Periwinkle ears twitched at the sound of three sharp knocks rapping on the door. The colt hopped off his cloud cushion and gave his wings a little rustle as he shook out his legs. He shot a baleful look at the clutter of papers and stack of textbooks, then turned away with a flick of his tail. One, in particular, a form with the words Fall Class Registration, bore the brunt of his ire.
“Why I have to go through these stupid meteorology classes when I already know all of this is beyond me,” he grumbled.
Stupid Cloudsdale University. Stupid seven-year doctorate program requiring such low level, basic classes and offering no way to skip ahead.
Why in Equestria adults were so stupid about higher education was beyond him. But in his expert, completely unbiased opinion, they needed to make some serious changes to the requirements. By Celestia’s pinions, he knew more than most of his professors!
Living with Equestria’s top meteorological researchers tended to have that effect.
Another round of knocking brought an irritated frown to his muzzle. “Okay, okay! Keep your feathers on!” he called back. “Sheesh! Can’t a pegasus take his time anymore?”
The empty house didn’t answer him. Save for the tinkling of ice shards dangling from the wind chimes outside, the only sound was his voice and that annoying knocking. He sighed, his breath came in a thick, white mist, and trotted for the door, pausing just long enough to wrap a sweater around his body. Even in the middle of summer, it felt like the heart of a blizzard.
Such was life in Altocumulus Terrace.
As he passed by the frosted mirror mounted on the wall, he spared his reflection a passing glance. His powder blue mane was as fluffy and soft as the very clouds he lived in, and the streaks on either side as pure white as snow.
He tugged the door open and found himself face to face with a familiar sight: a stallion with lightning yellow coat and thunderhead gray mane, the mailpony. The bright grin on the stallion’s muzzle drew a sigh and a flat stare. “Please don’t, Lightning Streak,” the colt said halfheartedly.
“Letter from Sure Stroke for one Altocumulus Stratiformis Translucidus Lacunosus!” Lightning Streak replied smugly.
“Ugh! Come on! You know I hate it when you do that!”
“Sorry, bucko, it’s regulation,” Lightning said with utmost insincerity as he gave Alto his letter. “Parents still gone?”
“Yeah, they’ll be back in a few months. I think. Probably.” Alto shrugged. “They’re off lecturing in Istallia, then I believe they’re over in Prance for a couple months for a series or something.”
The stallion’s smile faltered. “Ouch. That’s rough.” He gave his wings a nervous rustle, then asked, “You okay on your own for that long?”
There it was. Alto fought the urge to roll his eyes. “I’m fine, Lightning. Been looking after myself since I was little.”
“I’m in Cloudsdale U, for Celestia’s sake! I’m practically an adult!”
Lightning Streak fixed him with a flat look. “Going to college and being okay on your own are two different things, Altocumulus,” he replied, turning away and trotting toward the edge of the fluffy cloud landing. Just before he reached the end, he stopped and turned to look over his shoulder. With a sigh, Lightnin added, “Take care of yourself, okay, kid? Swing by my house if you need anything from Updraft or me, okay?”
Alto bit back a scoff in favor of a single nod. Lightning was a pain, but a decent stallion. Same with his husband. “I’ll keep it in mind. Say hi to Updraft from me.”
“Will do.” Without another word, Lightning Streak launched himself off the edge of the landing and glided over to the Frost family’s house a few clouds down.
Alto watched Lightning trot over to knock on the door, a hint of a smile tugged at his lips as he turned and padded back into his house, closing the door behind himself with a kick. He looked at the envelope in his hoof, glaring at his full name written in his little cousin’s loopy hoofwriting. How many times do I have to tell her to stop that?
With a huff, he trotted back to his desk and flopped onto a cloud formed into the shape of a single pony cushion, then tore the envelope open. Sliding the letter out, he unfolded it and settled in to read.
Dear Altocumulus Stratiformis Translucidus Lacunosus,
I owe you another apology for taking so long to write you again. I’m really sorry. Getting used to life in the village hasn’t been quite as easy as I’d hoped, but I’m slowly getting there. They have a rather strange culture, these ponies, but they’re quite nice. What I’ve noticed most is that they believe quite a bit in the concept of equal tradeoffs—if you want something from them, you have to offer something of equal value in return. Additionally, if you challenge or offend them, you can expect them to answer eagerly or give equivalent retribution in due time.
Ironically, Aspire served as my example for the latter. As much as he and Esalen have been teaching me about life in Respite, it seems he’s not immune to getting a bit of payback. He managed to upset a pair of stallions by getting them in trouble with their wife, so they got him back by ruining a game for him. I’m almost certain he’ll try getting them somehow, but I’m staying well out of it.
I’ve found Esalen to be rather helpful in giving me ideas to find my way if I end up living here permanently. The main function of the village seems to be a haven of sorts, a place to help those in need. We’ve discussed how I could maybe do that with my art, but I’m not committed to anything yet. I have plenty of time until their “Trade Day,” so I’ll have to ask around. Lots of things to think on.
Speaking of things coming up, we’ve got some rather important visitors coming. The villagers share culture with a few other groups across Equestria, with some difference. One of them is coming to visit in a few weeks, so there’s a lot of preparation to do. It’s both exciting and nerve inducing. I really hope I’ve got a decent enough grasp of things that I don’t cause trouble!
In other, more happy news … well, Aspire and I are sort of seeing one another. Trying things out. He’s … different from the colts in Cloudsdale, almost alien, because of the culture. But he’s very sweet and thoughtful. Once you get past the smugness, snark, and such, that is. He babies me quite a bit with the culture, though, and I’ve had to yell at him a few times to make him stop. We’ll see if that sticks or if he needs a little percussive therapy.
Oh! Something that might be of interest to you: the weather here isn’t manufactured or fully controlled by ponies. Respite is too small and out of the way for shipments, so we rely on natural weather. Dad and the weather team are here to manage the more dangerous storms and try to stockpile what rain clouds they can to make sure crops get watered regularly. If not, there’s always Lake Neighagara.
I hope everything is going well for you back home. Best of luck with your doctorate program!
Alto smiled as he read over the letter a second time. “Good for you, little cousin,” he muttered. “Glad to hear—wait a minute.” Ears twitching, he looked over Sure Stroke’s last paragraph.
Wild weather? Like in the Everfree Forest?
Slowly, a smile spread across his muzzle. “Well, now,” he muttered to himself. “That’s interesting.” His eyes flitted to the class registration form resting on his desk. The gears in his head began to turn.
Things had been rather dull since his aunt, uncle, and little cousin moved away, and the house was always so deathly quiet when his parents were gone. Not to mention how boring it was that he couldn’t research or test more high-level weather pattens until he earned a bunch of stupid certifications.
Wild weather, on the other hoof …
Alto hummed. “The village of Respite, huh?” His feathers twitched eagerly. He brushed the registry form aside, then set out a fresh sheet of paper and took up his quill. “I may just have to pay a visit.”
Cousin Sure Stroke …