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Chapter 3

Chapter 3

“Here you go, Derpy,” Twilight smiled brightly as she handed over the text. “One copy of Galloping Gourmet’s Big Book of Beautiful Baking for Beginners: the section on muffin’s starts on page thirty-six.”

“Thanks a bunch, Twilight!” the ever cheerful girl with the straw-colored hair replied. “After I get some practice in, I’ll be sure to bring you some of the best muffins you’ve ever had!”

“I’d like that very much: thank you!” Twilight beamed. “Oh, and say hi to the doctor for me.”

“Will do!” With another cheerful wave, Derpy slipped the book in her bag, slipped the bag over her gray, hooded sweatshirt, and dashed out the door, or at least tried to. Cross-eyed as she was, she crashed a couple of times before finally managing to exit the building.

“I still don’t get why she likes them muffins so much,” Applejack mused from her seat at a nearby table. “I mean, they’re alright, I guess, but nothin’ to get excited over.”

“Really?” Twilight asked with a sly grin. “Are you sure that’s not just because muffins don’t have apples in them?”

“I still say they’d taste better with apples,” the freckled cowgirl insisted loyally. “I just need to figure out a recipe that doesn’t end up mushy, that’s all.”

“Well, maybe I can help with that,” Twilight giggled as she brushed back her purple and pink-striped hair. “I remember seeing another book in the culinary section that might–”

Twilight paused as she heard a small, hesitant knock come from the library door. She glanced over at Applejack, who returned a knowing smile: there was only one person in Ponyville who’d knock before entering a public library.

“Hey there, Fluttershy,” Twilight grinned as she opened the door for her timid friend. “I thought you and Rarity would be at the spa right now.”

“Hello, Twilight. Hello, Applejack,” Fluttershy murmured softly as she tiptoed. “Well, actually, that’s what I wanted to talk to you about. I’m sort of, kind of, just a teensy bit worried about Rarity, because you see… she didn’t show up at the spa today.”

“What?” Applejack scoffed as she walked over, “Rarity missin’ a day at the spa? Next, you’ll be tellin’ me that Rainbow Dash’s takin’ up knittin’.”

“Oh, but it’s true,” Fluttershy insisted with wide-eyed earnestness. “I mean, I don’t know about Rainbow Dash and knitting, but Rarity really didn’t show up this morning.”

“Well that’s weird,” Twilight said with furrowed eyebrows. “What happened?”

Fluttershy filled in her friends on what she knew, how Rarity had shown up at the door looking very un-Rarity-like, how she’d seem preoccupied with thoughts she couldn’t talk about, and most importantly, her odd comment implicating Graves.

“Well that all adds up to a hill o’ beans. No offense, Fluttershy,” Applejack added before feelings were hurt. “Right now, we still know next to nothin’ about what’s going on. You sure Rarity didn’t say anythin’ else? Anythin’ important?”

“Positive,” Fluttershy nodded. “She really did seem bothered, but said she couldn’t talk about it. All I know is that it somehow involves the marshal.”

As if to punctuate her statement, the library door blew open yet again and Rainbow Dash came barreling, crashing into to a bookshelf on the far side of the room.

“Yo, Twilight. I need to talk to you,” the reckless flier said as she extracted herself from the pile of texts. “I saw Big G earlier today, but he was acting all weird and I have no idea why. You’re the egghead here: help me figure this out.” The librarian, farmer, and animal caretaker all looked at one another in surprise.

“Does it have something to do with Rarity?” Twilight asked, though partially distracted by the task of reshelving the books.

“Uh, not sure,” Rainbow Dash shrugged. “Why, what’s Rarity go to do with this?”

To fill in the multicolored newcomer, Fluttershy repeated her story regarding their seamstress friend. Perhaps Graves was worrying about something else, but that’d be a pretty big coincidence, all things considered. The two must be related somehow.

“Okay, so let me get this straight,” Rainbow Dash began, “Something happened between Rarity and G, they’re both getting all bothered by it, but neither one wants to say anything about it?”

“Yeah, that about sums it up,” Applejack nodded. Rainbow Dash just blew a loud raspberry.

“Well that’s stupid. Why don’t they just toss it out in the open and deal with it?”

“It might not be that easy,” Twilight interjected. “Obviously, something happened between them that was serious enough that neither of them feels like they can bring it back up.”

“Especially if you really don’t want to hurt the other person’s feelings,” Fluttershy nodded in agreement. “That can make it even harder.”

“Well they can’t jess let it sit there like wood rot,” Applejack pointed out. “They’re gonna have tah work it out at some point.”

“True, but at this point, talking is probably the last thing either of them wants to do.” Twilight sighed.

“I say we make ‘em!” the cyan flyer snorted, puffing out her chest in a distinctly manly fashion. “How about we tie them up, toss them in a broom closet, lock the door, and don’t open it till they're all sunshine and daisies again?”

“You can’t do that, Rainbow Dash!” Fluttershy gasped. “I mean, getting them to talk would be a really good thing, but the tying up and locking them in part just sounds kind of mean.”

“… Actually, that might not be a bad idea.”

Everyone, including Rainbow Dash turned to stare at Twilight in absolute befuddlement as she stood there. It looked like she actually giving the idea some serious thought.

“Um, Twi?” Applejack began with an apologetic grin, “No offense, but this is where you usually step in and put a stop to Dash’s crazy notions.”

“But she did make a good point,” Twilight countered. “I mean, not with the tying up and locking them in part – that’d just be silly – but making them talk might not be such a bad idea.”

“Well how are we gonna do it if we don’t tie them up and lock ‘em in a broom closet?” Rainbow Dash pouted. She’d really been looking forward to that part of the plan.

“What if,” Twilight continued with a deliciously devious smile, “instead of locking them up, we just put them in a situation where they’d have no choice but to talk?”

“Huh?” the three others intoned in unison. Twilight just grinned.

“I’ve got an idea, girls, so listen up: here’s what we’re gonna do…”

*****

The ringing bell from the opening front door roused Rarity from her slumber. She'd been so tired from yesterday’s all nighter that when she’d sat down to sketch a new design, she’d quickly gone and fallen right asleep.

“Goodness gracious, this simply won’t do,” the pretty - if disheveled - seamstress chastised herself as she quickly straightened her clothes. “You can’t very well be found napping when there are customers to help.”

Emerging from her work room in the back, Rarity found Twilight browsing through her vast array of garments.

“Good afternoon, Twilight” the pretty seamstress smiled while stifling a yawn. “What brings you in today?”

“Hi, Rarity,” Twilight brightly beamed. “I was wondering you could do me a really, super big favor?”

“But of course,” Rarity readily agreed. “Whatever do you need?”

“Gems. Lots of them.” Pulling out a roll of parchment, Twilight unrolled it to reveal a meticulously rendered map of the nighttime constellations. “It’s for a project I’m working on for Princess Luna. I’m supposed to make up a huge map of all the constellations for display in the Canterlot Library, so I want it to look extra spectacular.”

“I see,” Rarity nodded, her eyes brightening as her creative spark came to life. “And you wanted some jewels to add a little pizzazz to your rendering, am I right?”

“I knew you’d get it!” Twilight clapped in glee. “I was thinking of using the birthstones for the major zodiac signs, and other stones for the rest. See, Capricorn here should be done up in garnets, and Aquarius over there should be completely made of amethyst…”

As Rarity listened in fascination to Twilight’s plans, she failed to notice one of the boutique’s side windows slowly rising. Once it opened, a black jumpsuit clad Rainbow Dash quietly drifted in and ducked behind a wide hoop skirt.

Silently flitting from display to display, the daring flier stealthily slipped into Rarity’s work shop, emerging a few seconds later with a bulging sack full of small, geometric objects. Getting a surreptitious nod from Twilight, Rainbow Dash flew back to the window and tossed the sack out, where a likewise black clad Applejack caught it and carried it off. With one last, parting wink to their insider on the job, Rainbow Dash flew back out the window and gently closed it behind her.

“…and that’s the plan,” Twilight finished as she let the scroll snap shut. “What do you think?”

“It certainly is very ambitious,” Rarity commented through pursed lips. “But, lucky for you, I should have just the gems you need. Let me get them from the back.”

As Rarity headed for her work shop, the scholastic bookworm couldn’t help but squeal in delight that her plan came to fruition. In a mere matter of moments, Rarity would go to check on her stash of gems, only to find that–

“Well that’s odd,” Twilight heard the seamstress call out.

“Why, what’s up?” she replied, hoping the glee didn’t seep out in her voice.

“I could have sworn I had a chest full of gemstones here just this morning, but now it’s completely empty.”

“Wait, you don’t have any gems?” Twilight gasped, full well knowing the answer already.

“I’m afraid I don’t,” Rarity replied as she came out with an apologetic smile. “It seems that I’ll have to go out and hunt up some more.”

“Can you do it now?” Twilight asked, eyes wide in earnest pleading. “I really want to start on my project, and I really, really need those gems.”

“Now?” Rarity repeated askance, rather taken aback by her friend’s insistence. “Well, I suppose I could… I’ll need to get my things together and close the shop first, but–”

“Great!” Twilight interjected. “I’ll go make up a list of the things I need and meet you outside Ponyville once you’re ready. Thanks, Rarity! Bye!” And just like that, the sweater-vested girl dashed out and slammed the door behind her.

“Er… you’re welcome?”

*****

“So sorry for the delay, Twilight,” Rarity called out as she rushed to the meeting spot. “I couldn’t find the right pair of boots to go with these pants, and then I had to–” Her monologue abruptly cut off and she stared in mute distress at the last person she wanted to see.

“… Afternoon, Miss Rarity,” Graves answered, his words clipped and harsh like rough-cut gravel.

“Good afternoon, Graves,” Rarity replied with a slightly unsteady smile. Her insides felt like one of the skeins of yarn after Opal had gotten to it, all twisted up and knotted into a tangled mess. It was a decidedly unpleasant sensation.

“There you are, Rarity!” Twilight beamed as she trotted up, seemingly oblivious to the palpable tension in the air. “I figured you wouldn’t want to get your hands dirty digging, so I got Graves here to help you out.”

“Fluttershy said she needed a favor,” Graves said turning to the sweater-vested girl. “Didn’t think it’d be this.”

It was testament to Rarity’s composure that she refrained from flinching at the marshal’s words. The conspicuous absence of “Miss” from Fluttershy’s name compared to hers clearly indicated how he felt about her. Though given the way she’d reacted at their last meeting, she really couldn’t blame him.

“Twilight, I hardly think it’s necessary to trouble the marshal over such a… trivial matter,” Rarity said as she worked to maintain her smile. “I’m sure Spike would be more than willing to lend me a hand.”

“And I’m sure he would,” Twilight readily agreed, “but he can’t make it today; he’s helping Applejack dig up some old stumps out on the farm.”

“Is he now?” the pretty seamstress intoned, her smile slipping a hair at the unfavorable news. Twilight just grinned apologetically.

“So, I guess Graves here’s the only one available to help out, eh?” she continued as she winked at the marshal and nudged him in the ribs. “You don’t mind lending Rarity a hand, do you?”

“… If she’ll have me,” Graves shrugged. “Don’t want to be a bother.”

“Bother? Why would you be a bother?” the studious librarian asked. “You’re doing her a favor, remember? He won’t be a bother, will he Rarity?”

“Of course not,” Rarity agreed, the smile now set much more firmly in place. “In fact, I’d be delighted if you could join me, Marshal.”

Graves didn’t say a word; he merely nodded his head and gave his hat a little tug.

“Wonderful! now that that’s all settled, you might be wanting these,” Twilight added as she handed Graves a shovel and Rarity a rolled up scroll. “You two take as long as you need; no need to rush on my account.”

“But, Twilight,” Rarity began, now slightly confused, “I thought you needed these gems as soon as possible so you could begin your project.”

“Oh, don’t be silly,” the devious bookworm laughed lightly. “I’m sure I’ll have plenty of time to work on it when you two get back. You two just go out there and have fun.”

“Well, if you say so,” the seamstress-turned-gem-hunter agreed with a hesitant nod.

Frankly, she had no idea what was going on with Twilight, but Rarity did know that she and Graves would be spending the rest of the foreseeable day together. In that time, she would hopefully find some way to properly apologize to him and clear the air between them. In fact, she didn’t plan on returning till she’d made everything right.

“Come along, Graves,” she said, her voice now firm and resolute. “We have a lot of ground to cover, so we’d best be off.”

With a silent nod, the marshal hefted up the shovel, shouldered his spell gun, and followed after the young lady as she walked away from town.

“Bye!” Twilight called out with a cheerful wave. “Have fun!”

The purple-haired librarian kept waving until the pair were well out of sight. Once they were gone, she turned to a nearby bush and called out, “All clear.”

In a clattering rustle of twigs and leaves, Applejack, Rainbow Dash, and Fluttershy tumbled out of the foliage. Righting her hat as she spat out a mouthful of leaves, Applejack stood and watched the two shrink into the distance.

“Now, you sure this’ll help ‘em patch things up?” she asked. “The marshal didn’t look like he were in no chattin’ mood.”

“And… and what if the diamond dogs come back and kidnap Rarity again?” Fluttershy squeaked with worry. “I mean, Graves is there, and that’s nice, but… you know… what if?”

“Don’t worry, it’ll be fine,” Twilight confidently replied. “I have it from a reliable source that the diamond dogs cleared out months ago: there’s nothing out there except rocks and empty caves. And just to be on the safe side, I figured Rainbow Dash could follow them from the clouds and keep an eye on things.”

“Yeah, about that, Twi,” the colorful flier interjected. “I’m all for going on a spying mission and all, but a major storm’s moving, and the last place you wanna be when flying is right in the middle of a thundercloud.”

Looking off into the horizon, Twilight was surprised to see some rather ominous clouds rolling in from the west, apparently headed in the same direction as the two gem hunters. She’d been so preoccupied with everything else, she’d completely forgotten to check the weather.

“Oh. Well, I guess we can’t do that then. But that’s okay,” she beamed at her friends, all encouraging confidence. “It’ll be quite some time before the storm hits, and by then, the two of them will have patched things up and gone back to beings friends. No problem at all.”

Off in the distance, the thunder tolled as the clouds rolled forth.

**********