Johnathon Dwire found himself waking early, fixed himself breakfast, and said goodbye to Cheerilee before she left for school. "When you get back, I'll be speaking English again." he said with a sigh.
Cheerilee mouthed the unfamiliar word. "English... that's what your native language is called, right?" she blinked. "I thought you were Irish?"
Johnathon chuckled. "I'm Irish by blood, English in speech, American by nationality, and most recently lived in the Amazonian Rainforest... and now I'm Equestrian, at least if you count where I'm currently getting my mail...." he grinned to himself, then explained. "America is the country where I was born, Ireland is the country where most of my ancestors were born, and English is the language that is spoken by most everyone in America. English originated in England, which is a country that had a great deal to do with settling America in the most recent past." he shrugged, frowning. "Well, it's complicated..."
Cheerilee nodded. "Sounds like it must be." she smiled. "After we've worked getting you fluent in Equestrian, you can tell me more, alright?"
Johnathon nodded, looking torn. "This is the right thing to do... I'm almost positive, but... what if Twilight figures out how to get me back to my world tomorrow? Or in a week, or even a month? I'll still be learning your language, and I'll have missed out on learning all the other things I could learn by being fluent now." he sighed. "Darn it... it's frustrating."
Cheerilee nodded slowly. "Well, you don't have to go through with this if you don't really want to, Johnathon. I'll regret missing the chance to do a paper on your language, but I can understand you not wanting to have to go through learning ours, especially when, I suppose, you won't be able to really use it at all once you get back to your world."
Johnathon sighed. "Yeah. I mean, I could do what you're doing, and write up a paper on your language when I get home, but who'd believe me? They'd think I made it all up." he blinked. "Although... even making up an entire language from scratch would be pretty impressive...." he shrugged and laughed. "Well, in geek circles, anyway." the archeologist shrugged. "But I've still got so much I want to know about your culture, and history, and about magic, and all the strange and wonderful creatures that live here." he stood up. "You know what? I'm going to go over and talk to Twilight, ask her how she's getting along on her research. If she thinks it's going to take a long time, I might as well go through with our plan, but if she's convinced it'll be quick, maybe I would do better to learn the things that...."
He frowned. "Huh. I guess I'm being selfish. I mean, all the things I want to know about your world, they won't really help me in my world either... they're just... what I'm more interested in." Johnathon sighed. "Maybe I should focus on what will help you instead."
Cheerilee smiled. "Don't be silly. Of course you should learn what you're interested in. You'll learn faster that way, and you'll enjoy yourself more. If it turns out you really do decide to learn our language, well, I'll enjoy helping you with that, but I won't mind it you want to learn more about our culture, and our world either. I would enjoy seeing your perspective on those things almost as much as you would, I think."
Johnathon grinned. "You're being way too generous about this... but thanks. I'll make my decision before you get back this afternoon, I promise. If time is a factor, I might as well get started, one way or another."
Cheerilee nodded. "Do what you feel is best for you, Johnathon. I'll support you." she glanced at the clock. "Well, I'd better get going. See you later!" Cheerilee hurried out the door, and Johnathon followed her out, turning towards the Library as she went toward the Ponyville school building.
Twilight looked mildly surprised to see him, but she welcomed him warmly regardless. "Is there anything I can help you with this morning, Johnathon?"
The man looked slightly sheepish. "Well, I don't ask because I want to rush you, but... could you give me an idea... just a rough idea of how much longer it might take you before you might be able to send me home again?" he held up a hand. "I don't know is an acceptable answer... it's just... well, if I had even a rough idea of how long I might expect to be here... or rather, the minimum time it might take before you can send me home, I would have a better idea of what I want to study while I'm here."
Twilight blinked. "Oh! I understand. You want to plan out how to manage your study time! Well, I certainly can sympathize with that!" she looked thoughtful, then turned around, her horn glowing as a clipboard floated down from her bedroom to float in front of her. Johnathon peered over her shoulder to see what she was reading, but before his eyes, the words ceased to have any meaning. It had been a checklist of some sort... and he still could see the open boxes to be marked off as completed, and the lines of text next to each box, but he couldn't read a single word. The top line had been something about Dimensional magic studies, he thought, but he wasn't sure.
"Twilight?" Johnathon said, realizing that he was once again speaking in English. "Er... Twilight, your spell wore off."
The purple unicorn turned around, looking confused at the strange sounding words, then blinked as understanding came over her. She said something that sounded vaguely cheerful and reassuring, then frowned, as if uncertain how to proceed.
Johnathon blinked in confusion then figured it out. "Oh right. You're not sure whether or not to use your translation spell, right?" Twilight looked confused, and shook her head, saying something in Equestrian he didn't understand, and he sighed, then glanced at the clock in the room. He was startled to realize he couldn't read it either, but it had arms, much like an older clock on his world, so he pointed at the arm he remembered stood for Equestrian hours, and made a motion indicating that it had moved forward an hour, then pointed at his own throat, then her horn.
Twilight nodded, concentrated, and aimed her glowing horn at him. "I'm assuming you wanted me to cast my Translation spell for one hour, Johnathon?" she asked him a moment later.
"Yes." Johnathon said with a smile. "I'll try not to abuse the help. I'm actually seriously considering dropping the idea of trying to learn your language, in favor of topics I'm more interested in... depending on how long you think you'll be with your research. If you finish in a month, for example, and send me back, I won't have time to get to any of the other subjects I'm really fascinated with, like your history, or how your culture developed, and, oh, stuff about magic and magical creatures...." he shrugged. "I'm being selfish, I know, but I would regret not learning as much as I could about those topics."
Twilight smiled. "I don't mind. I can understand your concern... and it's your decision. If you want to change your mind, I can extend the translation spell's duration by quite a lot." she looked thoughtful. "Actually, that's one part of the research I've been doing. If I can learn how to... well, extend my spells while using less energy, it'll get me one step closer to maintaining a dimensional portal for the required time for a safe transit. It's not the only problem I'm working on, but I'm pretty sure it will be a required step."
Johnathon grinned. "Sounds like even just learning that much will be pretty important. I mean, extending your spells like that, for less energy. It sounds like it might be something you could teach other unicorns... as long it was for something they're already specialized in, and that could be useful to all of Equestria, don't you think?"
Twilight beamed. "That's exactly what I was thinking! I'm really thrilled by this particular line of research! Just by picking a direction, a goal, I've managed to identify several key types of experiments to try, and some of them could very well change how we use magic entirely, if I'm successful, anyway." she broke off, and nodded to him. "But you wanted to know how much longer it might be before I can get you home... the earliest possible time, so you can figure out how to schedule your studies, correct?" she consulted her checklist. "Well, I've put down conservative estimates for each of the things I want to try, but still, it's likely that most, if not every item on this checklist will take more time than I first anticipate, so...."
She turned back to him and shrugged. "if I follow my checklist, it should take a minimum of two months." Twilight shrugged again. "But, honestly, I doubt I'll manage it that fast, unless I succeed in every experiment, I'll probably take quite a bit longer." she looked thoughtful. "If I was to give my best guess... I'd say six months would be more likely, if I'm going to succeed at all, I should know by then."
Johnathon nodded. "Well... I'm not sure, but... I think if I push myself, I can learn an awful lot of your language in... well, less than six months." he frowned. "That won't leave me forever to study the other things I want, but...." He nodded. "I think I'm going to go through with it." he turned to Twilight. "Still, if you make a major breakthrough, please let me know... especially if you think you'll finish in a month or less. I want at least that long to seriously study your world's history and culture... it's not enough for a really in-depth look, but I think I'll be able to satisfy my curiosity with that much time."
Twilight smiled in understanding. "OK... so when I think I'm a month away, you want me to let you know?"
He nodded back firmly. "That's right. I'll want to be able to get a lot of reading in if I've only got a month left, and if I'm not pretty fluent by then, well...." he shrugged. "Then I'll need your translation spell again, if you're willing."
Twilight Sparkle's smile didn't change. "Of course!" she nodded thoughtfully. "I think that's a good decision, Johnathon."
The archeologist sighed. "Frankly, it's not an easy one to make. I'm trying to be responsible about this, but your translation spell is a terrible temptation for me."
Twilight looked sympathetic. "I can imagine. I wouldn't like to have to learn to talk all over again. And not to be able to read!" she shuddered. "That must be horrible!"
Johnathon grinned at her. "Mildly horrible, yes. The worst part is, no one here speaks my language, so no one can help translate for me. The only real recourse is your spell. Still, I'll learn quickly, I expect, at least for me." he sighed. "Right now, I wish learning foreign languages was my special talent. Ah well." he nodded to Twilight. "Well, I'm going to get going. I think I'll head over to Sweet Apple Acres and see if I can help out there a little more today. If I hurry, I can let Applejack know about the translation spell wearing off, so she doesn't get confused by me not being able to speak to her."
Twilight nodded. "That's probably a good idea."
Johnathon waved and turned to go, heading out the door. "I'll see you later, Twilight. Thanks again."
When he arrived, Applejack wasn't home, but Big Macintosh came over to greet him in her place. "Hey Johnathon." the large red stallion said with a calm expression. "What can I do you for?"
Johnathon shrugged. "Got anything around here that needs fixing? Actually, I'm kind of hoping I could help out around here on a regular basis. It'd give me something active to do, and I want to do something useful for you folks. I appreciate that the Princess is taking care of my expenses and all, but it would make me feel better if I can be helpful somehow while I'm here, you know?"
Big Mac nodded slowly. "Eeyup." he agreed with a nod. "AJ tells me you know your way around a hammer. How good are ya at breaking stuff?"
Johnathon blinked. "Breaking stuff?"
The big red stallion nodded. "Eeyup. AJ's been planning on tearing down the old barn, so as we can put up a new one. It's too far gone now to make repairing it worth it... so it's gotta come down."
Johnathon nodded and grinned. "Breaking stuff I'm good at. You don't happen to have a sledge hammer, do you?"
Big Mac showed Johnathon to the tool-shed, and pointed out the old barn. "What do ya think?" he asked. "AJ was gonna ask Rainbow Dash to do it, seeing as she's a right expert at breaking stuff, but if ya want ta, you can have first crack at it."
Johnathon considered that. "Well, with the right tools, and time, I can take it apart for you, sure. Do you care where the debris goes?"
Big Mac chuckled. "Just don't send anything flying too far, and that'll be fine. Do ya need any help getting started?"
Johnathon pulled his work gloves from his belt and started putting them on. "I'll be just fine solo. If there isn't anyone else helping, I won't worry as much about hitting anypony with flying rubble." he nodded at Big Mac. "Oh... the translation spell that Twilight put on me will wear off any time now, so I'm not going to be able to understand much of anything you say pretty soon." he shrugged. "But I expect we'll manage."
Big Mac nodded. "Eeyup." he swung his head to indicate the farm house. "I'll come by to let you know when chow's on, alright? Granny Smith has baked a fresh pie, and I could tell you like her pies a mite."
Johnathon grinned. "Eeyup!" he agreed enthusiastically.
Big Mac grinned back and nodded. "I've got some apples to buck, but I'll see you all in a while. You be careful and all, alright?"
Johnathon nodded. "Sure. I've done this sort of thing before..." he glanced at the barn. "If not on quite so large a scale, but I'll take it easy, and safe." he hefted a pry-bar. "Go on. I'll see you for lunch."
Big Mac ambled off, and Johnathon took a sledgehammer and the prybar with him over to the dilapidated old barn Big Mac had shown him. Their were several similar structures on the Sweet Apple Acres property. It really was a huge farm. Johnathon had been both surprised and impressed to learn that Applejack and Big Mac handled almost all the work on such an enormous estate, but at the same time, he'd never met anyone, pony or otherwise, that seemed quite as capable as they did, at least in their own area of expertise. He was still fit, and considered himself a hard worker, but Applejack had already proven herself capable of working him into the ground with ease, and Big Macintosh seemed to be cut from the same cloth. He wondered what their parents had been like.
Johnathon considered the problem of destroying the old building without dropping it on himself, and decided to tackle the problem from the top down. Climbing up into the attic, he started working on ceiling, breaking through to the outside air to figure out how thick the roof was, then systematically starting to knock one piece of roofing loose at a time, figuring that if he cleared the roof first, at least it wouldn't be there to fall on him if he made a mistake.
It was hard work, but fun. Breaking things was almost as much fun as building them, and you got results a lot quicker. it was obvious that the barn needed to come down. The wood was old, and rotten in spots, and simply weak in others. While the interior structure looked like it might last a while longer, it too was showing signs of age. It was a hazard, and repairs would only delay the inevitable. It felt good to destroy the rotting timbers, and each piece of roof that fell, letting the light in from the outside, seemed like a minor victory. Pounding up from below was harder than he had first anticipated, but while it was tempting to simply try taking out the support beams, he didn't want to risk the structure collapsing on him, so he persisted.
He nearly missed hearing Big Mac bellowing out his name from below due to the noise of his hammering, but, the sound of his own name served to catch his attention. He listened, and heard his name repeated, along with a bunch of other words Johnathon could no longer understand.
"Must be lunch." Johnathon walked over to look out of a large 'hay window' on the second floor of the building, and waved to the big red stallion. Applejack was walking up as well, returned from whatever errand she had been on earlier, and he could see Granny Smith waving from the kitchen window, saying something... he caught the word he was pretty sure meant lunch, and grinned. "OK then...." Johnathon came down in a rush, carrying his tools, and ran over to the tool shed to put them back where he'd got them before joining the Apple family for lunch.
Granny Smith served him a large helping of apple pie, which he dug into with relish. She tried asking him something, but he had to shake his head and shrug. Applejack started talking to the old mare, gesturing at Johnathon occasionally, but getting mostly confused looks from her grandmother. Johnathon blinked, then shrugged. They'd figure it out, he supposed.
"He can't talk our language right now, Granny!" Applejack tried to explain again. "On account the spell that Twilight used to let him do so wore off."
"Well, that's not a very good spell then, is it." the older mare decided with a frown. "What good is it if it stops working right when a body want's to talk to somepony!" she nodded at Johnathon. "How come this strange young fella can't talk proper Equestrian, anyway?" She asked, looking a bit annoyed.
"He's from another world, Granny!" Applejack explained. "I told you that yesterday!" she frowned. "And last week, after he first showed up."
Granny Smith frowned. "Well, I know that, but why don't they learn to speak proper where he's from, anyway?"
"They do speak fine." Applejack said with a small sigh. "Leastwise, I expect so. But they don't speak Equestrian. They speak a whole different language!"
Granny Smith frowned. "Well, why in tarnation doesn't he learn to speak proper language then?"
Applejack rolled her eyes. "That's what he's trying to do! He can't learn to speak our language with Twilight's magic working...." she scratched her head. "Er, leastwise, that's the way I heard it. So he's trying to learn it the regular way."
Granny Smith nodded agreeably. "Good idea! Magic learning seems a mite strange to me, anyhow. We'll teach him to speak good Equestrian lickity split!" she glanced at her eldest granddaughter. "He's a good worker, you say?"
Applejack shrugged. "He's willing and all, and he's good with a hammer. Big Mac has him working on tearing down the old barn right now." she frowned at her older brother. "About that... he could get hurt... does he even know what he's doing? If the Princess found out we got him hurt, she'd be plum annoyed, I reckon."
Big Macintosh shrugged. "He seems like he's doing alright, and it's a job he can do solo, seeing as we can't understand each other at the moment."
Applejack frowned. "I was going to have Rainbow Dash do the demolition, you know? She likes doing that sort of thing."
Big Mac shrugged. "It's a big job. She can come help on it later, if ya like."
Applejack shrugged. "Oh, alright."
Johnathon tried to figure out what the siblings were discussing without much success. He finished eating, and picked up his plate, taking it to the sink to wash, then signaled them to get their attention. He made motions as if writing something down on a piece of paper, then pointed toward town. He wanted to get some work done on his English to Equestrian translations before Cheerilee came home, but didn't want to simply walk off without explaining.
Applejack watching his pantomime for a little while, then nodded. He pointed towards town, then himself, and walked a few steps, looking at her to see that she understood. She grinned and made a pushing motion, and he smiled back.
"Twilight?" she asked him. The word sounded different without the spell translating for him, but he knew Twilight's name, having made a point to learn several of the pony's names during the period that the translation spell had worn off days earlier. He shook his head, and said the word that meant. "Cheerilee." Applejack nodded and made the pushing motion at him again.
Johnathon wracked his brains, trying to remember how to say that he would be back tomorrow, but he couldn't remember the words, so he walked to the door, pointed at the old barn he had been demolishing, and then at the sun. He lowered his arm to indicate an earlier point along it's path, then pointed at himself, then the barn again, then made a swinging motion, as if using a sledgehammer. Applejack frowned, concentrating, then nodded again.
Johnathon threw her a thumb's up, which obviously confused her, then chuckled and walked out of the kitchen, waving one more time as he left.
Applejack frowned after the human. "What does that mean, I wonder? I've seen Spike do that too, haven't I?" she shook her head. "Guess I'll ask the little fella later." she turned to her big brother. "I think he was saying he'll be back tomorrow to work on the barn some more." she guessed.
Big Mac simply nodded in agreement. "Eeyup."
Johnathon walked across town to Cheerilee's house, and let himself in. He went to his room and got out the primers that he had been using as a basis for his translations earlier, still stuffed with the pages of parchment he had been using, and started going through them from the beginning, trying to refresh his memory. The primers started with words describing physical objects, gradually progressing to more complex concepts, like telling time, or counting as they went along, and Johnathon read them through several times, repeating the words as best as he could recall to himself to try and get the sounds down in his head. After a while, he gave up, realizing that while he was having some success at memorizing what combinations of symbols meant what word, without a tutor, he was unlikely to recall the sounds of those words very accurately.
He instead opened up a new textbook, and started attempting to write down the English words for the increasingly complex concepts and symbols represented there. When he started to get stuck with that, he pulled out a fresh piece of parchment, and started creating a chart for the English alphabet, and the most common combinations of letters that indicated various sounds, already planning out his first English lesson for Cheerilee in his head.
He was still working when the Purple earth pony returned home, and he came out of his room to greet her. "Welcome home, Cheerilee." he said in English, seeing confusion, then comprehension pass over her face. He held up the phonetic chart he had created, and showed it to her. The earth pony frowned in mild confusion, so he pointed at the letters in turn, speaking them as he did so. "A, B, C, D, E...."
Cheerilee brightened and nodded, pulling her saddle bags off her back and setting them down, she rummaged around for an ink pen and parchment, and once she was settled in at the kitchen table, motioned to the paper again. He set it down on the table, and went through the letters again, one by one. Cheerilee started making notes on her own parchment, and imitated each sound he made at the same time.
They worked for hours, trading off. Cheerilee worked Johnathon through the Equestrian alphabet next, and he practiced each sound, writing down the corresponding symbol, over and over again. By the end of the night, they were both partially proficient with each other's alphabet. Cheerilee excused herself as it was starting to get late, and Johnathon nodded, feeling a little guilty. He realized that he had monopolized her time from the moment she had returned home, and she probably had school work to complete, not to mention needing food and sleep.
Johnathon fixed himself dinner, then went to his room to study a bit more, refreshing what they had done already in his head before getting some sleep himself.
Breakfast the next morning turned into another lesson. Cheerilee cooked this time, telling him the Equestrian word for whatever she was holding and having him repeat it back to her as she went. He learned several new words at the same time as getting an insight into what the purple pony liked for breakfast, and did his best to put both to memory.
After breakfast, they both left the house together once more, and parted ways again. Johnathon headed to Sweet Apple Acres, only to find that instead of helping to tear down the barn, Applejack had him follow her around as she did her morning chores, which she also managed to turn into another language lesson. Johnathon could tell she was taking her time with him, and that she would normally complete her chores much more quickly, but she seemed determined to help him, and he allowed her to lead him around her farm for most of the day, doing his best to learn both how she did her chores and the new words and phrases she was trying to teach him.
The chores were relatively easy. He had been around farm work often enough that, while slightly different in places, just about everything Applejack showed him made sense. While he was certainly struggling with the language, he found that connecting the work he was doing with the language she was speaking made it a lot easier to remember. Johnathon stayed at the farm till the afternoon, following Applejack around the farm from chore to chore. It wasn't until Apple Bloom came trotting home from school that he realized how late it was.
Applejack greeted her younger sister, and then turned to the human to repeat the words for him. He did so automatically, waving at Apple Bloom with a grin.
"Welcome home, Apple Bloom!" Johnathon said in perfectly understandable Equestrian, obviously pleased with himself.
"Oh! You're learning real quick, Johnathon!" Apple Bloom said enthusiastically. "Can you say anything else?" Johnathon blinked, and turned to Applejack with a helpless shrug.
Applejack grinned at him and shrugged back. "He's learning plenty, but I don't think he's quite up to having a regular conversation, Sugar Cube." she told her younger sister affectionately. "But he's trying hard, I reckon."
Johnathon waved at her, getting her attention, and he pointed at the sun in the sky, then at the town, then at himself. "Go... me." He managed, and Applejack nodded. "I expect Cheerilee will be waiting." she told him cheerfully, then pointed at the sun, then made a motion indicating an early time of day. "Are you coming back tomorrow?" she asked, trying to get the point across through repeated pantomime.
Johnathon looked thoughtful, then nodded. Starting to jog off, he waved, then accelerated, his stride lengthening as he started to run towards town.
Apple Bloom blinked. "Whoa... I almost forgot he could run like that." she said, looking surprised. "He's always walking everywhere, kinda easy like, I kinda thought humans didn't like to move quick."
Applejack snorted. "He does seem to be able to move some on them long legs of his, even if he's short a pair." she shrugged as he entered town, moving out of sight, and snickered slightly at the sound of a panicked pony's scream. "Whoops! Guess he must of scared some pony...." she sobered. "Maybe I ought to go check on him, see he gets home alright?"
Apple Bloom stared into the distance, watching a pony backing into view between two buildings, watching in the direction Johnathon had gone. "Nah, I think he just startled some pony. He'll be alright."
Applejack raised an eyebrow. "You seem awful sure of that."
Apple Bloom shrugged. "That's Miss Berry Punch... she gets awful excited sometimes... she yelled the same way when Scootaloo jumped over her last week on her scooter."
Applejack snorted. "That girl's a menace on that thing...." she grinned. "Although she's pretty darn good on it... but she's just like Dash... always trying new stunts, and crashing into stuff." she chuckled. "Well, come on in the house. I expect you'll want to get your homework done before supper. Granny's cooking tonight."
Apple Bloom pumped a hoof into the air. "Yay! Pie!"
Johnathon slowed down slightly as he passed through town. The first pony's scream as he shot past her had startled him almost as badly as she seemed to be. He waved as he left her behind, an embarrassed grin on his face, but decided to keep jogging. He got quite a few more stares than normal as he ran, but a friendly wave usually got a hesitant wave, or nod in response. He was careful not to run directly at anypony, not wanting to cause any of them undo concern, and weaved quickly through town, jogging easily now. He found he had to slow down from a full out run after only a few hundred yards, but kept moving at a quick jog for the rest of the way back to the house he now shared with the purple school teacher. He was panting like crazy when he turned the final corner to see that Cheerilee herself was just now walking up to her home.
Johnathon ran up behind her, panting loudly, and put his hands on his sides as he tried to slow his breathing. Cheerilee had seemed a little startled when she turned around to see him jogging up behind her, but smiled and opened the door for him as he gasped for air, walking slow now to try and catch his breath.
Johnathon let the school teacher finish her schoolwork first, and this time it was Cheerilee's turn to start the lesson. She cooked dinner for them both, again making it a language lesson at the same time, but after they ate, it was back to the basics.
Hours passed as they worked, and Johnathon spent about half of it teaching Cheerilee the proper way to pronounce the list of English words he had compiled in the language primers. Cheerilee was the quicker study of the two of them, picking up new words after only a few tries, and seeming to remember nearly everything from previous lessons with little effort. He wondered if she would actually learn English before he managed Equestrian, despite the fact that he would be spending most of each day trying to learn, while she still had a full time job. He promised himself he'd work harder to keep up with her.
Johnathon's days started to work themselves into a routine. First was always breakfast with Cheerilee... they took turns cooking, each of them explaining as they went in their own language for the other to learn. Cheerilee started repeating recipes after a short while, but Johnathon didn't mind. He needed the repetition. Next he would head over to Sweet Apple Acres, or to Fluttershy's cottage, where Fluttershy would take a leaf from Applejack's book and teach him how to help her with her animal chores, combining it with a language lesson. After awhile, he started visiting the other ponies as well. Pinkie Pie and Rarity both volunteered their time to show him around their businesses, although Mister and Mrs Cake seemed a bit nervous around him. Rarity sometimes seemed a bit stressed at having to explain everything to him, but when he tried to explain that she really didn't need to volunteer her time, it upset her more, and she repeatedly insisted on doing her part.
Each evening he'd return home, and he and Cheerilee would get down to work. This was always the hardest part of the day, as Cheerilee would always be pushing him into more and more complex concepts and phrases. Twilight showed up more often then not as well after awhile, and like Cheerilee, seemed to be learning English faster than he could learn Equestrian. It was a blow to his ego, but it drove him to work even harder.
Between one thing and another, he spent most of each day with one pony or another, always trying to learn more. Demolishing the barn got pushed off, as it was a task that didn't lend itself well to talking, but after a couple weeks, he got to watch as a true master of demolition worked.
When he arrived at Sweet Apple Acres that morning, Applejack had taken him through her usual morning chores in a hurry, then waved as a certain cyan pegasus had flown up, wearing a pair of protective goggles. Applejack had gotten out a couple bicycle helmets, and urged him to follow her to a ditch near the old barn, and they watched as the fastest flier in Equestria wreaked havoc on the decaying old structure. Johnathon grinned as he watched, privately convinced that he could have done nearly as much damage as the cyan pegasus, if he'd been willing and able to dodge falling beams and pieces of the roof. At first he was nervous that the cyan pegasus would injure herself with her fierce assault, but she seemed to have the situation well in hand.
It was then that Twilight Sparkle ran up, and started trying to stop Rainbow Dash for some reason. When the pegasus failed to hear Twilight trying to talk to her, Twilight simply grabbed her by the tail with telekinetic force. Johnathon winced, guessing that having her tail pulled like that had to hurt, but Rainbow Dash seemed more annoyed than injured. Applejack waved for Twilight to join her and Johnathon, and he was able to understand enough of their conversation to piece together her simple explanation about wanting to build a new barn. Johnathon had been distracted with trying to piece together what they had been saying that he nearly missed Rainbow Dash flying into the sky.
He glanced up when he noticed the sounds of destruction were gone, and started looking for the cyan mare, only to spot her coming down at the structure from far above like a Rainbow powered cruise missile. His eyes went wide in shock as she continued to accelerate, and he started to climb out of the ditch, waving his arms frantically.
Applejack jumped on him, driving him to the ground, and he heard rather than saw the explosion. Writhing around so he could see, his eyes went wide at the concentric rings of color that passed over his head, moments before a mass of flying debris blocked his view. Johnathon turned his head and threw his arms over his face, only to be buried in pieces of the barn a moment later.
He tore his way out of the rubble, Applejack doing the same just beside him, and rose to his feet to see the blast hole where the barn had once stood. Rainbow Dash hovered just above the pile of rubble, waving cheerfully at them, and obviously unharmed.
"What the hell?" the archeologist stared at the scene in utter confusion. Applejack tried to explain, saying the cyan pegasus's first name several times, and another word he didn't know. Applejack said it again, pointing at the barn, then throwing her hooves out wide, and making a sound like an explosion. Johnathon blinked. "Rain... boom?" he blinked. "Oh! That was a... Sonic Rainboom?" he said the words in English, causing the cowpony to blink in confusion.
Twilight nodded, looking distressed for some reason. "Yes." she told him in English. "Sonic Rainboom." she repeated the words in Equestrian for him and he dutifully repeated them before she wandered off, looking upset.
"What...?" he turned to Applejack, who was walking towards the ruin of her old barn, grinning merrily as she called out thanks to Rainbow Dash. "What's wrong with Twilight?" he wondered out loud.
Big Macintosh and another male pony with three horse shoes on his flank joined him, Applejack and Rainbow Dash in clearing up the rubble, and Johnathon forgot the worried expression on the Purple Unicorn's face. if she had a problem, surely she would tell her friends, or him?
They cleared the majority of the rubble by mid afternoon, and Applejack went into the kitchen to prepare for what was apparently a picnic. After several tries, she managed to explain that she and her friends were meeting for a picnic in the scenic park just outside of town, and he was welcome to join them.
"Bring Cheerilee?" he asked her, after thinking a moment for the proper phrase.
Applejack shrugged and nodded, and Johnathon set off towards home. From the position of the sun, she would probably be getting back soon.
Cheerilee's grasp of English was already good enough that he was able to pass on the invitation relatively easily, and, after preparing a salad to bring with them, the two of them headed off into the park. Twilight and the rest of her friends were already there. Applejack had spread a blanket, and most of them were lounging comfortably upon it, although for some reason, Rarity had brought along the fainting couch from her shop to lay on.
Twilight was looking frazzled, and she stomped away, teleporting from sight after only a few strides, before Johnathon and Cheerilee could even reach the scene. Cheerilee looked concerned, and, translating for Johnathon while she asked after Twilight, they soon discovered the source of her distress.
"She's late with a... friendship letter?" He asked in English, puzzled. "Why would she get in trouble for that?" he repeated the question in his halting Equestrian, and Cheerilee helped him find the right words so he could ask the others. He got a few shrugs, and just as many chuckles.
"Twilight is being Twilight." Cheerilee translated, frowning slightly, then shrugged. "We can't help unless she ask." she told him in English, shrugging, and he sighed and nodded. There was plenty of food. Pinkie Pie, Fluttershy and Applejack especially seemed to always try to bring something that he could eat, and he had worked hard that day, so he settled down to enjoy the picnic. The girls relaxed, chatting quietly with each other, although they didn't seem mind when he asked for them to repeat themselves, or when Cheerilee translated for him. Everyone seemed content to take it easy, there didn't seem to be any rush.
The sun was starting to dip towards the horizon when Applejack sat up. "You all hear that?" she said with a worried expression. Johnathon wasn't certain he had translated it right, until he heard the thunder of many hooves headed in their general direction, and a horde of ponies, chasing what appeared to be the mayor, trampled through the middle of their picnic site.
Johnathon stood up, trying to figure out what was happening. The major seemed to be carrying something in her mouth... something that a pegasus snatched away as he watched, only to have a second pegasus grab hold for a brief tug of war which ended up sending the object... a doll of some sort, flying to the ground below.
Twilight teleported into their midst, grabbing Rainbow Dash by the head and forcing the cyan pegasus to look at her. She cried out something that sounded like a warning, but all Johnathon caught was the fact that she was extremely anxious about something. He stared in the direction of the doll again, wondering what the commotion was about, and started to walk slowly in that direction, eyes fixed on the... wonderful... magical.... doll.
He had to have it! Lyra and Bon Bon reached it ahead of him, and ponies were converging from all sides as he broke into a run. A panicked cry from behind him, in English, telling him to stop, only spurred him on. Stop? They just wanted it for themselves!
Johnathon leapt, landing on top of the two struggling ponies with both feet, driving them both into the ground and ripping the doll away from them with his hands as he stumbled clear of their prone forms. Still upright, Johnathon broke into a run, stuffing the doll under his left arm like a football as ponies headed for him from all sides. Going low and hitting the major in the neck with a shoulder block, he whirled past Big Mac, dived under a cross eyed grey pegasus, who, missing him, collided with the mayor on the ground, then put out a palm with a solid forearm behind it to catch Berry Punch in the jaw as she tried to jump him, sending the mare spinning to the ground.
A carrot seller from the market blocked his path, along with the cutie mark crusaders, and he took off at a ninety degree angle to avoid them, only to have Big Mac coming at him from the opposite direction. Flanked on one side by four hundred pounds of angry red stallion, and on the other side by three fifty pound fillies and a rather unathletic mare, his choice was obvious. Johnathon tossed the doll up into the air over the Crusader's heads as he dived into their midst, tossing Applebloom at Big Mac and sweeping the other two off their feet before tripping the adult mare with the carrot cutie mark. Big Mac, slowed for only a moment by his little sister bouncing off his chest, was just behind the man as Johnathon rolled to his feet, reaching out for the falling doll...
An angry voice called out Twilight's name, and a light bathed the area, clearing his mind all at once. Johnathon finished rolling to his feet, Big Mac gently bumping into him from behind as the doll hit the ground in front of them.
There was an awkward silence as everypony looked at their neighbors, rising to their feet and dusting themselves off. As a group, they walked over to take one good look at the doll, and, with a general look of embarrassment, started to disperse in every direction, some of them glancing up at the Princess of the Sun, who was slowly descending toward Twilight and her friends, a decidedly angry look on her face.
Johnathon's heart was pounding, and his whole body shuddered from the adrenaline that was every now draining away, and he reached down to help Sweetie Bell to her feet before going over to check on Apple Bloom. His breath came easier when he determined that the little yellow filly had suffered no worse than bruises, and having the breath knocked out of her. He helped her to her feet, and glanced over again at the Princess, who's radiance had dimmed to a faint glow as she landed in front of a prostrate Twilight. Princess Celestia spoke, and Johnathon made out enough to realize that she had ordered her student to her own library, when the Princess's eyes found his, and a worried expression crossed over her face for just a moment. Gazing at the ponies around him quickly, the Princess's worry cleared, and she nodded at him once before flying off toward town.
Johnathon watched as Twilight slunk off, head low, following the princess, and he slowly walked toward her friends, confusion spreading across his face. "What...?" he stammered in Equestrian, trying to find the words in his limited vocabulary, but his thoughts were racing, his head was pounding, and the words wouldn't come. "What?" he asked again, not sure what he was even trying to ask.
"Twilight... bad trouble." Cheerilee told him in English, looking worried as Twilight's other friends talked amongst themselves, looking panicked and upset. From what he could make out, they were greatly concerned that the Princess would take Twilight back to Canterlot with her, presumably as part of a punishment.
"Twilight did that?!?" Johnathon demanded of Cheerilee angrily, pointing back at where the doll had lain (not realizing that Big Macintosh had already made off with it). Cheerilee frowned, then nodded, looking upset herself.
Applejack, Pinkie, Rainbow Dash, Rarity and Fluttershy all hurried toward the library as well, and Johnathon let them go, still seething. "What the hell was she thinking?" he fumed. "I could have killed somepony tonight."
Cheerilee hesitantly moved closer, looking up into his face in concern. "You... not killer." she told him with a worried frown.
"But I hurt..." he pointed back at towards where he had struggled with the others for possession of the doll. "I hurt Apple Bloom, and she wasn't the only one."he sank to his knees. "I lost control. I completely lost control. I could have seriously injured somepony."
Cheerilee shook her head, putting a hoof on his shoulder. "Not Johnathon's fault." she told him firmly. "Spell make crazy." she sighed, and said something in Equestrian, sounding frustrated, but Johnathon was too upset himself to understand her.
He crossed his legs and sat on the ground, starting at nothing, and Cheerilee sat next to him, leaning lightly against his side in mute companionship. He wasn't sure how much time had passed when a white shadow passed over head, circled, and landed in front of him. Princess Celestia gazed down at him with a sad, but gentle expression on her face. She lowered her horn, and a soft white light enveloped him.
"Hello Johnathon." she said softly. "Are you alright?"
Johnathon blinked. "Did you learn English?" he blinked. "Oh, you cast the translation spell."
The Princess nodded. "Twilight has written me of your progress, and explained your desire to learn our language the hard way. Most commendable." she smiled softly. "She has also sent me instructions on how to shorten the spell's duration. I have used the... one hour version of the spell on you. I hope you don't mind."
Johnathon shook his head. "No." he smiled slightly. "No, of course not. I could use some answers...." he lowered his head slightly. "Sorry... I don't mean to imply you owe me any answers, of course."
The Princess simply laughed. "Do you not? It was, after all, my faithful student who has so upset you tonight, is it not?"
Cheerilee, who had been on the ground in a deep bow up till that moment, finally dared to look up. "Princess Celestia. What did happen?"
The Princess sighed. "Some time ago, I instructed Twilight to send me regular reports on her findings on the Magic of Friendship, and she has faithfully sent me letters each week with what she has discovered." she smiled slightly at the incredulous look on Johnathon's face. "It is not so unusual a thing, if you consider the fact that Twilight's bond with her friends is what saved us, not only from Nightmare Moon, but from Discord. Friendship is what powers the Elements of Harmony, after all."
Johnathon blinked. "Well, alright... but what happened tonight?"
Princess Celestia sighed. "Twilight apparently had convinced herself that if I did not receive a punctual weekly report, I would be angry with her, and take her from her home here." she shook her head with a wry smile. "In part, I suppose it is my fault. I should have made it clear to her that I did not require any more than she could learn on her own. Naturally as she has increased her knowledge of friendship, it grows gradually more difficult to discover things she has not already learned. She is a most... diligent student."
Cheerilee blinked. "Oh my." She tried not to chuckle. "Oh Twilight... that silly filly." she blushed, glancing at the Princess guiltily.
Celestia only smiled. "She is young, and worries too much for the approval of her mentor. She will grow wiser with time." she frowned slightly, turning to Johnathon. "I am sorry my student caused you pain, Mister Dwire. I am sure she will offer her own sincere apology when she next sees you."
Johnathon frowned. "I... I want to be generous... but...." he shook his head. "That wasn't... it wasn't OK. I lost control. I could have hurt somepony. I've spent most of my life learning control, and losing it all like that? It wasn't OK."
Celestia's gaze softened. "But you did not harm any of my little ponies, did you? You could have, and the humans I knew centuries ago would have, I think." she gazed down at him thoughtfully. "I have heard more about your time here, Johnathon, than perhaps you know. I know you are capable of doing great harm, but you did not."
Johnathon frowned. "Only.. only because there wasn't any real threat in my way. I... if one of the others had been a serious threat... if I had thought I needed to use more force... even deadly force to get that... stupid doll... I'm not sure if I would have been able not to."
Princess Celestia raised an eyebrow. "Were you actually able to think while that spell was on you? I am familiar with its effects, and it seems unlikely that you would have been capable of rational thought."
Johnathon blinked. "Well, no... I just kind of... reacted." he shook his head. "That's just it, I've trained in the martial arts for most of my life! I don't need to think, my body just reacts to any threat... automatically."
Princess Celestia nodded. "I see. So why did you not truly harm anypony tonight?"
Johnathon blinked. "Well... they weren't really a threat. I mean, I might have done something more drastic if I had ended up having to take the stupid thing away from Big Mac... but most of those ponies, they're not dangerous. Heck, Big Mac isn't really all that dangerous if you don't let him use his strength...."
Princess Celestia smiled. "My little ponies are not predators, Mister Dwire, and you are not a hunter of prey. You have trained yourself only to harm other predators."
Johnathon's mouth opened, and he looked confused for several seconds, then shook his head. "I...." he frowned, then looked up at her in confusion. "How? I mean... yeah, I think you're probably right, but... how did you know that?" he raised an eyebrow. "Can you read minds, or something?"
Princess Celestia smiled. "I did not have to read your mind, Johnathon Dwire, to understand a bit more about you then you might guess. I have known warriors before, ponies who loved peace, but who were forced to fight to protect others. They too feared that they would harm those around them." she smiled. "But the gentle ones, the ones who fought to protect? They, like you, would not act to harm the innocent."
Johnathon snorted. "Well, not harm them much. I dished out some nasty bruises, and maybe a sprain or two..."
Celestia smiled softly. "You are forgiven, Johnathon Dwire." she smiled. "My heart is much eased. While I felt you to be a man who could control the beast within himself, I did not know if, like many of your kind, if you hid something more dangerous deep inside your heart. I am pleased to know that you are truly a man of peace." she started to flap her wings, lifting off the ground. "You are welcome in my lands, Johnathon Dwire. Truly welcome. Be at peace with yourself."
Johnathon sighed. "I'll try." he said softly as the Princess lifted into the sky. With a flash of light, she was gone.
Cheerilee hugged him from the side. "Do you really control yourself all the time?" she asked softly.
Johnathon frowned. "Well, yeah. I never drink alcohol, because I'm always worried about what I might do if I lost control." he shrugged. "When I was young, I hurt people. Oh, sure it was in self defense, but I did some real damage... not every time, but when I was feeling really threatened, or if I was injured bad in a fight and I was afraid...."
He sighed. "As I got older, I controlled it. I stopped hurting people who tried to hurt me, but I do feel that anger sometimes. I know how to hurt... to kill, even if I've never actually killed anyone... anypony on purpose, I know how. I could do it so easily."
Cheerilee shook her head. "I don't believe that." she looked at him seriously. "Oh, I believe that you know how. You are a... skilled human, and you aren't one to lie, but I don't believe it would be easy for you. Not in the slightest."
Johnathon met her gaze, and smiled. "Well... I suppose not. I guess there is that."
Cheerilee nodded. "It's something very important. You're a good pony... a good... man. The Princess trusts you, and I think she's right. You are not dangerous. Not to us. Not to the ponies of Equestria."
Johnathon looked at her, trying to think of something to say to that, then, failing he simply pushed himself to his feet. "Let's go home." he said with a shrug.
Cheerilee looked up at him, then rose as well. "Don't you want to talk to Twilight?"
He shook his head. "She probably feels bad enough already." he shrugged. "I'll yell at her tomorrow."
Cheerilee grinned slightly. "You won't be able to speak Equestrian properly tomorrow."
Johnathon smirked. "I'll yell at her in English. Trust me, she'll figure it out." chuckling lightly together, the two of them walked toward the town, and their home.