• Published 6th Oct 2012
  • 1,893 Views, 101 Comments

A Discordant Tale - piedol



A story of Ponies, Humans and Discord, and the tragedy lost to history.

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Chapter 9

ADT Chapter 09

The dappled light of the rising sun shining through the windows—dew-laden from the moist morning air—was what awakened me. Its amber rays danced across my crumb and sprinkle-speckled face, dragging me out of the blissful embrace of dreamless sleep and into the painfully vivid medley of colors that lay spread and scattered about the room that had housed the night's most vivacious and violent of festivities. As my bleary eyes struggled to make sense of the vichyssoise of enmeshed limbs and liscidious manes-

To hell with it.

I woke up groggy as all get out. Room was trashed. Shit was fucked up and down. Unconscious ponies and food everywhere.

That's everything in four simple lines. Deal with it, all you thesaurus-hugging whores.

"Ugh... Damn it. My head." I clutched my temples in a vain attempt to stop or slow the throbbing headache I had the displeasure of being rewarded with in lieu of all the sugar and sugar-like substances I'd ingested and practically bathed in during the food flinging session that the party had, dare I say, evolved into.

You reap what you sow. Don't complain now.

I don't even care. That was some of the most fun I've ever had, and completely worth it. I'd do it all again if I had the chance.

Of course you would. Well, while you were out cold, I finished going over all the memories stolen from Twilight and sorted them according to subject. At least one of us can be productive.

Oh shush. I'm not in the mood to argue now. I need to get all this gunk off my skin before I'm forced to re-experience the many joys of my ever so recently finished puberty.

I moved to get up, but my right arm caught on something. I looked over and was surprised to find myself in a tangle of limbs with a very disheveled Twilight. Her hair was frayed in most places, and held together by various clinging food stuffs in all the rest. She'd been entirely too out of it to even care by the time exhaustion had overcome her. That was to be expected, considering how many mugs she'd creamed and caked over the course of the hour or so that the food fight had lasted.

After gingerly extricating myself from the slumbering unicorn, I retrieved my top from beneath the couch, but I didn't re-don it just yet, for I was far too dirty and in dire need of a bath. Before exiting the room though, I made sure to leave Twilight with an impromptu gift, just to show my appreciation for all the poor trades I'd had with her in the heat of battle leading up to our final clash and prematurely finished wrestling match. Once that was done, I giggled my way upstairs and into my room.

The living room had been a complete mess, but everywhere else was pretty much clear of any signs of partying. This meant that the second floor corridor was just as I'd left it the day before, so I was pleasantly surprised to find that the room I'd chosen had been cleared of all the dust that had tarnished the furniture when I’d first seen it, and that the bed had a fresh sheet and blanket covering it. Cashmere telling me that she'd spruce it up had completely slipped my mind over the course of the day's events, but she'd done a damn fine job of it.

The bathroom the room housed turned out to be bland in comparison to the rest of the musically themed space; It was just a small room with sky blue walls, a face basin, toilet (which I'm happy to report had much the same shape as a human one, just like the majority of pony-made furniture), tub and shower. There were several soaps and body washes lining a wall-mounted shelf on one side, labeled to indicate which species, skin or hair type, and body part they had been designed for. Not knowing what would be best for me, I just stripped bare, grabbed a generic 'all purpose' wash along with a towel from the rack beneath the shelf, and leapt into the tub for a long overdue bath.

I took the time to really savor the warm water as it washed off all the gunk from the party, leaving me feeling refreshed. It made no sense to rush, since there were still quite a few stragglers from the party left over, and once they went on their merry way, the inevitable cleanup session would begin. A bit of relaxation before the morning's work wouldn't hurt. When I got out though, it only then struck my haggard mind that I was missing an important factor in my habitual morning ritual.

What the hell am I going to change into?

Yeah. I hadn't really thought that through.

Not willing to use the dirty clothing, I chucked them into an empty clothes basket and wrapped my lower half in the biggest towel I could find, which dropped to just below my knees. It would have to do. Ponies were practically nude all the time anyway, so it wasn't as if they'd think worse of me for choosing to wear less. Having covered myself appropriately, I headed back downstairs to help Cashmere with whatever cleaning up needed to be done.

I entered to find Cashmere rousing the ex-guests and sending them on their way. She'd been AWOL for most of the party, having just grabbed a bottle or two of hard liquor and vanished to enjoy it in relative peace. Judging from the way she was incessantly rubbing her head and walking unsteadily, I could tell the morning hangovers would likely be a regular thing with her as my landlord. She spotted me, but didn't so much as grumble my way, instead focusing on getting rid of all the ponies littering her house. The next thing I saw was a distraught Twilight that was struggling to remove a dozen or so powdered donuts that some foul prankster had knotted her hair through. She heard me snicker, and shot a glare hard enough to break bones.

"Morning, Twilight," I said with an innocent smile.

Her eyes twitched, but she didn't move from where she sat, lest she risk the fragile dough breaking and scattering crumbs throughout her mane.

"You..."

"Me?" I laughed some more

Twilight blinked, and in a flash she was beside me. The donuts were left hovering in their positions, dropping harmlessly to the floor in a powdery mess moments after.

Forgot she could do that... Shit.

I flinched, but she surprisingly didn't proceed to enact violent vengeance. She opened her mouth to say something, but it morphed itself into a yawn which she barely managed to stifle. With a shake of her head, she fixed her mane with a bit of magic, and even leaned on my side for support before mumbling tiredly, "Last night was... Fun. I wouldn't imagine myself doing that sort of thing regularly, but it was nice to break loose for a change. That said..." she yawned again, this time too tired to even hide it, "I think I'll just sleep in today."

I knelt down and roughly rubbed her shoulders in an attempt to keep her alert. She responded by leaning onto me even more, and trying to use my own shoulder as a makeshift pillow. As I struggled to push her up, Cashmere trotted up to us.

"Ah, Miss Twilight," she greeted, "you're up... somewhat. Could you help me find that infernal pink friend of yours? Pinkamena would have to be a special kind of high to think I'd let her just walk out and leave this mess for me to clean up."

"If you were looking for me, why didn't you just say so?"

The three of us, including Twilight, spun around in surprise. This was silly, because we'd been facing each other, and hence would have seen every possible angle of approach. Nevertheless, when we faced forward once more, Pinkie Pie was somehow in the middle of the group and was also turning back around as if she'd been looking for something along with us.

"Why's everyone so jumpy?" she asked with a curious tilt of her head. "I think maybe you guys need to cut back on the sugar. It's terrible for the nerves."

I stared. Twilight and Cashmere sighed in exasperation. The shock seemed to have roused my purple friend somewhat, thankfully, and she eased her weight off of me to stand on her own, albeit unsteadily so.

Cashmere cleared her throat. "Pinkamena, if you'd be so kind, I'd like to have my place looking presentable as soon as possible. I only agreed to host the party because Joseph's living here now, but I don't want so much as a shred of evidence of this get-together having even happened by noon. I have my standards."

Pinkie saluted. "Okie dokie lokie! I'll have your pad spick and tan in a jiff."

And with that, she was off in a pink blur, zipping around the room collecting leftover food and utensils left and right, stashing all the refuse in a pile in the corner nearest the door.

I watched on in fascination at her inhuman (duh) speed, wondering just how she could be so energetic after an entire night spent partying. Cashmere merely gave an annoyed shake of her head and resumed sending off the now stirring party attendees, while Twilight mumbled a quiet farewell and went on her way to spend a day comatose in the treehouse.

It wasn't long before the house's only occupants were Cashmere, Pinkie and I. The three of us got all the garbage gathered up in a matter of minutes, and though the resulting pile almost reached the ceiling, Pinkie somehow managed to stuff it all into her party cannon, which she also baffled me by somehow producing it out of thin air. After helping us set all the furniture back in place, she waved goodbye and wheeled the loaded cannon out with her. Where she planned to launch all that food and plastic, I cannot say, nor can claim that I was eager to find out. By that time, it had become more than apparent to me that the only explanation for Pinkie Pie was, "Because Pinkie Pie."

My most gracious host was glad to see her leave, and smiled wide when the door was finally shut and she was able to enjoy the peace of her home once more.

"About damn time," she sighed. "I've been meaning to get back to my studies since early yesterday afternoon, but while you were upstairs, Pinkie came in and insisted that she have your party here."

She looked over to me, who still happened to be clad in nothing but a towel and had taken to lounging on the couch once the cleaning was all done.

"You're lucky I'm so accommodating,” she said. “Parties aren't my style, but the Princess has taught me a thing or two about making others feel welcome."

I smiled gratefully. "You're not all that different from Twilight, in that sense."

She made a gagging noise. "Ugh, not that uptight egghead. I'm all for academics and science and whatnot, but she takes it too far. Not to mention, she's one of those ponies that can't let a drinking mare alone. You should have seen the look she gave me when I whipped out my bottle of Mertrot! Kid needs to lighten up."

I shrugged. "I'm not particular to hard drink myself, but that's up to you. She's bossy and goody-goody by nature, she can't help it."

Cashmere sneered as she sauntered over to the couch opposite my own and flopped down to sleep out her hangover. "I could help that. All she needs is either some booze or a good stallion, maybe both. Anyway, annoying unicorns aside, I picked up some random things from the grocer while you were out yesterday. They're in the kitchen across the hall. No meat, sorry, but there's fruit and veggies and oats and whatnot. Look around and take whatever, just don't make too much noise." She then folded a wing over her face to block out the sunlight so that she could rest undisturbed.

Having been up for almost an hour by that point, I could agree to some breakfast. There'd been plenty of sugar and dough the night before, so I was in no mood for anything sweet. I made my way to the kitchen, which, like the rest of the house, was spacious and well equipped. I won't go into detail, but let's just say that being one of Celestia's dogs had its fair share of privileges.

There was no fridge though, of course, so I couldn't figure out where the food had been stored. I saw some bags of the aforementioned oats, some granola and alfalfa on the counter, but nothing that wasn't dried. Then I noticed that the table in the center of the room had several sliding wooden panels on its front. I hazarded a guess, and found that it concealed a simple cold storage compartment that was very similar to the cooler Applejack had used for keeping her own fruit fresh when we'd visited the farm. In it, there were several bags and boxes of varying sizes that contained many different greens, reds, yellows and browns for me to ingest. What more could a man ask for when meat was already off the table?

Well, you could always take to roaming the streets at night and capturing wayward ponies for the purposes of consuming their raw flesh to sate your hung-

STOP. There are LIMITS to what I'll do, believe it or not. Eating a pony is definitely NOT one of those things.

Suit yourself. It's just a crying shame that you won't be eating meat again... For a while, at least.

Ignoring the voice in my head that was telling me to kill people (In retrospect, I think I was long gone by this point), I grabbed a bowl, half filled it with granola off the counter and raisins from the refrigerator, and ate it dry. There was milk available, but in a world where the cows could talk, I found the concept of drinking their bodily fluids significantly less appealing than I had when they were considered more 'biological stock' and less 'living, thinking creatures.' I followed that up with a large slice of watermelon which I carried with me back to the living room couch.

As I sat down, dropping seed after seed into the bowl in my hand, I wondered what to do. That may seem like a stupid, stupid thing to ask, but here were my options as I saw them:

I had no computer, no games. Fiction books made no sense picking up because I was practically in one. I had no phone, no familiars that weren't sleeping or trying to do so. I had no internet, no por-

Oh no...

You will never see another pair again.

"NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO~!!!!!!!!!"

Cashmere jolted upright and stared wide-eyed at the human shouting in lament before her.

"What in Tartarus has gotten into you?!" she yelled.

I caught myself when I realized that my outburst had been vocal and apologized sheepishly. "Erm- Sorry about that."

"And here my headache was just starting to fade... Damn it all." She groaned and shook herself into alertness. "Alright, I can already see that you'll be denying me rest for yet another day. Why don't you run off and meet some more ponies or something?"

"I've had enough group socialization in the last twelve hours to last a week, thank you very much. I think I'll stick with you today, you know, so we can get to know each other. I am going to be here for a while." I smiled wide.

Maybe I can get through that prickly shell of a personality she likes to keep up.

She gave me an expressionless stare. "Well, since I can't indulge myself in the luxuries of being a lazy mammal, I've got nothing but patience to lose from humoring you." She sat up straighter. "How do you want to do this?"

"A question for a question?" I suggested.

"Alright. I'll start." She briefly rubbed a white hoof to her chin in thought, "What's the last living thing you've killed for food?"

I blinked in surprise. "Going straight for the morbid stuff, are we? Well, I suppose that'd have to be a rather large herring that I caught while fishing about a year ago."

She gave me a disappointed frown.

I smirked. "What? You look like you wanted me to have killed a creature you could have a conversation with."

She actually hesitated before answering. "Not explicitly, but it would have been interesting to hear what it was like to take another's life into your own hands. So meat isn't a regular part of your diet, I take it?"

"That counts as a second question, but okay. I'm a meat lover. I had pork for lunch not two days ago. It's just that I am not the one killing the livestock. There are people whose job it is to deal with all the dirty stuff so that the ones eating meat won't have to feel guilty about it, since they never have to look in the animals' eyes as they're cut to pieces."

Cashmere grimaced at my blunt portrayal of my omnivorous species, but made no comment. She knew it wasn’t really her place to judge.

Shaking it off, she urged me on, "Thanks for that... You get two questions, seeing as I sort of broke the rule on my first go."

"Okay then, uh..." I paused in consideration.

What should I ask?

Maybe she could tell you something about the Royal Sisters' history.

Right. That might help clear up a lot on exactly why I'm here.

Careful how you phrase the question. She's most likely going to report anything suspicious back to Big Mamma when you back is turned.

"Well," I began, "I was reading up on the story of Hearth's Warming Eve before I arrived in Equestria. It says that the country was founded before Celestia and Luna ruled, but the three pony races and with no mention of Alicorns. You're familiar with this, I assume?"

She nodded.

"When exactly did the Princesses come in?" I asked.

Cashmere looked towards the door leading to the study as she tried to recall the information. "Not long after that, actually. Official records state that they were the firstborn children of Kind Exodus of the Pegasi, and Queen Geneva of the Earth ponies. There aren't much clear details as to exactly how the three races' traits manifested in them, but the union of the second generation rulers and their following conception occurred mostly as a statement against the strife that had separated the races for years in the past. The King and Queen aimed to show their subjects through example that true unity meant not only working together with another, but being able to accept and even love somepony of a different race. It's believed that the birth of the Princesses were a blessing from the heavens—a sign that what they were doing was the right path to follow."

"I've heard stranger explanations for the unexplainable," I dryly commented. "So you're saying that your rulers' origins are a mystery, even to ponykind? Shouldn't there be some rule about transparency or something?"

"It's not that you don't have a point," she said, "it's just that it doesn't apply to Celestia or Luna. Their births would have been cause for concern, had they not proven themselves to be blessings in and of themselves upon the lives of countless ponies throughout the ages." There was even a hint of reverence in her voice that was completely uncharacteristic of her usual behavior. In spite of this, however...

"'Celestia and Luna'?" I asked. "You're the only pony so far out of the admittedly small amount that I've met who refers to the Princesses without their title."

She scoffed. "Oh please. I've known them personally since I was a filly. My mother was both a friend and loyal servant to Celestia, and I was raised to take over her position once she was no longer able to fill it. I'm familiar enough with the Royal Sisters well to be able to dispense with trivialities such as titles. They actually prefer it like that in most cases, since it makes their precious subject seem that much closer to them, despite their position."

"What's the exact role that you fulfill for them? It must be important if you trained your whole life for it."

Cashmere took a break from staring absentmindedly into space and focused on me for a second. "We're straying from the original topic, so I'll consider that your second question."

Wait- Shit! I didn't get to ask about their relationship with Discord or anything! Why must I always go on tangents?!

And this is why you flunked Literature.

"My mother's job was to provide lodging for important guests of the Princess that came to Ponyville because they needed to spend a significant time outside the Capital, while still keeping it relatively close at hand." she explained. "Whether they did so of their own volition, or were on political business, they were required to remain under her care for as long as they wished to reside in in the town, unless they applied for citizenship. I simply took over for her once she became unable to carry out her task with a an appropriate degree of professionalism."

"Old age?"

Cashmere fervently shook her head. "She had an affair with a minotaur."

"Oh. Discharged for inappropriate conduct?"

"Death by internal hemorrhaging," she flatly stated.

"... Oh..."

"Indeed. To be frank, I don't so much miss her as I resent her for not holding off on getting resigned till my academic pursuits were finished. Her early retirement meant that I barely even got to make use of my free time for further studies once my service training was complete. I was in the running for a friggin award from the Canterlot Biological Research Association, but had to outright turn it down because of family commitments made before I was even born."

She seethed quietly over her lost chance at recognition among the intellectuals of Canterlot, and I fidgeted uncomfortably.

"I'm... Sorry?" I offered.

"I don't need your pity. In fact I should apologize for my little tirade. Anyway, the job's been good to me over the years, and I've learned more about the lives of other species through personal interaction that I ever would have back in my old study. That said, I think you've gotten enough free responses. It's my turn."

I spread my arms. "Alright, shoot."

"What's it like to have-" she paused and looked me up and down, then stared at my lower half. "... Why are you wrapped in a towel?"

I followed her gaze and stared along with her, but it took me a moment to comprehend the sudden shift in topic. "I've been like this for a while. You only just noticed?"

She shrugged. "I was tired and distracted. Forgive me, but I haven't been looking at anything but the ceiling for the past few minutes. Now, uh..."

"I thought wearing clothes was an oddity for ponies. Isn't this preferable?"

"You've been clothed since you showed up. I grew accustomed to it. Now you just look—I don't know—naked?"

I laughed loud and hard. "The irony of that statement is baffling. Anyway, my stuff's in the bathroom upstairs. It's literally all I brought with me when I came here, so I can't very well wear it when it's so grimy from yesterday."

She nodded in agreement. "Understandable. What I don't get is why you chose to cover yourself in a perfectly clean towel. Why not just walk in the buff till they're cleaned?"

Do it. Do it. Do it. Do it.

I shook my head in denial. "I feel uncomfortable when exposed like that. I don't have hair all over my body like you."

"It's no big deal, you know. Clothes are pretty much only used in formal events, and even then, they're purely optional statements of status and wealth."

"It just doesn't feel right, okay?" I said somewhat shrilly.

Cashmere's eyes widened considerably, her ears perked up, and she took on a look that told me she was finally taking interest in the goings on. "You're really adamant about being modest, aren't you? It's almost as if you're hiding something..." She trailed off and maintained steady eye contact with me. I tried to keep up my indignant glare, but her bright and curious stare won out, and I looked away in embarrassment.

"Take it off," she ordered.

Take it off.

"I've been wanting to hear those words for a long time, but not from a pony, and definitely not for the purposes of satisfying any lustless curiosity."

"Believe me, if I were trying to set the mood for something, there'd be a lot less talking and a lot more alcohol. Now quit your whining and do it. I'm only asking because you're resisting so much. "

"No! And if you know I don't want to expose myself, then why force me? Aren't I supposed to be treated as your esteemed guest?"

"You were granted no special privileges in the letter announcing your approach," she informed me. "That means you're going to be treated however I damn well please. I'm in no good mood now, because of you, so this is my entertainment."

Why wouldn't Celestia announce me as a Royal guest? She said-

SHE didn't write the letter.

Then who- SILAS, THAT SON OF A CORELING!

She narrowed her eyes. "I don't want to ask again; Take off the towel and show me what you're hiding."

"Make me!"

Before I knew what was happening, she was off the couch and in my face, forcefully pinning me back to the seat with both hooves.

She sneered as I reeled back in surprise. "If you insist."

Pegasus lady be FAST.

I brought a hand up to push her off, but she lifted a hoof and struck my chest with enough force to make me gasp. As I reacted by reaching to clutch the offended area, she dragged both her limbs straight down and off my legs, taking the towel with them. She held it high in triumph, seeming more glad that I'd been unable to prevent her getting her way than she was at actually getting it.

Physically bested by a female pony. You must be so proud.

What the hell was I supposed to do? She knew exactly what I'd do before I even did it. She says she was trained for this job, but I get the painful feeling that they taunt her more than just how to fold a sheet back in Canterlot.

I tried to cover myself up as well as possible using my hands, but she soon flung the towel back in my face, causing me to flinch for a second to catch it and leave myself exposed for the interim.

Cashmere stared, and I fumbled to get my towel back on as quickly as possible. I'd barely managed to do so before she burst out laughing.

"Heheheh, that's what you were trying so hard to hide? Having that little flesh exposed is enough to make you this flustered? I'm beginning to question if the deepness of your voice is really a valid indicator of your age. You act like a colt!"

I blushed furiously. "Hey! I'm not a kid just because I'm not comfortable being seen naked by a- a-"

"Lady?" she demurely suggested in with a snide grin.

"HAH! You're the furthest thing from a 'lady' that I've ever come across, pony or otherwise. I bet if I checked, I'd find a pair of-"

Crunch

I fell to the floor, breathless and writhing in pain as Cashmere lowered the hoof that had struck the blow.

"You'd still find more than you've got," she said with a derisive laugh.

"Ffffff- urrgh..." I eloquently replied.

Ponies: 5, Human: Jackshit

Fffffff- uck you...

"Well that was fun," Cashmere chirped, trotting proudly back to her seat. "Shall we continue our sharing session?"

I craned my neck up to stare at the professionally insane pony before me, and numerous possible consequences for continued interaction with her came to mind. Based on that, I made a decision: Run.

"... Know what? Maybe meeting some other ponies would be a great idea. I think I'll just... Go."

Cashmere pursed her lips. "Well that's a surprise. I was just starting to enjoy this, too! You sure you don't want to show me more about-"

I didn't hear what she said next, because I was already off the floor and out in the the corridor by this point. What I did hear, however, was her laughing at my swift retreat. That sound followed me right out the door and into town.

***

Friggin sadistic crazy pegasus whore-bitch.

I don't know about that last one. If anything, you were her bitch.

Well I've learned my lesson. I'm avoiding that place as much as possible, unless it’s to eat or sleep.

Then what're you doing for the rest of the day?

I'll go see Twi-

She's sleeping.

Then I'll just browse the- FUCK.

I stopped mid-stride in the street and flipped two fingers skyward.

"That's for all you bastards that get your kicks off my life!" I shouted impotently.

All around me, ponies that had been paying the new guy in town little to no mind up till then turned to stare at the suddenly raging biped. It took me several seconds of hatefully glaring at the innocent clouds above before I realized the attention I'd unwittingly gathered.

This seems like an opportune time to remind you that you're still wearing nothing but that towel. Just making sure you remain fully self-aware and self-conscious at all times. You can thank me later.

"Uh... Are you okay?" asked one concerned looking brown-coated unicorn.

I carefully lowered my hands and looked around at all the colored eyes aimed my way, feeling my face heat steadily. "Um... Yes?"

He arched an eyebrow.

"Yes, I'm fine," I repeated, more for my sake than his. "I'm just having a hard day, is all. Would you mind pointing me to Miss Rarity's boutique?"

I knew where it was. I just needed to seem like I had direction, so I called a location at random. As I said it though, the prospect of paying her a visit didn't seem like a bad idea in the least.

Maybe I could convince her to rush the first set of clothes. I do not look forward to spending much longer half naked.

He pointed the way, and I gave a sincere thanks before running off to find the fashionista.

Her store wasn't far off, and I arrived within minutes. Thankfully, it was open this time.Yet another doorbell rang to signal my entry, and a singsong voice called out from a side room in response.

"Just a secooooond~! I'll be right with you, dear. Sweetie will do what she can to assist you in the meantime." Then aside in a more hushed tone, "Sweetie, go see what the customer wants."

I stood beside the entrance and waited, and sure enough, it wasn't long before a tiny white doll of a unicorn filly bounced her way into the room, reciting a clearly pre-practiced greeting.

"Welcome to the Carousel Boutique, how may I be of assista- AAAHAH!!!"

Sweetie wheeled back on catching sight of me—the monster that had implied the consumption of little pony girls just the day before—and froze at the entrance to the room she'd come from, ready to dash back through at a moment's notice.

"Morning, Sweetie," I waved with a smile.

She was anything but welcoming. "What do you want? Did you come here to eat me? I said I was sorry! Eat Scootaloo inste-"

"Whoa, whoa. Easy there. I'm not here to eat you or hurt you in any way." I lowered my hands to show that I meant no harm. Scaring them had been a one time act of revenge. I didn't want the Crusaders, of all ponies in Ponyville, to be afraid of me. It also would have been in my interest not to freak her out while I was depending on her sister to help me out.

Rarity's voice rang out from behind her, "Sweetie, is everything alright in there?"

She certainly didn't look like she thought everything was fine, judging from her suspiciously narrowed eyes. I gave the warmest smile I could manage, hoping she'd let bygones be bygones and forget any prior threats (that had been made in jest).

To my relief, she visibly relaxed, having apparently decided that I was being sincere. She cupped a hoof to her mouth and called back to her sister, "Everything's fine! It's just the monst-" She caught my look. "I mean- It's just Mister Joseph!"

"Hey Rarity!" I chimed in, "I just needed to follow up on that offer you made last night."

She didn't respond directly, and instead I heard her muttering quietly, "Just a bit more... There! Perfect. That should hold everything together for the while." She raised her voice again, addressing me, "What offer, exactly? You simply must forgive my distractedness at the moment. It's just that I've been working on a personal ensemble for the past few weeks, and I just had the most fabulous idea to make it really shine once completed. When inspiration strikes, one would do well to seize the moment, correct?"

"I agree fully. What I was referring to was that offer to design a suit or two of clothes for me. You know, from the party?"

"You mean the get-together that somehow devolved into an tasteless to-and-fro exchange of sweets?"

"Er... Yes?"

"I do recall making such a gesture. Sadly, I can't say that I've made any headway on it yet. I don't have much in the way of business at the moment, so I've been devoting my free time to this pet project. Worry not; I'll start on those once I'm satisfied with my final product here."

I winced, now aware that to ask for more would be an inconvenience for her, but I had no choice.

"That's what I'm here about. It's- ah- It's a tad more urgent that I get those done than it was before. You see, I only have one set of clothes available to me at the moment, and-"

There was a stuttering crash from the other room, as though something solid and heavy had been dropped, the dropper had tried to catch it, but had failed to stop the dropee from colliding with the floor.

Sweetie, who had been quietly listening to our exchange, peeked into the room, breathing a sigh of relief when the obscured damage done turned out to be minimal.

"You okay, sis?" she asked.

"I- I'm fine. It's just-" There was the sound of galloping hooves, and a breathless Rarity appeared in the doorway, hair pinned back to allow her eyes a clear view of her outfit as she worked on it. Those eyes were awarded a similarly clear view of my almost bare form, and they widened accordingly as their owner's shock escalated.

Rarity put a forelimb to her forehead and wobbled on her feet. Sweetie moved to catch her, but she righted herself in time. It wasn't like she was feigning it either—she really looked like she was about to faint!

I fidgeted self-consciously in place and adjusted the plain white towel so that it reached as far as possible below my knees. For a pony that literally dedicated her life to making individuals look classy and stylish, someone showing up and claiming to have nothing to wear but a single minimalistic top-and-slacks combo and a freaking towel must have seemed a living nightmare.

"Oh my, please tell me you're not serious. You've been reduced to wrapping a drab rag about yourself because of a lack of fashion options?" She looked me up and down, not with curiosity or disdain or suspicion, as I was used to, but with what I took to be disbelieving pity.

I tried to better explain the severity of my situation, "Well, it's much less 'fashion' and more a necessity for me to wear clothes. I doubt I could survive socially without them."

Rarity nodded vigorously. "I understand perfectly, dear. I feel the same way. It seems that we are souls alike—bound by our passion for expression through the garb that conceals our bodies while simultaneously exposing our spirits."

I deadpanned.

Something tells me she doesn't really understand where you're coming from...

It's best that I play along. The outcome should be the same, right?

So I forced a smile and nodded with as much vigor.

"You made the right decision, Joseph," she said with utmost conviction. "If anypony's capable of getting you something to wear fast while still keeping you at the peak of chic, it's me. I'll have you dressed and looking fabulous before you know it."

"You'd put your own work aside just to help out someone you barely even know?" I asked.

She waved a hoof dismissively. "Think nothing of it. I simply cannot resume work purely in my own interests until this crime against fashion has been righted. Quickly, come with me. I can't bear to see you so poorly attired any longer."

She led me into the side room. Sweetie moved to follow, but Rarity was quick to bar her entry.

"Hey! Why can't I watch you design something for him?" asked the surprised filly.

Rarity shook her head. "Because, Sweetie, if he is so concerned with keeping himself well dressed, it would be an invasion of his privacy for you to witness him 'au naturel' unless it were absolutely necessary."

"But you-"

"Ah ah ah~ No 'buts'. I'll only be there because I'm the one taking measurement and fitting the clothes. That much can't be helped."

The younger sister pouted, and Rarity chuckled, holding up her chin to look her in the eyes. "Don't give me that look," she said gently. "I'll tell you what. Since you can't be in here, and I don't know how long I'll be busy, why don't you change the sign to 'closed' and run along to play with your friends till lunch?"

The frown vanished in an instant, and without any response other than an obscenely cheerful squeal, Sweetie Belle was out through the front door, sign and namesake rattling in her wake. Rarity smiled after her, and I couldn't help but smile along.

Once she'd gone, Rarity shut the door and turned to face me. "Alright, what exactly do you have in mind for an outfit? I have several ideas already, but I need to know what your preferences are before I choose a path to follow."

"What I was wearing before was pretty much how I always dress," I told her plainly.

She gasped. "What? Those shabby things? I thought they were meant for many consecutive hours spent moving about, and hence would have been a guiltless sacrifice to the elements."

"That sounds about right," I said.

"Why would you ever choose to regularly dress so... Plainly?" she inquired in a tone that suggested no answer could justify the act.

I shrugged. "It's comfortable."

Yeah. I didn't exactly make much of an effort on that whole 'justification' front.

She rubbed her temple and sighed softly. "Oh dear. Your heart's in the right place, but your fashion sense..."

So then the idea struck me, and at the risk of my own masculinity, I decided to give it a shot.

"Alright then, how about this?" I walked over to a trio of pony mannequins in various poses, each in their own version of the same dress, and made a show of gesturing to them with a wide wave of my arms. "You've got talent, there's no denying that. You also have experience—something I lack. You know what looks good and what doesn't, while I'll wear pretty much anything that fits. Instead of having you make something that you don't agree with, I'll give you full creative control of the clothes I wear for the entirety of my time in Ponyville, on one condition."

Her eyes went wide at those words. I expected her to take the news well, because to my knowledge, she hardly ever got such an opportunity. Sure, she'd have her own style and flair to add to a design, but the final product would always be influenced by the person it was being created for, and so her vision could never be truly realized except in her own work. Even then, there's arguably a greater sense of accomplishments to be found in seeing someone else flaunt your efforts than in doing it for yourself. I was giving her a rare chance to really cut loose.

"F- Full control?" she repeated numbly. "Anything I want to try? Absolutely anything?"

"It's all up to you," I confirmed.

"And the condition?"

"However fantastic the clothes may be, they need to be practical. I don't want them to restrict my movements. Other than that, go wild."

She mirrored her sister's squeal of glee, albeit with more grace.

"I accept!" she exclaimed excitedly. "I can't design anything that would truly deserving of any admiration on such short notice, but rest assured that by the end of the week, I'll have more drafts than you can throw a wardrobe at! For now, I'll have to make do with some improvisation."

"I trust you'll find a way to make it look good," I told her in good faith.

"Your trust is well placed, mon ami," Rarity replied proudly as she began combing through several drawers for whatever supplies she had in mind.

Personally, I knew she would come up with something dashing. My only concern was whether or not it would be optimal for a guy. I wasn't about to let those fears stop me from giving her a chance, though. Wearing clothes personally designed by Rarity? I'd take that over some half-assed mix-match of cloth I could think of any day.

"Here it is!" she declared triumphantly, levitating a length of measuring tape above her head. "The first step would be to get your measurements. Since you liked your old outfit so much—I say 'old' because you won't be wearing it after I'm through with you—I'll base my first work of art off of that, but will of course make necessary adjustments to suit."

"Sounds good."

She held the tape stretched out before me, then stood motionless as if waited for something. A good few seconds passed, and as I was about to ask her what the holdup was, she sighed and looked up to me with an reprimanding gaze.

"Well?" she asked in expectation.

"’Well’ what?" I asked with a contrasting amount of obliviousness.

"I can't take proper measurements if you've got those rags around yourself. I know you prefer clothing, dear, but sacrifices will have to be made here and there for the sake of fashion."

I stared at her for a good few seconds as the familiarity of the situation hit me like a ton of awkward moments.

Even when I try to avoid it...

Take it off. TAKE IT OFF.

Before I could procrastinate any longer, I grabbed the edges of my towel and pulled. It came off without so much as a snag.

***

Rarity's got mad skillz.

Sorry about that uncharacteristically crude and non-artful use of the English/Equestrian tongue, but it's more true than any of you plebeians will ever be capable of comprehending.

Within two hours of having decided to assist me in my apparel-centric predicament, she had me clothed in a two piece dress shirt-and-pants combo. In spite of the added buttons and extended arm length, the top was as loose fitting and comfortable as my original T, if not moreso, but whereas the old one had been plain black, this was a mellow shade of yellow, and had a pattern of bright purple flower petals embroidered into the hems. The decals along my left arm cuff subtly spelled out 'Rarity' to those who looked closely enough.

To heck with my coarse knee-length khakis. In their place were a pair of simple tan dress-pants that reached no higher than my ankles. These were smooth and had no design, but their earthy contrast with the shirt drew attention to the latter, and made the design truly stand out. The truly awesome part though?

They were cambric.

That's just a big word for 'finely woven silk' that Rarity used to describe the material when I asked what it was, but I much prefer it anyway. Just sound it out:

~Cam-brick~

I'm using tildes and all that fancy shit.

I felt just classy in my new outfit. It would be a real shame when the time came to get them dirty, but such is life.

I modeled for myself before the tallest mirror in the room, twisting left and right to see the outfit from every possible angle, none of them bad.

I had to voice my thoughts on her efforts. "This looks so..."

"Yes? Yes?" Rarity leaned forward, eager to hear what I thought of her hastily thought up but meticulously designed clothing.

"Sexy!" I declared, whistling for my own reflection.

Rarity tittered chastely and feigned fanning herself in relief. "Well, at least I can rest assured in my ability to make anything and anyone look good, no matter the species. You're sure the collar and cuffs are the right size this time?"

"Absolutely," I told her. "This is only your second attempt at getting my measurements right, and it came out better than pretty much anything I ever wore back home. It goes without saying that you're a natural."

A modest blush colored her face, and she accepted the praise with a smile. "It is my special talent, after all. It's just a pity that I won't be able to make more of my ideas a reality at the moment, since lunch is fast approaching, and Sweetie will doubtless be showing up famished from her morning romp with her friends."

"That's fine. There's always later, or tomorrow," I assured her.

Then came the awkward moment of scratching my head as I pondered what course of action to take. In spite of my thanks and compliments, and the fact that she'd promised the first outfits to be free of charge, I still felt like I wasn't giving her enough. I told her as much.

"Rarity, I don't know how I can thank you enough for this. One or two sets of clothes won't be convenient to alternate between all the time, though, and I'll need to ask for more very soon. I refuse to accept any more charity than you've already given. Would you happen to know any place looking for work, so that I could earn some bits to pay you for your efforts?"

She held up a hoof to stop me. "Darling, I appreciate the gesture, but it's really no trouble at all. If anything, I should be thanking you for volunteering to allow me to test my newest designs on you. Normally, I have to call in debts just to get a pony to show up and hold still for a half hour so that I could attempt the same thing!"

I would have none of it. It wasn't just a matter of paying her, but of being able to support myself in the community. A favor or two in a time of need is fine, but being dependent on the charity of others? That's a low that I didn't want to stoop to.

"I insist," I insisted insistently. "I would feel much better if I could compensate you for your work."

She bit her lip indecisively, but relented under my determined gaze. "Alright. If you're truly set on it, then who am I to refuse you? There's quite a few vacancies available around town, for example..."

***

There were no jobs for me in Ponyville. I was destined to be a broke moocher.

I walked out Rarity's front door looking fabulous, but feeling dejected.

Flower arranger?

Masseuse?

Waitress?!

Where were the programming gigs? Oh, right.

Where were the gaming tournaments? Oh, right.

I couldn't even pull a card from my early teenage years and go work at the grocery as the ever-respectable bag boy. Why? Because the one menial task for which I was willing to cow my ego and endure had all its vacancies filled.

You could always make a vacancy, you know.

Killing ponies is wrong. It’s not like they’re humans or anything. They’re much cuter.

I'd been coy enough to thank Rarity for the information, and sworn to make use of it, before I'd departed. Even so, they felt like empty words. What was I going to do? What could I offer to the town that they couldn't and hadn’t already provided for themselves?

Then it hit me; I wasn't a pony.

Yeah, I know. "Gee, how did you ever figure that one out?"

Shut up.

The thing is, I was human. I didn't just differ from them in body, but also in character. Whereas they would have no problem finding working hooves for boring, everyday jobs, there would have been a lack of ponies willing to do the more daring and dangerous things.

To be more specific: I didn't fear the same things they did, and what did most residents of Ponyville fear most?

"The Everfree Forest! That's it!"

Several ponies jumped at my sudden outburst, and their stares brought me out of my internal musings.

A familiar brown unicorn stepped forward after a second's hesitation. "Uh... Are you-"

"Yes."

Going to research the Everfree, are we?

Nope. I'm going to explore it.

For science.

And cash!

And who would be willing to pay for that kind of hard-to-come-by information?

To the library!

End of Chapter 9

Hoboy. Exams are over as of the day before me uploading this chapter. I'm falling behind in my writing schedule, but I'll do my best to catch up, now that I have more freedom (I played Saint Row III non-stop throughout exams... FOR THE RPG ELEMENTS).

As for the storyline, I can safely say that the best yet to come. I just hope I can rekindle my writing spark before next week, since exams (ie; games) have really taken a toll on my creativity when it comes to planning ahead.

As always, let me know in the comments what you guys think about the story as it progresses. It's viewer feedback that motivates me to keep this train going, no matter how many out-of-control gangsters decide to try and stop it with their heat lasers and guided missiles.

...

I need to get some rest...