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 to be the second best unicorn in Equestria! Ah wouldn't think he'd be able to 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, 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 to find Cousin JayJay! Even if she's... not really mah cousin, Ah still want to find her! She's not Red Gala, an' she's sure 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-Babar 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 today, 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 to 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 to 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 to 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 sure? Yah 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 before!" 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?"
On a Whisper of Wind
By Conner Cogwork
What would you do, if you met a pony who was at once your brother, and yet not? Applebuck wishes to reunite with his 'Cousin JayJay', and braves the dimensional divide to reach his goal. But being a small foal, how will he deal with a world in which everything is flipped? His friends, his family, and even... himself?
With a Careless Thought
Ah don't want to be here anymore.
He was fighting the instinct that was telling him to run as far away as possible in the opposite direction from the yellow pony. Color was draining from his face, his hooves starting to feel heavy, as her form completely filled his sight.
It's like lookin' in a mirror... some kind o' twisted funhouse mirror! his head resounded. She's ME! She's what ah woulda been if ah'd been born a GIRL! Why's she wearin' a BOW! Bows are FRU-FRU!
"Hey," the orange pegasus spoke as she trotted up alongside her friend. "You alright? Or did the cat get your tongue?"
"Oh, it wasn't Opal, was it?" the white unicorn added, coming up to the opposite side. "Or was it some kitty else?"
Applebuck let his eyes shift over the other two fillies. Once again he was floored by how similar they were to his friends back home. And yet at the same time, looking into their faces, he could see the small differences here and there. The unicorn's mane in particular was more curly than Silver's had ever been.
The small earth-pony in front of him cocked an eyebrow, before looking back at the winged one. "Y'all sure ya didn't hit 'em?"
Purple eyes flashed. "Hey, it's not like I saw him until the last minute! He was just STANDIN' there, y'know! Hey!" The small pegasus stepped up closer towards him, wings flared. "Just what were you DOING anyway, standing there?"
She's gettin' in mah face, just like Scooteroll. he mused as he leaned his head back, trying to avoid having his nose be touched by the confrontational filly's own. Either Ah bolt 'n run now 'n never see Cousin JayJay ever again... or Ah actually talk an'... explain mahself...
"A... a-ah was..." he finally began, stammering slowly. "Ah was... thinkin'... ah was kinda... uhm... lookin' fer somepony..."
The orange one raised an eyebrow. "Oh yeah? Sounds a little suspicious to me." she stated. "Why don't you just go ahead and fess up! I bet you're some kinda-"
"Scoot!" his female reflection admonished her friend, biting down on her tail and pulling the pony back. After a quick *patoo*, she turned her orange eyes back onto his. "Ah'm mighty sorry 'bout that. She gits like that sometimes, y'know." she apologized. "Uhm, lets try this again. Ah'm Applebloom, an' these two're mah friends, Sweetie Belle, 'n Scootaloo."
"Hi!" the unicorn spoke again, a calm smile on her face as she held out a hoof. "What's your name?"
The colt moved his tongue and stared at the offered hoof, before he finally managed to force words out. "Ah'm... M-mah name's, uhm... Applebuck."
The yellow filly's eyes widened, ears perking. "Apples? Applebuck? Are y'all Apple Family?"
"Uhm..." his eyes shifted a bit as he tried to kick his brain into gear. Ah could tell her th' truth 'n say that Ah'm closer related to her than she ever thought possible. But Ah don't think her an' th' others'll believe that. What did Cousin JayJay tell me again? Ah shoot, was it wit' Cousin Honeycrisp or Cousin Apple Cinnamon Crisp? Ah cain't remember!
"Y-yeah, a few times removed," the pony spoke. "And ah... a-ah was sick last year, so Ah wasn't able t' come to th' reunion that time."
"But yer still an' Apple, right?" Applebloom pressed in closer, causing the young colt's eyes to widen in panic and back up a few steps. "Y' know Cousin Braeburn? Cousin Johnee Red? Cousin Caramel Apple?"
"-A-and Cousin Golden Delicious, Red Delicious, Apple Fritter an' Macintosh." he hurriedly gushed, hoping to keep his other self from getting too close.
"Macintosh?" Now she had both ears perked. "Y'all know Big Macintosh? He's mah big brother, y'know! Helps out wit' everythin' on th' farm!"
For the second time in as many minutes, the ground seemed to fall away from him. Her Brother? Big... she's... Red Gala! S-she must mean Red Gala! She's... HE'S called Macintosh here?
"A-ah, well," he stammered again. "Ah don't think Ah right introduced mahself to him, but, uh, yeah Ah know OF him."
Now the femme pony was REALLY in his face, her eyes big and wide. "Th' point is, y'all are Apple family! Ain't that right, Applebuck? Can Ah call yah Cousin Applebuck?"
The colt gulped, before nodding once. "E-yeah... yeah, Ah'm proud t'say that Ah'm Apple family."
Applebloom cheered, and his eyes shrunk into panicked pinpricks as she proceeded to grab one of his hooves and shake it heartily, pumping the limb furiously. "Yeah! Apples Ferever! Glad to meet yah, Cousin Applebuck!" she gushed, before letting go and then doing a prance, bucking once or twice in the air. "Ah got a new cousin! Ah got a new cousin!"
Is... is this what Cousin JayJay felt like 'round me? he found himself pondering, as he stared with disbelieving eyes at the hoof that she had touched. She always seemed a bit nervous... a-and just now, when SHE touched me... oh lawrdy Ah've never been so scared in mah whole life!
Sweetie Belle chuckled at her friend's cheerfulness, before turning back to the colt. "Didn't you say you were here looking for somepony?"
"Yeah, that's right." The pegasus was still giving him the stink-eye. "Care to fill us in, 'Applebuck'?"
She sounds so much like Scoots it's creepy. he mused, biting his lip. Should Ah tell them Ah'm lookin' fer JayJay? Fer 'Applejack'? Ah dunno if Ah should. Mah... other self might not like that. What should Ah do? Can Ah make somethin' up? C'mon Applebuck, think o' somethin' quick, they're lookin' at yah funny again-
"A-Ah was lookin' fer a pony who... wh-who's an expert at, um..." His eyes glanced around at his surroundings nervously, before settling on a piece of fabric that was hanging over the edge of the wagon. A familiar maroon cape with a blue emblem stitched on.
"Cutie-marks!" he belted. "An expert on Cutie-marks! A-ah had heard there was a pony in Ponyville who was a right expert on 'em!"
Eyes lit up all around. "There IS?" all three crusaders exclaimed at once.
"We haven't heard of him before!" Sweetie gushed, bouncing in place.
"A-Ah wouldn't think you had," Applebuck continued. "He's supposed to be hidin' in secret, y'know."
"That makes sense." Scootaloo piped up. "Imagine if everypony knew where he was and what he knew. He'd be drowning in blank-flanks in no time!"
"Exactly. Ah only found out 'bout him by accident mahself. Ah... Ah decided to come to Ponyville an' try to find him, an' bring him back to mah town so he could help us Cutie Mark Crusaders!"
At this, the three fillies gaped. Applebloom moved her head to the side to look around the small colt, spotting the bare flanks upon his person. "Well shoot! Ah didn't notice you were a blank-flank too, just like us!" she drawled. "Y'all have Cutie Mark Crusaders up in your town? Ah thought we were the only ones!" The other two nodded with her.
He found himself blushing at his oversight, hooves pawing at the ground slightly. "Y-yeah, Ah'm... Ah mean, you girls are Crusaders too? Mah group, we're... well, we're mostly made up o' boys. Ah didn't know girls would do it too."
"Well, why not?" the orange pegasus said. "Super-girly fru-fru stuff's never been my thing. Give me a half-pipe and some mad wheels, and THEN you've got me interested!"
While the male pony again was struck by sheer surprise at how alike the doppelganger was to his friend, the bow-bearing filly's face took on a look of determination. "Well, if you're a Cutie Mark Crusader too, then Ah say we got no choice but tah help you in yer mission! Whaddya say, Cousin Applebuck? Wanna team up with us? We got plenty o' room in th' wagon!"
"Yeah!" the unicorn enthused. "First we got Dinky, and now we'll have our first colt member! The Crusaders are growing more every day!"
"And if there IS a pony in town who knows about Cutie-Marks, then we need to find them, stat!" Scoot added. "How about it? Scratch your back and you scratch ours, eh?"
The trio of them then proceeded to turn on high-intensity gazes at him. It was a weapon that the young apple pony himself was familiar with the usage of. However, this took on a different feeling for him as it was not only being directed at HIM, but was being fired from a threesome of girls. The intense awkwardness placed a blush on his face as he melted under the gaze, a hoof going back to scratch at the back of his head. "W-well... seein' we're all Crusaders 'n all... A-Ah don't see why not-"
"YEAH!" the three of them belted. "CUTIE MARK CRUSADERS SECRET PONY FINDERS! YAY!"
Do we REALLY sound that loud when we do that? Applebuck had to ponder as he recovered from the amount of decibels he'd been battered with.
He then felt a tug on his hoof, and jumped a bit when he realized that Sweetie was now pulling him towards the wagon. "C'mon!" she enthused. "The day won't last forever! Let's see if we can find this pony before the sun sets!"
"What's their name, anyways?" Applebloom asked. "Didja hear, or do yah just have a description?"
"I-I've got a name." he responded, as he hesitantly climbed into the red vehicle. "They're called... er, let me see. Umm... Dusk, er, Blitz! Dusk Blitz! That was it!"
"Dusk Blitz?" Scootaloo echoed, sticking her tongue out as she boarded her scooter. "Never heard of them before. This is gonna be tricky..."
Inwardly, the colt smiled. It'll keep us runnin' 'round th' rest of th' day. he thought. Th' only Dusk and Blitzes Ah know of in Ponyville're back in mah world! By th' time it's sundown, maybe then Ah can get away from them and head fer th' farm by mahself. It's th' perfect plan!
He then proceeded to squeak in surprise as he was joined in the wagon by the other two girls. His filly-self sat herself down in front of him, while the white unicorn squeezed herself right behind. Three ponies in the wagon instead of two reminded him just how tight the Crusader-Mobile could be at times. Add in the fact that he was surrounded by girls-
"Ah know!" the yellow filly exclaimed. "Let's go see Pinkie Pie! She knows every pony in Ponyville after all! Maybe she knows who Dusk Blitz is!"
"Sounds good to me!" Sweetie Belle piped up from behind. "Sugarcube Corner it is then!"
As the pegasus revved up her wings, Applebuck bit his tongue in thought. Pinkie Pie... Harpsy an' Babar's doubles mentioned her too. But why would we be goin' to Sugarcube Corner? Th' only pony Ah know of livin' there is-
The Cutie Mark Crusaders Plus One proceeded to launch forward off of that hill in the direction of town. His thoughts were too preoccupied with panic to notice that Sweetie had latched her hooves onto his sides, clinging to him as they barreled down the path into Ponyville.
Berry Bubble! Pinkie Pie is Berry Bubble! They're takin' me to Berry Bubble's place!
And she KNOWS me!
To be continued...
ON THE NEXT WHISPER OF WIND
"That's always true, Scoots! Say Cousin, as long as yer in town, yer welcome to join us in our quest fer Cutie-marks! Whaddya say?"
He paused to look up at his female self, into her open and inviting eyes. Ah led them on this silly li'l chase. he thought to himself. Ah didn't mean t' really get their spirits down. Y'know... it's th' least Ah can do. Findin' Cousin JayJay can wait a bit longer.
"Sure thing, Cousin." he replied with a smile. "Ah'd be honored to!"
This brought a smile of cheer to the trio of fillies, before each of them turned and exited the Corner. Before he himself stepped foot out however, a voice piped up from behind him.
"Hey wait! Cousin Applebuck, can I ask you a question?"
The capped pony turned and saw Pinkie Pie standing at the kitchen door, a simple smile on her face. "Uhm, sure Miss Pie." he replied. "What is it?"
She kept the same smiling, neutrally happy expression on her features as she asked "Did you bring Berry Bubble with you?"