Low Self-Esteem Applejack

Mar 14th, 2017
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  1. >Be Applejack.
  2. >Waking up, you rub your eyes with a hoof as you look out your bedroom window.
  3. >Still dark out.
  4. >The old rooster that hangs around the fence by the barn is still sleeping.
  5. >At this point most ponies would immediately go back to sleep but not you.
  6. >Time is apples after all and apples are money.
  7. >Plus, if you started work early, you might be able to finish before it gets too hot outside.
  8. >You fling the tattered, checkerboard patterned sheets off your body and exit your old, rickety bed as it squeaks in protest.
  9. >Walking over to your dresser, you sit down on the stool in front of your mirror and grab your hairbrush, gritting your teeth in annoyance as you begin to work out the knots in your mane.
  10. >It was an old, wooden hog-hair brush with bristles splayed out every which way that you had used for the past ten or so years.
  11. >You kept meaning to go ask Rarity for a softer, gentler brush, but you just haven't had the time recently.
  12. >Looking back at your bed, you once again muse about replacing it.
  13. >You've been wanting to replace the whole set for a while now but you've just been too busy tending the farm to find the time.
  14. >In fact, your whole family's been extremely busy for the past couple of weeks.
  15. >Applebuck season was only a month away and you needed to make sure that this year's harvest was plentiful.
  16. >Ever since you agreed with Fluttershy to let those bats have part of your family's orchard, you were down a couple acres of land and, by extension, apples.
  17. >You knew how much it meant to her to let those bats stay, but that still cut into your family's bottom line.
  18. >So, to make up for it, your family was putting in hours of extra overtime to ensure that the remaining trees got all the water and fertilizer they could possibly need.
  19. >You cringe just a bit as you remember how much of a hassle it was to convince the Ponyville Weather Team to water your orchard twice as much as they usually do.
  20. >Even with Rainbow Dash as their captain, you still had to pay around twenty bits per week for the "special treatment" as they had called it.
  21. >Grunting as you pull out the last knot in your mane, you gently place the brush back down.
  22. >After grabbing your trusty Stetson off your dresser, you exit the room and silently creep down the wooden stairs of your home.
  23. >You snatch a satchel off the wall, before slowly pushing open your front door and stepping into the not-quite-night.
  24. >Cicadas and grasshoppers chirped under the full moon's glow which highlighted the dewy fields of apple trees.
  25. >You take a moment to inhale the crisp, cool air.
  26. >Only a farmer could truly appreciate this kind of beauty.
  27. "Alright, no more lollygaggin'. Them trees ain't gonna feed themselves." you whisper.
  28. >Walking past Granny Smith's gently swaying rocking chair, you make your way down your front porch and onto the dirt road towards the apple fields.
  29. >This trail is so oft traveled, your hooves barely kick up any dust as you walk alone.
  30. >You can't help but feel a pang of loneliness as you stop in front of an old, makeshift shed.
  31. >Flinging the door open, you grab the rusty iron cup inside and begin to fill your satchel with the fertilizer you kept in a pile inside.
  32. >When you were a filly you always dreamed of one day meeting a rich, fancy stallion who would treat you like you were the most precious thing in the world, treating you to hooficures and taking you fancy restaurants with foods you couldn't pronounce the names of.
  33. >After that whole debacle with your Aunt and Uncle Orange however, you realized something that, in hindsight, seemed so obvious.
  34. >Rich, fancy stallions are stuck-up, snobbish jerks and hooficures are for pansies.
  35. >Most of the time.
  36. >So you threw out that fantasy and began longing for a stallion who would always be there for you and the farm.
  37. >Somepony who was strong, healthy, not afraid to take on the tough tasks.
  38. "Likes apples..." you absent mindedly mumble.
  39. >You were almost twenty-five now and you hadn't even been in a steady relationship yet.
  40. >In fact, when you think about it, your last relationship lasted for a grand total of five days before he left.
  41. >Your longest relationship was probably two weeks.
  42. >Every time the stallions gave the exact same excuse, not a single deviation amongst them.
  43. >"We're just not meant for each other."
  44. >Every. Single. Time.
  45. >You believe Twilight would call those odds one-in-a million.
  46. >What was it that drove them away?
  47. >Did they think you were some kind of hick?
  48. >Did your closeness to your family drive them off?
  49. >Your occasionally unhealthy obsession with apples?
  50. >Were you... ugly?
  51. "Urrgh! Stop bein' so depressing Applejack! At this rate you'll be too sad ta' work the fields!"
  52. >Slapping yourself a few times in the face, you quickly shovel as much fertilizer into the bags as you could and chucked the cup in with it.
  53. >Slamming the door to the shed, you make your way over to the first apple tree you see.
  54. >After digging several small holes around the base of the tree with your hoof, you take the cup out of your satchel, fill it with fertilizer and sprinkle it inside each of the holes before kicking the dirt back over them.
  55. >Moving on to the next tree down the line, you begin to do the exact same thing.
  56. >Dig. Fill. Cover. Repeat.
  57. >You did this for hours as the sun rose steadily above your head.
  58. >Unfortunately, repetition makes it easy for your mind to wander.
  59. >You can't possibly be ugly, the stallions you were with, however short that time was, all commented on your beauty and Rarity had basically admitted you were attractive in the past.
  60. >At the galla you caught more than one stallion and even a few mares eyeing your flank.
  61. >Not to mention that Trenderhoof fella.
  62. >Nice colt, but a little too obsessive.
  63. "Jus' what's so special about mah friends anyway..."
  64. >You begin digging faster.
  65. >Sure, your friends haven't had any luck with guys either as of late, but that's just because life's been so hectic the last couple of years.
  66. >You knew for a fact that all of your friends had been in serious relationships before.
  67. >Twilight said she used to date Page Turner, the librarian back when she lived in Canterlot and Rarity claimed to have once dated a dancer named Tip-Toe.
  68. >Rainbow said that she used to date some pegasus a few years back and you knew Pinkie dated that stallion Time Turner, the watchmaker, about two years ago and she even had a six month fling with the local DJ Vinyl Scratch. And she was a mare!
  69. >At this point, you'd date a mare too, so long as they actually gave you the time of day.
  70. >For pete's sake, even Fluttershy managed to be in a relationship for over a year and a half with some stagehoof named Blackout before they parted ways!
  71. >There was always that new Husband program Princess Cadence had created, but they'll only match you up with a human, not a stallion. Humans didn't really look or act that bad really, but they were still aliens. You weren't desperate enough that you found other creatures attractive.
  72. >Yet...
  73. "Maybe ah' should think about findin' a nice, pretty mare ta' be with..."
  74. >Is that any better, though? A mare instead of a stallion? May as well apply for a human at that point...
  75. >No... mares are still the same species as you, even if they are of the same gender.
  76. >You cast your eyes downwards.
  77. >You had been so engrossed in your own thoughts you didn't notice the massive hole you were digging out underneath you.
  78. "Consarnit!"
  79. >You had actually dug your self knee deep in a hole without even realizing it.
  80. >How does Pinkie do things like this all the time and not be surprised?
  81. >You look up towards the moon, hoping Princess Luna would-
  82. "IT'S DAY!?"
  83. >The sun was already halfway across the sky and didn't seem to be stopping anytime soon.
  84. >Turning around, you see a cloud hanging just behind your head, keeping you in the shade.
  85. >Even though it was considerably darker in the shade, that was still no excuse for losing track of time as badly as that.
  86. >You jump out of the hole and begin quickly shoveling the dirt back inside.
  87. >It looked hastily done, and Big Mac might think the moles got into the fields again but you would never admit to doing that yourself.
  88. >So long as nobody asked.
  89. >Sometimes, you hated being the element of honesty.
  90. >"So, uhhh, you done now?
  91. >You leap off the ground in surprise and your head jerks back to the cloud behind you.
  92. >It's Rainbow Dash.
  93. >Your face turns beat red.
  94. >How long has she been there?
  95. >Did she really watch as you literally dug yourself into a rut?
  96. >...Did she hear anything?
  97. >"You know there's already a tree there right A.J.?"
  98. >There it is.
  99. >Rainbow Dash's patented smug face.
  100. >If you had to pick what you disliked about Dash the most, it would be that shit eating grin of hers.
  101. >You stomp your hoof into the ground.
  102. "H-how long have ya been hoverin' behind me?
  103. >Her grin disappears for a moment.
  104. >"Ohhh, probably the last hour or so. I was just flying around, being awesome, you know, like usual." she pauses.
  105. >Of course Dash would have nothing better to do than hover behind you for an hour.
  106. >You sigh and nod your head for her to continue.
  107. "Like usual..."
  108. >"Exactly! Like usual!" So, I happen to see you working the fields and being the great friend I am I brought you this cloud to give you some shade! But then, once I get down here I see you moping about this tree just pawing at the ground and mumbling to yourself so I just started to watch."
  109. >Your breath catches in your throat.
  110. >You never realized how interesting dirt looked until just now.
  111. "D-did y'all... hear anything?"
  112. >"Nah, not really."
  113. >You sigh internally. You did not need Dash mouthing off about your love life.
  114. "Or lack thereof..."
  115. >"What was that A.J?"
  116. "N-n-nuthin!" you shout just a little to loudly.
  117. >Your muzzle scrunches up and your eyes dart from side to side, desperate to find anything to redirect the conversation.
  118. >That dirt sure is looking mighty interesting.
  119. >Did you mention how much you hate being the element of honesty?
  120. >Rainbow Dash jumps down off her cloud and swoops down right in front of your face, her eyes sweeping all over your body, studying you.
  121. >Muzzle still scrunched, you feel sweat begin to drip from your brow.
  122. >She's gonna know your lying and knowing Dash, she won't leave you alone until you tell her the truth.
  123. >But then, by some miracle, she shrugs.
  124. >"Eh, alright then."
  125. >You let go of a very deep breath you had no idea you were holding.
  126. >Perhaps Princess Luna was watching over you after-
  127. >"Oh yeah, I did happen to hear something you said though... something about finding a pretty mare for yourself?"
  128. >Fuck Luna.
  129. >You groan and let your body give up as you flop to the ground in defeat, legs splayed everywhere.
  130. >You look back at Dash.
  131. >Yep.
  132. >Shit eating grin is there.
  133. >She's wiggling her eyebrows too.
  134. >You bury your face in your hat.
  135. >This is it. Your reputation is about to be ruined for three to six months.
  136. >First, Pinkie will throw you a coming out party, complete with a cake that probably had something stupid like "Latent Lesbian" written on it in icing.
  137. >Then, Rarity would pull you aside and privately lecture you about how these feelings towards mares were nothing to be ashamed of even though you didn't actually have a problem with them.
  138. >Twilight would lend you a book titled "Your Sexuality and You" or "You're Gay and That's Okay".
  139. >Fluttershy'll probably explain how it's completely natural since some animals are gay.
  140. >Big Mac couldn't care less, nothing ever seems to phase him anyway.
  141. >You'll be forced to answer about a bazillion of Applebloom's questions.
  142. >It's a good thing she finally got her cutie mark.
  143. >You shudder.
  144. >You did NOT want to be responsible for "Cutie Mark Crusaders Lesbians".
  145. >The only real problem was Granny Smith.
  146. >At her age, she might think you a freak and disown you.
  147. >That's what'll probably hurt the most.
  148. >You're own grandmother refusing to look you in the eyes because you couldn't attract a single stallion.
  149. >At her age, she couldn't exactly leave the house but you weren't sure you could stand having her around if she only had disdain for you.
  150. >"Uhhhh, A.J? Are-are you c-crying?"
  151. >That's it!
  152. >You could go back to Manehattan!
  153. >You vaguely remembered how to act like a snob!
  154. >Plus, you've hung around Rarity enough that you could probably fake her accent so the locals wouldn't think you were some backwoods hick.
  155. >Maybe the Oranges would be kind enough to house you again for awhile.
  156. >You'd kept in touch with them over the years, even though they were slightly disappointed that the city life wasn't for you.
  157. >At least in Manehatten your family would look you in the eyes without judgment.
  158. >"APPLEJACK!"
  159. >Two hoofs grab your cheeks and pull your face upwards.
  160. "Huh? Wha?"
  161. >It's still Rainbow Dash.
  162. >But there's no smug face, just a big frown and eyes full of concern.
  163. >"Don't you 'huh' me! Why the buck are you crying?! Liking mares is not something that you should be upset over!"
  164. >You wrench your face out of her grasp and bury it back in your Stetson.
  165. >If you buried your face in deep enough, you might be able to pull a Pinkie and disappear into your hat.
  166. >Maybe then she would leave you alone.
  167. "That's not th' prob- jus- just go away Rainbow. Ah'm not in the mood right now..."
  168. >"Applejack, I'm not leaving until you explain what's got you so upset."
  169. >You feel a hoof resting on your back.
  170. >You sigh in defeat.
  171. >Knowing Rainbow she probably meant that.
  172. >Sometimes you hate the element of loyalty.
  173. >You slide your Stetson back atop your head.
  174. >Best to just be direct so Rainbow could get a head start on ruining your life and you could get a head start on that train ticket to Manehattan.
  175. "Rainbow, will y'all be straight with me?"
  176. >"Only if you promise the same to me."
  177. >Well, it's not like you had anything left to lose at this point.
  178. >You slowly nod your head.
  179. >"Well alright then, what did you want me to be straight about?"
  180. >You take a deep, shuddering breath.
  181. "A-am ah'... ugly?"
  182. >The hoof on your back gets just a bit firmer.
  183. >"Applejack..."
  184. >There it is.
  185. >You were right.
  186. >Your friends and all those colts you talked to had lied straight to your face and you hadn't noticed.
  187. >So much for being the element of honesty.
  188. >You can feel the tears openly streaming down your face now.
  189. >Horseapples!
  190. >You were so ugly, stallions couldn't even pretend you were pretty long enough to have sex with you.
  191. >You were pretty sure you just set a lower bar for beauty standards everywhere.
  192. >"That is the easily the stupidest thing I have ever heard you say."
  193. >She said what now?
  194. >You feel yourself being pulled off the dirt and into a hug.
  195. >"Please tell me you don't actually believe that your ugly. No lying either, you're so bad at lying it actually hurts to watch you try."
  196. >You feel a smile creeping up your cheeks but you force it back into a frown.
  197. >This is no time to laugh at your friends jokes.
  198. >This is a time to be sad.
  199. "Rainbow, ah've never been in a relationship that's lasted longer than two weeks. What's that supposed ta' say about mah looks!"
  200. >You bury your face in the crook of her neck and choke back a few sobs.
  201. >"Woah, woah, woah, two weeks? That's your longest relationship?"
  202. "Y-yep." you say with a sniffle.
  203. >You feel one of Rainbow's hoofs begin to gently rub your back trying to provide comfort to you.
  204. >"Listen Applejack, to me, that just means you haven't been on nearly enough dates. How many stallio- er, mares, have you been with so far?
  205. "Ah-ah've only been with about seven stallions in th' past but since they've n-never stuck around ah was jus' thinkin that maybe a m-mare could accept me f-fer me."
  206. >You feel her hoof stop rubbing your back.
  207. >You'd be lying if you weren't a little disappointed but you'd never admit that.
  208. >So long as she never asked.
  209. >Have you mentioned how much you hate being the element of honesty?
  210. "R-rainbow, what's wron-ghk!"
  211. >You feel precious air leaving your lungs as a hug that would make Pinkie jealous was graciously bestowed upon you.
  212. >Thankfully, unlike Pinkie, Dash understood your need for air and released you rather quickly, choosing instead to hold you at arms length.
  213. >"Applejack, I can say without a doubt in my mind that you are not an ugly mare. I can also say that you've dated seven of the stupidest stallions in Equestria."
  214. >You look into Rainbow's eyes, waiting to see the that mischievous twinkle.
  215. >But none came.
  216. >No smug grin either.
  217. >Just your friend Dash being concerned.
  218. >You feel the urge to smile returning to your face and this time, you can't stop it.
  219. "Aw shucks Rainbow, I'm tryin' ta' be upset, why'd ya' have ta' go an' make me smile?"
  220. >Rainbow's grin returns but not the smug one, just a regular one.
  221. >"Because if I didn't, Pinkie would probably kill me or something like that."
  222. >You let out a small chuckle as you wipe the tears from your eyes with a hoof.
  223. "Thanks fer bein' here Rainbow. You always did know how ta' cheer this gal up."
  224. >"Heh, don't sweat it A.J! What else are friends for am I right?"
  225. >"IT'S CHOW TIME Y'ALL!"
  226. >Your head swivels in the direction of your house.
  227. >Granny Smith must have prepared lunch already.
  228. >*gurgle*
  229. >For probably the third time today, your face turns beet red in front of Dash
  230. "Hehe... sorry Rainbow, guess I'm a mite hungry."
  231. >"Hey we all gotta eat sometime right? I'll leave ya be so you can eat in peace for now."
  232. "Well thanks sugarcube... and Dash?"
  233. >"Yeah, yeah, I know, my lips are sealed."
  234. >She runs a hoof across her lips to emphasize her point.
  235. "Thanks... it's not that ah'm upset about possibly datin' a mare, I jus' don't want the others ta' freak about it."
  236. >"Yeah, I guess I can see that. Rarity can be a drama queen at times. Heck, Pinkie would probably bake you a cake with something stupid like 'Country Queer' written on it."
  237. >You blink.
  238. >That was eerily close to your own Pinkie prediction.
  239. >"Well, I gotta jet, I promised Flutters that I would help her feed her beavers."
  240. >She flaps her wing and begins hovering off the ground just above your head.
  241. >"Hey A.J?"
  242. >She's nervously scratching behind her ear with a hoof.
  243. "What's up Dash?"
  244. >"Well, I was thinking, Princess Cadence does owe me a favor... and I hear that a new restaurant has just recently opened up in Canterlot, and Cadence seems to really, really like their chef."
  245. >You weren't entirely sure you liked where this was going.
  246. "What're'ya tryin' ta' say Dash?"
  247. >"Well, it's just that, what with her being the princess of love and all, I'm sure that if anypony could help you find that special somepony it would be her..."
  248. >This was troubling.
  249. >When Dash starts talking sense somepony has usually made a grievous error in judgement.
  250. "So, y'all wanna set me up on a date? At some fancy restaurant in Canterlot?"
  251. >It wasn't the worst idea you've heard but you couldn't imagine yourself with one of those prissy Canterlot stallions.
  252. >They wouldn't be able to even breath the air around your farm without being offended by the dirt.
  253. >"I-it's not like that! Cadence wouldn't just set you up with some random Canterlot colt, she'd find somepony who she knows would click with you! I figure you're not interested in those humans she's bringing over either, since you obviously haven't submitted one of those applications."
  254. >You absentmindedly nod at rainbow, confirming her suspicions. Sometimes, she could be surprisingly thoughtful, almost as if she could read your mind.
  255. >Thats impossible though, only Pinkie seemed to be able to do that.
  256. >Perhaps Pinkie was somehow talking her through, or giving her advice?
  257. >Was this just Pinkie in a Rainbow suit?
  258. >...
  259. >How did your life come to the point that asking if your friend was actually just another one of your friends wearing a suit made to look like another one of your friends become a viable question?
  260. >"Helloooo! A.J.? You in there?"
  261. >The knocking of a hoof on your forehead brings you back to reality.
  262. >Rainbow looks a little frustrated.
  263. >"Did you even hear anything I just said?"
  264. "Uhhhh, yeah, 'course I did!"
  265. >Your muzzle scrunches up again and your eyes dart from side to side.
  266. >Oh no.
  267. >There it is.
  268. >The shit eating grin is back.
  269. >"Well alright, then it's settled. I'll have Cadence mail you the time and date for your... well, date."
  270. "Yepsoundsgoodcan'twait!"
  271. >"Well that good to hear! I'm sure Cadence will be so excited to hear the news."
  272. >The smugness was practically dripping off of her face by now.
  273. >"See you later A.J!"
  274. >Her piece said, she pivots in the sky and bolts off towards Fluttershys' cottage, blowing the hat off your head in the process.
  275. >You walk over to your hat, which was blown about ten hooves away and quickly brush the dust off of it with your tail before placing it back on your head.
  276. "Ah hate being the element of honesty..."
  277. >Your muzzle scrunches up again.
  278. "Consarnit!"
  281. >With Rainbow gone, you make a beeline for your homestead.
  282. >Granny tended to get a little grumpy when ponies were late for chow.
  283. >As you gallop through the uniform rows of apple trees, leaping over the occasional abandoned apple bucket, you ponder just what going to a fancy restaurant with a stallion would be like...
  284. >Would it be in a private corner of the restaurant, reserved for you and your date alone?
  285. >Would the table be candlelit?
  286. >Did you get a private band, or perhaps a violinist to set the mood?
  287. >Maybe this was- no.
  288. >This WAS it.
  289. >After all this time you could finally find that special somepony you always dreamed about!
  290. >If a romantic, candlelight dinner with music at a fancy restaurant in Canterlot couldn't get you a spe-
  291. >Wait...
  292. >Your eye's shrink to pinpricks and your legs lock up.
  293. >A plume of dust and gravel clouds your vision as your hooves dig into the dirt, canceling your momentum.
  294. >Eating at a resturant, a fancy one no less, could take up to an hour and a train ride to Canterlot was like three hours!
  295. >What the buck was wrong with you?!
  296. >Applebuck season was right around the corner!
  297. >You didn't have time to go on dates, there were obligations to your family you had to fulfill!
  298. >Those apples weren't going to buck themselves after all!
  299. >Agreeing to let Dash set you up on a date was a terrible idea!
  300. >Or would Princess Cadence be setting you up?
  301. "Oh horseapples..."
  302. >You snap out of your reverie and once again start dashing to your house
  303. >Dash was going to tell Cadence about this.
  304. >Sure, she promised not to tell your friends, but that didn't mean Cadence wouldn't!
  305. >In fact, you were certain that Cadence would be writing to Twilight about this within the hour.
  306. >And since Twilight is worse at keeping secrets than you were, your friends would know too!
  307. >As soon as Rarity finds out, your life would be over!
  308. >She'd blab about it in her boutique with Fluttershy for hours on end, and you knew Sweetiebelle had an unfortunate talent for eavesdropping.
  309. >Once Sweetie knew, she'd tell Applebloom, and Appelbloom'll tell your whole family!
  310. >Looks like you were going to need that train ticket to Manehattan after all...
  311. >You kept your life savings in a jar under your bed.
  312. >It wasn't much since your entire household pretty much just shared all the money you made, but it could probably last you a month in the city.
  313. >All you needed to do is write a letter to the Oranges before you left home, don't want to just drop in uninvited after all.
  314. >Then, you'll-
  315. >THUD
  316. >You run headlong into something solid and fall back on your flank.
  317. >Thinking hurts.
  318. >"Uhh, sis? You okay?"
  319. >That was Applebloom's voice!
  320. >Tugging the hat off your eyes, you look towards the source of the voice.
  321. >You were sitting on the dirt outside your house just below the porch.
  322. >Applebloom, Big Mac and Granny Smith were all sitting around the picnic bench on the porch itself, and were all looking at you with either concern or confusion.
  323. >"Well missy? You just gonna sit on your flank all day or ya'll gonna get up here and fer some chow?"
  324. >Your Grannies words snap you out of your daze as you hastily clambered back onto your hooves.
  325. "S-sorry bout that y'all. Guess ah was jus' a little lost in mah own thoughts..."
  326. >Big Mac raises his eyebrows as you ascend the stairs but doesn't say anything.
  327. >Walking up to the picnic table, you sit yourself opposite the rest of your family.
  328. >"Well yer' in luck little missy! I've got just watchya need to get yerself focused again!"
  329. >Dipping a ladle into an old cast iron pot, Granny Smith pours a cloudy, red liquid full of chunks into a wooden bowl and slides it across the table to you as Applebloom grabs a piece of bread off a nearby plate and throws it into the bowl as it slides past her.
  330. >As the bowl grinds to a halt in front of you, you marvel at the sight.
  331. >You were always amazed that food could look so terrible.
  332. >The bread was so stale it was seemingly refusing to absorb the pale reddish liquid that was attempting to pass itself off as soup.
  333. >Chunks of what you hoped were potatoes and green beans were floating in the sludge.
  334. >Outwardly, you show no emotion as you lower your face to the bowl and begin chewing but inwardly, you gag a bit as you force yourself to eat the food.
  335. >It's only flavor was salt.
  336. >In fact, you would liken this taste to saltwater with tomato flavoring.
  337. >Your family had been eating nothing but terrible "soups" with stale bread for the past three weeks now.
  338. >For breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
  339. >You were pretty sure that today's soup was vegetable soup.
  340. >The "soup" bubbles a bit as some steam that looked eerily like a skull floated away.
  341. >Pretty sure.
  342. >Usually, you or Applebloom would do the cooking in the house, even Mac sometimes fired up the oven himself, but all able hooves were needed on the farm and that meant Granny had free range in the kitchen and unfortunately, Granny's cooking skills had aged like an apple rather than fine wine.
  343. >She could brew some of the best cider this side of Equestria and her pie was to die for, but she could barely cook an edible meal to save the farm.
  344. >She thought her food was delicious, but that's because everything tasted bland to her unless it was either drowned in butter or smothered with enough salt and vinegar to pickle an ocean.
  345. >Looking around the table, you could see the rest of your family solemnly chewing, their eyes showing no small amount of contempt for the meal.
  346. >Except Granny, she clearly thought this was the best soup of the week.
  347. >The only reason your family was torturing themselves like this was to conserve money as you were likely going to come up a short in terms of bits from the harvest this year and Mayor Mare had raised the property taxes yet again.
  348. >Yet, no matter how much you wanted to you couldn't exactly blame her either.
  349. >It seemed like every week some building managed to get damaged or destroyed by something and construction crews weren't cheap.
  350. >Plus, even though you hate to think about it, Granny was getting extremely old.
  351. >You would need as many bits as you could have in case of an emergency.
  352. >You momentarily stop eating to raise your head from the bowl and shake it rapidly from side to side.
  353. >You didn't want to think about that.
  354. >It was important to see her as she is now, not how she might become.
  355. >Hoping to distract yourself, you plunge your face back into the bowl and set your thoughts to things that really mattered.
  356. >Apples.
  357. >You probably could have fertilized thirty or fifty extra trees in the time you spent digging that trench and talking to Dash.
  358. >The more trees you fertilized, the more apples you got.
  359. >Hey, maybe your date would like one of your famous apple crumbles!
  360. >Or maybe a pie, or a-
  361. >Urgh...
  362. >Why did you agree to let her tell Cadence about your relationship troubles?
  363. >Even if she didn't tell Twilight, you weren't the kind of pony who liked fancy restaurants!
  364. >Most of the time...
  365. >Well, actually, now that you think about it, you probably liked the idea of a fancy restaurant more than the restaurant itself.
  366. >The idea that somepony loved you so much, they would take you to a place that would charge you for a glass of water.
  367. >You didn't need to pay for a glass of water! They probably had a perfectly good watering hose outside!
  368. >Choking the final salty remnants of the "soup" down, you pull your head out of the bowl and stare into the few remaining drops of salty liquid.
  369. >Wait...
  370. >The fancy restaurants in Canterlot charged you for a glass of water.
  371. >You remember Rarity taking you and your friends to one of those places before Pinkie got you all thrown out after starting a food fight with the head chef because they didn't serve chocolate milk.
  372. >From that day forth, Rarity made sure to double check with all restaurants ahead of time to see if they served chocolate milk.
  373. >You shake your head again.
  374. >Stay focused Applejack... You need think about the important questions here.
  375. >How the hay were you going to be able to afford a fancy restaurant in Canterlot?!
  376. >You didn't need to be Rarity to know it wouldn't be right to ask your date to pay, that'd just be rude!
  377. >Maybe you could write a letter to Cadence and call the whole thing off...
  379. "Huh?"
  380. >You blink your eyes a few times and look up.
  381. >Applebloom was standing on the table with her face pushed up against your own, muzzle to muzzle.
  382. >"Ah asked ya', where. Did. You. Go. This. Mornin'!"
  383. >You flinch back on on the bench as Applebloom screams in your face.
  384. >You really needed to stop getting lost in thought.
  385. >Apparently it was bad for your hearing.
  386. >Big Mac leans in to your field of view from behind Applebloom.
  387. >"You feeling okay Applejack?"
  388. >You gently place a hoof on Applebloom's chest and push her back to the other side of the bench.
  389. "Sorry y'all, guess I'm jus' a bit too tired today."
  390. >Big Mac narrows his eyes at you but doesn't press the matter.
  391. >It takes all the willpower you have but you keep your muzzle from scrunching up and you somehow manage to hold eye contact.
  392. >After all, you were kinda tired, so it wasn't a complete lie...
  393. >His stare lets up and he goes back to, sadly, chewing the remainder of his food.
  394. >You turn back to Applebloom, once again on the bench instead of atop the table.
  395. "See Applebloom, ah woke up early and decided ta' get a head start on the day by goin' out in the fields and feedin' them trees. You know we gotta stay ahead this year sis."
  396. >She squint her eyes at you in an adorable attempt to look scrutinizing.
  397. >It makes a smile come to your freckled face but it turns hers into a frown.
  398. >Sorry sis, but you'll have to get a little older before you can pull the "I don't believe you" stare off.
  399. >Seeing that you were unintimidated by by her glare, she resigns herself to her sipping from her bowl.
  400. >Granny grins, clearly happy you took the initiative to work a little more.
  401. >"Well that's might kind ah ya Applejack! Here's some more chow fer ya!"
  402. >Granny fills another bowl with soup and slides it across the table to you.
  403. >You sigh and brace your tastebuds for the upcoming culling.
  404. >"Dont forget your bread now sis!"
  405. >Utilizing the patented Rainbow Dash smug face, Applebloom grabs another slice of bread and throws it directly into the bowl, causing the soup to splash all over your face.
  406. >The salt burns your eyes a bit and the stench works its way into your coat and mane.
  407. "Thanks sis..."
  408. >"May we have your attention please! We have in our possession a summons request direct from the Princess!"
  409. >You can see your family's eyes widen as they lean to look around your body.
  410. >You yourself however, were frozen in place, unable to bring yourself to turn around.
  411. >That gruff, commanding tone could only belong to a member of the royal guard.
  412. >Mac, less than pleased at your lack of muscle control, whispers at you.
  413. >Loudly.
  414. >"Applejack, turn around! They're probably here for you!"
  415. >With the speed of a tortoise, you rotate your head around while denying the inevitable.
  416. >Pleasedon'tbecrystalPleasedon'tbecrystalPleasedon'tbecrystal-
  417. >"Her highness, Princess Mi Amore Cadenza formally requests the earth pony Applejack's presence in Canterlot immediately for matters of utmost importance!"
  418. >On the grass beneath your porch were a pair of crystal ponies each with bright, golden armor adorning them.
  419. >The apparent speaker had a yellow parchment paper in one hoof with a royal seal stamped on it.
  420. >About one yard behind them was an enclosed carriage with the door being held open by a very cheerful and un-armored crystal pony who was sitting inside.
  421. >The carriage itself was the shape of an oval and was colored predominantly blue and white. Golden vines crawled up from under the carriage to run along the sides and twisted together at the top of it to form an arrow.
  422. >Two windows were positioned on either side of the carriage door and from what you could see, the seats were made of some kind of velvety fabric.
  423. >At the front of it, a team of four pegasi guards were attached to the carriage itself, ready to take off at a moment's notice.
  424. >How?
  425. >Why?
  426. >What did you ever do to deserve this much embarrassment in one day?
  427. >The speaking guard points at you with a hoof.
  428. >"You are Applejack correct? Would you please enter the carriage so that we may depart for Canterlot immediately?"
  429. "N-now hold on a sec there partner! Ah'm a mite busy with family affairs at the moment, ah' can't jus' up an leave on a moment's notice!"
  430. >Especially for something this trivial, considering you've got at least another hundred or so trees to fertilize.
  431. >Did Cadence even tell her guards what they were retrieving you for?
  432. >"Applejack how dare you!"
  433. >Granny's harsh words make you flinch.
  434. >"These here guards fly all th' way from Canterlot ta' fetch you and here ya' are, refusin ta' go? I know y'all like mah soup, but this is unacceptable!"
  435. >Shakily, yet with a surprising amount of speed, Granny gets out of her seat and starts pushing you down the stairs and towards the carriage.
  436. >"An ta' think ah helped raise you, where's yer sense of duty to Equestria!? If'n th' princesses are a' calling fer you, you answer th' call!"
  437. >Your hooves grind along the grass as you try to stop Granny from pushing you any further but you didn't want to try to hard, lest you hurt Granny.
  438. "L-listen Granny, ah know what this is all about, an' it's most certainly not an emergency! The princess is jus' tryin ta-"
  439. >"Ah don't care! If'n th' guards are here ta' fetch ya', it's important to th' princess. Now you get in that carriage an' don't come back till y'all get th' job done ya' hear?"
  440. >With a final push, Granny sends you stumbling into the carriage as the pony inside shuts the door before addressing her through the window.
  441. >"Thank you for your assistance Ma'am. The Princess understands that you have work to be done so those two guards have been ordered to assist you with anything you need while Applejack is away. Please don't hesitate to ask them for anything."
  442. >You helplessly watch through the window as Granny waves goodbye from outside the carriage, clearly pleased with herself.
  443. >Back on the porch, Big Mac was staring slack jawed at the scene that just unfolded before him and Applebloom was too busy pouring her soup into his bowl to do anything else.
  444. >The pony across from you bangs her hoof against the carriage wall a few times.
  445. >"Alright team, let's get going, we've got a date to keep!"
  446. "N-now hold up fella! Y'all can't jus- WOAH!"
  447. >"Don't worry, I gotcha!"
  448. >Your words were cut short as the pegasi took off at a speed that would make Rainbow Dash jealous.
  449. >Unprepared as you were, you found your face about to discover just how soft the seating really was, until the crystal pony with you caught you with her magic.
  450. >"We can't have one of tonight's lucky ladies getting hurt now, can we?"
  451. >Using her magic, she sets you down properly on the seat across from her and adjusts your hat for you.
  452. "Well, uhh, thanks ah' guess?"
  453. >You cast your head down and fiddle with your hooves.
  454. >You weren't quite sure what to say.
  455. >You wanted to stay to get work done but those two guards were gonna do that for you now.
  456. >Still, a little warning for all of this would've been nice...
  457. >"Tea, dear?"
  458. >A teacup levitates in front of your face.
  459. >Well, it might get rid of the salty flavor in your mouth...
  460. "Y-yeah sure, thanks."
  461. >"No need to be so nervous dear, I'm not a princess or anything! Oh! One or two sugars?"
  462. "Three. An' could ah' get a bit more tea?"
  463. >"Hmph! You're definitely from the south with a pallet like that. You know, I never was a fan of southern sweet tea myself, always thought that stuff had way to much sugar in it."
  464. >The tea cup floated away and a much larger wine glass levitated in front of you.
  465. >"Sorry dear, it's the only other cup this carriage has..."
  466. "That's okay, ah' don't mind."
  467. >Three cubes of sugary goodness drop into the glass with a clink as a teapot appears with a flash of magic and pours the steaming beverage atop them.
  468. >As the teapot disappears, a black straw pops into existence and floats its way down into your cup, stirring it gently for you.
  469. Grabbing the cup with you're hooves, you bring the straw to your lips and let the sugary drink wash away the ever present taste of salt from your tongue.
  470. >Sometimes you wished you could be a unicorn, magic seemed like such a blessing at times.
  471. >Then again, magic could make you lazy and the last thing you needed to be was fat, your flanks were big enough as they were, thank you very much.
  472. >"So how is it?"
  473. "It's good, thanks fer askin'."
  474. >"Make sure you don't burn your frogs on that cup dearie, a friend of mine that once when I was a filly and boy did he regret it!"
  475. "Heh, y'all don't have ta' remind me, ah've burned mah frogs before too. Two of em' at once actually..."
  476. >"Ouch, were you even allowed to walk?
  477. "Ah could, but it sure did hurt when ah' did what with all the swelling. You're just lucky you got magic to help ya' out."
  478. >"I suppose I am, but when you're born with something, you tend to take it for granted."
  479. >She looks thoughtful as she levitates her teacup up to her lips.
  480. >Wait a second.
  481. >You snap your head away from your drink and towards towards your new travel companion.
  482. >Crystal ponies couldn't use magic, none of them were unicorns and she was no exception!
  483. "Hey! How'd you use magic? Ah' thought crystal ponies couldn't do that kinda stuff!"
  484. >CRASH
  485. >Your companion fixes you with a thousand yard stare as the teacup in her magical grasp shatters on the floor beneath her.
  486. >Not a second later, a notepad appears in a flash of light with a quill pen and inkwell, which she began immediately writing with.
  487. >With magic.
  488. >"Note to self, don't use magic when disguised as somepony who can't use magic..."
  489. "Diguised? What in tarnation is go in on here? Who are you?!"
  490. >"Easy now dear, it just me!"
  491. "Me who?"
  492. >Her body began to glow with a bright pink light that forced you to shield your eyes.
  493. >"You can look now Applejack, no need to fret. I guess I'm just not as good as Changelings when it comes to impersonation."
  494. >Oh no.
  495. >Her voice was different now.
  496. >That voice unmistakably belonged to-
  497. >"It's me! Cadence!"
  498. >Her.
  500. >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
  502. >You spent the rest of the carriage ride in a daze, not entirely focused on any one thing, only mumbling out a few responses whenever Cadence talked.
  503. >This was a nightmare!
  504. >You had expected something speedy, since Dash was involved, but it had only been an hour at most since you had spoken to her in the orchard!
  505. >No time to plan, no time to prepare.
  506. >Every excuse you made to try to get out of this was shot down rather quickly by Cadence. You were stuck here now, and there was nothing you could do.
  507. >The carriage finally touches down at the Canterlot Castle about half an hour later, and Cadence practically skipped out those doors into the castle.
  508. >You yourself were a bit too slow it seemed, as you soon found yourself levitating alongside the bubbly Princess as she pranced towards her dressing room.
  509. >You knew this was gonna be just as awful as when Rarity forces you to do the same thing back in Ponyville.
  510. >Except this time, you may be forced to care a little.
  511. >May as well put some effort into the date, since you were here already.
  513. “No.”
  514. >“Awww c’mon Applejaaaaack!”
  515. “Ah said no.”
  516. >“But it suits you so well!”
  517. “Ah ain’t wearin this outside.”
  518. >“I’ll have you know that eight years ago I wore this on my one-year anniversary date with Shiny. Look where we are now!”
  519. “If’n that’s true, it's a miracle y’all made it to the second anniversary.”
  520. >All around you, hoof maidens and passing castle staff freeze, coming to a complete halt and staring at you slack-jawed. Cadence, for her part, just laughs.
  521. >“See Applejack, this is why I like you. You’ve become so desensitized to being around princesses, you sometimes forget who they are!”
  522. >You cringe at your slip up. Cadence probably didn’t care, but being rude was not how mamma raised you.
  523. “Er… sorry, your highness.”
  524. >You complete your apology with a deep bow, flinching as the “dress” she had you wear exposes your parts to the air more than usual.
  525. >“Oh please don’t Applejack, I quite miss being treated like a regular pony. You’d be surprised how much I miss arguing with others. Now my word is literally law, so I can’t quite do that anymore.”
  526. >Miss arguing? How could anypony miss arguing?
  527. “Dontch’ya have Shining and th’ other princesses fer that?”
  529. >She rolls her eyes while magically levitating several more dresses around her head, attempting to find one suitable for you. The current “dress” you were wearing, consisted of jet black horseshoes, jet black socks, and black straps wrapping all around your barrel in a “X” pattern. It wrapped around your flank as well and you had to admit, it accentuated your remaining curves quite nicely.
  530. >You’d lost a bit of weight after Granny had started cooking.
  531. >Your main issue with the dress was how risqué it was. The straps wrapped around and between your flanks, making your nethers really pop. Good for the bedroom, not so much for a fancy restaurant.
  532. “Where was yer anniversary date Cadence? If’n you don’t mind me askin a’course.”
  533. >Her eyes twinkle as she remembers the far off but obviously cherished date, a small smile gracing her lips as she stares into space, reliving the memories.
  534. >“Shining Armor had offered to take me to Magna Musicis, a famous orchestra that had stopped by in town for a few days. He bought tickets, formal wear, and even trimmed the beard he used to have just for that night!”
  535. >Shining armor with a beard… nah.
  536. >“I spent days getting ready myself, bought a fancy dress, had some special bedroom attire for later…”
  537. >She gestures with a hoof to the ensemble you’re currently wearing, at the same time plucking a much more modest golden dress off a floating rack. A thought flashes through your mind as your eyes glaze over the “dress”.
  538. “This uhhh… isn’t the same dress you wore that night, right?”
  539. >“Oh Applejack, you should feel honored!”
  540. >Oh Celestia why...
  541. >Your legs spread just a bit farther apart, not wanting your bits to touch those straps any longer.
  542. >“AHAHAHAHA!”
  544. >Once again, hoof maidens and castle staff freeze in place as they watch Cadence collapse to the floor in laughter, her hoof clacking against the pristine tile floor as she bangs it on the ground.
  545. >Looking behind you, the large double door that lead back out to the castle proper had been wedged open, a very confused looking Luna peering inside. She takes one look at you, then Cadence before slowly receding from the doorway, closing said door ever so softly.
  546. >“I-i’m j-just messing with you A-applejack! Ahahah! Y-you should see the look on your face!”
  547. >A hoof mirror levitates in front of you, outlining your princess-killing glare. Your eyelashes had been curled and darkened, making them pop a bit more, and a bit of orange eye-shadow had been applied. Thankfully, you got out of the ruby red lipstick.
  548. “Can’t ah at least get mah hat back?”
  549. >Her mouth hangs open and she stares at you like you sprouted three heads.
  550. >“Absolutely not! This restaurant is top of the line, the owners will only allow their chefs to cook for the highest class of ponies.”
  551. “Ah don’t think ah’ll like this place very much.”
  552. >As you say this, your body is lifted off the ground by magic for what felt like the hundredth time in the past two hours. The straps slide off from around you, taking the socks and horseshoes with it.
  553. >As quickly as the outfit slides off, the golden one replaces it. You land with a thump and a full sized mirror encased by decorative pink crystal slams down in front of you.
  555. >This dress was considerably nicer than the previous one, the golden fabric just slightly brighter than your mane. It clung to your body via a frilly yellow choker that looped around your neck, the rest trailing behind you like a cape. A second and equally golden strap came from the back and went underneath your hind hooves, clinging to your stomach and preventing the rest from flopping around. The backside had a layer of soft yellow fabric that just barely covered your cutie marks, with another, transparent piece of fabric draping over that and all the way down to your hooves, stopping just above the ground.
  556. >You twirl around in the mirror, admiring the color and softness of the dress. Usually, you prefer a bit of country accents or at least some green on your dresses, but you had to admit that this looked good on you.
  557. >Your small smile turns to a slight frow at the sight of your ponytailed mane. You didn’t have to be Rarity to know that your red scrunchie had to go.
  558. >Digging your hoof in the larger part of the tail, you drag a hoof down the length, pushing the scrunchie off as you do so. Your mane explodes in a mass of golden locks, most of it gracefully landing in your eyes and slightly parted mouth.
  559. >You separate the offending strands from your face as the princess silently admires your outfit from behind, giving a small nod off approval.
  560. >“I must say Applejack, this dress does seem to suit you…”
  561. “Mmhmm.”
  562. >The grin on your face returns as you spin and twirl in the mirror, admiring the dress as the transparent backside flows in the breeze you created. The small sparkles sewn into the fabric glimmer in the dimming sunlight that shone through the oval dressing rooms many mirrors.
  563. >“I think we have a winner?”
  565. >You smile and give a small nod to Cadence without turning to her, as you find yourself unable to tear your eyes away from the mirror, entranced by the beauty before you. If the mare in the mirror couldn’t snag a stallion, you’d quit trying to find one because at that point, nothing would be able to help you.
  566. >“Well I’m certainly glad we can finally get to the good part. I’ll be in the main dining hall with Shining if you need me. Are you ready Applejack? You’d better hold on to your lunch!”
  567. “Wait, wha-”
  568. POOF
  569. >Your head spins as your senses are overloaded by bright lights and a cacophony of noises. Horns, whinnies, whistles, screams, you heard them all, and all at once. The world stretched out before your very eyes and snapped back to normal, a variety of colors and flashing lights overloading your senses. The delicious aroma of Granny’s apple pie wafts into your nose, only to quickly be replaced by a sickeningly sweet odor, and then the acrid stench of death. You could taste the very air around you as it seemingly ceased to exist and at the same time join with every fiber of your very being.
  570. >Then it all snaps back to normal. So did your neck however.
  571. >You raise your aching head off of… a table? Still dazed, your eyes look up to an overturned chair across from you and eight pairs of hooves sticking up in the air, the ponies they were attached to apparently hidden away from view.
  572. >Wait…
  573. >Squinting, you realise that there were not several stallions behind the table, just one. A very disoriented stallion.
  574. >“Buh!”
  575. >Eloquent too apparently.
  577. >The stallion hoists himself back upright, adjusting his glasses as he does so. He was a simple one. Brown coat, brown mane and glasses. Kinda looked like Time Turner actually. His face was different though.
  578. >Longer features, more defined chin, a much more luscious mane. Rather handsome actually.
  579. >Realising the situation you were in, you can only assume that Cadence had teleported you to the restaurant. You hoped.
  580. >Glancing underneath your chair, you are relieved to not find any evidence Cadence had teleported you atop another pony.
  581. >While you hated being teleported, you had to admit the accuracy unicorns had was slightly concerning, if convenient, to you at least.
  582. >After all, how could they POSSIBLY know where they were teleporting to without looking where they were going? You couldn’t walk in a straight line with your eyes closed, how could unicorns teleport without similar issues?
  583. >You look back to your date again. At least, you hoped he was your date. He still seemed a bit disoriented though. You were too, however.
  584. >Unlike Time Turner, this fellow was a pegasus with his plumage ruffled, but still tucked to his sides. He wore a black vest over a simple white collared shirt, a golden chain connecting to something in his pocket. His cutie mark appeared to be a stamp atop a parchment; maybe he was a lawyer?
  585. >Your vision trails down to the table with the slight outline of your face in the wrinkles of the silken tablecloth, and the crystal dining tools laid upon that. The plates were ornately crafted, hoof carved designs etched into the seemingly crystalline surface, a similarly designed bowl atop that.
  586. >Two equally ornate crystalline glasses rested besides that, one already filled with water, it’s base moist from condensation and definitely not because smashing your head against the table spilled some.
  587. >The room you were now in was romantically lit, it’s walls a deep burgundy color, very similar to the carpet. A crystal chandelier brightened up the room from above, and while you could see no windows, you felt a slight breeze. The faint sounds of others dining graced your ears, and you could only assume they came from behind the unusually large wooden door in the room with you. In fact, it was the only door in the room with you.
  588. >“Are uhh… are you miss Applejack?”
  589. >Turning back once more to who you hoped was your date, you find he has finally snapped himself out of his daze.
  590. “Uhhh… yes. Ah’m Applejack. Are you uhhh… mah date?”
  591. >“I think so? I got teleported here myself two hours ago.”
  592. >You sigh as his words sink in. Two hours of waiting for you.
  593. “Lemme guess, Cadence?”
  594. >“Well… yes. I see you got the magical swirly as well.”
  595. >A small smile comes to your face as he gestures to your now messed up hair. It wasn't in any particular style before, but now you can just feel it sticking up everywhere. You pat it down with a hoof as the stallion across from you adjusts his dining utensils, taking a sip from his water.
  596. >“I’ll be straight with you, I was just about ready to leave the place before you showed up. You may have to work a bit to make this date worth it.”
  597. >Normally, you’d have called him a jerk but the teasing smile upon his lips let his true intentions slip.
  598. >Putting on your best bedroom eyes, you lean forward on the table and made sure to bat those extended eyelashes at him, just like Rarity always does.
  599. “Well mister, ah’m sure ah country girl like me could make it up ta ya somehow…”
  600. >You reach a hoof across and gently poke his chest with a hoof, trailing it up to his chin and forcing his gaze to meet your own. Leaning in further, you ensure your husky breath glides across his twitching ear.
  601. “How’s about we start with an appetizer, hmm?”
  602. >“T-that’s pretty good…”
  603. >You pull back and admire your handiwork. His eyes had shrunken just a bit, but he managed to hold on to most of his previous smile.
  604. >Smirking, you boop his snout and lean back into your own chair, bringing the glass of water up to your lips. Maybe this date wouldn’t turn out so terribly after all.
  605. >“My name's Sugar by the way. Brown Sugar.”
  606. >He holds out his hoof to you from across the table, and you bump it in acknowledgement. He smiles back at you, his eyes tracing around your figure.
  607. >“I’ll say… Appleoosa?”
  608. >What? Oh! He’s trying to guess where you came from.
  609. “Sorry sugarcube, a bit closer than that. A lot of mah family’s from there though.”
  610. >Studying his own figure, you try to determine his place of birth. He had a bit of muscle so he probably wasn't some wealthy socialite, but he wasn't farm pony strong either. His accent didn't scream "rural" either, he was definitely city folk.
  611. “Ah’ll say… Lower Canterlot?”
  612. >“Ya got me.”
  613. >He raises his hooves in defeat as you pump one of yours in victory. Lower Canterlot was where all the middle class hung around, mostly merchants and the like. It was kinda like a busier Ponyville with more shops, less houses.
  614. >“How about Ponyville?”
  615. >You roll your eyes but nod, apparently cuing his grin to come back.
  616. >“See? First guess!”
  617. “Uh-huh. You keep tellin yourself that.”
  618. >Continuing to sip your drink, you find yourself constantly looking back at the stallion opposite of you. He seemed nice enough, but these were just early first impressions. Thankfully, you’d have the whole night to talk to him. Before you have a chance to truly strike up a conversation though, you are interrupted.
  619. >“Ah! I see you are ready. I will fetch you the chef.”
  620. >A male voice with a slight prench accent causes your head to swivel over to the large doorway separating the private dining area from what you could only assume was the rest of the restaurant. He peered in for only a moment before leaving, so you turned to your date for answers.
  621. >“He’s been peeking in and out for the past two hours, waiting for you to show. Apparently, the Princess booked us a special room with the head chef all to ourselves.”
  622. >Of course she did. You were really warming up to the idea of a hayburger right about now. He’d bring out a menu with fancy, overpriced food you couldn’t tell the names of, and no matter what you ordered, the portions wouldn’t be enough to feed a foal.
  623. >Deciding to just let the night pass by, you make a mental note to ask this stallion out again. Not because you had somehow come to like him, but you doubted that you’d get to actually connect with him on such a forced meeting.
  624. >Yet, the thought of the events that led up to know reverberate around your head. You know how you ended up in this situation, but how did he?
  625. “Hey Brown, how’d you end up here tonight? Didn’t ya have ta know the princess ta get here?”
  626. >Oh, well it’s funny story actually. See I was-”
  627. >“Ze Chef has arrived!”
  628. >Jerking your head back to the overly sized wooden door, the blood in your body freezes for a moment.
  629. >One of those humans had just walked in and closed the door behind him, before turning around and… lurching... towards the two of you. He wore a traditional chef’s outfit, white button up coat and the tall poofy hat ensemble and the only part of his body unobscured by clothes seemed to be his hands and face.
  630. >His face was flatter than that of a pony's, his two smaller eyes set above his considerably shortened snout, which didn't seem to connect with his mouth. What really bugged you though, was his lurching. Something was wrong with this fella.
  631. >Every step the biped took was done almost entirely with his left leg alone. His right leg basically dragged behind him, and he was obviously trying to put as little weight on it as possible. His torso dipped drastically with each step he took, the left side of his body bending down about a head’s with each lurching step he took.
  632. >He didn’t exactly scream menacing, but something about him just seemed off to you. Like there was something hidden about him that you just couldn’t realize yet, despite your mind knowing it to be there.
  633. >Finally reaching the table, he hands you and an equally confused but not quite yet scared Brown a menu, which he seemed to magically pull out of the inside of his outfit.
  634. >Land’s sakes you do NOT need another pinkie.
  635. >“Good evening zir and madam, I apologize vor my... gait. I vill be your server and chef vor tonight. May I interest you in a bottle of our finest vintage wine?”
  636. >You couldn’t quite place the accent. It was painfully fake, likely the owners made him use it to seem fancier. He was somewhere between prench and germanic, like a hybrid of the two, but he clearly didn’t know what he was going for.
  637. >Glancing at the menu for a brief second, you realize you didn’t know what you were going for either, because you couldn't speak that language.
  638. >This is going to be a long night, isn’t it...
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