• Published 18th Jan 2020
  • 1,200 Views, 447 Comments

16 - AlwaysDressesInStyle

Five years ago, sixteen mares founded a hotel in New Jersey called the Mareiott. These are their stories.

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Act I: Daisy Dreams

Neighagara Falls: eleven years, seven months, and fourteen days ago

Eyes closed, I lay there daydreaming in the tall grass, enjoying the peaceful solitude of a sunny summer day. Occasionally, I could hear the other fillies and colts playing hoofball or racing in the nearby fields, but I had no real interest in such physical pursuits. Which was just as well, since I wouldn’t be invited to play anyway. I’m an ‘egghead’, and apparently that means I have no skill at anything athletic. I wouldn’t know – they never let me try.

Really, the only thing on my agenda for the rest of the day was to go back inside and do some more reading, but Mom insisted on my going outside for a few hours every day. I can see why on days like this. I could just sit here in the warm grass forever, golden sunlight beating down on my hide. There was a cool breeze that carried the scent of my favorite flowers, daisies. Maybe I’ll pick a few and give them to Mom. She loves it when Dad brings her flowers.

Reality had finally ended my fantasies about handsome princes and epic adventures. I sighed and stretched my legs out, letting my blood circulate. I was stiff from sitting in the same position too long. Of course, there’s an easy way to solve that little dilemma. I rolled through the grass, scattering dandelion seeds to the wind, and no doubt getting some stuck in the hairs of my coat as well. I noticed I’d rolled over a few daisies, and I quickly made them into a midafternoon snack. Daisies are beautiful, not to mention delicious. No one ever tells me I’m beautiful. Well, except Mom and Dad, but they don’t count. Of course, no one ever says I’m delicious either, and I’d like to keep it that way. I looked around, but didn’t see any big scary monsters ready to turn me into a filly-sized snack. Phew.

I picked some of the daisies I hadn’t flattened when I rolled through them, and gathered them into a bouquet which I presented to Mom as soon as I returned to the house. “Mom! I’ve got something for you!”

I hoofed her the daisies I’d picked and she sniffed them. “They’re very pretty, sweetie.” She kissed my forehead and gasped. “You got your cutie mark!”

“I did?” I hadn’t even noticed. I turned to look at my flank as best I could, and sure enough, there was a daisy there. Huh. So this is what having a cutie mark feels like. It doesn’t really feel any different. Does this mean my special talent is bringing flowers to my mother? That’s a silly special talent. Maybe it’s a metaphor for something else. Time to do some research!

Neighagara Falls: eleven years, six months, and one day ago

Unfortunately, my research turned up nothing of any use. Maybe I got it because I really like daisies? I could spend time studying daisies, but they’ve already been extensively researched. There’s not much about them that isn’t already known, and I’m not sure what else I could contribute to the world’s existing knowledge on the subject. Besides, just because I like daisies doesn’t mean I want to completely dedicate my life to a flower. That’s what a lot of ponies do, of course, but it’s just not me.

Once it was apparent the daisy mark wasn’t a metaphor for anything, I tried experimenting. Sure enough, my earth pony magic was in tune with daisies. I could make them grow anywhere I wanted. I had the same effect on other plants too, but it was strongest with daisies. Making things grow was what we earth ponies did best. I’d never really considered myself much of a gardener before, but it was a talent that ran deep in my family. My name is Daisy Dreams, and I was daydreaming in a field of daisies when I got my cutie mark. I guess it makes sense.

Being the first in your class to get your cutie mark brought out a lot of different emotions in ponies. Especially when you acquired it over the summer vacation, and the first time anypony saw it was the first day back from break. They all offered congratulations at first, but I could hear them whispering snide comments behind my back.

I’d been top of my class since day one. That rankled some of the other ponies. I was just an earth pony from a farming family. My family wasn’t rich and I was never going to be a wizard. Now though, with a mark of just a simple flower upon my flank, I started hearing accusations that I was cheating. That would have been bad enough had I overheard one of my fellow students say it about me, but it was my teacher I overheard spreading those horrible lies. I cried myself to sleep that night. What does it matter what my mark is? Am I not allowed to like learning and have an interest in daisies too?

Neighagara Falls: eleven years, five months, and twenty days ago

I followed my teacher to an empty classroom. “There have been concerns you may be cheating, Daisy. I know you understand how serious these allegations are.” I nodded. “So you’re going to take your test in here, away from your fellow students, and we’ll see if there’s any truth to those rumors.”

“Okay.” I wanted to say more than that. I wanted to cry because I was being singled out and treated as guilty until proven innocent. But I didn’t. I squared my jaw and did the only thing I could do to prove my innocence: I sat down at a desk and took the test while she watched me like a hawk.

I hoofed it back to her about half an hour later. Life Lessons just stared at the paper in shock. “So did I pass?”

She nodded. “You not only passed, you got every question right. Even the harder ones I slipped in. I’m sorry, but I had to check. You got a different test than anypony else. I didn’t make up an answer sheet for this one, so there’s no way you could’ve seen the answers in advance. I’m really, truly sorry we thought you were cheating, Daisy.”

“It’s my mark, isn’t it?”

Life Lessons sighed. “It’s a farming mark. It’s abnormal for ponies as smart as you not to get a mark with some sort of educational theme. I would’ve expected you to get a book, or test tubes, or something. Like your friend Book Smart. He’ll probably get a book on his flank one of these days. Cutie marks are what we use to help place fillies and colts to maximize their success in life. But it’s not always an accurate system, as you had the misfortune to discover firsthoof.”

Now I allowed myself a smug grin. “My name’s Daisy Dreams. I have big dreams, and I usually have them lying in a field of daisies.” I’d finally figured out what my mark meant, and I was going to own it.

She nodded. “Stay after class today and I’ll buy you ice cream. It’s not much, but I want to apologize for doubting you.”

An A+, an apology from my teacher, and ice cream. I’ve had worse days.

Neighagara Falls: eight years, nine months, and three days ago

I decided to try something different for my weekly game night with my friends. I’d picked up a copy of Ogres & Oubliettes, and my Dad had agreed to be our Game Master, creating the scenarios we’d face. It required some creativity on all our parts, and I figured it would be a nice change of pace from our usual games of chance.

I took the opportunity to get a head start working on my character, anticipating I’d have to help my friends with theirs. In the end I came up with an earth pony barbarian named Collateral Damage. Lots of smashing – should be fun!

Book Smart arrived early, and I helped him design a unicorn wizard he named Deathbringer. I rolled my eyes at that. “Yes, we’d like to enroll our son in magic kindergarten. His name? Our little darling is named Deathbringer. Um, why are the Royal Guards here?”

He stuck his tongue out at me. “It’s his adventuring name. You want a name that strikes fear into your enemies. And also, something that isn’t your real name so they can’t track you later to enact their revenge.”

“So what’s his real name?”

“Bland Genericname.”

“Be serious, Book Smart.”

“Does it really matter?”

“Yes. This is your character. He should have a past, he should have motivations for his actions. Think about it and be creative.”

Our other friends arrived, and I helped them with their character creations as well. Pocket Protector chose a griffin ranger he named Gerald after a famous griffin king from antiquity, while Building Block envisioned a pegasus bard named First Strike.

Our adventuring party was ready, and as tradition dictated, they met at an inn. After introducing our characters, we began playing. Since we were still at the lowest level, Dad sent us after a minor nuisance so we could gain experience and hit points.

“Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to stop a wyvern from terrorizing the village of Tailadega.”

“What’s a wyvern?”

“It’s a distant, non-sapient relative of the dragons. It’s bipedal, roughly ten feet tall, heavily armored, and carnivorous. Some even have a poisonous tail barb.”

“What happens if we choose not to accept the mission?”

Dad shuffled his papers around before answering Pocket Protector. “You move to Trotsdale, Mareizona, change your name to Al, and open a dry cleaning business.”

“That does sound safer than going after a wyvern. We choose that.”

“No we don’t. Your character can, if you want, but mine’s going after the wyvern!”

“Yeah! You’ve got a griffin character while the rest of us are playing as ponies. You could probably take the wyvern out all by yourself.”

Pocket grumbled, but relented. Going on adventures was the whole point of the game, after all.

The game opened slowly, with our party tracking the wyvern through the countryside, and having a minor skirmish with a band of thieves. Eventually we cornered the beast in its cave.

“I try diplomacy.”

Dad looked at Building Block, incredulous. “An interesting tactic from the party’s bard. Why do you think you can rationalize with a monster, and how do you do it?”

“Because it wouldn’t be right to just attack it without trying to find out why it’s terrorizing the countryside. And uh, I talk to it?”

“Very well, what do you say?”

“Mr. Wyvern, are you angry about something? Maybe you want to talk about it?”



“That’s a three. The wyvern roars and lunges for you. Roll to dodge.”


“The wyvern scrapes you with a claw as you roll free of its barbed tail. You fly back to the rest of the party, defeated. Collateral, your turn.”

“I pick up a boulder and throw it at the wyvern.” I rolled. “Twelve.”

“Your boulder strikes the wyvern in its left leg, hampering its mobility slightly. The wyvern loses one point to both speed and dexterity for the remainder of the conflict. Deathbringer, you’re up.”

“I was thinking a two-pronged attack, if our bard’s up to it?”

“What did you have in mind, Book?”

“I attack the wyvern head on with a bolt of arcane energy, while you grab a cloud and hit it with lightning.”

“I’m okay with this if the GM is.”

“I’ll allow it, but don’t forget Gerald’s turn is in between the two of you. So you go to get the cloud while Deathbringer strikes.”

Building Block nodded. “First Strike goes to get a cloud.”

“Very good. Deathbringer, roll to see how successful your frontal assault was.”


“A solid hit, that knocks the wyvern off its feet. If Gerald and First Strike act quickly, they can take it out while its down for the count. Gerald, what are you doing? First Strike, roll, but don’t announce.”

“Gerald lunges, attacking with a spear.”


“Ouch. That’s not going to end well.” He’d rolled a one.

“Definitely not,” agreed Dad. “What did First Strike roll?”


“With the benefit of hindsight, Gerald indeed would have been better off opening a dry cleaning business.” Dad rolled a die to determine the outcome. “Gerald misjudges the distance and is felled by First Strike’s lightning attack. Beware friendly fire.”

“You killed me!”

“It’s not my fault you got in the way of my lightning!”

Dad interrupted their banter. “And because Gerald took the lightning strike, that means the wyvern didn’t. You’re down a party member and your bard’s attack failed. What do you do next? It’s your turn, Collateral.”

“The wyvern’s in the cave, but the rest of the party isn’t, right?”

Dad nodded. “That’s correct.”

“Collateral Damage bucks the side of the mountain, trying to collapse the cave.”

“Living up to your character’s name, I see. Roll.”


“You successfully collapse part of the cave, trapping the wyvern but not killing it.”

“Oh sure, the wyvern’s alive but the ranger isn’t.” Pocket Protector huffed.

“You can create a new character when we’re done. The party will need a new recruit to replace Gerald. Deathbringer, it falls to you to finish off our wyvern.”

I hated to interrupt, but curiosity got the better of me. “Let me get this straight: the wyvern is both trapped and injured. What happens if Book Smart does nothing?”

“The wyvern will die when it either runs out of air, or starves to death. Probably the former.”

“So this would be a mercy kill.”

“At this point, yes.”

“Can we save it? Like, could Deathbringer grab it in his aura and forcibly relocate the wyvern to the Dragonlands?”

Dad paused. “That’s a thing you could do, though you wouldn’t level up from this encounter.”

“I think it’s worth it. What about you, Book?” I smiled my most disarming smile at him.

“I think I named my character ‘Deathbringer’ for a reason. Deathbringer vaporizes everything in the cave.”



“You vaporized the rocks, freeing the wyvern. First Strike?”

“I use the lightning strike again. This time without any griffins jumping in front of it.” She rolled a nine, while Pocket stuck his tongue out at her.

“The lightning strikes the wyvern, and it coughs smoke. But it’s still standing. Back around to Collateral Damage.”

“Collateral throws a small rock at its head, trying to knock it unconscious.”

“The barbarian is going for mercy? You and Book may want to switch characters before the next game. Roll.”


“Your rock hits it, and slows it down. It’s wobbly, but not unconscious. Deathbringer?”

“I stun him with a sleep spell.” He rolled. “Eleven.”

“The wyvern falls to the ground, thrashing around. It’s not asleep, but it isn’t able to get up, either. First Strike?”

“I sing a lullaby.”

“Don’t even bother rolling, you’re a bard. It works.”

“I carry the wyvern to the Dragonlands on my back.”

“I restrain the wyvern with my magic.”

“I keep singing.”

“Congratulations, you successfully removed the wyvern from the area and returned it to the Dragonlands. And that wraps up this session. So what did you kids think of O & O?”

I thought about it for a second. “I liked it. It requires all of us to work together to win, and I like that better than playing a game where one of us wins and the rest lose.”

“Easy for you to say – your character didn’t die.”

“I thought it was interesting,” Book Smart added. “I think I’d like to create a new character before we play again. One with more backstory and less bloodlust. Daisy’s got the right idea. Friendship and tolerance is the pony way.”

Building Block grabbed her mug of root beer and lifted it in the air. “I’ll drink to that!”

Neighagara Falls: four years, three months, and six days ago

My friends and I had come to really love O & O. Even Pocket Protector warmed up to it once he created his second character, a dragon barbarian he named Club. We had an opening for a barbarian since I rarely played as Collateral Damage, instead opting to play as an Abyssinian healer. It didn’t take long at all to discover our tactics as a group were far more successful when we used diplomacy.

Granted, there were times when you just wanted to pound the ever-loving stuffing out of something, and it was on days like that when Collateral Damage and Deathbringer came out of retirement. But even then, we’d opt to show our pummeled opponent mercy. Needless to say we didn’t level up with any frequency. But there was something satisfying about using low level characters to defeat some of the game’s bigger villains with nothing but words.

Pocket Protector liked to play brawler characters. In real life, he was meek and avoided conflict. And when we first started playing, he’d shown that same desire. It had become a running gag to offer his character the chance to refuse the mission and open a dry cleaning business at the start of every new session. But oddly enough, he started showing more confidence in game and that led to him being more confident in real life too. So much so he even asked Building Block out. She’d said ‘yes’ and they’d been dating ever since.

Building Block, on the other hoof, used our game night as a stress reliever. It didn’t matter to her if we were smashing opponents and breaking things, or befriending them. Our fantasy was a stark contrast to her reality: ever more difficult mathematics courses as she prepared for her eventual career as an engineer. She’d long since completed all the math courses offered by our school, and had been taking college level courses to better prepare herself.

For me, it was a creative outlet. After a few months, Dad had turned the GM role over to me and I’d been leading the way ever since. It was rare that I got to play, but I was okay with that. My fun was coming up with responses to the zany antics of the rest of the gang. Not that they ever made that easy for me with the crazy plans they’d come up with. Like the time they needed to break into a house and steal some blueprints to prevent a mad scientist from constructing a doomsday weapon. That encounter ended with the entire neighborhood as a smoking crater. While other times they’d harass random innocent non-player characters while the villain strolled by completely unopposed. I got really good at thinking on my hooves as a result.

Our latest campaign was a recreation of the Terrible Trio’s attack on Canterlot. Their characters had leveled up significantly from our first campaign, and I felt they were ready for such a challenge – and they’d indeed proven they were. Building Block had somehow managed to keep First Strike alive over the years, and the bard was now a powerhouse. With the villains separated from their magical artifact, it was up to her to finish them off. “Deathbringer has successfully stolen Grogar’s Bell from Cozy Glow, and has syphoned their powers away from them. Tirek’s reverted to his withered, ancient form. Chrysalis has reverted back to being a regular changeling queen, and Cozy Glow’s lost her horn and is now just a very out-of-place pegasus filly. First Strike, you’re up. Finish them.”


I should be used to curveballs by now. I really, really should be. “Pardon?”

“First Strike uses diplomacy.”

“Against a creature that eats magic, a master of deception, and a habitual manipulator?”

Building nodded. “They’re at our mercy, let’s show them some.”


“Because what makes us better than them if we’re willing to do to them what they were willing to do to us?”

“The fact that we didn’t do it to them in the first place?”

“What they did to us is irrelevant. ‘An eye for an eye’ is wrong, and you know it, Daisy.”

“The princesses didn’t give them a chance.”

Building shrugged. “We’re not the princesses, are we? Maybe the villains don’t deserve mercy. Maybe we’ll have to seal them in stone. We won’t know ‘til we try. But I’m not attacking them until I at least offer them a chance to surrender.”

“All righty then, roll.”


“You sing a song about friendship and the others join in one by one. First Cozy Glow, then Tirek, and finally Chrysalis. While your back is turned to announce your success to the rest of the party, Cozy Glow pulls a knife, Chrysalis bares her fangs, and Tirek reaches an arm out to you as if to syphon off your magic. Roll again.”

She did. “Sixteen.”

How does she always manage to roll so highly when using diplomacy? “Cozy makes a show of discarding the knife, and several others, Chrysalis struggles with her facial muscles before finally getting them into a smile, and Tirek uses his outstretched hand to pull you, Cozy, and Chrysalis into a hug.”

“Like Book Smart said all those years ago, ‘Friendship and tolerance is the pony way.’ Which, if I remember correctly, was really your idea in the first place, Daisy.”

“But this was the ultimate evil. There’s no bigger bad to throw at you.”

Building Block shrugged. “You’ll just have to get creative for our next session and make one.”

I looked around the table to the others. Everypony seemed satisfied with the outcome. I had to admit, I liked it too. Which prompted a question I didn’t voice. Why didn’t the princesses show mercy when they had a chance to? A shiver rolled down my spine and I tried to forget that I’d ever thought such a blasphemy.

Neighagara Falls: two years, three months, and twenty-three days ago

They say you should always be careful about what you wish for. Back when I was a filly, I’d wished for other ponies to think I was beautiful. They do now. Oh gosh, all the colts who wouldn’t give me the time of day back then because I wasn’t good at sports want to woo me now. But they still don’t like that I’m the smartest pony in school. They want me to be a cheerleader. Ugh! Just what I want to do all day, stand on the sidelines and shake my hindquarters. Not happening.

The colt I genuinely liked, the only one who’d been my friend for so many years, was nerdy like me. Unfortunately, ever since I hit puberty, he’d kept his distance because all the jocks kept vying for my attention. Book Smart had always been shy and suffered from low self-esteem, and he’d never thought he was good enough for me.

So I took matters into my own hooves and slipped him a note in our Equestrian class asking him to go to the prom with me. His eyes flew open in shock and all he could do was nod. If he didn’t think he was good enough for me, then I’d just have to prove to him that he was.

Mom made me a beautiful dress for the evening. I don't come from an affluent family, and our family had always been generous when we did have extra bits. She donated a lot to those less fortunate than us, and I’d always admired that about her. We may not have much, but at least we have each other. And happiness. And that happiness is worth more than all the bits in the world. So my dress wasn’t fancy and it wasn’t from a designer label like Rarity’s Boutique, but I didn’t care and neither did my date. Judging from his loose-fitting tux, it had once been his dad’s and had been hastily sized down for him. I just giggled and kissed his cheek. “You look handsome tonight. Of course, you look handsome every night.”

Suffice it to say First String wasn’t particularly happy to see me with Book Smart at the prom. Star athlete of the hoofball team, basketball team, and hockey team, he was also the tallest stallion in school, and he had no problems standing out in the crowd. He also had no problems making that crowd part for him when he wanted it to. I sighed as I watched the rest of our classmates make an opening for him.

“Well, well, well. What do we have here? It looks like the prettiest mare in school is dancing with the wimpiest colt. Get lost, twerp.”

Book Smart flinched. The flight part of the ‘fight-or-flight’ response was trying to kick in, but he stood his ground. I’d never been more proud of him, nor more worried for his safety. “No.”

“No? That’s a word ponies don’t say to me.” He reared, then slammed his front hooves back down on the hard wooden floorboards of the gymnasium. Book Smart flattened to the floor and covered his eyes with his hooves. Not the most valiant of poses, but at least he didn’t run away. “I’m just gonna take what’s mine now.”

“I don’t think so. I don’t belong to you, or Book, or to anypony else but myself.”

“You don’t get it. I’m the best thing to ever come out of this school. I’m gonna be a pro hoofball player. I’m going places, and you’re coming with me.”

“No First String, you’re the one who doesn’t get it. I like Book Smart because he cared about me when nopony else did. Do you think just because puberty was overly kind to me I could forget about all the years you ignored me or mocked me? You’re shallow, and I have no time to waste on you. It’s ponies like you that make him think he doesn’t stand a chance with somepony like me. Not everypony bases their dating decisions on looks. I don’t. You’re eye candy, absolutely. Which means you’d just rot my heart like candy rots teeth.”

“Sick burn.” Book had returned to his hooves. It was the first time I’d ever heard anypony speak to First String like that, and I thought for sure the stronger stallion was going to hit him. First String looked to him, then looked back to me.

“Your loss. Watch this.” He trotted up to the band and shoved their lead singer out of the way. “I just wanted to let all you lucky mares out there know I’m single. Who wants to dance with next year’s top draft pick?” Half the mares present rushed over to him, many of them leaving their own dates behind. “Don’t crowd, there’s more than enough of me to go around, ladies.”

I kissed Book Smart on the cheek again. “Don’t ever act like that.”

Book Smart returned the kiss. “As long as you don’t act like all of them.” He pushed his glasses up his snout. “And he’s wrong. He’s not the best thing to ever come out of this school. You are. You’re going places, and he’s not. Maybe the linebackers of the National Hoofball League can knock the stupid out of him.”

“I wouldn’t bet on it.” I laughed. “Come on, let’s dance!”

Neighagara Falls: two years, one month, and twenty-six days ago

I looked down at the letter I held in my hoof. I’d read the words several times over, but they hadn’t really sunk in just yet.

My looks had drawn the attention of more than just the local stallions. Neighagara Falls was a popular vacation spot, especially for couples. It was also frequently photographed, and more than one photographer had taken notice of me and tried to convince me to join them for a photoshoot. A few had even tried enticing me with modeling contracts.

I’d declined all of them and had every intention of continuing to do so. I wouldn’t have even given this most recent one a second glance if not for the fact it offered a full scholarship to any four-year school of my choice in exchange for two years of service. I’d had a few partial scholarships offered to me based on my scholastic merits, but none was to a school actually worth attending. Any school. That opened up a wide array of choices. I already attract too much attention in Equestria. I’ll attract even more if I model for the next two years, but now that we’ve discovered there’s another world out there… They have to have institutions of higher learning. Maybe by then we’ll be allowed to travel there.

It was the hardest decision I’d ever made, and I had to break the news to Book Smart.

“So you’re leaving?”

“Not forever. You’re off to college soon yourself.” He’d gotten a partial scholarship to a school in his field of interest, library science. “We’ve each got to do what’s right for us. Both of us have been gifted an opportunity that’s too good to pass up.” I kissed him. As first kisses go, it could’ve been better. I had no idea what I was doing, and neither did he. “What’s important is that we’ll always love one another, no matter how far apart we are.”

“I’ll write whenever I can.”

“Me too.” Our second kiss was a bit better. I traced a hoof along his barrel. “I got us something.” I reached into my saddlebags and pulled out a pair of heart-shaped lockets and a pair of scissors. He nodded and I cut a lock of his hair off his tail and placed it in one of the lockets. Then I put that locket around my neck. “Your turn.” I offered my tail to him.

“If you’re going to be a model, don’t you need all this hair?”

“They’re not going to miss an inch. Snip, my love.” He did, and soon he was wearing the matching locket. We kissed one last time. It was going to be an awfully long time before we saw one another again, so we made it last as long as we could. With my uncertain modeling schedule, I was unsure if I’d ever have downtime to visit home. Still, Neighagara Falls had a reputation for lovers, so it was very possible I might find myself on photoshoots here from time to time. Probably posing next to pompous eye candy like First String. Ugh. Give me substance every time. A stallion who can make me laugh or make me think is a better pick than one who just looks good standing next to me. Likewise, anypony who loves me for who I am, as opposed to what I look like, is the one for me.

Maris, Prance: one year, six months, and twelve days ago

Walk down the runway. Turn. Sashay hips. Walk back the way I came. Repeat in a different outfit. Modeling was neither difficult nor fulfilling work. From what I’d heard from my coworkers, the difficult part was surviving all the backstabbing from overambitious competition. They all knew I was only in for two reluctant years and then hightailing it to get my degree, so they left me alone for the most part. Except when photographers wanted to give me a more prominent spot than them. That was when they were catty.

My contract saw to it that my expenses were paid while I was working in exchange for a deferred tuition reimbursement. And since the majority of the outfits I modeled were custom tailored to fit me, I got to keep some of those, too. That would’ve meant more to me if I actually had use for such an extensive wardrobe. My travel arrangements were handled by the agency, and my meals and makeup were picked up by whoever the client was at any given time. Unlike the others, I didn’t receive a paycheck for any of the photoshoots I was sent on. On the downside, it meant I couldn’t afford to travel home during my downtime, so I sent a lot of letters home to Book Smart and my family. The plus side was that it freed up more of my time to study for my eventual trip to Earth. Learning multiple foreign languages without the benefit of somepony to practice conversing with may not be impossible, but it was certainly challenging.

I really didn’t fit in with the other models. Fleur-de-Lis was the top model of this generation, and she was the only one I could’ve named off the top of my head before I entered the field of work myself. Now that I’ve worked with her, I can say without a shadow of a doubt that she’s the prettiest mare I’ve ever laid eyes on. She’s built like an alicorn, and I have no problem seeing what other ponies see in her. I’m not built like that, and I’m not really sure what sets me apart from others. Supposedly I have a nice flank. I guess that’s a compliment? I’d rather get compliments on my accomplishments as opposed to my hindquarters. I don’t think with my butt. Ha! Considering some of the comments I’ve heard my coworkers make, I guess that’s another way I differ from the rest of them.

Aside from Fleur, the rest of the ponies I work with liked to party constantly. As soon as a photoshoot was over, they immediately headed to the nearest club. Which left the two of us plenty of time to talk.

Overcome with curiosity, one day I blurted out, “How do you do it?”

“Do what?”

“Keep your marriage to Fancy Pants strong no matter how much distance is between you.”

“It helps that Fancy Pants also travels frequently. We try to coordinate things to be as close to one another’s schedules as possible.”

“I miss my coltfriend.”

“Understandable. That’s why the rest of them don’t date anypony. They’re single, and they live it up.”

I nodded. “Even if I was single, that’s not the lifestyle I’d ever choose for myself. I’ve always been a nerd. And then this happened.” I motioned towards my body. “It surprised me just as much as it surprised everypony else. I’ll always think of myself as the nerdy dork with her snout buried in a book. The one the other kids grumbled about because she broke the curve on every single test.”

“Just because you’re pretty doesn’t mean you can’t be smart. And just because you’re smart doesn’t mean you can’t be pretty. Your beauty doesn’t diminish your intelligence any more than your intelligence diminishes your beauty. I know that modeling isn’t your thing, but take advantage of it. Right now you have somepony to do your makeup and your hooves. Watch how they do it and take note of what products they use. When you go back to your normal life, nothing says you can’t look as gorgeous as you do now. Your coltfriend will appreciate it.”

She made sense. I nodded and thanked her for the advice. She was right, just because I didn’t see myself as pretty didn’t mean I couldn’t change that mental image.

Ponyville: yesterday

Book Smart had journeyed with me to the portal to see me off. He was halfway through college, so regrettably he couldn’t join me for the voyage. He’d wanted to, but I stopped him. I was off to get my education, and he needed to finish his too. He’d be done before me, and then he could come join me… if the rules allowed it by that point. Otherwise it was going to be another five years before we saw one another.

I’d taken Fleur’s advice. I was still styling my mane, and using all the beauty products I’d been using during my modeling career. Book Smart kissed my cheek and whispered into my ear. “You’re beautiful. Stop hiding it behind all that makeup.”

He’s not the most romantic of ponies, and yet, every once in a while, he’ll say something that makes my heart go pitter-patter. I nuzzled him. “You’re sweet.”

“You’re sweeter.” He hugged me. I leaned into it, staring into his deep blue eyes.

I hated to break the embrace, but it was time to go. “I need to get going.”

“I know. I love you.”

I kissed him. “I love you more!”

“No way!”

“Yes way!” I winked and blew him a kiss as I trotted through the door to go through security.

Pine Barrens, New Jersey: today

The ride to the consulate was interesting. There was nothing like a bus in Equestria, and it was equal parts fascinating and nauseating. Human technology is absolutely incredible. Despite having no physical magic of their own, they’ve created technical masterpieces ponies haven’t dreamed up. That said, the seats weren’t particularly comfortable. I could tell at a glance they were the stock seats designed for humans with a quick retrofit for ponies. Hopefully they’ll upgrade to actual equine seats as ponies become more common on Earth.

I was browsing some college pamphlets while we were riding, trying to decide what schools I was going to apply to. The problem was every time the bus crested a hill or took a sharp corner I could feel my stomach churning. One of the other ponies on the bus said the natives called it “carsickness” and it was only exasperated by my reading during the ride.

I was so lost in thought I didn’t even see the blue unicorn until she plopped down on the seat next to me. “Hello?”

“Hi! I’m Snowcatcher, and I was wondering what your plans are now that you’re here on Earth?”

I hoofed a few of the brochures over to her. “My name’s Daisy Dreams and I’m trying to decide on a school to attend.” Yale, Harvard, Rutgers, Princeton, and Mount Holyoke were my top choices. I’d be the first pony attending school on Earth, and a number of institutions of higher learning had been happy to accept my applications. I’m not sure if it was my grades, or the novelty of being the first school on Earth to host a pony, but I didn’t receive a single rejection. Three of these were Ivy League schools, which apparently had some prestige attached to them. That meant they were probably pretentious, and with my earth pony roots in a small town, that didn’t sit well with me. The names would mean nothing back in Equestria, just as Princess Celestia’s School For Gifted Unicorns had no prestige here on Earth. As a simple mare with simple tastes, I was leaning towards Rutgers or Mount Holyoke, the latter of which being an all-girls school appealed to me.

“Where are you going to stay in the meantime?”

“I figured I’d use the stipend and get a hotel for a few months until classes start.” I didn’t mention I was already used to living in hotels. Thankfully, she didn’t seem to recognize me. My modeling career was in the past, and I didn’t even want to think about it ever again. That shouldn’t be a problem on Earth, and if I decide to return to Equestria five years hence, hopefully that would be enough time for any ad campaigns featuring me to have run their course.

As soon as I said that I could see the gears in her mind turning. “If you’re going to spend your whole stipend on a hotel anyway, why not pool your money with some of us and we can open our own Equestrian style hotel. You’d have someplace to live between semesters. Or you could even commute.”

That sounded appealing. “Who else is going in on this besides you and me?”

“I don’t know yet. Let me go ask some ponies.” She smiled. “I need to crunch some numbers when we get to the consulate. I need some data on regulations and land prices. But I know we’ll need more than just the two of us. Well, three. I know Dewdrop’s in on whatever I decide. We’ll probably need at least a dozen of us, maybe more. I’ll start asking now.”

“Good luck!” I dismissed it as a pipe dream on her part. No way was she going to convince that many ponies to go in together with our stipends. I could tell just by looking around that the stipend was all the money in the world some of these ponies had to their names. But if she could get it to work, that would be great. It would be nice to have a ‘home’ so to speak, and it would also be nice to be around other ponies considering I’d be exclusively around humans at school.

I went back to looking at the brochures. Rutgers or Mount Holyoke? We’d be passing right by New Brunswick on the way to New York, so at least I’d get to see the main Rutgers campus from the bus. With the exception of Princeton, it would be the closest of all of these choices to the portal. And since either I’d be returning to Equestria someday, or Book Smart would be moving here, maybe it wouldn’t hurt to stay close. As an added bonus Rutgers was about halfway between the portal and the consulate. I might need the consul’s services again in the future. The more I thought about it, the more Rutgers was looking like the best choice. I looked through their brochure again.

Sadly, I can only go to one school. They all had such good programs, and I wanted to go to all of them. But there can be only one, and I’d made my decision. I kept watching the exits on the New Jersey Turnpike as we continued closer to their campus. I pressed my snout against the window as we passed, but the view was blocked by a passing tractor trailer.

Snowcatcher eventually sat down beside me again. “I’m up to eight. That’s not enough, but it’s not a bad start. You still in?”

I nodded. If she couldn’t find enough other ponies to go in on it, I could still fall back on my original plan. It really didn’t make that much of a difference to me, though it would be really convenient if she could pull it off.

“Did you make a decision?”

“I think so. Rutgers seems most in line with what I’m looking for. And we just passed it a few minutes ago.”

She took the brochure from me and looked at it longingly. “I'm not going to lie, I’m jealous. It looks like a great school. I wish I could go too.”

“You could always apply.”

She gave me a sad little half-smile. “I’ve got to focus on getting this hotel off the ground. I was nervous when it was just Dewey and myself that I was looking out for. Now though, there’s eight of us counting on me. And soon there will be more. You’ll just have to learn enough for both of us and teach me too. The degree isn’t the important part, it’s the knowledge that really matters.”

I smiled at her. “You know; those may be the wisest words I’ve ever heard.”

“Ponies often lose sight of their goals and what’s really important in life. What’s your major going to be?”

“I haven’t really decided yet.”

“If you plan on going back to Equestria when you’re done, go for something with technology. Look around at all of this – what these humans have done without magic is incredible. You’d be the only pony in the world with that skill set. If you’re planning on staying here, pick something that sets you apart from the rest of the herd. Play to your strengths. From what I’ve read, overpopulation is a problem on Earth and people are worried they won’t have enough food to go around in the future. But imagine what you could do if you mixed human technology with earth pony magic.”

I started picturing it. “Who are you?”

“Snowcatcher. I thought I introduced myself earlier. I apologize if I didn’t.”

“You did. But I mean, what’s your background? These are good ideas.”

“Princess Celestia’s School For Gifted Unicorns. First in my class.” Her horn lit up and she pulled her degree from her saddlebags. “We’re all in this together, for better or worse. If we can get along with griffons, dragons, zebras, yaks, and all the rest back home, we can get along with humans too. And maybe we can improve both worlds in the process.”

“I’d like that.”

“We all would. Some of us just don’t know it yet.” She smiled and lost herself in her thoughts.

With no further conversation forthcoming, I looked out the window. We were on a suspension bridge larger than any I’d ever seen, and the city skyline we’d been traveling closer to was now lost amongst the individual buildings looming in front of us. It was then the magnitude of everything finally hit me. This city is much bigger than anything I’ve ever seen on Equus, and I’ve been to Manehattan, Equestria’s largest city. What have I gotten myself into?

Author's Note:

Story notes for this chapter: https://www.fimfiction.net/blog/886869/story-notes-16-daisy-dreams

Ask Daisy Dreams questions related to the story: https://www.fimfiction.net/blog/960903/meet-the-mares-daisy-dreams

Big thanks to RoyaleFanaticGal for the fanart of Daisy Dreams!