Smoke. Too much smoke. Granted, even a little smoke wasn’t the best sign in a library. It’s even worse of a sign in a lab in a library. And, as mentioned before, this was more than a little smoke. If it could this to everything around it, then what did it do to the one-
Focus, Twilight. Observe your surroundings. Make sure there’s no immediate dangers. Panicking and getting emotional helps no one. No fires. That was good. That beam didn’t set anything aflame. Hopefully it hadn’t opened up a portal for some hellspawn. But there was a severe lack of demonic chanting growls. Now where was-
“Owlicious! Owlicious!” Spike shouted, before falling to a small bout of coughs.
“Spike! Follow my voice!” Spike must’ve been close, as he made it to her side in seconds. “Where’s Owlicious?”
“I don’t know!’ he exclaimed back, voice panicked. “When that flash of light came out of that experiment, he pushed me out of the way! It’s my fault! If I had been faster I-”
“Don’t blame yourself, Spike. It’s not your fault. It wasn’t your experiment. It was mine,” she said, eyes lowering to the floor out of guilt. Her eyes quickly refocused on spike, alight with determination. “But we can’t spend time assigning blame to ourselves when Owlicious needs our help.”
“Yeah. Yeah! You’re right!” Spike bounced with renewed purpose. He cupped his claws together and bellowed, “Owlicious! Owlicious buddy!” Twilight joined in as they shuffled through the thinning smoke.
Finally, they were answered with a “Hoo?”
“What the hay, Scootaloo? Are you sick in the brain or somethin’?”
“You chose dare, Bloom. Now pucker up and get it done already,” Scootaloo grumped, thwacking her friend lightly with a wing.
Apple Bloom gulped audibly and shook herself before rising to her feet, resolved and ready for action. “Opalescence? Could y’all come here for a moment?” The white cat deigned to give her a baleful eye before daintily grooming her forepaws, practically oozing with lazy disdain. “Alright then,” Apple Bloom muttered. “Time to bring out the big guns.” She tied a practiced knot in a curtain sash and sent the paisley lasso flying around the persian’s midriff before yanking her across the floor and picking up the now furious and spitting cat with two forelegs. Then she licked her lips, sighed, and pressed them to Opal’s yowling mouth.
With a loud bang and the overwhelming scent of ozone, the lights in the Boutique all flickered and failed, and Apple Bloom flew backwards, her entire face tingling and half-numb. An eerie, fey light emerged from where Opal had been, and with a cascading sound of chimes the lights came back on.
A svelte unicorn, hogtied by the curtain sash and looking very, very grumpy, sat in the middle of a large scorched section of the carpet. She looked down at her hooves, studying them for a minute. Then her odd, green eyes pierced Apple Bloom’s, and she sighed.
“You’ve broken my curse with a kiss,” the unicorn told Bloom, her tail lashing in an odd, lazy sweep
In the large main area of the Ponyville library stood Twilight and her five closest friends, along with those friends’ pets. Normally this wouldn’t be a crisis—normally this wouldn’t even be anything worth raising a single eyebrow over. But there was an important difference between the present moment and the average pony pet playdate. All of the pets were no longer pets. They were ponies.
Every single one of whom was staring, with unnerving intensity, at Fluttershy. Fluttershy, meanwhile, had her eyes firmly fixed on the worn floorboards of the library. The pegasus stood absolutely motionless, almost as though she feared being mauled should a single muscle so much as twitch.
All the other ponies—the other ponies who’d started the day as ponies, that was—exchanged puzzled glances with one another. Pinkie giggled, while Rainbow Dash merely shrugged. Twilight shook her head and returned to speed-reading through her copy of Magical Transformations and Transfigurations.
It was Owlowiscious who broke the silence, and Fluttershy flinched in reply but made no sound.
“Hey, ‘Shy?” Tank’s voice was bright and cheerful. “You remember what you said that—”
Fluttershy began whimpering, softly but audibly.
Fluttershy opened the door to the library and was greeted by the sudden silence of interrupted conversations and six ponies looking at her.
She reacted accordingly. With an “Eeep” and a step back she tried to leave the treehouse again, but the white unicorn stallion behind her blocked the path.
He gently but firmly pushed Fluttershy into the main room, brushed a hoof through his short cropped dark grey mane before he addressed the other ponies. “Good morning, I’m Angel Bunny,” he said. His voice sounded not unlike Big Mcintosh, in fact he even looked quite like the farmer, except for the different colors and the horn. And the blank flank, the pony had no cutie mark despite looking more than twenty five summers old. “Excuse me for skipping the introductions, but I can see the gang is almost all here. I’ll just assume that you ponies are the other pets? And you woke up just like me this morning? As a pony?”
The assembled ponies nodded and voiced their agreement. Angel noticed that Rarity wore a smug face and that she collected a few coins from Applejack and Rainbow Dash. Next to Rarity sat a white earthpony mare with a light violet mane. Just by the way she looked at him he could tell that this was the annoying cat. “Opalescence. Winona”, he nodded at her and at the pony next to her and tried to keep a neutral face. Next to the cat sat a brown pegasus mare, her unkempt long white hair hanging down over her eyes. To his amazement Winona, no other pet could have been it, seemed on good terms with the cat. They resumed chatting right after he had greeted them. How could anyone like to talk to that stuck-up cat?
Apple Bloom tapped her hooves on the wooden floor of the clubhouse, and it was quiet enough she could hear the wind rustling the trees outside and every sniff of Sweetie Belle’s nose. Scootaloo wobbled as she tried to walk backwards on her hind legs and kept falling over after every two steps. Sweetie Belle just watched her.
“Ain’t there a pie eatin’ contest this week?” Apple Bloom asked.
Scootaloo landed on her back and groaned. “We tried that already.”
“Urg,” Sweetie Belle said, clutching her hooves against her stomach. “Don’t remind me. I was so sick after that.”
“Hey! How about roller derby!” Scootaloo said, lifting her head from the floor.
Apple Bloom shook her head. “Nah. We tried that too.” She stretched out her right hind leg. “Besides, my leg still hurts sometimes after that fall.”
“Maybe we could…” Sweetie Belle blushed and pressed her nose into her folded hooves. “…ask a grown-up for advice?”
Scootaloo’s eyes widened and Apple Bloom smacked her hoof on the floor as she glared at Sweetie Belle. “We ain’t that desperate!”
“Wait, girls, shut up!” Scootaloo said, rolling over and leaping up to her feet. “I’ve got it! I figured out what we’re good at!”
“Yeah, I got nothing.”
“Nothing? Nothing at all?”
“Not even one tiny little…”
“Are you absolutely, positively sure, Spike?”
“Well, thank you for trying. I guess I’ll go ask somepony else.”
“Alright then. Good luck.”
Two mares sat across from one another at a table made out of an overturned crate inside the barn at Sweet Apple Acres. Sunlight filtered through the slats, casting bright lines over the heaps of hay and empty barrels.
“Ya sure ‘bout this, sugarcube?” Applejack held the mug reluctantly in her hooves. She frowned deeply at its contents.
Rainbow Dash tapped her hoof impatiently. “You said it was free. Yeah, I’m sure about this. It’s cider!”
Applejack shook the mug, sloshing its contents around a bit. “It really ain’t,” she said, scowling at the mug. “More like applesauce an’ sawdust. I meant it more as a joke when I said it was free; we don’t ever sell the stuff that’s left in the bottom.”
“Are you saying I can’t have it?” Rainbow asked.
Applejack sighed and, with a moment’s hesitation, pushed the mug across to Rainbow. “If ya get sick, do it outside, okay? I don’t wanna have to clean it up.”
Okay, so, there’s this really cheerful pink pony, right? Right. And she’s basically the best pony in the entire world, nay, the entire multiverse, because she loves everybody and she wants to make everybody happy and yet she has hidden depths and gloriously angsty backstory, because absolutely nobody wants to grow up on a gray and lifeless rock farm.
I mean, how do you even grow rocks? What do you do with the rocks once they’re grown? There are a lot of unanswered questions here.
So anyway, there are these other ponies, who are the pink pony’s friend, and they are all secretly in love with the pink pony because, let’s be honest, who wouldn’t be in love with her? I’m just saying. Anyway, so they’re all in love with her, but none of them tell her, because they do not want to be the ones to upset the delicate and volatile dynamics of the entire friend group. The pink pony goes on sadly unaware of her five friends’ feelings, never knowing the truth, never knowing the sweet, sweet embrace of another mare.
It is tragic. Completely and utterly tragic. But isn’t love unrealized always a little tragic? Yes. Yes, I think it is.
“Sharks.” Twilight leveled an incredulous expression at Rainbow Dash.
“Yeah, sharks!” Rainbow waved her forehooves open and closed in imitation of a pair of enormous jaws.
Twilight raised an eyebrow. “But you said she was a mile in the air.”
“She was,” Rainbow said. “These were flying sharks.”
“Flying sharks,” Twilight repeated.
“I know, isn’t it awesome?” Rainbow grinned wide. “They’re just as dangerous as regular sharks, but they can fly!”
“Uh huh.” Twilight tapped her hoof on the desk.
Rainbow dug under a pile of papers. “I forget how she gets out of that one, but she does, and it’s really awesome. Where did I put it?”
“‘Tis Twilight’s fault.” Luna’s voice was muffled by the pillow she’d buried her head under. She was sprawled across the luxurious sofa in the Royal Sisters’ shared entertainment room. A half-full bottle of mead sat on a nearby table. An empty lay on the floor.
Celestia, sitting on the loveseat with a wineglass floating beside her, found the energy to smile at her sister. “Why would you say that?”
“She has stolen the ambassador’s intelligence and taken it for her own. There can be no other explanation.”
A wisp of green smoke swirled in through the fireplace. It gathered itself up over Celestia’s head, spun and imploded with a small pop. A crystal materialized as the smoke vanished, which Celestia caught with her magic.
“It seems my student has sent us a report, and she used her new toy. Perfect timing, wouldn’t you say, Luna?”
Luna peeked out from under her pillow. “Verily. Please, put it on lest I return to that griffin with baster in hoof.”
Celestia hid a chuckle behind her glass as she levitated the crystal over to the contraption they’d imported from the Crystal Empire.
“Waaugh!” Lyra tumbled off of the couch and took her blanket with her, ending up in a snug, fuzzy tube on the floor of the apartment. She took a second to observe her predicament and giggled, “Hey, I’m a caterpillar!”
“Cute,” Bon Bon deadpanned above Lyra, “but the Las Pegasus Greats don’t need a bug, they need their lyrist. And unless you’re planning to inch your all across the city…”
“See? This is why you need to let me buy a skateboard,” Lyra said, taking her fore-hooves out of the blanket and scooting herself across the carpet. “I could be racing there right now.”
Bon Bon face-hoofed. “Are you always this scatter-brained when you wake up?”
“Only when I’ve slept for over 12 hours,” Lyra said matter-of-factually. Her face suddenly lit up. “Oh, Bon Bon, you need to hear about this crazy dream I had! I was Pee Wee Hermane, you were Revolver Ocelot, and we were fighting over the rights to the Elements of Harmony when—”
“Lyra!” Bon Bon shouted. She fixed her roommate with a stern look. “One, out of the blanket. Two, out of dreamland. Three, out the door!” she jabbed a hoof towards the front door.
“Fine, fine. I can see you aren’t in a mood to discuss this rationally,” Lyra sighed, pulling herself out her cozy prison. “But you know, the longer you have to stand around and tell me to get band practice, the less time you have to get yourself to work, right?”
“Well, that’s, well,” Bon Bon stammered as she looked at a hanging clock, “I have to go!”
Bon Bon threw the front door open and dashed outside, letting the door swing back with a ‘clack’ as it rebounded and hit the door-frame.
“Heh, knew that would work,” Lyra yawned, gathering up her blanket and depositing herself back on the couch. “Now, no need to rush myself; nopony shows up to practice anyways. Just gonna sit here, relax, aaand talk to myself. Actually, I should probably stop that last thing. Starting to scare myself out a bit now.”
Lyra covered her mouth with a hoof as her body melted into the couch with another yawn. “If I had it my way, I’d never have to move again…”
Fancy Pants almost dropped his monocle into the cocktail before him when he saw a certain princess enter ‘the Free Pony’. Years of political experience told him that now was a moment a truth: Fight or flight, truth or dare. The two tall cocktails that already coursed through his brain agreed and assured him that Luna would make for excellent entertainment. His hooves, however, were less enthusiastic and because Sir Fancy Pants, President of the House of Nobles, trusted his hooves a lot more than his brain, it took him a bit longer than expected to reach the alicorn that still stood at the club’s entrance.
Luna looked a little lost and unsure about the place. Her face light up as she saw the familiar face. “Lord Fancy Pants! I bid you a fair night, it is so good to see you.”
“Wow, Luna!” The alicorn raised an eyebrow at his unfamiliar attitude, but Fancy didn’t let that stop him. “I take it you haven’t been here before, eh?” Without even waiting for her to reply he continued, “Well, let me tell you, this is the Free Pony. You left all titles and ranks, even your race, behind when you walked through that door. Everyone is equal in here. That’s the only rule in here. As long as you can pay your tab. Ok, two rules. Oh, and what happens in the Pony, stays in the Pony. Three rules… I’ll tell you when I remember more. Want a drink? I’m buying!”
For Ditzy, this was a dream come true. Her friend Carrot Top set her up on a blind date! She hadn’t been this happy since Time Turner left her.
In his defense, she would have left him if he had puked muffins on her mom too.
She ran to her room, searching through her tiny closet for her special dress. Here it was!
The dress was unassuming at first glance, but when the pudgy mare slipped in, the light blue lace accented her in all the right places. She remembered the last time she wore this with a shudder. It had been the last Grand Galloping Gala she ever intended to go to.
She smiled as she started to hum and dance in her room, and tripped on her saddlebag. With an “Ooohm,” she giggled. She went back to her closet, and pulled out her box of special things. After sorting through her… personal things, she found the expensive bag Carrot had bought her on her birthday. The one she had waited to wear until a very special occasion.
Meanwhile, in Canterlot, the moon princess fidgeted as the royal tailor fitted her new dress.
“Your highness, please! You’re wrinkling the dress!”
“I’m sorry Silver Spool. I’ve… well, I’ve never went on a blind date before. Especially not one requested by one of our subjects.”
Rainbow sipped at her drink and wondered exactly what had led her to this point, sitting in a mostly deserted bar while a tearful unicorn she hardly even knew leaned on her shoulder and wailed loudly.
“…I mean,” the minty green mare sobbed, “how am I even supposed to compete with that?”
It was Rarity’s fault, Rainbow decided. Rarity had been the one that had told her that there was a place where they sold the surplus cider after the special seasonal sale was over. She was the reason Rainbow had been in the bar this evening.
“Sure,” the unicorn said, waving her hoof unsteadily in the air, “Bonnie and I were going through a bit of a rough patch. What couple doesn’t have a few fights?”
Or maybe it was Applejack’s fault for not making enough of the stuff during the regular cider season. If there had been enough cider to go around, Rainbow wouldn’t have been in here looking for more when she had burst in the door, her eyes brimming with tears.
Rainbow Dash’s companion took what looked like a significantly larger gulp of her drink than was strictly healthy for a pony to take in one go. “So when she put in for that matching service, I figured, why not let her have her fun, right?”
She looked to Rainbow, apparently looking for some kind of validation. Rainbow gave a noncommittal grunt.