(I won’t be revealing which numbers are a pass and which ones are a fail for each task through the story. Just know they are not even and will not remain the same.)
Vern raised his hoof immediately for the correct cup. (V18) Blake felt the grin overtake his face. Shadow only snorted. Despite the last few minutes of pain he seemed unwilling to play along.
“Wow Vern! You’re so good at this!” Blake reached down and pet Vern gently. The fluffy affectionately rubbed its dirt encrusted head into Blake’s hand.
“Now, kick the bad fluffy.” Vern’s good mood stayed with him as Blake broke the contact. With only a hint of reluctance Vern walked over to Shadow. This time he properly positioned himself and when he fired the kick it hit square on the tack causing a strangled scream to erupt from the now writhing Shadow.
Shadow attempted to flee before turning an angry glare to Vern. Vern stepped back and Shadow remained in place.
After a moment Vern seemed to notice it. Some of the sagging in his posture started to wane. The usual hectic scanning of his eyes had slowed. He was almost looking like a regular fluffy.
Blake looked at Shadow. “Starting to hurt? That’s what it feels like to be a loser. Start playing the game or Vern here’s just gonna keep kicking that tack uh, pointy munstah deeper and deeper.” Shadow’s eyes were still defiant as he looked back at Blake.
Blake stared at the little pool of blood no bigger than a dime beneath the creature. If things kept going like this, Shadow wouldn’t be in a condition to even attempt the game. He supposed he could present Boris as a new challenger. He had no doubt his own fluffy would be no nicer to Vern. Though that did raise the problem of exactly what he would do if Vern shaped up to be worth keeping.
Vern walked in strong strides back to his place behind the cups.
Blake set the cups up again, speeding up the game a little. To his surprise Shadow was actually attempting to follow the cups. When Blake stopped and placed the wall he waited a moment to look at both. Neither fluffy was looking at the right cup.
“Point.” he commanded. Both obeyed, then he revealed the carrot under the correct cup. (Vern 10, Shadow 6)
Both fluffies looked upset. “You both picked wrong so it’s a tie.” He saw the crestfallen look on Vern and spoke quickly. “So nobody loses yet, let’s try that again.”
Blake shuffled the cups. He maintained the fast pace for this round as well. “Point” Both fluffies picked the same wrong cup next to the right one. (V10, S11) Their frustration seemed to grow. It was made worse when in the following game both fluffies picked wrong again. (V3, S6)
This would take all day if neither fluffy improved. Blake set the cups up again. He watched Vern closely. Vern was starting to shake again.
“Point.” Each fluffy raised a hoof but only one had the correct cup. Blake removed the cup in front of Vern’s hoof to reveal the carrot. Shadow struggled against the restraints. Blake let out a deep chuckle. (V19, S9)
“There we go! Excellent!” Vern dove forward munching down the carrot. He was making a strange noise. It took a moment for Blake to place the noise. He was humming. It wasn’t quite singing but Vern was humming a happy toon while he bit down on the carrot. Blake laughed even louder.
“Why dummeh hoomin su happy!?” He heard the yellow foal shout from the box behind him. Lemon was still shooting him death glares and pawing hopelessly at the muzzle.
“Because Vern here is the best fluffy in the room.” He fired back in a mocking tone.
“Dummeh hoomin, dat am poopie fwuffie. Nu am bestest! Babeh am bestest!” Blake didn’t respond to it.
Instead, Blake looked down to Vern who seemed completely consumed with scarfing down the carrot. With a final gulp he looked up to Blake expectantly.
“Kick him as hard as you can.”
Blake said it like a father, or an enthusiastic coach. Vern practically trotted over to Shadow’s side this time.
“Bad fwuffie…” Vern muttered before crouching and letting out the most effort in a kick that Blake had ever seen a fluffy give. Despite the softness of their bodies, blake heard the muffled sound of the impact.
“Reeeeee!” The cry was much clearer than the last few. Once again Shadow was sent into flailing spasms, though this time it looked less like an attempt to flee and more like randomly directed desperation. His eyes were wide and looking at nothing.
“Owwie.” Vern said rolling over and clutching his back leg. “Why hoovsie hawt?”
It appeared that the power of the kick had caused the plastic top to the thumb tac to bite into Vern’s foot a little. Blake saw a little mark but it hadn’t drawn blood. After a little rocking Vern got back on his feet. He looked a little upset, but there was less of his timid demeanor leaking through. In fact, the emotion on his face seemed far closer to outright anger.
Shadow however, still appeared to be in absolute agony despite the time that had passed. He wasn’t broken, but there was now something like a distinct crack.
“Well, I suppose that was enough of a handicap. Don’t worry Vern, I’ll make sure the meanie plastic munstah doesn’t hurt your foot next time.” Blake reached down to pull the tack out giving it a hard wiggle before dislodging it. This drew another loud screech from Shadow.
“Ya know Shadow, you might wanna start winning soon.” Vern stepped back into the starting location. Blake set the game up once more.
Vern’s eyes stayed fixed on Shadow, Shadow glared back. Even when the divider went down Vern and Shadow seemed to be more interested in keeping their eyes on where they knew the other fluffy was waiting. Neither paid particularly good attention to the cups.
“Point.” Sure enough, both picked wrong. (V3, S8)
Blake set the cups again and slapped the sorry stick on his leg snapping them both out of whatever trance they were in.
“Watch.” Blake commanded as he started the game again.
Vern’s focus seemed to return in full.
“Dummeh Shadoh nu wose tu dummeh poopie fwuffie!” The yellow foal shouted. Shadow turned at the mention of his name before shooting an angry look at the foal.
The blue foal quickly covered its eyes in response to Shadow’s attention. That seemed odd to Blake.
“Point.” Shadow hesitated but slowly raised a hoof. Vern had pointed right away and they’d each picked a different cup. Blake revealed another carrot under Vern’s cup. (V16, S1)
“Wow Vern, another win.” Blake hadn’t even needed to say anything. Vern hadn’t even bothered with the carrot this time. He just walked back over to Shadow and gave him another swift kick.
Shadow let out another grunt and started coughing. It still didn’t look like any serious damage had been done to the fluffy.
Vern may have had the motivation now, but he still didn’t have much power to give. Today was probably the first in awhile that he’d even had proper food in any decent quantity. It was probably also the first time he’d ever kicked another fluffy.
Vern looked a bit winded as he returned to his spot. Blake took the opportunity to give him the carrot. He let Vern take his time on the snack. It came as something of a breather for Shadow as well. The wound from the tack had clotted already but a well placed kick probably could have reopened the wound. Blake considered putting the tack back in while Vern ate but that seemed a little too much like cheating.
After a minute or two Vern finished his treat and Blake set the game again. He almost hoped Shadow would win a game or two soon. He didn’t want him to break this early. That and it seemed well, a little boring now that he’d gotten Vern going.
Still, Blake would let the game run its natural course. As Blake feared, Vern pulled another win. (V13, S9)
This kick this time wasn’t quite as powerful as the last but Shadow still grunted.
“Keep this up and Shadow won’t be hurting anyone soon.” Blake said with grim amusement. Vern looked downright proud. He was smiling at Blake but eventually concern creeped onto his face.
“Nice mistuh, Shadoh am weawn tu be gud fwuffie?”
“Probably if you kick him a few more times.” Vern looked at Shadow who had a more ragged look about him.
“Fwuffie nu wook bewwy pwetty. Nu wan gib fohebah sweepies.” Again the creature was hesitating. Blake tried to reassure himself that this was still progress. He wasn’t treating the idea as impossible, just unpleasant. Maybe with a few more pushes Blake could get him there.
Blake sighed and set the cups up again. Vern looked a lot less enthused now. It seemed the aggression really was short lived. Fluffies could be little assholes, but provided they weren’t spoiled they seemed to have a kind nature about them. It would be a shame if Vern were condemned to misery because he couldn’t just cut loose and be mean to his tormentor.
Blake watched Vern and it seemed he’d affixed his eyes to the wrong cup immediately after Blake started. He finished the shuffling and placed down the barrier.
Vern raised a hoof, as did Shadow. They’d picked different cups. This time Blake reached down for the cup Shadow was pointing to and he revealed the carrot. (V1, S15)
What was left of the confidence seemed to drain from Vern’s face.
“Wow, Shadow actually won for once.”
“Yaaaaay!” Cheers erupted from the yellow foal. “Shadoh gunna gib wostest hawties to dummeh poopie fwuffie.” Blake shook his head.
Blake shook his head. “Kid, you are really backing the wrong horse here.”
Blake made a rude gesture at the creature. It only stared at his hand. Blake was actually surprised that these things weren’t programed to recognize the bird like they did swear words.
“Well, I guess I owe you some kind of prize. I’d let you kick Vern, but you can’t really do it all tied up so I guess the first prize you get is the muzzle off of your mouth.” Blake reached down and stopped. “Oh right, I said I’d hit the baby if Vern lost.” Blake took his hands off Shadow who bucked against his restraints furiously.
“Nuuuu!” Vern cried waddling toward the foal’s box. Blake stood up and used his foot to make Vern tumble backward. He strode over to the foal’s pen and reached a hand down to cover it. He made sure Vern couldn’t see her clearly. Blake lifted the sorry stick up and brought it down on his own arm making a loud thwacking noise. At the same time he squeezed the squirming foal lightly.
Cheep! “Nu hawt fwuffie!” It cried from his hand.
“Pwease don’ hawt babeh! am gud! am gud!” Vern found his bearings and ran toward Blake again. Blake reeled around and brought the stick down on the ground in front of the fluffy halting it.
“Then don’t lose again!” Blake hissed back. He grabbed Vern by the scruff and dragged him back to the game.
After he finished placing him he reached over and undid the muzzle around Shadow’s face. Before removing it fully, he spoke.
“I’m giving you back your tawkie pwace, but if you piss me off or disrespect me I won’t hesitate to make you miserable.” Blake stared at the creature. It was glaring back and muttering something under the muzzle. “Part of me is hoping you’re stupid enough to push your luck.” Blake took the muzzle off.
“Dummeh hoomin! Dummeh poopie fwuffie!” Blake flicked his nose hard. He cried out in pain.
“This fluffy’s name is Vern, call him that from now on.”
“Poopie fwuffie nu hab namsie!” Shadow’s cheeks puffed out. Vern looked at Shadow with a shocked expression.
Blake pulled out the thumb tac that had been embedded in the fluffy before. He drove it into the creature’s side next to the other wound.
“Skreeeeee!” Blake held it in place and waited for the creature to stop thrashing.
“If you want the hawties to go away, say this green fluffy’s name properly.”
Shadow was panting heavily, it seemed all the hits and thrashing were really starting to take it out of him. Nonetheless he continued his defiance “Dummeh fwuffie am-skreeeeeee!” (S15)
Blake began wiggling the thumb tack in every direction with his index finger. After a few seconds he stopped and waited for the creature to stop his thrashing.
“What’s his name?”
Somehow, someway, the already emptied creature stared up at Blake angrily and proceeded to spray a small stream of shit on the floor behind him. Unfortunately for Blake, this section of the room had carpet. Even worse, the creature was smiling at him. “Fwuffie nu am wissen tu dummeh hoomin.” (S20)
Blake yanked the tac out of Shadow’s side and he let out small yelp. He kept cleaning supplies in the room in case of issues like this. He grabbed a towel and a home brew of shit remover in a spray bottle spending the next 5 minutes removing the mess.
Partway in the yellow foal made a comment. “Why nu hab dummeh poopie fwuffies eat da poopies? All am gud foh.”
Blake considered forcing the yellow foal to clean the mess but having already sprayed the area didn’t want to risk poisoning it. Not yet anyway.
After he finished he walked back over to Shadow and grabbed 2 thumbtacks. He drove one into each side hard. Shadow let out another loud shriek. Tears were starting to form but he still managed a glare at Blake. (S4)
Blake wiggled both of them and the stare broke. (S6) “Say his name you little shit rat.”
“V-vewn!” It choked out. Blake pulled out the tacks.
“Good, hear that Ver-“ Blake looked at the green fluffy. It was giving Shadow a weird look. Blake couldn’t place the emotion on its face. It was like it was in shock.
“Well, now that that’s sorted. I think we should keep going.” Blake paused. “Actually no, I have a better idea." Blake went to the sink and turned on the water. He felt the stream with his hand until the water was close to the bath temperature that he’d used previously. He left the water to run.
He grabbed the camera and brought it in close to Shadow.
“Shadow, my name is Boris.”
“Bawis?” It repeated.
“Tell me, do you think my name is pretty?”
“Nu, Bawis am dummeh name. Bawis am dummeh!”
“Thanks you little moron. My real name’s Blake by the way.”
Blake returned the camera to its proper place.
Blake walked back to Shadow and grabbed the first cloth he’d used to clean up the creatures shit. He grabbed the untainted corners and gently draped the fabric over Shadow’s head. “Wuh? Why see pwaces nu wowk!?” Blake heard the creature inhale. “Nu smeww pwetty! Nu wike!” It was making gagging noises now.
Blake returned to the sink and moved the hose to spray into the second drain. He returned to Vern and put his hands down. “I’m gonna give you a quick bath.”
Vern gave him a fearful look as his eyes darted to the water behind Blake. “Nu wike wawa…” It muttered.
“No arguing, It’ll make you smell pretty like the other good fluffies.” Vern relented and raised his hooves so Blake could pick him up. He gently carted the fluffy to the empty sink. He let the water pool in his hand so vern could touch a hoof to it and confirm its warmth. From there it had been easy to spray the bulk of the filth off him. After that he let him soak in the warm water of the other sink. The fluffy closed his eyes and relaxed against the side.
“I’m gonna clean your foal next, don’t worry I’ll be gentle.”
Blake walked over the foal who’d watched the entire thing with a worried expression. Blake scooped her up quickly and brought her over to see Vern relaxing in the bubbles. He scooped some up and let her smell and poke them.
“Dese am bubbews?” She asked with a hint of confusion.
“Yeah, and they’re much better than the Bubbews you know.”
After a much slower process of introducing the foal to the warm water Blake made quick work of cleaning her off with a gentle spray. After he’d finished he’d filled a bowl with some of the water and set it above Vern.
He let her sit while he drained the water and did one last spray down to get the soap out of Vern’s fur.
“Much better.” He gently toweled off the fluffy before finishing the work with the hair dryer on the shelf next to it. He did the same for the baby and just like that the two fluffies were dry and bore a light smell of lavender.
“Babeh smeww su pwetty!” Vern said as he sniffed at the foal.
“Tank ‘ou nice hoomin.” The foal said to him.
“Don’t worry about it, this was more for me than you anyway.”
Blake picked up the foal, pet her a few times and set it down in its box. She seemed to droop a little. Blake kept forgetting that these things viewed all boxes as a form of punishment. Well, she’d have to get used to it.
Blake walked back and set the game up again. Vern returned to his position. Through a combination of thrashing and shouting, Shadow had managed to shake the cloth off his head. Blake could see hints of brown on his face.
“Shit on my carpet again and I’ll use mister pointy monster to pin it to your shit covered head.” Blake waved the thumbtack in front of him. Shadow didn’t respond.
Blake took up his position over shadow and began again. he swapped the cups around and put down the divider.
Vern immediately pointed at the correct cup. Shadow completely lost, pointed at the wrong one. Once again, Blake lifted the divider and revealed the carrot. Vern’s tail shook and Blake handed him the carrot. This time he ate it.
“How about instead of kicking his side…” Blake pulled the ropes holding Shadows back legs so they drifted apart.
“Huh? Wew weggies goin’?” Shadow asked in confusion.
“you kick him in his speshaw wumps.”
“Nu touch speshaw wumps, Shadoh gib wostest hawties!”
Vern looked reluctant.
“Vern, he can’t hit you back right now. Just boot him there, he can’t do anything about it.”
“Nu wan hawt Shadoh speshaw wumps. Dat am bad.” Vern responded.
“You sure, this is the only chance you’ll get a shot like this.”
Vern stared at Blake for awhile but eventually made his way over to Shadow. He stopped at his side and gave him another light kick. Shadow winced, likely from the puncture wounds but didn’t make any noise. (S17)
“Well I did set aside a whole day for this. You just better hope your luck holds out.”
Vern trudged back to his spot and Blake reset the cups. The next game Vern seemed unenthused and Shadow remained winded. Both fluffies missed the carrot. (V2 S6)
Blake ran the game again and slowed his switches down a little. He placed the divider and both fluffies pointed to the same cup. He lifted the divider and revealed the carrot. He was about to go again but Shadow interrupted him.
“Shadoh win, wet Shadoh ou’!” He spat angrily.
“Vern got it right too, that’s a tie not a win.”
“Nu cawe, Shadoh pick wight!”
“So did Vern.”
“Nu cawe wha’ dummeh poopie fwuffie du! Wet ou’!” Blake considered ignoring it and continuing but when he looked at Vern he was giving Shadow a furious look.
“…Vewn…” Vern muttered just loud enough to be heard.
Shadow looked annoyed. “Whu-“
“Fwuffie new name is Vewn!” It was stomping its hooves. “Nu am dummeh, nu smeww pwettie, nu name fwuffie nu mowe! Hab name! Hab pwettie name! Why dummeh Shadoh nu say Vewn pwetty name!?” There was a tremble in Vern now, but it didn’t look like fear.
Shadow puffed out his cheeks as wide as he could. “Poopie fwuffie nu hab namsie!”
“Dat wight!” The yellow foal added. “Dummeh!”
Vern’s gaze didn’t leave Shadow. His ear flicked in what seemed like an angry tick.
“Pway ‘gain.” Vern said in almost a growl.
Blake quirked an eyebrow but silently did as instructed. Blake started shifting the cups around slowly. Vern’s eyes locked onto the carrot cup. Shadow was following as well. Blake sped up. Still Vern stayed on target, while Shadow seemed to be having trouble. Blake sped up even more and still Vern watched. When he came to a stop, Shadow looked bewildered and Vern danced around waiting for Blake to lift the divider.
“Point.” Vern had started lifting his leg before Blake even got the words out. He selected correctly, Shadow didn’t. (V19, B2) Blake lifted the cup and Vern stomped around the cups toward Shadow. He walked past Shadow’s side and stopped behind him.
“What am Vewn’s name.” The formerly nameless fluffy asked Shadow.
“Who Vewn?” Shadow asked with a hint of genuine annoyance. Blake wondered if this was genuine defect in fluffy programming or if the creature was being intentionally vindictive.
“Fwuffie am!” Vern shouted as he reared back the hardest kick he could manage, slamming directly into Shadow’s testicles. (S3)
“SKREEEEE!” Blake had covered his ears in anticipation of the noise but it still cut through his eardrums. Blake looked to see if something had popped but the creatures nuts seemed to be intact.
Vern looked like he was setting up for another kick but Blake put his hand down grabbing the creature by the scruff and yanking him away.
“One shot.” Blake said evenly. “Beat this idiot again and I’ll let you get another hit in. And you better win because if Shadow beats you I’m letting him out of the restraints and its gonna be way harder to hurt him.” Blake sneered. “And I’ll have start letting him kick you.” Blake watched Vern to see if he would react.
The fluffy seemed to not be processing his words. He simply stared at Shadow with determination.
“Nu cawe, wan gib wostest sowwy hoovsies to dummeh fwuffie!” He practically shouted. Blake sighed and shooed him back to his section.
“I can’t believe your moment of righteous indignation and fury is coming off of this whole name thing rather than the foal enfing. Seriously, you creatures are awful.” Blake set up the cups again. “Not that I’m really one to talk, and honestly I’m just glad you’re taking this more seriously. Hell, if you do manage to make it out of this I think you’ll be very useful for other things too.”
Vern was staring at him impatiently. Blake looked back to see Shadow’s head downcast and tears streaking down his snout. Blake grabbed his face and pulled it back up. “If you don’t want that to happen, don’t lose.” Blake moved even closer. “Or you could get over yourself and just use his name." He released Shadow, and Shadow remained silent.
Blake swapped the cups and put down the divider.
The fluffies tied (V13 S14) This time Vern stomped toward Shadow. Blake reached out a hand to block his path. “Shadow has to lose Vern, you both picked the same cup.”
Vern shot him a glare. When Blake glared back the creature averted its eyes.
“Sowwy.” It mumbled out as it walked back.
Blake swapped the cups.
“Dummeh!” Shouted the little yellow foal. Vern took his eyes off the cup to glare at it. Blake went on shuffling the cups and when Vern looked back he realized his mistake. Shadow had kept his eyes on the correct cup. (V7, S17)
When Vern revealed the cup Shadow let out a small smile while Vern stomped angrily.
Blake reached down and began undoing Shadow’s straps. After he removed all of them Shadow shook his head and eyed Vern.
Despite the abuse, he looked perfectly capable of mauling the much smaller, skinnier fluffy that was staring daggers at him. Shadow was big even by toughie standards, and that counted for a lot here.
“Don’t go thinking I can’t shove another tack into you if you act up.” To his surprise Shadow didn’t even look his direction.
“Shadoh undahstan’, wan’ hawt dummeh Vewn.” Blake noted the use of name and looked to Vern for some form of recognition. Vern was only glaring at Shadow. It seemed it was too late to hope for mercy.
Blake wasn’t really sure where the game would end up from here. Shadow had taken a lot of punishment but he definitely seemed capable of dealing out some real damage. Vern was confident now, but Blake wasn’t sure a few kicks wouldn’t send him right back to the submissive place he had been before Blake had egged him on.
That and moxie had its limits. Vern was still smaller than the average fluffy in his herd.
“Now we have us a game.” Blake prepared the next game eager to see how things would play out.
Tensions were very high between Shadow and Vern. Both fluffies had been deadlocked in the last 4 games. After an initial stumble where both fluffies lost, each had picked correctly in the subsequent 3 games. (V5,16,12,12 / S11,15,18,15)
They both appeared anxious for the opportunity to take a shot at the other. The change in Vern had been interesting. It had been like his old personality was being consumed by something primal. Blake wondered how things would have turned out if this same fluffy brain had been put into a better colored fluffy. Maybe he would have been a toughie. Perhaps he was just feeling the rush of his first real victory.
Blake began another round and shifted the cups. He set down the divider and smiled realizing the tie would be broken this time.
“Point.” Both of them did.
Blake lifted the divider and pulled off the cup Vern was pointing at. (V18 S2)
“Right again Vern.” Vern started dancing in his spot. Shadow huffed and looked like he wanted to say something. “If you try anything Shadow, I’ll break your wittew weggie.” Blake slapped the sorry stick and Shadow winced.
Vern trotted over to Shadow attempting to get behind him. Shadow kept his side to Vern and rotated as he tried to move behind him.
“Nu mobe!” Vern shouted.
“Nu wet dummeh Vewn hawt speshaw wumps ‘gain.” Shadow responded. Vern looked up at Blake.
“Sorry Vern, he’s not allowed to run or fight back but he doesn’t have to let you hit him there. Just kick him as hard as you can to make up for it.”
Vern sighed with more than a hint of frustration but turned to face away from shadow. Shadow braced himself. Vern fired another hard kick into Shadow’s side. (S7) Shadow tumbled over hard.
“Owwiee.” He said as he returned to his feet. Blake could see that the fluffy was still feeling the damage from earlier. If he weren’t so injured, that kick would have done almost nothing to him.
“Okay you two, I don’t want to be here all day so new rule: If you win you get 3 hits.”
Vern shot a grin at Blake and Shadow grimaced. Blake figured that if Vern could knock the bigger fluffy down he could do some real damage with a few more hits. Hell, if Blake was feeling generous he might let him take an extra shot.
The reverse was just as true though. Maybe more so if Shadow could leverage his weight despite how sluggish he was becoming. Only one way to find out.
Blake ran the game again. Both fluffies picked the wrong cup. (V5 S1) This only seemed to fuel Vern’s blood-thirst. Shadow just looked anxious. He hadn’t followed the right cup at all and he continued to show a lack of competence with the game.
Blake started again.
Vern pointed to the middle cup while Shadow chose the one next to it. Vern’s once again had the carrot. (V18, S7)
Shadow fidgeted nervously. Vern marched toward him and readied his attack. He launched a kick that glanced off Shadow’s side. (S18) Vern seemed annoyed by the lack of reaction.
“Focus buddy, he’s still a chunky bastard.”
“Nu caw Shadoh fat!” Shadow shouted at him.
Vern fired another kick hitting Shadow square in the side. Shadow bore the attack without falling. (S16)
“Seriously, he’s not gonna feel it through his pudge if you don’t boot him hard.”
Vern replanted himself, moved a little closer and fired another kick. This time he landed square on the tack wound and Shadow’s body lurched back as he tumbled painfully to the ground. (S8)
Shadow wobbled but rose to his feet. Vern seemed to want to kick him again and Blake shooed him back to his position.
“That’s three, let’s go again.”
Blake shuffled the cups. Both fluffies pointed to the same cup. After revealing the carrot he shuffled again a bit faster. Both picked wrong. Once more and both won, then after another game, a loss for both. (V16,4,19,3 / S13,9,17,5)
Blake was getting a little frustrated. They were negating his amazing plan to speed up the game by being equally mediocre at playing it.
He was prepared for another disappointment when he looked down to see the fluffies were pointing to different cups again. Blake pulled up the divider and Vern’s tail started wagging at the realization. Blake smiled too, for an entirely different reason. This time when he reached down, he revealed the carrot under Shadow’s cup.
Vern’s eyes widened in surprise. His tail ceased movement and he began shaking.
“Well Shadow, you’re up.”
“Shadoh gonna teach poopie fwuffie pwace.” He muttered as he marched over to Vern. Vern started to back away but Blake tapped his side with sorry stick shaking his head.
When Shadow arrived at Vern’s side he surprised both of them by charging hard into Vern, knocking him over easily. Vern tumbled onto his back seeming very disoriented. (V12) Shadow didn’t miss the opportunity and reared back over Vern letting his front hooves fall on the proned fluffy. Very unfortunately this hit landed square on Vern’s testicles. (V1)
“SKREEEEEE!” He writhed on the ground attempting to cover himself. Shadow stomped again. The hit didn’t connect well, but it still looked painful for Vern. (15)
Vern laid on the ground “huuu huuu…” peep Shadow went for another hit and Blake wrapped him lightly with the sorry stick. He jumped back.
“Three.” He said sternly. “That bump at the beginning counts too, I’m only gonna let you hit him again if you can get another win. Go back to your spot.” Blake ordered. Shadow reluctantly walked away from Vern.
The damage had been done though. Vern lie broken on the ground. Blake didn’t see any blood but he imagined that hurt quite a bit.
“Are you done Vern?” He gave the fluffy a disappointed look.
It only sobbed in response. (V10)
“Daddeh hewp fwuffie!?” Asked the brown foal from its box. It was pressed on the see through wall looking very concerned.
Blake stood up and walked over to the brown foal’s cage.
“Excellent timing, you’re up.” Blake reached down lifting it from the cage.
“Whu-?” Vern asked from the ground in front of the cups.
“Since Vern won’t play, you can do it instead and if you lose I’ll let Shadow do whatever he wants.”
“What am hoomin doin?” Vern asked with increasing desperation. Blake ignored him.
“Babeh pway cuppie game?” The foal asked him with a tone of confusion and nervousness.
“Oh don’t worry, it’s pretty easy, just pick a cup and if you guess right you get a reward, but if you mess up Shadow here-“
“NUUUUU!” Vern was on his feet shouting and stumbling toward Blake. “Wittew babeh nu can pway scawy game! Vewn Pway ‘gain!” (V19)
“Oh never mind kiddo, guess I don’t need you… yet.” Blake said grimly. The foal shook in his hand. He set it back in the box.
“Well done Vern, you’re not completely useless.” He pointed toward the starting spot. “Go.”
Vern obeyed and returned to his spot. Blake set up the game once more. Both fluffies stared at the cups. Both managed to choose correctly but Shadow seemed far more confident than Vern now. (V14 S20)
Blake began again. He decided to speed up the game for his own sake and he watched as Vern lost track of the carrot. When he came to a stop Shadow was staring at the correct cup though Blake hadn’t known if he’d tracked it from the start. Still, when Blake revealed the carrot Vern’s ears and tail drooped, but he didn’t back away this time. Shadow marched over with an air of superiority.
Shadow attempted to bump Vern over again but Vern dropped a little and Shadow lost the leverage. (V13) He looked frustrated and backed up to kick Vern. The shot landed but Vern remained on his feet. If he was in pain he didn’t show it. (V18) With an intense furry Shadow fired another hard kick and Vern rolled over. That one definitely hurt but Shadow was out of hits. (V4)
With some effort Vern was back on his feet and Shadow trudged back to the starting area.
Blake covered the carrot and the game began again.
“Yay Shadoh!” Shouted the yellow foal. Shadow gave it a smug look which took its eyes away from the cups. Blake rolled his eyes and continued to move the cups. When Blake finally said “point” Shadow just stared at the cups in front of him.
“Point Shadow.” Blake ordered.
He raised a hoof toward the middle cup. Vern had pointed to the far left cup. When Blake reached down to reveal the carrot, it was Vern’s cup he removed.
Vern strutted over to Shadow and fired another swift kick to the fluffy sending him falling over. It seemed to be less in the strength of the hit and more from Shadow being winded. (S7) Still, Shadow was on his side helpless. Vern rose and stomped down hard on his side. All the air left Shadow’s lungs as Verns hooves sunk deep into the creature. (S4) Vern didn’t relent, he reared back again and landed square on the other fluffy’s ribs. Blake heard a crack and he wondered if it was a break. (S10)
Shadow erupted in a coughing fit and Blake checked for blood. Only saliva was spat out but as Vern trudged away Shadow took several seconds to even attempt to stand. He wasn’t crying but there were tears in his eyes. He wobbled on his feet.
“Du-dummeh…” He choked out.
“Pway ‘gain.” Vern said in a low tone.
Blake did as instructed. Once again the fluffies picked different cups. He reached down revealing the carrot in front of Shadow’s hoof. (V9, S16) Shadow smiled weakly and wobbled over to Vern. He stopped at his side not attempting to ram him like before.
He kicked but stumbled in the process. It was more like a light brush than a hit. (V17)
“That counts Shadow.” Blake said.
Shadow tried again making a much more solid hit. Vern tumbled over and let out a loud grunt. (V4) Shadow attempted to follow up but could barely put himself high enough for the stomp. It didn’t seem to deal any damage as his hoof slid off Vern. (V14)
Shadow gave a frustrated grunt and Vern climbed back to his feet. Shadow retreated to his starting position. Blake noticed a distinct droop to in his posture.
Blake shuffled the cups again.
Both fluffies pointed to different cups, and Blake revealed the carrot under Vern’s. Shadow’s head drooped. Blake could hear the faint sound of panting. Vern walked at an even pace to Shadow’s side He turned but craned his head around to stare at Shadow. (V17, S8)
“Say Vewn’s name…” The fluffy said in a low growl.
Shadow only glared back, tired but defiant. Vern fired off a kick that sent Shadow onto his side. (S6)
Vern turned and stood over the fallen fluffy. “What am Vewn’s name?” He said leaning down. Shadow flinched and broke eye contact.
“Gween fwuffie am Vewn.” He said in a neutral tone. Blake looked back at the yellow fluffy who had been his cheerleader only moments ago. It was looking at Shadow indignantly.
A tenseness that had been in Vern for the entire game seemed to evaporate. He didn’t rear up and he didn’t look angry either.
“O…otay. Shadoh nu hawt babehs nu mowe?” Vern asked in a stern voice. “Nu mowe enfie babehs. Ebah.” He emphasized that last word.
“Fwuffie nu make bad enfies nu mowe.” Shadow replied. Blake tensed.
Fluffies were terrible liars. The easiest way to tell was when they used a generic “Fluffy” instead of their own name. It wasn’t universal and Apple was proof that enough pain and shame could trigger this behavior, but it wasn’t just that.
Shadow was being submissive, but he still looked angry. It was distinctly different when compared to Apple. Apple had been so lost in his despair that everything in his demeanor had reflected that.
Blake had a feeling this creature would go right back to abusing Vern and the foal after some rest. Aside from all that, Blake hadn’t intended to stop the game even if Shadow had groveled in complete sincerity. He wasn’t going to risk keeping Shadow around. He was strangely resistant to all this.
“He’s lying.” Blake said.
Shadow shot him an angry look. “Fwuffie nu wie!”
Vern looked confused. He turned away as Blake met his eyes.
“Two more kicks.” Blake said more like a threat than a reminder.
Vern gave a pained look and then turned his gaze back down at Shadow. He raised his hoof and delicately tapped the fallen fluffy twice.
Shadow had looked afraid before but as soon as he realized he wasn’t going to be kicked again a disgusting smirk spread over his face. Blake had hoped the fluffy would have kept pushing Vern until he snapped, but it looked like Shadow was a bit more clever than Blake had anticipated.
It didn’t help that Vern was being a moron. Whatever pity he had had dried up completely. This thing really regarded the gesture of using its name as more meaningful than Shadow attacking children.
“We’re playing again.” He said through gritted teeth.
Vern fidgeted. “Nu wan pway nu mowe. Vewn gu back tu hewd wid babeh?”
“Yeah, nu wan pway siwwy game nu mowe!” Shadow added.
And now it wanted to go back to the herd that had exiled it to the shit pile? Unbelievable. Blake took a deep breathe and thought. Fluffies were dumb, but not like regular dumb. It was like they had a limited number of things they could process, and a limit to how much they could process those things.
Okay, so it did sound a lot like generic stupidity. It was hard to define. It was like the fact that they could speak gave a person expectations of depth that just wasn’t there. But that too had been contradicted by his last few interactions.
No, it was that they could speak that kept misleading him. Key words had an effect but what he really needed to do was communicate in a way the fluffy could process.
Blake had been surprised in the past by how much their behaviors changed with a bit of reframing. Falling into a pool could be either fun or soul crushing depending on the circumstances. Perhaps the problem was that Blake was trying to communicate the horror of the act through words.
“We’re playing again.” Blake repeated absently. “But I’m changing the stakes this time. Hey Shadow…”
Shadow looked up at him from the ground. “Wha dummeh hoomin wan?”
“I want to give you a better offer.”
-------end of part 2-------