With books strewn across the floor haphazardly, scrolls randomly distributed, and – perhaps most alarming of all – things not even categorised, the library was certainly in a state of disarray. Normally the librarian would be aghast to see her abode in such a messy state. That is, of course, was she not the one directly responsible.
“Spike! Are you ready yet?” Twilight found herself multitasking between levitating three books, five scrolls, and checking on the current status of Spike. Several seconds passed before she decided which of the items she would gain the most benefit from before slipping those into the saddlebags she wore. “We need to go as soon as Rarity gets here!”
Twilight was undeniably anxious to head towards the hospital, although that might have been evident by the fact she had only slept for around four hours before spending the remainder of the night downstairs. That time had been spent hunting through the vast amount of knowledge to try and discover anything else about the biped in the hospital. Finding not even a scrap of information – as she knew was highly likely to be the outcome before she began – she instead focused her efforts onto the other pressing issue.
Well, two issues if she were to be completely honest.
The first centred on the primary problem, that of language. From what she had discovered yesterday and from talking with Nurse Redheart last night, the biped had failed to understand attempts to communicate with it. However, one piece of information she had gleaned from their talk was that the ‘Foal-Hunter’ did understand and use similar tone and expressions. It wasn’t by any means perfect, but it did allow one hoof in the door so to speak. As long as they could vaguely understand what the other meant, or what their expressions reflected, it could open up some avenue of communication.
Apparently the biped responded positively to Dinky’s efforts and also to Nurse Redheart’s. She was also clearly scared, and calmed when comforted so that means at least expressions appear to translate over. Tone of voice is also important. It gives me the opportunity to gauge her reaction off what she says, and vice versa.
Regardless, Twilight still put some of her hopes on finding a compatible language. To that end she had chosen several translation spells from her collection, one in particular had proven difficult to locate which had been the catalyst behind half the mess surrounding her.
Honestly, who would have put the translation spell from the Qilin Empire under the ‘k’ section? Doesn’t anypony know that pronouncing it ‘Kirin’ is not only wrong, but inconsiderate to their culture in general?
Still, the spell had been found and stowed into one of her saddlebags nonetheless. That left her other particular issue and research topic for the last few hours; changelings. Oddly enough, apart from anecdotal evidence or a few vague snippets of information, there was nothing in her collection that gave her insight into the creatures. As frustrating as that was it did in fact make some form of sense, even if that realisation didn’t help her mood.
From what Twilight knew – which, admittedly was rather little – changelings used guile and illusions to steal emotions as a food source. She knew they had a queen, and that the others were fanatically loyal to her, if the multitude of changelings that threw themselves in their way at the wedding was any indication, but…
Argh! Why is there no evidence in any of these books?
She had however found something peculiar in one of her prized possessions. That being the journal of Clover the Clever, gifted to her by Princess Celestia on her fifteenth birthday. Well, not the actual journal itself as that was kept elsewhere, but it was a perfect copy, and with so few ever made, it was treasured fondly. In the journal, Clover had mentioned hearing a story about insect-winged pony-like creatures that went from village to village, performing shows to entertain the masses. Amazingly enough, to Twilight and evidently Clover the Clever herself, this act was performed for free.
Still, it was a story of a story, and the writer had not dwelled longer on the matter so, ultimately, it really left Twilight with no further answers. In any case, she had more important issues to worry about at the moment. The primary one being a certain dragon that really needed to get up if they were going to make it to the hospital before breakfast was served.
Directing her voice to the room upstairs she heard muffled grumbles in reply, rolling her eyes in response to the sound.
“Don’t you remember how important this morning is?” Twilight tried again, this time garnering success as the sound of a door opening reached her ears. Looking up she could see in the now open doorway a bleary eyed Spike smacking his lips a few times in the process of waking. With a snort from his nostrils the young dragon rubbed at his eyes before giving his best unamused look down towards her.
“How could I forget?” Stifling a yawn behind a claw, Spike frowned before making his way downstairs at a slow pace. “It’s not like I could sleep or anything with a certain someone being up all night.”
Oh… Um, Oops.
Blushing slightly, Twilight offered an apologetic smile towards Spike as he padded across the library floor, stepping over the mess she had inadvertently created.
“I’m sorry Spike, but I’m just so nervous about today. I mean the whole thing is unprecedented and this will be the first time an Equestrian has ever tried formally communicating with a creature from another world!”
There was a brief pause as Twilight caught up to her own words before flicking an ear, a curious expression falling over her features. “Although, are you sure I was making that much noise? I thought I was being rather quiet, personally.”
Twilight tried to explain herself before watching Spike give her yet another unamused gaze, his bloodshot eyes now clearly visible to the mare. “Okay... I guess I might have gotten a little carried away. I really am sorry Spike.”
A gaze around the room by the dragon was her only response before a long and exasperated sigh escaped his mouth.
“Look, I know you’re excited about today and all.” A little irritated puff of smoke escaped from Spike’s nostrils before he rubbed at his eyes. “I just wish I could have gotten some more sleep.”
Almost as an afterthought he blinked at Twilight before both his eyelids lowered partially. Impressively, his following words were issued in such a deadpan way that even Rainbow Dash would have been proud.
“You… did get some sleep, right Twilight?”
About three hours counts, right?
“Of course Spike.” Seeing the sceptical look directed back at her, Twilight cleared her throat before encompassing the mess on the floor within her magical aura. As Spike took a cautious step back she levitated up the assorted books and scrolls before, with a furrowed brow, moving each item back into its appropriate place. On completion of her task a small wince crossed her features as she rubbed under her horn with a hoof. The tell-tale beginnings of a headache were a clear sign of straining her magic with such little rest.
Ow… Okay, maybe not so much.
“Okay… Maybe I could have done with a little more.” Twilight relented before realising – much to her horror – she had put several books into the wrong shelves. A quick application of magic was enough to solve the issue before she exhaled and noted Spike was now tapping a clawed foot on the ground. “I’ll be fine Spike, and I am sorry again for waking you, but Rarity should be here soon and then we really need to get going.”
Wait for it…
As if on cue Spike’s expression immediately changed as he ran a claw along his head-spines.
“Wait, is it that time already?” Spike looked about frantically before running towards the stairs, his voice following him as he made his way up to their room. “Why didn’t you wake me sooner?!”
Not through lack of trying…
Loudly exhaling before an amused smile came to her lips, Twilight continued to make sure her saddlebags were in order as she pushed down the figurative butterflies in her stomach. The intruder from last night, while concerning, was oddly enough not currently on the top of her priorities. This was mostly due to Princess Celestia’s letter that arrived before bed, one that within had detailed she was sending two guards to safeguard the visitor from another world. This fact – when discussed in robust conversation between Spike and herself – had led to the conclusion if only two guards were being sent then it can’t be as large a threat as Twilight first surmised.
Still, the fact she sent anypony at all validates my concerns. Perhaps I was correct in that the so called ‘Foal-Hunter’ has made friends with a changeling? It’s far-fetched but… again; the evidence does lean towards that way.
Blinking, Twilight realised as her thoughts wandered she had subconsciously enveloped a book with her magic. Most annoyingly, she was already halfway through tugging it from the shelf before she had realised and pushed it back in.
Okay, focus. You’re just nervous because this is, perhaps, one of the most important events in Equestrian history and you’re the one chosen by the princesses to do it. That’s not even getting into how much knowledge could be gained from her! Oh my gosh, what if she is someone important from their world? What… What if I mess this up and accidentally upset her? She’s already afraid of unicorns, what if I cause not only an incident, but an inter-dimensional incident?!
Realising her heart rate had increased in direct accordance to her growing trepidation, not to mention she was starting to breathe heavier, Twilight pushed a hoof away from herself in an attempt to calm down. Working herself into a nervous wreck wasn’t going to help anyone; that much was for certain.
Okay Twilight, you can do this. The princesses chose you for this task and so far you’ve proven she’s not a threat. Now you just have to try and initiate some form of communication and learn about her, her world, and how she got here. Honestly, it’s not like you’ll cause some form of a war between our worlds or anything.
Twilight tried to ignore how her ear was now twitching sporadically despite the sound reasoning given to herself. Thankfully she soon found a distraction in a knock originating from the front door. Realising there was only one pony that it could be at such an early hour she made her way over, excitement beginning once again to overtake her anxiety. Of course she was understandably still surprised when the door opened to reveal an alarmingly tired looking Rarity. Concern flashed over her face before she noticed that Rarity held the exact same look, both blinking before giving into small giggles at each other’s dishevelled appearance.
“Let me guess, you stayed up all night to finish the outfit, didn’t you Rarity?” Twilight voiced the question, aware that the answer was blindingly obvious. Rarity however seemed to be more concerned that her appearance had given away that fact, one hoof raised to fuss with her mane. While the attention fixed up any stray hairs the same could not be said for the lines present under the mare’s blue eyes. “You really shouldn’t have, you know.”
“Darling, one shouldn’t be so quick to judge when it’s clear that I was not the only mare burning the midnight oil.” Rarity offered a playful smirk with her words, Twilight feeling a slight blush cross her cheeks at being caught out so easily. A glance at her mane caused her to use some magic to straighten it, unaware until that point on just how dishevelled she actually appeared to be. Still, Rarity looked rather pleased with herself as she continued unabated. “Be that as it may, I simply had to do so.”
Not allowing a chance for a reply, Rarity applied her magic to remove a wrapped parcel from one of her worn saddlebags. Then, after closing the flap with an azure glow, she levitated it before Twilight, who, in turn, encased it gently within her own magical grip after a nod was offered her way. Once content that the parcel was held firmly within the pink aura, Rarity continued speaking with a wide smile.
“Once I begun on this project, I just couldn’t help myself.” Finding her attention drawn again towards the package, Twilight observed as Rarity’s magic unfolded the paper. With a raised brow from Rarity quietly asking for permission to continue, Twilight relinquished her own magic’s hold enough that the contents could be revealed. With the task done, out levitated several items of clothing, unfolding to hang within the air as Rarity gestured with a hoof in their direction.
“Now, given the condition of the originals,” Rarity began, emphasising the word ‘condition’ with a slight scrunch to her features while Twilight offered a sympathetic look. “It did take some effort, and… cleaning to understand the tailoring involved. I did however try to remain faithful to the original designs but I couldn’t help but let inspiration run its course. You’ll see that I recreated the top to the same measurements, but I shortened the skirt to keep with the current fashion trends. The hoofwear though I had to sadly forgo. I just simply could not recreate them overnight and also finish the outfit for it to be ready now. However, it may have worked out for the better as bare hooves and short skirts are in this season after all.”
Twilight fought to repress the look of ignorance from her face and instead nodded as if she understood; she really was never one to keep up with fashion. Still, she had to admit on a closer look at the sweater in particular that what she could see so far – as per Rarity’s usual standards – was amazingly well tailored.
Rarity has really outdone herself this time. I can’t believe she did this all in one night! Wow, she even got those elastic pieces done as well.
“I did however notice that the quality of the originals, other than their… obvious state were lacking somewhat. Oh, they were most certainly well-crafted from a purely functional standpoint, but they were so bland and uninspired. However, upon saying that, I did discover something wondrous while taking them apart to understand their tailoring!” Twilight blinked as Rarity levitated out what looked like some form of string from one of her saddlebags along with a perfectly cut square of slightly soiled fabric. Her friend’s eyes were wide, excitement teasing her features while Twilight blinked again as Rarity continued. “But would you just look at this fabric, and at this thread! I have never seen anything like it in all my life.”
Wait, is that material from the original skirt? I didn’t see anything special about it at the hospital, but if anyone could, it would be Rarity.
“What do you mean?” Twilight pressed as she felt the tingling of excitement build within, one ear perking in clear curiosity as she raised a hoof to gently touch at the square of fabric. It was evident by the condition of the textile that it was indeed from the original clothing worn by the visitor. But at a glance Twilight struggled to tell the difference between the new outfit’s fabric and the cut out piece. Rarity however looked to barely be containing her glee, her eyes wide as the piece of, presumably cloth, was pulled back so she could rub her cheek fondly against it.
Amusingly, seconds later, Rarity seemed to realise what she had just done and quickly levitated away the cloth before removing a napkin from a saddlebag to wipe her cheek clean.
“Why Twilight, what I mean is that this is simply the most remarkable thing I have ever seen! It is a stronger textile than anything I have on hoof or even have knowledge of. That is, at least without any enchantments present. Now, I will admit it doesn’t have quite the same feel to it as say, cotton or silk that I used for the new outfit, but oh, imagine the possibilities if we could figure out how to craft it!”
That certainly got Twilight’s attention, both ears now perking as she found herself now studying the string more acutely. A stronger string and cloth could have a variety of practical uses, even outside the fashion industry. If they were able to reliably reproduce it that is.
“Do you know what it’s made of?” Twilight asked, intrigue starting to seep into her voice as she raised a hoof towards the object of her curiosity. All the while however, one of her ears flicked at the muffled sound of drawers opening and closing issuing from upstairs, the noise understandably somewhat distracting her.
Now, just what is Spike up too?
Pulled from her musings she blinked as any tiredness seemed to vanish from Rarity, her friend now gazing at the fabric as if it were a ticket to the Canterlot elite itself.
“Oh no, and that’s the problem. While it does share some common traits with the threads and cloth I am familiar with, it is still different enough to… well, be different! I don’t believe to have ever seen anything of its sort. I would even be so bold as to say it may not exist in Equestria, or, dare I say, even the entire world.” Rarity fussed with her mane further before placing both hooves to the ground, a studious look falling over her features as she continued. “With Sweetie Belle’s… help last night, I discovered that it was even resistant to water, but alas turned out to be somewhat more… flammable than other fabrics. Still, it dries fast enough and isn’t quick to stain, which, when taking into account the other factors and perhaps an added fire resistance spell I could see it proving very popular indeed.”
Twilight blinked before trying to hide a grin at what she just heard. She was at least partially successful in this regard, and if Rarity noticed she chose not to comment.
About to thank Rarity for the effort that had taken her through the night, Twilight instead found something slip out one of the sweater’s pockets as she moved the clothing about. Catching the sleek black object within her magic, she levitated it up to analyse, blinking as on first glance it appeared to be made of metal. Yet, upon closer inspection, she found it was possibly a type of a hardened rubber or even a plastic of some sort, but she could not exactly place the material. Still, the reflective capabilities were as confusing as was its purpose.
There also appeared to be some writing on the top, or she presumed it was writing. The squiggles and lines meant little to her but the spacing and linearity gave credence to her suspicion. All in all, it was clearly not crafted in Equestria, or even anywhere else in the world that she could place. That meant without doubt, that it was something that came through with the visitor, and as such caused her to inspect it far more attentively.
There’s more of the ‘writing’ on the back. Overall it looks to be a repeat of what was on the top of, what I guess is the front, or maybe this is the front? Is this perhaps the crea- I mean, the visitor’s language? Hmm, there’s also some slits in the object, and what appears to be a button or two on the side. The front seems to be made of glass but with that crack going through the middle, does that mean it’s broken?
Pulled from her inspection, she found an azure glow had overtaken the rectangular object before it was spun slowly, Rarity appraising it with a critical eye. Exhaling softly, she allowed Twilight to retake it in her own aura, a look of mild disappointment now on the mare’s face.
“I was hoping you may have had some idea of what it was.” Sighing softly again as Twilight shook her head, Rarity studied the object for a moment longer before holding a hoof to her chest. “I found it while taking apart the sweater, hidden within one of the pockets. It was already cracked and I simply could not figure out what it was either. My guess is that it’s perhaps a mirror of sorts; the front does appear to be rather reflective. Regardless, it is fascinating though if a little drab. Black was, after all, so last season.”
Hmmm, maybe Rarity is right about it being a mirror of sorts. But the buttons on the side and top imply some additional purpose. Well, no point pondering on it now… hopefully I’ll learn about it later today if things go well.
Twilight wished for nothing more than to take it apart and find out its purpose, but she knew that would be a mistake as surely as Rarity must have done. If she found herself in another world she would certainly not like anypony to go taking apart her things. As such she would extend the same courtesy to the visitor. Still, something else had caught her eye as the items of clothing were slowly refolded into the paper by Rarity.
“What’s that?” Twilight asked with a hoof pointed towards the skirt, specifically at what she had seen on the side. Rarity in turn blinked before absently stretching the article of clothing out, spinning it around and flapping it within her magic to unfold it fully. “What did you put there?”
Intriguingly, Twilight had noticed something upon the side of the skirt, something embroidered upon the fabric. Squinting she had seen it was in fact small gemstones placed to create a design of sorts, yet their purpose, outside of being ‘flourish-y’, had eluded her. Understanding came to Twilight just as Rarity explained, having finally noticed that it was in fact a word stylised to curl into itself in an artsy manner.
“Ah, well, that would be Mystery.” Rarity commented in a bashful fashion while scuffing a hoof, now finding she was being fixed upon with a confused expression from Twilight. Before the obvious question could leave Twilight’s lips however, she found it answered as Rarity folded the skirt and gently wrapped it fully within the large sheet of paper. “After all, we simply cannot continue referring to her as something as ghastly as ‘Foal-Hunter’ after what you told me last night, now can we?”
I suppose that’s actually very true…
Offering a nod of partial understanding, Twilight could very well agree that the term ‘Foal-Hunter’ was a grossly inappropriate title for the visitor. From what Nurse Redheart had told her – not to mention her own gathered evidence – the female patient would be more at threat from ponies than the other way around. Add into the fact she was apparently terrified of them far more than they were of her – at least initially – it wasn’t hard to see the reasoning behind Rarity’s decision. Twilight was just surprised that her friend had taken her explanation to heart after visiting briefly last night. Still, one question still nibbled at her, one she simply had to find the answer to.
“Okay, I understand that.” Pausing for a second, Twilight raised a brow before partially holding a foreleg up to gesture vaguely. “But… Why, Mystery of all things?”
Rarity simply smiled as she coyly folded up the small piece of fabric to place it back into her own saddlebags along with the thread. Before she could answer however both mares found themselves blinking as the sounds from upstairs grew in volume. A confused glance given towards Twilight was answered with a shrug and mouthed word of ‘Spike’ given in return. With understanding dawning on the other unicorn’s face, along with a somewhat amused smile, Rarity gestured with a hoof towards Twilight’s saddlebag where the clothing was now secured.
“Why, for no other reason than that is simply what she is. What you told me last night and from the letter you showed me not only is she from another world entirely, but also, we know barely anything about her.” Rarity paused to fuss with her mane for the umpteenth time before giving a warm expression as she raised a foreleg to gently bump a hoof to Twilight’s chest. “The poor dear needs to be called something, and I felt it held a certain… charm to it. I was ‘in the zone’ as it were, and, honestly, the outfit just seemed incomplete without a design there. So, in a burst of inspiration, I decided to give her a nickname until we learn her true one, one that isn’t that hideous ‘other’. Now, I will admit it isn’t my finest work, but it was entirely a last moment sort of thing.”
Smiling softly, Twilight could only shake her head good-naturedly at Rarity’s explanation. It did make sense that they needed to call the visitor something, and in reality, ‘Mystery’ was about as good as anything else so far. The circumstance around the name’s creation was just something she could imagine happening with Sweetie Belle possibly having a part to play in its conception. Still, she did notice that Rarity now had a gleam in her eyes, an excited smile slowly splitting the mare’s muzzle.
“Oh Twilight, isn’t this so exciting? Just think of it, imagine all the clothing and styles from her world and oh… My word, all the new fabrics and methods used! Why, you simply must share with me anything you find out about her! The fashion, the designs… It’s enough to make me as giddy as a filly!” Rarity’s enthusiasm was contagious, but it did make Twilight scuff a hoof slightly as her ears lowered upon remembering her own earlier nervousness. This didn’t go unmissed by Rarity, her friend’s visage shifting to one of concern as she stopped her bouncing from hoof to hoof. “Oh dear, was it something I said?”
Oh, just that I have never been this nervous and excited before in my life. Okay, well… not often in my life. And not at the same time…
Twilight could only sigh softly before fixing Rarity with a smile, suddenly immensely grateful that Pinkie Pie was nowhere to be seen. Knowing her admittedly eccentric friend, she would have a word to describe how Twilight felt, and in doing so, another way to butcher the poor Equestrian language in doing so. Maybe something like, nervous-ited, or excitous, or…
Ugh, now I’m doing it. I really should have gotten more sleep last night.
“No… No, I’m just a little nervous about the whole thing. I mean, last night it was easy to focus on the problem as all I had to do was simply gather evidence and prove my theory. But today? Today I have to try communicating with a creature from another world, which is slightly more nerve-wracking. On the other hoof, I couldn’t sleep with how excited I am at the prospect of finding out things about her world!” Twilight took a deep breath before fixing a smile at Rarity as she continued. “One I might add that is apparently absolutely terrified of both unicorns and magic and… I… Well, I kind of happen to be somewhat closely tied to both of those things.”
Without any hesitation, Rarity moved to slip a foreleg around Twilight’s neck once she was finished speaking, surprising the mare before she smiled at receiving a comforting hug.
“Oh don’t be so silly Twilight, you’ll be fine. The princesses trusted you with this did they not? All you have to be is just be yourself and I am certain it will all work out.” Rarity’s tone offered no argument as she released the hug to settle on all fours. With a smile finding itself upon Twilight’s face again, she was once again reminded just how lucky she was to have such wonderful friends.
She knew without a doubt that were the situation reversed she would be there for Rarity. Well, not just Rarity but any of her friends, without question or hesitation. Still, it was always nice to be reminded how they were there for her, through thick and thin.
“Thank you Rarity, and thank you again for making the outfit. It means a lot to me that you would do it, and it looks absolutely wonderful.” A glance to the saddlebag was given before Twilight smiled again at her friend. “You know, you could come along as well if you wanted? Perhaps see how she reacts to it?”
Hopefully positively. I’m not sure how she will take the fact we kind of destroyed her old clothing to make her new ones. I really hope I made the right decision on that.
Blinking at the question and unaware of the conflict within Twilight’s thoughts, Rarity tapped her chin with a hoof. To Twilight it seemed the mare was seriously appearing to be considering the idea until a heartfelt sigh instead escaped her mouth.
“Oh, I would love to, I truly would. But, alas, I simply have too much to catch up on. There’s at least three orders I need to have done by tomorrow. Besides, if she is hesitant around one unicorn, perhaps it would be wise to limit it to only you for now?” Smiling again towards Twilight, Rarity gave a small bow of her head before raising a foreleg partially. “But I do appreciate the offer nonetheless.”
Rarity’s right, and I kind of knew that would be the case but I still felt I had to ask. Still, to find out she was already swamped and still pulled an all-nighter to make the outfit? It’s not like I forced her, and she took it upon herself to do so… Still…
“I could help out if-“
Twilight never got to finish as Rarity interrupted almost immediately with a shake of her head and soft tsk escaping her lips.
“Oh no Twilight, I simply couldn’t accept your help when you already have such an important task ahead of you.” Rarity continued with an earnest smile now on her face, one that was slightly dampened however by the tiredness returning once again to her features. “You don’t need to worry any though. Fluttershy, the dear, has already volunteered to help me this week to catch up. She even agreed to come over after lunch to lend a hoof.”
Pausing, Rarity then turned to look up at the low positioned sun before clicking her tongue at what she saw.
“Speaking of which, I had best hurry to make breakfast before Sweetie Belle gets up.” A deadpan expression found its way to Rarity’s face, Twilight having to hide another smile behind a hoof. This time however she seemed to have very little success in this regard.
“It is no laughing matter! I can understand burning toast, but how my sister managed to burn oats is another matter entirely.”
Twilight actually found herself pondering on that one when the door upstairs opened, her head tilting to the noise as she shifted her weight to adjust her saddlebags. If Spike was coming down that meant they could leave soon, or at least that was the plan now that she had the outfit.
“Well, I suppose if she were boiling them and ran out of water…” Twilight offered helpfully before Rarity rested a hoof to her face with a soft groan. Removing the appendage, she settled upon all fours again to fix Twilight with a pointed stare.
“Twilight… As far as I know she was only adding milk to the oats. And don’t get me started on how she tried to save time by putting everything in one pot: toast, eggs, milk, cereal, juice, salad…” Rarity turned a little green as she remembered before swallowing the bile that obviously threatened to rise.
Thankfully for the mare she was cut off from further reminiscing on other culinary horrors when Spike finally made his way down. Twilight flicked her ears hearing his approach but before she could turn around she found her attention drawn towards Rarity’s face. This was primarily due to the fact her friend had gone from barely holding her dinner in to instead trying hard to restrain amusement. That alone explained more than words ever could, even as she heard his voice from behind.
“Oh hey Rarity! Fancy seeing you here this morning.”
He’s wearing a fake moustache… isn’t he?
Turning around Twilight found that, yes, Spike was indeed sporting more facial hair than normal on his small snout. However, that wasn’t even the end of it; oh no. Somewhere down the line he had also managed to scrounge up not only a top hat, but also intriguingly enough a monocle. Now just where he had obtained them was a mystery for another day, but at the moment she could only exhale and offer a bemused smile at his choice of style. Still, Twilight could confess to one fact.
Today would certainly not be boring by any means.
“I mean, I know it’s important and everything but couldn’t we have stayed a little longer?”
A low groan emitted from Twilight’s mouth as she kept up the brisk canter towards the hospital. While she was definitely not upset with Rarity’s visit – especially given the precious parcel now in one of her saddlebags – it still had distracted her from the time. Although, being honest with herself, she admittedly should have picked up on it when Rarity had mentioned breakfast. However, be that as it may, she was now pressed to get to the hospital on time. Having to figuratively pry Spike from wanting to spend more time with the other unicorn had certainly not helped in that regard.
Thankfully, realising that Twilight was in a hurry had resulted in Rarity's aid on getting Spike out the door. It had also helped that her friend had a vested interested in getting back to her own home before Sweetie Belle woke.
Still, it now left Spike in a somewhat sour mood which he had made no attempt to hide over the journey thus far.
“And…” Spike’s voice caused Twilight to emit another groan followed by folding both ears back. If nothing else his irritation was providing her with more motivation to get to their destination that much faster. “I didn’t even get breakfast!”
He’s right… Actually, nor did I when I think about it. I can’t keep ignoring him either, that isn’t fair to Spike, it’s not like it’s his fault.
Realising that ignoring the problem wasn’t going to make it go away, Twilight slowed down as she offered a friendly few greetings to the ponies they passed. Now finally on the path leading up to the hospital, she spared the attention to look back at the predictably sulking visage of her assistant.
“Spike, I’m sorry but you know we have to get there early.” Twilight tried to explain herself only to see his mouth open for a retort of some kind. Cutting him off she verbally pushed onwards, knowing only one way to deal with this situation; bribery.
“Okay Spike, what will it take to make up for this morning?”
Obviously caught off guard by the offering, Spike was left to ponder the question as Twilight trotted up the path, all the while absently tapping under his muzzle in deliberation. Thankfully, at least in Twilight’s eyes, he had left the accessories back at the library. Still, where he had managed to hide the pieces in their room continued to elude her.
I wonder what other surprises are waiting in- Actually, no. I really don’t want to know.
“Hoooow about, five gem cupcake specials from Sugarcube Corner on the way home?”
Continuing to trot up the small hill, Twilight raised a brow at his words while angling her neck to gaze back at him. Spike, in return, offered a tooth filled smile which only resulted in Twilight trying to suppress laughter at the sight. As if a dam had burst she felt the stress bleed out of her merely at the expression her assistant had directed her way. With ears beginning to perk once more she paused to favour him with a smile tugging at her lips.
“Three or you won’t eat dinner.”
“Three, final offer.”
“Six and that’s my final offer.”
Spike’s last counter-demand caused Twilight almost to miss a step before a chuckle escaped her mouth. Opening the doors she trotted inside before gazing back at Spike, mirth now written all over her face as he in turn looked slightly taken back by her reaction.
“Spike, you’re meant to barter down, not up.” Twilight explained, still trying to hold in her amusement. Perhaps it was the lack of sleep, but she found it had struck her funny bone somewhat.
Upon being informed of this crucial piece of information, Spike could only shrug before offering a lopsided grin. “Can’t blame a guy for trying, right?”
No, I really can’t.
“Okay then, four cupcakes on the way home, I think that’s fair.” Stopping before the receptionist desk she briefly nodded towards Ink Sketch. The orange-maned unicorn appeared suitably amused by the conversation that had wandered in, one of her brows raised as Twilight gave another glance back at her passenger. “But you had best promise to eat all your dinner mister.”
Holding a claw in the air, Spike looked the picture of innocence.
“Hey now that I can promise. Applejack’s still bringing over that pie, right?” Almost salivating at the thought of the treats he would get, plus a delicious hot apple pie, Twilight could only laugh softly before leaning back to nuzzle at him. At the show of affection he pushed at her muzzle before folding both arms followed with a soft huff. “Hey Twilight! Not in public, sheesh!”
Heh, still my little guy.
Turning to Ink Sketch while Spike attempted to hide the blush upon his cheeks, Twilight offered a friendly greeting to the receptionist. After exchanging pleasantries, and noting that the waiting room’s atmosphere was far calmer than yesterday, she then made her way upstairs. A glance at the clock downstairs had at least reassured her that she was still on time, if cutting it a little fine. Twilight always preferred to at least be half an hour early at the latest, now she would be lucky if she had ten minutes to spare. All in all, things could be worse, she wasn’t… tardy, and that was a definite plus.
Even the thought of being late was too horrendous to contemplate.
Spike’s voice caught Twilight’s attention as she paused to peek into the doctor’s office. Finding no trace of either Nurse Redheart or Doctor Carehoof she continued on her way, continuing to peer into each room while addressing Spike, more than a little curious as to the nervous tone of his voice. She was well aware from yesterday that he was slightly hesitant around the so-called ‘Foal-Hunter’ so it was understandable he would not be feeling overly confident right now. Or, that was what Twilight presumed at least.
Despite what she had just surmised about his voice, something in his tone grasped her attention. Turning her head she caught a glimpse of golden armour out the corner of her eye, deducing it must be one of the promised guards who seemed to be waiting at the corner ahead.
Well there’s one, I wonder where the other is?
Pulled from her thoughts on seeing Spike’s expression she felt worry gleefully dig its talons back into her confidence. She did note however that the way he held a strange blend of grimace mixed with a smile was impressive, if perhaps a little disconcerting to gaze upon. Compounding this fact was how he was also offering a nervous wave to someone in front of her, most likely she guessed at the guard she had glimpsed seconds ago.
With one ear going askew she regarded Spike with a raised brow waiting for an answer. Oddly enough he was acting peculiar given that he had never been nervous around any of the guards before, if anything he would normally be acting more relaxed in their presence.
Something isn’t quite adding up here… What am I missing?
“You know how we said if Princess Celestia was only sending two guards then it can’t have been that big of a deal… Right?” Spike cleared his throat as Twilight begun to twig to his intent, turning her attention forwards only to notice what she had so blindingly overlooked mere seconds ago. So caught off guard was she that she barely heard Spike’s follow up question.
“So, what does it mean if one of those two guards is the Captain of the Royal Guard?”
It would mean that this is a big deal. A very, very, big, changeling-filled deal.
Sure, in the momentary glimpse previous she had indeed seen there was a guard standing at the corner. Now, what Twilight hadn’t noticed was that the guard in particular was, firstly, a pegasus, and secondly, was also Shining Armor’s replacement after her brother had moved to the Crystal Empire. Funnily enough that second point her brain rightfully deemed rather important, especially when categorising how she should gauge the situation. In her defence though, she had always known Swift Dawn to forgo the use of a helmet. Thus Twilight found herself more than justified in not recognising him immediately given the fact he was, amazingly, wearing one for once.
“Twilight, Spike. It’s good to see you both again. From what I hear you have both been busy since I saw you last.” A respectable nod was given from the guard as he offered a tiny hint of a smile. Spike for his part puffed up his chest some at the recognition, a gesture that Twilight could only roll her eyes at before fixing the captain with a welcoming smile. Despite the shock of seeing him, not to mention the presumed danger the intruder posed by his necessity, she was nonetheless pleased he was the one appointed.
“I honestly didn’t expect you to be one of the guards here Swift Dawn,” Twilight stated truthfully enough. Intriguingly, a small shake of the captain’s head was given to someone out of view before he flicked an ear, regarding her with a raised brow and mirth filled expression. “Princess Celestia didn’t mention who she was going to send, just that she wasn’t sending unicorns due to Mystery’s apprehension towards them.”
Which… Again, I just happen to be one myself.
It took several seconds, primarily due to wondering just who, or what Swift Dawn had been looking at before she realised what she had just said. Sure enough Swift Dawn raised a brow, his wings ruffling before he fixed Twilight with an understandably baffled expression.
“Mystery?” The guard’s question hung in the air before Twilight mentally slapped herself with a hoof. That was one thing she had to give Rarity credit for; the nickname was indeed catchy if she was already starting to casually use it. Amusingly, the sound of a claw meeting a scaled snout behind her showed that Spike wasn’t quite as reserved in his assessment of the situation.
“Sorry. That’s the name my friend, Rarity, decided on for the biped when she was tailoring her outfit. I guess I inadvertently or maybe even subconsciously latched onto the idea without realising it. In any case it wouldn’t do to continue to refer to the patient as ‘Foal-Hunter’ given all the contrary evidence and thorough debunking of that idea. In essence, giving her another nickname, one without such negative connotations would help alleviate any nervousness, and-“
Twilight paused when one of her ears flicked due to a silence falling over the hallway. Well, not a complete silence as the hospital continued on around them. But, in her immediate vicinity, she could have heard a pin drop, that, or the sound of a dragon clearing his throat in a brazenly awkward fashion. Noticing the blank look directed her way from Swift Dawn only made one ear lower as she exhaled in growing frustration. Quickly surmising that she had begun talking in a ‘lecturey’ fashion as Applejack sometimes put it, which, thankfully, was more favourable than ‘egg-heady’ as Rainbow Dash preferred to term it, she found herself snorting disdainfully.
Why is it whenever I try to explain something to somepony in a simple, straightforward manner, they look at me as if I am talking in another language entirely?!
Given her souring mood, that, admittedly, was highly likely due from lack of sleep, Twilight found herself growing steadily more agitated than she normally would at the situation. That is until an amused chuckle from Swift Dawn completely dissipated any annoyance she felt, replacing it instead with mild confusion.
“Well, it’s good to see that she hasn’t changed at all, has she Spike?” Swift Dawn raised his head to regard Twilight’s passenger while the dragon slipped from her back, his arms stretching upwards before giving a pat to one of her front legs. Raising the limb with an annoyed frown, she watched Spike grin sheepishly before shrugging towards the pegasus.
“Oh yeah, I mean you should have seen her this morning! There were books everywhere around the library. She was so nervous tha-“
The pink glow suddenly surrounding Spike’s mouth prohibited him from continuing his recounting of events. Glaring up at Twilight he instead folded his arms while she released a somewhat nervous laugh, one ear going askew as she tried to salvage the situation. Having the Captain of the Royal Guard know how nervous she had been was definitely not something she desired to happen. The only saving grace about it all was that that it was Swift Dawn, and not Aurora Blossom who was here. If that had been the case she definitely would never have lived it down.
Once content that Spike wasn’t about to continue she released her magic’s grip from around his mouth. With a raised brow she silently promised to do so again if he tried continuing, a tongue poking out at her his silent rebuttal on the matter.
Thanks Spike, you just had to blab how nervous I was to Swift Dawn, who, most likely now thinks I’m some neurotic mare who can’t handle this task from the princesses! I bet he’ll report to Princess Celestia and Lu-
The sound of laughter again cut through her annoyance, not to mention growing anxiety. Spike too seemed to be caught off guard as both he and Twilight regarded the guard with varying degrees of puzzlement. Something about her and Spike’s interactions had obviously amused the Royal Captain, although whatever it was remained beyond her. Still, the chuckles soon stopped only to be replaced with a lopsided grin upon his face.
And some ponies say they can’t see the resemblance between him and his sister…
“I wasn’t kidding about what I said earlier; it really is good that you both haven’t changed. Why, I remember when Twilight used to try and give me lengthy lectures on just why I should allow her into the barracks to see her big brother.” A mischievous glint shone in Swift Dawn’s eye as he gestured for them to follow, moving to take the lead as he continued recounting the story. “She would even drag books along with her and quote fact after fact. Now, I said try, but she always managed to convince me to let her past. I think I lost count on how often I had to do extra drills because of letting her in.”
Guilt filled Twilight at that, having been completely unaware of the trouble her youthful desire to see her brother at every opportunity had caused for Swift Dawn. That wasn’t even taking into consideration all the other guards who had the poor luck of being stationed during Shining Armour’s training. Granted, she had been just a young filly at the time and it was in the past, but she wasn’t the type of mare to not apologise. Her parents along with Princess Celestia had brought her up to be far better than that!
Of course Spike’s attempts to muffle his amusement on learning this fact wasn’t helping matters any either. But, then again, he would have been too young to remember, and Princess Celestia or her parents were usually looking after him when she snuck off to see Shining Armor.
“I’m sorry that I got you into trouble, I honestly didn’t mean for that to happen.” Apologising as she turned the corner, Twilight was again surprised when she saw the identity of the second guard standing by the door. With one eyebrow raised on the stallion’s face he regarded them as they approached, his large armoured frame unusual amongst other pegasi. That last observation alone would have been enough for Twilight to guess his identity, which was even before she saw his face and offered a shy smile.
Bastion’s here too? That settles it; Princess Celestia is definitely taking no chances with the intruder, or protecting the bi- I mean, Mystery.
Also, the lingering question of Nurse Redheart’s location was solved when Twilight saw her also standing by the door with both ears perked. Another observation was that on the mare’s back was balanced a tray of food with a glass of water, that, obviously, meant the nurse had been waiting for Twilight to arrive. Nonetheless it was the observation that the other mare was trying to restrain a bemused expression on her face that Twilight was most concerned with.
It meant that some, or the entire conversation had probably been overheard.
Well this morning appears to be getting off to a good start. It’s not even past breakfast and I am already mortified.
“Swift Dawn is exaggerating.” The deep voice of Bastion filled the corridor despite, or perhaps due to, the fact he barely raised his voice. The large pegasus stood resplendent in his gilded armour, the blue tail and white coat complements of the enchanted armour he, like most guards, wore. Swift Dawn on the other hoof was one of the few exceptions given that his blond tail was flicking behind him, inadvertently displaying his mood to the other guard’s words. Undeterred, or simply uncaring, Bastion gave the bare hint of a grin before continuing.
“No-one would have ever got into trouble for letting Princess Celestia’s personal student in. No, he got in trouble all on his own accord.”
Part of Twilight was relieved by the revelation, but still, having the Captain of the Royal Guard here not to mention Bastion resulted in her reconsidering her suspicions. Now it wasn’t so much a question of whether the intruder was a changeling, now it was a question of how many were there. The fact that at least one of the shape shifters had checked in on the girl last night was, well… it still made no sense. From what she knew they stole emotions, they fed off fear and disharmony, and, most importantly, they all seemed to follow the commands of the one known as ‘Queen Chrysalis.’
Does that mean the queen herself has interest in the visitor, and, if so, why? No, if that’s the case two guards definitely wouldn’t be enough. Something else is going on…
The mystery frustrated Twilight. However, for some reason that she couldn’t quite put her hoof on, she found she was not as worried as she knew she should be. Concerned, yes, but oddly enough not worried. The reasoning why that was proved elusive, but she contemplated that perhaps it was instead due to what had not happened the previous night. The patient had remained undisturbed, no damage had been done, and the princesses had only sent two guards. Granted, one was a particularly important guard, but only two of them all the same.
Despite evidence to the contrary however, she didn’t think that the princesses were withholding information from her. Or, if they were, it wasn’t out of a sense of malice or lack of trust. She could only believe in their judgement and focus on her own task. That of course, didn’t mean she still couldn’t try and formulate an answer though.
I must be missing something here. Okay Twilight, let’s put the facts together. Now, not only was Dinky saved in the forest by ‘Mystery’, but also by a strange green fire that distracted the chimera. That means that without a doubt there must have been another pony or something else assisting Dinky’s rescuer. A chimera would have chased them otherwise, well at least to the limits of its territory. That I guess narrows it down to two options. Either it really was a changeling and for some reason it helped them and checked in on Mystery last night… Or…
Twilight blinked as a stray thought struck her, one she hadn’t even considered until that point. That being what if there was another creature like Mystery running around, one that had somehow come in to check up on her in the night? Yet no sooner had she given rise to the thought was she then dismissing it altogether.
No… No, that can’t be right. For one, how could it have wandered into the town without being seen given the reaction towards Mystery, or I don’t know, even getting up and through the window? Secondly, the princesses would surely have noticed something. No, the intruder would have needed the ability to fly, great aptitude at stealth, and a reason for visiting. And so far all the clues I have point firmly towards a changeling, but the question again is, why?
So deep in thought was Twilight that she only noticed Nurse Redheart was talking to her when the mare gently bumped her with a hoof. Concern was clear on the nurse’s face as she shifted to keep the tray balanced on her back. Shaking her head to bring herself back to the present, Twilight offered a sheepish smile in return.
“I was worried for a moment. Spike mentioned you had only a few hours’ sleep last night.” The kind expression that played over Redheart’s face instantly transformed into much a sterner variant, not to mention a brow was raised as the hoof gently nudged Twilight again. The kind of look, Twilight surmised, that would be used on a particularly stubborn patient. “Are you sure you’re alright to do this today?”
A glance was given by Twilight towards the traitorous dragon, who on being noticed, folded his arms and returned the look defiantly back at her. Noticing everyone had stopped to look in her direction, Twilight realised they were only concerned about her wellbeing. Still, that didn’t mean she couldn’t be just a little annoyed that Spike had blabbed.
“I’m fine, I was just…” Pausing, Twilight thought on how to proceed before turning her head to nose open the flap of one of her saddlebags. With a touch of magic she then proceeded to levitate out the large checklist of food items both she and Spike had created before bed. Unrolling it so Nurse Redheart could look over it, Twilight continued explaining herself. “I’m just kind of excited about today; I mean behind the door there is a creature from another world entirely. Imagine what we can learn from her?”
The other mare after nodding and murmuring her approval of the checklist, turned her gaze back towards Twilight, the stern look fading as a smile teased at her muzzle.
“I can understand that Twilight, but please…” Once more Redheart’s voice took on a serious tone yet the smile never left her face. “She may be from another world, but while she is in this hospital she is my patient. She’s scared, confused, and displaying clear signs of something traumatic having happened to cause it. Maybe it was how she was brought to the hospital, maybe it was something previous…”
Twilight cringed as Nurse Redheart stepped closer, one of the mare’s brows raised.
“All I know is that I will not allow my patient,” Nurse Redheart stressed the last word out causing Twilight to swallow quietly, “to be further traumatised, even by accident. Do I make myself clear Miss Sparkle?”
Oooo-kay… I can now see why Doctor Carehoof put her in charge.
Twilight blinked twice, noting that even the guards were directing their attention elsewhere. Spike had even managed to find something immensely interesting to look at other than them, even if that ‘something’ happened to be a certain large amethyst positioned in the centre of the food tray.
“I know, and I promise not to upset her. I just want to find out more about her as the princesses requested, and perhaps maybe find out how she came to Equestria.” Twilight fidgeted under the scrutiny of the nurse before she scuffed a hoof absently. It didn’t help she felt like she was once more a filly and being reprimanded by her mother. No, scratch that, her mother could always make her feel that way regardless of her age. Still, Twilight had faced dragons, invasions, and even a corrupt being of black magic itself…
And right now, any of those seems preferable to this. Now I know how she got Pinkie Pie to behave, and to think I didn’t believe them when they told me…
Thankfully Nurse Redheart seemed content with what she had heard, a warmer smile coming to her face.
“That’s good to hear Twilight, but you should also take better care of yourself as well.” Twilight nodded to the nurse’s words while catching Spike giving her a look that screamed ‘I told you so.’ Rolling her eyes she found a smile coming to her lips before gazing back at the nurse. Now that the ground rules had apparently been set, she was keen to get started.
“I’ll get an early night tonight, but right now we have more important matters.” While speaking, Twilight glanced towards the door. “How is she today?”
“I’m not sure. I didn’t want to disturb Mystery’s sleep before we started.” Nurse Redheart stated with a suspiciously wry smile. Twilight flicked an ear at that, quickly realising that her conversation with Swift Dawn had been heard in its entirety. That, annoyingly enough, undoubtedly included her youthful escapades. Noticing Twilight’s expression, and seeming to interpret it as a reaction to the nickname, Nurse Redheart’s smile became noticeably softer.
“Don’t worry; I think it’s actually quite a lovely name to call her by. It’s much better than… well, the other one.” With a nod of agreement given to Nurse Redheart’s words by both Spike and herself, Twilight levitated out the parcel from Rarity. Flexing her magic some, the clothing items were unwrapped and held up for the others to see, primarily the skirt with the name placed on the hip. This led to the nurse giving a sound of appreciation as she moved a hoof over the texture of the sweater, a smile coming to her lips once more.
“Rarity made these in only one night?” A small sound of awe escaped from Nurse Redheart before she gave a firm nod towards Twilight. “Please, pass on my compliments to her, these are amazing. If I hadn’t seen the state of the originals myself I would never have believed these were completely newly made.”
“Yeah… Rarity is amazing alright.” Spike stated dreamily leading to Twilight rolling her eyes. With a playful smile she trotted over to nudge him with a hoof before casting a glance back at the nurse. It also amazed her just how quickly the guards could seemingly melt into the background. She knew they were there, but at the same time she paid them no conscious mind.
Well obviously Twilight. They wouldn’t have been sent if they couldn’t be somewhat discrete now would they?
Offering a respectful nod to both Swift Dawn and Bastion, with only the former returning the gesture, she noted that both had taken up position either side of the door. Seeing this was the case she decided to get right down to the reason for her visit.
“So, how are we going to go about this?” Twilight paused before one of her ears flicked as a thought sprung to mind. “I think it would be best if you went in first, and then I came in once she was settled after what you told me yesterday.”
A nod was given by Nurse Redheart in reply, the mare obviously having come to the same conclusion as she trotted towards the door. “I think that would be best. Give me a couple of minutes before you come in, alright? First I want to make sure she is awake.”
Nodding in agreement, Twilight watched the nurse take a deep breath before using a forehoof to pull down the door handle. With a push from her head the door slowly opened and she trotted into the room. Twilight found herself almost forgetting to exhale as she moved out of sight, painfully aware that out of all those assembled she was the most likely to cause a negative reaction. That knowledge continued to make her feel uneasy no matter how much she tried to rationalise it.
Spike, evidently picking up on Twilight’s mood, gently placed a claw to her side before offering a reassuring smile.
“Hey, I know she’s scared of unicorns, but you’re you Twilight. There’s no way she can be scared of you.”
Twilight had to admit as far as pep talks went it was a little lacking. Still, she couldn’t fault Spike on his earnest nature so returned the smile down towards her assistant.
“Thanks Spike, I just hope you’re right.” Twilight gave Spike a soft nuzzle for his earlier comment and, amazingly, only received a half-hearted complaint in response. Raising her head she barely caught the two guards exchanging a glance, Bastion’s brow partially rising while Swift Dawn suppressed a small chuckle.
“Awww, Twilight, not in front of the guards,” Spike grumbled, folding his arms while flustering slightly. Twilight couldn’t help but laugh at his predictable reaction, a sentiment shared by Swift Dawn if his own laughter was any indication. Now acutely aware of the attention upon himself, Spike exhaled and gestured towards the door. “So, uh, when are you going to go in anyhow?”
Twilight felt one eyelid lower as she gazed down at her assistant. What he had said did not go unnoticed by her, lowering her head followed with a gentle push with one of her hooves to his side.
“You mean when are we going in, right?” Twilight watched as Spike shifted on his feet at her words. With a soft sigh she bent her forelegs to get down to his eyelevel, smiling as he met her gaze. “I can’t do this without my number one assistant.”
Spike however seemed unconvinced as he spared a glance back inside Mystery’s room. Whatever he saw didn’t seem to reassure him as he reached to grab his tail, wringing the end of it fitfully.
It went without saying that yesterday Spike’s comments throughout the day had helped structure her thoughts. She had told him as such when they had gotten home, something that he had been bashfully proud of. Still, she knew him well. Just like he had proven he knew her more than she knew herself sometimes, she was the same for him. To her he was more than an assistant, more than a friend. He was part of her family, and sometimes she almost saw him as…
Okay, getting off track there Twilight.
Her lack of sleep, nervousness, and excitement were affecting her train of thought significantly that was for certain. But regardless, her mind ticked over several options in her head for why he was acting as he was. Truthfully it didn’t take more than a second for her to come to the most likely cause.
“Spike, are you scared of her?” Twilight questioned, her tone kept soft spoken. Instantly the dragon shifted in demeanour, his tail let go as his eyes darted between the two guards. Puffing up his chest before folding arms over it, Spike looked the very picture of bravado.
“What? Me? Scared? No way Twilight! Why would I be s-scared of her anyway? You said she’s no threat and she’s just eating a sandwich.” Spike’s argument was almost believable, if not for the slight quiver near the middle.
Hearing this, Twilight offered a comforting smile and nuzzled him again. Tellingly that time he didn’t move to stop her.
“Spike, she won’t hurt you, I promise. Remember what I said about Dinky last night?” Twilight offered, a slight tilt of her head accompanying the words. She had relayed everything from the day to Spike before bed, in part so he could pass the information onto the princesses, but also because she trusted him. Thankfully it seemed to work as he rubbed at the back of his head and shuffled from foot to foot.
“I know that! I just didn’t expect her to be so… big.” Spike nervously confessed and received a warm smile from Twilight in response. Yet it was Swift Dawn who spoke up, his head tilting to look back at them with a small grin on his muzzle.
“She might be big, but you’re a fire breathing dragon.” As the grin grew on Swift Dawn’s face he shared a glance with Bastion who gave the barest hint of a smile. Looking back towards Spike the captain raised a brow before indicating with a wing back towards the room. “Besides, I’m pretty sure we can trust you to protect Twilight in there, can’t we?”
Spike pondered on that while giving another glance back into Mystery’s room. After a scratch of his chin his chest was puffed up before looking towards the three ponies in the hallway again. Thankfully he seemed to miss the brief amused expression Twilight gave to Swift Dawn and Bastion while his attention was diverted.
“Well my fire is getting pretty impressive.” Spike bragged and looked about ready to continue on that line of thought. That was until Twilight recalled what he had mentioned previously, her eyes going wide as her brain caught up.
“Wait, you said she was eating already?” Twilight felt the earlier nervousness return in full force as Spike shrugged at her question.
“Yeah, she was taking a bite out of a sandwich.” Spike answered with a lowered brow, looking confused as to why that was a pressing issue.
I guess now’s the time.
Moving to hesitantly peek inside, Twilight saw Nurse Redheart looking back in her direction. With a quick glance towards the patient, the nurse then gave a nod of consent for Twilight to enter.
“Let’s go Spike.” Speaking with far more confidence than she felt, Twilight took a step past the threshold and entered the room. She felt more than heard Spike following behind, his front claws resting to one of her hind legs as she trotted in. A small part of her was somewhat bemused by his guarding her from behind, but at the very least he had followed her.
Nonetheless, she couldn’t help but find herself somewhat transfixed by the bipedal creature sitting up in the bed. Sure she had seen the pictures and even visited while Mystery had been sleeping, but seeing her awake was another thing entirely. It was also immediately evident that Nurse Redheart was correct in saying her facial expressions were relatable to those she understood. Of course since that was true it also meant that Mystery was looking decidedly uncomfortable at her presence. Twilight wasn’t certain, but she was pretty sure Mystery gazing at the wall with her lower lip gently bit was a giveaway.
The gripping of the sheets tightly with one hand was also a bit of a hint.
One other thing that Twilight noticed was that the bed sheet was tugged up to partially hide Mystery’s body from view. That observation meant one of two things, either she was cold, or she was modest about her body. From her experiences yesterday she was more inclined to lean towards the latter, making a mental note to investigate that possibility later.
Okay Twilight, you can do this. She’s not dangerous; you’ve proven that. She’s just very, very scared.
Yet before she could begin, Twilight found her eyes glancing away from the patient and further into the room. Thinking back to the previous night she let her horn glow for the barest of seconds, using her magic to probe under the beds and around the other furniture. Satisfied at finding nothing she looked over at Mystery only to see the biped still lost in her thoughts, or so Twilight presumed.
A questioning glance at Nurse Redheart was met with a concerned gaze up at Mystery before the nurse nodded at Twilight. Not knowing how quite to get the biped’s attention, she went with a tried and true method; clearing her throat.
Instantly she saw Mystery give a small jump before her green eyes moved to lock onto her. What hurt Twilight the most though was how fearful the female seemed before she looked down at Nurse Redheart. The nurse gave a reassuring – if albeit small – nod upwards which had the benefit of seeming to remove some of the fear present on Mystery’s features. Now seeing first-hoof how expressions and gestures translated over, a remarkable discovery all on its own merits, Twilight took a deep breath and begun.
“Hello, my name is Twilight Sparkle. Do you understand me?” Making sure to accompany her question with a fitting tilt of the head, she waited patiently to see if it would garner any success. Granted it was a next to nil chance given the previous interactions she had been informed of, but it never hurt to start with the basics when tackling a problem.
For a second Twilight felt her heart skip a beat when a small unsure smile crept over Mystery’s lips. Unfortunately, the following reply was unlike anything she had ever heard before. It was language, she was sure of it, but the sounds were… well, strange. She wasn’t sure if it was due to the size of Mystery’s tongue or the lack of a muzzle, but ultimately she found it gibberish at best to listen to.
Still, the apologetic tone of voice was all she needed to know for her to understand that the attempt had utterly failed.
Well so much for the control, now to try out these translation spells.
“Nurse Redheart, I want to try using the spells now, but I’m not sure how she will react to my magic.” Twilight looked over at the nurse as she spoke, the white mare wincing slightly before gazing up at Mystery.
“I guess it can’t be helped.” The nurse chewed on her lower lip before fixing Twilight with a stern expression. “But if she starts to get uncomfortable, you are to stop immediately. Am I understood?”
“Yes, of course,” Twilight said in reply, all the while trying to keep how much the nurse intimidated her off her face. The fact she didn’t even have to raise her voice to make Twilight feel like a filly was equally impressive. Preparing to commence with the spells, she was marginally surprised to see Mystery staring at her. Not with fear though, but with clear curiosity.
Wait, she’s not looking at me.
Shifting slightly to the side she felt Spike try and keep her between himself and the patient, who, in turn, continued following him with her eyes. Now certain where Mystery’s attention lay, she looked at the nurse, both giving a smile at the sight.
“I think she doesn’t know quite what to think about you Spike.” Twilight offered with amusement present in her voice. “You don’t need to be scared, she won’t hurt you will she?”
The last part was directed back over at the nurse who nodded softly in agreement to Twilight.
“She won’t harm you Spike, although, I haven’t seen her react this way before. She really does seem genuinely curious about you,” Nurse Redheart mused while gazing between both Mystery and Spike.
Finally, with a grumble, Spike folded his arms and walked out from behind Twilight.
“Yeah well, doesn’t mean she needs to stare at me like that.” Gesturing towards Mystery he then threw his arms into the air. “Oh c’mon! Look! She’s still staring!”
Maybe she’s just surprised to see someone else with fingers? Or maybe they have dragons also on her world? Still, it seems to have relaxed her somewhat.
Restraining a small giggle at her assistant’s antics, Twilight shifted to adjust her saddlebags prior to nudging him gently with a hoof. “Maybe you’re really interesting to her? I mean, you are pretty special.”
“Well you’re right, I am pretty special.” The flattery seemed to do the job as Spike rubbed at the back of his head, a grin finding its way to his face.
Oh brother… I won’t hear the end of that for a few days at least.
Satisfied that the crisis was averted, Twilight then concentrated on the other matter at hoof, using her magic. The technique was a trivial one, but she needed to keep her actions slow and deliberate so as not to cause alarm. Nonetheless, the very second she begun and her horn begun to glow, Mystery flinched. Immediately Twilight paused, gazing between both the other mare in the room and the patient, unsure exactly on how to proceed. Amazingly, it was Mystery who broke the stalemate by taking a calming breath and offering a small nod, presumably for Twilight to continue.
Surprised, but not ungrateful, Twilight replied with a smile before once more using her magic. Unfastening one of the saddlebags she easily identified the scroll she desired without even looking, plucking it deftly out within her magical grasp. A quick peek was given over the unrolling paper at Mystery before she started the incantation to activate the spell. A few mumbled words later, a flash of light and Twilight was ready.
“Hello, my name is Twilight Sparkle, do you understand me?” Again Twilight tried, this time in the native tongue of the griffons. Truth be told, the shrill sounds inherent in their language never really appealed to Twilight, with it being a bit too high pitched for her liking. But, as always in the interest of scientific discovery, sacrifices sometimes had to be made.
And… No luck.
All she got in reply was a tilt of Mystery’s head with a clear lack of understanding on the female’s face. Still, just because it was the outcome she expected didn’t make it any easier to swallow. Nervousness was long forgotten as the pursuit of knowledge tugged Twilight onwards, another translation spell attempted, another failed. This continued for several minutes until finally she was out of scrolls. The last had at least garnered some reaction, but it too ended the same as all the rest, failure. No matter what she tried, she couldn’t understand Mystery’s words any more than she in return.
“Well that didn’t work.” Twilight placed the scrolls back into the saddlebag before grumbling under her breath. Truthfully, she never expected it to work but she had still held hope that maybe, just maybe, it might have had success. The fact gestures, tone of voice, and expressions seemed to be common ground between them had raised her hopes further, but ultimately it had not come to fruition.
“Well, there’s still the chart, right?”
Spike’s voice brought Twilight out of the funk she was in, her ears perking as he reminded her of exactly why they had come for breakfast.
I can’t believe I forgot!
“You’re right Spike. At the very least it let us learn what she eats.” Her mood lifting with the prospect of learning new things, Twilight moved towards the bed before noticing Mystery’s expression. Again her eyes were wide, pupils quivering due to Twilight having gotten closer. Immediately Twilight remembered herself and took a long calming breath.
Stupid! She’s not a research subject; she’s a scared creature from another world.
Exhaling, Twilight made sure to smile in as warm a fashion in an attempt to display she was no threat to the female. Thankfully the fear seemed to lessen on Mystery’s face but was only replaced with another look of incomprehension.
“Twilight, why not show her the chart you made, maybe she will understand then?” Nurse Redheart offered that led to Twilight mentally slapping herself with a hoof. Making a conscious effort to not use her magic, she instead used her mouth to bite gently down on the large roll of paper protruding out of one bag. With a glance towards Spike he got the hint and moved to stand before her, reaching to take chart when she offered it down.
Now in his element, Spike unrolled the paper before holding it as high as he could so Mystery could see what was on its surface. The results were better than Twilight could have wished for. Immediately she saw the female concentrate on the drawn images, her green eyes flicking left to right as she tried to understand the layout of the chart. With Mystery glancing back from the tray to the chart Twilight was caught off guard when the biped first pointed to the apple drawing, and then pointed to the apple on the tray.
“Yes! She understands!” Immediately Twilight felt a little bashful, however it still was an amazing turn of events. It wasn’t like she wanted to jump around the room in her excitement or anything. Well, maybe just a little but she resisted the urge to instead watch as the checklist was started.
Spike also watched on, ink-dipped quill held at the ready as the two mares simply observed. From that point Mystery sampled the food on the tray one after another. If she seemed to enjoy it, there was a tick. If she gave a look of disgust or didn’t touch the food at all, there was a cross. Ultimately there was very little not sampled on the tray, mainly anything with hay, flowers, or fish. The last option had been offered due to Mystery’s omnivorous-like teeth, merely just in case.
Finally however, only one item remained untested or outright declined on the tray. Clearing her throat again, Twilight indicated to the remaining amethyst. When Mystery looked confused again, she followed up with a point of her hoof at the gem and then making an effort to mime she was eating something. Never the best mare at charades, she was glad when the message was understood with Mystery hesitantly picking up the amethyst.
While her teeth hadn’t seemed on first glance suited for the consumption of metals, rocks, or gems, Twilight was nothing but thorough. Besides, it was on the checklist, and an incomplete checklist was too ghastly to even entertain the thought of.
Giving a reassuring nod to Mystery when she was looked at along with Nurse Redheart, Twilight was slightly bemused by the unsure expression given back. Nonetheless, Mystery winced and attempted a bite before moving it away from her mouth immediately after. Strangely, she then looked at Spike before moving the gem slowly back and forth. It didn’t take much for Twilight to deduce just why, although she couldn’t see his face she knew Spike well enough to tell he was enthralled by the suddenly up for grabs amethyst.
Amazingly, Mystery then lowered it down towards him, Spike flinching in response before he became aware of just what she was offering. As if a switch had been flicked, all fear was lost from the dragon as he gazed up at Mystery, a tiny nod provided in response to the unvoiced question. When he predictably glanced back at Twilight, she could only smile.
“Alright Spike, you can have it. She does seem to be offering it to you after all, but that does count as your treat for the morning, alright?” Suppressing a giggle at his excitement, she watched as he eagerly accepted the gem, remembering to say thank you before savouring a large bite to chew in contentment. Interestingly enough, Mystery’s face on seeing him consume the amethyst brought doubt into having offered it as a meal option in the first place.
I… guess a gem being eaten is not something normal in her world. To be fair, it’s not for ponies either, unless you are living with a dragon. Oh well, at least Spike is relaxed around her now, so it worked out for the best.
“Let me get rid of the tray and I’ll be right back.” Nurse Redheart’s voice was quietly spoken so as not to disrupt the moment between Mystery and Spike. Nodding in understanding, Twilight watched as the nurse followed up on her word, a smile given to her patient before trotting out of the room. Immediately upon the mare’s departure however, Mystery started to display clear signs of unease, shifting further back to the headboard. It was painfully obvious that Twilight still made her uncomfortable.
I guess Nurse Redheart is at least a calming presence for her.
Despite herself Twilight couldn’t help but feel a little hurt by it, even if it didn’t seem to be anything personal. She knew that the biped was just scared, she also knew something must have happened, whether on Mystery’s world or in Equestria for her to be acting as she did. That didn’t make it any easier for her to accept these facts however. The last thing she wanted to do was to scare her, intentionally or just by being herself.
If only I had some way to show her that I’m not going to hurt her…
“That’s it!” Twilight immediately opened the other saddlebag she wore, realising that she had something to prove exactly that. Before she could grab the paper-wrapped parcel within however, she was interrupted.
“Hey Twilight, stop it! Jeeze, can’t you see you’re scaring her?”
Immediately she froze at the utterance of those words from Spike. Regrettably in her attempt not to scare Mystery, she had only succeeded in doing the complete opposite. With cheeks burning in shame Twilight watched Spike fold his arms, looking thoroughly unimpressed in her direction. Bowing her head she wondered if she had ruined her chance with the momentary lapse of judgement only to be surprised yet again. For when she gazed up she saw Mystery smiling hesitantly down towards her. The female still looked uncomfortable, that was undeniable, but the smile at least gave Twilight a little cause to relax.
Okay… Slowly, carefully.
Carefully removing the parcel from the bag, she then levitated it over to the bed and gently placed it upon the sheets. Mystery, watching this all the while, uttered something in a questioning tone before Twilight gestured with a hoof towards the item. After a few attempts the message was understood and Mystery reached down with her right hand, taking the parcel and securing it in the sling of her left arm.
While watching her un-wrap the gift, Twilight was again reminded of just how injured the female still appeared to be. The bandages covering her left shoulder clearly attested to this fact. She had also noticed that Mystery appeared to be in more pain than she was letting on, flinching and wincing periodically whenever she tried to move her injured arm.
Any further observation was brought to a halt though when the unknown device was delicately plucked out of the paper and placed onto the sheets. Twilight had purposefully left it on top after showing the others the clothing in the hallway. Her curiosity had driven her to make the decision, and now it was about to pay off.
She watched as Mystery gave a relieved smile before one of her fingers pressed to a button on the side of the sleek object. After a couple of seconds the flat surface lit up and a small sound emitted from the device. Flicking her ears, Twilight shared a glance with Spike, both of them leaning closer to observe exactly what was going on. Much to her surprise she saw a picture forming on the glass, almost like some form of screen, but the device itself was clearly far too small for that to be the case.
Still, the evidence was undeniable in front of her as Mystery moved a finger deftly over the screen faster than Twilight could keep up. Eventually however a single symbol appeared on the screen with a small bar down the bottom. Then, seconds later, what amazingly enough seemed to be music emitted from the object. Her ears flicked and she leaned back, caught off guard by that development before she realised that was all it was going to do.
That’s… That’s amazing, it’s… Wait, that really is music? It is!
She could hear a violin playing, the music surprisingly strong yet soothing as it filled the room. A glance outside saw the guards looking in before she smiled and shook her head, gesturing there was no cause for alarm.
“It plays music?” Spike leaned closer, looking at the sleek black object before glancing back up at her. Twilight in reply gave a slight shrug but couldn’t help but feel the corner of her lips continue to tug upwards.
“I…I guess so.” She gazed at the device again before an ear flicked while the sound poured forth. Still she had to admit the more she heard the music the more it grew on her. It was so similar to pieces she was familiar with yet at the same time also so amazingly different. In any case, she was now even more inquisitive and excited on seeing the type of technology that Mystery’s world contained.
I wonder if that is an everyday item, or perhaps she really is important on her world. Does it store the song somehow like an enchantment stone, but where would the crystal sit? I wish I could ask her directly…
With the strange violin music providing a welcome ambience to the room, Twilight watched as the other items were being carefully unpacked by the biped. Both she and Spike silently waited, not wishing to disturb her as each article of clothing was looked over and placed onto the sheets. Eventually Mystery noticed she was being watched and hugged the tailored items to her chest in as clear a sign of approval as ever there was.
Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! She likes it!
Practically bouncing from one front hoof to the next, Twilight could barely contain her delight. Knowing her gamble had paid off was one of insurmountable relief, especially seeing how happy Mystery was with her gift. Making yet another note to thank Rarity again, Twilight found herself instead blinking as a sniffle sounded from above. Tilting her head upwards she bit her lower lip while eyelids partially lowered due to what she witnessed.
For despite the small smile and content expression on the girl’s face, tears were rolling freely down her brown cheeks only to steadily drip onto the garments held tightly to her body.
She… She really is just a lost and scared girl, isn’t she?
Twilight felt fresh guilt stab through her chest at the sight. She had been so focused on finding out more about Mystery, not only for the princesses but for her own pursuit of answers, that she had forgotten something monumentally important. That being that the female before her, the one struggling to hold her tears in and clearly overwhelmed by the gift she had received, was simply that; just a scared girl lost in a strange land.
Yes, obviously Twilight needed to find out more about her so she could find out why she came to Equestria, and how. Yet, above everything else, she still needed to make sure that Mystery was treated with kindness and care.
Is… Is this why the princesses gave me the task, because I learnt the lesson of friendship?
Twilight exhaled softly before feeling her ears flatten partially against her mane.
No. It doesn’t matter why they did, all that matters is that I find out more about Mystery. But… But I do so while respecting her feelings and treating her like any other pony. Figuratively speaking of course.
Any further moral quandaries were put on hold as she raised an ear, the sounds of hoofsteps approaching from in the hallway. Turning her head she saw Nurse Redheart speak briefly to the guards before re-entering the room; however she had evidently not returned alone. For following in her stead was not only Derpy looking far more relaxed than she was yesterday, but also Dinky who eagerly bounced behind her mother. An excited expression dominated the filly’s face on seeing Mystery, the young unicorn quickly cantering past both the nurse and her mother to make a beeline for the bed.
Twilight could only watch in growing amusement as Dinky leapt up, the filly’s forelegs finding purchase on the sheets while her hind legs scrambled in an effort to pull herself up. Eventually she got it though and bounced over the blanket, completely unafraid of Mystery as she settled contentedly upon the biped’s lap. While the scene was cute to behold, the change to Mystery proved to be nothing less than remarkable. Immediately the female’s face lit up, one of her hands moving to gently stroke over the filly’s mane which resulted in a giggle shared between the two.
Twilight shook her head slowly, a smile pulling on her lips as she watched Derpy converse with Nurse Redheart. Before she could listen in she found her vision pulled back over to Dinky and Mystery, both clearly at ease in each other’s presence as they laughed and enjoyed each other’s company. Obviously Dinky was undeniably a unicorn like she herself was, and yet despite this, to Mystery that fact didn’t seem to matter at all.
Twilight thought back to what she had heard and also to what she had witnessed when she had visited the day before. Indeed, Dinky had believed in Mystery’s innocence the entire time, believed without a shred of doubt that she had been saved and then protected by the biped. In return it seemed Mystery had opened her heart up to Dinky with the two clearly displaying that bond. Interestingly the language barrier didn’t seem to pose an issue between the two of them; through their actions they understood each other perfectly.
“Spike, can you take a message for the princess please.” She now knew what to write, and, more than that, she knew the most important thing she had learned today. Thankfully as always her number one assistant was there and waiting when she needed him.
“Sure thing Twilight.”
Lowering herself down she let him acquire both a blank sheet of paper and a quill from her saddlebags. After which he patiently waited, one eyebrow raised while holding the quill at the ready. Seeing this, Twilight cleared her throat before beginning to dictate her thoughts.
“Dear Princess Celestia, as promised I am sending a letter to state my findings so far. The two guards you and Princess Luna arranged to guard the visitor have arrived and while I am surprised about their identities, I remain grateful for their presence.” A glance was given outside, Swift Dawn’s ear briefly flicking but otherwise betraying no other sign he was listening in.
“So far the morning has gone well and I have continued to find out more about the patient. Firstly, thanks to Rarity, we have decided to call her ‘Mystery’ until we come to discover her real name. I think you both will agree that her previous nickname was completely inappropriate on discovering her true nature.”
A nod of agreement was offered by Spike, the quill scribbling over the paper as he kept pace.
“So far after several attempts with translation spells I have been met with zero success. Based on the results witnessed so far, I would suggest that we will not find a compatible language within Equestria, or, even, anywhere else for that matter. However on saying that, amazingly, it would appear gestures, along with tone of voice and expressions translate over perfectly. How this could be remains a mystery for now but my theory would be that either such things are universal between sapient species, or, alternatively, that our cultures are remarkably similar. I don’t think I need to point out just how momentous a discovery that would be if either explanation turns out to be true.”
“Mome…Moment-o...” Pausing for a second, Spike shrugged and continued onwards with his own choice of a replacement word. “How big a discovery that would be…”
Twilight could only shake her head with a small chuckle as Spike looked up with another shrug. Indicating he had caught up, he waggled the quill at her in a sign for her to continue. Taking a deep breath she found her gaze moving back to the scene on the bed, the small grin she wore growing in size prior to resuming in her task.
“Anyhow, on what I have seen so far today I can proclaim without doubt that Mystery is as Princess Luna stated. With everything I have observed so far, along with what I have been informed of, it all leads back to the following conclusion. Mystery is obviously lost, scared, and as such acts exactly as one would expect anypony in her situation to behave. I imagine it will take time and care to get her to open up, but already today I can see progress being made even with just how she interacts with Nurse Redheart who has seemed to earn her trust.”
Clicking her tongue, Twilight was reminded of another matter as she peeked back at her saddlebags.
“Oh! Spike and I have also created a chart with the nurse’s help of what Mystery eats and I’ll be sure to send you a copy once I get a chance to duplicate it later tonight.”
Twilight exhaled softly before seating herself, continuing to watch Dinky and Mystery interact. She also noticed that Derpy and Nurse Redheart had moved to the other side of the bed by that point, both also watching on with matching warm expressions.
“I was reminded of something else today, a lesson I learned not so long ago. Sometimes you can’t judge someone by their appearance, or by what you hear from others. Sometimes, you have to look past that and learn who they are on the inside. Sometimes… there is one pony that does that from the beginning and from that true friendship can be born.”
“And from that true friendship can be born,” Spike repeated back, stopping to gaze up at Twilight as she looked down at him. “Hey Twilight, is this how about how you kept finding evidence until you could prove she wasn’t, well, y’know…”
“No Spike, not me.” Twilight shook her head as she favoured her assistant with a soft nudge to his side. Having gotten his attention she pointed towards the bed with the same limb. “Some pony believed all along despite everyone telling her otherwise. She had seen the true side of Mystery before any of us could and continued to do so even when others continued to fear her. I may have had my doubts from the beginning and sought to gain evidence, but Dinky didn’t need any of that to know what was in her heart.”
Spike watched for a few seconds before shrugging and tapping at the paper with the quill.
“I don’t really get it, but if you say so. I mean, I never doubted Mystery for a second.”
And I’m sure a certain amethyst didn’t have anything to do with that.
“Okay, okay, back to the letter.” Rolling her eyes, Twilight cleared her throat to continue. “Rest assured that I will send more updates throughout the day with any new information and further progress made. But, for now, I believe that Dinky deserves some time with her new friend.”
Lifting her head she witnessed Mystery looking startled from being observed before relaxing, the girl’s attention falling back down to the filly on her lap. Dinky meanwhile was looking positively jubilant as she enjoyed the attention, but above all, she seemed to enjoy Mystery smiling more than anything else.
“And I think that Mystery would like to spend time with her friend just as much. As always your faithful student, Twilight Sparkle.”
“Your faithful student, Twilight Sparkle.”
With the letter completed Spike rolled the paper up and gave a puff of fire over its surface to send it on its way to Princess Celestia. Twilight taking the time to watch the magical ash as it dipped and dived through the room before slipping out the window. Slowly she found her attention instead drawn over to Derpy, the pegasus blinking before meeting Twilight’s gaze. With a shared smile, the two joined the others in watching Dinky shift around on Mystery’s lap, the filly asking question after excited question on what her new friend ate.
It seems friendship truly can exist in all things. Even between a creature from another world and a sweet, little filly.
There was no denying how much she wished to learn about Mystery and about the world she came from. But for now, witnessing what was occurring before her, she decided all of that could wait and she knew the princesses wouldn’t mind.
Because right now the morning belonged to Dinky and Mystery, and she wouldn’t interrupt that for the world.