They were fairly close to the schoolhouse at this point, and Spike's internal clock showed that he had a decent bit of time: Thanks to combining the arcade trip with lunch and his visit with Rarity, he had managed to come out right on estimate. Once he collected this last fine (significantly larger than the others, list says Twilight attempted to serve this one before and never get an answer) then he would be able to relax a bit on his way to the Crusaders.
A few knocks later, a light-coated stallion ('Blind Eye', no title, level 9, self-employed, lives alone) pushed his way up to the door, frowning deeply when he saw Spike and Rarity.
"What do you want?"
Ah. Because of course it wouldn't be that easy.
"Just making my way around town collecting fines for the library."
There was a very brief flash of something in the stallion's eyes, maybe anger or disgust? It's an ugly expression, but it passed quickly. Almost as quickly, he began to shut the door.
The door didn't make it all the way to the jamb, what with Spike's foot in the way... It hurt, but only briefly. He shrugged off the small chunk of HP damage and dismissed the box that popped up to read later.
"Listen, Blind Eye, I-"
That stopped his motion, and the harsh expression came back, his mouth set in a firm scowl.
"Didn't tell you my name."
"Right! But I have a ledger, see. So I know you have one of our books, or had it anyways. So rather than slam the door on my foot again, let's handle this like gentlecolts, alright?"
Blind Eye cocked an eyebrow at the word "foot", which then settled back into a dour expression when he looked down and saw Spike's scaled claw.
"Don't know why my name is on your list, but I hate the library here. Absolutely despise the place. So I don't have one of your books. Go awa-"
Spike didn't need Observe to tell him that this stallion was lying. It certainly helped, but it wasn't necessary. He sighed and reached into a little belted bag on his side (picked up at the pouch shop, a convenient excuse to hide his Inventory's blatant nature) and pulled out the ledger. Looking at it more closely, he was surprised that he hadn't been more worried about this earlier... Then again, at the time he may have just written it off on the assumption that there would be no answer. Again.
"I totally understand that this can be an inconvenience, and normally I'd just come back on a nicer day, but it says here that you owe really quite a lot: We've attempted three previous collections and gotten no answer. So if you return the book today, it will still be twenty-five bits. If you don't, it'll be a flat fifty, given the cost of a new copy of... 'A Skeptic's Field Guide', and the cost of making it shelf-ready."
Somehow the stallion managed to simultaneously sneer and scoff, a real feat all things considered.
"Yeah, you think I believe that? As if your little gambit needs any more money."
"That place is one of Celestia's little pet projects, run by her little pet unicorn. She pours extra bits into that and ignores the actual problems here in Ponyville. So even if I had your book, I wouldn't pay a single bit. And you know what? I wouldn't give it back even if I could."
Spike didn't react in the slightest, visually, even when Rarity let out an affronted gasp to hear this random schmuck insulting Twilight to their faces. He just sighed and looked down at the ledger.
"Alright then. Thank you for your time: I'm just going to head up the block to the Guard office."
Blind Eye went to close the door on him mid-sentence, but stopped just before it hit the frame.
"You know, Celestia's Guard? Nearest Guardhouse is like two streets away from here? If you're right about the Princess putting so much effort and personal funding into a small-town library... And I mean, how could you not be right, Mr. Skeptic? If you're right, then you don't owe fifty bits for fees and defrauding our free public library. At that point what you’ve done is steal government property."
Spike began pacing back and forth, keeping his head turned to face Blind Eye. He never broke eye contact and didn't slow down, so every time he turned around again his neck craned strangely, making it look like his head was moving independently of the rest of him.
"I grew up in Canterlot with that 'pet' unicorn, you know. And geez let me tell you, the Guard really hate it when ponies steal from the government. I remember the last time somepony tried to take a bunch of art pieces from the Palace? Couldn't walk on their front hooves again for months. It was a shame, too: They seemed like such a nice pony. You seem like a nice pony too, honestly! But either way I have to go tell the Guard about this, so I'll see you later."
He stopped dead-center with the door and tilted his head, leaning to one side with his eyes as wide as he could make them.
"Or maybe I won't see you ever again? Doesn't make a difference to me, in the end."
The stallion had already been pale to begin with, but at this point every drop of blood had fallen out of his face, and he turned around on shaking hooves, blinking furiously to get the image of Spike's expression out of his head.
"I-I'll go get the bits. Sorry. sorry."
By using [Intimidate] without the skill, your Mastery increases by 33%
Not even a full minute later, Spike was waltzing away from Blind Eye's house whistling a jaunty tune, tossing the bag of bits from one claw to the other. The book itself was already stowed away in his Inventory, and the bits followed a few steps later. Rarity was looking at him with her face twisted up in... Well he wasn't sure what her expression was, exactly. Wasn't great though.
"Spike, I am not entirely sure I believe what I just saw."
"You browbeat that poor stallion as if he had done you some horrible personal offense! I mean, yes, he did say those things about Twilight and Celestia, but... That was excessive! And what was that bit towards the end about the Guard breaking somepony's legs?"
"Oh! Made it up. Sort of? I was reading this comic series about the old Cavaletti crime family in Baltimare, and there was this great scene like that, so I kind of just... went with the flow. Maybe I should try to get into acting, see what skills that gets me!"
She snapped his name out like it was a curse word before catching herself, clearly flustered.
"Spike! I... Spike, listen. It is one thing to make your best effort to get back what is owed to you, and it's another entirely to do so with lies and intimidation. I'm... I was going to say 'disappointed', but given some of my own actions with you perhaps that's not the right word. Disquieted? Worried?"
"I simply don't want you to be abusing ponies just because you have a little power, is all. I know what it is like to let a rush of potential, or authority... even just popularity get to your head..."
That brought him short. He turned around and smiled, softly, trying to steady his expression.
"Alright. I promise that I won't do anything unnecessary like that in the future, alright? But I can't just say I'm going to avoid doing things when they're needed. Sometimes I might have to-"
"No, no, I understand that. I suppose I've just... seen a lot of you growing up today, in more ways than one. It has left me a bit askew, and that was the last push to full-blown shock in my head."
It made sense. He could understand how strange it was to see somepony go through big changes in very little time: After all, he had been there for so many moments of Twilight's changing life: When Shining left for the Guard, when Celestia sent them to Ponyville, all sorts of times when things were thrown into upheaval. Spike realized that all of these changes hitting at once wasn't bothering him because of the Gamer's Mind, but the ponies in his life watching him didn't have that luxury.
"I promise I'm not going to totally change. I mean, after all this... I'm still me, right?"
She stepped forward and nuzzled his side briefly before pulling away with a smile.
"That you are, Spike."