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StrawberryBlossom

Growing By Themselves [OPEN]

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It was midday when Strawberry Blossom finished exploring the town; on getting back to her hut she shoved off her full saddle bags and replaced them with empty ones. Her purchases could be put away later; for now, it was time to explore.

She had been looking forward to this all her life, after all!

Everfree Forest was easily visible from her hut; she stood a long moment to admire it before setting off at a brisk trot, broad hooves churning up dirt and head and tail held high. This was going to be amazing!

She sighed happily as she passed into the cooler shade of the forest, looking around curiously; only a few steps in and she was already seeing plants she didn't recognize! That might be a problem, she realized belatedly; maybe she should have looked around for a book on the forest when she passed by that library. Well, there was always tomorrow. For now, she was finally setting hoof inside the forest she'd been hearing about for years, and she wasn't about to turn back now.

"Wonder if it's true you can hear 'em grow," she mused aloud before addressing the plants directly.

"Afternoon, everyone! Sorry I don't know everyone's name yet. I'm a little new here, haha." She grinned, scuffing a hoof along the forest floor. "But I'm happy to be here, so if you don't mind me looking around I'd like to at least get to know the outskirts."

A brief pause, and she moved forward again as if she'd heard permission, tail swishing happily.

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Bramble Rose was nestled in happily, his books out and open as he tried to identify the different species of flowers. He'd read about so many of them in his dam's library, but to see them in person! It was just amazing. To be out here, alone, just him and the flowers. The tiny purple unicorn with the silvery mane smiled to himself. If these flowers could talk...

"Afternoon, everyone!"

He jumped up so high he'd have sworn he'd just turned into a pegasus. "AEEEYYYIPE!" he squeaked - n... no, that wasn't a girlish squeak, that was ... a manly... cry... of... oh, horse feathers.

He peeked around the tree he'd been behind to see who'd just started him...

And looked up...

And up...

Wow, that was a big mare. And cute, with those pigtails. *:P*

"Ah... th-that's all right, I d-don't think we've met yet anyway," he stammered. He stopped, took a breath, trying to get his furiously racing heart to slow down. Gah, he hadn't even realized anyone was there! "My name's Bramble Rose!" He stepped out from behind the tree so she could see his cutie mark. Oh, geeze, don't let her have seen the fashion posters, don't let her have seen the fashion posters...

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Strawberry jumped a respectable distance herself at the cry. Holy Celestia and Night-Blessed Luna, were the plants here so different that they answered when you talked?!

No. Of course not, that was absurd....right? She slowly turned to see a unicorn peering around a tree. Ah - that had to be it. She smiled, ears perking as the slender little stallion came fully into view. Huh - cute little guy, and he seemed friendly.

"Oh! Oh, uh... sorry about that, sir." She lowered her head slightly with a sheepish smile, peeking through her forelock at the unicorn. Argh, she hoped she was right this time after her mistake with poor Sugar Orange - Bramble looked like a male to her at least, though with a pretty, delicate look. Strawberry's sister would kill to be so slender and elegant... she decided that was best not mentioned, though.

A brief pause and she trotted forward to greet him properly (following his example by turning slightly to show her own cutie mark).

"I'm Strawberry Blossom. Didn't mean to startle you, didn't realize anypony was out here!" She laughed, giving her tail a cheerful flick. "Was just looking at these plants out here... y'like 'em too?"

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Bramble Rose let out a soft laugh. "Oh, quite all right," he said, recovering from the surprise of having someone 'sneak up' behind him. "Just gave me a jump." Unconsciously, he straightened himself up, neck stretched, in an old habit of trying to appear taller, as he looked up at the mare. Once he got past the impression of just 'tall' and 'cute', he had to upgrade that to 'really cute'. She was all pink and ... he didn't know the word to use. Something about her just made him want to hug her. But that would be rude, of course. And that adorable cutie mark!

"Oh, yes, very much! I was just out here trying to identify some of these flowers... I've studied them, but I've never seen them with my own eyes." He floated over a couple of the books he'd dropped in his surprise, and turned a bit to brush at them with his tail to get the dirt off of them.

Once they were nice and neat again, he chose one of them: "Fern Pot's Guide to Exotic Plants." He opened it up, showing Strawberry the inside - page after page of flower diagrams and photos, paragraphs of description on their properties and remedies.

"Well, actually, I'm specifically looking for some ingredients for bubble bath, but I'm letting myself get side tracked." He gave a little playful, impish grin, half-sheepish, like a much younger colt caught doing something naughty and finding it hard to care. "I'm really hoping to find some Night Blooms, but of course those are easier to find at night..."

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Strawberry laughed, coming to his side proper to look at the book.

"Nice to meet a like-minded gentleman - this forest and its plants, they're the whole reason I'm here! Came from Fillydelphia, y'see... are you from here? Ponyville's a nice place - lots of friendly ponies." A smile as she glanced over at him. Then she was back to the book, leaning down to examine an illustration more closely.

"I get what you mean - easy to get sidetracked in here, it's all wonderful. Y'notice that moss hanging from the trees? I've seen it before but not like this - there aren't a whole lot of large trees where I cone from, and any that grows on 'em gets cleaned off, so you don't see a whole lot of moss for long. I dunno, I guess it's not good to let it get out of hand, but...." She paused, clearing her throat.

"Er, sorry. Anyway, Night Blooms... haven't seen 'em myself - or any night-blooming plants. But hey - maybe we'll have more look working together, right?"

She grinned back at him with another flick of her tail, grinning.

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Bramble grinned eagerly. "Oh, no, I'm from Canterlot, but I just moved here a few days ago! Got a job growing and delivering flowers, already!" He gave a soft chuckle. "Well, that, plus a few side jobs here and there..."

He looked up at the moss. Moss was nice enough but ... flowers were what really interested him. *:)* "Oh, yes," he said, "I don't see much moss at home, either... heh. Moss in Canterlot. But oh, you should peek over the wall at the gardens of the palace... there's this tall tower on a library near the palace, and one of the windows has this *perfect* view, right into the garden, and there's soooo many colors... and it's all so beautifully arranged... That was one of my favorite spots!"

He let out a soft 'heh', feeling embarrassed. She had asked about moss, not ... anything else. "Er ... but yeah, I'd love the help in looking for them! I'll meet you tonight, it's a date! Er... not a date... I mean... it's ... a good idea, is all!"

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In a the nearby undergrowth , Blushroom was doing her daily duty of scouting for delicacies. It was just at the edge of morel season in this part of the Everfree forest, but she was still hoping she could find just a few more to flavor the crepes she was making her grandmother for a very special birthday breakfast in the morning. The midafternoon light dappled the forest floor and the beautiful soft orange tones of the pony's coat, at least the parts that were not covered in mud and various bits of plant material. The birds around her were chirping their hellos as the solitary young mare waded through a patch of ferns, their leafy fonds ticking her belly as she searched.

"AHA! There's one!", she mused, spotting one of the wrinkly buff mushrooms. She put the handled basket down and then plunged her face into the green sea of ferns, gently grabbing the morel and popping it into her basket. When her head came up once more, she had the basket in her mouth. Her muzzle was covered in even more black dirt than it was before, and her rather matted mane was simply filled with bits of fern, leaves and other natural detritus. She didn't care. Nobody was going to see her looking like this today! Nobody was going to make fun of her!

Suddenly she heard a high-pitched "AEEEYYYIPE!" coming from the direction of the clearing. Instinctively, she dropped to the ground amongst the ferns onto a cool bed of moss. The handle of her basket tumbled from her mouth and the morels she had worked so hard to gather spilled out.

"Dragons!", she thought, her heart racing, "Or wild griffins! They've come to get me!"

She cowered in the sweet-smelling fronds for a moment. No more yelps, instead a soft conversational murmur. Two voices. She slowly and quietly moved her matted forelock out of her eyes, and pushed aside some of the ferns. Through a tangle of underbrush she could vaguely make out two ponies, a huge pinkish one and a tiny purplish one. Part of an eye here, a bit of coat there, very floral colors on both of them. The young mare watched them for a minute or so, catching more details of the ponies she was more and more considering intruders.

"Oh no! it's WORSE! They're ponies my own age!" , she thought with just a tad bit more of a melodramatic flair than was strictly necessary, "And one of them's a BOY! AND A UNICORN! And look at that mare! She's enormous! On my gosh! What are THEY doing in my forest? What am I going to DO?"

Until then it had never occurred to Blushroom that other ponies would simply wander into this part of the forest, her own rambling PRIVATE wild woods since she was the tiniest of foals, of their own accord. She quietly backed herself to the edge of the fern pack towards the trees where she would be hidden further and stood up. In a desperate attempt to scare them out of the clearing she put all her weight toward her front hooves and kicked a nearby oak tree with all the force her hind legs could muster, the same force that immediately plummeted her face first back into the fern pack.

"That'll scare them off for sure!", she thought. A small comfort for her now sore and scraped face.

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"Oh, you're good with flowers?" Strawberry beamed at him, nodding. "Makes sense. I love gardening myself - maybe we can work together sometime! 'Course, I'm just getting started with mine."

She nodded cheerfully at his offer - it sounded like a good time, and she could make a new friend and see some interesting new plants. Just the thing after her long trip!

"Sounds like a plan! I'll be there. And hey - maybe some time you can show me your library tower. I'd like to see Canterlot at least once, I think it--"

She cut off in a surprised yelp at the heavy thump of hooves against tree. That was... could that be another pony?

"Y'hear that Bramble?" she asked slowly. A pause, and she crept toward the tree.

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Bramble was looking forward to telling Strawberry about his job in Lily's garden, though he was happy to bypass his slightly more embarrassing job as a model for Glitzen's shop. But the sudden noise sounded through the wood, a sharp thump echoing across the forest. He spun around, tense. He was new here, but he already had heard the stories about the monsters out in these woods.

"Careful," he whispered. "There's ... weird things out here. I hear. Monsters you can't find anywhere else... Mundicorns and cockletrisles and stuff like that. if it's a chicken headed snake, don't look at it! But if it's something else, keep an eye out."

The tiny purple unicorn trembled in fear, but he stepped forward as Strawberry did, and nervously hurried forward further to get between her and whatever was making the noise, puffing out his chest, trying to control the trembling in his knees.

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