• Published 22nd Aug 2015
  • 2,864 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.

  • ...

1.3: Encouragement

Four days later saw the family of three at the train station. The federal train from Ponyville to Canterlot hadn't yet arrived, which gave the siblings a little more time to reconnect. Held close by her brother, Twilight Sparkle struggled against his superior grip. He held her above the platform in a crushing hug, and her hind legs dangled and kicked at nothing as she laughed.

"You're gonna fly, Twily! If I let go, you'll float away into the sky! Well, then, I just won't let go!"

"Put me down, you dork! Ahh! Don't spin don't spin why are you spinning no no stoppit!"

Velvet, doing her best to hold back her own laughter, swatted her son when his back was turned. "Enough of that!" she scolded. "We're in public."

With a playful pout, Shining Armor did release his sister. Twilight stumbled, dizzy, and ended up bumping her side against a nearby bench. She promptly fell over. "Whoa, down I go!" she giggled.

Shining Armor turned away to keep from laughing too much. Velvet did the same. Little Twilight, meanwhile, did enough laughing for all three of them.

"We're all going to be safe and secure with you in the force, Son," Velvet commented once the laughing had petered out. "You can tickle the bad guys into submission."

Shining Armor stuck out his chest with pride. "If it works, it can't be wrong."

"Hey, that's pretty good advice!" Twilight said.

"Think so? You should remember it, then! Keep it in mind for your next little experiment."

"Yeah?" Twilight turned to their mother. "Does that mean you forgive me for what happened over the weekend?"

Velvet easily slipped from mirth back into a mild glare. "Of course not," she said. "You still did something risky, young lady, and you're still grounded."

"Aw, come on, Ma. Have a little faith."

She looked from her daughter to her son. "Faith isn't the issue here, Shining Armor. Saying that something can't be wrong so long as it works might be nice for military duty, but what good is it if what you're doing is wrong from the start?"

Twilight couldn't help but feel hurt. She had already apologized several times for her alchemy accident, yet that didn't stop her mother from handing out discipline. It had been a very tense evening after Twilight finally brought the pillow downstairs. Of course, she had needed to show the full extent of her experiment, which led to a very long scolding and a sore rump. Being grounded was no fun.

Shining Armor spotted the sad look in Twilight's eyes. "You don't think alchemy is wrong, do you?" he asked their mother.

"No," Velvet answered. "It was wrong for Twilight to try something as risky as alchemy inside the house, without telling me, and while I was away. Being reckless should not be rewarded. I bet even your captain would agree."

"Sure, but..." Shining Armor paused, gave a thoughtful expression, then shrugged. "You got me there. Sorry, Twily, looks like Mom wins this round. Don't worry, though; I still think you've got a good head on your shoulders."

Twilight looked between her family members a they went back and forth. She held back her disappointment, choosing instead to give a small smile. "I don't mind, really. I wasn't ready."

It wasn't quite the truth. Despite being forbidden from reading her books or trying any transmutations, Twilight couldn't very well shut off her mind. She had still been thinking about her experiment each day afterward, trying to pin down the mistake she had missed. She did believe that she was not ready - the hole in her carpet where the burn had been was proof enough of that.

Shining Armor leaned low, gently knocking his head against hers. "Cheer up, kiddo. The good thing about studying is that you can do it as often as you like. Plus, some tests can be retaken. You just need more time."

"Please don't encourage her."

With a confident grin that Twilight enjoyed, he stood back up and turned around. "I'm not. I just said she should take more time. That's fair, right?"

Velvet opened her mouth to reply, caught herself, and instead made a thoughtful hum. She gave a slight nod and said nothing.

Instantly, Twilight felt better. Her smile grew and, more importantly, became genuine.

All too soon, the train was seen. It wasn't terribly fancy by any extent, used mainly for state matters and collections. There were very few cars and only one locomotive, so naturally it didn't take long for the marvel of engineering to come to a full stop. The smoke it spewed out fell over the air and created a haze that was oddly comforting. Mercifully, the conductor at the front did not apply the horn this close to civilized space.

Then the mood shifted. The family was still smiling, but it was sad now, knowing that one of their number was going back to his duty. Shining Armor stood tall like the guard he was training to be, looking sharply at the train. Twilight and Velvet both lowered their brows, a bit of worry worming its way into their thoughts.

"I guess this is it, again," Twilight said. Her brother turned around to face her. "You won't wait so long to visit next time, will you?"

With a chuckle that broke his soldier-like stare, he shook his head. "I'll try my best, Twily, but it's not up to me."

"Why not?"

"There are other guards besides me, kiddo. They will want some vacation time too."

Twilight pouted. "Well then, just earn Guard Captain rank really quick and...put yourself at the top of the waiting list!"

They shared a laugh, then shared a hug. Shining Armor stepped up to his mother and shared one with her, too. Any words they said were whispered, but whatever they were prompted Velvet to hold on a little longer. By the time they pulled apart, she needed to wipe her eyes.

Barely a minute later, he was boarding the third car. There was plenty of room - this was the first stop of several, and he was in for a long trip just to get to the city only a few dozen miles away. He found a seat near a window, which he promptly opened to hold out a hoof to his family.

Twilight looked up at her mother. Velvet rolled her eyes, then bent low to the ground. Twilight scampered up on her back, gaining enough height to reach out to her brother one more time. The two siblings wrapped their forelegs around each other, as they had done some years ago when Shining Armor first departed.

"Take care of Mom for me, little sis. I'm off to save the world."

The next few moments were a blur. Before Twilight was ready, the train was moving down the track. She dropped off her mother's back and trotted alongside the cars until she ran out of platform. She kept her eyes on her brother's extended foreleg, until the train rounded the outskirts of town and disappeared beyond the rolling hills. The unmistakable sound of a train horn rang loud and clear.

Twilight and her mother stayed there for a few minutes, letting the feeling sink in. Now, as before, it was just the two of them. And yet, for a brief moment, Twilight felt a small spark of relief.

"Come on, sweetie. Let's head back."

Now she could devote more time to her puzzle.

It took a few hours longer than she would have liked to get back to her studies. Between stopping for a late lunch, chores around the house, and Velvet's sudden need for conversation, Twilight was worried she wouldn't be able to read until after sundown. Not to say that she was ungrateful, but simply that she was eager to continue her search. Of course, her last foray into the realm of alchemy made the simple act of reading a cautionary tale.

Ever since the incident with her mother's pillow, Twilight had been forced to keep her reading out in the open. The bookshelf in her room was now mostly empty, its contents migrated to another shelf in the living room. She was also simply banned from practicing alchemy in general. However, to her relief, she had been allowed to keep her personal notes. At first, it was rough to get accustomed to the less-private environment, though it hardly made a difference when Shining Armor clamored for activities every few hours. Besides, the giant hole where the burnt carpet had been cut out was distracting whenever she went to her room.

But now the house was quiet again. Thanks to the new rules and newer restrictions, very little was expected to happen. Shining Armor was on a train back to the capital, Velvet was relaxing with a novel of her own, and little Twilight Sparkle was enjoying the last bit of sun to fall on her favorite spot on the couch.

She scrunched her muzzle as she re-read her notes. The mistake with the pillow still weighed on her mind. She had some good guesses as to what had gone wrong, but Twilight still wanted to go over all she had in order to avoid something that embarrassing in the future.

Which meant starting from the beginning. "All matter is subject to balance," she whispered.

The rules, as she had learned them, were pretty simple. Transmutation required three things: knowledge of what she had, knowledge of what she wanted, and the materials to make the change occur. The paper being included in her last experiment was an accident, more embarrassing than harmful, yet it still taught her a lesson. The rules may have been simple, but they left a lot of room to make mistakes. So it was her own fault that mistakes were made.

Her using unicorn magic was unlikely to be the cause. Historically, unicorns made for successful alchemists because their abilities allowed for faster transmutations. It also helped that having telekinesis freed up a unicorn's hooves to draw or place circles whenever one was needed. Other races could use alchemy as well - pegasi often used their wings to aid in their transmutations, while earth ponies used the traditional method of simply laying their hooves on circles. In fact, every race usually kept that method regardless of what they used to spark a reaction. Despite that, earth pony alchemists were often overlooked because they lacked what the other races had.

But Twilight's magic? It was simple, yes, but it was still effective. Were it not, she never would have been able to use alchemy in the first place. As she had learned, the process to start a transmutation was relatively straightforward. The knowledge of the objects and the materials needed were ways to help get a clean transmutation, but even that needed a catalyst. The magic of telekinesis was popular because it simply took the force required to lift and move objects, then reapplied it to get a reaction started. Not to create energy, which was impossible, but to redirect it. Without such a spark, the reaction would never begin.

After stewing on the science behind the craft, Twilight remembered something else. Many of the books she had read often mentioned electrical activity, but they didn't go into much detail, almost as though there wasn't enough about it worth including. Yet the transmutation she had performed included a lot of it, to the point that her coat was singed and her carpet got burned. Why had the books not mentioned something like that?

All matter is subject to balance, she repeated in her head. Her magic might be antimatter, but it still affected the world around her. Maybe it was her magic...maybe she had simply poured too much power behind what should have been a simple transmutation. Such rookie mistakes were common, in fact. Many young unicorns would often misjudge the power needed to lift and carry objects, which could result in a variety of accidents. A popular one was a swollen nose by pulling too strong on an object and having it speed toward the caster. Eventually, unicorns would learn to push just enough power behind their magic to get what they needed. There were a talented few who were so skilled at this that they made their magic flow around them like a current.

If Twilight had made such a mistake, it would explain everything that went wrong in addition to what went right. The pillow had been repaired with the correct material, but because she had pushed too strongly, the paper had been consumed as well. Plus, the literal sparks of activity were too much, which caused the very distinct burn in the floor. She shuddered. If she had pushed any harder, she really could have set the house on fire. That would have ruined Shining Armor's visit rather spectacularly.

Nonetheless, if her mistake was being too eager, then a second experiment was in order. It was a shame that she was grounded.

"Wow. You're still at it?"

Twilight Sparkle squeaked and looked up. Her mother was standing at her shoulder, looking over her daughter at the scribbles in the notebook. Her expression was blank except for a small frown tugging at her mouth.

The filly hesitated, then slowly cast her gaze down and closed the journal. "Oh...okay."

"Hm? What was that for?"

"I'm sorry. I was spending too much time on this again wasn't I?"

A very heavy few seconds passed between them before Velvet's ear twitched. She had realized something. "Don't apologize, sweetie. You haven't done anything wrong."

That was unexpected. Velvet had been getting on to her for the last several weeks, so Twilight was surprised to hear something different. The filly looked back up, waiting for more.

"Ah, I...you...you really do like this stuff, don't you?"

Twilight ran the edge of her hoof along the spine of her notebook. "Well, yeah. It's interesting to read about a power that anyone can use, plus the things it's been used for already."

"Interesting enough to try it yourself?"

"W-well, I mean..." Twilight didn't like being put on the spot by her mother, especially when they were obviously going to talk about the pillow incident again. "Yes, and I'm still sorry for what I did. I just wanted to see—"

In mid-sentence, Twilight felt herself pulled into a soft hug. Her mother had leaned low and brought her close. She began to comfort her.

"Hush, now. Hush. I don't want to hear any more apologies from you," Velvet said.


After a moment, Velvet pulled back. Then she lowered herself to lay on her haunches, resting her head on the seat cushion - and putting herself at eye level with her daughter. "I've been going about this the wrong way. Will you tell me what you've learned?"

Maybe this was a trap. "Aren't you mad?"

"Not tonight, my little alchemist," Velvet teased. She gave an encouraging smirk. "I have gotten mad at you for this, but it's hardly stopped you. Maybe that means I should give it a chance, and give you—" She tweaked the filly's nose. "—another chance. I might just love it as much as you do, don't you think?"

Twilight decided, then and there, that if this was indeed a trap, then it was one she wouldn't regret. Her fears dispelled, she gave a wide grin and eagerly opened her notes again. With the ease and fluidity gained only by studying something many times, she began to explain all that she had taught herself with the aid of her research notes. She recalled real-world examples that had common themes and told them all like short stories. She began to babble more than once, and when she did, Velvet would simply lay a hoof on her head to bring her back down. And it went on like a pattern for nearly an hour.

By the end of it, Twilight's own excitement ebbed into simple hunger. She had accidentally talked so much that Velvet forgot to prepare their dinners. Thankfully, they had a steady supply of leftovers from Shining Armor's visit. Making a meal was a small task to meet. They ate. They talked. They ended up having a very fulfilling discussion on the risks of alchemy, the desire to try it anyway, and the need to take care when doing so. And before the night was done, with the notes explained and Twilight's desire now understood, they agreed on something.

Twilight's little trials could continue. Under supervision, of course. She had been lucky the first time, but they both knew that luck, like a house fire, was nopony's friend.

The following days, there was a noticeable change in the house. The confidence that only came from knowing that what Twilight was doing was now supported. She didn't need to hide anything now, and that was liberating. She read and studied and made practice tests in a second notebook, planning her moves instead of just making them. And when the afternoons came where she actually tried something practical, Velvet knew well in advance and even helped guide Twilight. With her mother's blessing, Twilight pursued the craft of alchemy with a calm yet firm determination.

Thankfully, there were no accidents.

For a time.

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