Spike of All Trades

by Ariamaki

Chapter 31: Shifting

Spike had been meandering towards the school while trying to run all of that down and produce theories and write down his notes for later. As such, he had made it... Three blocks, if you could even measure Ponyville by the block. It seemed like his multitasking was going to need a lot of work, but that didn't dissuade him from moving on to an inventory management spree. Just that and his quests and he'd have everything totally in order, then he could hoof it. Inventory, inventory... Huh.

A good start: Nothing surprising in terms of actual contents. Gems, comics, books, blanket, pillow, quills and ink, the ledger, the journal, some loose paper, his bits (which resided in a currency tab instead of being ‘items’), the pouch from Twilight, the muffin from Pinkie, the fines (these were an item, either because he didn't think of that as "his" money, or maybe their quest connection?), the books that were returned, the contents of Rarity's Hopeless Case mixed in with his own gems, the gifts he bought for the Crusaders, Pinkie's recipe, and the Ticket. He hadn't mysteriously been burdened with items, hadn't accidentally stored anything, no weird backfires. A reliable system!

Somewhat less good: He still couldn't Observe that piece of metal from the Case to any real consequence. However, all the various stones and gems had been connected in Indra's Net, his web of information filling out with all of their similarities and interrelationships. Spike wondered if his escapade with the Case had been some hidden prerequisite to attaining this subskill, given how much the skill’s display mimicked the results of that experiment.

The best news? Quality Assurance worked, and it worked even in his inventory. He could see four marked items, each surrounded with an orange-gold glow. The Ticket of course, the Zacahuil recipe... as well as one of his books and the strange metal. Attempting to turn Quality Assurance on them directly with Observe, he could see... Errors, mostly.

Late Bloomer's Ticket
Allows for an act of exceptional creation.

Legendary Recipe: Zacahuil
Teaches a new cooking recipe... but you do not meet the minimum requirements.
INT: 15, LUK: 35, Cooking: 30

Able Actor's Advice (an introduction to performance art, by the nonponymous Able Actor)
Teaches a new skill... but you do not meet the minimum requirements.
STR: 40, DEX: 40, VIT: 40, INT: 40, WIS: 40, LUK: 40, LV: 10

Improves Dragon's Breath... but you are not powerful enough. Failure Chance: 37%

On the one hand, it was nice to know that this little chunk of metal would be useful... Eventually. But he wouldn't risk that failure chance. Heck, throw a decimal between the 3 and the 7 and he still wouldn't do it: What if this was totally unique? Plus, the idea of eating something he couldn't put a scratch into with his newly-buffed claws? That was the very definition of unappetizing. No, he'd put all this back for now, even the ticket: While he could use it whenever, and he even had an idea of what he wanted to use it on... The plan wasn't perfect yet.

Another block or two of walking done, and all that was left were his quests. That was a lot simpler. He had to serve the last fine (a bit out of town towards Fluttershy's, might as well visit her while he's at it), 'Visit Other Ponies' (hopefully Fluttershy counted, or the Apples when he dropped off AB?), deal with dinner and snacks and the book shipment (all on the way home or even at home), and...

"Hay Spike!"


"Aw hay there Spike!"

"Sweetie Belle, Apple Bloom, Scootaloo, no outbursts in class! And where... Oh. Hello, Spike."

He waved through the open window, leaning across the sill into the classroom. The Crusaders were waving back, as were a few of the others: Button, Diamond, Silver, and Twist. Cheerilee herself was looking at him with a surprised expression, eyes just barely widened.

"Hey everypony, don't mind me, just dropping in."

Cheerilee sighed, putting one hoof to her forehead and setting her pointer down with the other.
"Yes, well, I'm very glad to see you and we can speak after class... But that's after class. Can I trust you all not to cause any more disruptions? Because if not, I'm closing the window."

The class nodded and quieted down, and Spike followed suit.

> Visit Cheerilee + CMC (before class lets out)

With that handled, he took the opportunity to look around the classroom, firing off something like several hundred Observes in ten or fifteen minutes. Why so many and how so many? Apart from the motivation that is 'grinding itself', there were 20-ish ponies in the class. 20, times that many desks, times twice that many quills, times four-fold that many books, then the shelves, clocks, Cheerilee's desk...

THEN he had to switch to Indra's Net and do... Oh. He had forgotten that the Net auto-updated when he looked at any part of a relationship he already knew about. That shaved off quite a few Observe casts from the back end. Still! By the time he was done Spike was really impressed.

Over the years the class had grown up and really improved themselves in all sorts of ways. Nowhere was that more evident than in the fact that nopony was on bad terms anymore: Not a single line of hate or disgust or any other purely-negative relationship on his little web chart. Sure, a lot of the colts and fillies in the class were still distant from each other, especially from Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon. But everypony was civil, which was an improvement over when he first arrived in Ponyville, and even over when he tried to attend the school himself. His sleeping schedule had put the brakes on that plan very quickly either way...

He could think about disappointments later: Right now he had other appointments!

Namely, class was letting out. That meant that everypony except for the Crusaders and Cheerilee began filtering out and heading towards their homes and after-school activities. Nopony was staying behind for remedial lessons or detention from the look of it, so Spike made his way to the double doors and stepped inside. For a lot of ponies the smell and feel of a school hallway was nostalgic or familiar, even at their equivalent to his age: For Spike it felt like a cut-rate version of the Library he lived in.

A jog past the lockers and the water fountain took him to the open door of Cheerilee's classroom. Ponyville's constant growth had lead to the schoolhouse expanding over time, from a one-room setup back before he and Twilight arrived all the way into its current form. These days they had a solid pack of teachers and a veritable swarm of students of nearly all ages. Twilight had considered petitioning for secondary education initiatives, specialized classes for the adult ponies in town.

All of that aside, right now Spike only cared about this one classroom and the ponies waiting inside.

"Come on in, Spike! I apologize for being snippy earlier, but you know how it is trying to keep order."

[Homeroom Teacher]
LV 19

"Hay! Ah thought ah recognized those claw-clicks walkin' in the halls. What brings ya round?"

[Cutie Mark Crusader]
Apple Bloom
LV 5

"Aw dude as soon as we blow this joint I absolutely have something to show you! Um, no offense Ms. Cheerilee."

[Cutie Mark Crusader]
LV 5

"Afternoon Spike! Did you see my sister yet today? I know she said she'd be working outside..."

[Cutie Mark Crusader]
Sweetie Belle
LV 5

"No problem, various news, awesome, yes I did and yes she was... In that order."

Spike expected a laugh or even a giggle-fit, after a line like that. What he didn't expect was the dead silence and unabashed staring of the fillies (plus a grown mare) looking at him like he'd gained a third eye. Wait, had he grown a third eye? Twilight had said something about that when she was teaching him meditation but he had thought that was a metaph-

"Spike, when did you get so tall?"

-or. Or it could be the growth thing. Come to think of it, he hadn't run into anypony who knew him very well since the incident at Rarity's. A random bystander would see little amiss, but these ponies knew him. Which means they also knew that he had been fully six inches shorter circa yesterday.
"Ah! Ahha. Funny story, actually! I had a bit of a growth spurt, sort of a dragon thing..."

Sweetie Belle looked at him with a narrow glare.
"Um, I'm pretty sure growth spurts affect ponies too, and they're not so... sudden?"

"Maybe ponies grow up slower?"

Apple Bloom was the next one to fix him in her gaze.
"Ah live down on the farm and lemme tell ya, that much overnight is plain freaky."

"...Dragon thing?"

Scootaloo was too busy looking at his new form from various angles to complain much, but Cheerilee eventually broke up their standoff with a sigh.
"While I admit that Spike's sudden... change is rather... impressive, we should all really let him be. Don't you all remember what it was like when you started growing up and out in various ways?"

There was some unspoken recollection behind that, because all of the Crusaders immediately went quiet and pulled away from him. Scootaloo even blushed, rather uncharacteristically. Their teacher stood up from her desk with a smile and trotted over, putting a hoof on Spike's shoulder.
"I'm glad you came by to visit: Although maybe some forewarning wouldn't hurt, next time? I have quite a few tests I need to grade, so I'm going to have to send you all away early."

"Oh! Sorry about that. And it's no problem: We can head out to the Clubhouse and chat there."

"Very good! Now don't forget girls, the reports are due in three days, and we have a quiz tomorrow."

"Um, Ms. Cheerilee, I don't remember you saying anything about a quiz during class..."

Cheerilee smiled at the four of them before making her way back to the desk.
"Oh! Dear me, I'll forget my head at this rate. It was supposed to be a pop quiz. It would be a shame if everypony found out about it early somehow... isn't that right Snips?"

A muffled "Yes ma'am!" came from the window outside the classroom, then a moment of silence, followed by the distinct sound of Snails' voice, his "Really?" coming a second later.

Cheerilee let her smile shift into a smirk as she winked at Spike and the Crusaders.
"Class dismissed... For real this time. I hope."

They all laughed at the absurdity of it, but Spike internally wondered just how perceptive Cheerilee was. Picking up that kind of detail was impressive even if it was a regular event... He decided to take one more look while she settled in to grade the papers and tests on the desk. At which point he jerked back in surprise, met with an unexpected shift.

[Pass / Fail]
LV 19