• Member Since 11th Oct, 2011
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Pascoite


I'm older than your average brony, but then I've always enjoyed cartoons. I'm an experienced reviewer, EqD pre-reader, and occasional author.

E

Aloe and Lotus love the looks on their customers' faces during a nice soak in the tub, a relaxing massage, a new pony greeting them in the mirror. But it wasn't always that way, and even now, the occasional difficult customer can prove trying.

Expanded from the third-place winner in the /fic/ mini write-off "For Old Times' Sake."

Featured on Equestria Daily!

Chapters (1)
Comments ( 54 )

The self-control is OFF THE CHARTS.

For only the second time ever, I find myself edging towards the downvote button. Since it's midnight, though, I'm going to give it another parse in the morning to be sure, but I found a lot of the interactions very hard to follow, and while I never like your style of said-ism use, this one made me far more uncomfortable than usual.

It's quite possible that one is causing the other, however, so I shall reserve further judgement for now.

you've done a great job with this fic! I really like this take on the spa ponies!

Next week Aloe anonymously mails a sample packet of Poison Joke based coat conditioner (from a made up salon, or better yet a rival's salon) to Pennywise...

:pinkiecrazy:

5046876
The vast majority of dialogue is untagged. About a quarter of the speaking verbs are literally "said," and nearly another quarter are very innocuous "asked," "replied," or "answered." I really don't see what your problem is.

But if you're going to downvote, just do it. Don't come here and hold it over my head as a threat like that. That's bush league.

5047099 I gave it up an upvote because I liked it. I don't even see why people have to be all: I don't know if I'll downvote this, I'll sleep on it." GTFO of here. It's freaking My Little Pony fanfic and you aren't some stupid snobby fan fic professional critic. LOL Dumb ass bronies.

Every single snob should be forced to work on badly paid client service for a while, with some luck they would learn something...
Good work, made me remember my previous job tho

5047341
You're right. I'm THE Critic.

5047341

LOL Dumb ass bronies.

*What user said in his info box*

Just another brony in the middle of Pittsburgh

Oh the irony.

5047578 There are bronies, then there are 'bronies'. I'm a fairweather Brony. As in, I like the show. I think it's neat, but I don't make it my entire world. It's just a cartoon that I enjoy. :)

This is one of the best M.L.P. one shots I've ever read. I'm usually not one to enjoy short stories that star background ponies or O.C.'s, but somehow you made it work. Congratulations! Have an up-vote and a favorite on me.

No ambiguity, I liked this story. For all that I felt the writing could be a bit tighter, and the parts where the customers were asses (and to think the first one was their mother) were painful in their own way, the resolution was well done. Bravo.

She misses her? Did she strangle the shit out of her mother? That'd be nice.

The narrations focus drifting in when Lotus and Aloe switch was a little jarring. I wonder if a few words could be added.... I'm having trouble getting it to fit, maybe it's just my problem.

A metaphorical ice cube may have dropped down the back of my shirt when Lotus whispered. That was well played, I was caught off guard had to reread and stopped for a second to see if I should re-contexualize what was said earlier in a very in-the-head-narration. Then there's the doubt quickly followed by resolution. I think that's a very well played bit of narration and activity going on. I am now of course curious of Lotus's thoughts on this matter.

Spike was at the door picking up Rarity & delivering a new desk sign for Aloe & Lotus

IF YOU ARE NOT HAPPY WITH OUR SERVICE PLEASE LET US KNOW

A NEW CARAGE REPAIR SHOP IS DOWN THE PATH AND THEY HAVE

THE TOOLS, GRINDERS AND BONDO ,TO GRANT YOUR EVERY WISH:facehoof:

"How useful you are my Spikey Wikey" Rarity smiled "Time for a little lunch":raritywink::moustache: Nice little slice of life:pinkiehappy:

5047099
I'm not sure what 5046876 means by "said-ism" either. "Said", "asked", and "replied" are what people should be using for dialogue most of the time.

5047099 I'm not sure what part of stating that I might be in the wrong is a 'threat'. I don't think a downvote can ever really constitute any kind of threat – it's just an opinion. I don't particularly think you meant to misrepresent me, but it did feel like it. That would be 'bush league' as you put it – a phrase that I had to look up due to my backwards Britishness!

Anyway. With fresh eyes, I think it was the scene break that caught me out. The way the first scene ends implied to me a question that linked it to the following scene, and trying to work out the link altered my experience of it. By the time I got to the end, I'd mostly missed the context of what was going on. Reading it as self-contained prose, it read just fine.

As for the rest, here are some examples:

A shock ran up Aloe’s body, and she immediately blurted out, “N-no! No, that won’t be necessary!”

Yes, much of your dialogue is unattributed, and never feels clunky or unclear because of it. This, of course, is a good thing. However, it does make the occasional deviation stand out a bit more, like here. I'm not saying it's bad or anything, but to me it leaps out due to redundancy. Where the context would carry the reaction just fine, the use of 'blurted out' feels heavy-handed and reduces the impact of the dialogue by drawing attention to the attribution, which is not where you want a reader's focus.

“Yes, madame. I’ll see to it personally,” Aloe replied. She’d finished spreading the face mask around and put two fresh cucumber slices over her client’s eyes. At least the mare always enjoyed this part—Aloe massaged the scented cream into her temples, and the mare responded with a contented hum. Actually, the smell from the honeydew still blended in. Nothing Aloe could do about it, but from the way that mare had just wrinkled her nose, Aloe would get an earful about it soon enough.

So, yeah. 'Replied' is a non-issue on its own – though given the strong character voice on display, it's certainly redundant – however, s few very small issue crop up in quick succession that have me wondering if it's the sort of things mrscribt was referring to. Having attribution back-to-back with a pronoun that would have served just as well as an opportunity for clarity it just a little clunky. It kicks off a sentence which is already not quite as clear as it would probably like to be – it's rarely a good idea to switch designations during a chapter, let alone a scene. Since you have already used 'the client' as a label, the following label of 'the mare' seems more naturally to indicate Aloe than her client. It's already quite 'busy' and could have used the extra clarity.

Then, there seems to point of reference for the word 'actually'. Usually it would be emphasising a truth where it was not being sufficiently noted, and here, the clause it precedes isn't contradicting or clarifying anything that would give the term relevance. And lastly, using the character's proper noun twice in the same sentence at the end just compounds the general lack of polish on the paragraph.

She caught herself just before huffing a sigh and reached for her hair gel.

I think a huff and a sigh are mutually exclusive.

“What’s got a bee in her bonnet?” Rarity muttered.

Aside from finding that a very odd use of the usual phrase that I found very jarring, the said-ism 'muttered' is one of the really bad ones, in my book. The very nature of the word implies inaudibility, which is contradictory to the concept of attribution. Particularly from a third-person perspective (that is, not the perspective of a focus character, where the information might be known without being audible), this can come off as either tell-y, or a bit of a lazy description. Where the dialogue is jarring, the possibility of this increases significantly.

“She’s not satisfied unless she has something to complain about,” Rarity continued under her breath.

Here, 'continued' caught me out because what she says isn't really linked to what she said before in any meaningful way that needed clarification. While it functions particularly well in cases where it clarifies the flow on conversation, it can just as easily muddy it where it is unnecessary. In this case it is interchangeable with 'said' to the point of making no difference whatsoever – that fact that Rarity had dialogue before and has dialogue now means that the said-ism stands out as being wholly redundant. I'm not saying it's not really wrong, but any attribution that unnecessarily draws attention to itself is usually doing its job poorly.

Why did she miss that mare? She really did.

I'm not sure how these link together. It's very jarring, even if I did figure out what it meant pretty quickly. It's just not a normal way for such thought processes to be expressed. Well, it's weird to me, anyway.

“I should hope so,” Pennywise retorted.

Again, the sheer redundancy of such a said-ism draws far too much attention to it and really hampers immersion. I can't help but notice these the majority of the time; hence, I didn't say 'they are wrong', but 'I don't like them'. I had it beaten out of me two years ago by several combined books and articles, and the lesson stuck.

One of the things that Joe Abercrombie (The Blade Itself) impressed me with that he could still throw around the occasional said-ism and not have it feel out of place, yet I've also seen other authors complain about that exact thing.

So, yeah. Individual issue were very trivial, but there seemed to either be a lot more that I'd generally find in one of your works, or the flurry towards the start had me alert and subconsciously searching for more. In hindsight, I could say for sure which it was.

5050065 Just so. It's the other ones that cause issues.
5047637 Ahh, the old No true Scotsman fallacy. It may surprise you to learn that ponies are just a useful tool for storytelling to some other people, too.

I enjoyed the story, but the interaction between Aloe and Lotus must be going over my head or something, because I'm not quite grasping it.

5050420
Huff, entry 2, definition 3: transitive verb, to utter with indignation or scorn.

As to saidisms, you're just more sensitive to them than I am. I don't think what's here is excessive, and anything I write is going to be in the ballpark of this distribution. The redundancy argument doesn't really work, either, because it's often the more exotic speaking verbs that have no redundancy. "Asked" is redundant by virtue of the question mark. "Answered" or "replied" is redundant by following speech that prompts a response. "Said" is redundant simply by the presence of the quote in the first place. While "muttered" is in a low voice, it doesn't imply that nobody else can hear it. How else would I word it? "Said so that only Aloe could hear"? That's an awful lot of words to say the same thing.

You also mentioned not being able to follow what was happening, but this isn't exactly a subtle story. What was the issue there?


5051442 its more of a sibling rivalry thing :applejackunsure:

5047079

And it accidentally got used on Silver Spoon instead.

Credit for the spa twins and what they endured to become as good as they are. Even if I think Pennywise being the witch wife of Filthy Rich was kinda over the top.

I will agree that from what we've seen of the show's lore, FORCING a special talent doesn't turn out well.

“You just want all the ritzy customers so you can get the big tips.”

That was a horrible thing to say.

That was a charming episode from the lives of the Spa Twins.

That was a good read but I had trouble with the perspective changes. The break in the middle threw me in a loop for a good while as well.

On a side note, as having experienced the world of hospitality, there's always those that can get away with being overly demanding and demeaning because they have deep pockets. I wouldn't be too happy having a special talent that requires dealing with individuals like these.

5049044
5057123
A couple of people have mentioned a perspective shift, but I don't know where you're seeing it. The entire story is in Aloe's perspective.

5057388 Now my head's in a swivel. I may have to re-read this a few times.

I did not have a major issue with attributions, however.

5052057

As to saidisms, you're just more sensitive to them than I am. I don't think what's here is excessive, and anything I write is going to be in the ballpark of this distribution.

I was careful not to say that it was wrong – only that I don't really like it. I brought it up as it was relevant to evaluating how I felt about the story while being something that I knew was a difference of opinion rather than an explicit fault.

The redundancy argument doesn't really work, either, because it's often the more exotic speaking verbs that have no redundancy. "Asked" is redundant by virtue of the question mark. "Answered" or "replied" is redundant by following speech that prompts a response.

I don't have an issue with those attributions, assuming they're used with an appropriate care that's not really a part of this issue. The way I was taught is that a readers eye can be assumed to ignore something they're expecting. This is the primary reason that, unless over used, the word said is largely invisible to an engaged reader. If the reader needs clarity on who is speaking, he'll never notice a quick 'he said'. Similarly, asked and replied are case specific and are expected in the appropriate situation, insofar a 'said' might actually stand out more if the reader would naturally expect an 'asked'.

So while some redundancy is implied, they are never redundant because they shouldn't really be there at all unless the attribution is actually necessary. At that point, it is merely about selecting the most appropriate word possible, so if 'said' were ever actually redundant, that there would be a case for removing it.

As I said, I was only bringing it up as an acknowledgement, rather than a complaint, which brings us on to:

You also mentioned not being able to follow what was happening, but this isn't exactly a subtle story. What was the issue there?

From reading his comment, I think I had the same problem that 5057123 hit, though how much if an issue it is is certainly contestable.

The end of the first scene, the line 'Had Lotus heard?' left me with two thoughts: 1. What has she said that she might cause her to question being overheard? and 2. The assumption that the next scene would likely give the question the context I needed to make sense of it.

This is, it doesn't. The next scene isn't really a follow on at all. Quitting a scene that way, while nice and dramatic, will usually leave a reader with the assumption that the question is being hung out to answer. You're not always going to answer right away, of course, but the next scene feels more like the question has been ignored. When reading through for the first time, half of my attention was on trying to work out how the two scenes fitted together.

I wan't even sure what the click of the door was supposed to mean. The context implies that it might have been Lotus, but even with that context it still seems like a fairly random thing to be very specific about in the narrative. The relevance is implied, but never clarified, and given that the next scene starts off in an obviously different place – either physically or temporally, my assumption was that we were hopping to Lotus, who happens to be in that scene. Having Rarity named first really confuses the focus of the scene, and while I'm still looking for answer, the whole scene becomes a murky, directionless mess. Reading that scene as a stand-alone entity is absolutely fine, as I said before.

So I think the problem – if it is genuinely a problem at all – is that whatever you meant the reader to be left with at the end of the first scene isn't landing squarely. Too many unanswered questions in a short and appropriately simple story really kills the message if the reader gets tripped up. Even looking back now, I have no idea if the scene break is two minutes or two days – there's just not enough context for it to be smooth, and the question the scene break left never got answered.

That's my take, anyway. I'd be interested to hear whether this rings any bells with outlaw4rc.

-M

5060546
The question does get answered, by Lotus at the end.

The click of the door follows directly from one previously. Aloe heard Lotus quietly close a door to come out in the hallway in the first place. Then when she leaves, Aloe doesn't hear a corresponding one to say she'd gone wherever she was going. It didn't really register with her until she actually did hear it, and then it occurred to her that Lotus had been eavesdropping, which she'd even addressed previously with her "prying ears" comment before Lotus arrived.

I don't consider it essential to start a scene with the perspective character, as long as the narration sounds more omniscient there and it doesn't get put off too long. And after three short two-line paragraphs, the narrator's making subjective statements from Aloe's viewpoint.

I mean, I can see how someone might react this way, but this was in a write-off, so it got pretty extensive feedback, and nobody brought these kinds of things up.

5060878

The question does get answered, by Lotus at the end.

Oh. I've definitely missed the meaning behind it then. I assumed that Lotus's comments were a call back to the setup at there start, where I figured Aloe was was keeping the nasty customers – likely the ones resembling their mother – away from her sister. But that doesn't tell me much about why Aloe would be worried about Lotus overhearing her Freudian slip.

My guess would be that it has something to with why Aloe mentions that Lotus 'shouldn't have to understand'. I didn't figure out what that meant.

5061117
Aloe thinks that Lotus is pretty oblivious to how their mother treats them, so while Aloe's constantly running interference to shield her, she figures that Lotus just thinks she's being a glory hog. She's happy to play the bad guy if it keeps their mother's attention on her and away from Lotus. She couldn't keep them from ever interacting, though, and Lotus reacts in the present like she did in the past, by not being able to cope, but with Aloe taking most of the time with their mother, Lotus doesn't realize how bad it can get. And rather than explain that to Lotus, Aloe'd rather she remain ignorant of it, because if she can escape that situation without emotional scars, so much the better. It turns out that Lotus was actually aware of the situation, but couldn't help feeling at least a little jealous, at least when they were younger. She suffers from the same affliction as Aloe, in that she still inexplicably craved her mother's attention, even though rarely anything positive came of it.

It wasn't the fact that Aloe inadvertently failed to call their mother "madame," that she wanted to hide from Lotus. It was the entire conversation, where she could have been seen as badmouthing her (obvious problem) and alternately trying to talk her up (might encourage her to seek her mother's approval more, whereas it's best for her to remain in the background).

5061175 Ahh. When Aloe slipped, that was the point I stopped thinking it was actually their mother. I wasn't completely sure either way until the following paragraph:

Why did she miss that mare? She really did. Almost seven long years now, and nopony else could make her want to tear her mane out quite like Mother. But Aloe really did miss her.

I took that as explicit confirmation that they hadn't seen their mother in seven years. This explains a lot of why I was confused most of the way through. You totally sold me on it being their mother without having to say it, but the story convinced me that it wasn't the case.

5061360
Ah, okay. I wouldn't have anticipated that reaction. Yeah, the two scenes are pretty far apart. Exactly how long doesn't really matter, but I see it as about 15 years, and their mother has passed away in the interim.

5061380

Yeah, the two scenes are pretty far apart. Exactly how long doesn't really matter, but I see it as about 15 years, and their mother has passed away in the interim.

What???

Okay. Well, now I know exactly how much of this I didn't get. This is why I was trying to work out how the two scenes fitted together. Without something to actually give it a timeframe, I'm not sure how I would. For example:

Lotus reacts in the present like she did in the past, by not being able to cope, but with Aloe taking most of the time with their mother, Lotus doesn't realize how bad it can get.

I was completely oblivious to that until you pointed it out. Now that you've explained the time-skip, it makes some sense, although I admit I remain unconvinced.

Welcome to my world :P

5061414
It's odd, but the majority of the show's characters all appear to be about the same age, so I assume that without any evidence to the contrary. I figure the twins and Rarity are within a year or two of each other. So in the first scene, they're described as just a few years after getting their cutie marks, so they're probably around ten there. Then in the second scene, Rarity's there, with no indication that she's anything but canon age, which varies greatly by people's interpretations. I place them around early to mid-twenties in canon

Pascoite and InquisitorM, I love seeing you guys duke it out, and then work it out like civilized people. It's like a fight in real life, only in reverse.

5057388
It is not a true perspective shift. It is the activity as Aloe and Lotus switch over Rarity and the other client. Narrative focus continues to follow Lotus. It was a little bit confusing as the narrative followed Lotus for a while (to I assume demonstrate some of what Lotus is, AND because Aloe's attention followed Lotus) and then the narrative focus snapped back to Aloe's activity.

Again, I found it a little weird, but I couldn't simulate any simple solution, and it's not really a problem.

5061444 Well, given the character's lack of emotional maturity – kind of a necessity given the point of the show – I very much follow Lauren's estimate of them being 16–18 in the show.

I've seen a lot of people assume that parallels the onset of puberty in young girls – including teasing for those who haven't 'blossomed' yet. I don't necessarily think it was intended that way, but it generally follows, regardless of whether it's explicitly that or a more conceptual passing from child to adulthood.

Additionally, until the 'three years' comment, there is also no indication that Aloe is anything other than canon-age in the first scene. It doesn't strike me as good to leave that dangling so long and then add some data that is supposed to be a point of reference. Instead, I used the mental image I'd built up and backtracked, not really putting much attention onto the actual number as it didn't seem relevant. I feel that if we weren't seeing an immature version of a canon character, it is an omission not to at least raise a question mark over her age earlier on.

I'm more than happy to wait that long for a clarification, but it hurts if I haven't been shown something that completely changes the context of the scene. Mrscribt appears to have had a similar issue since he said 'the customers were asses' – the plural infers that he took the first character as a customer, just as I did.

There's also the smaller issue that, if the second scene is so far distant, then the climax becomes an arbitrary event with no real trigger. Unless that's the first rough customer in however many years it's supposed to have been, then the comment has just popped up solely for the sake of ending the story. "Hey, I know it was literally half our lifetime ago, but I just suddenly wanted to mention that I noticed that stuff that I've never mentioned before." Add to that that what we see of the prior Lotus is one who has no issue with offering to help out where their mother is concerned, and it seem contradictory to imply that that's why she's having the same reaction in the future since they're diametrically opposed.

5063463
If you have a very different picture of how old canon characters are, then I can't account for that, nor should I. Suffice it to say they're mature. Even in the younger scene, they're fairly mature, more by necessity than anything else, but to the point that I don't think it's an issue if the reader first assumes they're adults until finding out they aren't. Frankly, that's the point. Aloe's been made to deal with adult situations too soon in her life. And you're supposed to see the mother as a customer. For all practical purposes, she is, not just because she's posing as one, but because she's actually having the girls do her styling for her rather than pay someone else.

The comment hasn't popped up just for the sake of ending the story. I'd really hope you'd think me less haphazard that that. There's no implication that this is the first time such a customer has come in. Aloe explicitly refers to other ones like this, and she speaks familiarly with Pennywise, so she's clearly been there before. Maybe she's not always a problem, or maybe she was an unexpected walk-in, such that Aloe couldn't wait on her. Lotus is too stubborn to admit when she's wrong. She's been portrayed as the more passionate and hotheaded one, even to the point of being spiteful, i.e., that Aloe knew she wouldn't get a hug from her. But when Aloe curses herself for missing their mother, Lotus can see it happening, and it finally clicks for her how difficult it's been for her sister. She can't help framing it as a barb, but the true sentiment is there, too. Really, since you're the reigning king of someone who requires the reader to peel away multiple layers of meaning to figure out what's going on, this stuff is not particularly obscured. I'm genuinely baffled that you couldn't decipher it. The dozen or so experienced reviewers who saw it in the write-off didn't have any trouble.

You've said yourself that if everyone understands a story, the author has done something wrong. Why can't it ever be you who doesn't understand? I get to play that role on the majority of your stories...

5064322

Why can't it ever be you who doesn't understand?

Uhh, it is me. It's me quite a lot.

I'm really not sure what you're problem with it is.

5064352
I'm just weary of getting browbeaten about what I consider minor issues that no other reviewer pointed out. I feel like I'm arguing about how to make you like the story more, not make it better.

5061380

I thought this was a great story, but I didn't notice any time skip at all. The lack of clarity made me think everything took place within the same hour. Besides that though, I have no complaints.

Oh pennywise, once again youre thinking about yourself. The relationship between a customer and an employee is a give-and-take. Youve been doing a whole lot of taking, but not doing a whole lot of giving

"But of COURSE i give! I give lessons! Reasonable demands!"

But you dont give IN! The way a customer and an employee acts is like... apple pie! You can have amazing apples, and you can have a wonderfully crispy crust, but only TOGETHER can you have a perfect apple pie!

Ah siblings! So much meaning in what remains unsaid.

Nice story, 5064461.

This completely flew over my head. Guess I'm just feeling stupid today.

5284055 Basically, they grew up with an overbearing mother, and Aloe took the brunt of it so Lotus wouldn't have to. She was always worried that Lotus saw her as a glory hog, though. Later in life, it unnerves them whenever they get a customer who reminds them of their mother, and Aloe again tries to bear the burden, except Lotus reveals that she knew all along what Aloe was doing and appreciated it without ever really knowing how to say it.

5286588 Yes, I suppose that makes sense. But why was it so unclear to me in the first place?

I guess all the deliberate vagueness of their motivations allowed me to draw all the wrong conclusions. I think I somewhat guessed that Aloe was trying to protect Lotus, but like, I don't see how one can even consider glory hogging when dealing with such unpleasant customers. Tips were mentioned, sure, but I don't see how that would apply with their mother, and Pennywise didn't seem willing to tip them anyway.

Plus, there's a few lines that throw my thoughts down confusing pathways including:

"Maybe she just enjoyed being the one who had what the other wanted now."
"Lotus was the more gifted stylist. And Aloe was proud of her. Lotus didn’t understand; she shouldn’t have to."
"Nopony else could make her want to tear her mane out quite like Mother. But Aloe really did miss her."

And... yeah.

5289292
The glory hogging would be a perceived carryover from when they were little. Because of the way Lotus acted, Aloe assumed she was mad that Aloe seemed to be getting the most instruction time with their mother, whereas Aloe was shielding her and still passing on what she'd learned.

"Maybe she just enjoyed being the one who had what the other wanted now."
This is pretty self-contained with what's around it. Aloe acknowledges going through a bully phase, when she's hoard the toys that Lotus wanted. And now that she's grown out of it, she could use some affection to offset putting up with their mother, but if she asks for some, Lotus will turn her down. Maybe it's just because Lotus isn't the touchy-feely type, but Aloe assumes it's vengeful behavior, since Lotus is now the one who can hoard what the other wants.

"Lotus was the more gifted stylist. And Aloe was proud of her. Lotus didn’t understand; she shouldn’t have to."
Aloe feels bad about downplaying Lotus's abilities to their mother, but she does it to keep Lotus off the radar. In reality, she feels quite the opposite, that Lotus is the better stylist, but in order to understand that, Lotus would have to be aware of the whole sordid situation, and Aloe would prefer she remain blissfully oblivious about it.

"Nopony else could make her want to tear her mane out quite like Mother. But Aloe really did miss her."
Aloe loves her mother, simply because it's her mother. It's an abusive relationship, but Aloe can't help herself. Unfortunately, this happens in real life. It's modeled after my wife's relationship with her mother. She's been gone 8 years now, but my wife misses her despite being driven crazy whenever she was around.

Not everyone will understand every story. If it didn't click with you, no harm done. Usually, I'm the one left scratching his head.

5290237 Aha! I've got it!
I'm hung up on the fact that I can't imagine how Aloe could be blind to Lotus's mutual disdain for their mother's behavior. What with their mother also being their teacher and also being their mother, Aloe can't keep her away from Lotus forever, and Lotus would undoubtedly find her unpleasant to be around as well, and she does, but again, I don't see how Aloe would be blind to that. Like, I'm sure it would've at least come up in conversation over the many years they've spent together. But even if it didn't, I can think of only three reasons Aloe would think Lotus would want to spend more time with their mother.

1) Lotus likes being abused.
2) Their mother treats Lotus more favorably.
3) Lotus cares about perfecting her craft more than... well, maybe not anything else, but close to it.

And I assume it's not the first two, but the last one wasn't really established. Even if she is the better stylist, it's entirely possible that she doesn't really care how she measures up or about getting better. If maybe there was a small aside about how Lotus was constantly seeking to improve her skill, or maybe the story more explicitly stating Aloe's fears, there would be a little less to be confused about. Oh wait, maybe Aloe thinks that Lotus thinks that their mother treats Aloe more favorably, but even just from those few sentences from their mother that both were present for, I don't see how that would happen.

But anyway, your reasonings are all well and good when stated outright, but perhaps you'll be mildly interested to know where exactly my thoughts went upon reading these lines...

"Maybe she just enjoyed being the one who had what the other wanted now."

Affection? I would not have guessed that. When Aloe said she'd give Lotus a hug later, I figured it was to make Lotus feel better, not herself. And with that being the case, what did Lotus have that Aloe wanted? The only thing I could think of was the ability to not deal with their mother. And if that was the case, Aloe had only herself to blame, and Lotus clearly wasn't trying to hoard it. And it also makes it harder to believe that Aloe was blind to Lotus's feeling about their mother. So I was confused. But even ignoring all that I'm failing to imagine someone refusing affection as an act of vengeance, even less so enjoyable vengeance. It just seem to me that anyone out for non-playful vengeance would not be very affectionate in the first place. And also no implications that refusing the hugs was at all negatively affecting Aloe. I thought she found it cute.

"Lotus was the more gifted stylist. And Aloe was proud of her. Lotus didn't understand; she shouldn't have to."

Aloe telling their mother that Lotus is not that good seems like a terrible plan. If anything, that would make Lotus even bigger on her radar, especially since it could be perceived as an insult to her teaching abilities. Given her personality, I imagine should wouldn't even trust Aloe to make that judgment, because she's the master here, and I'm assuming that she's assuming that she'd be the better judge of their talents. Furthermore, assuming Aloe didn't steal all the instruction time and that she was attentively teaching them, I would think she'd have a pretty good idea of her daughters' skill levels herself. But if Aloe did steal all the instruction time, then how can she claim to be teaching them both? And I assume she is with lines like "I hope you both appreciate what I do for you."

Hm... none of that has much to do with that line in particular. Why did I pick that out again? I suppose it's because I didn't understand what Lotus didn't understand. And I still kinda don't. What doesn't she understand? That she's a better stylist? If I'm not mistaken, there's not any clues as to what Lotus think of her own abilities nor is there any clue about what Aloe thinks Lotus thinks of her own abilities. If that line itself is the clue... Iunno it seem too vague to me. If I just suspend all disbelief and take it as "Lotus Didn't understand what all was going on," Then sure that works. But I'm assuming, given what you just said, that you meant a tiny bit more than that.

"Nopony else could make her want to tear her mane out quite like Mother. But Aloe really did miss her."

I figured as much, but I couldn't stop my mind from considering that possibility that Aloe inadvertently developed some sort of masochism and that she was taking on Pennywise in order to get a fix for her sick fetish.

I hope I'm not bugging you with all these walls of text.

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I don't think Aloe is blind to Lotus's disdain for their mother. She runs interference, but there's no way she can intercept it all. As you say, Lotus must attend the training, and she must occasionally get put on the spot to demonstrate.

Keep in mind that in the first scene, they're still quite young. They just got their cutie marks a few years back, so they're not much older than the CMCs. So they still do childish things, hence Lotus not being willing to give Aloe a hug. Lotus still holds a grudge from Aloe's earlier bullying. And at that young age, Lotus does resent the fact that Aloe maneuvers herself into getting more of their mother's attention, even though it's not pleasant when she gets it. She wants her mother's approval, and she's more oblivious in her failure to realize this isn't normal. That's what Aloe doesn't want her to realize. By acknowledging what Aloe does for her, she'd also be admitting that she's in a bad situation, and not one that she can really hope to escape from any time soon. Maybe it isn't the best plane, but she's only around ten years old. She can't really be expected to have it well thought out. She's just doing anything she can to deflect her mother's attention from Lotus, and for the most part, it works.

But it's not healthy, and by the time they've grown up, she's in the habit and doesn't know how else to do it. So she treats rude customers the same way: try to absorb what she can of it herself. Maybe Lotus has been able to avoid getting as screwed up because of Aloe's efforts. But she hadn't gotten a customer quite that bad before, and it shook her to the point where it all clicked.

Props to you Pascoite for this being the first story I've read with these two background ponies.

I rather enjoyed this story of siblings working together. God knows I'd kill mine if I had to do the same.

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