• Published 22nd Aug 2015
  • 2,862 Views, 255 Comments

Fullmetal Pony - Leoshi

To get back what they've lost, siblings Twilight Sparkle and Shining Armor embark on a quest to obtain the legendary Alicorn Amulet.

  • ...

1.1: The Days Before

The Life and Times of Stinkin' Rich: The Prodigal Alchemist was a rare book. It wasn't really informative, to be sure, and was likely written because the aptly-named Prodigal Alchemist had demanded as such. The simple truth was that the book's contents added so little to the field of alchemy that many libraries felt no need to carry it...or most modern-day alchemists forgot it existed at all. Naturally, then, precious few copies were owned.

That was exactly what made Twilight Sparkle want one, which in turn led to her palpable excitement one morning in Spring. The local mailmare had dropped off a package bearing the seal of the Canterlot Archives. It was a simple box, with very few labels on it and only one damaged corner. But to the little lavender filly, it might as well have been a gift from beyond. She would later go on to say that the parcel, and the pages within, seemed to glow.

Such was her life in the quiet days of Ponyville. The town was a peaceful hamlet, nestled in the foothills beneath Canterlot and its castle. Very little tended to happen there - least of all attacks from vengeful ex-militants - which made it a welcome spot for new families and retirees alike. Both of which matched Twilight's family, at least to a certain degree.

"Mom! Hey, lookit!" she declared. "Did you know that this alchemist once bought an entire hotel? He only wanted the view from the third floor, but bought the whole place on a whim!"

Velvet, the filly's mother, couldn't contain her smile. She was so looking forward to a quiet weekend, but she would settle for interruptions like this, which so far were few and far-between. "Oh, yes?" she replied. "Well then, if the view was that good, we should plan a vacation to go see it!"

Twilight's smile was infectious. "You mean it?"

"Of course! When your brother comes home, we'll all talk about it, okay? We'll work out a good time and then make plans."

The filly's smile only grew. Seeing the world was almost as fun as reading about it. And Velvet smiled back as her daughter bounded off to the sunny spot on the couch.

Twilight continued from her spot on the page, drinking in the words as eagerly as a parched wanderer. She would often call out an interesting fact, to which her mother would reply and encourage, but otherwise the afternoon carried on in serenity. Eventually, the day drew to a close, and mother and daughter enjoyed a hearty meal and a quiet night's rest. Yet all through the day, and several more days that followed, nothing unexpected happened.

And so it continued. For a time.

This day was not so quiet. It wasn't really Twilight's fault, though.

"Twilight, come out! Your breakfast is getting cold!"

Granted, she was the reason Velvet was shouting loud enough for the neighbors to hear. But at least Twilight herself wasn't being loud.


That was pretty much the problem.

"Twilight, if I have to find you, I'm taking away your books for a week!"

The magical words were said, and a moment later came the thumping of hooves against carpet in a rapid trot. Then came the clack of a door being opened, the bump as a shoulder impacted a door's frame, and then more rapid thumping which grew louder and louder until finally:

"Wait, don't! I'm here, I'm here, don't take anything away!"

Twilight Sparkle, having turned eleven just a few weeks ago, had taken it upon herself to push her limits. More than once, she had pressured or negotiated with her mother to buy her a few choice books for her collection. The result was Twilight herself spending all of her time with her snout pressed between pages. This particular morning was setting a new trend - the bookworm had stayed up through the night while entirely focused on her reading. The exchange was that she ignored the little things like food, sleep, and her mother.

Velvet gave her daughter a stern look. "Missy, that's the third time in two days you haven't come down when called. I know you love your studies, but this is becoming unhealthy. You can't just forget to eat!"

Twilight, ever the debater, promptly groaned and threw her head back. "But I'm fine! Really! I've been taking some apples and carrots back to my room, so I'm not forgetting to eat!"

That was half of a lie, and both ponies knew it - Twilight knew because she had simply chewed the snacks while in the kitchen, her latest book held open in her hooves, and Velvet knew because she had to clean up the resulting mess left in front of the pantry. Rather than press further, Velvet settled for making her stern glare more firm. Eventually, the daughter met it, and wilted beneath the heavy gaze.

"...I'm sorry."

"I know you are. But how do I know you're sorry for the right reasons?"

Velvet spent a moment to think, going through the movements as well. She paced across the hallway with her forehoof rubbing her bottom lip. When the moment passed, she tapped the floor and turned away from her daughter, both for dramatic effect and to hide the none-too-subtle grin inching across her face.

"All right, I've decided. You and I will make a deal. I promise that I will not take away your books, as long as you promise to stop staying up all night reading them."

"But Mom, they're so-"

"Ah-ah-ah!" Velvet cut in. "I'm not done. You also have to promise to be on time for meals, and that includes coming to the table when they're ready. Do that, and I promise to let you read uninterrupted for the rest of the day."

This time, Twilight didn't try to argue. It seemed the deal was working out in her favor.

"And finally, you have to promise to stop leaving a mess for me to find, and to help me with the dishes after meals. I won't let you develop any sloppy habits."

The filly's ear twitched. "Hey, wait, but you said I could read un-inner-ruptured!"

"Uninterrupted, dear. And I will, with this one condition. If you agree to it, I'll help you by tracking down more books for you."

Instantly, the frown turned around. "You will?"

Velvet gave in to her own grin, turning to face her daughter. "I will. But only if you help me keep this house clean! Also, I get to decide when you've earned another book, okay?"

Go to sleep at night, don't miss a meal, and help clean up afterward? Those were easy tasks in the name of Twilight's favorite hobby. She didn't wait long before eagerly nodding.

The day carried on. With the new rules in place, Twilight was obligated to measure her reading time in order to keep her precious books. Velvet had to remind her daughter of the rules twice, but eventually they fell into a comfortable rhythm. She broke away from her reading very little, though days when Shining Armor could visit were the exception.

One day, Velvet ventured to ask why her daughter was so devoted to reading. Twilight explained that she had picked up on hints at a common theme throughout some of her books, yet none of them were explicit about it. Even The Life and Times of Stinkin' Rich: The Prodigal Alchemist held some hidden clues, and now Twilight was aware of the puzzle. She just needed more pieces.

And so it continued. For a time.

Today, Twilight Sparkle was learning about the finer things in life. Like the necessary force needed to properly launch lightweight objects in order to intercept similar objects. She already knew the math behind it, including the properties of inertia, but was having a rather difficult time grasping the practical side of things. Mainly because her older brother was quicker to lift and throw the pillows right back at her face.

Shining Armor, recognizing the scrunched-up look of concentration on his sister's muzzle, quickly dove out from behind cover - the edge of the hallway. He two-stepped his way to the fallen bundles of fluff, bit down on the corners of both, spun, and released. The pair of pillows sailed across the living room, one falling short of his target, the other arcing overhead before coming down on her hindquarters.

The reaction was immediate. Twilight flinched, took a step forward, and turned her head to see what had hit her. Not that there was much mystery to it, but the impact alone gave Shining Armor another opportunity. He rushed forward, grabbed the pillow that fell short, and spiked the thing directly at his sister's withers. It was a soft blow, but enough to startle her again. She jumped a few inches in the air, letting out an undignified eek!

"Gotcha now!" her brother declared. With a manic grin, he bounded up to her and took her in his forelegs, forcing her to the carpet in a bear-crushing hug. Their laughter rang throughout the house, drawing Velvet from her study room on the second floor. The siblings continued to playfight along the carpet, Shining Armor always having, but never pressing, the advantage his size afforded him. Sure, he wanted to keep her pinned, but he would never hurt her.

A few seconds passed before Velvet made it to the bottom of the stairs, and there took in the warming sight before her. Her son of seventeen, on leave from his unit, reconnecting with her daughter of eleven with games they both played before she was five. It was just the kind of rejuvenation she needed after such a restless night.

She gave them a few good seconds before clapping her hooves together. "All right, now, that's enough! Honestly, it's like you two have gone back in time!"

Her son turned his head to properly reply. As properly as he could with a tuft of his mane held in his sister's grasp. "Hey, she started it!"

"And it's time to end it! Let go of your sister's cheeks before you make her swallow her own tongue!"

Below, Twilight made a high-pitched giggle that didn't flow from her mouth so much as simply escaped. Even when they were foals, Shining Armor would be the one scolded. She always avoided blame, of course; she was smaller.

The brother relented, letting go of his sister's cheeks and stepping away. Before he could speak, Twilight threw a nearby pillow at his shoulder. She stuck out her tongue in victory, which was much more satisfying than if she had said "I win."

With a chuckle, he turned to their mother. "Sorry, heh. Were we being too loud?"

Velvet raised an eyebrow. "What do you think, mister?"

"Ah. Yep. Sorry."

"You just said that."

Shining lifted his brow as well. "And you haven't responded, Ma."

The air around them seemed to change. A sudden tension sparked between mother and son, and Twilight picked up on it. To her credit, she didn't groan, but rather acted on impulse and stepped between her two family members. She looked up at her mother - Velvet was staring at Shining Armor with a hardening glint in her eyes.

"Hey, Mom! Big brother says he wants to go to the park later. Want to come?"

Velvet didn't reply. Her ears had tilted downward toward her daughter, but her gaze hadn't. For a long, uncomfortable moment, she stayed like that, staring at her son who in turn stared back, each of them expecting the other to make a move, to step back or step forward, like they had done so many times before, despite the fact that Shining Armor had only come home today so it wasn't fair that they should—

"You're right," their mother finally whispered. "It's okay, Son."

The air changed again, but slowly this time. Shining Armor gave a modest half-nod, adopting a smile and casting his gaze downward. He spared a look at his sister that clearly reflected his relief.

Twilight was relieved as well. Some time ago, during the height of a conflict that involved the Canterlot military and some outlying beasts, their father had been sent on assignment to a town that was supposed to be safe. And it was safe, for a while. However, during one early morning when the fighting escalated, his post had gotten involved - and he had been caught in a crossfire. Details following the combat were skewed, but Velvet had come to the decision that the military had taken her husband from her.

Then, when Shining Armor had announced his intent to join that same military, she took an aggressive stance against it. At first their disagreements were civil and quiet, but of course they quickly evolved to yelling and misunderstandings. Even after her son had left for training, Velvet remained resolute in her mistrust of the military. And ever since, there had been a rift between Velvet and Shining Armor, though not enough to warrant any more yelling, thank goodness.

Twilight glanced at her brother, flashed him a thankful grin, then looked back up. "So, Mom? What do you say?"

Velvet blinked and shook her head. "I'm sorry, what was that?"

"The park?"

"Oh! Yes, yes, of course! The weather had been wonderful lately...so why not? Let's take a day and enjoy it!" she declared with a whoop.

Days like this one were the uncommon exceptions to Twilight's routine, though she made sure to bring along a book or two to the park anyway. Even so, her brother curiously listened to what she had to say, and even managed to pull her away from the words every now and then. Twilight normally wouldn't break away from a chapter in progress, but it was her brother! The time he got to spend at home was too precious to waste.

That day was a memorable one. The siblings talked, ran, sat, and swam, and sometimes convinced their mother to join in. They forgot all about past losses, future worries, or current puzzles. Other ponies in town saw how happy they were and left them to their happiness. And then the sun began to set and they enjoyed a dinner that Velvet swore she would later regret. Spent, tired, and happy, the three returned to their family home and made promises for more mini-adventures on the following day.

But that night, Twilight broke the rules. She pulled out a selection of books and began to pour over them as the moon glowed brightest. She began taking notes of what she saw, and slowly began to see how big this puzzle was. Actually, that wasn't true - she couldn't see how big it was because there were always more details to find. And the promise of more knowledge enticed her, drove her forward, until the moon exchanged its place with the sun and Velvet discovered the sleepy and excited filly laying amid a circle of open books.

Of course, Velvet enforced their agreement and took away the texts. But at that point, it didn't make much difference, because she didn't see the notes Twilight had made. So Twilight merely began to study those instead. Despite how large the mystery was, and the burning question of how so many different books could be linked together, little Twilight Sparkle still knew they were all referring to the same thing: a method of obtaining energy through a specialized science.

Thus began Twilight's avid interest in the field of alchemy.

Author's Note:

See you all in a week!

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