with a curious look before she realizes what you were referring to.
  2878. >”I’m sorry, Anon,” She apologizes as she wraps her hooves around your stomach, “I must sound very petty compared to what you have to give up.”
  2879. >You tap her mane bun and give her a reassuring smile.
  2880. “Don’t worry about it. You gotta give something up for the things you really want, even if it hurts. I guess that’s what being a grown-up is like.”
  2881. >”I bet we’re gonna have to do that a lot in the future, huh?” Sumi notes.
  2882. >you nod your head.
  2883. ”For family, friends, you. You bet.”
  2884. >”Ok, I’ll do it,” Sumi declares.
  2885. >You look her deep in the eyes to confirm that.
  2886. ”So, you really want to do it. No pressure, no guilt trip?”
  2887. >Sumi looks back at you with determination.
  2888. >”Yeah. I’ll do it.”
  2889. >You grin before sinking into your bed to stare at the ceiling as you keep a hand up to shield your eyes from the light.
  2890. >”But you will help me out with this.” Sumi demands.
  2891. >You perk your head up to see Sumi undoing the straps of her wheelchair.
  2892. “Help out with what?” you chuckle.
  2893. >As soon as she undoes her last strap, Sumi starts to crawl up to your lap with her forelegs.
  2894. >”All artists need some kind of inspiration. So, help me get some ideas every chance you get.”
  2895. >You help her up by gently pulling her to your stomach.
  2896. >Sumi lays down on your chest, her snout almost grazing your chin.
  2897. >She starts to blush.
  2898. >”That way… we can spend a lot of time together before the contest starts.
  2899. “When does it start?”
  2900. >”About a month from now.”
  2901. “Then we better make every second count,” you grin.
  2903. >She smiles back at you before edging closer to give you a long kiss that has the subtle smell of basil and garlic.
  2904. >You quickly return the expression with a kiss of your own before your eyes focus on Sumi’s mane.
  2905. “I’ll be honest,” you admit, “I like your mane better straight and free.”
  2906. >Sumi giggles as she unties her bun.
  2907. >”You don’t like it? I’m afraid you’re gonna have to bear with it,” she smiles apologetically, “I usually tie my mane back whenever I eat at home or paint, and I'll be painting a lot.”
  2908. “Well, it can't be helped then.” you shrug.
  2909. >Sumi rolls off of you to your right to join your activity of gazing at the ceiling.
  2910. >Both of you remain silent, you’re more than content to keep like this for the rest of the night.
  2911. >Sumi breaks the silence to ask you a question.
  2912. >”Anon you said that we gotta make sacrifices for the things that are worthwhile right?”
  2913. “Yeah?”
  2914. >”Well… with everything you saw so far: Ponyville, the family,, would you say that it was all worth it?”
  2915. >That’s no mystery, but it’s a question that you’re not content with by simply answering with a silent nod.
  2916. “Well, so far I’m not disappointed,” you respond.
  2917. >”’So far’?”
  2918. “It’s a question I’ll be asking myself for years to come. To make sure my answer remains the same, I’ll be sure to work hard for it.”
  2919. >You feel Sumi brush her foreleg against your arm.
  2920. >”You don't have to do that all by yourself,” Sumi points out, "I'll help you with that too."
  2921. >You make a massive grin.
  2922. >The arm shielding your eyes from the lights starts to get heavier as your eyes slowly close.
  2923. “Hey Sumi,” You yawn, “I’m starting to get tired. Can you switch off the lights?”
  2924. >Sumi yawns as well, ”Eh… I’m too tired. Besides, I need to spend my energy on a painting for the contest.”
  2926. >You roll your eyes.
  2927. "Fine," you chuckle.
  2928. >You groan as you force yourself up from the bed, all while hearing a giggle that Sumi failed to stifle.
  2929. >With a flick of the switch, the whole room turns black.
  2930. >Time to sleep.
  2931. >In the darkness, you strip to your boxers and brush your shirt and pants underneath your bed with a slow kick.
  2932. >”Make some room, Sumi.” You said as you crawl into bed.
  2933. >You pull up the blankets to cover you and Sumi as you begin to snuggle close together.
  2934. >Suddenly you feel Sumi start to tense up.
  2935. >”Wait, Anon!” Sumi gasps.
  2936. >You raise a brow in alarm.
  2937. “What? What is it?”
  2938. >”A-are you naked?”
  2939. “Oh,” you exhale, “No, I’m just in my boxers.”
  2940. >”You’re basically naked, Anon!”
  2941. “Well, you’re literally naked,” you retort.
  2942. >”You know Ponies and Humans aren’t the same when it comes to that!” Sumi huffs.
  2943. “Come on, don’t be such a prude."
  2944. >"You're a lecher."
  2945. "And you're a tease."
  2946. >”Ugh…” Sumi groans, “And it’s gonna be the rest of my life with you.”
  2947. >The both of you share a laugh, before snuggling even closer.
  2948. >”Careful with the horn.” Sumi warns you.
  2949. >She nestles her head against your chest.
  2950. >”So warm and smooth,” She purrs, “And I can hear your heart beating too. So soothing.”
  2951. >You dig your hand through her mane and fiddle with one of her ears.
  2952. “Soft and silky. Goodnight, Sumi. I love you.”
  2953. >Sumi catches your arm with a hoof and moves it so that your hand can rest on her cheek.
  2954. >”Goodnight, Anon. I love you too.”
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