“…and that, my little ponies, is how our town manages to keep its democratic traditions while being ruled under a diarchy! Any questions?” Beaming, Cheerilee whirled around to face the ecstatic faces and raised hooves of her beloved students, but instead was met with the half-conscious yawning of unfocused children who were too busy fighting off sleep to pay her lesson plan any mind.
“I should have known that a quiet class was too good to be true,” the schoolmare mumbled to herself in irritation, but it couldn’t be helped. After all, it was Friday afternoon, which meant that whatever fraction and a half of an attention span her students had between them had already been expended earlier in the week. A glance around the room showed that only Twist and Silver Spoon were paying attention with little difficulty. In stark contrast, Scootaloo and Apple Bloom were preoccupied with glaring daggers at Diamond Tiara, who had been peppering the back of Sweetie Belle’s head with spitballs and nasty notes whenever Cheerilee wasn’t looking.
The rest were simply running on fumes, or in the case of Snips and Snails, not running at all, as the pair fell, snoring and drooling, out of their seats in tandem. Had Cheerilee not known any better, she would have sworn that they planned that little stunt in advance.
“Alright class, that concludes our lessons for the day—” Just as Cheerilee suspected, every eye in the classroom shot wide open, save for Snips and Snails, who had begun to nuzzle against one another. “—so I’ll see you all on Monday. Have a good weekend!”
Not five seconds after Cheerilee dismissed her class, a parade of pastel-colored ponies burst out of the schoolhouse, racing towards their two days of liberation from tyrannical textbooks and lachrymose lectures. When the dust settled, only the still-gently-dozing Snips and Snails remained on the classroom floor, where they would stay until Cheerilee decided to wake them up.
Meanwhile, in the school’s playground, Apple Bloom and Scootaloo were enveloped in a heated discussion with Sweetie Belle. However, the subject at hoof was something a little more pressing than deciding how they would try to earn their cutie marks that weekend.
“Sweetie Belle, you can’t keep lettin’ Diamond Tiara walk all over you! You need to stand up for yourself!” Apple Bloom said .
“Apple Bloom, don’t worry about it, it’s not that big of a deal,” Sweetie Belle sighed.
“Not that big of a deal? Not that big of a deal!?” Scootaloo snorted and shook her head. “Sweetie Belle, it’s because of that attitude that Diamond Tiara keeps picking on you, and it’s also why she’ll never stop.”
“Because of what attitude?” asked Sweetie Belle.
“You just lettin’ her do whatever she wants and not doin’ anything about it!” Apple Bloom ran a hoof through Sweetie Belle’s mane. “I mean, just look at this!” Apple Bloom presented her spitwad-covered hoof to Sweetie Belle before looking the unicorn in the eyes. “Sweetie Belle, this needs to stop. You need to say somethin’ to that filly, let her know that you ain’t gonna take it lyin’ down, otherwise it’s just gonna get worse.”
Sweetie Belle averted her gaze to the ground and sighed. She appreciated her friends’ concern on the matter, but she didn’t want to pursue the issue any further. “Seriously you guys, I don’t mind. Let’s just forget about it for now. Why don’t we—”
“Sweetie Belle, we are not going to just let this go! We’re going to find Diamond Tiara and make it clear that she can’t treat you like manure.” Scootaloo was absolutely seething with anger. “When we find that spoiled, stuck up, snot-nosed little brat I’m gonna—”
“Going to what, Blank-flank?” The voice carrying the question was as sour and acidic as the vapors surrounding the Everfree Swamp, and the source was none too pleasant either.
“Diamond Tiara,” Scootaloo growled through grit teeth. “You’ve got a lot of nerve showing your face around us.”
“Why’re you here?” Apple Bloom barked, stepping in front of Sweetie Belle.
“Why the hostility?” Diamond Tiara asked through a mask of feigned shock. “I’m just here to get my history notes from Sweetie Belle’s mane. Isn’t that right, Silver Spoon?”
“Whatever, Diamond Tiara. Can you just hurry up so we can be on our way?” asked Silver Spoon.
“You hear that Blanky-Belle? We’ve got other things to do besides dig my homework from that hydra’s nest you call a mane, so you need to hurry it up. Or better yet, you can keep my notes and give me yours so I can put them together in your mane for you. Who knows, maybe being a spitwad target is your special talent.”
Sweetie Belle did her best to ignore Diamond Tiara’s insults, and instead tried to convince her fellow Crusaders to drop the subject. “Come on girls, let’s just go somewhere else. Maybe we can—”
“No,” Scootaloo said. “We’re going to solve this right here, right now.” The fuming pegasus stomped towards Diamond Tiara, wings flaring as high as her temper.
“Scootaloo, please don’t do this.”
No response, but it didn’t surprise Sweetie Belle. She knew her pleas would be falling on deaf ears the minute Diamond Tiara showed up. She slumped to her haunches, feeling powerless as she watched Apple Bloom follow their hot-blooded friend into the fray. She knew that she didn’t have to worry about her friends since they were so headstrong, but ultimately she knew that whatever they did here would fall back on her if Diamond Tiara ever caught her alone. They were essentially trying to get rid of a parasprite by feeding it, when the simplest solution would have been to starve the problem so it couldn’t escalate any further.
From the other side of the slowly-unfolding debacle, Silver Spoon watched the two-on-one tongue-lashing with superlative disinterest. It was somewhat fun a year ago when they used to tease Apple Bloom, but back then that was all it was: teasing. As time dragged on, Diamond Tiara’s methods had changed from petty name-calling to outright bullying and malicious blackmail. Silver Spoon always held her tongue when it came to her friend’s behavior, but in truth she was quickly growing weary of Diamond Tiara’s constant bullying of the Crusaders. In fact, due to the spoiled filly’s inability to grow up, she was growing weary of Diamond Tiara period, but it wasn’t like she could just make new friends on a whim. All the time she’d spent with Diamond Tiara had done irreparable damage to Silver Spoon’s reputation, and as a result, nopony wanted to associate with Diamond Tiara’s crony.
Silver Spoon took a moment to tune into the war of verbal slander, and immediately regretted her decision. “—is that the best you could come up with? Your brain must be as blank as your flank!” Shouted Diamond Tiara.
“Is that all you can say? Blank flank this! Blank flank that! We’ve heard it before, why don’t you start singing new tune!” Scootaloo retorted.
“Well, you’re the—”
Silver Spoon sighed, drowning out their bickering. It was sad, but from her experience they were just getting started. Silver Spoon allowed her attention to wander to the melancholy cause of the shouting match. She didn’t know Sweetie Belle very well, or at all for that matter, but she’d often seen the filly around town with either her sister or her friends, and once or twice in her family's silversmithing shop. The only other thing she knew about Sweetie Belle was that the unicorn held the third highest grade point average in the school—after Twist and Silver Spoon, respectively—but lacked a good amount of common sense when it came to simple tasks.
Save for that one shortcoming, Silver Spoon couldn’t find any other real faults with Sweetie Belle. She was polite, enthusiastic, and easily enchanted, which, while not summarily a good thing, made it easy for her to trust new ponies. Every time Silver Spoon saw Sweetie Belle though, she couldn’t help but remark that the cotton candy-maned filly was always smiling blissfully, which made the sight of Sweetie Belle on the verge of tears that much harder to look at. She couldn’t give herself a concrete reason why, but she just couldn’t stand to see the unicorn looking so miserable any longer. It wasn’t quite pity that drove these thoughts through her mind, but it wasn’t out of respect either. Silver Spoon couldn’t quite put her hoof on the reason why, but she wanted Sweetie Belle to smile, and she wanted to be personally responsible for it.
Regardless of what had spurred the feeling, it was all the reason she needed to step amidst the foolishness so that she might quell the conflict. “Stop it! All three of you, just stop it!”
The three feuding fillies ceased their bickering, and turned their scowling faces to the source of the interruption.
“Silver Spoon? What is the meaning of this?” said Diamond Tiara.
“The three of you need to stop behaving like a pack of rabid timberwolves. So stop your bickering, now.”
“Why should we listen to you? You’re no better than her!” Scootaloo shouted.
“Yeah, give us one good reason.” said Apple Bloom.
Silver Spoon said nothing. Instead she pointed to Sweetie Belle, who had finally broken down and was sobbing softly. “That seems like a pretty good reason, don’t you think?”
Apple Bloom was the first to react as she turned galloping to comfort Sweetie Belle, but Scootaloo lingered for a moment. She was upset with Diamond Tiara and confused at Silver Spoon’s sudden show of compassion, thus causing her to hesitate.
“Why are you still standing there instead of comforting your friend, blank-flank?” The insult was like arsenic on Silver Spoon’s tongue, but it served its purpose.
Scootaloo glared and grit her teeth at Silver Spoon. She knew that the gray filly was right, but her pride wouldn’t allow her to accept it. Where pride failed however, the sound of Sweetie Belle’s choked sobs succeeded. With one last indignant growl, Scootaloo turned away to follow Apple Bloom’s lead, leaving Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon to their own devices.
“That’s right, run away, blank-flanks!” Diamond Tiara called after the Crusaders. “Run away, and take Weepy-Belle with you!”
Silver Spoon rolled her her eyes at Diamond Tiara’s disgusting display.
“Did you see that loser’s face when you called her a blank-flank? I didn’t think red would show up so clearly through orange fur! That was amazing of you! Come on, Silver Spoon! Bump, bump, sugar-lump—” Diamond Tiara ceased the celebratory hoofshake mid-sentence as she caught a glimpse of Silver Spoon pitying her with cold, uncaring eyes. “Silver Spoon?” she asked nervously.
Silver Spoon sighed. This was going to be one of the hardest things she’d ever had to do, but it had to be done. “Diamond Tiara, we need to talk, but not here. Follow me.”
“Talk? About what?”
Silver Spoon didn’t respond. After stealing one last glance at Sweetie Belle, she began trotting off down the old hoof-beaten dirt roads. Diamond Tiara wasn’t far behind with her incessant griping, inquisitions, and belittling of the Cutie Mark Crusaders, all of which Silver Spoon blocked out for the sake of steeling her nerves for what she was about to say. It was going to be a long afternoon for the pair.
Back in the schoolyard, Apple Bloom sat with her forelegs wrapped around a still-quivering Sweetie Belle. Scootaloo, ever the tom-colt, kept a short distance from her friends lest she be drawn into the embrace, but offered a weak smile in the hopes that it would raise Sweetie Belle’s spirit even slightly.
After a few slight sniffles, Sweetie Belle wiped her eyes and looked at her friends. “Why couldn’t you just let it go?” Her voice was shaky, but it held no contempt. Only relative disappointment. “Why couldn’t you both just walk away? You know I hate it when you fight with her.”
Apple Bloom and Scootaloo exchanged guilty expressions before Apple Bloom opened her mouth to speak. “We were only standing up for you Sweetie Belle, we just wanted to help.”
“I know you guys meant well, but you’ve only gone and made things worse.”
“Worse?” asked Scootaloo. “How did we make things worse? If we hadn’t done anything and just left, then Diamond Tiara would have—”
“Gotten bored and found somepony else to pick on,” Sweetie Belle reasoned. “Now she’s just going to be twice as mean to me when you two aren’t around!”
Sweetie Belle looked into her friends’ faces and could see the shame splayed across their features. Her words had hit their mark. “Look, I don’t want to think about it any more. I just want to wash my mane and do some crusading, alright?”
“Sounds like a plan to me,” Apple Bloom said stroking her friend’s back.
“Fine, but if we run into Diamond Tiara again, I’m gonna buck her into next week!” said Scootaloo.
“I know you will. Thanks girls.” Sweetie Belle reached out and seized Scootaloo by the neck, dragging the pegasus into vice-like hug.
“Blegh!” Scootaloo pushed away playfully from the embrace. “Come on, Apple Bloom, let’s wait for Sweetie Belle at Sugarcube Corner, I heard Pinkie Pie came up with a whole new type of cake filled with donuts!”
“No way, I don’t believe you,” said Apple Bloom.
“Come on, you’ll see! Last one there is a rotten cockatrice egg!”
Sweetie Belle smirked deviously as she watched her friends gallop away giggling. The fact that she had managed to derail the conflict with some feigned sobs was a testament to both her knack for deception and her acting skills, courtesy of Rarity. Regardless of the result, something was bothering her. She knew that her fake crying would have gotten her fellow Crusaders’ attention eventually—most likely after the fact— but if it wasn’t for Silver Spoon’s interjection, Apple Bloom and Scootaloo would still be pointlessly arguing with Diamond Tiara. It was certainly a much appreciated gesture, but the question still remained: why had Silver Spoon done that? She certainly didn’t owe anything to the Crusaders, and even though she didn’t tease them as much as Diamond Tiara did, it wasn’t like they were on friendly terms.
Sweetie Belle scratched her head as she combed her mind for a reason why, but only came off with a hoof full of spitwads as opposed to answers. Sweetie Belle wiped her hoof on the ground and began to make her way back to the school. As soon as she reached the sink, Sweetie Belle turned the water on full blast and threw her head into the cool cleansing stream, allowing it to clear both her mane and her thoughts. Rarity would have to go through her mane for the rest later. For the time being, it felt good to have her hair mostly free of the spitwads.
No longer distracted by her self-grooming, Sweetie Belle’s thoughts drifted back to Silver Spoon. What would have driven the normally-reserved filly to raise her voice to not only Apple Bloom and Scootaloo, but Diamond Tiara as well? In the past, Silver Spoon would stand and backbite the Crusaders right alongside Diamond Tiara, but that was half a year ago. Ever since the incident with Granny Smith on Family Appreciation Day, Silver Spoon hadn’t been quite as abrasive towards anypony.
Maybe Silver Spoon wasn’t as bad as she’d thought.
Perhaps Silver Spoon wanted to put aside their differences and be friends.
Or more realistically, maybe Silver Spoon just wanted to go somewhere and the feuding was eating away at her patience.
Startled from her thoughts, Sweetie Belle whipped around to find her teacher staring at her, concerned. She noted that on the schoolmare’s back, Snips and Snails were sprawled out snoring, yet Cheerilee carried their combined weight effortlessly. “Oh, uh, yes Ms. Cheerilee?”
“Why are you still here? Did your friends leave you alone? And why is your mane soaking wet? Your sister is going to have a conniption when she sees this…”
“I’m fine Ms. Cheerilee, I was just trying wash some sand out of my hair,” she lied. “I’m going to meet up with Apple Bloom and Scootaloo later.”
“Are you sure you’re alright dear? Your eyes are red, like you’ve been crying.”
“Mm-hm. Like I said, I tripped while I was playing and got sand in my eyes and mane.” Normally Sweetie Belle would have no problem confiding in Cheerilee, but she didn’t want any more ponies involved in this personal debacle than necessary.
“Well, in that case, do you think you could do me a favor?”
“Of course Ms. Cheerilee! Anything for you!”
“Well as you can see, I’ve got to take these two sleepyheads home, but it seems as though one of your classmates left their things.” Cheerilee pulled a small saddlebag from her back and handed it to Sweetie Belle. “I was going to drop Snips and Snails off before I went looking for the owner, but since you’re here could you do it for me?”
“Sure, whose is it?”
“Oh, silly me, I didn’t bother to check.”
“Don’t worry, I’ll find the owner.” Sweetie Belle snapped a quick salute, warranting a smile from her teacher. “Who knows, maybe I could even get a detective Cutie Mark out of it!”
“That’s the spirit Sweetie Belle! Well, I’ll leave you to it! See you Monday!”
Sweetie Belle waved after her teacher, turning her attention to the bag once Cheerilee was no longer in sight. “I wonder whose bag this is.” Without a second of hesitation, the curious filly popped the clasp on the baby blue bag and began rifling through its contents in search of some clue to the owner’s identity. She didn’t have to search particularly long or hard before her hoof hit pay-dirt, landing on a plain brown glasses case. She pulled out the case and began scrutinizing it before her eyes fell on a pair of inscribed initials: S.S.
Tossing the container back in the saddlebag before slinging the pack on her back, Sweetie Belle grinned to herself. Perhaps she’d get to make a new friend this afternoon after all.
“Silver Spoon, are we there yet?” Diamond Tiara whined in the same shrill, irritated voice as she had been for the past twenty minutes. “My hooves are killing me, I’m hungry, and I want to see what presents daddy got me from his trip to Manehattan. Besides, now we’re even further away from my house. Why couldn’t we just talk about whatever back at the playground?”
Silver Spoon sighed and stopped to take in her surroundings. The empty section of road she found herself in was quite a rustic cliché, with woodland to one side, a still pond to the other, and nopony else around for miles. It was perfect for what she was about to say. “Well, I think this is far enough,” she sighed, turning around to look her best friend in the eyes. She had come this far and there was no turning back.
“Finally. Well, what did you want to talk about? And be quick about it. Like daddy says: time is money.”
“Look, you and I have been friends for years now, and I think it’s time that I tell you what I really think of you lately, Diamond.” Pushing aside any residual doubts or hesitations she might’ve had, Silver Spoon cut right to the chase and Diamond Tiara’s ego. “You’re a spoiled brat, and I’m sick of the way you act like you’re so high and mighty and treat everypony else like dirt just because you have your cutie mark or because your father is the richest stallion in ponyville. It’s unsightly behavior, and quite frankly, you disgust me.”
Diamond Tiara was taken aback by the abrupt defamation that poured forth from her friend’s mouth. She had been expecting some kind of pointless praise, or toadyish flattery regarding her looks, but what Silver Spoon had said took Diamond Tiara completely off-guard. “Wh-what did you just say to me!?”
“You heard what I said.” In a blatant show of disrespect, Silver Spoon coolly turned away from Diamond Tiara, fixing her attention on the sun’s reflection in the pond.
“Nopony talks to me like that!”
“I’m almost positive of that. The truth is wasted on you, after all.”
“Why you little—”
“Why you little what?” Silver Spoon whipped around, glaring ferociously at Diamond Tiara, who had fallen back on her habit of name-calling to deal with what she was hearing. “Are you going to call me a blank-flank? Perhaps a loser? Or better yet, an idiot? But wait, that last one wouldn’t actually fit me now would it? After all, whose tests have you been copying off of to keep your failing grades afloat? Whose notes have you been using to do your homework? They certainly weren’t yours, because yours were always in a straw or stuck in somepony else’s mane. So, what tired, recycled put-down are you going to slap me with to feel better about yourself?”
Diamond Tiara, having been effectively shut-down by Silver Spoon’s verbal assault, went still and silent.
“That’s what I thought. I’ll see you when you’ve grown up, Diamond Tiara.” Silver Spoon turned and began trotting back the way she came. She hoped that something she said to Diamond Tiara would convince her to change her ways, but as it turned out, Silver Spoon wasn’t that lucky.
“How about filly-fooler?”
The words stopped Silver Spoon where she stood. “What?”
“Oh, I’m certain you heard me, filly-fooler.”
Cheeks hot, Silver Spoon turned around to face the presently-smirking bane of her existence. “That’s low, even for you, Diamond Tiara.”
“Oops, did I let that slip?” Diamond Tiara chuckled and clasped a hoof to her mouth as though she’d heard the punchline to an incredibly amusing joke. “I’m so sorry, you know how bad I am at holding other ponies’ secrets, don’t you?”
“Diamond Tiara…” Silver Spoon growled softly.
“Why, I’m so bad at holding secrets that I might just let it out around somepony important, like the editor-in-chief of the Foal Free Press. Wouldn’t that make for quite the headline?”
“Perhaps if somepony were to apologize to me, I could be persuaded to hold this secret a little bit longer, but I don’t know, I can feel my tongue growing looser every second.”
Silver Spoon ground her teeth together angrily. She knew it was a mistake to confide her true nature in somepony like Diamond Tiara, and that turning her back on someone with such information was an even bigger folly. However, she had already come this far and backing down now would do little more than dignify Diamond Tiara’s methods and embolden her ego. Like it or not, if Silver Spoon wanted to show Diamond Tiara that she wouldn’t be pushed around by extortion and blackmail, she would have to bite the bullet. “Tell whomever you want. I’m going home.” Silver Spoon resumed her trek back down the road to town, leaving her regrets behind her as she trotted.
Diamond Tiara blinked in disbelief. Nopony had ever said no to her before, not even her own father. “Mark my words, you’ll regret this, Silver Spoon!”
“I already do.” Silver Spoon muttered under her breath as she continued along her way. With each step that carried her further from Diamond Tiara, she felt liberated, as if a weight had been lifted from her back, but she couldn’t shake the feeling of a cold pit growing in her stomach. She’d deal with whatever was causing it when the time came, but for now she was just happy with finally getting that off her chest. Right now, all she wanted to do was go home and unwind with a hot bath and a good book, but it seemed as though fate had other plans for Silver Spoon as a familiar voice cut through the silence.
“Silver Spoon! I’ve got something for you!”
Silver Spoon gave her attention to the source of the voice and found Sweetie Belle galloping towards her at a reckless pace. Silver Spoon took note that Sweetie Belle had an extra, familiar-looking saddlebag on her back and—much to Silver Spoon’s unspoken delight—a charming exuberant smile on her marshmallow white face. Much to both of the fillies’ shock, Sweetie Belle tripped and skidded to halt just before SiIver Spoon’s hooves.
“Are you okay?” Silver Spoon asked, offering Sweetie Belle a helping hoof.
Sweetie Belle took the gesture with a sheepish smile. “Uh-huh, I’ve had worse falls, like that time Scootaloo made us try zip-lining for our cutie marks.”
“Long story. Oh that’s right, here’s your saddlebag; you left it at the school you know.”
“Oh, I didn’t even realize. Thank you, Sweetie Belle.”
The two shared a moment of awkward silence as Sweetie Belle continued to grin enthusiastically at Silver Spoon. She didn’t mind the unicorn’s smile in the slightest, but in truth, she had no idea what to say. The longest conversation the two had ever engaged in had taken place only moments ago. It took her by surprise when Sweetie Belle began speaking again. “So… are you busy this afternoon?”
“Well no, but—”
“Great, you can come hang out with me and the others at Sugarcube Corner! Come on!”
“Wait, I—” Silver Spoon’s protests were cut short as Sweetie Belle seized her hoof and began galloping merrily towards the bakery.
It was going to be a long afternoon after all.
Chapter 1 End.
Sweetie Belle galloped hurriedly through the Ponyville streets with a reluctant and blushing Silver Spoon in tow. Their destination was the town’s most popular bakery, Sugarcube Corner. Silver Spoon was amazed at how quickly Sweetie could move using only three legs as she held Silver Spoon’s hoof in her own.
Sweetie Belle couldn’t afford to be late to this particular Crusaders meeting, for today was the day that the fillies would implement their latest surefire plan for earning their Cutie Marks. A scheme that Sweetie Belle had been excluded from the planning of. According to Scootaloo, it was so awesome that it had to remain secret from anypony, including herself, which was Scootaloo-talk for she didn’t really have anything planned.
It took Silver Spoon by surprise when Sweetie Belle stopped so suddenly and precisely in front of the bakery's door. "We’re here! Come on, Scootaloo and Apple Bloom are waiting for us.” The doors of Sugarcube corner had never looked so daunting or authoritative to Silver Spoon until Sweetie Belle chirped out the names of her fellow Crusaders.
“Look, Sweetie Belle.” Silver Spoon jerked her hoof out of the unicorn’s vice-like grip. “I really appreciate you inviting me to hang out with you and your friends, I really do, but the thing is… well, I just can’t, okay?”
Sweetie Belle was confused, but undeterred by Silver Spoon’s words. “But, I thought you said you didn’t have anything else to do this afternoon?”
“Well, no I don’t, but—”
“Then there’s no problem at all!” Sweetie Belle beamed.
“That’s where you’re wrong,” Silver Spoon sighed.
“Wrong? About what?” Sweetie Belle tilted her head quizzically. “You don’t have anything to do, I invited you, so there shouldn’t be a problem, right?”
Silver Spoon shook her head at the filly’s lack of understanding before looking at Sweetie Belle’s smiling face. It really was nice to see the filly happy, but she knew that nothing but trouble awaited her beyond those doors. “There is a problem. In fact there’s two of them, and they’re inside Sugarcube Corner right now.”
“Two problems in a bakery? Hmm… stale bread and hard cake? No, no, no. It’s got to be moldy muffins and crumbled cupcakes, or—”
Silver Spoon fought the urge to facehoof as Sweetie Belle delved ever deeper into the most inane prattle about bakery issues the gray filly had ever heard. “The problems are your friends.”
“My friends? Why would they be problems?”
“Well, for one, I'm certain that Scootaloo wasn't too appreciative that I called her a—" Out of consideration for Sweetie Belle who had gone out her way on Silver Spoon's account, she stopped herself from even uttering one syllable of the loathsome moniker. "Well, you know."
"Look, I don't think there's a chance in Tartarus that she'll forgive me for that so quickly, and I'm sure that Apple Bloom won't be too pleased with me either." Silver Spoon looked up to see the elation in the unicorn’s face drain out slowly. As much as she wanted to accept Sweetie Belle’s invitation, she had to let the candy-maned filly down easy. She hated to do it, but she didn’t want to see any more conflict this afternoon, especially not on her own behalf. “I think maybe—”
"Well, you just leave them to me!” Sweetie Belle interjected.
“I know how to handle Apple Bloom and Scootaloo. Just wait right here, I'll be back in a minute!"
"But—" Silver Spoon began to protest, but Sweetie Belle darted inside the bakery faster than the gray filly could concoct another argument. Silver Spoon contemplated leaving, but eventually decided against it. She told herself that she was only staying to humor Sweetie Belle, but somewhere in the back of her mind, Silver Spoon felt as if there might have been something more to it than that. For the time, she pushed those thoughts aside. She was just content to see Sweetie Belle smile.
Sweetie Belle burst into Sugarcube Corner and was immediately enraptured by the overpowering aroma of freshly baked bread. Having skipped breakfast and lunch, she couldn’t help but follow the delectable fragrance to its source. All the while she had forgotten just what she was supposed to be doing.
“Smell something you like, dear?” Sweetie Belle turned her head to face the source of the voice. Mrs. Cake stood behind the sales counter, smiling at the filly while taking meticulous care to frost a freshly baked double chocolate cake that had just emerged from the oven.
Sweetie Belle caught herself drooling at the sight of the pastry. After what seemed like a lifetime of staring at the captivating confection, the filly shook her quickly to regain her focus. “Oh, no thanks, I uhh…" Sweetie Belle's attention gradually drifted back to the rich, detailed texture, "got to find…" Sweetie Belle licked her lips as the last words slipped, absentmindedly, from her mouth. "Appleloo and Scootabloom, I think…"
“Oh your little friends? I think they’re over there.” Ms. Cake pointed to an alcove next to the counter, but the unicorn's gaze did not deviate from the cake.
"Sweetie Belle?" Mrs. Cake asked, concerned.
Sweetie Belle did not respond. Driven by hunger, she only salivated and stepped forward.
"Dearie? Are you alright? Please stop looking at the cake like that.”
Sweetie Belle took another two predatory steps forward.
Having lived under the constant threat of a certain pink pastry graveyard who inhabited the room upstairs, Mrs. Cake knew exactly how to handle and dissolve this situation. The baker slowly reached under the counter for a stale muffin. If Sweetie Belle drew too close, Mrs. Cake wouldn’t hesitate to use it to its full potential.
“Hey, Sweetie Belle!” Scootaloo called from a booth near the counter, snapping Sweetie Belle from her cake-induced stupor. "It’s about time you made it here. Apple Bloom and I have been waiting forever!”
Sweetie Belle took one last look at the cake and trotted towards her friends, remembering that she had Silver Spoon waiting outside for her. Mrs. Cake heaved a sigh of relief and turned to resume frosting the masterpiece, only to find crumbs and a few strands of pink fur in its place.
“Yeah,” Apple Bloom said through a mouth full of cherry tart. “What took you so long? I thought you were just washin’ your mane.”
“Well, I ran into Ms. Cheerilee at the schoolhouse because somepony left their saddlebag, and to make a long story short, I wound up making a new friend!” said Sweetie Belle.
“New friend?” Apple Bloom and Scootaloo asked in tandem.
“That’s right.” Sweetie Belle paused to click her forehooves together nervously before continuing. “And I was kind of wondering if she could… come crusading with us?” she asked, peering up nervously from underneath her mane.
“Of course!” said Apple Bloom “Any friend of yours is a friend of ours!”
Sweetie Belle turned to Scootaloo, awaiting the pegasus’ gesture of approval which came in the form of rolled eyes. “Fine, but hurry up! I want to start crusading already.”
Sweetie Belle hadn’t expected anything less from her friends. “Great, let me go get her from outside.” Sweetie Belle turned away from her friends and galloped back out of the bakery.
Through a nearby window, Scootaloo could make out the top of Sweetie Belle’s bouncy mane as she talked to somepony just outside of Scootaloo’s line of sight. “Hm, I wonder who this new friend of Sweetie Belle’s is,” Scootaloo mused from across the table.
“Yeah, we’re pretty much friends with almost everypony in the class. Who could it be?”
“Hmmm…” Scootaloo took a moment to reflect on Apple Bloom’s words, but nothing came to mind.
“Well, don’t think about it too hard.” Apple Bloom pointed a hoof to the front door. “It looks like we’re about to find out.”
Sweetie Belle giddily bounced back into the bakery, beaming brilliantly. Behind her, Silver Spoon crept low, attempting to hide herself from Apple Bloom and Scootaloo’s view using Sweetie Belle as cover. Faster than Silver Spoon could react, Sweetie Belle had swept behind the gray filly, placing her forehooves on her new friend’s rump. “H-hey! Watch where you put your hooves!”
Ignoring the pleas of the silver-maned earth pony, Sweetie Belle pushed the skittish filly along the bakery floor until she was in front of the booth. “Apple Bloom, Scootaloo, I’d like you both to meet my new friend, even though you both already know her!”
The corners of Silver Spoon’s mouth began to tug upwards into a nervous grin. “Ummm, hi?”
“What is she doing here?” Scootaloo hissed.
Almost reflexively, Silver Spoon prepared to take up verbal arms against the pegasus, she could almost feel a defensive retort slide off of her tongue. Instead, she looked at the hopeful face of Sweetie Belle and sighed. That wasn’t who she was any more. That wasn’t who she had been for a long time, and this situation was exactly why she didn’t want to come in with Sweetie Belle. She knew that Scootaloo and Apple Bloom would be less than pleased to see her after what she’d said that afternoon, and Scootaloo’s behavior confirmed what she already knew. This whole situation was a lost cause.
“Now hold on a second with that, Scoots,” said Apple Bloom, waving off the pegasus’ hostility with a hoof, much to Silver Spoon's surprise. “Sweetie Belle said that she wanted to be friends. Shouldn’t we give her the benefit of the doubt?”
Scootaloo slammed her hooves on the table hard enough to launch the cake on her plate to the floor. “No way! She's Diamond Tiara’s lackey! In fact, I’ll bet that snobby little pain-in-the-flank put her up to this.”
“Aw, hush with that stinkin’ thinkin’. I for one think we should give her a chance.”
The protest in Scootaloo’s voice was evident. “But she’s—”
"Tryin' to be neighborly." Apple Bloom smiled and winked at Silver Spoon.
Silver Spoon was bewildered that Apple Bloom of all ponies was giving her the benefit of the doubt after the year and a half of grief she and Diamond Tiara had given the farm filly.
Sweetie Belle read the atmosphere and Scootaloo's face and decided this was the time to unleash her endgame technique. She threw herself to the ground before Scootaloo and looked up with wide, pleading emerald eyes. “Please Scootaloo?”
Sweetie Belle could sense that Scootaloo’s resistance was beginning to falter. Taking advantage of this lapse in hostility, Sweetie Belle fluttered her eyelashes and pouted, making sure to keep eye contact with the pegasus.
“Gah! Fine. Okay, okay, just stop looking at me like that!”
Sweetie Belle smirked at Scootaloo as the pegasus ceded under her will-breaking puppy-dog stare. For the second time that day she had successfully bent her friends to her will.
“She can come with us, but only on a pro-proba- proba…”
“Probationary?” Apple Bloom finished for her struggling friend. “That the word you’re lookin’ for?”
“Yeah, that word! She can come but on a proba— whatever Apple Bloom just said basis.”
“Good enough for me!” chirped Sweetie Belle. “Isn’t that great, Silver Spoon? You get to see what Cutie Mark Crusading is all about.”
Silver Spoon returned Sweetie Belle’s enthusiasm with a weak grin, but withdrew it just as quickly when something occurred to her. She turned her attention to her flank, gazing sadly upon the only flaw in the Crusaders’ plan: her Cutie Mark. “But, there would be no point…” she concluded sadly.
“No point? What do you mean no point?”
“I already found my special talent.” Silver Spoon turned away from Sweetie Belle, adding an air of melodrama to the atmosphere.
“Shucks, that don’t mean nothin’,” said Apple Bloom. “I mean, just because you already got your special talent doesn’t mean you can’t do other stuff. Why not just do it for fun?”
“For fun?” Silver Spoon perked up thoughtfully at the sentiment. She hadn’t had any real fun since the novelty of insulting the very ponies who were presently offering her such a wondrous opportunity had worn off. It was a truly ironic situation.
“Yeah!” Sweetie Belle excitedly jumped back to Silver Spoon and took hold of the gray filly’s hooves. This simple act, once again, elicited a small blush from Silver Spoon. Thankfully it went unnoticed by Sweetie Belle as she began to rant. “Who knows, you could find something else you’re good at and end up with another Cutie Mark! Wouldn’t that be awesome?”
Apple Bloom shuddered at the memories Sweetie Belle’s remark stirred up. "Trust me, y’all don’t want more then one of them things. It does somethin’ to you. Somethin’ weird…”
“Ahem!” Scootaloo coughed, garnering the attention of her fellow Crusaders. “If it’s alright with you, I’d like to get started with today’s planning meeting.” Scootaloo reached into a bag on the table and pulled out a rolled up piece of tattered parchment. Flattening the paper out on the table revealed a crude, but accurate, map detailing some major landmarks of Ponyville proper. A closer look at the map showed that most of the landmarks had been crossed out in red crayon.
“Hey, Scoots, ain’t this the same map we used on the day of the talent show?” asked Apple Bloom.
“That’s right,” the Pegasus confirmed proudly.
Sweetie Belle raised an eyebrow bemusedly. “Then your idea is to go to the same places as last time?”
“Well, not exactly—”
“You know that we didn’t get our Cutie Marks for that stuff the first time, right?”
“Yeah, but this—”
“We can’t do things we already did before. It ain’t fruitful,” said Apple Bloom. “We ought to go somewhere new and excitin’ to search for our Cutie Marks, so we can’t use this.”
Apple Bloom slid the old map off the table, where it floated to the ground before Silver Spoon’s hooves. Curious, the gray filly adjusted the map and noticed something that the other two had completely overlooked.
“I did pick somewhere new to to search,” Scootaloo grumbled under her breath.
“Alright, Sweetie Belle, I guess it’s up to you and me to plan things out for today.”
“Actually, I don’t think that’s going to be necessary,” said Silver Spoon. She pointed a hoof to three very lightly shaded pencil scribblings on the lower half of the map.
“I didn’t want to draw a whole new map, but there wasn’t a lot of space on this, so I just marked the bottom,” Scootaloo admitted.
“Oh. Huh.” Apple Bloom slid out of the booth and began looking at the spots Silver Spoon had pointed out. “Sorry about that, Scoots, guess I jumped the gun there.”
Sweetie Belle also craned her neck to get a better view of the map “Hey, these markings look like they’re dangerously close to the Everfree Forest. What are we going to do in there?”
“Don’t worry about that, I’ll let you know when the time comes.” Scootaloo grabbed her saddlebag before sliding out of the booth. She kicked the the map lightly, causing it to roll up before seizing and stuffing it into her bag. “For now, let’s head up to my house, I’ve gotta get some stuff for what I have planned.”
Apple Bloom raised an eyebrow. “What kind of stuff?”
Scootaloo rolled her eyes at Apple Bloom’s question. “Like I said, you’ll know when the time comes, now come on!” With no further words, Scootaloo turned and bolted out of the bakery.
“Hey, wait up Scoots!” Apple Bloom cried, following the pegasus.
“Alright, let’s go, Silver Spoon!” Sweetie Belle turned to pursue her friends, but quickly found she was unable to move. She turned her head to see just what was hindering her movement, and found that Silver Spoon was holding her cotton candy tail with her mouth. “Silver Spoon?”
“Look, I just wanted to say thanks for all of this. After what happened this afternoon, I—” Silver Spoon stopped herself and contemplated whether or not it would be wise to say anything further.
“What happened this afternoon? You mean the fight with Diamond Tiara?”
Silver Spoon shook her head, dismissing the thought. The truth could wait. “Don’t worry about it. I just wanted to say thanks, Sweetie Belle.”
Sweetie Belle smiled in response to the odd show of gratitude. “Come on, we’ve got catch up with the others.” Sweetie Belle grabbed her new friend by the foreleg.
Silver Spoon noted that the unicorn had been awfully liberal with all of the hoof-holding. She wondered if this was a regular behavior of Sweetie Belle’s or perhaps something else.
Her train of thought was derailed as, faster than the earth pony could perceive, Sweetie Belle dragged her out of the bakery, galloping merrily along the way to Scootaloo’s house where a new adventure awaited their arrival.
Unbeknownst to the pair, they were being watched from afar by none other than the very filly who had, unwittingly, set these events into motion.
It was already bad enough that Silver Spoon had completely and utterly insulted Diamond Tiara, but that was something the spoiled filly could tolerate. Something she could admire even. But the sight of her former best friend running hoof-in-hoof and giggling with one of the blank-flanks Diamond Tiara had sworn a vendetta against disgusted the filly to no end.
Diamond Tiara ground her teeth furiously as she accepted the fact that Silver Spoon had betrayed her to befriend the enemy. No, Silver Spoon was her enemy. She had been all this time. After all, what Silver Spoon had said couldn’t have been spur of the moment: those words had to have been pent-up, backed by time and conviction. It became abundantly clear that Silver Spoon had been planning to betray her all this time.
“That traitor, she’ll pay for this…” Diamond Tiara growled as she watched Sweetie Belle and Silver Spoon disappear around the corner of the street. Diamond Tiara held her glare for only a moment longer before something clicked in her brain. Sweetie Belle and Silver Spoon were holding hooves. Silver Spoon was a filly-fooler. The only ponies who would hold the hooves of a filly-fooler had to be filly-foolers themselves.
A cruel grin befitting of Nightmare Moon herself slowly crept across Diamond Tiara’s lips. She knew exactly how to make Silver Spoon pay for her duplicity, and as a bonus she’d get to drag Sweetie Belle into the muck as well.
The filly dropped her saddlebags to the ground and began to root through them. A moment later she resurfaced with a small, black, leather-bound book with small plastic tabs ranging from A-Z lining the pages. With a flick of her hoof, she bypassed the first five sections, landing on “F”.
She began to sift through the pages which contained the names of various ponies, their addresses, and most importantly to book’s wielder, their scandalous, shameful secrets. “Let’s see… Fluttershy… Flim… Flam… Fine Print— aha!” The filly’s eyes slid predatorily across the name of a particularly unlucky colt who had an exceptionally large column beneath his name that continued onto the next page. And yet, the fact that he was easy to blackmail was merely a bonus for Diamond Tiara. She was more interested in his particular set of skills than his rap-sheet.
Kicking the book closed, Diamond Tiara tossed the tome back in her bag before setting out to find the residence of her soon-to-be “recruited” subordinate. “Hope you didn’t have plans this weekend… Featherweight.”
Chapter 2 End.
On this Friday afternoon, an argument was unfolding within the kitchen of the Weight family household. On one side of the argument stood a massive tan monster of a workhorse bearing a pair of boxing gloves on his flank who went by the name of Welterweight. On the other side of the altercation, a worried cream white pegasus mare by the name of Lightweight.
“Look here, there is nothing wrong with our son, and that’s the last I want to hear of this nonsense, Light!” Welterweight bellowed, stomping his hoof on the ground.
“Welter, please just think about it.” Lightweight gently placed a hoof on her husband’s withers. “Doesn’t it all add up?”
“No! Now shut up about it so I can get back to my paper!” shouted Welterweight.
“Oh, Welter,” Lightweight cooed, reaching over with a hoof to gently turn her husband towards herself. “I know this must be hard for you to accept, but just give it a little thought.”
“No!” Welterweight snorted and irritatedly swatted his wife’s hoof away as though it were a parasprite.
Needless to say, his wife was not amused by this outburst in the slightest.
“Look, Lightweight,” Welterweight sighed as his wife’s gaze melted away his fierce demeanor. “The boy is ten years old. You can’t go jumping to these kinds of conclusions so quickly. So what if he hasn’t come home with a filly yet? That doesn’t mean that he’s a… a…”
“My son is not a colt-cuddler!” Welterweight slammed his hoof down on a nearby counter, subsequently causing his wife to wince at the sound of various cups and containers as they bounced and cracked along the countertop.
“Welter, please calm down,” Lightweight pleaded, but the words fell on deaf ears. “Please, why don’t we just go upstairs and talk to him about—”
Welterweight slammed his hooves down on the counter again, effectively silencing his wife. “We are not going to pursue this any further. I don’t want to hear one more word about the subject.”
“But dear, what if—”
Ding-dong! Ding-dong! The loud chime of the front doorbell resonated throughout the kitchen, punctuating the stern stallion’s sentence.
“Who the hay could that be at a time like this!?” Welterweight turned to his wife who simply shrugged in response. “This had better be important. I’m in no mood to deal with salescolts or filly scouts right now.”
Welterweight, followed by his wife, lumbered his way to the front door and bucked it open ferociously, causing his wife to wince at his brutish behavior. Welterweight whipped his head left and right in search of the pony who rang the doorbell, but there was nopony in his line of sight. Just as he was getting ready to write the interruption off as a pegasus or unicorn playing the old ding-dong ditch prank, something began poking him lightly in the fetlock. The workhorse looked down and was met with the angelic smile of the cutest pink filly he’d ever seen in Ponyville. “I’m sorry little lady, but we don’t have time to deal with filly scouts right now, so if you would—“
“Oh, but I’m not a filly scout, Mr. Weight,” the filly admitted. “I’m a friend of Featherweight’s from school: Diamond Tiara. Is he home?” she asked, batting her eyelashes.
Welterweight felt his heart stop in disbelief. “Hold on a second young filly, you said Featherweight, right?”
The filly nodded in affirmation.
“As in my son Featherweight?”
“Welter!” Lightweight gasped, shocked at her husband’s reaction.
The filly simply nodded again.
An actual filly who wasn’t a stand-in cousin for some school dance was here to see Featherweight? At that moment, Welterweight felt something he hadn’t felt in so long begin to swell in his chest: his sense of fatherly pride. “See, Light, I knew that there was no way in Tartarus that my son was a colt-cuddler, I just knew it…” Welterweight turned his head to hide the tears that had begun welling up in his eyes. “Sorry, I’ve got something in my eye.”
Lightweight rolled her eyes and shook her head, sighing at her husband’s melodramatic reaction to the news. “Hold on a second dear, let me call him down for you.” Lightweight turned her head and shouted up the stairs, “Featherweight, come on down honey, your little friend is here to see you!”
A minute passed and the only response the mare of the house received was still silence.
“I swear, that boy and his photography… Featherweight, come down here now!” Lightweight shouted.
This time her summons had warranted an audible response as the sounds of panicked hoofsteps on wooden flooring and labored panting from deeper inside the house began to draw closer to her position. A moment later, a scrawny, brown-maned pegasus bearing a camera around his neck came scrambling into view, huffing and heaving. “You… *huff*… called… *huff*… mom?”
“First, what have I told you about running in the house?” Lightweight asked.
“Sorry, mom,” Featherweight sighed.
“Second, your little fillyfriend is here to see you,” the housemare teased.
“Fillyfriend?” Featherweight turned his curiosity to the figure standing in the doorway. “But I don’t—” The colt’s sentence trailed off the moment his eyes took in the filly’s all too familiar pink coat and styled mane. “I… I…”
“Oh, Featherweight, did you forget that you invited me to study with you at the park this afternoon?” Diamond Tiara reached into her saddlebag and withdrew her small black book. All of the blood in Featherweight’s body turned to ice at the very sight of the damnable tome. Diamond Tiara furrowed her eyebrows at Featherweight, but maintained her devilish grin. It was like a spider sizing up a hapless meal of a moth that had tangled itself up in the spider’s web.
Featherweight swallowed a rather hard lump that had formed in his throat and strained himself to force his lips into an unconvincing smile. “Heh, that’s r-right… study… with you… how... how could I forget?”
“Oh, and look at that, you already have your camera with you!”
“I… I guess I do…” he replied glumly. Having been forced to study with Diamond Tiara, Featherweight could already tell what it was that she wanted from him. He just hadn’t counted on her making any house calls.
“Mr. and Mrs. Weight, do you mind if we leave now? We’ve got so much to cover for class, and it would just be a shame if we didn’t squeeze in as much study time as possible this weekend…” Diamond Tiara looked up at Featherweight’s parents with pleading eyes, fluttering her eyelashes for maximum effect.
“But of course, little lady!” Welterweight declared proudly, lightly pushing Featherweight out the door with a muscular foreleg in the same gambit. “Now, don’t you keep her out too long, boy,” Welterweight instructed with a smile and a tear in his eye.
“Just look at our little boy, he’s growing up so quickly,” said Lightweight.
“And you thought he was a colt-cuddler…”
Featherweight cast a disheartened glance back at his parents, ignoring their remarks while hoping in vain they would notice something was wrong with this picture. As he heard his parent’s stifled chuckles, chased by the sound of the door creaking to a close behind him, he trotted forward to place his fate into Diamond Tiara’s vice-like hooves. Needless to say, the filly gladly accepted his company as she turned and began trotting into the street, beckoning him to follow her with a wave of her tail.
“Yetch,” she exaggerated a gag. “What was with your parents? Are they always that sappy?”
Featherweight, none too impressed at her mockery of his parents, wordlessly glared daggers at Diamond Tiara.
“Hmph, the silent treatment, huh?” Diamond Tiara shook her head in mock disappointment. She’d played this game with him before, and she knew exactly how to make him talk. “It’s just as well, I didn’t come down here to make small talk with you anyway, colt-cuddler.”
The pointed accusation struck an immediate chord in the pegasus. “Colt-cuddler? What the— I’m not a colt-cuddler!”
“Oh, really? Then you might want to have a little chat with your parents about that, but for now, that’s going in my little black book.”
Diamond Tiara was hoping that her threat would have rendered Featherweight a whimpering mass of submissive putty. To her disdain he was still glaring daggers at her, but rectifying that was a simple matter. “Well, I guess we can always file it behind those pictures of you wearing a frilly saddle. Oh, and those love letters to—”
“Alright, alright, I get it already!” Featherweight shouted. “So, what do you want so I can get back to my weekend, you know, away from you?”
Diamond Tiara smirked in honor of her small victory over the pegasus. “First off, fix your face; I don’t like the way you’re looking at me right now. Why don’t you try smiling a little, hm? And while you’re at it I don’t much appreciate that tone in your voice.”
Featherweight stretched and strained his lips into a smile so plastic that it would have been the envy of all the cosmetic surgery enthusiasts in Canterlot. “Better?” he asked sardonically.
“Much.” Diamond Tiara stopped to leap upon a nearby bench before continuing. “Second, you don’t have a weekend anymore; I’ve got a little something that needs looking into, and I’m going to need your keen reporter’s instincts to do it. Think you’re up to it?” Diamond Tiara paused mid-thought and chuckled to herself as she realized something. “Wait, how silly of me to ask you that: you don’t even have a choice!” Reaching into her bag, the filly rooted around until she found and withdrew two small manilla folders. With a flourish, she tossed the folders to Featherweight’s hooves, splaying its contents along the ground around him.
Featherweight scowled as he swept the various papers and photographs of Silver Spoon and Sweetie Belle back into their respective sleeves, pausing only as his hooves came across a particularly lengthy essay with a rather noteworthy headline on the top of the page:
The Filly-foolers Among Us
“As you can see, I was feeling generous and did most of the work for you already. All you need to do is get a picture of those two doing… something really embarrassing— no, something scandalous, and make sure this story is the headline for the Monday edition. I also want this to be the biggest news all over Ponyville,” said Diamond Tiara.
“But, Ms. Cheerilee told us we can’t distribute the paper anywhere but on school grounds anymore,” said Featherweight.
Without missing a beat Diamond Tiara pulled out her little black book, flipped indiscriminately to a page in the middle, and cleared her throat in preparation to read. “Oh, how my heart flutters and skips whenever my eyes are blessed by the sight of your majestic flowing mane. Alas, not even Celestia’s sun can contest with your radiant beauty; those chilling, hypnotic eyes bear even more mystery than the dark side of the moon princess’ prized pearl. Oh, how I long for you, my beloved, my sweet mistress—”
“Alright! Alright! Alright! I’ll get them delivered to every newsstand, just for Celestia’s sake, stop reading!” he pleaded.
“I’m glad we were able to come to this little understanding, Featherweight. Now if you’ll excuse me—” Diamond Tiara grabbed her bag and hopped down from the bench. “—I’ve got some business to attend to elsewhere.” With that, she started to trot away, but she hadn’t taken more than two steps before Featherweight’s curiosity got the better of him.
“Hold on a second, I have to know something.”
Diamond Tiara stopped but did not turn around to face him. Instead she stood patiently, waiting for the pegasus to speak.
“Aren’t you and Silver Spoon C.H.B.F.Fs?”
“Huh?” The acronym had taken Diamond Tiara completely off-guard.
“Childhood Best Friends Forever,” he elaborated.
“Oh… what of it?”
“Why are you doing this to your best friend?”
“That’s…” Featherweight noticed Diamond Tiara had grown tense and started to tremble slightly, but the filly maintained her composure long enough to issue one final demand before stomping off angrily. “That’s none of your business; now shut up and get to work.”
Anypony who had ever met Silver Spoon could testify that she was a gifted young filly who possessed a plethora of positive qualities. Among those notable qualities were her keen intellect, immaculate manners, and, as of recently, the outstanding level of maturity she possessed for a filly of her age. Despite those largely impressive achievements, due to her primarily sheltered and pampered upbringing, nowhere on that list would one find any testaments to Silver Spoon’s outstanding physical prowess. Or any physical prowess at all for that matter.
The filly currently found herself huffing and heaving for dear life on the porch of a moderately-sized house in a strange neighborhood. Each breath she took burned her lungs like a small inferno, and her legs felt like they would fall off if she tried to even so much as stand up. This was truly a grueling moment for her.
“Hey, Silver Spoon?” called a surprisingly well-composed Sweetie Belle from the fallen filly’s side.
Silver Spoon laboriously turned her head to face the one who had rendered her to this state, waiting for Sweetie Belle to continue speaking.
“Are you alright? We only ran for a minute and a half, but you don’t look so good.”
“Oh, that? Huff— I’m just —heave— a little winded —gasp— is all,” Silver Spoon managed to choke out.
“A little winded, huh?” Sweetie Belle teased.
“Okay, so maybe —pant— so maybe I need to spend more time outside.”
The unicorn fought to stifle a giggle at Silver Spoon’s expense. “Well, let me help you up. Apple Bloom and Scootaloo are waiting for us inside.” Sweetie Belle offered a hoof to Silver Spoon, and the earth filly gladly took it.
“Thanks Sweetie Bel—” Silver Spoon stumbled haphazardly forward on gelatin-like legs, almost falling back over. Fortunately for her, Sweetie Belle was quick on the uptake and managed to catch her in the nick of time.
“Don’t worry, I’ll help you in, just lean on me,” said Sweetie Belle, as she wrapped one of Silver Spoon’s forelegs around her neck.
“H-hey, I can walk inside on my own!”
“I know, I know.” Sweetie Belle rolled her eyes and giggled at Silver Spoon’s protests as she nudged open the door before her to guide the earth pony into Scootaloo’s house. “Hold on, just a few more steps, Silver Spoon, there’s a couch right here you can catch your breath on.”
“Thanks, Sweetie Belle,” Silver Spoon breathed while clambering onto the couch. As soon as she was settled, Silver Spoon took a moment to take in her surroundings and was absolutely blown away by the unexpected decorum that encompassed the sitting room.
From the walls hung a plethora of cultural treasures and foreign artifacts Silver Spoon had never seen before. On her right sat a set of masterfully hoof-crafted Neighgerian Spears and intimidating masks hailing from the country of Zebrawe. To her left, the walls overflowed with the hoofwoven fruits of Alpacastan, tapestries and quilts adorned with some of the most exotic designs she’d ever laid eyes on. However, despite the impressive array of swords and various other bladed weapons of Saddle Arabian design scattered about, the true centerpiece of the room rested in the center of an old Germane coffee table: a magnificently-molded gem-encrusted looking glass shaped like a heart.
Her fatigue forgotten, Silver Spoon’s curiosity led her off the couch and drew the filly closer to the strange, captivating treasure. It seemed ridiculous to her at the time, but it was as though the odd piece of decorum was beckoning her towards it.
“I don’t think you should get so close to that, Silver Spoon,” cautioned Sweetie Belle. “Scootaloo’s mom might get mad if we start touching her stuff.”
Silver Spoon, enraptured by the allure of the looking glass, wrote Sweetie Belle’s warning off as white noise and slowly extended a hoof outwards.
“Silver Spoon, I think you should stop,” Sweetie Belle said.
Once again her words fell on deaf ears as Silver Spoon continued to reach forward, mere inches separating her from the intriguing piece. Just as she was about to make contact, a swift light-brown blur slapped her hoof away and seized the artifact in one fluid motion.
“Geez, kid, what the hay is the matter with you? You can’t just wander into somepony’s house and start touching weird things… well, I mean that’s a little ironic considering I do that for a living, but you know what I mean.”
Silver Spoon rubbed her sore hoof tenderly as she took in the visage of the older mare before herself. She was a light, almost sandy brown pegasus with challenging, vivid magenta eyes, and a black mane that had begun graying in some areas. “Ah, I’m terribly sorry about that ma’am; I forgot myself for a moment. I hope you’ll forgive me.”
The mare shook her head in disappointment, before returning her gaze to Silver Spoon. “Don’t you know what could have happened if you touched the glass in the center?”
Silver Spoon noticed that the mare was taking extra care to avoid making any contact with the glass. “No, but—”
“You could have been cursed, my little pony!”
The mare’s ludicrous claim caused Sweetie Belle to gasp in shock, but, ever the skeptic, Silver Spoon elected to raise an unamused eyebrow.
“You don’t believe me, huh? You’re no fun…” The mare frowned and shook her head. “Well, I never was any good at telling jokes, but I wasn’t lying when I said that touching the glass would make something happen. You see kid, this is no ordinary bauble: it’s enchanted!”
Silver Spoon returned the mare’s claims with a blank stare. “What? I’m being serious this time.” The mare held the looking glass out to Silver Spoon, urging the filly to take charge of the art piece. “Go on, take it, and I’ll tell you all about it.”
“Oh! Oh! You should totally do it Silver Spoon!” Sweetie Belle urged. “I want to see what’ll happen.”
Silver Spoon rolled her eyes as she prepared to humor the odd mare at Sweetie Belle’s behest. “Fine, fine, fine.”
“Great! Here ya go!” The mare tossed the piece to Silver Spoon, who began to inspect it carefully with a scrutinizing eye. “Now, what you hold in your hooves is a millennia-old treasure from the long-lost Kingdom of Unicornia called the Window of the Heart. But, like I’ve said before, this is no ordinary treasure. The legends say that Starswirl the Bearded himself hoofcrafted and enchanted this beauty in an effort to win the heart of a beautiful princess that he was hopelessly smitten with, claiming that the magic within the piece was so powerful that by simply touching the glass, it would recognize and bring to fruition the deepest desires of one’s heart.”
“What happened next?” asked Sweetie Belle.
“Ha, ha, well I can see at least one of you is enjoying the story.” The mare placed a forehoof on Sweetie Belle’s head and playfully began to ruffle the filly’s mane. “Anyway, the princess, much to Starswirl’s dismay, used the glass in the hopes of winning the heart of the neighboring kingdom’s prince. Needless to say, Starswirl didn’t exactly take too kindly to the princess’ decision. In an act of petty vengeance, he transmuted the princess into a newt, and hid his treasure away in a labyrinth of trap-filled catacombs, never to be seen again.”
“So, what happened after that?” Sweetie Belle asked.
“Well, Sweetie, as you can see that cantankerous old stallion clearly didn’t hide it well enough! Why just this summer, I—”
“I think she meant what happened to the princess, ma’am.” said Silver Spoon.
Sweetie Belle quickly nodded her head to confirm Silver Spoon’s claim.
“Oh, that… well, nothing really happened.”
Sweetie Belle was absolutely puzzled, as throughout the entirety of the story she’d been expecting a fairy tale conclusion. “What do you mean nothing happened? Didn’t her prince turn her back into a pony and confess his eternal love for her?”
The mare almost burst out laughing, but managed to stop herself as she noticed the innocence in Sweetie Belle’s voice. It was the same innocence that a foal would bear on Hearth’s Warming morning when their parents would show them the cache of gifts Santa Claws had left them the night before, and she just didn’t have the heart to steal that away from the filly. “Uhhh… sure…” The mare rubbed the back of her head uncomfortably, making a blatant attempt to avoid eye contact with Sweetie Belle. “Right, they, uh, got married and lived happily ever after. The princess definitely did not remain a newt for the remainder of her natural life. Heh, definitely not.”
The mare sat down on her haunches, and placed a hoof on Sweetie Belle’s head. With a weak smile and a sincere tone, she assuaged any remaining doubts the filly might have had. “I promise.”
“Aww, isn’t that great, Silver Spoon?”
Silver Spoon was more than aware that the mare had lied to protect Sweetie Belle’s feelings, but instead of calling her on it, she smiled at her friend and went along with the act. “Yeah, it is, but I’ve still got a question.”
“Shoot, kid,” the mare responded.
“That story wasn’t just some old mare’s tale, was it?” She held the looking glass out, looking it over studiously.
The mare’s lips curled into an obtuse grin. “Why don’t you tell me? Try rubbing the glass and make a wish that you want to come true from the bottom of your heart.”
Making a wish. The very concept stopped Silver Spoon cold where she stood. Wish making was something that she, regretfully, hadn’t actually put much thought towards since her parents had the capacity and the capital to give her whatever she wished for. All she had to do was ask. After all, with the right amount of bits, anypony could attain anything their heart desired. Almost anything, anyway.
Bits couldn’t have purchased the amnesty she’d received from Scootaloo and Apple Bloom this afternoon, after the solid year of torment and humiliation she’d put them through with Diamond Tiara. Gems couldn’t have purchased the courage it took to stand up to her control-hungry former childhood best friend forever. And all the wealth in Equestria couldn’t have garnered the much-welcomed trust of the optimistic unicorn staring impatiently at her with wide, curious emerald eyes.
While she hadn’t wished for the day’s events to play out as they did, she couldn’t totally deny that there had to have been some outside force pushing her through the motions. Maybe there was something to this wishing business after all. Besides that —Silver Spoon chanced a glance at Sweetie Belle’s bewildered face and suppressed a nervous smirk from spreading across her lips— there was nothing wrong with a little personal interest, was there? “I think I’m ready.”
“What’re you gonna wish for?” asked Sweetie Belle. “Hmm… I’ll bet it’s a— ”
“Sweetie,” interrupted the expert on the looking glass. “If she tells you, then it might not come true.”
“Awww… fine.” Sweetie Belle pouted and crossed her forelegs. “I’ll just wait to see what comes up.”
“Which reminds me, you figured out what you’re gonna wish for yet, kid?”
“Something like that,” Silver Spoon muttered. “Well, here goes, I guess.” Silver Spoon placed her hoof on the lens and slowly began to caress the cool surface of the glass. As she continued to rub the ornament, it began to emit a faint, almost unnoticeable glow that grew in intensity with each sweep. Silver Spoon could feel the looking glass growing lighter in her hooves, and instinctively released her grip on the artifact. Much to her surprise, it stayed suspended in the air, shining twice as brightly as before. The light was now officially blinding her along with the other spectators, but snuffed itself out as quickly as it flared up, landing on the floor with a dull thud.
“Wow, it really does work!” said Sweetie Belle.
“But that’s weird…” remarked the looking glass’ owner.
“What’s weird?” asked Sweetie Belle
“Nothing’s weird in here, that’s what’s weird!”
Sweetie Belle scratched her head in confusion at the mare’s statement. “How is nothing weird, weird?”
“Well, think about it, if she just made a wish, something weird should have happened, right?”
“Oh yeah, you’re right!” Sweetie Belle scanned the room, searching for some minute change to the surrounding area, yet for her troubles, she found nary a speck of dust out of place, “Huh, I don’t think that thing worked. Dumb wishing glass.”
“Hey kid, just out of curiosity, what did you wish for?”
Silver Spoon smirked. “Well, if I tell you now, then it won’t come true, right?”
“Very cute…” the mare grumbled flatly.
“Mom!” shouted a angry familiar voice from the nearby stairwell. “What are you doing!?” Scootaloo, followed by Apple Bloom, galloped haphazardly into the room with a particularly heavy saddlebag hanging from her back, stopping at the hooves of the light brown mare whom she shot a glare at almost immediately.
“Oh, hey honey. I was just showing your little friends here some neat stuff from my latest expeditions. Maybe you and Apple Bloom would like to stick around for the story of King Mutt’s cursed tomb and—”
“Blegh!” Scootaloo interrupted. “A story about history? Maybe some other time, mom. Right now, we’ve got cutie marks to earn; isn’t that right Crusaders?”
“Yeah!” Apple Bloom and Sweetie Belle cheered in tandem.
“Alright, alright,” Scootaloo’s mother chuckled. “Just promise me that you’ll be careful out there, okay? I‘ve got a lot of packing to do for an expedition in the ruins of Pegasopolis next week, I don’t want to have to come get you from the emergency room.”
“Fine, mom.” Scootaloo rolled her eyes.
“That’s my girl.” Scootaloo’s mother leaned and planted swift kiss atop her daughter’s head, before heading up the stairs.
“Ewww…” Scootaloo began to swat at her forehead in a futile attempt to wipe away her mother’s kiss.
“Hey, did you guys already get whatever you came for?” asked Sweetie Belle.
“Yeah,” replied Apple Bloom. “We got a couple of ropes and a bunch of weird lookin’ harnesses and stuff from upstairs, but Scootaloo still won’t tell me what we’re gonna be doin’ with it.”
“Ropes and… harnesses?” Silver Spoon mused aloud. Something about these items and their intended location of use just didn’t sit right with the filly. “What could you possibly do with that stuff in the Everfree forest to earn a cutie mark?”
“Ugh, for the last time: you’ll find out when we get there. Geez, don’t any of you like surprises? Now come on, we’ll take my scooter and wagon.”
“Seriously, Scootaloo, can’t you at least give us a hint?” Sweetie Belle asked.
“C’mon, not even a teeny tiny little hint?”
“Nope.” Scootaloo opened the front door and walked outside, her inquisitive friends still prattling off questions behind her.
Silver Spoon took one last glance around the room, her attention landing on the fallen looking glass, and thought back to Scootaloo’s mother, incurring the biggest fit of déjà vu she’d ever experienced. Where had she seen her before?
“Silver Spoon, hurry up and get out here, we’re waiting on you!”
“Oh, coming!” Silver Spoon gave one last glance at the looking glass and dashed out to catch up with her new friends. There were so many questions left unanswered, but time would reveal the answers eventually. For now, the most pressing matter on her mind was how exactly a rope and a harness would help her new friends discover their special talents. A small pit began to grow in her stomach as she contemplated it further, but she already had a sinking feeling that something was going to go horribly, horribly wrong. She just couldn’t put her hoof on what it was just yet.
Chapter 3 End
In the eleven years she’d been alive, Silver Spoon—thanks to her parents’ remarkable wealth—found herself fortunate enough to have witnessed with her own two eyes many things that the average pony could only dream of ever laying eyes on. She’d seen the exotic natural beauty of the islands of Hoofwai’i Neigh, and she’d beheld displays of the miracles that magi-technology would bestow upon Equestria in the near future. She’d stood in awe before the majestic intensity of an erupting geyser. However, the last thing she expected to see today was her life flashing before her eyes on the back of a wagon being pulled at thirty miles per hour.
As the wind whipped through her ears and mane, so did the frightened shrieks of her fellow passengers in addition to those of the innocent bystanders who had the misfortune to find themselves standing in the path of a certain recklessly-driven scooter. Had her capacity to speak not been hindered by the relentless teeth chattering brought about by her adrenaline-jacked body, Silver Spoon would have remarked that she’d never been more on edge in her life, but she was almost certain that her expression portrayed her feelings just as effectively. A quick glance at Apple Bloom and Sweetie Belle’s horrified faces showed that they hadn’t anticipated this either. However, where Sweetie Belle and Silver Spoon were gripping the edge of the cart for dear life, Apple Bloom was bold enough to crawl all the way to the front of the violently rocking cart so that she could confront the reckless pegasus pilot.
“Scootaloo!” Apple Bloom shouted over the ripping wind. “Why in the hay are y’all going so fast!?” Unfortunately for Apple Bloom, the wind was too powerful, thus causing her words to fall short of the pegasus’ ears.
“What was that?” Scootaloo called over her shoulder.
“I said, you’re going too fast!”
Once again, the wind caused Scootaloo to mishear her friend’s words. “I know, right? This is totally a blast!”
Apple Bloom drove a hoof to her face as she realized that her words were doomed to be lost in translation, but nonetheless, she had to keep trying. “No, no, no! Scoots, ya need to—”
“Hang on girls, this turn is gonna be really sharp!” Scootaloo announced, pointing at an almost horizontal fork in the road just ahead.
“Scoots, ya need to slow down!”
“Awww, yeah!” Scootaloo shirked her scooter to the right for a split second, before immediately swinging the handle bar left, forcing the scooter and wagon to fish tail around the house with ferocious momentum.
Time slowed down for the unfortunate passengers of the wagon as the small sidecar began to drift in a dangerously wide arc. In that split second of clarity, Apple Bloom lunged for one of the corners of the cart and held on for dear life, silently swearing to Celestia that she’d never sneak cookies after bed time again if she made it through this. Silver Spoon opted to secure her position near the back of the cart by locking her forelegs around either side of the corner her back rested against. This way, she could fight the g-force and minimize the churning to her weakened stomach at the same time.
However, Sweetie Belle hadn’t spent this time preparing so much as she did cowering in the center of the rampaging vehicle. The unicorn’s ill-preparation would come back to bite her as one of the cart’s rear wheels slammed into a rather large rock, sending Sweetie Belle into the air.
Silver Spoon watched in horror as Sweetie Belle’s airborne state allowed the cart to slowly slide out from beneath her, leaving her susceptible to the coarse gravel street below. In that instant, a powerful emotionally-driven instinct overrode the overwhelming cloud of fear that loomed over Silver Spoon during the entirety of the ride. This strange emotion she had no words readily available for willed her to forsake her safe position on the corner and lunge forward towards Sweetie Belle’s tail, which hadn’t sailed completely over the wagon’s edge. Silver Spoon instinctively bit down on the bulk of Sweetie’s tail and yanked the unicorn back with all of the desperate force she could muster.
To Silver Spoon’s surprise, Sweetie Belle stopped falling and instead slowly began to drop back into the cart. Once she was safely seated in the wagon, Sweetie abruptly wrapped her forelegs around Silver Spoon’s waist, pulling the earth pony into a firm, rib-crushing embrace. Silver Spoon returned the embrace as quickly as Sweetie Belle instigated it an instant before the wagon teetered atrociously to the left, forcing the red metal death trap to tilt upon two wheels.
She gripped Sweetie Belle tighter, attempting to lower herself closer to the bed of the cart, as she felt herself slowly beginning to slide over the edge. Teeth chattering harder than ever, Silver Spoon began making peace with her oh-so-short life. She certainly hadn’t expected it to end like this: falling out of the back of a runaway wagon whose operator was too focused on the thrill of adrenaline to hear the terrified screams of her passengers. Just out of the corner of her eye, Silver Spoon saw Apple Bloom struggling to stand on her hind legs as though she were about to leap.
“Apple Bloom, what are you doing!?”
“Sav— waugh!” The cart jerked again and Apple Bloom fought to regain her balance before continuing her explanation. “Savin’ our flanks, so hang on!”
Silver Spoon watched in fear as Apple Bloom bounced twice and leapt onto the side of the cart that was suspended in the air. Amazingly enough, Apple Bloom’s lunge was enough to slam the wheels back onto solid ground. The cart wobbled and swerved a few times, righted itself, and finally smoothed out to a cruise. Silver Spoon heaved a sigh of relief now that she was out of immediate danger, while Apple Bloom went off on Scootaloo twice as loud as before to ensure that the pegasus would definitely hear her.
Silver Spoon’s waning adrenaline high left her oddly aware of her body’s sense of touch, namely a pleasant warm, quivering sensation on her belly. A light blush crept across her face as she looked down, only to be greeted by Sweetie Belle’s curly pink-and-purple-swirled mane. Silver Spoon bit her lip, contemplating whether or not to tell Sweetie Belle that the worst was over for the moment.
On one hoof, it felt like she was inadvertently taking advantage of her friend, but on the other, it wasn’t like she minded terribly much. After all, Sweetie Belle had been awfully liberal about holding Silver Spoon’s hoof earlier. It could have just been in the unicorn’s nature to exhibit physical displays affection towards her friends so blatantly, but then again, Silver Spoon hadn’t ever seen Sweetie Belle adhering herself to Apple Bloom or Scootaloo as freely as she had to Silver Spoon. An odd thought crossed the earth filly’s mind, but she pushed it back as quickly as it had come due to the sheer ridiculous nature of the epiphany.
After another moment of deliberation, Silver Spoon—begrudgingly—decided to push the taffy-maned unicorn away. That is, until she heard the last sound she’d expect any pony to make after such a life endangering experience: snoring.
How Sweetie Belle managed to fall asleep amidst the hectic nature of the wagon fiasco was beyond Silver Spoon’s comprehension, but it was just as well. Looking at Sweetie Belle’s lightly snoozing form helped ease the remainder of Silver Spoon’s jolted nerves. She also noted that Apple Bloom had stopped shouting and that the wagon had slowed down considerably. They were now cruising along at a smooth, steady pace, and there wasn’t a doubt in Silver Spoon’s mind that Scootaloo was none too thrilled about that.
A light nuzzling followed by slurred mumbling from Silver Spoon’s belly warranted the filly’s immediate attention.
“Mmm… no way, girls… this is my marshmallow… get your own,” Sweetie Belle drawled from her dream state, punctuating her nonsensical rambling with a yawn.
Silver Spoon shrugged and smiled at the sight. There was really no need to wake Sweetie Belle up just yet since the Everfree Forest was still a good distance away, and aside from that, she was beginning to feel rather drowsy herself. Silver Spoon was content enough at the moment to just allow her eyelids to grow heavy and whisk her mind away for a short nap. They’d arrive at the forest soon enough.
Silver Spoon found herself standing amidst a field of unkempt golden grass that had grown to such a length that she could hardly see over it. She looked to her left, only to find more of the tall weeds. She whipped around to her right and found that she was still encompassed by the tall grass. She turned around to see what lay behind, and just as she expected, there was only more of the browning foliage. Unsure of what to do or where to go, Silver Spoon began wandering aimlessly through the tall grass in the hopes that she’d stumble across something besides the field of weeds she found herself trapped in.
However, the further the filly ventured into the grass, the taller the it seemed to become, eventually growing so tall that it encompassed her entire body from hoof to head and then some. Silver Spoon was about to turn around so she could wade through some of the more shallow levels of the grass when she heard giggling from just beyond the other side of the golden veil. Curiosity piqued, Silver Spoon continued to force her way through, allowing faint beams of sunlight to poke through the brush with each grass blade she pushed aside. A moment later, she had finally escaped the pseudo-jungle, only to find herself stumbling into a surprisingly wide, vacant clearing full of hoof-level grass and an odd assortment of flowers.
She looked around the small clearing again, but saw nothing. She was all alone, save for the flora and the view of the remarkably clear blue sky hovering gently overhead. That is, until she heard that giggling again. Silver Spoon whipped her head left and right and saw nothing, but she could tell that she wasn’t alone here. “Hello? Who’s there?” Silver Spoon called out. Only silence answered her. Silver Spoon trotted forward into the sunlit portion of the clearing, scanning cautiously for any signs of life.
Another fit of giggles filled the air and put Silver Spoon on high alert. There were no hoof-steps to be heard, no ponies in sight. With a sigh, Silver Spoon dropped her guard for the moment and rubbed her head as she convinced herself that the laughter was only in her head. However, she certainly couldn’t deny what she heard next.
“Silver Spoon, over here!”
Silver Spoon jolted up and whipped her head about frantically. “W-who said that?”
“Yeah, come play with us!”
Out of the corner of her eye, Silver Spoon saw something drawing close to her position. She turned her attention to it, but was baffled by what she saw. Crawling towards her was what looked to be the shadow of a pony, yet there was no pony there to cast said shadow. The shadow, however, was not alone. A dozen more shadows filled the clearing, crawling closer while calling out her name.
“Silver Spoon, come hang out with us, it’ll be fun!”
Silver Spoon, began to backpedal, but ended up tripping over her legs, sprawling onto her back. “Get away! Get away!”
“Silver Spoon, let’s be friends!”
“Silver Spoon, let’s go to Sugarcube Corner together!”
The shadows showed no signs of slowing down, and there twice as many as before. Silver Spoon scrambled to her hooves and backed away carefully, this time keeping her eyes fixed on the swarm of shadows closing in. That is, until she saw her own shadow struggling beneath her. Frightened by her own shadow, Silver Spoon lifted a foreleg from the ground, afraid to make contact with her shadowy doppelganger any longer, and that’s when the shade did something she didn’t expect. It waved its free leg towards the other shadows that had now stopped to wave back. Curiously, Silver Spoon rose another leg and her shadow waved that limb independently of its owner as well. Finally, Silver Spoon stepped to the side, allowing her shadow to gallop freely towards the others.
Convinced that she was no longer in danger, Silver Spoon laid down on the grass and watched her shadow interact with its newfound kin. It looked so… happy. The shades seemed to be centered around hers in particular, playing games, laughing, chatting with each other, completely unaware of the real Silver Spoon’s existence. She noticed, however, that one of the shadows hadn’t partaken in the festivities at all. Instead it sat all by its lonesome watching the others play. The shadow seemed rather lonely sitting all by itself, and Silver Spoon felt a little bit bad for it. That is, until her own shadow trotted forward and extended a hoof towards the saddened shade.
The melancholy shadow accepted the offer of Silver Spoon’s and the two trotted over to join the much larger group. Much to her surprise, the other shadows were hesitant to join Silver Spoon’s shadow now that the new shadow had tagged along, but after some convincing from Silver Spoon’s shade, they allowed both to rejoin the group.
Silver Spoon watched the tribe of shadows reengage in their games, with the new member staying as close to shadow Silver Spoon as possible. The grey filly thought nothing of it at first, but then the new shadow began exhibiting hostile behavior. It seemed to be yelling at any of the shadows that dared to approach Silver Spoon’s own, and began physically pushing them away. Silver Spoon’s shadow tried to reason with the new shadow, but it only grew in its hostility towards the others. The hostile shade reached out and seized one of the surrounding shadows, pulling it into itself. As a result the hostile one grew in size and temper. It lashed out, grabbing another shade which was absorbed just as quickly as the first.
Silver Spoon’s shadow leapt in front of the new threat, pleading for it to stop, but it’s pleas fell on deaf ears as the much larger shadow engulfed all of the remaining shadows, growing all the more massive and monstrous as the sky darkened in accordance with the monster’s rage. Silver Spoon’s shadow turned and ran towards its owner and resumed its role as a shadow as the monstrous shadow finished devouring the remaining shades. In the clearing, there was only Silver Spoon and the hulking cannibal shadow. Silver Spoon was disturbed, but not quite frightened: after all, it was just a shadow on the ground. It wasn’t like a shadow could cause any harm to a pony anyhow; they existed on two different planes of existence. Or so Silver Spoon thought.
The shadow, now aware that it was out of food, turned its attention to Silver Spoon, and realized its conundrum. It did something Silver Spoon hadn’t expected in the slightest. As if no longer bound by its two dimensional existence, the shadow reached upwards towards the sky, and planted one massive hoof on the ground in front of itself. This hoof was soon joined by the other erupting from the ground, finding purchase on the clearing. Once the monster had its hooves planted firmly on the surface, it began to pull itself into existence, the head emerging first with a bloodcurdling cackle. The creature turned to face Silver Spoon, baring a mouth full of wicked, gnarled teeth. Then in a voice laced with venomous cruelty, it posed a simple question to the filly. “Where are you going, Silver Spoon?”
Silver Spoon backed away, unable to take her eyes from the enigmatic beast.
“You don’t need the others, you know. After all, don’t you want to play with me, and only me?”
Silver Spoon turned around and prepared to gallop as hard as she could through the grass, but stopped as she watched the overgrown foliage begin to mutate, interweaving itself into horrible, thorny vines.
“We’ll be best friends forever, right? We don’t need other ponies because they’re so far below us, right? We’re better than them all, aren’t we?” It asked, stalking closer.
Silver Spoon frantically searched for a way out, but to her despair there was no escape; the clearing had turned against her.
“Don’t you know you can only be my friend? After all, I know everything about you: your deepest secrets, your darkest fears, and you know that I won’t hesitate or stop at anything to destroy any pony who tries to get between us, even if it’s you. So why even bother?”
Out of fear and helplessness, Silver Spoon sank to her haunches as she prepared to accept her fate; however, much to her relief she heard a chorus of familiar voices begin to chime through from seemingly everywhere.
“It looks like I’ve run out of time to play with you,” growled the shadow. “That’s alright though, Silver Spoon. After all, you can’t run from me forever. You’ll be back here soon enough, and I’ll be waiting for you. That’s a promise.”
Much to Silver Spoon’s relief, the monster backed away and sat down, grinning with its terrible teeth as the clearing began to dissipate in an explosion of light and sound.
“—ake… up… Sil…. oon!”
Silver Spoon slowly and groggily sat up as her mind began to stir into consciousness. The first thing to hit her was the earthy smell of leaves of and dirt rushing by, accompanied by a flickering intensity of light that she noticed through her shut eyelids. Silver Spoon gradually opened her eyes, allowing her surroundings to come into focus slowly as her eyes adjusted to the new environment. She could see trees and various plants zipping by under a dimly-lit canopy of much taller trees, and a slight, steady rocking in her back told her that she was still in the back of the wagon.
“Silver Spoon, wake up!” Sweetie Belle shouted again.
“I’m awake, I’m awake…” the silver maned filly mumbled rubbing her eyes as she sat up. “Where are we anyway?”
“We just entered the Everfree Forest a few minutes ago,” Apple Bloom explained, "but Scootaloo still ain’t tellin’ us anything!”
“Hey!” Scootaloo shouted. “You’ll find out in a few minutes, so just hang on to your hooves, we’re almost there!”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah…” Apple Bloom grumbled, sitting back down.
“So this is what the inside of the Everfree Forest looks like?” Silver Spoon mused to nopony in particular. “Looks pretty creepy to me.”
“Wait, you’ve never been in the Everfree Forest?” Sweetie Belle asked incredulously.
“No, my parents always advised me to stay away from here. They’re always going on about strange creatures and plants and curses, something or the other, but those are just rumors, right? I mean this place can’t be that bad, can it?”
Sweetie Belle and Apple Bloom looked at each other, chuckled and exchanged weak, knowing smiles with each other. “Sure…” said Apple Bloom.
“Well, I guess it’s not that bad… all the time,” Sweetie Belle added.
“Wait, what do you mean by th—”
“We’re here!” Scootaloo called over Silver Spoon, easing her scooter to a halt.
“Well, it’s about time. Ah was startin’ to get saddle sores from sittin’ down for so long,” Apple Bloom complained, rubbing her rump.
“Well, maybe if you’d have let me go a little faster…” Scootaloo pointed out.
“Wait a minute, saddle sores? But you weren’t wearing a saddle,” Sweetie Belle pointed out.
An air of oblivious silence passed between the three fillies before Scootaloo decided to fill Sweetie Belle in. “Uh, that isn’t what saddle sores means.”
“Wait, it’s not?”
“No, Sweetie, what Ah mean is my butt’s sore because Ah been sittin’ down for so long,” said Apple Bloom.
“Ohhh… huh, that’s funny. I felt great after that nap! Silver Spoon’s an awesome pillow!”
“B-beg your pardon?” Silver Spoon said uncertainly, crawling out of the wagon.
“Heh heh, nothing, Silver Spoon,” Sweetie Belle giggled innocently.
“RIght… anyhow, why exactly are we out here, Scootaloo?” Silver Spoon asked.
Scootaloo grabbed and donned her heavy saddlebag out of the wagon. “C’mon, I’ll show you!” The pegasus turned and began galloping up a nearby slope.
“That girl really knows how to drag something out,” Apple Bloom moaned as she trudged after the pegasus.
“I’ll say,” Sweetie Belle admitted, following suit. “But, who knows? Maybe whatever she’s got in store will help us earn our cutie marks!”
“Well, whatever it is, it had better be amazin’ for all she’s been blowin’ it up to be.”
Silver Spoon couldn’t help but empathize with Apple Bloom’s feelings on the matter, not to mention her back was a little sore from the ride down as well. As she continued to make her way up the hill, out of the corner of her eye Silver Spoon noticed a long black cord tied in a complex looking knot wrapped around a particularly thick tree just ahead of the three fillies. “Well, looks like we don’t have that much further left to climb,” she said.
“Good, now we can finally find out what she’s been schemin’. I’m goin’ up ahead, I’ll see you two at the top.” Apple Bloom took off like a rocket up the final stretch of the slope with speed and athleticism Silver Spoon could only envy. Nonetheless, she continued to soldier her way up the remaining yards of the hill, with Sweetie Belle holding only a slight, four step lead.
Finally, Silver Spoon and Sweetie Belle arrived at the top of the hill only to be greeted by a pale-faced Apple Bloom, and Scootaloo, who was busy fiddling around with various gadgets and ropes from her saddlebags. Silver Spoon also took note that the top of the hill was no longer covered by the Everfree Forest’s canopy of trees, but instead by the open blue sky. In fact, it didn’t even seem like she was standing on a hilltop. The ground was too flat, and there were no signs of a gradual decline. It just seemed to end. It looked more like a cliff than anything.
“Aha! It’s done!” Scootaloo cheered as she held up a rather odd construct that she was attaching to the black rope that Silver Spoon remembered from the tree. The device in question had the build and buckles of a saddle with a few extra straps and loops for the rope.
“You… ya can’t be serious, right?” Apple Bloom asked. “There’s no way we can— I mean that’s just crazy talk!”
Silver Spoon rose an eyebrow at Apple Bloom’s frantic behavior. Normally the farm filly seemed to be composed and headstrong, but to see her tripping all over her words with such frequency, it had to be something big.
“Oh, I’m serious alright! We’re gonna get our cutie marks for sure with this!”
“With what, if I might ask?” pressed Silver Spoon.
Scootaloo turned, grinning, to face the source of the question, to which she responded with two simple words that made the blood into Silver Spoon’s veins turn to ice. “Bungee jumping.”
Chapter 4 End.
Dry mouth. Shallow breathing. Light beads of sweat slowly condensing on the fur. The inability to process or verbalize any rational thoughts. These symptoms indicated that Silver Spoon had, for all intents and purposes, been stunned by mere words. Words that she surely had to have misheard. After all, there was no way any sane pony could have suggested that. “I’m sorry, come again? I don’t think I quite heard you. There must have been something in my ear, I mean, for a moment I almost thought you said—”
“Bungee jumping,” Scootaloo repeated.
Silver Spoon swallowed a hard lump, the likes of which she’d never felt in her throat before, as the realization that Scootaloo was dead serious finally sank in. “Yes, that’s what I was afraid you said.” Silver Spoon continued to let the throes of stunned silence wash over her, uncertain of how to respond to such a ludicrous notion. Was this normal behavior for the Cutie Mark Crusaders? Were they honestly and truly so hellbent on getting their cutie marks that they were willing to go so far as risking their lives to obtain them?
“Yup!” Scootaloo chirped. For a moment, Silver Spoon briefly wondered if Scootaloo had heard her thoughts, but quickly had any belief in the pegasus’ psychic abilities dispelled with what Scootaloo said next. “Bungee jumping! Won’t this be awesome?”
Silver Spoon opened her mouth to inject some rationality into the situation, but quickly found the air abuzz with a voice of reason from an unexpected source.
“Scoots, that’s absolute crazy talk!” shouted Apple Bloom. “We can’t go bungee jumping! What if we get hurt!? Where’d you even come up with such a thing?”
Scootaloo flashed a toothy grin and answered simply, “Spike told me all about it!”
“Spike told you about this?” Apple Bloom asked rhetorically, but Scootaloo still nodded with pride. “Didn’t Spike also tell you about a certain something else?”
“And didn’t that something else almost get us killed and covered in tree sap?”
“Well, yeah, but—”
“So are you sure you should really be takin’ Spike’s advice?”
“What is this ‘something else’ she’s talking about?” Silver Spoon asked Sweetie Belle.
“Oh, well…” Sweetie Belle grinned sheepishly, rubbing the back of her head. “You remember when I told you about that little zip-lining incident?”
Silver Spoon nodded in affirmation.
"Yeah, she’s referring to that.”
“I see… and when you say Spike, you mean that dragon that lives in the library, right?”
Sweetie Belle nodded.
Being an honor student, Silver Spoon had spent a fair amount of her time studying in the library. Although, for all the time she’d spent there, she’d never actually held a conversation with the curators longer than a simple “hello” or asking for a reference guide. However, on more than one occasion, when her curiosity got the better of her, she found herself watching Spike out of the corner of her eye, as dragons weren’t exactly common in Ponyville. He certainly didn’t smile much from what she’d seen of him, but that could have been attributed to the fact that when she chose to watch him, the Cutie Mark Crusaders—oddly enough—were usually running amok in the book emporium, grating on the drake’s nerves. Silver Spoon wondered if Spike was joking when he put the thought into Scootaloo’s head, or if he knew just how far the pegasus was willing to go to find her special talent.
Regardless of Spike’s intentions, however, the fact of the matter was that Scootaloo had taken the dragon’s advice wholeheartedly, and was willing to put herself and her friends in danger over it. “I’ve thought about it,” Silver Spoon announced, “And I’m with Apple Bloom on this: We can’t bungee jump, it’s just not safe.”
“Yeah Scoots, let’s just head back to Ponyville and do somethin’, y’know, a little bit safer?”
“What!?” Scootaloo shouted. “After that long trip over here, hauling that heavy junk, and setting up all this equipment, you just want to pack up and go home?”
“Well, I’m sorry, but this just sounds plum foolish.”
“Oh yeah?” In the blink of an eye, Scootaloo bolted over to Sweetie Belle and draped a foreleg over the unicorn’s neck, drawing her close. “Well, Sweetie Belle thinks this is an awesome idea, and she’s with me on this one hundred percent!”
“I am?” Sweetie Belle asked, flabbergasted.
“See? She’s totally on board!” Scootaloo proclaimed, completely ignoring the interrogative tone in the unicorn’s voice.
“Scootaloo,” Silver Spoon started. “I don’t think—”
“Well, I guess that settles that! Now, come on girls, who’s gonna jump first?” Scootaloo’s eyes darted hopefully back and forth between her friends, expecting to see a risen hoof or a cheerful expression. Instead she was met with worried glances from the earth pony front. “Oh, come on, no volunteers?”
“Well, if you’re set on bungee jumpin’, why don’t you go first?” asked Apple Bloom
“Well duh,” Scootaloo rolled her eyes. “I’m the only one who knows how to work the machine for pulling you girls back up,” she said, pointing to the small mechanical winch by her side.
“So why can’t you just show us how to work it so we can pull you up after you jump?” Apple Bloom pressed.
“Well, I— I mean—”
Scootaloo’s stuttering was all the farm pony needed needed to hear. She stepped closer to the pegasus “Oh, I see…”
Apple Bloom grinned slyly
“Apple Bloom, don’t say it.”
“Apple Bloom, I’m warning you,” Scootaloo growled.
“Apple Bloom…” Scootaloo hissed, crouching low, as though she were about to pounce.
“I’ll do it!” Sweetie Belle shouted, jumping between her feuding friends.
“Wait, what?” Scootaloo and Apple Bloom both asked in confused tandem. Neither of them had been expecting Sweetie Belle to volunteer for such a thing, and yet here she was, doing just that.
“I said I’d jump first,” she elaborated. “That way Scootaloo can show you girls how to work the machine and stuff, so she can go next. We came all this way, and neither of you two want to go, so that’s only fair, right?”
“Sweetie Belle, ya can’t—”
“I’ll get the harness!” Scootaloo interrupted, dashing to retrieve the piece of equipment in question.
Apple Bloom scowled at the pegasus and shook her head.
In Scootaloo’s temporary absence, Silver Spoon stepped forth to talk some sense into the unicorn. “Sweetie Belle, you’re not seriously going to jump are you?”
“Yup!” Sweetie Belle chirped.
“But what if you get hurt or something happens to the cable on your way down?”
Sweetie Belle grinned weakly at Silver Spoon’s concern before offering her rebuttal. “But what if it’s my special talent?”
“What if it’s not? What if you get hurt anyway? Why do you need to go this far just to get your cutie mark?”
Sweetie Belle averted her gaze from Silver Spoon’s and trotted closer to the edge of the cliff. She sighed as she looked out at the late afternoon sun sinking underneath the trees “So that we won’t get called blank-flanks by mean ponies anymore.”
There was that cursed word again: Blank-flank. Silver clenched her jaw in irritation.
“That’s why I’ve got to at least try.”
Sweetie Belle’s confession left a cold, guilt-ridden pit in Silver Spoon’s gut.
“C’mon Sweetie Belle,” said Scootaloo. “I’ll help you put the harness on.”
“Alright, I’ll be right there,” Sweetie Belle called behind herself before turning back to Silver Spoon. “Look, Silver Spoon, I know it’s a little hard to understand, but I have to try, okay? Wish me luck?” Sweetie Belle turned her back to Silver Spoon and trotted over to Scootaloo who began helping her into the bungee harness.
Silver Spoon sank to her haunches and shook her head as she tried to take in the whole insane situation. It was all there in black and white. The Cutie Mark Crusaders had been risking their lives trying all these dangerous things to attain their cutie marks simply because they didn’t want to be teased by their peers any longer. An overwhelming feeling of guilt crept through Silver Spoon as she recalled her role in all this. While she hadn’t been the worst instigator, she was as much to blame as Diamond Tiara or any of the others who had teased the three for not finding out their special talents as quickly as the rest of the class. Thinking back on it, there was so much she could have done to help the three along their way, but instead she chose to join the crowd and criticized them at every turn. “This… this is my fault,” she muttered, remorse lacing her tone.
“This ain’t your fault, Silver Spoon,” Apple Bloom said, sitting down next to the guilt-ridden filly.
Silver Spoon turned to face her fellow earth pony, confusion splayed across her facial features. “What?”
“I said, you ain’t got nothin’ to feel bad about. This ain’t your fault.”
“How can you say that? After all the insults, all the bullying, all the abuse I put you three through with Diamond Tiara, how can you just stand there and say that this isn’t my fault? If we were just a little bit nicer to you, if we hadn’t given you such grief over your cutie marks, then maybe—”
Apple Bloom, much to Silver Spoon’s further confusion, simply chuckled at the declaration of guilt. “Is that what’s been eatin’ at you this whole time, Silver? Ha! This ain’t your fault, take my word for it.”
Apple Bloom cut Silver Spoon off in favor of continuing her explanation. “Some way or another, Scootaloo would’ve come up with some cockamamie idea just like this, and she’d still convince Sweetie Belle and me to go through with it. It’s just how we are.” Apple Bloom shrugged. “Aside from that, if it weren’t for you and Diamond Tiara constantly pickin’ on me, I never would’ve become friends with Sweetie and Scoots. If anythin’ I should be thankin’ y’all, although I wouldn’t touch that filly with a ten-foot pole.”
“Heh, I know what you mean.” Silver Spoon chuckled. “But, you can’t think this is in any way a good idea.” Silver Spoon pointed to Scootaloo, who had just placed a particularly tight-looking helmet on Sweetie Belle’s head, showing next to no concern for the unicorn’s horn.
“No, not really,” Apple Bloom admitted. “But just you watch, Sweetie’ll come to her senses and chicken out before she even gets close to thinkin’ about jumping.”
“You’re sure about that?”
“Trust me on this.” Apple Bloom grinned in an attempt to convince Silver Spoon that she was speaking the truth.
Silver Spoon returned the smile five-fold. “Well, I guess I don’t have much of a choice now, do I?”
“Alright girls, clear the jump site, Cutie Mark Crusader Bungee Jumper Sweetie Belle is coming through!” Scootaloo shouted as she walked the unicorn to the lip of the cliff. “There’s no way we won’t get our cutie marks this time!” Scootaloo turned beaming towards an incredibly nervous Sweetie Belle. To say that the white unicorn’s face was absolutely pale would have been an oddly appropriate oxymoron for this situation. “You ready for this Sweetie Belle?”
"Uhhh… sure heh, heh. Of course I'm ready… ‘Cutie Mark Crusader Bungee Jumpers’, right?" Sweetie Belle said, absolutely unconvinced by the words coming from her mouth.
"That's what I like to hear!" Scootaloo cheered. "Now, get on up there!"
Sweetie Belle swallowed back a hard lump that had formed in her throat, gathered up her courage, and craned her neck over the edge of the cliff, taking in all that lay beneath the platform. The first thing she noticed was the height of the drop in question. It wasn't quite as high up as she thought it was going to be; it was far higher. The longer she stared, the blurrier her vision grew and the higher up it seemed she was. The next thing she noticed was that the bottom was nowhere to be seen. There was only the sound of violently rushing water racing up to meet her nerves from beneath the shadows of the forest's thick canopy. The one and only thing she could take solace in was how far the cliff face receded in from where she was standing. At least with that, she wouldn't scrape herself up on the way down. If she intended to jump, that is.
“Watch this,” Apple Bloom whispered to Silver Spoon.
"Ummm… Scootaloo?” Sweetie Belle edged slowly away from the ledge. “I really don't think I want to do this."
Silver Spoon heaved a sigh of relief at the unicorn’s decision. Perhaps she wouldn’t have to pay a visit to the emergency room after all.
“Whoa, whoa, Sweetie Belle, what’re you saying?” asked Scootaloo.
“Well,” Sweetie Belle said, shuffling her hooves, “I think that Silver Spoon and Apple Bloom have a point. This just doesn’t seem very safe.”
“But, you’re already wearing the harness! And that helmet took forever to put on the right way!” Frustrated, Scootaloo began stomping towards Sweetie Belle, and in response the unicorn began to back away, nearing the edge of the cliff with each step.
“I know, but I—”
“And besides that—”
“Scootaloo!” Apple Bloom shouted. “Is your skull thicker than hog-hide or somethin’?”
“What!?” Scootaloo whirled around to shout back a half-baked retort, but was surprised to find Apple Bloom’s indignant golden eyes glaring in righteous fury only mere inches away from her own.
“Landsakes! What’s the matter with you!? Sweetie Belle said she don’t want to jump, so that don’t mean you go out of your way and force her! What kinda friend are you, bullyin’ her into doin’ something like that!? That’s somethin’ I’d expect from Diamond Tiara! You ought to be ashamed of yourself.”
Scootaloo opened and closed her mouth several times in disbelief at what she’d just heard, but couldn’t quite find the words to convey how hard it had struck. As far as it went within the Cutie Mark Crusaders, being compared to Diamond Tiara was the gravest, most humbling insult any one member could bestow upon the other. “You’re… you’re right, Apple Bloom. I-I just got so caught up in this that I completely forgot about Sweetie’s feelings. I’m sorry.”
“I forgive you, but I don’t think I’m the one you need to be sayin’ that to.” Apple Bloom pointed to Sweetie Belle cowering on the ledge as Silver Spoon finished removing the harness and helmet.
“Yeah, you’re right…” Scootaloo sighed. She turned around and began trotting towards Sweetie Belle, opting to sit down on her haunches a foot away. “Look, Sweetie Belle… I know what I did was stupid and selfish of me. I should’ve thought a little more about how you’d feel and I shouldn’t have asked you to do something that I—” The pride-wounding words were caught in Scootaloo’s throat, but they would not come easy for the filly. “—that I was too afraid to do myself!” she finally managed to choke out. “And I’m sorry! I’ll understand if you—”
Scootaloo found herself cut off by Sweetie Belle, who launched herself at the pegasus, seizing her in a vice-like hug. “I forgive you, Scootaloo,” she said softly.
“Just don’t go doin’ it again, okay birdbrain?” Apple Bloom said as she rested her forelegs on the pegasus’ purple mane, causing the three to tumble over, giggling.
“Yeah, yeah, yeah, now get off of me!” Scootaloo howled.
Silver Spoon felt a little left out but contented as she watched her new friends celebrate their strengthened camaraderie. She wouldn’t have minded watching the touching scene of friendship a while longer, but it had just occurred to her that she was still sitting on the edge of a very steep cliff with nothing to keep her from plummeting to an untimely demise. “Ummm, I don’t mean to break up the mood here, but is there a chance that we could move somewhere that isn’t so… close to the edge?”
Scootaloo chuckled as she rose up from the pile of crusaders. “What’s the matter Silver Spoon, got a fear of heights?”
“Yes, actually, I do. That being said, I’d be most appreciative if we could move this elsewhere before—”
The section of the cliff Silver Spoon and the Crusaders had been standing on gave a sudden and unnerving downward jolt. As a result, Silver Spoon lost her balance and stumbled into the ground, resulting in another jolt, this one twice as sharp as the last. Panic surged through her as she stood up cautiously and attempted to assess her situation, but a horrified scream from Apple Bloom summed up what she saw very quickly.
“Get the hay off this thing, it’s gonna fall!” the farm filly cried as she and Scootaloo leapt from the crumbling platform onto more stable ground.
Silver Spoon attempted to step forward, but the rock had begun to rapidly tilt at such an angle that the filly was forced to crawl along it to gain any semblance of traction.
“Hurry up and jump, we’ll catch you!” Scootaloo shouted.
Silver Spoon clawed and grasped at the smooth surface of the rock, scrambling up frantically inch by lifesaving inch, believing that she just might make it off the unstable platform before it finally went over. That is until she heard Sweetie Belle’s terrified shriek from her right.
“Girls, I need some help! I’m slipping, and I can’t grab on!”
“Sweetie Belle, hang on! We’re gonna get y’all outta this!” Apple Bloom shouted.
The rock jolted again, and both Silver Spoon and Sweetie Belle were sent sliding further down the small patch of tilted rock.
“We’re gonna fall!” Silver Spoon screamed, her heart in her throat.
“I don’t want to die like this!” Sweetie Belle cried as she felt her hind legs kick upon air.
The angle of the rock segment was too far gone now, bordering on near vertical. Silver Spoon could no longer gain any height nor traction on the slope. She scratched wildly at the rock, but it was to no avail. Up until this point, she’d done a remarkable job of not looking down, but now that the moment was upon her, she felt she had no other choice but to face her end straight on. Yet as she looked down, she saw something. She had been expecting to look down and gaze upon a gluttonous pit of overbearing and absolute despair reaching up with its ravenous darkness to lay claim to its foolhardy prey.
Instead, amidst that panic-fueled atmosphere, through the horrified screams of Sweetie Belle from below and Apple Bloom’s from above, her terrorized and adrenaline-jacked mind managed to only pick out the words of Scootaloo. The pegasus’ hoarse cries played through Silver Spoon’s ears like a choir of angels serenading the visage of a deus ex machina in its purest form. Through her blurry-eyed tunnel-vision, Silver Spoon saw her lifeline shine through as clear as day. While she had once thought it to be a horribly contrived concept, the bungee-harness had to be without a doubt the most beautiful thing she’d ever laid eyes on in her entire life, and it was only two feet away.
“Grab the bucking harness!” Scootaloo’s voice rang through again.
Silver Spoon, guided purely by survival instinct, released whatever semblance of a grip she had on the rock and slid down, forehooves outstretched towards the harness as she rapidly descended towards the end of the surface. Frantic, she lunged towards one of the outstretched straps and caught it with her teeth. This minor victory was short-lived, however, as Sweetie Belle’s screaming reminded her that there was still more to be done. With the little time afforded to her, she quickly slipped a foreleg into one of the straps and hurled herself down the rock, forehooves extended towards Sweetie Belle’s waist, just as the unicorn’s grip failed her. Silver Spoon instinctively wrapped her hooves around Sweetie Belle like a boa-constrictor the moment she made contact with her, and Sweetie Belle returned the favor twice as hard.
The rock had broken clean away from the cliff at this point. Had Silver Spoon not jumped and caught Sweetie Belle, the pair would still be travelling with their earthen companion, finding out just how deep the descent into the Everfree Forest would take them. However, the two now-airborne fillies had two new issues to deal with: freefall and recoil forces.
The fall was nothing like what Silver Spoon had been expecting. The first thing to hit Silver Spoon, as the initial shock from jumping subsided, was the uneasy sensation of weightlessness which was soon accompanied by the rapid sting of wind whipping past her face and through her mane. Had she, like her unfortunate passenger, not been wearing glasses, she would have found her vision blurred by tears and sheer wind pressure. A condition that would have been preferable to having near-perfect sight at this particular instant. The fast-approaching darkness of the seemingly bottomless canopy below drove Silver Spoon to tighten her already vice-like grip around Sweetie Belle’s waist, although in the unicorn’s blinded, frenzied state, she hardly noticed the increase in pressure.
Silver Spoon was so focused on the fall that she failed to notice the harness strap had begun to dig into her shoulder. Regardless, she quickly became savvy to the fact that her descent was slowing to an abrupt halt. Silver Spoon, having forgotten the nature of this particular cord, heaved a sigh of relief. A sigh that quickly turned to a scream in her throat as the cord stretched, tensed, and rocketed the pair back into the air. The sheer change in velocity dragged Silver Spoon’s glasses from her face, pulling the vision correctors into the abyss below. Now blinded and disoriented, all Silver Spoon could do was hold on as tightly as she dared to Sweetie Belle, so as not to allow her new friend to meet a similar fate.
The world flew by in a rush of unrecognizable colors, wind, and racing thoughts. Whatever shrieks she had in her throat were abandoned in favor of grit teeth and a braced gut as she felt gravity laying claim to herself and Sweetie Belle yet again. The second fall wasn’t quite as intense and nerve-wracking as the first, but without her glasses all Silver Spoon could do was clench her eyes to shield them from the wind and bear the pull of gravity.
As the momentum of the second bounce faded, so did the peak of her adrenaline high. There were several residual bounces that ensued, but none were quite as remarkable or shock-inducing as the initial freefall. As her thoughts returned to their normal pace, Silver Spoon could feel Sweetie Belle’s body shivering and shaking in time with her own. The worst was over for now.
As they hung above the canopy in absolute silence, neither filly chose to speak. All they could think of was how grateful they were to be alive and able to hear Apple Bloom’s voice cut through the silent atmosphere, providing much needed relief to the pair. “Scoots, they stopped bouncing, pull em’ up quick!”
“Already way ahead of you!” Scootaloo piped up.
Indeed Scootaloo was, as Silver Spoon could feel the harness around her shoulder tighten up, slowly pulling the fillies to safety an inch at a time.
“You ahead of me? Well, that’s a first, now ain’t it?”
“That was so funny I forgot to laugh,” Scootaloo replied sarcastically. “Just help me pull them back on the ledge, okay?”
Apple Bloom rolled her eyes as she trotted over to the ledge and offered a hoof to Sweetie Belle. “Grab on to me Sweetie Belle, I gotcha,” she cooed to the shaken unicorn.
“Hey, Silver Spoon, I’ll help you up,” said Scootaloo. The pegasus reached out and grabbed Silver Spoon’s hooves, dragging the earth pony as far away from the ledge as possible.
Silver Spoon, relieved to finally be on solid ground, looked at the blurred yellow and orange shapes of her new friends and saviors. The filly opened her mouth as though to give her thanks, or perhaps even portray her life changing experience to the two, but no words would come out. Instead, her vision began to tunnel and her head began to spin. A moment later, she blinked and found herself face down on the ground, before finally giving into her body’s demands and passing out.
Chapter 5 End
Silver Spoon rubbed her head and slowly opened her eyes as she slipped back to consciousness. She could have sworn that it was still light out when she passed out in the forest. In fact, she remembered that there had been nary a cloud in the sky, and the pegasi’s weather schedule for the week hadn’t mentioned anything about rain. Yet, despite that, here she stood alone in a darkened, cloudy clearing. “Apple Bloom? Scootaloo? Sweetie Belle?” she called in vain. The only response she received for her troubles was a sullen silence.
“Well, well, well,” dripped a familiar venomous voice. “Back so soon, Silver Spoon?”
Silver Spoon turned to face the source of the voice and froze as her eyes fell on the hideous shadow from earlier. It had grown in size since the last time she’d seen it.
“You know, it was awful rude of you to just leave so abruptly like that. Don’t worry though, I’m not mad. We have plenty of play time now.” The shadow trotted predatorily around Silver Spoon, much like a manticore circling a hapless rabbit. “Hmmm… what to play, what to play?” the beast mused to itself. “The others have all ‘left’, so it’s just the two of us… oh! I know, how about—” the shadow turned to face Silver Spoon, or rather the spot where Silver Spoon had once been standing. While the monster was absorbed with its monologue, Silver Spoon had taken the opportunity to sneak away. “Hide and seek it is,” the beast chuckled as it sank into the shadows.
Silver Spoon galloped through the darkened clearing as fast as her legs could carry her, barreling through bushes and over gnarled tree roots. She didn’t dare turn around. She didn’t want to know how close it was. All she wanted was to put as much distance between herself and that beast as she could. Silver Spoon ran herself ragged until her advances were finally halted by a solid wall of mangled vines. “No, no, no, no, no!” she screamed. The vines began to elongate and encircle Silver Spoon, trapping her in a flora-filled dome.
“Tsk, tsk, tsk. Found you, Silver Spoon.” the shadow’s mocking, venomous voice spoke from behind. “I thought you were going to make this interesting for me.” The creature shook its head in feigned pity. “Whatever. It would have turned out this way anyway. It’s not like you could have escaped me. After all…” The beast smiled a smile befitting of the lord of Tartarus himself, revealing rows of sharp, wicked teeth. “You belong to me, and I’m going to make sure that nothing ever comes between us again.”
Silver Spoon watched in horror as dark tendrils erupted from the shadow’s body, racing towards her with frightening speed. Before Silver Spoon could react, one of the tendrils seized her forelegs and hoisted her, kicking and screaming, into the air. Try as she might, Silver Spoon just couldn’t break free of the tendril’s grip.
The monster began to retract its appendages, Silver Spoon helplessly being drawn in. “Don’t worry, we’ll be together soon enough, and no one else will ever bother you again, because you’re going to become a part of me. Heh, heh, heh…” The shadow opened its gaping mouth wide enough for Silver Spoon to look upon the void that lay between its jaws.
“No… no! No! No! No!!” Face to face with oblivion, Silver Spoon squirmed and struggled twice as hard, but the monster only cackled maniacally as it drew her into its mouth. She bucked and screamed against the creature’s hold until she finally found herself totally engulfed by the darkness of the monster’s mouth. Frantic, the filly turned, thrashing and clawing towards the exit, when the shadow’s jaw drew shut, locking her into the lightless abyss.
“Now you’ll become a part of me, and we’ll never be apart. Won’t it be wonderful, Silver Spoon?”
Silver Spoon could feel the darkness surround her, dragging her deeper into the dismal atmosphere. The miasma was so thick she was practically drowning in it, but amidst her panicked breaths and muffled screams, an acidic voice pierced through the veil.
“No!” Silver Spoon jolted awake, heart pounding away in her chest, fur covered in a cold sweat. She cradled her head in her hooves, sobbing softly as she recovered from the nightmare. “It’s just a dream,” she told herself. “It’s just a dream,” she chanted again, holding onto the words and the comfort they provided. Silver Spoon could feel the hammering of her heart slowly begin to subside as she let the words sink in.
“It isn’t real. You’re safe.” Silver Spoon held her head up, wiping her eyes as she did so. As her vision cleared however, it became immediately apparent that something was very wrong. Silver Spoon looked to the left and the right trying to figure out where she was, but all she could see were shadowy blurs. Thinking something had to be wrong with her glasses the filly reached up to adjust the baby-blue frames, but was taken aback as her hoof made contact with her naked eye.
“My glasses! Where did they go?” Silver Spoon patted herself down from head to hoof before turning her search to the ground. As she couldn’t see very well, she had no choice but to rely solely on her sense of touch and hope that she wouldn’t accidentally crush her spectacles by pressing down too hard. “Wait a minute…” she mumbled as her hoof landed on something much, much softer than the hard ground she’d been expecting. “Is this… a bed?”
“Oh, good! You’re awake!” Sweetie Belle’s cracking voice chirped from somewhere nearby.
“Sweetie Belle?” Silver Spoon squinted her eyes in a vain attempt to distinguish the unicorn from the rest of the blurs in the room. “Where are we? What’s going on? The last thing I remember we were in the Everfree Forest and we’d just… we’d just….” Silver Spoon leaned forward, clutching her head as a surge of painful memories came flooding in all at once. Falling. Screaming. Helplessness. Silver Spoon started to hyperventilate as she relived each second of the fall. “Make it stop… make it stop…” she pleaded. Silver Spoon was taken off-guard when she felt Sweetie Belle’s forelegs wrap around her head, drawing her close. “S-Sweetie Belle? What are you—”
“Shhh… It’s okay Silver Spoon,” Sweetie Belle cooed, tenderly stroking the earth pony’s mane. She remembered how, as a foal, Rarity would often do the same for her whenever she’d wake up screaming from night terrors. “You’re safe now. It’s over, and everything’s going to be just fine. I’ve got you Silver Spoon.”
Silver Spoon opened her mouth to speak, but only a choked sob managed to escape. Sweetie Belle took note of this and pulled the quivering earth pony even closer, nuzzling the top of her head as she did. “Feeling any better, Silver Spoon?”
Silver Spoon gently pushed herself away from Sweetie Belle, wiped her eyes, and nodded. “Mmhm. Thanks for that, Sweetie Belle.” she sniffled. “But, where are we? What happened after we fell off the cliff? The last thing I remember I was looking at Apple Bloom and Scootaloo in the Everfree Forest. Then it just kind of goes black after that.”
“Well, after you passed out in the forest, Apple Bloom and Scootaloo got into a really big argument about taking you to the hospital. Apple Bloom was really worried about you and wanted to get you checked out right away, but Scootaloo said that since you survived that huge fall, you were way too tough to need a hospital.” The second-hand compliment managed to put a faint smirk on Silver Spoon’s face. “So, long story short, right now we’re at my sister’s boutique, but if you want, I can take you the hospital.”
“No, I think I’ll be fine. Besides that, I wouldn’t want to worry my parents too much. I don’t even want to think about how they’d react if I told them I went bungee jumping.” Silver Spoon chuckled weakly. A small gurgle rose from the earth pony’s belly. “Oh, I’m sorry.” Silver Spoon’s face flushed a light shade of pink. “I guess I haven’t eaten anything since lunch.”
“No problem!” Sweetie Belle said. “I’ll go whip something up for you!” With that, Sweetie Belle leapt, giggling, from the bed and cantered out of the room.
Silver Spoon smiled after the white blur of a unicorn before resting her head against the bed’s headboard. She was about to close her eyes when she felt something leap upon the bed. “Sweetie Belle? Is that you?” she asked. She received no response. Squinting, Silver Spoon scanned her immediate surroundings. The only thing she saw was a small white blur slinking towards her. “Sweetie Belle? My, that was fast.”
The white blur wordlessly moved closer, until it was standing right before the sight-impaired filly.
“Ummm… do you need something, Sweetie Belle?” she asked, leaning closer towards the blurry unicorn. To Silver Spoon’s surprise, Sweetie Belle reached up and began playing with her long braided ponytail, batting it around with both forelegs. “O-Oh… you wanted to play with my mane.” Silver Spoon felt her face grow hot as Sweetie Belle had her way with her mane. “I-I guess it’s f-fine. I don’t really mind… I guess.” Silver Spoon bit her lower lip as she contemplated what would have spurred Sweetie Belle to do such a thing, but her mind was absolutely blown at what the unicorn did next. Sweetie Belle leaned forward and, faster than Silver Spoon could react, licked the earth pony’s cheek not just once but thrice. “S-Sweetie Belle! What are you—I mean I… I… ohh, I didn’t realize you felt that way about me.”
“Feel what way about you?”
“You know…” Silver Spoon averted her blind gaze from the unicorn in front of her, and fumbled her hooves as she tried to pick out the right words. Mid-thought, it dawned on her that the voice hadn’t come from in front of her. She turned her head towards the source of the question and saw another white blur.
“I know what? What are you talking about Silver Spoon?”
“Wait. Sweetie Belle, if you’re over there, then who’s this?” Silver Spoon reached out, poking and prodding the odd white lump in front of her. For her efforts, she was rewarded with an infuriated hiss not unlike that of a cat. She felt something swipe the air by her nose, followed by a slight stinging sensation.
“Opalescence!” Sweetie Belle yelled as she leapt onto the bed and seized the cat. “Get away from Silver Spoon!” The unicorn hurled the feline off the bed and out of the bedroom door where the cat landed, hissed, and scampered away. “Dumb cat.” Sweetie Belle spat after the creature. “You okay, Silver?”
Silver Spoon nodded, silently praying that Sweetie Belle hadn’t heard or read too much into what she’d said.
“Great!” Sweetie Belle stepped off the bed, and retrieved a small bowl from the doorway. “And lucky for us, Rarity had some leftover tomato soup on the stove, so here you go!” Sweetie Belle placed the bowl next to Silver Spoon.
Silver Spoon squinted down at the bowl and saw that it was indeed full of some reddish soup with a small glimmer of metal that she presumed was a spoon. It was at this moment that a somewhat ironic problem immediately presented itself to the earth pony. Aside from having no depth perception at the moment, spoons were intended for use by unicorns. “Hey, Sweetie Belle?”
“I don’t want to sound rude, but I can’t really, you know, use a spoon. No magic.”
“But, aren’t spoons your special talent?”
“Umm….” The question absolutely derailed Silver Spoon’s train of thought, but she recovered just as quickly. “No, you see, making spoons is my special talent. I come from a family of silver-smiths. As far as using them, well…” she held up her hooves sadly.
Sweetie Belle however wasn’t phased by the explanation in the slightest. “Well, no magic, no problem! I’ll help you eat!”
“Help me eat?” Silver Spoon asked plainly.
“Watch.” Sweetie Belle bit down on the end of the spoon, and carefully lifted it out of the soup, and over to Silver Spoon’s mouth, taking extra care not to spill a single drop. “Shee? I cangh fgheed you like zgghf! Ophen wygh!” (See? I can feed you like this! Open wide!)
“What!?” Silver Spoon’s face was as red as the soup in front of her. “But it would be so embarrassing if you… if you…” Silver Spoon’s mouth lingered open for a second too long, which was all the time Sweetie Belle needed to lean forward and plunge the spoon into the earth pony’s open mouth.
Silver Spoon’s eyes went wide as she felt the warm, sweet yet salty broth slide from the spoon onto her tongue. But it wasn’t the flavor of the soup that had brought her to such a state of shock, so much as it was Sweetie Belle’s sudden, unexpected actions. Silver Spoon hesitantly swallowed the mouthful of soup.
“Dere, zagh wushit so bagh, wush ih?” (There, that wasn’t so bad, was it?) Beaming, Sweetie Belle pulled the spoon out of Silver Spoon’s mouth and refilled it with soup, returning her expectant gaze back to the flabbergasted earth pony.
Silver Spoon fumbled for words to formulate an excuse for why she couldn’t partake in such an uncouth act, or to produce a fit of feigned indignation towards the unicorn’s behavior. She quickly found that she could not. Some part of the earth pony had actually enjoyed that, not to mention she was still absolutely famished. “Could… could I have some more?” she asked sheepishly, instinctively tilting her gaze downward avoid any awkward eye contact with Sweetie Belle, even though she couldn’t see.
“Yugh!” (Yup!) Sweetie Belle said, leaning forward to deliver another spoonful into her friend’s mouth. For the next few minutes, the two indulged in their little back and forth, Sweetie Belle giggling every so often when the spoon would miss Silver Spoon’s lips and soup dribbled down the side of her face. Silver Spoon, on the other hoof, silently pondered whether or not anypony could see them in such a compromising position.
After what felt like too long, the soup bowl—much like the reserves of Silver Spoon’s dignity— had finally emptied. “All done,” Sweetie Belle said, dropping the spoon into the empty bowl.
“Well, that was that,” Silver spoon muttered under her breath. “Thanks Sweetie Belle.”
“No problem. You ready for me to take you home?” Sweetie Belle asked.
Silver Spoon nodded and slid herself cautiously off the bed. She landed on the floor with all of the grace of a molting phoenix, that is to say none at all. Had Sweetie Belle caught her a second later, the blind filly would have tripped over her own hooves. Sweetie Belle helped the unbalanced filly to a stand, taking one of Silver Spoon’s forehooves in her own to guide her along.
“Don’t worry about a thing, Silver Spoon. I’ll get you home safe,” Sweetie Belle declared. “Who knows, maybe I could even get a cutie mark for that!” she exclaimed as she started guiding Silver Spoon out of the boutique.
The unicorn’s sudden influx of enthusiasm put a grin on Silver Spoon’s face. The crusaders really were dedicated. “Cutie mark for what?” she asked playfully.
“Hmmm… escorting ponies without glasses?”
“That doesn’t sound like much of a special talent to me,” Silver Spoon teased.
Sweetie Belle puffed out her cheeks in mild irritation. “I could let you walk home yourself, you know.” The unicorn pouted.
“I’m just kidding,” Silver Spoon giggled.
Sweetie Belle stuck her tongue out playfully at Silver Spoon as the two stepped out of the boutique and into the darkened Ponyville streets. “So, which way?”
“I live just up the hill past Quills and Sofas,” Silver Spoon said.
“Oh, that’s not too far from here then. Huh, I honestly thought you lived up in Ponyville Heights,” Sweetie Belle admitted.
“Why’s that?” Silver Spoon had a strong feeling she already knew the answer to her own question.
“Well, because you’re always hanging out with Diamond Tiara, and kind of… you know…”
Silver Spoon raised an eyebrow at Sweetie Belle and decided to finish the unicorn’s thought for her. “Look down on the rest of the class, like a spoiled brat?”
“Yeah…” Sweetie Belle’s voice trailed off uncomfortably.
Silver Spoon sighed, shaking her head. She was afraid that was what Sweetie Belle was going to say. “Look, I know how I acted in the past, but believe me, I’ve been trying my hardest to put that all behind me. I’d been friends with Diamond Tiara so long that I forgot what it was like to have other friends.” Silver Spoon tightened her grip on Sweetie Belle’s hoof as she delved deeper into her confession. “After a while it was like bullying everyone below us was all I knew. But after the way she reacted to Granny Smith’s story on family appreciation day, I could finally see Diamond Tiara for what she really was, and what she was turning me into. I decided that I didn’t want to be that kind of pony anymore. And then this afternoon…” Silver Spoon’s words trailed off as she tried to push the thought back to the depths of her mind.
“What happened this afternoon?” Sweetie Belle asked.
Silver Spoon looked at the blurred outline of Sweetie Belle and grinned weakly. “I finally put my hoof down. Let’s just leave it at that.”
“Ugh, fine…” Sweetie Belle groaned at Silver Spoon’s response. She hated not having closure. But this seemed personal, so she chose not to press the matter any further. “Anyway, we just passed Quills and Sofas. Which one of these is your house?” Sweetie Belle asked as she guided her blind companion up the row of gated villa style houses.
“Do you see a house with two hammers and an ‘S’ on the gate?”
“Hmmmm… yeah, I see it.”
“That’s my house. You can just take me to the front gate, I wouldn’t want to keep you out too late,” said Silver Spoon.
“It’s alright, Rarity’s probably asleep anyway,” Sweetie Belle said as she finished guiding Silver Spoon to the front gate.
“Thanks for taking me home, Sweetie Belle. And… I had a lot of fun today, despite almost dying.” The two shared a laugh together, but soon found themselves standing in silence. “So, I was wondering, you know, maybe if you and Apple Bloom and Scootaloo don’t mind, maybe we could do this agai—”
Silver Spoon’s words trailed off as she felt Sweetie Belle’s lips press firmly upon her cheek. The kiss itself was brief and above all confusing for the earth pony who had no idea how to respond to such an out-of-the-blue gesture.
“Any time Silver Spoon,” Sweetie Belle giggled. “And thanks for saving my life.”
“But you— I…”
Blushing fiercely, Sweetie Belle turned and galloped away, leaving behind a dumbstruck, gibbering Silver Spoon who would reflect back on this moment fifteen minutes from now while crawling into bed. Tonight she would sleep soundly, dreaming not of shadows and monsters, but of a certain white unicorn with green eyes and a smile full of boundless benevolence.
However, as the filly was too enraptured by the insanity and suddenness of the moment, she failed to notice the sounds of a second set of hoofsteps disappearing in the opposite direction.
Chapter 6 end
Silver Spoon awoke the following morning, feeling more refreshed and well rested than she had in weeks. The filly slowly sat up, stretching her forelegs to the sky as she heaved out a mighty yawn that resonated through every fiber of her waking being. After finishing her stretch, she reflexively reached for a pair of rimless reading glasses that seldom ever saw the outside of her home. Silver Spoon had never been particularly fond of the spectacles as they were far too small, resulting in them sliding off her nose with a rather annoying frequency. Regardless of how she felt about the frames, she’d have to grin and bear it, as her beloved blue-rimmed vision correctors now lay somewhere in the bowels of the Everfree Forest. However, considering how eventful the previous day had been, losing her glasses was a small price to pay.
Pushing the frameless spectacles up the bridge of her nose, the filly gently slid from her bed and set out for the washroom to begin her morning routine. Stepping inside, she was pleasantly surprised to find a fresh bath had already been drawn for her, most likely by her parents. Deciding not to look a gift horse in the mouth, she immersed herself in the warm bath, relaxing contentedly while the soothing waters cascaded over her, rejuvenating sore muscles and undoing stress as it went.
Whilst indulging in her state of bliss, Silver Spoon noticed there were three rubber ducks floating about in the water. “Geez, mom, you don’t have to put toys in the tub for me, I’m not a foal anymore…” she grumbled as she reached out and plucked the ducks from the water. Pushing her glasses back to the bridge of her nose, she held the family of plastic waterfowl up for inspection. Something about the bath toys caught her eye: their color. One of the ducks was white, while the other two were purple and pink. Any other day this might have gone unnoticed by Silver Spoon, but because of the events of the prior evening, all she could think of when she looked at the ducks was a certain two-tone–maned, white-coated unicorn.
Silver Spoon set the ducks loose in the water, giving them a gentle splash to get them moving as she leaned the back of her head against the tub and slowly submerged her muzzle in the water. Beneath the surface however, her cheeks began to glow red as she recalled how friendly Sweetie Belle had been towards her the whole day. How quickly and impulsively Sweetie Belle had convinced her friends to induct Silver Spoon into the Cutie Mark Crusaders.
“Well, she is really nice isn’t she?” Silver Spoon asked herself, while she stirred the water with a hoof.
The way that the unicorn would grab her hooves and hold them tight without hesitation.
“I’m sure she’s like that towards all of her friends…” Silver Spoon reasoned as she splashed water at the white duck, which had drifted quite close.
How easily the filly had just fallen asleep, nuzzled against Silver Spoon’s belly.
“Maybe she was just tired?”
The soft press of Sweetie Belle’s warm lips as she planted a grateful kiss on Silver Spoon’s cheek.
“She was just showing her gratitude for me saving her life, right? Right?”
Silver Spoon sighed, closed her eyes and tried to focus on the temperature of the water. Yet all that she could think of was the possibility that a certain somepony might have—dare she believe it— feelings for her. She could feel her face growing hotter as she continued to dwell on and mull over the subject, before she finally worked up the courage to ask herself just what was on her mind. “But… what if… what if she likes me?”
“Silver Spoon?” a mare’s voice called from outside the bathroom, instantly startling the bathing filly. “Darling, are you alright? Who are you talking to in there?”
“Uh, I uh— nopony, mother!” Silver Spoon stammered.
“Well, hurry up in there! Your breakfast is getting cold, and some of your little friends came over to see you.”
“They came over this early in the morning?” Silver Spoon took a moment to silently commend the Cutie Mark Crusaders. She could barely stumble through her basic hygiene at this hour and yet the Crusaders— as she imagined them— were bright-eyed, bushy tailed, and raring to go.
“Yes, dear. They’re in the kitchen, and it would be unladylike to keep them waiting, you know,” the mare spoke.
Silver Spoon rolled her eyes as she responded with a half hearted, “Yes, mother.” The filly fumbled around for the plug of the bathtub, and yanked it out upon locating it. As the water drained out, she reached for a nearby towel and went to work drying herself off as she stepped out of the tub. As soon as she was dry, Silver Spoon stepped over to the sink to embark on the most awkward task to ever specifically ruin the mornings of earth ponies Equestriawide: brushing her teeth.
Silver Spoon retrieved her toothbrush and a half-empty tube of toothpaste. “Alright, let’s do this.” Three minutes, several shed tears and one broken tooth brush later, Silver Spoon admired her pearly white teeth in the bathroom mirror. Satisfied with the results and reluctant to give a repeat performance, she left the bathroom and made her way to the kitchen. As she entered the dining room portion of the kitchen, the first thing she noticed was the heavenly aroma of freshly prepared french toast wafting through the air. The sweet scent of the breakfast pastries easily whet Silver Spoon’s appetite and enticed her to venture further into the kitchen where she could hear her mother chatting idly with a gigging filly.
“—mmm… that smells absolutely delicious, Mrs. Spoon. I wish my parents could cook as well as you!”
“Oh, stop it, you,” Silver Spoon’s mother chuckled. “Would you like some? Silver’s father isn’t going to be around today and I’d hate for this all to go to waste.”
“Oh, I’d hate to impose…”
“Please, my dear, I insist! Your little friend can join us too. How does that sound?”
“Well… okay!” The filly piped up.
Silver Spoon had been hoping to see the Cutie Mark Crusaders littered around her mother as she trotted around the corner, but was stunned into a flabbergasted silence by the most unwelcome presence of Diamond Tiara and a particularly nervous Featherweight.
“Oh, good morning, Silver Spoon! How are you?” Diamond Tiara greeted through the most ersatz smile Silver Spoon had ever seen.
“Uh… heh heh, um… hi, Silver Spoon,” Featherweight mumbled sheepishly, doing his best to avoid making direct eye contact with anyone in the kitchen.
Silver Spoon opened her mouth to chastise the pink earth pony, but remembered her mother’s presence in the kitchen and shut her mouth just as quickly as she opened it. “Good morning, Diamond,” Silver Spoon spat through grit teeth.
“I hope you don’t mind that Featherweight and I dropped in so early, but I needed to discuss something with you in private about that big project for Ms. Cheerilee’s class.”
“Oooh, sounds important. I guess I’ll leave you to it then! Help yourself to breakfast, my little ponies!” Silver Spoon’s mother called behind herself as she trotted out of the kitchen.
Silver Spoon waited until her mother was safely out of ear-shot before setting her stifled anger loose on her unwanted house guests. “Why are you here, Diamond?” she hissed.
“Hmmm? Why, whatever do you mean, Silver Spoon?” Diamond Tiara asked innocently while stacking slices of french toast onto a nearby plate.
“Don’t give me that,” Silver Spoon spat. “Why did you come here?”
Diamond Tiara placed the plate on her back and trotted over to a nearby table. “I’m just here to accept your apology for yesterday, and have some breakfast, that’s all,” Diamond Tiara confessed.
“You want an apology? Ha! You can’t be serious,” Silver Spoon snorted as she pushed up her glasses.
“I’m, uh, afraid she is,” Featherweight said, a shaky timidity dominating the colt’s voice.
Silver Spoon cast her unimpressed gaze over to the nervous colt who had unwittingly placed himself directly in the path of Silver Spoon’s fury. “Really now?” Silver Spoon stalked over to Featherweight, successfully invading and destroying any semblance of personal space, “And just why exactly should I apologize to her, huh?” she asked, her words almost physically dripping with venom as she glared daggers directly into Featherweight’s eyes.
Faced with the direct and unbridled wrath of an angry Silver Spoon, Featherweight instinctively began to backpedal out of fear. Needless to say, for every step he took backwards, she took two forward until she had literally backed him into a corner. Even though he was physically taller than Silver Spoon, Featherweight felt incredibly small under her wrathful gaze. “Well, that it is— I… uhh…”
“Well? Spit it out already, you spineless ostrich!” Silver Spoon held her icy glare over Featherweight a moment longer, awaiting a response. Yet all she received from the quivering pegasus was incoherent jabbering. The infuriated filly wordlessly shook her head and turned her back on the pitiable pegasus. There was much bigger game to attend to.
Silver Spoon met Diamond Tiara’s amused gaze with her own irritated glower. “Well, Diamond?”
Diamond Tiara chewed and swallowed the mouthful of pastry she had been entertaining herself with as Silver Spoon stomped towards her. “Well, what, Silver?”
“What do you want?” Silver Spoon didn’t ask the question so much as she growled it.
“I already told you,” Diamond Tiara said. “All I want is a teensy weensy little apology for how you treated me yesterday. If you do that, then I’ll forgive you for your behavior.” Diamond Tiara reached for another piece of toast and took a demure bite out of it before returning her attention to Silver Spoon, who was absolutely dumbfounded.
“Forgive me for my behavior?”
“Yes, that’s what I said.” Diamond Tiara rolled her eyes and giggled. “I’m even willing to overlook the fact that you consorted with the blank-flanks. All I need to hear are those two simple, little words, and we can forget that this whole thing ever happened. I might even leave Blanky-Belle alone for a few days, just for you. Well, maybe. Now go on Silver Spoon, you know what those two little words are, don’t you?”
Silver Spoon nodded in response.
“Good, now say it.”
Silver Spoon pushed her glasses up before she looked into Diamond Tiara’s expectant eyes. “Get out.”
Diamond Tiara shook her head and sighed. She’d have been lying if she said she wasn’t expecting that response. “You know something, Silver Spoon? This reminds me of something,” she finished with a smirk.
Silver Spoon rose a bemused eyebrow at the pink filly. “Reminds you of what?”
“Oh, nothing special, just a little something that happened a year or so ago on Hearts and Hooves Day.”
Silver Spoon felt her blood run cold at the mere mention of the occasion.
Diamond Tiara took note of her counterpart’s sudden loss of bravado and continued with her story. “Oh, I see you remember this as well; probably even better than I do. Hmmm, what happened again?” Diamond Tiara playfully scratched her chin. “Oh yeah, now I remember!”
Silver Spoon ground her teeth together waiting for Diamond Tiara to continue the story.
“I remember you needing to talk to a certain somepony about something after class, in private no less.”
“Oh, right, and you couldn’t do it alone, could you? Nope! As I recall, you needed a friend to be there to give you support. Now just who was that friend? Could you remind me?”
“You know full and well it was you!” Silver Spoon snapped.
“Ah, that’s right, it was me wasn’t it? And what did we do from there? We went out to the back of the school and waited for that certain somepony to show up. I kept wondering if it was going to be Shady Daze, Rumble, or maybe even Pipsqueak, but imagine my surprise when—”
“—it turned out be—
“—somepony who wasn’t even—”
“—a colt.” Diamond Tiara finished with a cynical grin. “I’m certain Dinky had no idea what was in store for her either, when she came out looking for her secret admirer,” Diamond Tiara chuckled.
“Shut up! Just shut up and get out!”
“Oh, but don’t you want to hear the rest of my little story?”
“I know the rest, and I know what you did! I know all too well how you made her life a waking nightmare!” Silver Spoon yelled. “Now take your stupid lackey and your stuck-up attitude, and get out of my house!”
“Tch, fine then. If that’s the way you want to be.” Diamond Tiara turned to Featherweight who, up until this point, had been all but forgotten. “Featherweight, come on, we’ve got homework to do anyway. Thanks for breakfast, Silver!” In typical Diamond Tiara fashion, she just had to have the last word.
“C-coming, Diamond Tiara!” Featherweight cantered after his mistress, taking care to avoid Silver Spoon’s loathsome glare.
Silver Spoon followed the pair to the front door, and slammed it shut behind them as soon as they had vacated the premises. The moment the door closed, however, Silver Spoon’s strong front crumbled, and she along with it. The filly put her back to the door and sank to her haunches, silently cursing Diamond Tiara, utterly drained of any enthusiasm the night prior had afforded her. Vivid memories of that Hearts and Hooves Day flooded her mind, burdening her conscience with an overwhelming sense of guilt she thought she’d rid herself of a year ago.
Her melancholy, however, only lasted a mere minute as her saddening solace was interrupted by a knocking at the door. Silver Spoon took a deep breath, to steady herself. “Why are you still here? I already told you to go away, so just leave me alone!”
“What? So we came all this way to apologize for yesterday just to be yelled at? Ugh! Come on Apple Bloom, let’s go to the library; I think the Saturday morning comics are in, anyway.”
That wasn’t Diamond Tiara’s voice. Silver Spoon scrambled to her hooves and hastily swung the door open to reveal a fuming Scootaloo and concerned-faced Apple Bloom standing in the doorway. “Ah, wait, wait! I’m sorry, please don’t go!” Silver Spoon pleaded.
“What? But you just told us to go away! And what was that about, anyway?” The hot-headed pegasus pressed. “I mean, I can see how you’d be mad about yesterday but—mmph!” Scootaloo quickly found her ranting cut short as Apple Bloom’s hoof planted itself firmly in the pegasus’ open mouth.
“Never mind her, Silver. She’s just a mite cranky about having to get woken up so early is all. Did somethin’ happen?”
“Well, I’d really rather not talk about it…”
“What!? Oh come on! So first you yell at us out of nowhere, and now you’re not even going to tell us why?”
“That’s alright, you ain’t got to if you don’t want to.”
“Thanks, Apple Bloom.” Silver Spoon was thankful that Apple Bloom didn’t press her any further. “Say, how did you two find my house, and where’s Sweetie Belle?”
“Well, I was just about to get to that but then this one started shootin’ off her mouth.”
“Whatever…” Scootaloo grumbled.
“Anyhow, we saw Sweetie this mornin’ but she told us she wouldn’t be able to come crusadin’ this weekend. Said she had to somethin’ real important she needed to do today, and she always spends Sundays with her folks.”
Silver Spoon pushed her glasses up to hide her disappointment at the news. She had really been looking forward to seeing Sweetie Belle again, especially since she had so much to discuss with the unicorn.
“Don’t fret, Silver, you’ll see her in class Monday,” Apple Bloom said. “In the meantime, me an’ Scoots were wonderin’ if you wanted to come crusadin’ with us.”
“After we go check out the Saturday morning comics, right?” Scootaloo asked.
“Yeah, yeah…” Apple Bloom rolled her eyes at the anxious pegasus. “So what do you say, Silver Spoon? Are you in?”
The gray earth pony cracked a smile. “Sure, but first, would you like to come in for some breakfast? I’m afraid my mother made far too much french toast for one pony to eat, and it’d be a shame to see it all go to waste…”
“Would we?” Scootaloo and Apple Bloom asked in unison. An instant later, the two had burst into Silver Spoon’s home, gawking and guffawing at the intricate decorum of the mansion-esque homestead while Silver Spoon led them, grinning, to the kitchen. Regardless of how miserable Diamond Tiara’s presence had made her morning, Silver Spoon had a feeling that with a little help from her new friends, she could still make something out of her Saturday.
“Uhh, uh sorry Silver Spoon, Apple Bloom did it!”
After they left her house, of course.
Meanwhile, in another province of Ponyville proper, Sweetie Belle found herself trotting down the quiet forest-side dirt road that would eventually deposit all of its travelers to one of two places: the secluded cottage of the most socially inept pegasus in Equestria, or the express entrance to the bowels of the Everfree Forest. It went without saying that Sweetie Belle hadn’t just sacrificed her Saturday to chat idly with Fluttershy while they sipped tea and discussed the finer points of tending to animals, and the stuffed saddlebags on her rump only served to drive that point home further.
After what seemed like an hour’s worth of travel, Sweetie Belle finally found herself staring into the less-than-inviting maw of the forest. Swallowing back a heavy lump that had formed in her throat, she bucked her saddlebags up higher on her flank. “Well, here goes nothing,” she said to nopony in particular before she took her first steps into the thick foliage, and immersed herself in the darkened woodland.
Chapter 7 End.
The sounds of leaves and branches being crushed so blatantly were a rarity in the dismal silence that had long inhabited this particular section of the Everfree Forest. The nocturnal denizens of the shaded woodland prowled about, nearly invisible in the darkness, their leering eyes scanning eagerly for the ivory-coated intruder who dared to violate the solitude of their home. Unbeknownst to this strange wanderer, the smaller, lithe creatures watched its every move from a distance, prepared to flee in case the outsider proved itself to be hostile. In stern contrast, the large predatory beasts stood ready to attack and defend their territory from this new rival if it asserted itself as a threat.
It was as if the outsider’s sheer presence and fearless stride had put the entire sector of the forest on edge. And yet, with one simple trip over an exposed tree root, the stranger had simultaneously lost the respect it had garnered from its spectators and lowered their expectations for the world outside the forest in one fell swoop. The crowd of creatures, having been thoroughly let down, sank back into their respective homesteads, feeling only the slightest bit of empathy for the clumsy beast as it would meet its fate at the jaws of the forest’s more wanton predators soon enough.
“Oww… dumb root…” Sweetie Belle moaned as she picked herself up and rubbed a sore spot on her head. “I really wish I could use that flashlight spell to see where I’m going.” As it stood, she could hardly see her hooves in front of her face, but a quick glance at the path ahead revealed that the already poor lighting in the forest would only continue to wane as she ventured further. “Ugh! Why does the Everfree Forest have to be so dark? I’ll never find those glasses in all of this!” she griped, stomping her hooves in irritation. With a frustrated sigh, the unicorn drooped her head and continued to trot along the darkened path, taking extra care with her hoof-placement so as not to give a repeat performance.
Cursing her lack of foresight for not bringing a light source, Sweetie Belle made gradual progress into the ever-blackening Everfree. At this point in her trek, her eyes had adjusted to the darkness just enough so that she wouldn’t run smack into a tree, but not so much that the ground below didn’t present a hazard in itself. “Just one… step… at a time…” she said to herself, feeling the ground out before planting her hoof down. “I’ve gotta do this for Silver Spoon.” The sight-deprived unicorn was so focused on the task before herself that she failed to pay any mind to the silhouette of a forest dweller slinking out from behind a nearby bush, or the plodding crunch of leaves and twigs beneath its paws as it crept towards her.
“Ugh! I can’t take this darkness anymore!” Sweetie Belle, frustrated by the blackness around her and unaware of the encroaching figure, stopped and bucked her saddlebags from her flank. With a quick swat of her hoof, she popped the clasped flap of the bag open and began digging through the sea of snacks and survival tools that she packed, even though she didn’t know how to use most of the equipment. “Come on, there has to be something in here that can… aha!”
With a grin and a triumphant flourish, the unicorn whipped a small plastic ring, one and a half inches in diameter, out of the sack. “Now, does it go… this way or this way?” she asked herself as she fumbled the ring about in her hooves. It took the obtuse unicorn a moment to realize that she wouldn’t be able to tell which way was which in her ink-black surroundings. Deciding on pure luck of the draw, she slipped the ring over her horn and felt a light surge of magic being drawn towards the tip of her magical medium. An instant later, a fierce beam of light poured forth from the apparatus and flooded her vision. “My eyes! I can’t see!” She clenched her eyes as tightly as she could to stop the invasive light from obscuring her sight any further, and blindly slapped at the ring eventually popping it off of her horn.
Cautiously, she opened her eyes only to discover that she had been robbed of whatever nightvision she had gained since she stepped foot in the forest. Fortunately for the vision-impaired filly, out of the corner of her eye she spotted the slowly dying light of the recently ejected ring and began to trot towards it. “Let’s try that again,” she said as she scooped the ring up in both hooves, before easing the device—facing the proper direction this time—back on her horn. The ring, once again supplied by steady source of magic, emitted a stream of pale light that pierced through the shadowy veil around her. “Much better!” she chirped, adjusting the ring to ensure it was snug on her horn.
Now armed with a steady source of illumination, Sweetie Belle took a moment to cast the light on her immediate surroundings and stood in awe of the natural beauty that had been hidden away by a blanket of shadow until now. Above her, gorgeous, if sun-deprived, moon-pale flowers hanging from the branches of trees that towered over the rest of the forest resembled stars painted upon a canvas of night. Turning her attention to the path she had been wandering along for a small eternity, she could see various small creatures scurrying about husks of strange seeds and decomposing fruits that littered the forest floor. “Wow, it’s so… pretty,” Sweetie Belle mused aloud. She gawked at the scenery for only a moment longer, before shaking her head to regain her focus as she remembered why she had wandered into the Everfree in the first place.
“Gotta find those glasses.” Sweetie Belle turned her attention back to her unattended saddlebags, but gasped in fright as a massive silhouette raced past her and buried itself into a nearby bed of bushes. “What was that?” Sweetie Belle directed her light upon the bushes. She scrutinized the area for a good half-minute, before letting her guard down with a sigh. “Must’ve been my eyes playing tric— Eeek!” she shrieked as something brushed past her tail. Reacting faster than even Rainbow Dash could have perceived, the unicorn whipped around, barely managing to catch a glimpse of the offender as it barreled into a nearby thicket of fallen branches.
The hair on the back of the unicorn’s neck was now officially standing on end. Heart pounding away in her chest, Sweetie Belle kept her eyes glued to the thicket and carefully backed away, eyes peeled for any more movement. In the distance she could see an ever-growing number of reflective green and yellow eyes, prowling towards her at a steadily curious pace. Sweetie Belle turned to gallop back towards her bags, frightened by the onslaught, only to find herself looking directly into a pair of feral gold eyes. Startled, she fell backwards and scrambled away as quickly as she could dig her hooves into the dirt, but it was to no avail. Sweetie Belle’s blood ran cold as she watched the silhouetted stalker pounce upon her, knocking her head to the ground. She shrieked as she felt its tiny paws lightly scratch and claw at her coat with hardly enough force to break the skin, and thrashed about wildly as the beast lapped at her face with a tiny, almost sandpaper-like tongue.
Mid-life-and-death struggle, something occurred to the fear-filled filly. “Wait a minute… this doesn’t really hurt.” Sweetie Belle swatted the creature’s claws away, and pushed the feral little hellion off of her chest. Rubbing her once again sore head, Sweetie Belle sat up, and aimed the light at the likewise recovering animal. “A rabbit?” she cried, her voice cracking slightly. “I was scared of a rabbit?” Sweetie Belle turned her head to look at the swarm of impending critters and sighed as she saw a family of rabbits balk under the unfamiliar intensity of her horn-light.
The rodent by her hooves hissed and swiped at the light, only to find its aggression dismissed as nothing more than a minor nuisance as the flustered unicorn effortlessly pushed it to the side and trotted over to her saddlebags. With a frustrated grunt, Sweetie Belle kicked her bags onto her rump and stomped off down the path, leaving a clan of irritated bunnies in her wake.
Sweetie Belle followed the crudely-beaten pathway deeper into the Everfree, hopelessly scouring the ground as she went. As wandering into the forest had been an impulsive decision born from an even more impulsive decision, the filly hadn’t put much thought into the magnitude of the search at hoof. Looking for a pair of glasses in the vast woodland was a daunting task even without the all-encompassing darkness, if for no other reason than the sheer size of the forest itself. Nonetheless, Sweetie Belle, driven by the hopes that her efforts would not go unrewarded, trudged forward, undiscouraged by the impossible nature of the task.
A half hour of fruitless wandering slipped through the filly’s hooves before she was finally presented with a new obstacle: a daunting wall of weathered stone that appeared to span endlessly in every direction blocked her path. “Oh, come on! A dead end?” With a groan, the filly sank to her haunches and began to scratch at her mane in frustration. ”Ohhh… this is hopeless!” Feeling absolutely flustered, Sweetie Belle chose to lie her back on the cold forest floor while she contemplated calling it quits. From her supine position, Sweetie Belle could see the forest from a whole new perspective. It was still abysmally dark, but with her light she could see just how high up the thick cover of trees stretched, and how the branches thinned out as they they got closer to the rock wall. With a listless shift of her eyes, she started to study the branches overhead, raising an eyebrow as she noticed something odd about a particular section of the canopy. The section in question seemed somehow thinner than area around it and she could even see trace amounts of light trickling through.
Curious, Sweetie Belle rolled to a stand and trotted towards the small break in the pseudo-skyline. Focusing her light, she studied the canopy closely for any sign of what might have caused the break and was rewarded with a faint glint from one of the branches for her efforts. “Hey, what’s that?” She craned her neck upwards, squinting at the glint, and gasped as she realized just what was producing the refraction. “Silver’s glasses!” The unicorn grinned a toothy grin “♫I found them, I found them, I found— wait… gah!” A second glance at the spectacles hanging idly from the branch revealed a major hinderance to the unicorn’s plans. “They’re so high up! How am I supposed to get them down?”
Sweetie Belle glared at the baby-blue rims in the distance. It was like they were mocking her and all that she had gone through to find them, but little did the glasses realize, Sweetie Belle was as one-track minded as the citizens of Canterlot were snobbish. Sweetie Belle dropped her bags and began rooting through them with renewed fervor, throwing various knick-knacks, canteens, and candy bars to the side. Surely in her mad dash to prepare for her venture into the Everfree, she had to have grabbed something that could have greatly assisted her in the task at hoof. Yet after a minute of sifting through countless pieces of gear, all she had to show for her efforts was a stack of wrinkled maps, an empty canteen, and, for whatever reason, a stack of dehydrated hay bacon that was somehow harder and heavier than most bricks. Frustrated by the poor find, Sweetie Belle tossed one of the bacon bricks behind herself where it collided with a tree with a heavy crack. “How can I have all this junk but nothing that’s actually useful? Hmm… maybe I can use some of this stale hay bacon to— ouch!” the unicorn cried as something small but weighty struck her on the crown of her head.
Rubbing her sore head, Sweetie Belle picked up the offending object and gave it a quick once over. “An acorn?” Sweetie Belle looked up at the tree holding Silver Spoon’s glasses captive, and noticed that it was the only tree bearing any such seed. “It must’ve fallen from that tree when I threw that…” Sweetie Belle turned to inspect the broken block of a snack and the tree that it had impacted against. Like most of the trees in the forest, it was a towering behemoth of a plant, but something about the trunk was different compared to its neighbors. It was much slimmer than the others, and it seemed somehow bent out of shape, as though something was putting a great amount of stress on it.
Experimentally, Sweetie Belle placed her forehooves on the trunk and pushed with all the force she could muster. To her surprise, the tree swayed slightly, dropping acorns as it moved. This gave Sweetie Belle an idea. “Well, I’m no Applejack, but…” Sweetie Belle turned her back to the tree, and gave the trunk a few experimental kicks with her hind legs. Feeling confident, she shifted as much weight as she could onto her forelegs, drawing her hind legs in at the same time. “Hi-yah!” she cried, exploding her legs outward with the force of a small confetti-filled cannon. To her satisfaction, the tree rocked back and forth, dropping even more acorns as it went. “Ha! I’ll get those glasses yet!” Sweetie Belle drew her legs back and delivered buck after buck into the wood of the tree, all the while watching as the glasses bounced along the branch they were trapped on.
After abusing the trunk with a flurry of bucks, Sweetie Belle gazed upwards to see how much progress she had made in getting the glasses to fall. The glasses themselves were one, perhaps two solid kicks away from falling, but less noticeably, the fracture in the canopy had grown much wider as the trickles of light had grown in intensity. “Alright,” Sweetie Belle said, wiping dense beads of sweat from her brow. “This is it!” Sweetie Belle drew her legs in as far as her small frame would allow, before laying into the tree with everything she had. The tree gave a mighty creaking moan, but more importantly to the unicorn, finally released its selfish grip on Silver Spoon’s glasses. Sweetie Belle watched and winced as the frames fell to the ground with a light crack.
Feeling accomplished, the exhausted unicorn trotted towards her prize, snatching the glasses up quickly. “Well, that was easier than I thought it was going to be,” she mused aloud, inspecting eyepiece for any visible damage which the the left lens had in spades. It was hopelessly shattered beyond conventional repair, but that was a small matter Sweetie Belle already had a plan for. Her priority now was to get out of the forest and back to Ponyville before sundown.
Placing the glasses on her forehead, Sweetie Belle turned back to her bags, but was shocked to see that they had somehow disappeared in the short span of time she hadn’t been watching them. Only a few of the maps and a half brick of hay bacon stood in its place. Sweetie Belle scanned around the clearing for any sign of her bags, but was less than enthralled to discover they were nowhere to be seen. “Oh, come on, they were right there!” she shouted. Sweetie Belle’s anger was promptly directed towards the sound of rustling bushes coming from behind her. “Ugh, more rabbits?” she groaned. “Hey, gimme back my stuff you thieving little—”
Came the sounds of paw steps on leaves from behind Sweetie Belle. The steps stopped just behind Sweetie Belle who rolled her eyes and turned to face the nuisance. “Look, bunny, I really don’t have time to mess around with you, so just give back my stuff and—” The bravado in the unicorn’s words quickly faded and her heart skipped a beat as she found herself face to face with the golden eyes of a snarling, wooden monstrosity that was easily twice her size and definitely not a rabbit. “—go… away?” the filly whimpered meekly.
The beast stalked forward, radiating bloodlust with every step it took towards its next meal. Sweetie Belle backed away cautiously, not wanting to provoke the bloodthirsty brute into attacking early. In the face of certain death, Sweetie Belle’s fight or flight response was going absolutely haywire. Her eyes darted from side to side, searching for a way around or even under the timberwolf, but in the back of her mind she could hear a small voice screaming that her efforts would all be in vain.
A violent shiver shot through the frightened filly’s spine as she felt her tail brush against something coarse and jagged. She knew exactly what her tail had brushed against, yet she dared to hope that she was wrong. She prayed that by some miracle her father, her sister, her friends, or some righteous royal guardsman was standing behind her, ready to lay waste to the timberwolf and whisk her away to safety. She knew what was standing behind her, yet she didn’t want to believe it. An aggressive growling, however, shattered whatever hope she had been deluding herself with and forced her back into reality.
Frantic, Sweetie Belle whipped her head to the left only to find another timberwolf baring down on her. A glance to the right revealed the same problem, albeit, this wolf had wandered decidedly closer than the others.
Sweetie Belle was absolutely trapped with nowhere to run, but in that same respect, running was the only other option available besides being eaten alive by rabid forest dogs, and it seemed unlikely that she would get very far even if she managed to work up the courage. Accepting her inevitable fate, the filly curled up into quivering ball and wrapped her hooves over her head. At the very least, she didn’t have to see it coming and could at least hope it would be over quickly.
As the timberwolves drew closer Sweetie Belle drew her head in closer, whimpering apologies for whatever she had done to deserve this, and to her loved ones as well. “Rarity, I’m so sorry for being such a pain, I just wanted to spend a more time with you,” she sobbed. She could hear the steps of the wolves drawing ever nearer “Apple Bloom, Scootaloo, I’m sorry that I’ll never see you both earn your cutie marks, but you two were the best friends I could have ever asked for,” she choked through a steady torrent of tears.
“Silver Spoon, I—” Sweetie Belle winced as one of the wolves howled in preparation to indulge in its cowering bounty. “I'm sorry I let my opinion of Diamond Tiara completely cloud my view of who you were. I'm sorry I never told you how I felt. You're so much more than what you appeared to be around Diamond. I spent so much time trying to avoid the issue or bury my feelings, but they just won't stop. Ever since I got to know you, I've felt this way… Silver, I love you, and I’m sorry that I’ll never get to tell you.” Sweetie Belle clenched her eyes tighter and covered her ears, as she anticipated the searing pain of jagged wolf-fangs tearing into her.
Sweetie Belle was so tightly wound up that she failed to hear the raucous howling of the timberwolves as they ignored her and began barking timorously at the strange noise. “It’ll be over any minute now; it’ll be quick, it’ll be quick,” the unicorn chanted to herself between sobs, not daring to look up. Had she done so, she’d have seen that timberwolves had retreated in lieu of a much larger threat. While fear had kept her bound to the spot she was so sure she would die in, the violent quaking of the forest floor piqued her curiosity. Slowly uncovering one of her eyes, Sweetie Belle chanced a glance at the place where one of the timberwolves had been standing, only to find it had been strangely vacated. Cautiously, Sweetie Belle turned her head to the side and was relieved to find that there was no wolf there either.
Hesitantly, she wiped her eyes and rose to a stand, searching the clearing for any trace of the timberwolves, only to find she was alone. “Huh, I wonder what made them run off like that,” Sweetie Belle mused aloud. She hadn’t noticed it before, but the clearing had gotten much brighter somewhere amidst her run in with the wolves. Curious, Sweetie Belle looked up and immediately felt the blood drain out of her cheeks as she saw what had terrified the wolves so. Hanging directly over her, suspended by mere branches and vines was a massive chunk of jagged rock that seemed intent on crushing all that stood below it.
Sweetie Belle shrank back in horror, as the sheer weight of the rock effortlessly snapped several of the vines restraining it, causing it to sink another few inches. Needless to say, Sweetie Belle had no intention of sticking around to watch it complete its journey to the ground and took off galloping as fast as she could towards the path she had used to find this wretched place. She ran and ran until her lungs burned, and her legs felt like they were on fire. The frightened filly stopped for nothing, occasionally slowing to a canter only to light her way. As far as she was concerned, she would never willingly step hoof in the Everfree Forest again, and would fight tooth and hoof against any suggestions for adventures a certain orange pegasus would pitch in the future if they involved any combination of the words “Everfree”, and “forest”.
What seemed like minutes later, Sweetie Belle broke out of the Everfree Forest and into the reddening light of the late afternoon sun. She cantered only a few steps further before she collapsed onto the dirt road, tears of relief streaming down her face as she coughed out a cackle of solace that was normally reserved for shipwrecked sailors who had narrowly avoided Davy Jones’ cold grip. After several minutes of expressing her strong gratitude, consisting of an odd combination of sobbing and laughing, the unicorn stood up and wiped her eyes. She couldn’t spend all night crying here, she had things to take care of before tomorrow, and judging by the position of the sun, not much time to do it.
Reaching up to confirm that Silver Spoon’s glasses were still on her forehead, Sweetie Belle began her long trek back home to Ponyville, namely Carousel Boutique, where she had a few very special requests to put in with the proprietor.
“Rarity?” Sweetie Belle called as she marched into the pristine designer dress shop. “Are you here?” No response. Sweetie Belle trotted deeper into her sister’s store, poking through every room in search of the alabaster mare. She finally chanced across her sister in one of the many workrooms, sporting her trademark red reading glasses and an expression that was just dripping with focus as she labored over putting the finishing touches on a particularly robust dress for a particularly plump mare. As the seamstress would say, she was “in the zone.”
“Hey, Rarity? Can I ask you something?” Sweetie Belle asked, easily destroying any semblance of focus Rarity had accrued over the last two hours of this designing session.
“What is it Sweetie Belle?” huffed Rarity’s annoyed tone. “Can’t it wait? You see I’m with a client right now, don’t you?”
“Oh it’s alright, Ms. Rarity, she’s your sister after all; go on,” said the mare standing on Rarity’s sewing pedestal. “Besides, we’re almost done here anyway, so what’s a minute or two longer?”
With a sigh, Rarity pushed her glasses upon her forehead, and made her way towards Sweetie Belle, ushering the filly out of the room as she went. “If you insist; I suppose a break might do me well anyhow.”
“Not a problem dear, take as long as you need,” the mare called after Rarity.
Once in the hallway, Rarity closed the door behind her ever so gently and turned her gaze to her sister. “And just what is so important that you have to break our little ‘give-Rarity-her-space-when-she’s-working’ agreement, hm?” It was at this moment that Rarity actually took the time to see the state Sweetie Belle was in.
“Gah! Wha—Sweetie, what’s happened to you?! Why are all these leaves in your mane? Why is your coat so dirty? And these broken glasses, you didn’t let anyone see you like this, right?”
Sweetie Belle rolled her eyes as she watched her older sister sink to the ground sobbing like a child. “Are you done yet?” Sweetie Belle asked flatly. “I’ve got something really important to ask you.”
“Hmph, well, forgive me for being concerned for the well being of my younger sister.” Rarity pouted.
“Right… anyway, do you think you could fix these for me?” Sweetie Belle pulled the glasses off her head and offered them to her sister.
“Tis but a simple task.” Rarity said confidently. as she enveloped the glasses in a blue aura and whisked them into the air. The blue light intensified, and in a flash the cracked lens had repaired itself. “Please, dear, next time bring me a challenge.” Rarity said cockily, lowering the spectacles back onto Sweetie Belle’s head, whilst plucking a few leaves from the younger filly’s horribly matted mane. “Now then, is that all you needed?”
“Well, actually there is one other thing…” With a wave of her hoof ,Sweetie Belle gestured for Rarity to lean down.
“Sweetie Belle, we’re in absolute privacy, nopony else is here. Why can’t you just tell me?”
“Come on, Rarity!” Sweetie Belle whined.
“Ugh, fine…” It was the fashionista’s turn to roll her eyes as she obliged her younger sister’s request and placed her ear by the filly’s mouth. As Sweetie Belle whispered her request, the older unicorn’s eyes began to light up with a renewed zeal. Rarity pulled away from Sweetie Belle with a look of absolute disbelief painted across her features.
“You mean you want me to…”
Knowing exactly what her awestruck sister was going to ask, Sweetie Belle simply nodded in response.
“So that you can…”
Sweetie Belle confidently nodded again.
Rarity swooned back and forth as she allowed her excitement to catch up with her. “Well, we can’t simply dawdle here when something so big is at stake, now can we? Now run along upstairs and get cleaned up, while I finish up here with Ruby Pendant. By the time you come down, I should be ready for you.”
“Oh, thank you so much for this, Rarity!” Sweetie Belle lunged forward, forelegs open in a big sister seeking embrace. Much to the filly’s chagrin, she found her advances halted by a shimmering aura of blue magic.
“Eh, heh, heh. Not until you’ve washed up, Sweetie,” the older unicorn tutted, levitating her pouting, dirt-covered sister up the nearby staircase. As she listened to the echo her sister’s grumbling and hoof-falls disappear up the stairs, Rarity reached up and slid her glasses so they once again rested upon the bridge of her nose. The reinvigorated fashionista wasted no time in trotting back into her workroom to attend to Ruby Pendant, although thoughts and epiphanies in regards to her younger sister’s request were still mindfully ingrained in her thoughts.
Half an hour and a dirt-stained bathtub later, Sweetie Belle emerged from her elder sister’s latrine. A visible trail of steam flowed from the filly’s ears as she stepped into the much cooler air of the boutique proper, the temperature contrast making Sweetie Belle shiver slightly as her body adjusted. The familiar ebb and flow of faint conversation captured the filly’s ear, and coerced Sweetie Belle into following the fading voices downstairs where she could only catch snippets of the dialogue.
“…but this dress is simply fabulous, Ms. Rarity! How could I not pay?”
“Think of it as a gift from me to you, Ms. Pendant.”
“But this is such an immaculate piece of art, that I insist that you allow me to pay you double— no, triple what you asked!”
“Ruby, darling, don’t worry about it, besides, after tonight, I’m certain you’ll have paid me back in full without even realizing it. Just be a dear and make sure that you let your acquaintances in Canterlot know of this little encounter won’t you?”
“But of course, Ms. Rarity. I bid you adieu and good evening.”
“Likewise.” Sweetie Belle trotted into the boutique foyer just in time to see Rarity rising from a curtsy while gently closing the door after her esteemed guest. The older unicorn turned around and was pleasantly surprised to see Sweetie Belle standing right in front of her. “Ah, perfect timing, I was just coming to get you.”
“Why didn’t you make her pay for the dress?” Sweetie Belle asked.
“Hmmm… lets just call it an investment of my interests for the time being.”
“If you say so...” Sweetie Belle mumbled.
“Anyhow, enough about that. Stand right there if you’d please,” Rarity instructed pointing to a nearby modeling pedestal.
Sweetie Belle quickly obliged her sister’s instructions and scrambled upon the stand.
“Are you ready to begin Sweetie Belle?” Rarity asked.
The taffy-maned filly nodded nervously, as her sister levitated several needles, spools of thread and rolls of cloth from a nearby basket. “Just a word of warning: this will not be over quickly, and you will not enjoy this. For the next three hours, I am not your sister: I am a designer.”
Sweetie Belle swallowed back a hard lump that had formed in her throat. She could already tell it was going to be a long night, but hopefully it would all pay off tomorrow. Hopefully.
Chapter 8 End
On this particular Sunday morning, Silver Spoon found herself pensively soaking in a bath that had been heated to a pleasant sizzle. As she soaked, her mind drifted to and fro in reflection of the near poetic highs and quandaries this weekend had bestowed upon her. Where one friendship had fallen, three more had risen in its stead. Where expectations and social stature had once held her captive, the reckless abandon of a magnanimous unicorn had liberated her from those inhibitions. For the first time in the longest time, she felt somehow lighter and refreshed, as though a great weight had been lifted from her back.
With a contented sigh, the filly leaned her head back against the edge of the tub and allowed a concurrent wave of scented bath water and fresh memories from the day prior to cascade over her. The sweet aroma of the honey-apple bath salts drew her mind back to Apple Bloom and Scootaloo’s confectionary antics on Sweet Apple Acres. Closing her eyes and breathing in deeply, she could almost perfectly replay the fateful incident that had led to Applejack’s joint grounding of Apple Bloom and Scootaloo in her head.
“Ya know what, Scootaloo?” Apple Bloom said as she tugged at the straps of a particularly snug blue helmet. “I don’t think ya thought this through completely.”
“What do you mean? I totally thought this through!” the pegasus insisted, checking her own custom purple ‘brain-bucket,’ as she so affectionately referred to it.
“Really?” Apple Bloom cocked an uncertain eyebrow at her friend.
“Okay then, explain to me how runnin’ downhill in Sweet Apple Acres on a ball of taffy three times the size of my brother is supposed to help us earn our cutie marks.”
“Earn our cutie marks?” Scootaloo chuckled and flitted her wings. “I just thought this would be awesome!”
“What? I mean you, you—”
“Where did you even get something like this?” Silver Spoon interrupted, pushing her glasses back up her nose before curiously poking the anomaly. She couldn’t deny that she was tempted to lick the massive boulder of sweets in front of her, but considering how much dirt road there was between Sweet Apple Acres and anywhere else, this thing had to be just covered in filth. Needless to say, Silver Spoon opted to pass.
“Pinkie Pie gave it to me,” Scootaloo confessed. Admittedly, that explanation made perfect sense to the inquiring filly for some odd reason. “You wanna hop on up here with us?”
“Err, maybe next time, Scootaloo.” Silver Spoon attempted to remove her hoof from the ball of taffy, only to find that the sphere of dental nightmares held her hoof fast. With one mighty tug, she managed to pull her hoof free, although a strand of the stubborn sweet managed to stay adhered.
“♫Your loss…♫” the pegasus hummed in a sing-song tone.
“I’m sure,” Silver Spoon replied sardonically, wiping her hoof on the ground to rid herself of the residue.
“Alright, Scoots, I’ve heard enough of this nonsense. We’re puttin’ a stop to this foolishness before my sister comes out and— waugh!” Apple Bloom had made an attempt to leap from the mass of sticky sweet candy, only to find herself firmly rooted in place. “What the hay? I’m stuck!“
“Well duh. It’s Sugarcube Corner’s specially stirred, super-sticky, surprisingly-strong, sugar-smackingly scrumptious saltwater taffy! I can’t even move my jaw when I eat this stuff!”
“Well, how the hay are we supposed to get out?”
“Huh,” Scootaloo tilted her head in thought. “I didn’t think about that.”
“I told ya! Ya didn’t think this through!” Apple Bloom barked. “Silver Spoon, help me offa this thing before— wait…” Apple Bloom paused. “Landsakes, it’s movin’! Make it stop! Silver Spoon, ya gotta make it stop!”
“Me?” Silver Spoon choked, flabbergasted. “What do you want me to do about that
“I dunno, just do somethin’!” Apple Bloom pleaded as she continued to fruitlessly struggle, squirm, and bounce against the menacing ball of sugar that was slowly rolling towards the decline of the hill it had been so meticulously balanced on.
Silver Spoon looked around for any available tools. There were none. She thought about leaping in front of the ball and bucking the behemoth back into a neutral standing position, but she was too small, and the thing was too far gone. As far as she was concerned, the only thing she could do in this situation was shrug, sit on her haunches, and watch the scene before her play out. She’d feel guilty about it later, but as of now, this fracas was too good to pass up.
“This is bad!” Apple Bloom shouted as she continued to fight against the pull of the taffy, an act that only caused the mass to pick up more velocity.
“This is awesome!” Scootaloo cackled as she was quickly sucked under the mass of candy, contributing to the rolling speed.
“This is interesting,” Silver Spoon said to herself as she watched her friends and the taffy hurtle down into the orchard, more specifically, towards a remarkably huge tree. The candy’s course was perfect in the worst possible way, and in a matter of moments, it slammed into the tree like a cannon shell, spraying globs of taffy-borne shrapnel everywhere. Panicked about the well-being of her fellow Crusaders, Silver Spoon galloped towards the crash site. Upon arriving, she found that the pair were thankfully still intact, although Apple Bloom, due to the massive wad of taffy on her back, had been propelled and affixed to one of the higher branches.
“Are you two alright?” Silver Spoon asked, stepping carefully towards the crash site so as not to step directly in any of the sticky candy.
“Ugh…” Apple Bloom groaned. “We are for now…”
“What do you mean ‘for now?’”
“Apple Bloom!” A mare’s voice howled. “What was that racket!?”
“Silver Spoon,” Scootaloo coughed. “You’ve got to get out of here, save yourself!”
“But what about—”
“Just go before she comes, it’s already too late for us!” Apple Bloom bellowed.
“I can’t just—”
“Run!” the doomed fillies shouted in tandem.
Silver Spoon cast one last worried glance at the pair before turning and galloping away as fast as she could. Behind her, the banshee-like report of a merciless ear-chewing grew fainter with each stride the fleeing earth pony took.
Silver Spoon sighed as the memory passed. From what Scootaloo had told her later that evening, the two would be steadily cleaning the taffy from the tree until late Sunday evening, but allegedly it was worth it. In a rational frame of mind, the bathing filly had gotten off easy, as she wasn’t built for physical labor, but considering that she had just spent forty minutes lounging in the bathtub and would likely spend another thirty in the waters before working up enough enthusiasm to actually do anything of some significance, perhaps she would have been better off staying with her friends. After all, chores on Sweet Apple Acres would have at least given her something to do with the day.
“Hmmm… What to do, what to do?” she mused aloud, absent-mindedly stirring the water with a hoof. With a hearty sigh, Silver Spoon slid even deeper into the waters, going lax as the water embraced her body like a velveteen blanket. In the blissful silence that followed, her mind drifted back to the concluding events of Friday evening, and the hundreds of unanswered questions that had been eating at Silver Spoon since that happy little incident. A word of closure would have been wonderful, maybe some explanation for the unicorn’s actions at the least. Was it intentional? Had it been out of gratitude? Was it born of amorous intent? Was it spur of the moment or had it been planned?
Silver Spoon sat up and rubbed her temples as the questions poured forth with a greater frequency, branching off into their own little logically illogical tangents, teasing her imagination with a range of scenarios. “Gah! I’m so confused! Why did she have to do that?” she whinnied a mite louder than she had intended to, unaware of her mother’s presence just outside the bathroom door.
“Silver Spoon, baby?” The concerned voice of Silver Spoon’s mother called from outside the door. “Are you talking to yourself in the bath again?”
“N-no, mother!” Silver Spoon frantically splashed and scrambled for her reading glasses, which had slid from her nose and into the misty waters at some point during her soak.
“Look, it’s alright, honey,” the parent sighed. “When I was your age, I had an imaginary friend too, and we’d—”
“Mom, I do not have an imaginary friend!” Silver Spoon cried as the mortification only a parent could impart upon their offspring gradually set in.
“Okay, okay… your invisible friend,” the mare said in a soothingly supportive tone.
“Ugh! You don’t understand!” Silver Spoon cradled her face in her forehooves, silently praying to Celestia that her mother would be distracted by something shiny on the ground and lose interest in this little back and forth. However, it seemed as though her prayers had fallen on deaf ears.
“Silver, I just want you to know… well, if you ever need to talk, about anything, then you can always—”
“Hmmm, we weren’t expecting any company today… I wonder who that could be…” the mother mumbled to herself as she trotted away to attend to the door.
Relieved to be alone at last, Silver Spoon stood up to pull the plug on her bath. However, as she did, the muted crunch of glass cracking under-hoof caused the filly to wince and groan simultaneously. In a manner of speaking she’d found her reading glasses, albeit in the worst possible way. Silver Spoon cautiously pulled herself out of the tub, taking her time so as not to cut herself on any shards that might have scattered themselves in the water, before pulling the bath plug. It only took a moment for the water to drain out and reveal the remains of her beloathed spectacles. The frame itself was intact, only slightly bent; it could have easily been salvaged with a small application of force to either side. The lenses, on the other hoof, were destroyed beyond repair. While the right lens had a massive crack reminiscent of a cobweb running through its entirety, the left lens had been shattered altogether. Only remnants of the glass remained in the actual frame as the rest had presumably been sucked down the drain.
Silver Spoon batted the remaining shards out of the left lens and tried on her horribly mangled spectacles. What remained of the right lens had retained a quarter of her normal visual range, so at the very least she wouldn’t have to stumble through the day with the grace and acuity of a drunken mole. With another frustrated moan, Silver Spoon collected her prized pearl necklace from its resting place on the bathroom sink before staggering, near-blind, out the door and downstairs to the foyer.
Upon descending the final steps, Silver Spoon overheard her mother chatting idly with somepony at the front door. In the interest of avoiding any further filial humiliation by her mother’s tongue, the filly crept down the stairs, taking care to soften her steps so as not to draw any attention to herself. Unfortunately, due to her severely impaired peripheral vision, she failed to notice the corner of a particularly loose rug at the base of the stairs. In her hushed haste Silver Spoon slipped on the corner and hit her chin on the floor, which sent her glasses sliding away and towards her mother’s hind hooves. Needless to say, as the glasses collided with the mare’s legs, Silver Spoon’s stealth approach had been utterly foiled, but perhaps for the better.
“Oh, Silver dear,” the mother greeted, turning to face her shakily-recovering daughter. “I was just about to call you down. You’ve got another guest.”
“A guest?” Silver Spoon asked uncertainly as she felt around for her glasses. She knew for a fact that Scootaloo and Apple Bloom would be cleaning that tree all day, and from what she’d heard about Applejack, it wasn’t likely that the farm mare would allow them to skimp out on their punishment so easily. She doubted greatly that Diamond Tiara would be arrogant or foolish enough to directly try the gray earth pony’s patience two days in a row. It was more likely that the pink filly was out making life miserable for some unfortunate classmate of theirs in lieu of the preoccupied Cutie Mark Crusaders. And as far as she knew, Sweetie Belle was spending the day with her parents clear on the other side of Ponyville. Or so she thought.
“This charming filly was just telling me where she acquired this absolutely divine piece of couture.” Silver Spoon’s mother gestured to an all too familiar fluffy-maned unicorn adorned in a flowing white cotton blouse accented by a pale-yellow skirt covering her haunches. As Silver Spoon had been deprived of her glasses, the most she could see was an unintelligible yellow blur, but the moment she heard the high-pitched crack of the filly’s voice she immediately recognized the source.
“Oh right, my sister Rarity made it for me!” the unicorn chirped.
“Well, your sister must be quite the accomplished seamstress then, hm?”
“Yup! She’s kind of famous in Canterlot and she even has her own shop here in Ponyville!”
“Does she now?” The mare cocked an intrigued eyebrow.
“Mhm,” Sweetie Belle tapped a hoof to her chin in thought as she attempted to recall her sister’s welcome jingle. “Carousel Boutique: Where every… something is… something… something and magnifique? I think it’s something like that…”
“Well then,” the older mare chuckled, softly patting Sweetie Belle’s mane as she trotted past the filly. "I think I’ll leave you and Silver to each other’s company while I pay Ms. Rarity a visit; and thank you for the information little Miss… oh dear me, I never got your name.”
“Sweetie Belle; such a pretty name,” the mare repeated, reaching down to pick her daughter’s glasses off the ground. “Silver, sweetheart, what happened to this pair?”
“I’d rather not say,” Silver Spoon mumbled as she took the wrecked spectacles from her mother’s hoof, promptly returning the mangled frames to their resting place on her nose. The collision with her mother’s legs had cracked the glass even further and effectively reduced the filly’s already terribly limited vision to almost point-blank range.
“I just don’t understand how you managed to go through two pairs of glasses in a single weekend… I guess we’ll need to make an appointment to see the optometrist this week.” The mare sighed and shook her head as she bent down to kiss her daughter on the forehead. “I’ll see you later, Silvy, and make sure Ms. Sweetie Belle gets home at a reasonable hour: you both have school tomorrow.”
“Yes, mom,” Silver Spoon replied as the older mare trotted out the door, leaving behind a half-blind Silver Spoon, a beaming Sweetie Belle, and a wealth of awkward silence in her wake.
Silver Spoon’s mind was going a mile a minute with things to ask Sweetie Belle. Why was she here? What was with the kiss? Why was she wearing a dress? Yet, every time she sought to vocalize one of her queries, her mouth refused her, causing her jaw to work uselessly as the fillies stared at each other for a while. After what seemed like a small eternity, Sweetie Belle, thankfully, chose to break the silence.
“Hold on, Silver. I have something for you.” In one swift gesture, Sweetie Belle reached into her blouse and fished out a simple, but elegantly crafted wooden case that she promptly presented to Silver Spoon.
Silver Spoon took the case from Sweetie Belle and curiously shook it a few times, trying to evaluate the contents of the container. “Hmmm… what is it?”
“Why don’t you open it and find out?” Sweetie Belle suggested with an expectant grin.
Silver Spoon hesitantly opened the case to reveal that a pair of glasses sat inside. No. Not just any glasses, her glasses. Even through blurred and obscured vision, she could recognize the shape and color of the hipster-frame glasses. The earth pony took the familiar baby blue frames from their resting place and held them before herself in astonishment and disbelief. “Sweetie Belle, these are my—”
“They sure are!” the unicorn ecstatically interrupted.
“But how did you—”
“Don’t worry about it.” Sweetie Belle dismissed the earth pony’s concerns with a wave of her hoof, but Silver Spoon wouldn’t have any of it.
“What do you mean ‘don’t worry about it?’ How could I not worry about it? They fell into the Everfree Forest, and—”
“And I went and got them back for you,” Sweetie Belle cut in. “It was nothing.”
“It’s not nothing!” Silver Spoon argued. “Running into the Everfree to find these silly things; that was reckless of you!”
Sweetie Belle sank to her haunches, crossed her forelegs and pouted at Silver Spoon’s lambasting. “Well, if you don’t want them, I could always just take them back to where I found them…”
With a malcontented sigh, Silver Spoon paused to replace her mangled spectacles with the near-mint pair in her hoof. “You didn’t have to do that… but thanks, Sweetie.”
“Like I said: it’s nothing. Besides, with all I’ve got planned for today, I don’t think you want me to lead you around by your hoof all day, do you?
“What do you mean by ‘all you’ve got planned?’” Silver Spoon asked.
“Oh, shoot! That’s not how this was supposed to go!”
Silver Spoon rose an eyebrow at Sweetie Belle’s outburst. “How what was supposed to go?”
“O-oh, umm…” Sweetie Belle fumbled with her hooves and over her words as her cheeks gradually adopted a bright pink hue. “Well, I was going to, you know, see if you weren’t busy. If you weren’t then I was going to ask you if you’d maybe, possibly, on the off chance that you had nothing better to do—”
“Just spit it out already!” Silver Spoon snapped.
Sweetie Belle, prompted into action by Silver Spoon’s outcry, covered her eyes with her hooves and let loose with both barrels. “Do you want to spend the day together? Just the two of us… alone… together?”
Silver Spoon’s heart skipped a beat as her mind registered the odd request. It wasn’t so much the request that struck her as odd, but rather all of the preparation that had led up to this particular moment. Sweetie Belle blowing off her parents, the unicorn’s beautifully crafted dress, going off into the Everfree Forest just to find a pair of easily replaced glasses; it all seemed like a little much just to ask Silver Spoon to spend the day with her. It was almost as though there was something more to this invitation than Sweetie Belle had let on. Still, it wasn’t like she had anything else to do, and if she was lucky she’d get the unicorn to sate her throbbing curiosity regarding Friday. “Sure.”
“Really?” Sweetie Belle asked, peeking ever so slightly from between her hooves.
“Well, why not? You went through all this trouble after all, and I didn’t have any other plans, so, sure. What did you have in mind?”
As those very words left Silver Spoon’s lips, a massive toothy grin began to spread across Sweetie Belle’s. Before the earth pony could so much as blink or react, Sweetie Belle had seized her friend’s hoof and taken off galloping with such speed that the sheer force of the wind trailing behind her forced the weighty front door to slam shut.
As Silver Spoon practically flew behind Sweetie Belle like a mere kite, she could only marvel at the unicorn’s ability to run on three legs while hefting roughly her own weight, wearing a dress no less. Silver Spoon couldn't help but wonder just where exactly she was being so intently rushed off to, but wherever or whatever it was, at least she'd be with Sweetie Belle which meant that she was only a few short lines of inquiry away from deciphering the true nature of the unicorn's feelings. The soon-to-be motion-sick filly had a sneaking feeling that things were going be drastically different after today, but she couldn’t shake a lingering question from her mind: would this change be for better or for worse?
Chapter 9 End
As a remorseful Featherweight stood before the cellar-style doors of Ponyville Elementary’s printing press, the colt could only sum up his feelings in three simple words: this wasn’t right. The words had been rebounding in Featherweight’s mind ever since Diamond Tiara handed him that article, and the pounding in his head had only grown louder as he immortalized the tool of Sweetie Belle and Silver Spoon’s pending humiliation in film. As far as he was concerned, Diamond Tiara had her wretched scandal and then some, which meant his reputation was clear out of the firing line. Everything about the moment he’d captured was just too perfect: from the angle and lighting, to the situation and how well it met the cruel filly’s criteria for a reputation-destroying article. Had he not been so ashamed of what he was about to use it for, the colt would have felt a sense of pride in taking such a perfect photograph. Regardless of how he felt, this had to be done, lest his reputation fall alongside their own.
With a defeated sigh, the colt reached into his saddlebags and pulled out a silver key. The key to the school’s printing press wasn’t a terribly large thing, perhaps only an inch or two, give or take a centimeter here and there, and it stood to reason that the small cut of iron only weighed an ounce or three, if even that. Yet at this moment, the key was somehow one of the heaviest things he’d ever held in his life, what with his guilt and cowardice weighing his hoof down as well. Shaky and hesitant, Featherweight slowly inched the key into its resting place in the padlock. Swallowing back any residual trepidation, Featherweight turned the lock, quickly finding himself vexed by the sound of it popping out of its secured position. There was no turning back now.
With a quick swat of his hoof, the lock fell uselessly to the ground, and the doors, no longer restrained by the tiny mass of metal, sprang open, revealing the staircase to the printing press. This wasn’t the first time he’d been in this exact position, but as memory served, the first step was always the hardest, and no matter how many times he did this, it never became any more tolerable. The colt reluctantly set his hoof upon the first step and began the descent into what he’d consider a refuge any other day of the week, but for now it may as well have been his personal purgatory. Being the Editor In Chief for the school paper, Featherweight was all too familiar with being the last to leave after a long day of picking, primping, and perfecting the next issue of the Foal Free Press, but on these occasions, the room seemed somehow emptier and more desolate.
Thinking nothing further of it, Featherweight trotted over to a nearby typewriter and began making himself comfortable as he prepared to become accessory to the ruination of his fellow classmates. No, he couldn’t afford to think of them as classmates right now. If he showed them even the slightest pang of mercy by thinking of them as fellow Equestrians instead of clay pigeons in the sights of the grand old rifle of journalism, he’d lose his nerve and Diamond Tiara would step in and crush anypony in her path indiscriminately. It was nothing personal, he just couldn’t extend them that courtesy. After all, it wasn’t his fault that Silver Spoon had to go and cross somepony as ruthless and diabolical as Diamond Tiara. All Silver Spoon had to do was apologize, and this whole thing could have just blown over. Yet, here he was ready to sentence two fillies to a lifetime of ridicule and humiliation for the sake of a scorned brat’s petty vengeance. Still, Silver Spoon had brought this upon herself and Sweetie Belle, and while it wasn’t right, it was going to happen.
As the colt pulled out the hastily-written and poorly-punctuated article Diamond Tiara had forced upon him, a stray thought managed to catch the pegasus unawares: what would she think of all of this? Not Diamond Tiara, not Silver Spoon, not Sweetie Belle, but her. Surely she of all ponies would frown upon his involvement in all of this, perhaps even go so far as to shun him and by association his as of yet unconfessed affections. The very thought froze Featherweight where he sat. It was a lose/lose situation as far as Featherweight was concerned. Either he could type the article, save his own skin and lose the respect of the one he so adored, or he could refuse Diamond Tiara, end up as the front page story come Friday, and still lose the respect of his beloved in addition to being subjected to merciless humiliation by his classmates for as long as he drew breath in Ponyville.
While the path of greater evil presented far less repercussions and was far more enticing an option than standing up for himself only to be knocked down a peg or four, the thought of her eyes filled with disdain and disappointment was enough to make the colt hesitate and falter for a moment. That mere moment was all the time necessary for a seed of doubt to ingrain itself into his brain and take root. That moment gave birth to an epiphany that the colt wouldn’t have entertained in the slightest if it hadn’t been for the thought of his beloved looking upon him with disgust. Maybe it wasn’t about Featherweight. Maybe it was about standing against Diamond Tiara and standing up for what he believed in, regardless of the backlash. Maybe it was about journalistic integrity and wielding the power of the press for right as opposed to personal gain. Maybe if he had more of a backbone, he’d believe the hope-filled gibberish his brain was spewing forth and just outright tell Diamond Tiara to shove off and find somepony else to do her gruntwork for her. Alas, Featherweight possessed no such backbone, and as colorful and hope-inspiring as those florid thoughts had been, that was all they were: florid thoughts. He’d never act on them, especially not while Diamond Tiara possessed that infernal book. So long as she had the cursed little tome she’d be able to control him with a mere rereading of his intercepted letters of amore, and if Diamond Tiara wanted an article written, then by Celestia she’d get that article written, albeit begrudgingly.
With a heavy sigh, the colt propped the picture of Sweetie Belle kissing Silver Spoon on the cheek against his typewriter, uttered a silent apology, and began to weave this tale together with a rapid fire series of clicks and clacks from the typewriter. He’d feel remorse for his actions later. Right now, he had a front page story to fill, and only an afternoon to do it, after all: the presses would be going hot early tomorrow morning and he couldn’t afford to be caught with his tail between his legs.
The Melancholy Musing of an Editor-In-Chief, End.
A rampant cloud of gravel, dust, and laughter blasted through Ponyville’s market square, spraying sediment into the wares of various merchants while indiscriminately vexing the crowd of Sunday morning shoppers as it surged past. Nopony could say for sure just where the obnoxious cloud originated from or where it was headed. Yet, just as quickly as it had come, the odd occurrence had vanished, leaving in its wake irate gravel-covered shoppers and merchants sobbing over their ruined wares. The giggling mass showed no signs of slowing or stopping as it rocketed along the cobblestone roads of central Ponyville, but if an onlooker were to listen closely, they would swear that they could hear the blood-curdling shrieks of an incredibly motion-sick filly.
“Sweetie Belle!” Silver Spoon managed to shout over the torrent of wind that she’d been subjected to for the past three or so miles as she’d essentially become Sweetie Belle’s kite. “Where in Equestria… are you taking me!?”
“Hang on, Silver—huff—We’re almost there!” the unicorn choked out between strides.
“Where are we even going!?”
“Don’t —pant— worry about it —huff— you’ll —pant— you’ll see soon enough!”
“Ugh! You’ve been saying that all day!” Silver Spoon pointed out, though it seemed as if her cries fell on deaf ears. To be completely honest, Silver Spoon didn’t mind Sweetie Belle’s constant whisking her off to Celestia-knows-where, she had learned to enjoy it even, but the constant scenery assaulting her eyes was starting to make her feel sick, and a little terra-firma beneath her hooves would have just been the world to her at this moment. Little did she know that she was about to get her wish in the worst possible way.
With no word or warning, Sweetie Belle ceased her manic sprint almost instantaneously, and gently returned Silver Spoon to the ground as though she were no heavier than a mere stuffed animal. The earth pony would have been thoroughly impressed by Sweetie Belle’s oddly raw strength and precision if it weren’t for the fact that her sight and balance had yet to catch up with her.
“Here we are!” Sweetie Belle beamed at her incredibly dizzy date, who teetered twice and collapsed due to her disoriented state.
A matter of seconds passed before Silver Spoon managed to struggle to a stand. Shaking her head and adjusting her glasses, the gray filly followed the unicorn’s fixed gaze to one of Ponyville’s most distinguishable establishments, but there was something off about the situation to the astute filly. “Sugarcube Corner? Aren’t they closed on Sunday?” Silver Spoon asked. Her question was met with a pointed giggle. “What’s so funny?”
“Hehe, that’s just what they want you to think.” Sweetie Belle winked.
“What do you me— wait, let me guess: ‘I’ll find out?’” she concluded flatly.
“Now you’re getting it!” the young filly beamed.
Silver Spoon rolled her eyes and began her short trot to the bakery’s front door, only to find herself halted by a shout from the unicorn. “Wait, wait, wait!” Sweetie Belle seized Silver Spoon’s tail in her teeth and dragged the earth pony back in front of herself.
“Is something wrong, Sweetie?” Silver Spoon inquired as she tilted her head in concern.
“It’s just that you’re going to need this before you go in.” The unicorn reached into the blouse of her dress and produced a simple black strip of cloth along with an elegant golden cocktail mask, the latter of which Silver Spoon guessed was intended for Sweetie Belle. Upon closer inspection of the black cloth, Silver Spoon could see that two inconsistently-sized holes had been hastily cut out of the fabric, resulting in a crude, bandit-like mask.
“A mask? This seems like a little much just to get some sweets, doesn’t it?” Silver Spoon cocked a curious eyebrow as Sweetie Belle ignored her question and donned the golden mask.
In the blink of an eye, Sweetie Belle swept behind Silver Spoon, lifting up her glasses to tie the earth pony’s mask as she did. “There, now nopony will know who we are!”
“I’m sure…” Silver Spoon mumbled, as she fussed with her blue glasses, an obvious ping of sarcasm apparent in her tone.
“Oh… right… well…” Sweetie Belle scratched her chin as she searched for an rebuttal to Silver Spoon’s observation. “Maybe nopony will notice your glasses? It’s pretty dark in there.”
“Why would Sugarcube Corner be dark?” Silver Spoon tilted her head in thought.
“You’ll see…” Sweetie Belle giggled, to which Silver Spoon rolled her eyes; she should have expected that response. She made a mental note to confine all further questions to her internal monologue. Trotting up to the door, Sweetie Belle raised her hoof and rained a series of rhythmic knocks upon the vibrant pink, stable-style doors.
A second passed before a small window on the door slid open, revealing the silhouette of what Silver Spoon—based on the delicate curvature of the pony’s blue eyes— determined to be a mare. Silver Spoon felt apprehensive as the eyes narrowed, scrutinizing and scanning the masquerading fillies, before finally speaking. “You wear a mask, young one, so you shall not be spurned, but in order to enter, for what does the crow yearn?”
The odd challenge caught Silver Spoon off guard, casting her into a stunned silence as she pondered the seemingly impossible riddle. No context clues and no hints, just one line. What could the answer possibly have been?
“Corn syrup!” chirped Sweetie Belle.
“Ahh, I see you know our code, so please, take refuge in our humble abode.” As the small window slid shut, the actual door itself creaked open just wide enough for the fillies to squeeze through.
“Corn syrup? What kind of password is ‘corn syrup?’ That doesn’t even make sense!”
“Come on, Silver Spoon!” Sweetie Belle wasted no time in seizing the dumbfounded earth pony’s hoof. “All the answers you could want are just through that door,” she insisted, tugging Silver Spoon forward before releasing the filly’s hoof and disappearing through the door.
With a sigh and a shrug, Silver Spoon followed Sweetie Belle’s suit —or dress as it were— squeezing through the bakery door with only minor issue. The doormare could have stood to open the door an inch or two more to accompany Silver Spoon’s less than athletic build, but the filly’s gripes were lost in curiosity as she took in the ambient darkness that was foreign in the naturally well-lit sugarcube corner. The first thing to strike her about this new face of the bakery was the smell, or rather, the lack thereof. On any other day, the air of the bakery would have been filled with the tongue-teasingly sweet aroma of freshly prepared sweets and spices, but today that was nothing more than a lingering afterthought as the pervasive scent of burning incense dominated the atmosphere.
The door gently closed behind Silver Spoon as she took another step forward into her strange surroundings, taking with it the limited amount of light she’d been afforded by the midday sun. However, where illumination had abandoned her eyes, the sweet kiss of a hoof flowing elegantly across the strings of a guitar captured her ear, guiding her attention to a dimly-lit dais on the far side of the room.
Gazing upon the stage, Silver Spoon found the source of the melodic strumming in the form of a mint-green unicorn, face obscured by only a fedora with the brim pulled down low, but the simple hat was enough to give the musician an enigmatic ambience. To the guitarist’s left, an obscenely muscled white pegasus wearing sunglasses sat behind a comically undersized drum-kit, steadily keeping the beat for his partner. Between the two stood a terribly nervous earth pony with a spotlight centered directly on her, causing the sequin-studded mask she wore to shimmer and glint under the illumination. It actually threatened to slip off of her face from the light coat of sweat forming on her as well as the uncontrollable shaking of her legs. Whether it was out of fear or excitement, Silver Spoon couldn’t tell, but one thing was certain: she thanked Celestia that the poorly-costumed mare was the center of attention and not her. All those ponies looking at her, silently judging her every movement and oration… Silver Spoon shuddered at the mere thought of having all eyes in the room squarely focused on her.
Just when the timid mare onstage had finally worked up the courage to stammer through the first line of her song, Sweetie Belle nonchalantly grabbed Silver Spoon by the hoof, instantly disconnecting the filly’s attention from the performer, and began leading her through the darkened room. “C’mon, Silvy, you can’t have fun just standing in front of the door. Follow me!”
Silver Spoon cocked an eyebrow at her newly acquired alias. “Did you just call me ‘Silvy?’”
“Yup! We’ve gotta keep your identity secret after all,” Sweetie Belle reasoned.
Silver Spoon grimaced at the nickname as she was guided along. The filly’s eyes had begun to grow accustomed to her poorly-lit surroundings, and because of this, she found that she could make out the faint outlines of fellow masquerading patrons huddled around small tables illuminated by single candle each, the concealed eyes of their masks collectively affixed to the mare on stage. Silver Spoon noted that while the usual smorgasbord of sweets was absent, the tables were all but empty, playing host to decidedly less extravagant menu of coffees, teas, and assumably day-old cakes and cookies. Still, it was a quaint setting given even more charm by the audience bobbing their heads in time to the performing mare’s ironically chosen and terribly off-pitch rendition of Glorious Maneor’s: I Will Survive.
“Hey, Silvy: there’s a couple of open seats over there.” Sweetie Belle lead her date to a small table with only two inhabitants with very easily discernible silhouettes who reminded Silver Spoon of a certain married couple in propriety of the bakery. Just as Silver Spoon hopped into a vacant seat, a riveting round of applause swept through the room, signifying that the incredibly flustered mare’s short-lived period of social torment had finally come to a close as she slunk off stage.
“Wasn’t that a nice performance, honeybu— I mean Madame Eclair?” spoke the thinner of the two masked ponies.
“Oh, yes, I’m just glad Juneb— er, Ms. March Hare finally made it through a song without suffering from a panic attack,” replied his robust female counterpart. The performing pony had only taken two steps off the stage before she began to hyperventilate, and curled up into a quivering ball. “Well, at least she finished this time,” ‘Madame Eclair’ sighed. It was at this moment that the disguised couple became wary of their new table guests, and shifted their gazes to reflect as much. “Why hello there, deari— esteemed guests.”
“Aren’t you Mr. and Mrs. Ca—mph!” Silver Spoon began to ask uncertainly before Sweetie Belle quickly interrupted by covering the earth pony's mouth with a hoof.
“Secret identities, remember?” Sweetie Belle whispered to Silver Spoon who merely rolled her eyes in response. “Madame Eclair, King Creep! It’s so nice to see you again,” she said, hoping to deflect the couple’s attention from Silver Spoon’s keen observation.
“That’s Crêpe,” the stallion corrected, “and likewise, Miss Belle-bug. Might I say that that dress is very becoming of you.”
“You may,” Sweetie Belle giggled, waving off the stallion’s flattery.
King Crêpe turned his curiosity to Silver Spoon who had said nary a word since . “I’m guessing that it’s your first time here, Ms…?”
“Silvy Fox,” Sweetie Belle answered for the filly.
“Silvy, what?” Silver Spoon gasped too little, too late. The damage had already been done.
“Pleased to meet you, Ms. Fox,” Madame Eclair greeted, giggling as she extended a hoof in camaraderie, to which Silver Spoon sheepishly accepted.
“So… did you two go up yet?”
“It’s just me this time. The ‘madame’ has been a little under the weather this week, so I decided I’d go up…” The stallion paused to rest his hooves on those of his better half, “for the both of us.” As King Crêpe concluded his explanation, Silver Spoon could have sworn that what she could see of Madame Eclair’s face had taken on the coloring of a ripe tomato.
“Aww, isn’t that sweet, Silvy?” Sweetie Belle gushed.
Before Silver Spoon could answer, an explosion of confetti and pink smoke from the vacant stage commanded the attention of everypony in the audience. The pastel-colored mist drew back like a curtain, unveiling the blindingly brilliant smile of the event’s pink-coated, jester-masked hostess. With a confident, uncaring prance, the mare navigated to the microphone and upon her arrival, tapped it thrice to ensure the sound was working. “Heya folks, how’s everypony doing this afternoon?”
The mare’s question was greeted with the thunderous pounding of hooves and cheering ponies, which only served to help the jesteress’ grin grow even larger. “Now that’s what Señorita Rosa likes to hear! But before we move on to our next singer, how about another round of applause for Ms. March-Hare, for finally completing a song without passing out or breaking down from stage fright!” Again, the hostess was met with an enthused round of applause. “Alrighty then, our next vocalist normally sings as part of a duet, but with his great talent as a solo performer, he should be able to ‘du et’ on his own! Who’s with me?” The mare smiled at the crowd, expecting to rejoice in the throes of roaring laughter, but was met with only with blank stares and a particularly parched pony clearing his throat. “Geez, tough crowd… anyway, without further adieu, please help me welcome King Creepy to the stage!”
“That’s King Crêpe!” the stallion barked, but his gripes were drowned out as a third and final torrent of applause washed through the room. With a sigh slowly giving way to a confident smirk, the stallion knelt before his female half. Gently taking her hooves with his own, he planted a kiss on her cheek. “Wish me luck, m’lady.”
Madame Eclair did little more than giggle skittishly like a schoolgirl as her stallion in shining armor pulled away, his course set to the center of the dais. Still, the stallion’s display of affection reminded Silver Spoon of a certain line of questioning she had intended to subject her own companion to. With the only other guest at the table’s attention adamantly glued to her lover as he prepared to take the stage and the breath of the audience, the earth pony figured she had nothing to lose. Taking a deep breath, Silver Spoon nervously tugged at her counterpart’s dress in the manner that a foal might tug on his mother’s tail. “Hey, Swee—”
“Ahem,” Sweetie Belle coughed, gesturing to her mask.
“Uh, I mean, Miss Belle-bug, can I… ask you something?”
“Sure, what is it?” Sweetie Belle grinned.
“Well, you remember Friday, right?” Silver Spoon hadn’t realized it, but somewhere along the lines she started tapping her hooves together skittishly.
“Of course! How could I forget? We almost died!” Sweetie Belle practically cackled, earning the pair a strange glance from the other table occupant.
“Heh, heh, yeah… well, that’s not exactly what I was getting at…”
“Anything in particular that you wanted to talk about?’
“W-well, umm…” With each stammer, Silver Spoon’s face reddened and her hooves began tapping at a faster pace. “It’s about when you—”
“Oh my gosh!” Sweetie Belle interrupted, tapping herself on the forehead with a hoof as she often did whenever she’d arrived at the obvious solution to a particularly hard test question.
“Huh?” Silver Spoon asked.
“I almost forgot!”
Silver Spoon tilted her head in confusion. “You forgot something?”
“Hold that thought, Silvy, I’ll be right back, I promise!”
Before Silver Spoon could get in another word, Sweetie Belle had leapt from her seat, bolting behind the stage the moment her hooves touched the bakery floor. With a dejected sigh, Silver Spoon laid her head on the table and turned her attention to King Crêpe, who was being joined onstage by a gray mare in a black veil, carrying in her mouth a small case of the same color. The mare trotted to an open stool next to the guitarist, whom she bumped hooves with before gracefully seating herself. The veiled mare rested the case on her lap, popping the clasps on either side of it as she did, and a moment later, the mare discarded the case. Having extracted the violin and bow from within, she began to warm up by gliding the bow across the strings, coercing a few notes from the waking instrument.
With a curt nod to the guitarist and drummer signifying that she was ready, the violinist took the lead, marrying her bow to the strings. The guitarist and drummer, having found a suitable place to join in, went to work, the drummer focused on keeping the beat steady while his counterpart’s light strumming paved the way for the melody. With the musicians occupied keeping the rhythm, a spotlight shone down upon the performer who was oddly confident in comparison to his predecessor. Where she had been trembling like a bowl of gelatin, King Crêpe rocked and swayed in time, eagerly awaiting his cue. When it arrived, the stallion opened his maw and let loose with his nasally squawk of a singing voice.
“♪Everyday the sun comes up around her, she can make the birds sing in harmony,
Every drop of rain is glad it found her, Celestia must’ve blessed her just for me,
When she smiles so warm and tender, A sight for sore eyes to see~~ ♪”
Silver Spoon winced as the performer’s voice cracked on the final note. Band aside, this was among the most painful performances the filly had borne witness to in her short life, and it had only just started. Yet, out of the corner of her Silver Spoon’s eye, she could see Madame Eclair holding her hooves over her heart, absolute adoration and enticement painted across the mare’s features, as the stallion lovingly butchered a classic just for his lady.
“♪Ain’t no woman like the mare I got, no pony could love me bet-ter~~!
To make her happy doesn’t take a lot, don’t ask for things, no gems and rings
Sewn together, like a hoof in socks, just like pages in a letter,
Ain’t no woman like the mare I got~~♪”
To Silver Spoon’s surprise, despite his lack of skill— not that she could do much better herself— the collective ear of the audience didn’t seem to take offense to the vocal massacre happening on stage. Ponies started snatching up candles from their tables, waving the flames in a show of approval for their brother in song. Their misplaced praise honestly baffled Silver Spoon, but then again, she was just an observer in the midst of a foreign culture. Out of the corner of her eye, Silver Spoon caught glimpse of a yellow and white blur slowly creeping towards her.
“Sorry about that, Silvy,” Sweetie Belle said softly, so as not to detract from Crêpe’s performance.
“What was that about?” Silver Spoon asked.
“You’ll see.” The unicorn smirked deviously. “You’ll see.”
The tone in the unicorn’s voice left Silver Spoon wondering if she should have been worried or excited to find out.
“So, what do you think? He’s pretty good right?”
“Good?” Silver Spoon echoed. “Are we listening to the same singer?” she joked.
“Silvy! What a thing to say!” Sweetie Belle gasped at the earth pony’s blunt honesty. Half-appalled, half-giggling, the unicorn reached out and playfully shoved her date. “I mean, sure he’s not the best solo singer, but that’s not what it’s about here,” Sweetie Belle explained in a hushed tone so that their enamoured tablemate wouldn’t overhear them.
“Oh, really?” Silver Spoon teased through her grin. “Then what is it about?”
With a smirk Sweetie Belle playfully sighed and rolled her eyes. “Well, if you must know, it’s called karaoke, and it’s all about free expression through song.”
“So, by free expression you mean the performance as a whole, right? Because you can’t be talking about vocal talent… what?”
Sweetie Belle’s smirk only deepened, as she laughingly shook her head, returning her gaze to the stage.
“♪… cause there ain’t no woman like the one I love! Ooohh~~♪” King Crêpe, finished strong, or rather, strong compared to a butterfly struggling to fly against a terrible monsoon. Where he had finished there was still a melody left to conclude, but the band wasn’t about to complain. The resulting jam session of the musicians went unnoticed, as it was drowned out by a wave of applause for the proud performer who took a bow before descending from the stage and into the waiting forelegs of his lover.
Silver Spoon smiled at the couple, and then grimaced as they pulled each other into a solid, passionate liplock that, in her opinion, lasted two seconds longer than what could be considered decent in polite company. An adoring “Awww,” from a likewise spectating Sweetie Belle reminded Silver Spoon that she still had a burning question to get off her chest, and this break between performances seemed like the perfect time to do it.
“So, Belle-bug…” Silver Spoon mumbled.
“Yes, Silvy?” Sweetie Belle smiled patiently.
“About what I was asking earlier…” Silver Spoon started, scratching her nose as she intentionally averted eye contact for the sake of preserving her nerve.
“About Friday, right?”
“What did you want to know?”
Biting her lip, Silver Spoon looked Sweetie Belle in her curiously honest emerald eyes. Was she intentionally doing this? Pretending that she didn’t know exactly what Silver Spoon wanted to ask her? There was no way Sweetie Belle couldn’t have known what all this awkwardness was about. No, this had to be intentional, it just had to be. But even if it wasn’t, and the unicorn’s oblivious approach to the situation was genuine, that still didn’t make this matter any easier to pursue, and the butterflies that had suddenly taken refuge in her gut weren’t helping either.
“It’s about—” Silver Spoon stopped herself to swallow back a lump that had been borne of timidity. “It’s about what happened after you took me back to my house,” she managed to blurt out. The earth pony felt a small pang of relief wash through her as she finally managed to tear down the rift between them, but getting the issue in the open was only half the battle.
“What about after I took you back home?” Sweetie Belle’s visible features betrayed nothing short of innocence and bliss. With a poker face like that, the unicorn could probably rob a dragon clean and convince him that he had parted with his hoard willingly.
Silver Spoon had to hand it to her dubious counterpart; she was forcing the earth pony to put everything on the table in the open with honeyed glances and a sugar-sweet tone. Regardless, Silver Spoon was going to get her answers even if she had to go all in playing the unicorn’s little game. Silver Spoon set her trembling hooves flat on the table, and sat up, exhaling heavily to rid her body of any residual nervous energy. “When you…” Silver Spoon could feel her face growing hot as the words forced their way to the tip of her tongue. “When you kissed me that evening,” she stated in a hushed whisper so as not to attract the attention of the older couple just out of earshot. “What drove you to do that?”
It was done. Silver Spoon had effectively put the ball in Sweetie Belle’s court and all that was left is to see if she would play it or pass. After the ordeal she had just put herself through, Silver Spoon had expected Sweetie Belle to give a similar performance, but the unicorn maintained her composure, her patient smile not faltering even an inch. Sweetie Belle opened her mouth to give her much anticipated reply to the question that had plagued Silver Spoon these past few days, but as if on cue, an explosion from the stage stole the moment, and with it the long-awaited answer.
“Wowzers, everypony! Wasn’t that performance just awesome? Let’s have one another round of applause for King Creeper!”
“For the last time, it’s Crêpe!” he cried, only to once again have his correction drowned out by a rumble of hoofstomps and whistles that began to fade once the hostess continued.
“Hey, hey, don’t stop the momentum now! This is the moment we’ve all been waiting for, after all, it wouldn’t be a karaoke party without our headliner! Keep those hooves a’pounding for our next and youngest regular performer! You know her, you love her, and you’ve watched her blossom into quite the little songbird since the beginning! Give it up for Ponyville’s own: Little Miss Belle-Bug!”
“Wait, but I— that’s not fair!” Silver Spoon stammered as Sweetie Belle winked at her before racing to take her place on the stage where she was met with a jubilant fanfare and much chanting of her stage name. It was as though she had been presented with a grand oasis in the middle of some terribly dry desert only to have some twisted deity yank it away at the last moment. Fate was truly a cruel mistress.
As she watched that enigma of a filly dart about from band member to band member, Silver Spoon couldn’t help dwelling on what Sweetie Belle was about to say before the emcee interrupted. Would it have been a confession? Silver Spoon pondered the idea for a moment and then banished it just as quickly as it popped in her head. That couldn’t have been it. The two had become friends less than two days ago, and beyond that there was still a two year history of bullying that she doubted Sweetie Belle would just forget about.
Silver Spoon leaned her head back and stared at the ceiling, further overthinking her situation. Perhaps Sweetie Belle was simply going to explain that the kiss was an expression of gratitude for saving her life, and nothing more? That made the most sense after all. Besides, she doubted the likelihood that Sweetie Belle harbored the same feelings towards fillies as herself. As the thought crossed her mind, a faint but terrible ache crept into her core, taking root and swelling. This ominous, hollow aching. She’d only felt it on a few rare occasions in her life, but it was no stranger to her and she was no stranger to it. Silver Spoon clutched at her heart, as she recalled the last time she’d felt it: last Hearts and Hooves day. Silver Spoon gripped even harder as she vividly recalled every detail of that wretched confession.
“Oh, come on, Silvy!” Whined the unforgettably entitled voice of Diamond Tiara. “First you drag me out here, and then you make me wait for fifteen whole minutes without even a teensy little hint? Can’t you just tell me who it is?”
“You’ll see soon enough, Diamond.” Silver Spoon cautiously poked her head around the corner of the old school building to make sure that her soon to be very special somepony hadn’t shown up yet. “Just be patient.”
“Ugh, fine…” Diamond Tiara rolled her eyes, lying down on her side. “But they had better hurry up or I’m going to give them a piece of my mind for wasting my valuable time!”
Silver Spoon smirked at her eternally impatient friend, knowing that she meant well although it would have been impossible for anypony else to realize it.
“H-hello, is anypony out here?” an uncertain voice called from around the corner.
Silver Spoon’s heart skipped a beat at the sound of her unwitting admiree’s voice. “They’re here,” she gushed to Diamond Tiara.
“Who’s here? Why won’t you tell me anything!?”
Rather than giving a direct response, Silver Spoon giggled before saying, “Wish me luck.” In the blink of an eye she darted, blushing, around the corner to intercept her confused admiree. Silver Spoon galloped around the corner, her eagerness spurring her on as the lilac colored coat of her crush came into view.
“Oh! Um, uh, h-hello, Silver Spoon,” Dinky began, nervously backpedaling at the sudden appearance of one of the school’s two big bullies. “I-I was just getting ready to leave and—”
“Wait,” Silver Spoon instructed, and whether it was out of confusion or fear, the unicorn obeyed. “Dinky, I’ve got something I want to tell you.”
“You… you do?” Dinky chanced an uncertain glance at the earth pony.
“Yeah, but just give me a second.” Silver Spoon took a deep breath and looked the bewildered unicorn in the eyes. “I was the one who sent you that note,” she started.
Dinky’s eyes grew wider than a dinner plate as she processed those very words. “You’re the one who sent that? But… but why?”
“The truth is, that for a while, I’ve been thinking about how to tell you that you’re all I think about every day and every night. All I think about is you, and I’d like to get to know you better as a friend, and maybe even…” Silver Spoon’s cheeks flushed a criminal shade of crimson as the final piece of her confession slipped from her tongue. “…as my very special somepony?”
Dinky’s jaw dropped at those very unmistakable words. Had Silver Spoon, the second most blackhearted filly in the school, actually said that, or had her mother put something funny in her lunch muffin that morning? Either way, she was having some difficulty understanding what had just happened. “Silver Spoon…”
“Yes?” Silver Spoon could feel her heart begin to flutter with hopes and anticipations of having her affections returned. All it would have taken was few words of acceptance, but as this was a mere recollection, she already knew what was going to happen next.
“This is some kind of joke right? You and Diamond Tiara planned this all in advance just to get my hopes up before you smacked them down right?”
“No, I’m absolutely serious!” Silver Spoon insisted. “I really like you, Dinky, honestly I do. So, please, won’t you accept my feelings?” Silver Spoon took a step forward, reaching out a hoof towards Dinky’s in a show of good faith.
Reacting as if the words had been a solid kick to the chest, Dinky jerked her hoof away, as she unsteadily and instinctively backed away from Silver Spoon. “This is just…” Dinky shook her head in his disbelief. “This is just too weird!”
Silver Spoon felt the vessel of her happiness sink at those very words, but held herself together long enough to hear the unicorn’s reason for rejecting her feelings. Yet, all the composure in the world couldn’t stop the breaking of her fragile heart. A moment of painfully awkward silence passed between the two before Silver Spoon finally managed to weakly utter the only phrase that could sum up her feelings to the whole situation. “But… why?”
“W-well, I-I mean, we’re both girls, and… it’s just—”
“It’s just what?” Silver Spoon pushed, unaware that tears had begun welling up in her eyes.
Dinky had never seen this vulnerable, desperate side of Silver Spoon before, and it truly frightened her even more so than her usual snobby demeanor. “Look, I just can’t accept you, okay? Not even as a friend. All of my friends would shun me if I were to start being friends with you, because you’re friends with Diamond Tiara.” The words struck the heartbroken filly like an arrow, and with that, her strong front began to crumble like a wall of sand. “I swear that I won’t tell anypony else about this, but I’m sorry, Silver Spoon, I just can’t accept your feelings.”
The unicorn afforded herself one last look at the sobbing earth pony before trotting away, unaware of a third party watching from a distance. A third party who carried a little black book, specifically designed to make anypony’s life a living hell if they crossed her or anything that she held dear. A third party intent on making her pay for what she’d done to Silver Spoon.
As the memory faded, Silver Spoon found herself on the verge of tears. She had felt the pains of rejection once before, and this painful swelling in her heart may as well have been foreshadowing that she was in for a repeat performance. Before she could shed a single tear, the feeble lights in the bakery dimmed and once again the room had been overtaken by an anticipatory silence. From the darkness, the delicate resonance of mindfully plucked guitar strings filled the air with a soothingly lackadaisy cadence. A moment later, the guitar was complemented by a rising, high-pitched ambience that could only have been birthed from the strings of a violin.
The melody grew and took on a calming steadiness while the violin parted, leaving in its place a faint spotlight that radiated and grew with the majesty of the early morning sun, gradually defining the silhouette of the afternoon’s smallest performer. Yet as the young vocalist began to sing, it quickly became apparent that what she lacked in size, she more than made up for with the aural ambrosia flowing from her light airy voice.
“♪Lo~~ving you, is easy ‘cause you’re beautiful, and loving you is all I want to do~~”
The first verse rang true with the audience who showed their silent enthusiasm by swaying to the melody of the guitar. Silver Spoon quickly found her self-induced grievances and doubts fading away with each strum, those thoughts of melancholy and remorse turning to anticipation of Sweetie Belle’s next melodic gracing.
“♪Lo~~ving you is more than just a dream come true! And everything that I do… is out of loving you♪
Silver Spoon would have never guessed that Sweetie Belle had such a wonderful talent locked away within herself. She was in awe before the unicorn’s raw ability, and like everyone in the room was anxiously awaiting the next verse.
On that last note, the dim spotlight brightened, igniting the space around its inhabitant substantially. In response to the sudden change, the sequins around her mask began to reflect the light, thus giving off the effect that she was glowing. Yet, Silver Spoon could sense something beneath the perceived illusion cast by the mask. Something that became more apparent with the next verse.
“♪No one else can make me feel~ the colors that you bring~♪”
It was in this moment that Silver Spoon noticed just what she found peculiar about the vocalist’s performance.
“♪Stay with me…”
Sweetie Belle’s eyes, glistening like sun-kissed emeralds.
“♪We’ll grow old…”
Her notes growing more intense as she focused straight ahead on something, or rather somepony.
“♪And we can live each day in the springtime!”
Those unmoving eyes, that contented, affectionate tone, it was as though the unicorn was singing directly to that one pony instead of an entire audience.
“♪Because lo~ving you, has made my life so beau-ti-ful~♪”
Because she was singing to one pony.
“♪Every day of my life, is filled with loving you♪”
Bearing her emotions in front of an entire crowd, just so this one pony could understand the depth of her emotion.
“♪Lo~ving you, I see your soul come shining through! And every time that we…” Sweetie Belle paused and gave a small theatrical shudder before continuing. “…ooooh~~ I’m more in love with you…”
As Sweetie Belle continued to grace the stage, the tears that had been welling up in Silver Spoon’s eyes were finally liberated.
Not out of grief, but rather an admiration brought about by the sheer beauty of the performance.
Not from the sting of bitter memories, but the rekindling of a small spark of hope.
“Lo~~ving you, la-la-la-la-la, laa-laa-laaa~~… do-do-do-dee-doo~~ dee-doo~ be-doo~~ bee-doo~~” Sweetie Belle finished, bowing her head before the crowd as her finals words drifted to a close, taking the luminance of the spotlight as they went.
Thunder and cries for an encore erupted throughout the building almost instantly, parading the proud unicorn to her table, as she had just shut down the house. Sweetie Belle, while flattered by the applause, paid it no mind. Taking her seat, she “Did that answer your question, Silvy?” Sweetie Belle whispered with a small smirk.
Silver Spoon’s jaw worked uselessly as she tried to process the odd combination of joy, relief and confusion washing over her.
Sweetie Belle, amused by the earth pony’s reaction, said nothing and instead reached under the table to find Silver Spoon’s trembling hoof, which she took in her own with only a giggle. The two sat in contented silence, hoof-in-hoof, saying nary a word as they watched the rest of the evening's performers take to the stage, all of them unable to hold a candle to Sweetie Belle and each worse than the last. They said nothing to each other during the breaks between singers, and the didn’t even part hooves to indulge in the pastries that lay seemingly forgotten before them. Even though there were a thousand questions dancing at the tip of Silver Spoon’s tongue, and a wealth of answers to be found on Sweetie Belle’s, they continued to just sit, pretending that their attention was on the stage. At this moment they had no need for words, there would be time for such things later in the evening. For now, the silence said everything, and that suited the pair just fine.
Chapter 10 End
It was the embering light of the afternoon sun and the caress of a rolling evening breeze that greeted Silver Spoon and Sweetie Belle upon their departure from Sugarcube Corner. The earth pony shielded her eyes with a hoof and squinted, adjusting to the drastic change in light as she and Sweetie Belle trotted away from the bakery with no particular destination in mind. They had only left under the advisement of their former tablemates, who had addressed strong concern towards the girls being in the presence of hard cider and the slightly more risqué performances that had a tendency to follow after consumption of said beverages. Despite their encouraged departure, there was still a solid amount of daylight at their disposal and —due to a recent revelation à la karaoke— a dozen mysteries surrounding Sweetie Belle for Silver Spoon to burn it with.
With a nervous, creeping grin brought about by an unspoken excitement tugging at her lips, Silver Spoon stole a glance at her blissfully trotting companion, who had decided somewhere along the lines that personal space between the two while walking was no longer a necessity. There was just so much that she wanted—nay—that she needed to know, so many inquiries to be pressed, and yet, she couldn’t bring herself to break the barrier of silence that had encompassed the two since the confession. It wasn’t that she was deathly afraid to come right out with what she wanted to say—although she definitely was—she just had no idea where to begin or what to say. After all, this was the first time anypony had ever expressed some form of affection towards her and she didn’t want to make a fool of herself or ruin the moment by saying the wrong thing. Fortunately for her, it seemed like she wouldn’t have to; Sweetie Belle’s tolerance for the silence was decidedly lesser than Silver Spoon’s.
“Hey,” Sweetie Belle called, just loud enough to catch Silver Spoon’s attention.
“Yes?” the earth pony practically gasped, relieved that the overbearing silence had finally been broken.
“So… what did you think of me?” Sweetie Belle asked, timidity evident in her tone. She averted her eyes to the ground as her face began to adopt a bright pink coloring.
“O-of you?” Silver Spoon paused to scratch her nose, abashed, as she tried to sum up the wealth of trepid, fuzzy feelings she’d been harboring in her belly ever since Sweetie Belle’s rendition of the gryphon vocalist Mini Rip-Talon’s ‘Lovin’ You’. “Well, I…”
"I-I meant of the performance,” Sweetie Belle hastily corrected. “I wasn’t too bad on stage, was I?” she whimpered softly. For as much of a strong front the filly put up on stage, her ego became a very fragile thing the moment she opened herself up for criticism.
“No, no, you were amazing!” Silver Spoon quickly assured. The outright flattery, piled on top of the embarrassment caused by the earlier misunderstanding, caused Sweetie Belle’s already carnation pink cheeks to flush a royal shade of red with each compliment Silver Spoon’s tongue imparted. “I’d have never guessed that you could sing like that, I mean, I really was blown away. You were beautiful… on the stage! You were beautiful on the stage! Not that you aren’t beautiful now, or before then, I just— well, I mean—”
“I know what you meant, Silvy,” Sweetie Belle giggled, indulging in the clumsily-worded praise. “And thanks.”
“Heh, no problem.” The pervasive silence was beginning to settle back in, and even though they hadn’t said anything of any relative significance, Silver Spoon couldn’t bear to be enveloped by the wordless atmosphere for a second iteration. “So, what are we going to do next? Got any more secret society meetings that nopony else knows about?”
“Nope!” Sweetie Belle chirped in response.
“Oh…” Silver Spoon sighed in dejection. She’d been hoping for a few more to top her evening off, though it seemed that, like all good things, the greatest day of her life was fated to meet a swift and untimely end.
“Well, not tonight anyway. I figured we could just talk for a while, if that’s alright with you?” Sweetie Belle turned her kind, almost expectant gaze to Silver Spoon, awaiting the earth pony’s near predictable response.
A small pang of anxious excitement, mixed with relief that the evening wasn’t even close to being over, surged through Silver Spoon’s mind as she realized just how close she was to figuring out what made the unicorn tick. “That sounds great, actually! Might I suggest a café?”
“I don’t see why not,” Sweetie Belle beamed. It was a relief to see Silver Spoon getting into the rhythm of things and out of whatever slump she’d been in just before that fateful performance.
“There’s a little place not too far from here that Di—” Silver Spoon cringed as she almost allowed the name of her former friend to slip from her mouth. “I mean, that I usually go to after school… well, I used to anyway…” she finished, her tone significantly less rich with enthusiasm than when she’d started.
Sweetie Belle took note of her companion’s dejected demeanor and bit her lip in dismay. She couldn’t just stand idly by and let Silver Spoon slip back into that pit of melancholy she’d been wallowing in earlier. Luckily, she had planned for this little contingency far in advance. “Nah, we can go there some other time.” Sweetie Belle waved Silver Spoon’s suggestion away before resuming with a sales pitch. “Besides, I know somewhere we can go that’s way cheaper than any old café.”
“Money isn’t really a problem, Sweetie. I could pay for—”
“Did I mention it’s quieter and probably emptier too?” Sweetie Belle interrupted, trying twice as hard in the hopes that she could change Silver Spoon’s mind.
“Where did you have in mind?”
Sweetie Belle turned to the earth pony and flashed an all too familiar cat-like smirk.
“I’ll find out?” Silver Spoon surmised.
Silver Spoon sighed and shook her head. She really should have seen that one coming, yet she still fell into Sweetie Belle’s little game. “I don’t see why not,” she shrugged. “Lead the—”
“Race you there, Silvy!” Faster than the earth pony could blink, Sweetie Belle had taken off like a gunshot, a trail of dust and the bright yellow afterimage of her dress the only markers of how far she’d gone in that short time.
“—way,” Silver Spoon concluded flatly as she watched the dust cloud grow ever more distant. “Oh come on, you could have given me more of a heads up than that!” Silver Spoon snapped —verbally and physically— after the speedy unicorn.
The two raced through the Ponyville streets, one laughing from sheer elation, the other panting and dying from exhaustion coupled with poor physical conditioning. “Slow down a little!” Silver Spoon would gasp periodically between strides and pained gasps for air. But despite Sweetie Belle’s insane advantage, she didn’t quit. Silver Spoon soldiered on, even as her sore muscles began to falter and give out, causing the out of shape filly to hobble along like an awkward, itchy sloth crawling through a tar pit. After what seemed like a small eternity of cardiovascular torture, Silver Spoon noticed that the yellow and white blur of a pony she’d been chasing had finally stopped—much to her relief— next to a massive tree that she recognized as the Ponyville Library.
Huffing and heaving, Silver Spoon slogged forth, closing the remaining distance one clumsy plod of her hooves at a time. As she drew nearer she could see a cocky grin adorning the victor’s face. “I—gasp— don’t—gasp— want to—pant— hear it,” she said, resting her side against the tree’s gigantic trunk.
“Hear what?” Sweetie Belle fluttered her eyes innocently. “I wasn’t going to say anything at all… besides that I totally won!” she teased, garnering an annoyed look from the recovering Silver Spoon. “Come on, Silvy,” Sweetie Belle chuckled at the expression, simultaneously taking her exhausted friend’s hoof and draping it over her neck. “I’ll help you inside, so just lean on me.”
To Sweetie Belle’s surprise, Silver Spoon followed her instructions without protest, although given the pair’s point-blank proximity to each other, she could feel Silver Spoon’s face growing hot, and out of the corner of her eye she could swear she saw a certain pony’s glasses fogging up. The two pushed open the door and trotted inside the bookery. Not two steps in, they found themselves almost immediately intercepted by the shorter and scalier of the establishment’s resident pair of purple-palleted proprietors.
“Oh, no, no, no, no,” the little dragon said, holding out a claw to halt the pair. “There is no way in Tartarus I’m letting you in here! Especially not after last time. We still haven’t gotten all of the molasses out of the reference section, you know,” he snapped at Sweetie Belle.
“Oh come on, Spike, it was an accident,” she said.
“If that was your idea of an accident, then I’d hate to see what you three can do intentionally. Speaking of which, where are the other two?”
“Grounded,” Silver Spoon explained.
“Hmph, serves them right,” Spike muttered.
“Come on, Spike,” Sweetie Belle pleaded.
“Just this once?”
Sweetie Belle sighed as she realized just what it would take to gain access to the library. She didn’t want to resort to using that on just anyone, but Spike’s stubbornness had forced her hoof. Sweetie Belle turned her gaze away from the dragon for only a split second. When she turned back to him, she’d successfully transformed her face into a pouting mask of innocence. Her green eyes gleamed and glistened with fresh, unshed tears while her lower lip quivered ever-so-slightly, ever-so-slightly. She had developed this siren-like power for the sole purpose of bending ponies as strong-willed as her sister to her desires, so she had no doubts that Spike would succumb to its effects. As if only to embolden the unicorn’s confidence in the technique, Silver Spoon gasped and felt all the blood in her body rush to her face as she was stunned by the excessive adorableness emanating from Sweetie Belle. “Pleeease?”
Spike locked eyes with Sweetie Belle and felt his resolve weakening in the face of apocalyptic-level cute. His will started to crumble like a wall of salt in the wake of a rainstorm, but he wouldn’t give in. His desire to protect the library, Twilight’s library that he labored to maintain day and night, was by far stronger than Sweetie Belle’s soul-piercing gaze. “Nice try, but that won’t work on me: I’m filly-proof,” he snorted, averting his eyes as quickly as he could so as not fall back into her hypnotic stare.
Sweetie Belle ground her teeth in frustration, but didn’t let her face reflect it. She couldn’t let Spike realize that she was nearing the bottom of her bag of tricks. She had to admit, the dragon’s bastion-like stance on the issue was commendable, remarkably so, in fact. But that didn’t change the fact that she still had one more cold, refractive trump card in her bright yellow blouse. “Alright. You win, Spike.”
“I said there’s no wa— wait, what?”
“You win,” she reiterated.
Spike raised an eyebrow at his adversary’s sudden lack of conviction. Usually it would have taken something between a tongue lashing and a beehive on a stick to chase any of the Cutie Mark Crusaders away, yet Sweetie Belle had given up so easily. Something was amiss. “Wait a minute, you’re just giving up? What are you planning?”
“Nothing. Nothing at all.”
“Then why don’t I believe you?”
“Who knows?” Sweetie Belle reached into her dress and pulled out a finely cut, vibrant blue gemstone the size of Spike’s fist. “C’mon Silvy, I guess we’ll just have to take this lovely sapphire that Rarity gave me to some other dragon who lives in a library. Oh well, such a shame…”
“Uhh…” Spike twiddled his digits anxiously as he took in the huge, honking gemstone in the unicorn’s hoof. To any other Ponyvillian it would have been nice to have, not quite a necessity, but just something to trade for a few bits or goods in the marketplace. To Spike, however, it held a beauty grander than the rising sun over the ebb and flow of a sky blue ocean, triggering something deep within his biology: a need, a hunger that clouded his judgement and wouldn’t allow him to turn away. That is until Sweetie Belle started to turn away instead. “Whoah, whoah, whoah, let’s not be too hasty,” he said, sweeping in front of the two retreating ponies.
“Hmm? Why the sudden change of heart, Spike?” she practically hummed.
“Oh, heh, no real reason, you know. I just thought that I might have been too…” Spike’s sentence trailed off as Sweetie Belle began waving the sapphire back and forth playfully, captivating every fiber of the drake’s attention span. “…rash in my decision to kick you out.”
“Oh, were you now?”
Silver Spoon couldn’t help but be impressed by this side of Sweetie Belle. She was just learning all sorts of things about the unicorn who seemed so reclusive and sheltered by her friends only mere days ago. Turning her attention to Spike, Silver Spoon could see an almost hound-like craving in the dragon as every part of his body practically radiated his hunger for the gemstone.
“So, can we come in?” Sweetie Belle asked, gently balancing the gem on Spike’s nose.
“Yeah…” Spike licked his lips in anticipation of the gem that would soon be resting in his belly.
“I thought so… thanks Spike!” Sweetie Belle took her date by the hoof before leading the earth pony into the library. It was far emptier than Silver Spoon would have expected it to be on a Sunday afternoon. That is to say, there was nopony else in the building save for Sweetie Belle, herself, and Spike, who was still drooling over the sapphire like a satisfied goon in the doorway. Even that intellectual busybody of a Head Librarian was absent on this particular day; they practically had the bookery to themselves. It caught Silver Spoon off guard when Sweetie Belle let go of her hoof and began trotting towards the rows of bookshelves behind the staircase. “Come on Silvy, there’s a little spot I want to show you over here.”
Curious, Silver Spoon followed her date down rows of particularly thick, dusty tomes that would take a normal pony two lifetimes to read through. However, Sweetie Belle wasn’t so much interested in the books as she was what lay hidden within them. “Oooh, where was it, where was it?” she whined, pushing against all the books on one particular side.
“Where was what?” Silver Spoon asked.
“This… ngh… little—that’s not it—roo— waugh!” Sweetie Belle cried as she fell through the seemingly solid wall the bookshelf was resting against.
Silver Spoon’s body reacted before her brain could process what was happening. She darted to the spot where Sweetie Belle had fallen through only to find a filly-sized gap in the books. “Sweetie Belle, are you alright?” she called into the hole.
“Ughh… yeah… anyways, I found what I was looking for. Come on in.”
Silver Spoon gave one last look around her surroundings to make sure nopony else was present before slipping into the darkened crawl space. Just as she pulled her tail through, the entrance was quickly sealed by the same books that had fallen in. “Sweetie Belle? Where are you? It’s surprisingly dark in here.”
“Just a minute, Silver,” said Sweetie Belle.
As Silver Spoon waited in the darkness, she could hear Sweetie Belle mutter something to herself and inhale deeply. A moment later, there was a short burst of green sparks that fizzled and died just as quickly as they appeared. There was a small strained grunt from Sweetie Belle that was followed by another small burst of dying sparks, which in turn was followed by an almost exhausted panting.
“Are you alright?” Silver Spoon’s question was ignored as Sweetie Belle was lost in her persistence to make the spell work.
“Come on you dumb horn, work for me, just this once…” Sweetie Belle took another deep breath and focused until she was blue in the face. For her efforts, she was rewarded with a small, steady stream of sparks that slowly grew in intensity. With another push of her willpower, the stream of sparks began to solidify, forming a shimmering, fluorescent-green glow around her horn. The pale-green light quickly filled the crawlspace, allowing Silver Spoon to see the strained but proud expression on her friend’s face. “Whew, it finally worked.”
“Wow, it’s beautiful, Sweetie Belle.” Silver Spoon marveled at the faint emerald light.
“It’s nothing really,” Sweetie Belle giggled.
A silence had fallen between the two as they settled closer to each other in the small, cozy space. However, unlike earlier, there was no rush to rid themselves of an awkward atmosphere. They were comfortable, content to just watch the cool green light wash over them. The words would overflow like a fountain soon enough, and they’d happily drown in the ensuing flood of dialogue, but for now, their bodies would say everything that their mouths would not. Sweetie Belle’s fluffy tail swayed from side to side, conveying an unspoken, yet mutually understood, excitement. Silver Spoon started to paw at the wooden floor absentmindedly, debating on whether or not she should be the one to say something first. Sweetie Belle reached out, resting her hoof on Silver Spoon’s, offering the earth pony a comforting smile, which Silver Spoon nervously returned in full.
“Sweetie Belle…” Silver Spoon finally managed to say, her voice almost a whisper, as though she were afraid someone from outside might chance upon this particular aisle as she was speaking and discover them.
“Yes, Silvy?” Sweetie Belle replied in the same hushed, breathy tone.
“You know, I’ve been thinking about you ever since Friday, and then this afternoon… it just blew my mind that, you know… that you felt that way about me.”
“Mmhmm,” Sweetie Belle nodded, sensing there was more to come.
“And I’m really glad you feel that way, I mean, you have no idea how happy that makes me, but…” Silver Spoon’s tone fell, along with her gaze, as she searched for the right words to convey the depths of her glee-ridden confusion. “… but something’s been bothering me about all this, and I just can’t go any further without some closure.” Silver Spoon shifted her gaze, staring directly into Sweetie Belle’s unfalteringly optimistic eyes. “We’ve been friends for all of two days, and… and before that, I was so terrible to you and Apple Bloom and Scootaloo. I mean, you don’t even know if I’m like that, so why?” Silver Spoon, in a fit of role reversal, seized Sweetie Belle abruptly by the hooves, and held them firm as she finally heaved that burden-like load of a question from her back. “Why go through all this trouble for somepony like me? ”
Had the lighting been brighter, Silver Spoon would have seen the light blush crawling across Sweetie Belle’s cheeks, or that the unicorn’s fluffy, swaying tail had gone stiff and straight, or perhaps she would have noticed that the magic encompassing Sweetie Belle’s horn had begun to falter and fluctuate wildly. But the lighting wasn’t any fairer. It flickered feebly against the foreboding darkness, casting upon Sweetie Belle a mask of wild shadows that faded and reformed as quickly as the light could chase them away. A strange tension had begun to knead together in her belly as she finally scraped up enough courage to whisper her response with shaky confidence. “Oh, I… I just… I mean…” Sweetie Belle struggled to guide her train of thought back onto its metaphorical tracks, but the words would not come easily for her. She already knew that if she were to continue talking, she’d spill her secret, but she’d already come this far, and backing down was no longer an option for her at this point. After all, she had already made one confession this afternoon, so where was the harm in making one more? “Silvy,” she started hesitantly. “Do you really want to know?”
Silver Spoon, as one would have expected, merely nodded, patiently awaiting her counterpart’s response.
Chewing on her lower lip, Sweetie Belle averted her eyes and pulled her hooves away from Silver Spoon’s. “I… I know this might sound weird, but I’ve sort of been…” Sweetie Belle swallowed back any remaining regrets in her throat before continuing. She had no idea how Silver Spoon, much less anypony else, would handle this admission, but she was certainly about to find out. “… watching you for a little over a year now, trying to figure out the best way to approach you.”
Sweetie Belle paused to see how Silver Spoon was taking this. From the looks of things, she had effectively shocked the listening party into a stunned silence. So far, so good. “I know it sounds silly, but that’s just what I did. You know, at first, I was just sort of hoping I could catch you without Diamond Tiara around, and maybe by some stroke of luck I could talk to you, maybe even be friends, but…” Sweetie Belle glanced up. “… I never got the chance. You and Diamond Tiara were almost inseparable, and the few times that you weren’t with her, it was like you were a completely different pony. So I kept watching and waiting for my opportunity, and as time passed, I just started to notice more and more about you.” Sweetie Belle’s lips curled into a nervous smile as she recalled her time shadowing her companion. “I got to see how kind you could be whenever Diamond Tiara’s back was turned, how generous you were to anypony who was having a bad day, but before I can tell you the most important thing I learned during that time, you have to promise that you won’t be mad.”
“Why would I be—”
“Silvy, please just promise me that you won’t be mad.”
“Pinkie Pie promise?” Sweetie Belle squeaked, peaking out from beneath her mane.
Silver Spoon smirked faintly at the cute display. It was a little off-putting to see Sweetie Belle acting in such a timid manner. “Cross my heart and hope to fly, stick a cupcake in my eye.”
“Okay.” Half relieved, Sweetie Belle heaved out her held breath, and by the same token, the wid flickering of her horn balanced out. “The truth is… I was… kind of… watching you last Hearts and Hooves Day,” she finished, scratching her cheek in an attempt to sound as nonchalant about the admission as possible.
“You were there?” Silver Spoon gasped, to which Sweetie Belle merely nodded. A moment of painfully awkward silence passed between the two before Silver Spoon finally found the ability to speak again. “I guess there’s no point in pretending like I don’t know what you saw, is there?” Her question was met with a shamefully sheepish grin that spoke volumes in the place of its bearer’s tongue. Silver Spoon pushed her glasses up and dabbed at the corners of her eyes with a hoof as she tried and failed to suppress memories of that day and the crushing rejection that she had forever associated with it.
Sweetie Belle looked away, her face absolutely burning. If she were to look in a mirror at this moment, she’d have sworn that a raspberry with a horn was blushing back at her. In the interest of maintaining her focus, she began to click her hooves together nervously as she spoke. “I know it sounds wrong, but when Dinky turned you down that day, I was sort of… glad, I suppose.” Unaware of the tears starting to form in her partner’s eyes, a dopey grin began to take root upon Sweetie Belle’s lips. She was relieved to be rid of the larger of two burdens at long last, but a quick glimpse at the soundlessly sobbing Silver Spoon made her realize the fatal ambiguity her words wielded. “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry! I didn’t mean it like that!” Sweetie Belle immediately clasped her teary-eyed friend’s hooves and quickly went to work trying her best to calm down the crying filly. “It’s just… it’s just that when she turned down your confession, I felt like I was given a chance by Princess Cadence herself to tell you how I felt.” The unicorn could feel Silver Spoon’s hooves trembling terribly and began to fear that she had blown her shot at the confession. Heart heavy with trepidation, Sweetie sought to take what she felt was the safest, if equally selfish, port in this potential malestrom. “Silver Spoon… you’re not… mad at me, are you?” she peeped in a pitiful octave.
A moment passed and Sweetie Belle’s question went unanswered, as it would continue to do for a spell longer. In place of a response, the unicorn was provided with more of the suffocating silence as consolation. Sweetie Belle couldn’t determine how Silver Spoon was handling the situation, as the only indicators of the earth pony’s emotional state were soft, worrisome tremors resonating from her hooves. Whether she held nothing but resentment towards her admirer or was simply too far gone in her memory-induced melancholy was indeterminate, and at the same time, quite disheartening.
“So, I guess you are pretty upset then,” Sweetie Belle concluded at long last. She had anticipated this outcome far in advance, but it still didn’t make the tears any easier to fight back. “I guess I can’t really blame you,” she sniffled. “I knew I shouldn’t have brought Hearts and Hooves Day up, but stupid me, always finding a way to make things worse.”
Sweetie Belle’s grasp on her crush went limp as the self-realization settled over her. Where her grip had gone, the light from her horn followed its suit, growing dimmer and dimmer. “I should’ve just been happy with being friends, but I’ve gone and ruined that too. I—” she fought to keep a sob from escaping, but quickly found that her attempts were in vain as a single tear streamed down her cheek. “I’m sorry, Silver Spoon, I think I should go.” As a slow stream of tears began to well, Sweetie Belle completely released her grip on Silver Spoon’s hooves and started trotting to the exit, until she found that something was tugging on her dress, impeding her movement. Curious, Sweetie Belle blinked back the stream of tears as best she could before turning around to find Silver Spoon clutching her dress. “Silver Spoon?”
“Don’t just decide things for yourself,” Silver Spoon said through a fit of tears. “I mean, sure I’m upset, but don’t just take it out on yourself when… when you don’t even know why I’m upset!” With her free hoof, Silver Spoon pushed her glasses up and wiped her eyes. “That’s just stupid…”
Sweetie Belle could feel Silver Spoon’s grip on her dress tighten with each uttered word, but had no idea how to respond.
“So, yeah, I’m pretty mad, but not because of anything you said. I’m actually glad that you brought that day up. I’ve been trying to forget about it ever since it happened, but I’ve realized that I can’t just do that. I’ve got to accept that it happened and that no matter how hard I try, that fact will remain.” Silver Spoon seized Sweetie Belle’s dress with her other hoof. “And sure, what happened between Diamond Tiara and I hasn’t exactly been helping matters any, but she had that coming for long time, and even though it hurt, I had plenty of time to accept that it had to be done. But that’s not why I’m upset.”
“So, why are you—”
“I’m mad because you didn’t say anything sooner!” Silver Spoon shouted. With that admission and no further words, Silver Spoon yanked Sweetie Belle towards herself, capturing her in a tight, heartfelt embrace. It took Sweetie Belle a moment to realize what was happening before she wrapped her forelegs around Silver Spoon’s neck and allowed her constrained tears to cascade freely down her cheeks and onto Silver Spoon’s, her watery emissions now voicing blissful joy as opposed to the sorrows of heartbreak. Shuddering and simpering, Sweetie Belle nuzzled deeper into the cuddle, allowing the small smile that she’d lost to find its way back onto her lips.
In contrast, Silver Spoon held the little unicorn as tightly as she dared, her emotional strife numbing with each contented teardrop of Sweetie Belle’s that trailed along her neck. For months, this moment was something she couldn’t have even imagined; finding friends outside of that obsessive, controlling Diamond Tiara, meeting somepony who would look past her history and bother to pick up the pieces of her broken heart, and an honest to Celestia smile that she didn’t have to force for the first time in years. She finally had a very special somepony to call her own, and she had no intention of letting that somepony go anytime soon; not that the other party had any objections.
Two hours had chipped away at the evening sun before the fillies decided that it was time to call it a day and departed from the library, stopping only to issue a rushed farewell to Twilight Sparkle, who had taken Spike’s place at some point in their absence. At Silver Spoon’s request, they walked as close to each other as socially appropriate down the busy Ponyville streets. While Sweetie Belle had shown on multiple occasions how free-spirited and open she was to the idea of hoof-holding, no matter who was watching, Silver Spoon was still wary of how the bustling throngs of older ponies would view any further closeness between them. After all, the prospect of having a special somepony was still new to her. She wanted to ease into it as smoothly and painlessly as possible, and the judgemental opinions that she had learned to worry about as the second most popular filly in school would only serve to discourage her, hindering the transition. Fortunately, Sweetie Belle understood her date’s plight, but couldn’t resist carelessly brushing her tail against Silver Spoon’s every so often, or shooting coy, knowing smirks at the earth pony when no one else was looking.
Despite their limitations in public, the two carried on joking and teasing each other, making notes of places to try out on their next outing, and before they knew it, they’d arrived at the junction between Silver Spoon’s homestead and Carousel Boutique far too quickly for their liking.
“I guess this is where we part ways.” Silver Spoon sighed, clearly disappointed that their short time together had finally come to an end.
“Cheer up, Silvy,” Sweetie Belle said, gently nudging her not-just-a-friend-anymore. “We’ll see each other tomorrow.”
“I suppose,” Silver Spoon said, brightening up a bit.
“And hey, maybe Apple Bloom and Scootaloo finished de-taffying that tree too! We can all go to Sugarcube Corner and start planning for the next crusading day.”
“As long as you don’t suggest bungee jumping again.”
“Oh, I’m sure Scootaloo’s got something even crazier in mind, like ostrich jousting, or cliff-diving!”
“Heh, sounds like fun.” Silver Spoon smiled at what she hoped was an over-exaggeration, but couldn’t shake the feeling that there was some frightening validity to those words. Silver Spoon scuffed the ground. “So… I guess I’ll see you tomorrow then?” she asked shyly.
Sweetie Belle opened her mouth to respond, but noticed Silver Spoon’s dropped guard and the vacancy of the area around them. Needless to say, a much better idea popped into her head. Acting quickly, she darted forward and planted a soft peck on Silver Spoon’s forehead. “Definitely,” she said softly before turning and galloping as fast as her little legs could carry her.
Silver Spoon had once again been left speechless and in the dust by the unicorn who had effectively stolen her heart. This day, no, this weekend, had been beyond perfect, and though she never wanted it to end, she knew that her tomorrow, and every day to follow, would hold more exciting and fulfilling experiences just waiting to be discovered with none other than the very pony who had restored something she’d lost years ago: hope. After picking her jaw up off the ground, Silver Spoon would conclude her evening by trotting back home and into a warm bath before curling up in her nice warm bed, dreaming away the hours before she’d get to see Sweetie Belle again.
However, where Silver Spoon’s evening would conclude, Sweetie Belle’s was far from over. The elated unicorn galloped and skipped to her sister’s boutique feeling emancipated, lighter than air even. There was nothing in the world that could stop her from feeling this level of incomparable joy. After all, she’d finally won the heart of the pony she’d been pining after for almost a year. Even as she slowed to a trot to wind down and catch her breath, nothing short of a fire breathing land-kraken or a sudden changeling invasion would prove sufficient enough to crush her spirits. She was practically untouchable.
“Well, well, well, if it isn’t Blanky-Belle.”
“Hey, check you out,” dripped the unmistakably plastic voice of Diamond Tiara as she slinked towards Sweetie Belle, seemingly from the shadows. “I really like your dress,” she said, running her hooves along the material, much to the dismay of the one wearing it. “What’s the occasion?”
Had Sweetie Belle been any bolder outside of her small circle of friends, she might have have made some sort of snappy comeback, or perhaps just outright turned away from the bully. But she didn’t. Or rather, she couldn’t. After a year of being constantly singled out and harassed by Diamond Tiara, solely because the cruel filly had determined her to be the emotionally weakest of the three Cutie Mark Crusaders, if not their whole class, Sweetie Belle had instinctively learned to clam herself up and tune out everything that would happen to her, be it physical or verbal. Unfortunately, she knew from experience that it would only take around five minutes of pretending like she couldn’t be bothered before her tormentor would lose interest and move on, leaving Sweetie Belle to find some quiet corner to sob her heart out in. All she had to do was outlast Diamond Tiara’s relentless stream of insults and she’d be free to trot on home and finish what had been an otherwise wonderful day.
“Oh, this silent treatment again?” Diamond Tiara slurred like a boor, circling Sweetie Belle as a vulture might circle a dying possum. “Don’t you ever get tired of pretending like you can’t hear me? I already know that you just go and cry like a foal whenever I leave, so you may as well break down for me right now.” The earth pony flicked her tail at Sweetie Belle’s nose in a failed attempt to garner a reaction from the pensive filly.
It stung, but Sweetie Belle did not break form. All she had to do was outwait her.
Diamond Tiara scowled in frustration due to her failed attempts before turning away to continue her pacing. “It doesn’t matter to me anyway. I just need you to be a good girl and listen, think you can handle that Blanky-Belle?”
Still no response.
“Good. Who knows, maybe your special talent is sitting like an obedient dog?” Diamond Tiara chuckled. “Anyhow, I noticed that you and Silvy—”
Sweetie Belle could feel a pang of irritation in the back of her head at the venomous speaker’s use of Silver Spoon’s abbreviated name, but kept her cool. All she had to do was outlast this.
“—have been getting along together quite nicely this weekend. I for one think that it’s nice, I really do, but don’t go getting too attached to her, now. The only pony good enough to be her friend is moi. After all, she was the only one who wasn't jealous of my brilliance and grace and I, being the wonderful filly that I am, stood by her when all of her other friends just up and 'abandoned' her. Sure, we have our little spats every now and then like any good friends do, but sooner or later she’ll come around again, just like she always does.”
Beneath her immaculate pokerface, Sweetie Belle’s teeth were grit hard enough to crack a gemstone. That spoiled brat of an earth pony was getting to her by talking about Silver Spoon as if she were a piece of property, and the unicorn was doing everything in her power to keep it from showing.
“But I didn’t come here to talk about Silvy; I came here to warn you.”
That little outlier caught Sweetie Belle’s attention, her ears perked up signifying as such. Unfortunately, that miniscule amount of movement did not go unseen by Diamond Tiara, who grinned like a raptor in the face of the vulnerability.
“See, the thing is, really bad things tend to happen to ponies who get too close to Silvy for their own good. The funny thing is it always starts out small and snowballs out of control from there. Somepony complaining about a missing diary one day might suddenly find themself the subject of some awful, vicious rumors the next. Whenever she’d join a club, it would always mysteriously shut down a few days later. The club president would always give the same reason for ending the group, too: they needed to devote more time to their studies. It’s almost like she’s cursed or something, you know?”
Diamond Tiara reared up and leaned her weight against Sweetie Belle’s statue-stiff body. “You wouldn’t want to become that nasty old curse’s next victim, would you, my little blank-flank?” Diamond Tiara began to mockingly pat Sweetie Belle on her head. “My advice to you? Keep your distance from Silver Spoon, or else something bad might just happen to you too. Understand, Blanky Belle?”
There comes a point in everypony’s life where one must realize that enough is enough, and Sweetie Belle had been long overdue to reach hers. She had heard enough of Diamond Tiara’s treacherous tongue and relentless antagonizing, and had finally been pushed over the edge. Suffice it to say, the slope of said hill was very steep, and Diamond Tiara of all ponies just had to be standing right at the bottom of it.
“Don’t tell me what to do!” Sweetie Belle screamed, absolutely livid. She had surprised even Diamond Tiara with the tenacity in her voice. “Just shut up! So what if Silver Spoon’s cursed and bad things happened to her other friends? Why should that stop me from being her friend, huh? What makes you think I care? Day after day I’ve taken more than a fair share of name-calling and rumor spreading from you, so what more could I possibly have to worry about from some stupid curse? And why should I listen to you anyways? You’re nothing but a big jerk!”
Diamond Tiara blinked thrice before regaining her senses. Had Sweetie Belle, poor, defenseless, damsel-in-distress always needing to be rescued by her friends Sweetie Belle, actually just said that to her? And with that much force? “What did you just say to me you little—”
“You heard what I said! I said you’re a jerk who needs to shut up and leave me alone! I’m not afraid of you or any kind of curse! I’m not going to let you push me around anymore, and I’m definitely not going to let you talk about Silver Spoon or any of my other friends! So just buck off, you… you…” Sweetie Belle was far too angry to formulate an insult, so instead, she compromised. The filly quickly reared up on her hind legs and drove her hooves into the ground with such force that she cracked the street with an audible crunch.
Taken aback, and slightly afraid of her hyperventilating former victim, Diamond Tiara backed away slowly. “You’ll be sorry about this, Blanky-Belle, just you watch.” Diamond Tiara turned away from the heavily breathing unicorn, and began the trek back to her homestead, smirking to herself all the while. The pieces had been placed on the chessboard and all she had to do was wait for them to ignorantly move themselves into checkmate. Tomorrow was going to be delicious, and she didn’t want to miss a single moment of it.
Chapter Eleven End
From the moment she arrived at her homestead, heart still abuzz from the events of a beyond-magnificent evening, Silver Spoon set about her pre-slumber routine with unusual fervor for a pony about to lay idle and unconscious for the next eight or so hours. But her haste wasn’t without purpose. After all, time was the only thing keeping her from the greatest thing to ever happen in her life for a long time, and what better way to rid herself of that tedious wait period than dreaming of the rewards she’d reap with the coming of the morning. In the interest of entering the realm of dreams all the faster, Silver Spoon elected to forego the donning of her nightgown and leapt upon her bed, snuggling into the sheets like a rowdy hound winding down for the night. As soon as she had found a comfortable balance between blanket and pillow, she carefully removed her glasses, reflexively placing them on her nightstand, turning off the small lamp as she went. After snuggling back into her bed, it didn’t take long before Silver Spoon closed her eyes and drifted off into the realm of dreams.
The cloudless afternoon sky stood as if painted upon the backdrop of this warm mid-spring day. The sounds of laughter and foalhood merriment pervaded the quiet, simple atmosphere around Ponyville Elementary School, and beneath the shade of an old oak tree, Silver Spoon watched the gaieties of her peers with envious eyes. While she’d have liked nothing more than to jump up and join them in a thrilling game of hide-and-go-seek or tag, something was stopping her from doing so. She couldn’t put her hoof on what exactly it was, but it felt burdensome, oppressive even. Still, whatever it was, it couldn’t stop her from imagining what it would be like to be down there with them. If only they’d ask her to join.
“Hey, Silver Spoon! Wanna play some baseball?” shouted a young colt, galloping up to greet her.
Silver Spoon blinked in disbelief. Had that actually just happened?
“Silver Spoon! Do you want in? We only need one more to play!” he asked again.
“Yeah, come on, Silver Spoon!” said a blue coated filly next to the colt. “Come play with us! It’ll be fun!”
“Sure, that sounds great!” Silver Spoon leapt up from her spot on the grass, ready to gallop towards the invitation, when she felt something tugging on her left foreleg, impeding her from moving any further. A quick glance down revealed that her left leg was bound by a sturdy-looking cast-iron shackle.
“Ahem,” coughed a voice from Silver Spoon’s side. She looked over to see what it was, and was met with the disapproving glare of Diamond Tiara, who for some odd reason bore a similar shackle and chain around her right foreleg. “Silver Spoon and I were in the middle of a discussion, if you don’t mind,” Diamond Tiara sneered at the group, who returned fire with equally dirty glances.
“Oh, um… maybe next time you guys,” Silver Spoon said, wincing at the disappointment growing across the offering pony’s faces. She didn’t want to decline their offer, but she felt as though she was expected to.
“Awww… well, maybe we can get that weird kid who always just pokes at the dirt to play with us,” said the colt.
“Snails? But he smells like cheese.”
“Honestly, what is wrong with them?” Diamond Tiara scoffed as soon as the group was well out of earshot. “Every day they bother us with the same question. Can’t they see we just want to be left alone? Besides, who’d want to go play in that filthy dirt anyway… right, Silver Spoon?” Diamond Tiara glanced at Silver Spoon, expecting her friend to agree.
“Heh, yeah; that dumb old game doesn’t look like a lot of fun anyway,” Silver Spoon lied through her teeth, hoping that she had appeased her friend’s abnormally high expectations of her. To her relief, Diamond Tiara nodded approvingly before speaking again.
“So, like I was saying before we were so rudely interrupted by those rowdy—”
Silver Spoon could only watch in shock as a baseball packing dangerous momentum fell from seemingly nowhere, catching Diamond Tiara square in the cheek. The filly paused for a second to register the fact that she’d been hit, and rubbed the cheek where the ball had impacted as dismissively as one might rub at a mosquito bite. She came back with a hoof bearing only a few light drops of blood that she rubbed on the grass. "They really need to watch where they’re hitting those dumb things… anyway, where were—”
“Diamond, are you alright?” Silver Spoon asked.
Diamond Tiara raised an eyebrow at the sudden display of concern. “Hm? Why wouldn’t I be?”
“That ball sounded like it hit you pretty hard.”
“It was nothing, Silvy.” Diamond Tiara waved off Silver Spoon’s concerns with a hoof.
“I don’t know, maybe we should ask Ms. Cheerilee to get you some ice or—” Silver Spoon attempted to stand, but quickly found how difficult a task that was as the chain attached to the shackles had grown She swore that there had been more slack on the chain just a moment ago, but quickly dropped the thought from her mind as Diamond Tiara resumed speaking.
“I said it was nothing, Silvy.” Diamond Tiara scowled intently as she motioned for Silver Spoon to lie back down.
Not wanting to anger her friend any further, Silver Spoon followed the silent instruction and settled back on the grass, casting concerned glances at Diamond Tiara’s cheek. Surprisingly it hadn’t begun to bruise or swell and thankfully there wasn’t any blood, but something still bothered Silver Spoon about Diamond Tiara’s face. She just couldn’t figure out what it was. Something was off about it.
“Hey, Silver Spoon.” Diamond Tiara nudged her shackle-mate, effectively snapping Silver Spoon out of her trance. “Check it out, it’s the Cutie Mark Catastrophes,” she said, gesturing to three giggling fillies trotting out of the schoolhouse. “Come on, I want to see how long it’ll take Blanky Belle to cry today!” Diamond Tiara sprang forth from her resting place, a malicious grin on her smug face. She didn’t get too far however as the shackle chain held taut, sweeping her leg from beneath her, resulting in a faceplant that was just painful to watch. However, despite the amount of pain she should have been in, Diamond Tiara merely stood up and wiped another small trickle of blood from her face which was screwed into a scowl directed at her hindrance of a crony. “Hurry up, Silver Spoon.”
Silver Spoon winced at the scrutiny before regaining her senses. “Oh, right, sorry!” Silver Spoon apologized, chancing a discreet glance at the ever impatient Diamond Tiara’s cheek. She had a split second, maybe longer, to figure out what exactly was off about this whole situation before Diamond Tiara would chastise her again. No blood. No bruising. Not even a cut. There was one thing Silver Spoon noticed, but she wrote it off as a trick of the light, after all there was no way she could have logically entertained that observation.
“Silver Spoon!” Diamond Tiara stomped a hoof down in frustration.
“Sorry! Sorry!” Silver Spoon began trotting ahead of her ward.
“I swear, what is wrong with you some days?” Diamond Tiara rolled her eyes as she and Silver Spoon began galloping towards the schoolhouse entrance, the weight of their bonds impeding their movement only slightly.
“Well, well, well, if it isn’t the Cutie Mark Klutzs,” Diamond Tiara said upon her arrival, smiling diminutively down on the soon-to-be frustrated blank flanks.
“What do you want Diamond Tiara?” said Apple Bloom, stepping in front of a particularly vulnerable looking Sweetie Belle.
“Yeah, don’t you have anything else to do besides make fun of us and pick on Sweetie Belle when we’re not looking? Don’t think we don’t know about that,” growled Scootaloo, following Apple Bloom’s lead.
“Aww, did you tell your big, scary friends on me, Blanky Belle?” Diamond Tiara cackled, turning to Silver Spoon, assumably expecting her to chortle in as well. Instead, Silver Spoon forced a chuckle and took this opportunity to once again study Diamond Tiara’s face. There still wasn’t a clear mark on her face, but Silver Spoon observed something so minute that it would have gone unnoticed by anyone else who wasn’t intently looking for it. There were a collection of small scars— no, that didn’t describe it quite right, they were more along the lines of fractures running through the majority of her cheek. With movement of her jaw however, Silver Spoon could see the fractures slowly spreading along her face, becoming more and more noticeable.
“Scootaloo, Apple Bloom, let’s just go,” Sweetie Belle urged, pulling on her friend’s tails with her teeth in an attempt to dissuade them from getting into it with Diamond Tiara, to no avail.
“No,” said Scootaloo. “I’m sick of all this, we need to teach her a lesson.”
“I’m with Scoots on this one,” said Apple Bloom. “There’s only so much a pony can take, and I’ve taken all I can stand from that big mouthed brat!”
“Oooh, big talk for a four legged dodo bird and a bumpkin,” said Diamond Tiara, oblivious to the fractures that continued to expand along her face.
“That’s it! If she says one more thing I swear I’ll… I’ll—”
“Well, we certainly know who isn’t getting their cutie mark in clever threats, now don’t we?” The fissures in Diamond Tiara’s face had grown almost hairline in their appearance. Silver Spoon couldn’t help but wince at them and hold her tongue. She knew how nasty Diamond Tiara could get and didn’t want to see the argument reach that critical point, yet she felt powerless to stop it, obligated to do nothing even.
“Oooohh! I’ve had it!” Scootaloo screamed.
“Scootaloo,” Sweetie Belle said, stepping in front of the pegasus, effectively blocking her view of Diamond Tiara. “There’s no reason to fight. We can just go back inside and tell Ms. Cheerlilee—”
“Don’t you get it?” asked Apple Bloom. “That’s just what she wants! If we tell on her, then she’ll only tease us harder!”
“We’re settling this now!” Scootaloo stomped her hoof to further drive her point home.
“But if you touch her, then you’ll be the ones to get in trouble!”
“I don’t care anymore! Anything is better than just letting her rip on us for not having our cutie marks. What makes her so special?” said Scootaloo.
“Kyahaha! Isn’t this rich, Silvy? We poke them a little, and look how defensive they get! Good thing they have the class crybaby to keep them in check!”
“Sweetie Belle, get out of my way!” Scootaloo tried in vain to push past the unicorn, but Sweetie Belle held her back, albeit with great difficulty.
“No! I won’t let you fight with her!”
“Ha, if somepony like Blanky Belle can hold you back, then you’re not even worth my time!” said Diamond Tiara.
“Diamond, just stop it!” Silver Spoon shouted, finally breaking free of whatever force had been forcing her to hold her tongue and clearly surprising both of the warring parties. She’d heard enough of this pointless squabbling.
“Silver Spoon?” Apple Bloom asked, her mouth agape in disbelief.
“What do you think you’re doing Silver Spoon?” Diamond Tiara growled.
“Please, just this once, let it go,” said Silver Spoon.
“What?” Diamond Tiara rose an eyebrow at her lackey’s behavior.
“Well, don’t you think you’re being a little hard on them?”
“Don’t tell me you’re actually taking their side.” Diamond Tiara scoffed.
“What if I am?” Silver Spoon stepped between the factions, turning her head to face the now livid Diamond Tiara. Silver Spoon could see her friend’s jaw clenching up, a response that only served to increase the number of cracks that had spread to her chin now.
“Don’t forget your place, Silver Spoon.” The fissures in her were spreading even faster and wider as a silent rage began to overtake her features. It was at this point that Silver Spoon noticed that tiny sections of Diamond Tiara’s cracked skin began to flake off, revealing an abysmal black surface underneath. “Now, get back over here!”
“Hey, you don’t own her!” Apple Bloom said, marching forth to stand with Silver Spoon.
“This doesn’t concern you, blank flank!”
“Like hay it doesn’t!” Scootaloo finally pushed past Sweetie Belle, stumbling to the other side of Silver Spoon. “We’re not just going to stand by and let you make somepony else’s life miserable!”
“Silver Spoon belongs to me!” Diamond Tiara gripped the shackle chain in her teeth, and pulled with all the might she could muster. She managed to force Silver Spoon a foot or so before she was met with firm resistance from none other than the very pony she was trying to pull. “Get over here now, Silver Spoon!”
“No!” Silver Spoon jerked her hoof back, forcing Diamond Tiara to stumble forward, though it did nothing to lessen the tenacity of the possessive filly’s grip. “This stops now! I’m done listening to you!”
“You get over here right now, or I’ll make you sorry, Silver Spoon!” Diamond Tiara yelled.
“I’m not anypony’s property, least of all yours!”
“I said come here!” Diamond Tiara put all of her weight behind her next tug, causing several flakes to peel away, revealing even more of the inky blackness that lay beneath. From the strength of that pull, Silver Spoon could already tell that Diamond Tiara would inevitably win this little back and forth of theirs in a one on one tussle. What she hadn’t anticipated however was the sudden accompaniment of Apple Bloom and Scootaloo, as the pair seized a sizable portion of the chain each, and gave a mighty yank. Still, even with the combined power of the three fillies, Diamond Tiara proved to be more than a match. Amazingly, she managed to pull all three as though they weighed no more than a single pony.
“I’ve got you, Silver Spoon!” Sweetie Belle threw her forelegs around Silver Spoon’s waist, digging her hind hooves into the ground as deeply as she could. But even with her added weight, she proved nothing more than a slight hindrance to Diamond Tiara’s monsterlike strength.
“Let… me… go!” Silver Spoon and the Cutie Mark Crusaders threw everything they had behind one final tug, and were rewarded with the loud metallic snap of the chain as it broke in two, sending the four resisting fillies flying backwards into a heap on the ground. Silver Spoon was the first to recover, rubbing and shaking her head to regain her senses as she struggled to a stand, when she saw something that made her heart stop. Despite the fact that the Crusaders had been sent sprawling, Diamond Tiara hadn’t so much as budged an inch. Yet, that wasn’t what had shocked Silver Spoon so thoroughly to her core.
Where the right side of Diamond Tiara’s face had terribly large spiderweb-like cracks racing through it, the entire left side had completely crumbled away, leaving nothing but a blank black surface where the face should have been, save for her mouth, which was nothing more than a hellish chasm filled with razor-like fangs. The creature bearing what was essentially a half a mask of her former best friend, grinned an arrogant grin on both of its faces, causing even more of what had been Diamond Tiara’s face to chip off. “I warned you, Silver Spoon,” the abomination said as it stalked forward. With each step it took, even more of its pink facade began to peel from its neck down to the rest of its body like ancient paint on a dilapidated wall.
Frightened, Silver Spoon unconsciously backed away from the demon as it liberated itself from the remains of its former shell and slowly began to grow larger in size. Without warning, the sky darkened and the grass began to wither and die with every step the monster took, each blade first turning gray before wasting away into dust. Vines riddled with thorns erupted from the ground, wriggling and dancing like snakes, grasping towards the sky, winding together into painfully gnarled trees. Strange mushrooms and fungi bearing patterns that resembled eyes began to sprout up as well, seemingly watching the fillies as they stumbled throughout the woodland. It didn’t take long before the surrounding area was encased by a wicked pulsing hollow. Despite the radical changes in her environment, Silver Spoon could not avert her eyes from that gluttonous smile advancing towards her.
“Help! Scootaloo, Sweetie Belle, somepony, help me!” Apple Bloom cried as her hind legs were ensnared by a pack of the vicious tendrils. She bucked and struggled against the vines in vain as they proceeded to drag her into the dark of a nearby thicket.
“Hang on, Apple Bloom!” Scootaloo recklessly charged to the aid of her friend, only to trip over the root of a newly emerged tree. Scootaloo picked herself up as quickly as she could and tried to run after Apple Bloom, who had managed to delay her abduction by wrapping her forelegs around a nearby tree trunk, but the pegasus found herself unable to even move her legs.
Looking down, Scootaloo was horrified to find her legs entangled by a thicket of vines protruding straight from the ground. More and more vines began to emerge from the ground, wrapping themselves around Scootaloo’s small body, forcing her down into the dirt. She could only watch helplessly as Apple Bloom was dragged into the darkness. The vines didn’t even grant Scootaloo a moment to grieve as they tightened around her small body, forcing her even deeper into the dirt. She could feel the ground beneath her sifting, giving way, and a moment later she was being pulled into the soil, unable to fight or scream.
“Apple Bloom, Scootaloo!” Sweetie Belle cried as her best friends were abducted by the abysmal forest before her very eyes. The unicorn could do nothing more but break down and sob pitifully at the loss of her friends as she curled into a ball, hoping it would at least be over quickly.
“Two down, one to go before you’re all mine, Silvy,” the creature said as it stomped towards its remaining victim, baring its fangs in anticipation. “Don’t worry, Blanky Belle, you’ll be with your friends soon enough,” it cackled.
Silver Spoon hesitated. She already knew that running away from that horrible thing was pointless. No matter how fast or how far she galloped, it would catch her in the in the end and do Celestia knows what with her. She was already resigned to that fate, and she knew by association, Sweetie Belle was doomed as well. There was nothing she could do. Silver Spoon froze, watching in horror as the beast stepped before Sweetie Belle and opened its jaws wide, as though it were going to swallow the filly whole. Silver Spoon, unable to watch, clenched her eyes, silently cursing her cowardice as she awaited the inevitable screams that would only serve as a prelude to her own demise. But, those screams never came, or at least they hadn’t come yet.
“Silver Spoon,” spoke a new voice from her side.
“Huh?” Silver Spoon cautiously opened her eyes to find that, while she was still in the same hellish setting, everything had stopped, as if frozen in time. The monster, Sweetie Belle, the vines, everything just stood motionless. Everything save for the shimmering night-sky mane of none other than Princess Luna. “Princess Luna?” Silver Spoon asked, confused about the diarch’s sudden appearance. “Why are you here?”
“I should like to ask you the same question, Silver Spoon. Of all the dreams I’ve watched in the past three lunar phases, yours have been among the most troubling as of late. Most young ones dream of pleasant and joyous ventures, yet every time I’ve peered into your slumbering mind, I’ve seen nothing but havoc, helplessness and despair. What troubles you so deeply, my little pony?”
Silver Spoon scuffed the ground nervously as she struggled to make eye contact with Luna. “Well, it’s…” Her eyes wandered to the pitch-black behemoth standing over Sweetie Belle before flitting back to the dark-coated matriarch.
“I see,” said Luna. “She was your friend once upon a fortnight, was she not?”
Silver Spoon nodded. “I was the first friend she ever made. For the longest time, nopony would ever talk to her because of her upbringing and who her father was, not to mention she was kind of a brat,” Silver Spoon chuckled, before going quiet and solemn again. “But I was the first one to ever look past all of that. I guess that’s why she sort of… grew dependent on me. She’d never talk to or play with anypony else, just me. If I went to play with anyone else, she’d get jealous and lash out at them. I never told her how much it bothered me; I just felt so bad for her that I let her get away with it.” Silver Spoon sighed, sinking to her haunches. “The years went on and on, and before I knew it, I had lost all of my friends to her overbearing possessiveness. Every time I went to make a new friend, she was always there, ready to put them down for something or another, and I guess I just got swept up in it. I never wanted to be a bully, but I really had no other choice: it was deal with her and let her do as she pleased as she got worse and worse, or have no friends at all. I guess you can see which I chose, huh?” Silver Spoon glanced sadly at the monster that she’d once called a friend.
“I can. I can also see that you’re allowing this ‘friend’s’ influence to affect your well-being.”
“We aren’t friends anymore, Princess. I made that clear to her a few days ago,” Silver Spoon said.
“Oh?” Luna rose an eyebrow. “Then why does she continue to dwell on your thoughts? That seems like an awful lot of influence to grant one you’ve stricken from your heart.”
“Because I know her. She isn’t just going to take what I said sitting down, and I’m aware of that, but… I’m still afraid.”
“Afraid of what, Silver Spoon?” Concerned, Luna laid down next to Silver Spoon, draping a wing over her in a motherly way, only to sense immense fright-wrought trembling emanating from the filly.
Silver Spoon weakly glanced at Luna and sighed. It was better for to get this out in the open and come to terms with her fears once and for all. It wouldn’t do much to relieve her of the burdens she bore, but at the very least she could have a concrete understanding of what it was she was so afraid of. “Diamond Tiara’s ruthless. She doesn’t know how to hold back, and she doesn’t care who she has to hurt to get her way. It’s not me that I’m afraid for, it’s… it’s her.” Silver Spoon pointed to Sweetie Belle, still frozen in a moment of helplessness before the beast.
“Is she important to you?” asked Luna.
“Is she ever…” Silver Spoon said in a contented daze without realizing it. That is until Luna flashed a knowing grin at her amorous subject. “I-I mean, uh, yes, Princess Luna.”
“There is no need to be so flustered, my little pony. This is your dream after all. I am merely an observer, thus I harbor no right to an opinion.”
“Thanks, Princess.” Silver Spoon nuzzled closer to Luna, who only offered her a stern look and some less-than-comforting words.
“This does not change your situation, Silver Spoon. Your fear still holds you captive, slowly consuming you from the inside, and if nothing is done, then she may end up paying a terrible price for it.” Luna used her wingtip to guide Silver Spoon’s sight to Sweetie Belle, in order to further drive her point home.
“I know that, but… what should I do? What can I do?” Silver Spoon turned to face Luna, looking upon the wise matriarch who seemed to hold all the answers, with hope in her eyes. A hope that would soon find itself crushed beneath a lead weight of disappointment.
“I do not know, Silver Spoon.” Luna said simply, removing her wing from the filly’s shoulders as she rose to a stand. “But, the one thing I do know, is that you must first stand up and step forward in order to face your fears. Once you have done this, the rest will make itself clear to you.”
“But, Princess, I can’t—”
“I fear this is where we must part company, fair Silver Spoon. It would seem my time here has ended. I wish you the best of luck.” Luna’s wings spread wide, her majestic hued plumage flexing with her wings as she brought them down in the first powerful flaps of takeoff.
“Princess Luna, please don’t leave me here!” Silver Spoon plead as she watched the Princess of the night fly into her namesake, and out of her self-imposed bastille of a nightmare. She was on her own in this time-frozen hollow now, and what frightened her more than her toxic surroundings was knowing that any moment now, everything would pick up right where it left off, with Apple Bloom and Scootaloo devoured by this awful forest, and Sweetie Belle about to follow in the pair’s hoofsteps while all she could do herself was stew in her fear and watch. She dreaded each second of stillness that held the forest still as it gave her time to ponder what horrible fate awaited her after the vindictive fiend’s judgement had been passed on Sweetie Belle.
She shuddered as she recalled the darkness it had enveloped her in once before, the helplessness and the despair it wrought upon her. She didn’t want to face that void again and she didn’t want Sweetie Belle to be subjected to that same fate. The thought of running during this period of inactivity crossed her mind. Perhaps she’d be able to outrun the thing with a decent head start, but then again the dream could have started progressing forward at any second. Aside from that, she wouldn’t be able to forgive herself for abandoning Sweetie Belle like that. Swallowing back a massive lump in her throat, Silver Spoon struggled against her fear-jacked body to stand up on shaky legs. Her every instinct told her to run, to escape and get as far away as she possibly could before time started to flow forward again, yet despite her fear and trepidation, she reluctantly took a single step forward, recalling and chanting what Luna had told her earlier under her breath. “Step forward, you’ll figure something out.”
“Step forward, you’ll figure something out,” she told herself as the vines protruding from the ground, slowly began to writhe in their usual agonizing way.
“Step forward, you’ll figure something out,” she said as the trees began to pulse and twist ever higher, ever tighter.
“Step forward, you’ll figure something out,” she said as she trotted past a pit full of shifting, sinking black soil.
“I’m going to figure something out,” she said as she stepped beside Sweetie Belle, who gradually began quivering and whimpering
“I’ll figure something out,” she almost sobbed, hooves trembling as the monstrous shadow’s jaws resumed their horrendous elongation.
“I’ll get through this,” she said, not believing half of the words coming out of her mouth anymore as the creature’s vile breath washed over her, filling her nostrils with a scent as loathsome as its source. “I’ll get through this,” she said looking into the abomination’s abhorrent, featureless face knowing full well what the pony behind the beast had taken from her, the sobbing unicorn at her side reminding her what it would continue to take if she didn’t make a stand. “I have to get through this. I can’t keep letting this ruin my life.”
“So you want to go before Blanky Belle, huh, Silvy?” Pitch-black tentacles snaked forth from the monster’s body and began wrapping themselves around Silver Spoon’s legs, but instead of succumbing to fear, she could feel a fury rising from deep within herself. A fury that gave way to rage and reason. She realized in that instant that any power this thing had over her had been given to it by her own submissiveness and it was that very submissiveness that would be not only her own downfall, but Sweetie Belle’s as well. She’d already lost Scootaloo and Apple Bloom because of her fears, and she wasn’t about to lose the last and most important of the few friends she had be devoured by some twisted embodiment of jealous wrath.
“No.” Silver Spoon stomped her hoof down on the base of the nearest tentacle, causing it to pop into a black haze.
“What?” The monster snarled.
“I won’t let you do this to me anymore!” Silver Spoon glared at the blank, black face, teeth grit so hard they could chip a diamond as she stomped on another tentacle snaking past her legs to reach Sweetie Belle.
“Watch your mouth, Silver Spoon. This is still my domain, and I won’t be spoken to by some miserable little kiss-flank who stepped out of bounds and had a temper tantrum. Now, if you’re a good little filly, I might let you watch as I gobble up the last of the blank flanks. Doesn’t that sound fa—”
“Enough is enough, I don’t have to take this from you any longer!” To Silver Spoon’s surprise, the behemoth backed away before the raw emotion held by her words. The filly saw what might have been her only chance and enterprised on it. “I don’t have to be afraid of this anymore. I don’t have to be afraid of you anymore.”
“Silver Spoon, I’ll make you sorry for this.”
“Make me regret this? It’ s too late for that! I’m already sorry! Sorry that I let you drive away all of my friends, sorry that I let you control me for so long, sorry that I didn’t put you in your place sooner! There’s so much I wish I could take back about us, but it’s far too late for that. I won’t let you have your way with my life any more, Diamond Tiara! Get out of my head! Get out of my dreams! I’ve already kicked you out of my life, and now I’m kicking you out of my mind! So get out! Get out and take your wretched controlling jealousy with you!”
“You aren’t welcome here anymore!” With that final unrestrained scream, a vibrant light erupted from the sky, burning away everything that had been touched by or wrought by the darkness. The trees were the first to be burned in the wake of the purifying light, the very vines that they were comprised of burning and unwinding as quickly as they could in a vain attempt to retreat into the soil from whence they came. The remaining growths shared a similar fate to the trees as they were burned away almost immediately, leaving the ground barren, save for the dead grass that had once been a luscious green.
Sensing its demise was imminent and inescapable, the monster made one final desperate lunge towards Silver Spoon as it burned. “Curse you, Silver Spoon! I’ll take you with me for this!” Silver Spoon didn’t so much as blink in the face of the rampaging, burning beast, even as it lashed out at her with a savage slash of its smoldering, eroding claws that turned to dust before they could even make contact. The pitiful beast fell before Silver Spoon, lunging and grabbing at her with whatever tentacles it could produce from the remains of its dwindling, pathetic body. With its final breaths the creature managed, “You’re… you’re supposed to be… mine… and no one else’s… come here!”
“I can’t believe I let something as petty as you ruin my life…” Silver Spoon grimaced as she gave a final look at the empty face of the pitiful creature at her hooves. And yet, despite how much anger she harbored towards the thing on the ground, how much she wanted to scream and stomp on it, she could only sum up her feelings in six simple words. “Jealousy is an ugly thing… aren’t you?” With that, Silver Spoon turned her back on the shriveling demon, leaving it to the mercy of the cleansing light brought forth by her tongue.
“Silver Spoon, you did it! You saved us!” Sweetie Belle cheered as she tackled Silver Spoon into a vice-li
“Yeah… I did, didn’t I?” Silver Spoon smirked, pleased that she had been able to protect the pony who was most important to her.
“Yup!” Sweetie Belle chirped as she hugged Silver Spoon even closer.
“Too… hnn… tight… Sweetie!” Silver Spoon gasped, as the giggling unicorn let her go. “I mean, I’m glad we’re alright, but… Scootaloo and Apple Bloom…”
“What about us?” called a voice oozing with a southern inflection that could have only belonged to Apple Bloom.
“You two are alright! But how did you get out? What happened when after you were dragged into the forest?” Silver Spoon asked.
“I’d rather not talk about it… but it was totally awesome how you just yelled that monster to death! If you didn’t already have a cutie mark, I’m sure that you would’ve gotten one for monster slaying— er, yelling at monsters? Either way that would be an awesome special talent!” With each word of praise to leave her tongue, Scootaloo’s wings buzzed erratically, a clear sign of the pegasus’ enthusiasm. “Hey, that gives me an idea! Apple Bloom, why don’t we go monster hunting? I bet we could get some awesome cutie marks for that!”
“After all that? I dunno ‘bout that, Scootaloo…” said Apple Bloom.
“Bleh! Whatever; I bet Silver Spoon wouldn’t mind giving it another go, would you demon slayer?”
“Sure,” said Silver Spoon. “I’d love to go monster hunting with you all, just let me—”
“Hey, Silvy?” Sweetie Belle interrupted.
“Yes, Sweetie Belle?”
“We’ll go on ahead, but you can’t come with us right now. We’ll see you in a few hours though, okay?”
“What?” Silver Spoon chuckled, unsure of how to take what the unicorn was telling her.
“I promise that I’ll see you in a few hours, but you’ve got to go now.”
“I don’t understand, why can’t I go with you? Where am I going?”
Sweetie Belle giggled and leaned forward, nuzzling Silver Spoon’s neck affectionately before whispering into the earth pony’s ear. “To the waking world you big silly.”
“Wait… the waking world?”
“Yup.” Sweetie Belle nodded.
“But I want to stay here with you! Please don’t send me away!”
Sweetie Belle began to mouth something that Silver Spoon couldn’t make out, as a horribly loud screeching sound began to fill her eardrums. A moment later, she felt herself being pulled away from Sweetie Belle against her will. It wasn’t long before she couldn’t hear her own screams over the sound of the beeping.
Stirred from her restless slumber by the incessant ringing of an alarm clock, that bane to all of the slumbering world, Silver Spoon reluctantly sat up, bringing her hoof down upon the infernally noisy contraption, effectively silencing it. With a groan, she opened her eyes, allowing the dim bluish light of the early morning sky flowing forth from her bay windows to fill her sight. Begrudgingly, she fumbled about for her glasses, and slipped them on her face without a moment’s hesitation. With a sluggish push, Silver Spoon managed to roll out of her bed, landing unceremoniously on all fours, before trudging off to start her morning routine. She had school in two hours and she couldn’t afford to be late. Not so much out of respect for the curriculum—her grades were almost as flawless as her attendance record— but because she had a very special somepony that she couldn’t wait to see, and nopony but nopony was going to get in her way.
As Silver Spoon passed by a nearby window on her way to the washroom, Silver Spoon noticed something odd about the moon which had yet to set, or rather the mare in moon, as the massive lunar shadow was called. It looked as though it was smiling down at her, and for a brief moment she could have sworn that she saw it wink at her.
Bastille of Nightmares, End
The influence of the press over the masses is truly an overwhelming and remarkable power. A power that possesses the capacity to inform and enlighten or to berate, destroy and slander, depending on its wielder. Nopony could understand or appreciate this fact better than Featherweight as he begrudgingly descended the stairs to the offices of the Foal Free Press. It was far too cold and much too early in the morning for the colt’s liking, but it wasn’t like he had any choice in the matter. The printing press staff would arrive in a little less than an hour, and it was his job to ensure that the quality of each page was up to par.
As Featherweight approached the press itself, he reached for the current edition’s stack of page templates, sifting, sorting, and scanning through them as he had done at least a dozen times prior over the course of the weekend. He already knew that there were no more errors left to correct, as he had caught them all himself, and that each picture was placed immaculately along the columns since he’d painstakingly measured and remeasured to the nearest millimeter. He knew better than anypony that the paper was perfect and ready for the presses, save for one final piece that resided in one of the many drawers of his desk: a piece that represented everything he stood against, a piece that embodied everything he felt that a newspaper was supposed to fight against, a piece ironically forged by his own hooves.
Gently placing the stack of plates back on their original resting place, Featherweight moved behind his desk and stopped, simply staring at the lowest drawer as though some horrible creature lurked within. He didn’t want to open the drawer, and yet he had no choice in the matter; he’d come too far and there was too much on the line for him to develop a conscience now. By no will of his own, his hooves wrapped around the drawer handle and pulled it open to reveal that wretched thing. Like a mindless doll, he craned his neck down, seizing it in his teeth. The almost weightless aluminum was a lead weight in his jaw, but he paid it no mind as he lugged it back to the press machine, only a stone’s throw away.
Featherweight sat on his haunches, holding the sinister template out in front of himself, studying in disgust the article that he’d been forced to write. He already knew that the staff wouldn’t bother to proofread the templates, that they would simply slap the plates on the rollers and fire up the machines. He’d seen them in action and even worked beside them his fair share of times to make deadlines when they were short-staffed. It was nothing more than just loading the plates, slathering them in ink, and pressing a button. Brain-dead work. It was because the task was nothing more than brain-dead work that this scheme was bound to succeed.
It was funny in a way. All it would take is one glance at the template’s contents for somepony to notice an extra page that hadn’t been part of the original quota, for that same individual to bring it to his attention so he, as editor-in-chief, could declare it a prank and discard it from the issue, effectively providing himself with an alibi for Diamond Tiara while sparing Sweetie Belle and Silver Spoon the sting of public denigration, if only for a short while.
Some minor attention to detail. That’s all it would take, but Featherweight knew better than that. This scheme, like the countless others Diamond Tiara had concocted before it, would go off without a hitch and there was absolutely nothing that could stop it. Swallowing hard, Featherweight lifted up half of the original stack of plates, grimacing as he reluctantly slipped in the deviant piece. His role in this petty revenge plot complete, Featherweight carelessly allowed the plates to fall, filling the desolate basement with the sharp clattering of metal sheets.
At the cost of yet another shred of his paper-thin journalistic integrity, Featherweight had once again avoided a date with the gallows, and he couldn’t have felt more awful about it. With a hollow pit growing in his gut, the colt retired to his desk, staring deadpanned at the printing press in the manner that an amnesiac might look upon their estranged spouse. He’d tried countless times to convince himself that Sweetie Belle and Silver Spoon had somehow brought this on themselves, that this was their own fault, that he was merely an accessory to Diamond Tiara’s will and bore no responsibility for any of his actions. Yet, as he looked at the press, those lies offered him no comfort. He knew that he had allowed himself to become a part of this through his own negligence and cowardice, but what could he do? He was a spineless marionette dancing under strings of blackmail, pulled by a sadistic puppeteer.
Featherweight leaned forward onto the desk, burying his head in his forelegs out of shame. “I’m so sorry,” he whispered under his breath, hoping that his muted apology would somehow find its way to Sweetie Belle, to Silver Spoon, to Dinky and everypony he’d ever betrayed under Diamond Tiara’s influence, but above all, to the one he was most afraid of disappointing. That goddess of an earth pony whose opinion meant the world to him. In the solitude, the pitiable pegasus mumbled out once last apology before going silent for the next few hours. “Please forgive me… Ms. Cheerilee.”
The monday morning air was sweet and brisk blowing across Silver Spoon’s sleek coat as she trotted out the front gate of her home. Stopping only to issue a rushed fare wave to her mother before she hit the streets, she trotted towards the schoolhouse with a little more spring in her step than she was used to, but then again, today was different. She had something to look forward to for a change, and with Diamond Tiara’s routine whining absent, Silver Spoon’s walk to the schoolhouse was bound to be more fulfilling than it had been in years.
As she didn’t have to spend every ounce of her attention pandering to her former friend’s constant need for validation, she was surprised to find how much of the world she’d been unable to appreciate while in Diamond Tiara’s company. Flower gardens that had once been nothing more than background scenery seemed somehow more vivid, the wondrous hues and immaculate symmetry standing out like works of fine art. The aroma of freshly baked bread rolling in from Sugarcube Corner pervaded the air, sweeter and more tongue teasing than she’d remembered it being. The ponies walking around were no longer a mass of faceless shades flitting around in her peripheral vision. Instead, they trotted about giddy and smiling, some even going so far as to issue the filly a “Good morning” or a simple “Hello.” It was shaping up to be a good morning so far, and it was only going to get better from here.
“Hey, Silver Spoon! Wait up for us!” A familiar voice called, causing Silver Spoon to stop and face the source. She was pleasantly surprised to find Apple Bloom and Scootaloo galloping up, both grinning from ear-to-ear.
“Good mornin’, Silver!” Apple Bloom greeted.
“What’s up?” asked Scootaloo.
“Hey, you two!” Silver Spoon beamed. “I figured you’d both be at the school already.”
“We would be, but this one’s a mite fussy when it comes to gettin’ up for school on time.” Apple Bloom nudged Scootaloo, who rolled her eyes in return.
“Ugh, whatever, Apple Bloom. I’m up now aren’t I?” Scootaloo asked rhetorically.
“Yeah, after I had to buck your bed out from underneath you,” said Apple Bloom
“Which reminds me, you’re moving my bed back after school.”
“Why can’t you move it yourself?”
“Why should I? You’re the one who kicked it, so it’s your fault!”
“My fault? If you’d have been up on time then I wouldn’t have had to kick your lazy flank out of bed!”
Silver Spoon couldn’t help but giggle at the pair as they argued. “So,” she said, stepping between the warring fillies, turning their attention to her and away from each other’s throats. “Are you two going straight to the school or would you like to pick up some breakfast first? My treat.”
“Sorry, Silver Spoon, but I’ve got to get to the school,” Apple Bloom explained. “I promised Featherweight I’d help get the latest issue of the Foal Free Press printed and situated before class begins.”
“You can count me in,” said Scootaloo. “Thanks to a certain somepony’s rude wake up,” Scootaloo cast a glare Apple Bloom’s way, “I didn’t have any time to grab breakfast, and I’m starving.”
“I guess I’ll grab something for you and Sweetie Belle in that case,” Silver Spoon said to Apple Bloom.
“Sounds good to me, I’ll see y’all in class then!” Apple Bloom said as she parted company with her friends.
“You’re still moving my bed back after school!” said Scootaloo.
“I’ll help you move it back!” Apple Bloom called back before disappearing into the marketplace streets.
“Shall we be going, Scootaloo?” Silver Spoon asked.
“Lead the way!” Scootaloo cheered.
Giggling and gossiping, the pair made it to Sugarcube Corner much faster than they’d realized, but upon arriving at the bakery, they were faced with a chance encounter that made them wish that they had taken their time. Scootaloo, driven by her appetite, bolted through the bakery doors with no regard for anypony who might have been standing on the other side. As one might expect, she careened full force into the last pony she expected or wanted to see at any point in her morning: Diamond Tiara.
"Why don't you watch where you're going, you clumsy, feather-brained twit! Look at this!” Diamond Tiara gestured to smashed and crumpled Sugarcube Corner bag. “You ruined my crystal-berry eclairs! Now what am I supposed to eat for breakfast?”
"Scootaloo, are you alright?" Silver Spoon called, cantering up just in time to see the pegasus shakily rise to her hooves. "Who did you run int—” Silver Spoon’s eyes narrowed into razor-thin slits at the sight of Diamond Tiara. “Oh, it’s just you,” she concluded coldly.
“Whatever, Silver Spoon. I’m talking to the Dodo bird,” said Diamond Tiara.
“Geez, it was an accident!” Scootaloo cried, her wings buzzing erratically out of frustration. “You don’t have to call me names! I was going to apologize!”
Diamond Tiara prepared to return fire when it dawned on her that there was no need to waste a tongue-lashing on Scootaloo and risk Silver Spoon getting involved, especially on today of all days. No, she had something far better in store for the Cutie Mark Crusaders, and a ruined breakfast was a molehill compared to the mountain she was going to crush them with. She chuckled aloud at the very thought.
“What are you laughing at?" Scootaloo growled.
“Hmph.” Ignoring Scootaloo with a smug smirk, Diamond Tiara picked up her bag of pastries and tossed it on her back, curtly turning her nose up at the pair as she trotted out of the bakery. The gray filly cocked an eyebrow at her former friend’s reaction. She’d given up far too easily for Silver Spoon’s liking, not that Silver Spoon was in the mood for any more conflict than necessary.
“That’s it?” Scootaloo scratched her head, clearly just as confused as her companion. “No calling me ‘blank-flank’, no threats, no whining? I thought for sure she'd start shooting her mouth off."
"It's a little weird of her, I’ll admit… but a quiet Diamond Tiara is a good Diamond Tiara, right?"
"Heh, you got that right," Scootaloo chuckled. "Anyway, forget about her, let's place those orders already, I'm starving!"
“Alright, alright,” Silver Spoon chuckled, marching up to the counter where she was met with a concerned look from Mrs. Cake.
“I heard some yelling in the front, is everything alright?” The baker asked.
“We just had a little disagreement with a certain somepony from our class, ma’am. It’s nothing,” Silver Spoon replied dismissively.
“Well, if that’s all it was…” Mrs. Cake said, uncertainty still present in her voice. “What can I get for you girls?”
“Hmm,” Silver Spoon began. “I’ll take—”
“Did Pinkie Pie make any chocolate malasadas this morning?” Scootaloo cut in. “I want a chocolate malasada— no, I want three!”
“Three chocolate malasadas…” Ms. Cake repeated as she wrote down the order. “And what about you, dear?”
“—a raspberry scone.” The gray filly finished.
“Raspberry, huh?” asked Scootaloo.
“Mhmm, it’s my favorite flavor after all.”
“Huh, that’s Sweetie Belle’s favorite, too.”
“I-It is?” Silver Spoon’s cheeks flushed pink at the notion of sharing a favorite flavor with her special somepony.
“Yeah,” Scootaloo stuck her tongue out in disgust at the very thought of the flavor. “I don’t see how you two can stand the taste, I hate raspberries,” Scootaloo mumbled under her breath.
“If Sweetie likes them too, I guess I could order a few more. What about Apple Bloom? What do you think she’d like?”
Silver Spoon looked to Scootaloo for input, but instead of an answer, she was met with a look that was flatter than three-day-old soda and practically screamed, “Do you really have to ask?”
“Something with apples?” Silver Spoon surmised.
Shrugging Silver Spoon placed the order. “One apple strudel, and that’ll be all, Mrs. Cake,” said Silver Spoon.
“I’ll get right on that for you girls.” Mrs. Cake beamed at the fillies. “Order up, honey bun~♪,” she hummed in a sing-song tone, disappearing into the kitchen.
“Thanks for treating, Silvs. I can almost taste those malasadas now!” Scootaloo practically drooled, recalling the delightful taste of the chocolatey, chewy sugar bread.
“No problem, Scootaloo,” Silver Soon responded, her voice somewhat distant, a detail that was not lost on the pegasus.
“Something up?” Scootaloo asked.
“It’s just… it’s nothing, Scootaloo.” Silver Spoon smiled and shook her head as though she were banishing a silly thought. “I was just thinking about how much this is going to cost and whether I should use bits or bills, that’s all.”
“You don’t have wonder much longer: Mrs. Cake is back.” Scootaloo pointed out as the robust blue baker strode back to the counter with a particularly fragrant bag in her mouth. “Wow, that smells awesome!” the orange pegasus exclaimed.
“Here’s your order, Silver Spoon, that’ll be fifte—”
Silver Spoon didn’t give Mrs. Cake the privilege of finishing as she slapped a wad of indiscriminately selected bills and bits on the counter. “This should be enough,” she said, snatching the bag off the counter and onto her back.
“But, dear, this is far too muc—”
“Come on, Scootaloo, we don’t want to be late for class.”
“But… but chocolate!” Scootaloo lunged for the bag on Silver Spoon’s back, but found herself eating floor as the earth pony sidestepped the attempt.
“We’ll have plenty of time to eat at the school, there’s something I need to see first.”
“Ugh…” Scootaloo took a moment to mourn her empty belly. “Fine,” she groaned.
With the speed of one who has a purpose but no physical prowess to speak of, Silver Spoon half-trotted, half-cantered to the schoolhouse, with her breakfast-bemoaned sidekick close behind. In truth, the earlier encounter with Diamond Tiara was still bothering her. Though the fuschia fussbudget seemed to be more than willing to go a few rounds with Scootaloo, she practically caved in the moment Silver Spoon showed up, and that bothered the gray filly more than anything. It was just so uncharacteristic of Diamond Tiara to decline an open invitation to conflict, and if there was one thing Silver Spoon knew better than anything in the whole of Equestria, it was that crown-wearing menace’s addiction to aggrieving others. Something wasn’t right, and Silver Spoon had a good hunch as to what that something was; a hunch that was quickly confirmed the moment she stepped into the school proper.
The yard was, for the most part, vacant and still emptying as most of the students had begun to head inside the classroom, save for a few small groups who were lingering about and gossiping. Thanks to the scarce amount of ponies in the yard, it didn’t take her particularly long to pick out a familiar pair of swirly two-toned manes that mixed in the same company the way that bleach mixes with ammonia. On one side of the spectrum, Diamond Tiara’s jaw worked in fluid cohesion with her eyes, which shifted between overly exaggerated expressions of shock and concern, while Sweetie Belle’s glaring features conveyed nothing but indignation.
“Her again?” Scootaloo snorted and stomped her hoof, her hunger forgotten in the wake of her natural instinct to protect her fellow Crusader. “Come on Silver Spoon, let’s go sort this out.”
“Right,” Silver Spoon curtly agreed.
Although she and Scootaloo had missed the disagreement in its entirety, Silver Spoon arrived just in time to hear Diamond Tiara say: “…just don’t say I didn’t warn you,” before slithering away like the serpent of Eden, earning a sneer from Silver Spoon as she passed by.
“What did she want?” Silver Spoon defensively asked Sweetie Belle, whose scowling face softened at the sight of her special somepony.
“I don’t know, I wasn’t really listening to her,” Sweetie Belle sighed. “ Anyway, how’s your morning going?”
“It’d be alot better if somepony was home sick for, oh say, the rest of the semester,” Silver Spoon replied, her tongue sharper than a saber’s tip. “But I think it’s definitely going to get better now.”
“Oh, is it?” Sweetie Belle grinned coyly.
“Like you wouldn’t believe.”
The pair had become so entranced by their small talk and each other’s eyes, that they’d all but forgotten about the presence of a certain famished pegasus. A pegasus who saw an opportunity to remedy her situation. Silver Spoon’s back, which was precariously balancing a bagged bounty of beloved breakfast breads, was turned to Scootaloo, completely unguarded. This was her chance to be rid of her bane of a belly and reunited with the greatest baked snack-bread in the world.
Scootaloo crept forth, making sure to stay in Silver Spoon’s blind spot. Once she was close enough, she lunged forward with her hooves outstretched, snatching at the bag. To her dismay, her hooves only caught air as Silver Spoon had bucked the parcel in front of herself at that same instant. Scootaloo grit her teeth in frustration at the failed attempt, but decided that she could definitely wait. A decision she’d soon regret.
“Breakfast?” Silver Spoon offered, pushing the bag towards Sweetie Belle, who gladly accepted the offer.
After a moment of digging around in the paper sack filled with some of Sugarcube Corner’s sweetest treats, Sweetie Belle bolted upright with a massive grin on her face. “Raspberry scones? My favorite! How did you know?”
“A little birdy told me.”
“Oooh, are those malasadas?” she asked, poking deeper into the parcel.
“They sure are,” Scootaloo said proudly.
“Do you mind if I take one?”
Scootaloo scoffed at the question. “Yeah I mind, thos—”
“Not at all,” Silver Spoon interjected.
“Hey, hold on a sec, those are mi—”
Sweetie Belle’s eyes lit up at the offer. “Are you sure? You did get me those scones...”
“Yeah, she did, besides those are my mal—”
“Why don’t you take one of each?” Silver Spoon suggested, much to Scootaloo’s chagrin and Sweetie Belle’s delight. Completely ignoring the blatant looks of protest on the pegasus’ face, she fished out one of the angelic puffs of dough, passing it off to Sweetie Belle, who began giddily munching on the lump of heaven and powdered sugar.
Silver Spoon looked quizzically at the mound of dough, questioning the gelatinous chocolate oozing from the side of the fried pastry, wondering if something so unhealthy could really be that delicious. “You know, come to think of it, I don’t think I’ve ever tried a malasada before. Are they any good?”
“Are they good?” Scootaloo chuckled and shook her head at her friend’s ignorance regarding the sweetbread. “Silver Spoon, it’s like biting into the chewiest, gooiest, cinnamon coatedest, sugar-glaziest cloud dipped in awesome and injected with chocolate syrup! Does that answer your question?”
“Well, when you put it like that, they do sound delicious…” Silver Spoon scratched her chin and licked her lips at the description.
“Uh, duh,” Scootaloo rolled her eyes. “That’s because they are.”
“…I think I’ll try one.”
It was too late. Silver Spoon had already plundered the penultimate pastry and began chewing on it conservatively, savoring each bite. Scootaloo’s description of the treat had only done it so much justice; the simple flavor of the bread itself was overwhelming, but the inclusion of the chocolate filling, that was the ambrosia that Equestrian poets of old would have sang epics of. “Oh wow, these are delicious! You don’t mind if I finish this one do you?”
“Yeah… sure, I’ve still got one left at least.” Scootaloo reached for the bag, only to once again find herself grasping at the air as Silver Spoon snatched the sack and called out to the fast approaching fourth member of their party. “Hey, Apple Bloom, are you hungry?”
The red maned filly gave a snort of derision before answering. “Are apples members of the rose family?” For all that piece of trivial knowledge, she was only met with quizzical looks. With a dejected sigh she continued, “Yeah, I’m hungry. Loadin’ up them printin’ plates and foldin’ the papers was some mighty difficult, and might I add, borin’ work. ‘Sides that, Featherweight was actin’ kinda... weird... even for him.”
“He wouldn’t be the only acting weird today...” Silver Spoon mumbled. She offered the bag to Apple Bloom, opening it wide for the filly to peer inside. “Apple strudel?”
“Thanks but no thanks, Silver. We got plenty of them things at home; family sends ‘em by the cartload every week.” Apple Bloom politely declined, searching the remaining contents of the bag. “I’ll take one of them malasadas though.”
“No, wait, that’s the last one!” Scootaloo could only watch helplessly as Apple Bloom plucked the last chocolate malasada from the bag and popped the whole thing in her mouth, hardly even bothering to chew as she sucked it down her greedy little gullet.
“Mmm-mmm! That thing was all right!”
“You… you didn’t even savor the taste…you just swallowed it...” Scootaloo’s spirit, suffice it to say, had been utterly broken with that one act.
“What’s up with you, Scoots?” Apple Bloom licked the sticky sweet residue of the pastry from her hooves. “Didn’t you get one?”
“Nghh! You...” Scootaloo scratched at her mane in irritation. “The three of you ate them all!”
“Oh… well at least you still got that strudel and them scones left! Come on y’all, let’s get inside before Ms. Cheerilee marks us late!”
“But… but I hate raspberries…” Scootaloo moaned. With her beloved malasadas devoured and no other alternatives for nourishment, she begrudgingly took the bag in her muzzle and followed her friends into the schoolhouse.
The four quickly sought out their seats, taking the opportunity to engage in some idle conversation before Cheerilee would start the class, save for Scootaloo, who was still deliberating whether or not she could stomach the taste of raspberries.
Just as Scootaloo had finally mustered up the will to bite into one of the raspberry-stuffed sweets, her teacher spoke up. “Good morning class!”
"Good morning, Ms. Cheerilee!" The whole class, with the exception of one exceptionally dense individual, sounded off in harmony.
"Uh... good morning, Ms. C," Snails drawled in, notably later than his peers.
"I hope you're all doing well this morning my little ponies, because we've got one doozy of a lesson plan to get through so that you're all ready for Friday's exam." At those very words a collective groan swept through the classroom, but Cheerilee was quick to wave off their concerns and take up the reigns of damage control. “Now, now, class, it won’t be all worksheets and lectures. I’ve come up with some games and activities to make it easier for you all to take in the material.”
“Whatever,” Scootaloo mumbled under her breath, shrugging as she fished the apple strudel out of the bag. “At least I can finally get something in my stomach.”
“Ah, ah, ah, no eating during lessons, Scootaloo.” Before Scootaloo could chomp down, Cheerilee snatched the pastry away out of her hooves, stuffing it back into the bag from whence it came. “You had plenty of time to eat your breakfast before class; I’m afraid you’ll have to wait until lunchtime.”
"No ‘buts,’ Scootaloo. You can have your snack at lunchtime." With that, Cheerilee took the bag in her mouth and brought it back to her desk.
With a frustrated faceplant to her desk, Scootaloo finally surrendered to the fact that settling her hunger was going to have to wait. And yet, if Cheerilee depriving the starving pegasus of her breakfast was the wound, then Diamond Tiara’s poorly stifled sniggering at her misfortune was undoubtedly the salt.
“What’s so funny, huh?” Scootaloo snapped in a harsh whisper.
Diamond Tiara rolled her eyes, shaking her head at Scootaloo. “Don’t worry about it, it’s nothing a silly blank-flank could appreciate.”
Silver Spoon laid a comforting hoof on her agitated friend’s shoulder, pulling her away from Diamond Tiara. “Don’t let her get to you, Scootaloo.”
“Especially not with exams this week. You need to pay attention more than anyone,” Sweetie Belle added.
“Yeah, your grades are almost as bad as mine!” Apple Bloom chuckled jokingly, nudging Scootaloo in an attempt to make her fellow Crusader smile. For her troubles, she was rewarded with a slight smirk that lasted all of a split second.
“Fine.” Scootaloo sighed, sitting upright in her chair. “I’ll let it go... for now.”
Diamond Tiara stuck her tongue out with an audible and over-exaggerated wretch at the display, but the Crusaders paid her no mind.
“All right everypony,” Cheerilee addressed the class. “Let’s get this review underway!”
Cheerilee delivered exactly what she had promised. The lesson plan was painless, surprisingly fun-filled, and for the most part lecture-free. Her curriculum was comprised historical skits that were satiric in their execution and a few educational variants of popular game shows where instead of winning bits, her students won bonus points towards their exams. Though she’d have to stop to explain the significance of certain events from time to time, the instruction went so smoothly that even Snails managed to keep up for the most part. However, what was most surprising about the whole ordeal couldn’t have been directly appreciated or even fathomed by the teacher herself, but instead was left up for deliberation by four thoroughly-confused fillies.
Not once throughout the entire lesson plan had Diamond Tiara partaken in any hostile behavior towards the Cutie Mark Crusaders. There were no spitwads blown at Sweetie Belle, no hastily written notes expressing her disdain towards Apple Bloom, and she hadn’t insulted Scootaloo by referring to her as any variety of flightless bird. Whether it was Silver Spoon’s presence or Sweetie Belle’s outburst the night before that had triggered the sudden change, none of the four knew, but as nice as it was to have a quiet class period for a change, it was also a bit unnerving. Little did they realize that this was merely the calm before the storm./ Suffice it to say, Diamond Tiara not bothering them bothered them more than anything.
Thanks to the fast pace of the lessons, hours flew by in the blink of an eye, and before anypony in the class realized it, lunchtime was only a quarter of an hour away.
“Ms. Cheerilee, may I be excused to use the little filly’s room?” asked Sweetie Belle.
“Of course you can, Sweetie Belle, just make sure you take a bathroom buddy,” said Cheerilee.
Almost immediately after the teacher finished issuing her instruction, Diamond Tiara’s hoof shot into the air with such speed that it would have made the Wonderbolts seem like a tortoise in comparison. “I’ll go with Sweetie Belle, Ms. Cheerilee!”
“What?” The four Cutie Mark Crusaders cried out in tandem.
“All right, Diamond Tiara, you can go, just make sure you both hurry back,” said Cheerilee.
“Yes, Ms. Cheerilee!”
“What?” The four cried out again, this time out of disbelief that their teacher had given her blessing to such a potential catastrophe.
“Wait an apple-buckin’ minute!” Apple Bloom pounded her hooves on the desk. “Why would you want to go with Sweetie Belle?”
“Yeah, what are you up to?” Scootaloo eyed the scheming filly suspiciously.
Diamond Tiara simply smiled at her stunned schoolmates. “I just want to make sure that my fellow classmate gets to and from the bathroom safe and sound. That’s all.”
“I’ll believe that when pigs have rights,” Apple Bloom scoffed.
“Apple Bloom and Scootaloo.” Cheerilee barked in her most authoritative educator’s tone. “It doesn’t matter who accompanies whom to the restroom, but would you like to know what does matter? Your participation in our next skit about the Crystal Empire. Please come to the front of the class.”
“Ms. Cheerilee,” Scootaloo protested, pointing at Diamond Tiara. “You can’t jus—”
“Now.” Cheerilee turned to face the source of her lesson’s interruption. “Sweetie Belle, Diamond Tiara, you two should hurry, lunch is in fourteen minutes.”
“Yes, Ms. Cheerilee! Come on Sweetie Belle, we don’t want to miss any more class, do we?”
Sweetie Belle glanced worrisomely at her friends and then to Silver Spoon, whose burning glare was searing into the back Diamond Tiara’s smug head. Gritting her teeth, Sweetie Belle started towards the door with Diamond Tiara’s predatory smile not far behind.
After closing the door on her friend’s concerned looks and one of Cheerilee’s catchy tunes on how the Crystal Ponies liked jousting, Sweetie Belle found herself swiftly pulled around and forced into a corner of the schoolhouse by her unwanted and, in her opinion, unnecessary escort, who had clasped a hoof around the unicorn’s mouth so she couldn’t scream.
“Shhh... stay quiet and come with me,” Diamond Tiara instructed.
Angered by the sudden roughness she’d been put through, Sweetie Belle promptly swatted the hoof away from her mouth. "What the hay ar—"
"Be quiet!” Diamond Tiara hissed over Sweetie Belle. “Do you want Ms. Cheerilee to come out here?"
“Well, now that you mention it, yes.”
“Even when I’m trying to do you a favor?”
Sweetie Belle snorted at the desperate grab for her attention. “Why would I want a favor from you?”
“Because maybe it would be in your best interest to accept my generosity. I don’t just do this for everypony, you know.”
“Please, the only thing I would ever even consider accepting from you is a public apology for all the grief you’ve given me and my friends over the years. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to go to the restroom, so just wait somewhere where Ms. Cheerilee can’t see you if you’re not coming.”
Diamond TIara sighed and shook her head at the stubborn unicorn. It seemed that she would have to try a more persuasive approach, not that she didn’t relish the idea. “Okay, let me rephrase what I said: it would be in the best interest of you and your friends to accept this little favor of mine.”
“Excuse me?” Sweetie Belle whipped around, glaring.
“Glad to see I got your attention.” Diamond Tiara grinned.
“What does this have to do with my friends?”
“Oh I’m sorry, did I say your friends? I just meant Silver Spoon, but it might affect Apple Bloom and the Dodo bird too.”
“What might affect them?”
“Hmph.” The upper class filly turned her nose up to the unicorn, pivoting on her hooves. “Come with me and I’ll show you.” Diamond Tiara slunk around the corner, curling her tail in a ‘come hither’ motion.
Sweetie Belle was torn. On the one hoof, she did have to use the bathroom and wanted to get as far away from Diamond Tiara as possible, but on the other hoof, Diamond Tiara’s insistence had admittedly piqued her curiosity. “I just know I’m going to regret this,” she sighed, resenting every step of Diamond Tiara’s that she followed. It didn’t take her long to catch up, as Diamond Tiara had stopped in front of the open doors to the school basement.
“Down here.” Diamond Tiara waved Sweetie Belle over, gesturing for the unicorn to take the lead down the stairs.
“Why are we going in the school’s basement?”
“Like I said, you’ll see when we get there.”
Unable to appreciate the irony in being told that she’d find out later—like she’d done to Silver Spoon so many times the day before— Sweetie Belle descended the stairs. She subconsciously kept her distance from Diamond Tiara since her extreme distrust of the earth pony led her to believe that if she wandered too close, she’d quickly find herself tripped and eating the sharp corners of every single stair until she hit the basement floor. The moment her hoof finally made contact with solid ground, Sweetie Belle stopped to let Diamond Tiara once again take the lead.
“So, what did you want to show me?” Sweetie Belle asked as she walked into the printing press.
Diamond Tiara wordlessly walked over to one of the stacks of freshly printed newspapers and slapped a copy to Sweetie Belle’s hooves.
“The school paper?”
“Why don’t you try flipping through it? See if any of the articles in there... catch your eye.”
Sweetie Belle gave Diamond Tiara one last uncertain glance before turning her attention to the front page of the paper. As far as she was concerned, there was nothing out of the ordinary, save for the minor fact that it hadn’t been printed with a date. The lead story was forgettable as always and, in a similar fashion, none of the other headlining stories caught her attention. Still, she knew from her experience writing the Gabby Gums column that she couldn’t just ignore the rest of the paper based on the first page. With a hesitant hoof she flipped and skimmed through the gazette, page after page and article after article, until she happened across the central page and the article that lay in wait like a trap-door spider.
From the moment her eyes fell across the headline so eloquently titled: The Filly Foolers Among Us, An Investigative Exposé, an indescribable feeling of hollowness began to spread within Sweetie Belle. As she took in the outlandishly sized cover-photo depicting what she had thought was a tender, private moment between her and her special somepony, Sweetie Belle could feel her breaths growing short and shallow. “Why you...” She couldn’t decide whether to feel violated or enraged. One thing was certain though, she wasn’t going to take this lying down. Sweetie Belle sneered at the antagonizing filly before her. “You think this is enough to scare me?”
“Nope,” Diamond Tiara said simply.
“Well, I— wait, did you say no?” Sweetie Belle hadn’t been ready for that response, and she certainly didn’t like how effortlessly Diamond Tiara’s tongue had parted with it. Something was wrong here.
“That’s right. I don’t think that this article can scare you. I mean judging from the way you chewed me out yesterday it’s pretty clear that nothing I could do to you or call you, least of all this, could possibly get to you.”
Something was definitely wrong here, but for the life of her, Sweetie Belle just couldn’t figure out what it was. “Well, if you already know that you can’t bother me, then why bother showing me all of this?”
“Think about it for a moment: I can’t hurt you. I can’t scare you. Why something like this article probably wouldn’t even phase you. You’ll probably just shake off all the insults and teasing. But you know, when you stop to think about it, you aren’t the only one in this picture.”
It didn’t take Sweetie Belle long to see what Diamond Tiara was driving at. “Silver Spoon...”
“You know, I wonder how Silvy would react to seeing this little piece. I mean she’s been trying to keep this a secret from everypony for so long. I wonder what would happen if the entire class found out about it...” Diamond Tiara clasped a hoof to her mouth in a poorly acted out display of faux-surprise. “Or even worse: all of Ponyville. Wow, I couldn’t possibly imagine how embarrassing that would be for her.”
For the greater portion of her life, Sweetie Belle had managed to maintain a pacifistic attitude towards anyone who’d ever given her a hard time. On occasion, she’d been involved in a few minor scuffles with Apple Bloom and Scootaloo when tensions between the three ran high due to silly arguments getting far out of hoof, but even still, she’d never earnestly rose her hoof to somepony out of anger. It just wasn’t in the sweet-hearted unicorn’s nature to harbor hatred and animosity towards any living thing. Yet, as she continued to look at Diamond Tiara, a vehement swelling the likes of which she had never felt towards anything before began to take root, growing slowly in her chest. Even her outburst to the pampered prat the night before, couldn’t come close to what she was feeling at this moment.
“Wow, you look mad, better do something about your face before it gets stuck like that.” Diamond Tiara taunted. Even in the face of a dragon-like wrath she managed to keep her cool. As far as she was concerned she was still in control of the whole scenario. “You look like you’ve got something you want to say.”
Sweetie Belle’s horn, in response to its bearer’s emotional intensity, had begun spitting out red and green sparks that served no purpose other than to complement the intense beet-red color of her face. “I’m not going to let you do this, Diamond Tiara!” she shouted. “I won’t let you hurt Silver Spoon!”
“Ha! You won’t let me? And just how are you going to stop me?” Diamond Tiara reared up and leaned her back against a particularly sturdy stack of newspapers. “These are ready to be passed out a moment’s notice.” She gave the pile a solid pat as though it had won top prize at a dog-show. “All I have to do is give the word to Featherweight, and this story will spread like wild fire.”
“I’ll just tell Ms. Cheerilee!”
“You’re going to tell her now of all times? While class is still in session? Why that’s such a great idea! I think I’ll tell her too! We’ll go together and tell her exactly what we found in the school paper in front of the whole class! I’ll make sure to yell it nice and loud so she can understand us no problem!"
“But you’d just get in trouble too!”
“Moi?” Diamond Tiara snickered. “And just how do you figure that?”
“You wrote that article didn’t you?” Sweetie Belle stepped forward triumphantly, as though she’d found some glaring crack in Diamond Tiara’s plan. “You’d just be setting yourself up as well, and then Ms. Cheerilee would expel you from the school!”
“Ah, you silly little filly. Does it look like I wrote that article? Perhaps you’d better check the name of the author again.”
Sweetie Belle took a closer look at the space where one would find the writer of the article expecting to see it accredited to Diamond Tiara only to find Featherweight's name in its place. Diamond Tiara had thought of everything. Still, where reason would fail, there always the less graceful approach. “In that case, I’ll just have to rip up all those newspapers!”
Diamond Tiara rose an eyebrow in amusement at Sweetie Belle’s boldness. “Oh, really?” Diamond Tiara dropped back to all fours, grinning with an arrogance reminiscent of The Changeling Queen Chrysalis during the invasion of Canterlot. “I’d like to see you try. You’ve got to get past me first, and even then, there’s too many newspapers for you to go through before lunch.” With a grand sweeping wave of her hoof, she gestured around the room which was practically packed with enough editions to easily circulate through Canterlot. “Besides, if you so much as lay a hoof on me, then I’ll just take a page out of your book and tell Ms. Cheerilee that you attacked me then went crazy in the printing room. You’ll be expelled from the school so fast, that you’ll be home-schooled faster than you can blink, and I’ll still win.”
“Then I’ll... I can...” Sweetie Belle racked her mind for ideas, but nothing came to mind. She had just under twelve minutes and a less than stellar amount of angles to attack this issue from. As much as she didn’t want to accept it, Diamond Tiara had successfully locked her down.
“Face it, blank-flank. No matter what you do, I’ll always come out on top, and short of setting the school on fire, there’s nothing you can do to stop me.”
“You... you’re horrible.”
“Now, now, I’m a pretty reasonable pony. Why don’t we work out a deal?”
Sweetie Belle could only glare at the earth pony. She felt helpless, she felt angry, she felt stupid, among other things she didn’t quite have words for. All she knew was that she’d been effectively shut down, and any further ideas at this point would be just pointlessly grasping at straws. With no other alternatives she finally ceded to the inevitable, premeditated outcome that had been lain out for her by cruel, cruel fate: “What deal?”
“Oh, good.” Diamond Tiara swooned a bit as she heaved an over-exaggerated sigh of relief. “For a moment there I was afraid you believed you still had chance. I’d hate to continue this little back and forth." She began to trot around Sweetie with a sadistic smile straining the edges of her mouth. The malevolent display was reminiscent of a shark circling its prey that had given up all hopes of escape. The only difference was that a shark would put its prey out of its misery eventually; Diamond Tiara was much less merciful. "Here are the terms: As long you completely ignore and keep your distance from Silver Spoon, I’ll make sure Featherweight holds this nasty little edition back for as long as you keep away. That seems easy enough, doesn’t it?” She turned her gaze to the brooding unicorn, revelling in the pleasure of Sweetie Belle’s unspoken pain. “...hey, I asked you a question, Blanky-Belle."
“Whatever,” Sweetie Belle replied offhandedly.
“Oh, and before I forget, not a word to Apple Bloom or Scootaloo. In fact, let’s make this interesting! In addition to Silver Spoon, you’re going to keep your distance from those two as well.”
If looks could kill, then the abhorrence radiating from Sweetie Belle’s eyes would have been the driving force behind a genocide of a small population of Diamond Tiaras.
“Hey, don’t be like that, there is a bright side to all of this: Since there’s no date on this paper, we can keep this little game of ours going until the end of the school year! Doesn’t that sound exciting?”
Only a look so dirty it could contaminate a pristine river in ten seconds flat answered her.
“Good, looks like you’ve already got the idea. Now let’s head back upstairs. Lunch is going to start soon and I’m still your... ugh.. bathroom buddy...” Diamond Tiara shuddered at the incredibly embarrassing stigma their teacher had stuck to the position. “...and to make sure you keep your end of the deal, starting after lunch, you and I are going to spend so much time together, we’ll practically be B.F.F.s!” she cackled. “Now after you, Sweetie Belle.”
Against her will, Sweetie Belle marched up the stairs, silently reviewing her situation. There had to be a way out of this. Diamond Tiara had planned this out to a “T”, but even she had to have missed some slight detail, and when Sweetie Belle figured out what it was, by Celestia, come Tartarus or high waters she was going to see to it that the spoiled brat paid for every inch of this exile, even if she had to suffer in silence until she did.
Chapter 12 End.
Silver Spoon turned her disinterested gaze to a nearby window, silently cursing herself for not having seen that little stunt of Diamond Tiara’s coming. She and Sweetie Belle had been gone for an awfully long time, and Silver Spoon didn’t like it one little bit. For now, she could only sit powerless and speculate what fate had befallen her sweet-hearted unicorn; at least, until lunch finally came around.
Still, even with that situation on the back burner, there was an exam she had to prepare for and worrying wasn’t doing her ability to retain the information any favors. In a vain attempt to get her mind back on the lesson at hand, Silver Spoon took in a deep breath, and let it go in one thought-clearing sigh that did little to calm her nerves. It was no use. Try as she might, she just couldn’t shake the thought that Diamond Tiara had devised some heinous torture for her special somepony, and she simply couldn’t settle down until Sweetie Belle returned, not one hair on her mane out of place. A quick glance at the disdainful looks on Apple Bloom and Scootaloo’s faces showed that the two were just as upset about the situation as she was, though considering how Diamond Tiara had gotten them in trouble with Cheerilee, it was safe to say they were just a mite more livid about it.
Out of the corner of her eye, Silver Spoon took note of a particular pale-faced pegasus who had been acting even weirder than usual. Since class had begun, Featherweight had been fumbling his hooves nervously, occasionally taking panicked glances at Diamond Tiara’s vacant seat. She recalled Apple Bloom mentioning his unusual behavior earlier, and wondered if it had anything to do with the situation at hoof.
At that moment, the door to the classroom swung open, and in trotted the pair of ponies occupying all of Silver Spoon’s thoughts, neither any worse for the wear, save for a subdued glare from Sweetie Belle aimed squarely at her companion.
“Well, there you two are,” said Cheerilee. “I was just about to send somepony to check on you.”
“Sorry about that, Ms. Cheerilee,” Diamond Tiara said with all of the sincerity of a snake-oil sales-stallion. “We would have been back sooner, but...” she forced a shudder before meeting her teacher with a look that was usually reserved for sailors who had been swallowed by a whale and survived. “Well, let’s just say you don’t want to go in there... it’s kind of a mess...”
“What?” Sweetie gasped, absolutely appalled as the majority of the class broke out in uproarious laughter at the mortified unicorn’s expense.
Cheerilee grimaced as she contemplated just what horrors awaited her in the outdoor latrine. “Well, I suppose that it can’t be helped. I should check and see if I need to call Mr. Greenhooves in.” The schoolmare turned to her blackboard and sighed. “Another ‘fun’ way for me to spend my precious lunch break,” she mumbled, just softly enough that it went unheard by the pair. Almost immediately after Cheerilee finished her silent lamentations, the school bell sounded, alerting everypony within the classroom that it was time to eat. “It’s lunch time, my little ponies! Be back in the classroom in one hour, but do not leave the school grounds!”
A sea of foals trotted out of the room as fast as their legs would carry them, the only holdouts being the Cutie Mark Crusaders, their perpetual nemesis, and the one mare that had the power to keep the warring factions at bay: Ms. Cheerilee. Once the educator had safely secured her lesson plan in her desk, safe from the prying eyes of some of her less than ethical students, she turned to leave and inspect the bathroom, her apprehension at the task growing with every step she took. Before she left the room, she looked at the five fillies, all simply staring at each other, not one of them moving a muscle. She knew something was off, but as long as they weren’t at each other’s throats, it was still a good day. “You girls should get to lunch soon, or time will run out before you know it.” The moment her last hoof left the room, all the tension between the fillies hit the breaking point.
Apple Bloom was the first of the three Crusaders to greet their crestfallen comrade, worry plastering the usually easygoing earth pony’s face as she draped a comforting foreleg around her friend’s shoulder. “Hey, Sweetie Belle, she didn’t try anything funny, did she?”
Scootaloo stood up on her hind legs and clacked her forehooves together menacingly in Diamond Tiara’s direction. “Just give us the word and we’ll make her sorry for whatever she did to you.”
In response to the scrappy pair’s show of aggression, Diamond Tiara smiled and said nothing; a courtesy she expected Sweetie Belle to return to her fellow Cutie Mark Crusaders. Much to the satisfaction of her manipulator, Sweetie Belle shrugged off Apple Bloom’s foreleg, and gently pushed Scootaloo back as she wordlessly trotted past the two to retrieve her own lunch. But much to her disdain, the sudden display of reclusiveness only served to fuel the sympathetic attitudes of her faithful friends.
“Hey, what did you push me like that for?” Scootaloo demanded.
“What’s wrong, Sweetie Belle?” Apple Bloom asked in her sweetest tone.
“Why aren’t you talking to us?” Scootaloo said, her tone growing decidedly more irritated.
“We’re your friends. You can tell us what happened.”
“Why does she look so smug?” Scootaloo cast her critical glance at the ever arrogant Diamond Tiara.
“Sweetie Belle,” Silver Spoon said as she stepped in front of the unicorn and immediately established eye contact. “What did she do?”
Sweetie Belle bit her lip as she shied away from the stern amethyst eyes of her special somepony. It was all she could do to stall for time and silence. It was already hard enough for her to ignore her two closest friends in the world, but Silver Spoon was a different matter entirely, and by association, was much more difficult to ignore. As strong as the unicorn’s resolve was, the urge to tell Silver Spoon what transpired in the school basement was even stronger. Out of the corner of her eye, Sweetie Belle selfishly stole a nervous peek at the face she’d come to adore and admire. Much to her relief and dismay, Silver Spoon had finally accepted that Sweetie Belle wasn’t going to say anything and turned her frustration towards the source of the dilemma.
“What did you do to her, Diamond?” Silver Spoon growled.
“Me?” Diamond Tiara’s play at flabbergastation only served to agitate the most short tempered of the Cutie Mark Crusaders.
“Yeah, you!” Scootaloo barked.
“What makes you think I had something to do with this?” The earth pony fluttered her eyelashes, feigning ignorance.
“Who else could have!? She was fine until you went into the bathroom with her!” snapped Scootaloo.
“Stop beating around the bush and answer the question, Diamond Tiara,” said Silver Spoon. “What did you do?”
Diamond Tiara pouted at the straight-on accusation, but decided to keep up with the charade. After all, she wasn’t lying for her own benefit. “If you must know, while we were out of class, Sweetie Belle and I finally buried the hatchet and became friends, but she was afraid the three of you wouldn’t understand, so she decided to keep it a secret. Why, we’re even going to enjoy a lovely lunch together to celebrate our newfound friendship. No need to hide it any more, I guess.”
“Yeah, right,” spat Apple Bloom. “I don’t believe that hogwash, not for one stinkin’ minute.”
Diamond Tiara shook her head as she sighed out of pity. It seemed as though Sweetie Belle’s friends were going to force her little game to end far earlier than she’d have liked. Still, she was for the most part a sporting filly, and it was Sweetie Belle’s task after all. “Then why not let her set the record straight herself? Go on Sweetie Belle, tell them what happened. I don’t mind.”
Three pairs of eyes filled with disbelief turned to the filly of the hour, who could barely manage to feebly peek back at them from under the cover of her mane. “Well, I...” Sweetie Belle rubbed her foreleg uncomfortably. “I just... I knew the three of you would react like this when you found out, so I figured it would be better if...” Sweetie Belle swallowed hard. This was going to be one of the hardest lies she’d ever forced herself to say. “...if we didn’t see each other until you could learn to accept it.”
“What?” Scootaloo and Apple Bloom shouted out in unified disbelief.
Sweetie Belle quickly whipped her face away from the three greatest friends she’d ever been privileged to have before pathetically squeaking, “I’m sorry,” just low enough so the three could hear her.
“Sweetie Belle...” Silver Spoon stepped forward. “Tell us the truth,” she said.
“What’s left to tell?” Diamond Tiara interrupted, stepping between the now fractured factions of the Cutie Mark Crusaders. “It’s just like she said. Now, if you’ll excuse us.” Diamond Tiara bucked her saddlebags on her back on her back. “Me and my new B.F.F. have to meet Featherweight for lunch. Come on, Sweetie Belle.” She ushered with a casual wave of her tail as she slipped out of the classroom door.
Sweetie Belle chanced one more glance at the confused, angry expressions upon her friends’ faces before turning to follow her tormentor. As much as it hurt her, it was for the best that they didn’t find out the truth.
“I don’t believe this.” Apple Bloom sank to her haunches, her forelegs falling uselessly to her sides as she stared at the vacant space where Sweetie Belle once stood. “How could she just up and abandon us for Diamond Tiara?”
“I don’t know, but something stinks about this whole thing. I say we get to the bottom of this,” said Scootaloo.
“I agree,” added Silver Spoon. “But it’s going to be difficult since Sweetie Belle isn’t talking to us.”
“In that case we should... um...” She wracked her brain, but nothing came. “What should we do?”
“We’ve got to find somepony who might know something.”
“Hmm...” Silver Spoon scratched her chin in thought, when she recalled something from an earlier conversation. “Hey, Apple Bloom, you said Featherweight was acting weird earlier, right?”
“Yeah, he was. Everytime somepony went to ask him somethin’, he’d just about jump out of his skin. He was shakin’ and shiverin’ a whole lot too. I’ve never seen anypony so spooked in my life. Wait, do you think he knows somethin’ about what’s goin’ on?”
If Silver Spoon had a deerstalker cap handy, it would have been the only thing in Equestria that could complement the self-assured look in her eye, right after an embossed calabash pipe tucked neatly in her mouth. “As a matter of fact, I do.”
“Then what are we just sittin’ around here for? Let’s go find him and make him talk.”
Silver Spoon nodded in concurrence with her farm-filly counterpart.
“Hey, girls?” Scootaloo called skittishly. “I know this isn’t the best time, since we’ve got to save Sweetie Belle and all, but can we—” The boisterous growling of the pegasus’ tiny stomach spoke volumes where mere words would have sufficed, and simultaneously garnered flat looks from her fellow Crusaders. “What?” Her face flushed beet-red. “It’s not my fault that I didn’t get any breakfast!”
“Fine.” Apple Bloom rolled her eyes and dug into her saddlebags for an apple that she immediately tossed to Scootaloo. “I’m a mite peckish myself. ‘Sides, Featherweight’s with Diamond Tiara. We gotta go through her if we want to get to him. We’re gonna need to be at full strength to deal with that mouth of hers.”
Silver Spoon looked out of the window at her troubled friend. “We’re going to get you out of this Sweetie Belle... somehow.”
Sweetie Belle leaned her head against the back wall of the schoolhouse and sighed. The lunch period had barely even started and she’d had already lost her will to eat. The cause for her sudden loss of appetite wasn’t the blackened mess of pasta, burnt cheese, and various other ingredients she’d prepared the night before and had the audacity to call a casserole, though admittedly that would have done the job all the same. It wasn’t even the fact that she’d been forced away from her best friends through underhanded deeds by an even more devious pony. No, the cause for Sweetie Belle’s inability to eat was the unicorn’s less-than-stellar and equally disturbing mealtime company.
She had imagined that being essentially imprisoned by Diamond Tiara would be some horrible, gruesome experience with a little more hellfire and a dash more brimstone, yet what it actually entailed was far more arduous than any of that. For all the emphasis she placed on her self-proclaimed greatness in addition to her upper-class status, Diamond Tiara had all of the grace and table manners of a feral cow.
Even with food in her mouth, the filly somehow managed to talk Sweetie Belle’s ear off with gossips, gripes, and first world problems that the unicorn didn’t care for in the slightest, yet couldn’t bring herself to ignore completely. Not out of respect for the speaker, but to anticipate the enunciation of a select few consonants that would cause food to come flying out of Diamond Tiara’s mouth by chunk and salvo. It didn’t help that whenever she wasn’t speaking, the spoiled filly was steadily plundering desserts from Sweetie Belle’s lunch bag in addition to their party’s third wheel: Featherweight. How Silver Spoon had managed to put up with Diamond Tiara for as many years as she did was beyond Sweetie Belle’s comprehension, but it was certainly a thing to be admired.
Featherweight, while significantly less obnoxious than Diamond Tiara, still had little niggling idiosyncrasies that made him only just bearable enough to eat with, but just creepy and awkward enough to keep Sweetie Belle wary of his presence. Every so often, the colt would take a mouthful of his macaroni, and then dart his eyes quickly between Diamond Tiara and Sweetie Belle before stirring his meal around at an uncomfortably slow pace. It didn’t help that whenever he was fidgeting or feasting on the noodles, he would mumble something under his breath then glance at the unicorn with what seemed to be a hopeful look in his eyes.
“Um, I, uh, took notes for the parts that you both missed.” Featherweight offered one set of notes to Diamond Tiara who rolled her eyes upon accepting the stack of papers, clearly displeased that she’d been interrupted.
“Yeah, thanks I guess.” She tossed the notes to her side, barely missing a mud puddle, before turning back to her unwilling audience. “Now like I was saying I don’t really like it when blah blah blah...”
“Thanks, Featherweight,” Sweetie Belle mouthed in a much more grateful fashion than the other recipient.
The colt seemed rather flustered at the show of gratitude, his creamy complexion flashing a cherry red for only the briefest of moments. “Hey, Diamond Tiara?” he interrupted again, much to the relief of Sweetie Belle’s ears.
“What?” the filly in question responded, her tone thick with irritation.
“ I... I think I’m gonna go... inside that is, i-if you don’t mind.”
“Be somewhere I can find you if a certain somepony steps out of line.” Diamond Tiara tilted her head towards the unicorn next to her.
“Will do, and uh, make sure you both study those notes hard for the exam. I mean really look them over.” Snatching his saddlebags up with an unusual nervous haste, Featherweight back gracelessly pedaled away, all the while grinning awkwardly at Sweetie Belle.
“Whatever,” Diamond Tiara sighed, waving him off as though he were nothing more than a bothersome mosquito. With that, Featherweight dashed around the corner, leaving Sweetie Belle solely to Diamond Tiara’s mercy, or lack thereof.
The company of the silence that Sweetie Belle had just come to appreciate parted without so much as a farewell as Diamond Tiara jumped right into the thick of whatever abstract ramblings she found fit to loose from her tongue. Out of the corner of Sweetie Belle’s eye, she spotted a few of her classmates playing a game of baseball, when a thought crossed her mind. Thanks to their little deal, Diamond Tiara had prevented her from speaking directly to Silver Spoon, Applebloom and Scootaloo, but she didn’t say anything about their other classmates. Capitalizing on the little loophole she’d found in the agreement, Sweetie Belle rose to her hooves and began trotting forward toward the game space. An act that caused a certain somepony to leap angrily to her hooves.
“Hey!” The sudden outburst caused Sweetie Belle to stop where she stood. “Just where do you think you’re going?”
“Well, I was bored, and I thought I’d go play baseball with everypony over—”
“Did I say you could go play with them?”
“Excuse me?” Sweetie Belle faced the source of the objection, and prepared to issue a swift rebuttal. Had she a soap box on hoof, she’d have been standing on it in such an authoritative stance that one would swear Twilight Sparkle herself had instructed this filly on the finer points of exuding pretension. “Our deal was that I stay away from Silver Spoon, Apple Bloom, and Scootaloo. You didn’t say anything about anypony else,” she concluded matter-of-factly.
Diamond Tiara cocked an eyebrow in amusement at Sweetie Belle’s sudden influx of confidence. She certainly had to give her victim some credit. Sweetie Belle had grown a considerable amount of backbone between Friday and today, but that would only make it that much more satisfying when she sucked the wind right out of the unicorn’s sails. “Oh, I didn’t? Well, that’s too bad, I’m changing the deal.”
“From now on, I’m the only pony you can talk to, got it?”
“You can’t do that!”
“I just did, so either you deal with it or Silvy pays the price.” Sweetie Belle scowled at Diamond Tiara, whose lips pulled back into a smile that was just greasy with schadenfreude. “Guess you still don’t like it when I talk about her, hm?” The sadistic filly snatched a cookie out of Sweetie Belle’s lunch bag and popped it in her mouth. “Well, that’s too bad.”
“Why you...” Sweetie Belle had begun trembling so hard from anger that without realizing it, her forehooves had begun digging into the soil.
“‘Why me,’ what?” Diamond Tiara challenged, her face mere inches away from Sweetie Belle’s own. The unicorn’s glower lasted only a moment longer, before she turned away with a huff. There was no point in feeding a parasprite, after all. “That’s what I thought.”
Just because Sweetie Belle had to be with Diamond Tiara didn’t mean she had to stoke the brat’s attention-hungry ego. With a deep exhale, the stern irritation melted off of Sweetie Belle’s features as she recalled the notes Featherweight had given her to study for the exam. It would be a bit more dull than her usual lunchtime activities, but she had grades to maintain, and at the moment, anything was better than hearing any more of her captor’s self-indulgent prattle.
Sliding her lunch to the side, she set the notes in front of herself, prepared to read. However, just as her eyes fell upon the first line, something made itself immediately apparent: there were no notes on the Crystal Empire or its history. In fact, there was no discernible text on the page at all. Just a sea of hastily drawn pencil scribbles that, oddly enough, fit perfectly within each of the page’s blue college-rule lines. It was the type of thing that would have fooled a less observant teacher into thinking their students were diligently taking down their lesson plan instead of aimlessly daydreaming about frivolous matters or things they’d rather be doing.
Sweetie Belle couldn’t help empathizing with the frustration pulling the corners of her mouth into a frown. She wouldn’t have pegged Featherweight as the type to pull a prank, even one as minor as this. But if you hang around somepony for long enough, a few of their bad habits can rub off on you, whether you want them to or not. Hay, Silver Spoon was a living example of how toxic Diamond Tiara’s influence could be. Still, it looked like Diamond Tiara wasn’t going to outright bother her as long as she pretended to have her nose planted in the pages, so in a way, this little trick of Featherweight’s was a silver-lining.
In her idle-minded state, Sweetie Belle flipped through the pages in a routine fashion, pretending to focus on the faux-wording as her thoughts drifted to her friends in the classroom. Until her eyes flitted across some deviant text on the page. Penned in red ink, and clear as glass in a freshwater lagoon, the short note definitely stood out from the rest of the pencil-drawn scribblings on the page.
‘Everything that’s happening to you right now is all my fault and I’m sure you must hate me right now for making you go through the ordeal that is being around Diamond Tiara.’ It read. ‘But please, just put up with it for now. I swear that I’m going to make this right. I just need you to keep Diamond Tiara busy for the rest of lunch. I’m going to get you out of this.’
Sweetie Belle had to work hard to keep herself from succumbing to the rage and surprise Featherweight’s note was invoking. He wasn’t exactly a friend, but the fact she had been betrayed by an acquaintance still wounded her deeply. Either way, it wasn’t important at the moment. Hay, Diamond Tiara was probably blackmailing him into doing her dirty work. And all she needed to do to end Diamond Tiara’s reign of terror was to keep her doing the one thing she couldn’t stop her from doing the entire lunch period.
“Hey, Diamond Tiara.” The earth pony looked up from her frisée salad with an eyebrow raised suspiciously.
Wiping large bits of her lunch from her muzzle, she answered. “What do you want, Blanky Belle?”
Sweetie Belle hesitated for a second, scrambling for something, anything that would keep the pink scourge talking. “Uh, what’s your house like?” The unicorn had to force herself from wincing at the ridiculousness of her question. It may have been odd and poorly-timed, but she could work with it.
“Why do you want to know?” Diamond Tiara asked, squinting at Sweetie for any signs of trickery. Her reluctant companion merely smiled through.
“I just figured since you live in the better part of town and your dad makes so much money, it must be pretty nice. Much nicer than my sister’s house.”
The affluent earth pony smiled bemusedly and raised a hoof to her chest in false modesty. “Well, I don’t like to brag, but...” She was trapped. Sweetie knew that Diamond Tiara couldn’t resist two things: bragging about herself and putting others down. And now, she had a way of doing both at the same time. Sweetie just hoped that the brat wouldn’t stop talking before Featherweight did what he needed to. Her thoughts drifting to her paramour, Sweetie Belle aimed her eyes at Diamond Tiara and zoned out while she pretended to be interested in what she was being told and prayed that everything would work out.
Just outside the classroom door, the other three members of the Cutie Mark Crusaders, refreshed and refueled from their meal, were preparing themselves to embark on the search for a snob, a sneak, and a Sweetie Belle. But before they could step off, they needed to come up with a plan of attack. “Alright you two, here’s the deal,” Apple Bloom declared. “Scootaloo and I’ll go see if they’re at the theater, or the playground. Silver Spoon, y’all check for them in the basement, and if they ain’t there, then wait for them in the classroom, got it?”
“Got it,” said Silver Spoon.
“If we find them, we’ll come back here to get you, and if you find them, just holler and we’ll come runnin’,” said Apple Bloom.
Silver Spoon nodded in agreement with Apple Bloom’s instructions.
“Come on, let’s go already!” urged the ever impatient Scootaloo. “Every minute we spend standing around is a minute that Sweetie Belle’s in danger of having her blood drained out!”
“Uh, Scoots, Diamond Tiara’s evil and all, but I don’t think she’s a vampire.”
“Oh, yeah? Then how do you explain Sweetie Belle’s suddenly being ‘best friends’ with Diamond Tiara? It’s got to be vampire mind control!”
“I think you read too many comic books.”
“No way, you just don’t read enough!” Scootaloo protested.
“Can we just get a move on already?” Apple Bloom sighed, motioning for the pegasus to follow her out of the room.
Silver Spoon watched the pair trot off, in typical Cutie Mark Crusader fashion, still arguing. She briefly wondered if they’d be able to focus on their search, but quickly shook the thought. She didn’t have time to worry about them right now. What she did have was a weasel of a pegasus to pressure into talking and a good hunch that she was about to find him with no difficulty as she rounded the corner of the school only to find herself face to face with the unlocked door of the school basement.
The gray filly cast one last glance at Scootaloo and Apple Bloom to ensure that they were well along their way to the playground; she didn’t want those two around to see what she was about to do. Satisfied with the distance between herself and her friends, Silver Spoon pushed her glasses further up her nose and narrowed her eyes into dispassionate, unpitying slits before descending the staircase. She walked cautiously, making sure to soften each of her hoofsteps so as not to alert her quarry to her presence. She could hear a hushed mumbling that grew clearer and clearer the further down she went.
“...I’m going to get you out of this,” she heard Featherweight say to nopony in particular as her hoof made contact with basement floor with a muted thud. “I swear I’ll figure out a way to get you out of this mess that I made, I just need to—”
“Just need to what to get who out of what mess, Featherweight?” Silver Spoon suddenly and gracelessly interrupted from the doorway, causing a jolt of panic to rip through the colt before her.
“S-Silver Spoon!” he stammered, sliding the papers he’d been perusing to the floor. “What are you doing down here?”
“I asked you first, now start talking.” Silver Spoon’s tone was frank and direct as she strode over to the editor’s desk; she didn’t need to mince words here, especially not with this invertebrate among pegasi.
“Wh-what are you tal—”
Silver Spoon reared up so that she could rest her hooves on the desk. Looking Featherweight dead in the eye, she leaned in until she was so close she could smell the combination of timidity and fear radiating from the colt and growled, “don’t play dumb with me, Featherweight. I know you know something.”
With Silver Spoon’s cold, dagger-like gaze boring into his soul, Featherweight couldn’t help but swallow back a rock hard lump of anxiety. Now, Featherweight was afraid of Diamond Tiara, that was a given. That filly was twisted, manipulative, and she seemed to know every embarrassing secret about everypony ever. But Silver Spoon? She absolutely terrified him through sheer presence alone. While Diamond Tiara wielded blackmail and humiliation with the pointed proficiency of a fencer, he knew from experience that Silver Spoon was the expert when it came to whipping somepony’s self-esteem so far into the ground that it would be enslaved by diamond dogs. She didn’t need gimmicks to intimidate; her wit, words, and actions did the job just the same, if not better. Still, in his stunned state, the colt couldn’t stop the verbal signature of his death warrant as he absent-mindedly continued to stall. “About what?”
That one set Silver Spoon off like a rocket. With one mighty swipe of her hoof, the filly managed to slap all of the papers and ornaments off of Featherweight’s desk, but she wasn’t done abusing his workspace quite yet. In a flash of concisely orchestrated rage, she slammed her hooves into the barren desk, forcing it to splinter under the raw force of the strike. “You know exactly what I mean! Now start chirping before I make you squawk like the awkward, gap-toothed chicken you are! What’s going on with Diamond Tiara and Sweetie Belle? What did that little witch do? Talk. Now.”
“All right! All right! I’ll talk, ju-just calm down!” To Featherweight’s relief, Silver Spoon, satisfied with his sudden compliance, did just that, sealing her rage behind a brittle shell of taciturn patience. Taking a moment to enjoy what he suspected would be the final moments of his incredibly short life, Featherweight slowly retrieved the papers he’d tossed to the floor in his panic.
“Well?” Silver Spoon said expectantly.
Featherweight glanced at the papers, then Silver Spoon, and the papers again. He knew he was as good as dead if she ever saw the documents he was hiding, but as much as the silver-maned bundle of fury terrified him, she was probably the only filly who could help him right now. And besides, whether she knew it or not, she was already involved. Without another word, the colt placed the paper on the desk and slid it to Silver Spoon in one swift motion.
Casting one last uncertain look at Featherweight she craned her neck over the paper in question. “What the...” It was the newest edition of the Foal Free Press. “What are you trying to pull here, Featherweight?”
“Open it to the middle.”
Silver Spoon flipped through the issue until she reached the page that had been the driving force behind this whole fiasco. The picture of her and Sweetie Belle locked in a passionate embrace caught the enraged filly by surprise. “What in the— what is this?”
“J-just give me a chance to explain!”
Through grit teeth and reddening vision she managed to say, “You’ve got five seconds.”
“Diamond Tiara made me follow you and Sweetie Belle around Friday. She just wanted something to make you look bad, but when Sweetie Belle leaned in and kissed you, I couldn’t pass—”
Silver Spoon held up a hoof, indicating that Featherweight’s five seconds were up and all she wanted to hear was silence. “What,” she said clearly and concisely, “does this have to do with Sweetie Belle?”
“Diamond Tiara’s using this article to keep Sweetie Belle under her control.” The frightened pegasus twiddled his hooves, more uncomfortable than he’d ever been in his life. “To be exact, she’s using the picture of you two together and threatening to release these papers if she talks to any of the Cutie Mark Crusaders again...”
“Then I’m going to destroy them all right now,” Silver Spoon said as she ripped the periodical she was holding in half. She began to trot over to the rest of the newsroom’s stockpile when she was interrupted by her temporary victim.
“Wait! Stop! Stop!” Featherweight jumped between Silver Spoon and the newspapers. “It’s not that simple! Destroying these won’t do you any good!”
“It won’t? Why not?” The gray earth pony asked as she cocked an eyebrow, curious.
“She can make me print more.”
“Is that so?”
“Unfortunately, yes.” Featherweight hanged his head in shame as he let the filly digest the pitiful situation they had found themselves in.
There was an uncomfortable pregnant pause as Silver Spoon took a moment to process what Featherweight had just told her. “So what you’re saying is that as long as you’re around, then no matter how many times I destroy these newspapers, Diamond Tiara can just reprint them?”
“Uh, well, yes but I don’t see—”
The light in the basement hit Silver Spoon’s glasses in such a way that the only thing Featherweight could see through them were dilated pupils; cold eyes full of malicious intent. “Then I guess you’re in the same boat as the newspapers, aren’t you?”
“Wait, what?” Faster than he could blink, Silver Spoon cleared the distance between them, advancing on him like an assassin. Featherweight scrambled away like a frightened fawn until he ultimately backed himself into a corner. Trapped and trembling, he could do naught but watch Silver Spoon barrel down on him like he was nothing more than a mere lamb in the path of tiger. He couldn’t even manage a whimper as she lifted him by the chin with aggression so controlled it could only have been exerted by a professional bully. Featherweight knew that the only thing he could do in this situation was crack like an egg, and that’s exactly what he did. “Hold on! There’s another way! There’s another way! By Celestia, there’s another wa-hay-hay!”
Had Silver Spoon not been so caught up in her performance, she’d have heaved a massive sigh of relief. She had no idea what she’d have done next if the threat of physical violence hadn’t gotten him to start talking, but she didn’t want to find out. Satisfied that her bluff had paid off, Silver Spoon eased the pressure she was applying to the paralyzed pegasus’ chin, but only just enough so that he could talk. “T-there’s a way to loosen Diamond Tiara’s grip on me and Sweetie Belle!” he choked out.
Silver Spoon allowed him to stew in the fear for a moment longer before releasing him. She was certain that if she held him any longer, fear wouldn’t be the only thing he’d be “stewing” in. “I’m listening,” she said.
Hesitantly rising to a stand, Featherweight rubbed his chin, marveling at Silver Spoon’s ferocity. If she had been willing to waste him just for Sweetie Belle’s sake, then she really was the only filly who could help him clean up the mess he’d made. Composing himself, Featherweight stood up as straight as he dared, and met Silver Spoon’s eyes with a determined stare. “As I said, there’s a way for us to beat Diamond Tiara at her own game, but it’s going to take both of us to pull it off. Now, I know you don’t really like me—”
“That’s a quite the understatement.”
“—and I can’t say that I see us being friends anytime in the near future, but I think we can both agree that we hate Diamond Tiara more than anything right now. I think that’s more than enough of a reason to put our differences aside and give her what’s coming to her, don’t you?” Featherweight presented a shaky hoof to his potential ally. “So what do you say?”
Silver Spoon’s lips curled into a cynical smile as she pounded her hoof against Featherweight’s. “I say we put that spoiled little priss in her place. So what’s the plan?”
After spending the last thirty minutes listening to Diamond Tiara ramble on and on about the vast expanse of architectural perfection that was her homestead, Sweetie Belle felt like she would never smile again. That nervous little smirk that had somehow found its way onto her lips when the tale first began melted away without a trace as though someone had drowned the unicorn’s happiness in a vat of sulfuric acid. But the clear-as-day disenchantment with the entitled brat’s story on Sweetie Belle’s face couldn’t stop Diamond Tiara from rambling on in the slightest. Whether the spoiled chatterbox loved the sound of her own voice so much that she couldn’t be bothered to notice, or just didn’t care, was a mystery that not even the goddesses themselves could solve.
Yet at that moment, as though she were a vision of valkyrian might summoned by Sweetie Belle’s unspoken agony, Silver Spoon stomped around the corner of the schoolhouse, eyes ablaze with righteous indignation. “So this is where you two have been this whole time,” she said.
“Oh look, Sweetie Belle, we’ve got a guest.” She nudged Sweetie Belle, who scowled in response. “Don’t be rude, wave to Silvy and then go back to studying while the big fillies talk, won’t you?”
Sweetie Belle glanced meekly at Silver Spoon, but turned away the moment the two made eye contact. As much as she wanted to see her metal-gray muse, she couldn’t allow herself to be tempted into breaking the terms of her agreement. Selfishly stealing one last glance at Silver Spoon, Sweetie Belle buried her nose in the fake notes Featherweight gave her, keeping an ear open for anything interesting from Silver Spoon or her captor.
“So, what brings you here, Silvy? Have you finally decided to apologize?”
“As if,” Silver Spoon snorted. “I’d go scuba-diving in a hydra’s belly before I’d ever say ‘sorry’ to you of all ponies.”
“Tch, well if that’s how you’re going to be, then you can just leave.” Diamond Tiara flopped back down next to Sweetie Belle, throwing a hoof around the reluctant unicorn’s neck. “You’re interrupting our bonding time. Now if you’ll excuse me, I was just telling my new best friend all about—”
“She’s not your friend, Diamond,” Silver Spoon interrupted. “So get your greasy hooves off of her!”
Diamond Tiara scoffed at Silver Spoon’s pointed remark and reluctantly obliged the metallic filly’s instruction, rising to a stand to meet Silver Spoon’s challenge. “I’m sorry, but who are you to say who is and isn’t my friend? You made it clear that you don’t want anything to do with me, so why don’t you butt out until that nasty attitude of yours changes.”
“So you still want to play this stupid little game...”
Diamond Tiara raised an eyebrow at the non sequitur. “Beg your pardon?”
“I saw the article.” Silver Spoon had chosen to come right out with it, but Diamond Tiara wasn’t ready to drop her charade so easily.
“Article?” Diamond Tiara asked innocently. “What article? I don’t know anything about any—”
“Featherweight already told me everything, so why don’t you cut the act already?” Silver Spoon snapped.
The mask of poorly conveyed innocence that concealed Diamond Tiara’s true colors up until this point finally cracked like cheap porcelain, revealing the furrowed brows and scowling fuchsia face that lay beneath. “Why that little winged weasel,” she mumbled under her breath. Once she was done putting Silver Spoon back in her place, she and her little black book were going to have a few words with a certain loose-lipped lackey about where his loyalty and obedience lay.
“I know all about this pathetic little blackmail scheme of yours, Diamond,” Silver Spoon continued.
“Oh do you now?” Diamond Tiara leered. “Then you’re probably aware that Blanky-Belle is doing all of this for you to protect your little secret, hm?” Diamond Tiara nonchalantly blew some dust from her hoof and rubbed it against her chest. “Using your own fear of having your secret revealed against you. It’s a pretty clever plan if I do say so myself, but then what do you expect? I’m a genius.”
“I don’t know, it sounds like a pathetic scheme by an even more pathetic pony, if you ask me,” Silver Spoon said as coolly as she could manage.
Diamond Tiara could feel her face screwing up out of irritation in response to being called pathetic of all things, but suppressed the urge. Instead, she let loose with a disappointed sigh to cover her dismay. She was still in control of this situation, after all; she just had to make that fact clear to Silver Spoon. “And yet, even despite knowing her situation, here you are trying to undo all of her hard work.”
Diamond Tiara strode back towards Sweetie Belle and began petting the agitated unicorn like one would a dog that’d just received high praise. For every second of contact Silver Spoon was forced to watch, there was a tooth in Diamond Tiara’s mouth just begging to be knocked out. “I mean, thanks to that nasty little mouth of yours, I am about this close to just voiding my little agreement with Blanky-Belle here.”
“You can’t do that!” Sweetie Belle protested. “We had a deal, you can’t just go back on that now!”
“Blanky-Belle, Blanky-Belle, Blanky-Belle.” Diamond Tiara shook her head with each utterance of the nickname. “We already had this conversation earlier; I can do whatever I want. Now be quiet and don’t interrupt me again.” The fuschia filly turned her attention back to her ‘friend’-turned-foe. “As I was saying, you’re being awfully inconsiderate with my favorite little blank-flank’s feelings, Silvy. But then, I suppose consideration is last thing you could expect from somepony as unappreciative and ungrateful as you, isn’t it?”
“Hm?” Diamond Tiara, confident she’d once again gained the upper hoof, smirked in her devilishly playful way. “You mean you never noticed?”
“What are you on about now?”
“You know, I honestly hoped that you would’ve learned your lesson after the first few times that I had to set you straight,” Diamond Tiara sighed.
“Set me straight?”
“That’s ♪ri~ght♪.” Diamond Tiara’s tone was exceptionally sing-song. “For some reason, you always had this nasty habit of trying to make friends or join clubs with other ponies who were so... beneath us. I did my best to keep your head level, but you were just so insistent. It’s like I wasn’t enough for you or something.”
“So that’s how it’s always been, huh?” Silver Spoon couldn’t help a sardonic snicker. “I should have guessed that all those years of heartache and loneliness were all my needy, possessive, and insecure ‘best friend’s’ doing from the beginning, but I just kept writing it off as my bad reputation as one of the biggest bullies in this school.” Silver Spoon looked at Diamond Tiara and shook her head sadly. “Imagine my surprise when I finally see you for what you are, and what you tried to make me become: a selfish, arrogant little monster.”
“You’d better learn to watch that mouth of yours, Silver Spoon.”
Silver Spoon ignored the outburst.“You always took my generosity, but never returned it. I gave you my trust and told you my secrets, but you just ended up trying to use them against me. You’re disgusting. All you did was take, take, take, but you just couldn’t let me have anything could you? Even when all I wanted was a couple of friends outside of you! And now that I’ve cast you aside and found somepony that makes me happy, you can’t even let me have that, can you? Well let me tell you something Diamond: you’re not taking Sweetie Belle from me. You can take my dignity, you can expose me for what I am, you might even end up making me cry. But before you can do any of that, I’m going to take something from you.”
“Oh really?” Diamond Tiara replied, her smug smirk returning to her face.
“That’s what I said.”
“And just what would that be?”
“Glad you asked. I’m going to start by taking my revenge and that cocky little smile from your lips. Then I’m going to take Sweetie Belle and we’re going to go enjoy the rest of our lunch period together.”
“You’re going to take revenge on me?” Diamond Tiara almost cackled maniacally at what she presumed to be an empty, desperate threat. “Don’t make me laugh; you’ve got nothing. No plan, no evidence, no leverage, nothing. You’re smarter than this, Silvy, you should just quit while you’re ahead.”
“You know what? You’re absolutely right, Diamond. I don’t have any of those things. But you know what I do have? Your attention.”
“My... attention?” Diamond Tiara asked uncertainly.
“Your attention.” Silver Spoon repeated smugly, much to Diamond Tiara’s puzzlement. “And as long as I have that, then I can keep your attention off of the one who does have the plan to get that evidence and leverage.” Silver Spoon turned her attention away from Diamond Tiara, fixing her eyes on something just past the arrogant aristocrat. Naturally curious, Diamond Tiara followed Silver Spoon’s gaze until she was met with a sight that made her blood run cold: Standing next to her open saddlebags, holding a particular black, leatherbound book in his teeth, was none other than Featherweight. The colt in question turned to find all three fillies staring intently at him, though they were only able to stare for a fraction of a second before he ran off as fast as he could, leaving them to look at the dust trail he left in his wake.
Diamond Tiara could only stare in wide-eyed horror as she watched the beige pegasus run into the schoolhouse. “Tha-tha-that’s my—”
“I don’t know what’s going to happen to you once Ms. Cheerilee gets that book, but judging by the look on your face...” Silver Spoon leaned in close to whisper, “...I’m guessing it won’t be anything good, huh?” Moving forward to fully take in the look of terror plastered on Diamond Tiara’s face, the gray filly couldn’t help but needle her some more. “I’ve got to admit, for somepony who spends as much time you do coming up with all of these crazy, elaborate schemes, you sure are easy to trick.
“You know, I’m not sure why, but I still had some hope for you, Diamond. This whole weekend, I was hoping that you’d take what I’d said on Friday to heart and maybe have enough sense to change your ways, see your faults and grow up a little. But here you are, at the end of your rope, without anyone to stand with you, and you decided to take it out on the only pony who would ever dare to call someone as wretched as you a friend. I can see how pointless it was of me to have even tried to change you.” Silver Spoon looked down on her former friend, not with contempt, but pity. “You’re pathetic. I’ll see you in class, Diamond... hopefully for the last time.” Turning her back on her brow-beaten burden, Silver Spoon stepped over to Sweetie Belle, who’d merely been watching the spectacle in awe up to this point. “Come on, Sweetie Belle, we’re done here.” She offered a hoof up, which the unicorn gladly took. “Let’s go find the others.”
“Right,” Sweetie Belle nodded, trotting off to the schoolhouse at her special somepony’s side.
The two had only just made it around the corner when Silver Spoon felt a tugging on her tail. She turned around to find a scarlet-cheeked Sweetie Belle, her tail held firmly in the white filly’s mouth. “Hey, Silvy?” Sweetie Belle called after spitting out her marefriend’s silvery locks.
“Yes, Sweetie Belle?” Silver Spoon turned to face the filly properly, only to be met with the soft, pleasant tickle of Sweetie Belle’s lips on her nose.
“What was that for?” The earth pony asked, blushing intensely.
“I just wanted to say thanks for what you did. It was horrible letting Scootaloo and Apple Bloom think that I had abandoned them, but I just couldn’t let her expose you. I know how much it would have hurt you if she’d...”
“Hey, I’m the one who should be thanking you.” Silver Spoon affectionately nuzzled the unicorn back. “If you hadn’t played along, who knows what that little witch would have done.”
“I’m just glad that’s over and done with. If I had to spend one more minute listening to one of Diamond Tiara’s stories, I think my ears would’ve sprouted wings and flown away.”
“Yeesh, I know exactly how you feel,” said a third party.
The pair whipped around to find Featherweight hovering a few feet above them, camera dangling inches from their heads. “Don’t just sneak up on us out of nowhere!”
“Sorry, about that.” Featherweight rubbed the back of his neck sheepishly as he landed in front of the fillies. “It’s kind of a habit.”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah... so, have you shown that book to Ms. Cheerilee yet?” asked Silver Spoon.
Featherweight smiled weakly and shook his head. “No, I hid it somewhere she’ll never find it for the time being. I’m going to wait until after school today.”
“Why wait? This is your chance to expose her for the monster she is and crush her once and for all.”
“I could do that, but there’s a few uh... personal items I need to clear out of that thing before I show it to anypony else. Well, that and it’ll be more fun to watch her squirm under the pressure for a change,” the colt admitted.
“Hey, as long as you keep me and Sweetie out of it, I won’t blame you,” said Silver Spoon.
“Thanks. So, Silver Spoon, we’re... cool now right?” Featherweight asked nervously.
“I guess I can forgive you, seeing as she was blackmailing you too,” Sweetie Belle said, ever the kindhearted one.
Silver Spoon, however, was more reluctant. “Mmm, I wouldn’t count on us being friends anytime soon, but today was a pretty good start.” She was taken by surprise when her better half gently nudged her shoulder and gave her a disapproving look. Silver rolled her eyes and turned back to the pegasus. “Okay, a very good start.”
“I guess we’ll work towards it in the future?” Featherweight asked hopefully as he held out a hoof.
“We’ll see about it,” Silver Spoon replied and took his hoof, giving it a firm shake.
Featherweight smiled. “Good enough for me.”
“Hey, there you three are!” said Scootaloo. “What happened with Diamond Tiara?”
“Well, Silvy took care of that. Let’s just say she won’t be bothering us anymore,” Sweetie Belle said before giving a knowing smile to her special somepony.
“We ain’t got time for the whole story anyhow, y’all gotta come with us now!” said Apple Bloom.
“Oh, yeah, Ms. Cheerilee wanted everypony to come inside early so we could read for the last fifteen minutes of recess. Says we’ll be cutting it short this whole week,” Scootaloo added with just a hint of annoyance.
“Accordin’ to her, it’ll help stimulate our minds for the lesson plans and help us do better on the exam or somethin’ like that. I dunno, I wasn’t really listenin’ to her when she had us haulin’ all them newspaper stacks upstairs.”
Three pairs of ears perked up at that very statement.
“Can you believe she made us pass them all out, too?” Scootaloo asked Apple Bloom. “I guess she’s still pretty mad about that whole Diamond Tiara thing earlier.”
“Wait a minute, what do you mean Ms. Cheerilee had you help pass out newspapers?” Silver Spoon asked, worry creeping into her voice.
“Uh, duh. Exactly what it sounds like,” Scootaloo said offhandedly.
“We just passed out the new editions of the Foal Free Press a few minutes ago,” Apple Bloom explained.
“You what?” Sweetie Belle and Silver Spoon cried in unison.
“Oh, no...” Featherweight began rubbing at his temples.
Pushing open the classroom door, Scootaloo rolled her eyes at the overreacting trio. “Geez, what’s with you three? It’s just a newspaper.”
“Scootaloo,” said Sweetie Belle, “you don’t understand, there’s a—” Before Sweetie Belle could say anything further, a sea full of wide, multicolored eyes crashed over her, washing any trace of her initial thought from her tongue. In that moment, time slowed down for Sweetie Belle, Silver Spoon and Featherweight as a realization dawned on all three of them.
Luckily, Cheerilee, who also had also been perusing the latest edition of the paper was the first one in the standstill to prompt herself into action as she strode over to the fillies ready to part with soothing words backed by eyes full of warmth and compassion.
However, before she could dissolve or lessen the tension in the air, somepony ripped it in half with all the precision of a cannon shell. “Hey, uh... Ms. C?” Snails interrupted, “what’s a... ‘lez-bee-uhn?’”
“Please, kill me now,” said an absolutely mortified Silver Spoon.
“Oh my Luna’s stars in heaven.” The frustrated educator couldn’t help but facehoof at the awkward situation she had to diffuse. “Apple Bloom, Scootaloo, Featherweight, take your seats, now.”
Apple Bloom looked puzzled. “But Ms. Cheerilee, what’s goin’ on—”
“Take your seats now!” the frantic teacher cried, hastily ushering everypony into the classroom, save for Sweetie Belle and Silver Spoon. “Um... girls,” she said in as soothing and reassuring voice as her nerves could muster. “Due to some... ‘recent events,’ I’m going to be changing the class’ lesson plan drastically. There won’t be any exam this week, but I think it would be best if I dismissed you both early while I have a talk with the rest of the class. We should have this whole mess cleared up by tomorrow,” the teacher said.
“Does anypony else feel kinda funny when they look at this picture?” said a particularly loud colt.
“Make that Wednesday,” Cheerilee groaned. She could almost hear the bees buzzing around the birds already. “Now, I’ll be visiting both of your houses later to speak with you and your parents about this perfectly natural development, but for now you’re both free to go.” The schoolmare hadn’t offered the fillies their freedom for the day, so much as she’d made it clear they would not be, and should not plan on, stepping hoof back in the classroom for the rest of the day. Not that the two were going to protest, especially given the situation awaiting them in the classroom. With scarlet faces and enough embarrassment to last a freshman year of high school, the two trotted down the old dirt road leading into town.
Chapter 13 End
Since they had departed the schoolhouse, Sweetie Belle and Silver Spoon had spoken nary a single word to each other. Silver Spoon’s silence stemmed from the fact that she had been so wrapped up in thinking of how everypony would look at her the next time she stepped hoof in the classroom. She could almost hear all the mocking jeers, feel all the disdainful leers of her classmates as they teased. At the very least, she could take solace in knowing that the one responsible for this whole ordeal would be getting her just desserts in spades. But even that small comfort failed to grant her panicked mind any peace as she recalled that Ms. Cheerilee would be visiting later to inform her parents of all ponies that their daughter had an abnormal but perfectly natural interest in fillies at her age. What were they going to think? How were they going to react? These questions had successfully invaded every inch of brainspace the filly could spare and ultimately drove her mood into the ground.
In contrast, Sweetie Belle had been straining her brain thinking of a way to inject some of her own optimism into her downcast special somepony. Her thoughts wandered from Sugarcube Corner, to prying the name of that cafe Silver Spoon had been talking about from the earth pony’s mind, but simple distractions like those weren’t going to raise her filly-friend out of this depression. The only option left to her was to approach it directly. “Hey, come on Silvy, it’s not like it’s the worst thing in the world.”
Silver Spoon hung her head, too dejected to debate her companion.
“Maybe nopony really cares?” said Sweetie Belle. “Why, maybe they’ve already forgotten about it by now!”
“If that was something you could just forget...” Silver Spoon muttered. The initial shock and awe of the situation had worn off and left her with a hollow, naked sensation as though everypony they passed on the road was glaring at her with prejudice and disdain. “I just want to go home and lock myself away from everypony for a few days. I don’t even want to think of what my parents are going to say...”
Sweetie Belle had heard enough of her companion’s griping, and wasn’t going to have more any of it. With a hop, a skip and a jump, she leapt in front of Silver Spoon, puffed out her cheeks and gave the earth pony the most stern look she could manage. Needless to say, this grabbed the metallic filly’s attention immediately. “Sweetie Belle?” she asked weakly.
The unicorn did not respond, she only continued to glower.
“What are you doing?”
Still more silence, and an intensified scowl as Sweetie Belle stepped forward.
Another two steps forward and further puffing up of Sweetie Belle’s rosy cheeks served in place of words, but only added to Silver Spoon’s confusion.
“Why are you doing that; you look ridiculous.” Silver Spoon couldn’t help an estranged smirk that had begun tugging at her lips.
Sweetie Belle continued to trot slowly forward and had now begun to scrunch up her face as much as she could manage, adding to the already ridiculous arrangement of her features.
The smirk on Silver Spoon’s face had evolved into a full on puzzled grin, complete with a few breathy giggles. She honestly had no idea what Sweetie Belle was trying to do but she couldn’t deny that she was thoroughly entertained.
The closer Sweetie Belle drew, the tighter and more ludicrous her face became, and in turn so did Silver Spoon’s grin. It grew and grew until at long last, Silver Spoon couldn’t help but full on laugh at her filly-friend’s expression. “Wh-what are you doing?” she managed to choke between chuckles. By this point, Sweetie Belle was within sniffing distance of Silver Spoon, but didn’t bother to break character. The unicorn leaned in incredibly close to Silver Spoon as though she were going to kiss her, but instead, tilted her head down slightly and gently poked Silver Spoon in the nose with her horn. “Ow, what was that for?” Silver Spoon rubbed at her nose, her lips still drawn up in a goofy-grin.
“Smile,” Sweetie Belle said, pouting. “If you don’t smile, then I’ll poke you again.”
“Alright, alright, you win.” Silver Spoon chuckled.
“That’s more like it,” Sweetie Belle said, her face loosening up slightly. “Now, come on.”
“Come on? Where are we going?”
“You said you wanted to be alone right?” she said with a sly grin replacing her look of annoyance.
“Well, it’s boring to be alone by yourself, so I figured we could go somewhere and be alone together. Now, come on,” she said bossily.
The two didn’t have to walk particularly long to get where they were going, but sure and soon enough they ended up just outside of the Ponyville library. Pushing the door open ever so gently, the two were pleased to find the place empty save for Spike, who had curled up under the pages of a particularly large reference book that fit over him somehow just snugly enough to cover his feet. Taking care to step softly, they maneuvered through the rows of shelves, pushing on each of the books until they’d found their hidden alcove, which they hopped inside and covered up as quick as whip. As they were overall exhausted from the events of their thanklessly stressful day, Sweetie Belle didn’t bother with her light spell on this occasion and Silver Spoon didn’t particularly care to indulge in conversation at the moment. They’d overcome so much in such a short time span and they still had so much to worry about on the outside, but for the moment, they were content just to be with one another. They could deal with life later.
It hadn’t taken long for the two to get comfortable with each other in the tight crawlspace, and it had taken Sweetie Belle even less time to fall asleep, the outline of her blissfully grinning face just visible to her significant other even in the faintly lit alcove. As she watched the sleeping form of Sweetie Belle nuzzle deeper into her bosom, a particularly odd notion worked its way into Silver Spoon’s thoughts and made her giggle. “Heh, I guess Scootaloo’s mother was right,” Silver Spoon said softly, “My wish really did come true.” With that, the earthpony allowed herself to be taken by the welcoming caress of a peaceful slumber.
Something angry had fallen from the sky. Throughout the galaxy it was it revered as a hero and a warlord, and yet on countless more worlds, including the place from whence it spawned, it was antagonized and branded a beast and a menace. At this moment however, the only thing one would have thought to call it was the force behind a colossal crater that had leveled half of a nearby forest.
On unsteady legs it stumbled forth, effortlessly causing small rocks to bounce with every step as the ground beneath its feet shook and shattered. This world was quite similar to one that had rejected him long ago, but instinctively, the creature knew it was not the same terrafirma that it stood on. Yet it did not care. It was lost, it was sick of this stupid woodland it had been smashing through for the past few hours, but above all it was pissed. The creature was in the middle of smashing through a tree that had foolishly grown in its path when it saw a glimpse of something red out of the corner of its eye.
Smiting the tree anyway for its poor choice in real estate, the creature barreled through the rest of the thicket that had been obscuring the red thing it so eagerly sought. Before it stood something the monster had not seen for the longest time, as it had been trapped in a small floating pod hurtling aimlessly through space: a wooden building. Had it been more rational minded, it’d have identified it as an older model school house, the type that hadn’t been used on his home planet for years upon decades. Sadly, it was not more rational minded, and gave next to no thought as it stomped towards the building, its hands clenching into cast-iron fists eager to bring it down and smash purposelessly until their owner felt somewhat sated in his rage. That’s just what it would have done had it not heard something from an open pit just next to the school.
Curious, the creature drew nearer, lending its inquisitive ear to the wind as it investigated the hole. To its surprise it heard something it hadn’t heard in almost an eternity: voices. “Wow, you look mad, better do something about your face before it gets stuck like that,” spoke an arrogant-sounding being. “You look like you’ve got something you want to say.”
“I’m not going to let you do this, Diamond Tiara!” Cried a high-pitched voice. “I won’t let you hurt Silver Spoon!”
The creature’s curiosity piqued, it began to descend into the hole, its ear primed to pick up any more back and forths between the two voices.
“Ha! You won’t let me? And just how are you going to stop me?” The arrogant voice said. “These are ready to be passed out a moment’s notice.” There was a small thumping sound in the silence, but the monster paid it no mind. It wanted to hear more of these two. “All I have to do is give the word to Featherweight, and this story will spread like wild fire.”
“I’ll just tell Ms. Cheerilee!” screeched the high pitched one, it's voice even cracked a little bit.
“You’re going to tell her now of all times? While class is still in session? Why that’s such a great idea! I think I’ll tell her too! We’ll go together and tell her exactly what we found in the school paper in front of the whole class! I’ll make sure to yell it nice and-- hey, what's that shaking?"
"How should I know?"
“Well, whatever it is, it doesn’t change anythi—”
“Wh-what’s that?” the shrill one interrupted, pointing at the curious observer as it stepped into a strange room full of printing equipment. It didn’t give a second look
"Ha, nice try, Blanky-Belle,” Diamond Tiara rolled her eyes as she turned around to see what imaginary plight her desperate victim had concocted to distract her. “But you’ll have to do better than that if you want to—” The filly’s train of thought careened over a cliff the moment her eyes met with Sweetie Belle’s very non-imaginary plight. “Wh-what the hay is that?!” The tiny pink aggressor shrieked, as it took in the heavily breathing form of a fifteen-foot-high mass of bulging green muscle and ungiven fucks that had somehow strong-armed its way into the basement. Frozen in fear, Diamond Tiara could do nothing but tremble before the awesome creature as it spoke.
“Hulk...” the giant green ogre breathed. “Want pointy hat horsey!”
“What? I-I... Help me you dumb blank-flank!” Diamond Tiara shrieked as a massive green vice of a hand wrapped around her tiny body and effortlessly hoisted her into the air. “Stop! Let me go! Help me! Help me you idiot!”
“Diamond TIara,” yelled Sweetie Belle, I’ll—”
“You no try stop Hulk!” the Hulk snarled at Sweetie Belle, who nodded frantically as she scurried away from the mass of anger.
“Okay! Okay!” Sweetie Belle backed away “I won’t try to stop you! Please, just don’t hurt me!”
Satisfied that he’d lain his dominance down quite flat, the Hulk snorted and punched the stack of newspapers into oblivion, then turned, sprinting out of the basement. As the thudding footsteps and Diamond Tiara’s screams disappeared from the basement and into the distance, Sweetie Belle, still trembling from her run-in with the self-proclaimed “Hulk,” shakily made her way out of the basement. She looked for any sign of the creature, but only saw massive footprints that were spread impossibly far apart. It was as though the thing had leapt away into the forest from whence it came. It was almost too shameful to admit and it sounded even worse on paper, but Sweetie Belle couldn’t deny that she was somewhat relieved that Diamond Tiara had been abducted. But where the Hulk had taken her classmate, he’d left the unicorn with a quandary in exchange. Nature was calling, but was her personal relief more important that reporting even the most despised of her classmates, who moments ago had been on the verge of blackmailing and ruining the life of her very special somepony? Sweetie Belle picked up the phone.