• Published 13th Oct 2019
  • 3,429 Views, 736 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."

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Chapter 17: Stagnation

"Art of the Dress huh? It's fitting. Hahhaha, fitting, dresses: Good one me!"

Rarity's head shot up and she stopped entirely, looking at him with a nervous expression.
"I'm sorry, what was that?"

"Oh! My bad this time, I was just looking over... I got a new skill while I was trying to sort this pile out. It lets me make music to get bonuses, in short. I based it on that song you were humming, and I guess my power gave the song a title?"

Her expression got darker as he spoke, especially at the end.
"Nooo, I'm afraid not. It already had that title. It's not... It isn't just an idle ditty I hum. If you remember back before the Gala, the first one after you and Twilight came into town? I may have put the song together while working on everypony's dresses. It helped me concentrate through the stress... And that was the name I gave it, although nopony else has ever heard me sing it."

"Oh. Alright, um... Give me a second."
He hadn't closed the skill description, so he took the opportunity to tap the bolded song title. Normally descriptions didn't have that kind of texturing, so if it did, it probably meant... Bingo.

"Did it go something like this? Sorry if I botch it, I don't sing that often... Thread by thread, stitching it together! Twilight's dress, cutting out the pattern snip by-"

What had been a dark and nerve-wracked expression shifted into outright shock, and she staggered back and away from him.
"How!? I... No, I'm sorry, I shouldn't be having this much of a problem with it after telling you I'd believe you, but I simply... This is a step beyond!"

The concern was evident on his face as he watched her dart away from her project, grabbing the teacup from earlier and the flask that had gone with it, taking the booze straight this time.
"I, uh, the skill had lyrics? In a little submenu. And sheet music, actually, which is kind of weird? It's not like you had instruments going when you sang it, right? I mean, other than the usual sort of thing when a song takes somepony. Which, it looks like the menu is calling those 'Heartsongs'."

Rarity fell back down into one of her chairs, eyes a bit glazed as she took a slow sip from the cup.
"Right. Well, I don't think I need you to finish with the Case. I've gotten the impression that I'm in a bit over my horn with this whole thing."

"Are you sure? I would feel pretty bad if I just shocked you and then... I dunno, I already feel kind of bad if it's making you feel this weird."

"No, Spike, that's not... I'm just worried and confused. I'm worried about what this might do to you, what it means for you, and I'm confused about where you...r power could be finding these things. Nopony, I promise you, nopony has heard that song before, certainly not the opening."

It made sense in a way. He'd been taking it mostly in stride so far, but this was the first time his power had shown him something really uniquely private, as opposed to just 'something he didn't know already'. There's no way that wouldn't freak somepony out, and he probably should have thought more before saying it... But Rarity's reaction was still pretty over the top, or so he felt.

"How about this: Let's sing it together. Or at least hum it. We can get back to work, I can try out the skill, and then we can just finish our work together. It'll be a way to relax and vent, right?"

Rarity took a breath and sighed.
"I do suppose it is a comforting piece, especially with the memories. And it's not like there's anything that could undo you knowing it... I'm sorry for the outburst."

He put a claw on her hoof with a smile, which got wider when she didn't withdraw. The contact was nice, again reminding him of Pinkie's closeness earlier when they had been working and talking together. This was something he could get used to for sure.
"No apologies necessary. So... let's get back to our stations, and then on three?"

She finished her drink with a nod and strode across the room to the incomplete clothes. Her expression narrowed and hardened, getting back into the working mindest. Spike raised his own claws as he looked down at the assorted bins, containers, and minerals on the table. He had done some things like this before, helping Twilight organize things back home in various collections, like the chemicals in the lab. It was going to be a lot harder now, obviously, but still: A familiar task.
"Shall we?"

Rarity picked up cut cloth and threaded needle in her magic.
"We shall. A-one and a-two and a-one two three..."

It took a moment for them to synch up but once they did, he could feel it. The music grew a bit heavier, a bit sweeter. There was a resonance building, and it flowed over them with each line. He didn't even have to look at the lyrics, since the natural magic of the song was sweeping it into and through his mind. A moment later he felt the buff take hold again, but stronger, stacking onto itself and rocketing his Dexterity, Intelligence and Wisdom up even higher than they'd already been.

A skill bonus has been activated! You are being [Accompanied].

Music is an embodiment of harmony and discord alike, all depending on how it is used.
By singing in harmony while using [Cantus], all users receive the full bonus from one another.

It was hard to describe the feeling of the changes in his head, the sensation of his mind gaining strength and clarity, his decision-making becoming tighter and more precise. The changes in his body, however, were far more evident. Muscles became more fluid, nerves began reacting more quickly. His motions were quicker and more practiced, his claws sharper and more refined (that probably had more to do with 'Dragon's Claws' than the buff itself), his breathing more regular. And his breath felt like there was something in it, not just the flow of mana but a kind of potential.

Without even questioning it, he breathed a line of green fire into one claw and began laying it out onto the table like a delicate thread. Lines began to form, and then circles, and then full Venn diagrams enclosing each category. A different flame this time, pale orange, tracing out the letters for each. He knew that the fire wouldn't burn the table or attempt to Send anything unless he let it. That much control would have been beyond him a few minutes ago, but with Rarity's help, it was like second nature. He wasn't sure how or why it worked, but by the time the song was over and Rarity approached with the completed clothing he had also finished his work, laying out her entire 'Hopeless Case' in an array of types and definitions, all connected by threads of unmoving fire.

He leaned back with a sigh, wondering why the fire was still so... well-behaved, even after the song and its benefits faded from them both. A quick glance above his work explained that.

A skill has been created through a special action! Through continuous manipulation of unstable elements, a skill to corral them, [Stagnet], has been created!

You have discovered your [Earth Affinity]!

You have discovered your [Fire Affinity]!

Rarity looked down at the flame-coated table and bit back a shriek. After realizing the fire was not spreading in any way, she managed to calm herself down in order to look over his notes.
"Glass, gems, ore, stones, metals... These pieces are magical, hmm? This one on the outside is supposedly impossible to work or break, which would explain the chisels I lost trying to shape it. High cleavage, low shear, flexible but highly impure... You really did figure out quite a lot here, Spike. This certainly surpassed my expectations."

He nodded, still a bit numb from falling out of the skill's embrace. He wasn't dumber, so to speak, it was just like... There was fog, or blinds, blocking the light he knew was there. The difference between potential and reality? When he fully snapped back to normal thinking, Rarity was holding the outfit up against him. It was a plain piece, not unlike the uniforms that you'd see at a sporting event. Very straight-forward shorts, a clean shirt with a repeating V pattern, a simple sunhat... It was nice in a bland sort of way, which made sense if Rarity was just going to remake it anyways.

"Shall we see if you meet my other expectations? I haven't measured you in a while, but I imagine your size won't have changed that drastically."

"Yeah, you're not wrong. It's kind of like I've been stuck ever since... Well, you know."

She winced, the clothes retreating in her telekinetic grasp.
"I'm sorry darling, if it's a sore spot I'll stop tea-"

"No, no! That's not what I meant."

Spike stood up in order to take the clothes, thinking about his size as he did. Sure, he was still about as large as when he had first moved to Ponyville: Definitely a bit slimmer, a little taller if you fudged it. The one time he'd ever gotten to grow up was when a hoarding (heh) incident had sent him careening through a dragon's full maturity (sort of) in one day, and back. And his body still hadn't grown in right, probably because of the unnatural way it had all happened. But that was in the past, so he waved Rarity's worries off with one claw and took the outfit with the other.

"It isn't that it bothered me. It's that not growing is just something I grew used to, heh... Anyways, I think I'll make some kind of breakthrough now that I've got this power. After all, we know I can grow because of that time. It's just down to figuring out how."

One of Rarity's hooves traced around the patterns of solid fire on the kitchen table as she spoke.
"Well it's not as though the mechanism would have changed."

Spike was struggling his head into the shirt, spines giving him grief for it, as he tried to parse that.

"All I am saying is that we know what caused your growth the last time. Just because we undid it then doesn't mean it won't work again. Which does give me a sort of idea... Mmmh, later."

Spike finally got his assorted protrusions to cooperate when Rarity started collecting the empty pieces of her Case. He slipped the hat on and struck an (only slightly) ridiculous pose.
"How do I look?"

Rarity looked him up, down, and up again before smiling. A sudden flash went off nearby and when his vision cleared he could see a flashbulb camera floating in her magic.
"Quite fetching! Speaking of which, would you be a dear and help me clean up the table?"

"Oh, dang, sorry about that. I can get the fire taken care of pretty easily, I think."

She set the camera down with a thin frown on her face.
"You think? 'Think' may be good enough for some ponies, but it is my table on the line."

"Ah, heh... Lemme double-check the skill, juuust in case."

[Stagnet] (Active) Lv 1 EXP: 0.00% MP: 10% of original spell's cost
Starswirl the Bearded understood that spells are, by their nature, fleeting dynamic constructs. But like water becoming ice, he also knew that these flowing things could turn solid if given the proper encouragement. This skill allows the user to 'freeze' magic in a fixated form by infusing additional mana, so it can be released or utilized later using variations on the original command.

This skill stabilizes magical creations into temporary concrete forms.
Can be used together with skills that produce unstable phenomena.
The result is stable for the spell's original duration, longer in high-magic environments.

With further skill levels, fixated magic can be manipulated in new ways.
Current Commands: Stagnet, to Fixate. Vanesco, to Vanish.

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