by FanOfMostEverything

Chapter 1: Neutrals

Load Full Story Next Chapter

The Carousel Boutique was perhaps the only store in Canterlot that had three states: Open, Closed, and Inspired. Rarity kept the place stocked and profitable, but sometimes customers had to wait while she rode out the throes of her muse. Unless, of course, her friends were available to man the counter. Today, that meant Applejack and Sunset Shimmer. Meanwhile, Fluttershy served as the mannequin for the dress currently under construction, because "I know your coloration is all wrong, darling, but your proportions are simply perfect!" It wasn't their first choice for how to spend the second day of Spring Break, but Rarity always made sure they were well-compensated, and the company made up for the slog of retail work.

During the lunchtime lull, Rarity said, "Thunthet, 'm afraid 'e 'ave thomething to... a 'o'ent." She took the last pin from her mouth and into her creation's ankle-length skirt. "There we are. As I was saying, I'm afraid we have something to discuss with you."

Sunset looked about the room. All eyes were on her, but none of them seemed hostile. Still, she felt an anxious knot forming in her stomach. "You do?" She got a trio of nods.

"I assure you," said Rarity, "no one here thinks you're responsible."

Sunset scowled. "So either Rainbow Dash or Pinkie Pie does, if not both."

Rarity rose from her crouch. "Now, now. I never said that."

Sunset just turned to Applejack, who nodded. "Pinkie's sore 'cause you never told 'er you were ready for prankin'. Said she had a lot planned for yer first one."

"Rainbow Dash doesn't want to blame you," Fluttershy added, "but she doesn't know who else could have done it."

Sunset looked back and forth across the boutique. "I don't even know what I did!"

Her friends traded uneasy glances. After a few moments, Rarity sighed. "Oh, very well. We can get something to eat afterwards. Applejack, be a dear and put up the 'back soon' sign? Set it to half past noon."

Applejack nodded and made for the door. Fluttershy shook a little with the effort she put into keeping still. "Um..."

"Give me just a few moments more, and I'll have it stable enough to remove."

Sunset paced in front of the stage where Rarity was making sure her latest work wouldn't collapse. When Applejack got back from the door, Sunset turned to her. "Couldn't you just tell me?"

Applejack bit her lip. "It's easier to jus' show you. Well, it is for Rarity. Ah'm wearin' shorts under mah skirt."

Before Sunset could ask further, Rarity chirped, "All finished! Fluttershy, I trust you know what to do." Rarity stepped down from the stage and looked around furtively. "Well, may as well get this over with. Here's the issue, Sunset." She lifted the side of her skirt.

Sunset knelt and stared for a good minute, tilting her head, hand on her chin. Fluttershy finished setting the dress on a mannequin in the interim.

Finally, Rarity cleared her throat and shoved her skirt back down, her face almost incandescent. “Did you enjoy yourself?"

Sunset felt her own face heat up. “I didn’t mean…” She shook her head. “I don’t understand what the problem is.”

“Don’t under..." Rarity shook her head. "Sunset, how could you possibly not see the problem here?”

Sunset shrugged. “I didn’t see anything unusual.”

Rarity faintly quivered with rage. "This may be something of a cultural gap, but as far as I am concerned, blue diamond tattoos on my hips qualify as unusual!"

“Tattoos?” Sunset’s jaw dropped as the pieces came together. “You mean you didn’t have a cutie mark before?”

She was met with three looks of incomprehension. "The heck is a cutie mark?" asked Applejack.

Sunset lifted her own skirt, revealing the two-tone sun on her own hip. "This." She dropped the fabric under the weight of her friends' stares. "Wow, that is uncomfortable. Sorry, Rarity."

"It's alright, darling. I understand your confusion now." Rarity pursed her lips in thought. "How long have you had that?"

"Since before I went through the portal. Everypony has them in Equestria." Sunset shrugged. "I figured you did here as well. You just didn't talk about them because of the whole 'nudity taboo' thing."

Applejack raised an eyebrow. “You sayin' you ain't never seen anyone else’s hips before?”

Sunset matched her expression. “I picked up on that taboo pretty quickly.”

“Swimsuits? Changin' for gym?”

Sunset looked away and rubbed an arm. “I spent my summers here planning my conquest of Equestria, and I was bribing or blackmailing most of the faculty, so gym class wasn’t really a concern. After the Fall Formal, I’ve just been trying not to attract attention.”

"Biology textbooks?" asked Fluttershy.

"Swimsuit catalogs?" added Rarity.

"Not even th' Internet?"

Sunset crossed her arms. "For a species so shy about your bodies, you sure do have a lot of ways of seeing them uncovered."

“What about Flash?” asked Rarity.

“What about…” Sunset shuddered. “Ugh! No! No, no, no, absolutely not!” She shook her head. It did nothing to clear out the mental images. “I told you guys, he was just another rung on the social ladder to me. I never felt anything for him. I certainly wouldn’t…” She shuddered and stuck out her tongue. “Look, I still think of myself as a unicorn, and xenophilia was never my thing. I wasn't looking for naked humans because I didn't want to see any. Besides, Flash is kind of a dork. He has no spacial awareness. He’s walked into people, walls, doors... I think I even saw him smack up against a patch of fog once.”

Fluttershy tilted her head. "But what about Twilight?"

Sunset shrugged. "Apparently, she's into balding apes. Good for her."

"We're gettin' off topic," said Applejack. "These marks may be normal for ponies, but we ain't ponies."

"No, but we do gain equine traits when playing music." Sunset cupped her chin in a hand. "When did your cutie marks appear?"

"Mine showed up after we kicked siren keister," said Applejack.

"Mine as well," said Rarity. Fluttershy nodded.

"As I thought." Sunset began to pace. "You all got a bit of harmony magic after the Fall Formal. It's possible that it grew stronger during the fight against the Dazzlings, strong enough to express itself through cutie marks."

Rarity's eyes widened. "Are you saying this is permanent?"

Sunset shrugged. "Maybe. Time will tell. Though I do have to wonder how you know what symbols to put on your clothes if you don't—"

A trilling sound interrupted her. Sunset pulled out her phone. "Huh." She took the call. "Everything okay, Pinkie?"

The answer lacked any of Pinkie's usual mirth. "Write to Twilight, Sunset. We may have a problem."

Sunset felt a chill run down her spine. "What kind of problem?"

"No time to explain. Where are you?"

"Carousel Boutique. But can't you just tell me now?" Silence. "Pinkie?" Sunset looked at her phone. "And she hung up. Wonderful."

"What was it?" asked Fluttershy.

"I don't know," Sunset huffed. "Apparently, there was no time to explain. But she wants me to write to Princess Twilight."

"Ah'll call Rainbow," said Applejack. "This sounds like it's gonna need all of us."

Sunset nodded and dug her journal and a pen out of her backpack. "I knew it was a good idea to keep this close." She flipped to a blank page.

Dear Princess Twilight,

My friends have developed cutie marks since the incident at the Battle of the Bands—apparently most humans don't have them—and Pinkie has alerted us to... something. She said to contact you. Knowing her, that means it's either a magical catastrophe or a sale on those eclairs you really like. I'll update you as soon as I get more information.

Your friend,
Sunset Shimmer

"Well, that's all I can tell her for now." Sunset sighed. "Now we just have to wai—"

Rainbow Dash pounded on the door. "C'mon, guys!" she shouted, a bit muffled through the glass. "I can see you in there!"

Rarity frowned and unlocked the door. "Is a little gentleness so very much to ask, Rainbow Dash?"

"Yeah, hi to you too." Dash breezed in. "Pinkie here yet?"

Applejack shook her head. "Still waitin' on 'er."

"Makes sense. I was at CHS. Straight shot here."

Sunset quirked an eyebrow. "What were you doing at the school now?"

"Got in a fight with myself." Dash rubbed her abdomen. "I took a gut shot, but I got me back just as good. Walking it off now. Well, biking, but you know."

The other girls traded looks for a bit until Fluttershy spoke for the group. "What?"

"I was talking with the me from the pony world. I have wings all the time there." Dash's rapturous smile faded, and her head dipped down. "It's actually kinda, you know, humbling to know there's a me out there more awesome than I am."

Sunset's jaw dropped. "Wait, you got in a fight with your pony analogue? That could've—"

"Destabilized the whatsit, right. Twilight said something about that."

Any responses were interrupted by the door flying open. A panting Pinkie Pie stumbled into the boutique with the rattle of a falling bike, her hair sticking out straight behind her for two feet. "Got here... as fast... as I could." Her hair reasserted its usual shape with an audible "foomp."

"So," said Sunset, "what's so important that you couldn't just tell us over the phone?"

Pinkie held up a hand as she caught her breath. After a few moments, she said, "Maud has pony magic."

Sunset blinked. "As in your sister who feeds her pet rock?"

Pinkie nodded. "It was just before I called you...

The Pie family residence was almost aggressively dull, its palette largely greys with the occasional daring dip into beige. It made Pinkie stand out like burning lithium. “You really have to go?” she asked.

Maud nodded with a frown only Pinkie could perceive. “Our spring breaks don’t line up. I have classes tomorrow.”

Pinkie all but tackled her sister. It was a bit like running into a lamppost, but one that could hug back.

“I’ll e-mail you when I get back,” said Maud, a bit muffled from her face being buried in a mass of pink curls.

“I love you, Maud.”

“I love you too, Pinkie. Thank you for staying home to see me off.”

Pinkie giggled. “Yeah, because it was such a big sacrifice not going to a rock museum.”

“Oh. I almost forgot.” Maud pried Pinkie’s arms off of her, then dug into a pocket.

“Goodbye, Boulder.”

“He appreciates the thought, but he’s not what I remembered.” Maud produced a fist-sized stone. It was the color of a dying coal on the outside, but numerous cracks revealed the ruby-like interior.

Pinkie leaned in closer, eyes sparkling. “Wow! That’s really pretty! Where’d you find it?”

“I made it.”

“Huh?” Pinkie looked up at her sister.

“The night of your concert, with the giant rainbow energy horse. After it shattered the rocks around the other singers’ necks, I gathered up the scraps." Maud looked at the stone. "They were shouting. I told them to be quiet. They did. Then I told them to come together. They did.”


Maud’s eyelids drifted shut. Ruddy light radiated out of the rock. The ground shook beneath their feet. Pinkie fell onto her rear.

Maud took her hand and pulled her back up as easily as lifting a newspaper. She had pony ears and a length of hair stretching down to her ankles, threaded through a slice of agate midway through. The rest was still in her usual style though. “I think there may have been some side effects.”

Pinkie spread out her arms to take in the changes. “You think?”

Maud’s answer was a microscopic smile. “Talk to you soon, Pinkie.” With that, she ran for the train station. Pinkie watched her pass at least one car.

Pinkie dug into her hair until she found her phone, extracted it, and dialed, all without moving anything above her shoulders.

"Everything okay, Pinkie?"

“Write to Twilight, Sunset. We may have a problem.”

"And then you said, 'What kind of problem?' And I said—"

"I know, Pinkie," said Sunset. "I was there."

"What does this mean?" asked Fluttershy.

Rarity put her hands over her mouth. "Oh dear. If this happened to Pinkie's sister because she was at the concert, then any number of people could have been affected!"

"N-not necessarily." Sunset gave an uneasy smile. "I mean, maybe someone has to be related to one of us to be affected."

Rarity and Applejack both glared at her. "That ain't exactly reassurin'," said Applejack.

"As if Sweetie Belle weren't destructive enough..." Rarity shuddered.

"Well, it could still be a one-in-a-million chance," Sunset said. "An isolated incident."


Everyone jumped at the sudden outburst. Rainbow Dash then laughed. "Really? F. Buncher from the Alley Brawler movie?"

Sunset flushed. "I keep meaning to change that alert, but I haven't exactly gotten a lot of texts since the Fall Formal." Her journal started flashing and buzzing. "Well, that was quick." She opened the book. A few moments later, it fell from her nerveless fingers, revealing a thousand-yard stare.

"Uh, Sunset?" Applejack edged closer. "Everything okay?"

"What did Twilight say?" asked Pinkie.

"Oh, that wasn't Twilight." Sunset's lips curled up, though her gaze remained horrified. "That was Spike. Twilight's new castle grew some kind of magical map of Equestria, and now she and your pony counterparts have all left to investigate some remote point near Neighagra Falls. So, you know, she'll be unavailable for a few days. Heh. Heh heh."

"Hey now." Pinkie wrapped her arms around Sunset from behind. "None of that."

"Yeah," said Dash, "we can totally handle this on our own."

Rarity nodded. "With your magical expertise, of course."

Sunset took a deep breath. "You're right. Thanks." A beat. "You can let go now, Pinkie."

"Are you sure?"



"Thanks, though." Sunset pulled out her phone. "Now, what's this about..." Her expression quickly returned to horror. "Oh, horseapples." Pinkie latched back on to her.

Fluttershy gulped. "What is it?"

Sunset just set her phone down on the front counter.

From: Vinyl Scratch

collab w/ tavi. we grew horse ears. sup w/ that?

Rarity cleared her throat. "It would appear that this is not, in fact, an isolated incident."

"So, what now?" asked Dash.

Sunset bit her lip. "I have no idea."

Author's Notes:

Thanks to Blue_Paladin42, Kris Overstreet, Bliss Authority, and Derpmind for prereading the rough draft of what this used to be and convincing me to take it in a different direction.

Next Chapter: Tones Estimated time remaining: 2 Hours, 18 Minutes
Return to Story Description


Login with