We sat like that for a long while, and when Trixie finally opened the shutters again it was already starting to get dark. We had a simple dinner, then retired to bed since it was a schoolnight and Trixie insisted I go to school again the following morning. And so it was that, after a quick breakfast, we both started off towards Ponyville again the next day.
Halfway to school I was stopped by Apple Bloom who came running out of the farm and only stopped as she saw Trixie walking beside me. "Er.. hi."
"Hi Apple Bloom." I offered with a smile and a slight blush. "Is something wrong?"
Apple Bloom looked nervously over my flank as she walked up beside me, and I glanced over to Trixie who seemed unsure what to do. "Apple Bloom, this is.. er.. my guardian; Trixie." I offered, smiling at Trixie as she let out a sigh of relief at not having to do the introductions herself. Trixie really wasn't that special a pony without her hat and cloak. She just blended in with the other ponies walking around. Most ponies didn't even seem to recognize her as The Great and Powerful Trixie or gave her the benefit of the doubt if they did. A lot of ponies nodded their heads or said good morning to her as we passed and Trixie seemed to get more and more agitated with every pony doing so.
"Why, hello there miss Trixie! How're y'all doing?" Apple Bloom grinned over my flank, and I looked back at her. She seemed to have something on her mind, but Trixie's silence seemed to make her nervous.
"We've been trying to make apple pie with the apples from your family's orchard, Apple Bloom." I offered, trying to get the conversation going in.. whatever direction possible, and Trixie rolled her eyes lightly. "It didn't work out as well as we planned, but they sure were tasty apples." I grinned at Apple Bloom, and she lit up proudly.
"Of course they would! We been sellin' these apples for years an' years an' years and Applejack says there ain't a better orchard in all of Equestria!" Apple Bloom grinned back.
Trixie hummed at that and I flicked an ear as I turned my attention back to my right side. "Trixie isn't sure about that.. There are some orchards near Hoofington that have lovely pears, Dodge Junction's cherry orchard.." she started, but then fell silent.
"Well.. Yeah! But they ain't no apple orchards!" Apple Bloom giggled, "Sweet Apple Acres is the best apple orchard in all of Equestria, hoofs down!"
I couldn't help myself. "And what about the orchard over at Appleloosa?" I offered, giving Apple Bloom a soft nudge with my shoulder. "They're doing ok?"
"Ah, but that's run by mah cousin Braeburn." Apple Bloom offered. "It's practically th' same orchard."
We giggled a bit at that, then fell silent as the school came into view. "So what is it you wanted to say before, Apple Bloom?" I wondered, and she frowned thoughtfully.
"Well, we wanted to see you yesterday an' all, an' waited in our clubhouse for hours but you didn't show up. Scootaloo an' Sweetie Belle an' me just wondered if everything was fine, is all." Apple Bloom offered, and I nodded my head.
"Just had to go home early because I made a mess. We spent all afternoon cleaning up." I lied, not wanting to explain what really happened.
"Oh." Apple Bloom responded, then noticed Scootaloo a little up ahead and ran up to her. "Scootaloo! Hey, wait up!"
Trixie and I watched as Apple Bloom joined up with Scootaloo, then looked at one another. "Trixie doesn't feel comfortable around all these ponies faking niceness.." Trixie muttered, glancing back in the direction of the wagon and then back at me. "Trixie won't come pick you up out of school. Go make friends. Be home before dark." she offered with what she must've thought was a stern look. To me, it looked all kinds of adorable. Insecure Trixie trying to regain her strong composure.
"Yes miss Trixie." I smiled, then nuzzled up to her side. "I'll make sure to get home before dark. Thank you."
Trixie smirked at my response, but gave a nuzzle back. "It may be a show where you're from, but this is reality for us here, Fuu. Pay attention in class. I expect good grades from my student."
"Oh, I'm your student now?" I blinked, and immediately regretted it as Trixie narrowed her eyes and snorted.
"You're either going to be Trixie's student or her pet, Fuu. Either way Trixie has to take care of you somehow.. The only way Trixie knows is by doing magic shows. And it would be better for everypony involved if you kept up the "guardian" ruse and told them you were Trixie's student, yes. Trixie's student learning to be as Great and Powerful as she is." Trixie orated, bringing her face close to mine.
"Erp.. Yeah, I'll take the student over the pet dealy.." I swallowed, backing up a little. Immediately Trixie's face cleared up and she shook her head a bit to have her mane fall back in position.
"A student of magic to Trixie, but a student to Equestria's knowledge in school. Do your best, Fuu."
I nodded. "I will, miss Trixie." and watched as she turned tail and trotted off back home. I sighed in relief and turned back for school, noticing the two crusaders had become three as Sweetie Belle had joined the others. Apple Bloom was eagerly motioning for me to join them, and I hurried on over.
"..nd then I flew through the air like Rainbow Dash, over four ponies standing in line in front of the cake's bakery and almost landed on Spike! But with a swift kick of my hind legs I turned around and skidded to a stop behind him instead!" Scootaloo detailed.
"Wow Scootaloo, you must be the best stuntrider in all of Equestria!" Sweetie Belle gasped in awe, "Way more exciting than helping Rarity with her boring chores... Stand there, Sweetie Belle.. Don't move, Sweetie Belle.. Don't touch that, Sweetie Belle.. It's like she don't trust me with nothing, you know?"
Apple Bloom nodded. "Same with Applejack. She don't trust me with nothing either. Always saying I'm too little for ev'rything. Well, I was big enough to know Zecora wasn't no threat to us!"
"And then Applejack got turned little and you were her big sis for a day.." I offered, making Apple Bloom stare at me dumbfoundedly.
"How'd you know about that? Did anypony tell you?" she asked, and I realized she might not have told anyone but the main group.
"Er.. Spike told me." I lied, "Like he told me about that song Pinkie sang about Zecora; "She's an evil enchantress, she does evil dances.."" I started, but stopped as Apple Bloom huffed. "I know she's not, but Pinkie thought she was. Right? At least Spike said so.."
Apple Bloom shrugged. "I guess.."
The school bell rang to call us into class and I waited a moment to wipe the sweat off of my brow before following behind the other crusaders. I felt like I had made a mistake commenting on something few ponies would have had knowledge of. Just because the series had shown almost everything that went on around Ponyville didn't mean everypony had been privvy to the situations. Nopony but Applejack and Rainbow Dash would know about Rainbow having had Applejack in her mouth at one time, after all. It would've been too embarrassing a fact to talk about. I sighed and entered the classroom, avoiding Apple Bloom's curious glances as much as I could during the day.
The day was largely uneventful, with miss Cheerilee teaching math and some basic physics like how gravity works and all that before recess and recounting the story of the two sisters Celestia and Luna after recess. I liked how miss Cheerilee told these tales. Her voice drew you into the stories as if you would have been there watching them unfold before your eyes.
After school I joined up with the crusaders again and finally made my way to the clubhouse. The trio were eager to show me around, although there wasn't much to see. They had a piece of paper nailed to the wall where they would check off who was present, just like miss Cheerilee did at the start of the day, a table and chair with some cups and a bowl on it for eating, and a gap in the ceiling leading up to a small attic with a ladder that could be pulled up to free up space in the main room. It wasn't much, but it was a nice atmosphere the three had created for their clubhouse.
As the "grand tour" was coming to a close, Scootaloo started to drag a lone chair to the center of the room. Once there, she motioned towards it while looking in my direction. "Why don't you sit down, Fuu?" she offered, in a tone that offered no option other than doing as suggested.
I froze and glanced between her and the other two girls. Apple Bloom just nodded in Scootaloo's direction, but Sweetie Belle was digging through a pile of seemingly random objects located along the back wall as if looking for something in particular. With a shrug I set in motion, walking up to the chair and sitting myself down on it. As I did, Apple Bloom and Scootaloo moved to the windows and closed the curtains, shrouding the room in darkness.
"Er.. what's going on, you guys?" I asked blindly, hearing them stumble around me, until I heard Sweetie Belle's voice shout out;
"I fwouph iph!"
"Can ya turn it on then?" I heard Apple Bloom say to my right, while Scootaloo was still doing something or other on my left.
"Turn what on?" I asked, but immediately regretted it as a beam of light shone from where Sweetie Belle was standing right at my face the very next moment. I squinted my eyes at it and lifted my left forehoof in front of my face. "Ow, that's bright.."
"Fowwy." Sweetie Belle offered, the beam of light darting everywhere as she did. She returned the beam to my face and I looked off to the side to find Scootaloo taking up position to my left, wearing a Fedora hat. When I glanced to my right, Apple Bloom was still trying to fit a similar hat over her mane and I got a cold shiver down my spine.
"Er.." I started, but Scootaloo quickly leaned in and brought her face mere inches from mine.
"And who gave you the right to speak? Huh? We haven't even asked you any questions yet!"
I blinked and looked on in confusion as Apple Bloom gently pushed Scootaloo out of the way and smiled up from under her hat. "Don't listen to her, da'hling. Now jus' answer our questions and you'll be fine."
"What questions? I'm not getting this." I asked, blinking at the bright light.
"Where were you on the night of three days before yesterday!?" Scootaloo almost shouted at me in her eagerness to be the bad cop, and I inched away from her as far as the chair allowed.
"Scootaloo! That's not what we want to know." Apple Bloom interjected.
"It's not?" Scootaloo blinked, backing off a bit. "Huh."
"Wehh, iff haff of ih.." Sweetie Belle offered, the beam of light dancing around the room again.
"Gah! This is not working, girls! I'mma open ta curtains again." Apple Bloom groaned, turning tail and stumbling over to the weak hint at where the window was. With the curtains open again the beam from Sweetie Belle's flashlight did not seem nearly as strong as it had been in the utter darkness.
"Er.. I'm willing to answer any question you want, you know? As long as I can?" I offered, glancing around at myself and noticing the annoyed way in which Scootaloo pulled the hat off of her head. "I'm sorry it didn't work, girls."
"Nah, it's Sweetie Belle's fault. If she'd have kept the flashlight stable, it would've worked. I'm sure of it." Scootaloo sighed.
"My fault?!? MY fault?" Sweetie Belle retorted, the flashlight dropped to the floor and aiming its beam at the back wall. "Whose idea was it to do this anyway? Not mine!"
"Girls, girls!" Apple Bloom stopped them, stepping in-between them. "Sweetie Belle did a mighty fine job holdin' the flashlight. And Scootaloo's idea was good too. It's nopony's fault. We jus' need to think up a better way to initiate our new members."
I nodded at that. "I honestly didn't know what you all were planning or I would've done my best to help out as well. Can we just sit down and talk about it? Over a drink perhaps?"
"Ooh! Apple juice!" Sweetie Belle perked up at the mention of drinks.
Scootaloo grinned up at that as well and Apple Bloom nodded. "Let's go ask Granny Smith for some apple juice then."
I sighed in relief as I moved off of my chair and followed the three girls outside, but I couldn't stop myself wondering what those questions may be. I half suspected I already knew.
Whatever tension may have lingered after that situation, it was all forgotten as soon as we had our first sip of apple juice. Granny Smith always made the best juice. Forget all the juices you may have ever tasted out there in the human world, they were raw sewage in comparison. The only thing better than the apple juice Granny Smith made was the zap-apple jam that Granny Smith made.
Four juice-slurping fillies and one babbling old mare sat on the porch of the Apple family's farmhouse that day: Granny Smith in her rocking chair with Apple Bloom and Sweetie Belle on her left, Scootaloo had climbed up on the railing and was keeping balance with the flutter of her small wings, and I just sat to the right of Granny Smith taking it all in while sipping from the straw stuck in my cup. With the afternoon sun slowly making its way across the sky, the sound of the birds and other animals around the farmhouse, and the taste of apple juice so sweet it made me wish I could drink it forever, I was thoroughly enjoying myself.
After a while it became apparent Granny Smith had talked herself to sleep, her snoring adding to the sweet song of sounds around me. Apple Bloom blushed and quickly emptied her cup, motioning for us to move away from the porch and over towards the barn. Reluctantly I followed the others in finishing my drink, then gathered the cups all in one place beside the door before following the rest.
The barn was mostly empty except for the haybales and some farm equipment laying around, and there were still some party string-remains hanging down from the rafters and walls.
"Why did we go here?" Sweetie Belle wondered, looking around as she walked further into the barn.
"It jus' didn't feel right goin' back to the clubhouse after what happened, ya know?" Apple Bloom answered with a shrug, and I nodded.
Scootaloo wasn't paying attention. She was looking up at the attic and judging the height between the floor and it by eye.
I passed her by and looked up at the broken party string dangling down from a nail in one of the support beams.
"When was thi.." "What we wan.." both Apple Bloom and I started at the same time, turned to one another and giggled. "You first," I offered to Apple Bloom.
"What we want ta know, is where did ya come from, Fuu? You have such strange reactions to miss Cheerilee's teachings, and.. well.. you know.." Apple Bloom offered, and I sighed as I sat my butt down on the straw-covered floor. Sweetie Belle turned to face me, but Scootaloo was climbing up a ladder to the attic instead of paying attention.
"I come from a land far, far away. Trixie found me there." I started, not wanting to go into details. "We had heard stories about Equestria, but never really went there ourselves." Stories. That's what they were. "Trixie.. adopted me as her student, and we travelled here to Ponyville for me to learn about magic and everything else." It was all true, in a way.
"There are ponies living outside of Equestria?" Sweetie Belle asked, and I nodded. They weren't cell-shaded, but I had seen ponies in the human world.
"Hey girls! What if I get my cutiemark for stagediving?" Scootaloo shouted from up high, and three pair of eyes turned upwards as the orange pony peered down from the attic. "Just watch me, it'll be awesome!"
"Er.." I started,
"Ooh.." Sweetie Belle gasped in anticipation,
"Are ya sure it's safe?" Apple Bloom wondered in concern, but then turned her head as the barn door opened and her sister walked in, an eyebrow raised at seeing Scootaloo up on the attic looking like she was about to jump down.
"Now what the hay is going on in here?" Applejack demanded, "Will ya come down from there before ya break something?" she addressed Scootaloo, "Use'in the ladder.." she added, concern showing on her face.
"Scootaloo was tryin' to get her cutiemark for stage diving, big sis." Apple Bloom offered, to which Applejack made some noises of surprise.
"Hrf.. Tsk.. Mrfl.. Whoa now Nelly, that ain't no way to get a cutiemark! Y'all got to calm down some and think about what it is ya like doin'." Applejack offered, shaking her head as Scootaloo joined us on the ground again. "All yer runnin' around and breakin' bones ain't workin' one bit. And who's this then?" she offered, turning to face me.
"Er.. I'm Fuu? Trixie and me come by the stand to buy apples from time to time, remember?" I blushed, scraping a hoof a bit uncomfortably over the floor.
"Well, ya gotta excuse me for not recalling yer face all that well, hun. It's been a long day working an' we get so many ponies from all around for our apples it's hard to keep 'em apart, ya know?" Applejack offered, reaching out to rub my mane with a hoof. "But if ya stick around here for some, I'm sure everypony will get ta know ya before ya can say "Pretty Pink Ponies Prance Pretty Perfectly"."
I blushed more under the tousling of my mane, giggling a bit as Sweetie Belle tried to repeat what Applejack had said and kept stumbling halfway through.
"Pretty Pink Pronies Pr.. Pretty Ponies Prance Prinkly.. Pretty.." she tried, her own cheeks flushing as Scootaloo broke into laughter.
"Heh. Now y'all go and get doin' something safer, ok? Like maybe ya could go bother Rainbow Dash an' see what's taking that rainstorm I was expectin' today?" Applejack suggested, nudging her head towards the open barn door at the same time as a flash of lightning illuminated the world outside.
"That rainstorm, sis?" Apple Bloom chuckled, but Applejack's reply was drowned by the thunderclap. The flick of her tail and look on her face said enough to let know her little sister's smarts were ill received. Ah, the love between sisters.
We ran out of the barn and through the suddenly pouring rain outside while giggling at Applejack shouting after us that we should not use the barn for playing next time and that Big Mac would hear of it, but the sound of our hooves hitting the wet ground and the occasional thunderclap soon drowned her out. We ran out of Sweet Apple Acres and over towards Ponyville with no clear target in mind, just running side-by-side, bumping flanks and giggling happily. I can't remember a situation before this in which I was this genuinely happy to do nothing in particular. Well, nothing in particular except for running. With friends. Something I don't think I'd ever done before. I never was much of the athletic type.
We stopped in front of Sugarcube Corner to catch our breaths and shook ourselves dry, still giggling but clearly calming down again. The sun in Ponyville was shining, the rainstorm localized over the apple orchards at Sweet Apple Acres. The thunder was still audible off in the distance, but most of the sound was reflected by the surrounding buildings. Scootaloo buzzed her little wings a little to shake the water out of her feathers, spraying it over Sweetie Belle and Apple Bloom in the process. Apple Bloom didn't seem to care that much, but Sweetie Belle made a face and tried to dry herself again.
"So what I wanted to ask.. when was that party over at Sweet Apple Acres?" I tried, glancing between the three of them before shivering from a cold water droplet leaking down my neck.
"Party? What party? Oh, hi girls! Wanna come in? I made mint-flavoured cupcakes! MINT! FLAVOURED! CUPCAKES!"
You guessed it; Pinkie Pie. Her upper-body sticking out through the open upper-half of the door leading into Sugarcube Corner, her lower body hidden by the closed lower part of the door, Pinkie's face was smeared with green glazing and cupcake crumbs. As we moved to stare up at her, she produced another mintgreen-glazed cupcake and stuffed it into her mouth, then chomped on it in a very excited, messy, and carefree manner, bits of her cupcake flying off everywhere as she chewed on it.
"Er, sure?" Apple Bloom blinked, and the others shrugged as well.
Pinkie Pie squealed from excitement and pulled the lower door open for us, and we walked in in single-file, Scootaloo up in front, Apple Bloom following, and Sweetie Belle just in front of me. Her tail looked nice up close, the smooth transition from pink to purple hairs changing a little as she moved. I got distracted by it to the point where I missed the last step up into Sugarcube Corner, my left forehoof moving up to try and find another step to go up, then finding only air and causing me to stumble forward a little. I bumped into Sweetie Belle's rear as I tried to find my hoofing again, who bumped into Apple Bloom, who bumped into Scootaloo, who jumped up from surprise and all-but launched herself into Pinkie Pie who fell backwards while giggling happily at it all.
"Apple Bloom! What was that for?" Scootaloo whined, fluttering her wings to get out of Pinkie Pie's enthusiastic hug.
"I didn't do nothin'! Sweetie Belle bumped into me first!" Apple Bloom replied, turning to face Sweetie Belle who meeped and shook her head quickly!
"It wasn't me! Fuu pushed me!" she exclaimed, stepping aside and turning to face me as well.
I felt my cheeks turn red and scraped an embarrassed hoof over the floor. "Sorry.. I thought there was another step.."
Pinkie Pie finally let go of Scootaloo and jumped up and started bouncing around us at hearing my words, exclaiming loudly, "Of course there's another step! If you want to get somewhere, you have to step step step step step step around!" she giggled, taking very theatrical steps around me as she did. "See? Step step step step step.."
With Pinkie Pie continuing her stepping around in seemingly random circles around and in-between us, the crusaders shared a glance between themselves and me. Scootaloo still looked a little annoyed that she was made to lose her composure, but nodded at Apple Bloom. Apple Bloom didn't really seem to mind what had happened, and gave a warm smile towards me and Sweetie Belle, the latter of which looked to be a bit more distracted by Pinkie's stepping around than the rest of us.
"So.. somepony mentioned cupcakes?" Apple Bloom offered as Pinkie started another circle around her, stopping the pink pony dead in her tracks.
"Cupcakes?!? Where?!?" she cried out, as if she'd already forgotten all about them.
"Yeah!" Sweetie Belle piped up, "You said they had mint in them?"
"Oooh, THOSE cupcakes." Pinkie Pie seemed to remember, putting her butt down on the ground and smiling at us.
"Er, yeah.. You said we could have some?" Scootaloo frowned, her wings fluttering in an annoyed fashion.
"Oh yeah! Wait here!" Pinkie Pie grinned, standing up and bouncing towards the kitchen area in the back.
"She's always like this, isn't she?" I sighed, walking up towards Apple Bloom while Sweetie Belle moved up to my right side. With Scootaloo moving in from the opposite direction we stood waiting in an odd kind of semi-circle. "So, er.. what about my initiation, girls? I gotta be home before dinner." I wondered, glancing between them.
"Well, you didn't answer all our questions yet." Scootalooo pondered, and Sweetie Belle said "Yeah!" to that.
"But you have been good company." Apple Bloom mused, to which Sweetie Belle said "Yeah!" again.
"Oh, and! And! Er..." Sweetie Belle started enthusiastically, then blinked and stared blankly ahead of her for a moment. "Er.. What they said!"
"I'm ok with her joinin' us, girls." Apple Bloom stated, to which Scootaloo nodded.
"Me too." she stated, looking towards Sweetie Belle who seemed to have lost track of the conversation again.
"Er.. Er.. me three!" She finally exclaimed, all three turning towards me with big smiles.
"That settles it, then. Welcome to the cutiemark crusaders, Fuu!" Apple Bloom grinned.
I blushed deeply but smiled between them. "Aww, thanks guys."
"You'll have ta wait until Sweetie Belle makes your cape, tho." Apple Bloom continued.
Sweetie Belle frowned at that and stomped a hoof at the floor. "If Rarity lets me in her workshop again.. "Oh, no, Sweetie Belle. You can't go play in there! Run along.."." she mimicked her bigger sister, then huffed.
"Teehee! That sounded JUST LIKE Rarity! Do me! Do me!" Pinkie Pie popped up behind Scootaloo, making the the pegasus meep as she jumped up and forwards at me!
"Oof.." I gasped out as Scootaloo hit me, falling on the ground and laying there sprawled out with her for a second before I just had to giggle at how easily she was spooked. Pinkie Pie started to giggle as well, and soon all five of us were laughing happily at how silly it all was.