Trixie's eyes widened, an excited twinkle in them as she took in the the wide structure. 'Vanhoover Super Mega-Mall' was splayed across each side in bright colors, a four story shopping complex just begging for all of your bits. It was bigger than the hockey ring across the street, but smaller than the hoofball stadium that towered behind it. Plenty of ponies were entering and exiting the complex; a small number of them had wagons with them, getting a smile from Trixie.
“What's this place?” Reina asked, her eyes matching Trixie's.
“It's the largest collections of stores this side of Equestria,” Trixie answered, taking her carriage to the entrance, “Everything a pony could ever hope to buy is waiting for us inside.”
“So, it's like all of those pony stalls outside, selling things, but here it's all in one place,” Reina elaborated, “Bits sure are convenient.”
“Hah, indeed!” Trixie replied, giving her assistant a beaming grin, “The trick is to keep it as best you can, which the Great and Frugal Trixie is quite good at doing, just you watch!”
Trixie's eye twitched as a moth lazily escaped her purse. She let out a tired sigh as she rested her chin on the table, her carriage parked next to it, loaded down with supplies.
She shopped expecting a number of things she'd need to get going: Refilling her cache of fireworks. Buying supplies to last them to at least Ponyville. Acquiring enchanted lumber, and replacing the shattered spell crystal.
What she wasn't expecting, was all the extra purchases needed for Reina. After all, it just wouldn't do to have an illiterate assistant! And not only that, but it seemed only fitting to buy the filly a stage costume; Trixie kept that purchase a secret, just in case the filly wasn't up for performing.
Every good magician has a stage aide, right?
“...Maybe Trixie is taking this assistant thing too far,” she mumbled into the desk, getting a considering look from Zecora, before the zebra took a sip from her tea. “N- Next time, Trixie is going outside the city to shop!”
“Is that better?” Reina asked.
“The prices were set as a starter, leaving no room to barter,” Zecora replied as she swilled her drink.
“It was a scam!” Trixie added, “Those prices! Some of those would put Canterlot stores to shame! And then there was the carriage fee!” she exclaimed, before letting out a sigh. “Those bits were supposed to last,” she said in a whining tone. She then lifted her chin as she frowned, “Trixie doesn't want to be in Vanhoover anymore!”
Her eyes then shifted when she saw her lunch approaching, which was being delivered by a pony on roller skates. Said mare expertly left Trixie and Zecora's orders on the table, before sliding to the carriage window to give Reina a glass of apple juice. The waitress flinched when the lamia grabbed the cup with her tail.
“Thank you,” Reina said, making the server blink, before she gave the filly a smile. “You okay Zecora?” the filly asked as the waiter skated off, “You haven't said much since we left the park.”
“That is because I do not like this alien place. What with its hustling, bustling, and lack of space,” she replied with a sigh, getting a curious look from the others. “I am thankful for your concern. Truly, leaving is what I yearn.”
“Well, Trixie can no longer blame you for not liking the city,” the showpony said as she appraised the high sun, “We'll leave soon enough. We just have one stop left before we do,” she added, hers and Reina's eyes looking to the towering spire right down the street from where they ate.
“Hah. Down here with the carriage I'll stay. So, you two are free to go up and play,” Zecora replied with a small chuckle, making Trixie give her a flat look. “But before I give way, tell me, how will you pay?” she asked as she indicated their food.
“A smart mare doesn't keep all her bits in one place,” Trixie replied in a sagely tone, before digging in. Reina watched the two adults for a minute, sipping through her straw, before she turned into the carriage's interior to appraise the things Trixie bought for her.
Nestled between the bed and cupboards was a small pile of children's books. They had bright colors, and were filled with pictures. Shuffling through the books in order stacked, she frowned when she reached the bottom.
“A lamia book!” Tiko said, prompting Reina to carry it over to the window, seeing Trixie looking flustered.
“And what would you know about magic?” she asked, making Reina tilt her head for a moment, before clearing her throat.
“Trixie, what's this book for?” she asked as she showed the book, picture of a lamia drawn in a cartoon-ish fashion on the cover. Trixie blinked, before coughing into her hoof.
“That, that book is for Trixie, so she can learn a little more about you.”
“Dum-dum! You could have just asked!” Tiko let out, making Trixie give the doll an annoyed look for a moment, before she adopted a sheepish smile.
“Trixie could have, but she, uh, didn't want to trouble you!”
“Liar,” Reina replied with a flat look.
“Okay, fine,” she replied, looking a little put off, “Trixie didn't consider that. So, smarty pants.” She blinked before tilting her head, “Can lamia even wear pants?” She then shook her head, “Alright, smarty flank.” Trixie blinked again, about to ask another pointless question, before her eyes narrowed. “Reina, tell Trixie about lamia.”
“Right now?” the filly asked, sounding disinterested.
“Well, you brought it up, so yes!” Trixie replied.
“Lamia come in three types. Of that, I'd bet my stripes,” Zecora offered, getting a cross look from Trixie.
“Trixie wants her assistant to explain, thank you very much,” she replied, getting a small smile from the zebra as the filly nodded. “And Trixie read that part. The three types are constrictor, mesmerizer, and slithering lamia.”
“Uh, that's wrong,” Reina said, making Trixie give her a surprised look as Zecora chuckled.
“Completely, utterly wrong,” Tiko added.
“But, that's what the book said,” Trixie replied defensively.
“Well, the book is wrong,” the filly insisted, making the mare's eyes narrow.
“The names are too long, and it's not how we refer to each other,” the filly began sagely, looking quite pleased with herself. “The three types are boa, mystic and lurker.”
“Mom is a lurker,” Tiko said, “calling her one is like calling you a unicorn. Or a dum-dum.”
“So,” Trixie began with a pondering look, “calling Reina a mystic is like calling Tiko tinder?” she asked, making Reina nod briefly, before her eyes widened. “Excellent!” Trixie added, making the filly hold the doll protectively.
“Tiko is not tinder!”
“Yes yes,” Trixie replied as she waved a hoof dismissively, “So, what makes them different?”
“Oh, well, boas are really strong, or really flexible,” Reina explained. “Some are both, it depends on the lamia. When it gets cold, lamia get really tired and sleepy, but not boas!” She then adopted a warm smile, “Granny is a boa.”
“That's right!” Tiko added, “We once saw her crush a boulder! It was awesome!” the doll said energetically, getting a smiling nod from Reina.
“You can do the next one, Tiko,” the filly said, making the doll nod.
“Okay! Mom is a lurker, and lurkers have a nasty bite.” Reina glanced to the side as the doll continued, “What that bite can do varies from lamia. Mom can make things feel sick. Some bites can make the bitten feel confused, or sleepy.” Reina then glanced to Trixie, an excited look in her eyes, “Mom's pretty cool; she can also exhale a mist that's like her bite, but weaker and more spread out. And the neatest thing that just about any lurker can do is appear to be invisible!” he finished, Reina's smile fading as she let out a sigh.
“I wish I was more like mom...” she said as she fiddled with her glasses.
“So, does that mean your father was a mystic?” Trixie asked, making the filly frown.
“Yes,” she replied curtly, making Trixie tilt her head.
“Does a mystic's eyes come in different types too.”
“It does, and dad's was the worst,” she replied, getting an eager look from the blue pony. “His eyes ... made anything that looked into them fall in love.”
“Huh,” Trixie replied, imagining such an ability, “That sounds pretty useful—“ her sentence ended with a 'Foal's guide to Lamias' nailing her right in the head, making her fall back from the table with a crash.
“What do you know, dum-dum!” Tiko replied, making Trixie blink as she saw the glare Reina was giving her.
“You didn't have to throw the book at Trixie!” the mare replied, making Reina glance to the side for a moment.
“It's not useful. I hate it,” the filly mumbled, making Trixie's eyes narrow.
“Trixie will not have that kind of talk coming from her assistant,” she replied, getting a confused look from Reina. “Your eye's magic is a part of who you are. You shouldn't hate any part of—“ another book came flying her way, and this time Trixie caught it.
“Dum-dum!” Tiko shouted as Reina left the window, slamming the shutter shut, shattering into a shambled state.
“W- What was all that about?” Trixie asked as she the wooden fragments, getting a calm sigh from the zebra.
“When you upset a child, they tend to go wild.”
“And just how did Trixie upset her?” she asked as she looked to the zebra, “Her eyes are her eyes. Hating that is the same as Trixie hating her magic. It's just … wrong,” she said, a conflicted look on her face. “Why would she hate her magic?” she asked, getting a considering look from Zecora.
“What eyes of love can bring about, must surely bring her a lot of doubt.”
“'Do my friends and family love me, or is it my eyes they wish to see?'” she offered, tilting her head as she looked to Trixie, who looked troubled.
“...Can a mystic control their eyes?” she asked, getting a small nod from the zebra. “So, Reina just can't control hers yet,” she said, her horn glowing as she reformed the shutter. “Is Trixie ... suppose to apologize for this?” she asked, more to herself than Zecora, tilting her head in thought as the zebra eyed her quietly. Trixie's eyes met hers, making the blue mare blink, before raising her nose. “Trixie didn't do anything wrong, so there's no need to apologize. In fact, Reina was the one that threw a book at Trixie! She should be the one saying sorry!” she exclaimed, before her shoulders slumped, “Still...” she left hanging as she went around to enter her carriage.
Looking inside, it appeared to be completely empty. A brief moment of panic hit Trixie, her horn glowing to sense nearby magic. She then let out a small sigh as she pinpointed Reina. Lifting the blanket hanging over her bed's side, she bent down to peer beneath, seeing a filly who was avoiding eye contact with her. “It would appear that there's a snake under Trixie's bed.”
“I don't want these eyes,” Reina mumbled, making Trixie frown briefly, “they're the kind of eyes a bad guy would have.”
“Is your father a bad guy?” Trixie slipped out, her eyes widening at her own careless blathering. Reina didn't respond, making the mare tilt her head. “Trixie didn't mean to ask that...”
They silently considered each other for a moment longer, before Trixie let out an annoyed sigh. “Look, Trixie didn't mean to make you mad. Trixie likes magic, and she likes your eyes, so she didn't like hearing you say you hate them.” Trixie paused for a moment, eyes darting around as she looked for what to say next. “They're your eyes, so Trixie can't hold your dislike of them against you...” she concluded, giving the filly an awkward smile, which Reina looked away from. “Look, are you going to stay under there all day?” Her continued silence made Trixie frown again.
The mare was about to open her mouth, but quickly shut it, getting on her hooves as she sat on the bed, a ponderous look on her face. She kept pondering until she started to show signs of frustration. Her annoyance faded when her eyes fell to the pile of books, before said eyes widened. “Reina, as we know, Trixie is quite adapt at controlling magic,” she began, resisting letting out a yelp when Tiko appeared out from under the bed, right between Trixie's legs.
“What of it?” the doll asked.
“W- Would you like Trixie to help you control yours?”
“...Really?” Reina asked.
“Really,” Trixie replied with a nod, “It's a long way to Baltimare. Trixie is sure we'll have plenty of time to get it down,” she assured, before hopping on her hooves, “But, if that's not good enough for you, then Trixie supposes you can just stay under the bed.” She then left the carriage, pausing before the door closed, “That just means Trixie will be going to Cloud-Ri-La alone.”
Reina's eyes widened as she heard the door close. She hugged Tiko closer as she eyed the light leaking in through the blanket.
“She's just trying to lure us out,” Tiko said, getting a nod from Reina.
“But, I want to go,” Reina said, “And, shes gonna help us even more...
“She's too nosy. And, she should have said sorry!” Tiko added, making Reina frown.
“I did throw a book at her...”
“Heh, that was great! Got her right between the eyes!” the doll said with a small chuckle. Reina then reached for her glasses with her tail, tugging on them lightly, before the filly adopted a determined look. Leaving her hiding place, her eye caught something in the corner, making her reflect on what happened this morning, before she pulled it out of the trash. Nestling the tossed letter discreetly between herself and Tiko, Reina quickly slinked out the door, her eyes widening when she saw no sight of Trixie.
“Over here,” the mare let out, making Reina blink as she saw Trixie sitting at the table, continuing her meal. “What, you didn't think Trixie was going now, did you?” she added with a small smile, getting a bothered look from the filly. “Trixie said she'd take you to the building, and that's what she'll do.” The mare then blushed, “Trixie hasn't always been the best when it comes to keeping promises, but, she's trying. And... Trixie is...” The mare looked like she was trying to spit out something uncomfortable.
“Trixie,” Reina began, “I'm sorry for throwing the book. I got mad.”
“Oh, really?” Trixie replied sarcastically, before wincing, “Look, let's just put that behind us, okay?” she asked as she levitated the book towards the filly, who took if, giving Trixie a nod. “Excellent!” Trixie let out as she got up from the table, giving the zebra a considering look, “Trixie is trusting that her carriage won't blow up while she's gone, okay?” she asked, making Zecora chuckle.
“No need to ruffle your mane. In one piece, it will remain,” she replied with a smile.
“Right, come on assistant, we have a mountain to climb!”
“Wait, do ponies actually climb up those things?” Reina said wide-eyed as she looked to Cloud-Ri-La.
“Oh heavens no!” Trixie exclaimed, “We've got elevators to save us from such a terrible fate!”
“Wow! We're so high up!” Reina said excitedly, placing a hoof on the window as she took in the city around the tall hotel.
“And this is only halfway up!” Trixie said, appreciating the view for a moment as well.
From this high, the half-way terrace was above most of the other buildings in the city, giving the illusion that Cloud-Ri-La was surrounded on all sides. Reina pressed her nose to the glass, looking at the ponies and carts down on the streets below. She was in her own little world.
Trixie couldn't help but smile at the filly's wonder. Before she could get in another comment, however, one of the other ponies in the terrace addressed the showpony, seeking an autograph. Trixie turned to them, giving them a beaming smile as she did just that. Reina noticed Trixie's distraction, prompting the filly to slide back a bit as a few more ponies started seeking Trixie's quill.
“First the ride up, and now here,” Tiko said, getting an envious sigh from Reina.
“Then there were those that saw her in the big store,” Reina added as glanced to the side, before eyeing the few other ponies in the room. “Looks like now's our chance, Tiko.”
“Reina?” the doll asked curiously.
“Trixie wouldn't answer, and I'm sure Zecora wouldn't either, but, I want to know,” the filly replied as she pulled out the letter, leaving the distracted show-pony behind as she approached a pony keeping themselves separate from the crowd. “Excuse me, miss, could you read this for me, please?” she asked of the mare, catching the unicorn off guard.
“Um, uh, sure, sweetie,” the pony replied with a sheepish grin, taking the letter in her hooves for a moment, “A letter from the mayor?” she asked in surprise, before reading it out loud. “'I heard about your performance, and the crowd it gathered. That, along with you being a pony worthy of note, has led me to offer you a primary spot in the Grand Performance Tribute'!” the mare blinked before looking to Reina. “Where'd you get this from?”
“It's a letter that was given to...” Reina paused for a moment, before glancing to the side, “my caretaker.”
“They must be quite the pony to get a primary spot,” she said enthusiastically.
“What's the Grand Performance Tribute?”
“You don't need to use the long version, most everypony here calls it the GPT, or the Tribute.”
“Okay, but what is it?”
“Oh, sorry,” she replied in an embarrassed tone, “It's an event Vanhoover hosts every two years. A lot of ponies come from across Equestria to perform, or see performances of all kinds. If you're really good, you can make a lot of bits and a name of yourself there.”
“Really?” Reina asked wide-eyed, “When is it!?” she asked excitedly.
“Umm, about three weeks from now, to this day,” she said with a smile, making Reina blink.
“Th- Thank you,” the filly added, taking the letter back.
“You're very welcome. Oh! If I may ask, who was the pony's name?”
“Trixie... Where have I heard that name...?” the mare replied, before blinking and noticing the thinning crowd around said pony. Reina hid the letter again as the mare approached Trixie.
“Trixie really is a dum-dum,” Tiko said, his voice sounding a little deflated as Reina nodded in agreement. A minute later, Trixie returned, looking quite happy with herself.
“Well, that was fun. Now, let's shoot for the top!” Trixie exclaimed, before noting how Reina looked.
“Uh, yes, the top!” Reina said sheepishly, making Trixie tilt her head for a moment, before nodding.
Following the blue mare, they went around the terrace to the elevator that lead to the cloudy half of the structure. The arch over the elevator door was made of gold, and gave off a slight glow. With a ding, the door opened into a cloudy box, and as Trixie walked over the arch's threshold, her body was enchanted for walking on clouds. Reina's eyes widened as Trixie walked onto the white elevator. The mare chuckled, before beckoning her over.
The elevator worked wonders at distracting the filly; the ride up was puffy and bouncy. When they reached the top floor, Reina was still springing up and down, to the amusement of the other passengers.
“That's enough of that, assistant, let's take in the view!” Trixie said, getting an agreeing nod from the filly, slithering onto the cloudy top, the skies open all around them. Besides the clouds they stood on, there was nothing but blue in all directions. As Trixie continued towards a railing a short trot away, Reina paused, her awe making the letter slip from her loose grasp.
The filly blinked, seeing it fall away. It fell on the cloud, fluttering in the breeze. Her eyes widened as she reached for it, but it blew away before she could grasp it. Her gaze followed the letter as it slowly disappeared from sight, her ears falling again.
“Reina?” Trixie asked, the filly slowly looking to her.
“Trixie, you ... didn't look into my eyes, did you?” she asked, getting a briefly confused look from the mare, before she scoffed.
“As if Trixie would let herself fall for such an enchantment,” she bolstered out, before giving the filly an appraising look. “Why?” Reina glanced the direction the letter blew, before reaching for her glasses.
“Trixie, why do you do your shows? Is it for the bits?”
“Trixie doesn't see what that has to do with your eyes. As for your answer, Yes, it's for the bits,” she bluntly replied, getting a disappointed look from Reina. “And the fame. But, most importantly, because it's fun.”
“Fun? Funner than taking some filly you barely know across Equestria?”she asked, getting a flat look from the mare.
“You don't need to, you know,” Tiko replied, matching Trixie's tone. “Zecora can do it, and you can keep having your fun.”
“As if!” Trixie replied, “A filly asked The Great and Powerful Trixie for help, and she's going to help! What, are you already fed up with her?”
“No, that's not it,” she replied, looking quite small as she looked to Trixie, “I just don't want to drag you down.”
“What are you going on about?”
“I know about the tribute thing,” she said, making Trixie blink for a moment, before letting out a haughty laugh.
“Oh, that thing? Trixie is above such events!”
“Don't lie, you dum-dum!” Tiko said, making Trixie's mirth switch out for a flat look.
“Fine. Yes, Trixie wants to go, but she made a promise, and she wants to keep it.”
“Because you're not good at keeping promises?” Reina asked, making the mare glance to the side for a moment, before letting out a heated sigh.
“Because Trixie does what she wants! And she wants to help the first little filly to ask Trixie for help to reunite with her mother. Is that really such a bad thing? Do you want Trixie to just leave you alone with that rhyming zebra?”
“No, that's not—“
“Then it's settled, alright?” she declared, getting a frustrated look from the filly.
“It's not fair,” she mumbled, getting a confused look from Trixie.
“What's not fair?”
“Everything! All your bits are gone thanks to me. Because of me, those goons are gonna come after you. And, you're gonna miss out on the tribute, all because of me!”
“Well, Trixie says that it is fair, because Trixie is accepting all that.” Reina shook her head.
“Trixie, I want to help.”
“Isn't that why you're my assistant?”
“That was an excuse to get in the city," Reina pointed out, "And, I want more than that!” she elaborated, making the mare blink. “I want to help with the bits, and the goons. I … want to make it up to you,” she said, her ears falling as she glanced to the side.
“Hmph, you're almost as bad as Sunset,” Trixie said, getting a confused look from the filly. “Get on Trixie's back,” she said, making Reina blink, “Now!”
“R- Right!” the filly let out, awkwardly standing on her tail to reach Trixie's back. Once she was there, she wrapped her hooves over Trixie's shoulders, her tail wrapping around the mare's waist, getting a giggle from the mare.
“Mind the belly, Trixie is ticklish and she doesn't want to drop you.”
“Okay,” Reina replied, her face flushing as she tried to avoid the curious looks the other ponies were giving. Her eyes then widened a little, compared to the cold air around them, hugging Trixie was surprisingly comfortable.
Trixie then moved, leading them towards the fence. Reina's grip tightened as a breeze brushed past them, seeing the horizon, and the city beneath coming into view as they reached the edge.
“Take it all in,” Trixie said, as she started to slowly walk around the circular roof, and Reina's mouth fell open as she did just that.
To the east, a constant breeze blew. Snow capped mountains lined the horizon, the brief scent of snow in the air. A train came out of those mountains, leaving a trail of steam in its wake. South, nestled in front of another mountain range was a cluster of buildings. They weren't as tall as Vanhoover's, and an expanse of trees separated it from the city. To the east was the sea. The blue horizon and the breeze to their back gave Reina the feeling that they were being pulled towards it. And to the north, nothing but green forests as far as the eye could see.
“...It's so pretty”
“Yes, it is,” Trixie replied with a smile, “And, Equestria is a big place. Even if Trixie spent her whole life doing it, she'd never see every place, or bedazzle every pony.” She then glanced to Reina, “Get it?” she asked, making the filly consider it for several moments.
“Umm, what am I supposed to get?” she asked, getting a bothered look from the mare.
“Luna makes this look so easy,” she mumbled. “What you're supposed to get, is that it's okay if Trixie misses the Tribute.”
“How was she supposed to get that?” Tiko asked.
“Th- That is- It's because the tribute is small when compared to-” Trixie then shook her head, “Look, you can help Trixie.”
“Well, you are my assistant, aren't you?” she asked, getting a firm nod from the filly, “Then of course you're going to help Trixie!” she exclaimed, blinking as the filly smiled at her, before tightening her hug. "Honestly, just do what you want, like Trixie does."
“O- Okay!" Reina replied, her eyes falling back to the landscape around them. "It really is pretty,” she added, making Trixie blink, before letting out a sigh.
“Yeah, it really is,” the mare said with a smile.