• Published 13th Nov 2017
  • 881 Views, 22 Comments

I Can Read Names in Clouds - Yuu



In the aftermath of the confusion with replacing the newest princess, a human arrives to learn about pony society.

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Do You Believe in Magic?

“No, she needs more rest.” Gloaming glared directly at Rainbow. “I propose we return to the library, where we can talk some more.”

Rainbow made a grumbling sound, but didn't bring it up again.

Before we reached the library, I noticed one pony who went directly to our group. She had a curly indigo mane, a similar looking tail, and a white coat. It looked like she took some time to form her mane into specific shapes; I couldn’t see a single wild strand. She slowed a bit when her gaze fell on me, but then continued at the initial speed.

“Good morning,” she said. “Gloaming, would you introduce me to your friend?”

“Of course, please meet Snowy Clothes.” Gloaming stopped before the mare with the indigo mane. “She came from far away, we were going to talk with her at the library.”

“How marvellous. Let home be where your heart lies,” the mare with the indigo mane said, “and my name is...”

I didn’t get it. Was her name a feeling of some kind, an object, or both? What could I associate with this meaning—maybe a goal to find something which is different or new? I had a couple ideas for that.... Also I needed to remember her greeting, it sounded good.

“Nice to meet you,” I said, “I can't exactly repeat your name, so I would propose a word with similar meaning. May I call you Curiosity?”

“I don't mind,” she said.

Curiosity asked Gloaming to come along with us, and we entered the library only a minute later. Gloaming brought out pillows and offered seats around a table.

I turned to my new acquaintance. “Curiosity, when Gloaming said that I'm from far away, she really meant that. I'm from another planet.”

I repeated for Curiosity what humans looked like, and about my different forms. I also told her about my conversation with the doctor.

As I spoke, Gloaming made several small movements with her lips, like she was chewing something. Curiosity tensed her forelegs. Both of them had had an unpleasant experience with doppelgängers, I concluded.

“It's good that you're not one of them,” Curiosity said. Then she turned to Gloaming, as if she noticed something.

I also looked at Gloaming. She turned her eyes down so I couldn't see her face, but I noticed a slight tremor of her forelegs. Curiosity came to Gloaming and hugged her.

“I'm sorry, that Snowy Clothes had to remind you again about doppelgängers,” Curiosity said. “I know how you feel—”

“No,” Gloaming interrupted. “You don't know. Your little sister wasn't replaced by them. You don't have nightmares about them replacing other ponies, like my parents and my friends.”

Medley also stood up and came to hug Gloaming after these words. Rainbow twitched in Gloaming’s direction too, but for some reason remained on her pillow.

“You can ask us about personal things, to make sure we are who we are.” Curiosity slowly stroked Gloaming on her mane.

“But what if they can read our thoughts? How can I know for sure?” Gloaming began to sob.

“Then you can use some spell or device for medical diagnostics,” I said, “to check whether someone is a pony.”

I decided to remain on my place too. I didn’t know how Gloaming would react to physical contact, after our recent confrontation.

Gloaming was silent for some time. I remembered the short one-sided fight with Gloaming. What would have happened if she had hit me that one time? I was still in an unknown world, and my first impression with these ponies was not exactly stellar. Maybe I should have left when I had the chance. Maybe I still should, at the next opportunity?

On the other hand, they didn't look very aggressive, and if I stayed I might find something interesting. But, recollecting my previous travels, I knew that tomorrow could bring rain, and people—or ponies—could be thieves. Well, I had to wait.

“You're right, I can always check,” Gloaming said. “Thank you, girls, for your support.”

“Gloaming,” I said, changing the subject, “I would like tell you some more about my world, are you still interested?”

“Yes, of course,” she said smiling.

The ponies took their places around the table again. I told them that Earth has many countries and cultures, and that humans are the only known sapient species on the planet. I also explained that only a small amount of humans have special abilities like mine. Gloaming made a lot of notes in her journal.

“Can you do any magic, besides your transformations?” Medley asked.

“Not much, actually.” I mentally counted a limited number of spiritual tricks I knew. “I can't study or invent magical effects, like mages can. I can only study a particular effect from a teacher, who does it with her spiritual nature.”

Gloaming turned her muzzle from the journal to me. “Correct me if I'm wrong, your spiritual nature is a part of your body, which give you access to magic?”

“Correct, more or less,” I said. “A person can train to improve the connection to their spiritual side.”

“Do you have any other forms of magic?” Gloaming asked, as she made some more notes.

“Good question, and we do,” I said. “Mages have something similar, but they do things differently. They can concentrate on achieving some effect, and after practice it can be done. As if their magic organ is harder to communicate with. For example, they can imagine levitating an object, and after trying for a day, a week, a month or a year, they can do it.”

“That's very interesting,” Curiosity said, as she looked at Gloaming’s notes, “our magic is entirely different. I believe Gloaming can tell you about it, because she is very knowledgeable in this area.”

“Well, you could say that,” Gloaming said. Her snout changed colour slightly and became more magenta-like. “We produce our magic with special organelles, located in specialized nerve cells. These magical organelles can create a special form of matter: uniform magic particles.”

“Do you know how these magical particles are constructed?” I asked.

“Unfortunately, we don't,” Gloaming said. “I suspect we will need an understanding of regular matter at least two levels deeper than subatomic particles before we can find link between magic particles and regular matter.”

“So you have only one type of particle to create different magical effects?” If we only had one chemical element, I couldn’t imagine how regular matter would be composed. “How can you make different effects?”

“Yes, only one, and here comes an interesting part,” Gloaming said. “Magic particles do nothing by themselves. They only decay after some time, emitting photons. But when a pony with her magical organelles composes these particles into structures, these structures start to produce magical effects, and different structures produce different effects.”

It was my turn to take a notebook from my backpack.

“These structures don’t only influence regular matter, but they may also evolve into more complex structures. That's why we call them pseudo-crystalline cellular automata.” Gloaming made several gestures with her forelegs, possibly marking structures she talked about. “They are similar to crystals because they have to be arranged into repeated patterns to produce most of their effects.”

“That's actually very interesting mechanism.” I set aside my pen. “I haven't heard of anything similar.”

“Here are the differences between three pony races: each race has an increased concentration of magical organelles in different parts of a body. Unicorns like me and Curiosity have more in the frontal lobes of our brains.” She gently tapped on her forehead with her hoof.

That explained why I saw light emanating from her forehead. It also explained why they had a complicated name for unicorns in their language, which actually had nothing to do with horns.

“Land ponies like Medley here have an increased amount of neurons with organelles in the lower legs and hooves, and also slightly increased amount in peripheral neural system.”

I hadn't seen anything unusual with Medley so far, except storing money in her mane. That might have just been a personal quirk. And comparing with unicorns and pegasi, the name for the third pony race was a very close translation.

“There are also pegasi like Rainbow, with an increased amount in their spinal cord.” Gloaming nodded to Rainbow. “It helps them to produce wings and fly. But, actually, all races can learn different effects, just some of them come instinctively.”

I hoped my new form was a half-pegasus, or I wouldn’t be able to fly. Well, maybe Rainbow wouldn’t mind if I change my form before racing....

“Do you know how these three races evolved?” I asked.

“There is no hard evidence, because it happened many years ago, and magical organelles haven't left any marks on bones of our ancestors,” Curiosity said, and she paused for a moment. “But there is a legend about this.”

She had actually said ‘hundreds of thousands years ago’, once I converted the number to Earth years.

“Yes,” Medley added immediately, as Curiosity stopped speaking. “Some ponies wanted to fly, and magic gave them wings. Other ponies wanted to control magic with more precision and they got this control. And other ponies just wanted to work on the land and grow crops, so magic gave them increased strength and affinity with plants.”

“Thank you for the story. Do you think something like this actually happened?”

“Yes,” Medley said, just as Gloaming said, “No.” They looked at each other.

“Okay,” Medley said, “maybe that never happened. But it's certainly a nice story!”

I nodded. “Do you want to know more about my world?”

“Yes, please tell us more,” Curiosity said.

“So I told you about humans in general, but there are also many kinds of people with special abilities.” It was an easy topic to tell about. “First, mages—they come in different varieties, because they all have their own ideas how to make magic.”

“But then how do they teach each other?” Gloaming prepared her journal.

“For that they created nine aspects, to divide up the magical effects and organise things. There are also different levels of mastery in each aspect.”

“And what about people like yourself?” Curiosity said to me smiling. “You aren’t one of the mages, are you?”

“We call ourselves changing breeds, because different clans and groups can become different animals. And some have even greater number of forms than me: not only a human, an animal and a hybrid. Some have an intermediate form between a hybrid and a human too. Actually I can tell you a number of stories about each species, and also about different groups and organisations within each species.”

“Are there any more major groups besides mages and changing breeds?” Gloaming asked, not looking away from her notebook.

She was making a sketch of me, possibly as an illustration for the current topic.

“Yes, there are several kinds of people who have returned after experiencing death,” I said. “These people still are a mystery to me, so I can't explain them very well, but traditionally we call them vampires, because they live kind of a parasitic life and use other people to supply them with substances which their own bodies don't produce.”

Curiosity shuddered. "They sound surprisingly like doppelgangers," she said in an unsteady voice. "According to legends about them, they need a pony's emotions to survive, and their magic depends on it."

“But it was proven numerous times that emotions affect neurons with magical organelles no more than regular cognitive functions,” Gloaming snapped at Curiosity.

“It's only a legend, and it may be wrong,” Rainbow said, distracted from staring at me for a moment. Every other pony looked at her, as if they had forgotten she was there.

“Well, the recent studies at the Coalitions show that vampires have some differences in their spiritual side,” I said. “So they need to obtain the thing they lack, whatever it is, from regular humans. And they can’t mimic others, like doppelgängers can.”

“You told me that the Coalition you work for has united different people with special abilities.” Gloaming looked at other ponies. “Could you tell us about this organisation?”

“I would like to begin from the founding, but as an ordinary operative I don’t know very much. About ten years ago strange new wizards appeared, they could produce powerful and destructive effects and they saw regular mages as a threat to them. Soon they found out about changing breeds and other people who can use magic, and began hunting them.”

“And all the magic users decided to work together, didn't they?” Curiosity said.

“Yes. Someone intermediated negotiations between mages and others, so the Coalition also included vampires and changing breeds from the very beginning.”

“You mentioned years, but how long is a year where you come from?” Gloaming checked her journal. “You haven’t told me before.”

“I don't know how to explain it, but we can calculate it,” I said.

I didn't remembered any of the atomic clock standards, so after some discussion I took my phone from my backpack and used the timer. Gloaming used her own clock and we compared our time measurement systems.

We found that one Earth year consisted of 369.9 pony days. But each day here was slightly shorter, only 23.7 Earth hours. And a year here was shorter too, having only 247.4 pony days. And finally, a year here was only 66.2% as long as an Earth year.

After that I found that ponies used hexadecimal numeral system. Some time ago they used system with base four, but their numbers often became too long and they switched to base sixteen.

Рonies also had sixteen months in a year, twelve of them with sixteen days. The fourth, the eighth and the twelfth months have only fourteen days, and the last month has thirteen and sometimes fourteen days, similar to February. The first month begins at vernal equinox.

“I assume this isn't the first time that you’ve traveled to another world,” Gloaming said, sounding very proud after helping me understand their time and numeral systems. “How do you communicate with other people from the Coalition?”

“Well, you see, this visit wasn't planned ahead,” I said, “so I don't have any special communication device with me. But I believe I can send a messenger to my parents, or to my Coalition colleagues, if I need to.”

“I know a way too!” Medley jumped on her pillows. “You should write a letter.”

“Medley, dear,” Curiosity said, “her parents live in another world, that means another planet and another star system.”

I imagined she might talk to younger ponies like this.

“I know, silly.” Medley just smiled even wider. “But I know a special mail pony who can deliver anywhere, even there.”

“How is that even possible?” Gloaming cried, and she threw both her forelegs up in the air. “And why don't I know about a pony who can send messages to other planets?”

"Because we've never needed to send a letter to another planet before, so Bright Eyes hasn't delivered any," Medley said.

Good, another simple pony name.

“Ah! Then how do you know she can do that?” Gloaming gazed intently at Medley.

“Well, I just sense it,” Medley said.

She stopped smiling and focused her attention on Gloaming, whose eyes began to twitch.

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