Over the next few weeks, the Cutie Mark Crusaders were becoming quite popular with everypony they sold Caramel’s Confections to. Thanks to word of mouth and the efforts of their classmates selling their own, the trio proudly accepted the hearty cash prize from Caramel Crumble on the day of the deadline.
“Come to my new building after school if you’re available,” the mare had whispered to them, pushing a sheet of parchment into Apple Bloom’s hoof. “I have an offer for you three.”
Given how much spending money they’d just earned, the three needed little time to decide amongst themselves whether to accept or decline the invitation. After school, they travelled through town, following the directions on the parchment.
“If we’re gonna keep making this kinda cash,” Scootaloo said, “how can we say no?”
“It’ll really help out the farm,” Apple Bloom agreed. “Ah just hope we’re gonna have time fer whatever this is, since we also got part-time tutorin’ at the school.”
Sweetie Belle kept quiet for a moment before speaking up, concern in her voice. “Did any of you notice something...different about everypony?”
Apple Bloom looked at her friend, head tilted. “Different how?”
“Well, everypony looks...bigger.”
The three looked around them. Scootaloo and Apple Bloom had never thought about it, but everypony indeed looked heavier. They saw Lyra Heartstrings and Bon Bon sitting on a bench enjoying some of Caramel Crumble’s triple-chocolate bars, sporting round stomachs and chubby cheeks stuffed with batter. Stallions, mares and foals walking around them certainly had a jiggle to their step now, and almost everypony was chewing on a cupcake or muffin. Anypony close to them, they could see some kind of cloudiness over their eyes that the three couldn’t identify.
“Now that ya mention it,” Apple Bloom muttered, “Ms. Cheerilee definitely looked like she was really hittin’ the cookies.”
“Everypony in class has been putting on the pounds too,” Scootaloo agreed. “Guess this stuff really is that good, huh?”
“Do you think it’s to do with the stuff we sold?” asked Sweetie Belle.
“Probably,” said Apple Bloom with a shrug. “Ah wouldn’t worry, though. Just seems like a phase everypony’s goin’ through. Ain’t hard to burn off a couple’a pounds.”
“Maybe,” said Sweetie Belle, unconvinced. “Still, we should keep off this stuff for now.”
“Yeah,” agreed Scootaloo. “Caramel Crumble probably wants us to sell even more, so we gotta look professional!”
The directions on the parchment led the Crusaders to a shop in a backstreet. They looked at each other nervously; they weren’t expecting a lavish penthouse like one would see in Manehattan, but something about the location seemed a little dodgy. The friendly face next to the Crumble’s Confections sign over the door helped put their minds at ease. They stepped inside, even more comforted by how the candy store-bakery combination of the interior made them think of Sugarcube Corner, if the image of a suspicious Pinkie Pie made them shiver.
They saw Caramel Crumble setting some sprinkled, quad-glazed doughnuts in the display window, and she looked up at them with a smile.
“Ah, there you are,” she said, stepping out to them. “Interested in my offer, then?”
“That depends on what the offer is,” Sweetie Belle said, taking a step forward. Her friends nodded in agreement.
“Smart girls,” said Caramel with a smirk. “Well, I’ll get right to the point; I was impressed by you three. Very impressed. Not just by how much you sold, but your self-control too. The only three fillies in your class who fought the urge to take a bite of my treats.”
“Yeah well,” Apple Bloom muttered, cheeks flushing pink, “it wasn’t easy. It all smelled so good!”
Caramel chuckled warmly. “My point is, I’ve decided to offer you three a little part-time job as delivery fillies. I know you three have school and tutoring to keep you busy, so it’ll just be a little weekend job. You’ll be well paid, of course.”
Scootaloo and Apple Bloom grinned at each other, but Sweetie Belle tilted her head. “How do you know we’re tutors?”
“I just wanted to learn a little more about my potential new employees,” Caramel said, waving a hoof dismissively. “It’s a small town, so it’s pretty easy to learn about the locals. Especially when they have a reputation.”
Scootaloo smirked. “Well, we are kind of a big deal.”
“So it’ll be easier for you to make some good sales,” the mare added. “I’m sure you three could put all that spending money to good use, couldn’t you?”
Sweetie Belle had to admit, all the extra bits would be useful. She could use them to get herself some spellbooks to practice her developing magic, Apple Bloom could use it to help her family’s farm, and Scootaloo could get some more Wonderbolts merchandise or whatever she could find related to Rainbow Dash.
The three murmured as much to each other, and nodded before looking at Caramel Crumble.
“You got a deal,” they said in unison.
“Splendid!” said Caramel, clapping her front hooves. “Now, I have a delivery for you three to make, but first let’s discuss your work hours.”
Later on, the Crusaders were taking a wagon of treats through town. Plump ponies stared with wide eyes, but they thankfully didn’t jump the fillies for their cargo. Extra good thing for them, considering who they were delivering to.
“A few hours of delivery on the weekend,” Scootaloo said with a smile. “And good pay, too. We really got it made!”
“Sweet Apple Acre’s gonna be swimmin’ in bits at this rate,” chirped Apple Bloom.
“Something about it feels a little too good to be true,” muttered Sweetie Belle, “but I guess I shouldn’t look a gift horse in the mouth.”
Scootaloo looked at her, eyebrow raised. “Are we allowed to say something like that?”
“I dunno,” the unicorn said with a shrug.
Once at their destination, Apple Bloom did the honours of knocking the double doors. It soon opened to a familiar purple dragon looking up at them.
“Oh, hey Crusaders,” he greeted them, and looked at the wagon. “You’re doing the delivery?”
“Yeah, we got a part time job,” Sweetie Belle explained.
“Oh cool,” he said, grinning and leading the three inside. “C’mon in, they’re all waiting.”
The fillies followed the dragon into the crystal-like castle just outside of Ponyville, which served as the residence for Twilight Sparkle, Equestria’s Princess of Friendship. To anypony else, getting to go inside the Castle of Friendship would be a great honour, but it was a normal thing for the Crusaders, considering Apple Bloom and Sweetie Belle’s sisters were Elements of Harmony and Scootaloo and Rainbow Dash were close enough to be sisters.
Inside the Map Room, the Mane Six themselves were all sat around the circular table. There were welcoming smiles all around, but nonetheless the presence of Pinkie Pie put the three on edge. They could see the suspicion behind her usual wide grin.
“Hello, girls,” Twilight began, sitting in the centre. “That really is a lot of treats. Nopony was exaggerating then.”
“I didn’t think you’d be into this kinda stuff,” said Sweetie Belle, as Twilight’s magical aura began lifting boxes off the wagon and splitting them amongst the other Elements of Harmony.
“We weren’t at first,” Applejack explained, flipping open a box of chocolate muffins given to her by her sister, “but everypony’s been goin’ on about how they’re the best thing since my family’s apple pies, so we figured we’d give ‘em a shot together.”
“Besides, they got stuff based on me,” said Rainbow Dash with a smirk, grabbing a box of rainbow-sprinkle cookies, “so they’ve gotta be awesome!”
“Oh they totally are,” agreed Scootaloo, her small wings buzzing as her idol started digging in.
Sweetie Belle floated a tub of double-chocolate ice-cream to her sister, Rarity, who took a few dainty spoonfuls before ravenously shovelling it in.
Even Fluttershy had quickly gone from polite nibbles to loud scoffs on her mixed-berry muffins.
Pinkie Pie stared at a lone strawberry-cream cupcake in her hoof, eyeing it suspiciously and sniffing at it. Inspecting it from every possible angle.
The Crusaders glanced at each other, biting their lips. It was great to see the rest of the Elements, even Twilight herself enjoying the treats, but Pinkie was an expert baker, so her approval definitely held some weight.
Finally, she took a bite. A large, fateful chomp. Her jaw hung open, pupils dilated. She stared at the cupcake for a few moments more, and finally crammed it in her face before shoving said face into the whole box.
The fillies sighed with relief and grinned with regained confidence as a large bag of bits floated over to them.
“Wow, they weren’t kidding,” Twilight mumbled, crumbs falling out of her mouth, and she gulped. “This stuff is amazing! I’ll have to order some more, and get some muffins for Starlight!”
“Darn right!” Applejack agreed, wiping her face on her hoof. “Might just sell ‘em some of my apples and see what they make of ‘em!”
“Simply divine!” purred Rarity, lowering the empty ice cream tub from her face. “I must order more! Much more! I may even sponsor them in my next line!”
“Oh, I’d totally put this logo on my Wonderbolts uniform if I could,” Rainbow Dash declared with a belch.
“I wonder if they’re safe for animals,” muttered Fluttershy, licking crumbs off her snout.
“I wasn’t sure about this stuff at first,” said Pinkie, “but my tummy confirms this is definitely yummy! Maybe they’ll wanna do a collab with Sugarcube Corner!”
The Crusaders were definitely pleased that their delivery to the most important ponies in town had succeeded perfectly, but they couldn’t help but feel unnerved by the almost animalistic ‘want’ in their eyes.