[Author's note: Sorry this took so long. If you've been paying attention at all you know that my other projects are massive time eaters and they unfortunately hold priority over recreational writing. Not much I can do about it. And yes, I know it's a short chapter even though I said I would try to avoid short ones. Oh well. Enjoy.]
Everyone was feeling a bit more confident about this whole situation now that Taylor was sporting his "falsie" cutie mark. Bon-bon's artistic skill had been a great help in painting it on. Both Lyra and Taylor seemed both surprised and impressed by her hidden talent.
"I guess it's just practice. I have to decorate a lot of cakes and stuff at Sugarcube Corner, maybe that has something to do with it." Bon-bon said, waving a hoof dismissively.
"Well, however you managed to get so good with a brush, I appreciate the effort. It's very convincing." Taylor wiggled his rump for emphasis, eliciting a smirk from Bon-bon.
"Just try not to get wet. I don't know how that paint will hold up to water. We can't have your mark falling off in the rain, you know." She dabbed a bit of paint on his nose playfully.
While Taylor worked to remove the paint from his face, Lyra pulled Bon-bon aside, keeping her voice low. "What's with the change of heart? You didn't seem nearly this pleasant earlier, especially toward him."
Bon-bon seemed lost in thought. Her mood had indeed changed drastically, as had her opinion of Taylor. She couldn't quite place it, though. With how dangerous Humans were and how dangerous it would be to have one living here - even if was only temporary - she still felt strangely safe.
"I can't really explain it, as much as I wish I could. There's just something about him. I feel like he's not as bad as the legends would have us believe. You may actually be right about him."
Lyra was giddy. Maybe Bon-bon was finally starting to come around!
"I still don't trust him, at least not completely, but he seems harmless enough." Bon-bon added, before Lyra could get the wrong idea.
Taylor had finished getting the paint off of his nose, now sporting a blue smudge on his foreleg. "Alright, now that I'm presentable, who else feels like grabbing something to eat? I'm starving."
Lyra and Bon-bon both looked to the clock on the wall. It was already half past four and none of them had eaten anything all day. As if on cue, Lyra's stomach began to growl.
"I could definitely go for a bite," said Lyra. She had been using Human colloquialisms like that for several weeks, and with great enough frequency that Bon-bon had reluctantly begun to accept them as normal.
"The market's still open, we can take Taylor out and show him the ropes. Let him sample Ponyville so he can fit in a bit better," Lyra suggested.
Bon-bon considered the possibility. If anyone stopped them, they might have a problem - especially if they talked to Taylor - but Lyra's premise was sound aside from that. Getting this human to adapt to a pony's lifestyle and mannerisms would help avoid suspicion. The process would be dangerous, but the rewards could save them a lot of trouble.
"Alright, that makes sense. Let's go." Bon-bon said after a brief delay.
The three ponies set out for the market, sticking to the least-populated paths they could. Lyra pointed out the various sights - what few there were in such a small town - as they passed, attempting to familiarize Taylor with as much as she could.
At one point, they were walking by several carts in front of a shop. Lyra gestured for the other two to keep going while she examined them. Bon-bon shrugged, wordlessly continuing toward the market.
"What do you think she's doing?" Taylor asked. He wasn't too concerned with what Lyra was up to; he was mostly trying to strike up a conversation with Bon-bon.
"I don't know. Ever since she started digging up old books about your kind, she's been so... erratic. It's frustrating, but at the same time..." she trailed off, seeming reluctant to finish the sentence.
"At the same time... what?" Taylor prompted.
Bon-bon sighed softly. "It's just her way. I can't be upset with her - or you, for that matter - for what happened. At least not anymore. I mean, I was ready to kick her out of the house before you showed up, but now everything's changed. Before, I thought she was just obsessed with a fantasy world, and it was getting to be too much for me to deal with. Now I have no choice but to believe her. It's hard not to, when you're standing right there."
She poked his shoulder with her hoof for emphasis. There could be no doubt, Taylor was definitely real, though the question of whether or not he would be trouble still remained.
Taylor was pleased by her response. "Well, it's nice to see that you're not upset. I wasn't sure you and I would be able to... coexist, I guess is the word I'm looking for. You didn't seem to take kindly to me at all. At least not at first."
He craned his neck, looking back to see if Lyra had finished whatever she was doing. As expected, she was still examining the carts at every angle, making a bit of a spectacle of herself.
"No, I certainly didn't. It's not every day that a creature of myth just pops into your house. It was frightening, and I reacted badly. It actually says a lot about you, if you think about it."
Taylor cocked his head. "Oh? How do you figure that?"
"Well, a human showed up in my house and I panicked. That same human - who had just been dropped into a completely unfamiliar world - was calm the entire time. It's a little embarrassing, really." She tripped over her words a bit, clearly uncomfortable.
"Can't really blame yourself for that. If the situation had been reversed, I doubt it would have played out too differently. The real kicker is that this place isn't all that unfamiliar. Everything looks eerily similar to my world. A lot brighter, but still similar. It's both unnerving and not at the same time."
Bon-bon's eyes met Taylor's briefly before she turned away. "Well, I'm sorry about that first impression. Not exactly my proudest moment."
"Don't worry about it. Nopony's perfect. Besides, it's all good now, right?" Taylor smiled reassuringly.
The cream-colored pony was appreciative of Taylor's words, and impressed by how quickly he was adapting to using the native phrasing, though she wouldn't show it.
"He seems to fit right in here. After all this time, it's not what I expected from a Human."
"Wait up, you two!" Lyra called, trotting over to them. She seemed excited about something, though Taylor and Bon-bon were hesitant to ask what.
"I'm going to need your help when we get home. I have an idea, but you're the only one that can help me work out the kinks." She didn't really give Taylor much of an option.
"Alright, I guess." He shrugged, uncertain of what he was getting into.
The trio arrived at the bustling market, which was crowded by a whole spectrum of ponies of every color imaginable.
"My god, it's like a clown exploded."
"Heartstrings and I will go get something to bring home. Why don't you browse around, try to learn as much as you can? Just try not to talk to anyone." Bon-bon suggested.
"Sounds good. Don't worry about me, I think I've mastered the art of avoiding conversation." He said, half-jokingly.
Lyra started to protest, insisting that she should stay with Taylor just in case, but she was stopped by a sharp look from Bon-bon, and reluctantly followed her lead.
Taylor began perusing various stands and buildings. He found himself drawn to a book store display, with several titles stacked together on a metal rack. Most of the books were typical of Ponyville - things for the science-minded pony, a few history books, most of which specifically involved Celestia, but there were a few that seemed to stand out as unique. Picking one at random, he found himself holding a red tome with no title on the cover or spine. He flipped through the first few blank pages until he found one with text.
"Wow, for real? 'The Lusty Draconian Maid'?"
He shuddered, quickly putting the book back, trying to shake the images out of his head as he walked to a nearby cart, overflowing with assorted vegetables. He noticed that they looked a lot better than what he was used to seeing in his world.
"Maybe I should look into that before I go back, see if I can figure out how they grow them like this. A man could make millions off that kind of knowledge."
After passing several other carts, he began to wonder where Bon-bon and Lyra had gone to. His question was soon answered as he approached a stand loaded with apples and apple-themed baked goods. The two were arguing over what to buy, something that must have been a regular event, judging from the expression on the orange pony's face as she listened to her bickering customers.
"Would y'all please just pick something? Mah head's start'na hurt over here" Applejack pleaded.
A wry smile came over Taylor's face as he approached quietly, then poked his head between the two ponies. "We'll take that, that, one of those, and be on our way."
Applejack hastily gathered up the three items Taylor had chosen, grateful for his intervention. "Thank yeh for comin'. Enjoy."
Bon-bon placed a small pile of bits on the stall and each pony delicately picked up their treat, carrying it away.
"Y'rly shun've dunnat, y'know" Bon-bon said. It wasn't easy to talk while carrying an apple pie in her teeth.
Taylor grinned, placing his dinner down momentarily to avoid dropping it. "I know, but if I didn't, we could all have starved to death before you two came to a decision. Besides, I'm being careful, and to be honest, assimilating is easier than I thought."
Lyra had taken a seat in her usual fashion on a nearby bench, devouring her pie. Several ponies looked on disapprovingly. Bon-bon raised a hoof to her face. "Yeah, I'd say you're blending in better than she is right about now."
Lyra looked offended, but said nothing, far too busy with her food to respond, prompting a smirk from Taylor, who dug into his own pie shortly after. The three ate in silence, eager to fill their bellies, though it was certainly uncomfortable for Taylor to eat off the ground.
By the time they finished, the sun had begun to set and the crowded market had become desolate. All that was left were a few ponies cleaning up their carts and stands before calling it a day. Taylor, Lyra, and Bon-bon were all quite full and not looking forward to the walk home.
"Show of hooves, who feels like crashing here until we've had a chance to digest?" Taylor asked jokingly.
"Can't. You have to help me with my project." Lyra poked him with her hoof, seemingly unfazed by the massive quantity of pie she had eaten.
"Yeah yeah, I'm gettin' up," he groaned, standing slowly.
The three made their way home slowly. The air had become cool, the breeze had died, and the only sound was of their hoofsteps on the cobblestone path. Somehow the silence was both pleasant and uncomfortable for Taylor, so he decided to ask Lyra about this project of hers.
"Well, I got the idea when I was looking at those carts we passed. I was reading about something similar before I brought you here. It's like a big metal cart that moves by itself."
"Oh jeez. I already know where this is going."
"Yeah, I know what you're talking about. They're called cars and trust me, it's best if you don't do what you're thinking of doing."
Lyra scowled. "Well, why not?"
Taylor sighed, beginning a long discussion of all the complications and dangers involved. They became so wrapped up in the topic that they failed to notice they were being followed by two robed ponies...
[I know I said I'd get to Taylor's pony name and cutie mark in this chapter, but I decided to push that back a bit. It didn't fit anywhere in this one. You'll get over it.]