“This stinks,” Scootaloo said flatly.
“Ah’ll say,” Applebloom said miserably. “Applejack won’t even talk to me.”
“Rarity found out too. I knew we shouldn’t have printed that diary,” Sweetie Belle chimed in.
It was a sunny day and the school playground was filled with young fillies and colts as usual, but all of them were giving the tables where the trio sat a wide berth as the three sat there in sullen silence, trying to figure out what to do next.
“Do you think we should just give up?” Sweetie Belle asked. “It’s not worth it anymore.”
“We can’t give up now!” Applebloom said. “You heard Diamond Tiara in there. If we don’t come up with a column by this afternoon, she’ll turn us into the laughing stock of the town!”
“But there’s nothing to write about!” Scootaloo said, frustration evident in her voice. “No pony will talk to us! No pony wants to even come near us!”
“Well we have to think of something!” Sweetie Belle said. “It’s not like a story is going to just drop out of the sky-“
With that, something heavy came slamming down onto the center of the wooden table with enough force to send the three young fillies toppling backwards to the turf below.
“What in Equestria?!” Applebloom exclaimed as she pulled herself back up. She saw a brown parcel sitting on the still shuddering table, one end knocked open by the impact. Loose sheets of paper came flying out of it. As Applebloom peered at them curiously the sound of a pair of wings flapping became audible from above.
“Watch out down there!”
“Oh, hi Derpy,” Sweetie Belle said, still sprawled out on the grass.
“Drop something?” Scootaloo said sarcastically.
“Yeah! Do you see where it fell?” the mailmare asked obliviously.
“It’s right here!” Applebloom said helpfully, picking the parcel up in her mouth and holding it up towards the descending pegasus.
“Thanks Applebloom!” Derpy Hooves said cheerfully as she took her charge back. Stuffing it into her mailbag, the cross-eyed pegasus gave a salute and flew away. The three fillies brushed themselves off and reclaimed their seats.
“Well, that came out of nowhere,” Scootaloo said. “Hey, whatcha got there Applebloom?”
Applebloom lifted her forelegs to reveal the sheets of paper trapped underneath. She looked at them, slightly surprised.
“I just thought, maybe there’s something here we can use.”
“But isn’t that like stealing?” Sweetie Belle said.
“It’s for a good cause!” Applebloom replied defensively.
“What cause?” Sweetie Belle shot back.
“Us not being the laughingstock of the town,” Scootaloo interjected. “What’s it say?”
“Dear editor,” Applebloom read slowly. “Enclosed is the first draft of my latest novel. Hope to have revised copy ready within a month. FS.”
Applebloom flicked the note over to reveal a title page underneath. “Paragons of the Windswept Heights: Erotic Tales of Griffin Lust,” she read slowly. “By Rose Papillonne.”
“Hey, I know that name!” Sweetie Belle shouted. “My sister has all of her books!”
“And she lives here in Ponyville? Scootaloo said. “How come I’ve never heard of her?”
The three fillies looked at each other, then up at the retreating Derpy, gears turning in their young minds as they all came to the same conclusion. Pay dirt.
“You’re SURE this is the right return address?” Scootaloo said.
“It said so right on the package!” Applebloom insisted.
“But you only got a quick look at it!” Scootaloo argued.
“Ah know what I saw!” the other filly insisted.
“But why would Fluttershy be mailing out romance novels?” Sweetie Belle interjected. “That would mean that she’s…woah.”
“There’s only one way to find out,” Scootaloo said. “We’d better-get down, she’s coming!”
The door to the cottage swung open as the three young fillies dove for cover in the surrounding bush. Fluttershy came prancing out the door, looking happy. She called back before closing the door.
“I’ll be back in just a few hours Angel. If any of the other animals come by you know where the food is.”
Angel gave a quick bunny salute before slamming the door shut. With that taken care of Fluttershy skipped down the path towards down, humming a bit as she went. Once she was out of sight the trio emerged from the bushes.
“So what do we do now?” Sweetie Belle asked.
“We need hard proof before we say anything,” Scootaloo said. “This could be big news!”
“But how do we get it?” the pink-maned filly replied.
“There’s only one way,” Applebloom said. “We’re going to have to go in and find out for ourselves. “
“We can’t do that!” Scootaloo said. “The bunny will see us and kick us out!”
“You leave that to me, “Applebloom replied. “Ah’ve got a plan.”
A few minutes later Scootaloo and Sweetie Belle were exchanging nervous looks as they stood in front of the door to Fluttershy’s cottage. Shrugging, Scootaloo leaned forward and knocked on the door. A moment later it flew open, revealing an annoyed looking white rabbit, whose expression quickly deepened to a scowl as he recognized Fluttershy’s one-time houseguests.
“Oh, hey there Angel,” Scootaloo said nervously. “We were just passing by, minding our own business, when we noticed that there was a big hole in the chicken coop. And, we, uhm.”
“Thought we should tell somepony!” Sweetie Belle chimed in.
“Yeah!” Scootaloo said, nodding in agreement. “Because it seemed like the right thing to do!”
“But don’t worry,” Sweetie Belle said. “We definitely didn’t come here from the Everfree Forest.”
“So there aren’t any carna-…carno…” Scootaloo stammered.
“Carnivorous,” Sweetie Belle whispered.
“Carnivorous monsters in the area,” Scootaloo finished.
“So don’t worry. It doesn’t matter if the chickens get out,” Sweetie Belle said reassuringly.
“Not at all!” Scootaloo agreed, a nervous grin plastered on her face.
Angel’s eyes had been widening slowly throughout the exchange. He slapped a paw across his forehead, then began to scamper towards the chicken coop. Before he’d gone more than half a dozen feet he stopped, then turned back towards the door and glared at the two fillies, gesturing for them to come with him. Still grinning nervously, Scootaloo and Sweetie Belle followed.
About half a minute later Applebloom appeared from around the side of the cottage and darted in through the still open door. Her eyes swept back and forth. The various birds and mice that normally kept Fluttershy company seemed to be gone or asleep at the moment. Good. Now, where to start?
Upstairs. “Miss Cheerilee said a pegasus’ instinct is always to keep important things up as high as possible,” Applebloom thought to herself. “Besides,” she remembered, “that’s where Fluttershy’s bedroom is.”
Moving quickly up the stairs Applebloom made her way to Fluttershy’s bedroom. The door was unlocked. Inside Applebloom found a large bed stacked with plush-looking pillows and a writing desk beside the room’s closed window. A large vanity mirror hung on the wall above it.
Applebloom walked to the desk and began searching the drawers. One of them refused to open. Locked.
“Now what?” Applebloom asked herself. Then an idea struck her. Walking over to the bed, she hopped up onto it and began moving the pillows. A small key was under the center one.
“Gotcha,” Applebloom thought. Taking the key, she made her way back the desk and inserted it into the lock on the drawer. It clicked as she turned it. Pulling the drawer open, she peered inside and saw a large notebook. She pulled it out, flicked it open and began to read a random page.
“Prismatic Rain cried out in rising ecstasy as the griffon’s claws danced across her nether regions. Glinda leaned in closer, beak inches away from the bound Pegasus, her breath blowing hot and fast across the athletic mare’s face.”
“Foolish little filly!” the arrogant griffon cried. “You thought you could escape me, but now you’re as helpless as a cub.”
“What are you going to do to me?” Prismatic Rain said through gritted teeth, trying in vain to hide her arousal.
“I’m going to teach you,” Glinda purred. “I’m going to teach you how to submit. I’m going to teach you discipline and obedience, and to dread the consequences of defying me. But first,” Glinda grabbed Rain’s multi-colored tail, “I’m going to find the pot of gold at the end of your rainbow.” Drawing her claws lazily upwards Glinda stroked the silky threads, then suddenly, viciously plunged her claws into the pegasus’s-”
Applebloom jerked her head back, cheeks burning. “This is it!” she whispered. “Proof!”
The sound of the front door slamming shut below dragged Applebloom out of her reverie. Angel was back. Applebloom’s eyes darted around the room, settling on the window. Taking the notebook in her mouth, she closed and relocked the drawer, quickly replacing the key under the pillow. The room returned to more or less the way she found it Applebloom opened the window and clambered up to the sill. A long drop loomed in front of her.
“It’s no worse than some of the falls you’ve taken crusadin’,” Applebloom told herself. Screwing up her courage, she jumped.
A few minutes later a slightly bruised Applebloom rejoined her companions in front of the cottage. Their eyes widened as they saw the notebook in her mouth. She laid it down on the ground for her friends to read.
“Eww!” Scootaloo said after reading a couple paragraphs.
“Well I guess that’s our proof,” Sweetie Belle said. “Let’s go write it up! I can see the headline now. ‘Pink-Maned Local Pony Purveyor of Passionately Penned Pegasus Porn.”
“Hold on a second,” Applebloom said. “Are you sure we should be doing this? Fluttershy is really sensitive sometimes.”
“Don’t worry Applebloom,” Scootaloo said. “You saw how happy she was today. She wasn’t crying about the tail extensions thing or nothing! I’m sure she’ll get over it.”
“And ponies will eat this gossip up!” Sweetie Belle said “Rose Papillonne is a really famous writer! And she’s been living right here in Ponyville this whole time! Rarity will probably be so excited she’ll forget about everything else we’ve done. So will everypony!”
Scootaloo nodded in agreement.
“Yeah Applebloom. What could possibly go wrong?”
“Now I know many of us are hurt and confused by Fluttershy’s decision to kill herself,” Twilight said as she continued her eulogy. “And some of us are probably asking ourselves what they could have done differently to stop it from happening. Some of us are probably even blaming themselves for it.”
The three fillies were well away from the front row, but they still felt everypony’s eyes on them as the unicorn spoke. They shrank into their seats a bit more as she continued.
“But we can’t let that color our memories of Fluttershy. I for one am always going to remember Fluttershy as the sweetest, kindest mare I’ve ever met. I’m going to remember her walking up to an angry manticore and pulling the thorn out of its paw. I’m going to remember her as the mare who stared down a dragon rather than stand by and let it harm me. I’m going to remember her as-”
Twilight’s voice caught in her throat. With visible effort she regained control of herself.
“I’m going to remember her as my friend.”
With that, she turned and began to levitate the coffin behind her into the freshly dug hole nearby. A sad melody played as the band started their work, saying farewell to the kindest pony Equestria had ever known.
When it was all over ponies began to file out of the cemetery. Rarity, sobbing uncontrollably. Applejack, leaning on her to provide support while barely holding in her own tears. Rainbow Dash, looking angry and glaring daggers at the Cutie Mark Crusaders the entire time. Pinkie Pie, her mane long and straight.
Nopony spoke to them. Nopony came near them. Afterwards the three fillies wandered out of the graveyard, not sure where to go. Wherever they went they encountered hard stares, cold silence and swiftly closed doors. Finally they made their way to the schoolyard where it all began. They sat at their usual table and stared at it.
“So,” Scootaloo said.
“Yeah,” Sweetie Belle said quietly.
“What’re we going to do, girls?!” Applebloom shouted suddenly. “This is all our fault! I told you we shouldn’t have published that story!”
“Do you think we don’t know that?” Scootaloo said bitterly. “Rainbow Dash made darned sure I did, believe me.”
“Rarity can’t even look at me,” Sweetie Belle said morosely, seeming on the verge of tears herself.
As the three talked a voice cut in. “Hey girls.”
They turned to see Diamond Tiara standing behind them, looking hesitant and unsure.
“Listen,” the pink unicorn filly began, “it’s not that this is my fault. It’s not, do you hear me?”
“But as your editor I feel I have a duty to help you out of this mess.”
Diamond Tiara pulled out a small cloth bag and tossed it to Scootaloo.
“Three train tickets to Manehatten, enough money to last you for a month and the address of someone who might be able to give you work. It’s all I can do.”
Diamond Tiara looked at the three uncertainly, repressed emotions battling it out on her face.
She began to turn away, but then stopped and pointed a hoof at Sweetie Belle. “What’s that?”
Sweetie Belle’s previously blank flank was now adorned with the image of a quill dripping a noxious-looking green liquid. The three fillies looked at it, then at each other. Sweetie Belle burst into tears.
“Well…I guess you aren’t a blank flank anymore. Uhm. Good luck!”
With that, Diamond Tiara turned and started walking away. She looked back a few times, nervous shudders running through her body, before her resolve abandoned her completely and she broke into a trot.
Applebloom patted Sweetie Belle comfortingly. Scootaloo opened the bag Diamond Tiara had left behind and then looked at her friends, a question written on her face.
After turning a corner Diamond Tiara nearly ran into Silver Spoon.
Forcing a confidence she didn’t feel Diamond Tiara smiled weakly and gave a toss of her head. “Played them like a violin. Soon they’ll be out my mane and no pony the wiser.”