• Published 23rd Aug 2013
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Sweetie Belle Gains a Soul - Bad Dragon



In her darkest hour, Sweetie Belle finds salvation, but with it comes a terrible curse.

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22 - Magic Training

Boulders? Why are there boulders in front of Twilight’s castle?

A shadow formed on the surrounding grass. I wondered if it was a cloud. Either Rainbow Dash was slacking on her job again or she was trying to pull another one of her pranks. I looked up.

Plump!

A giant thing landed right before my muzzle. I jumped back from the big boulder in front of me.

The magic glow around it dissipated. My ears perked up at the sounds of flapping wings. They drew closer. “I’ve been expecting you, my pupil,” said Twilight from above me. “And you’re just in time. To be honest, I was starting to get concerned you might not show up.”

I looked up. “I’d come sooner, but I got held up at Rarity’s.” I raised my eyebrows and pressed them together. “Um… What’s with the boulders?”

“You’ll see.” She smirked as she landed. Her eyebrows lifted when she noticed the floating book.

I forgot that I was even levitating it. When, in the past, I had surprised or scared Unicorns, usually Rarity, they would often lose control of their magic and drop anything they were holding. Yet, the book stayed firmly in place by a thick bubbly, purple aura. It was as if my loss of focus didn’t affect my levitation spell.

Twilight waved a hoof in front of my eyes to wake me up from the trance I was in. She glanced at the book in my dark field. “Am I to understand you’re intrigued by the magic described in the book and want my help in understanding it further?” She kept nodding at me. “The book didn’t bore you at all and made you want to read even more. Am I right? Please tell me I’m right! You’re the only pony who borrowed a serious book from my library in days. I can’t afford to lose you too.”

“I’m just returning the book. I have no use for it anymore.”

“Oh...” A frown drew on her face. “You don’t intend to study it in-depth then, I presume.” She turned to the castle. “Spike, get over here!”

“I’m done with this one,” I said.

“Ugh!” Her head bowed. “I’ve seen this many times with almost everypony I managed to drag to the library. The lack of attention span ruined their experience.” Her horn slowly charged up as her eyes locked on my dark levitation bubble. “Let me guess.”—She extended her channels to my magical construct and formed a flat shield under it.—“There was no action in the book, so you got bored and didn’t even get past the first page?”

She could have just grabbed at the levitating thingy by wrapping her magic around mine, but she didn’t. Her avoidance of the book was weird. Or maybe there something else that was bothering her? My head shook.“No, I’ve read the whole thing but found it lacking.”

Her ears shot up, eyes sparkled. The corners of her mouth drifted ever higher.

I cut off my magic, and the book fell onto the conjured, purple, translucent shelf.

Her channels immediately wrapped themselves around it, engulfing the covers in a purple aura.

“Is there an extended edition of it or something like that?” I glanced at her.

“...you have no idea how delighted I am to hear you ask that, Sweetie Belle!” Her eyes spread wide.

The door of the castle opened. “You yelled?” Spike huffed.

Twilight’s focus stayed fixed on me and it looked as if she intended to eat me. The gigantic smile on her face grew ever bigger. “Can I hug you right now?”

“No!” I took a few leaps back. My horn glowed even darker. I could have sworn I had turned it off. By forcefully retracting my magic flow, I starved my persistent channels. I looked up and confirmed that I did, indeed, successfully banish the bubbly aura for a time.

“Twilight!” Spike raised his voice at her.

The lavender aura around the book shone brighter. “Tell me more about how you indulged yourself with it.” She smiled. “You liked it a whole lot, didn’t you.”
Twilight accelerated the book toward Spike without throwing him as much as a glance.

“Ugh!” Spike snorted as he flew back into the castle along with the book clutched to his chest.

A distant voice sounded from within the castle. “Um… I’m... mostly okay if anyone’s wondering…”

Her eyes blinked in response as she cut off her magic. “Oh, oh!” Twilight covered the distance to me in one jump and shoved her snout against mine. “What’s your favorite magic type?” Her smile was still engraved on her face. “Mine’s elemental magic, but I can only perform it when I’m in a special state of body and mind.”

I swallowed nervously. “Um…”

She crouched down, perking her ears in my direction. Her pupils grew ever larger while she motionlessly gazed at me.

“... I think that anti-magic is pretty useless. Innate magic is best. Always present and at the ready. Especially Alicorn magic!”

She lifted an eyebrow. “What do you think of black magic?”

“The book presents it as a separate branch...”

“What’s your view of it?” She half-closed her eyes.

“Some things in this book don’t make much sense.” Anypony could see that they were obviously wrong! The author was surely an amateur.

“I know what you’re saying.” She nodded to herself. “I didn’t understand everything, when I first started reading about magic, either. Despite that, I persisted, and it was worth the vast time investment. The ways of magic will begin to crystallize and make sense for you, too, as long as you’re willing to put in the effort to understand them.”

That wasn’t at all what I was saying! I didn’t appreciate her changing the subject. Twilight time was about me, not her! I brushed the whole topic away with a whip of my tail.

I grumbled and turned to the boulder. By knocking on it with a hoof, I confirmed that stones were still as dull as they had always been. “Care to tell me what’s with the rocks?”

“They’re for you,” Twilight smirked.

“For me?” I looked at her with just one eye, wondering why she’d be giving me stones? They were boring, and I wasn’t fond of them, especially since I got a bunch of them as a deserved gift for Hearth's Warming Eve.

“I wanted to get different sizes. Earlier today, I even tried to borrow Tom, but your sister wouldn’t let me move it. She said something about Tom hiding her dirty little secrets.” Twilight shook her head. “I think she still hasn’t fully recovered from Discord’s mind-wipe.”

“Why do I need rocks? Or Tom for that matter?” When Rarity uses me to sweep the floor, I just throw the dust in the wind when she’s not looking. No boulders needed.

“As I was saying, I couldn’t get a hold of Tom. However, I did want to supply us with a big boulder one way or another. I thought to myself: what better place to look for rocks than a rock farm? I’ve also never been to Pinkie Pie’s place of origin before, so I was well overdue for a visit anyway. You have to keep tabs on your friends, you know? It was time for me to go on an air trip.

“With your balloon?”

“With these!” Her head rose and wings erected outward. “I was there in a jiffy. Flying back, on the other hoof, took me a while… But no matter, my self-imposed mission was a complete success. I got exactly what I came for. This big boulder”—she knocked on it with a hoof—“was just lying around in front of their house. It looked as if they had prepared it for me to take it. Can you imagine that?”

“Not really. Are you sure they wanted you to have it?”

“Well, it’s not like they’ll miss it. It’s a rock farm. They’ve got plenty of stones lying around their house. I bet I even did them a favor by removing this one.” She pointed a hoof at the egg-shaped boulder. “It was placed on the very edge of the cliff. It could crush somepony on the path below it. I was merely enacting my princess's duties, making Equestria a safer place.” She nodded to herself. “Yes.”

“How exactly did you manage to bring it all the way here?”

“Wouldn’t you want to know?” Twilight giggled “First things first. We’re here to test the limit of your telekinesis.”

I protested, “But you’ve trained me in levitation before.” I hoped I could make a big leap forward, not repeat the same lessons over and over again. Sure, I might forget them otherwise, but it just wasn’t as fun as learning something new for the first time.

“Levitating a broom or a book is easy. The majority of non-foalish Unicorn can do it.” She glanced along the rock, stone and boulder. “But there’s a set limit to the regular levitation. I want to know if you’re capable of transcending it.”

“You want me to lift those up?” I hinted at the Boulder family.

“Mhm. That’s right. But let’s start with the smallest one first.” She stepped up to a rock the size of a pony’s head. “Lift this one up with your magic.”

“Pff!” I snickered. I tensed my muscles in my legs and lit my horn. A moment later the rock floated high above me.

“Adequate! Now this one.” She stepped next to a rock, which was almost the size of her plot.

I had held heavier things before. Once, I had carried Apple Bloom on my back all the way to her home, when she had hurt her leg on a crusade. It had been her own fault because she had not listened to me when I had said that gathering honey without any protection was a bad idea, especially since she was allergic to bees.

She had claimed that she’d seen Fluttershy do it before and that bees are friendly. Her swollen forelegs had shown her just how friendly the flying beasties really were.

I spread out my legs and tensed my body. When I charged my channels around the rock and stone, I felt their full weight on me. I was at my limit. Even though I stood on all fours, my legs shook from the increased pressure.

“You’re levitating—two of them—in separate fields...”

“Ugh!” I spurted out through my clenched teeth.

“Um… You can put down the stones now.”

I cut off my channels and the rocky weights shoved themselves into the ground upon landing.

“Hey, watch the grass. Let’s try to keep the collateral damage to a minimum, okay?”

“It’s just grass.” I sighed.

She struck a hoof at the ground. “It’s food!”

I sniffled and turned away from her.

She sighed. “Though I don’t approve of your recklessness, you should know that your magic is quite impressive. I had no idea you can use two channels simultaneously”

I jumped up. “I can make even more than two channels, I think.”

“Can you? Really?”

“I didn’t even know that casting more channels is supposed to be hard.”

“It is, Sweetie Belle. Most Unicorns can only control one or two channels at a time. Last moon, I spied on your sister and saw her use four separate channels.”

“You spied on my sister?”

“My maximum is five,” she dismissed my question. “I can’t lift more than five objects in separated fields at one time. Six channels is the upper physiological limit that cannot be surpassed. Nopony could cast more than six in parallel. Our nature is limited in that regard. Just like a cube has half a dozen sides so too does each soul have six directional projections. Informational channels don’t project energies, so they don’t have that limitation. I’ve seen Luna cast a few dozen of those when Tentabus got loose. She wouldn’t be able to fork so many kinetic energy channels.”

“Was forking my channels a test? Did I pass?”

“I thought I’d spend hours teaching it to you first, but I see you already have that part covered. Forking your channels wasn’t supposed to be a test on its own, but it is a necessary component in the practical exam I’ve set up for you.” She turned to the boulder, which was at least twice as big as Tom. Her nostrils flared as she took a big whiff of it. “They come in all shapes and sizes. Some would have you believe that size doesn’t matter. Personally, I strongly disagree.” Her smile changed into a grin as she focused an eye on me. “Try lifting it.”

Even though I was getting the hang of magic, carrying so much weight wasn’t possible. I half-closed my eyes as I looked at her.

She nodded at me encouragingly.

I sighed and obediently attached my channels on the bottom of it and channeled my flow.

Twilight walked from the boulder and stopped next to me, observing the bubbly aura around my horn.

The weight of the boulder transferred through my channels and pushed down on me as a result. My nostrils flared when I gasped from the effort. My body stiffened in preparation to deal with the force of the boulder. Despite my neck hurting from the force, I opened my inner flow even more.

Both forelegs gave way and I tumbled forward. I cut off my channels as I crashed headfirst onto the grass.

After clambering on all fours, I shook off the dirt. My eyes pierced Twilight as I yelled at her, “It’s too big! You knew I couldn’t carry all that weight, didn’t you!”

“You know what, Sweetie Belle?” Her horn glowed brightly.

“What?” I puckered my lips.

“I can’t carry all that weight either.”—She stood up on her hind legs and pointed both forelegs at the boulder. “And yet, I’m holding it up. Isn’t that peculiar?”

Indeed, the boulder hovered in the air supported by her magic field.

I looked back at Twilight as she lowered herself on all fours. Her muscles weren’t even tensed.

“How are you doing this?”

“You really want to know, don’t you?”

“Yes, I do. Tell me!”

“Say please and I’ll explain it to you.”

I looked back at the object of my test. The channels were clearly holding it up. I could see charged, lavender endpoints that supported the boulder. The ground! Something was different about it. The surrounding grass. It was flattened as if something weighed on it.

I smiled at Twilight. “You’re not carrying it! The ground is.”

“Yes, that’s right. I can explain it to you, just say—”

“Another channel! You have another channel spread out along the ground. You’re supporting one channel with the other.”

“Yes, that’s quite observant of you. You see, force always produces an equal and opposite force, but the weight doesn’t have to be directed at you. That’s where ability to fork your channel can really—”

“—Drop it!” I jumped up and down on the spot. “I want to try it!” I looked back at Twilight.

Her face turned grim as she whispered the rest of her sentence. “…help you…”

She lay the boulder on the ground as her horn light faded. After bowing her head, she pressed her lips together and shook her head.

I took Twilight’s inactivity as an opportunity to impress her. My eyes shifted to the boulder. I spread all four legs and charged my horn. Focal points formed around the bottom of the boulder, similarly to my earlier attempt. I didn’t discharge my flow just yet. Instead, I launched more channels and spread them down in arcs around me. A burst of my inner flow rushed forth to feed all my channels.

“Hey!” Twilight bowed her head and buckled her knees as she pushed her wings against the ground. “You’re spreading the force on me!”

My lips morphed into a smirky smile. I cut off the channel that was burdening her and spread out its flow to the rest of my channels. The heavy load rose from the ground. I shifted the focal points to the bottom of the boulder, so I could push it harder from below. While anxiously trotting on the spot, I turned to Twilight and pointed a leg at the floating giant boulder. What I did was amazing and I expected to get some praise for it.

“That wasn’t funny, Sweetie Belle!” Twilight charged her horn.

“Yes, it was.”

She focused on her wing, and it glowed with a purple aura.

I cocked my head as I looked at her. “It was funny because you weren’t expecting it.”

Her gaze pierced me. “It wasn’t funny,”—she extended her magic-imbued wing toward the point between me and the floating boulder—“because it hurt!”

The feel of the coarse surface instantly ceased as my channels got cut off. I was disconnected from my focal points on the boulder, but my other channels still pressed against the surrounding ground. Since the endpoint where I was channeling the force didn’t exist anymore, all the thrust shifted onto me, instead.

As the boulder fell down, I flew up into the air. “Hey!” I quickly cut off all my channels, but I was already several hoof lengths off the ground. Swinging around my tail didn’t help me with my balance much. I hit the ground and stumbled on the grass.

“You weren’t expecting that, were you?” The glow on her wing dissipated as she folded it.

“No...”

“Oddly enough, I’m not laughing. Why is that?” Twilight narrowed her eyes as she looked at me.

My head shied away. Everything that she asked of me was accomplished, all the while she held useful information from me. And she was making me the bad one. It wasn’t fair! “I just did what you told me to do!” My channels had spread randomly on the surrounding surfaces. It wasn’t as if I’d tried to hit her with them.

“Fun fact, Sweetie Belle. If you use empathy, you can figure out what ponies mean even beyond what they say.”

“What’s empathy?”

“Yeah…” She lifted a hoof to her face. “We should make it a priority to get to the subjects of ethics as soon as possible.”

I cocked my head.

Twilight sighed. “I was testing you, Sweetie Belle. You did pass the lifting capability test. I congratulate you on that one, but if you don’t start using your powers in a moral way...”

“Can we skip that for now?” A grin snuck on my lips. “I’d rather do something immoral?”

Twilight raised her eyebrows.

“I mean fun. Like magic. Magic is fun.”

Twilight snorted. “In some ways, you do remind me of myself when I was little.” She smiled. “Okay, let’s gently put down the subjects of morality for now...” Her hoof lowered to the ground. “We’ll definitely have to cover these essential lessons later on, though. Remind me to put it on my to-do list, will you?” She followed the nothingness in her hoof with her eyes until she shook it off to the ground. Her eyes shifted back to me. “You want a challenge? I’ll give you a challenge! This next test will be the hardest, so I’ll need your full attention.”

“Do you have an even bigger boulder?” I looked around, but there was no elite level boredom in sight.

“No, but I do have this.” Her horn glowed in the typical lavender color, and a glow of similar tinge emanated from a patch of grass. She levitated a small, round object out of it and floated white thing toward me.

“What is it?” It stopped in front of me. “It smells!”

“It’s a chicken egg. And yes, since it’s rotten, it smells. The egg cell probably wasn’t inseminated because Fluttershy sent the rooster away. She said that he wasn’t nice enough to her chickens.” Twilight rolled her eyes. “But that’s not important now.”

“Do you want me to lift it? After I just lifted that?” I pointed to the big boulder.

“You have proven that you are powerful, but you haven’t shown that you can direct your magic in the right way.”

“So, you want me to squash it and endure the smell then?” That’s stupid.

“No, forget the smell. It isn’t important here.”

“The stench sure is strong with this one. Even though it isn’t important, it really, really stinks.”

“Ugh, just pretend this is a normal egg.”

“Why isn’t it normal? I’m sure you could get a good egg if you wanted to.”

“I wouldn’t trust you with a good egg. Now focus on the test! Take the egg.” She clenched her teeth when she rolled it onto my field. “Take it!”

“So, I just squash the unimportantly smelly egg? Is that it?”

“No! You do the opposite. You open it. Imagine there’s a living chicken in there. You don’t want to hurt the chicken, do you?”

“That’s one smelly chicken—”

“Focus!”

I attached my channels on the smelly egg. I could squash it with a mere thought, but I wasn’t supposed to do that. Rip it apart then? I could do that just as easily. All I needed was a handle I could connect with my charged channel. “Ugh! This egg is too round. There aren’t any cracks I could bind my channels on. I can only make a force toward it, not away from it. Are you sure I can’t squash it, instead?”

“I told you it wouldn’t be easy.” Twilight smiled. “This test was hard for me, as well. I almost failed my pre-kindergarten exams because of it.”

“Pre-kindergarten? Are you saying this is foal’s play?”

“Not a regular foal’s play. Talented, young Unicorns are, however, expected to have this down if they want to enroll in the magic kindergarten.”

“And you struggled with it?”

“I had been a very close-horned Unicorn before I broke my barrier at the exam. Casting magic had not been easy for me, and transcending the shell with energy channels is not something any Unicorn can do. I’d flunk the test if I didn’t power up at that time.”

“Transcending?”

“That was a hint! What will you do with it?”

If I could make a hole in the egg, attach my channels on the inner walls and push it apart. I just had to make a small hole in its shell, so I could lead my channels through it. “Can I use this to make an opening?” I levitated up a pebble.

“No.” She shook her head. “It’s just your magic and the object of the test. You’re not allowed to make any holes in the egg prior to breaking it apart.”

I puffed my face to help me think. I could only produce force against the shell where my channels were attached. No matter which part of the egg I would lead my flow to, the direction would always be toward the surface. You can’t rip something apart if you’re pressing against it! “This can’t be done! It’s impossible.”

“My hint didn’t help you out? Really? Okay, here’s another one. Try thinking outside the box. Or maybe, from within the egg.”

“What box?”

Twilight raised an eyebrow. “You know what the problem is, but can you get around it? Or better yet, inside it?”

That did give me an idea. If I were inside the egg, I could rip it apart with no problem. I’d just have to push my channels in the opposite directions. However, the smelly thing was too small for me to fit inside. Even if it was big enough, I couldn’t get inside without breaking it. My idea clashed with reality again, and I hated when that happened.

After uttering a groan of frustration, I closed my eyes and felt the surface of the egg. There wasn’t any opening, but maybe I didn’t need one. If I pressed inward with my channels, the egg would get squashed. That wouldn’t happen because of the channels; they were just a pathway for my magic to flow through. The surface force was the reason I couldn’t get myself inside. If only I could remove that from my channels... I felt the egg float down as I decreased my flow.

“Careful now!” Twilight said. “You can lay it on the ground if you want. But gently! You don’t want to fail the test by squashing the egg. I know you’re not a rule-breaker, despite what they say.”

Laying it down would free one of my channels, letting me focus more, but without the anchor point, it was still useless. I did as she said because I didn’t really know what else to do. By decreasing the flow to the channel that held up the egg, I slowly guided it to the ground.

Just before I cut off my channel, I felt something odd. The hard texture I’d previously felt with my magic became blurry in my mind. Almost as if it wasn’t solid, but a liquid.

I felt the surface of the egg by touching it from above with my charged channel. As the flow decreased, I sensed the squishiness. The bumps on the shell all but dissipated in my perception of the egg. I kept leading my weakened channels further through the mush until I stumbled on another hard barrier on the other side. I was inside the egg! If there was a way to charge my channels against the second barrier, I could break it and complete the test. The moment I increased my magic flow, the egg swayed on the ground and I could only feel the shell from the outside again. “Ugh! I can get in, but when I try to push it throws me out...”

“You’re doing well, Sweetie Belle! But getting inside and pushing from within are two different stages. Can you crack that one?”

She was right. My channel seeped inside the egg with no problem, but the little force from the flow wasn’t enough to claw on the shell from the inside. And if I increased the magic force, it stopped at the first barrier. If I charged my channels further, the egg would just get squashed before it would break apart, and I would fail the test. More magic inside was the key!

By using my uncharged magic, I engulfed the egg and penetrated it without cracking the shell. Instead of increasing the magic force further, I merged the flows within the egg. With the joined channel, I pressed on the part of the wall from the inside. I increased the flow very slowly and slightly so that it wouldn’t get held up on the surface of the egg again.

“Good!” Twilight commented

My lips curved up at the compliment. It was all falling into place. I felt the points from within the egg charging with magic. The force pushing the egg apart increased. Just a little more, and it would break.

“Yes! Yes!” Twilight cheered. “Split that egg! Don’t let one little test stand in the way to your magical future.” Her lips retracted into a grin. “A mere egg can’t defy your prowess. Rip apart the stinker!” She jumped up and down on the spot. “Do it! Do it!”

The faint aura suddenly dissipated. I glared in confusion at my horn and bumped it with a hoof repeatedly.

“Huh, what happened?” She sighed. “You were almost there. Did you get tired or something?”

My eyes opened wide. “Not at all!” I grinned as I glanced at Twilight. “There’s just an easier way to do this.”

“Oh?” She raised an eyebrow. “Before, you claimed it was impossible, to begin with.”

I took a few steps back.

Twilight cocked her head and looked at me with one eye. “Sweetie Belle?”

My horn shone darkly, launching out two fully charged channels. One lifted the egg from the bottom while the other wrapped around it.

“What are you up to, filly? Charged channels aren’t the way to go about this.”

My head slowly shook, and I heard myself sigh as I glanced at her. “When one frees the mind of the useless limitations, new pathways emerge.”

A stream of flow rushed through the channel I had curved along the surface of the shell. The egg spun around midair on my second channel.

“What are you on about, Sweetie?” Twilight cocked her head without taking her sight off me.

The egg twirled faster and faster as my grin grew ever wider.

Twilight glanced at the spinning stink bomb. “Wait...” Her eyes spread wide, and all her muscles tensed. “No!”

The puny shell was no match for the centrifugal forces building from within.

Blam! The egg burst asunder.

“Ugh!” Twilight screeched.

The gelatinous liquid splattered all around, drenching her in its smelly substance.

“Sweetie Belle!” She spread her legs and pierced me with her gaze. Her clenched teeth showed between her throbbing lips.

I took another step away from her. The apparent hostility against me seemed to be on the rise, and I wasn’t about to take the brunt of the assault. I also didn’t want to smell her. She was drenched in the rotten egg mush.

Twilight shook her head and took a big breath while placing a hoof on her chest. She exhaled while her foreleg extended forth. The tense muscles in her body relaxed, and her growling subsided.

“I thought we were making progress…” She sighed. “Maybe Celestia was right after all, and the lessons of morality should precede magic training. It makes sense why she seemed so disappointed when I skipped them all in favor of learning more magic.”

From Twilight’s self-talk, I concluded that she cooled off a little. I took a deep breath and trotted to her looking at the remains of the shell on the ground. “Break the egg from the inside. Checked!”

“You passed the egg test, Sweetie Belle. The way you did it, however…”

“You never specified how I should do it.”

“Some things shouldn’t have to be spelled out for you, Sweetie Belle. Certain restrictions are self-evident! Why can’t you grasp these concepts?” She bowed her head to mine and looked straight into my eyes.

I took a step back. “I did what you asked me to do! Why can’t you get that?”

“You did well with the magic test. I give credit where credit is due. You passed it with flying colors, even though your method was—unorthodox. Regardless, I commend you for your achievement.” She kept looking at me while she walked to the castle. “You know, you’re very special—”

“Yeah, I know!”

She froze with a forehoof still in the air, both eyebrows raised high. She swallowed her saliva and finished the sentence. “…to me.”

Author's Note:

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