• Published 9th Sep 2011
  • 23,958 Views, 430 Comments

U-Harmony - Ebon Mane

Twilight's curiosity pushes her to go were no bookworm has gone before: On dates.

  • ...

Her Eccentric Education

Twilight Sparkle had come to Carousel Boutique expecting a sales pitch. Rarity was a businesspony; most of her suggestions came in the form of pitches, whether she was charging or not. Twilight wouldn't have minded her friend trying to push other clothes or accessories on her during the fitting of a new dress. That sort of thing was par for the course. What irked her was that the white unicorn was discussing something that filled her with a potent blend of fear, shame, and horror.


"I'm telling you, darling, it's all the rage in Canterlot. All the hip single unicorns are getting in on it early. U-Harmony has only been operating for a month and it's already gained a simply enormous following. It's the Next Big Thing in unicorn society. Much better than any dating service to have come before, I hear. I've even been trying it a bit myself, truth to tell," The dressmaker said, starting on her fifteenth attempt to convince Twilight to sign up. Seeming to think that the revelation might cast some sliver of doubt on her beauty or charm, she was quick to add, "Not that I, Rarity, need such an aid to get a date. But I do need to keep up with the trends. Fashion, after all, trots on."

Twilight's long-suffering glower darkened. With the unfinished dress she wore pinned in so many places, she didn't dare move. She was a captive audience; only Spike would have envied her position. Attempting to shift the focus of the conversation away from herself, she asked, "I thought you were trying to marry that prince?"

Rarity's reply was icy, each word spat with venomous intensity, "Not. Any. More." She 'accidentally' poked Twilight in the flank with a needle. The librarian winced, then warily eyed the intimidating swarm of small, pointy objects that Rarity was levitating around her. She decided against further questions.

Still, her ploy seemed to have worked; The dressmaker spent the next few minutes grumbling angrily to herself as she worked on the final alterations. Eventually, she stepped back, and looked Twilight over from nose to tail before giving a nod and a satisfied smile. The white unicorn levitated a mirror and showed her customer the finished work. "So, my dear Twilight, what do you think?"

Twilight Sparkle beamed, "It's just what I wanted, Rarity! I look so scholarly." In truth, she might have had one or two suggestions, but the pins and needles still hung in the air, glinting menacingly.

"What did you commission this for, anyway, Twilight? I wouldn't have thought that you could need another dress; is the one I made you for the Gala insufficient?" Rarity asked.

"That dress is amazing, Rarity," Twilight Sparkle reassured her, "And that's sort of the problem. It's way too fancy for academia. I need a more conservative dress for my presentation."

The white unicorn leaned forward, intrigued, "Oh? A presentation? You didn't mention that. Don't you know that you simply must tell me these things? Where? When? What? Details, Twilight!"

"Oh, um, I'm giving a speech at Canterlot University about some of the magic research I've been doing in my spare time. It's in three weeks, but I wanted the dress to be ready early. Just in case," Twilight said.

A gleam entered Rarity's eyes, a gleam that Twilight Sparkle recognized. For the first few months that she had known the other mare, she wouldn't have described Rarity as 'crafty'. Of course, the craftiest ponies know how to keep themselves from being recognized as such. "Magical research, Twilight? That must be quite fascinating. You know, even if you aren't interested in getting dates from U-Harmony, I'm sure that an academic such as yourself can appreciate the advanced magic that went into its creation."

The librarian knew that she was being manipulated, but the bait was irresistible. Her insatiable curiosity forced her to ask, "Advanced magic? What do you mean?"

"Why Twilight, U-Harmony is built on a spell that somepony cast such that any unicorn anywhere in Equestria can tap into it. It requires no more than the tiniest bit of magical ability or power. It can send scrolls, gather and compile information, and then make judgements automatically to generate nearly instantaneous estimations of personal compatibility. But the most amazing part is that it can teleport ponies between cities remotely without expending any of their energy. All the power seems to come from the existing spell. Remember how long it took you to master teleporting even short distances?"

Twilight rolled her eyes, "Geez, Rarity, how much are they paying you to be a walking advertisement?" Still, a part of her was thinking about the sort of epic magic a system like that would require. Her interest was only growing. "In any case, if I had the ability to create a spell framework that complex, I certainly wouldn't waste it on something so trivial."

Rarity ignored her friend's jabs and continued, "The best part, Twilight," she leaned forward conspiratorially, her volume dropping, "Is that nopony knows how it works. All contact with administration is done through the spell itself. Nopony knows who or where they are. Isn't that exciting? Oh, the intrigue! Imagine, being the first researcher to crack their system." She turned with a dismissive wave of her hoof, "Not that you would be interested in anything having to do with romance. I'm sorry that I brought it up. What was your presentation topic, again?"

"Light refraction magic," Twilight replied, not nearly so proud of the fact as she had been ten minutes before, "A couple minor improvements that I made to the basic spell."

Rarity's voice dripped pity, "Yes. I see. I'm sure that Princess Celestia will be very satisfied with that use of her star pupil's time."

Twilight sighed, "Sometimes, Rarity, you're evil,"

The white unicorn purred appreciatively, "Yes, darling, but I make evil look good."

* * *

The finished dress was safely stored away in Twilight's saddlebags, which rested near the Boutique's exit. Rarity had taught her how to access the spell for U-Harmony sign up. She was ready. Or something like ready, anyway. The bookish mare figured that if she was going to investigate this 'U-Harmony', she might as well actually try the service out for herself. First-hoof observation was, after all, the quickest way to get results. Perhaps she could even learn something to put in a friendship report. If it was too horrible, she could always stop. Taking a deep breath, she channeled a bit of power into her horn.

The cantrip was simpler even than levitation, and she preformed it perfectly on her first try. A scroll and quill appeared in the air in front of her with a flash. Before the purple unicorn could react, her friend wrapped them in a sheathe of magic and began to fill out the form.

Rarity murmured as the quill danced. "Let's see now. Name? Twilight Sparkle. Birthdate? That's coming up, I hope you enjoy your inevitable surprise party. Pinkie Pie throws one every time."

Twilight moved next to the other unicorn, wanting a better view of the sheet.

The dressmaker turned matchmaker continued, "Location? Ponyville. Race? Unicorn. I'm not sure why they ask that one, since only unicorns can work the spell. Ah, now we're to the good stuff! I'll just go ahead and check the box for 'mare seeking stallion'."

Twilight made a choked noise and Rarity paused, slowly turning her head to look at her friend, enigmatic smile on her lips, "Unless there's some objection, Twilight?"

The purple unicorn muttered something, looking away in embarrassment.

"What was that, dear? I couldn't quite catch it," Rarity said, smile growing.

Twilight lowered her head, squeaking something at the very edge of perception.

The white unicorn sighed in mock impatience, "Yes, Twilight, you do a delightful Fluttershy impression. Now could you speak up, please?"

The librarian cringed, finally managing to speak, "...Other box."

Rarity's grin only got wider, "Oh? Which other box? Stallion seeking stallion? I've taken your measurements; I know you're no stallion, darling. That box is more for Hoity Toity's type."

Twilight growled in frustration, "Mare seeking mare!" Her eyes widened as she became aware that she had shouted the words at an incriminatingly high volume.

Her friend only laughed, raising an eyebrow, "Oh my, our little bookworm, a fillyfooler? Who could have guessed? I suppose I'll have to send for a new form.... Oh wait, look, it seems that I had already accidentally checked 'mare seeking mare' instead of 'mare seeking stallion'. How fortuitous! It's almost like, on some level, I already knew." After a brief pause, amusement crept into Rarity's voice as she added, "Oh, and on a completely unrelated note, I know this advice is about a year late, and I doubt that your little sleepover book mentioned this sort of thing explicitly, but still. Even during your first sleepover, you should have known better than to leave mare on mare erotic novels under the pillows of the beds. And under your bed. And in that hidden compartment under the trick floorboard. Ponies could stumble across things in places like that."

Twilight Sparkle's ears folded back as she stammered, "Those... those aren't mine!"

"Then why did so many of them have writing on the cover... what was it... 'Property of Twilight Sparkle, Do Not Read', with 'This Means You Spike' in parenthesis?" Rarity was clearly taking great pleasure in her friend's embarrassment.

"Er... Uh..."

The white unicorn laughed, "Don't worry, dear, just taking my revenge for not trusting me with this earlier. I'm your friend, and that won't change no matter what gender you're attracted to. Your secret is safe with me. And Applejack, who confiscated a few of the books that night. And Pinkie Pie, Rainbow Dash, and Fluttershy. But come now, they would have found out eventually anyway. You can't keep things like that from your closest friends. And the princesses, of course, but Celestia already knew."

Twilight dropped to her knees, utterly mortified.

"Look on the bright side, Twilight," Rarity said, "Now you don't have to worry about how to tell us. Not that you seemed likely to. It would have been rather awkward if you just brought home a mare one day, right?"

"It's still awkward, Rarity. Really, really awkward," the librarian said, shell-shocked.

"It doesn't have to be! You can be out of the closet now. It's your time -to borrow a turn of phrase- to shine all over Equestria!" Rarity's encouragement lifted Twilight's spirits just a bit. She began to see the bright side. Celestia clearly still accepted her, and if she had the princess's stamp of approval, who was anypony else to object?

Well, there was her parents. Then again, what they didn't know wouldn't hurt them.

Rarity floated the scroll back over to her friend. "That's all there is to this form," she said, "be a dear and send it off, if you would. Enough distractions, as amusing as they may be."

Twilight activated the U-Harmony spell again, and the scroll disappeared, only to be replaced nearly instantly by another. She looked to the other unicorn for advise.

"That's for the billing information. I'll leave you to that, and shall be back in just a moment." Rarity said.

By the time the white unicorn returned, her friend was working on another scroll.

"Ah, yes. That must be the question scroll. Answer everything yes or no, and all the questions will disappear and be replaced by new ones. When you've answered as many as you like, send it off and the matching will begin. You'll have a date in no time. But..." Rarity hesitated, "It would be unwise to rush. The more questions you answer, the better off you'll be. The matches seem to be better if you answer more questions. I was less than thorough on my first attempt, and the first m- er, pony they matched me with was...," She shuddered, "Less than ideal, shall we say? Take your time."

Twilight Sparkle raised an eyebrow and fell back on her old sarcasm, "Anything else you want to warn me about in this delightful service that you've insisted I take part in?"

"Hmm, let's see," Rarity said, tapping her chin with a hoof in thought, "Well, I guess I should tell you about how the actual dates work. They're all blind dates, you don't get to know who you're going to end up with until the spell teleports you to the location."

Twilight scoffed, "Why would it be set up that way? That seems like a terrible way to make it work. What if you end up on a date with somepony you already know? Or an ex-marefriend? Or somepony that you're not just not attracted to? Or...or... I don't know. Any number of disasters."

"Well," Rarity said, "You can call on the magic to send you back where you came from at any time. Though it's considered rude to do so the instant you see your match. Of course, that sort of thing would never happen to me. Nor would I do it to another; a lady is always gracious." Self-satisfaction seemed to radiate from the unicorn in waves. "Anyway, darling, all you'll know is the time, location, and most significant consideration in the match. The thing you most have in common with the other pony. I think. That last bit can get a tad... odd. You'll see."

"O...kay...," Twilight felt a strange sense of foreboding at that, but banished the feeling.

Rarity spoke again, "You just keep filling out that sheet. I'll be in the back working on an order if you have any questions. Feel free to stay here; if your first date ends up being tonight, you simply must let me help you get prepared. With Rarity's help, darling, you'll look just fabulous."

The purple unicorn nodded and turned her attention to the seemingly endless parade of yes or no questions.

* * *

Twilight Sparkle was still working diligently when Rarity emerged, hours later. The dressmaker paused, blinking in confusion, "Still here, dear? I expected you to have left by now. How many questions have you answered, anyhow?"

The purple mare slumped to the ground, groaning. The quill and scroll fell as the levitation magic around them disappeared. "Hundreds. Maybe thousands. They never seem to end. How many are there?" Twilight asked.

"I don't know, dear," Rarity said, "I certainly didn't fill out all of them. After a while, some of them started ask about things that I felt were... well... unimportant."

"Unimportant!?" the other unicorn shouted, "You have a gift for understatement, Rarity. Half are totally irrelevant. Only one in twenty seems really worthwhile. Of course, I want to answer all of those, it's just so frustrating. Wading through pointless questions. Why does it matter whether or not I prefer the lyre to the contrabass? Or that I prefer the crescent moon to the full moon? Or whether or not I like seedless grapes? Or that stage magicians put on better shows than mimes? I just hope I don't get matched up with anypony ancient because I put down that I prefer older mares to younger mares." She crossed her hooves over her head, burying her face in the carpet.

"I think you've answered enough, darling," Rarity replied, her voice gaining a subtly mocking air, "Far more than enough, it seems. Just send the mean scroll away to where it can't hurt you. There's a good filly."

"Har Har. Very funny," The librarian replied dryly, but her horn glowed and the offending materials disappeared.

"Oh, I'm sorry Twilight. I didn't hear anything from you, and I just assumed that no news was good news. I should have checked on you. But I certainly didn't expect you to take the task so seriously," The dressmaker tilted her head in thought, "You know, Twilight, some days I believe that your perfectionism may rival my own," she said, before adding with a dismissive wave of a hoof, "But then I see your mane, of course."

Twilight Sparkle glared up at her, "Of course." She pushed herself up to her hooves, and a small, off-white card appeared in the air in front of her. It was a uniform white aside from a few small lines of neat, black text in the precise center:

TIME: 7:00 PM, CST




Twilight considered the text as she floated the card to Rarity; the other mare would surely want to examine it. Then her eyes widened in shock, "Seven PM tonight!?"

The dressmaker nodded, studying the card, "Yes, that appears to be the case. And since it's just past five now, I'm glad you're already here and ready to be prepared. We'll have you looking simply amazing for that lucky mare!" She looked up and recoiled slightly when her gaze returned to her friend. She hurriedly added, "Now don't be nervous, dear."

"Who's nervous?" Twilight asked, one eye wide while the other twitched erratically as she vibrated in place. Her mental state was much closer to mortal panic than anything resembling nervousness. "What could go wrong? Well, other than possibly making a foal of myself in front of the Canterlot Phillyharmonic Orchestra. Or if she turns out to be awesome and I don't know enough about classical music to interest her. I only have two hours. I can't study enough in that time. I haven't read 'The Intellectual Mare's Guide to Dating and Courtship' in ages, and it was for mares that wanted to go out with stallions anyway! Well, I'm sure some of the basic principles apply. It was written two hundred years ago, but not much has changed, has it? I'm sure the library has something...."

Rarity let Twilight rant as she pushed the bookish mare into the nearby powder room. She sighed to herself, "The things I do for these ponies."


Very nearly two hours later, Rarity had Twilight prepared. Where appearance was concerned, anyway. She'd pulled out all the stops; such a grand event as a classical concert in Canterlot deserved the best: Makeup, mane, tail, a final check of the new dress, and, of course, accessories. As she'd worked, the fashionable mare had lectured her friend on general etiquette for dates. Only slight corporal punishment had been needed to keep the librarian from tarnishing the back of her hoof with notes. Rarity had done all she could; the rest was up to Twilight.

"...And remember, darling, you're a catch; act like it! You look simply marvelous, and that dress is quite fetching, you're the smartest mare in Canterlot, and anypony would be lucky to have you. Carry yourself with confidence," Rarity gave last minute encouragement as the clock approached the appointed time, "And remember, things can go wrong, but that's no reason to be discouraged. It's not like this is your first date ever, and no date is quite as awkward terrible as a mare's first."

"But Rarity," The other unicorn replied, her ears folding back, "This is my first date ever."

The magic of the card activated, and Twilight Sparkle disappeared with a flash.

Rarity blinked. "Oh. Oh my." She should have known.