A chill wind blew through Ponyville, passing by everypony, harmlessly sweeping it's delicate fingers across a pony's side, sending chills down their spines. The weather ponies had orchestrated a cooling off week for Ponyville, much to the pleasure of Applejack and her crew of workers out on Sweet Apple Acres. However, back at the Library, one pony found himself uneager to stand for the chilled atmosphere, the heat in his heart no longer feeding into his being. In front of him laid two flat sheets of colored paper, unagitated. The same could not be said for his teacher and mentor, Twilight Sparkle.
"Flint! Please, this should be cake for you." The purple unicorn muttered, cradling her face in a hoof as her horn sparked to life, lifting the two papers up in front of the red stallion. As she did, the red paper started to fold itself along expertly crafted lines, cold and deliberate. The blue sheet, on the other hoof, started to fold haphazardly, seemingly pleased with whatever old direction it found itself oriented next. "Manipulating two objects simultaneously in two separate ways is basic mind exercise - even Earth ponies and pegasi have ways of accomplishing this. You just have to focus. Flint." There was a pause as the teacher took a look at her protegé, and soon found it that his gaze was entirely unfocused. "Flint!"
Snapping to attention, the male unicorn acknowledged his mentor through half-moon eyelids. "Sorry, Twilight Sparkle-"
"Just... Twilight, Flint," The unicorn exasperated, leaning her hooves down and sliding to a prone pose. "At least do me the favor of familiarity."
Flint nodded. "Yes, sorry, Twilight. I assume I simply need to attune my focus to my studies more."
"Yes. You do. That would be so much more impressive to hear if I didn't just get through explaining that to you!" The unicorn huffed, dragging a hoof across her forehead. A crawling silence permeated the area after that, the shuffling of hooves stemming from Celestia's pupil. As the quiet reigned on them, Twilight mused on the slowness in which her understudy was behaving was much like how Rainbow Dash might view most everypony else.
Still, it pained her to admit she knew the exact cause and effect to Flint's distraction, a fact that was almost entirely her fault. She had been the one to press the issue. At the very least she didn't exactly help matters. Staring at the pony across the room, the unicorn pondered about what could be done to help 'solve' her quandary, before an idea quietly meandered into her mind. "Perhaps Celestia could help..."
"Excuse me?" Flint spoke, his eyes raised quickly. "Did you say Celestia? You know her personally?" It was rare when a pony would refer to any Princess without their proper title.
Twilight blinked a couple times. Did Flint really forget her ties to the Princess? "Um... yes? Star pupil, my special talent is magic, grew up in Canterlot. Personal Protegée...."
Flint shook his mane. "No no, I mean to say... Of course you are known as her pupil, but are you on terms with her that you consider her a friend? A confidant?" The red pony seemed interested, if not intently focused, on the matter. Twilight sighed through her nose, whispering that she wished that kind of focus was dedicated on his magic rather than her personal life.
Still, it beat silence. Besides, she liked reminiscing about her time with the Princess. "Yes, I suppose you could say that. I mean, the entire reason I was sent to Ponyville was to make some friends..." The unicorn's voice trailed, a secret smile playing on her lips. Sure, there was a veiled gambit hidden within that seemingly simplistic mission, but for it to have played out in any other way? She liked the life she lived, and wouldn't trade it for the world. "In fact, I have a lot of letters I've written to and from the Princess. Would you like to see some of them?"
Taking only the briefest of moments, the other unicorn agreed. The two ponies soon found themselves in the Library proper, however in the more unused corners of the building. Twilight sighed and shook her head as she approached it. "I have to apologize - usually I'm a really organized pony, but this entire area is kind of a mess." Mess was a kind way to describe the table the unicorns found themselves standing next to. Letters and various royal insignia's littered the desk space, and a completely unsorted pile clogged up an inventory space nearby. "Usually I end up getting letters before or after some new scenario here in Ponyville, and I don't really have time to organize after such a long day of running out the door. Or having to entertain some unexpected guest." At mention of guests, Flint's ears folded slightly, reminded of the fact Twilight had only just been reading word of his arrival when he actually arrived proper. "There's a lot of history here, Flint. And a lot of information about the Magic of Friendship."
The red pony nodded slowly, digesting the new information slowly. Walking up to the papers, he levitated one letter to his face and read a couple lines. "You have to share. You have to care. You rhyme?"
Twilight coughed uneasily. "Aaahh, I don't want to talk about it. Pinkie Pie was involved." Flint wished to know more, but by warnings he had received before, he dare not ask how. "You can help yourself to the letters, even to the Princess' responses. She always copies and sends back the original report I make, so it should all be there in context if you can find the relating pieces..."
Looking over the letters, Flint smiled. "Thank you Twilight. I will do you one better. Allow me to organize these - I can see the Princess has already helped by dating her responses, it should be no problem matching these." Twilight didn't have to think twice. Nodding ecstatically, the unicorn mare accepted his help.
"That would be fantastic, Flint!" Trotting a few steps away, the unicorn paused. "Thank you. I-... I know you've had a couple difficult days, especially since you can't exactly avoid Applejack like you may want to, but just keep pushing through it, okay?" Despite her royal task, the unicorn wasn't exactly best suited for giving out friendship speeches, but the broken pony before here seemed appreciative of her attempt. "Thanks, Flint, for helping out around here."
"It is no problem, Twilight Sp-ahem. Twilight." Flint smiled and waved a hoof, turning to the work before him. Twilight smiled warmly at the pony, before retiring upstairs to be with her books. Clearing his throat, the red unicorn raised a letter and began reading.
"Dear Princess Celestia..."
A couple hours into the afternoon had passed by the time Flint was starting to make real headway in his project. What he expected to merely take an hour of sorting through papers had ballooned into a massive undertaking, as every hour Twilight would swing by with a couple more papers, extensive back and forths, and a couple one-way conversations from student to teacher and vice-versa. However, now everything was falling into place, and upon a promise from the lavender mare that she had given him every letter and file she had on the various correspondence, he had finished placing every paper down. What laid on the ground around him was a latticework of papers, each one placed specifically to his needs. Horn humming to life, a far set of papers floated towards him, rolling up and neatly finding themselves packed into a shelving unit that he had asked Spike to clear out of blank documents, promising the dragon superior storage in the future for ease of organization now.
Twilight stepped down from the stairs with purpose, the unicorn taking mild interest in the red pony's final stretch, having been content with a couple research books all morning. In the back of her mind, she felt mildly guilty for subjecting the pony to do her dirty work for her, but she knew that all her friendship reports would do him some good. Sitting on her haunches as he picked up and rolled multiple documents at once and sorted them, she made note that it was a spectacular step up from his earlier attempts, and that he was finally moving in the right direction with his discipline. She made note that it made her proud, too, and the parallels to her own teacher/student relationship with Celestia wasn't lost on her. Still, she couldn't help but be suspicious that her mentor had planned this. As she began to contemplate this, however, there was a ferocious knock on her door as it took no time in flying open.
The breeze blew in alongside a windswept blonde mane, the orange pony it was attached to looked a might bit disheveled, her hat askew and her ponytail coming loose from her hairbands. However, her entrance was not one of value, as the mischievous wind reached down to the floor, pushing papers and blowing aside letters as it wrapped itself around the red pony, bringing with it the smells of hard work and apples. Applejack looked between the ponies assembled, taking only moments to pass judgment that the two there were trustworthy enough for her news. "Twilight! Ah've looked everywhere, an' Ah can't find AppleBloom anywhere! Have ya seen her 'round here? Perhaps lookin' fer her friends? Scootaloo an' Sweetie Belle haven't seen her, but neither have Ah since last night!"
Looking about the new mess of papers, Flint sighed deeply and loudly in his corner, his attempts to organize foiled by the one pony he couldn't get mad at. Princesses excluded. "And I was so close to finishing, too..." He groaned, placing his head on the desk.
Applejack shot the pony a cross look. "Ah don't care 'bout yer file sortin' right now, Flint! This is serious!" Shooting up from his desk, the indignant unicorn trotted forward toward the girls, hoping to get the orange mare to quiet her voice a little. Despite being the only ponies there, he still respected the idea of quiet in the Library. Looking between the two, Applejack took a moment to catch her breath, drawing a hoof across her forehead, wiping sweat from her brow. Taking the hint, Flint headed for the kitchen, intent on getting the Earth pony something to drink. As he took off, the orange pony leaned against the wall. "Twilight, do y'know where she could be?"
The unicorn had been tossing ideas in her head for some time already, but nothing had really come up. "Not without the other girls with her, no. You're certain she's not in the orchard, trying to buck a few apples early? I know she's always going on about being a big pony, and she was too young last year..." She trailed as Applejack gave her a curt answer with a shake of her mane.
"Nah, Caramel and Big Mac have been in the fields all day, checkin' our other crops and they ain't seen hide nor hair o' her. Thank Celestia Ah got Dash running too 'n from there to keep me in touch with them."
"Real loyal friend." Flint mentioned, coming back into the room. With him he levitated three cups of juice, giving one to each of the ponies present, including himself.
"Y'all never find one more so. Thank ya, Flint." Applejack smiled slightly, nodding in agreement. Flint took it at face value, taking a moment to drink as he stared longingly at his work, trying desperately not to smile like a fool when he shouldn't be. Taking a long drink from her cup, the farmfilly placed the empty cup down as she turned toward the door. "Well, if'n y'all ain't got a clue where AppleBloom is, Ah guess Ah gotta keep lookin' fer her. Hope ta Celestia 'n Luna that filly didn't get it in her head ta see Zecora."
"Luna..." Flint echoed, his eyes focusing. It had to be the way he said it, as Applejack paused her escape as she turned back to the red stallion. "Luna... Oh my..." Standing up on his hooves, the pony galloped over to a shelf of books and looked hastily over the covers. "Whereisitwhereisit..." He breathed. Even Twilight was interested in what the pony was doing now, taking a studious sip from her drink as she finally descended the finals stairs unto the ground floor.
"Flint? What're you looking for?" Applejack asked. Flint gave her a passing glance, an apprehensive expression clearly present on his face. Pulling out a book, the newness of the cover gave Twilight pause.
"We don't have all that many new books in that section. That's... the Astrologer's Handbook? I've been looking for that for weeks!" Twilight noted, her voice filled with wonder. "Where did you find it?"
Pausing briefly, the confused colt gave Twilight a passing answer. "It was under 'A'." Clearing his throat, he gave the embarrassed unicorn time to recover from her folly as he turned to a specific page. The picture on the page was darker than any of the others, which had been almost glowing with the shades of the moon and stars. However, this one was distinctly lacking a moon, and it was the dated prediction for their very night. "Here it is. Tonight's prediction for the night sky over Equestria."
Applejack looked less than pleased. "Flint, not that this ain't interestin' and all, but what does that have ta do with Luna? Or mah sister, fer that matter!"
Twilight gave the page a long, hard look. It took her a moment, but Flint's hoof over the large hole in the sky lead her to the realization. Gasping loudly, the purple pony shook her mane. "Tonight's the new moon! Luna's new moon!"
"And what the hay does that mean, shugahcube?"
Flint sighed, averting his gaze from the girls. "It should mean that AppleBloom is going to your Dragon Mountain to look for it," He said. Both girls stopped and stared at the red unicorn.
"How exactly do you know that?" Twilight asked, raising a hoof. "That's a pretty broad assumption, even if it is true. I mean, yeah, we talked about it when we all went stargazing, but why would she go all the way out there by herself?"
"Nahw hold on a second. What is it that she's looking for? What're you two on about?" Applejack interrupted, having half a mind to buck the two ponies until they started making sense. "Y'all better start explainin' yerselves, 'cause if my sister is out there climbing a mountain, Ah sure as heck don't want ta be sittin' on my haunches in tha dark about why!"
"The Moon's Tear, Applejack, the flower that only blooms on the highest mountains during a new moon." Twilight informed. The orange farmer met her with a befuddled look, prompting the unicorn to continue. "AppleBloom was interested in it when we talked about it, but what I can't understand is why she would go up there without telling anypony."
Flint sighed loudly, bringing the attention of the mare's to him again. "I have an idea why."
Applejack's gaze cooled slightly as she passed her eyes over to him. "Why is that, Flint?" Her tone sounded dangerous, and Flint couldn't blame her in the slightest.
"When I was teaching Applebloom how to fold in the origami style, we had much time to talk." Flint admitted, his auburn mane falling in front of his eyes.
"So yer sweet on my sister!" AppleBloom piped up. Flint nearly choked on a pocket of air as the little yellow filly attempted to move her paper with just her hooves. She was having a difficult time of it, but thus-far she had taken no help from the red unicorn.
"I-I-I... How? Uhm." Flint mumbled something fairly incoherent in what seemed to be another language to the little filly as he brought his head back up to look at the youngest Apple. "I would not say... that. She is a respectable mare and a-"
AppleBloom bent her forelimb and leaned her head on her hoof. "Yeah yeah, yer real funny when you're flustered, Mr. Crux." Passing a glance over the unfolded paper in front of her, she raised her head again as she slipped the paper near the edge of the table, thereby allowing her to pick the edge up from beyond the table. "Aha! Origami cutie mark here I come!" Folding the paper in half diagonally, the rambunctious child quickly checked her flank, crestfallen that the simple fold had not given her her mark yet. Flint marveled at how the filly could so easily move from one subject to another with such fervor. "Ya don't have to be so secretive 'round me, Flint. Yer secret's safe! 'Sides, you go on like ta did back at the cart and there ain't gonna be much secret left to tell anypony."
Flint felt his cheeks burning and wanted nothing more than to hide his entire self behind his own hooves. This little pony had the innate skill to make him, a fully grown gentlepony from Stalliongrad, feel smaller and more embarrassed than anyone in his entire life. "Perhaps that's her special talent..."
"What was that?" AppleBloom asked, ears perked and pointed with determination toward the red pony. "Do you have an idea what mah talent is?"
"Ah, no, AppleBloom. I said 'Perhaps I should be more gallant!'" A safe recovery, Flint realized none too late that he had basically admitted his crush to a pony whose life wasn't going to be enriched by the knowledge. "Ah, horseapples." He muttered, the term of frustration not exclusive to the farm ponies of Ponyville.
"Ha! Ah knew it." AppleBloom remarked, her accent deepening as she stretched out her words. "Ah knew you were sweet on Applejack!" Slamming her hooves on the desk, Flint couldn't help but think the action probably wasn't good for the table. "That is so cuuuute!"
"Gah..." Flint suddenly found himself at odds with the word cute, treating the description with distaste. "Not... cute, please." Under the hoof of the child pony, Flint Crux bleated with mild frustration as he tried to bring the topic around, but to no avail. AppleBloom continued to doggedly assault the pony with questions - questions that Flint had a hard time keeping Twilight interested in with the answers before, but now that he had an interested party, he cursed that it wasn't a pony he felt comfortable in telling - if not for her relation then for her age.
Thankful for a slight pause in conversation, Flint decided to, at the very least, direct the conversation toward the folding art, and lucky for him the idea of finding out if such a task was related to her talent kept the filly off the subject for a couple minutes. As she followed the folds Flint made delicately yet deliberately, it took her a minute to follow the same fold, refusing magical help. And yet... "Ah don't see how I'm gonna do those last folds..." she sighed, pushing the nearly finished crane around the table. With her resignation, he stressed words faltered a bit as well. "I guess this really isn't my talent..."
Flint pondered this a moment, before shaking his mane. "It isn't mine either." Applebloom looked up at the colt, taking a long look at his cutie mark a moment before looking back at him. "It is still a fun, and sometimes rewarding, passtime. Like all hobbies should be. I never knew what my talent was to be growing up..." Standing on all four of his hooves, he passed over and picked up a book off the shelf. Laying it near the filly, he turned it open to look over the pages. "I followed my interests. And one of them ended up being something I can do well."
AppleBloom looked over the book, placing a hoof down on the paper. "So... what does the moon have to do with your talent?" She asked, peering down at the Astrology book.
Flint laughed, turning the page a couple times as he neared his destination. "It does and it does not. You remember the Moon's Tear?" Figuring the filly already tore him down enough, Flint figured he may as well accept the fact she knows his crush on her sister. "I am hoping to scale the Dragon Mountain with your sister, and bring home some of the Moon's Tear for her to keep on your farm."
Applebloom rested her head in her hooves, thinking over the gesture Flint had planned. "That's so romantic~!" She sighed, allowing herself a moment to imagine herself in such a scenario. "Can you bring me one? I wanna Moon's Tear too!" Flint chuckled.
"Of course, AppleBloom. I'll bring one down for you as well. This new moon when we go..." Flint trailed, his hopes soaring as he thought of the mountain.
Turning to look at the filly, Flint smiled. "Promise."
"I may have... gotten a little ahead of myself." Flint admitted, his cheeks hot under the judgmental stare he was receiving from Applejack. He felt awful about the whole thing.
"Ya made a promise to a lil' filly ya couldn't keep, Flint." Applejack spat, shaking her mane. "And all 'cause you were so sure of yerself. Now my little sister is on that mountain, that dangerous, rock slidin' mountain, by herself, 'cause you couldn't deliver." Flint realized the ability to make him feel smaller than an ant must be an Apple family trend. However, Applejack's ability seemed fueled with her own fear and desperation.
Twilight sighed as her horn sparked to life. "Alright, Applejack, there's no use making a colt feel worse than he already does. If we leave now, we can catch AppleBloom before she gets hurt." The unicorn's natural take charge attitude coming to light, Applejack and Flint raised their heads to follow her example. Saddlebags flying over from her room, the unicorn pony soon was decked out in adventuring gear. So quick that the others were actually fairly suspicious.
"Now how're you so prepared to go, Twilight? It took us a couple hours to get completely ready last time we went..." Applejack began, but was soon silenced by the unicorn.
"I said before I was planning a trip up the mountain, so I've been packed to go for over a month." The lavender mare smirked, heading toward the door. "I've got enough supplies for most any scenario, and Flint is an expert rock climber - he'll keep you safe on your own." Opening the door, the three ponies made haste out the door, Applejack keeping pace with Twilight.
As the ponies galloped past passersby, the orange Earth pony raised a question for their impromptu leader. "Ya sound like yer leavin' me with him, Twilight."
Twilight turned toward her friend and smiled. "That's because I am, AJ. AppleBloom could of taken any path up the mountain, and you helped Fluttershy up the easiest path - I'd bet that she'd follow that one. I've got the utensils to make it up the steep side, so I plan to head up quickly and see if I can head her off."
Applejack seemed unsure, passing glances back at the red, dejected stallion. "Ah... suppose. She's a headstrong filly, but she ain't stupid... normally." Taking in a deep breath, the Earth pony pounded ahead, Flint passing by Twilight as well, attempting to keep pace with the girls as he ran. "Alright, Flint! You heard her, we gotta go the long way 'round the mountain, and looks like yer stuck with me! Now Ah ain't gonna be slowed down, so you best be used to given it yer all!"
Looking ahead, the red pony didn't say much, but a competitive smile played on his lips as he put forth more effort to keep up with the running mare. He was surprised that the filly could keep up such a pace, and she was pulling ahead faster than he'd like to admit. He knew when it came time to climb the mountain, however, that he wouldn't be beat. Peering behind him, Twilight was holding her own quite well against the ponies in flight. "I was not aware you could run like this, Twilight!"
The unicorn gave a tiring but charismatic smirk as she belted on. "You get used to running every which way out here, Flint. Try and pace yourself, though, or you'll tire out halfway through the trip!" She called from behind, leaving the red and orange ponies to their own devices as she kept to her own pace.
Behind her, a rainbow streak soon found it's way down to the ground, hitting the ground at full gallop as the cyan mare came up beside Twilight. "Hey Twilight! What's the big rush for?" Rainbow Dash called, looking ahead to see two shrinking figures up ahead. "Oh man, did you guys find AppleBloom? Where is she? Not Froggy Bottom Bog, I hope..." Having heard of the hydra whom dwelled there, not even the brave Rainbow Dash felt like fighting something with more heads than it did manners.
Twilight's brain buzzed as the pegasus pony swung by, secretly grateful she didn't pull the old 'Are we racing' routine with her this time. "We've got a pretty basic idea, but Flint seems to have narrowed it down for us..." The unicorn began.
"Flint? What does 'egghead mark two' know that about AppleBloom that nopony else does?" Rainbow asked, a confused look streaking across her face.
Twilight sighed. "Well, he may have put the idea of the Moon's Tear in her head, so he's fairly certain she's gone up the Mountain to look for it herself." Shaking her head as she ran, the unicorn found it hard not to trip over herself as she did, her sense of balance unused to running and shaking all at once.
Dash seemed dumbstruck at first, but her face soon melted to that of anger. "So he gave her that idea? That stupid oaf! I swear I'll clobber him-"
Twilight halted her progress as she slowed Dash down. "Hold it, Rainbow. This is his fault, but he couldn't of seen this coming. He told AppleBloom he'd bring her back one of the flowers - but his plans to... uh, head up there, were kinda... uhm... stopped." Gazing at Rainbow's face, all she saw was a dumbstruck expression. Spinning her hoof about, the pony attempted to jog the pegasus' memory. "You were there."
Dash scanned over Twilight's expression, trying to make heads or tails of what she was insinuating. Eventually, a look of dawning was captured on the mare's face. "Oooh, he was gonna take AJ there." Chuckling a bit, the pegasus turned to see the red speck turn a corner through the path towards the mountain. "He's pretty romantic! I have to give him credit for that."
Twilight sighed, rolling her eyes slightly. "Romantic, stupid, it's not all that dissimilar." Picking up the pace again, the ponies took off after the two redder ponies. "Rainbow, can I ask you to fly around the mountain and check with me upon every circle? That way you can check if there's anywhere, Celestia forbid, where AppleBloom might of lost her footing and fallen?"
Dash took to the air, giving the unicorn a swift salute. "You got it, Twi. Want me to fly right up the mountain first? Applejack said she's been gone all morning - she might of made it all the way up by now." She suggested. Twilight shook her head a lot more lightly this time, her horn sparking to life as she imagined the place where the girls had all started their journey.
"Won't be an issue - I'd be surprised if AppleBloom would go all that way, considering the jumps and loose footing." Twilight informed, giving the pegasus a nod. Rainbow saluted one last time, and the unicorn popped out of existence.
"Man that's frustrating..." Rainbow muttered, arcing her flight slightly as she took toward the mountain, jealous of Twilight's ability.
Sparking at the foot of the mountain, Twilight stopped her forward progression clumsily as she found her hooves still moving forward, crashing headlong into a bush and entangling herself in it's branches. Groaning at the fumble, the unicorn attempted to free herself as she heard the rumble of hooves nearby. Coming to a halt, Applejack looked about the cliff face, trying to get an early look at AppleBloom, but unfortunately no yellow or red could be seen anywhere along the cliff. "Horseapples..." She muttered.
The sound of labored breathing joined her, the red unicorn arriving behind the Earth pony. "Do you.... see her?" Flint asked. The red pony scanned the rocks himself, he couldn't help but notice the purple horn sticking out of the nearby bush. Taking a sharp breath, the unamused unicorn trotted toward the offending bush and gave it a glare. "Twilight."
"Twilight? Ya hit yer head on yer way over here? We got a clear lead on..." Applejack trailed as Flint pushed aside the leaves, showcasing the purple unicorn in an impossible position in the bush, laying on her back as she grinned sheepishly at the pair.
"I...uh... hi guys." Twilight coughed, her mane tangled in the brush. Sighing openly, Flint's horn glowed a brilliant green as the leaves and twigs started to part from the purple and pink hair.
"Now what the hay are you doin' here so quick, Twilight? If I had yer runnin' speed I'd of cleared past Rainbow easy." Applejack seemed utterly impressed with the unicorn, but had to add, "'Course, I'll keep mah sense ah direction."
The unamused unicorn in the bush rolled her eyes. "Ha ha, Applejack. I kinda... botched my teleport a little." With Flint's final tug on an offending branch, the freed pony rolled to her stomach and picked herself up, her own horn glowing as she picked offending leaves off of her. "I'm no runner, that's for sure."
Flint grunted slightly, but nodded. Truth be told he was fairly impressed by the sheer idea of teleportation. "If you could move like that, Twilight, I am confused as to why we are needed for this expedition..."
Applejack chuckled slightly, shaking her mane at Flint's suggestion. "Nah, shugahcube, I know Twi, and if that was the right way ah goin' about it than she wouldn't ah even considered having you come out here." She poked, a covering smile on her face as she turned to her friend. "'Sides a which, many hooves make light work."
"Not to mention transporting around like this is hard work." Twilight huffed. Only now did Flint see the beads of sweat on the lavender pony's brow, or the burned strands of hair on her mane and tail as she swished the latter around in an annoyed fashion. "I figured you'd come by here, so I wanted to let you two know that Rainbow caught sight of our stampede through town. She's flying around the base of the mountain right now, and I wanted to tell you two."
Applejack smiled warmly, looking over to Flint. "Like ah told ya, most loyal friend you'll ever know."
"I never doubted it," Flint replied swiftly, earning him an accepting smile. "Now, we have a filly to find, yes?" The others nodded quickly, Applejack moving ahead toward the slower, less inclined path. Turning to Twilight, the unicorn in question was staring up at the steep incline. "You going to be alright?"
Twilight turned to Flint and smiled. "Fine. Just looks... steeper than it did back then." Chuckling nervously, Twilight moved to head up the steep cliffside, pausing briefly to relay one final instruction. "I'm going to wait for you guys at the same place we waited last time we came up here." A chilled wind cut her off mid-sentence, the unicorn distracted by the thought of the Earth pony up on the mountain. "But not for too long. We want to make sure that if one group finds her, the other isn't still going to scale the mountain fruitlessly."
Flint nodded, trusting in Applejack that she knew where these rendezvous points were. Winking, the red unicorn started off after Applejack, leaving his mentor to her own devices. "Don't worry too much about me, Twilight. I would like to see the flower myself!"
Twilight nodded in agreement, her mind filling with pictures of the books she read from about the rare flora. Stepping down on the hard rock, the unicorn wore a confident smirk as she took her first step up the mountainside.
It lasted as long as her second, where her hoof slipped on a loose rock and Twilight faceplanted into the stone.
Rounding a bend, the purple pony looked about her surroundings, taking in the breathtaking view of Equestria. The vibrant greens, blues, and yellows of nature screamed at her to take a picture of the landscape, unabashed by dragon's smoke. Twilight exhaled deeply, taking a moment to scold herself for locking herself up in her Library for the past few months instead of embarking on this trip sooner, instead of waiting for a reason to come out here like this.
As she peered out into the grand view, a whistling sound twitched her ears as she turned her attention over to the side of the mountain. As if on cue, the rainbow streak herself spun through the air, her own eyes tracking the sides of the mountain, the cyan mare keeping herself to the task of finding the youngest Apple. Spotting Twilight on the edge of the cliff, Rainbow swung over to the unicorn, landing nimbly on the rocks beside her. "Hey Twi. Nothin' to report so far. Saw Flint and Applejack, though."
Twilight nodded, staying silent a moment as her ears picked up a few sounds. Walking toward the edge, away from where Rainbow Dash came from, the unicorn could see the lower walkway, and with it, the red and orange ponies below. "They're right down there, Dash." Twilight smirked, before twisting her smile into a look of befuddlement. Twilight raised an eyebrow as she mentally calculated how care she had come compared to the ponies down below. "Wait, how'd they get there so quick? I haven't exactly been slouching-"
"I dunno, Twi, you were standing there with your mouth hangin' there for a minute." Dash chuckled, bringing the ire of the unicorn with it.
"How did you know that?" The unicorn demanded.
Dash smiled the smile of the mischievously proud, averting her eyes as she touched her hooves together. "'Cause ya just told me, Twi!" Sticking her tongue out at the mare, Twilight huffed silently as she scolded herself. Oldest trick in the book - outsmarted by Rainbow Dash, even. Regardless, the pegasus trotted over to the edge near Twilight, gesturing towards the red pony. "Hey, good idea pairing those two together, Twi. Y'know, besides the obvious."
Twilight sighed through her nose. "No, that wasn't an obvious reason." She reprimanded, but the pegasus ignored it.
"Whatever Twilight. Still, Flint's kinda built for this kinda thing, and Applejack... y'know, isn't." Dash smirked, her mind filtering back to the Iron Pony competition. When it came to trotting lightly, the Earth pony could be a bit of a fish out of water. "And on a Mountain? It's good to have him by her side."
Twilight didn't respond, but merely looked down toward the two ponies, her mind buzzing on the idea.
Below the mares, the colt and filly moved forward with haste, the red pony taking point for Applejack as the two made progress up the mountain. At first the proud Earth pony debated with Flint, but it was clear his experience with the trip made him a natural leader for the expedition. And this expedition needed them to expedite right up the mountain. Turning back toward the mare, Flint's horn sparkled slightly as it lit up a patch of ground just as Applejack laid her hoof on it. Looking down momentarily, the workhorse took a moment to stare back up at the stallion. "You got a reason fer lighten up where Ah step? Ah think Ah can handle walkin' myself at this point 'ah life."
Flint shook his head. "I only wish that you do not fall, Applejack. The rocks there aren't sturdy, likely to give way." His horn ceased sparkling only for a moment, freeing the ground form his grasp. As he did, the mare felt the ground under her hooves start to give a little.
"Whoa nelly!" The Earth pony cried, the ground sparking to life under her, stabilizing. As she pushed herself up against the cliffside wall, the mare smiled weakly. "Ah... see what ya mean," She coughed, shaking her mane. The mare wondered just how she got through this area before with Fluttershy in tow - probably just dumb luck. The reality of which gave her a sick feeling in the pit of her stomach. "Guess yer more useful than a file sorter, huh?"
Wearing a confident smile, Flint pointed ahead. "File sorting is but one of my vast array of boring pastimes," He joked, stepping carefully around rocks while still proceeding at a trot's pace. This time the orange mare took special notice of where he placed his hooves, taking great care to copy his movements exactly. Smiling to herself, the mare had done something similar back when she followed Big MacIntosh in the fields when she learned how to properly buck apples. It probably helped that Flint shared the same color coat as her brother.
"Yeah, well, ain't worth two licks a salt if ya can't put forth tha work that justifies the paper." Applejack mentioned. Having to do the expenses on the farm herself, along with Big Mac, she knew all about the paperwork side of life. Didn't much care for it, either. Flint gazed back, a fairly questionable expression on his face, which only served to alarm Applejack. "Flint, would you look where yer goin'!"
Turning forward, the stallion only had a moment to see that a very large pillar of rock had somehow materialized in front of him before he ran snout first into the stone wall. There was a long moment of silence between the too, a cool wind blowing by as neither pony moved a muscle. A tumbleweed rolled down the mountain between them. Removing his snout from the wall, a very nasally voice called out to Applejack. "'Fanks fer tha wahning."
Applejack raised a hoof over her mouth to stifle a laugh. "Anytime, Shugahcube."
Above on another outcropping, Rainbow Dash was having a fit simply trying to keep herself from losing it. Twilight tried vainly to glare at the pegasus for being so cruel, but was failing miserably at keeping herself from giggling. As the two ponies below started to move on, Dash finally belted out a loud guffaw as the two went out of earshot. "Oh man...!" Stumbling to her hooves, the pegasus grinned hugely at Twilight. "Did you see that? Wham! Right into the rocks!" Wiping a tear from her eye, the pegasus chanced a look over the edge, but the ponies had already moved on ahead.
Twilight agreed that it was funny, but rolled her eyes in response to her friend. "Remind you of anypony?" She teased, a clever smirk playing on her featured. Dash wheeled about, catching sight of her friend's smile, and quickly switched from cyan to a bashful pink.
"Y-yeah, well, when I did it it was awesome, full speed and, uh, flying." Twilight giggled lightly as she patted her friend on the back while the mare muttered darkly.
"Whatever you say, Rainbow Crash." Although used as an insult in her filly days, Twilight used the term as one of endearment to her friend, sparking a soft smile from the pegasus. "Come on, we still have a mission to find AppleBloom, and if we stick around much longer, those two'll beat us to the rendezvous." Picking up a trot, Twilight was mindful of the spell Flint had used earlier, and took extra precaution in her own steps to strengthen the ground where she walked. It allowed her to trot with more purpose, as well.
Dash, on the other hand, kept a simple flap of her wings going as she went along, pieces of rock dislodging everywhere as she went along her merry way.