Love's a Roller Coaster Ride (StarBurst)


Starlight stroked Sunburst’s beard, giggling at it how soft it felt against her hoof, the way it swayed about like a tiny flag caught in a breeze.
“Oh. W-w-well, I… I um…” Sunburst’s face suddenly flared. He centered his glasses and pushed Starlight’s hoof down. “I’m sorry, Starlight. We can’t do this. As much as I’d like to.”
Regret flashed in Starlight’s eyes. “Why not?”
“Let’s consider the facts. I’m a crystaller and I have important work to do in the Crystal Empire; and now that the Friendship Map is starting to send you on missions, we’ll both be busy.” Sunburst hung his head. “I just don’t see how we could make it work.”
Sighing, Starlight stepped closer and lifted Sunburst’s chin with her hoof so she could look him in the eyes. “Love will find a way.”
Sunbursts’ cheeks flared even brighter, and he went silent for a moment, studying Starlight carefully. “Are you saying you—”
Starlight put her hoof over Sunburst’s mouth, smiling at him as she found herself swimming in the aqua blue of his eyes. Aside from her racing heart, Starlight’s world seemed at once to vanish and go silent as she closed her eyes and brought her face slowly closer to Sunburst’s. It was just the two of them now, and nothing would keep her from this moment.
Nothing except for something solid tapping against her nose.
Starlight’s eyes flew open at this distraction. Sunburst’s glasses had slid down the bridge of his nose as he himself leaned in to reciprocate. Her own cheeks burning, Starlight giggled, grabbed Sunburst’s glasses with her telekinesis and threw them behind her, not once taking her eyes off Sunburst’s.
“Now then, where were we?” she purred.
Both shut their eyes and leaned in again. Starlight sighed through her nose as she met Sunburst’s soft, warm lips. Starlight’s heart flew, bliss swirling within her. She didn’t want to be anywhere else, with anypony else, or feel anything else. Rarely had she felt so safe, so happy.
Starlight’s world came back into dizzy coherence after the kiss ended with a smack. Nervous flames burned in her cheeks and she wondered what must be going on in Sunbursts’ mind. His face was redder than his mane.
“Wow. That, um, that was nice,” Sunburst stumbled. “I mean, really nice. I could go into greater detail, but… how did you like it?”
Starlight gave Sunburst a warm smile as she snuggled up next him. She grabbed Sunbursts’ cloak with her magic and draped it around the both of them, then planted another kiss on his lips.
“Does that answer your question?” she asked as she gazed into his eyes. From somewhere underneath the cloak, Sunburst wrapped a foreleg around Starlight, embracing her as they rested their heads on each other’s shoulders.
“It sure does.”
The two shut their eyes, their hearts fluttering as they silently enjoyed each other’s closeness.
“Sunburst?” Starlight finally spoke.
Starlight opened her mouth to reply, but choked on the words with a nervous laugh. She took a deep breath to work up her courage and tried again. “As for your earlier question, yes I do love you.”
“I love you, too, Starlight.”
Happy tears escaped Starlight’s eyes. For once, everything was right in her world. Then the warm sensation of closeness faded away. Starlight looked around to find that her world–Sunburst along with it–was melting into a dark, foggy backdrop. Starlight tuned her senses, trying to make sense of the situation.
A familiar voice echoed in Starlight’s ears. “Well, that was certainly a better dream than the last one I visited.”
From a low-hanging fog materialized the regal form of Princess Luna. Now things made sense.
It was just a dream. Starlight drooped her ears, hanging her head with a pang of disappointment. “Right. I should have known this was too perfect.”
“I waited until it was over, as I won’t tread upon an intimate dream.” Luna said. “I trust I’m not intruding?”
“No,” Starlight huffed. “I just wish it was that easy in real life.”
Luna regarded Starlight with a gentle smile that carried an air of infinite wisdom. “Something troubles you, Starlight Glimmer. I have come to help.”
Starlight twisted her hoof. “I have a date with Sunburst tomorrow, and I guess I’m a little nervous about it. I care about him and I want to be with him but I just don’t know how to tell him. Or maybe I’m just worried that we might not work out.”
“I can see your dreams, but I cannot see your future,” Luna replied. “What I do know is Sunburst has equal feelings about you.”
“He does?” Starlight looked up at Luna. She smiled at the remark, then the worry returned. “What should I do?”
“Have fun. Enjoy your time together. Appreciate his company and the fact somepony wants to spend time with you. Most importantly, be true to yourself. That is the pony Sunburst likes. I should know, I’ve seen his dreams as well.” Luna shot Starlight a wink that suggested good possibilities.
The notion brought a warm feeling in Starlight’s chest, but it quickly turned to a distant pain. “What… what if he leaves me again?” Starlight paused and scratched her head, suddenly feeling the sting of those old wounds. “Oh, great. I thought I was past this. I don’t know what to do!”
Luna tilted her head questioningly, raising an eyebrow at Starlight. “Didn’t everypony give you a second chance?”
Starlight sighed, Luna’s words hitting her bluntly. “I guess you’re right.”
“Forgiveness works both ways, Starlight Glimmer.” Luna turned back to the foggy haze, glancing over her shoulder to offer Starlight one last knowing smile. “Everypony has forgiven you. Perhaps now it is time you forgive somepony else.”
Starlight’s chest heaved with a sigh. “You’re right, Princess. I owe Sunburst another chance.”
Luna nodded sagely, then vanished into the low fog from whence she came.

Las Pegasus: the city of entertainment. To some ponies, it was one big party; always bustling, always something to see or do. Starlight Glimmer found herself immediately dodging a crowd of earth ponies the moment she got off the hot air balloon. According to the map she’d looked at, the spot where she was supposed to meet Sunburst wasn’t far from the balloon station.
Starlight looked about for a friendly landmark, then smiled. The giant sign “Corrals of Fun” stuck out above the tall surrounding buildings. Only a few blocks away. She trotted out of the station and down the street towards the amusement park, soon finding the entrance lot where she began searching for Sunburst.
Starlight Glimmer couldn’t fight the smile as she spotted her old friend waiting for her in the middle of the lot. “Sunburst!”
Sunburst turned towards the voice. Smiling back, he waved at Starlight. “Hey, Starlight!”
Starlight galloped up to him and they embraced each other. “I miss you more and more every time we leave!”
“I missed you too, Starlight.”
Starlight let go of Sunburst and turned for the main entrance. “Ready to have some fun? This is gonna be so great! I’ve wanted to come here ever since I was a filly.”
“I know!” Sunburst walked side by side with Starlight towards the admission gates. “We always used to talk about coming here when we foals, but we never had a chance since–” He stopped short on the words. “Never mind, no need to bring that up.”
That reference did little to quiet Starlight’s enthusiasm. “That’s okay. We finally get to live our foalhood dream!”
“Absolutely!” Sunburst trumpeted, seeming to feel better that Starlight hadn’t expressed any anger over their past. “I can’t wait.”
The two paid for their admission bracelets at the front gate and trotted inside the huge park. There were the familiar sights and smells of a carnival: game booths, cotton candy stands, the aroma of pizza and funnel cake. There were foals holding balloons and prizes they’d won in the games, screams of excitement and ponies dizzy from the rides.
Jumping up and down in fillyish delight, Starlight let out a squeal. “Ohmygosh, omygosh, omygosh I can’t believe I’m here, Sunburst! What ride should we go on first? Ooh, we got to try some of the games! I want some funnel cake. Let’s check out some of the gift shops, too.”
“Starlight,” Sunburst sad flatly. “Breathe.”
Starlight halted her bouncing and took a deep breath. “Sorry, I went into filly mode again. But I’ve been wanting to come here for years.”
“So have I, but we’ve got all day. No reason to rush.”
Starlight wore a grand smile as she glanced about, struggling to hold in her excitement. Then she pointed to the top of a huge roller coaster track that loomed prominently above the rest of the park.
“Look at that roller coaster!” Starlight said. “Let’s go check it out.”
The two weaved their way around crowds of ponies and the park’s complex walkways until they found the waiting line. Only when she was standing next to it did Starlight realize how massive the coaster really was as she craned her neck up. A nearby sign labelled the roller coaster as “The Plunge”, and Starlight could see why. The ride crawled up a steep incline towards the peak of the tracks, then a plummet of more than 300 feet at an 80 degree angle extracted screams from the ponies riding it.
“Wow!” Starlight shouted, watching the cars blur past above them.
“That certainly looks intense,” Sunburst mused as he adjusted his glasses. “The g-force must be incredible.”
The coaster continued on the track at blinding speed until it came upon a loop, turning the ponies aboard upside down amidst a chorus of screams.
“It goes upside down?!” Starlight nudged Sunburst on the shoulder pleadingly. “That’s it. Sunburst, we have to give that a try!”
“You want to drag me–” Sunburst pointed at the speeding coaster, “–on that? You brought me here to assassinate me, didn’t you? Give me a heart attack, make it look like an accident.”
“Those ponies looked like they were enjoying it. How bad can it be? It looks like fun!”
Visibly trembling at the thought of it, Sunburst let out a defeated sigh. “Well, okay. But I’m only doing it for you.”
Starlight galloped ahead to the waiting line, leaving Sunburst ambling behind in resignation. The coaster screeched to a halt at the loading area, allowing the ponies aboard to get off and the waiting riders to take their places. Each car had two side-by-side seats, Starlight noticed as she sat on the far one to make room for Sunburst. He swallowed a knot in his throat and stepped shaky-legged onto the loading dock.
“You’ll probably want to take off your glasses, sir,” the ride operator said.
“Oh, right. Right, right, right.” Sunburst removed his glasses with a telekinesis spell and placed them in a box designated for the safekeeping of loose articles. He sighed nervously as he took a seat next to Starlight.
Starlight pulled down on the lapbar, the only thing that would keep her from being tossed from her seat. It made several clicks until it snapped firmly in place across her lap.
Sunburst brought his bar down, then lifted up on it several times to be sure it was secure. “Yup. Locked down tight. Not going anywhere. Anywhere.” There was resignation in his voice. Of course, the lapbar would keep him safe, but it also meant he was stuck there until the ride stopped and the locks were released. He had no choice now but to endure.
“Attention, fillies and gentlecolts,” came the voice of the unicorn operating the ride. “We would like to take this time to remind you that, for safety reasons, this roller coaster blocks all outside magic to keep from interfering with the operation of the ride. Please keep your legs, horns, wings and hooves inside the car at all times and remain seated until the ride comes to a complete stop. Now, get ready to take The Plunge!”
There was a loud hiss, a jolt, and the coaster crawled to a start.
“Here we go!” Starlight trumpeted. Her heart raced in anticipation. “This is gonna be great!”
“Oh boy. How did I let you talk me into this?” Sunburst asked. “We just got here and the first thing you want to do is go on their highest and fastest roller coaster.”
“Might as well start big, huh?”
Up the 55 degree incline they went, up and up and up with every moment building the tension, all the while Sunburst sat there shaking. Probably calculating how much every foot in elevation would add to the speed on the way down, Starlight figured. A full minute later, they were still rising but finally nearing the top.
“Wow!” Starlight shouted. “Las Pegasus is already in the clouds, so you can probably see all of Equestria from here!” To look up that high was one thing, but the view from three hundred feet was incredible; the trees looked like toy models and the ponies on the ground were like ants. Starlight could see a grand view of Equestria’s lush green countryside well beyond the towering hotels of Las Pegasus.
Sweat gleaming on his forehead, Sunburst glanced about in a panic, seemingly looking for a last minute escape. “I changed my mind. Starlight, teleport me off this thing. Please.”
“Too late. These seats block all outside magic, remember?”
Sunburst’s chest began to heave. “Oh gosh. Oh gosh. I’m not… I’m not ready for this.”
“Well, you’d better get ready quick. We’re almost there!”
The coaster reached the top the incline and suddenly they plunged, three hundred feet high and falling fast.
“Woo-hooooo!” Starlight screamed as she held her forelegs in the air. The rush was unlike anything she had ever felt in her life. The sinking feeling in her stomach at the sudden change of pressure, the wind in her face, the speed, the ground rushing up at her until they made a sharp upward shift at the next incline.
“That was great!” Starlight looked over at Sunburst, who had his hoof clamped over his mouth, his face a sickly shade of green. “Sunburst, are you okay? Oh, here comes another drop!”
Starlight held her forelegs above her head again, unable to suppress another scream of delight at the sudden rush, while Sunburst looked like he might lose his breakfast at any moment. The coaster barreled on down the track in a mad rush of clack-clacking power as it neared the loop. Starlight licked her lips in anticipation. “Here it comes. Hang on, Sunburst!”
They went uphill and, in almost an instant, Starlight became acutely aware of the pull of gravity and found herself staring at the ground as she squealed a third time above Sunburst screaming for his life. In another instant, they went back upright and continued on down the track. A hairpin turn practically threw Sunburst against Starlight, then another turn in the opposite direction smashed Starlight against Sunburst.
Slowing to a crawl, the coaster inched its way back, seemingly exhausted from its efforts. It stopped with a jolt, the bars lifting as the usher urged them toward the exit dock to make way for the next group of waiting ponies.
“It’s over,” Sunburst breathed out as he worked to find his balance . “Thank Celestia. Get me out of this thing.”
Starlight stepped out onto the exit dock. “That. Was. Awesome!” she shouted, holding one hoof to the air for emphasis. “Let’s do it–”
“Never again,” Sunburst interrupted as he retrieved his glasses and set them back on the bridge of his nose. “Never, ever again.”
Starlight flattened her ears at a twinge of guilt when she noticed Sunburst’s legs were still quivering. Already things were starting to go south. “I’m sorry, Sunburst! If I knew you were going to hate it that much, I wouldn’t have talked you into it.”
Sunburst sighed. “No, that’s okay. I did it for you, after all. Just don’t expect me to do that again. I know you liked it, though, so if you want to go on it a second time, I can just wait here.”
Giggling, Starlight gave Sunburst a wink and a playful push. “You’re not getting away from me that easy. Let’s go find something a little less intense we’ll both enjoy.”

Trixie Lulamoon allowed herself a satisfied sigh as she parked her wagon in Corrals of Fun‘s concert grounds. Las Pegasus always turned out a good crowd, and her show tomorrow night was sure to be no exception.
She unhitched herself from the wagon and stretched her aching legs. Trixie’d been pulling that thing since the crack of dawn and the long journey took its toll after pulling such a heavy load. A nap could cure that after she checked in with the park office. The managers were really finicky about unauthorized parking, even from scheduled entertainers. She remembered the earful she’d gotten from the manager when she’d forgot to check in one time. Something about trespassing and the police.
Pulling the wagon all the way to Corrals of Fun worked up an appetite, Trixie’s grumbling stomach reminded her. She could have a little something for brunch after checking in. There wasn’t any sense in putting off getting that important piece of business done. Trixie yawned and headed for the park’s main office.

Starlight and Sunburst stopped on the paved walkway to observe an odd spectacle.
“Huh. What’s this?” Starlight wondered out loud.
They watched a unicorn stallion slowly being hoisted two hundred feet in the air towards the tops of two parallel poles. The only thing keeping him from falling was a chest harness attached to two pairs of elastic cords which, in turn, were attached to another set of cables running between the tops of the poles.
Starlight read the nearby sign out loud. “‘The High Horse?’”
“High indeed,” Sunburst agreed. “What’s it do, anyway?”
Starlight had her eyes glued to the pony suspended high above the ground. Once he reached the tops of the poles, the pony dropped and screamed in delight as he plummeted towards what seemed to be certain doom.
“WOW! That’s insane!” Starlight shouted.
“Holy Celestia!” Sunburst shielded his eyes as if expecting the worst. The bungee cords held fast, however, and flung the pony forward several yards, then retracted and sent him sailing backwards, swinging him like a pendulum until he at last came to a halt, dangling a few feet above the ground.
“Sunburst!” Starlight yelled with a smile he’d come to recognize all too well.
“No way. No how. Not even once. You’re nuts.” Sunburst shook his head. “Roller coasters are bad enough; I am NOT doing a bungee drop.”
Giggling, Starlight nudged Sunburst playfully. “I was only kidding.”
Sunburst turned away from the High Horse and started down the path away from it. “If unicorns were meant to fly, we’d have been given wings.”
“Actually, there’s a spell for that,” Starlight answered, keeping pace with him. “I’ve mastered it.”
“A flight spell?” Sunburst rubbed his chin in thought as he walked. “Hmmm. I’ve heard of it. Rare, but not impossible. I’m impressed, Starlight.”
Starlight flashed a confident smile as she ran her hoof through her hair. “Well, I always have been something of a natural.”

A funnel cake frosted with powdered sugar hovered in front of Trixie as she weaved her way through crowds of ponies on the way back to her wagon. After getting some food in her belly, she could do with a nap.
Halfway back to her portable home, Trixie stopped in midstep at a familiar sight among the swarms of ponies.  
Starlight Glimmer was here! What were the odds of that? Trixie’s tour had occupied so much of her time that she hadn’t taken any of it to write to Starlight in a while. She trotted over to say “hello”, but stopped when she saw another familiar pony next to Starlight.
Is that Sunburst with her? Trixie thought. Oh, this is too good to be true! Go for him, Starlight, you sly little mare, you.
Seeing the two of them brought a warm, giddy feeling to the pit of Trixie’s stomach. The nap could wait. This little show was sure to be too good to miss.

Starlight and Sunburst came up on a square game booth housing rows of glass bottles arranged in a grid. Several hopeful ponies threw plastic rings at the bottles. It was a simple premise and a familiar carnival game: toss a ring, get it to land on one of the bottles and win a prize.
“Twenty rings for five bits?” She looked up at the large, filly-sized plush animals dangling from the booth’s ceiling. “That’s all you have to do to win one of those?”
“Do the math, Starlight,” Sunburst said. “A low-cost game for a high-cost prize? They have to make a profit, you know.”
“What’s five bits?” Starlight countered with a shrug. “Can’t hurt to try.”
“Sure! Looks like fun.”
Starlight fished five coins from her pouch and placed them on the counter in front of the griffon running the game. “Twenty rings, please.”
The game operator scooped up the bits and replaced them with a box of multi-colored plastic rings. Starlight grabbed one with a telekinesis spell, closing one eye in aim.
“Excuse me.”
Starlight halted, glancing at the sign the game operator was pointing to. It had a picture of a glittering unicorn horn in a circle with a line through it: No magic. Starlight’s ears flattened with embarrassment. “Oops.”
She let the ring drop onto her hoof, took aim and threw it towards the bottles. It clattered off her target, dropping between it and an adjacent one.
“Drat. Missed.”
Starlight took another ring and tossed it. It bounced off a bottle and flew outside the play area.
“Little too much on that one, Starlight,” Sunburst said.
The next five fared no better, all of them ricocheting clumsily off the bottles without making a ringer.
“Wow, this is a lot harder than it looks,” Starlight said.
“You got this, Starlight!” Sunburst cheered.
Starlight nodded with newfound confidence, taking a deep focusing breath. She let the ring fly, only for the thick glass to deflect it back at them. Starlight covered her face on instinct, but the ring flew towards Sunburst and landed perfectly on his horn.
“It’s a ringer!” Starlight said with a chuckle as she watched the ring dangle in front of Sunburst’s eyes. “Does that count?”
The griffon shook his head, straight-faced.
“You take your job way too seriously, you know that?” Starlight asked. The griffon tightened his beak in response. “Come on, it was funny! This is a carnival, you really should at least pretend like you’re having a good time.”
“They don’t pay me enough to care,” he grumbled.
Sunburst lowered his head, allowing the ring to slide off his horn and onto his hoof. Tapping it several times with his free hoof, he eyed it closely with a questioning hum. “I understand. It’s the composition of the rings. They’re made out of a very thick and hard plastic so they have no shock absorption. Not to mention the rings aren’t much wider than the necks of those bottles.” He bounced the ring in his hoof, testing it thoroughly. “Then there’s the matter of their weight. So what we have here is an object with too much density and not enough impact absorption to cover its mass. In other words, these rings are designed to bounce. The trick would be to land them on the bottles with almost no force at all, and good luck with that. Your only hope is to get lucky enough to make a ringer off of a bounced throw.”
“That’s a nice speech,” the griffon commented. “Are you saying my game isn’t fair?”
“Actually, for the low cost of the game and prizes like those I wouldn’t expect anything less.”
The griffon shrugged again. Starlight chucked several rings towards the bottles, but the glass rejected every throw until she was left with an empty box of rings.
“Shoot.” Starlight held up a hoof in defeat. “I’m out.”
Sunburst’s horn glittered as he reached into his own pouch. “Here, let me give it a try.”
Starlight grinned and backed off to a spectating position. “Go for it, Sunburst!”

Starlight and Sunburst walked away from the game booth, a look of mild annoyance on the mare’s face at the fact they were doing so empty-hooved.
“Forty rings and they all missed,” Starlight mumbled.
“I’m not surprised. Like I said, they have to make a profit. If it was that easy, they’d be ruined.”
Thinking back on the game brought a smile to Starlight’s face. “Well, at least we had fun. And getting a ringer on your horn was funny.”
“That was pretty funny, wasn’t it?” Sunburst chuckled. “I mean, the odds of the ring rebounding at that angle were-”
Sunburst’s voice muffled as Starlight put her hoof over his mouth to stifle him. “No math, Sunburst. It makes my head hurt. Besides, we’re here to have fun! What should we do next?”
Sunburst glanced around, noticing the entrance line to a tour train off to his side. They’d seen the tracks stretching across Corrals of Fun; circling the entire park. “How about the train? It’ll give us a tour of the park and we’ll have a better idea of what’s here.”
“That’s more like it! Come on, what are we waiting for?”
The two trotted up to the queue and found their place in the steadily moving line. Their turn came and they took a seat in one of the train cars, waiting for the rest of the passengers to board.
Finally, the pony working the queue line shut the ropes, signaling that the ride was full. The other ponies would have to wait. A loud toot and a jolt signaled the train’s start. It began with a crawl, slowly picking up speed as it went.
“Here we go. I can’t wait!” Starlight shouted.
“Me either,” Sunburst said. “I’ll bet we’ll learn all about the park from the tour guide.”
Muffled crackling came through the speaker attached to the roof of the car, followed by the conductor’s voice. “Good morning, fillies and gentlecolts, and thank you for riding Corrals of Fun’s train tour! I will be your guide this morning. As we get started, I would like to remind our passengers to keep all body parts inside the train cars while the ride is in motion and please remain seated until it comes to a complete stop.”
The ground rushed beneath them now as the train moved at a steady pace.
“Corrals of Fun first opened one hundred and five years ago, created by legendary entrepreneur Ferris Gale, the pegasus who gave us the Ferris Wheel,” the conductor said.
“I didn’t know a Pegasus designed this park, or the Ferris Wheel,” Starlight said. “Thinking of my friends, architecture and entertainment seem more like earth pony specialities.”
“I knew about it,” Sunburst said. “It just proves you can’t assume what a pony’s good at from their race. Ferris was a entrepreneurial mastermind who knew just how to appeal to both foals and adults. I read about him when we were kids and wanting to come here.”
Starlight smiled at Sunburst. Her magical abilities might have impressed him, but his vast knowledge never ceased to amaze her in return. “Of course you did. Same old Sunburst. You always were so smart.”
Hot circles flared on Sunburst’s cheeks as he averted his gaze, playing with his glasses. “Heheh, well, you know…”
The overhead speaker crackled again, followed by the tour guide’s voice. “If you look to your right, you will see the Lumberjack, Corrals of Fun’s first roller coaster. It’s been here since the park opened and is one of the oldest wooden track coasters in Equestria.”
Starlight turned her head to see the coaster speed down a one hundred foot drop that still seemed tame compared to The Plunge. This roller coaster was indeed built out of wood, but held fast and sturdy despite its age. “That thing’s over a hundred years old?”
“Well, the preservation of wood has been an art in Equestria for thousands of years,” Sunburst replied. “Still not sure I’d want to go on that thing, though.”
Rolling her eyes, Starlight giggled. “You never were a glory seeker.”
Sunburst adjusted his glasses and shut his eyes in that typical teacher-like expression. A lecture was inevitable.
“Adrenaline is the body’s natural response to danger or extreme stress. Therefore, willingly subjecting yourself to a thrill for the pleasure of the adrenaline rush, aka being a so-called ‘adrenaline junkie’, is just foolish, if you ask me.”
“I’d rather be an adrenaline junkie than a coward,” Starlight countered
“Well I’d rather be a coward than dead,” Sunburst shot back.
Starlight scoffed, giving Sunburst another playful nudge. “Now who’s overreacting?”
“Am I?” Sunburst challenged.
“If anypony died on these rides, this park would get the horseshoes sued right off their hooves.”
A two-story building made of wood and built in the shape of a castle loomed in the distance, catching Starlight’s attention.
“Hey, what’s that?” she asked, pointing to it.
“Looks like a wooden castle of some sort,” Sunburst answered.
As if in answer, the conductor’s voice came again. “Up ahead you will see Chateaux Foal, one of Equestria’s largest indoor playgrounds. Two stories of slides and rides for foals of all ages will make your kids feel like royalty!”
There were open doorways on both stories that led to battlements on the outside of the castle. Starlight could see foals playing on them from where the train was crossing. Twisting slides from inside the top floor wound all the way to the ground outside.
“Wow, that’s so cool! Why didn’t they have stuff like this when we were foals? That would have been great to play ‘Castle’ in like we used to.”
Starlight gasped suddenly at her own words. The two of them locked eyes for a moment, both silently lost in the past.
“Heh,” Sunburst chuckled, shyly glancing away. “That was always fun, wasn’t it? I was the prince and you were the princess.”
“Yeah,” Starlight sighed, looking away herself. She fidgeted with her hooves, heart fluttering. “Or sometimes you’d be a brave wizard pretending to save me from a dragon or something. Good times, huh?”
They both sat in nervous silence for a moment as the train continued its round, but Starlight could almost feel a sense of comforting warmth radiating from Sunburst. She cracked open her mouth to offer something to break the awkward quiet. The conductor’s voice, however, interrupted her.
“And now we’re about to cross over the Lazy River. Why not hop in, relax and let the current carry all your worries away?”
The train came to a bridge built over an artificial river that looped around in a circle. All the ponies in the water below were riding in inflatable inner tubes.
“By the way, I don’t literally mean jump out of the train when we cross the bridge. Don’t do that.”
A few snickering chuckles followed the quip.
Starlight looked over the side of their car, watching the ponies in the water drift along. “That looks like fun, Sunburst, and it’s certainly no thrill ride.” She shot him a teasing smirk. “Unless you’re afraid of getting wet, too.”
“Says the pony who was afraid of being in charge of festival decorations.”
Starlight giggled. “Touche, Sunburst. Touche.”
Holding his head high, Sunburst shut his eyes and put a hoof to his chest in pride. “I have my moments.”
A warm, tantalizing smell wafted into Starlight’s nostrils as the train moved towards a series of buildings erected in a circle, some of them emitting steam from their smokestacks.
“Do you smell that?” Starlight asked. Her mouth began to water. She took a bigger sniff, closing her eyes to savor it. “It smells like-”
“And here we have the main food court,” the tour guide’s voice rang, “with cuisines from more than ten different parts of Equestria as far as Saddle Arabia. There are also Minotaur, Buffalo and Yakyakistonian restaurants.”
“Food!” Starlight felt her stomach growl with a pang of hunger. Which reminded her; she’d been so nervous about meeting Sunburst that morning that she hadn’t been able to keep down much of a breakfast. “I’m getting pretty hungry, Sunburst. You feeling up for some lunch?”
“I’m hungry as a horse,” Sunburst said. “But I don’t think we should eat here.”
The passed through the center of the circle now, offering a perfect view of all the restaurants. “Why not?” Starlight glanced around at their options. All off them looked and smelled delicious. Choosing one place would be hard. “Just look at all this food!”
“It’s a tourist trap. All these places are going to be terribly overpriced. Let’s look for something outside the park.”
It made sense, Starlight realized. This was the kind of place that would charge a pony 20 bits for a daffodil sandwich. “Good point. You won’t get any complaints from me on that,” Starlight agreed. “Any ideas?”
Sunburst rubbed his chin in thought, abruptly cut off from his concentration by the screeching of steel against steel and the sensation of their world slowing down.
“What’s going on?” Starlight asked
“What do you think?” Sunburst answered. “End of the line.”
The train slowed to a halt at the entrance line from which it left, followed by the conductor’s voice ringing over the speakers one last time. “And that, fillies and gentlecolts, concludes our train tour. Thank you for choosing Corrals of Fun, and enjoy the rest of your visit!”
Starlight and Sunburst stepped out of their train car to the designated exit opposite end of the entrance line.
“So, how about lunch?” Starlight asked again as they walked through the crowd of other ponies getting off the train.
“Well,” Sunburst started. “I did see a Hayburger Patty’s on the way in this morning.”
“Oh, come on!” Starlight gave Sunburst a little push. “There’s Hayburger Patty’s everywhere. Take some risks, try something new!”
Sunburst sheepishly adjusted his glasses, glancing away from Starlight. “Ah, right. How about you choose, then?”
“Well, eating local is one of the best parts of travelling, and this IS Las Pegasus, so there’s bound to be something good around every corner besides a boring old Hayburger.” Starlight stepped ahead, waving for Sunburst to follow. “Let’s go take a walk and see what we can find.”

Trixie craned her head around the carousel she’d been hiding behind, watching Starlight and Sunburst head towards the admission gates at the amusement park’s front entrance.
If those two were going for lunch, they’d be sitting down. Talking. It would be the perfect chance to get them to open up to each other. The only problem, Trixie wondered, was how?
Of course, it would depend on where there were going to eat. It hardly seemed ethical to spy on her best friend, but Trixie soothed her conscience by reminding herself she was doing it to make Starlight happy. The end result would make it seem trivial.
“What are you doing?” came a dull voice from behind Trixie.
The magician whirled around, startled at the sudden intrusion. A slate-gray earth pony had snuck up behind Trixie at some point during her distraction.
“Maud Pie?” Trixie asked out loud, as if the mare’s flat hair and blank expression weren’t proof enough.
“Were you expecting Colt Rock?”
A small “eh?” was all Trixie could manage as she cocked her head in confusion.
“It’s a joke,” Maud answered flatly. “He’s my favorite singer.”
Trixie raised an eyebrow. As expressionless as Maud was, she might be even weirder than Pinkie Pie.
Maud reached into the pocket of her dress and pulled out a flat, plain-looking stone. “Boulder thought it was funny.”
“Right,” Trixie answered with a roll of her eyes. “I was just surprised to see you here. Two coincidences in one day? You must be here with Starlight and Sunburst.”
Maud blinked slowly once, her way of expressing surprise. “Starlight and Sunburst are here?”
Trixie’s gaped, unable to form words as she tried to wrap her mind around the odds of her and Maud both being in Las Pegasus at the same time as Starlight and Sunburst with neither group knowing the other was there.
“Are you okay?” Maud asked.
Shaking the confusion out of her head, Trixie forced herself back to reality and pointed towards the pair a few dozen feet away. “Yeah, they’re right over there.”
Maud’s gaze followed Trixie’s hoof. “If she’s here with Sunburst, I’ll leave them alone. I still feel bad about last time.”
Though her pride kept her from saying it out loud, Trixie felt bad about that incident, too, when Sunburst came to visit Starlight but wound up getting wrapped up in her, Maud and Twilight instead. Starlight had been devastated.
Trixie glanced around in disbelief. The rides. The screams. The crowds. Everything in Corrals of Fun was so fast, so noisy. So… not Maud. “Wait. If you’re not here with them, then why are you here? You don’t seem like the type of pony who enjoys amusement parks.”
Maud held her pet rock a little higher. “I’m in Las Pegasus for a Rocktoral convention, but Boulder likes to come here every time we’re in town.”
“Your rock?” Trixie asked incredulously.
“He rarely acts his age.” Maud stuffed the pebble back into the pocket of her dress. “You were hiding from somepony. Are you spying on Starlight and Sunburst?”
Trixie waved the idea away, suddenly feeling like a rat caught in a trap. “No! Of course not!”
Maud stared silently at Trixie for a moment, those dull eyes seeming to look right through her. Trixie wilted under the weight of Maud’s blank stare; there was never any telling what was going on in the head behind that perpetual stonelike expression. Was she angry? Indifferent?
Trixie dropped her ears, offering a defeated smile. “Yes.”
Maud blinked twice before answering, “Won’t Starlight get mad?”
That gave Trixie a slight pause. She knew how scary Starlight could be when provoked. All the more reason for this to be a tactical espionage mission. “Not if she doesn’t know about it.”
“I’ll come with,” Maud offered.
Trixie stopped, her forehoof raised in midstep as she glanced over her shoulder at Maud. So much for indifference. “You will?”
Maud joined Trixie’s side, her eyes locked on Starlight and Sunburst. “I want to see if they kiss.”
“You’re not gonna blab on me?”
“No.” Maud shook her head and dug her pet rock out again. “Boulder might, though. He’s terrible at keeping secrets.”
“Do you take it, er, I mean him, everywhere?”
“Oh,” Trixie murmured, silently wondering if she should be freaked out about Maud’s habit of talking to rocks. She shook her head to put the notion aside and stood up on her rear legs, spreading her cape for dramatic effect. “Don’t worry. For my greatest trick, the Great and Powerful Trixie will make sure they kiss!”
Maud pointed past Trixie with her hoof, towards the entrance to the park. “They’re leaving.”
“Huh?” Trixie whirled around, back on all fours to barely catch a glimpse of Starlight and Sunburst walking past the admission gates. “Gah! Come on, Maud, we’ve got to catch up with them!”
Blankly, Maud returned Boulder to her dress pocket and started after Trixie. “Let’s go, boy.”
Trixie followed them out of the park, still wearing her I.D. lanyard that distinguished her as part of the amusement park’s entertainment rather than a paying guest. The duo stopped at the street corner, forcing Trixie and Maud to hide behind a garbage barrel.
“Ok,” Trixie whispered, “let’s just see where they’re going.”
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