This chapter has been edited and revised, after I realized just how sucky and plothole-ridden (stop that sniggering!) it was.
Far beyond Equestria's borders lies the sea. Beyond that still, there lies a continent on which no pony has set hoof upon. Barely visible to even the aided eye, those that have gazed toward it have pondered relentlessly: what sort of mysterious creatures may inhabit the unknown land? Are they civilized, or savage? Do they even exist, the continent unpopulated? Or did it once provide for an ancient race long since extinct, wiped out by the Beast's rampage over a millennium ago?
Unknown to those on the "mainland", there are a number of villages, towns, ports and cities spread across the mysterious continent. Some of these, though long since abandoned by their original creators, have become home to creatures wielding power that even Princess Celestia would find intriguing.
Atop a plateau, within a dilapidated temple, a number of the most powerful of these beings had gathered to discuss a matter of great importance: a disturbance that could potentially mean the continuation of the battle that threatened their existence a thousand years prior.
"It feels... wrong to speak of something so important without the presence of any of the Lords or the Masters. For that matter, very few of us actually came here to discuss this." The gentle voice of an unusual-sized bird of blue plumage drifted from her place in the rafters. The early-morning sunlight peeking through collapsed sections of the roof shone on her streamer-like cyan tail, producing a sparkling effect.
"Tch, of course they aren't here: the Land Lord disappeared during construction of that underground path toward the nearby continent, the Sky Lord is obsessed with keeping an eye on the Sun Seal (that can't be good for his eyes, by the way), and the Sea Lord is protecting the island castle that harbors the Beast Fragment we found. Apart from the Land Lord, they're all kind of busy at the moment, wouldn't you say?" A gruff male voice snapped at her. His grey-coated body gave him the appearance of a bear at first glance, though the wide horns protruding from the two long ridges running along his back said different. His legs possessed band-like forms over his clawed feet.
"Stay your temper, my friend. We are all unnerved at the thought of the Beast's return. Fighting amongst ourselves will do nothing to help the situation." A calm, femininely-male voice scolded his comrade. More slender in form than his compatriot, his green body resembled that of a swift antelope: dull-pointed horns protruded from either side of his head, while a pink-tipped leaf grew out on both sides of his slender neck. Unlike his brute of a partner, his legs resembled knee-high boots with pink highlights, from which his pointed hooves emerged.
"STATEMENT: DUE TO THE MYSTERIOUS POWER FLUCUATION, THE OTHERS ARE TRAVERSING THE LAND TO CALM THE MASSES. FOR THOSE THAT WERE ABLE, A REPRESENTATIVE WAS SENT TO ATTEND THIS CONFERENCE." The emotionless and hollow voice of the oldest among the gathered proclaimed. A metal sphere made up the majority of its body, an opening from the top revealing a smooth black surface whose only feature was that of seven red dots, arranged into a hexagonal mockery of a single eye. From a half-sphere on either side of its body emerged a long black arm that ended with three metallic fingers, while its legs were metal cylinders.
The blue bird ruffled her feathers, "I suppose that makes sense. It certainly explains why, out of all three of them, not even Lando showed up."
"HA!" A bark of laughter that sounded like crashing thunder, "Sucks to be him: having to babysit those two cloud-brains and keep them under control? Certainly makes me glad that my siblings are just annoyingly mature." The speaker resembled a tiger, black stripes reminiscent of lightning bolts. His tail, thin and light-blue, lanced out like lightning and ended like a spark. Upon his back lay a thick purple cloud, emitting quiet rumbles of thunder. Piercing red eyes peered from behind a dark-gray crest on his forehead, from the bottom of which emerged a primal light-blue "X". His tusk-like fangs glinted in the faint light as he smirked from the outcropping beneath the shattered window where he laid.
Blinking, the bird turned her own red eyes to look at the only one to have not spoken, "Had your apprentice been here, your group would've been the only one to show up in its entirety, he of the Iron Will."
Standing at a notable height of nearly seven feet, the brow of the final member of the conference twitched in minor annoyance, "I would appreciate it if you did not call me that." Primarily aqua-blue in coloration, the goat-like being opened his steeled yellow eyes to look at the bird. From his head sprouted two lightning bolt-like horns, while a beard-like white tuft emerged from his wide-collared neck. His legs possessed black bands that separated the aqua-blue from the lighter-blue of his feet, which resembled large boots. His shoulder blades were reminiscent of large yellow fins, whilst his tail appeared as a blue fin.
Stepping toward the center of the temple with purpose, he spoke, "Let us get right to the point: the mysterious power fluctuation came from the direction of the continent that the Land Lord's underground path leads to. If what was predicted by the Crescent Dancer is true, then our worst fear may have come to pass: the arrival of the one who marks the return of the Beast of Calamity from a millennium ago, and the conflict shall resume anew." He shook his head, "Unfortunately, we have no way of truly confirming this. To do so, we must be willing to send one of our own to the other continent to investigate and-"
"Already taken care of."
All eyes turned to the tiger creature, "Is that so?"
The tiger grinned, his fangs glinting, "Yep: sent my best spy, too."
The bird flapped her wings, sore from remaining still, "You mean... her? Out of all of the followers at your command, why her?"
"Nobody ever suspects the sheep."
The horned bear-like creature raised a brow, "She may be your finest spy, but how long until she actually gets there? She's slower than me, and I'll admit that I'm not exactly quick."
The tiger stretched out, "I got a little help from our space friend."
That would be his best spy, screaming in terror at the moment, what with hurtling over the ocean at breakneck speed as a red/orange blur.
My Little Shinobi: Friendship is Eternal
Chapter 8: Wool, Stripes and Apples
(Ponyville: Wagon shop)
"Thanks for your help, Naruto. Ever since you came to town, things like this have become a breeze."
Naruto, currently lying on his back, grinned, "No problem at all, Mr. Waggon: more than happy to help out."
Whenever a wagon in Ponyville needed repair, Mr. Waggon was the go-to pony for the job. He and his team of workers could normally repair four or five wagons in a single day, depending on the damage. However, whenever Naruto strolled around to lend a hoof, the number would nearly double. Usually, Waggon would need the burlier stallions of his crew to lift the wagon off the ground by using a system of harnesses and pulleys. Naruto, however, could do something that those stallions were both grateful for and jealous of: he would get on his back right underneath the wagon and push. The stallions would still wear the harnesses to help keep the wagon steady, as well as reduce the chance of injury should any of Naruto's limbs buckle under the strain.
Waggon grinned, "We'll get this one's new wheels on in a jiffy, then you can come on out and get some lunch: the missus makes a mean-"
Before he could finish speaking, the ground began to shake and a faint rumble filled the air. The harnessed stallions grunted in surprise as the ropes connecting them to the wagon suddenly went taut, forcing them to scramble to position themselves to be able to support the sudden weight.
Waggon stumbled slightly as he sought to maintain his balance against the disturbance, "An earthquake? Those aren't very common in this part of Equestria."
"I guess I'm off to find out, apparently."
Blinking at the warbled voice of the blond stallion, the others could only watch as Naruto emerged from beneath the wagon... still on his back, the vibrations carrying him off at a moderate pace. Highly amused at the serious look on his face as he drifted toward the open garage door, Waggon called out, "You know, Naruto, it'd probably be faster if you just walked."
"Probably, but you gotta admit: this is pretty fun!"
Waggon could only shake his head as Naruto disappeared around the side of the door.
The novelty having faded after being carried about several yards down the street, Naruto finally stood up and started walking. Passing by a number of ponies running about in a panic, he began wondering just what he was going to do about this. Demons and villains, he could handle because they were physical opponents: an earthquake wasn't something he could just punch until it stopped.
"Hey, Naruto! Doesn't this make my voice sound silly?"
Blinking, Naruto turned his head to find Pinkie Pie drifting alongside him, amusing herself with the vibrations of the earthquake. Staring at her for a few seconds, he responded, "Yeah, kinda. Anyway, shouldn't you be a little more worried? Y'know, earthquake and all?"
"It's not an earthquake, silly. It's a stampede."
Naruto froze in place momentarily: he'd been in a stampede before. Hell, he was the one that started the stampede. Stampedes were not something that should be taken lightly. He gave her a stern look, "What should we do about this?"
Naruto couldn't stop himself from gaping, "Nothing? You want us to do NOTHING!?"
Pinkie grinned, "Right! Applejack will take care of the stampede, so why don't we go watch her?"
With that, she bolted, leaving a flabbergasted Naruto to gallop after her. He quickly found her at one of the bridges leading away from Ponyville, accompanied by the other Element bearers sans Applejack, as well as the Mayor and several ponies he hadn't personally met.
The rumbling becoming much louder and clearer, Naruto peered into the distance and was... actually underwhelmed at what he was seeing charging toward Ponyville. He had been expecting bulls, not... cows. He couldn't help feeling a little cheated by the source of the panic as Applejack appeared with her trusty dog Winona at her side. As Applejack and Winona positioned themselves to deal with the stampede, Naruto was briefly distracted when Pinkie began to munch on a bag of popcorn that he was certain she hadn't had before. Giving her a look, he muttered, "Planning on sharing that, Pinkie?" Seeing her offer it with a sheepish look, he thanked her and snagged a few pieces in his mouth, completely unaware of the strange smile on the pink mare's face.
Using a series of techniques, Naruto found himself impressed as Applejack succeeded in altering the stampede's course and bringing it to a halt. As the gathered ponies cheered at Applejack's success, Naruto attempted to question Pinkie as to just where she had produced a flag with an apple emblazoned on it, but was promptly ignored.
After getting the cows on their way, Applejack and Winona stood on one of Ponyville's many rolling hills, with the sun positioned behind them for added effect. Naruto couldn't help but think that Celestia somehow knew what had just occurred and decided to add some dramatic flair. Sheesh.
As Applejack raced off in the direction of the farm, the disguised human was brought out of his musings by Pinkie Pie whooping and hollering. He turned his attention to the Mayor as she spoke, "We must do something to thank Applejack for single-hoofedly saving the town."
Pinkie got a gleam in her eye, "I know! A party!"
Mayor Mare grinned, "A wonderful idea, Pinkie Pie. We should start preparing right away." She immediately took the reins, "Rarity, take whoever you need and get started on decorations. Pinkie Pie, I need the Cakes to provide catering. Rainbow Dash, I'd like for you to make sure the sky is nice and clear for when we're ready. Naruto, can you-?"
Naruto cut her off, shaking his head, "Sorry, Mayor M: I'm needed on the farm, since Big Mac hurt himself in that accident."
Twilight's ears rose, "Accident?"
Naruto glanced in her direction and, without skipping a beat, replied, "An unforeseen and unplanned event or circumstance, but that's not important right now." Ignoring the hilariously irritated look on the Unicorn's face (and the contorting faces of her friends trying not to laugh), Naruto returned his gaze to the Mayor and continued; "Anyway, with Mac down and the apples needing bucking, I'm sure Applejack will appreciate the help." He turned his head to look in the direction of Sweet Apple Acres, "She's good at what she does, but even she can't take care of every tree by herself."
Taken aback slightly at the blond pony's words, the Mayor couldn't help but smile, "Very well, then. Naruto: your assignment is to assist Applejack with the apple harvest. After all, we don't want her to be tired for when she receives her award."
Naruto gave the Mayor a salute in the form of thumping his foreleg against his chest, "Yes, Ma'am. I hereby accept this assignment and will not fail."
With that, he broke away from the steadily bustling ponies and galloped toward Sweet Apple Acres, fully intent on helping Applejack.
After all, she would need it... right?
(Ponyville: Sweet Apple Acres)
"What do you mean, 'Ah don't need yer help'?!"
Apparently, Applejack thought otherwise.
"Ah mean exactly that. Thank ya fer the offer, Naruto, but Ah intend to get this done all by mahself."
Just minutes ago, Naruto returned to the farm to find Applejack hard at work, bucking apple trees like she had something to prove. Hearing her turn down help for such a daunting task, however, got on one or two of the human's nerves.
Not having yet dropped his pony form, Naruto waved a front leg to gesture the countless apple-bearing trees of Sweet Apple Acres, "AJ, do you even know how many trees are on the property? You really expect me to believe that you're going to harvest every last apple by season's end on your own?"
Halting her bucking of the tree they were presently under, she smirked good-naturedly, "Yer darn tootin'. And if Ah work both day an' night, Ah'll be done even sooner!"
Naruto scowled, "Applejack, if anyone knows anything about overexertion, it's me. What you're thinking is going to seriously tax both your body and your mind! Stopping being as stubborn as me and let me help you! I promised the Mayor I would!"
The mare grunted in annoyance and turned away as Big Macintosh slowly strode toward the duo, "Ya might as well give up, Naruto: once Applejack makes up her mind, it takes a mighty force to get her to change it."
Expecting her brother's words to get through to her human friend, Applejack prepped for another round of bucking. However, the sudden chill in the air slowed her movements to a halt. Looking at the blond, she found herself mesmerized by the glint in his eyes as he spoke, "You two already know that I never abandon my friends, and that I never break a promise... but there's another thing about me you need to realize: I never give up."
Naruto reared up on his hind legs and jabbed a hoof defiantly toward the stubborn mare, "It doesn't matter what needs to be done, or how long it takes! Applejack: before the season is over, you will accept my help!" A particular grin appeared on his face as a dramatic wind seemed to manifest solely to ruffle his mane. All in all, Naruto was certain that he looked undeniably awesome right now.
And that built image came crashing down as his stomach growled pitifully.
Naruto immediately dropped back down onto all four hooves and turned away from the smirking stallion and giggling mare, "However, I shouldn't do it on an empty stomach. I'm heading inside to get something to eat, and then I'm coming back out to coerce you into letting me help, AJ." Without waiting for a response, he quickly made his way back to the Apple homestead.
Had he stuck around for a few more moments, however, he would have received Applejack's warning of there being somepony not in the know currently inside the house.
Opening the front door and strolling in, Naruto was mere seconds away from casually dropping his pony form, if not for the shocked gasp of a certain farm filly. Glancing over in Apple Bloom's direction, his eyes involuntarily widened at the sight of a pony that he had seen every once in a while around town, but never actually spoken to:
About the same age as Apple Bloom, this filly had a predominantly gray color scheme, with part of her ceruleanish-gray mane braided. On her flank was the image of a fancy spoon, with what appeared to be a dark pink heart in the handle. For some reason, she wore what appeared to be a pearl necklace and sleek blue-framed glasses. Behind those glasses were a pair of grayish violet eyes, currently widened at the sight of him. Then again, he couldn't blame her for staring: he did have a unique tail and ears, but apparently the filly was more surprised about something he didn't have.
"Apple Bloom, he doesn't have a Cutie Mark, either!"
Naruto blinked, sparing a quick glance to his blank flank. He held back a sigh: were Cutie Marks really that important? Maybe he should modify his transformation to where he has one of the stupid things. He shrugged, "Whatever. I'm gonna go make myself a sandwich or something." With a dismissive flick of his fox-like tail, Naruto turned and left the fillies to seek out sustenance for his angry belly.
Entering the kitchen, he noticed the Apple matriarch sitting at the table. He smiled, "Afternoon, Granny Smith."
The aged mare smiled back, "G' afternoon ta you, too, young'un. I heard from Applejack that she wen' and saved th' town from a stampede of cows earlier."
Opening the fridge and clumsily gathering ingredients for a sandwich, Naruto nodded, "Yep. The ponies decided that they want to have a party and give AJ some kind of award and everything."
"Is that so?"
Naruto's smile faltered slightly, "And I'm supposed to make sure that Applejack is in top condition to accept her award, but..."
"She's bein' stubborn about the harvest, right?"
Shutting the fridge, Naruto went to the table and set down what he had grabbed, "Yeah, and Big Mac isn't going to be much help at the moment."
Granny got that evil old folk's smirk, "Serves him right for wearing one o' my girdles."
Naruto chuckled, "Well, a bet's a bet: can't go back on your word."
He then fell silent, staring at the assortment of vegetables and such.
Granny looked concerned, "Is somethin' the matter, young'un?"
He glanced at up at her, "Kind of."
A knowing smile, "Havin' trouble with yer hooves?"
The light 'thud' of Naruto letting the underside of his snout hit the table, "Yep."
"Don't let it get'cha down, sonny: you'll get the hang of 'em. In the meantime, why don't you let me whip up that sanwich fer ya?"
Naruto raised his head, "I don't want to cause you any problems."
"Hogwash, sonny! I'm not gettin' any younger, so there's not much I can do around here, nowadays. If fixing you up some chow gives me somethin' to do, I'll take it!"
Watching as the old mare began putting his sandwich together, Naruto started to see just where Applejack got her stubbornness from.
Shortly after hearing the front door shut, Naruto looked at Apple Bloom as she entered the kitchen, "So, who was your little friend?"
The filly's eyes didn't leave his bare flank, "Just somepony I know from school: I asked her to help me with some of my homework."
Getting kind of annoyed by the staring, Naruto was quick to drop the disguise now that the other filly had left, "What's her name? I'm assuming she has one?"
"Silver Spoon. Now-"
Naruto blinked, then turned his gaze to Granny Smith, who was putting the finishing touches on his sandwich, "Is it just me, or are a decent number of ponies conveniently named to match their Cutie Mark?"
Satisfied with her work, the mare slid the sandwich in front of him, "You'll learn to ignore it."
He nodded, "Right." He stood up, grabbing the sandwich, "Thanks, Granny. I'd better get ready to start bugging AJ until she agrees to let me help."
"Not a problem!" Granny hollered after him as he disappeared outside.
Apple Bloom seemed to be developing an odd twitch in her eye, "Did he just ignore me?"
The matriarch grinned that elderly grin, "Indeed, he did. Didn't even let'cha break out the Pony Pout."
"Gah! What the crap?"
Before, during, and after munching his sandwich, Naruto struggled to break Applejack's resolve. Unfortunately, that mare's stubbornness damn near rivaled his own, meaning that he made absolutely no progress on the "Help Applejack" assignment. Sometime after that, Naruto decided to try modifying his pony transformation to include a Cutie Mark. But, for some unknown reason, no matter how hard he concentrated or how much Chakra he put into it, every transformation produced no Cutie Mark.
Grunting in frustration, Naruto flopped onto the couch that he had claimed would be his bed after he had first recovered since appearing in this world. Could it be that, since he was a human, he couldn't provide himself a Cutie Mark, or was it something that couldn't be faked?
Staring up at the ceiling, Naruto listened to the faint sound of Applejack, still bucking trees. He frowned: he couldn't let her run herself ragged over something so trivial.
Deciding to attack the issue again tomorrow, Naruto rolled onto his side and slowly drifted off to sleep, aided by the faint noise of hooves striking bark.
(Later that Night)
Applejack shook the sweat from her brow and smirked: so far, she had bucked thirty-four trees, and was about to get started on number thirty-five. As long as she kept a good pace, she'd be finished in no time. That'd show Big Mac and Naruto!
Thinking about her fellow blond, her smirk faltered: she knew that he was just worried about her, and didn't want her to overwork herself. But she was determined to prove that she was the most reliable pony around, and if that meant pushing herself to her limits, then so be it!
Turning to buck number thirty-five, a strange noise in the distance caught her attention.
As quickly as she heard it, the noise stopped. Close by, if she was correct. Moving silently between the many apple trees, she kept her eyes moving and her body ready to react if she found something that shouldn't be in the orchard.
Passing under two interlocked apple trees – supposedly, the very first trees her parents planted after marrying – she found something, alright. What it was, however, was unlike anything she had ever seen:
Looking at it, she saw that whatever it was, it possessed a similar body structure to Naruto, though in appearance, they couldn't be further apart. The creature's sleek body was predominantly a reddish-orange, and its nearly featureless face, turned mostly away from her and looking at a nearby tree, was bluish-green with a purple stripe right down the middle. It had no mouth, and the white eyes within rounded black sockets lacked irises. On both sides of its head were trapezoid-like ears.
Its legs started out wide at the hips, separated from the pelvis by a thin rounded protrusion, and grew thinner until they ended at a point where its feet should've been. From the middle to the top were a single, segmented strip of blue. Its waist was a dark gray, and vertically lined.
The creature's torso and arms, however, are what startled the mare the most. Dead center on the thing's chest, nestled inside, was a shimmering purple sphere. The arms couldn't even be called arms: two long, thin appendages extended from either side of its torso, the top orange and the bottom blue.
Applejack watched in both awe and a sense of fear as the appendages on the creature's right side seemed to meld together into a single, Naruto-like arm: mainly blue, with an orange strip running along the top that ended before the five fingers on the hand. The arm extended and, to the mare's surprise, gently plucked a single apple from the tree it had been staring at. It lifted the red fruit to its face, looking at it with such intensity that Applejack felt like it must've never seen an apple before.
Curiosity getting the better of her, the farm mare decided to attempt talking to it, "Howdy."
The moment she opened her mouth, the creature's gaze immediately shifted from the apple to her. As the first syllable left her mouth, the thing shifted into a different shape and was gone before she had even finished the word. The apple it had been examining succumbed to gravity and fell to the grass with a soft thud. Startled at how quickly the strange creature had vanished, she very slowly moved toward the apple that had been left behind. Scooping it up with her hoof, she examined it herself and was surprised to find that the skin of where the apple had been held was gone, perfectly removed without any additional marring.
Choosing to figure out just what the hay happened later, Applejack resumed bucking trees. This time, however, she kept her eyes and ears open, in case whatever she had just seen decided to come back.
(The next Morning)
Naruto could feel a pair of eyes on him and, to be honest, it was getting a little unsettling. Yawning and opening his own eyes, he turned his head to look at what he was assuming was Apple Bloom trying to bug him more.
It certainly wasn't Apple Bloom.
It looked like a sheep, but it had a blue face and feet. It had a pair of nub-like horns with a yellow and black stripe pattern, also shared with its long tail, which had an orange sphere at the tip. At the moment, it was staring at him intently with focused eyes: round eyes that were almost completely black, with white pupils.
His mind taking several seconds to compute just what he was looking at, it plotted the best course of action to take regarding having an unknown within arm's reach:
Yelp loudly and scramble to put distance between them, causing him to fall over the back of the couch.
"What's with all the ruckus?" Granny Smith hollered from the top of the stairs as she slowly descended, accompanied by Big Mac and Apple Bloom. Naruto frowned at the absence of Applejack, the sound of trees being bucked echoing in the early morning.
Apple Bloom approached the sheep creature, eyeing it curiously, "Is that a sheep?"
Naruto rose up from behind the couch to give the thing a hard look, "It might be. I've never seen one that looks like that, though."
Big Macintosh stared at the odd bundle of fluffy wool, "Granny, do ya think it might've come from..?"
Granny Smith was currently prodding it with her hooves, not acknowledging its annoyed bleats, "Th' Everfree Forest? It's possible, but I ain't ever seen anything like this livin' in there. 'Course, I ain't exactly seen all of th' Forest, so I can't be certain."
Apple Bloom looked up at her human friend, "Fluttershy lives near the Everfree Forest, doesn't she?"
Naruto blinked, "You're right, Apple Bloom. Maybe she'll know something about this thing."
Every few steps or so, Naruto would glance down beside him to make sure that the weird sheep hadn't decided to wander off or anything. And every time he did, he would find the sheep keeping pace with him and actually glance at him.
This little back-and-forth garnered the attention of many ponies, who watched the strangely amusing spectacle.
However, it also kept the participants from keeping aware of their surroundings; especially Naruto, as somepony was about to discover.
During one of his turns of studying his companion, Naruto grunted as the air escaped his lungs: the result of absently colliding with some unnoticed obstacle in his path.
Now much more aware of just where he was, Naruto discovered to his shock that he had just bowled over a white Unicorn mare with an awesome looking spiked mane with two contrasting shades of blue, and appeared to have some sort of musical note for a Cutie Mark. The mare moaned at the sudden collision that neither one of them had been expecting.
"Hey, are you al-?"
Naruto winced at the noise that emanated from under his hoof. Lifting it as slowly and carefully as he could, he found that he had accidentally crushed a stylish-looking pair of shades.
"Shoot: those were my favorite shades."
The sound of a lamenting female brought his eyes to rest on the mare he had unintentionally accosted, her cool magenta eyes gazing sadly at the sunglasses that had been mangled by his carelessness.
He grimaced, "Oh man, I'm real sorry, lady."
His voice caused those eyes to lock onto his, sadness replaced by disbelief, "What did you just say?"
Having dealt with a number of volatile women throughout his life, Naruto had developed a special sense regarding them: namely, when they had heard something that they didn't exactly agree with. Slightly backpedalling from the steadily rising and potentially dangerous mare, Naruto's mind raced through what he had said, hoping to find out what had set her off.
She advanced on him, eyes trying to bore into his very soul, "Did you just call me "lady"?"
The sheep, having been silent throughout the entire thing, bleated in confusion.
Naruto blinked, "Um... Yes?"
The Unicorn pressed her hoof pointedly against his chest, "Let me tell you something right now, buddy: I. Ain't. No. Lady." She accentuated her statement by pushing that hoof with each word.
Naruto grunted at the exceptionally forceful one that accompanied "lady", "I'm sorry! Geez!"
A grin took form upon the mare's face. A grin that Naruto was far too used to seeing on Sakura's and Tsunade's face: one that promised punishment. "Oh, you will be. You will be." She turned around and started walking off, an electric blue aura of magic gathering up the destroyed shades, "Come on, pal."
Naruto blinked, "Huh?"
(Unknown Unicorn's Residence)
Naruto blinked as he allowed his eyes to wander about the room he now found himself in. Seemingly countless different machines occupied the room, only a few of them that he could recognize and even those he wasn't entirely sure of.
The sound of hooves clopping against the floor brought his gaze toward the door, which then opened to reveal his "host", wearing a smirk as well as...
"Hey, wait a minute! I thought I smashed those?"
A magical glow slid the perfectly identical shades away from the Unicorn's face, revealing eyes that sparkled with mischief, "You smashed my favorite pair. I didn't say it was my only one." The eyewear returned to their rightful place as a thin disc drifted into view and towards one of the devices in the room, "But since you're here, how about some tunes?"
Watching as part of the top of the device popped up to reveal a compartment that the disc settled into, Naruto attempted to talk his way to freedom, "Actually, um...?"
The Unicorn grinned, "Vinyl. Vinyl Scratch."
He nodded, "Naruto Uzumaki. Listen, Vinyl, I'm actually supposed to-"
Naruto could not find his voice as his body was virtually assaulted with sound. Despite the lack of fingers, he wasn't doing a half-bad job of trying to dig his hooves into the floor boards to keep from being moved across the room by the powerful thumping bass.
As it were, though, he was being jostled in place mercilessly by the beat.
Salvation came in the form of an irritated gray Earth mare practically stomping into the room, her cultured voice slicing through the music to reach their ears, "VINYL SCRATCH! TURN THAT MUSIC DOWN THIS INSTANT!" While the Unicorn obliged to the mare's command, Naruto got a decent look at her Cutie Mark: a purple musical note, different from Vinyl's in shape. The mare took in his appearance as well and, once the music was brought down to a near-nonexistent volume, asked, "And who might you be?"
Naruto grinned, though it was somewhat weaker than before, "I'm Naruto Uzumaki. Nice to meet you...?"
The mare smiled softly, "I am Octavia." The smiled faded, "Mr. Uzumaki, I hate to sound rude, but it would be best if you were on your way, now: I need to have a discussion with my associate here about volume regulating."
Pretty sure that he was hearing a faint growling coming from the mare's throat, he nodded quickly, "Alright. It was nice meeting the two of you. See you around!"
He did not hesitate in getting the buck out of Dodge.
Mere seconds after exiting the domicile, Naruto found himself assaulted by a pink blur.
(Sugarcube Corner: kitchen)
Naruto stumbled, trying to figure out just what the hay happened: one moment he was out in the street, the next he was in a kitchen with Pinkie Pie, with both of them wearing a cooking getup.
He stared at the grinning pink pony, "Pinkie, what just happened? Why am I here?"
She cantered over to a counter and bent down in front of it, facing away from him and giving him a good look at her poofy tail, "I want you to help put some buns in the oven."
Now, the Naruto from several years ago wouldn't have given a second thought to that statement. However, the Naruto of now had spent a long period of time around Jiraiya, an openly perverted individual: being around someone like that usually caused one to become able to discover potential hidden meanings in just about anything.
Which is why Naruto's face was redder than Big Mac's coat as he blurted, "WH-WHAT?!"
The mare stood up and turned to face him, the edge of a cooking tray clenched in her teeth. And on that tray was a fair number of...
Pinkie set the tray on the counter and grinned, "I said I wanted you to help put some buns in the oven, silly!" Then that cute grin turned particularly sly, "Although, if you were thinking about those kinds of "buns" in a certain other oven-."
Pinkie couldn't help but laugh at the sight of Naruto attempting to touch the back of his head through his face.
"What you said the other day, about how you came to have these strange powers of yours... is that true?"
"A blatant representation of a near-omnipresent figure coming out of nowhere and just giving minor reality-warping powers to some random filly? How cliché and silly is that?"
"Well, now that you say it out-."
"My powers are leftovers from my old days of crashing castles: I had to carry a lot of stuff on the road. And knowing about the Beast of Calamity? You just need to know what books to read."
"I'm sorry, Naruto, but I've never seen anything like it, before."
Naruto's eye twitched: he walked through town with that sheep-thing, getting so many odd looks because of it, got blasted with admittedly-awesome music by Vinyl Scratch and subjected to more of Pinkie Pie's idiosyncrasies, and all he got was this? He sighed, "Can you at least tell me if it's a boy or a girl? I can't keep calling it an it, you know?"
"Oh, um. I can try. Now let's see," Fluttershy, moving slowly so as not to frighten the poor thing, circled around so that she was standing behind it, "It looks like a sheep, so I should just be able to..." She looked up from the sheep at him, "Naruto, do you think you could stroke it on the head, please? I don't want to make it any more uncomfortable than I need to."
Deciding not to question the one with more experience, Naruto knelt down in front of the sheep and brought a hand onto the curled tuft of wool atop its head. Receiving a gentle bleat, Naruto continued rubbing it, much to its enjoyment as it began to wag its tail not unlike a dog, "Maaaa-"
Then Fluttershy lifted that tail to get a look.
The sphere on that lifted tail lit up and the next thing either of them knew, the room was engulfed with bright electricity, shocking both of them both metaphorically and literally.
After a few seconds, the electricity faded, leaving the two of them twitching in place with superficial electrical burns. Fluttershy looked at her now spiky mane and tail, "I don't think she liked that."
Naruto glanced at the pony, electricity visibly sparking between the spikes of his hair, "Female?"
That was when the two of them toppled over, leaving only the sheep standing, "Maa?"
(A short time later...)
The noontime sun shone down on three figures standing at the entrance of the Everfree Forest near the cottage. Naruto stood with his arms crossed and a determined smirk on his face. To his left stood the electric sheep, and to his right was a nervous Fluttershy.
The Pegasus looked up at him, "Are you really going back in there, Naruto? What about Applejack: aren't you supposed to be helping her? She's going to be helping me with my bunny census next week."
Naruto gave her a comforting smile, "Don't worry, Fluttershy. Applejack is still my top priority, but she's too wound up at the moment. From my own personal experience, when someone is worn out, they become more willing to accept help from others. While I'm waiting for AJ to wear herself down, I might as well try to find out more about this little lady if she's going to be sticking around."
Fluttershy blinked, "Sticking around? You mean... you plan on keeping her?"
Naruto grinned and, with a little effort, picked up the sheep and held her toward the pony, "Of course! How much more awesome can you get than a sheep that shoots lightning?"
"Maa!" The sheep in question bleated happily, a smile on her cute little face and her tail whipping back and forth.
Fluttershy giggled, "Well, she certainly is cute." Her face then contorted to one of concern, "I wish you wouldn't go in there. It's so very different from the rest of Equestria: the plants, the animals, everything in the Forest thrives without anypony doing anything. Then there's all the dangerous creatures that live in there, like timberwolves and manticores and-"
Setting the sheep down, Naruto placed a hand on Fluttershy's head, causing her to stop mid-ramble. When he began to rub her gently, a faint blush took form on her cheeks as he spoke, "Don't make that cute pink mane of yours turn gray on my account, Fluttershy. This is me we're talking about, after all: Hikaru and I will be fine. A quick look around partway into the forest, and we'll be back before you know it."
Fighting back the blush threatening to turn her face red, she asked curiously, "Hikaru?"
Naruto grinned, "The sheep. She needs a name, and I thought Hikaru would be perfect. Depending on how you write it in the language where I'm from, it can mean either Light or Radiant. What do you think?"
Fluttershy smiled softly, "I think it's the most perfect name ever." She turned her eyes to the sheep, "What do you think?"
The sheep, Hikaru, bleated with happiness and a hint of pride.
The mare giggled again, "I think she likes it, too."
Naruto removed his hand from atop Fluttershy's head, not hearing the mare's quiet whine at the lack of warm contact. He smiled warmly, "We should be back before nightfall. See you then, Flutters." Turning away from her, he missed the truly luminescent blush that his little nickname for her produced. He looked down at his newest companion, "Come on, Hikaru: time for an adventure into the Everfree Forest!"
A confident bleat, and the odd duo were on their way. Fluttershy leaned forward as if to follow, foreleg hefted to her chest to take a step, but she could feel her body lock up at the thought of going into the forest without somepony right at her side. All she could do was watch as, waving with a grin, Naruto and Hikaru were slowly but surely swallowed up by the dark canopy of the Everfree Forest.
Once they had completely disappeared from her sight, the mare fell back onto her haunches, feeling overwhelmingly cold without the human's presence. She barely heard her own whisper, "Come home safely."
About an hour after entering the forest, Naruto came to the conclusion that Hikaru was quite possibly the most convenient pet/companion he had ever had so far. As the canopy above caused the path they were on to darken considerably, Hikaru had chosen to lift her tail as high as she could and, using her (Naruto-declared) badass lightning sheep powers, caused the sphere on her tail to emit a comforting bright glow that easily lit their path. Naruto made this opinion known, to which Hikaru bleated with pride as they continued their trek through the foliage.
After what felt like another hour of walking, the duo came across something peculiar: plants. A field of odd looking blue plants that decided to grow across the path they were currently on. As they neared the things, Naruto was surprised to hear Hikaru growling uncomfortably at the plants. Figuring that she didn't want to get pollen in her wool, which Naruto admitted would probably be troublesome to deal with, he decided to pick up the sheep and carry her overhead across the sea of blue plants. After putting about a yard between the plants and them, he gently set Hikaru back onto the ground, earning a bleat of appreciation. Before continuing on, Naruto turned his head to get one more look at them to look up later at the library: large leaves with a multi-petaled bulb rising from the center sporting some stamen, with dark streaks running over them in a design.
Beyond the patch of blue plants, Naruto and Hikaru discovered the most interesting thing yet: a tree that had apparently been renovated into a small yet cozy-looking home. Above the door and resting against an above-ground tree root where a pair of large masks, with markings the likes of which Naruto had never seen before, yet they reminded him of the masks worn by the ANBU of Konoha.
As they neared the door on the tree, they heard a slightly-deep female voice come from behind, startling both of them, "Well, this has never happened before: visitors gathering at my door."
They whirled about, Naruto with kunai in hand and Hikaru's tail sparking with building electricity. What they saw was a figure in a dark brown cloak, coming from the direction they themselves had just come through. Though he couldn't see her entire face, Naruto could see what was most certainly a snout: a pony. Seeing the human appear to tense up, the hood tilted slightly to the side, "There is no need to fret: I can assure you, I am no threat."
Naruto cautiously slid the kunai back into its holster on his leg, taking note of both the figure's sense of calm and tendency to speak in rhyme, "Why are you so calm about this? I'm different from you."
"We are all different from one another. To dwell on such things..." A gray foreleg with dark-gray stripes emerged from the cloak and drew back the hood, revealing a pony the likes of which Naruto had never seen: her muzzle, dark gray in coloration, was different from that of the mares he knew. Her coat was striped and her mane stood up, alternating between dark gray and white. A large hoop-ring hung from each ear, and a series of rings adorned her neck. Turquoise angular eyes stared back at him, "...is such a bother." She smiled, "I'll give you my name, if you do the same."
Naruto's brow involuntarily twitched, but he kept his voice friendly, "Naruto Uzumaki. Do you always have to speak in rhyme, or do you just do it on purpose?"
"Zecora, and I do it for fun." Her eyes drifted down to his feet, and she exclaimed something in a strange language before, "What have you done?"
"Huh?" Naruto looked down at his feet: he was wearing his Shinobi footwear, so sections of skin were exposed. Spackled on those exposed areas was a strange blue substance. He looked up, "Oh yeah: I walked across some blue plants, so-"
He was surprised when the strange pony began to push him towards the tree, "Into my home, quickly! I must prepare the remedy!"
"Remedy?! For what?!"
Refusing to drop the rhyming shtick, Zecora replied, "You have been exposed to Poison Joke, an unusual plant to normal folk."
Naruto's face went pale, "Poison Joke? Is it lethal?"
Zecora shook her head, "Not at all, just silly crack: for me, my stripes were turned to all but black."
The color returning to his face, Naruto had to ask, "Speaking of stripes, you don't look like any pony I've seen so far. If you don't mind my asking, what are you?"
"I am a zebra, you see, and I've made my home in the Everfree."
As Zecora busied herself, pouring various ingredients into a cauldron, Naruto took the opportunity to look around the zebra's residence from where he sat: there seemed to be countless bottle and jars resting on the shelves that occupied the room, and what appeared to be gourds were wrapped with vines that hung from the ceiling. More masks similar to the two outside were kept on the walls and floor, and there were a large number of books that Zecora apparently owned.
Naruto turned his gaze to the zebra herself: having removed her cloak, he could see that she wore rings on her left foreleg similar to those around her neck, and her coat had more stripes than he thought there would be. Her tail was quite different from those of other ponies, as well: thin and hairless at the base, before becoming a cascade of black and white. However, like many ponies, she too had a Cutie Mark: a large gray spiral, surrounded by many triangles of a similar shade pointing outward.
Running his fingers through Hikaru's wool, Naruto spoke up, "Hey, Zecora?" Hearing an inquisitive noise from the zebra as she continued putting together the remedy to Poison Joke exposure, he continued, "You didn't seem too surprised at seeing something that, well, apparently hasn't been seen for over a thousand years. Why is that?"
Pausing in her mixing, Zecora looked at him, "Tales of humans from long ago, every zebra in my land knows. With great strength of body and mind, as well as disposition so kind." A playful smirk, "And weeks ago, you walked with a mare trio. Who would've thought you were such a Romeo?"
Coughing into his hand to hide his faint embarrassment, he asked, "So, what is this Poison Joke going to do to me?"
Zecora hummed quietly to herself before responding, "That remains a mystery, for you are the first human I have seen. There should be no need for alarm: I don't think it will cause any physical harm."
Naruto blinked, "You were kinda specific there when you mention 'physical'."
Zecora glanced at him, "Ailments of the flesh are simple to tend, but a troubled mind is difficult to mend. We will not know until it occurs, which could take many hours." She turned her head to look at him directly, "Though this situation may seem bad, valuable information is sure to be had. Until we begin to see any blight, I must insist you stay the night."
Naruto looked at his feet, "Is that really necessary? I mean, there wasn't very much: maybe nothing will happen?"
Zecora's eyes narrowed, "And if something does with your friends near: something that fills them with terrible fear?"
Naruto's eyes widened at the zebra, before seeming to realize how interesting his feet were: he didn't want to scare any of his pony friends, Fluttershy especially; such a fragile thing she was. He looked up at her, "Do you have a spare blanket I could use?"
They shared many things about themselves that night.
Naruto learned that Zecora was an herbalist, which was why she knew so much about the various plants of Equestria, as well as what could be used to remedy ailments brought about by various sources. She taught him much about her culture, as well as various words of her native language, including what she had said outside – and what she did surprised Naruto: such vulgarity!
Zecora learned that Naruto was what was best described as a warrior of the shadows, with the ability to perform amazing feats that even Unicorns could only dream of. He told her what he understood of Chakra and its properties. She found it amazing that this life energy could be utilized to not only fight, but also to mend and heal other living creatures, and that the humans of Naruto's land could wield it as easily as Unicorns could their magic, or Pegasi with the weather. As she did with him, he taught her some of his own language.
They shared many laughs as they fumbled many words of the other's language. Zecora got a pretty good laugh when she had asked about Hikaru and received this response:
"She's a sheep that shoots lightning! How awesome is that?"
Eventually, the siren call of sleep became too much for them to fight, so Zecora retired to her bed and Naruto slept on the floor near the cauldron, Hikaru allowing herself to be used as a pillow for the Shinobi's head. To the zebra's silent amusement, Naruto had a peculiar snore: one that actually filled her with a sense of security and caused her to sleep more easily than usual.
(The next morning...)
"WHAT THE FUCK, KURAMA? NOT COOL!"
This was the outraged cry that tore Zecora from the land of dreams. She rose to her haunches and rubbed the sleep from her eyes, before turning to admonish Naruto for the rude awakening.
The words never left her mouth however, when she got a look at what he had become.
Clawed hands gripped the rim of the cauldron, tensed fingers leaving indents in the metal. At some point during the warm night, the shirt Naruto was wearing had been cast aside and his arms and torso were covered in crimson hair, save for his stomach which proudly bore markings that reminded the zebra of her Cutie Mark. The human's blond hair had become a rust-orange, and a pair of long fox ears poked up out of the spiky mess. A long, lone fox tail lashed angrily behind his back.
He looked up at her and, despite herself, she gasped at the sight of his face. The lines on his cheeks had darkened to the point of being almost pitch-black. His mouth, open in shock, revealed that his canines had lengthened to become not unlike a carnivorous predator's. And his eyes, previously as blue as the ocean, were now as red as blood, his pupils having become slits.
Had she not spent the better part of the previous night getting to know him, she was certain she would have screamed at the sight. What kept her from panicking, however, was the look of absolute fear that had overtaken his face.
Kurama, being lenient with Naruto over the accusation, had calmly informed him that he was not responsible for whatever had caused his transformation in the night.
This left a single culprit: the Poison Joke.
Naruto fell to his knees and pressed his face against the rough side of the cauldron: there was no way he could go back to Ponyville looking like this: friend or not, Fluttershy was certain to freak out over his new appearance, and the others would probably keep him at hooves' length, now.
A gentle bleat from his right. Hikaru: loyal Hikaru was concerned for her friend.
Soft hoof falls came around to his left. Zecora's voice, so filled with shock that she failed to rhyme, "I didn't think such a... fierce reaction was possible."
Naruto could barely bring himself to look at her, "Those plants have a sick sense of humor."
Zecora nuzzled his arm, "I will most certainly agree with you there, Naruto." She nudged him gently, "On your feet: let's get you taken care of."
Slowly, Naruto rose back to his full height and could once again see his reflection on the liquid's surface, "So, do I drink it or what?"
Realizing just what had to be done now, Zecora could not keep the red off her face entirely, "Ingestion is not very safe. For it to work, you must..." The zebra gulped, "...bathe."
Naruto's cheeks became as red as his eyes, "What?" Seeing her open her mouth to answer, he cut her off, "I understand. It's just... well..."
Understanding just what he was getting at, she moved away from the cauldron and turned completely away from him, for both of their sakes. A quick glance at Hikaru, and she quickly joined the zebra.
Feeling more embarrassed than he had ever felt before, Naruto began to disrobe.
On a planet where humans still thrive, there is a saying: "curiosity killed the cat". A slightly altered variation of that phrase could be used in this situation: "curiosity made the zebra look at something that would remain in her mind for years to come". Okay, a heavily altered variation, but it still counts.
Taking a risk, Zecora snuck a quick glance at the human as he lifted himself up and into the cauldron. Eyes widening at just what she witnessed, her head quickly snapped back to where it had been facing previously, her face now scorching red. With the customary state of undress regarding ponies and her own tribe, Zecora had seen her share of male equipment, and, while she had never seen a human, she was pretty sure that that size wasn't very common among them. Attributing it as a side effect of the Poison Joke, she did her best to push the image from her mind for now.
Hearing a splash come from the cauldron, Zecora turned to see that Naruto had submerged himself completely. Approaching with caution, she jumped slightly when his head broke the surface. However, she breathed a sigh of relief: the remedy was successful, and Naruto looked as he did before.
Seeing that he was normal again, Naruto's grin threatened to split his head in two, "Thank you so much, Zecora! You're a lifesaver!"
Blushing at the praise, she looked at him, "Naruto, a question, if I may? That marking on your belly... what the hay?"
Naruto was about to make a crack at the poor rhyme, before he realized that Zecora was more interested in the seal. He sighed, "I get the feeling that it's the reason why the Poison Joke did what it did. I told you about Chakra and what it can do, right? Well, my parents used all of their Chakra – their life force – to seal a powerful creature inside of me to save my village." Seeing the look of shock on her face, he quickly continued, "But it's alright, now! Me and Kurama are comrades, friends even!"
Zecora's gaze was unfaltering, "This "Kurama"... what is it?"
"A giant nine-tailed fox."
"Tell me everything."
Naruto had no idea exactly how long he had spent talking to Zecora about his world, but now he could safely say that she was presently the most knowledgeable equine regarding his world.
What's more, she now knew more about him than any of the ponies he had befriended: she knew the story of his birth, the stigma of living as the container for a powerful force that could flatten mountains and scatter seas, all of his trials and hardships. She had learned of the power he wielded to defeat the darkness that had created Nightmare Moon. She learned of the nine-tailed fox, Kurama – something currently known only by one other, Princess Luna.
They forged a special bond: a bond shared by those who are seen as different.
During the time he spent with the zebra, he gladly assisted her in gathering many herbs to use for her many remedies. He had surprised her when he found yet another unusual plant, by the name of Heart's Desire. Having explained the flower's properties – and assuring him that it was absolutely nothing like the Poison Joke – Naruto was quick to retrieve it for her.
But now, after promising to visit her as often as his schedule would allow, he and Hikaru were now walking back into Ponyville...
...and right into an angry Twilight Sparkle.
Naruto tilted his head, "What's up, Twilight?"
Pretty sure he was seeing smoke puffing out of the mare's nostrils, Twilight growled, "You were supposed to be helping Applejack with the harvest! Where have you been?"
Glancing at Hikaru in confusion and receiving a similar look, he turned back to Twilight, "I went into the Everfree Forest with Hikaru for, what, a day? Fluttershy saw me last: didn't she tell you?"
"Naruto, nopony has seen you in two days! Fluttershy has been so worried about you: she said you'd be back before the day was over, but you never came back out!"
Jaw dropping, Naruto looked down at Hikaru, "We were gone for that long?" He returned his gaze to the mare, "I'm really sorry, Twilight. How's Applejack?"
Twilight shook her head back and forth, "She's completely out of it. That applebucking hasn't just been causing her problems: it's over-propelled a Pegasus, practically poisoned plenty of ponies, and terrorized bushels of brand-new bouncing baby bunnies."
Naruto looked surprised, "Applejack did all that in two days?"
"Applejack did all of that in four hours."
Naruto stared at her, face completely devoid of emotion.
(Sweet Apple Acres)
"APPLEJACK! You are going to stop right now and rest, or else I'll have Hikaru fucking ZAP you until you're unconscious!"
Twilight could feel the color draining from her face: maybe she should've worded it better?
Naruto had bolted shortly after being told what their friend had done, with that strange-looking sheep trailing behind. Twilight was quick to follow.
In a matter of minutes, Twilight found herself at Sweet Apple Acres, watching as Naruto attempted once more to get Applejack to stop, or else he was going to use force to make her stop. She would admonish him for that vulgarity later.
Looking positively dazed with pronounced bags under her eyes, Applejack wearily bucked at a tree, missing it by a wide margin, "Not now, Naruto: can'cha see Ah'm almost done?"
Naruto growled, "I mean it, Applejack: I will get her to shock you, and she can do it. Right, Hikaru?"
Hikaru raised her tail so that the sphere was pointed skyward, and Twilight gaped in surprise as it began to glow, while crackling sparks became visible against the sheep's wooly coat.
Shaking off the odd sight, Twilight looked sternly at her friend, "Applejack, enough is enough. You. Need. Help."
One final buck, and the last batch of apples fell into the baskets draped over Applejack's back. She let out a single laugh of satisfaction, "No, Ah don't. Look! Ah did it! Ah harvested the entire Sweet Apple Acres without yer help."
Naruto allowed his eyes to roam: indeed, every tree in the immediate vicinity held not a single apple in their branches. About to congratulate her for proving him wrong, his eyes drifted to another sector of the orchard. Without a word, he slowly began to raise a finger with which to draw the mare's attention as she continued to celebrate with a boastful "How do you like them apples?"
Big Mac, who had been watching the scene from close by, decided that as the eldest, it was his sacred duty to burst his sister's bubble, "Um, how do you like them apples?" He jerked his head in the direction that Naruto pointed, revealing...
Even more apple trees, still bearing their delicious red fruit. Apparently, Applejack had only reached the halfway point.
The shock caused her mind to short circuit, reducing her to unintelligible mumbles before she fainted clean away.
She could hear muffled voices. Two of them. They sounded so familiar.
Opening her eyes, her blurred slowly cleared to reveal the concerned faces of Twilight and Naruto, while that strange sheep sat next to the human. She tried to say something to let them know she was alright, but her voice failed her: she was just so tired.
Twilight sighed with relief, "Oh, good. You're okay."
Naruto released a breath he didn't realize he was holding, and placed a hand on her foreleg and smiled gently, "You really had me worried, AJ."
Applejack closed her eyes for a moment before opening them again, "Ah'm sorry, Naruto."
Twilight spoke up, "Now Applejack; I completely respect the Apple family ways. You're always there to help any pony in need. So maybe you can put a little of your stubborn pride aside and allow your friends to help you."
During the Unicorn's little speech, Applejack gazed off into the seemingly endless throng of apple trees. After what she had put herself through over the past week, she wasn't willing to try it a second time, "Okay, Twilight."
Having been expecting another refusal, Twilight continued, "I am not taking no for an answer." Then what had been said clicked immediately, "What?"
Lying there on the ground pitifully, which Naruto knew not to give her, Applejack begged, "Yes, Twilight." She brought her front hooves together as if in prayer, "Yes, please: Ah could really use your help."
Naruto chuckled softly to himself as Twilight let out another sigh of relief.
In no time at all, the other Element bearers arrived at the farm. After an amusing show of Fluttershy nearly snapping Naruto's spine when she hugged him in elation had gotten a good laugh out of the others, the five fresh mares and their human companion quickly got to work harvesting the remaining portion of Sweet Apple Acres while Applejack got some much-needed rest. Even Hikaru helped, bleating happily as she moved about, catching apples in the baskets that pressed against her soft wool.
Twilight and Naruto were making amazingly short work of large sections of trees. Twilight, using her incredible Unicorn abilities, levitated hundreds of apples at a time, while Naruto and his legion of Shadow Clones swept across the trees like an orange plague, snatching up every apple in sight.
Well into their harvesting, Applejack eventually came out with some refreshing apple juice. The group decided to take a break and partake in the no-doubt delicious drink.
As they gathered, Applejack spoke up, "Everypony, I can't thank you enough for this help. Ah was acting... a bit stubborn."
Naruto smirked when Twilight quipped, "A bit?"
"Okay," Applejack conceded, "A might stubborn. And Ah'm awful sorry. Now, Ah know the town gave me the Prized Pony award, but the real award is having you all as my friends."
Naruto thrust his bottle of apple juice into the air, "I'll drink to that!" He then tossed his head back and drank, much to the amusement of his friends. Leaning forward again, he grinned, "You know what? All that work gave me a big appetite!"
Spike, who had just joined them, spoke up, "And I've got the perfect treat!"
Not looking at the baby dragon, Naruto's grin didn't fade as he reached out and grabbed the offered goody, "Thanks, Spike."
Eyes closed, he lifted it up to his mouth to take a nice, big bite.
Startled by the combined shout of the six mares, Naruto opened his eyes to look at what he had grabbed: on the outside, it looked like an ordinary muffin. On the inside, however...
Pinkie Pie actually appeared to find the thing revolting, "EWW, Spike, I threw those away! Where did you get them?"
Without hesitating, he responded, "From the trash!"
The sound of the baked bad being crushed violently between human fingers quickly silenced the disgusted ponies. As a truly disturbing chill caused them to shiver, Naruto spoke in a low, dangerous tone, "Spike... I'm going to be the better man here...
"You have ten seconds."
Spike blinked in confusion, "Huh?"
As Naruto counted down, the sense of dread seemed to grow. His surprisingly mature brain deciding that he really should start running, Spike did just that.
The screaming, while not necessary, was a nice touch.
Naruto was on his feet and leapt into the air to chase after the young dragon.
Surprised by the sudden movement, Twilight shouted after him, "Naruto! That wasn't ten seconds!"
"I'm a ninja! Deception is our thing!"
(Sweet Apple Acres: that evening)
Naruto stifled a yawn as he sat on the couch: it had been an interesting week. Not many people could say that they befriended a lightning sheep and a zebra herbalist in one day, spent an extended period of time in a place that supposedly housed creatures that would make those in Training Ground 44 look tame, and harvest half an apple orchard with talking, brightly colored miniature horses.
Very briefly, Naruto wondered if this was what it was like to be high out of your mind.
"WHAT IN TARNATION?"
Applejack's shout of surprise had Naruto on his feet and up the stairs in several seconds flat. Barreling down the hall to where three of the four members of the Apple family were gathered, Naruto weaved past them and prepared to defend them from whatever had startled Applejack.
What he saw startled him, as well.
Apple Bloom was sitting on the floor of her room, smiling at what appeared to be a humanoid orange monster. The creature was sitting – cross-legged, no less – in front of her, staring back with a strange intensity.
Unable to make sense of the situation, Naruto had to ask, "...What... is that?"
Applejack stared at the thing, as if she couldn't believe it was actually there, "Ah saw it a couple of times at night, while Ah was bucking apples. But, how did...?"
Naruto looked at the filly that sat mere feet from it, "Apple Bloom?"
She grinned widely at him, "I found him in the barn! Can I keep him?"
The sound of Naruto slapping himself in the face echoed throughout the house.
I must apologize for how long it took to edit this: Castle Crashers and Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory does not mix well with my easily shifted attention.
Holy crap, Zecora is hard to figure out dialogue for: I need to buy myself a freaking rhyming dictionary.
And, for those of you who read "Romance is Something, Alright", you may have caught something from that in this new version of the chapter.