• Published 7th Aug 2012
  • 5,024 Views, 164 Comments

Pride and Prejudice and Snails - Mudpony

A lost bet forces Diamond Tiara to ask Snails to a dance. But when Snails turns to Sweetie Belle for help with impressing his date, she develops feelings for him. And so what was to have been a simple victory for the CMC gets a bit more complicated.

  • ...

Chapter 8

The small yellowish bubble struggled into existence. Throughout its short lifespan, it fluctuated in size, though never attaining a size larger than a Snips's head. In its last second of existence, it lost its spherical shape, before bursting. Snails's face shifted from strained to grinning, as proud as if he had created a bubble large enough to cover all of Ponyville. "I can do it, see?" he said to his friend.

"Wow!" Snips said, applauding the effort. "That was awesome. When'd you learn to do that?"

"During the fight." The mention made his head ache, and he rubbed a sore spot. It was good to be back home. Still not quite fully recovered, but his parents said he could go to school tomorrow. He still could not believe he was actually looking forward to that, but he was. It would mean he could see more of Diamond Tiara. His gaze drifted over to his most prized possession: the card she had made for him. That in turn led his thoughts to Tiara's plans for life and his own newfound plan. "I'm going to have to work lots though so I can win the competition."

"Heh, imagine that. My buddy Snails is actually trying to get into a school," Snips said. He cocked a single eyebrow and peered at Snails, before his face shifted to mock horror. "Someone send for help! I think we have a changeling here!"

"Not a changeling. I'm just a member of the..." Snails frowned at his inability to figure out the big word, then held up his hoof and grinned as the word came to him. "Smart ponies." Okay, he admitted to himself, it was not the word Miss Sparkle had used that one time when Snails had mostly slept through whatever she had been talking about. But the words were still right. Better even, as they were ones anypony would know.

"What does it take to enter the competition?" Snips asked.

"I was just gonna show up," Snails replied. That there might be more to it than that was not something that had occurred to him. Very few things required signing up ahead of time in Ponyville. "You think it'll take more?"

"Well, it is in Canterlot. They probably have lines and lists and stuff. You know them big city types."

"Oh," Snails said, his hopes deflating. Stopping a pony from doing what he wanted did seem like something the big city types would do, if Heart Throb was any indication of what big city types were like. He winced as his hoof crept up and rubbed the sore spot on his head again.

"We could ask Miss Sparkle," Snips suggested. "She knows all sorts of stuff, and she's from Canterlot. Plus her brother is the Captain of the Guard and all. If anypony in town would know it'd be her."

Snails's hopes reinflated. Twilight Sparkle was indeed from Canterlot, and she was nice. If most ponies from Canterlot were like her, there was hope. "Okay!" Snails said. "Let's go!"

"You up for it?" Snips asked, one eyebrow cocked again. "Wouldn't wanna end up back in the hospital, all those nurses getting stuff for you. That one especially she was sorta cute."

Snails snorted. "Nurse Redheart? She's old, like twenty-five or maybe thirty. That's like almost as old as our moms." He stopped for a second, remembering how Redheart had brought him an extra pillow and sneaked in some extra dessert at meal times. "She was nice though."

Snips grinned in reply, then nudged Snails with his hoof. "Uh-huh, lovercolt. You got all the mares after you! First Tiara, now the sexy nurse. No doubt Sweetie Belle as well."

"Bah. You know Sweetie and me are just friends. I'm a one mare stallion," Snails said, puffing his chest up proudly. "Besides, I got my hooves full with just one."

"Our hooves is more like it. You sure know how to pick 'em!"

The two colts headed out, their progress briefly halted by a conversation with Snails's mother to let her know where they were going, complete with a not so brief hug that ended only when the embarrassed Snails managed to wiggle his way free. Once outside, they passed the time with good natured banter that continued until the Golden Oaks Library was in sight.

By that point, the topic of conversation had gone full circle, as conversations often do, returning to Snails's plan to enter the contest. After a quip, Snails watched his friend go from laughing to quite serious.

"That contest... Heart Throb is going to be there, won't he?" Snips asked.

Snails shrugged. Heart Throb probably would be there, but it was always possible he would not. Maybe his parents got really angry at him and locked him in his room or something. Or else he ran away and joined the Prance Foreign Legion under an assumed name. Do they have age requirements to join? Could he fake his way past that? "Do you think he'll wear a fake mustache?"

"He'll huh what?" Snips asked, stopping his walk with a perplexed look on his face. The look went away as he shook his head. "No. No joking now, Snails. His shield was good, better than yours. He's had teachers and everything. If you're going to win this thing, you're going to need lessons. Good lessons from someone who knows what they are doing."

Snails halted besides his friend. He recalled the bubble Heart Throb had made in the schoolyard and could almost feel the aching of his hooves from when he had kicked it. Then he recalled his own attempts at bubbles so far, and how his head still hurt from when Heart Throb had broken through it. Snips was probably right, he realized.

"If only we knew someone like that. Someone who is really good at magic and just recently had time clear up in her schedule," Snips said.

Snails looked at Snips. His friend seemed to have some idea, and Snails struggled to follow along. Snips gestured with his head ahead of them, and Snails looked in that direction, seeing the library. It occurred to him who Snips was thinking about. "You really think the Trixie would?"

"Trixie?" Snips shook his head. "That'd be awesome. But she'd probably be way too busy to help. I bet she's got shows lined up the world over."

"Oh, yeah. That makes sense." Snails wondered who else Snips might be thinking of. Miss Cheerilee was a teacher, but not a unicorn. Dinky was a unicorn, but she did not know much magic. That left... His brow furrowed as he thought as hard as he could, but no name sprung to mind.

"Miss Sparkle," Snips said.

"Miss Sparkle?" Snails echoed, looking around for the librarian pony.

"Well, sure, she was helping Heart Throb, right? And now she isn't, so she'll have time to help you! It's perfect!"

"Oh yeah. Good thinking, Snips," Snails said. The pair had barely resumed walking toward the library when Snails asked a question. "You really sure we can't get the Great and Powerful Trixie though? Cuz that would be awesome!"

"How would we even reach her? She could be anywhere. Trottingham, Saddle Arabia, maybe even a tour of Zebrica."

Snails pondered the question as they walked the rest of the way to the library. Failing to come up with a good idea, he considered Twilight Sparkle instead. "Guess we ask Miss Sparkle then. And maybe Spike can help too!"

Snails held the door open for Snips, then followed his friend into the library. Before he could take note of the piles of books stacked all over the library floor, he yelped in pain as a book beaned him in the back of the head.

"Hey, watch it!" Snips shouted, after casting a worried look at his friend. "Snails only just got out of the hospital for getting clocked in the head."

Twilight Sparkle popped up from behind a pile of books, her eyes bloodshot and a frazzled mane. "Oops. Sorry, boys. I didn't notice you come in. Guess I sort of got wrapped up in this research. Let me guess: latest book in the Crystal Crusader series?" Her horn glowed as she looked around the room, moving books around, before giving up with an exasperated sigh. "Now where did I put it? Spike! Have you seen the--, oh wait, Spike's not here."

"No, though that does--" Snips started to answer, but the no was all that Twilight was interested in.

"A book for school then?" Without waiting for a reply, she started pulling books off various shelves, naming them off as a pile grew before Snips. "History, math, Equestrian, biology, and art. I think that covers it." Without pausing, she disappeared back behind her own pile of books.

Snips stepped around the pile of books, a pile taller than him and teetering dangerously. "No, I--"

Twilight popped up again. "You've come to return a book then?" Twilight Sparkle raced over to her list of current checkouts. "No, that's not right, you don't have anything checked out right now." She paused to think, but just as Snips figured he might be able to get a few words in, she resumed talking. "Spike. You must be here to see Spike." She looked up the stairs toward her room and called for her assistant. "Spike! Snips and Snails are here for you!" She waited briefly for an answer, before smacking her forehead with a hoof. "Silly me. He's not here right now. Said he had to help Rarity with an emergency."

"Nope, not here for Spike," Snips said.

"Yeah, not for Spike," Snails said.

"Oh," the librarian said. Snails watched as Twilight Sparkle raised a forehoof and began to apparently check things off an imaginary checklist. Snails was not surprised. Having a checklist for what patrons of the library was certainly the type of thing she would do. And of course she checked it a second time. He waited patiently while she finished, while Snips waited less patiently beside him. Finally, with a puzzled look on her face, she asked, "So why are you here?"

"To ask you something, Miss Sparkle."

"Really? But that's not on the list. Are you sure you're not here to check out a book, return a book, or see Spike?"

"Nope, not here for that," Snails said.

"Okay, ask away then."

"What do you know about the Junior Training Corps Championships?" Snips asked.

"Not much off the tip of my horn," Twilight Sparkle said. "It was founded four hundred and sixty-three years ago by Silver Lance, who was Captain of the Guard at the time. The first winner was Golden Globe, a unicorn from Fillydelphia. He created a defensive globe with a radius of eight feet, a record that would stand for twenty-two years when it was broken by Long Pike. Interesting stallion, that Pike. When he was a captain, he once won a battle in a cornfield in thick fog by using local colts and fillies to run messages. One of those messengers was Tiberius Cork, who later went on to become a famous admiral, on whom the naval series you and Snails like is based. Does that answer your question?"

Twilight looked at Snips like she was waiting for him to be impressed. Snails definitely was impressed, though it was mostly by how much his definition of not knowing much differed from hers.

"Actually, we wanna know how to get in," Snips said, beating Snails to the question.

"Oh. Well, that's simple. For that, you need a sponsor. That's someone willing to put in a good word for you. A teacher from Celestia's School for Gifted Unicorns, a military officer with sufficient rank, or a member of a noble family all work. Now, if that is all, I can get back to--" She eyed Snips suspiciously. "You aren't thinking of entering the competition, are you?"


"Oh, good." She breathed a sigh of relief and took a step toward the books she had been reading.

"Snails is."

"Snails is what?"

"Going to enter," Snips said, matter of factly.

"And we was thinking you could teach me," Snails added.

"And you know ponies who could do that sponsoring thing, right? Like your brother?" Snips said.

Twilight's rump hit the ground like a sack of flour, and she looked them over. "Look, boys. I'm really happy to see that you want to learn some magic, and normally, I'd be more than happy to tutor you. I've been wanting to try my hoof at teaching for a while now, part of why I agreed to tutor that colt. But right now, I'm in the middle of a bit of a crisis, and I've got no free time." She gestured at all the piles of books.

"Told you we shoulda asked Trixie," Snails whispered to Snips.

"Anything we can help with? You know, so you'll have time?" Snips asked, not ready to give up so quickly.

"I don't know. Do you happen to have two thousand bits?" Twilight asked, somewhat snarkily. She sighed. "I'm sorry, boys. I shouldn't snap at you like that. I mean, it is not your fault. Well, actually, it sort of is, but not really. I don't blame you or anything, I mean." She paused, then continued. "Look, here's the deal. Several noble ponies from Canterlot had promised to donate some money for the library book fund. So I did what anyone would do: I ordered a few books right away. But when I sent Heart Throb away due to his behavior, the nobles suddenly cancelled their donations." She grabbed a pile of papers off a desk. "And so now I've got a bunch of bills and no bits in the budget to pay for them.

"I've been looking for solutions I can use, but I can't find anything that's legal and will get me the necessary bits in time. I think I'm going to have to go plead with the mayor for bits, and everyone will think I'm incompetent at keeping my books." She briefly giggled. "Librarian. Keeping books." She giggled again, as if what she said was funny for some reason, and in a way that only slightly sounded insane, before her head drooped.

"Oh, we can help with that!" Snips said.

"We can?" Snails said.

"Oh, sure. What Miss Sparkle needs is a fundraiser, like the one at school for the new teeter-totter."

"You really think you can make that much money?" Twilight Sparkle asked, eyes pleading that the answer would be yes.

"Oh, sure," Snips said, quite enthusiastically.

"Yup. No problem," Snails said, nodding his head rapidly.

"Oh thankyouthankyouthankyou. I've been so worried about this all day," Twilight exclaimed, hugging both colts repeatedly. "If you can take care of it then I'll gladly help you, Snails."

"We'll get right on it. You just start planning what'll be needed to get Snails ready, okay?" Snips said.

"Sounds like an excellent idea. I'll start making a checklist right away." Twilight Sparkle looked around the library, with its mostly empty shelves and scattered piles of books. "Well, maybe after I shelve a few books first."

As her horn glowed, Snails quickly vacated the library, lest another book try to brain him, or worse yet, she tried to talk them into helping. Snips was just as fast to flee. As the door shut, Snails looked at his friend, who was looking up at him.

"We're so screwed," Snips said.

"Yeah, screwed," Snails agreed.

Sweetie Belle limped slightly as she walked down the street with her two best friends. It was not anything serious, just a bit of a bruise from the latest round of crusading. Another unsuccessful round at that. Her flank was still blank, as were those of her companions, well, other than the mud that coated them, anyway.

It occurred to her that it was a good thing they were not going to her sister's. Rarity would absolutely freak out if they took one step inside the boutique in this state. The thought made Sweetie giggle. Dirt was not that big of a deal to her, certainly much better than tree sap. With how good they were getting at removing tree sap, it was a bit of a miracle that none of them had wound up with a cutie mark in tree sap removal. She giggled again.

"What's so funny?" Apple Bloom asked, still feeling down from the latest failure.

"I was just thinking about how my sister would look if we went to visit her right now," Sweetie Belle said.

"She'd probably be like all"-- Scootaloo dramatically held her hoof to her forehead before looking upwards. She completed the impersonation by dropping to the ground in a faint. Barely missing a step, the filly was back on her feet with a flutter of wing flaps. "Not like Rainbow Dash. Dash isn't afraid of no dirt."

"My sister's not afraid of dirt," Sweetie Belle protested. "It is just" --she held her head up high, nose in the air, and proudly continued-- "'A lady does not wallow in mud like a common pig.'"

From the corner of her eye, Sweetie Belle could see Apple Bloom eyeing her. Before Sweetie Belle could tell her that she meant nothing by that, certainly not that Applejack was not a lady, the mud covered farm filly poked her and said, "Oink-oink!" The three friends became a single laughing pile of filly and mud, from which arose accusations of "You're a pig!" and "Nu-uh, you are!", and plenty of "Oink!"

It was a happier trio that continued down the street afterwards. The aches, both emotional and physical, of the latest failure were forgotten, replaced by happy banter and plenty of "oinking" at startled passersby.

Sweetie Belle stopped as she saw him, bringing the group to a halt. Today had been Snails's first day back at school since the fight and the first time she had seen him since she had dropped off her card at the hospital. She had contemplated saying something to him, but the thought of doing so had made her feel strange. This is what ponies meant when they said they had butterflies in their stomach, she had realized. Her butterflies did not last long though, as they were smashed by something smacking into the back of her head. Looking back had revealed the source, a source that seemed determined to drill holes in her head with an intense glare.

Normally, Diamond Tiara would not have been sitting behind her, but since the dance, Silver Spoon had been sitting in the back row, as if that would somehow make her invisible. If Sweetie Belle had felt sorry for Silver Spoon and maybe thought that Diamond Tiara was not all bad for sticking with her friend, those feelings had evaporated throughout the course of the day.

It seemed that whenever Sweetie Belle's gaze lingered on him, something would happen. A crumpled piece of paper would be thrown into her mane. A book would 'accidentally' fall off a desk. A note would be passed to her to pass on to someone else. Miss Cheerilee would ask Sweetie Belle a question. And every time, the source of the interruption would be those two desks in the back. Sweetie Belle was not entirely sure how they were responsible for Miss Cheerilee asking her questions, but by the end of the day, she was sure they were.

Even at recess or during lunch, if Sweetie Belle moved toward Snails, Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon were there first. She could look around and not see them, take a single step in his direction, and they were there. It was as if they had been taking lessons from Pinkie Pie. It had all been rather infuriating.

But now he was here, along with Snips, standing in front of a sign that read "Cart Wash" in big, sloppily-written letters. She glanced around. No Diamond Tiara in sight. Tentatively, she took a step towards the pair, and glanced around again. She breathed a sigh of relief. No sign still. Slowly, then faster, she walked towards them.

"Hey, girls!" Snips said.

"Need a cart washed?" Snails asked.

"Why'd you ask that? They don't have a cart."

"Maybe they parked it nearby?"

"Oh yeah," Snips said, turning his attention back to the crusaders. "Got a cart that needs washing? We're trying to raise money for the library."

"What's the library need more bits for?" Apple Bloom asked.

"Books," both colts replied together. Either they had been asked the question quite a lot today or they had been practicing. Probably both, knowing the two of them. Still, it was noble of Snails to help raise money for the library. And for Snips as well, of course.

Sweetie Belle started to get an inkling of an idea. To her left, Sweetie Belle could see Scootaloo shaking her head, trying to tell her not to do what she was about to do. But she did it anyway. "Can we help?"

"I don't know. Can they?" said the voice Sweetie Belle least wanted to hear. Looking to her right, there stood Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon. Every. Single. Applebucking. Time, she silently swore through clenched teeth. Applebucking was not really a swear word, she knew, but it was the thought that counts, and right now, anything she had said would have counted as swearing.

"Well, they could probably make carts dirty, from the looks of it," Silver Spoon replied.

"Could probably make more bits washing the Tree Sap Trio than carts," Diamond Tiara put in. Silver Spoon nudged her, and she gasped. "Sorry, sweetie."

Sweetie Belle almost started to accept the apology out of habit, only to clamp her mouth shut and grind her teeth as Diamond Tiara gave Snails a quick hug. Snails was cute when he blushed.

"Well, probably true," Snips said. "We haven't had much luck with this idea."

"Only six bits so far," Snails said, before looking down and away in shame. "We spent that on ice cream," he admitted.

"You probably just need a different idea," Apple Bloom said. "If at first you don't succeed..."

"Fail, fail again?" Silver Spoon asked.

"That your dating plan?" Scootaloo asked, scoring a point on Silver Spoon.

"Certainly not mine," Diamond Tiara fired back, scooting close to Snails.

"Yeah, we know the truth about that plan, don't we?" Apple Bloom replied.

"It'll be the first plan you've seen that succeeds," Diamond Tiara said.

"Yeah, well, maybe we'll come up with a plan to help raise funds for the library," Apple Bloom said, jabbing Diamond Tiara with a mud covered hoof.

"Get your filthy farm pony hooves off me!" Diamond Tiara said, smacking Apple Bloom's hoof away.

"Her hooves are not filthy!" Sweetie Belle screeched in defense of her friend. Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon gave her a look that spoke volumes, if somepony were to write volumes consisting of only one sentence, repeated over and over.

"Gah! You know what I mean!" Sweetie Belle said.

"Well, in any case, there's no reason for you to help my boyfriend, because we're going to do that," Diamond Tiara said. Looking at Spoon, she continued, "What do you think, Sil? A fancy dinner for all the finest ponies in town? The ones with class."

"Nopony but the best." Silver Spoon looked at the crusaders. "And the cleanest. We'll make all the bits the library could need."

"They won't need it by then, because... " Sweetie Belle started.

"Because we'll have made more than enough in one week!" Scootaloo defiantly finished.

"We'll have the biggest hootenanny hoedown at the barn and invite the whole town!" Apple Bloom stated.

"Yeah, like anyone would want to go to your... thing when they could go to our event."

"They will too!" Apple Bloom replied.

"Yeah!" Sweetie Belle stated, stepping toward Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon. Her friends joined her on either side as the two sets of fillies glared, glowered, and even grimaced at each other.

"Stop it!" Snails yelled.

As all five filly heads swung toward Snails, Snips spoke up. "We're glad you wanna help, but the goal is to help the library, not show each other up."

"Uh-huh," Snails said, nodding his head. "We wanna help Miss Sparkle."

"But of course, sweetie," Diamond Tiara said, and Sweetie Belle could tell she had chosen that endearment just to annoy her, "so do we." She looked over at Silver Spoon. "Let them throw their little dance. We'll do the rest."

"Won't be needed, cuz we'll have made plenty," Apple Bloom said, glaring at Diamond Tiara.

Snails stepped between them, pushing the pair apart. "If you wanna help, help. No fighting," he said.

"He's right, girls," Sweetie Belle said. She smiled at Snails, who smiled back. "How many bits are you hoping to raise anyway?"

"Two thousand," Snails said sheepishly, causing the jaws of all five fillies to drop to the ground.

"Oh boy. We got some planning to do, girls" Sweetie Belle said, and even Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon nodded in agreement. She look at her friends and herself. "After we clean up."

Three clean fillies, or rather three fillies as clean as rambunctious foals could be, were hard at work in their clubhouse. It was a major brainstorming session, one that required team thinking. Apple Bloom and Scootaloo shared on the idea spot, while Sweetie Belle did her best not to fall from the hole in the ceiling where she sat, holding the lamp.

The Library Benefit Hootenanny Hoedown was a go. Apple Bloom's family had readily agreed to when they heard it was to benefit the library. It was the least they could do for all the times Twilight had helped them, Applejack had said, and Big Mac and Granny Smith had agreed. Big Mac had suggested they might want something more than just the dancing.

The session had been quite productive so far. From the initial apple fritters suggestion Big Mac had made, they had added a variety more: donated crafts, a raffle, a silent auction, and food. On top of that, they had several great ideas for promoting the event, from Sweetie's suggestion of flyers to Scootaloo's skywriting, which she insisted should be done by Rainbow Dash.

Sweetie Belle got the lamp ready as Scootaloo perked up. Unfortunately, Scootaloo returned to her thinking pose. Sweetie sighed. Apple Bloom suddenly sat upright though, holding a hoof up in the air, waiting for the lamp to be in place. It was a sure sign that she had a very good idea. Sweetie Belle cranked the lamp up to its second highest setting and lowered it into position.

"A dunk tank!" Apple Bloom proudly said.

"Good idea, Apple Bloom," Sweetie Belle said. "Add it to the list!"

"Do you suppose we could get Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon to volunteer for that?" Scootaloo asked. "'Cause if so, I need to practice my Cloudsdale Special." She mimed throwing a fastball.

"If they do, do you think we could get some ill-tempered sea bass?" Sweetie Belle asked.

"Sweetie!" both of her friends said, looking at her with surprise. She felt her cheeks warm in embarrassment, but then she shrugged. Everypony had their limits, and with what Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon had put her through today, was it any wonder she was reaching hers? Besides, it was not like she actually expected that they could get living ill-tempered sea bass. Although... it might not hurt to check with Sea Swirl, just in case. She giggled and shared the idea with her friends, and her friends joined in the laughter.

Afterwards, the crusaders deemed the brainstorming complete and moved on to getting other things ready, starting with the flyers.

"But, daddy!" Diamond Tiara whined.

"I said no. No means no," her father stated quite adamantly. Diamond Tiara pouted admirably, just in case no did not mean no, though she was quite certain that it did. "I'm sorry, princess. The cost of moving all the goods and shelving out of the store would simply be too much. Plus the need to store them somewhere safe, the potential for theft, and the loss of revenue. It would have a very big negative impact on the bottom line. And what do we say about the bottom line?" Rich asked his daughter.

"The bottom line is the top priority," Diamond Tiara dutifully recited.

"Very good." Filthy Rich smiled at his daughter. "But you know what might work? How about using Montague Hall in Canterlot? I know Laissez Faire was complaining about a cancellation. Something about a fiftieth wedding anniversary and a death, I believe. With the deposit and the ability to write it off as a charity event for taxes, I can probably get a good deal."

Diamond Tiara contemplated her dad's offer. To hold it in Canterlot might not be a bad idea. The truth was the only reason she had even asked him about holding the event at the Ponyville Rich's Barnyard Bargains was because the town lacked anything better suited. With pegasi to control the weather, it did not make much sense for a small town to build a large building just so that they could hold large events indoors.

The cost of the train ride to Canterlot might discourage some, but many ponies would probably jump at the chance to pretend they were sophisticated ponies. Especially if it was for a good cause. Showing up the blank flanks was definitely a good cause, even if most of the ponies going would be going for another reason. Montague Hall was a proper hall, with chandeliers and everything. Okay, it was not anything grand, but for her purposes, it was probably the perfect fit. She made up her mind.

"Okay, daddy!" She gave him a hug. "I love you." Without waiting for a response, she dashed off, slowing down long enough only to call out, "Off to tell Sil!" over her shoulder.

Once outside, under the night sky, her headlong rush slowed to a more dignified prance. A couple of times, when she was sure nopony was looking, she sprinted. The sprints only lasted as long as she was sure she would not be seen. Running like that down the street was for little fillies, barely out of diapers, not for dignified ponies like herself. Appearances mattered, after all.

That thought brought her to Snails and she stopped to ponder. It was not like there were better pickings around her age. Fillies were not her thing, and the colts all left things to be desired. Snips was too short. Truffle Shuffle wore an uncool hat. Rumble did not have an adorable goofy smile. Featherweight, that little job stealer, was not loyal. No, for each and every colt, there was a reason they were no better than Snails, and none of them had the added benefit of letting her needle those accursed walking natural disasters.

She shrugged as she decided that, in this one area, appearances did not matter. For now, she would continue to go out with Snails, to talk while he listened, and maybe even dance with him. That would remain the case at least as long as Sweetie Belle was still interested. After that, then she might have to reevaluate. Mind made up yet again, she started to walk.

Life had been simpler only a short while ago. She never used to question herself like this. She knew what she wanted and that was that. Ever since the dance, ever since that talk with Snips. And it was not just her. Silver Spoon was not quite herself either. It seemed things were only normal when they were teasing the blank flanks, and they wanted to be normal.

Diamond Tiara only made it a street further before a gathering of ponies by a bulletin posting board drew her attention. She normally did not care what other ponies did, unless it negatively impacted her, but they seemed excited about something. And since it would not do for her to be caught unaware of some social gathering, she shouldered her way through to see what they were looking at.

With a scowl, she tore down the paper that had their attention, shoving it inside her pack. A couple complained, but she told them there were no doubt other flyers posted elsewhere and they could go look at those. Leaving the grumbling ponies behind, she travelled the rest of the way to Silver Spoon's house.

"Did you get it?" Silver Spoon asked her, the moment she came into sight.

"No, my dad said we can't use the store," Diamond Tiara replied, doing her best to sound angry and disappointed. She could not maintain the facade for long however and quickly blurted out, "But he's going to get us Montague Hall. In Canterlot!"

Both fillies screeched happily, before doing a celebratory bump, bump, sugar lump, rump.

"How'd things go on your end?" Diamond Tiara asked.

Silver Spoon laid out some papers of pledges she had received so far from local business, as well as some new ideas she had thought of. She finished by declaring, "We'll absolutely knock the horseshoes off those blank flanks!"

"Speaking of..." Diamond Tiara reached into her pack, brought out the paper, and showed it to Silver Spoon. "Check this out, Sil. They have flyers out already."

Silver Spoon gave the paper a cursory glance. "Looks like they hoof drew the art."

"And so didn't get a cutie mark for it."

"For sure." Silver Spoon pointed a hoof at one corner. "Is that supposed to be a pony or a cat?"

"Either? Both?" Diamond Tiara giggled.

"Maybe it is supposed to be the barn where they are holding the barn dance."

Diamond Tiara squinted at the picture. It was possible, she supposed. Or maybe it was a cat square dancing. "Can you just imagine that? A bunch of ponies that need to be told how to dance, while the smartest one counts as high as they can between shouting instructions? What sort of losers go to that sort of thing?"

Silver Spoon started to laugh, then suddenly stopped. "Us." Her eyes sparkled as a sly smile spread across her face. "We're going."

"We are?" Diamond Tiara said. She thought about it for a bit. "Well, it would be amusing to make fun of dancers." She thought a little more. "And got to keep an eye on Sweetie to make sure she keeps her hooves off Snails. Plus it'll be fun to watch her pine for him."

"And I've got a plan," Silver Spoon said. "Do you, like, still have those pictures of Cheerilee?"

Diamond Tiara nodded. "I've been saving them for just the right thing."

Silver Spoon rubbed her hooves together. "I think I've come up with the perfect way to use them," she declared. "But we'll have to move fast. Not much time before this... shindig."

Diamond Tiara looked at Silver Spoon, taking in the gleam in her eyes and the mischievousness of her expression. How Diamond had missed that look. Whatever Silver Spoon had thought up, it was going to be good. Tears might even be shed, and it would not be theirs. Even more importantly, it looked like her BFF was back, really back. Not just for short periods while they teased some lesser pony, but full time. No more moping. No more hiding in the back of the class. And if Silver Spoon was back, there was hope for her.

Diamond Tiara plopped down on the bed, supporting her head with her forehooves. "Do tell."