There was a whisper of wind.
The serene and empty road into Ponyville laid bare, only a couple of birds resting in the trees bearing witness to the sudden scene that unfolded.
A maelstrom suddenly erupted, as if torn from sheets of a mighty hurricane itself. Dust flew into the air and the setting sun's brightness suddenly became a back-lighting, as from the sky, a pillar of purest white suddenly descended.
It hit the earth with a muffled thunderclap. A final rush of wind shook the trees and scattered loose pebbles and leaves, as the impact blasted a wave of air outwards. It was certainly enough to send the birds flying.
Just as quickly as it had started, the noise ceased. A cloud of debris continued to float around the site. After a minute of silence, another sound cut through the quiet: that of a small pony, coughing.
"*ahack!* Uhh... *ahack!* Mister... Mister Presto? Mister Great and *ahack* Powerful Presto? You there?"
There were more sounds of scuffling and small clopsteps, as the young pony tried to wave away the cloud of dirt. Gradually, his form came into view as the dust began to settle. Though a fair amount of the dirt clung to his yellow hide, the young colt's orange eyes remained undeterred, even when he took off his baseball cap and waved at the cloud some more.
"*ahack, ahack!* Mister Presto? Where... where'd you go?" he questioned, obviously looking for somepony. Once he deduced that he was actually alone on the road, he began taking in his surroundings once more.
"It don't look like ah moved any... did Mister Presto get moved instead? Ah mean, he's s'posed t' be the second best unicorn in Equestria! Ah wouldn't think he'd be able t' get it wrong!"
When it became obvious that he'd get no answers from an empty patch of road, the young boy pony finally turned himself towards the small village in the distance. He set his eyes in determination, and placed his hat back on his head, before rearing up onto his hindlegs.
"If it did work... then maybe ah actually made it! But Ah won't know f' sure till ah find out! So... here we go!"
And with that, Applebuck began galloping towards Ponyville, yelling at the top of his lungs.
"JAYJAY! COUSIN JAYJAY! AH'M-AH COMIN'! WAIT FER ME, COUSIN JAYJAAAAY!"
By the time he made it into the town proper and began encountering ponies, he was simultaneously heartened and unnerved to learn that he had indeed, landed in the right dimension.
The earth-pony's eyes were wide as he spotted familiar faces. Ones that were soft where they were once strong before, and vice-versa. He did a double-take as a pony he knew as 'Lemon Hooves' in his world walked past him, and then yet another as 'Pokey Pop' strolled through his path. The former was now a filly, the latter, now a stallion. All the colts were mares now, and all the mares were colts!
He shook his head as he tried to think. Ah need tah find Cousin JayJay! Even if she's... not really mah cousin, ah still want tah find her! She's not Red Gala, an' she's shore not Applejack! She's... she's th' big sis ah never had! And ah wanna be wit' her!
A young colt in a mare's land, Applebuck nevertheless steeled himself. He pointed himself towards the marketplace, a clear vision of the Sweet Apple Acres fruit stand in mind. He would have reached there unimpeded as well, if only he hadn't given himself tunnel-vision and accidentally run into another pony.
"Awp!" came the voice, as he felt his forehoof land on something that wasn't ground.
"Oh!" he yelped, jumping back a step. "Ah'm so sorry, are y'all all-riiii...?"
Harpsy and Babar were both giving him a curious look, the cream-coated pony in particular rubbing at a hoof. At least, they looked like Harpsy and Babar. But their shorter stature, rounded curves, and delicate snouts unequivocally marked them as mares instead of stallions.
"Oh, it's okay dear." the not-Baber soothed, a patient look on her face. "Though you should really keep a better eye on where you're going."
"A little preoccupied, are we?" the female Harpsy spoke up, giving the colt a smile. "Say, I don't think I've seen you around before, actually. You new here?"
"Uhm... a-ah yeah, ah am." the red-maned pony bashfully replied. "Ah just... got into Ponyville t'day, y'know. Hey, uhm... real sorry 'bout th' trippin' up, ah was just..."
Both fillies chuckled. The mint unicorn spoke yet again. "Well then, welcome to Ponyville! I'm Lyra, and the one you nearly tripped up here is BonBon. If you're lost, we can give you the grand tour of the town, if you'd like!"
Applebuck worked his jaw a few times, before managing a reply. "Ah... Well... ah... ah thank y-ya kindly, but... ah... ah'm just lookin' fer m-mah Cousin JayJay. She lives here in Ponyville, and ah wanted t' visit."
The mares blinked, before looking at each other. "JayJay... I don't know any JayJay." BonBon hummed. "Can you think of anypony named that, Lyra?"
"No-one comes to mind... then again, it's not like we know EVERY pony in Ponyville, that's Pinkie's job. I bet if we asked her-"
"A-ah'm sorry." the yellow colt interrupted, his cheeks slightly red from embarrassment. "T-that's just what ah call her. Her... her actual name is, uhm... Applejack." It felt odd to say the name out-loud and not be referring to his elder brother at the same time.
Thankfully, the two faces lit up in recognition. "Oh, APPLEJACK!" the musician exclaimed. "I should have guessed, with your accent and all. I'm afraid you just missed her."
The curly-haired equine nodded as well. "She was packing up the stall in the marketplace when we last saw her, a minute or so ago. If you know where the Acres are, you might could catch up with her!"
At this, the little pony cheered. "Yee-haw! That's all ah wanted t' know! Thank 'ya Har- ah, a-ah mean, Miss Lyra. And thank 'ya too Miss B-...B-BonBon!"
They waved farewell to him as he galloped quickly off in another direction, angling himself towards the apple farm. Once he was out of sight, the candy-maker put a hoof to her mouth, humming in contemplation.
"That colt... he kind of reminds me of a certain other little pony, don't you think?"
"Hmmm... now that you mention it, yeah, he does kinda. How exactly though, I'm not sure. Can't really put my finger on it..."
"... hon, don't you mean 'hoof'?"
Applebuck ran pell-mell over hill after hill, his destination firmly in mind. As he finally crested one last grassy knoll, his eyes lit up in excitement at the sight before him. Sweet Apple Acres. Home sweet home.
Or, in this case, home-away-from-home.
He didn't really have a plan when he had first set out. He had only learned the basics. That the 'agents' were really doubles of the six most well-known ponies in Ponyville. That 'Cousin JayJay' was in fact, Applejack. A female Applejack. And that it was a spell that had brought them to his own world... and had also taken them back.
Finding the spell in question had been easy. A few well-placed questions directed at Spines had gotten him the info he needed. Finding another unicorn that wasn't Dusk, but just as strong as him, to pull off the spell had been trickier, but doable. And now that he was here... he found himself hesitating for a second.
Now that ah'm here... once ah go in thar... once ah find mah cousin... then what? Will she be happy t' see me? Or will she be upset? Ah don't want her mad at me! Ah just... ah wanna be family wit' her! Ah wanna sit down at th' table an' have dinner, an' then play some card games, an' then go t' bed an' listen to a story! Ah wanna know what it's like, t' have somepony like her as mah cousin! As mah SISTER!
"Cousin JayJay..." the young pony whispered to himself, eyes still trained on the farm before him. "Can y'all give me one more chance?"
The silence stretched into a long minute. At last, the cap-bearing colt finally placed a hoof forward, setting himself into motion, when a buzz began to echo through the air.
He froze and let his eyes dart around, easily recognizing the sound. "Sc... Scooteroll?" he called out, his mind awash in possibilities. Did the rest of the Crusaders follow after him? Was Scooteroll and Silver currently barreling down on his position? Or...
Wait, that was something else he hadn't thought about. For every pony that's a mare back home, they're here as a colt instead. And for every BOY that there was back home...
He barely dodged out of the way as a scooter and wagon suddenly crested over the hill's edge. Panicked screams were had all around as the Crusader-mobile careened and screeched to a stop, Applebuck tumbling head over hooves as he landed a short distance away, pride bruised, but otherwise uninjured.
"Scootaloo!" same a soft, squeaky voice. "You really shouldn't go so fast all the time! You almost HIT somepony!"
"I know, I know! I'm sorry!" came another voice, somewhat tomboyish, panicked in tone. They called out to him. "Oh man, hey! You alright?"
"Y-yeah. Ah'm okay." the schoolpony groaned, rubbing the dirt from his eyes. He felt a presence step up next to him, before feeling a hoof upon his own. He accepted the help as he was brought back up to a sitting position, taking the time to bring both forelimbs to his eyes, cleaning them out.
"GOLLY." said a high-pitched, southern twang from the pony who had assisted him. "Y'all shore? Y' took a real tumble back there!"
Applebuck blinked, while his vision slowly cleared up. He felt the world come screeching to a complete halt, as the last thing that he had ever expected, came into his focus.
Standing before him was another yellow earth-pony. Her red mane was held back by a sizable pink bow in a ponytail, and her large, orange eyes were adorned with obvious lashes.
"Awful sorry 'bout that. Scootaloo 'kin be rather RASH sometimes." she continued, looking behind her to give the orange pegasus a glare. She then quickly turned back. "But, um, if yer all right, then howdy! Ain't ever seen you 'round b'fore!" she greeted, eyes giving him a welcoming sparkle.
The young capped colt continued staring at the sight before him, being face-to-face with something that he was in no way in the least, in this entire short-sighted escapade, prepared for.
It's me. Oh AJ, Red Gala, Grampy Smith, help me! She's ME!
The bow-bearing filly gave him a smile, before holding out a hoof towards him in friendship.
"Mah name's Applebloom! What's yours?"
To Be Continued?