Shift in Direction
written by Sugarberry

The mantle of snow still hung over Pony Pride, belying the fact that spring was on the way. Sidewalks were bordered by mounds of the white stuff and a core sample of the heaps would have chronicled the numerous snowfalls that had started back in December. The gleeful sounds of the students' voices as they traversed the campus between classes, however, verified the eternal optimism of youth. Spring would come, and with it the rebirth of the natural world in all its refreshing palette of colors.

In an office in one of the buildings on campus sat the country blue stallion who was the head of the mathematics department. A telephone receiver in one hoof, the stallion sat in his chair behind his desk... but he was not relaxed. He was listening intently to the party on the other end, not moving a muscle until it became his turn to speak. Then, he brushed a hoof through his mane as if uncertain about the topic under consideration.

"This is going to take some serious thought, Giorgio," Vanguard finally stated, "although I'll admit that I'm sorely tempted."

"I understand that you'll need some time to discuss the pros and cons with Sugarberry, but I hope the two of you will choose in my favor," the Vulcanopolis stallion encouraged. "I'll be waiting to hear your decision."

As Vanguard hung up the phone, he got to his hooves and walked to the window to view the campus from his second floor vantage point. The evergreens were beautiful with their coating of snow; even the barren maples and elms were charming, their branches outlined with pristine white from the latest storm. The movement of students was now reduced to only a few stragglers hurrying to slip into their respective classes... one of them being the rose-red Wishbone, Vanguard noted with a grin.

But the expression of ease disappeared as quickly as it had come as the stallion's thoughts turned immediately back to his unexpected conversation with Giorgio. Vanguard sighed. This was going to take some serious contemplation. His gaze left the scene outside and turned to the framed picture of his wife that ornamented his desk. How was he going to broach the subject with her?

* * *

"Garnet, you go and sit down. Chocolate Chip will help me get the table ready."

The two younger mares shared a smile before Garnet responded. "Sugarberry, the foal isn't due until October. Dr. Toby says I can carry on my life as normal."

"That may be, but you look pale. So, sit."

"You should do as she says, Garnet," Chocolate Chip advised her sister-in-law, looking at her closely. "You do look done in."

"I've been so tired," the mare admitted, dropping into a chair only to have Banderol climb up on her lap with his Puffalump in tow. "Hi, sweetie. I bet you're tired, too." She welcomed the foal with a kiss on top of his head.

Wigwam came in the back door, setting a snow shovel in the corner. "I got the drifts cleared out of the path, Sugarberry. And Vanguard and Wishbone are..." The door opened once more to reveal the two just-mentioned stallions. "... home."

Banderol slipped off Garnet's lap to run to his father while Wishbone looked with some concern at his wife. "You okay, Garnet?"

"Yes, I'm okay," smiled the mare as she accepted the kiss Wishbone brushed against her cheek. "Sugarberry is just mollycoddling me."

"Mollycoddling?" Wigwam laughed. "What kind of word is that?"

"It describes exactly the excessive consideration Chocolate Chip showers on you," Sugarberry was quick to retort.

"Yes, she's a wonderful wife," the stallion returned, catching the brown mare in his forelegs.

Vanguard took advantage of the teasing that Wishbone directed at the newlyweds to cross the room and bestow a kiss on his wife.

"Hard day?" Sugarberry queried, brushing a vagrant sea-green lock behind the stallion's ear. "You look beat."

"Just a new wrinkle to iron out."

"You'll feel better once you've had something to eat," the mare smiled. "And as everything's ready, we can sit down to eat right now. Licorice said that he and Snapper were going to grab a bite on campus."

When the food had been placed on the table and the ponies had been seated and given thanks, Wishbone glanced around the table, obviously anxious to share some piece of news.

"You look like the cat that swallowed the canary, popinjay," Wigwam quipped. "We all know about the baby on the way."

"This news can't beat that, but it is exciting in its own way." The rose-red stallion flashed a smile at his wife, then continued. "Mom and Dad stopped by on a trip to Hayton to talk to Garnet and me about a proposition they've been considering."

"And that is...?" Sugarberry felt her heart sink for she knew that Wishbone's graduation in May would necessitate more changes in the fabric of her life... changes that she would rather not face.

"They're serious about moving to Hayton and opening a restaurant there. That means The Right Place in Neighberry would need a new manager."

"Wishbone, are you saying that you might move back home?" Chocolate Chip expressed in surprise. She herself had never had a desire to return to the town of her birth and was caught off guard to realize that her brother might have fonder memories about Neighberry than she did.

"It's an option we're considering," Garnet responded. She looked at Wigwam with a wry smile. "I love working at the casino- you know I do- but this is such a wonderful opportunity for Wishbone; his parents would be more lenient over any mistakes we might make as we learn the restaurant business, and he'd be on his home turf which should prove an advantage."

"You'd be leaving Dream Valley," Sugarberry stated the obvious, her voice tinged with sadness. She set her fork on her plate as if her appetite had disappeared with the telling of the news.

"Sugarberry, we'd be close enough to visit often; please don't think we'd ever forget our best friends." Wishbone looked around at the faces that registered varying degrees of surprise. "You have all been there for both Garnet and me for the last number of years and we can never thank you enough; but I think this is a chance too good to pass up, especially with the baby on the way."

"I'd like to hear more of the details, but it should be a profitable venture from what I've seen of Neighberry and the restaurant," Wigwam admitted. His gaze fell on Garnet. "The casino won't be the same without you; but I know that you have what it takes to be successful."

"It's not a sure thing yet," the mare reminded him, but the look of exhilaration on her face told its own story. "Wishbone and I have talked and talked about all the possibilities, and we agree that we can help out Drifter and Twilight Jewel at the same time as getting our hooves on solid ground for the future."

"I think it's a great plan!" declared Chocolate Chip, overlooking her own disappointment that she would soon be separated from her brother and his wife. Not wanting them to feel that a damper had been cast over their enthusiasm, she kept her own opinion upbeat. "What about a house? Would this deal include your old home, Wishbone?"

"Yes. And Grandma and Grandpa are all for the idea, to have us nearby... especially with the baby coming."

"Just remember to keep your mind on your studies until the end of the semester," Vanguard advised Wishbone. "And, Garnet, don't overtax yourself with all the preparations that'll have to be made when the time comes to move. We'll help you out in any way we can."

"Yes. Of course we will," Sugarberry bravely concurred, but her voice broke.

"Oh, Sugarberry, you do understand, don't you?" Garnet pleaded. "The idea of having a solid home and livelihood is like a dream come true for me. When I was growing up and always on the move- and later when I had to fend for myself- I tried to imagine what it would be like to belong somewhere... really belong. I found that here with all of you, but this is a chance for Wishbone and me to carve our own niche and make a good foundation for our baby. It would be perfect if we could stay in Dream Valley, but the opportunity exists for us in Neighberry right now. Please be happy for us."

"Just looking at the joy on your faces makes me happy," Sugarberry smiled tremulously. "I'm already looking forward to eating at your restaurant once your settled."

The conversation moved on about her, but Sugarberry refrained from saying any more. Her heart was not in it.

* * *

The house was quiet as Sugarberry checked on Banderol one more time before calling it a day. He was sound asleep with Kitty-Kitty tucked under his head for a pillow and his blanket in a muddled heap at his hooves. Tenderly, Sugarberry tucked the blanket around the precious youngster and found herself thinking ahead to the day when he would be grown and ready to strike off on his own as Garnet and Wishbone were doing now. She could not prevent a tear from escaping and sliding down her cheek.

Unlike Garnet, Sugarberry had spent all her life in one place- Dream Valley. It had been her parents who had opted to move on when they had found the larger orchard for sale near Berryville, giving her father a more independent outlet for his love of the land and growing things. Her oldest sister, Gooseberry, had married a stallion from Berryville who also made his living from neighboring land, thus facilitating the transition for her folks. It was also aided by the middle sister, Raspberry, who, unattached and a hard worker, had moved with her parents.

At that time, Sugarberry made the decision to stay with what was familiar, even though it cost her the loving shelter of her family; her shyness and her inability to handle the unknown had necessitated her decision. She had remained in Dream Valley alone from the time of her high school graduation to live among the close friends and familiar places of her foalhood.

This dependence on her surroundings made it difficult for the strawberry-patterned mare to adopt to change of any kind; each new shift in direction for any of her friends or family brought about a period of melancholy that she had never yet learned to stifle.

Her thoughts were so engrossed as she pondered the future without Garnet and Wishbone that she was unaware of Vanguard's entrance into Banderol's chamber until she felt the soft touch of his mane against her shoulder. Instinctively, she leaned into him for his solid support.

"Things are changing again," she whispered.

"Wasn't it Carlyle who said that change is indeed painful... but necessary?" Vanguard reached out and touched her cheek gently as he spoke.

"It's the painful part I don't like," Sugarberry pouted.

Vanguard chuckled. "Just like Banderol didn't like the pain of getting those teeth of his, but he surely enjoys using them... if the number of cookies he eats in a day is any indication."

That analogy caused a faint smile to appear on Sugarberry's face. "He's a trooper when it comes to that."

The two stood in companionable silence for several minutes, their love for each other and for their son wrapping them in its warmth. Vanguard would have liked to remain in that euphoria for an eternity, but he knew that he had to face the reality of Giorgio's phone call. Taking his wife's hoof, he suggested that they sit and talk a bit.

One change in Sugarberry's life that she had embraced full-heartedly (along with her marriage to Vanguard) was the make-over of her house after her marriage. A turret and several additional rooms on each floor had extended the living space downstairs and the master bedroom upstairs. The rounded turret space that fed off their bedroom made a comfortable sitting area for reading or talking; in addition to the window seat that offered a cozy spot for daydreaming, there were two snug overstuffed chairs with a small table between them with a Tiffany lamp that provided just the right light for reading or writing. On cold winter nights, those two chairs were just as often occupied by the resident felines as by ponies; but this night the chairs were empty. Vanguard guided Sugarberry to her seat, then settled in his own.

For the first time since her husband had walked in the house before supper, Sugarberry really looked at him. What she had earlier attributed to a long day of teaching and paperwork she now realized was something more serious. He was having a hard time meeting her gaze directly and seemed preoccupied.

"Something's bothering you other than Garnet and Wishbone's announcement. What is it?" She leaned across the space between them to lay her hoof over his, and Vanguard captured it in his grasp.

The stallion managed a smile, but his eyes still held a constrained look. "I received a call from Giorgio today."

"Is everything okay? I know Calla was awfully sick with the flu, but I thought she was over that..."

"Calla and Clare are fine, as is Giorgio. He was complaining of being overworked, however."

"This was his first full year back at Leonardo after his... work for the city. Has it been difficult for him to get back in the swing of things?" Had it been so long since she and Vanguard had exchanged a visit with their friends across the sea? the mare found herself wondering.

"He's capable of chairing several math departments simultaneously," Vanguard grinned briefly, but the clouded look settled again. "His involvement in the workings of the government of Vulcanopolis along with those episodes that hit closer to home have triggered some projects he'd like to see in place to provide a more secure computer system and better safeguards for the city overall."

"He's to do that on the side?"

"That's the crux of the matter, Sugarberry. It's a complicated venture, and it will take all of his time for the coming year."

That vagrant gaze that had been looking at everything in the room except Sugarberry now came to rest directly on the mare, causing her to read some unspoken truths that hung in the balance. Her heart pitched uncomfortably in her chest, and she withdrew her hoof from where it still rested in Vanguard's care. "I imagine Giorgio will step down from his responsibilities at Leonardo for that time span."

"He's taking a sabbatical, of sorts. He has plans that will give Vulcanopolis' officials a state-of-the-art environment for information and security. The scope of the project is overwhelming."

"And who will fill in for him at Leonardo while he's doing that?" Sugarberry could barely get those words out.

"He asked me to, Sugarberry."

"No." The mare shook her head adamantly, then repeated, "No."

"It's not like I'd be going alone; you and Banderol would be there with me this time."

Her eyes opening wider in surprise, Sugarberry stuttered, "F... for a whole y... year?"

"That would seem like an endless span if we were separated; but with the three of us there together, it would be a grand adventure."

Sugarberry unconsciously shivered. "Vulcanopolis has always proved to be too much of an adventure for me, I'm afraid." Their honeymoon and an anniversary trip spent in Vulcanopolis had both involved them in more intrigue than Sugarberry would have wished for in several lifetimes.

"The bad experiences we've had in connection with Vulcanopolis could have happened here just as well as over there. The city is a beautiful place, Sugarberry; you'd love it if you had a chance to get to know it better."

"I'd be looking over my shoulder at every turn."

"No you wouldn't." The stallion grinned, a light creeping back into his somber eyes. "There's still so much I'd like to show you, to experience with you. I spent countless hours when I was there before we were married- I was so homesick for you!- trying to see the sights through your eyes; I know you'd find the beauty of things I'd missed... things that you can't see in a quick visit."

"But our home... and our friends..." Sugarberry looked around her as if all that she was familiar with would disappear before her eyes just because they were discussing such a sensitive subject.

"Just as Garnet and Wishbone will still be available to us, so will all our friends here. And as for the house... well... it could be set up that one of the Vulcanopolis teachers would come here to fill in for me at Pony Pride." When Sugarberry did not comment, Vanguard plowed on. "I worked with Adriano when I was there on my exchange program; he's single, a couple of years older that I am, and always came across as a well-mannered sort of pony. If he would be willing to live here in our house..."

"What about Licorice?"

"That's something we'd have to work out, but he and Adriano would rarely have to see one another."

Sugarberry was not so sure. As much as her friendship with Giorgio now meant to her, she could not completely forget the trouble he had brought to Wishbone by his being in Dream Valley four years ago. She shook her head; she could not think about that right now. "Where would we live?"

"Giorgio said we could have our choice of the country house where we stayed on our honeymoon or the town house next to Iveta and Giles."

"It sounds like he's thought this whole thing through," Sugarberry said, a hint of bitterness in her voice.

"He's had to consider his options. He first thought that Adriano would fill in for him because he took over as department head while Giorgio was... away... before; but Adriano had his fill of managing the department. After some prompting, he said he'd go along with an exchange to a smaller college. Giorgio suggested Pony Pride, and Adriano seemed to like that idea. So Giorgio called me."

Sugarberry turned her blue eyes on Vanguard. "And how do you feel about this?"

Leaning closer to the mare to take her forehooves into his, Vanguard explained his views. "First of all, if you decide that you can't abide this move, I'll stand by you and tell Giorgio to look elsewhere. Secondly, I haven't really had time enough yet to really know my own mind; there are lots of unknowns yet to be discussed.

"However..." The stallion paused, taking a deep breath. "... I think I'd like to go back. The students there were much more interested in learning which made the teaching more meaningful; it's a plus for any teacher to have that desire to learn in his students. Also, I have always respected Giorgio as a teacher..." Here, he grinned a little uncomfortably and Sugarberry could not help but smile in return, knowing full well that her husband had suffered some rather severe bouts of jealousy over the dark green stallion from Vulcanopolis. "... so his confidence in asking me to take over his duties is something of an honor that I would hate to pass up.

"And last of all, as I've already said, I'd like to share the day-to-day life of the city with you over an extended time-period, to live in the partly quaint and partly modish town that at its heart is very warm and welcoming. So many times I wished you were there with me."

"I suppose there might be some positive considerations..." Her voice trailed off, considering the possibilities.

Pleased with the progress he had made, Vanguard continued. "On the plus side, too, you'd have a chance to become better acquainted with any number of ponies that you've only met briefly on our short trips there. And how many new babies haven't you seen yet?"

"Babies!" Sugarberry's rising thoughts crashed, her hoof flying to her mid-section where she suspected a new life was now growing. "What about our baby?"

"The baby can be born in Vulcanopolis just as well as in Dream Valley."

Considering the validity of that statement, Sugarberry smiled and a mischievous twinkle lit her eyes. "I suppose you're right about that; you've never quite forgiven Toby for missing Banderol's birth, have you?"

"It seems to be a habit of his." Vanguard stood up and pulled Sugarberry into his embrace. "Will you think about it, Sugarberry... about this plan to spend a year in Vulcanopolis?"

"I'll think about it... I promise." A sudden thought occurred to her. "When would you be expected to take over your duties?"

Looking heavenward, Vanguard grimaced. "I was hoping you wouldn't ask."


As if his life was forfeit, the stallion blurted out, "By the first of June."

"By the..." Sugarberry gaped.

Vanguard had his work cut out for him.

* * *

"So what do you think?" Norman, one of the senior editors at the Fairfax/Monk Publishing Firm, asked the mare as she reviewed the promotional material for her latest book. Having served as Sugarberry's agent for years before taking a new position with the area's premier publisher, the stallion could easily see that she was not enthused over the material in front of her.

"It's very well done, as usual, Norman." The mare looked up and smiled at the editor, but her heart was not in it.

"If you're dissatisfied with the way I'm handling the production of this title, please say so. Better now than later."

"If I seem preoccupied, it has nothing to do with the book." The mare sighed. She had been unable to think of anything except the potential extended trip to Vulcanopolis. Feeling that she owed her mentor an explanation, she rushed on. "Vanguard is considering a temporary position at Leonardo University in Vulcanopolis, starting as of June 1. The venture was unexpected and now needs to be decided on."

Norman leaned back in his chair thoughtfully. "Vulcanopolis, you say? I would think you'd be delighted over the prospect."

"Half of me is; the other half is balking at the change."

Eying the mare intently, Norman cleared his throat. "You have some influential friends there, don't you? I've heard you mention Clare, the world-famous designer, several times."

"Yes. Her daughter was born right here in Dream Valley less than a day after Banderol. It bonded our families even more closely together."

"Might I suggest..." The stallion stopped as he caught sight of Macarius passing by his doorway. "Macarius! Could you come in here a moment?" Norman got to his hooves quickly as if he would drag the stallion into the room by force if need be.

"Sure. What's up?" Coming through the doorway, Macarius' face brightened. "Sugarberry! How nice to see you! Norman tells me that we can expect excellent sales on your account."

"One would hope," Sugarberry smiled.

"Sugarberry's anticipating a journey, Macarius." Norman seemed more excited about the trip than Sugarberry did.

Macarius raised a quizzical eyebrow in Sugarberry's direction. "And what is your destination?"


"Vulcanopolis." Macarius drew out the syllables of the word while exchanging a significant glance with Norman. Sugarberry did not notice; she was too caught up by her waffling emotions over the decision that she and Vanguard must make to notice the two stallion's expressions. She did manage to repeat the essentials of her current dilemma to Macarius, who seemed to think it was an opportunity too good to pass up.

"Sugarberry, you'll be the envy of everyone in Dream Valley... except Tiffany, of course, what with her gallivanting back and forth since her marriage. I'm delighted for you and your family." He rubbed his forehooves together. "Why don't you stop in my office when you and Norman are finished here? We haven't had a good visit in some time."

This effusive speech did garner Sugarberry's attention and she stared at the retreating stallion until he was out of sight. "Is he working too hard?" she queried as she turned her attention back to Norman.

"You might say that," Norman hedged. "Umm... do you have any questions or suggestions about the lay-out?" He nodded at the artwork and promo literature and seemed anxious for the mare to leave.

"No; I wouldn't change a thing," Sugarberry smiled, knowing when she was no longer wanted. She got to her hooves. "Thanks for everything you've done to insure the success of my book."

"That's my job," Norman said, leading Sugarberry to his door. "Oh, and don't forget to stop by the boss's office."

* * *

Pondering Norman's obvious desire to be rid of her and Macarius' blatant desire to talk with her, Sugarberry was able to escape her concerns about Vulcanopolis for the length of time it took her to walk down the carpeted hallway to the publisher's office. Jasmine, the executive assistant, smiled her welcome and motioned at the open door. "Just go on in," she invited. "He said to expect you."

Sugarberry found Macarius with his back to her, staring out the window, his bearing one of suppressed excitement. She stopped just inside the door and cleared her throat, causing the stallion to spin around, a welcome smile on his face. He crossed the room in several long strides and guided her to a chair before he went to seat himself behind his desk. He leaned back, steepling his hooves before him.

"You've been to Vulcanopolis before," he stated.

"Y... yes. Vanguard and I honeymooned there, and we spent our anniversary there last summer."

"I hear it's a beautiful place, nice scenery, pleasant weather..."

"It's all of those things."

Macarius brushed the tips of his hooves against his chin. "Clare's Creations is there. You're a friend of hers."

"Clare and her husband are very good friends of Vanguard and I," Sugarberry noted, a puzzled expression on her face. Macarius' litany of statements was unnerving. "Why do you ask?"

For several long moments, Macarius said nothing; then, suddenly, he dropped his hooves to the desk and leaned forward. "Sugarberry, I've been wanting to do a book on the fashion industry for some time... an in-depth study of what goes on behind the scenes as well as the glitz and glamour of the final designs being unveiled at a fashion show. I approached Mirabella about the subject, but she flatly refused to cooperate with any outsiders coming into her domain... snooping, she called it. What I wonder now is... would Clare be open to having her company researched for the book?"

"I... I'd have no way of knowing; I can't speak for Clare."

"Is your friendship with her strong enough that if you were to author the book, she would be amenable to the idea?"

A blinding flash of clarity struck Sugarberry's befuddled thoughts. So this is why Norman and Macarius had received her news with such enthusiasm! "You want me to write the book?" she squeaked.

"Why not? This opportunity is too good to pass up... if Clare gives her okay. You'll be right there in Vulcanopolis and you already know the key players. You'll have plenty of time to sit-in on the day-to-day operations of everything from what the top honchos do with their time to what it takes to get a finished design fabricated and every step in-between. What do you think?"

"I've never written a non-fiction work before," Sugarberry frowned as Macarius looked at her hopefully.

"The facts are all there for you; all you have to do is ferret them out. What I have in mind, Sugarberry, is a book that will appeal to everyone. It will cover not only the glamorous side of fashion, but also the behind-the-scenes decision-making that an executive like Clare must make. I want a book that a pony who shops the mall will peruse because of the enticement of high fashion, and a pony who runs the business down the street will want to open so he or she can emulate the success Clare enjoys."

"The practical and the emotional," Sugarberry summed up.

"Exactly," beamed Macarius. "You understand exactly." He leaned back in his chair once more. "This is a perfect opportunity. You'll be right there in the thick of things, so you can really study the company in depth. Once you're familiar with the heartbeat of the industry, I'll send a photographer over to document what you'll be including in your text; we're going to want large, vibrant photos to accompany your insights." Macarius ran a hoof through his mane, tense with the possibilities now within reach... well, almost.

"Macarius, Vanguard and I haven't even come to a consensus yet on whether or not we'll be going to Vulcanopolis," a flustered Sugarberry quavered. Already in turmoil over the conflicting emotions of that decision, she was now faced with an equally serious option tethered to it. Sugarberry put her hoof to her flushed cheek, then ran it up to her temple where a headache was gathering force. "I have to think about this."

"Of course you do, Sugarberry," Macarius empathized. "I know this has taken you by surprise. Talk it over with Vanguard. Let him know that I'm behind you one-hundred per cent." The stallion got to his hooves and Sugarberry followed suit. "You and I'll have plenty of opportunity before the first of June to discuss in detail what I'm aiming at with this project, so don't worry about a thing. By the time you leave for Vulcanopolis, you'll be only too anxious to get started on your writing."

Sugarberry wished she could be so sure.

* * *

Hunched over his desk correcting test papers covered with numbers, symbols, diagrams, charts, and convoluted formulas, Vanguard's wrinkled brow attested to his deep concentration when a light tap drew his attention to the doorway of his office. His brow cleared and a smile lit his face as he jumped to his hooves to meet his wife.

"What a welcome surprise!" Kissing Sugarberry's cheek, he could almost feel the tension emanating from the mare. "What's happened?" he asked, absorbing some of the mare's stress.

"Mental overload," the mare smiled weakly, leaning into her husband for some reassurance. "I was at Fairfax/Monk to see Norman, and the strangest thing happened." She sighed deeply, trying to organize her thoughts. "I had explained to Norman and Macarius about our tentative plan to spend a year in Vulcanopolis, and Macarius couldn't have been happier. It fit into his plans, you see."

"And what do Macarius' plans have to do with ours?" Vanguard asked guardedly.

"Clare's Creations," Sugarberry responded as if that explained everything. Dropping into a convenient chair, she explained the day's events as succinctly as possible, then turned pleading eyes to Vanguard. "It would be a fantastic adventure, Vanguard, but I'm still not sure that I want to leave home..." the mare stopped abruptly.

"And?" queried Vanguard, sensing a certain reticence in his spouse.

"And I'm not even sure I'm capable of doing a real-life study."

Vanguard smiled reassuringly. "I haven't a single doubt in your abilities."

"You have no choice but to say that."

Chuckling, Vanguard teased, "Admit it, Sugarberry. You can't wait to get started just to prove that you can do it."

"It would take a lot of time and a lot of work."

"If you're busy, you won't miss being away from home."

"There is that." Sugarberry still looked downcast.

"Something else is bothering you."

Hesitating, Sugarberry found it difficult to meet her husband's eyes; but with a determination of will, she finally looked directly at him. "I wasn't willing to go to Vulcanopolis for you, but I am willing to go for me. I feel very selfish." Her gaze dropped once more.

"Then you know what I've been going through, asking you to make this sacrifice for me," Vanguard assured her. "If we both have a reason for going, then neither of us can have any regrets."

"It will still be difficult to leave Dream Valley behind."

"That's true, Sugarberry, but let's concentrate on what's ahead."

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