Life was slowly but surely falling into a comfortable routine, but there were still exceptions.
Nightmare Night was a fascinating event to the archeologist, who found it interesting the parallels between Equestrian types of celebration and those on his own world. Of course, here, the mysterious figure of legend that the celebration was about was, in fact, a very real creature. Thanks to Twilight Sparkle, Johnathon knew the truth behind the legend, but he wondered how much truth there really was behind it all.
"Nightmare Night, What a fright, give us something good to bite!" Johnathon had heard the traditional greeting a dozen times already that night, and he smiled as he handed out pieces of candy to each of the young fillies and colts that had come to Cheerilee's door seeking candy. Thanking him, the small group of young ponies ran on toward the next house for more candy. The school teacher's home was a favorite destination for the young ponies that had grown up learning under the gentle guidance of the purple earth pony. Cheerilee always went the extra mile for the celebration, and Johnathon had pitched in as well, decorating her home and yard in spiderwebs, bats, and even a large dark silhouette of a unicorn's head with an usual draconic eye over the entrance-way.
"I still can't believe that was on the moon for a thousand years..." Johnathon said with a shake of his head, nodding at the image of Nightmare Moon.
Cheerilee nodded, smiling at him. "Actually, I find it hard to believe it's gone. The Mare in the Moon has been part of the moon my entire life. Every time I see the moon these days, it seems... emptier somehow." Cheerilee and Johnathon had been taking turns answering the door all night. Cheerilee herself had an excellent Nightmare Moon costume, with fake wings and a prosthetic horn along with the traditional pieces of armor, although she told Johnathon, privately, that the real thing had been much more frighting. She always got complements on her costume when she was the one to get the door.
Johnathon, on the other hand, had decided to go with something from his own world, and was dressed up as a Centaur. Rarity had done a fantastic job at the pony body he was wearing, but apparently, Centaur myths weren't a part of Equestrian's lore, and his costume mainly got confused stares, and some quiet snickering.
They were speaking in English, mainly. Although Johnathon did his best to use Equestrian whenever he could, when they were in private, and talking casually, they often slipped into English. Cheerilee's progress had both astonished and embarrassed the archeologist. While her mastery of written English still had a long way to go, her speech was now, although accented, nearly as good as a native speaker of the language. Twilight Sparkle had progressed nearly as far, although how the overworked unicorn had managed was a constant mystery.
"You actually saw Nightmare Moon when she returned, right?" Johnathon asked the school teacher curiously. "No pony likes to talk about it much, but it was at the start of the summer sun celebration, right?"
Cheerilee nodded, thinking back. "We were gathered in the town hall. We'd waited throughout the night for Princess Celestia to arrive and raise the sun... but instead, she appeared."
Johnathon blinked once. "Wait. Nightmare Moon appeared at dawn?"
Cheerilee nodded slowly, looking curious. "Yes. Well, right before dawn was supposed to rise, in any event."
Johnathon frowned. "Huh. I've never heard the whole story before." he looked curiously at her. "So... what happened next exactly? I've heard a bit about this from Twilight, but she obviously skipped some details."
Cheerilee looked thoughtful. "Well, she appeared... as if she formed out of the mist. No pony knew what was going on, Princess Celestia was missing, and this strange, dark alicorn was standing in her place, claiming to be our ruler. Only Twilight Sparkle really knew what was going on, and who she was... although I think many of us suspected the truth. She told us that the night would never end... and then she was gone. Twilight rushed off, and her other friends followed her, guessing that Twilight must know something useful, I guess, but the rest of us? I'm ashamed to say we mostly just panicked. After all, who could stand up to somepony that had defeated Princess Celestia, and stopped the sun from rising?"
Johnathon hesitated. "What happened next?" he finally asked.
"I did my best to calm the children. They were frantic. We waited for hours... it was actually most of a day before the sun finally did rise, almost a whole day later." Cheerilee recalled.
Johnathon blinked. "So... the sun was supposed to rise, but it was... a full day late?"
Cheerilee nodded again. "Yes. It was so strange. The sun went back to it's regular schedule after that, although we did have a few extra minutes of sunlight every day for a week afterwords... I think Princess Celestia was giving the crops that might have suffered from the lack of sunlight some extra help, so that they'd have more time to grow."
Johnathon shook his head. "I should have caught that earlier. It really did... the sun really did fail to come up for an entire day. How is that possible?"
Cheerilee blinked. "What do you mean, how is it possible? I would think that it's obvious, isn't it?" she gestured to herself, wearing the Nightmare Moon costume. "When Nightmare Moon returned, she must have imprisoned Celestia somehow, and then didn't raise the sun. When Twilight and her friends defeated her, Celestia came back, and raised the sun."
Johnathon hesitated, then shook his head. "I heard that part from Twilight... it's just... I don't know, I just kind of dismissed it at the time."
Cheerilee looked confused. "What do you mean? Why wouldn't you believe Twilight?"
Johnathon shook his head. "it's not that I didn't believe her... I just... found parts of the story a bit... er... harder to believe than others." he shook his head. "It's not that important. I'm just trying to wrap my head around details of your world that are very different than mine."
Cheerilee frowned. "Johnathon, what aren't you telling me? I can tell when you're holding something back."
He chuckled. "You know me pretty well, I guess." he shrugged, then turned to her, his face going serious. "Actually, I've been wanting to talk about this for awhile now, but I've been avoiding the subject, pretty much because I don't want to... well, rock the boat, so to speak." he smiled softly. "But I've already broken a few boundaries there, at least where you're concerned."
Cheerilee frowned, beginning to look concerned herself. "You mean about what we think we might have found out about the... Elements of Harmony?"
The archeologist nodded. "Yeah, that's obviously not common knowledge, and it'd be pretty damaging if it was, I think. The mental trouble I'm having right now is something along the same lines, so if you'd prefer I keep it to myself, I'd understand. It's probably not something you'd be really comfortable hearing."
Cheerilee hesitated. "But you'd feel better if you shared these thoughts with somepony?"
Johnathon shook his head. "I don't know. Sharing your worries is a good idea in theory, but not if it just makes somepony else worry, when they don't have to." he frowned. "And besides, I don't think you'd like hearing it."
Cheerilee nodded once, and the two of them went silent for awhile. There was another knock at the door, and Cheerilee got up and answered the door, and gave out candy to the small group of costumed young ponies that were outside.
"Great Costume, Miss Cheerilee!" came a familiar voice.
"Thank you Spike." Cheerilee said in Equestrian. "And you would be... a Dragon, I suppose?" she smiled slightly, still looking a bit distracted.
"Are you alright, Cheerilee?" Twilight Sparkle said as she approached the doorway, following her candy toting assistant around as he collected treats. "You seem preoccupied." she glanced inside and waved at Johnathon, speaking in English. "Hello Johnathon!" she said cheerfully. "Are you dressed up as a pony this year?"
He blinked. "Er... a centaur." he explained for the dozenth time that night. "Half man, half horse. Part of the mythology on my world." he grinned. "Along with Unicorns and pegasi."
Twilight chuckled. "Well, I'm afraid we don't have any Centaurs in Equestria. I guess that one really must just be a myth."
He shrugged. "Unless they come from another dimension that Discord opened a gate to? Maybe I should ask Princess Celestia about them sometime, see if she's ever met one."
Twilight smiled at him. "That would be interesting! I wonder if either of the Princesses visited any other worlds besides yours?"
Johnathon shrugged. "Guess the only way we'd know would be to ask."
Twilight nodded again. "Well, have a good nightmare night." she glanced again at Cheerilee questioningly.
Cheerilee glanced back at Johnathon, who shook his head slightly, then turned back to Twilight Sparkle. "You too, Twilight. Have fun." she peered at Twilight's costume for a moment, as if trying to figure it out. "Um... are you supposed to Merlin?" she guessed finally. "From that story Johnathon told us about the Knights of the Round Table?"
Twilight sighed. "Why doesn't any pony recognize Star Swirl the Bearded!" she complained. "He's only one of the most important unicorns in magical history!" she sighed and turned to go. "Well, good night, Johnathon, Cheerilee. Have a good evening."
After the door closed, Cheerilee turned to Johnathon. "I think I want to hear it... whatever it is." she said finally. "Although I don't know why, really. The last revelation wasn't easy to deal with."
Johnathon hesitated. "Well... go ahead and take all this with a grain of salt." he began. "Because I already know that things work differently here, but, when I first arrived, I simply couldn't believe that Princess Celestia, or any pony, could have the power to raise the sun and moon." he shook his head. "It just never occurred to me that it might actually be true, it seemed too... impossible."
Cheerilee blinked. "I... don't understand. You've seen a lot of magic while you're been here. Why is it so difficult to believe?"
Johnathon shook his head. "You'd have to have lived on my world, I think, to really understand. I think it's my own knowledge of my world's sciences that is handicapping me here." he looked at Cheerilee seriously. "You know that there isn't any magic on my world, right?" he asked. "Have you ever wondered how the sun and moon move where I come from?"
Cheerilee blinked. "Actually, now that you mention it, I hadn't wondered. I didn't really know that you had a sun and moon, although I suppose it would be strange if you didn't." she looked curious. "How do you move your sun and moon then, if you don't have magic? Do you have one of those... rockets you told me about push them around?"
Johnathon shook his head. "No. In fact, they move on their own.... as does my planet." he hesitated. "Now... you may find some of this hard to believe, but people from my world have actually been out into space, and seen this with their own eyes... to a degree, anyway. We've known these things for many years, through mathematical study, but while no theory is one hundred percent perfect, we do know some basic facts about our solar system."
Cheerilee frowned, as if wanting to ask a question, then shook her head. "I'm not sure I follow, but go on. If I can figure out a question I want to ask, I'll let you know."
Johnathon nodded, then plowed on. "Well, for starters, on my world, the sun doesn't orbit around our planet, our planet orbits around our sun."
Cheerilee blinked. "How... peculiar." she finally told him. "Are you sure?"
He nodded. "Very. Our sun is... approximately ninety three million miles from our planet, and it's thousands of times larger than our entire planet as well. Our planet rotates around it once in a year."
Cheerilee frowned, trying to picture that. "Er... OK? I don't really get it."
Johnathon grinned. "Yeah, this one is a bit complicated." he walked over to a standing lamp, and held out a hand. "Pretend my hand is my planet, Earth, and the lamp is the sun."
Cheerilee nodded again. "OK."
He made a fist, and slowly rotated his hand around the lamp. "So our earth goes around our sun like this... see?"
Cheerilee nodded again, slowly. "Once a year...." she frowned. "Er... does that mean that it takes a whole year for your whole world to get light?" she pointed a hoof at his hand. "I mean... I noticed that only one part of your hand has light shining on it at a time, right?"
Johnathon blinked. "Oh, right." he nodded. "Well, our planet rotates as well, kind of... spins around and around as it goes, so every side faces the sun every day. Our day's are the same length as yours, pretty much, but it's caused by our planet rotating..." he made a gesture with his finger to indicate the motion, then moved his rotating finger around the lamp. "So our planet rotates on it's axis every day, and around the sun once a year... get it?"
Cheerilee looked thoughtful. "Yes... that makes sense, I think. It's a bit strange, but, I guess I can see how that would work." she shook her head. "But what a complicated system. And what makes your planet move like that?"
Johnathon grinned. "Would you believe gravity?"
Cheerilee blinked. "But gravity makes objects fall to the ground, doesn't it?"
Johnathon shook his head again. "Gravity is a force between all matter, pulling it together... the larger the mass, the greater the force of it's gravity. The sun in my universe pulls on the earth, and vice versa, and that keeps my planet rotating around it," he hesitated. "OK, er... wait, I need something to demonstrate with."
He rooted around in the kitchen cupboards till he found some string, and tied one end of the string around an apple. "So... pretend that the force of gravity is this string...." he started, spinning the apple by the string. "It keeps the apple from flying away from my hand... and the force of the apple spinning is what keeps it pulling against the string, that makes it want to fly away...." he shrugged. "The gravity from our sun keeps our planet from flying away, but the speed of our planet going around the sun keeps the sun's gravitational pull from pulling our planet into our sun... they're equal, and constant."
Cheerilee put a hoof up to her head. "You're kidding, right? That sounds way too complicated. I mean... what are the odds that those two forces would be the same? Wouldn't it be more likely that your planet would just... I don't know, keep flying away? Or that it would get pulled into your sun?" she grimaced. "Although that sounds bad, now that I think about it."
Johnathon sighed. "Now that I think about it, this is a pretty difficult concept without knowing a lot of the basics, but for now, I'll simply say that our solar system formed like that... with everything spinning around our sun, and it's been stable for... millions of years."
Cheerilee nodded slowly. "Well, I'll take your word on it for now." she blinked. "Oh! I get it, you must have had the same trouble understanding how our world works as I'm having understanding yours!"
Johnathon nodded, looking thoughtful. "Yes, that's true enough. You see, our star... well, it's... bigger than anypony could really imagine. Like I said, it's a thousand times bigger than our whole planet. The thought of anypony moving it... causing something like that to rise every day? It's... not something I can wrap my mind around."
Cheerilee tried to imagine it and failed, although she had a sense of the vastness he was speaking of. "Is your world very small?"
Johnathon shook his head. "No. In fact, I've seen your maps, and if the scales are accurate, your own world isn't any bigger than mine I think. So the sun from my world would be a thousand times bigger than this world as well."
Cheerilee blinked again. "I can't imagine." she shook her head. "But... why would any of this bother me? It's strange, certainly, but... it's not terribly disturbing."
Johnathon frowned, then nodded. "Well, I thought that the fact that I didn't really believe that Princess Celestia moves your sun and moon would bother you."
Cheerilee thought about that. "Well, if you hadn't explained, it might have. I mean, everypony will tell you that the Princess raises the sun, and not believing us about that... well, I suppose it's like you're accusing us of lying to you," she frowned. "But... well, if I didn't know you so well, I'd say you were lying about your own sun... except, well, I know you don't have magic there, at least none you know about, and I know you wouldn't lie to me about this, even if I can't understand it."
Johnathon sighed. "You're being more generous than I've been. I honestly thought... that Celestia was... I don't know, pretending to raise the sun and moon. I still don't understand how she could do it," he frowned. "Twilight tells me that before Princess Celestia and Princess Luna arrived and defeated Discord, a group of powerful unicorns used to do the job... which means that, oh, 13 unicorns no more powerful than Twilight herself, if she's right, could actually raise the sun in the morning and move it across the sky!" he shook his head helplessly. "I know how strong Twilight is... and it's incredible, but I can't imagine even a thousand unicorns combined being strong enough to move anything as big as a sun."
Cheerilee blinked. "I suppose I can understand why you're having trouble," she shook her head. "I don't understand it myself... but... I do know that it's worked that way for thousands of years."
Johnathon looked curious. "What about before that? How did the sun and moon move before the Unicorns moved them."
Cheerilee blinked. "Well... nopony knows. That was before we recorded history. Perhaps the unicorns always moved the sun and moon?"
Johnathon groaned, and put a hand to his forehead. "Everything has a beginning and an end, Cheerilee," he hesitated. "Everything in my world does, anyway," he shook his head. "I... I've been afraid to talk about this with Twilight, even though I figure she'd understand what I'm talking about better than most ponies... because I'm afraid that... well, ponies won't appreciate me questioning what they believe... have believed for so very long."
Cheerilee frowned. "Do you think Princess Celestia would be angry with you if you didn't believe?"
Johnathon shook his head. "I don't know. Maybe she wouldn't be. She does seem quite... understanding, but...." he sighed. "But this sort of thing, if I caused some ponies to question her...." he shook his head. "Well, I don't want to do that. I don't know if any harm would come of it, but I'd prefer not to take chances."
Cheerilee nodded slowly. "Well, If you want, I won't mention it to anypony, but, maybe you should talk to Twilight about this anyway? She's a very smart pony. Maybe she could answer your questions better than I could."
There was another knock on the door, and Johnathon rose to answer it. "I'll think about it. I've actually been wanting to read up on the subject in her library before talking to her about it... and I still can't read Equestrian well at all."
Cheerilee smiled at him. "Well, ask her for some books on the subject, and I'll help you translate them. It'll be good practice!"
Johnathon grinned at her, then nodded. "I'll do that," he turned to the door, and opened it, one hand already full of candy to give away.
The Nightmare Night celebration had been a memorable one that year, although, having stayed in most of the night, Cheerilee and Johnathon ended up missing out on most of the excitement with Princess Luna's arrival. Still, the younger princess's visit was the talk of the town for weeks afterwords.
Cheerilee had started jogging in the mornings after breakfast and before school, wanting to get ready for the Running of the Leaves Celebration, and Johnathon had started joining her. She had been surprised that the human was able to keep up with her on her jogs. While she wasn't the most athletic pony in town, the fact that a two legged creature could keep up with her for a several mile jog each day was more than a little surprising.
Running with a partner, even a two legged one, was more fun than running alone, and Johnathon was a fun partner to run with. He seemed to enjoy competing with her, either running ahead and daring her to try and catch him, or chasing her from behind. Being chased by the human always sent a slight shiver down her spine. Something inside her reacted to what could only be the predator in him, but she didn't really mind the small tingle. When she let herself feel a little tingle of fear, it was more fun that truly frightening, and it made her push harder than she ever had before.
By the time the of the day of the actual Running of the Leaves race, Cheerilee found herself in the best shape of her life. Johnathon, on the other hand, had been having more and more trouble keeping up with her, especially if she went into a full gallop. He could still keep up with her over long distances, but she was now able to outrun him in a shorter race with little effort. He was capable of surprising bursts of speed, but not of sustaining them for nearly as long as she could, now that she was finally getting into shape.
The race was fun. She, Johnathon, and Twilight Sparkle ran most of the race together, although, when the finish line came into sight, she and Twilight had pulled ahead of Johnathon, and, in fact, raced ahead of most of the rest of the pack. Cheerilee was thrilled to come in fourth that year, to Twilight's sixth place finish. Johnathon had been near the back of the pack, but had still managed to outrace several dozen embarrassed looking ponies.
As she watched the human running the last leg to the finish line, she marveled at how well he had adapted, and more so, to how well the ponies of Ponyville had adapted to his presence in their midst. While it was obvious that some of them were more than a little disgruntled to be beaten in a race by the human, there was no fear, and next to no resentment at his presence among them. As he came panting to a halt, she walked over to congratulate him.
"You did very well, Johnathon!" she said politely in Equestrian, then grinned at him, switching to English. "In fact, you made some of these lazy mares run harder than I've ever seen them go... I don't think anypony wanted to lose to someone running on only two legs...." she chuckled.
"Glad... to... be... of... help." he wheezed in perfectly understandable Equestrian. During the last week or so, his language skills had taken a marked improvement, as if some sort of internal mental switch had been thrown. While he was still far from fluent, he was getting better at a noticeable rate now.
Twilight spoke up from close by. "You did really well yourself, Cheerilee!" the purple unicorn enthused. "SInce Applejack and Rainbow Dash decided to run seriously this year, I knew I probably wouldn't do quite as well, but you've really gotten fast! I guess all that practicing with Johnathon every morning must have paid off!"
Cheerilee nodded with a smile. "He's a good training partner," Twilight raised an eyebrow, glancing between the school teacher and the archeologist, and Cheerilee shook her head. "And a good friend, Twilight. Nothing more."
Johnathon chuckled. "This again?" he glanced at Cheerilee and grinned at her. "I'm ruining your reputation, Cheerilee, I tell you. No wonder you haven't been on a date since I've met you."
Cheerilee rolled her eyes. "Oh please. No pony takes those silly rumors seriously. Everyone knows the two of us are just friends."
Twilight shrugged. "I don't know... you two do seem pretty cozy when I see you together. I'm sure I'm not the only pony who's wondered if it might be something more." she raised a hoof. "I didn't really seriously consider it, just some idle thoughts."
Cheerilee glanced at the human, who had stripped off his tee shirt and was wiping the sweat off his brow with it. "Although Johnathon IS a fine looking human, I'm sure...." her gaze lingered for a moment on his stomach muscles. "He's not my type."
Johnathon grinned at her. "Checking out my abs?" he said, grinning, and slapping a hand against the four plainly visible muscles visible there. "I think I'm in the best shape of my life, and that's saying something," he winked at the school teacher. "And you're looking mighty trim and toned yourself, Cheerilee, if I do say so myself."
Cheerilee flushed slightly, then shook her head. "You are an incorrigible tease, Johnathon, but I know you well enough to know that you're just teasing me by now."
Johnathon shrugged. "Well, sure, although I'm not lying. You're as healthy as I've seen you, and you do look great. Just because I'm not physically attracted to ponies doesn't mean I can't appreciate beauty when I see it."
Cheerilee flushed deeper. "Johnathon, I'm not beautiful."
Twilight shook her head. "Don't sell yourself short, Cheerilee. I happen to agree with Johnathon. You really are very pretty. I'm sure there's a half dozen stallions in town that would agree with me."
Cheerilee looked bashful. "Well, if so, they're haven't seen fit to mention it."
Johnathon frowned. "Heck... that's probably my fault. I mean... the ponies around here have pretty much grown used to me by now... but, well, I do take up most of your time when your not at school. You've been so busy helping me learn Equestrian, you haven't gone out on your own more than..." he frowned. "Have you even gone out and had any fun since I've met you?"
Cheerilee blinked. "Why, we went on that picnic with Twilight and the others...."
Johnathon raised an eyebrow. "Well yeah, but that was over a month ago! You really should get out and have some fun more often."
Cheerilee shrugged. "I do have fun. You've been teaching me those games from your world... chess, and checkers?"
He grinned. "They're not all that different from some of the games you have here." the archeologist noted. "I've been meaning to learn your version of chess. I've noticed some older ponies playing in the park, and I could use some good competition," he winced. "Er, not that you're not a good player, Cheerilee."
Cheerilee laughed. "Don't be silly. I'm just a beginner at those games. Besides, didn't you tell me that those sorts of games were part of your special talent?"
Johnathon frowned. "Well, sort of. I'm better at games that have more rules... the more realistic, the better I am at them. I'm certainly a lot better at chess than I am at checkers, but there are board games with more complex rules that I'm better at still... although I haven't seen anything comparable here," he shrugged. "Not that I'm surprised. I don't see your society putting a lot of effort into very realistic war games."
Cheerilee looked sympathetic. "It's too bad, I know it's something you enjoy."
Twilight spoke up. "Maybe you could make one, Johnathon? I'd be interested in seeing what sorts of games you played on your world."
Johnathon blinked. "I'll think about it. Just like some of the more violent stories on my world, some of the games from my world probably wouldn't go over as well here. I might come up with something, however... to pass the time," he grinned and shrugged. "Although it might be awhile. I've still got a lot I want to do first," he sighed. "I just wish I could read your language better. I'm learning, but reading is still such slow going!" he glanced at the purple unicorn. "Speaking of slow going... how is your research coming along?"
Twilight started to walk towards town, and the two of them followed behind, moving at a comfortable pace. "Actually, I do have some news." Twilight told them as they got out of earshot of the crowd still at the finish line of the race. "I've been blocked for awhile now on the same problem, that is, trying to sustain the energy for a complex spell over a longer duration, and I've been thinking I need to come at it from a different angle."
Johnathon looked curious. "Oh? What sort of angle?"
Twilight hesitated. "Well, Strangehorn the Mad had a number of spells that he created for dealing with the possible consequences of a journey to another dimension, including an extended transformation spell. You see, he reasoned that creatures from another world might not look anything like a pony, and if they were hostile to alien forms of life, it might be dangerous.. so he came up with an extended transformation spell. According to his notes, he successfully used it several times, but there was one unfortunate accident that caused him to suspend research on it. Unfortunately, he died before he managed to perfect it. Still, it's a much more complete spell then his dimensional gate spell, and I believe I've worked out the issues he was having with it!"
Johnathon blinked. "A transformation spell? You already can do those, can't you?"
Twilight nodded. "Yes, but those all have limited durations. For example, I turned four mice into horses, but that spell would only last half a day, and it did take quite a lot of energy. What I'm proposing is a spell that could sustain such a magical transformation for months, or even indefinitely if needed!"
Johnathon blinked. "Huh. You mean, you could turn yourself into a dragon or something?"
Twilight hesitated. "Dragons are notoriously resistant to magic, but... in theory, yes," she held up a hoof. "One of the problems with the spell is that it does not change the... inherent magical nature of the creature transformed. For most ponies, that wasn't a problem, but for a unicorn, an extended transformation into a creature without a horn was... dangerous."
Cheerilee frowned. "What made it so dangerous?"
Twilight hesitated. "Well, a unicorn expresses their magic through their horn. Without a horn, the magic is trapped within the body. This is not so dangerous for most unicorns... the magical build up can cause feedback through the body, which can cause painful headaches, and sometimes minor tissue damage, but for a unicorn with enough magical energy to cast the spell, it can be significantly worse," she frowned. "One of the researchers involved was quite gifted in her own right, and she tried casting the spell on herself, to transform herself into a pegasus pony. Unfortunately, after several days, the magical feedback caused her to..." Twilight winced. "Well, she collapsed, and if Starswirl the Bearded had not been able to reverse the spell, it is thought that she might have died," she frowned. "The description of her symptoms was pretty disturbing."
Twilight shrugged. "But, in theory, most other creatures shouldn't have a problem with the spell! A pegasus pony would most likely retain their ability to walk on clouds, regardless of their form, and an Earth Pony would still be naturally stronger, and healthier...." she glanced at Cheerilee. "This is all still theoretical, of course."
Johnathon frowned. "So... your next step is testing this, I suppose?"
Twilight nodded slowly. "Yes... I've been doing tests on plants... and in theory it should work fine on a pony, but I've been reluctant to ask for a volunteer, and... unfortunately, it's probably unwise for me to experiment on myself."
Johnathon grimaced. "With how powerful you are, you'd probably explode or something if you couldn't use your magic..."
Twilight winced. "Well... it would take several days before I suffered any serious side effects, I think, but since the spell would last for weeks at least... and since besides myself, and most likely the princesses, I don't know of any pony who could reverse the spell, it's probably best if I don't use it on myself, at least not yet."
Johnathon frowned. "So... you need a volunteer, right?"
Twilight hesitated. "Actually... I don't want to try any transformation spells on you just yet. Something you mentioned a while back, about spells having... what did you call it, the ability to pull information from a collective consciousness? Well, I'm worried that if I do transform you, the... collective consciousness won't have a human in it to draw information from, and I might not be able to change you back."
Johnathon blinked. "Er... wow. Yeah, that would be bad."
Twilight shrugged. "Actually, one good way of testing my theory would be by transforming a pony into a human... or rather, a female human. Since there isn't a female human on Equestria, if magic does need information from the... collective consciousness of the world, the spell shouldn't work... in theory."
Cheerilee spoke up. "What would happen if you tried to transform somepony into a... female human, and the spell didn't work?"
Twilight looked thoughtful. "One of two things. Either the spell would simply fail, and nothing would happen to the pony, or they would turn into... well, into a very close copy of Johnathon himself, as he's the only human on Equestria for the spell to get information on from."
Cheerilee frowned slightly. "Are those the only possibilities?"
Twilight hesitated. "Well, they are the two most likely possibilities, but I am pretty confident that the effects would be easily reversible, in any case," the purple unicorn shrugged slightly. "In any case, I'm not quite ready for any pony to volunteer. I still have at few more tests to try first," she hesitated. "Still, Johnathon, do you think I could get... er... a drop of blood? Maybe some hair? Even beyond doing transformation spells, I'll be wanting a focus if I want to find your dimension. It'll make it easier to make sure I've locked onto your dimension when I try searching for it."
Johnathon shrugged. "Sure... that's not a big deal," he glanced up at the Library, which they were coming up to as they spoke. "Do you have a needle, or something? I could do it myself, if you wanted. I'm not squeamish about blood."
Twilight blinked. "Er... I do have one inside. I have a specimen container prepared as well, actually."
The archeologist grinned. "Well then, far be it from me to hinder your research. Let's get you your sample."
Going inside, Twilight produced a sharp needle, a scissors, and a pair of small glass vials with rubber lined lids. "Here. Do you really want to do it? I don't know if I could actually stick myself...."
Johnathon chuckled. "Yeah, we did blood typing in school. I can poke my finger, no problem," He glanced at her. "Just a drop?"
Twilight nodded. "A single coherent drop will be plenty. And a single strand of hair, really. With magic, the smallest piece is sufficient, so long as it's a clean sample."
The archeologist took the needle and after a moment's hesitation, poked his finger, then squeezed out a drop of blood into one vial. After putting a small cotton bandage over his finger, he cut a piece of hair, and dropped several strands into the second vial.
Johnathon closed both vials and held them out to Twilight. "Will those do?"
The purple unicorn nodded quickly, taking them in her telekinesis, and putting them down on a shelf. "Well then...." she took a deep breath. "Actually, I do have an experiment in mind that will answer one of my questions... and it's not even slightly dangerous... probably."
Johnathon raised an eyebrow. "What's that?"
Twilight hesitated. "Well, I could try to use a regular transformation spell to turn some pony into a human... not Strangehorn's more permanent version, but just a regular old transformation. It wouldn't last very long.... moments... or perhaps a full day at most, depending on how much energy I put into it, but I would be able to test to see how exactly the... collective consciousness of magic works."
Cheerilee blinked. "You mean, transforming a pony into a human?"
Twilight nodded. "A female human. Since Johnathon is male, unless the magic can extrapolate somehow from him, it shouldn't work, but... if I try the spell, I'll know one way or another if that's a limit I'll have to be careful about."
Cheerilee nodded, then frowned. "I thought you said you weren't ready for a volunteer yet?"
Twilight blushed. "Well, I'm not, because... I'm going to try the spell on myself."
Cheerilee blinked. "On yourself?"
Johnathon frowned. "Wait just a minute! If something goes wrong, you're the only unicorn in town who's got the experience to fix it!"
Twilight shook her head. "It's a temporary spell! It will fade on it's own automatically. There's no risk. I've done dozens of transformations, and I've never had a problem."
Johnathon frowned. "Still, I'd be more comfortable if some pony else...."
Twilight shook her head. "No! If I do ask for a volunteer now, when it's as safe as this... if I can't take at least some of the risks myself, how could I ask anypony else to...?"
She shook her head. "No, I'm doing it myself. And I'm going to do it now," she lowered her horn toward Johnathon, and it started to glow, brighter and brighter, radiating outwards until it enveloped her entire body. The light seemed to reach out and touch him, lightly, as well, and he flinched, halfway wanting to rush forward and try and stop her, but afraid such an action might do more harm then good.
Then the light faded, and Twilight, or at least he assumed it was Twilight, collapsed shakily to the floor. "Did... did it work?"
The young woman sprawled on the floor was almost certainly human. medium length black hair spilled around her shoulders, and framed her face as she slowly pushed herself up off the library floor till she was on all fours, on her hands and knees. She slowly walked her feet forward under her body, till she was on her toes, still holding herself up awkwardly on her hands as well. With slow deliberation, she started to try and stand.
Johnathon went from staring incredulously at the girl to blushing fiercely, as it quickly became apparent that Twilight's spell hadn't included clothing. Of course not! The rational part of his mind told him. She wasn't wearing anything to begin with! Why would that have changed?
Twilight managed to stand for just a moment, her face becoming quite triumphant for just a moment before she started to topple, her eyes going wide. Instinctively, she threw out her arms for balance, only succeeding on overbalancing the other way.
Johnathon reacted instantly, rushing forward to catch her before she could face plant into the library floor, and the lithe warm body of the young woman thudded into his chest, his arms wrapping around her securely. Twilight's arms slowly wrapped around his back, and she grabbed on tight as well.
"Whoa..." she said softly. "OK, standing upright is going to require some practice," she grinned up at him, reaching her arms up to grab onto his shoulders and pull herself fully upright against him, using his body as both brace and handhold. "Thanks for the catch," she told him, blushing slightly in embarrassment at her clumsiness. She looked at his face in mild confusion. "Are you alright, Johnathon? You seem very flushed."
Johnathon pulled his arms away from where he was hugging her, and reached up gingerly to grasp her shoulders. "I'm fine..." he said with a small cough, pushing lightly on her shoulders to try and separate their bodies slightly.
Not wanting to fall, Twilight clung to him. "Careful!" she warned. "If you let go, I'm going to fall down!"
The archeologist closed his eyes and tilted his head backwards, taking a deep breath through his nose to try and calm down, which helped less than he had anticipated as the faint but unmistakable smell of a healthy, slightly sweaty human female came to his nostrils, aggravating the condition he was trying and failing to avoid.
Twilight blinked. "Johnathon, why are you poking me in the side?" she glanced down curiously at where his sweat pants, given to him by Rarity at his request after he started running on a regular basis, were tenting, pressing a certain part of his anatomy against her.
Johnathon grunted once, shook his head to clear it, and scooped Twilight off her feet, heading for her staircase. Cheerilee, who had already guessed what might be causing Johnathon so much distress, gasped aloud, putting a hoof over her mouth in shock as the archeologist mounted the stairs rapidly, heading for Twilight's bedroom.
"Er... Johnathon, what are you doing?" Twilight said, sounding slightly concerned.
"Here," Johnathon set her down on her bed. "Just... raise your arms up, like this..." he demonstrated. "And hold still a second."
Twilight blinked, but did as instructed, flinching slightly as the man leaned in towards her and put his hands on the bed on either side of her. "Johnathon? What are you doing?" she asked again, more than a little nervous.
With another grunt, he wrapped the top sheet of Twilight's bed round her just under her armpits and tied it off, then stood back, shivering just slightly. "It's... a little chilly," he explained weakly. "And you're probably going to catch a cold if you... er... didn't put something on."
Cheerilee, who had, after a moment's paralyzation, raced up the stairs just behind them, watched Johnathon dress Twilight with a raised eyebrow. "Oh..." she finally said. "For a moment there, I wondered..."
Twilight blushed slightly. "Er... I sort of was wondering as well," she glanced at the front of the man's pants, causing the man to wince and lean forward slightly in embarrassment. "Johnathon... you were... are... sexually aroused by me?"
Johnathon winced. "Well... at least you know that the spell worked. I mean... obviously you've managed to turn yourself into a normal human female."
Twilight looked curiously down at herself. "But why would you...?" she touched the sheet he had wrapped around her in mild confusion, before her eyes cleared with understanding. "Oh right! Humans wear clothes all the time!" she blinked. "I'm sorry... I didn't consider your cultural beliefs when I cast that spell... if I offended you, I apologize."
Johnathon shook his head. "No... no... that's fine. I er... I don't exactly mind, exactly... it's just a bit... uncomfortable for me."
Twilight nodded quickly. "Well... I'll remember to remain clothed until my spell wears off..." she sighed. "Although I was hoping to be able to examine this body in some more detail. I really don't know all that much about human anatomy...."
Johnathon seriously considered telling her that, in the interest of science, he would fully understand if she decided to go about naked for the rest of the day, and how he'd be happy to watch and take notes... but restrained himself. "Perhaps you should... do that," he finally said. "While I... er... give you some privacy."
Twilight blinked. "Well... if you think that would be alright. I mean, it won't offend you?"
Johnathon shook his head again quickly. "It's not offensive... just...." he waved his hand as he tried to explain carefully. "Er... difficult... I...." he turned his back on her, took a breath. "Twilight, I've never really explained this particular aspect of human culture before, have I?"
Twilight thought about it. "Well, you did mention that, since your species has no natural fur, you developed clothing as protection against the elements... and over time, it became an element of your culture."
Johnathon nodded, carefully keeping his back to her. "True. There is a bit more to it than that."
Twilight looked interested, as did Cheerilee, although the purple earth pony already had a vague suspicion as to what he was going to say, having brushed upon the subject with her houseguest before this. "Oh?"
Johnathon nodded. "You see... in human society, there are only a few reasons why a human might go without clothing... in general, in any case," he decided not to mention nudists, not wanting to muddy the issue. "To get clean, to sleep comfortably, and... er... for sex."
Twilight thought about this for about ten seconds before she blushed clear down to the tops of her brand new breasts. "Oh! Oh! Eep!" she looked like she wanted to disappear, but realized that trying to flee while in an unfamiliar body would probably end painfully for her. She hesitated, taking a long slow breath to try and calm herself. "Oh... I didn't mean..."
Johnathon shook his head quickly still facing away. "Of course not! Just a simple misunderstanding," he deliberately turned around, then sat on the bed opposite Twilight's that she used for overnight guests. "Please don't concern yourself. I'm quite aware you didn't intend...." he waved a hand airily. "Anything by it."
Twilight nodded quickly, then looked slightly puzzled. "How odd. I wasn't in... heat or anything before the spell. I'm surprised that this form caused you to have such a strong reaction."
Cheerilee coughed slightly. "Actually, from what Johnathon has told me, humans don't have mating seasons. They're... er... fertile all the time."
Twilight blinked, then blushed brighter. "Oh," she finally said. "Er... well. This is awkward."
Johnathon started to laugh. "You're telling me!" he shook his head. "Twilight, I have never met anypony who is capable of quite so... spectacular mistakes as you." he grinned. "Of course, that's because you're spectacularly capable. Great skill and intelligence often comes with the capacity for huge errors as well."
Twilight continued blushing, looking down at her hands. "I am sorry, Johnathon. Are you angry?"
He shook his head. "Don't be silly. Of course not. You meant well, and nobody got hurt."
Twilight frowned, still blushing slightly. "I suppose now would be a really bad time to ask you if I could compare your anatomy with that of this body, huh?"
Johnathon rolled his eyes. "Seriously, don't tempt me like that, Twilight."
She blinked, uncertain. "I don't understand."
Johnathon shook his head. "I'm getting that. To put it simply, in my culture, a female human saying something like that to a male human would be a... subtle way of saying she wished to have sex with him, with very little chance of her being misunderstood."
Twilight blinked. "Oh... er... right, sorry," she put a hand behind her head. "Sorry... that should have occurred to me." she sighed, looking slightly frustrated. "Darn."
Johnathon sighed as well. "Of course, you really are just interested in comparing our anatomies so you can learn more about humans... which I do understand, of course," he frowned. "It... it would be difficult for me, but if it's really important to you, I'll suffer through it."
Twilight hesitated, then shook her head. "No, I don't want you to suffer, Johnathon... as much as I would be interested in..." She shook her head again. "No, that's alright," she hesitated. "But... you won't mind if I... er... examine myself while you're not here?"
Johnathon shook his head. "No, not at all," he chuckled. "Frankly, part of me would love to stay and help you with your examination, but I think I'm going to have enough trouble getting to sleep tonight as it is," he shrugged. "I'll... just let myself out, alright?"
Twilight blinked. "Oh." She looked apologetic. "I'm sorry for making you so uncomfortable, Johnathon. I should have talked to you more before I tried that spell."
Johnathon hesitated, then shook his head. "No... it's really alright. Yes, it was a bit embarrassing, but..." he shrugged. "When I recall this afternoon at some point in the future, it won't be a painful memory, I assure you," his cheeks colored faintly, then he laughed. "Not in the slightest." he rose from the guest bed, and headed for the stairs. "Investigate away, Twilight, if you want."
Cheerilee spoke up. "I'm interested as well... may I stay, Twilight?"
Twilight Sparkle blinked, then nodded. "Sure. I could probably use some help getting around the house anyway... I'm not sure I can walk upright properly without some practice, and this spell will probably fade before I get the trick of it."
Johnathon excused himself and left the Library quickly, then started to stride quickly back to the house he shared with Cheerilee. The image of Twilight, naked on the floor, the feel of her body pressed against his, came back to him every few moments, taunting him, but he just chuckled and walked on. He'd been married for five years, it wasn't like he never seen a naked woman close up before. It HAD been a long time. In the two years since his wife had died, he'd avoided romantic entanglements, and while Twilight was a nice... pony, he had no intention of starting a relationship, or even engaging with a casual fling with any of the inhabitants of this world, even if they could turn themselves into very attractive members of his species.
"I'm going home sooner or later," he reminded himself. "I can't get attached to..." he shook his head. "Darn it Twilight! First the translation spell, now this? Do you have any idea how tempting abusing your magic is for me?" his mind brought forth images in his mind's eye, thoughts of Twilight, or any of her friends, or Cheerilee, nice girls all, in a female human body for an extended period. The temptation of that idea made his throat catch slightly, but he shook his head. Even if one of them would entertain the idea of... anything happening, he wouldn't. He wasn't someone who would casually hook up with a girl, although he had been tempted on more than one occasion to do exactly that, he'd waited till he found the one... the girl he'd marry, and he had never regretted that choice.
Well, he never regretted it much. He'd wondered if he'd missed out on opportunities in his past, but while it did no one harm to wonder, it didn't do him any good either.
"Damn it...." he muttered to himself. "I'll never manage to concentrate enough to translate that book on Canterlot history tonight."