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Maidens of Manehattan (Closed: Message For Entry)


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The Friendship Express rolled on towards Manehattan loud and proud, the passengers oohing and awwing as they often did. Applejack was over that sensation by now. Tall buildings could only get so tall and impressive as it could be the first few times wondering how many productive ponies you could stuff inside one of them, her mind wandered towards more important matters. Today, that was the Strand Annual Rodeo. 

A part of it felt fraudulent to her. She was still a damn fine rodeo competitor in Ponyville but she was just happy to win the odd event here or there. Life had certainly humbled her physically, that was for sure. Yet she had been invited along with the winner to attend the Rodeo. Sometimes, being famous had its perks. She had to think on it a few days, but in the end she had accepted. It was expenses paid plus one, to boot. 

 

She had decided to bring Ambrosia. The filly had never seen the Orange family nor had she ever been to the country’s largest and most fashionable city. Applejack may not have really cared much about it, but she knew her daughter would go fetlock over horn over the ‘fashion district’. There were plays to see and family to meet; what else could a little filly really want? Well, she thought a trip to the roller rink and maybe some wrestling, but Ambrosia was not a smaller Applejack. Despite her efforts.

 

Applejack was returning to their little private cabin in the back with some breakfast, the early morning sun piercing the encroaching skyscrapers briefly and casting uniform rays that cut across the bridge. It was a beautiful sight and she was happy to have woken up early enough to see it, sighing happily as she edged the door to the private room open. “Amby, yer up?” She asked lowly, whispering hopefully but not loud enough to wake her if she still rested her beautiful head.

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All during the earliest part of the journey, little Ambrosia Apple had been bouncing with excitement.  She was going to the city!  The big, bright, glimmering place Auntie Rarity kept that beautiful picture of and Mama would tell her about when she was a little filly seeing the world!  AJ didn't seem to think much of it, but the very feminine filly to which she had given birth had obsessed over it for a while.  And they had family there!  More family!  Not that Ponyville and Sweet Apple Acres weren't full of Aunties, Uncles, and Cousins of varying or no blood relation, but no such thing as too much of a good thing!

 

"When we gonna get there, mama?  Is Auntie Orange pretty?  As much as you?  How tall are the buildings?  How did Luna get the stars to come so low?"  The last question in the endless stream of a curious child came from the fact that she'd never seen so many bright and shining lights in one place, save for the night sky.  But in the photograph of the Manehattan skyline she'd seen, all the lights were in the buildings or on the water, and the night sky was blank against the light pollution.

 

The bundle of energy didn't last forever; after all, travel time matched up with bedtime on long train rides, and soon the little unicorn was dozing off, rocked by the chugging choo-choo on the branch line to Slumberland Station.  She dreamed the dreams of high lights and glamour that filled the heads of most fillies her age; even Applejack's back in the day, though the mare was loath to admit it as of recently.

 

She slept peacefully until a sunbeam and the smell of breakfast stirred her awake, with an adorable stretch, yawn, and shaking of the ringlets.  "Mmm... 'm up, mama..."

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Applejack had become something of a storyteller, yarn-spinner. It had begun in earnest at the School of Friendship and now was something she enjoyed doing with her foals. Zap Apple was growing just a trite too old to ask the sort of questions that allowed Applejack to uncork a real good one. "Well ya see, they built that buildings so tall here that they couldn't see Luna's moonlight. This made her sad, so she brought them stars lower with a big magical lasso so that ponyfolk could see at night. But now it is too bright at night, an' that's why they call it that city that never sleeps," she said as she looked at the moon outside. In between settlements it really was a beautiful thing, wasn’t it? She was up real early and as a result tended to bed a bit early as well, so she never could appreciate it as much as the sun but Luna certainly had her charms.

“As for your auntie, well, she is real pretty herself. See, despite the city always bustlin’ on account of never sleeping, she understood the importance of good sleep and good diet ta making herself real pretty and real healthy. She listened to her mama real good on that front- got her full eight hours and didn’t fight none about it,” she said as she tucked Ambrosia in and gave her a kiss on the head, right below the horn. “Now you follow in her footsteps and get some good shut-eye, sugarcube. You have a big day tomorrow!”

 

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Applejack’s heart could only leap out of her chest so much before she had to see a doctor. She had to consider sending him a letter because her daughter was just that dang cute. “How’d ya sleep, sleepyhorn?” She asked with a smile as she unconsciously helped Ambrosia up. Working with a filly’s mane was rough enough when you considered manecare to be ‘clean and out of the way’ naturally, let alone if she had bed-mane!

She put the breakfast down so Amby could have her fair share and then some. Nothing too spectacular, certain not like back on the farm. Some toast, flapjacks, a small skillet. While Ambrosia ate, Applejack started fidgeting on her. She brushed the filly’s mane, patted straight her pelt, washed behind her ears, and then found herself getting Ambrosia’s outfit ready. She just wanted her to look just dandy for her ponyfolk from Manehattan after all, but Applejack really just wanted to make sure that the greatest daughter in the world was the most fed and well-taken care of daughter in the world. 

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"Mmmm.... 's mama."  Ambrosia muttered her affirmation drowsily, though once Applejack returned with breakfast, the little filly perked right up!  Homemade or not, the smell of flapjacks had the same effect of a cup of coffee upon grownups, and she was soon bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, happily muching away on the griddle-cakes while her mane was worked over.  From time to time, though, she paused, her gaze caught by the approaching vista of the big city, her eyes wide and full of wonder, anticipation.

 

She didn't much mind the fidgeting and fussing; this was Manehattan!  Fashion hub, home of ponies who always got their beauty sleep, though how they managed it in a "city that never slept" was beyond her ability to understand.  Maybe she would when she grew up, Amby was young enough to take adults on trust when it came to things like that.  In any case, elaborate preparation was entirely appropriate to the occasion!  
Once she got to the juice to wash it down, however, she pulled a face at the taste of the opaque liquid.  It was the same color as Applejack, but it didn't taste like apples!  It was sour and sweet and rich and cutting all at the same time.  Not bad, but it took a while for her to reconcile herself to the strange taste.  "What's this, mama?"  She looked up to ask, having just been introduced to the product of the local branch of the family.

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Applejack was giddy as she watched her daughter react to her first ever orange juice. “That’s orange juice, sugarcube. Your auntie and uncle Orange run tha largest orange groves in all of Equestria and run tha business from Manehattan. ‘cause of that, they make tha very best orange juice in tha world! How’d you like it, huh?” She asked as she finished working on her daughter, happy with how she looked. Truth be told she always did. Applejack wasn’t really sure how somefilly so absolutely gorgeous could be hers, she was just that pretty.

 

“Yer gonna have a lot of oranges on this trip. Ah mean, they got nothin’ on apples, but oranges have their charm,” she giggled as the train started to slow. “Get yer bags ready, Amby. We’re almost there,” she said excitedly, trotting over a few paces to her own side of the room and packing up her own gear. There wasn’t much to it. Her rodeo gear had been kept in bag and locked and beyond that she didn’t carry much for the trip save her bits and hat. 

 

“Ah’ve told them all about you. Told them yer tha prettiest unicorn in all of Ponyville and tha sweetest little filly of all time. Think you can live up to all that?” She asked with faux, playful sincerity. Applejack already knew the answer. How could Ambrosia not pass with flying colors? It was almost easy to forget that she was here for a competition, but frankly she was just more excited to get Ambuy out to see the family. She hadn’t seen the Oranges herself for some time, since shortly before Valen became Moonlight. She wasn’t one to not see family for long, it was like an itch that needed to be scratched!

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Upon hearing that this strange beverage was a family concoction with the blessing of mama, Ambrosia returned to sipping with a more positive bias, taking a long gulp with a smile.  "It is good, mama!"  She could get used to this, she reckoned; her Auntie Orange would find an enthusiastic appreciator of all things citrus in the little filly!

 

Soon enough, breakfast was finished, and it was time to gather the bags to exit the station.  Being a little unicorn, Ambrosia didn't have the cargo capacity of an earth pony, so she could only handle a proportional backpack.  Still, she did her best, keeping up excitedly with mama as the train pulled it and it was time to get off.  "I sure can!"  She enthusiastically affirmed her intention of living up to every bit of absolutely deserved praise that AJ heaped upon her!  "Let's go!"  She was practically bouncing on her hooves, ready to get out on the town!

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It took Applejack only a few moments to lead Ambrosia to the nearest exit off the train, near the rear and the least hectic of them all. She knew what she was doing, or at least what a disaster it had been the first time she came to the city when she leaped right on out of the middle train doors and into about six ponies trying to get on. Nah, rear was the best. 

The doors to the train opened and immediately the two small town folk were hit by a wall of sound and figures. Ponies nearly jogged off and others moved swiftly on, Applejack gently nudging her daughter forward quicker than normal. Ponies of all shapes and size, and many creatures aside could be seen in all directions. They moved quickly, Applejack directing Ambrosia through the crowd until they left the station.

 

Now they could see the city in full bloom and Majesty. The skyscrapers rose higher and higher, creating a forest, a jungle, of construction that blocked the sun when so close. The streets were chock full of ponyfolk scurrying to and fro, with new and strange languages being heard in bits and snippets. Carriages shot past in their dozens as pegasi above moved in veritable flocks, kept in control by a sky bound traffic control system.

Applejack made sure to keep her body directly in contact with Ambrosia's, to help the filly with any anxiety she might feel, her tail gently draped over her daughter's back. "Pretty crazy big city, huh?" She asked gently, but with a hint of excitement peaking through. 

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The immediate rush of exit occupied most of Ambrosia's attention at first, as her little legs scampered to keep up with her mama's.  Once she finally emerged onto the street, she felt almost overwhelmed by all the ponies!  She'd never seen so many, not even at the Apple Family reunion or any of Ponyville's town festivals!  It didn't dampen her excitement, but it did make her a little trepidatious, scooting closer to Applejack, and thankful for the comforting drape of her tail.  "It's... so big...  Everything is so much, mama!"  Her head and eyes seemed to move on separate swivels, unable to pin down her focus on anything in particular.

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She was happy that her daughter hadn't freaked out. It wasn't all that uncommon from what she had been told that ponies from country towns like their showed up in the big city and felt afraid of all the noise, the speed, the nature and intensity of the city. Plenty of time for that to happen in any case. "Sure is mighty big! Why, that  thar buildin' - called a skyscraper- is almost as big as your uncle!" She said as she trotted forward. Her tail was still around her daughter and kept tight as she picked up the trot. Even with her picking up the speed she was getting passed by a growing number of ponies. The city may as well have acted like it was a marathon at all time. "They like ta move fast here, sugarcube. Wanna ride on mama's back?" She asked as they started crossing a street.

 

The sounds and smells of the city roared on by. The city was home to dozens of different cultures and species, some unique and others banal, and food carts could be seen anywhere. Applejack sniffed the wind, and her stomach as full as it was could not help but wonder what else it offered for her.

 

What she was paying much attention to was traffic. How could she? So many carts and carriages and ponies trottin' to and fro made it hard for a mare like her to keep on top of everything. And so it was that a one-stallion cart galloped at full speed towards the crosswalk. The carriage stallion looked up almost too late and came to a skidding stop, loudly bellowing for Applejack to get out of his way. He wasn't fast enough, and the cart nearly ran into Applejack at full speed- who, not moving, put one leg out and stopped him mid-gallop. "Hey! Ah'm trottin' here!" She replied loudly, yelling but not angrily. The stallion sighed and muttered an apology as she continued walking across the street.

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To a pony as little as Amby was, big was big.  Sure, it was fairly obvious that a skyscraper was larger than Uncle Mac, but she was equally unable to budge either with either her phsyical or mental strength, so for now it all went in the same category.  This land of giants was intimidating, no question about it, hence her eager acceptance of anything that let her be taller.  "Yes mama!"  She eagerly got up on top of Applejack's shoulders when she bent down, the strong farmer's back still able to bear with ease the weight of a foal and her bag.  One day, this would no longer be the case.  But today was not that day; today Ambrosia apple could look more big things in the eye, and giggle and laugh in her security.

 

Even the cab bearing down on them in traffic phased her not, because she was with mama and mama was strong.  "Yeah!"  She threw out her own hoof in solidarity, no doubt mollifying the driver with how cute she was as they vanished around the corner.  Much more comfortable in her surroundings now, she began to look around again, more in pure wonder than trepidation.  "How do they get so high, mama?"  She asked, the flood of questions starting, "Where are they going?  Why so fast?  Where are the trees?  Are we near the Oranges yet?"

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Hopefully that puller realized that he would never get a cuter, angrier commuter in his life. How could anyone even pretend to be angry at her after that display? Applejack giggled as she finished crossing, trotting gainfully to keep pace with the rush of creatures all around.

 

“Well sugarcube, they build using steel, marble, and stone ta make tha buildin’ strong and stable, an’ they have these very smart engineers workin’ their tails off ta make sure they build ‘em right. As for where everypony is goin’- there’s so many things ta do an’ see that ponies wanna get going quick-like from place ta place. An’ that doesn’t even ‘count for all the ponies heading ta work! An’ there is so many of ‘em- excuse me- that ya don’t wanna get stuck in big, huge lines!” She said as they got stuck in just that near a crosswalk.

 

“Y’all won’t see as many trees here as back in Ponyville. They do have this really pretty park, very big one too, in tha middle of tha city but they had to cut down a lot of trees ta make room for them big buildings. Bit sad, ain’t it? But Ah reckon somethin’ had to go for the city ta get as big as it is. I’ll take ya to tha park before we leave. Sound fun? Tha Oranges are just a few more blocks. They’re so escited ta meet ya!”
 

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