• Published 30th Apr 2020
  • 3,243 Views, 54 Comments

Does she know— - semillon

Love is built up over time, and no one knows that more than Ocellus.

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Ponyville. A picturesque small town near the Equestrian capital city of Canterlot. The townsponies are friendly, the houses are nicely maintained, and there’s a lot of beautiful land that offers the kind of respite from life’s troubles that one might expect from the country. Ponyville is wonderful, no doubt, but other than the occasional monster attack—a side-effect from being situated near the Everfree Forest—it wouldn’t be particularly newsworthy on its own. Fortunately, a town is more than its real estate.

Growing up in the Hive, we were taught that the strongest part of a community lies in its individuals. The special cases. The talented ponies. The local heroes. Ponyville is home to a lot of those.

In Ponyville resides two ponies and a dragon that my people consider to be the saviors of our race, besides Thorax, of course. The first and foremost is Spike the dragon. The First Friend. The miracle that Thorax came across in the tundra near the Crystal Empire. It’s thanks to him that ponies realized we were capable of friendship. Then there’s Starlight Glimmer. She led the team of heroes that overthrew Queen Chrysalis and ushered in an age of peace and rebuilding for our people.

And there’s Twilight Sparkle. What can I say about Twilight Sparkle? She’s wonderful? Amazing? It’s because of her that friendship has become so widespread not just through Equestria, but the countries beyond. It’s by her instructions that we’re now building new traditions, celebrating holidays, and well on our way to becoming one. Twilight Sparkle is quite possibly the most important pony in the entire world. One of the most beautiful, as well, but you didn’t hear that from me.

Oh, who am I kidding? She’s the prettiest thing I’ve ever laid eyes on. When I look at her, taste her emotions, think about her lessons and hear her voice...it’s like I’m floating in the ocean on a warm, sunny day. I’m perfectly content to drift wherever the tide takes me.

It’s on a Saturday when Thorax arrives at my housing unit. I quickly say goodbye to my parents and siblings (we spent all of last night crying, so there aren’t many tears this time around) and he escorts me to Ponyville.

When we first enter Ponyville’s borders, I marvel at all the grass and the ponies and the fact that they don’t shy away from us. They just give us curious looks, like we’re shiny new toys displayed on a storefront and they’re kids walking through the streets the week before Hearth’s Warming. We make our way through the streets until we come to a big, blue structure: the School of Friendship. We walk into the main lobby.

That’s when I see her for the first time. She stands at the front of the crowd and cheerfully announces herself. “Welcome to the School of Friendship! I’m your Headmare, Twilight Sparkle. Please follow guidance counselor Starlight to sign in and get your class assignments. Then we can show you your living quarters!”

I wander over to her, naturally, but I get lost in all the individuality. That’s not metaphorical speech, either. Back home, I’m not being bombarded by the pure, unabashed feelings of everyling running around. All changelings know how to scale back their emotions, to make it so that no-ling suffers from sensory overload. It’s not that we try and deaden ourselves, it’s that we simply turn down the intensity a bit while still feeling the full breadth of whatever we’re feeling. That description doesn’t help too much, but it’s a strange thing to try and explain out loud.

Here, though, there aren’t any changelings except for Thorax and I, and all of the creatures romping around are feeling the kinds of volatile emotions that come with the first day of school.

My legs get all wobbly, and before I know it, I’ve lost where Starlight Glimmer and Twilight Sparkle are, and I’m standing next to a dragon.

Her scales are the colors of persimmons, sand and the kind of garish dark pink that Saddle Arabian sheiks like their silk scarves to be. I’m completely terrified. I’ve never seen a dragon before, and this one’s radiating disgust like a smoldering meteor that’s freshly crashed into the ground.

Worse thing is that there’s another dragon across from her—Dragon Lord Ember. We all know what she looks like because Thorax won’t shut up about her. Beside her is Spike, who we know for the same reason.

I don’t even notice that I’ve transformed into one of her kind until Thorax angrily yells my name.

The meteor dragon turns around and backs away from me. I play with my new hair, trying to stay calm even though my every nerve is urging me to run. Thorax tells me to change back to my original form, because it’s the polite thing to do. I don’t see why I have to be polite when the three dragons start staring at me like I’ve grown another leg. I’ve still only got four.


Coincidentally, the dragon’s name is Smolder. We end up spending time together as the classes go by. Not just me and her, of course. There’s Yona, a yak; Silverstream, a hippogriff; Gallus the griffon and Sandbar, who’s just a plain old earth pony. I’ve done a lot of asking around and apparently friend groups just happen like this. No hard rhyme or reason. We all get along well enough.

It’s not perfect. Sometimes there’s a ton of friction that happens when Smolder and Gallus and Yona get really into their ribbing. Silverstream’s energy is a lot to deal with over a long amount of time. Her excitement’s similar to eating a batch of cupcakes: amazing at first, but too many and all of a sudden, you’re nursing a gigantic headache and regretting ever thinking that this was a good idea.

Sandbar, however, is just Sandbar. I had a bunch of questions for him at first. He has a wonderful knowledge of the professors’ adventures and of pony history in general, but when he starts talking about other things I tend to get a little lost. We’ve had some wonderful conversations about marine biology, though. He’s got a thing for turtles. I enjoy discussing sharks, and why they don’t deserve the fear mongering that pony media has instilled amongst the masses in recent years.

On our first Friends and Family Day, Gallus and Smolder decide to skip class. Me, Yona and Silverstream encounter them on their way out of the school, and we decide to go with them. Sandbar tags along as well.

Literal seconds after that, I lie to my professors for the first time. A flawless Rarity impression is easy. All you have to do is say “darling” a lot and tap into the little parts of yourself that have good self-esteem. Professor Fluttershy is easily fooled. Her rabbit, not so much, but that’s okay. It’s not like he can adequately describe my deceit to her anyway.

Adrenaline travels through each of us like lightning hitting a crowd of metal poles and we run out of school.

“I take back everything I ever said about you!” says Smolder. Her cheer is delectable. Tart in the best way, like a cold glass of lemonade, and extremely contagious. “That was cool!”

I thank her, and then I process what she just said. “Wait, what did you say about me?”


Smolder’s terrible in class. For the classes that she doesn’t like, and thus ruins for me, because I have to sit beside her and get whiffs of her displeasure for a whole hour, she sits there and sulks. And what do you know? She doesn’t like any of the classes that I like.

During History of Friendship she either sleeps or makes snarky remarks to Gallus and Sandbar the whole time. The one time I’ve asked her to be quiet, she went into a tirade about how I was a teacher’s pet. I turned into an orthus and slobbered—spat, really—some saliva onto her face.

Similarly, Applejack’s assorted stories about hard work and different Apple Family harvests have Smolder bored to tears. She doesn’t snark during those, because Professor Applejack would have her hauling carts of apples for weeks, but she does sulk. I’ve taken to having little private conversations with her when Applejack starts a story. I don’t get to hear a third of what happened, of course, but something that I discovered during my second week is that Silverstream is a fantastic note taker and she has wonderfully legible claw writing, so I just copy her notes after any Honesty class.

The conversations that I have with Smolder usually consist of me asking how her day was. She’ll say “fine” or “okay”. She’s lying, of course. She’s still unused to the fact that she can’t hide the truth from me—only obscure it. I press her a little more by talking about how great of a day I’ve had.

Smolder’s eyes twitch when she’s jealous. Draconic greed is a hot shower after an hour of cold and the last stretches of a marathon. Her resentment spawns the truth. We get to talking about how she doesn’t like the way that Headmare Twilight structures her quizzes and we laugh quietly about Professor Pinkie’s abstract baking instructions.

By the time I start having fun with our clandestine chats, we run out of things to say, and I get to pay attention to Professor Applejack once again. I think that maybe, just maybe, I’m getting a hang of applying friendship throughout my real life.


Study group is my favorite part of every week. We hold our sessions in the library, just before bed, in a quiet corner where we don’t have to be afraid of being loud. The Hive doesn’t have big, cushiony, massless chairs that you can sink into and read a book in. This place has eight, and we hog every single one.

We sit in a circle and go over our weeks collectively and decide on who needs help with what, and what tests we should all be studying for. The two extra pillows-slash-chairs-slash-blobs of comfort are normally used as footrests for Gallus and Smolder. They’ve threatened a few times not to show up if they don’t get them. I’ve been asked by Yona, Silverstream and Sandbar if they’re lying. The truth is that they are, but I say that they’re not. There’s something about Gallus and Smolder that make me want to keep them happy. I want all of my friends to be happy, yes, but those two bring out a special kind of guilt in me when I have to tell them off or disadvantage them.

Tonight, we’re studying for a quiz on the sixth volume of the professors’ adventures. Sandbar and I are in charge of doling out the questions. The rest of our friends have a wide, excited sharpness in their eyes.

Sandbar starts to sing. “Like a—”

“Racer at the starting line, you’re chomping at the bit,” Gallus sings, throwing Smolder a smug look before winking at Silverstream. “You are here to find your purpose and a place you really fit.”

“Very good!” I clap for him, as does Sandbar, Silverstream and Yona.

Smolder crosses her arms. “Why do we need to memorize all the songs again?”

“For fun?” Silverstream guesses. “Twilight’s only making us know the first few verses anyway!”

“Musical magic can galvanize dramatic action in others,” I explain. “It’s an important part of Pony society.”

Smolder groans and rolls her eyes. They’re such common actions for her that I feel like I need to come up with a word for when she acts them out. Smoldering would work if it weren’t a verb already. Dragon-ing? No, not catchy enough.

“Don’t worry, Smolder,” says Gallus. His tone is deceptively sweet—literally and figuratively. I reach for the water bottle I’ve placed beside my chair. “Not everycreature can be as smart as me.

Smolder’s claw gets to my water bottle first, swiping it before my hoof is even halfway there. She squirts Gallus with water, and he lets out a feminine squeal that throws all of us into hysterics.

“I hate you,” says Gallus.

Smolder blows a raspberry at him. The tone in the air is light, and the mood is fun, but there’s something that I get off of her that I don’t get from anyone else. She’s embarrassed, and under that first layer of embarrassment is hate. Pure, goopy, messy hate directed at nothing in particular and unsure of its own reason for existing. I’m not sure how to feel about it.


The next time that we have a study group, only Smolder and I show up. Everyone else has some sort of extracurricular activity to go to. It’s weird that we’re the only two who haven’t joined a club yet. Yona and Sandbar have gardening together, Gallus is still pretending that Professor Dash made him join half the sports teams, and Silverstream’s got her figure drawing class that she hosts every few weeks.

Everything’s fine. This is all okay. It’s fun! Study group is fun. Smolder’s on a chair reading and I’m reading too, and we’re reading, and no one’s said a word in about an hour. We’ve been reading for an hour. Silently. Now, Smolder probably thinks that I’m in heaven because she has me pegged for the kind of girl that wants peace and quiet.

I don’t like to admit this, but I hum to myself while I read, and not doing it now feels incredibly weird. It’s similar to paying close attention to the amount of breaths you take in a minute. Just as unnatural. My eyes scan the words in my Animal Anatomy textbook, but they don’t digest any of it in a meaningful way. It takes me fifteen minutes to read a paragraph that I would normally spend seconds on. I hate it. Are all creatures really so tied to habits that the moment one is forced to restrain herself, she loses all function?

In my frustration I end up staring at Smolder, and again, I don’t want to say this, but when I see her effortlessly glide over the pages of her textbook—her history textbook, the textbook for the class that she doesn’t even like—I get mad enough to spit. Now, I don’t actually spit, because depending on the glands that I choose to engage, I could either burn a hole in the floor or lay down the base for a cocoon, but either of things would be rude, and I don’t want to be rude. I just stare at Smolder and let my jealousy slowly build.

Smolder takes mere minutes to get through an entire chapter. Then she flips all the way back. I watch curiously as her eye twitches and she inches a little closer to the book, glaring at the words they’ve badmouthed her.

She hasn’t been reading. She—she can’t read. No, that’s not it. I’ve seen her read things out. What’s wrong, then? Maybe she’s been going blind? Or maybe…

Headmare Twilight teaches History of Friendship. I’ve always held the opinion that her writing style is as beautiful and structured, as elegant and poised as her own royal self. It’s something that I admire about her. She makes beautiful castles out of paragraphs and she decorates their interior with vivid stained glass.

But I’ve quickly realized that just about everyone else thinks that she’s simply too verbose. To some, maybe she even comes off as esoteric.

To Smolder, possibly, she’s incomprehensible.

“Need some help?” I ask, before I can question whether following my impulses is a good idea.

Smolder’s eyes widen. She sits up straighter, and her tail begins to wag slowly. “Whaddya mean?”

“I was just noticing that you’re having trouble with the material.”

“Am not.”

I raise an eyebrow.

She sneers in response. “You callin’ me stupid?”

“I never said that. What does ‘chronoscopic’ mean?”


“It’s the last word on the first paragraph of the chapter we’re on right now. What does it mean?”

Smolder glares at me. “Fine. You got me. Have a laugh, I don’t know what our fancy pony princess headmare’s talking about half the time. It’s like this thing’s in another language.” She holds the textbook up with contempt.

I frown. “I’m not making fun of you. I promise.” My voice grows quiet, and I roll lazily off of my cushion so I can get closer to her. “I want to say I’m sorry, Smolder. I should have noticed that you were having trouble with class and offered to help. No wonder you hate history so much.”

At first, she sends such a large splash of negative emotion towards me that I’m forced to physically stop to brace against it. But it’s not as bad as it seems to be. Not when I actually take the time to analyze it. It’s not hate that she’s directing towards me. It’s fear.

So I keep moving, watching each of her movements closely. Her tail gets straighter and her chest starts to seize. Her claws curl up and she can’t help showing her teeth off in a weightless sneer. She watches me just as close. I’m sure she can see me trying my hardest to smile, to fight my fear of her species, of her potential anger. She watches me and I watch her until I finally get to the cushion beside her and take a seat.

“I promise that I’m not making fun of you,” I say, “and if it makes you feel more comfortable I won’t tell the others that you’re having trouble with the prose.”

Smolder blinks. I watch her realize that she has nothing to be suspicious of.

Then she sighs. She turns her book towards me and scoots her cushion closer to mine. “I think I understand what Twilight means by remuneration, but can you tell me so I can make sure I’m right?”

I smile, and begin to explain.