• Published 4th Mar 2015
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The Traveling Tutor and the Royal Exam - Georg

A simple test with an unexpected result sends Princess Twilight Sparkle’s life in an unexpected direction, accelerating a high-speed collision course with the young magic tutor she met and fell in love with just over a year ago.

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Chapter 1 - Pop Quiz

The Traveling Tutor and the Royal Exam
Pop Quiz

It was the most important test that Twilight Sparkle had ever taken, and while she wanted so much to know the results right now, part of her wanted nothing more than to run into the library and read Spike’s entire comic book collection instead. Finding out the answer to the test right now was not a critical priority. It could wait. It was not as if the result would change if she was somewhere else at the exact moment the answer became available. Whatever it was. After all, it was just a true-false test. And not even that difficult. Ponies all across Equestria took this test every day, probably. They did not fret, or chew their mane…

Twilight spit out the piece of mane she was chewing and resumed her pacing. It was exercise, which released important endorphins to help with stress, or so several books had said, although none of the authors could possibly have gone through this amount of stress. Which was bad. She needed to calm down, but even standing in place, drawing in a breath and breathing out while arching her hoof in a precise 37 degree down angle across a 90 degree arc in a motion that was supposed to release stress did nothing more than to pack even more stress inside.

She should have waited. In three days, Green Grass would have been done with his last tutoring session as a Unicorn Magic Youth Educational Specialist in Wheaton, trotted his wagon to his accustomed parking place under the shady boughs of the Ponyville Golden Oak library, and been here to help with her stress, instead of a good day’s trot away where all she could do was attempt to transmit her worry across the air to his adorable (although thick) head. Well, technically she probably could transmit her worry that way, if the spell she had looked up in the library actually worked correctly, but then she would just worry that she was making him worry which would only make the stress that she was experiencing even worse and—

The little wind-up timer that she had brought into the bathroom dinged quietly, an abrupt sound that made her jump up and fumble for the flying appliance, catching it right before it dropped into the toilet. It was done. She could find out how she had done on the test now. All she needed to do was look and find out if she had—

Wait. There were only two results that were possible from this test, but which one was a failing grade and which one was passing? If it went the one way, she had stressed out and panicked over nothing, which was not the way a princess should act. Princess Celestia would be so disappointed in her, and might even wonder just why Twilight had taken the test, or gone so crazy over the results. Princess Luna would be similarly upset, and certain to lecture her on the necessity of keeping a proper demeanor among the populace, in particular because Twilight was in the middle of so much of the populace in the middle of Ponyville.

But what if the test went the other way? She had discussed the possibility with Green Grass extensively, although his normal response to her rational plans and pages of checklists was to kiss her gently on the nose and distract her from ‘worrying too much about Future Twilight.’ But if Future Twilight were actually Now Twilight, then what would Future Twilight look like? And Future… whoever. Or whoevers. It was not just a little thing, this was a huge thing. Or things.

The sound of a small dragon’s fist knocking on the door interrupted her thoughts. “Twilight, when are you going to be done in there? I really need to use the bathroom.”

“In a minute, Spike,” she called back automatically, and after a moment’s thought added, “Sorry. Sorry for everything, Spike. I’m sorry for not paying you much attention lately, and I’m sorry for shedding little secondary feathers in your cake mix last week, and I’m sorry for—”

“All right, all right! Twilight, can you be sorry out here, please? You’ve been in there since before dawn!”

“Sorry!” She gathered her books and test notes before slipping out of the bathroom door, dodging the fast-moving form of an anxious dragon heading in. The couch in front of the library fireplace looked like the best place to settle down and actually examine the results. There was a certain air of completeness about sitting in that place and looking at the crackling fireplace where Spike had started a tidy fire while waiting. It was late spring, but still with enough of a nip in the air to bring out his instinctual need for warmth. A nice fire substituted for his draconic tendencies of climbing into the oven on his own, which she had warned him against several times as a bad example for the little ponies who might see him and emulate their favorite dragon.

When she sat down on the edge of the couch, she could feel the familiar pattern of lumps in the cushions that she had grown accustomed to over the last year and nine months, twenty-three days, eighteen hours and thirty-seven seconds she had been living in the library. This was the same couch that she had first really gotten to know Green Grass on — although never that way. After the Running of the Leaves and her totally accidental drinking bout was over, the couch had become precious neutral ground in both their mutual recovery and in the stupid war of misunderstanding they had been waging.

The memory of that morning was one reason she had never replaced the old lumpy thing. Not Green Grass, the couch. They had both curled up on it before the fireplace while frozen into near immobility by sore muscles and hangovers, with nothing to do but talk to each other. That kind of intimate time had been repeated many times since then, although in slightly different forms and with less physical pain. It always brought a warm glow to her heart when she thought of those precious moments together that purged the stress of the world while calming her mind. She wanted that feeling so badly now as she held the results of the test, unwilling to turn it over and see what the verdict would be. She could always put the results on a high shelf out of draconic reach and ignore them for three days. He would be home by then.

Home. The word had changed definitions over the years. When she was just a little filly, home was home. The sound of mom chopping vegetables for lunch while working on her physics lecture notes would echo as counterpart to the delicious scents of onions and potatoes sizzling in vegetable oil, while wafting through the background there always seemed to be the dulcet tones of Shining Armor trying his best to master the flugelhorn for hours on end.

When she moved to the castle with Princess Celestia, home had changed. What used to be home had turned into a place to visit overnight on weekends, with short periods of family activities tucked in among her studies much like the occasional bookmark in a library. Cadance’s room was right next to the one Princess Celestia had reserved for her, and sometimes even that near proximity only allowed them to see each other once or twice a week, but still it felt a little like home too, even when Cadence had left for Cloudsdale for the last few years of Twilight’s life as a student. The last thing Twilight had expected when traveling to Ponyville was to add yet another home to her changing collection, but the dusty old library in the oak tree had grown on her, regardless of the pun, and now she could not think of leaving it and her friends to go anywhere else.

Green Grass had talked about his interpretation of home to her, describing the mansion he had grown up in as something similar to, but not quite like a home at all. Home, he had said, was ponies. His time living in the fraternity at college had supposedly given him a stronger sense of home among his fellow students than in his own house, but the amount of time he spent talking about his older brothers and bragging about how his younger sister was coming along in Celestia’s school showed a certain amount of cognitive dissonance in his logic. Even the little book-filled wagon he had pulled around behind him for over a year was not really a home, he claimed, but only a way of transporting ‘stuff.’ He had declared quite firmly that if Equestrian science ever found a way to make a vest pocket able to carry both a lumpy mattress as well as all the books he could read, he would push the heavy wagon down a cliff and toss a match into the remains.

Now in three days, he would be back as if he had never left, and the wagon would sit out under the tree quite empty except for the books. He was right, in a significant way. Home was ponies, both generally in all of the friends she had made in Ponyville, and in particular, him. It would not matter to him how this test turned out, because either way, his love for her would not diminish one iota. It might change in some ways, as they both had changed since they first met, and would undoubtedly continue to change for as long as they were together, but every change had just made his love for the bookish unicorn mare she was and the princess she had become even stronger. And in return, her love for the awkward young earth pony he had been and the rather goofy stallion he was turning into continued to blossom and bear fruit.

As if the thought had triggered her into action, Twilight turned the test over and read the results. She sat there for a long time on the couch, holding the little sliver of plastic in her magic and looking at the plus mark, unsure if it was a passing or a failing grade.

But she knew one Princess who would be able to tell her.

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