Pinkie tilted her head to the right. Then she tilted her head to the left, so much she became horizontal. Then she jumped to the ceiling and tilted her head upwards (downwards). Then she sat on the floor and crossed her front legs, closing one eye. Then she leaned forwards, opening the eye and closing the other one. Then she grabbed the book she had been looking at and fell backwards, with it open.
The cakes, who had been watching that sequence of actions, finally couldn't stop themselves.
"Pinkie, what are you doing?" Mrs. Cake asked.
The pink earth pony looked at them, then walked over to the two and showed the cover of the book to them.
"You're studying calculus?" Mr. Cake asked "Why?" He said after Pinkie nodded.
"Well, I met that Twilight the Knight yesterday and she said I had the same type of magic that I do and she even taught me something cool I didn't know I could do, so she asked me to be her apprentice and I accepted, but she said I should learn this kinds of things and gave me this book, but I'm not getting what this is all about and I don't want to disapoint her and our first class is today and there's so many things it would be cool to know but I'm afraid I'm not going to be able to understand what she wants to teach and I'm trying to make it fit into my head but nothing is working and..." Pinkie said breathlessly.
"Calm down!" Both Cakes said forcefully.
Pinkie took a deep, deep breath. She held it for long enough that her chest visibly inflated, before letting it out.
"Okay, Pinkie. What exactly are you having trouble with?" Mrs. Cake asked kindly.
"It's just... I know how to do normal calculations, like everything I need to help work the counter and all the little numbers you use when actually baking something. But this... Diferential and Integral stuff... Everything you do needs a bunch of equations and formulas, and even if I look at the examples, I can't actually work out how to do any of the problems. It's just too far out, I can't understand what's supposed to be happening..." Pinkie looked down.
The Cakes looked at each other, then Mrs. Cake took over.
"Pinkie... You said you are going to meet that Twilight today, so why don't you talk with her about it?"
Pinkie looked conflicted "It's just... She gave me this book, saying I should study it 'in between classes', like she expects me to get it easily... And I'm afraid I'm going to disappoint her... I don't want that." She looked down sadly.
That made everything clear. The two more or less understood how Pinkie's mind worked, so they knew what to do in this situation. Mr. Cake was the one to talk.
"Pinkie... Did you say to your teacher that you never had any experience with that?"
"I... No, but..."
"And apparently this involves that magic thing. Isn't it possible that she understood it easily and simply thought you would be the same? Or even, she might have done it this way just to check how well you do without instruction, so she can tailor her classes accordingly." This time it was Mrs. Cake who talked.
"Could be, but..."
"And she is your teacher. You can talk to her about what is giving you trouble and she will help, or even find someone else who can teach it to you. Or some other alternative. If you're not making any progress, the right thing to do is inform her of your problems so that you can work on it together." The mare continued.
"Together..." Pinkie closed her eyes for a moment, and then smiled "You're right! I can't just keep brooding and forcing myself. I'll just wait until our class and talk about it!" Her smiled broadened "Thank you!" She hugged both of them and then left, saying something about going back to work.
The Cakes smiled and went back to their own matters.
Trixie had, after a lot of thinking, decided on a new, more subtle strategy. She was going to walk around town under an illusion. And not only that, the illusion would only serve to hide what she was wearing, a particularly ridiculous emsemble including a tutu, a clown horn and a multicolored shirt. This way, if anyone were to see through her illusion, that pony wouldn't be able to resist giving some sign of it. But Trixie thought the chance of that happening was low. More probable would be someone managing to detect the magic emissions of the illusion itself, or realize that her coat wasn't moving or receiving the light quite right. Trixie had purposedly made the illusion less perfect than she was used to, but it would still take someone with talent to detect it.
Trixie went wandering around the city of ponyville without any specific destination in mind.
Well, that was not quite right, Trixie was aiming to be seen by as many ponies as possible, and the places she went were based on this principle. She entered every store she could see, deliberatedly followed concentrations of ponies and kept going back to the main plaza every so often.
It was in one of those visits to the main plaza that she hit paydirt.
There was an orange mare with a blonde mane next to a counter selling apples (just set up, apparently), she was with her back to Trixie, talking with three fillies (one of them being very familiar to the unicorn from the previous day) who then walked off together. Trixie was planning to buy an apple, since she was feeling a little hungry, but as soon as the mare turned to her, her eyes widened and she exclaimed:
"What the hay are ya wearing?!"
"Good job!" Twilight praised, and Dinky released her spell, making the small statue fade from the garish blue it had been into its original gray color "With this, your light manipulation spells are doing pretty well." Twilight looked at the clock on the wall "And it looks like we are going to have to end things here."
She helped Dinky collect back her stuff before leaving, and marked the lesson on her checklist, noting that the next lesson planned didn't need adjustment.
The next thing in her schedule was spell development, which she was excited for, because she was getting closer and closer to completion in her current project.
The idea had been born due to the necessity of using more powerful spells easier and faster. Prepared spells had problems in that they were prepared, and as such were rigid and couldn't be easily adapted to the situation, together with the fact that there was a limit to the number of them you could have all at once.
With chaos magic, the first problem could be nullified, which would make the second a non-issue. Chaos magic was naturally the enemy of this kind of rigidity, and the day before, she had managed to fuse two separate spells together to make a new spell with their combined powers, which would be as powerful as their combined energy.
The idea was that she would have two prepared spells, and fuse them together with a new spell done at the time, creating a powerful combined spell that she could turn into whatever effect was needed at the time. The production name was Merged Spell. Both prepared spells would also be weaker than the max she could muster. Not just because it would require less upkeep to maintain them, but also because, even if she could merge the spells, she would never be able to control the resulting energy maelstrom (that was more Sunset's thing).
All that in mind, Twilight spent the next two hours imprinting the prepared spells inside her body. Casting wasn't actually all that slow, despite the fact that she was writing magic circles to perform the spells with the greatest possible precision. What actually ate time was the unicorn trying to stabilize the spells, which was difficult for anyone, but specially someone who had such an unruly type of magic. And stabilized, in this case, meant they were active in ways that wouldn't break containment as long as she gave them maintenance often, and the energy upkeep was low enough that it wouldn't significantly affect her recovery speed.
Reading all that makes it seem complicated, but it was far more complicated than what could be explained here. Prepared spells were already a rather difficult magic even for specialists and without any of the additional complications Twilight had to face.
Still, it was done, and the purple unicorn streched a little. That had been good progress, even if there was still some issues to be worked out. So Twilight decided to go to the kitchen make a lunch.
However, before she could get there, Twilight received a letter.
It was from Spike, and he was just writing to say that everything was okay, that he was making progress under Luna's lessons and that Princess Cadance had come to talk with the night Alicorn a few times and seemed nice.
Twilight smiled, making a note to write back later, and went to the kitchen.
Sunset was walking down the streets, lost in thoughts about the best way to try to find somepony to be her apprentice. So she almost didn't react when the blue pegasus landed right in front of her.
She did react, and her aura defense did activate, but since she wasn't in any actual danger, the activation was small and didn't show any visible signs.
"What is it?" Sunset asked, already in serious mode "Is there somepony needing my help?" Because the pegasus had come fast and apparently needed to talk to her, which possibly meant an emergency.
"Nothing so dramatic." The pegasus rubbed her head, apparently embarrased, before looking at her in determination "I heard about your test of strength, and I want to show what I'm made off!"
Sunset blinked, then sighed and prepared a force spell. Upon seeing the pegasus brace herself, she lanched the spell, sending the mare flying.
The unicorn was about to go check on her, when the blue pony got out from her uncontrolled flight and came back to land in front of her.
"Again!" She shouted, hitting her chest with a hoof "I can do it!"
Slightly bemused, Sunset used the spell again. And the result was the same, including the blue mare coming back asking for more. Sunset then started varying the spells, firing off every powerful but non-harmful spell she had in her arsenal, with the pegasus managing to take all of them and keep coming back for more.
Sunset's eye twitched as she continued her barrage of spells. What had that pony been doing on the day before? She then stopped the spells for a moment.
"Hey. What's your name?"
The pegasus took a moment to recover from the sudden change before answering "I'm Rainbow Dash, the most awesome pegasus you'll ever see!"
There was only one thing Trixie could do in this situation. She removed her illusions, letting everyone in the plaza see what she was wearing.
"Trixie is wearing thse clothes to show that you can't always trust what you see!" She took a moment to let the ponies around process that, before leaning closer to the earth pony mare and asking:
"What's your name?"
"Applejack." She was nonplussed.
"Okay, Applejack, Trixie'll need to talk to you later, when and where would be a good place?" Trixie didn't let up or give the mare time to recover.
It worked, as Applejack mentioned the Sweet Apple Acres and a time three hours from then. The first part of Trixie's challenge was complete, and she decided to turn her discovery into an improptu show, manipulating her own clothes and those of volunteers with illusions (including touch based illusions) while moving through the plaza.
It was fun while it lasted, but eventually Trixie declared the end of the show, took off her costume and teleported it back to her wagon before asking around about where Sweet Apple Acres was. She then sat on a bench to wait until the appointed time, while at the same time thinking about how she would convinve Applejack to become her apprentice, which would be the second and last part of her quest to obtain an apprentice.
She ran several scenarios through her mind during that time.
Eventually, the time came closer, and Trixie trotted to the specified place, not having exactly a plan (as she didn't know enough about her target to make one) but knowing enough about convincing people to make a fair attempt.
She easily found Applejack, who had apparently been waiting for her.
"So, I guess you want to know why Trixie was wearing that getup under illusions and why she called you here?" Trixie asked simply, to make the rest of the conversation flow better, and the earth pony answered with a nod.
"It's simple. Both things are related. Trixie was using that illusion to try to find somepony to be her apprentice. And she called you here to ask you to become that apprentice." Trixie said, looking directly at Applejack's eyes.
"But why?" The mare asked "Ah don't know anything about illusions, and Ah'm not an unicorn."
"You may not use illusions, but you do understand them." Trixie remembered something from one of the stories she had read together with the others "In order to understand truth, it's necessary to understand what illusions are, the same way it's necessary to understand truth in order to create the best illusions." Trixie shook her head slightly "Your Eyes of Truth are a magnificent skill, and helping you take them further is more important than simply teaching somepony how to create illusions." Trixie was absolutely serious.
Applejack was conflicted "Ah-Ah can't. There's always a lot of work to do in the farm and ah wouldn't have time to learn seriously."
Trixie was undeterred "If that's the case, Trixie will help with the farm to give you enough time. This is important enough."
Applejack was clearly taken aback "Ya'd go that far? But... Ah already can see through illusions, so why do you need to train me more?"
Trixie smiled "You may be able to see through normal illusions, but take a look at this!" Trixie charged her magic "Perfect Illusion: Cloak of Light!"
And Trixie disappeared right from under Applejack's eyes.
"What?! How did ya do that?"
"That is an illusion designed to work on a deeper level." Trixie said from the air, before cancelling her spell. Seeing as Applejack still seemed hesitant, she decided to deploy her final argument:
"If your ability turns out to be needed in the future, it would be bad if it wasn't developed enough."
Applejack looked at her, and then made her decision.
"Okay. Ah will learn with ya."
"Trixie will teach you as best as she can."
"Okay, Ranbow Dash." Sunset started, deciding to skip any unnecessary talk "I want you to become my apprentice. If you think you're awesome now, you should imagine what you would be capable of under my tutelage."
"Apprentice?" Rainbow Dash could barely believe what she was hearing "As if you're awesome enough to become my master!" Rainbow Dash crossed her front legs.
"Excuse me?" Sunset was almost insulted, it was almost like that pegasus didn't even know who she was "I happen to think being a Knight of the Realm of Equestria is plenty awesome enough for anypony."
"Tch. Okay, that is cool." Dash admitted "But if I become subordinate to somepony, I wanted it be one I respected personally... Like the Wonderbolts!" The blue mare opened her wings wide with a broad smile on her lips "I have seen their stunts and they're awesome! But I didn't see what you three did to save Princess Luna. Maybe you're cool but not awesome, do you get what I mean?" Dash waved her right foreleg in the air, hoping to make herself understood.
Sunset understood perfectly, and that exchange made her certain she wanted that pegasus as an apprentice. She knew exactly what to do "Oh, so you need to see how awesome we are in person, don't you? Then there is only one way. Let's do the reverse of the challenge. You give me your best shot and I won't move an inch."
Rainbow rose to the challenge "Let's do it! I will make you eat those words." She flew into the air, gaining distance for her own attack.
Sunset readied her aura, manifesting it in the most defensive state possible, and cast a few protection spells. It was probably overkill, but she wanted to make a point. Then she felt an immense amount of power coming from the direction Rainbow Dash had flown towards.
Looking there, Sunset could see that the pegasus had created a multi-layer (five or six, it kept shifting) lightning cocoon. And then she flew in Sunset's direction, and from what the unicorn could sense, she was dragging literal tons of air along.
It seemed like the Knight would need to get serious.
"THUNDEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEER..." Rainbow Dash called, as she got closer and closer.
Sunset used five different anchoring spells, then used the three strongest shield spells she could get up in the time remaining.
"DASH!" And contact was made.
In the brief moment of impact, Sunset felt like she was being hit with a mountain. A mountain covered in lightning.
Then, she was immediately assaulted by the feedback of her three shield spells breaking like so much glass. The unicorn poured every scrap of magic power she had access to into her aura defenses, and held on to the anchoring spells with pure will.
After an interminable period of time (two seconds), the attack finally ended, and she saw Rainbow Dash dropping right in front of her.
The pegasus raised her head, and Sunset spoke with a shaky voice:
"See... I didn't even move an inch."
Rainbow's voice as just as shaky.
"Okay... I will admit that you are awesome..."
Sunset sat down and the two of them waited for their bodies to recover from the exertion. Sunset was cringing, thinking of what Twilight would do when she saw her friend had gone against doctor's instructions.
(The ponies who had witnessed that tremendous magical clash vacated the premises, seeing that the show was over.)
A few minutes later, the two were recovered enough to talk seriously.
"You are awesome indeed, but..." Rainbow Dash started. Sunset only barely stopped herself from yelling 'oh, come on!' "Are you sure you can help me? After all, you are not a pegasus."
Sunset sighed "The learnings of the Knights of the Realm are wide." She pointed her hoof at the pegasus "And I'll show you. Start flying around in a circle."
Dash complied, curious, and Sunset used a spell.
Instantly, Dash's speed doubled, and she felt incredibly light and strong, but it only lasted for a few seconds. The pegasus flew back down to Sunset.
"Right. That is cool, but it's still an unicorn spell."
"Indeed." Sunset admitted "But I used this specific spell because it was originally invented based on a pegasus method of magic control."
"Seriously?" Rainbow Dash asked, excited.
"Yes. And it's those kinds of things I can teach you. I can assure you that Rainbow Dash the pegasus will become much more awesome if you accept." Sunset was tired, but she put all her remaining ability to convince into those words.
Rainbow Dash finally caved "Okay. I will study under you. I want to become the most awesome pegasus possible before entering the Wonderbolts."
Sunset smiled, then imagined Rainbow Dash rising on the ranks of the Wonderbolts and passing down her own way of doing things. This made her smile even wider.