• Published 13th Oct 2019
  • 3,360 Views, 721 Comments

Spike of All Trades - Ariamaki

"Wouldn't it be great if life were like a game?", some people ask. Spike can definitively answer... "Maybe."

  • ...

Chapter 15: Hopeless

A scant five minutes later he sprung up from the bench, his newly-expanded health and mana pools shiny and full. Sure, some gamers would probably say his meditation "only" added his weak Wisdom to his regeneration levels... But when you recover one-half of a point of mana per minute naturally, +11 more is completely insane. He didn't turn the Dragon's Mind Eyes back on, especially because as soon as he opened his physical eyes he realized his spring up from the bench had a witness: He’d almost landed right on top of Rarity, who was staring at him curiously.

"Oh, I'm quite sorry Spike! I had merely been wondering what you were doing on that bench alone on such a nice day: It had never crossed my mind to think you were using Innervision."

Spike took a moment to clear his head and look over Rarity again. She didn't seem any different from usual, same striking features, same crisp blue eyes, beautiful mane, flawless eyelashes... Although now it was all joined with a title and a level above her head, which made him appreciate her strength and beauty more than ever.

[Truly Outrageous]
LV 25

"The whatnow?"

She scuffed a hoof across the dirt between them, very carefully sketching images into the surface without actually getting herself, well, dirty.
"The, ah, meditative practice? I suppose you might have learned it under a different name, or maybe even some variation on it knowing Twilight: I certainly didn't recognize your posture, but how could I? I'm not exactly bipedal myself, hehe."

Her little giggle brought a smile to his face effortlessly, and he finished dusting himself off and examined her drawing. It showed a pony curled into a sort of half-upright seated position while looking down their own barrel. There was an image of an eye floating detached, above their head.
"Oh! Yeah, sorry about that, I had just needed a little break after walking over here. The way Twilight taught me is called 'Omphaloskepsis' apparently... I think it's an older name?"

"Mmmh, that would make sense. But why did she teach it to you to begin with? I've only ever heard of ponies using it for magical exercise, and rarely at that."

"Decontamination checks, if you'd believe it! It's part of her whole lab safety setup."

Rarity tapped a hoof along her chin at that, eventually nodding.
"Well, if it is Twilight's idea of a safe procedure, I'm sure it's extremely well thought-out. But we're getting ahead of ourselves, Spikey-wikey! What brings you here today, so early to boot?"

"That... Can we head inside? Because it's going to be a looong story. Longest five hours of my life so far, anyways."

He could see the concern in her eyes, but only briefly: A moment after that she was already ushering him towards the Boutique, putting her concern for a friend before formality or questions. It was one of the things she might not have done when they first met, but if there was one thing Spike knew about his friends, it was that they were still growing up, just like he was. They had a head-start, but that didn't mean they weren't developing and learning and changing over time.

The doors of the Boutique clicked open, then shut, and then locked in three quick swipes of blue magic as Rarity dashed into her kitchen.
"Tea, darling?"

"Yes please! And if you have any gem dust that would be sweet. No cream, no honey."
Settling into the chair at Rarity's dining room table gave him one last chance to think this over. He hadn't managed to get through to Twilight earlier, with what little he knew and how short a time he had. Pinkie had understood everything from the first beat, being Pinkie. But with Rarity, he would not only need to explain what was happening, but actually prove it again as well.

The good news on that front was that he had a lot of options now. The Gamer's Body would be a bit drastic, but kinda cool. Carving up some super-hard gemstone for her would be helpful and beyond his usual abilities. Using his sending-fire to teleport objects across the Boutique instead of to Celestia would be a new thing too. And... Well, there was one absolute surefire way, but he wanted to save that one for when it would have the biggest impact.

> Visit Rarity

He dismissed the window out of reflex, although it was good to know that the 'visit' requirements were going to be pretty mild, just in case his schedule started to pressure him. When Rarity came back out from the kitchen he took his tea gratefully, the first sip slow so he could savor the flavor. Ginger, lemon, a tiny dash of honey and a dusting of citrine... It brought back memories of his breakfast, and it even refreshed the movement speed buff. Spike had a feeling there'd be a payoff to that if he kept it up, so he silently moved the stack of citrines in his inventory closer to the top.

"So, take your time, but... Tell me what happened, if you can? I want to help."

Looking away from her, he took a deep breath.
"It's not a bad thing! I just, well... This morning I had a dream, and I was woken up by a strange blue light-"

It was nearly half an hour later when he finished describing everything that had happened, albeit in a shortened form. Rarity had stopped him twice, once to pour another round of tea and then again to supplement her cup with a quick slug of hard liquor.
"The Gamer."

"The one and only! I think. I hope."

"And you were out on the bench meditating in order to... to figure out a way to prove it?"

He shrugged a little sheepishly.
"I mean, it's not like I don't have any options. I just wanted to have a good one, one that made sense."

Rarity sighed as she stood, stepping across the table to give Spike a brief hug. She moved away shortly after, but the warmth lingered, much like it had when he rested with Pinkie earlier.
"Spike, you need to remember that I am your friend. I believe you simply because you are honestly telling me."

"Does that mean Twilight isn't my friend?"

"That's being deliberately obtuse and you know it, young dragon. She's just... very analytical, and was probably quite anxious to get to Canterlot. Mercy knows why, if it was an event so formal she needed clothes for it."

That brought him short.
"Wait, clothes? Did you help her prepare for the trip?"

"Hmm? Oh, yes, she requested a few simple outfits, rather negligible but still quite beautiful, the other day. Didn't even take an afternoon of my time, given how little fabric I used."

"I guess that makes sense... Maybe it was some new book debut or a play or something? She's not coming back until late tonight, and she went by train rather than taking a chariot, or even using her magic."

"A mystery you can solve when she gets back. For now... Do you still want to prove your story to me, even if you don't need to? Because I think I may have something just right for the job."

He put a claw up to his chest in mock offense.
"Why, if I did not know better I'd assume you were going to use this as an excuse to get me to do manual labor!"

It had been meant as a joke, but Rarity's wince reminded him that when he was younger, she had done just that... He'd been more than willing to help, but she had still grown to dislike her former treatment of him as time passed.
"Spike, I had honestly not-"

"Nono, I misspoke. That was supposed to be a gag, a chuckle, a joke. I hadn't been thinking."

"Nor had I. Shall we consider ourselves even?"

"Even steven! Come to think of it, how has Steven been?"

Rarity paced near Spike's chair, expression brighter but still a bit downcast.
"Fluttershy says Mr. Magnet has been doing quite well. I naturally don't get to visit him often, but we do trade grooming tips by letter every few months. Seasonal haircare, and so forth."

"Gee, I wish I'd thought of that. I could probably get some good scale advice from him!"

"I am sure I could arrange for that! He is quite proud of his luster, and does so love to share his knowledge."

"Thanks again. For that, the tea, for trusting me, and whatever your plan is... Speaking of which..."

Her earlier discomfort seemed to have cleared now, or at the very least it was hidden behind a coy smile and a jocular tone.
"Alright dear, I confess my motive: I did have some rather... stubborn pieces in my collection that could use the touch of a dragon such as yourself. Just a shake while I fetch it down."

As Rarity trotted off into another room, Spike wondered how stubborn a gem could be. Or was it clothes? She hadn't said what collection, and the idea of being a model for Rarity's rejected and non-traditional outfits was... Actually not bad. If anything, he'd have some fun trying out clothes with her, as weird as that sounded. It would be a nice way to kill time in its own fashion (heh), even if her 'stubborn' items were embarrassing: It's not like he'd be wearing it in public. Plus, the apron Pinkie had loaned him earlier had been worth a decent stat bonus, and if he was going to live his life anything like the way he played his games? He'd wear anything for a stat bonus. Hay, he'd do it for as little as some alternate dialogue.

That train of thought became moot when Rarity entered levitating a case full of gems. There were dozens, maybe hundreds or more, in all sorts of shapes and sizes. The case itself was clear, probably made of glass or some kind of stone, split into various compartments. Some of the contents looked more like metal samples than anything, which was intriguing. Spike had never eaten much in the way of metal, but it was probably possible, right? Could be a good opportunity to find out, or at least to pick up some kind of 'Indigestion Resistance' skill.

"Well, here we have it: This is my Hopeless Case."

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