“For the last time no,” Twilight yelled. All day long Snips and Snails have been bugging her to teach them magic. “I don’t have time to teach you magic.”
“But all you do is study magic,” Snips pointed out. “You gotta know enough to teach us!”
“Sorry. Can’t. Being Celestia’s personal protégée is a full time job,” She replied.
“But then how do you find time to hang out with all the ponies you make friends with?” Snails asked slowly.
“I’m studying the magic of friendship. It’s how I… study.” It did sound odd that studying required her to goof off with her friends, but the subject at hoof was friendship.
“Oh! Then we can be your friends!” Snips brought up. “Then, you get to study friendship, and we get to learn magic!” He hopped at how much sense his idea made.
“Well…” Twilight stared at the colts. She doubted that they had anything to teach her about friendship. They’re the dumbest kids in Cheerilee’s class, but she didn’t want to hurt their feelings. She needed some kind of out. “Can’t you find anyone else to teach you? Like your parents?”
“Mine never learned magic all that well,” Snips replied. “Growing up in an earth pony town doesn’t really get us a lot of real magic users.”
“My ma’s no good at magic…” Snips looked away.
“Trixie was awesome with her illusions though,” Snips piped, “we wanted to get her to teach us, but we all know how that day went.” He rolled his eyes and smiled, a tad oblivious to the fact that the incident was partially his fault. “But then you showed up and were sooooo cool with your magic! You’re like the most magical unicorn ever!” Snips complimented Twilight. Not to butter her up, but because he honestly thought so.
Twilight blushed with embarrassment. She knew she was talented, but she never liked it being called to attention. “What about Rarity?” Twilight knew that there was little chance of Rarity agreeing to teach them, but it would get them out of her mane long enough to come up with a better excuse.
“Nah, she’s busy teaching Sweetie Belle, and your way more magical than her.”
“What’s she ever done?”
“Last time we talked to him I almost lost an eye.”
Twilight was running out of pony names. Was the last one she named an actual pony here in Ponyville? “How about you… apply for… Celestia’s School for Gifted Unicorns?” Twilight stumbled over the sentence. Her tone was uncertain, but the two colts didn't notice that. “Since it’s funded by the government itself you can get in free so long as you pass the tests.”
“Magic school?” Snails repeated.
“Hey! That’s a great idea, Twilight. Why didn’t we think of that, Snails?” Snips asked his lanky friend.
“I don’t know. Doesn’t that school have a hard entrance exam?” Snails shifted a little at the thought of it. “I’m not very good at tests.” He looked down at the floor.
“It can’t be that bad.” Snips tried to remain optimistic for the two. “Twilight, what did you have to do?”
Twilight gulped as she opened her mouth, “I just had to hatch Spike is all. Nothing too hard,” She laughed nervously.
“Hear that? Twilight says it can’t be too hard.” Snips turned back Snails. “Just imagine! All the cool spells we’ll get to learn all in the royal city of Canterlot.”
Snails let go if his pessimism as a bright goofy smile stretched across his face. “Wowee, that would be sweeeet!”
“So what are we waiting for? Let’s go ask our parents!” The two colts raced each other out of the library all the way home.
Twilight wiped her brow. Shaking her mane of the two had proven to be more exhausting then she expected. “Well with that over I can get back to my reading.”
“You sure that was a good idea?” Spike asked as he emerged from the kitchen. “Those two are pretty dumb, Twilight. They brought an Ursa Minor here, remember?”
“All the more reason to go to Canterlot and get some real instruction and training. Nothing like discipline to get wayward foals back on track.” Twilight dismissed Spike’s concerns by talking condescendingly with her eyes closed.
“What if they fail?” Spike asked.
“Then I need to come up with a new excuse to get them out of my mane.”
“Why not just tell them you don’t want to teach them?”
“I don’t want to hurt their feelings,” Twilight admitted, “I just don’t have the energy to train a couple of hyperactive colts who, well…” Even if they weren’t around, Twilight didn’t want to say out loud that the two are dumber than mud. Still, Spike felt uneasy about the affair.
“Hey mom! Hey dad!” Snips ran into the barber shop owned by his parents. The two of them were hard at work on different ponies and the sudden appearance of their son had caused both of them to make some fatal cuts on their respective works.
“Ugh? Yes son?” Snips father, Shears, a short pale-blue-coated stallion with a professionally cut gray mane and a barber shop pole for a cutie mark, finally answered as he scanned the remains of Ace’s glorious mutton chops. Ace himself looked like he saw the vampire zombie ghost of the pet dog he had as a child. His pupils disappeared behind his head and his body went limp. “We’re kinda busy, you know,” Shears voice shook in quiet fear.
“Is something wrong, Barbara?” Rarity asked her stylist, Snips’ Mother, a round green-coated mare with a perfectly styled orange mane and a comb for a cutie mark, whose eyes had shrunk into tiny dot.
“Fine!” Barbara replied in a hurried tone. “Just need to make a few alterations.”
“Alterations?” Rarity replied. “What do you mean alterations? Alterations have never been a part of my routine here.”
“Oh well, it’s just that curls are a little overdone. I mean everypony who’s anypony is wearing their manes in curls. Don’t you think that we should try and… start a new trend?” Barbara tried to hold her fake smile as Rarity eyed her reflection on the barber shop mirror in front of her. Barbara knew she couldn’t let her see what was going on behind her head.
“My dear Barbara, you’re absolutely right! You’re always at the forefront of manes, Barbara. I hope you’ll forgive me for being suspicious of you if only for a moment.”
“Oh no! No problem at all.” Barbara felt her heart beat slowly return to normal now that she had managed to convince Rarity to try a new style. Hopefully she could manage something suitably fabulous for the prissy, but ultimately valued, customer. “Ugh, Snippy, deary, could you tell us a little later?”
“Dad?” Snails tried to get his father’s attention.
Herb, a tall white-coated pony with a green mane and a microscope for a cutie mark, turned his attention away from the microscope he was peering through and to his son. “Yeah, Snails?” He replied. His voice deep and a little gruff. He had no horn. He never had a horn.
“C-can I go to the Celestia’s School for Gifted Unicorns?” Snails asked, avoiding eye contact.
“Celestia’s School for Gifted Unicorns,” he repeated, “the one in Canterlot? Why do you want to go there?”
“Well, to learn super cool awesome magic.” As Snails said the crude sentence a small smile spread on his face. He turned up to face his father.
Herb stared back, confused. His son looked him in the eye for all of a moment before turning back to the floor. He sighed. “Can’t you ask your mother to teach you?”
“Well, mom isn’t all that good at magic,” Snails answered.
“She levitates things just fine.” Herb turned back to the microscope. His back pointed to his son. “What more do you need to know?”
“Well, doing all sorts of cool things like…” Snails himself wasn’t even sure what he would learn. What he could learn. What there was to learn. “Like what Twilight did! Like making music. And the fail-safe spell!” He finally answered.
Herb knew Twilight quite well. She’s a hard working and studious mare who devotes her life to science. It’s a science he had a hard time accepting as a proper field of study, though. After all, what was the scientific value of studying the science of friendship, but she went about it with a work ethic he wished many of his co workers had. Wished his own son had. “It’s not easy to get into schools like that, Snails,” he answered back after a minute of silence.
“But Twilight said it wasn’t that hard.” Snail’s head was dropping closer to the floor.
Herb exhaled one large breath. “I’ll talk about it with your mother when she gets home.”
“Really!” Snails sprang into life. His head high, his eyes wide, his smile bright.
Herb turned back to his son. That smile Snails had always made him feel better, even if he didn’t show it. “Really.” He answered. He gave his son a smile back, showing it.
“You want to go where!?” Barbara screamed in horror. “Canterlot? But but they have terrible terrible things there like garbage and unsafe communities and ped-”
“Barbara!” Shears interrupted her.
“No no no no! You cannot go to Canterlot!”
“But mom!” Snips tried the age old retort most foals swore by.
“You can learn magic here from us. You’re about the age to start learning to use that cute wittle itty bitty horn of yours.” Barbara grabbed Snips in a blood-sugar-level busting hug that would have given any onlookers a desperate need for insulin.
Shears choked at his wife’s usage of words. He always found some of the things she said to feel a tad mind scarring. “What she means, son, is that we can teach you telekinesis just fine.”
“But I want to learn more than just making stuff move! You saw all the cool stuff Trixie did!” Snips cried.
“That boisterous mare? What on earth is there to see in magic like that?” Barbara wondered.
“It’s cool magic! And Twilight’s was even cooler! I want to learn magic like that! And no one here can teach me.”
“What about Twilight herself?” Shears asked.
“She’s the one who gave me the idea!” Snips exploded with energy. “It’s royally funded or something so it won’t cost a bit when I get in!”
“When?” Shears questioned his son’s use of words.
“I’ll get in for sure!”
“But Canterlot is so far away? They won’t know how to cook the special foods just for you or how you like your sheets tucked in or your favorite bed time stories!” Barbara was getting hysteric. “You’ll be all alone in the city of ped-”
“Barbara dear!” Shears interrupted his wife.
Shears whistled innocently. “Nothing.”
“Don’t worry. Snails is coming to,” Snips piped up.
Shears stared back at his son. He knew Snails very well. He knew that he was slow by, just about, every meaning of the word. Snips’ faith in his friend getting in to that same prestigious school made Shears doubt his own son’s prospects of getting in. He liked this less and less, but found solace in that his wife was dutifully playing the doting mother role that he could use to let his son down as lightly as possible.
“Well, if you two manage to get in it won’t be so bad.” Shears had to use magic to keep his jaw in place. Why, of all times, now would she choose to go along with this completely hairbrained plan? “You are growing up after all.” His voice cracked. Now she’s acknowledging his growth? Was his wife abducted by aliens? “And you just might find a cute filly you can play ho-”
“Barbara!” Shears finally was able to say. Every muscle in his body was tense. Many of the veins on his head stuck out a little. “Bedroom! Now!”
“Oh Shears,” Barbara giggled, “not in front of the child.” No hoof could smack him in the face hard enough.
“I’m home.” The unicorn mare called out. Her sickly yellow coat contrasted her dark violet mess of a mane that was in desperate need of attention. Her flank displayed a magnifying glass for a cutie mark. Most peculiarly was her build. Toneless, long legs and a skinny long neck to match it. She almost looked like a miniature spotless giraffe. “Herb, Snails? Who’s here?” Lendsy called into the dimly lit home.
“In the kitchen, honey.” Herb called to his wife.
“Is Snails home?” She asked.
“Yes. He’s in his room reading some comics,” Herb sighed.
“He sure loves those Dr. Stranger comics. Oh, I dropped by First Print’s place. An autographed copy… I think.” She used her magic to pull the signed issue out of her bag, something she felt a bit of pride in being able to do. First Print was adamant that she keep the comic tightly sealed in the plastic bag that surrounded it. “I’m sure he’ll love it.”
“Yeah… I’m sure.” Herb took in a deep breath and exhaled even more so. “Today, Snails told me wants to apply to Canterlot School for Gifted Unicorns.”
“Oh.” Her head dropped a little, not unlike her foal. “This… isn’t going to end well, is it?”
“Well…” He had learned to read the body language of his wife and colt quite well. They acted so similarly. Sometimes, it made him wish he was blind. “What if he is gifted?” Herb tried to give the scenario some positive spin to cheer up his wife. “Didn’t you say it’s pretty hard to tell anything about a unicorn’s latent power?”
“Yes, it is.” Her head didn’t rise, though. “Wouldn’t that be nice? Our son, the gifted.” Herb knew where this was going. “But that most likely won’t happen with me as his mother.”
“Don’t be like that. He’s almost got that light spell down. I’m sure that’s a positive sign.” Herb consoled her.
Lendsy turned her head up to him. “Thank you, Herb.” The two shared a silent moment, just gazing at each other before both of them blushed and returned to the subject at hand.
“So what do we do now?” Herb asked. “Say no?” He suggested.
“That’s probably the best idea,” Lendsy replied. “That will be the least painful route to take. He’ll probably say mean things like he hates us, but he’s such a sweet child.” Thoughts of her slow foal’s goofy smiles filled her mind. It made her feel happier just knowing he was in their lives, and made it harder that they had to let him down. “It’s going to hurt, but we have to.”
“I’ll say it. I’m sure he’ll take it better if I say it.” Herb placed a hoof next to her.
“You’re too nice to me, Herb.”
“It’s because I love you and I love him.”
“Barbara, this is not going to go well.” Shears tried to reason with his wife.
“Well, yes it most likely won’t. The school is filled with snobs who turn their noses up at anything if given half the chance, but what do you want to do? Tell him no? They have the best unicorns across Equestria. What parent wouldn’t want their foal learning from that kind of prestige?” Barbara retorted back.
“Yes, but that requires him to qualify for the school and… well it’s not like we have any chance ourselves. The judge ponies aren’t going to be nice when they reject him,” Shears groaned.
“I guess you’re right …”
“See! Let’s go in there, let him down easily, and try to salvage what we can.”
“I don’t remember agreeing to that.”
“You just agreed with me.”
“Doesn’t mean I agree.” Shears could have face hoofed. He could have face floored. He could have summoned the magic to call the moon directly to his face if only so he could knock the, to him, incomprehensible phrase out of his mind.
“Then what do you mean!” He cried.
“That we let him apply, pray to Celesita, Luna, and every other solar body out there that he gets in, and then watch our lovely son bloom into his own stallion.”
“I thought you liked being all doting and over protective!”
“Oh Celestia I do. It’s so fun to hug his little jelly bean of a body, but he is going to grow up eventually. I can accept that.”
“Really?” Shears poured every bit of sarcasm he could into that one line.
“Don’t talk that!” Barbara cringed, “or I will snap and lock him into a cage made of fluffy pillows so I’ll know he’s safe for the rest of eternity.”
“Really really really really really!”
“No no no.”
“Just, the chances of him getting in are slim. I just don’t want to be there when they mercilessly judge my son as being not good enough,” Shears cried.
“Oh Celestia, it’s going to be terrible.” Barbara hugged her husband.
“So why can’t we say no?”
“Because it’s his dream to learn magic like the great unicorns. We had humble dreams. Cutting manes. And I dare say we do a fine good job of it, but when I look at our son and all his big dreams I wonder if he got the kind of ambition we never had. The ambition to strike out and become somepony truly grand. A pony everypony everywhere will look up to.”
“Those big dreams of his scare me,” Shears admitted. “I just don’t know how to handle it.”
“I’ll tell you how we’ll handle it. We’ll go in there, cut that rat’s nest into the envy of all those rich ponies together, and support him with all our love.”
“And when they say no,” Shears groaned.
“We’ll pick up our son, tell him we love him no matter what, and see what the next day brings us. That’s what parents do.”
“Snails, are you in there?” Lendsy tapped on the door to Snails’ room.
“Yeah!” Snails called back from inside, in bed with a comic.
Lendsy used her magic to turn the door handle. Both she and Herb entered the room. “Your father told me you wanted to enroll at Celestia’s School for Gifted Unicorns in Canterlot?”
“Yep! Then I’ll get to learn sweet magic!” Snails smiled.
“I can teach you magic.” Lendsy knew the answer, but she hoped that if she could get him to change his mind on his own it would be easier in the long run.
“Yeah, but…” Snails didn’t want to say anymore.
Lendsy knew this gambit wouldn’t work. She was no good at magic, and not because of a lack of effort. She just had so little real magical ability. It took her twenty years to get telekinesis down and she can only handle the most menial of tasks with it. So she settled in the sciences where she found her calling, but it was science that taught her there was a chance Snails also had that limited magical scope that plagued her. She was afraid Snails inherited her weak genes. “I see.” Neither of them could see each other as they stared at the floor, heads hung low. It was times like this that Herb really wished he was blind.
Herb approached his son, mentally preparing himself for what he had to say to him. “Snails.” He tried to get his son’s attention.
“Yah?” Snails turned to look at him.
“Well, your mother and I talked about letting you go or not… and…”
“Yah?” Snails’ eyes were full of hope.
“You can go.” Lendsy turned to look at Herb. Had she heard right?
“Really!” Snails was brighter than a hundred watt light bulb.
“Yes.” Herb smiled.
“Gee, thanks pa, ma!” Snails wrapped himself around both his parent’s legs. Gripping tight on his father’s left foreleg and his mother’s right foreleg. Both of them looked down, smiled and nuzzled their son. Tonight they would be happy. This was the foal that made their lives a little brighter each day. That was something no one could teach him to be. That was his blessing. That was their blessing, the blessing given to a goofy looking mother and a father who struggled to express himself all the time.
“Let’s get some ice cream to celebrate,” Lendsy said, her own face now filled with the infectious smile she was happy she was able to pass to her son. “What do you feel like, Snails?”
Snips always had a hard time sitting still, but this was worth it. He would go to Canterlot. He would go to Celestia’s school for Gifted Unicorns. He would pass the test, enroll, and learn all sorts of magic that he couldn’t even dream of, literally. He resigned himself to the mane cut. He did have to look presentable. His mother fussed with his hair and his father went about trying to manage his tail. For something so small it was a surprising mess of matted hair. It was a challenge more so because he had so little to work with.
“Any particular style you want, Snippy?” His mother asked.
“Oh! Something like Dr. Strange.”
“Dr. Who-know?” His mother replied.
“Dr. Strange! He’s this super powerful unicorn that fights evil gods and evil unicorns and evil-”
“I don’t know what that looks like.”
“It’s all black and slicked back and he has these silver lines.”
“Slicked back. I can do that.” Barbara replied. “Are you going to fight evil too one day?” She teased her son.
“Maybe,” Snips replied. His parents couldn’t help but smile.
“Let evil beware Dr. Snips matted tail of doom,” Shears joked.
“What kind of villain would fear that?” Snips asked, puzzled.
“One that cuts hair, I know that,” Shears replied.
“So if daddy ever turns evil be sure to smack him with your tail,” Barbara teased.
“Oh! But that would make for a great comic. My dad, the bad guy. No one would see that coming!” Snips smiled. Both his parents turned to each other and laughed, both mentally noting they need to show their son Moon Wars, the original movies, sometime soon.
“Say, how about we grab some ice cream after this?” Barbara suggested.
“There’s an idea,” Shears agreed.
“That sounds awesome!” Snips was overjoyed. This day kept getting better.
The ice cream parlor only had one other family in it that night. “Snails!” Snips called out.
A few seconds later Snails turned to face who called him. “Snips!” He called back. The two galloped to each other and crashed face first, collapsing to the floor. Their eyes spun in their heads for a second as they registered what had just happened. They just laughed.
“Lendsy! Herb! How are you doing?” Barbara called to the other two.
“Hello, Barbara,” Herb finally said.
“Oh still have a hard time talking to mares, Herby?” Barbara laughed, causing ‘Herby’ to blush. “And Lendsy! Your mane! It’s so long! You know short is in this season. Well I hope to Celestia it is or Rarity is going to kill me.”
“Oh. No. That’s fine. I’m used to it like this,” Lendsy replied, backing up a little from Barbara who couldn't care less about 'personal space.'
“But no one can see your face,” Barbara replied as she started fussing with the tangled locks. "I have my work cut out for me."
“Really, it's fine.” Lendsy tried to turn her head down, but Barbara hold was iron strong.
“Nonsense! We’ll get you in a chair and fix you up quite nicely. So how do you like your mares, Herby? Short mane? Curly mane? Sexy mane?”
Herb’s face froze. He had no idea how to answer that kind of question. It felt loaded with a buck shot for any possible answer he came up with.
“Don’t mind her,” Shears tried to get Herb some breathing room, “she’s like that,” he laughed. “How are you, Herb?”
“I’m good.” Herb looked down at the table. “I dare say I feel happier than I’ve felt in months.”
“I take it you agreed to let Snails try to enroll in the Canterlot school?”
“Yes,” Herb sighed, “I’m still a push over.”
“It’ll be all right.” Shears tried to console him.
“That’s uncertain.” Herb replied.
“No, it isn’t. You want to know why?”
“Why?” Herb looked at Shears.
“Because come what may, we’ll be there for our foals. Just believe in yourself as a parent.”
“Oh, you’re the one giving pick up lectures now?” Barbara shot him a look.
“What can I say, honey? Your baseless hairbrained optimism is infectious,” Shears smiled at his wife who was busy shifting Lendsy’s long mane into various styles, much to Lendsy's discomfort. “I thank Celestia everyday Snips got that from you.”
Snips and Snails were too wrapped up in their own conversations to overhear their parents. That night they talked all about what they might learn. What they want to learn. What fun they could have. How they would do it together.
“Hnnnnnnng!” Snails grunted as he struggled to keep his horn alight.
“7… 8… 9… 10… 11…” Snips counted.
“I can’t go any longer!” Snails cried as he collapsed to the floor. His horn returned to its typical mundane state.
“Twelve seconds, Snails. That’s a new record!” Snips patted his friend on the back.
“Really?” Snails looked up to his short friend, a rarity in it itself.
“Yeah. Two seconds longer than before.”
“Okay, your turn.”
“Okay!” Snips grabbed a nearby top hat. The hat is empty, for now. “I’m going to pull something out of it.”
“Like a rabbit?”
“None of 'em would volunteer, so I just went with carrots again. Don’t eat ‘em this time,” Snips berated Snails. Snail’s only response was to smile, no sign of guilt in the least.
Snips concentrated on the hat. Eyes closed. Brow furrowed. Legs trembling. His horn made a single spark. A single bright spark that drained Snips of all his energy. He fell on his side, dizzy from exhaustion. “Y-you think the carrots are in there?” He weakly asked.
Snails checked that hat. “Ugh… you need a new hat.”
Snails tipped over the hat for Snips to see the results. The carrot had gotten into the hat and exploded. The inside of the hat was decorated with sizzling carrot flesh. It gave off a terrible smell. “Carrot got in there, though,” Snails complimented him.
“Wow, no wonder I rarely see unicorns teleport,” Snips commented, “that looks painful.” If any pain was felt by the carrot it had no way of telling them. “I guess we should start with something more basic. Like moving stuff with magic.”
“Five more minutes. I’m still tired,” Snails yawned.
“Yeah, so am I”
“Snips? Snails? What are you two doing here?” Rarity had shown up out of nowhere, now sporting a stylish short cut mane.
“Hi, Rarity. We’re practicing magic.” Snips replied. “We’re going astound the Canterlot ponies at Celestia’s magic school and get in!”
“I beg your pardon?” Rarity asked, confused.
“Twilight told us we should apply to Celestia’s School for Gifted Unicorns to learn magic!” Snips raised himself on his hindlegs to emphasize the statement before dropping onto his back from exhaustion.
“Yep,” Snails replied. “It'll be sweeeet!”
“Oh… You don’t say,” Rarity muttered. “I’m sorry I couldn’t teach you, but I’m simply too busy.” This was the honest truth. Between her career, Sweetie Belle, and the occasional rambunctious adventures with her friends Rarity just did not have a lot of spare time to relax. Any spare time she had was maximized at the local spa. “But, shouldn’t you find a tutor here in Ponyville?”
“There are no tutors here,” Snips answered.
“But Canterlot is so far away. Won’t you two miss Ponyville?”
“Well… yeah,” Snips answered.
“I’ll miss everyone here,” Snails sighed.
“But, this is something we gotta do!” Snips picked himself up again and puffed out his chest, trying to give off an aura of determined manliness.
“We’ll become super awesome magical unicorn ponies and come back.” Snails tried to emulate the stance but found he lacked much of a chest.
“That’s right, Snails.” Snips looked back at his best friend in the world.
“Well… best of luck to you two.” Rarity gave them a farewell wave.
“Ah, there you are, Rarity,” Twilight called to her, a list of spells to practice levitating in front of her.
“Twilight, I spotted Snips and Snails just awhile back,” Rarity brought up.
“Oh shoot, I don’t have time to deal with them.” Twilight looked around for a hiding spot in a fit of panic.
“Twilight, dear, they were practicing magic,” Rarity replied, “not looking for you.”
Twilight calmed down a little. “Oh, good. Did they find a tutor? Good for them.” Twilight smiled, letting herself relax.
“No, they’re trying to ready themselves for the entrance exam for Celetia’s school. They said you suggested they go there?” Rarity half asked half stated.
“Yeah. I gave them the idea,” Twilight confirmed. “They’re really going to apply? Well, good for them.”
“Yes, good for them, but, Twilight, what do you think are their chances of getting in.”
“Huh? Chances?” Twilight took a moment to think it over. “Well, they’re practicing now so by the time they apply their chances can’t be all bad.” Twilight dismissed Rarity’s worried look and turned back to her checklist.
“Ugh, Twilight. You know Celestia’s School for Gifted Unicorns only accepts 'gifted' unicorns, right?”
“Yeah,” Twilight replied, not understanding where Rarity was going with this.
“Gifted. Magically inclined. Talented.”
“Do either Snips or Snails seem like that?” Rarity finally got to the point.
“Well… no, but the worst that could happen is they get rejected and come back to bug me. Oh that could be bad.”
“Twilight,” Rarity sighed, “do you think it’s okay to get their hopes up like this?” Rarity asked.
“I guess... not.” Twilight started to feel a twang of guilt. “Ugh, where are they?”
Twilight found them. Right where Rarity said they would be. Both of them were eyeing a ball in between them. It reminded her of her first telekinesis exercises. She took a deep breath. “Hey guys,” she said.
“Huh!? Oh, hi, Twilight,” Snips answered, “what are you doing here?”
“Just, passing through.” Why did she feel the need to lie? She came here to test a spell with Rarity. What was the point in hiding this? “So, practicing for your entrance exam?”
“Yep!” Snips replied.
“Well, how’s it going?” The ball hadn’t moved an inch.
“Well,” Snips pointed to the ruined hat, “I’ve almost got a handle on that transport spell. Almost.” Not too bad for a colt his age. Not good. Not bad.
“I can hold my light spell for twelve seconds now,” Snails proudly stated. Not bad. Not good. Not bad.
“Oh, I see you guys sure are hard at work.” Twilight laughed nervously. “I’m sure the ponies at Canterlot will love you.” Why was she lying? Stop Lying, Twilight! “Good luck,” was all she could say as she edged further away.
“Thanks, Twilight!” Snips called to her, voice filled with gratitude.
“You’re awesome!” Snails added, voice just as content.
Twilight felt like hiding in her library for awhile. She was sure Rarity wouldn’t mind canceling today’s session.
The time had come. After a week of studying and practice, the two families had taken a pegasus carriage to the Royal City of Canterlot. Canterlot architecture was something entirely new not just for the two colts, but for their parents as well. Shears strained his neck trying to take in how tall the buildings were. “Canterlot construction ponies must make a lot of bits,” he commented.
“I don’t know. They all look like bent pe-”
“Honey!” Shears called to his wife.
“Yes?” Barbara replied back.
“Nothing,” Shears whistled innocently. Behind him Herb and Lendsy had turned quite pale.
“You two look sick? Do you need some medicine?” Barbara asked Snail’s parents. The two were content to just shake their heads.
“I see it ahead.” Shears called to the others.
“Celestia’s School for Gifted Unicorns!” Snips and Snails called out at the same time. “We’re here!”
“Yeah… great.” Shears tried to sound excited. It came out more like a grunt.
“Something in your throat, dad?” Snips asked.
“No, no, not at all. C’mon. Your appointments are soon.” Shears lead everyone inside.
The one room inside of the school said more about the Canterlot architects than the rest of the city as a whole had. No expense was left out in constructing this establishment. The marble floors are perfect. No scratch. No nicks. Not even sound. Each hoofstep made no sound. Was this unicorn magic at work? Various murals hung over the walls with names of great unicorns that graduated from here. Red velvet drapes hung for each window which carried the same level of perfectness as the floor.
“It’s quite sterile.” Herb smiled.
“Only you could describe such a beautiful room like this with such a flaccid word, Herby,” Barbara replied, causing Herb to blush.
“I think it’s a nice word.” Lendsy added.
“Scientists. Not a romantic bone in their bodies,” Barbara sighed.
“Go on, Herb,” Shears started, “they’re expecting Snails first.”
Herb looked over to Snails. His tiny body could not express the level of delight he felt just standing here. This place is, by every definition of the word, sweet! “Ready, Snails?” Herb put on a brave front trying not to let his inner worry show.
“Yep!” Snails replied. Herb looked at his son for a good minute before turning over to the receptionist. This was it. He could only pray to Celestia now.
A sole proctor pony was spared for the interview. A middle-aged mare. Ingrid Marie. A clipboard levitated in front of her, a quill suspended right next to the clipboard. She will now judge Snails based on his magical merit to determine if he is good enough to be in this most prestigious of schools. “Snails?” She read the name out loud.
Snails stared at her for a moment before he realized he needed to respond. “Yes,” he replied.
Immediately Ingrid began to scribble on her clipboard. Had the test already started? Was he off on the wrong hoof? Twilight didn’t mention this part of the exam. “Snails… for your exam you will make a seed grow.”
Seed? Twilight mentioned hatching a dragon egg. Snips plan for that was to sit on it, but make a seed grow? He didn’t anticipate that. A cart moved in front of him, most likely moved by Ingrid. On it was a pot with soil. “Where’s the seed?” Snails asked.
“In the pot,” Ingrid answered scribbling more notes on her clipboard.
Snails stared at the pot. He had seen his parents fiddle with potted plants all the time, and they were the smartest ponies he knew. “Can I get some water?” Snails asked.
“Sure.” Ingrid answered, levitating a bottle of water down to Snails, quill silent for once.
Snails smiled as he grabbed the bottle of water with his mouth, jumped on the cart, and poured it into the pot. Ingrid had no idea how to interpret Snails’ actions. Snails then jumped off the cart and pushed it by a nearby window. “There. Give it a week and it’ll be growing.” Sails answered proudly.
“Snails, the point of this exorcise was to use magic to make the plant grow,” Ingrid commanded.
“It was?” Snails felt his spirits drop fast.
“Oh.” Snails stared at the pot. “I don’t know how to do that.” He answered back. In Cheerilee’s class when somepony admitted she didn’t know how to do something she was always met with extra instruction and help. This was not one of those cases.
“Then what do you know how to do?” Ingrid asked, her voice stern.
“Well…” Snails closed his eyes as he concentrated. His horn burst into light.
1… 2… 3… 4… 5… 6… 7… 8… 9… 10… 11… 12… 13… 14… 15… 16… 17… 18… 19… 20…
He was able to hold onto that light for twenty whole seconds. This isn’t just a personal best, this is a milestone for Snails. For most unicorns his age this truly was spectacle. A true display of concentration. “I did it!” He said aloud, prouder of himself than he had ever been.
“Did what, Snails?” Ingrid asked.
“Hold the spell for twenty seconds!”
“I think we’re done here.”
“Did I get in?”
Snails walked out of the room, his head an inch above the floor, his eyes glued to it. Herb knew this look. Lendsy especially knew this look. She walked over to her son, slowly. “Snails?”
“I didn’t get in,” he said. The words hung in the air like mist. It obscured. Snips stared in disbelief. He was so sure Snails would get in, but Snails didn’t.
Shears and Barbara looked over to their son. His mouth hung open a little, exposing his buck teeth. “Are… you ready, son?” Shears asked, feeling his heart want to jump out a little.
“Y-yeah.” Snips tried to compose himself. “L-let me at ‘em.”
“Snips?” Ingrid stared at the squat colt before her.
“Y-Yep!” Snips answered back, trying to keep himself from breaking out into a cold sweat. Snails had been rejected. How were they supposed to do everything together?
“Make the seed, in the pot, grow.” Ingrid answered.
Snips stared at the cart in front of him. This was it. Everything was riding on this. Was it? They rejected Snails, his best friend in the world. Snips closed his eyes to concentrate, mind partly focused on the pot. His horn gave off a faint glow as the pot wobbled a little. A little. Snips opened his eyes. Nothing.
Ingrid scribbled on her clipboard. He had to do something. He had to try again. He closed his eyes and concentrated every bit of his mind on the pot and the seed within. He pushed out of his mind his best friend’s despair. He had to do this. Had to.
The pot glowed the faintest blue as Snips’ horn gave off a stronger light than before. The pot wobbled a little more, to and fro, and stopped. Snips opened his eyes, feeling exhaustion creep up on him from the over-exertion of magic. There, in the middle of a mound of dirt, it looked like something was moving. All eyes were on this tiny movement, and then the seed burst out of the pot, hit the ceiling, rebounding, and hitting Ingrid. She started scribbling frantically on her clipboard.
“Did I get in?” Snips asked, tired.
Snips left the room. His face gave off the impression of absolute dejection. Behind him Ingrid walked out. “I regret to inform you all that your sons do not qualify for this prestigious school,” She said, nary a sign of remorse.
“What do you mean, don’t qualify?” Shears asked.
“Your son, Mr. Shears, is average. Quite simply, not special enough for this school. We’re here to instruct prestigious unicorns. Special unicorns. Not your son.” She sighed, readying herself for yet another hysteric parent who’s angry that their foal isn’t special enough. Shears had expected this response. It made it no easier to hear it.
“Don’t you think that’s a tad harsh to say!” Barbara cried.
“It’s the truth, Mrs. Barbara,” Ingrid replied, “and we turn down hundreds of unicorns every year. There is a reason our school is elite, and it’s because we only accept special unicorns. Not anyone who signs up. If we accepted every unicorn that came here we wouldn’t be able to give the special unicorns the proper training they deserve.”
“What kind of school is this!” Herb roared. This was the typical reaction Ingrid was used to. “This is a government funded school! Funded by Celestia's government and our tax bits! It has her damn name on it. This should be a public school!” He cried.
“Sir, it’s because it has Celestia’s name on it that she can make the rules. The rules state that a pony will be judged by the merit of their magic and nothing more. From what I have observed your son is not special.” Ingrid replied, giving the same old tired response.
“Dragon crap! This is just another school for snobs! The sciences are supposed to be about teaching to any open ears and these two have bigger ears than a donkey!”
“Very politically correct of you,” Ingrid sighed.
“You know what the hay I mean!”
“Mr. Herb, I’m sure among your science circles such opinions are respected, but this is magic, an entirely different field with entirely different applications and rules. Now then, if you are done yelling, or rather even if you aren’t done, we’re done here. Have a good day.” Ingrid turned through the door behind her into the examination room. The door slammed behind her.
The ride home was unbearably silent. Herb couldn’t believe how he lost control of himself. It did little to make Snails feel better, or even Snips. He wished he could say something, but every time he tried to utter a word it got stuck. Some things science couldn’t explain.
Shears stared at the clouds under him. His son’s big dreams, the big dreams he never had, have they now gone up in smoke? Is this reality? He knew this would end badly, but he went along with it. He shouldn’t have gone along with it. He should have protested more to the idea. He should have done something to protect Snips from that kind of harsh judgment.
“How you feeling, Snippy?” Barbara tried to console her son.
“Fine,” Snips lied.
“Don’t you listen to that mean old mare. She doesn’t know what she’s talking about. You’re plenty special.”
“Okay,” Snips said.
“Want to get some ice cream later?” Barbara asked.
“No thanks,” Snips replied.
"I still love you, no matter what," Barbara finished.
Lendsy wished she had the kind of motherly instinct Barbara had. If only she could say the right things, but alas that just wasn’t in a pony like her that spends all her time looking through a magnifying glass. She still had to try. She loved her son after all. Just as much if not more so. “Snails, do you need anything?”
“No, ma,” Snails answered back.
“Do you need anything?”
“We’re here.” The pegasi pulling the chariot called back. They had arrived back in Ponyville. The Pegasus ponies left them off at the entrance of town before returning back to Canterlot. Each of them looked at the town before them. It felt a little colder than usual, but they had returned home. Silence all around.
“I’m so glad I was able to convince you to do this.” Barbara told Lendsy as she placed the tarp around her. “So, how’s Snails?”
“He… hasn’t said anything since yesterday.” Lendsy replied.
“How can you say that, Barbara?”
“Years of experience.” Barbara laughed. “Both our boys are eternal optimists. They’ve had their fair share of setbacks, but they pick themselves up eventually and shoot higher than ever.”
“Is that so… I never noticed.”
“You can’t examine everything with a magnifying glass, Lendsy.”
“I know, but it’s so much easier.”
“Just trust your motherly instincts and apply lots of love. Give it time, and they’ll be back on their hooves and this time they’ll have plans to become princes of Equestria!”
“Really!?” Lendsy was startled.
“Maybe,” Barabra laughed, “or maybe something bigger.”
“I don’t know how to handle it.”
“Oh goodness you think anypony does? If parenting was easy than our own parents wouldn’t be so worried all the time.”
“Right.” Lendsy smiled. “Thank you, Barbara.”
“Anytime, Lendsy. Part of the trade you know. Us barbers like to think of ourselves as therapists only you get a nice mane cut to feel better and we don’t take every bit you own.”
“The prices here say otherwise.” Lendsy joked, much to Barbara’s surprise.
“Well that’s if you want to look like those movie stars. So, figured out your husband’s favorite actress yet?”
Lendsy blushed a deep red. “Well…”
“I’m an idiot! Just one big idiot!” Herb howled as he hugged a bottle of grape juice close to himself. The juice bar always had his favorite brands.
“Now now, Herb. It isn’t that big a deal.”
“I exploded at that pompous pretentious prick of a pony,” Herb sighed. “What was I thinking? That wasn’t going to help Snails but I went off anyway.”
“Don’t beat yourself up over it, Herb.” Shears patted Herb on the back. “We all kinda knew this would happen. Our boys are a different kind of special.”
“Please tell me you’re not calling my son retarded.” Herb eyed Shears, his grape juice did little to improve his disposition.
“What? No no no. I mean that, well, have you seen them. Running around. Getting in trouble. Hairbrained ideas every other day. And still they keep going the whole way through with scabbed knees and dirt in their fur! Eternal optimists. A couple of real boys.” Shears smiled.
“I guess I could never get that.” Herb downed the rest of the bottle.
“Don’t worry about it.”
“Because when they get up from this our hooves are going to be fuller than ever.”
“Oh Celestia, I didn’t think about that.” Herb tried to drink more from the bottle of grape juice but found it surprisingly empty.
“You’re a hoot and a half, Herb.” Shears chuckled. “C’mon. My wife has a surprise for you that might be just what the doctor ordered.”
“More grape juice?”
“Don’t you think you drink that stuff a little too much?”
“I can quite anytime I want to.”
Pinkie Pie carefully balanced the boxes of cupcakes on her back as she bounced from one spot to the next. This was her best batch yet and she was intent on sharing them with everypony she could get her hooves on. She merrily bounced through town on a quest to spread confectionary sweetness. When she bounced to the park, however, something made her stop. She saw two miserable looking colts, desperate for something sweet in their lives.
Snips and Snails were content to just lie in the park, staring at the pile of seeds in front of them. Some of them were cracked. Others were scorched. None of them looked like they were going to burst into life any time soon.
“Hey Snips! Hey Snails! What are you doing?” Pinkie Pie called to them.
“Huh?” Snips turned. “Hi, Pinkie Pie.” Snips turned back to the seeds.
“We’re trying to make the seeds grow.” Snails drolled, his eyes weary from exhaustion.
“Really?” Pinkie Pie asked. “If you want to do that you need to plant and water them sillies,” Pinkie Pie beamed, prompting a very audible sigh from Snails that confused her. Was she wrong about this? She could have sworn she knew how to grow plants. “Well you guys look like you need cupcakes!” Pinkie Pie jumped as balloons and confetti seemed to erupt around her.
“I’m not hungry,” Snips replied.
“Same here,” Sails replied as well.
“What? No cupcakes? But everyone likes cupcakes!”
“Just… not today.” Snips was beginning to get annoyed.
“Oh? Is something wrong?” Pinkie finally asked.
“No.” Snips lied. “Nothing is wrong.”
“Oh, okay!” Pinkie Pie bounced off, but not before leaving two cupcakes by the colts.
“Hey, Twilight!” Pinkie Pie called out as she knocked on the door with her head. “You in there?”
Twilight had spent the entire week cooped up in her library. Why? She wasn’t quite sure herself. She just felt guilty. Like something was going to come back at her soon. Well, she was afraid of Snips and Snails. She knew this. It wasn’t her fault if they took her hasty advice to heart, run off to Canterlot and apply for Celestia’s School for Gifted Unicorns, and got their feelings hurt failing the exam. Was it? A knock at the door knocked her off balance. “Twilight!” Pinkie called from behind the door. Twilight took a deep breath. It’s just Pinkie Pie.
Twilight finally answered the door. "Hello, Pinkie Pie," she greeted her puffy pink friend.
“Hi, Twilight! You know it’s been a whole week since I’ve seen you. Up to something secretive? Is it a new spell? Are you going to mess it up? Ooh! I wonder what crazy thing will happen this time. Be sure to write about it. Well anyway I just made a nice fresh batch of cupcakes and they were soooooo good I felt compelled to share them around town.”
Twilight took a moment to take in everything Pinkie had just said. “You… don’t say.”
“Actually, I do say. So here’s a cupcake!” Pinkie Pie balanced a cupcake at the end of a hoof, a feet requiring great coordination.
“Thanks, Pinkie.” Twilight took the cupcake with her magic and immediately took a bite. “I needed this.”
“Yeah. I haven’t been feeling so good.”
“Really! I just saw Snips and Snails and it was the same thing. They just sat in the park looking at a pile of seeds. They said they were trying to make them grow but they weren’t even planting them and you need to plant seeds to make them grow you know or did the laws of nature change when I wasn’t looking but anyway I’ve dawdled here too much and need to go pass out more cupcakes so see you later Twilight and also bring that ghost you’re looking at to a sugar cube corner so I can throw a welcome party.” Pinkie, finally, trotted off.
Twilight lost her appetite. The half eaten cupcake was placed on a table behind her. She steeled herself. The old Twilight would have ignored this. Snips and Snails are not her problem, but this Twilight had learned too much about friendship, and with it how other ponies feel, to ignore two hurt unicorns that just got rejected from the most prestigious unicorn school in the world. It was a fear she once had, long ago before someone told her she was special.
Twilight found two colts lying in the park. The two colts, once full of energy, now sat dead in the park, content with nothing. It finally hit her. “How could I have suggested something so stupid?” She asked herself.
The colts stared at the pile of seeds between them. The other day they were told to make a seed sprout and grow. Both had failed utterly. The words from Ingrid still fresh in their minds. They weren’t special. Just two more colts that will never get to learn the kind of magic the great unicorns get to. “Hey, guys.” The two turned to the voice. Twilight had appeared over them.
“Hi Twilight,” Snips muttered.
“Hiya,” Snails sighed.
“What are you doing?” She asked.
“Just… nothing,” Snips sighed, “nothing.”
“So… did you go to Canterlot?” Twilight asked, hoping they’ll say something that might not make her feel so guilty.
“Yep,” Snips answered.
“They didn’t let us in,” Snails lamented.
“Why not?” Twilight knew the answer already. She wanted to kick herself for making the two say what they were about to.
“Cause we’re not special enough,” the two said in unison.
The words cut through Twilight. Their dejection. She felt more and more responsible for it. “I’m sorry to hear that,” Twilight sighed.
“It’s all right.” Snips picked himself up.
“No, it isn’t.” Twilight said back. “They should have never said that.”
“But it’s true. We’re not special enough to learn cool magic,” Snips replied.
“But…” Twilight wish she knew how to handle these kinds of situations.
“It’s all right, Twilight,” Snails looked Twilight directly in the eyes, and smiled, one bright enough to light up Canterlot. “We’re fine.”
“That’s right, Snails.” Snips piped up. That smile Snails has, he was always able to get back up after seeing it. “To hay with Canterlot!” Snips stood tall and proud as he said it.
Snails gasped. “Ma and Pa say you’re not supposed to talk like that.”
“Oh, well don’t tell them! I don’t want to get spanked.” Snips had the fear of a being greater than any celestial body moving princesses in mind which made him feel small again.
Twilight couldn’t believe what she saw. A moment ago the two colts looked like they had been disowned by the world, but now they’re smiling. Laughing. She could feel her own spirits rise from being around these two infectiously positive colts. “You guys, I’m sorry.” Twilight apologized, happy she could say it.
“You didn’t do anything, Twilight.” Snips replied.
“Maybe, but I still feel awful for giving you two the idea.”
“It’s all right. Besides, who one would want to teach dumb old us anyway?” Snips laughed weakly.
“I will.” Twilight replied.
“What?” Snips took a moment to register what he heard.
“But aren’t we going to interfere with your studies?” Snails asked.
“My studies are about friendship. The magic of friendship. The magic friendship makes. Aren’t we friends?” Twilight blushed. She had made the friends she had through a combination of random chance, duty, and possibly even fate. Was this more of the same forces at work that made her call these two colts her friends?
“We are?” Snips stood up, the typical boyish smile he always wore returning to his face.
“Of course,” Twilight responded. “I hope you two are ready. You are going to be the formal apprentices of the formal apprentice of Princess Celestia herself. You guys are going to have to work hard now.” Twilight smiled.
The two colts groaned before all three erupted in laughter.
“Thanks Twilight.” The two colts said in unison. Twilight felt something. A spark. She had a long letter in mind for this one.
Dear Princess Celestia,
Today I made friends with two very obnoxious colts that are prone to causing trouble for those around them. They came to me hoping I could teach them magic. I am not proud to say I turned them away, using my studies and duties to you as an excuse. Even more so, that I am ashamed of, I told them to go to the Canterlot School for Gifted Unicorns just to get them out of my mane. I had no idea how painful it would be for them to be rejected, and sure enough they were rejected on the grounds that they aren’t special enough.
I wish I remembered how horrible I felt when I failed my entrance exam. I still wonder to this day if it was luck or fate that set off that sonic rainboom and, with it, my magic and bringing your attention to me. All I remember is the unbridled joy I felt. I can say it’s at least the second best day of my life. These two colts didn’t have either on their side. They’re a couple of normal unicorns, but there is something special about them. They have a true desire to learn magic, and even more they have uncrushable spirits. It was you who gave me that inspiration in the first place to want to learn magic. In that same way I inspired them to want to learn. Maybe that’s why it’s fitting I take them under my horn.
Chances are I’m not going to find raw talent, or skill, or power in either of them. Indeed I have an uphill battle ahead of me, but when I look at that hill I find myself eager to climb it. Even though they are young, they taught me something: We are all special in our own ways even if not everyone can see it. Even if we ourselves can't see what makes us special and need a good friend to point it out. The exam proctor may have turned them away for not being special, but looking into their eyes I see something plenty special. A spirit that has been tempered with friendship. This, coming from a couple of colts with scissors and snails for cutie marks. I must admit, it actually has me kind of curious what kind of magic these two will be able to create because I know they'll do it together. All kinds of magic, together as friends. So I hope you don’t mind if my friendship reports start becoming a tad sporadic in scheduling. Teaching is not going to come easy for me.
Every Your Faithful Student,
And her new apprentices
Snips and Snails