The cold and desolate airfield seemed endless in the low fog as Applejack, Nathan and Elena waited for Sully to arrive with his plane. The incident with the element of honesty the day before had only served to strengthen the wall that had been erected between the former pony and the old treasure hunter. Nathan and Elena had taken Applejack's side in the whole affair, a fact that she disliked. She did not wish to be the cause of their grief, especially when she could tell that they were the best of friends. The chopping sound of the propeller filled her ears and when she turned, the large red and white sea plane was taxing along the runway toward them. While this was the first plane Applejack had ever seen, she tried her best not to panic at the idea of flying in a small, enclosed metal capsule. She had flown before, even walked on clouds, but being an Earth pony, the sky was not her domain. Once Sully opened the door, giving them all a grunt as a greeting. Nathan climbed the ladder first, catching Elena and Applejack's bags when they were thrown at him. Applejack's bags only contained a few simple clothes that she had been given by the women in the village. She was still wearing the same black motorcycle pants that Nathan had gotten for her, as well as a blue long sleeve shirt and a warm, woollen jacket.
Once they had all gotten settled and strapped into their seats, Sully took the pilots seat and started to get the plane ready for take-off. Applejack was breathing heavily and gripping the armrests so tightly that her knuckles were turning white.
"Hey, are you okay?" Nathan asked from behind her. Sully had kicked him out of the cockpit, consigning him to the back of the plane with the others. Applejack shook her head, letting out a little squeak as the g-force of the plane taking off pushed her back into her seat.
"Now just relax, flying is very safe, and Sully is one of the best fliers I know," he told her and she could only think of Rainbow Dash and how she never seemed to have this much trouble taking to the air. Despite Nathan's best efforts, Applejack could not calm down, staying panicked as they continued to climb to cruising altitude. As soon as they levelled out and Sully turned off the 'fasten seatbelt' sign, Applejack grabbed a plastic bag and started to throw up into it. She could hear Sully laughing from the cockpit, but as soon as she took the bag away from her face so she could throw the bag at him, she heaved and had to use the bag again. When she felt confident that the vomiting had stopped, Applejack tied the top of the bag, still astonished at the dexterity of her new appendages and the way that she was using them with the expertise of somepony that had been using them for their entire life.
"So where exactly did you say we were going?" she asked with a raspy voice, before clearing her throat and feeling a little bit of bile rise into her throat.
"America, specifically the city of New Orleans. We found a map in the temple where we found you that detailed the location of the next one," explained Elena, as Nathan pulled Rainbow Dash's element of harmony out of his bag and passed it to Applejack. It was warm to her touch and it seemed to let off some kind of energy that Applejack could only describe as Rainbow Dash. It made her feel energetic, almost invincible and ready to try anything.
"Were you and Rainbow Dash close?" Nathan asked, his head poking over the back of Applejack's seat.
"Uh… Yeah, we were pretty close. Athletic rivals, best friends, whatever other titles there are, you can call us that," she said, her eyes beginning to well up with tears.
"What! Okay, so not EVERY single title," she laughed, wiping the tears away. She looked up at Nathan, and his cheeky smile made her shake her head.
"Don't mind him AJ; just leave him to his stupid fantasies," said Elena, pushing him back down into his seat. "So who were the other bearers of the elements of harmony, you never really told us about them,"
"Okay, so there is Twilight Sparkle, Pinkie Pie, Rarity and Fluttershy," Applejack explained and she could see Elena and Nathan struggling to hold back their laughter. "What? What is it?"
"Twi-Twilight Sparkle? That sounds like something out of one of those stupid teen vampire movies," said Nathan as he started to laugh hysterically. Applejack raised an eyebrow at him, not only because she didn't understand the reference, but also as a warning not to insult her friends.
"I don't understand what the problem is; they are perfectly normal names,"
"Oh AJ, no they aren't. Even Applejack isn't a name that is very common," said Elena. While she didn't understand why they were laughing, Applejack found herself giggling as well.
Eventually the laughter died down and they settled in for the hours long trip to the nearest international airport, where they would catch an even larger plane to America. Nathan and Elena had even managed to secure Applejack something called a passport, which was a document required to travel between countries. Since they didn't think that 'Applejack' would be considered a real name, Elena opted for calling her by the name 'Jacquelyn Apple' on the passport. It also stated that she was from a place called 'Kansas' which Applejack was informed was a state in the southern half of America, meaning that she was just going home.
As always, Sully tried to convince the others to leave her behind and continue on their own, only to be immediately shot down. She knew that she would have to confront him at some point, but didn't know when.
The larger plane was much more comfortable than Sully's beat up old sea plane, having proper seats, toilets, and even people to serve food. Applejack had trouble choosing at first, as everything seemed to have some form of meat in it, but upon seeing apple pie, perked up almost instantly.
The pie didn't taste nearly as good as the ones her Granny Smith made, but the familiar taste of apples helped to reduce her anxiety about flying. She had managed to get a seat next to Elena, while Nathan and Sully were a few rows ahead of them.
"Wow, you can really put away the food," said Elena, as Applejack stuffed multiple pies into her mouth, barely chewing. Her hair was back in her usual style; the long pony tail with the hair tie near the bottom, and even though Nathan had found her a brown Stetson hat, she still missed her old one.
Waking up with a strained neck and a small puddle of drool on her shoulder, Applejack climbed off the plane to find an air strip that was much flashier than the other ones she had visited. It was super modern, like the famous art gallery in Manehatten. She followed them through it, marvelling at the sheer amount of people hurrying around and yelling. The wall of noise was almost too much for the work horse to bear, and she put the hood of her jacket up over her head in an attempt to block out the sound, but to no avail.
The rest of the airport was a blur, as Nathan found a place to rent a vehicle and led them out to the building. Applejack made a point to stick close to Elena and Nathan, while Sully wandered in front of them, and insisted that he be the driver of the car. They had landed in the city of New Orleans, and as they started to head toward the centre of the city, Applejack was horrified to see the place in ruins, and even though it reminded her of Ponyville after Discord's return, it was still a major shock.
"Wh-What happened here?" she asked and Nathan gave her a quizzical look.
"Seriously? Well, a few years ago, an enormous hurricane tore through here, destroying about eighty per cent of the city. I remember seeing the photos when I was in Canada and I was so… sad," he explained, suddenly going quiet.
The centre of the city was a stark contrast to the outer areas. It was the biggest party that Applejack had ever seen. The streets were filled with people, but it wasn't the same as the airport. The people there were cold, distant and seemed to be devoid of any emotion. But here, at the party, people were happy, laughing and just hugging anyone within arm's reach.
"God damn it Nate, Mardi Gras!" Sully exclaimed happily, his demeanour instantly changing as the crowd parted to let them through.
"Calm yourself, you dirty old man," laughed Nathan.
"Wow, Pinkie Pie would just love this here shindig," said Applejack, smiling at the thought of her bouncy pink friend. They arrived at the hotel where they were going to be staying, only to discover that it was completely full. Some heated words and a few bribes eventually saw them getting a room in the basement, much to both Elena's and Sully's displeasure.
"Okay, so I know that this isn't ideal, but hey, after a good night's rest, I'm sure it won't seem so bad," he said, trying to calm the others down. Sully simply shook his head and walked out of the small concrete room, mumbling something about beads. Applejack looked over at Elena, who was starting to unpack Nathan's leather bag that contained all of their information on the elements and the temples that they resided in. Rainbow's element of harmony rested on top of the book.
"So ah've been meaning to ask; how did you guys start hunting the elements," she asked, sitting down at the table across from Elena. Nathan, walked over and sat down, opening a bottle of a drink he called 'beer.' Applejack had tried it, but had found it to be disgusting.
"It's kind of a long story, but… We were in South America, looking through an old Mayan temple that had recently been discovered. It seemed like any other, but with a much higher emphasis on the sun and moon. After dodging a few traps and doing far too much climbing, we found a stone tablet that talked about some kind of 'ultimate power.' Underneath all that was a single line, written in Spanish. I assume that it was left there by the conquistadores when they invaded," he explained, pausing for a moment to take a long swig of the beer. "All that the single line said was; 'You will find loyalty in the land of the rainbow serpent.'"
"Rainbow Serpent? What in the hay does that mean?"
"In the indigenous Australian culture, the Rainbow Serpent slithered across the desert, gouging out waterways for the people to use," said Elena, showing Applejack a picture of a rock painting. "Some stories even have the Rainbow Serpent being the barer of all weather, both good and bad,"
"That sounds familiar," replied Applejack.
"And then when we got there and found the necklace, there was another cryptic line in a language that didn't make sense, which in this case was Dutch. This time, the sentence said; 'Honesty can be found in the icy land of the enlightened god," continued Nathan and Applejack just turned to Elena for the explanation.
"It's talking about Buddha, and the 'icy land' was another clue, telling us it was Tibet," said Elena knowingly.
"So was there an inscription where y'all found me?" Applejack asked and Elena pulled a camera out of a smaller bag and showed her the photo of a wall with some strange language scratched into it. "What does it say?"
"Laughter can be found in the swamp of the dead, where parties shake the Earth itself,"
"Wow, that's pretty morbid,"
"Very true, but the only place it fits is New Orleans, home of the biggest party in all of America and famous for its above ground cemeteries," smiled Nathan. "I can't wait to see what we find in this temple."
"Well, the clue is in the clue," said Applejack, and smiled at the confused looks of Elena and Nathan. "Laughter can be found. Pinkie Pie is laughter, so ah have to assume we find her necklace,"