Chapter 2: Why Are You Calling Me Dusk?
The sky blue stallion touched down on a cloud ledge floating above Ponyville. In front of him was a large fluffy mansion. To some, it was a large structure in the sky, far more architecturally detailed than most buildings. To Rainbow Blitz, it was just a place to crash - sometimes literally. On this day, however, he wasn’t there to lounge around or sleep - he needed to pack his things and leave. The trip to Canterlot would be long, difficult, and not have nearly enough nap time. It would all be worth it in the end, since as much as he was enjoying the attention because of his new masculine body, Blitz wanted to be Dash again.
He entered the sky manor, surveying his surroundings. Even now, he noticed changes with his house. The living room was slightly messier than he was comfortable with. Empty food packaging littered the coffee table, while magazines laid casually on the floor. Blitz picked one up, looked at the page it was on, then promptly put it down and felt his cheeks grow hot.
The house wasn’t a proud sight, and Blitz was a little ashamed that this is how he lived. There wasn’t enough time to dwell on his altered home life, however, so he disregarded the mess and walked up the stairs to the second floor.
As luck would have it, Blitz’s room was right where he left it. He gently pushed open the cloud door and walked in, noticing that it was just as unkempt as the living room. The bed sheets were tossed every which way, assorted books and clothes were on the floor, and somehow, parts of the cloud floor had gotten stained. With a disappointed sigh, he walked to the closet and pulled out two saddle bags. Now, what do I need? Something in case it’s cold out, something to sleep in, and food. That should be good! he thought.
Blitz walked to his dresser and started to open the drawer when he noticed several pictures in frames resting on top. In each one, he was standing next to several ponies, smiling brightly. Were they fans of his? He had gotten a lot of those in the past several hours. Blitz decided to keep it a mystery as he bagged a sweater. He then found a sleeping bag in the closet to use, and after storing it, he walked back downstairs. From the kitchen he took some food - a bag of chips, a likely flat bottle of soda, and as a last resort, some oats - snacking on a hooffull before leaving the residence. After a final glance at the household, Rainbow Blitz dived off the edge of the cloud. He unfolded his wings and flew gracefully through the air, heading to Twilight’s library.
- - -
Elsewhere, a certain white unicorn was arriving home.
The purple maned fashion pony stepped into the Carousel Boutique, with the intent of simply gathering a few things and leaving. What he found, though, caused him to lose his train of thought and stand dumbfounded at the entrance. Beautiful dresses had been replaced by gorgeous suits in all shapes and styles. Rarity walked to the closest one and scrutinized the design. It was a dark, pinstriped suit with glossy buttons on the front. There was a matching, patterned tie to go along with it. Hmm... the stitching could do with some improvement, and the buttons seem a tad too high... He circled around with a critical eye, looking for any imperfection or tailoring error. “I’m fairly impressed with myself.” he finally said, with a smile. A small voice suddenly called from upstairs.
“Elusive? Is that you?” Sweetie Belle poked her head out of the upstairs railing and looked down at Rarity. “Oh, it is you! I’ve been waiting for you to come ba-” she started, but was interrupted by a very agitated sounding Opalescence diving at her hair. “Ow, get off!” The frustrated feline caused Sweetie Belle to lose her balance and tumble down the stairway.
“Oh my goodness, Sweetie Belle!” Rarity said,watching in fear as his sister roll down the stairs. As Sweetie Belle came to a stop at the foot of the steps, Opal walked over to Elusive and rubbed his front leg, purring.
“Dear, are you alright?” Rarity asked.
“Yeah, Elusive, I’m fine...” Sweetie Bell wearily got up, and shook herself off.
Elusive? Is that what I’m called now? Rarity thought. Sweetie Belle’s next sentence solidified this fact.
“Elusive, is it okay if Scootaloo and Applebloom stay over tonight? We have crusading to do!” she asked, trying to look as adorable as she could.
“Well, I certainly can’t decline a request to a face like that.” Elusive replied, lightly rubbing his hoof through Sweetie Belle’s mane.
“Oh yes! Thank you, thank you!” Sweetie Belle cheered, hopping in place.
“I just need you to do one thing for me, okay?”
“Anything for you, big brother.”
“I have very important business in Canterlot that I need to attend to, and while I’m gone, I need somepony to take care of the Boutique while I’m away. Do you feel responsible enough for that?” Elusive asked, walking around Sweetie Belle.
“I think I can. Do I have to... sell anything?”
“No!” Elusive said, slightly louder than he had intended. It was just that he had remembered the last time Sweetie Belle tried to ‘help’ with anything in the shop, leading to one of the largest messes he had the displeasure of dealing with. “No, no. You just need to stay here and watch over everything. I’ll leave a sign saying that the shop is currently closed. How does that sound?”
“I can do that!” Sweetie Belle replied, happily. She then trotted back up the stairway, disappearing into the second floor of the boutique.
Now that the shop is taken care of, I can properly pack. Elusive thought, retrieving saddlebags from the store room. How would he ever choose the proper suit for this occasion?
- - -
Meanwhile, at the local apple orchard, another pony was facing a much more important issue.
Applejack trotted down the path that led into Sweet Apple Acres, passing the small vine-laden archway and the water well. As he walked, it occurred to him just how long he had been gone. Ah should probably check on Applebloom and Big Mac. he thought, passing the old barn. All he needed to do was tell Macintosh that he needed to go to Canterlot with Twilight and settle an... issue with the princess. It wouldn’t take long.
“Howdy Applejack!” Applebloom called, exiting the house. She was wearing her cutie mark crusader cape and had a saddlebag on.
“Well hey there, Applebloom. Watcha up to?” Applejack replied, silently thanking Celestia that his name was unchanged.
“I was gonna go to Sweetie Belle’s and do some crusadin’!” the filly replied, showing off her cape. “Is it okay If I go, bro?”
“O’ course it’s okay. Just don’t go gettin’ into trouble, ya hear?”
“I promise! Thanks Applejack!” Applebloom trotted off down the dirt road, leaving her brother behind.
“Rainbow was right, they do think we’re normal.” Applejack said to himself, watching his sister disappear at the outskirts of the farm.
“What ain’t normal ‘bout ya?” a deep voice came. Applejack looked back to the house and saw Big Macintosh standing in the entrance. His signature sprig of wheat hung from his mouth.
“Ah’m jus’ fine. It was nothin’,” Applejack said, nervously.
“You sure?” the crimson stallion replied, his eyebrow rising slightly in question. “You were gone awfully long.”
“Well, Mac, somethin’ came up with princess Celestia.” This piqued Big Mac’s interest. “Ya see, I have t’go to Cantelot an’ talk to her. Ah’m goin’ with Twilight.”
“Twilight? Twilight who?”
“Y’know, Twilight Sparkle. Does all that fancy magic an’ likes books?”
Big Mac cocked his head to the side, clearly confused. “Ya mean Dusk Shine? He’s th’ only pony I know ‘round these parts like that.”
Aw shoot, they all got new names? This’ll be tricky. Applejack was trying to think of an explanation for this. “Well uh, yes, ah’m goin’ with him too. Twilight is jus’ a new pony in town is all.” He faked a smile.
“Eeyup. Makes sense.” His face was unreadable, so Applejack could only assume that Mac believed him. “If ya’ll need t’go, you best get your stuff packed.”
“Yep, ah better,” Applejack said, entering the house.
- - -
For the animal friendly pegasus, things weren’t going quite as easily.
On the outskirts of Ponyville, just past a short patch of woods, sat an earthly cottage. The roof was covered with grass, and if not for the windows and door it would’ve resembled a large boulder. Many birdhouse hung in the nearby trees, and burrows yawned in the ground. It was a natural paradise for wildlife. A small stone bridge allowed passage over the local stream, and this is where Fluttershy stood, quizzically observing a small signpost planted at the bridge. In light pink cursive text, it read “Welcome to Butterscotch’s Cottage.” He didn’t know who Butterscotch was, but he knew this was where his home had to be. Walking past the sign and over the bridge, he called out to the animals. “Hello friends, I’m back.” Silence. Well that’s strange. Normally they all come out to greet me. Fluttershy pondered the absence of her companions as he approached the door of her cottage.
He pushed the door and found that it wouldn’t budge. It appeared to be locked from the inside. Oh no, did I forget to leave the door open? Fluttershy pushed again, but to no avail. Suddenly, he heard a knock on the nearby window. Looking over, he spied Angel, his most trustful animal friend. The white rabbit had a stern expression, and shook his head as to say “No.” Fluttershy let out a gasp. “Oh, Angel Bunny, would you please open the door for me?” he asked. Angel declined. The rabbit left the window perch for a moment, and hastily returned with a picture frame. He pressed it to the window, revealing a photo of Fluttershy as a mare, surrounded by a group of animals, with Angel sitting on her head.
Shock hit Fluttershy as she realized Angel didn’t recognize her. “Angel, it’s me, Fluttershy. Don’t you see?” Angel kept his stern expression. “Please, let me in. Don’t you remember me?” The rabbit’s attitude was nearly set in stone. Desperately needing a way in, Fluttershy began to recall events that she shared with the bunny. “Do you remember winter wrap up, when we helped the animals come out of hibernation? What about when I was helping Philomena, and Twilight came and tried to help too?” Angel’s expression lightened as the pony went through their recent history together. “Angel, do you remember when I found you? When you were hurt on the side of the road and I took care of you?”
This had a deep effect on the snowy rabbit. Almost immediately after hearing this, he rushed over to the door and unlocked it. Fluttershy happily entered the house and pet Angel’s head. “I knew you would remember.” he said, gently. Angel then took the photo again and held it up, motioning at Fluttershy, then the picture, and finally shrugging as to say “What happened?” Fluttershy had a bit of explaining to do.
As Fluttershy was telling the story, her animals slowly began to come out and recognize him. “...and that’s when I came here,” he finished, surrounded by all different types of creatures. “So Angel, when I’m gone, could you please take care of the house?” Angel nodded. “That’s a good bunny,” Fluttershy said with a smile. He stood up, and prepared to get ready for the impending journey. While gathering the few supplies he needed and heading to leave, he thought to himself Butterscotch... is a nice name.
Bubble Berry hopped down the street, humming to himself. He was on the way to Sugarcube Corner, to both get ready for the big upcoming adventure and to tell the Cakes that he would be gone for a few days. Bubble bounced to the sweet shop’s door and opened it, sending a bell chime throughout the store. Mrs. Cake peered from the kitchen door and spotted Bubble Berry.
“Oh, hello dear!” she greeted.
“Hiya Mrs. Cake!” Bubble Berry replied.
“So, what did you have to do with Rainbow?”
“We found out that we’re going on a super duper important but fun trip to Canterlot to talk to the princess!” he chimed.
“Is it anything serious?” Mrs. Cake replied, a hint of worry on her face.
“Oh no, we just need to talk about magic!”
“Well, have fun, and be careful!”
“I will! Now where’s Gummy...” Bubble said, going up the stairs. It was time for adventure!
Ponyville’s clock tower chimed seven times as the six stallions entered the town’s library. Dusk Shine was eagerly awaiting them, his own saddlebags neatly packed and equipped.
“Welcome back, everypony,” Dusk said. “We have a lot of ground to cover, so we’ll be leaving as soon as I map out our route.” His horn lit up and a map levitated from the bookshelf and neatly unfurled itself in front of him. He brought it to a desk and laid the map flat, inspecting Equestria’s geography. It was a fairly straight path, passing a lake, several large hills, and eventually ending off at the mountain range Canterlot was located in. Overall, they would be in Canterlot by noon the next day.
“That ain’t too bad,” Applejack said, looking over the map. “The trip t’Manehatten was a lot longer than that, an’ I was jus’ a lil’ filly when ah took that journey.”
“It’ll be over before we know it,” Dusk replied, tracing over the path in dark ink. He marked a rest area along the route, then rolled the map up and tucked it into his saddlebag. “Is everyone ready?”
“Sure are,” Applejack said, tipping his hat.
“As am I,” Elusive replied, lightly shaking his purple mane.
“Ready as I’ll ever be,” Blitz said, flicking his tail.
“Let’s go!” Bubble Berry excitedly said, Gummy clinging to his mane.
“Eeep...” Butterscotch squeaked.
“Alright then!” Dusk Shine picked up his bags and threw them on his back, then opened the door for his friends. As they filed out, he called to the top floor. “Spike! We’ll be back in a few days! Just watch the house, okay!”
“...Okay,” a high pitched voice came from the balcony.
Poor Spike... we’ll get you, and the rest of us, back to normal. Dusk Shine exited the library, and closing the door behind him, trotted off to catch up to his friends.
- - -
It wasn’t long before they had passed the ‘Welcome to Ponyville!’ sign and were on the long road to Canterlot. The grand city of royals was visible on the distant mountain range, its expansive waterfalls cascading down the cliffs and into nothingness. It was a beautiful view, witnessed by mostly everyone in Equestria. The group watched the city in awe as they walked, making small conversation as they traveled. It was then that Elusive brought up their new bodies and names. They shared their stories of how they figured out their names, then discussed the bodies.
“I’m beginning to grow quite fond of it, to be honest,” Elusive said, looking over himself. “I never dreamed that a stallion could be so fashionable.”
“Well, I didn’t want to admit this in town, but I’m kind of liking the attention I’m getting,” Blitz stated, looking down in partial embarrassment. “I guess I’m just really awesome. Well, more awesome then usual.” He then extended his wings and gave them a flap. “But I still can’t do a Sonic Rainboom like this, so I’m going to need to go back to normal.”
“Suit yourself,” Applejack responded. “I’m mighty strong as a stallion. Earlier I tried buckin’ and apple tree, and I jus’ about broke the poor things trunk.”
“Oh you guys, I just like the way I sound!” Bubble Berry cheerily exclaimed. “I mean my mare voice was all high pitched and squeaky, but now I sound like this and it’s deeper you know?” He brought a hoof to his mane and bounced it up and down. “And my mane is just as poofy as ever, even though it’s shorter! It’s so fun.”
“Yes, well, that’s nice for you guys... but, I think I’d like to go back to being a mare...” Butterscotch quietly said. “I mean, this is different and all, but none of my animal friends know who I am anymore, and I just can’t let them go without care...”
“I agree,” Dusk said. Suddenly, his eyes widened as a realization kicked in. “Wait, did you say your animals didn’t recognize you?”
“Um, yes. That’s right...”
“But the sign in front of your cottage was changed?”
“Yes, it was.”
“Then that must mean... the spell only affected up to Butterscotch’s cottage. Wait, why am I calling you Butterscotch?”
“Um... because that’s my stallion name... and we should call each other by the right names... if you want to.”
Dusk rolled his eyes as he levitated the map out of his bag, along with a quill. “So, if the spell started here...” he placed a dot on the library. “And ended here...” another dot was jotted down right before the cottage. “Then this must be the range.” He drew all the way around, creating a circle that covered all of Ponyville and some of the outer boundaries as well.
“Wow, that’s huge!” Blitz said, eyeing the circle.
“Indeed, it is. I had no idea it would be this powerful...” Dusk’s tone was downcast. He was responsible for all of this, and he felt terribly guilty about it. “But it’s okay, this will all be fixed soon.”
The sky began to turn dark as Celestia’s day came to an end. Looking toward the horizon, Dusk Shine suggested that they set up camp for the night. They had only been travelling for several hours, but it was dangerous at night and the group was growing weary. Five of the ponies began to unpack their sleeping bags and arrange them in a circle while Applejack gathered firewood from some nearby trees. Within a couple minutes, and some magical assistance, a cozy fire was crackling in the center of the six stallions. While attempting to sleep, Blitz raised a question that Dusk really didn’t want to think about.
“Guys, what do we do if this... doesn’t go away?”
“You mean ‘sides never lettin’ Dusk use magic on us again?” Applejack retorted.
“Why are you calling me Dusk?”
“Dunno. Jus’ seems natural. I’m kinda used to it already.”
“Well that’s not my name, and these other names aren’t ours either!” Dusk was beginning to get bothered by the others acceptance of their ‘names.’
“But I’m liking Rainbow Blitz. It sounds even faster than Dash.”
“And Elusive just sounds so classy. It fits me perfectly, if I do say so myself.”
“Butterscotch sounds nice, and it fits my color.”
“Me too!” Bubble said. “And it’s like my mood. I’m always so happy and bubbly, and I’m berry colored. Bubble Berry!”
“Yes, those things all may be true, but we’re still us, aren’t we?” Dusk asked.
“Dusk- I mean, Twi, have you looked at us recently? We ain’t the same.”
“Maybe not on the outside, but on the inside we are.”
“I don’t know Dusk, it just seems so natural to me,” Blitz said, looking into the night sky. “For some reason it feels weird to call you Twilight.”
Hearing this, a thought began to brew in Dusk’s mind. Surely the spell couldn’t have done THAT, right? He pondered, slowly starting to think that this was much more serious than he had originally thought. It can’t be... it’s not changing... OUR thoughts, is it? Dusk could feel his heart rate speeding up as he thought more and more. Just calm down, Dusk. No! Twilight! I am Twilight Sparkle. Not... Dusk Shine.
“Look, everypony, I know we’ve changed, but we’re going to be back to normal. If anypony in Equestria knows what to do, it’s the Princess. As soon as we get to Canterlot, we’ll have our answers. I promise. For now, get some rest. We need to start moving early tomorrow.” His friends muttered to themselves as they curled in their sleeping bags. With a bit of magic, Dusk extinguished the fire, and was left with nothing but darkness and his frantic thoughts to aid his slumber.