Although he could have teleported right to the door, Dusk appeared at the main entrance to Verdant Fields out of courtesy and honour, both to his intended and to her family. Dusk Shadow was a muscular Unicorn stallion with a jet-black coat, dark blue mane, and dark purple eyes. Like almost all of the rest of his family in the Third Conclave of Flowing Shadows, he specialized in Dark/Shadow and Water/Ice Magic, but he was far from a dark or evil pony. No, the Conclave applied their knowledge for the betterment and defense of Equestria, as the second-oldest member of the Alliance, which dated back to the days described in Hearthswarming Eve. One of the other Houses in the Alliance was the Pegasus House, the Azure Wing. The final, and oldest House, was Herd Verdant.
When Dusk knocked on the front door to the modestly-sized house, it was Sweet Pepper who answered. The matron of the house, Sweet Pepper had a big grin on her face, and mischief sparkled in those pale green eyes of hers. "Ah, Dusky," she said. "Ivy's just finishing up getting ready. Do come in."
"I would really prefer it if you just called me 'Dusk,'" he said, accepting the invitation. The house was sparingly furnished, Dusk knew, but the walls were festooned with family photographs: the Verdant was a very large family, spread out all across Equestria, and beyond. They comprised their own network of (of course) farms, textile specialists, miners, metalworkers, and politicians. While Redwood had all the official power as the Patriarch, Sweet Pepper clearly had the power behind the metaphysical throne. And Gearhead was obviously the most famous of them all, as the owner of Gearhead's Gadgets, although Dusk and his little sister Dawn knew him as a friend -- Dawn might hope to knew him as something more, but that was in the future.
"But it's so much fun to tease you," Sweet Pepper said, inviting Dusk to take a seat beside her. He had just started to sit down, having ignored Pepper's second jibe, when Ivy came down the stairs from the second floor.
This was one of those times when it was hard to imagine Ivy hard at work in the fields, plowing or sowing or harvesting. The young mare had her long mane in an elegant high ponytail that flowed down the back of her neck and across her shoulders like a waterfall. The effect would have been perfect if her hair was the same colour as water anywhere, but it was even more impressive in brilliant red, shot through with bright green. She wore a simple pale green dress, but her best ornament was her eyes, a bright, deep green that seemed to always shine from within.
Dusk straightened back up, and bowed. "My lady," he said.
"You're embarrassing me," Ivy blushed. Her voice, if it had a texture, was soft and silky.
"Well, since I can't seem to get back at your mother here..."
"And you never will, young stallion: I'm much too clever for you."
"We'll see," Dusk promised. These were Earth Ponies, whom many Unicorns in Canterlot regarded of being less intelligent and sophisticated, but even as they lived on a farm, Dusk believed they could never say such a thing about the Verdants.
"Have fun," Sweet Pepper said, seeing the stallion and her daughter to the door.
"Thank you," Dusk said.
Hoofington was just a couple hours' walk away from Verdant Fields, and Dusk could have easily teleported them there to visit museums, exhibits, watch theatrical or operatic shows, or to eat at expensive restaurants. He probably would have done all of those if he thought any of them would impress his date. He understood, however, that Ivy was unlike most other mares, and that difference was why she had felt embarrassed earlier: she was a workhorse, unafraid of effort and getting dirty. Yes, she knew the courtly manners, and she was perfectly elegant and proper when the situation called for it (Dusk had seen her be so at the Grand Galloping Gala), but none of that sort of thing impressed her. She might even feel stifled by it.
Whether at the Gala or another official function, Ivy often attended as a representative of the Verdant. She carried herself elegantly because it was expected, but what made other ponies treat her differently was the sensation of calm and well-being she projected onto nearby ponies, most of the time by establishing eye contact with them. It was said, although Dusk did not have a way of confirming it easily, that Princess Celestia looked forward to seeing Ivy ever since her debut at the Gala, and because of that rumour, other ponies raised Ivy up so high in their estimation of her that few approached her. If anything could bother a mare who was the salt-of-the-earth type, it was being put up on a pedestal so high, she couldn't see the people on the ground. So treating Ivy like she was some kind of nobility was among the worst things you could do to her, and some ponies, none of whom knew her, treated and spoke of her like she was a fourth princess.
Instead of some establishment in Hoofington, Dusk took Ivy out to a hill that overlooked a riverbank. The hill and riverbank were covered in all sorts of flowers, some of which Dusk could not identify, since he dealt mostly in herbs and spell ingredients. Ivy's expression lit up at the sight, and she was certainly ready to burst forth and explore, but Dusk put a leg across to block her. "Not yet," he said. And then he let loose a high-pitched whistle.
The flowers seemed to explode as birds and insects of every colour and size erupted into the air, swirling, spiraling, and diving among the flowers, and sweeping across the river's surface. Ivy gasped, her smile growing wider. "Wow! I had no idea this was here."
"That's because it's a secret," Dusk said. "Of course, I had a little help setting it up, but I'm glad you like it."
"Like it? I love it!" Ivy reared up and gently kissed Dusk. Then she raced off among the flowers and their denizens, eager to catalogue them all. Dusk followed after, trying in vain to wipe the stupid grin he felt off his face. It wasn't working.
After the flower-viewing, Dusk and Ivy explored the river. The stallion knew that Ivy was looking for more plants and animals, but since they were new to the area, she would not find any similar to the ones at the hill more than a few meters from that very spot. He and Dawn had worked hard to bring out those flowers, and attract those birds, butterflies, and other insects that comprised a complete ecosystem, to that exact spot. And just with that blissful expression on Ivy's face, Dusk thought of the effort as being completely worth it.
While they walked, Dusk found some gemstones in the river. They were not anything special on their own, but Dusk was a Unicorn of considerable talent. He could do many things with the emerald, sapphire, and ruby ingots he found, and so he took them and placed them in one of his many omnipresent pouches. Later, he would give Ivy another present, one made with effort, and not bought with money.
It was a simple, meaningful date, during which most of what Dusk and Ivy did was walk and watch -- Ivy walked, and Dusk watched her while he walked alongside. As they returned to the house, Ivy gave Dusk another chaste kiss on the cheek. "Thank you for a wonderful day," she said.
"Thank you for agreeing to come with me, Ivy."
"And thank you for treating me normally," Ivy said. To this, Dusk's only response was for him to kiss her. When they pulled back, Dusk thought he saw a goofy grin on the mare's face for a moment, but she quickly tucked it away, if it had even been there in the first place. Dusk waited until he was certain the door had closed behind Ivy, and she was not going to come back out.
Yes, if there was one treasure Dusk could give Ivy, it was that he did not hold her in complete awe like most of the other ponies outside of her family. What Ivy craved most was to be treated like everypony else by everyone else, but her compassionate, loving aura usually made that impossible. The only ones who could give her what she wanted was her family, who loved her, and the stallion who fell in love with her.
Dusk walked to the gate with this knowledge in mind, then he teleported the rest of the way home. He would have to remember to thank Dawn, when she got home.