Hello everyone. pudgypudge here. I've been gone quite a while. No muse, no inspiration. So, one day I decided to challenge myself. Just one last try at fandom to see if I can still write anything worthwhile. I picked what I thought would be the most challenging crossover. Something, that I'd actually have to try to write for. My Little Pony stood out the best. So, I sat down and brainstormed and I think I might have something here. That's up to you entirely though. This is mainly for my benefit but hopefully it will give some of you something to read. I may finish this; I may not. This is my last ditch attempt to get my juices flowing again. I perused some of the fiction written about this and I'm watching the episodes on Youtube for research. I'm hoping to make this a little unique. Yes, it is a 'pony-fied' Naruto. But give it a shot. And hey, if you're bored, the cartoon isn't all that bad. It has some good little jokes on there. Had Enough by Breaking Benjamin.


Dear Diary,

I've never kept a journal before. I've never had to. But last night I had a dream. A dream too vivid to forget. Last night was the 100th anniversary of my sister's banishment and on that night I always have bad dreams, but I never remember them. I never remember any of my dreams.

I remember this one. But I don't know if it is good or bad.

In the dream, I walked on and on through a thick fog, white and muggy. I could feel it stick to my wings and coat as I walked. For hours it seemed I walked, aimlessly drifting through nothingness. I heard no sound from my steps for there was no ground. It was...unnerving.

Finally, in the distance, if there was such a thing as distance there, I could see a shape, small and black through the haze. I ran toward it, hoping it would have answers, whatever it may be. I stopped within a few feet of the creature and stared down.

It was a small foal. A tiny, rust-orange earth pony with a blonde spiky mane. Around its eyes were very light, almost invisible red markings, like those of a raccoon. I took a step forward and froze immediately. This small creature, looked so...wizened. As if the weight of the world was upon its shoulders. It was curled into a ball with its nose pressed against its flank.

It looked pitiful. It looked...weary. Tired. Sad...

...it made my heart hurt to look at it.

"He's beautiful, isn't he?"

I stood to my full height, spread my feet slightly, and demanded that whoever was there come out. Silence reigned in the mist for a few moments before the voice spoke again.

"He's beautiful, isn't he?"

It sounded mournful...and proud...and altogether sad. Like a mother would pine for a lost child. I turned back to the foal and took another glance. He was beautiful, I replied. A perfect creature. The mist seemed to recede a little and I could detect a hint of...happiness?

"He always was. Beautiful. Strong. Strong of body, of character, of morals...that's why he deserves this."

I asked what he deserved.

"You only live twice. The good die young, the old die gracefully, and legends never truly die. But he never had that chance. That's why he deserves to live twice."

I was afraid. Afraid of what the voice was saying. What was I in the presence of? A god? It spoke of this little colt like it was its child. I asked as such and received a small laugh.

"Of course he is my child. A special child. A flame against darkness that burned out before its time. That's why I give him to you."

But why, I asked.

"To maintain peace. This child has fought all his life for peace."

I looked at the small thing before me. All its life? It couldn't be more than a year old. Two at most. I voiced my disbelief.

"Do not try to understand everything or you will understand nothing. Believe when I say that this child has fought his entire life to bring peace to his people. It was his master's wish and his desire. He fulfilled it, but he was not allowed to enjoy peace. To maintain peace. To know peace. That is why I give him to you."

My mouth felt dry. And I asked why, once more, he was given to me. The voice indulged me.

"I give him to you, to your land, as a protector, for that is what he is. Tell me, young one, what is the essence of Harmony?"

Loyalty. Laughter. Generosity. Honesty. Kindness. Magic. I knew these by heart. The voice seemed pleased by my answer, but...

"All are true. But these are needed to maintain peace. What is needed to make peace?"

I didn't want to answer. I was beginning to understand what the voice meant. I refused to answer.

"Tell me. What is necessary? What is it that makes this child special?"

I swallowed hard. My voice cracked as I stared once more at the young foal, his tiny features weighted with what I could see now. Responsibility. Dedication. Servitude.

Yes...servitude. My voice choked. Sacrifice, I said.

"Yes. Sacrifice. This little one has always sacrificed himself. His happiness. His body. His soul. All for the well being of others. It's time he found the peace he deserves. But sacrifice is all he knows. Its engraved in his very essence. That is why he will protect Harmony."

The elements of Harmony? I asked.

"Yes. Peace must be fought for. Harmony is the goal. Sacrifice will maintain. He sleeps now, to regain his strength. He will awaken one day and I will send him to you. You must show him the way of your world. The way of peace."

My world? It sounded like this foal would have no idea what he was.

"He will be...confused. He will not know, but you must show him. Help him down the path to his own peace. I will send him to you when he awakes."

What is his name? I inquired. The voice seemed to swell up with pride and joy and I could feel...love in its presence as it spoke.


Dear Diary,

It has been so many years since I last wrote of that dream. The dream with the young colt. I had almost forgotten about it. Tonight is the anniversary of my sister's imprisonment and I write in you again. I daresay this was less a dream and more a premonition.

I believe my previous dream to be one as well.

In this dream, I walked in the mist again, but this time, I knew where to go. Soon, I came upon the little foal again, unchanged from the last time I saw him, except for his eyes. The red around his eyes was darker now and more realized. He looked complete. And this time he was awake. And not alone.

Sitting beside him was the strangest creature I have ever seen. It was smooth. And pale. Its mane was long and luxurious and red, but it had no coat. Its style of dress was unlike anything I've seen. But as I approached, it smiled at me, as it used its strange appendage, like a monkey's arm, to stroke the little colt.

"He's beautiful, isn't he? My little Naruto..."

My breath hitched when he opened his eyes. Oh, how blue they were. Like tiny oceans, bottomless and unending. He blinked at me and looked at her. She smiled sadly and stroked his mane again.

"This is who will be taking care of you. She will show you the way. Do not fear. Do you understand?"

He nodded and struggled to his feet, as if he'd never stood before. Towering over him, I realized how tiny he looked. How frail.

How powerful.

His head held high, he looked me square in the eye and I could feel it. Power. Protection. The power to protect. Then his head dipped low and he bowed before me. The female creature behind him smiled and stood up, dusting her dress as she did.

"He will find you, Princess. This is his chance to know peace. Please help him along."

What is he to you? I had to know. This small bundle entrusted to me. I felt protected and wanted to protect him as well. It was conflicting.

The red maned creature smiled at me, a large smile that I would come to know well in the coming years.

"He's my son. My beloved son. My Naruto."

Celestia let the quill fall to the table and closed the diary with a small thump. Two dreams. In hundreds of years, she had only remembered two dreams. The dreams of the little colt and the red-maned female. With a sigh, she stood and walked to her chamber door, intent on a walk to clear her mind. Four guards made a box formation around her and they were off through Canterlot.

Her mind was not with her as she smiled at the people of the city. They bowed as she walked past, waiting until the tip of her tail was gone before rising. Would the premonition come true? Or was it simply her mind playing tricks on her?

It couldn't be. She could never imagine such a creature as in her dream. And then she saw a small rust-orange blob coming down the cobblestone street, its small hooves clacking along. It held its head high as it headed straight for her, and for the first time in a long time, the Princess was dumbfounded.

It was the little colt from her dream.

Ponies stopped and whispered as he continued toward the princess unabashed. What was a small pony doing in Canterlot on its own? An earth pony, no less?

The guards tensed when she stopped and stared, only to find a little foal walking toward them. The youngest guard in the rear, a pegasus, sneered and started forward, only to be stopped by the oldest guard in the group, a unicorn. The unicorn shook his head and ambled in front of the princess, intent on teaching the boy manners.

"Son, I know you're young, but you must respect your princess. Step aside and bow and let us be on our way."

The little foal glanced up at him, snorted, and walked right past, right up to Celestia's feet. She looked down into his eyes and immediately felt at peace. He had finally arrived. She began to smile warmly when the youngest guard stepped forward and began to berate the little colt loudly. She hadn't realized how quiet things had gotten on the street until that moment. Everyone was staring. Just as she was about to reprimand the guard, she noticed those big blue eyes narrow.

The guard never knew what hit him.

It took only a second for tiny legs to buck upward and send the guard flying several feet backwards. Not so impressive except for the fact that this was a trained royal guard and the attacker was a small colt. A gasp rang throughout the streets and the guard scrambled to his hooves, intent on teaching the little one a lesson in respect.


The single, quiet command echoed through the stones of the city, stopping everything in its path. Celestia bent her head down to meet the big blue eyes of her subject. He didn't flinch, meeting her gaze entirely. She smiled. It would seem destiny was not simply a roll of the die.

"Come along, Naruto. Your lessons begin tomorrow."

She turned. He followed.

How many years had it been since he had come to the palace? Nearly twenty, she figured. Time didn't matter when you were nigh immortal. Time marched on. Ponies aged. Ponies...passed on...

But she never did. She was always there. An observer in time. And she observed better than anyone else.

Naruto was a quick study. He knew nothing of pony language. Or mannerisms. Or culture. But he was a quick study. Very quick. Especially when it came to being a fighter.

A protector.

She estimated he was about five years old when he walked into her life. By the age of six, he was able to hold conversations with any pony he talked to. He was polite. He was calm, quiet, erudite. She taught him manners, culture, and the ways of noble pony life. He hated it. He was a free spirit at heart, but he was well-behaved. He never wanted to embarrass her.

It was when she introduced him to the guardsmen that she saw his talent in full effect. His mother, for that is what she had said she was, was correct. He was strong. He was equipped for battle. This little pony had fought before. She could see it when he moved...and it saddened her to some degree, that one so young would know of battle.

By the age of seven, he was holding his own against the new recruits.

By eight, he was beating them. By nine he was learning against the more experienced soldiers. By ten, he was a royal guardsman, the youngest ever, and the only earth pony in her court guard. She didn't see him much after that for a few years. But she was proud of him. And he looked so cute in his custom made small armor. The thought still made her laugh.

She was a princess and the caretaker of the sun and moon. Military matters were left to her advisers and the captains of her guard. She still had final say, but she trusted their judgment. So when they presented her new bodyguard to her, she was shocked and happy.

The newest lieutenant was her bodyguard, the colt she had taken in and mentored, Naruto. He bowed low before her and she bid him rise with a smile. He gave her a small smile back and everything was right with the world.

He was a wonderful bodyguard. Dutiful and stoic while on duty. Behind closed doors, he was the sweet colt she had practically raised. Polite and mature beyond his years. But then, he would be. He wasn't what he seemed, was he? When pressed for a reward for making it so far, so young, he had only one request.

He wanted rid of the helmet he was made to wear. Too restrictive he said. All he asked for was a different head piece. That night she had a dream again. It was another one of those creatures, like the red-maned one, but this one had a white mane...and he was huge. He towered over her. But his eyes were kind and the red tear marks under them helped her see that. The dream ended when he took the headband off his forehead and presented it to her with a charming grin.

"Tell him to wear it with pride. Tell him I'm proud of him."

She commissioned it right away the next morning, down to the exact detail. The strange markings, the horns, the red cloth. It was all the same. He had loved it. He had bowed low as she tied it around his forehead with her magic. Thanked her profusely. His vigor to fulfill his duty returned tenfold. She had nothing to fear with him around.

One point of contention was that he had yet to receive his cutie mark on his flank. The other guards teased him good-naturedly about it, and he took it in stride, but she could tell it bothered him. She assured him that he simply had not found his calling yet, and he adamantly rebuked that, saying that his place was at her side.

It made her happy to hear that. But all good things come to an end. She was a monarch, but she couldn't rule the hearts and souls of her subjects. Greed and envy run deep in the hearts of all creatures.

She knew before he even came into her chamber. Today was the day he would go away, out into that cold, wide world. Her protege, her constant companion, her...

...she didn't know what he was at times. She knew for certain he didn't belong in the castle though. He belonged to their world. He belonged to Nature, to Equestria. The walls confined him.

She had heard the murmurs of several of her guards, including the captains. How the lowly little earth pony was only advancing because of his proximity to the princess. How his strength was unnatural. His ability in a fight too controlled for a pony of his age.

He'd been accused of being several things. Changeling, worst among them. But he'd borne it in stride. Too proud to bend to their whispers. But she could see that it hurt him. It haunted him. He only wanted to serve the kingdom, to serve her.

...such was sacrifice...

Celestia threw her head back and looked at the ceiling with a sigh, dreading what was to come. The door creaked and in walked her bodyguard, ears and tail drooping, his armor gone.


It was just an hour ago that he was called into his commanding officer's office. He'd never been called in for anything other than a commendation of service by the previous Captain, an old Unicorn who valued service and honor above all. He'd sadly retired two years ago, having given half his life to his country and princess.

The new Captain did not mesh well with him.

"Do you know why I've called you here, Lieutenant?"

Standing at attention, Naruto stared straight ahead into his Captain's eyes.

"No sir."

"I've heard disturbing reports of uncalled-for behavior unbefitting an officer of the court. I am displeased by this, Lieutenant."

Naruto's face betrayed nothing, but inside his mind was racing. He'd been warned by his princess that this day might come. His youth and closeness to royaltly would work against him in palace politics.

"I have no knowledge of what you speak, sir."

"Harrassing palace guests. Consorting with unknown parties. Collussion. Bribery. Need I go on, Lieutenant?"

"Do you have proof, sir?"

"I do. Several signed affidavits confirming your whereabouts and the identities of your co-conspirators. I thought better of you than this."

Leaning forward on his desk, the Captain glared at the young earth pony.

"I don't like you, Lieutenant. I didn't like you when you were a fresh recruit, I don't like you now. Your service up til now has been exemplary though. That's why these reports disturb me highly. You're the only earth pony in the military right now. Most don't bother. But you have a gift, a very special gift. That's why you were allowed to join."

The chair he sat in spun and the Captain faced outside, overlooking the courtyard.

"Your strength and agility are astounding. Your ability to tap into the magic of Nature is nothing short of a miracle. You have advanced quickly through the ranks, but you've made no friends doing it. And you're certainly not one to play politics."

He spun back around to face the rust-orange stallion and put his hooves together in front of his face.

"In respect for your service to your country, I am cutting you a break. You are to be honorably discharged, despite what I have on you. The evidence is all against you and I have the paperwork filled out from the other Captains of the Guard. It takes two of us three to make the decision to remove an officer of the Court. You are hereby stripped of rank."

Naruto felt his heart sink. Being a guard was all he knew.

"Stripped of title. Stripped of authority. I want your office in the barracks cleaned out by the end of the day. I want you out of my city by morning. I won't have a disgraced soldier mucking up my city or my guard."

Naruto's teeth were grinding. Why now? He'd done nothing wrong. This was a set-up. As he opened his mouth to speak, the Captain gave him a smug grin.

"If it were up to me, you'd be out on your ear now, dishonorably discharged from service. Like I said, I never liked you. I didn't like you when you kicked me the first time and embarrased me in front of the princess. I don't like you now. I don't know if the reports are true or heresay and frankly, I don't care. It gets you out of my mane. Turn in your armor now."

The rust-orange pony was visibly shaking by now. He'd been warned. He didn't want to believe it though. Didn't want to believe this level of pettiness existed here. With a quick shrug and a few tugs of his teeth his armor clattered to the ground. The Captain sneered and held out his hoof.

"The headband as well. All effects. Now."


The Captain's eyes shone with anger.

"I said 'Now!', soldier!"

Naruto merely turned and walked to the door, the forehead protector still in place. He looked over his shoulder at his former captain, the red around his eyes suddenly seemed to be deeper and his blue eyes shone.

"I'm not one of your goddamn soldiers anymore. Discharged, rememeber? And this headband doesn't belong to you. Sir."

"Don't you dare..."

Before anything else could be said, the door was blasted away by a quick blow from Naruto's right forehoof. Debris scattered everywhere, ponies of all sorts went flying, dodging stone and wood. Naruto stepped into the hall and spit on the tile, heading off to grab his personal effects before saying goodbye to the one person he cared about.

The Captain sat at his desk in a cold sweat, nervously mopping at his head with a handkerchief. The Head Captain of Luna's Guards poked his head in and took a seat at one of the chairs that wasn't knocked over. He'd been listening to the conversation outside.

"I hope you and the Head Captain of the TownGuard are satisfied. You've just lost our military a valuable contribution. That young stallion was a beacon to the townsfolk and most of the palace servants."

Naruto's former Captain growled and stood up from his desk.

"I'm glad he's gone. Maybe now things can get back to normal. Earth ponies don't belong in our ranks anyway."

"That'll change quick, Captain. Mark my words. You've just opened a door to policy change around here. Better hope you're around to see it. I had nothing against that colt. He was a good soldier. And more importantly, favored by the princess herself."

Bowing low before Princess Celestia, Naruto kept his eyes closed to avoid her gaze. She noticed that he had his saddlebags loaded with what few personal items he owned. He was a soldier. Personal property was a luxury.

"I've been...discharged, Milady. I...have to leave your service tonight."

Celestia sighed. She knew this was coming.

"Oh Naruto...it was just not meant for you to be here. You belong elsewhere."

"I belong by your side!"

His hoof hit the tile and caused the room to shake. Immediately he was filled with shame and bowed his head.

"I'm sorry, your Highness. It is unbecoming of me to lose my temper with you."

"I understand, Naruto. You look strange without your armor, you know. It will take some getting used to."

His ears drooped further it seemed.

"Yes, Milady..."

Taking a deep breath, Celestia slowly approached her protege. With a gentle hoof, she raised his chin so he could meet her gaze.

"I know of what has been done. I know that those documents were forged. I know you are innocent. And the Captains responsible will be punished. Rest assured."

Blue eyes darted back and forth, searching for reason.

"Then why?"

"Because...you are meant to go and find your destiny elsewhere. Oh Naruto, many of us don't want you to go. The servants adore you. You're a very polite young gentlecolt. The townspeople feel safe when you walk the street beside me. They feel like they can approach me. One bodyguard of great strength is much more endearing than a squad of trained soldiers."

She smiled gently at him and she was reminded once more of when he was little and held her gaze, unafraid of her power.

"Your power is unmatched here. Your agility, untouchable. Trust me, when I say that this is not an end, but a beginning. And you will be missed. By me. By the younger soldiers who look up to you. By the palace servants. By the people of Canterlot. But it's time for you to go and see the world."

"I've seen the world by your side."

"No, you've seen where I have taken you in this world. It's not the same. You must experience it for yourself. Find your place in the world. Get that cutie mark finally. Find a nice mare, for heaven's sake!"

Red seemed to flare upon his cheeks.

"Princess! Please!"

She covered her mouth daintily with her hoof and laughed, the sound soothing him somewhat. This was a side she showed few. A regent can't appear too soft, after all. He gave her a sad smile and his eyes had never seemed bigger.

"I was instructed to turn in all my effects. Including the headband you had made for me."

"Oh, Naruto. That's..."

"No. I...I want to do this right. I want you to have it back. Keep it for me. Perhaps one day, my travels will bring me back here and I can accept it back then."

A lump formed in her throat as she levitated the headband up and over his ears, the weight seeming to slow down time itself. This was it. She was losing not only a valued member of her court, but a dear friend...nay, a family member. Naruto strode forward and wrapped his forelegs around her neck.

"Thank you, Princess. For everything. I love you."

And with that he walked away without looking back. Celestia sat there stunned into silence. He'd never said that. He'd never hugged her. As a foal, as a young colt, never. Not even in their most private moments where she could see it in his eyes. He was devoted to her and Equestria. For hours it seemed she sat there, staring out the window, long after his silhouette had vanished from her view, out past Canterlot.

He didn't deserve what had happened, but she let it play out. He needed to leave, to experience the world. He needed this push. He couldn't do that if he was always dedicated to sacrificing everything just to protect her.

There was that word again...sacrifice...

Suddenly angry with the whole situation, she called for an attendant.

"Yes, your Highness?"

"Summon the Captains of the Guard. All three. I believe we will have something to discuss. I want them here within the hour!"

A loud explosion caught her attention and she saw a ring of rainbow in the sky. She'd never seen such a thing! And right after that, an enormous surge of magical power.

A sudden crash outside caught her attention once more. A giant baby dragon had exploded through the research wing of her School for Gifted Unicorns. She flapped her wings and flew to the open window.

"Better make that in two hours. I have a feeling I might be a bit preoccupied for a while!"

She'd found her next student.

It had been a few years since he left the palace. He hadn't even bothered to keep up with the time because knowing how long he'd been away would only depress him more. He was lost, without a purpose. He needed purpose. Needed to be needed. At least, that's what he thought. The life of a vagabond didn't suit him.

He'd been all over Equestria it seemed. He'd seen the kingdom, but he still hadn't found a place where he belonged. For the past few weeks he'd been wandering through the Everfree Forest. He'd seen the ancient palace Celestia had told him about before, falling down around itself in disrepair, but out of respect, he stayed away from it.

He sighed as he walked along. He had no bits left to his name. He hadn't actually worked anywhere in about a year. Nothing gave him the satisfaction that the physical labor of being a guard did. The training off duty. Speaking with the Princess and learning from her. He missed his old life.

Head down and staring at the ground as he plodded along, he hadn't really been paying attention to where he was going. His stomach gurgled hungrily and his lips curled in a frown. He was so hungry! He really should have taken that job back in Stalliongrad as a bouncer. The bits would have at least got him some rations for this little excursion.

Lost in thought, he plodded along. Look at him. A former Lieutenant in the Royal Guard, the bodyguard of Celestia herself, reduced to that of a regular bum. He used to be somebody! Now he was out in the wilderness...alone. A quick snort banished that line of thought. He had moped enough over the years.

His walking came to a halt however when he ran head first into a tree and felt something besides bark smash on top of his skull. A quick rubdown of his forehead to make sure nothing was hurt but his pride and he looked downward to find...an apple? An apple!

Quick as lightning he snapped a bite out of the gleaming red fruit and munched happily, his stomach tasting its first real drop of food in days. He looked up in the branches to see lots of apples, literally tons of them. Licking his lips in anticipation, he sat down at the trunk, lifted his front right hoof and tapped the tree. He didn't want to break it, just knock some apples loose. His stomach grumbled again and he pulled his hoof back and slammed it onto the bark.

He was greeted by a shower of red. One last apple thumped him on the skull and he chuckled to himself.

"Whoops. Guess that was a bit too hard."

The apples were delicious. He felt like he must have eaten half the pile. The rest he planned to shove in his saddle bags for the trip. They'd keep for a few days at least. And with his stomach full, he'd have time to meditate and reconnect with Nature again. His energy had been low as of late.

"You gonna pay for those apples? Or am I gonna have to take it outta yer hide?"

Naruto froze in place and slowly turned to see a large red Stallion, a draft horse, wearing a large wooden yoke, staring at him with half-lidded eyes, a piece of wheat swishing around his lips. Naruto was by no means of the definition 'small'. He rountinely was bigger than most guards. But this guy was by and large one of the largest ponies he'd ever met. A hoof went behind his head and he scratched at an invisible itch, trying to disarm the situation with his patented smile that usually got him out of trouble.

"I apologize, sir. I wasn't aware that these apples were anyone's to own."

The big green eyes of the red pony didn't flinch. His voice came out again, slow and measured.

"Yer on my farm. Sweet Apple Acres. And those apples belong to my family. Its how we make our living. Now ya gonna pony up the bits for 'em? Or do I have to have you arrested?"

Naruto's smile fell.

"I'm sorry. I don't have any bits. But! But perhaps we could come to an arrangement of sorts? Could I work them off somehow? I didn't mean to steal, sir."

The red pony rolled the wheat around to the other side of his mouth.

"Maybe. I saw whatcha did to that tree. Ain't many can buck apples with one hoof like that. I'm one of the few that can. But never seen anypony do it with a front hoof. Name's Big Macintosh. You come with me. We'll see what my sister says about this."

A nod was his answer.

"My name is Naruto, sir."

"Strange name fer a strange feller, I suppose."

"And who in tarnation is this?"

Big Macintosh rolled his eyes. He'd already explained the situation. Leave it to Applejack to need more than one time to get it.

"I just told you who he was, sis. And what I caught him doing. And how he did it. And how we came to be here."

"I know what you said, smartypants. It still doesn't explain who he is or where he came from or what he was doing in our orchard."

Naruto stepped forward and bowed his head a bit, the way he'd been taught.

"My name is Naruto, Miss Applejack. I'm a wanderer and I only ate your apples because I was hungry. I can do some work to pay for them. I'm unfortunately out of bits."

Applejack rubbed her chin with her hoof. Worker, huh? She and Big Mac could certainly use a helping hand. Maybe...

"I wanna see you buck a tree first. Then we'll talk. Lemmee get some baskets for the apples. If you can actually knock some off, that is."

Not five minutes later, Applejack had baskets set up under a fully loaded tree. She turned to Naruto and narrowed her eyes.

"Alright, Mister. Let's see some magic."

Naruto nodded and walked past her, staring resolutely at the tree. If only he hadn't been caught eating those apples, he wouldn't be in this position. But he'd been taught to always do the honorable thing. He owed these ponies for the meal. And a little work never hurt anyone. He looked back at the Apple family. An elderly green pony and a small yellow one with a large bow had come out to watch too. Great. Now he had an audience.

"Just like I saw ya do back there, Mister Naruto."

He nodded to Big Mac and sat down in front of the tree. Lifting one hoof, he sized up and gave a quick thrust. The Apple family's jaws collectively hit the ground when apples showered down into the waiting baskets. Naruto stood and sauntered back over to the four. Applejack seemed to finally get her mouth working again.

"How? One hit? But only...but you...You're hired!"

Taken aback, Naruto lifted one hoof before him defensively, surprised at her sudden invasion of his personal space with her last declaration. The grin on her face was practically predatory.

"Miss, while I'm flattered, I only wanted to work off what I owed for the apples I ate and have in my bags. I'm not sure I'm cut out for farm work."

"The heck you ain't! You just knocked out an entire tree's worth of apples with one hit! Why, with you around, me and Mac can get more done! We can increase production. Increased production means increased profits! Please, Mister Naruto!"

"But I..."

"We'll put ya up. Free rent! Mac can help build ya a room on the side of the house. Granny's a great cook. You'll have your meals with us. And with more money flowing in we can pay ya a decent wage!"

Naruto looked helplessly back and forth from one family member to the other. Granny Smith chuckled and winked at him.

"You better just say yes, young'un. Applejack don't take 'no' for an answer. Besides, ya said ya was a wanderer. Ain't ya tired of wandering around? Settle down in one place for a while and ya might find what you're looking for. Or that special somepony you're looking for. Worse places to be than Ponyville, ya know?"


The little yellow one bounced in place, happy with the idea.

"Sure thing, Mister Naruto! I'm Applebloom! You'll like it here. It's great living on the farm! And Ponyville has lots to do! It's where I go ta school!"

Naruto looked helplessly from one family member to the next. Applejack and Applebloom both had large smiles on their faces and their eyes were hopeful. Big Mac looked uninterested, but that was a lie. His eyes betrayed him. He wouldn't mind some help. And Granny Smith...had fallen asleep...The yellow-maned pony sighed and looked at the sky.

"Well, it wouldn't hurt I suppose. But I reserve the right to leave when I want if this isn't something I want to do. I'll work off what I ate otherwise and I'll leave."

Applejack positively beamed.

"Great! Come on in the house and we'll get you settled. Big Mac! Get his saddlebags and put them up somewhere. Applebloom, fetch some blankets. We'll make him a pallet in the living room for now til we get that room built. Granny Smith, wake up!"

Naruto sighed as he followed along behind the Apples. At least, he wouldn't be sleeping outside tonight. And maybe, just maybe, this is what the princess was talking about when he left all those years ago. He couldn't help feeling a little lighter inside. These folks' energy and happiness was infectious.

So there we go. I'm working on a second chapter as we speak. And again, this is just to try to get my juices flowing, but if people end up liking it, then who am I to complain? Let me know what you think.