Chapter 9: Tibi Ipsi Esto Fidelis
"You want me to do what?" Apple Bloom looked at Sweetie Belle like she was crazy. Apple Bloom had taken a set of tools over to the boutique the next day, and the two were sitting in Sweetie's room, trying to repair her leg.
"Just pull the rest of the skin off!" Sweetie said. When the wolf had ripped her leg off, it had torn and damaged most of the covering that passed for "skin" over her skeleton, as well as the underlying rubberish material that gave it shape. What currently remained on the detached limb was shredded pretty badly, the only remaining tatters down near the hoof looking ragged at best. Sweetie had spent quite some time examining her own inner workings and learned that the various flesh-like stuff could be regrown, albeit slowly; an entire leg would take months. Thankfully though, it was almost entirely cosmetic.
"Oh just give it to me!" she said. Taking the limb in her field, and steeling herself for the pain, she pulled away the remaining bits of fetlock. "Ow!"
"Wait, you felt that?"
"Yeah, it seems that even when it's not connected, it's still me."
Apple Bloom shook her head at that. "I don't think I wanna know what it must be like up in yer head."
Sweetie completed the flensing and returned the limb to Apple Bloom. "So what do you think?"
"Well," Apple Bloom said, looking closely at the damaged portions. "I think ya got lucky. There's a couple bent parts here an' there, but for the most part, seems it mostly snapped rivets and pins when it tossed ya."
Sweetie looked closer. Mechanical stuff wasn't her forte, but considering she was made of mechanical stuff, it was probably a good idea to learn. "I think I know what a pin is, but what's a rivet?"
Apple Bloom spent the next half hour pointing out the basic mechanical components she could identify in the leg, explaining their purpose to Sweetie Belle while the two cooperated with tools and magic to repair things. Sweetie was glad to find that she understood most of it. Her linkages weren't difficult, but there was a lot of jargon to learn.
"So," Sweetie said, sometime later. "If I just slide it through there, then kind of squish it, it stays in place, right?"
"Exactly!" Apple Bloom said. "I think that's the last rivet too, at least that I can see. Ya got a lot of mechanisms in there going to yer lower hoof, and I still have no idea what some of 'em do. Still though, try standin' on it."
Sweetie Belle slid to the edge of the bed, and extended the naked mechanical leg. Placing it on the floor, it seemed to hold up with a bit of weight, so she rolled off and stood on her three good legs, then lowered it again. Lifting her other forehoof, the repaired limb seemed to have no problem taking her full weight.
"Okay," Apple Bloom said. "Try out the range of movement. Twist everythin' all over the place."
Sweetie did as she asked, raising the hoof, bending the elbow, fetlock, and other joints every direction she could. Everything felt correct, save that she couldn't quite point her hoof as far as she expected.
"Hmm..." Apple Bloom said, after the problem was explained. The filly took the hoof and looked closely into the exposed mechanisms. A lot of it was hidden by the external shell of the hoof itself, preventing her from getting a good look at the lowest components inside the shell. Apple Bloom had a guess at what was wrong, though.
"Raise your hoof and go like this," she said, raising her own hoof over her head and shaking it like she was in an angry mob.
"Umm..." Sweetie Belle said. "If you say so." She raised her hoof, pretending to play the maracas, and was rewarded by a small pellet hitting her on the head. "What was that?" she said.
"Yup," Apple Bloom said, bending to the floor to retrieve the fallen debris. "A sheared rivet."
"Hmm," Sweetie said, flexing her hoof again and finding full extension. "That was it."
"I thought so."
"Great! Thanks Apple Bloom. Now I just need to trim the rest of this."
Apple Bloom watched as Sweetie Belle used her fields to cut and remove even more "flesh" from above the site of the injury, leveling it out to be a symmetrical cuff of skin and fur ending just above her elbow.
"There," Sweetie said, using a towel to daub away the few remaining drops of her blue circulatory fluid. "Much better."
"So..." Apple Bloom said. "Ya got any ideas what to use for skin or bandages over the rest of this bare metal?"
"Actually, I was thinking I should just leave it like this for now."
"Yeah, why not?"
Apple Bloom had to think for a minute on that one. "Well, it's just weird, Sweetie."
"We're golems created from wish-filled cupcakes who bleed magic. Go ahead, explain what 'weird' is again."
"Oh, Sweetie, I don't mean it like that. I just mean ponies are gonna look at ya all strange."
"Ya really want everypony—includin' Diamond and Silver—to know what ya really are?"
"Come on, AB. Everypony in town can see that giant tree, and I'll bet that by tomorrow, there won't be a pony in town that hasn't heard the story too. It's not like we can keep things a secret."
"Yeah, but that don't mean ya have to let 'em know yer actually made of metal and stuff."
Sweetie sighed. "What if I don't want to hide it? What if I want everypony to know?"
"Why would ya want that?"
"I think," Sweetie said, "I spent so many years afraid to be myself—afraid to sing when I wanted to, afraid to have everypony looking at me—that I don't want do that again. This," she said, holding up the gleaming, bared metal skeleton of her foreleg and hoof, "is who I am. I just want to be myself."
Apple Bloom couldn't argue with that. "Okay, Sweetie, I can understand that," she said, smiling at her friend before pointing back at the bare hoof. "Yer still gonna get rocks and dirt all in that thing though."
"Yeah, you're right," Sweetie agreed, looking down at the cup-like shell that formed the hoof. "Hmm... I've got an idea."
Apple Bloom saw only the briefest flash from inside the hoof cup. "Let me guess," she said. "Ya just invented and cast some sorta rock and dirt repellent spell on yer leg, right?"
"Something like that," Sweetie said, grinning. She was rather glad that being "just herself" also involved being quite adept at unicorn magic.
Sweetie Belle thought Apple Bloom's cuteceanera later that week had been at least as fun as Scootaloo's. Thankfully, Apple Bloom had less of a vindictive streak, and didn't invite Diamond Tiara or Silver Spoon. The party had just been one solid, fun evening, with nearly all the foals from class celebrating. Most of them did look at her bared metal leg quite weirdly at first, but after the initial questions, seemed to accept it and move on to cake and punch quite readily. A few, including Scootaloo, actually thought it was quite cool. For the most part though, all the attention was on Apple Bloom, or related to the giant tree in the distance, as well as the story of That Day.
Rupert was now a fixture on the landscape, visible from any part of Ponyville. Everypony in town had quickly heard the story, passing it from neighbor to neighbor as they cleaned up broken windows and other glass. Most didn't seem to mind too much. They were used to this sort of thing by now. It seemed that every other week some minor—or ursa minor—disaster hit the town. Knowing this one had been the result of Apple Bloom saving the life of her sister, a little broken glass seemed a trivial price to pay. Besides, anything was better than that time when Derpy had accidentally brought a sharknado though the place.
So, for a few days, the Crusaders found themselves celebrities everywhere they went, getting thanks for saving the town's favorite farm pony, and being hounded with questions about the giant tree in the distance. The fervor quickly died down however. No matter how amazing, ponies can get used to anything pretty easily. After the curiosity wore off, the massive tree on the horizon didn't influence their everyday lives much more than the mountains beyond it.
The awe lasted a bit longer among the foals in town, their sense of wonder not yet squelched by quite as much cynicism as the adults. Even it faded pretty quickly after a week of hearing the story retold almost constantly. They all knew that Apple Bloom had somehow grown the thing, but on a day to day basis back in front of them, the most impressive thing she could do was grow a few flowers. In that sense, and especially among the adults in town—most of whom she didn't see regularly like the foals in class—Sweetie herself remained more of a curiosity in the long run than either Apple Bloom or Scootaloo. Her injured leg was an obvious and immediate strangeness to the ponies she encountered, and, curiously enough, she found she kind of liked it.
Exploring those feelings one night, tossing and turning in bed, Sweetie thought about the reactions she was getting. The reality was that she actually liked her leg without flesh on it. Well, not the lack of it directly, but what it reminded her of. She'd had her leg ripped off by a dire timberwolf, and that was only a minor inconvenience. For any other pony, it would've been a horrible tragedy at best, or death at worst. Not for her though. She'd spent an entire evening around a campfire, listening to a retelling of how Apple Bloom had faced down Death itself, all the while idly poking and prodding at her own dismembered limb with no more concern than if it were an oddly shaped branch. Every time a pony had seen her, either that night, or in town since then, they reacted with mild shock at the sheer "otherness" of it. It gave her a strange chill each time, one she'd quickly grown to enjoy.
Maybe Apple Bloom was right, she thought. Maybe it was weird, and perhaps she was overcompensating. Her earlier stage fright problems had kept her from wanting to be the center of any attention at all. Now, her injury and nature made her the center of attention instantly, and it was... well, it was fun. Perhaps that was what she was missing. Months ago, she'd told Apple Bloom that her magic was just "there" and it wasn't so much fun, as it was a normal thing. Now, with her pistons and struts exposed, there was this low level thrill at simply letting everypony see her true self.
So what if it was overcompensating? That was her choice. She'd spent years hiding her love of singing, hiding her personality in general, just to avoid the spotlight. What harm would there be in going a little bit to the other side for a while? She'd learned to sing in public, and loved every minute of it. If she found some small joy in showing that she was not quite a normal pony, that wasn't much different, was it? No. She thought. No worse than that mare at the diner with six earrings in one ear.
The next week, the Crusaders were putting the finishing touches on their new treehouse. It'd taken a bit of convincing for Applejack to let her sister start building a clubhouse a thousand feet in the sky, given that trees, by their very nature, didn't have safety rails or properly inspected staircases. Apple Bloom had eventually won the argument though, with the simple logic that it still had to be safer than the ground, as that's apparently where hundred foot high timberwolves roamed.
The design wasn't particularly complex, though it was a bit more extravagant than their previous clubhouse. Nor were there issues with securing the structure to the tree—plenty of the branches would've been large enough for the foundations of an actual mansion. No, the actual problem was getting a thousand feet into the sky.
Scootaloo had no problem getting up there of course, and Sweetie could teleport. Their help had been invaluable in the actual construction, and Apple Bloom herself found she could grow vines as hoofholds and climb directly if she had to. However, she was determined there should be a way for anypony to reach the clubhouse without assistance.
"If this is gonna be our headquarters," she said, "then it needs to be somethin' everypony can get to. What if Babs comes to visit, or we get new members? We're still the Cutie Mark Crusaders. Just because we get our own marks don't mean we stop helpin' others."
To that end, she'd spent the better part of a week slowly growing branches in a spiral staircase up the trunk. Then, to mollify Applejack, she'd spent another two days growing posts and stringing ropes between them to make a safety railing all the way to the top.
After that, all three had helped take apart the old clubhouse and move things to the top of Rupert. They had to bring in a lot of new lumber as well, since the new design was quite a bit larger. Not all of the old clubhouse could be recycled either, but the trio had agreed that keeping a sort of continuity by using what they could of it just felt right. They'd also had to bring in some heavier, proper-house-type doors and windows, as the altitude meant the new headquarters was more exposed to the elements.
When all was said and done though, the Cutie Mark Crusaders found themselves with a clubhouse that was very nearly an actual house, albeit a spartan one. They'd held a grand opening, complete with ribbon cutting, but the only non-Crusader in attendance had been Applejack, who'd quickly turned the ceremony into an impromptu building inspection. After stomping around for several minutes, bucking key bits of wall, roof, and floor, the farm mare finally seemed convinced that Scootaloo's participation had indeed been restricted to nothing more structural than paint. Satisfied that the construction was solid—even if the paint was already flaking off—she agreed that the fillies could spend the night in their new clubhouse, and the Crusaders all rushed to their respective homes to gather sleepover essentials.
A while later, the three fillies sat on the back porch, watching the sunset. Apple Bloom and Sweetie had designed the layout so the large porch hung well beyond the nearby supporting branches, giving a mostly uninterrupted view to a large chunk of the horizon, as well as straight down. Scootaloo, of course, had no problem with heights. Sweetie Belle and Apple Bloom seemed to handle it fine as well, but then the wind started.
No matter how stalwart a tree, they all swayed when the wind was strong enough. From the ground, a pony couldn't even tell. The deflection was less than a degree. But for a tree as tall as Rupert, that still meant movements could be twenty feet or more in an arc. However, the sheer mass meant it was a slow, steady movement, like being on a very large ship in relatively mild seas, and posed little danger to the structure or the ponies inside it. The same could not be said for the inner ears of said ponies though, and the two wingless fillies quickly found themselves a bit less comfortable standing next to a thousand foot drop, regardless of railings, nearby friendly pegasi, or magical teleportation abilities.
"I think I'm gonna go back inside," Apple Bloom said, stepping away from the railing.
"Yeah, me too," Sweetie Belle agreed, not happy with how her sense of "up" was constantly moving.
Scootaloo teased. "It's just a little wind!" Seeing her friends weren't going to be persuaded, she followed them inside.
While the swaying was still quite noticeable, it didn't feel nearly as unnerving with solid walls on all sides.
"Well, this is gonna take some gettin' used to," Apple Bloom said. "I never figured I'd need sea legs a thousand feet up in the sky."
"Ugh, yeah..." Sweetie agreed, as she limped toward the sleeping bags. "I hope it's not this windy all the time."
Scootaloo laughed. "Oh, you'll get used to it. Besides, if you think this is bad, you should spend a week in Cloudsdale in the windy season. The entire city sways worse than this."
"Ya know, I'd never thought about that..." Apple Bloom said, interrupted as the sway reversed at the end of an arc, causing her eyes to go wide at the sensation.
"Look on the bright side," Scootaloo added. "At least we've got a tree under us, so we're only going side to side. Cloudsdale is really fun sometimes, with microbursts and updrafts. Imagine this, but like, ten times worse, and going up and down at the same time."
The other two fillies glared at the pegasus. "I'd really rather not," Sweetie said, before sitting down and rubbing her injured hoof. Apple Bloom nodded in agreement, and also sat down, wanting to avoid adding the sway of her own legs to that of the treehouse itself.
Scootaloo stayed on her hooves and was enjoying herself, trotting around to admire the views out each window. While it wasn't quite the same as a proper cloud house, she was still way up in the sky, comfortable and warm, and the solid flooring meant her two friends could be here as well. What could be better, she thought, looking around and appreciating their new headquarters. "Hey Apple Bloom," she said, her eyes lighting on the trophies. "I just saw what you did with the new trophy shelf. That's pretty smart!"
"Huh?" Apple Bloom said, not sure what her friend was referring to. It couldn't just be the fact that she used more than one nail at each end, could it?
"Those little rails you put around the edges. That's brilliant, keeps our trophies from falling off when this place really gets moving in the wind!"
"Uh, thanks. That's exactly what I was thinkin'," Apple Bloom lied, having never actually anticipated this much swaying. The rails had instead been to keep Scootaloo herself from knocking things off the shelf every time she went to align, adjust, admire, or otherwise accost the awards. In light of the current conditions, she was glad the rails were there for either hazard though.
Thankfully, the wind died down not too long after sunset proper, and all three of the fillies went back to being excited about their new headquarters, dreaming and planning all the things they could do with it.
As the sky outside moved toward complete darkness, Apple Bloom got up to go light the lanterns.
"Hey Bloom," Sweetie interrupted, favoring her injured hoof and moving toward the windows. "Wait just a minute." Looking out, she stared across the dark landscape toward the faint lights of Ponyville, and off in the distance, those glowing in the castle and city of Canterlot.
"Wow, it sure is pretty," Apple Bloom said, joining her at the window.
Even the normally less than sentimental pegasus had to agree. "Yeah, it really is. From way up here, some of those lights almost look like stars if you squint. Makes me wonder what'd it be like flying up above the sky at night, instead of day. Would the lights on the ground look just the same as the stars in the sky?"
"You know," Sweetie said, shifting on her hooves. "If you squint like you said, you can't really see the ground in the dark, and you can almost imagine that you're floating with nothing but stars out there, both above and below."
The other fillies tried it, agreeing the effect was quite mesmerizing, and just staring into the darkness for several minutes, before Apple Bloom finally moved to light the lanterns again.
As the glow filled the clubhouse, Sweetie turned away from the window, and limped back to the center of the room to unroll her sleeping bag near the others. Moving to lay down, she let out a distinct "ow."
"Sweetie?" Apple Bloom looked at her friend with concern. "What's wrong?"
"My hoof's just been feeling weird for the past couple of days."
"The injured one?"
"Yeah. I thought it was just something related to the injury itself, but it's been getting worse."
"Where's it hurt, exactly?"
"That's just it." Sweetie stretched her stripped leg and hoof out in front of her as she lay on the sleeping bag. "It doesn't really hurt most of the time, it just feels... wrong somehow. Only when I accidentally put weight on it in certain ways does it actually hurt."
"I tried to tell ya. Ya probably got somethin' else stuck in it."
"Hmm," Sweetie looked closely, peering inside as far as she could between the linkages going into the cup of the hoof, before examining things further with her internal magic, and finding something really, really odd. "I don't think that's the problem, AB."
There was a bright flash. "What was that?" Scootaloo asked, catching a whiff of ozone.
"I need to get this thing off," Sweetie Belle said, beginning to tug at her hoof with a magical field. Now that she'd cut a few of the retaining pins, it gave way with only a slight pop, and she set the hoof shell aside, wiggling the "bones" that had been within.
"Sweetie!" Apple Bloom said, shocked by the odd sight. "What in the world?"
Sweetie ignored her. Flexing things again, she dislodged a large splinter of wood that had apparently been stuck deep inside the workings. Setting the splinter aside, she looked closer at the the workings of her limb, and quickly realized that the "bones" themselves were definitely not arranged as one would expect in a normal pony's hoof. They were not quite lined up like she'd expected from her internal magical sense either though. No matter. Most of the pieces in her structure were highly adjustable, as she'd first discovered back when she'd merely extended her legs to absurd lengths. She'd learned much finer levels of control since then, and so as she concentrated with her eyes closed, the various pieces grew and shrank, restructuring to correct and finalize the previously incomplete layout into a more useful appendage.
Apple Bloom and Scootaloo both sat slack jawed, watching in a mild state of shock as Sweetie tore apart and reconfigured her own hoof. "Oh my gosh..." Scootaloo said, as the unicorn opened her eyes, seemingly finished. "Did you just do what I think you did?"
Sweetie held her foreleg up in front of her, wiggling the new digits at the end. It'd taken more adjustments than she thought to get it to feel right, but the movement was spot on. "I think so, Scoots," she said, grinning. "At least, I think it's what I think you think I did."
"Quit foolin' around, Sweetie," Apple Bloom said, her voice full of seriousness. "That's a paw! You turned yer hoof into a paw!"
"Yeah, well, I think it's more like I just finished it is all. It's still missing something though."
"Why would ya do somethin' like that?" Apple Bloom said, still in shock.
"Well, at least now I won't get rocks stuck in the cup of that hoof, right?" Sweetie was flexing the toes, contemplating how to fix things up properly.
"Gah!" Scootaloo said, flinching at the independently moving toes. "Do you have any idea how weird that looks?"
"Not really," Sweetie said, picking up the discarded hoof cup in her field and heating it. "How weird would you say it looks?"
"Weird, Sweetie. Really weird!"
"Yeah, you're right," she said, as the former hoof melted into a glowing orb of levitated metal. "It does look weird."
"Okay, so... you'll undo it?" Apple Bloom said, looking her friend in the eyes pleadingly.
"No," Sweetie said, separating a small bit of molten metal from the larger blob. "I just need to fix it." Concentrating, she brought the small blob to the tip of one toe, and used her field to shape it into a small, slightly curved cone. The process then repeated for the other toes.
"There, that's more like it!" she said, wiggling the new claws in front of each of her friends in turn. "Better, right?"
"Not really," Apple Bloom said, leaning back from the weird mechanical digits. "Come on Sweetie, put yer hoof back how it was."
"Seriously, Sweetie, yer gonna freak everypony out. Put it back."
"Why not? Why do you want a paw?"
"Oh come on Apple Bloom," Sweetie said, grinning again as she wiggled her toes. "You're the famous pony who said 'no' to Death itself. Can't I at least say 'no' to a hoof?"
"You're worryin' me, Sweetie Belle. Please just be serious for a moment."
Sweetie stopped her teasing and let her limb drop. "I'm sorry, Bloom. You too Scoots. I didn't mean to scare anypony."
Apple Bloom sighed. "It's okay, Sweetie."
"Yeah," Scootaloo said. "I'm not scared. But that thing is like, really weird. What the heck happened?"
"I think," Sweetie said, levitating the splinter that had been lodged in her former hoof. "When that timberwolf bit my leg, it got a bit of a tooth or something stuck in there."
"How's that end up with you getting a paw?"
"Well, remember that night after the attack, Twilight told us how she thought timberwolves were basically some type of golem? Well, I think she's right. I think somehow, some bit of the magic animating the wolf got stuck in this splinter here."
"But how's that possible?" Apple Bloom said. "Whenever anypony else killed one of them things, it just turned into perfectly normal dead trees once the magic left it."
"I don't know... maybe it has something to do with the way you turned that one into this giant, very-much-not-dead tree we're in. Or maybe it was my own golem magic that kept powering it somehow. Either way, I think remnants of its magic leaked from the splinter, and started adjusting the nearby pieces of my hoof to match the timberwolf pattern, instead of my own."
"Well, that makes sense I guess," Apple Bloom said. "But why would ya go and finish the job, instead of fixin' it?"
Sweetie was holding up the new paw again, flexing the toes and claws in front of her own eyes, admiring the design of it. "I don't know, it just feels right somehow. It's... interesting." She continued examining things closely when Scootaloo spoke up.
"You know, it does look kind of cool," the pegasus said. "Once you get used to it a bit."
Apple Bloom took a deep breath. "Ya know me, Sweetie. I couldn't care less if ya have a hoof, a paw, or whatever. I'll be yer friend no matter what. But that thing is weird, and ya know it. On top of that, you pretty much just said you got it from being infected with the magic of the same monster that tried to kill my sister and the rest of us. Why in the world would ya want to keep it?"
"Okay, Apple Bloom. That's fair enough." Sweetie paused, remembering back to That Day, when she'd realized she had to kill the wolf to save her friends. "I can't blame you if you hate that timberwolf for what it did, but I've felt bad about killing it ever since it happened. Now, maybe there's like this little piece of it that didn't completely die. Something I can hold onto that'll remind me of what I can do... what I did do when I ended a life. It's like I owe it something, like it's the right thing to do."
Looking her two closest friends in the eyes in turn, Sweetie sighed, knowing she needed to be completely honest now.
"There's another side to it as well," she continued, thinking now about the way ponies looked at her differently since her injury. "It's not just the memento. I'd be lying if I said there wasn't some selfish component to it as well. Do you remember when you helped me reattach my leg, and were surprised when I wanted to leave it bare?"
Apple Bloom nodded as her friend continued. "Well, I meant what I said, about wanting to be myself in front of everypony. It's more than that however. In the time since then, I've been around town with this mechanical leg obvious to everyone. I get weird looks from all over, but I actually like it. I like being different, knowing no pony can ever just dismiss me as normal. Rarity told me once that a lot of ponies go through a rebellious phase as they grow up. Maybe that's what this is. I don't know. I just know that it's... well, it's fun!"
"Fun?" Apple Bloom said, a look of incredulity on her face.
"Yeah. I know it's weird. But that's part of the excitement I think."
"Sure, but I don't understand why ya would want that kind of excitement."
"You know how everypony was in awe of you that night, after you saved Applejack? Remember how you felt, sitting around the fire as we retold things? Everypony there was awestruck with the amazing feat you'd accomplished, both saving your sister, and spawning a world tree. All of them knew how amazingly unique you are."
"Yeah," Apple Bloom said, remembering the warm glow of pride. "I can understand that. Ya want to be recognized."
"It's more than just that. I realized that night that I can do pretty much anything I want. Everypony says that, of course, but by 'anything' they mean they can get a dream job, meet the right stallion, and maybe take a vacation to Prance. But for me, I mean anything. I sliced a hundred foot high timberwolf in half! I could teleport to Prance right now if I wanted. I'm pretty sure I could swim across the ocean without taking a breath, or tap dance in an active volcano if the mood struck me, too. But I'm not going to do most of those things, at least not in very visible ways. In fact, I really hope I don't ever have to really use my abilities to their fullest. I never want to kill another creature, even a timberwolf, and I definitely hope I never end up having to save a dying pony like you did."
Apple Bloom nodded. "I can't blame ya there. I never want to see another pony I love lyin' there dying either."
"Right. I don't want to be in the middle when important things like lives are on the line. No sane pony should ever want that. I mean, I won't run from trouble, but I don't want it seeking me out either. But then, if there's not an important reason for it, anything major I do with my abilities becomes just so much showboating." Sweetie smiled and turned to her winged friend. "You know I love you, Scootaloo, but I'm not like you and Rainbow Dash when it comes to showing off."
Scootaloo nodded, smiling to let Sweetie know she didn't take offense. "But isn't walking around with a mechanical paw showboating as well?" she said.
"I guess. Kind of. But it's passive. I'm not saying, 'look at me.' I just am something to look at."
"I don't know, Sweetie. Sounds pretty similar to me."
"Yeah, maybe. But as soon as I realized what was going on with my hoof, I just got this idea that it might be better—more unique and interesting—to finish it out than to try and undo it. Maybe that's showboating, or maybe it's just a tiny bit of the timberwolf's magic making me remember it more fondly. Either way, the fact that everypony else will find it weird if I have toes is more of a side effect. If I undid it now, or hid it somehow, it'd feel like I wasn't being true to myself. I know it's weird, and maybe it's stupid and rebellious and whatever else, but... it's my choice." Sweetie looked between her two friends again before continuing. "I know I keep bringing this up, but I spent years afraid to sing in front of other ponies before I finally got over it, thanks to those lessons with Fluttershy. She has this plaque on the wall at her house, it says, 'Tibi ipsi esto fidelis' and I asked her one day what it means. 'To thine own self be true,' she explained, and that's just stuck with me ever since. I could never go back to hiding my voice. But this..." Sweetie held up the paw for emphasis. "This is part of who I am too."
Apple Bloom thought she could understand that. Even if the logic was nearly as weird as the paw itself. "Okay, Sweetie. Good enough. Just promise me one thing."
"Yeah, AB, anything."
"If ya start growing any more wolf parts," Apple Bloom said, smiling. "Ya talk to me or Scoots right away, got it?"
"Heheh, yeah!" Scootaloo said, pausing to scratch her chin in thought. "Although... You would look pretty awesome with a bunch of sharp teeth and a shaggy tail."
Sweetie Belle laughed. "I promise, you'll be the first to know if that happens. Besides, I don't think Fluttershy would let me anywhere near her animals in that case, and you know how much I love those singing lessons!"
The three fillies all laughed, before Scootaloo demanded a promise of her own. "Okay," Sweetie said. "I suppose it's only fair you get one too. What is it?"
Grinning mischievously, Scootaloo said. "I get to be there to see the look on Rarity's face when she finds out about this!"
Okay, now be honest. (AJ will know if you're lying.) How many of you actually had "Sweetie gets a mechanical paw" in your list of predictions? (Before you saw the cover art or read the sequel?)