Among the higher planes, untouched by mortal, terrestrial hands, two beings argued.
"They're a small, ignorant race," said The One. “Please, understand the dangers in your plan."
"The fact that they are ignorant is exactly why I must go," said The Other. "They would benefit greatly from my knowledge."
"There is more to existence than mere knowledge."
"If this is true, it is something I cannot offer, nor does it mean knowledge isn't valuable. In fact, I say knowledge is the most valuable thing. How could you all disagree with me?"
"Many of us fear you will destroy them, or worse, destroy their world. They may not be ready. We don't know. You don't know."
"They are a peaceful race. Peaceful and understanding, willing to compromise and short of anger, unlikely to fight or wage war. It is safe. And I want to help. I want to do it. And I will be careful."
"We fear no amount of care will be enough."
A pause while the other thought.
"Do you know Twilight?"
"Indeed. She is kind and thoughtful, a student of all the sciences. Her mind has absorbed all there is. She is the perfect one to approach to make sure everything goes well."
"If not her, then no one."
"Then it's a bet. I will prove to you all that what I say is true. And if not, I will submit myself for true death."
If The One could sigh, he surely would have.
Ponyville was your average small Equestrian town, with only about two or three hundred ponies residing, the roads unpaved, the weather more controlled than most, everyone living in happy comfort. To the east, Whitetail Wood, to the west, farms which supplied the town and more with all sorts of fruits and vegetables and other plants, from wheat and hay, to corn and carrots. Past that lay the Everfree Forest, which ran by laws not understood by anyone in ponydom. It was a busy day. Loud. Bustling. Nopony outside could hear the sounds from the library.
"Twilight!" Spike cried. "There's nothing to be sad about! You've got to get over this... this... whatever it is you're going through!"
"Spike, you just don't understand!" said Twilight, her head in her pillow.
"Then explain it to me!"
Twilight growled in frustration, but rolled over so she was facing the ceiling.
A few seconds passed, and Spike waiting for her to speak. She didn't, so tentatively, he moved towards the bed before sitting down on it and looking at Twilight's face. She was looking out the window, her face scrunched up in annoyance.
"Twilight...," said Spike again. "Come on. Whatever it is that's bothering you, you can tell me. And... if not me, you have lots of friends. They'd all be worried to know you're feeling like this."
A pause. Finally, Twilight sighed and looked at Spike. "They can't help me. Nopony can."
"What do you need help with?"
Twilight sighed again. Her eyes moved away from Spike, but just shifted towards the ceiling. She was deep in thought.
"Ever since I was a little filly, I wanted to learn," she began. Spike felt like he had heard this before, but didn't want to interrupt. "It was more than just magic, I wanted to learn everything. And I learned all ponies have to teach about magic, and science, history and geography. Everything. I've been a student all my life, I've read all the books back in Canterlot, I've read all the books here in the Ponyville library."
"Sounds like you got your wish!" said Spike hopefully.
"No. I haven't."
"What do you mean?"
"After all that learning, you know what I've learned?" Twilight didn't wait for Spike to reply. "I've learned I haven't learned anything. And nopony can teach me, because nopony else knows anything either."
"I... I don't understand." His words came out as an honest plead, for her to tell him what was bothering her. He was desperately worried for her, and needed some way to help her. He couldn't help her if he didn't understand.
"Spike... you've been with me all this time. Having assisted me all these years, you know almost as much as I do. Tell me Spike, why do the clouds move on their own in the Everfree Forest?"
Spike shook his head. "Nopony knows that Twilight. But everypony knows that nopony knows that. I know you didn't expect to learn that."
"Maybe. But alright, fair enough. Tell me instead, why do clouds float in the air?"
"Well... uh. I don't know."
"Nopony knows. Nopony knows how. We make clouds, we move them around every day and use them to make rain and shade and everything else, but nobody knows a thing about them! What about magic? I can cast all sorts of spells, but I don't know a thing about why they work the way they do. Every spell ponies know was created by just haphazardly slapping together or modifying old spells and hoping something happens. There's no real system to it! There's no understanding, not anywhere!"
"I... if you think that, I guess you would be the one to know."
"I know it Spike. And that, is why I'm so sad. Can you help me with that Spike? Can you tell me anything new?"
"I can tell you about the cool thing I found behind the Cutie Mark Crusader Clubhouse?" offered Spike.
Twilight just scoffed. "Just go away Spike. Go do something. Anything. You can take all the money you want and do whatever. Just leave me alone."
Spike sighed and shook his head. He might have been hurt and insulted if it wasn't for Twilight's tone of voice. She didn't sound angry or frustrated. She just sounded defeated, like there was no hope left for her. And Spike didn't know any way to help. But maybe others would. Spike turned to leave, but he wasn't going to go have fun. He was going to gather up Twilight's friends, and see if they could help.
Twilight heard the bedroom door close, but she didn't turn to look. She just didn't care to. She had never felt so miserable in her life. So utterly alone. Her entire life's work had meant nothing. What would Rainbow Dash think, if she was to wake up one day and learn that the Wonderbolts would never, ever, accept her? Or Rarity, if she suddenly became aware there was no fashion industry in the world she could be a part of? A small part of her, ever so small, thought about just ending it all right there and killing herself. But that would be selfish. She had friends who needed her, and the Princess valued her input. If nothing else, she should stay and be around as just another body to do the necessary work to keep civilization running.
In a fit of utter desperation, Twilight did something she had never before thought to do. Those quacks who casted curses or talked about creating zombies or talking to ghosts, among those stories were tales of spirits and demons, gods or whatever. Unscientific mystical forces that could be appealed to.
Twilight opened herself up to them. If there was anything out there like that, and if they could help her, she wanted it known that she was asking.
Twilight nearly jumped out of her skin. Instead she just screamed and jumped out of the bed. She saw nothing around her out of the ordinary.
It came as a small whisper, a voice that seemed to originate from a world away, yet so close it was like one of her own thoughts.
"H-hello?" Said Twilight, uncertain.
"W-who are you? Where are you?"
I am. You might call me a knowledge spirit. I come here to help you. I see you want my help. I offer to raise you up from your ignorance, to shed light to the darkest unknowns, to teach you everything I can.
Twilight couldn't believe it. Every bit of knowledge in her mind was telling her that what was happening was impossible, that she had just gone crazy. Yet, she didn't feel like she was insane. For the first time in several days, she felt hope.
"Why can't I see you?"
Put simply, I am a being from a higher plane of existence than you. It is impossible to interact physically with your universe, however information can be shared, the barest of affinities made present to connect your mind with mine. In that vein, if you wish, I can make myself visible to you, though I will be present as only a spectre, unable to interact with the world you would see me in.
Twilight hesitated to speak. But this was her chance, and she tried her best to steel herself. "Let me see you. It'd make me more comfortable."
A slight fuzz came into view in front of Twilight's eyes, and slowly it formed into the vague shape of a pony. It straightened and sharpened, until eventually, Twilight was looking at what could be seen as a normal pony, a unicorn, like herself, male, with a white coat and bright yellow eyes, with a mane and tail to match. His cutie mark was visible, and was merely a simple bright orange circle with a yellow glow around it. It almost reminded Twilight of the Princess's sun cutie mark, as it looked like a less stylised sun.
"What's your name?" Asked Twilight, horribly nervous. She still wasn't completely sure she wasn't going crazy, no matter how hopeful she was.
An image appeared in her mind suddenly.
"Mephistopheles," repeated Twilight. She tried to make sense of the symbols. Though some were familiar, she had no idea what they were supposed to represent. "What does it mean?" she thought out loud.
"It is a simple equation to determine the number of rotations around the Earth of any of the celestial spheres given a time and the number of epicycles, assuming constant variables. The first variable, M-subscript-e refers to the mass of the spheres by way of its atomic components, multiplied by Phi, referring to the frequency of the circular Xi flow it's following, plus Speed divided by -"
"I don't understand any of this!" shouted Twilight.
"You will," said Mephistopheles.
“What do I owe you in return?”
“Nothing. It’s all yours. Do with it what you want. I have faith in you and your species.”
"You said she was depressed, not that she was dyin'!" shouted Applejack. Spike worriedly moved from the bedroom to the kitchen bringing in pots of warm water and small towels to try and make Twilight more comfortable.
Fluttershy and Rainbow Dash had left to fetch Zecora. Rarity had gone to call a nurse. And Pinkie was off...doing whatever Pinkie did. Only Applejack and Spike remained to keep watch over Twilight.
When Spike returned with Twilight's five friends, he can come to find her collapsed on her bedroom floor, mumbling nonsense every now and then. He had no idea what had happened, and nothing they would wake Twilight. She was also running a high fever, and sweating heavily.
"Do you think we should tell the Princess?" asked Applejack.
"I don't know," said Spike. "She's just a little sick, we don't need to bother the princess over something like this. I'm sure she'll be fine if we just give her some rest."
Spike swallowed hard. He hoped she would be all right. Truth is, he was scared, and would have liked nothing more than to run to the princess for help. She'd know what to do. But he also knew that the Princess was busy and shouldn't be bothered with every little thing. Maybe if Twilight didn't get better after a long time. Then he'd send a letter.
Twilight suddenly shook.
"All Xi flows are defined by two properties, "frequency" and "charge," while the...," she said, before beginning to mumble again.
"What is it she's saying?"
"I don't know," said Spike.
Soon later, Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy arrived with Zecora, carrying a bunch of bags filled with strange plants and containers. Silently they watched as Zecora set to work, boiling stuff, and feeling around Twilight for who knows what sort of signs. Then Rarity returned, bringing one of the nurses from the Ponyville Urgent Care Centre. She took a worried glance at Zecora, who merely ignored the nurse, before also checking signs.
"So?" asked Spike. "What's wrong with her?"
"The atomic make up of standard terrestrial silver is 12^4w, 3^6f, 4^8e, 32^4w, 64^2a...."
Both Zecora and the nurse stood still as they listened to Twilight's incoherent ramblings. They waited a few more minutes to see if Twilight would say anything else, before the nurse finally answered Spike.
"I'm... not really sure," she said. "She's not sleeping. I'd say she's in a coma, except she's talking, and coma patients don't talk. She also has a fever, but by all other appearances she's fine. I just don't understand it."
Zecora nodded. "There's nothing more to say, so as you see, with this pony, I must agree.
"Oh, there must be something one of you can do," said Fluttershy.
"I'm sorry... we don't know much about comas. Since she's talking, I'd hold out hope that she'll just wake up from it soon. If not... there's nothing I can do. Just keep watch over her."
Zecora nodded again. "Maybe if you talk to her, and keep her company, that will help her make a quick recovery?"
"Well of course we weren't just going to leave her here!" said Rarity. "If that's all we can do, that we'll do it!"
As Zecora and the nurse left, Spike and the three ponies couldn't help but wonder where Pinkie had gone off to. Though they had learned to trust Pinkie, sometimes they still worried that she didn't take anything seriously.
"Ponies are a subset of the genus Equus, a genus which also includes Zebras and Donkeys...."
"Well, either that's just a coincidence or there's hope yet that Twilight'll be okay," said Applejack.
"All I understood out of that was 'Zebra' and 'Donkey,'" said Rainbow Dash.
"Me too. But Zecora was just here, so maybe she has some idea of what's going on around her."
Later that day, Pinkie returned. She was carrying a gigantic amount of flowers and balloons and decorations, and immediately set to work decorating Twilight's library with them.
"If we make everything look super fun, Twilight's sure to want to join us, and then she'll have to wake up!" said Pinkie.
Everyone else smiled and nodded as they began to help Pinkie decorate, happy at the sentiment. When they were done though, Twilight continued to lay in bed, saying all sorts of strange things randomly.
As the day went on, ponies filtered in and out to see Twilight and give their well wishes. Twilight was a well known and respected pony in Ponyville, so when word got around that she was ill, she had no end to the visitors and well-wishers. But by the end of the day, when the visitors began to finally dwindle, the five friends had to finally leave.
"We'll come visit every day," said Rarity. "It's the least we can do."
"I just hope she snaps out of it soon," said Applejack. "I just hate seeing her like this."
Spike kept the decorations up, hoping the good will would help.
"I hate to worry them," said Twilight. She was floating, looking down at herself and Spike, aware of everything that was going.
"It is necessary for safe and quick absorption of so much information. Your body will remain undamaged. It is merely suffering from the absence of the air aspect of your pnuema, and a subsequent overabundance of choleric humour which is throwing your overall Xi out of alignment. If you were not here, your pnuema not removed, you'd go insane from hyperclarity and the overabundance of sanguine."
He was always emotionless. His face never changed, but was forever locked into a state of passive stoicism. It was unnerving in its way, but Twilight found she was becoming used to it.
"I can't believe I understood that."
"And much more you have left. Let us continue."
For seven days, Spike, along with Twilight's five friends, cared for Twilight. They changed her bed sheets, spoon-fed her soup and gave her water to drink, turned her over so she wouldn't develop bedsores, washed her, brushed her tail and mane, and kept her company. Far worse than the chores was seeing a previously wonderful and energetic pony reduced to such a state. Each one of her friends couldn't help but think long about all the time spent with Twilight, fearing that they were the last they'd get before Twilight simply died in her never-ending sleep.
Spike worst of all. He remembered the day she had hatched him. He remembered living with her as a hatchling, before he knew anything. He remembered all the chores and errands he had to do for her, but which he took great pride in. All the fun they had together playing, when neither had to work or study. She was his best friend, closer and more important to him than anybody, and the fear of losing her was unbearable.
The others had taken notice but couldn't do much to help. They understood. They all suffered.
Finally, Spike cracked and sent a letter to the princess. She was the princess, if anybody knew what to do, she would.
She arrived personally. No guards, no chariots. She just showed up at the library. Ponies from around town stood in wonder at the princess's sudden appearance.
"Take me to her," said Princess Celestia. Spike and Twilight's friends bowed and did so, eyes full of worry.
The princess looked at Twilight for a moment, before her horn glowed. Magic enveloped Twilight, and for a moment everyone thought it was going to be as simple as that. But several seconds later, the magic died away and Twilight remained as still as ever.
"I don't know what's wrong with her. There's no life in her. No spirit. I know of no way this could have happened."
"There's nothing you can do for her princess?" asked Fluttershy. She knelt her head down as she spoke a forlorn expression on her face.
"Not at the moment," said Princess Celestia, a fierce expression on her face. Her entire body was stiff and proud, determined. "I'll find some way. There's got to be something, somewhere, that can she some light on this. If not here in Equestria, maybe somewhere else, in other lands."
"That won't be necessary princess," came a familiar voice.
All except for the princess gasped. Celestia merely looked shocked.
Twilight was awake.
Twilight got out of bed. She felt gross, sweaty and smelly. Her muscles were sore from disuse. At the same time, she felt better than she had ever felt in her life. Powerful. Invincible. The entire cosmos had been opened to her. Nothing was unknown. She could do anything, be anything.
"Twilight!" shouted Spike. He ran up to her and hugged her tight. "I'm so glad you're okay!" Twilight patted his head with her hoof. She heard him sniffle slightly. He was crying. She smiled down at him, then looked up at her friends. They all looked pretty much just as Spike did. Unbelievably happy. Her smile brightened.
Then she saw the princess.
"My most faithful student, I'm so happy you're alright," she began. "But don't you think you should rest? It was only a moment ago that you were sick."
Spike finally let go. Twilight leaned forward and gave him one last nuzzle before looking back up at the princess.
"I'm fine Princess. I've never felt better. Though, I think I need a bath."
"Coming right up!" said Spike, and he eagerly ran towards the bathroom. The sound of the water running could be heard moments later.
"Princess, I have so much to tell you!" said Twilight. "But right now I've got to take a bath. I'll send letters!"
Without waiting for reply she rushed to the bathroom and shut the door.
"I'm sorry Princess!" said Rarity. "I'm sure Twilight didn't mean any disrespect, running from us like that. She must not be quite herself, she - "
The princess raised a hoof and waved her off.
"It's fine," she said smiling. "Twilight appears healthy now, and that's all that matters. Though I am curious what happened to her to put her in such a state in the first place."
The others nodded.
"I suppose now that the danger has passed, I should leave now. Tell Twilight I am pleased she's recovered, and I look forward to her future reports on friendship."
Twilight lay in the bath, Spike outside the tub keeping her company. Ideas formed in her mind like the thousands of bubbles in the tub. It was a long road ahead of her, but it'd be worth it.
For now, she was content to simply soak in the warm water and let her mind cloud.
"I'm so glad you're alright," said Spike. He was just sitting on a stool, still. He looked to be thinking. "I was so afraid you were going to... die."
Twilight frowned. "I know Spike, and I'm sorry for worrying you. I'm okay now though. You don't have to worry anymore."
She turned around and rose slowly. She got out of the tub.
"Spike, go out and tell the girls they can go home. We have a lot of work to do. Also, clean up those decorations. I'm awake now, we won't need them."
Out of the corner of her eye, Twilight saw Mephistopheles step forward.
"I suspect Pinkie will want to throw a party to your recovery."
Twilight mentally nodded. "Tell Pinkie she can throw a party later, but not now. After that, sharpen the quills and bring out several inkwells and sheets of parchment. And bring out a book of directories. There's a lot of work to be done Spike, we best get started now."
"I could tell you what you need to know," said Mephistopheles. "You do not need a directory."
"I would prefer to do some things myself," said Twilight mentally. "It's not too much extra work."
"Well uh... okay Twilight," said Spike, oblivious to the conversation between Twilight and the spirit. "Whatever you say."
He left the bathroom. Twilight's horn glowed, and a towel lifted up and began to dry her. She smiled in wonder. She knew how that worked.
She took her time, drying her coat, brushing her mane and tail, making sure to get the strands behind her ears nice and smooth, before she took a file to her hooves. Nopony had filed her hooves while she was asleep, so they were getting unshapely. Her horn as well, needed filing.
As time passed and she felt herself clean and neat, she left the bathroom and saw that Spike had done as she told. Her friends weren't there anymore, and there were no unruly decorations or flowers littering her bedroom. Down in the main room, Spike worked, setting down ink wells from the stockroom.
"Almost done Twilight," said Spike. Twilight nodded, and waited patiently for the dragon to finish his work.
No sooner than he finished setting everything, Twilight lifted a quill with her magic, along with a sheet of parchment, and began writing. Quickly, she jotted down a list of things for Spike to do. She needed time to work on other things, so she couldn't hound him all day giving him orders. He had to do it himself if she was to get anywhere. Finally she finished and shoved the list of chores to Spike, who looked at it and began reading. Twilight then picked up another bit of parchment and walked over to one of the free drafting tables and set to work designing a new place to live.
It needed to be next to a river, for it needed not only a supply of water for purification, but for cooling and power. It'd be nice to be near the Everfree Forest as well. It had very strong Xi flows all over it which would be useful for experimentation. Silently she worked.
"Uh, Twilight," said Spike. Twilight didn't bother to look up or stop what she was doing.
"Yes Spike?" she said.
"You want me to buy all these things? Six pounds of cinnabar, fifty pounds of gold and silver...you have dozens of different plants and woods and stuff. How are you supposed to afford this? All this will cost a fortune!"
"Go to the bank, take out a loan. I'm sure they'll approve it. I'm well regarded after all. Also, get an extra one hundred and fifty thousand bits."
Twilight could hear the dragon cough and sputter.
"One hundred fifty thousand!? There's no way!"
Twilight sighed and turned around. The quill she was using continued to hover in the air.
"If there's a problem, remind them that I'm the Princess's most loyal and faithful student. I'm good for it."
Silently, she asked Mephistopheles if there was anything else she could do to get the bank to accept. The spirit-pony stood behind the drafting table, shifting his tail from left to right.
"The owner of the bank is particularly fond of gems. She also enjoys music and dancing. She would also prefer nopony find out that she's involved in underground gambling."
Twilight couldn't stop herself from audibly sneering.
"I won't resort to blackmail," she said inwardly. Mephistopheles shrugged. "It's up to you. I just give you information."
Twilight focused back on Spike.
"If the bank refuses even after all that, tell me and I'll go over there myself."
Spike nodded dumbly.
"Hurry Spike!" said Twilight, and without hesitation Spike bolted out of the library and hopefully, towards the bank. Spike turned back to her work.
There would have to be at least two levels to this house, as well as a basement level. It would need to be well insulated and ventilated. It needed to be large. She would fill it with hundreds of instruments and tools, and it needed room to accommodate them all. She'd need help in construction.
Absentmindedly she levitated another quill, and it jotted down several of her friend's names and the duties she'd need them to perform to help with this project. She was sure they'd agree to it.
At the bank, Spike held his list of items and the calculations for the amount of money it'd all cost, plus the extra one hundred and fifty thousand. He presented it to the clerk he was speaking with. She looked at it and rolled her eyes.
"This is a lot of money," she said. She was a pretty unicorn, wearing glasses and clip in her blue mane. But her eyes were sharp and Spike could see already he wasn't going to be able to settle this loan. "Why does Twilight need all this?"
Spike merely shrugged. "She didn't say. She just told me to remind you that she's the most loyal and faithful of all of the Princess's students and she's good for the money."
The clerk nodded. "I don't doubt that, but we can't just loan vast sums of money to all of the princess's students. If they were that loyal and faithful, and in that much need, surely the princess herself would give them the money?" She passed the note back. "I'm afraid that without a very good reason, there's no way this bank could accept such a loan."
Spike nodded, disappointed. He hoped Twilight wouldn't be too mad. Of course, he wouldn't mind too much even if she was. It was only a few hours ago that she was lying in bed, him worrying for her life. He still wasn't quite over the fact that she was alive and healthy again.
When Spike returned, Twilight has just finished the finishing touches on her house plan. rolling it up and filing it away, she proceeded to grab another sheet of parchment, throwing away her spent ink well and fetching a new one.
Spike saw there was already a small pile of empty ink wells.
"Should I go buy more ink?" he asked.
"Yes," said Twilight. "I see things didn't go well at the bank." Mephistopheles had reported so after it happened.
Spike dropped his list of items on a table and shuffled his feet. "Sorry Twilight, they dismissed it out of hoof."
Twilight wasn't nearly so annoyed as she thought she'd be.
"It doesn't matter, I'll go tomorrow myself. In the meantime, make those orders out anyway. I suspect that we can still get everything on credit."
Spike nodded, and set to work.
"Wait!" said Twilight. Spike jumped up in shock.
"First, get the ink! Bring a sandwich back after that! I'm starving! Get something for yourself too. Buy more parchment, oh, and a cupcake for dessert! Don't stop by Sugarcube Corner though, Pinkie's already planning a party and if she sees you she'll assume it's okay to throw it, and we're much too busy for that!"
Her commands were a jumble, and Spike had to think hard to reorder them in his mind into something that made sense.
He did what she said, only to come back to see half a dozen quills floating upon half a dozen sheets of parchment, all writing different things. He didn't think such fine magical control was possible.
Spike was suddenly worried. Twilight was different somehow. He wondered if she had come out of that coma all right after all.
"Spike, there you are!" she said, taking the sandwich from him and shoving a stack of parchment in front of his face. "Send those to Princess Celestia!"
Spike looked at the first page. On it was an incomprehensible diagram consisting of dozens of circles, some labelled with names and strange symbols, most not, with all sorts of odd numbers and calculations on them.
"What am I looking at?" asked Spike. He noticed she didn't even look up from what she was doing before answering.
"It's a diagram of the celestial bodies and their motions, the calculations used to arrive at this motion, planetary compositions, and so on and so forth. I'm sure the princess will have particular interest in it." She smiled, but it faded almost as quickly as it began.
"Their... motion?" Spike asked. He knew the Sun and Moon's motion were at the whim of the Princesses, but he never paused to think about what moved the other planets. He looked at the diagram again. His eyes widened.
"Twilight, there's more than five planets here!" he said.
Twilight again didn't look up. Her faced scrunched up in concentration, the way she usually did when she was working on something particularly difficult. Spike couldn't even guess what was occupying her mind so, she was obviously doing so many things at once. His brain hurt just thinking about it.
"The chart counts the Sun and Moon, as well as the sphere of fixed stars. Further, I have discovered two more planets past Saturn. I call them Uranus and Neptune."
"What?" said Spike, not understanding. "What's the sphere of fixed stars? Where did you come up with these names? How did you even have time to discover any new planets?! You've been in bed for the past week!"
"Don't worry about it Spike. It's all just a matter of... inspiration. The conclusions follow from the observations."
"I don't know what you're talking about."
Spike did as commanded however, and with one great breath he sent the stack of unrolled parchments to the Princess.
After a few minutes, there wasn't a reply.
They worked late into the night. Spike sent several more stacks of parchments to the Princess. He cleaned up after Twilight's work. He made her dinner, and snacks when she got hungry, brought her things to drink, and cleaned away the empty plates and cups when she was done. She smiled and nodded at his diligence, but it was clear she wasn't paying attention to him.
Spike had seen her like this before, back in Canterlot. When she was studying for exams or otherwise completely caught up in something. It wasn't good for her. He hoped she'd set some time for her friends later.
Twilight worked as long as she could. She watched Spike collapse a few hours past nightfall. She was surprised he had lasted as long as he had. Owlowicious rose and took over his duties. He wasn't as good. She needed Mephistopheles to translate his sounds into something she could understand. He couldn't send letters to Luna, who was the one up now. He couldn't run errands, even if there were many ponies up now. All he could do was clean up around her, or maybe cook her something.
"You are fatigued," said Mephistopheles. "Your work is suffering." He had his simulacrum appear as if resting, though Twilight knew it was just for her benefit. He had no physical body, he was not composed of the same stuff she was.
"Fatigue is just one's Xi frequency lowering slightly. My body will produce the appropriate humours to keep me going. I must work."
"You know that is a temporary measure. You will suffer if you are awake for too long. The body can't produce enough, and if it could, there would be side effects. You know this."
Twilight sighed. She finished her sentence and put the quill down. She was running out of ink again anyway. And she knew he was right.
She went to sleep.
In her dreams, she walked along the streets of Ponyville. It was a different Ponyville, one shaped by her knowledge. The streets were paved, the town a city, the city covered in a dome woven from Air-Silver threads which filtered out unwanted weather and kept the temperature at a steady and comfortable 72'F. There was a local train station which didn't need to be pulled by muscular male ponies, but which ran automatically, having an engine which took fire from the light, heating the impure water and removing the air from it, which rose to its natural place, turning pistons and levers which charged the rails. The front was covered with Fire-Gold, the rails Fire-Gold as well, with uniformly spaced golden pins with cinnabar paint, strengthening the Xi flows along the rail and rarefying the air below the train. A pony could travel the circumference of the world in little over an hour on such a device. Ponies of all types flew over her head, and she knew that far above, Celestial Ships carved from the planets travelled the spheres. Nopony was hungry, for food could be produced without plants. Everypony was happy. It was a dream showing a world of her making, and she hoped she would never wake from it.
But she did.
It was nearly noon, and she silently cursed herself for sleeping so long. Spike was already up, in the kitchen. She could hear him cooking, and her mouth watered at the prospects of eating. She was very hungry.
"Morning Twilight," said Spike as she trotted downstairs. "I let you sleep in. I don't know how long you stayed up, but when I went to wake you, you looked beat."
"I appreciate the concern Spike," said Twilight. She looked down as Spike set a plate in front of her. Eggs, carrots, some toast with butter, daffodils. She dove in. It tasted wonderful, and it only improved her mood even further. She didn't dawdle on it though, and was finished with her breakfast before Spike had even had a chance to eat his own.
"First thing I'm going to do is go to the bank. I need to get this loan. Those orders you sent should have gone out by now, so while I'm gone, make room for it all somewhere. Maybe down in the lab. Move all the junk in a corner or something."
"Sure thing Twilight," said Spike. He saluted her.
She took a deep breath and stepped out into town. The sun was bright above her. It hurt her eyes. She hadn't been outside in over a week. She had forgotten.
As she kept her eyes down to keep the pain away, she noticed the happy faces giving her greeting and well-wishes. It seemed everybody was glad she was finally okay. She smiled and waved her hoof at them as they walked passed.
Arriving at the bank, she wasted no time in entering. It wasn't a very large bank. Ponyville was a small town after all.
"Which one was the one Spike spoke with?" she asked Mephistopheles. The spirit trotted behind her.
"That one," he pointed. She nodded absent-mindedly, and made her way to the offending clerk.
She didn't smile as Twilight approached.
"What can I do for you?" she asked.
"Does she know why I'm here?" asked Twilight silently to Mephistopheles.
"Yes," he said.
"You know why I'm here," said Twilight. "And I'm pretty sure you're not going to give me what I want. So I want to talk to the owner. Where is she?"
"Glittery Gold is in her office on the second floor. I'm sure she wouldn't mind speaking with you, but I doubt her opinion will be different from mine. You are free to try to convince her, however."
Twilight nodded curtly. "Thank you."
On the second floor, Glittery Gold's was the largest and most adorned office. Clearly, this was a pony who valued wealth. Twilight filed that away along with the other things she knew about the pony.
"What is she doing now?" asked Twilight.
"She is looking over financial reports from a farm adjacent to your friend Applejack's farm. She is not terribly interested and will certainly accept a distraction."
Twilight took that as an invitation to just open the door and walk in without knocking. The pony named Glittery Gold looked up from her reports. Her eyes grew interested as Twilight walked up to her desk. From the inside, the office was lavishly furnished. Paintings, photos, and various trophies adorned the walls. There were lots of comfortable looking places to rest for visitors. There were jewels embedded in the walls. Small, unassuming ones, but they were there anyway. On one side there was a cabinet. Twilight asked what was in it, and Mephistopheles replied "Alcohol." He elaborated on the specific kinds, but she didn't really care about that. It was unusual enough for a pony to have it at all. Ponies looked down upon drinking.
"I'd like a loan," said Twilight, when she got close.
The pony smiled. "One of the clerks downstairs will be happy to help you with that."
Twilight shook her head.
"Already tried that. You see, I'd like a large loan."
Glittery Gold's smile faded slightly.
"Around the order of two hundred thousand bits."
Her smile faded completely.
"That is indeed a large loan. Why do you need it?"
"Does it matter? I need it. I am Princess Celestia's prized pupil, her most loyal and faithful student. I'm good for any loan."
Glittery Gold brought a hoof to her chin in thought.
"I don't think that'd be enough. Even loyal and faithful ponies make mistakes. What if, through no fault of your own, you're unable to pay it back? Why not just go straight to the princess, if you are so loyal and faithful?"
"I would prefer to not bother the princess with such base requests. Besides, wouldn't you prefer I give you the chance to make a decent profit off the interest?"
Glittery Gold's eyes narrowed.
"Is there anything she really wants?" asked Twilight to Mephistopheles.
"Nothing you can currently offer," he replied.
"What about diamonds or other gems? Rarity is good at finding them."
"She can already get as many as she wants. I'm certain she would not accept such an offer. The risk is still too much for her."
"I don't think I can help you," Glittery Gold said finally. "It's too risky. I can't do it."
Twilight was beginning to get annoyed.
"I would think somebody with your type of hobbies would be attracted to such risk."
Glittery Gold's complexion drained. Her previously shiny yellow coat suddenly seemed very pale.
"What is she thinking?" Twilight asked the knowledge spirit.
"She's trying to decide if you actually know anything, or if what you said is just a coincidence. She fears you know more than you should. She worries you'll start talking around town. Her thoughts are now on her own financial ruin. She's worried what would happen to her foals, for her husband is dead."
That snapped Twilight back to sense. She couldn't believe she had said that. Before she could try and say something else, Glittery Gold spoke.
"Very well then," she growled out. "I'll give you the loan. But I don't want to see you here again."
Twilight wanted to apologise... but she didn't.
Glittery Gold took out a piece of parchment and wrote something on it. She passed it to Twilight.
"Give that to one of the secretaries downstairs, they'll open an account here for you with the money inside. Now leave my office."
Twilight did so.
Back at the library, Spike was busy making lunch. She'd been at the bank longer than she had thought.
"Everything's taken care of with the loan," Twilight said. "When everything starts pouring in tomorrow, we'll be able to send cheques. In the meantime, I have these."
She levitated a few envelopes and gave them to Spike.
"Deliver these please. One's for Applejack, one's for Rarity, one's for Rainbow Dash. Try to avoid Pinkie Pie. After that drop these off to the post office."
This time it was a large stack of orders, requests, and other miscellanea.
Spike glanced at what they were for. "Jeez Twilight, what could we possibly need all this for? Are we building a house?"
"Yes," said Twilight.
Spike didn't know how to reply, so he merely nodded before walking out of the library on his duties.
"Um...." said Twilight. "What's Glittery Gold doing right now?"
"Drinking," replied Mephistopheles.
Twilights ears lowered. She didn't mean to do that. She just really needed that loan. It was all for a good cause. Everything was going to be fine for the poor bank owner.
The next day supplies started pouring in just like Twilight had predicted. Twilight's three friends, Applejack, Rarity, and Rainbow Dash had come over. Applejack had brought Apple Bloom along as requested.
"No what's all this about Twilight?" asked Rainbow Dash.
"I must say I'm very confused as well," said Rarity. "It wasn't too long ago that we were worried sick about you, and now you want us all to come help you with some big project? It's all very sudden."
"Where's Pinkie and Fluttershy?" asked Applejack. "And why'd I bring Apple Bloom here?"
"Because I'm a big pony," said Apple Bloom, puffing out her chest.
"Girls, please," said Twilight. "I need your help with making something. I need to build a new house. This library's too small, and is too much of a fire hazard. I didn't ask Pinkie or Fluttershy to come because I didn't think they were suited to this task. I asked you to bring Apple Bloom because I heard she was quite the handy pony. I'm lucky it's summer so she can help all day."
Apple Bloom smiled at the praise.
"Build a house?" asked Rarity. "But dear, why? You live in such a lovely place already."
"As I said," said Twilight. "It's too small for my future needs. And burns too easily. Too many books."
Rainbow Dash laughed. "I didn't think I'd ever hear those words come out of your mouth Twilight. Haha, 'too many books.'"
Twilight was nonplussed. "I've read them all anyway. I don't need them. So anyway, will you all help?"
"Well, if you need it, of course we'll help," said Applejack.
"We're at your service," said Rarity.
"I guess," said Rainbow Dash.
"Alright then!" said Twilight, pulling out several large sheets of parchment. She knocked a bunch of stuff off the table in the middle of the room and laid the parchment down so everypony could see it.
Rarity only took a quick glance at it before speaking.
"This is...quite a house," she said. "This will take a lot of work. A lot of space as well. Where do you plan to build this?"
"I bought a plot of land on the river next to Applejack's farm. It's near the Everfree Forrest."
"What about the supplies?" asked Applejack. "Lot a lumber gonna go into this."
"It's all taken care of. I'm having things delivered to the site as we speak.
"Where did you get the money?" asked Rarity.
"What's with the thousand questions?" asked Twilight, more forcefully than she intended. Rarity shrank from her words, and Twilight suddenly felt terrible.
"I'm sorry," she said. "I didn't mean to shout. I'm just really eager to get started. Just trust me, everything's been taken care of. We just need to get to work."
"Well all right then," said Applejack. "Let's get to it."
The plot Twilight has selected was around one hundred by one hundred acres, a very large amount of land. It was mostly level, sturdy but infertile soil, rocky and difficult to work. The rocks it did grow weren't even useful. Which is why nopony had bought it. But it was perfect for Twilight.
It was backbreaking work. Despite Twilight's wishes, Fluttershy and Pinkie would come by often to help as well. Pinkie mostly just tried to keep up morale, while Fluttershy did the little things. Together, Twilight supposed they helped a little, but it wasn't a big boost in productivity.
It wasn't long before Twilight had to hire specialists. She needed metalworkers to set up the boilers and the forge. She stressed the importance of following her plans exactly, and the workers indeed followed her instructions without too much fuss.
After it was too dark to work, Twilight would go back to the Library and write more to Celestia or Luna.
After a month, and half way through her new house's completion, she finally got a reply. It was from Celestia, and it said only a few words.
I would like to see you as soon as possible.
"She wants to see me?" said Twilight to herself. She paced back and forth in her library. Spike was gone, running some errand or another.
"It's what the note says," said Mephistopheles. "I can tell you what she wants, if you'd like."
"No, no," said Twilight. "I'll just go find out for myself. I'm sure it's nothing to worry about." She stopped pacing. "When she said 'as soon as possible' did she mean that literally?"
"She meant as soon as possible."
Twilight then closed her eyes and concentrated.
Normally teleportation was difficult under even the best of circumstances. Not many unicorns could do it. It was in fact, a very complex process that could only be done because ponies had a certain biological capability to do it, like fish had the capability to swim like they did despite the complex physics involved. Having such an understanding of the physics of teleportation as she did, Twilight was able to teleport distances which, before, would have been deemed impossible.
Teleportation was an amazing thing when you got down to it. First an Affinity was constructed between two points, one's current location, and the location one wished to be in. One's constituent Atoms were then completely deconstructed, the Pnuema removed from the body and free floating, the Xi flows of the body instantly duplicated over to the second point due to the established Affinity. When one's Atoms are deconstructed, the Affinity point for the starting location breaks down as nopony is there to keep it up, and where there was once two unique Xi flows, there is once again only one, in a different location. Atoms combine from the surroundings to form a new body, and the previously free-floating Pneuma jumps to a familiar home. The violent motion of the Pneuma causes momentary disorientation, but in the end, one is in a different location nearly instantaneously. If it wasn't so natural for pony's bodies, their brains and minds so built for it, the process would be fraught with complication. Still, in the back of her mind, Twilight could think of odd possibilities and horrible repercussions, like building an Affinity between three points and tearing one's Pnuema in two, or stopping the deconstruction of one's Atoms and removal of one's Pnuema and creating a Pnuema-less copy of one's self.
Affinities were not endless, the Xi flows that constructed them could wind down, and so there was a limit to how far a pony could teleport. At least normally. Twilight understood the mechanics enough to extend Affinities indefinitely. With enough calculation, she could teleport herself to the Sphere of Fixed Stars if she wanted, though such would be suicide, not from a fall but from the amount of energy it would take, and the lack of surrounding Terrestrial Matter. It would be too exhausting, one's Xi flows would degrade beyond sustaining life, and the body that formed at the other end would be malformed and incapable of hosting one's Pneuma.
And so, instantaneously, Twilight transported herself from her library in Ponyville to the Princess's chamber in Canterlot.
"Twilight!" came a voice. Twilight opened her eyes. She was dizzy and her vision was slightly blurry, but it cleared up quick enough. She blinked a few times and saw herself right in front of Princess Celestia, who was resting on a large soft-looking cushion. Twilight thought about it and realised she'd never seen the princess in such a candid position.
"Um...you wanted to see me Princess?" said Twilight.
The Princess stood up. "I only just sent that letter. How is it you're here already?"
The princess's face went stern. "As are a lot of things around you recently. Which is why I called you. I've been reading your letters Twilight. Fascinating, at least, what I can decipher of them. But I couldn't help but notice there have been no friendship reports. Just graphs and tables and monstrous calculations, complex explanations for the simplest of phenomena! It's clear to me you haven't been spending time with your friends."
Twilight felt her face grow hot under the princess's disappointment.
"I'm sorry. But I have been spending time with my friends. We've been working on my new house. I sent you a letter about it, since all major constructions have to be filed in Canterlot."
"Yes, I remember... I think. But this all seems to be just more work. Where's the fun, Twilight? What have you learned about friendship in all this time?"
I've learned that friendship doesn't teach me anything, thought Twilight. She wouldn't dare say such a thing though. Friendship just didn't seem important anymore, given everything she had to do.
"I'm sorry Princess. I'll relax more. I won't forget my friends."
"I trust you Twilight," said Celestia. "I just don't want you to lose sight of what's really important. Remember your days in Canterlot, before you learned of the magic of friendship?"
Twilight now knew she was speaking completely metaphorically. There was no real magic in friendship.
"Is that all, Princess?" asked Twilight. She was eager to get back to work.
"There's something else I wanted to see you about," said Celestia. She sat down, her forelegs still extended. In a formal conversation, it was a submissive pose, and Twilight grew hot again seeing the princess speak to her in such a manner. "I've been puzzling over your letters all this time, trying to make sense of everything you've sent me and my sister. Ignoring the question of where you came up with these ideas, I want to understand them better." The princess stopped speaking, waiting for acknowledgement from Twilight.
"Okay," said Twilight.
"First, on the matter of basic principles. Is everything composed of Atoms, or Xi?"
"Both. Atoms without Xi flows do not move and combine to form anything. It is pure matter without form, impossible. It is nothing at all. By the same token, Xi without atoms is pure form without matter, unlike the former, it is something, but really it's not anything."
"I'm not sure I completely understand, but okay. Second, you describe the relationship between my sister and myself, and the sun and moon, as unnatural. Can you explain this to me?"
"I didn't mean it in an offensive way," said Twilight. The princess smiled and nodded, showing that she understood that. "What I mean is that all other heavenly bodies move along their Xi flows without the aid of terrestrial ponies like you or me. The flows for the Sun and Moon have been tampered with, they are extremely weak with very very low frequency, but maintain their charge. Without you or your sister to charge them, the Sun and Moon sit very still. It is an unnatural state of affairs, their matter doesn't want to sit still, it wants to move in circles and it's a kind of violence that keeps them still."
"I - well, I understand that. I know what tampering was done, though I don't know how you know." She didn't sound accusatory. She sounded... worried. "I don't know how to fix it though, so my sister and I do what we can to keep things in motion."
"You don't know? One of the first things I sent was a way to fix those Xi flows. Golden pins and thin stripes of cinnabar paint need to be applied to the crystalline spheres of the Sun and Moon, and a device to automatically strengthen the Xi flows can be affixed atop the crystals. After a while we can remove the device and the pins, and either leave the holes in the crystal or fix that too. Either way, the Sun and Moon will return to their natural motion."
"I never saw a letter describing such a thing," said the Princess. "But it sounds like an utterly massive undertaking. That's a lot of paint. It's a lot of gold. It would take a long time to mark all along those spheres. That's ignoring the difficulty of even getting up there, and even if ponies could, how would they stay? You describe Terrestrial Matter as wont to follow straight Xi flows towards the centre of the universe. Is there even air to breath up there?"
"If we started now, with one hundred and fifty ponies working on it around the clock, we could have it done in about two hundred years."
"A very long time for my little ponies," said the princess. "I'm not sure it's worth it."
"It would be. As to your other questions; Cinnabar and Gold are easy to transmute, requiring only varying amounts of Mercury and Sulphur. There are many ways to get up there and ways to stay up there. There is Air going all the way up to the Sphere of Fixed Stars so ponies can breath, although the higher one goes, the more pure the Air, and eventually it'll be dangerous to breath. Even at relatively low altitudes, such as between the Moon and Venus, most ponies can't safely breath the air. Pegasus ponies would do better, but even among them the Air can be too pure, so acceptable candidates for the work will have to be screened from the greater population. There's also the problem of the heat, as things will get hotter the higher one goes."
"I'll take your word for it," said Celestia. She stood up. "I was going to ask more questions, but I think we've talked long enough. There is one last thing though." Her eyes actually narrowed, and Twilight got the impression whatever would come out of her mouth next was not going to be open for discussion.
"Your theory of spontaneous generation is interesting... until you started sending recipes to generate animals. I, for example, do not think that the cows in Equestria would be happy to know that they can be grown in a laboratory."
"Animals generated that way would have no pneuma, they would be mere automatons with no will. Even if we generated ponies - "
Celestia snorted. "And that's what I didn't want to hear. Every pony is precious, every life is sacred. I don't want ponies to be created who have no soul. It is a desecration of everything good and decent!"
"But Princess, think of the - "
"I'm sorry Twilight, but I can't allow anything of the sort. Do not put any further thought into this matter."
Twilight hung her head low. "Yes Princess. I'm sorry."
A moment passed between Teacher and Student, though it was no longer clear which was which. Slowly, Celestia stepped forward and gave Twilight a soft nuzzle.
"Do not fret my little pony. I have faith that no matter what, you'll do well in this world."
That night, long after Twilight had left, Celestia laid down on her favourite cushion, Luna reading some of Twilight's latest letters.
"I can make no sense of what this mare is saying," said Luna, throwing the letter she was reading down in disgust. "I'm not a mathematician. You're not a mathematician." She levitated the letter again and read in an annoyed tone, "Phi multiplied by the power of 10 divided by two-pi-r to the eighteenth power where Phi equals six point eight hertz over fifty three... I don't even know what that symbol is there.... On and on it goes too, full of matrices and numbers. What does it mean!?" Again the letter was thrown on the ground. Celestia smiled and took a look at it herself.
"Hmm," she said absentmindedly. "The paper is labelled 'Calculations on the Ferment of Water.'"
"And what does that mean?" asked Luna. She was lying upside down now, her hooves above her. Celestia thought once again how much she missed her sister, and how happy she was that Twilight and her friends had brought Luna back.
"I think it's the specifics on the Xi flows that direct atoms to form Terrestrial Water."
"Oh Celly, don't act like you understand!" She was smiling though, teasing.
"I don't," said Celestia, putting the parchment down. "Not really."
Luna turned herself over again. "Where did she get such strange ideas? From what you've told me, these are all completely new."
Celestia frowned. "That's what worries me. She's saying thousands of things, elaborations upon elaborations on how the world works. I don't know where she got all this information. And I don't doubt she's right about it all. She knows things she's not supposed to. She is scaring me."
Luna looked at her sister sadly. "Why don't you do something about it?"
Celestia sighed. "What can I do? It's not a crime to know too much. And I can't imagine she's done anything terrible, at least at the moment. And she's my most precious student. I say I love all my ponies, and I do. But she's my favourite." She suddenly smiled and looked into her sisters eyes. "Well, my second favourite."
Luna laughed, but it didn't last long. The air was thick with tension as the conversation had moved to unhappy things.
"Did you ever hear about her idea to 'fix' the Sun and Moon?" asked Celestia.
Luna grew a bit pale, and Celestia knew then that she had.
"I saw the letter. It was sent to me. I thought the plan, so much as I could figure out what it actually was, so ridiculous that I didn't think to bother you with it... besides...."
"Do you fear the ponies will come to hate us if we rule without providing anything substantial?" asked Celestia. Luna had always been worried about what the ponies thought of their works, especially her own.
Luna nodded, looking guilty.
"Don't worry about it," said Celestia. "Our ponies are wonderful beings, they would never hate us, or anypony for that matter, over something so trivial."
Suddenly, another stack of parchment appeared above Luna, showering her head with loose sheets. Celestia couldn't help but smile at the sight, and Luna, seeing her sister smiling, grumbled under the letters.
"I can't take much more of this," said Luna.
Celestia chuckled, but nodded. "I thought about it actually. I think I'm going to compile a list of all of Equestria's greatest scholars, scientists, professors, and learned ponies, and send the list to Twilight telling her to send all future observations and mathematics to them instead of us. Let them drown in facts. Besides, they'd actually be suited to understanding all this."
Luna looked around. The room was full of letters. She was beginning to hate them.
"That's a good idea Celly. I hope you finish that list as soon as possible."
The next day, Twilight was busy working with her friends, finishing her new house. It was taking shape, and Twilight was proud of it. As Twilight surveyed, she felt a tug on her tail. She lifted a back leg and glared down in the direction behind her.
It was Spike. "Twilight," he began. "Didn't the princess tell you to spend some real time with your friends?"
Twilight brushed him away with her tail, and went back to her surveying. "I'll do that after we finish the house. I'll even let Pinkie throw a huge housewarming party. But right now, I want to get this done. It's really important."
"But why is it important?" asked Spike. "Isn't friendship the most important thing?"
Twilight sighed. "You just don't understand Spike. But you will. This house is the first step on the road to making the world a better place. You'll just have to trust me."
Spike slumped. He hadn't gotten through to her, again. Twilight wasn't dying. But he still felt that he was losing her.
Spike's life since Twilight had come out of her coma was a whirlwind of errands. Doubly so when construction on their new house began. Even with the help of Twilight's friends, and Owlowicius to take over during nights, Spike felt completely overworked. Every morning he had to cook breakfast. He had to send letters, which recently had gone from simply setting fire to them to transport them to one of the princesses, to running back and forth to the post office. Sometimes he had to make copies of things Twilight wrote, and with her writing so much his hands had become prone to painfully seizing up. Twilight assured him that "soon" she'd make something to help with that, but for now he would have to do as she said.
Twilight had been doing that a lot lately. "Not now Spike," she'd say. "Soon I'll relax," or "Soon I'll let Pinkie throw a party," or "Soon you can take a break." It never happened.
He long ago stopped trying to understand what Twilight was writing now. He used to always take a look at her letters to get a sense of what she was doing or what she had learned on any given day, or what she thought was important. Now it seemed that the more he tried to make sense of anything she wrote down, the less he actually understood. When he tried to ask about something, she'd grumble to herself, bark off some short snippy comment and then ignore him. Even during the worst of her studies back in Canterlot, she had never been this way.
What had happened to her?
As the weeks passed and her new house became a reality, Twilight hunched over her old desk in the library scribbling out a few final letters before she would begin to move to the new house in earnest. She'd leave all the "scientific" junk in the basement. It was almost all worthless. She'd leave all the books here too. They were either all fiction, that is, useless, or wrong, that is, even more useless. She'd have to write entirely new ones. It wasn't looking like any of the ponies she was writing to were going to do any revisions of their theories any time soon. Weeks she'd been sending letters to the scientists and professors Princess Celestia had listed, and not a single reply had come back.
As she put the last stroke on her latest letter, she dropped the quill with excessive force causing it to snap.
"Mephistopheles," she said, out loud. Luckily there was currently no one around to hear her.
"Yes?" he said. He lay on the floor, still as a statue. It was just a good a pose as any, he wasn't really there. Twilight wondered sometimes why he picked certain poses at certain times, when he had no need for physical comfort. She didn't care enough to actually ask though, not yet anyway.
"How have all my letters been received?" asked Twilight.
"Generally? Poorly. The specifics would take many hours to say. The overwhelming majority view your letters as indecipherable, as they are incompatible with current theories."
"What current theories?" asked Twilight. "Nopony else has any theories!"
Mephistopheles shrugged. "They are there, but are vague and ill-defined. None of them were told to pay any particular attention to you, so almost all believe you to be a blabbering crackpot and most have stopped reading your letters altogether. Only three pay you any mind now, but they have, as of yet, not replied as they are still puzzling over particular things."
"Who are these three and what are they puzzling over?" asked Twilight, her ears perking up. It was good to know she wasn't being completely ignored.
"Star Swirl the Astronomer from Hayard University is currently trying to identify Uranus and Neptune, as well as find evidence for the Asteroid Belt between Mars and Jupiter. She is also using your maps to track the planets in order to test their accuracy. She is very impressed so far.
"Magic Star, assistant to the head of the Spell Creation Institute in Canterlot is the most enthusiastic of your current listeners and is busy telling everypony who will listen about your treatise on Transmutation via Xi Flow Manipulation. She has a reputation for being very excited over new things and so nopony pays her any attention. She is also young, and her youth does not enamour her to others, nor does her Earth Pony status. Her master Violet Stone is who you are actually writing to, and he merely throws your letters out, unread.
"The last is Brown Box, a retired engineer, who has taken your design for the ink-pen and is making several of the devices to sell. He plans to give you the majority of the profits and hopes that will be enough to prevent you from getting angry at his theft of ideas. He awaits actual profits before replying."
Twilight grumbled to herself that this pony had thought to take her invention without actually writing to her first. If he'd only asked, she'd have let him have all the profits, if he wanted them. She had far better ways to make money than selling pens which she could already think of improvements for.
"Maybe I'm going about this all wrong," said Twilight absentmindedly. "Maybe I shouldn't bother writing to ponies who are already old and set in their ways. Maybe... maybe I should open a school? If ponies were taught the truth from the very beginning, things would be easier. They wouldn't have to unlearn anything."
"If you like," said Mephistopheles.
"It would give a new purpose to this tree house," continued Twilight. "I don't like it housing so many worthless books. I can convert it to a small schoolhouse, take a few fillies and colts as apprentices or something, get my ideas noticed that way. Or maybe I could just find more engineers and inventors, , and just offer them improvements for their businesses."
"Why not do both?"
That idea struck Twilight like a bolt of lightning.
"You're right!" she said, getting exited. "Why not do both? I'll have to write to Celestia for permission to teach, but I'm sure she won't mind. And nopony says I can't give away inventions."
Mephistopheles leaned upwards and spread his forehooves outward as if giving permission. He didn't need to give permission though. Twilight didn't owe him anything, least of all his leave to do something.
Twilight looked down at her recently finished letter. The ink had dried, but it didn't matter. She wasn't going to send it now that she knew it wasn't doing any good.
The next day was a Friday. It was the day Twilight sent a letter to the Princess asking for permission to teach. It was also the day Twilight was finally able to move into her new house.
It was two stories, plus a basement. It was large, and the second story had a balcony from where she could look through a telescope and see the heavenly bodies if she wished. It sat near a river, and a waterwheel had been installed to provide power to the automatic bellows for her furnaces. She was going to need her furnaces capable of extremely high heat in order to produce many of the initial materials she needed. As time was to go on, she anticipated she would no longer need these things, but for now, they were absolutely necessary for her work.
In all, there wasn't much to take. Mostly scientific instruments, the ones that were actually worth something, a few pots and pans for cooking, and other miscellanea like her old journals and photo albums.
Loading up her saddle bags she trotted off, leaving her old residency behind, moving towards a brighter future.
A knot of frustration formed in her chest as soon as she opened the door.
"Surprise!" came the familiar sound of... everypony in Ponyville.
"Why didn't you warn me?" asked Twilight inwardly.
"You did not ask. I no longer try to offer information you have not asked for."
Twilight audibly groaned.
"Come on Twilight, all your friends are here," said Spike, walking towards her. "You said you would let Pinkie throw a party when we were done, and we're done!"
"Yeah, Pinkie's been dying to throw a party for you for months," said Rainbow Dash. "It was hard trying to keep her from throwing it earlier."
The offending pink pony bounced towards Twilight and said in a sing-song voice, "And now this is gonna be the best party ever!"
Twilight groaned again. She did not want to have to do this right now but it looked like there was no way out of it.
"What's the fastest way to get this over with," asked Twilight.
"I could offer possibilities, but the future is difficult to predict. It's always in flux, and beings with Pneuma can make unexpected choices and decisions."
"Yes yes," said Twilight, becoming even more aggravated. "Just do your best."
For the first time, Twilight saw Mephistopheles's facial expression change. He frowned. "I don't like it," he said. "I shouldn't. I won't. I'm not here to actively do things, that's what you are to do. If I were to give you advice for things I don't know, it might as well be me who is doing it."
Twilight couldn't contain her frustration any longer.
"I don't have time for this!" she shouted. "Out, out, everypony out! Come back later, preferably never!"
It was like somepony blowing all the candles in a house at once. Instantly the sounds of the party died. Everypony was staring in shock, except for Spike and Twilight's friends who had a look of concern. Twilight glared.
"Well? Didn't you hear me?"
"Ahem, Twilight," said Applejack stepping forward. "Maybe we oughta talk about this in private real quick." Her voice has a sense of finality to it that made Twilight think that if she fought this, Applejack would fight back.
Twilight's ears lowered and she looked around. All the ponies had shifted to looking concerned now, and Twilight had the distinct impression that they were right to be. Was she going crazy? It didn't feel like it, she just had a lot to do. Canterlot wasn't built in a day, and she had way more than Canterlot to build. Was it her fault she wanted to actually live to see her work come to fruition?
But she didn't have to be so mean about it either.
"I'm sorry... of course Applejack."
Applejack nodded before looking back and saying something to Twilight's other friends. Twilight asked what was said, as she couldn't hear it, and Mephistopheles replied "She'll be fine in a jiffy, you'll see."
Twilight tried to not show her sudden annoyance at the implication that something was wrong with her, as they stepped outside.
The sun was going down. Night would come soon. There were fireflies only just recently arrived, floating around the street lanthorns, their lights blinking in and out. Twilight swished her tail back and forth absentmindedly as the mosquitoes were coming out as well. Other than Applejack and Twilight, nopony could be seen in any direction.
"Twilight," said Applejack, getting right to it. "We're worried about you. You haven't relaxed in months, and to make things worse, you haven't let us relax in months. We thought things would get better now that the house is done, but just now you showed us we were wrong. You need to relax. We need to relax." She sighed softly. "I understand how important work can seem. Sometimes it can feel like without you there working and holding everything together, the world will crash around you. But that just ain't how it really is. You gotta take a breather every once in a while. "
Green eyes met violet as Applejack finished speaking, and Twilight felt herself crumble under the gaze. Applejack was right. Just like the Princess had been right, and Spike had been right. She was working too hard. She was forgetting her friends. She was becoming worse than she ever was back in Canterlot. She needed to slow down and smell the flowers every once in a while, and it took Applejack's total honesty for her to see it. Twilight knew that of all her friends, she could trust what Applejack had to say the most.
Twilight sighed and looked down, ears folded back and head hung low.
"You're right AJ," she said. "You're completely right. You and everyone else. You didn't deserve what I said earlier, I shouldn't have tried to kick you out, and I do need to relax and spend time with my friends."
Twilight looked back up when she felt a hoof on her shoulder. Applejack was smiling at her.
"Well I'm glad you see things better now," said Applejack. "Now come on, we can go back inside and everything will be okay."
Twilight nodded and followed AJ back inside. After apologising, the party went on as it should have in the first place. Twilight did her best to just forget about everything and lose herself in the relaxation only one of Pinkie's parties could bring. She played games, danced, chatted and had fun with all her friends and the other ponies in Ponyville. Nevertheless her mind continued to wander back against her will, back to that glorious version of Ponyville she once saw in her dreams and how she was the only one who could make that dream a reality.
The next day Twilight woke up refreshed and feeling pretty good, all things considered. Sleeping in her new house wasn't any different than any other place, and her routine seemed to be the same. She woke up, found Spike was already up, cleaning the mess from the party before, with breakfast already at the table in the small kitchen. Twilight said, "Goodmorning" as quickly as possible before devouring her breakfast and heading to the main room.
It wasn't a real living room. It was a workshop. And she could finally get to work. No more waiting for construction, or loans, or supplies, or parties. Now was the time, the true first step on the way.
While Spike spent his time cleaning, Twilight set to work. First she had to get everything ready. Everything in its place. There was no good reason to keep everything stored up until the exact time she needed it. So Twilight set to work. This was going to be a very simple thing, a gift to Celestia and a demonstration of what could be done.
It was a simple device. Twilight brought out a block of glass, an equal sized block of silver, some gold nuggets and a bunch of silver she previously had worked into spikes from a metal smith. First, she needed to make two gold needles. She grabbed a gold nugget, and with a hammer lifted magically, pounded it as hard as she could. The table was sturdy, but the other items on it rattled in protest of her actions. Spike poked he head out of the kitchen to see what she was doing, and Twilight took a moment to say everything was alright. After he went back to his work, Twilight pounded the gold again. And a few more times. This was very pure gold, soft and malleable, and it flatted relatively easily, though she worried for the table.
Shrugging, she took the flattened piece of gold and moved it to a nearby anvil and began hammering there. It produced a much better, softer sound that didn't shake anything. Plus, the gold flatted much easier now. She was stupid for not doing this in the first place.
After it was sufficiently thin, she grabbed a pair of tinner's snips and cut her new gold sheet into quarters before discarding three fourths of her product and placing the remaining one fourth back, square on the anvil. She hammered some more, and it was then she was very happy to be a gifted unicorn. This would be very difficult without magic.
Eventually she ended up with a sheet of gold as flat as she felt she could possibly make it. It would have to do. Snipping off two strips she then took the strips back to the table with a set of pliers. Carefully she rolled the strips vertically onto themselves and crushed the folds together as to end up with two thin gold tubes. Bringing up the snips she cut them at both sides, and tried to use her magic to smooth the edges. It helped, but only a little. Finally, she got a file and filed down the edges on one side, producing needles.
Happy that they were as good as she was going to get, she set them aside and picked up her block of silver. Silver too, was easy to work with at room temperatures, and all Twilight needed to do was to drill two holes in the block just big enough for her make-shift spikes to fit through. Picking up a drill, she began her work.
It was a long arduous process, but eventually she got the holes in. Slowly she placed her needles in. They fit fine, not too loose, and she didn't have to squeeze the gold to get them in either. Lastly, she took a bowl and put some cinnabar dust into it. Adding water, she ended up with cinnabar paint. A small brush was all that was needed to paint a thin line between the two gold needles.
With that half out of the way, the last task that remained was to fix the sender. This would be easier as everything was already worked. She simply added two silver spikes to the previously prepared glass block. Easy.
Technically, she was done. But she had a flash of inspiration to make the device even better, though it occurred to her mid-work and so she had to go back down and get extra supplies. A thin plank of wood was brought up, as well as several metal gears and levers, and the tools to fasten them to wood, along with simple glue.
Spike had at some point finished his work and was busy staring from behind her, puzzling over what she was doing. Lucky he remained silent, and so Twilight was content to let him stay.
Her work was long, but relatively simple. This was the kind of craft work she would have done as a filly in a science fair. It's one of the reasons she chose to build this first.
When she was done, she had her block of glass fixed atop a wooden plank. Also on the wooden plank was a system of small gears and bits of metal that fixed a metal arm parallel to the block, above it, ending between the two metal spikes. The arm had a line of cinnabar paint affixed on it between where the spikes were. The arm was divided into two sections, an inner and outer section. One could snap the outer sides of the arm down to connect to the silver spikes, and the inner piece of the arm remaining could be pushed down to complete the line between the spikes. Without pressure, it would move back up on its own, and what would be left would be a broken line between the spikes.
Twilight smiled approvingly at her work.
"What have you made?" asked Spike. He stepped forward to get a closer look.
"I call it a telegraph," said Twilight. "It can send messages between the two blocks at a distance. Very primitive, but it gets the job done."
Spike looked at the two blocks in bewilderment.
"How does it work?" he asked.
Twilight smiled, eager to explain this to someone.
"I'll show you," she began. Her horn glowed a bit as it checked local Xi flows. She then places on block at one end of the table at a certain angle, and the other block at the other end. She then said, "One block is the receiver, one is the sender. This block here is the sender." She indicated the glass block. "Glass has a very low natural Affinity to Silver. In plain language, it acts upon it due to an innate attraction. Now, first we snap the sides of this bar down in place." She did so, and they clicked into place. Spike didn't notice the Receiver block had changed. "Now it's ready. On the Receiver block you'll notice there is a now a break in the cinnabar line between the two gold needles." Spike looked, and saw that it was true. "That cinnabar line will now mirror this one. I've set it up so that in order to complete the line on this side, I just have to press down on this here." She pressed on the middle section of the metal arm, completed the line. Over on the other side of the table, the Receiver block's line completed on its own.
"Wow," said Spike. "But I don't get it. If you build more of those Receiver blocks, do they all copy that one Sender block?"
Twilight shook her head. "These two are connected because they are currently in the same Xi flow. It's not hard to put two things in the same flow however, so it's nevertheless unsecure. This device could be made better by building a unique, stronger affinity between the two blocks, but... well, it'd take a lot of explaining why I shouldn't do that, suffice it to say that once you do that you might as well go for something better."
Spike nodded though he didn't really understand.
"So how does completing and breaking a line send messages?" he asked.
"A code could be made that's based on the length of time between completed lines forming. Originally I was going to make this with twelve pins and twelve spikes arranged to make six lines, and make it so that different combinations of broken and unbroken lines represented a different letter in our alphabet, but that'd be too much work for this little thing."
"Uh, Twilight," asked Spike.
"What good is this? I mean, you have me to send letters to Celestia or Luna, and everypony else has the post office. Why is this useful?"
"It's useful mostly in proving something. Do you know how you're able to send messages to Princess Celestia?" Spike shook his head. "It's the same basic principle as teleportation, or this device. Your breath forces an affinity between where the letter is and in front of one of the princesses. It follows the Xi flow and shows up at the end. Simple. Same with this. This demonstrates how that works. Plus, not everypony has a dragon assistant, and this is instant communication, while mail can take days to reach its destination."
"I guess I understand," said Spike.
Twilight mailed both parts of the Telegraph to Princess Celestia the next day. It was for the princess, not one of the ponies who didn't listen to her. She also began work on another project, this one far more important and wide-reaching than a mere communication device.
She required a lot of specialised help for this though, and had to seek the employ of goldsmith. She left him exact instructions on a silver pendant, and the materials to make four of them (which consisted of cinnabar paint, gold, and silver). While he was following her instructions, she moved on.
Taking long bars of gold she started her furnace, making sure the fire was hot and pure. She had to enclose it so impurities couldn't get in, and she then placed gold bars in a slot above the fire, exposing them to the pure flames. Several hours later she had created a new substance. Fire-Gold. Its uses were never-ending. With enough of this she could do many things.
Spike saw it and immediately knew it was something special, as the air around it rarefied and caused an odd optical affect.
"What is that?" he asked.
"The future," said Twilight. "It's the future."
Two months after Twilight made her first telegraph and twenty five miles away from Ponyville, a herd of fillies and colts walked the roads of Manehatan. It was but a month into school, and already they were tired from it, happy to be free of the torture of being in their dreary classrooms, eager now to play in the streets.
"I'll be the Madmare this time!" said one of the fillies. She was too young for a cutie mark, and indeed, thought too young to be playing with the group. But she was brash and wouldn't take no for an answer, and today, she was determined to be the "Madmare" in their games.
"Go home Snow Cone," said one of the colts, her older brother. "You know mom doesn't like you out after school. And you cramp our style."
"Oh come on," said one of the fillies. "She's alright. We can let her play for once."
"And be the madmare!" shouted Snow Cone. Her little wings were buzzing in excitement, to the point where she was involuntarily hovering above the ground.
"Ugh," said Snow Cone's brother. "Fine."
Being the "madmare" was simply the new name the group has chosen for who was "it" in a modified game of tag. If the "madmare" got you, you'd have to do some predetermined action either during or after the game, always based on some idea on what new stories they heard about the "Madmare of Ponyville."
"So what this time?" said another one of the ponies. "I heard just the other day that the madmare had found a way to bring back the dead."
"She makes zombies?!" asked Snow Cone. "That's so cool!"
"Nah," said another filly, waving her hoof in the air to draw attention to herself. "She just found a way to keep pony from dying. But if you accept the eternal life she gives you, you end up living like a zombie."
Most of the ponies gasped. A few scoffed. But all of them had smiles on their faces after a few moments. Talking about the madmare was the new popular thing to do.
"So if I catch you, you turn into a zombie!" cried Snow Cone. Before anypony had a change to agree or disagree, she yelled "go!" and ran to the nearest pony before the ponies scattered, laughing and giggling.
That night in Ponyville, Twilight was hard at work. She hadn't slept in days. And she felt great.
Taking a drink of water she gathered the fruits of her latest project. Just in time, as she heard a knock on her door.
"Spike!" she called. "Spike!" No answer. He was sleeping. Smiling, she quickly ran over to his cot and dragged him by the tail over near the door, and yelled in his ear.
The baby dragon woke up, startled, jumping out of bed.
"What's happening, are we under attack?!" he asked, running behind a table. His eyes were puffy and dark from sleepiness, and Twilight decided she needed to hurry or else he'd fall asleep again.
The nock came again.
"Spike, get the door please."
Spike looked at her bewildered and obviously angry, but he did what she said.
As soon as the door opened, five ponies walked inside Twilight's workshop, all bleary eyed, yawning, with frizzled manes and tails.
"Why are we here again?" asked Rainbow Dash. She was walking for once, and as soon as she entered the house, dropped on the floor and closed her eyes.
"Twilight, I hope this is important," said Rarity. "It's four in the morning and we're all very tired."
"Exactly!" said Twilight, clopping her hooves together. Her friends just groaned.
Twilight grabbed her newest creations, or at least, the bag holding them. She levitated five grape-sized yellow-gold pills, and gave one to each of her friends.
"And here's one for you Spike," she said, giving him a purple one.
"Uh... what're we supposed to do with these?" asked Applejack, but as soon as she finished her sentence, Pinkie Pie has immediately swallowed hers.
"Don't chew," said Twilight.
Shrugging, the others all took their own pills, trusting that their friend wouldn't do anything to harm them.
Twilight watched eagerly as their yawns stopped, their eyes brightened, and they stood straighter.
"Woah," said Rainbow Dash, flying up into the air. "This is amazing!"
Pinkie was bouncing around the room, and looked on in mild worry that she'd break something.
"Twilight... what's happened to us?" asked Fluttershy. She too, no longer looked to be collapsing from exhaustion.
"Yeah seriously Twilight," said Spike "I feel great, and it's the middle of the night!"
"They're survival pills," said Twilight, barely containing her pride. "Take one, and you won't have to eat or sleep. They last for one week. You still need to drink though."
"A week?" All of them said it at once.
"I'm gonna be up all week?" asked Applejack.
"Oh think of the work I could finish!" said Rarity.
"But I like eating!" said Pinkie Pie with a frown.
"Girls, girls!" said Twilight. "Calm down. Pinkie, you can eat if you want. You just don't need to and won't feel real hunger. And after a week everything will go back to normal. No side effects or anything. And you can keep taking them as long as you want to always stay awake."
"That is... amazing," said Fluttershy. "But what am I going to do at night? All the animals are asleep."
"Relax," said Twilight. "Read a book. Do whatever you want. You have lots of free time now."
"I really wish you'da told us what this did before you made us take it," said Applejack. "I mean, I dunno about this. I guess I could get a lot more work done now. But what if it's night and I don't want to work?"
Twilight sighed. "I don' t know, something."
"You can come to my parties!" said Pinkie. "Now that we don't need to sleep, I can throw a party every night!"
Rainbow Dash's ears flattened. "Oh, joy. You know, I don't know what everypony is so worried about. I think this is awesome, I can get so much more training in now! I'll be in the Wonderbolts for sure!"
"I am quite pleased as well," said Rarity. "I can shift most of my work at night and then I won't have to worry about Sweetie Belle bothering me while I work! And I will then have so much time to go to the spa, and get ponypetis. It'll be so wonderful."
"Hey Twilight, what's this?" yelled Pinkie. She had somehow walked into Twilight's bathroom without her noticing.
Twilight saw what Pinkie Pie was pointing at.
"It dries my coat when I get out of the shower, or bath," said Twilight.
"How does it work?"
"Fire-Gold runs along the sides and rarefies the air, which flows into the centre. The air is thus artificially dry and soaks up all the water on my coat when I move into it."
"Ooooooh," said Pinkie Pie. She walked inside, but of course she had no water on her, so nothing happened. She stuck her tongue out, held it there, and then sucked it back in her mouth and coughed. "Wow," she said. "It's like a desert in there." She bounced out and made her way to the kitchen. "I'm thirsty."
"Help yourself I guess," said Twilight. "Though I do have a lot more to do, so...." She let that statement dangle, but it didn't look like anypony heard her.
"Can I get one of those drying things in my place?" asked Pinkie, taking a deep drink of water from the kitchen.
"I sold the design a while back to several construction companies, and I also sold the method for producing Fire-Gold to several Metalsmiths. I'm sure you'll see advertisements for them soon, and then you can just pay to have one installed if you want."
"You're selling these things?" asked Rarity. "How much have you been getting?"
"Well yes, I have to pay back my loans somehow," said Twilight. "And I'm getting... well, let's just say I'm getting what I think is a good price for the ideas I sell."
"I was wondering how ponies were hearing about you," said Rainbow Dash. "Outiside of, you know, everypony making fun of you."
"Ponies are making fun of me?" asked Twilight. She hadn't heard such a thing.
"You know you're the 'Madmare of Ponyville' right?"
"I'm the what now?"
"Well um you see Twilight," said Applejack looking apprehensive. "When I'm off apple selling I hear some of the ponies talkin' and it looks like you got yourself quite the reputation."
"What kind of reputation?" Twilight found herself irritated.
"Oh, how should this be put," said Rarity, cutting Applejack off. "I suppose... yes that's it. You have the reputation as something of a crazy witch."
"What, how?!" Twilight was definitely angry now. Looking around at her friends she saw in their eyes that they were getting that worried look again, so she tried to calm herself down.
"If I were to hazard a guess," continued Rarity. "I would say it's because ponies hear of all these, ahem, things you've created. And they're just so new and so different and there are so many of them."
Twilight shook her head in disbelief. How could they think something like that? A thought occurred to her.
"Mephistopheles," she thought. "Exactly what percentage of ponies have this opinion of me?"
Mephistopheles stepped forward. "Out of all ponies in Equestria, eighty three percent know your name for one reason or another. Of this eighty three percent, forty five percent are in some sense aware of your inventions, or that you have been inventing strange things. Of these, twenty nine percent view you negatively, while the rest either have no opinion, or think positively of it. All together and rounded up a mere eleven percent of all ponies in Equestria think poorly of you.
"That's not... too bad," said Twilight to herself.
"I guess there's no use worrying about it," said Twilight out loud.
"That's the spirit," said Applejack. "Don't let nothing get ya down."
They hung around about half an hour longer making small talk before filtering back out to their new twenty-four hour lives, each with a bag of survival pills.
"Applejack," called Twilight before the orange pony could follow the others. "Stay a bit longer, there's something I want to ask you."
"Sure thing Twilight. What is it?"
Twilight closed the door behind Applejack before speaking. Now they were alone, except for Spike and Owlowicius. "I've been thinking on how I should sell these survival pills."
"You're gonna sell them? Ponies all over up at all hours of the day, nopony needing to eat anything?"
"Well, yes," said Twilight. "Think of all the good it could do. Nopony would go hungry and productivity could effectively be doubled."
"Well I guess," said Applejack. "But what about ponies like me?"
"What do you mean?"
"If nopony needs to eat, who's gonna eat my apples? Or any of the other stuff I grow? What about the Carrots and their farm?"
"Ponies don't have to eat, but like I told Pinkie Pie, they can. It'll just be a luxury now, not a necessity. Nopony will die if they don't. I'm sure you'll still get plenty of apple sales. Your apples are delicious after all."
Applejack chuckled. "I guess they are. But I guess we got off topic, what was it you wanted to ask me?"
"I was wondering if you would be the one to sell these pills."
Applejack didn't know if she heard right. She looked at Twilight for a moment and waited to see if she was going to say something else that would make more sense. Finding the unicorn wasn't going to say anything, Applejack replied with the only thing she could. "Beg pardon?"
"I need somepony who's good at business and whom I can trust. That's you Applejack. I trust you enough that I'm sure you can sell these and sell them well. You can keep most of the profits. You'll be able to sell them alongside your apples too. Think of what a success you could be!"
"Money ain't important Twilight," said Applejack. "I run Sweet Apple Acres, and I'll continue to run it till the day I die. I dunno if I want to get myself roped into something else."
"It won't be much more work!" said Twilight. "Considering you now have twenty four hours in a day to do everything, it's no more work at all! I need your help Applejack. Can you do this for me?"
"Why don't you just sell them to some company and let them handle it?"
Applejack waited but it looked like whatever it was Twilight wanted to say was difficult.
"It's because I want to help my friends, I want you all to benefit from what I'm doing here. And you're the first one I thought of when I thought of selling these things."
Applejack was conflicted. On one hoof, she didn't like the idea of ponies thinking she needed help. She was a strong pony, she didn't need anyone's help. She wasn't really hurtin' for bits. On the other hoof, she knew deep down this wasn't charity. Twilight was her friend, and she'd learned a while ago to accept friend's help when you need it, and to accept gifts without assuming they was some insult behind it.
"I... I guess I could do this," Applejack finally said.
"Great!" said Twilight, smiling. "I'll run you through everything you'll need to know to make these. It's not too hard once you know the ingredients."
"Speaking of, here's the list of all the ingredients you'll need." Twilight gave Applejack a long list filled with seemingly random ingredients, not all of which were typically edible, and some poisonous on their own. "Now I know they look weird and some of them are dangerous, but trust me, it works and is perfectly safe when combined properly. Safe for ponies. Don't sell these to anyone who's not a pony."
"But you gave one to Spike," said Applejack, finally getting a word in.
"A different one," said Twilight. "Dragons need different ingredients, proportions, and preparations for their pills. All different species need different ones."
"Species? What about Earth Ponies and Pegasus Ponies? Do they need different ones?"
"No, what makes a healthy Earth Pony is the same that makes a healthy Pegasus Pony, or Unicorn Pony. Different ponies are the same species."
Applejack nodded, understanding.
"Now, I'll also give you the money to buy these ingredients at first, but once you start making a profit you'll have to do that yourself. Okay?"
Applejack nodded again.
"There you are," said Twilight, giving Applejack a large sack of bits. "That should be everything you need."
"Wow," said Applejack, eyes widening. "With this much money I could finally get Granny's hip replaced."
Twilight quirked an eyebrow. "That's still not taken care of?"
Applejack shook her head. "I hoped to get the money I needed from selling things at the Grand Galloping Gala, and we both remember how that turned out."
Twilight smiled. "Yeah," she said. "If your grandmother still needs help, I could give her a once over, maybe help her out depending on what's wrong."
Once again Applejack wasn't sure she heard right. "What's that now? I didn't know you were a doctor."
Twilight laughed out loud. It was almost creepy. "I'm better than a doctor Applejack, I'm a scientist."
"I don't get it. What's that supposed to mean?"
"Medicine is a foundation of science. That is, Medicine is the foundation stone of Alchemy, Alchemy the foundation stone of Science. A doctor knows only medicine, a Scientist must know medicine and then move beyond it."
"Now that just don't make no sense!" said Applejack, trying to wrap her mind around it. It was completely contrary to everything she had ever known, even assuming that "alchemy" actually existed beyond the temporary transmutation unicorns could do.
"It makes sense," said Twilight, holding her head up in pride. "To understand the Xi flows of the body, how they work harmoniously to create a single whole is the stepping stone to moving outwards and understanding the Xi flows of the universe. It's all connected."
Applejack paused. Twilight hadn't been wrong so far. She'd already done so many amazing things.
"You might be able to help granny?" asked Applejack as she looked straight into Twilight's eyes. She didn't want there to be any misunderstandings.
"Probably. I can come over later today and give her a look."
"Alright," said Applejack, trying to contain the hope in her voice. "So is that all?"
"One more thing I want to ask actually. The Princess has finally given me permission to take on a few students. I'll be teaching in the Library during normal school hours. I was wondering if you'd let me teach Apple Bloom."
"Teach Apple Bloom all yer crazy science stuff?" asked Applejack. Twilight nodded, nonplussed by Applejack's comment. "Tell ya what. If you fix Granny, that'll prove to me that what you know is worth teaching, and it worth Apple Bloom learning it instead of what she's learning now. I'll pull her out of Ms. Cheerilee's class and set her under your care then."
Twilight smiled brightly. She was sure she could help Granny Smith, and that meant her first student! Things were going swimmingly!
That day, after the sun had risen and Twilight had a shower, Twilight left her workshop in the care of Spike and headed to Sweet Apple Acres, saddle bags on and full of equipment. It was close by, much closer than Twilight's previous residence, and as soon as she walked up to the barn Big Mac was there to greet her.
"Hello Twilight Sparkle," he said in his usual slow methodical voice. "Mighty fine stuff those pills of yours. Been up since Applejack gave me one early this morning, not the least bit tired."
Twilight's ears folded back at the praise.
"Not at all Big Mac, glad to hear everyone's getting use out of them."
Big Mac nodded, saying nothing. He swished the sprig of wheat in his mouth from side to side, as if contemplating his next few words.
"I hear you're gonna give Granny a once over," he said. He stopped shifting the wheat in his mouth and looked right at her. "I just want to let you know I won't be very happy if something bad happens to her."
Twilight wasn't used to being threatened, but she understood his feelings on this. Family was important for the Apple Family, and he didn't want to see his grandmother get hurt. And as far as threats went, this one wasn't so bad.
"Don't worry Big Macintosh," said Twilight. "I promise everything will be fine."
Big Mac snorted, but then his eyes returned to their normal relaxed state and he trotted off to do whatever it was he had to do.
Soon after Applejack found her and led her inside, where Granny Smith was asleep in her chair.
"You didn't give her a pill?" asked Twilight.
"Why would I? What would she do all those hours with a bad hip, bad eyes, bad ears...."
"I need her to lie down on a bed," said Twilight.
Applejack nodded before prodding her grandmother.
"Up and addem Granny Smith," she said. "My friend's here to see to that hip."
Granny Smith snorted and awoke. She looked around in confusion, blinking her eyes several times.
"Wuh?" she said. "Oh, oh yes, of course."
Slowly, really slowly, Applejack led her grandmother to her bedroom as Twilight followed. Once there Granny Smith was instructed to lay down, and once she had, Twilight brought out her supplies.
Lots of extremely thin gold needles, cinnabar paint, and a brush made from hairs from her own tail. Twilight's horn glowed and she began her examination, following the Xi lines of the old mare's body, noticing the flaws and imperfections. After several minutes of this, still examining, she brought up her brush and dipped it in cinnabar paint, as well as several needles, and began drawing lines as thin as she could make them along the Xi flows, correcting imperfections, placing the needles gently inside of Granny Smith along key areas of bundled Xi in the body.
"Do those hurt Granny?" asked Applejack, looking worriedly at the needles.
Granny Smith said nothing, and Twilight spoke instead.
"They shouldn't hurt. They're too thin, and unless I place them improperly they won't cause pain. At most, mild discomfort or heat."
She returned to her work. After a long while she brought out a few silver needles, and they too were pressed into Granny Smith's skin. As time went on, Twilight brought out more things, gold and silver mesh, small pieces of wood, and placed them in or around Granny Smith, or made connections between needles. At certain points Applejack gasped in wonder as the painted lines on Granny Smith began to move, flowing around her body in majestic patters all along her body, not just her hip.
Finally Twilight pulled out a now-familiar Survival Pill and placed it on Granny Smith's tongue.
"Swallow," said Twilight, and Granny Smith, her eyes closed, did as commanded. The lines on her body sped up momentarily and then finally stopped.
"I'm done," said Twilight. "I've fixed Granny Smith's hip, fixed her eyesight, fixed her hearing, increased the calcium in her bones to their proper levels, and otherwise regulated her body. She's as fit as a fiddle."
Applejack just stared.
But before Twilight could reply, Granny Smith opened her eyes and jumped out of bed.
"Yee-haw!" she shouted, and Applejack's jaw fell open. Her eyes were opened so wide Twilight worried they might fall out of her skull.
"I haven't felt this good in decades!" said Granny Smith. She started dancing, and Twilight had to fight the urge to laugh. She still had needles all over her, and the paint was rubbing off from her motion. Before she could do any harm to herself Twilight quickly pulled all the pins out in order with her magic before letting Granny Smith go wash the paint off, leaving her alone in the bedroom with a still shocked Applejack.
"I - I thought you were just gonna fix her hip, not do... whatever it is you did!"
Twilight just waved those concerns away with her hoof. "I've made her overall healthier. Isn't that a good thing?"
Applejack held her hooves to her head, as she still couldn't comprehend her good fortune.
"It is a powerful good thing Twilight!" she finally said. "I'm mighty happy that you could do this, and I know Big Mac and Apple Bloom will be happy too." Her smile grew even wider. "And speaking of Apple Bloom, I can have her out of Ms. Cheerilee's class and into your hooves as soon as you'd like! You've convinced me, what you know sure is useful and I'd be more than happy to let you teach Apple Bloom!"
"That's wonderful," said Twilight. "We can start tomorrow!"
A month later and Mares and Stallions from Cloudsdale to Manehatten would be taking Twilights survival pills. Soon after, with Twilight's blessing, Applejack would send the recipe and instructions to other members of the Apple Family and spread the new pharmaceutical even further. And all the while Applejack and her family would be making more money than they possibly knew what to do with.
"We have a new student joining us," said Twilight. It was her fifth student and by far her oldest, her first adult pony.
Three of her students snickered to themselves as though the new student's age (or possibly other properties) meant she was stupid. The fourth was the mare's foal and so glared daggers at the other three.
"Luckily Ms. Doo here is already caught up with what we've gone over so far, so we won't have to start again.
"That's a relief," said Scootaloo. Twilight narrowed her eyes at the filly who was so far her worst student. Twilight wouldn't have accepted her without the prompting of Sweetie Belle and Apple Bloom, who were both excellent students, the latter more than the former. If Scootaloo didn't shape up soon, Twilight would drop her and put her back in Cheerilee's class regardless of what her friends said.
"Anyway," said Twilight. "Spike, bring me my notes."
Her assistant jumped up in shock, too focused on what he was doing elsewhere to expect Twilight to tell him something new. Soon enough however he brought her what she asked for, and she was patient as he did so.
"So, we finished up the basics of Atomic Theory last time, and Ditzy Doo assures me she understands it and is with us up to then, so as I said, we'll move on. Now we're going to look at something I arguably should have taught first, but I'm new at this so...." She let that sentence dangle as her students looked at her oddly.
"Anyway, we shall now begin our discussion on Xi today, and once we have a basic understanding of that we'll move on to Medicine."
"Are we studyin' to be doctors?" asked Apple Bloom. She'd asked before raising her hoof, but Twilight went ahead and let it slide since she was her best student.
"No Apple Bloom. As I explained to your sister a few weeks ago, Medicine is the foundation of Science."
"That's stupid, how could something like medicine be the 'foundation of science?'"
Twilight growled lowly at the orange Pegasus.
"If you let me continue Scootaloo, you'll understand." She paused and took a drink of water from a nearby glass she had saved for such an occasion. "Xi is the fundamental force of motion, and thus the creator of form, and is properly understood as an energy flow. It is equal and opposite of Matter, which we've already covered. Both are needed to create all there is. Xi flows permeate everything and understanding the ebb and flow of the universe is a fundamental aspect of science.
"Now a singular Xi flow has two properties, Frequency, which can be any positive non-zero number, and charge, which is measured from zero to eight. Frequency denotes the strength of the flow. More mass caught in a stronger flow will move more than mass caught in a weaker one. Charge is a quality of Xi flows that causes some atoms to prefer some flows over others. This is why even though there are straight Xi flows moving inward from the edge of the universe to the centre which all terrestrial matter follows, the celestial bodies do not follow them and instead follow circular flows around the planet. Likewise, a hypothetical pony on the moon could slide off the top if they go too far in any direction, and will not follow the same circular Xi flow the moon itself does. "
She paused so everyone could finish their notes, and to take another sip of water.
"Now, speaking of the movement of terrestrial matter to the centre of the universe, this sort of phenomena is called an Affinity. An Affinity is an attraction or movement upon one body to another body or place. The most general Affinity in existence is the attraction Earth Atoms and Water Atoms have to the centre of the universe, which fundamentally causes all terrestrial matter to try and move there. Another obvious Affinity is the affinity between magnets and certain types of metal. These sorts of bodies have a mutual Affinity and attract each other. Affinities are otherwise pervasive and it's the manipulation, exploitation, and or creation and destruction of Affinities that fuels a lot of the magic we take for granted.
"As to what causes Affinities, it's generally a property of the Xi flows, or Ferments of the bodies. As the Xi flows produce a body, the combined flows can react with other flows and cause natural connections. Which is a reason change is so pervasive in the universe, a fundamental constant from which new things can be expected.
"Next we move on to Ferments, which is the word for the general combination of Xi flows that make up a particular body. For example, Terrestrial water is not pure water atoms. It has all four types in it. The Ferment is the combination of Xi flows that make water, water, and these flows can be easily manipulated by, for example, applying heat, which can change the Ferment slightly to produce Steam, or removing heat, which produces Ice. The same Atoms made to move differently can produce different things, which are essentially different states of the same basic Matter."
Twilight continued in this manner for some time, explaining the very basics, general definitions and qualities of Xi for future elaboration as time passed. It was in fact a much easier lesson than she normally had, with very little acting up from her students. If only she could be so lucky every day.
As the students wandered out of the Library, Twilight was just left with Ditzy Doo and her daughter.
"Thanks again for letting me join you," said Ditzy Doo. "I've been following your work in mathematics for a while now. Fascinating stuff, simply fascinating." She had a really odd manner of speaking, something like stuttering but not quite. Her eyes pointed in different directions, giving her the appearance of a simpleton, but Twilight knew that underneath that she was very intelligent, if quirky and extremely absent minded. Her intelligence and acceptance of her theories from the beginning was the only reason Twilight had allowed her to join her class.
"Well thank you Ditzy Doo!" said Twilight as cheerfully as she could. Truthfully she was tired of speaking so much, and she didn't have long before she had to teach another class, this one purely on Medicine so that a new wave of Doctors and Nurses would actually know what they were doing. Only about half of the local Ponyville medical staff attended, the others either thought she was crazy or honestly didn't understand how much she outpaced them, but even the small numbers were a good enough start for Twilight.
Ditzy and her daughter smiled as they left, and Twilight closed the door behind them before collapsing in her desk.
"Spike," she said, not very loudly. Spike heard her thought, and responded.
"Get me my notes for the next class, and take these notes away." She indicated the notes she was just using. "And some more water. Heck just bring a pitcher. My throat is really dry."
Spike nodded and did as she asked.
Twilight rested her head for a moment. She would have to take another survival pill soon. Her fatigue was proof that its affects had worn off.
When the doctors and nurses filed in, Twilight didn't waste any time. A curt greeting, and off she went, continuing to elaborate on the fundamentals of medicine and understanding the harmony of the body.
The matter was the easy part, and was covered in only two weeks in class. There were only four humours, and it was a simple matter to elaborate upon their natures and functions in the body and what organs produced them. Explanations and names for all the muscles and bones in the body had already been done and anyone versed in medicine would already know them. After that, the real medicine began. The important Xi flows were mapped, diagrams created. They were explained, and the fundamental method was imparted to the doctors and they seemed to understand. Medicine was to promote harmony in the body, to make sure the flows were as they should be. Most often this was easy to accomplish through proper diet and exercise, however factors beyond one's ability to control could contribute to imbalance, and at that point there were various ways to bring things back into balance, from the ingestion of herbs, metals, or particular liquids and types of food, the injection or purging of one or more of the humours, or to manipulation of the Xi flows directly. The last was usually the most affective, but also the most difficult. There were other ways of course, but those were major ones.
The worst part of teaching medicine was trying to get the unicorns to understand the importance of learning to tell where the Xi flows were, and if they were in disharmony, without magic. The horn could simply detect them if one knew what to look for, and again, if you knew what to look for, you could tell right off if something was wrong. But there were some cases that using magic to tell would make things worse, and Twilight had a hard time explaining this, and making them learn how to tell what was wrong "the Earth Pony way." Almost as bad was getting it through to all the ponies that diagnosis was only useful in determining how the Xi flows were. The goal of medicine is to keep the body's flows in harmony. Things like disease, burns, coughs, or what have you were all just accidents of this. Regardless of what was wrong, the goal was still just to make the Xi flows work harmoniously. This was counter-intuitive to everything they had learned, where specific problems requires specific treatment for specific goals. Ultimately however, the truth was the goal was always the same. The specifics were just accidents meant to illuminate how to get there.
As soon as the class was finished Twilight herded her medical students out of the library and again sat down to rest. She'd feel a lot better after taking another survival pill, and perhaps a long bath before getting back to work. She also had invited four of her friends over later that night, and she wanted to be in her best temperament. She'd been preparing for this since the new house had finished after all.
Twilight filled her saddlebags with her supplies and leaving Spike to finish cleaning in the library, trotted back to her house. Most of the ponies she saw seemed to be no different than before. But that wasn't true. Most of them had started taking survival pills. Such would be more apparent at night however, when many establishments continued to stay open. Applejack had been more correct than Twilight too, in that most producers of food were being hit hard, seeing a significant decrease in sales as most no longer bothered with eating. Twilight herself only indulged in food about once every two weeks. Such a routine was hardly enough to sustain so many ponies who made their living off food. Twilight felt kind of bad for them, but really, in this new world they were producing something unneeded. Better for them to find a more useful line of work to entrench themselves in.
Just then, a familiar face came trotting up to Twilight. Twilight sighed, desperately wanting to get home and relax for a bit, but tried not to let her exasperation show.
"Twilight!" said Cheerilee.
"Hello Cheerilee," said Twilight. "Lovely day isn't it?"
"It is." She smiled and looked like she was having a wonderful time. "Listen, first I want to thank you for inventing those survival pills. That's exactly what they are, it makes teaching so much easier, as I'm sure you're now aware of!" She chuckled and placed a hoof momentarily on Twilight's shoulder. Twilight tried to chuckle as well but really didn't feel like it. "Anyway, I have a few students I feel would benefit more in your class than mine, and I was wondering if you'd like to take them?"
"That depends," said Twilight. "I'm always happy to take new students... if I think they'd be receptive."
"There are three that I think would do well. Sunny Days, her friend Peachy Pie, and Snails. Thought I think if you took Snails, he'd want Snips to go too."
"Snails?" asked Twilight. "Isn't he a bit... slow? I don't think he'd be very suited to my teaching. I try to go as fast as I can."
"That's a shame," said Cheerilee, her smile faltering. "Snails is slow to pick up things, but once he has them down, he has them forever."
"Well... maybe I could work something out with him," said Twilight, an idea forming in her mind. "I'll get back to you on that."
"Great!" They said their farewells and Twilight thankfully began her trot back to her house.
Twilight quickened her pace, eager to get home as fast as possible before any other ponies demanded her attention.
Finally she made it back. Immediately she went and turned on the water so she could have a bath. While the tub was filling up she quickly went back downstairs, poured herself a glass of water, and got a survival pill both to bring upstairs. She'd take them after the bath. There was a certain joy to be had in being tired, and finally being able to relax, a joy she would miss out on if she immediately took the survival pill.
She made it back upstairs to her bathroom just in time, as the water had nearly reached optimal height in the tub.
She slowly got into the tub, letting the warm water loosen the tension in her muscles as she laid further back. Soon it was just her and her thoughts alone in the warm water. And Mephistopheles. He was always there, following her. Twilight was so used to his presence though that she hardly noticed. Truth be told, she hardly registered him as a separate being anymore. He no longer offered any information. He just answered questions. It was like talking to herself and letting that niggling little voice in her head answer back, except that the answers would always be absolutely correct and immediate.
As she relaxed with her thoughts, she turned her mind to what Cheerilee had told her earlier. She could definitely take on Sunny Days and Peachy Pie. It would require a bit of time for them to catch up to the level of the others, but it wouldn't be too big of a problem. Snails was another matter.
Even if he would eventually pick things up, she couldn't slow down that much just for him. But she had an idea. Ditzy Doo knew the material, so she said. Perhaps she could pay the mare to teach Snails directly. As Ditzy learned more, she could teach Snails more, and since Snails learned slowly, she would be sure to stay ahead. Maybe she could even taken on Sunny Days and Peachy Pie temporarily so that they could catch up faster. Twilight made a mental note to ask Ditzy Doo after the next day's class.
Twilight heard the door open and then close from downstairs. She assumed it was Spike, but asked Mephistopheles just to be sure. She didn't want to be caught unawares.
"Yes, it's Spike," said Mephistopheles.
Twilight nodded her head in the water, eyes closed. She took a deep breath, then dipped her head under the water and exhaled, listening at the noise of the air rising above the water. She felt like she could just stay there and relax forever. But she had work to do.
Pulling herself out of the water she pulled the stopper and let the water drain away. When it was gone she stepped out and into her dryer and let the Rarefied Air soak up the water from her coat, leaving her with a pleasing tingly sensation as it evaporated.
She stepped out and went towards her previously laid out glass of water and survival pill, and in one swift motion she put the pill in her mouth and took a sip of water, swallowing it.
Seconds later she felt the effects. She was no longer tired at all. She felt completely invigorated and could get back to work.
Downstairs on her worktable was her most recent project. And she was almost done with it. It was however a very complicated piece of equipment that, like the telegraph, required two parts, though she was making more than that.
Spike sat down behind her, a good distance away and watched. He'd started doing that more often lately. Mephistopheles said that he both found her work interesting and was trying to learn without outright asking. Twilight figured that was actually a good arrangement and he'd probably pick things up in time.
"What is this thing anyway?" asked Spike as she put on the finishing touches. She'd been just finishing up for some time, but now things were really almost done.
"Be patient Spike, I'll explain when it's finished."
Spike nodded behind her, but Twilight didn't see.
"To you left on one of the tables there are a few syringes. One of them has a red liquid in it, measured out to 2cc. Bring that to me."
Twilight was just about done when Spike came over to her with the correct syringe in hand. Turning one final screw in place, twilight put her screwdriver down and took the syringe from Spike.
"This is purified Sanguine Humour," she explained. "Applejack, Rainbow Dash, Pinkie Pie, and Fluttershy should be here soon and I'd like to be in a good temperament. A slight excess of Sanguine Humour will lift my spirits, make me a bit happier and easier to be around."
Spike tilted his head. "But haven't you taken a survival pill within the last two weeks? Won't that flush it out as an imbalance?"
Twilight shook her head. "This is measured to be a slight increase to mimic what would natural occur when a pony is in a good mood. It's still within normal levels. You're right though, that too much and the effects of the Survival Pill will cause me to expel the excess humour." She winced as the needle pierced her skin and she injected herself. Effects were as quick as a Survival Pill, and soon she felt herself in high spirits. Now smiling she continued to speak.
"You wanted to know what this is I'm working on, and I'm finally done so I can tell you!" She clopped her hooves together briefly in excitement as Spike stepped forward to get a closer look. "I call it a Xiscriber. It's basically a much better Telegraph.
"You see these little buttons? Each has a letter on it, and when pressed, if the Xiscriber is fed paper, it will stamp the letter on the paper. There's this button here, for spaces, and there are buttons for other punctuation marks. Now, I have six of them here, and each one can connect to any and all of the other ones by creating an Affinity between them. You see at the top here?" She indicated a medium sized glass round topped cylinder which had several notches etched into it with a two sliders, one of Silver and the other of Glass on the side. "You know about musical instruments, right Spike?"
"What about them?"
"Well, if I have a stringed instrument, and pluck one of the strings, and here is another stringed instrument close by with the same string, what happens?"
"They both sound," said Spike.
"Exactly. It's just like that with these. If you want to send, you move the Glass slider to a specific point, and then somepony else moves their Xiscriber's Silver slider to that same point. Typing here on my side will cause the receiving Xiscriber to type the same thing."
"I think I understand," said Spike. Twilight was surprised, as she hadn't explained the whole thing yet. "Inside that glass tube there's filled with some sort of metal, and there's probably lines painted inside to mess with the Xi so it can be manipulated in a certain way. Putting the slider up chances the manipulation slightly and when the receiving Xiscriber is meant to receive, the Silver slider moves up to manipulate the inside in exactly the same way. Glass is a sort of Earth, and Earth acts on Metal, which forces an Affinity between them in one direction."
"That's actually very astute of you Spike!" said Twilight, moving in to give him a nuzzle. "You really have been paying attention!"
Spike blushed slightly and nervously rubbed the back of his head. "It's hard not to Twilight. Though I'm still not sure about principles of natural generating interaction. Metal and Glass are both made of the same four atoms, so why do we call one 'Earth' and the other 'Metal?' Same with Wood and Fire and Water."
"It's complicated," said Twilight. "First it's a naming convention. Secondly, there is a specific pattern to the Atomic Structure of all things we call 'Metals' and a pattern to 'Earth's and so on. Everything is one of those things in the sense of structure. I drew a few Tables about it, they're here somewhere. I called them Periodic Tables. They were meant to organise different materials by Atomic Structure and arrange them into a pattern that was easy to understand and grouped by similarity."
"I... guess that makes sense," said Spike. "But there are a lot of things. How could you make a table that had every type of thing?"
Twilight shrugged. "Some things are just groups of smaller things. Like the dirt outside is probably full of several different types of Earths and Metals. Just crumble them up with your claw and you can separate them. There isn't an infinite number of things. A complete chart would probably be big though, and my charts were meant more for convenience and had only things ponies are likely to see. I'll make complete ones eventually."
There was a pause before Spike continued. "Why did you build so many? Are you giving them away? Or selling them?"
"I'm going to sell the design, but no, I built so many because I've had a few ponies who want me to write new textbooks. It's something I wanted to do anyway. And with these, I can write several copies at the same time. I might send one to Celestia though. That way you can type your messages and not have to write them. I can modify two of them to so they can be secure, and I'd have to do that before though."
There came a knock on the door. Reflexively Twilight asked who it was. Mephistopheles answered.
"Your four friends are here."
"Spike, get the door!" Twilight felt herself getting excited. As Spike went to answer the door, Twilight ran up to her bedroom. Underneath her bed was a box, which contained four Silver Pendants. It had taken months for them to be created properly, as the Silversmith she'd hired kept getting them wrong. Twilight grabbed the box in her mouth and tore back downstairs, where four of her friends waited with confused looks on their faces.
"I've got something for you!" she said. Unfortunately she said that with the box still in her mouth and it came out more like "Eh guk thumthin hor ooo."
She put the box down on the table, next to some other things, including the Xiscribers. She repeated, "I got something for you."
"Oooh, is it a present?" asked Rainbow Dash. "That's so awesome. What is it?"
"I love presents!" came Pinkie Pie. "But why doesn't Rarity get one?"
Twilight chuckled. "Rarity doesn't need one." Without waiting for a reply, Twilight opened the box and levitated one pendant to each of her friends. Each one was attached to a snug fitting thin silver chain, and she attached each to the necks of her friends.
"Well this is kinda pretty I guess," said Applejack. "If there's anything fancy to go to, I'll wear it."
"Oh no," said Twilight. She was practically bursting with excitement at how her gift would be received. "These aren't just ordinary pieces of Jewellery. They're artificial unicorn horns, shaped as pendants. Wear them, and you can do magic like a unicorn. You'll have to learn though, but Rarity and I can teach you! It'll be so fun, just think of what it'll be like for you to do magic when you never could before!"
"Well uh...." said Applejack. "I honestly don't know how to feel about this."
"Um, it's nice," said Fluttershy.
"Nice?" asked Rainbow Dash. "It's awesome! Thank you Twilight, this is the coolest thing ever! I mean, I never wanted to be a Unicorn because being a Pegasus is just too awesome, but being a Pegasus who could do magic too! This is the greatest thing! I'm gonna go straight to the library, pick up some books, and begin practicing right away!"
She flew over and gave Twilight a hug before swooping out the door and into the distance. Twilight felt great that Rainbow Dash had such a good reaction, and waited expectantly for her friends to react similarly.
"Rainbow Dash is right, this is super neato!" said Pinkie. "If I learn to float things with this I'll get so much more baking done! So many cakes Twilight!"
Twilight turned to the other two and waited.
"Well uh..." said Applejack, nervously looking around.
"It's... nice... I said it's nice" Said Fluttershy.
Twilights smile dropped slightly. She thought to ask Mephistopheles what was wrong, but then decided against it. Her friends were right here, she could ask them.
"What's wrong? You don't like it?"
"Well... " said both Applejack and Fluttershy at the same time.
"I don't need it," said Applejack. "I mean it's wonderful and all, and I'm mighty pleased that you thought to gift us with such a fancy magical thing, but I dunno. I'm an Earth Pony, and I've gotten along fine being an Earth Pony. Everything I do I do as an Earth Pony and I don't know if I can change that. But... " She took a deep breath. "I know that you probably worked pretty hard on these and that you're trying to show us you care by giving them to us, so I'm gonna use it anyway. I'll be slow to pick up on it, but I'm sure I'll get it down sooner or later."
"Oh Applejack, you don't have to - " Twilight began, but Applejack cut her off.
"I know I don't have to, but I want to. Like I said, I know you did this because you care, and I'm gonna accept it because I care."
Twilight smiled and felt an unfamiliar warmth in her chest. It went away and she turned to look at Fluttershy.
"And you Fluttershy? I know 'nice' for you doesn't mean nice."
"Oh well... Applejack said everything already. I just wasn't sure this was really me. But I'll try it out. Thanks Twilight."
"Yeah, thank you Twilight!" said Pinkie Pie.
"Thanks," said Applejack. It was short, but she smiled as she said it, and Twilight felt that unfamiliar warmth come back again.
As the three ponies began to leave, Applejack hung back for a moment.
"Go on ahead, I need to speak to Twilight for a second," she said. The other two continued on their way before Applejack closed the door.
"AJ?" asked Twilight. "Something else wrong?"
"Nothing's wrong," she said. "But I got... something of a favour to ask. And it's kinda embarrassing." She looked nervously at Spike who took the hint and went upstairs, closing the door behind him.
"What is it? You know I wouldn't make fun of you."
"I know that but, still. Anyway I was thinking... you can make these here artificial Unicorn Horns, and that's great and all. But I'd really really be happy if you could make some Pegasus Wings for me."
"Pegasus Wings? You want to fly?"
Applejack nodded vigorously. "More than almost anything. Ever since I was a filly I wished I was a Pegasus Pony, so I could fly. That's not right and proper for a pony though, to wish they were a different type, so I grew up and put aside those foalish fantasies and took to being a good Earth Pony. But... I still think about it. I'd love to be able to fly. Do you think you could do that for me? Make me wings?"
Twilight looked into her friends green eyes and saw that she was genuinely pleading. Her heart felt like it was breaking, looking into those eyes, and involuntarily she found herself nodding slowly.
"I can do it," Twilight said. She felt more determined to do this than she had ever felt in her life, even after Mephistopheles gifted her with knowledge and she was determined to remake the world. "I'll do it better than those Artificial Horns," she continued. "I'll give you real wings."
In Canterlot the two Royal Sisters sat, relaxing together again as they often did now. Celestia was happily reading a new fiction novel while Luna sat, hooves folded over her chest in irritation. Celestia was content to just let her sister stew. She'd speak up when she was ready.
Finally she spoke.
"I want you to put some restraint on that student of yours," said Luna. Celestia looked up from her book. She dog-eared the corner of the page she was on and set it aside.
"What do you mean Luna?" she asked.
"I've been thinking about it more and more," said Luna. "And I just don't like what's happening with her. I don't like what she's doing. It's not even a full year yet and she's single-hoofedly changing the very foundations of our society!"
Celestia smile lowered slightly.
"I admit to being concerned," she began. "But my hooves are tied. She still hasn't done anything illegal. And what she's done has been pretty helpful. I also thought you'd be pleased, so many ponies now are awake to see the entirety of your beautiful night."
Luna growled. "Don't change the subject. I'm happy my night's appreciated, but it was appreciated before and I just didn't know that. I also know now that ponies aren't supposed to be awake all night. It's unnatural."
"But it's not illegal," said Celestia. She chuckled. "Listen to me, the way I'm speaking now It's almost as if I want to put Twilight in prison. No, I love Twilight, and even though I'm concerned, my concern is not so great that I wish to hinder her in any way. It's why I've consented to let her take on students of her own, and why I approved of her idea to write new science textbooks. I want her to flourish."
"What if she goes too far? You've already put some barriers on her research. You didn't let her grow any of those animals like she wanted."
Now Celestia's smile was gone completely. "That was... I felt that that was indeed too far. And these other things aren't. It's something I just feel."
"And what about what I feel?" asked Luna. "Don't I get a say? I thought we were supposed to be co-rulers!"
Celestia sighed. "Don't be this way dear sister. I understand your concerns, and I continue to take them into consideration. But let's take things as they come, all right? If things go too far, then we'll see what happens."
Luna's eyes narrowed, before she stood up and began walking towards the exit. "Of course, your majesty." She left, and made her way to her own room.
Celestia's eyes widened. She didn't like the conversation that had just taken place. Was she really not considering her sister's opinions? Should she try to come to some sort of compromise? But any compromise would stifle Twilight, and she loved Twilight. But did she love Twilight more than Luna? No, she didn't. Soon, she'd sit Luna down again and they'd work something out. She didn't want her sister to ever feel neglected again, especially over something like this.
Twilight set out a few more golden pins into the floor, carefully checking them to make sure they were in exactly the right spot. This was difficult work, and a single millimetre out of place could spell failure. She'd been working on it for weeks. It was a fairly large personal project, one that required the space of an entire room. Said room previously was used for extra storage, but Twilight managed to squeeze everything into the basement. Instead of flasks, metals, tools, and scientific instruments, the room was now covered in cinnabar paint, pins, spikes, and needles of various thickness, lengths and materials, and structures of similarly odd construction.
It took a lot of work to change a pony's body. Not just knowing how to do it, but getting the energy without killing one's self. Somepony like Princess Celestia or possibly Luna could do this, assuming they knew how, without trouble at all, but Twilight was just a normal pony and even her large stamina could not hope to accomplish the task of giving Applejack permanent wings without a significant amount of work to use energy from outside herself.
As she adjusted a bowl of water on the floor, Spike stormed in. Twilight's head shot up as he ran over the floor, trampling over bits of her hard work. He knew he wasn't supposed to come in like that, and Twilight felt she'd have to do something to punish him.
"Twilight, we've got some kind of emergency!" he said, which stalled her thoughts of punishment for a moment. "Ponyville needs your help!"
"This better be important Spike," said Twilight. "What emergency is going on?"
"Come outside! Everything's wrong! Please hurry!"
Twilight groaned but otherwise didn't say anything as she followed Spike down the stairs. There were no windows in her house, so it wasn't until Spike opened the door that she saw what was going on.
Spike was right. It was an emergency. The clouds were pink, and something brown was falling instead of normal rain.
"It's raining chocolate milk," said Spike.
"Mephistopheles," asked Twilight, worried. "What's going on?"
"What's causing the weather to behave this way? It's not normal."
"A draconequus named Discord has recently escaped his imprisonment in stone and is using his magic to change the normal flow of things."
"Why would he do that?"
"He thinks it's fun. He finds the unnatural interesting."
"Well it's not interesting. How do I stop him?"
"There are many ways. The easiest way would be to gather up your friends and use the elements of harmony as you did Nightmare Moon."
"And Princess Celestia has the elements," said Twilight knowingly.
Twilight quirked an eyebrow. She was completely oblivious to Spike staring at her oddly, as from his perspective she was simply standing in place doing nothing, and had been doing so for an abnormally long time. "Where are they then?" she asked.
"Discord took them and hid them in the book, The Elements of Harmony: A Reference Guide, in the Ponyville Library."
"Then this shouldn't be such a big deal. Once we all get together and get the elements, how do we find Discord?"
"He's currently messing about in the Canterlot Castle Garden."
Twilight nodded. "Spike, go find Applejack, Rainbow Dash, Rarity, Pinkie Pie, and Fluttershy and bring them to the library. I'll meet you there."
"Will that fix this problem?" asked Spike.
"Yes. Just hurry." It'd been a while since Twilight and her friends had to go up against anything major, and she wanted to get this over with as quickly as possible. Before Mephistopheles had shown up, this might be difficult or worth worrying about. Now it was just annoying. Twilight had better things to do with her time than worry about some crazy draconequus.
Twilight ran to the Library, the chocolate milk rain making her coat uncomfortably sticky as ponies around Ponyville panicking at what looked like cotton candy clouds zooming through the air and malformed forest animals running amuck. Twilight tried her best to ignore it all.
Entering the library and slamming the door behind her, Twilight quickly made her way to the shelf where she thought the book was. Then she thought of a better way.
"Where's the book?" she asked Mephistopheles. Silently he pointed directly at it, and Twilight grabbed it with her magic. Opening it up she saw that what Mephistopheles had said was true. It was hollowed out, and inside there were the Elements of Harmony.
"Now we just wait for Spike to show up with everyone else," said Twilight aloud.
It didn't take much longer before there was a knock, followed by the door opening forcefully and five ponies and a dragon running in. They were all soaked with Chocolate Milk, and Applejack, Rainbow Dash, and Pinkie Pie had bits of popcorn stuck in their manes.
"Spike said you had a plan to stop all this," said Rarity, breathing hard. They must have been running a lot.
"I hope whatever it is it keeps the chocolate rain," said Pinkie. "It's delicious!" She started licking at her own hooves and Twilight couldn't help but cringe at the sight.
"Riiiight," said Twilight. Her eyes focused and she cleared her throat to help get her friend's attention. "I have found out that the crazy weather outside is due to a Draconequuis named Discord. To defeat him, we must use the elements of Harmony again, which I have right here." She levitated the five necklaces over to her friends, who all took over for her and put them on themselves with their magic. It was kind of odd for those who had to wear their artificial unicorn horns, having their elements dangle unceremoniously over their already occupied neck, but it wouldn't make the Elements not work, so it didn't really matter.
Just then, Spike went through his typical motions of receiving a letter from Princess Celestia, his stomach expanding and him making throaty gurgling noises before the scroll appeared in a bit of expelled flame. It'd been a while since Twilight had seen that happen. The Princess usually communicated with Twilight exclusively on the Xiscribers now.
Twilight plucked it off the ground and began to read. A quick read-through showed that the Princess wanted to see her and her friends immediately.
"Is this about Discord?" Twilight asked Mephistopheles. The spirit nodded.
Twilight let the parchment roll back and put it away on one of the bookshelves.
"Anyway girls, we've got to find this Discord and stop him with the Elements of Harmony. He's at the castle garden, so we've got to get to Canterlot as quickly as possible!" She didn't let them so much as move an inch before she continued speaking. "I want everyone to gather around me. Get very close. I'm going to teleport us all there."
"Can you really do that Twilight?" asked Rarity.
"Yes, it'll just take a bit of concentrating, but I know I can." Rarity shrugged, and her friends gave each other uncertain looks, but they did as she said.
Twilight closed her eyes and concentrated. This was a very long distance, and there were five ponies to teleport who weren't her. It would take a lot of work to teleport all six of them all the way to Canterlot. The physics of it were easy now, Twilight now had a lot of practice with magic as it was. It was simply the time it took to concentrate, and the toll it'd take on her body.
With a sudden flash, she felt herself teleport. Opening her eyes, she found herself right in the middle of the castle gardens, all five of her friends around her, dazed and confused. Twilight looked around. No sign of a problematic Draconequus here.
"Where is he?" asked Twilight silently.
"He's here," replied Mephistopheles. "He's mildly surprised that you've come so soon. He's waiting to see what you do before making himself visible."
Twilight wasn't in the mood for games. She'd had her very important work interrupted and she was eager to get back to it.
"Discord!" shouted Twilight. "I know you're here! Stop fooling around and show yourself!"
It didn't take long before the ground under Twilight's hooves began to rumble. Somehow, the sky grew dark, and clouds began to move above them. Twilight rolled her eyes, while her friends began to huddle close together in worry. A few lightning strikes and thunderclaps later, and Discord himself finally showed up, laughing like he was playing some sort of game. Twilight just found the overblown entrance to be annoying and not at all menacing.
"Hello little ponies!" said Discord, looking down at the stunned faces of everyone but Twilight. Twilight snorted in defiance. "I must say I'm a bit surprised at your punctuality. Why, if only Princess Celestia was so punctual for our -"
"Girls, now!" shouted Twilight. Luckily her five friends weren't so shocked by the appearance of Discord that they didn't hear Twilight, as Twilight and her friends found themselves in that familiar magical flow of the Elements of Harmony.
"Wait, what's this?" asked Discord. He was genuinely curious, but Twilight and her friends couldn't see him. As soon as the rainbow formed out from their magic however, he understood.
"This can't be happening!" he shouted as he was engulfed in multicoloured magic. "I hid them, there wasn't enough time, this is imposs -"
His ranting was cut off as he turned to stone. A bright light shone from where the six friends were, visible all the way up to where Princess Celestia stood, still waiting for her faithful student and her friends to appear. She walked over to the window, wondering what was happening and was shocked to see the weather no longer in chaos. At least as far as she could see everything was back to normal, but that didn't mean Discord was gone. Perhaps he had simply chosen to move his chaos somewhere else?
Back down in the garden, Twilight and her friends now stood slightly dazed, the evil Discord in front of them, now turned to stone.
"Well uh... that was easy," said Rainbow Dash. "Normally when we have to do something like this it takes forever!"
"We were prepared this time," said Twilight. She looked around and saw that everything was back to normal, and quick confirmation with Mephistopheles proved that everything was normal everywhere, and her job was done. Now all she had to do was meet with the Princess and then she could get back to what really mattered.
"Hey girls, I've got to go see the Princess," said Twilight. "Do you think you could get back to Ponyville without me, now that the trouble's gone?"
"Well sure," said Applejack. "Ponyville's just a quick trip away, no problem at all!" The rest of her friends nodded in agreement. Twilight assumed they all had money to pay for a trip back, or they would have mentioned it.
Nodding to them, she closed her eyes, quickly asked Mephistopheles where in the castle the Princess was, and teleported there.
When Twilight opened her eyes she found herself staring right into the shocked face of Princess Celestia. She bowed quickly, hoping to get this over with as soon as possible.
"Twilight!" said the Princess. "Where are your friends? The situation is urgent and requires all of you!"
"The situation has been taken care of," said Twilight. "My friends and I gathered up the elements, found Discord, and defeated him."
Princess Celestia had a look on her face that Twilight had never seen before. Her eyes were wide and unfocused, and her mouth hung slightly open. She had the kind of look Ditzy Doo got when she lost her train of thought and was trying to remember what she was saying.
"Well...uh...wait," said the Princess finally. "How did you know about Discord?"
Twilight thought fast. Inwardly she asked, "Is Discord in any history books? Is it possible to find out about him that way?"
"I knew about him from history books," said Twilight out loud.
"How did you get the Elements of Harmony? They were behind a spell only I could break!"
Twilight figured the truth would work just fine here.
"Discord stole them and hid them in the Ponyville Library. I happened to find them there."
"And how did you find and defeat Discord?"
"Discord came to taunt me personally shortly after I found the elements, and told me where he'd be. He didn't know I had already found the elements, or that I even knew he had taken them. So he was taken by surprise when my friends and I showed up." Twilight was surprised how easily the lie came. A part of her was even more surprised that she was wilfully lying to the Princess of all ponies. She would never had thought to do that before. But of course, she didn't have a huge secret to protect before either.
"And just like that?" said Celestia. "You showed up, defeated him, and that's it?"
"Um...yes?" said Twilight. "Is there anything else?"
The Princess didn't look happy. She didn't look pleased. But she didn't look angry either. Twilight couldn't tell at all what she was thinking. So she asked Mephistopheles about it.
"She doesn't believe your explanations, but isn't inclined to interrogate you on the matter since you got the job done. She feels she can no longer trust you about everything. There is also a hint of fear."
"She's afraid of me?" asked Twilight. "Why?"
"She feels you've taken what should have been a difficult job and finished it far too easily. She isn't aware how you did it. She also knows you've done a lot of things recently which should have been difficult, but for you they weren't. She doesn't know what to think about it, other than it's making you powerful, possibly too powerful. She thinks if you were almost anypony else she would have demanded to know how you were doing it and not taken no for an answer. But she doesn't want to do that to you and she's starting to think she couldn't even if she wanted to."
"Huh," said Twilight. "Well I love the Princess, I'm not going to harm her or cause any danger to her or Equestria."
Mephistopheles didn't reply to that.
A few more moments passed in silence between the Princess and her student. Finally the Princess spoke.
"I suppose that's it then," she said.
Twilight bowed, and closed her eyes and teleported back home.
Celestia watched her student teleport back... probably all the way back to Ponyville. Celestia was at a complete loss of what to do now. She was sure Twilight was lying to her... but why would Twilight lie? And if she was lying, how did she really defeat Discord so easily?
She would have to talk to Luna later. Twilight could no longer be given such a free reign over everything, or who knows what would happen? She briefly thought about going to Ponyville and speaking with Twilight's friends directly, but if Twilight found out it might seem highly distrustful and... for some reason, Celestia didn't think she wanted to be on Twilight's bad side.
Instead, Celestia decided she'd spend the day making sure that Twilight and her friends indeed had defeated Discord, and finding a new, safer place to keep Discord imprisoned than in the middle of a garden.
Back in Ponyville, Twilight asked Mephistopheles if her friends were making it back from Canterlot all right without her help. After his assurance that they were, she went back to her work. She still had a fair amount of work left to do before she could give Applejack wings.
Applejack stepped into the workshop. She had her saddlebags on, both full of something. Mephistopheles said they were full of notes and figures relating to the Survival Pill business. That was strange, Twilight thought.
"I know you said you just had a gift for me," said Applejack, an easy smile on her face. "But I've been meaning to talk to you recently about those survival pills, and I figure now would be the best time."
Twilight shrugged. If that's what Applejack wanted to do after her gift, talk about business, then that was just fine.
"Well, if you come upstairs I got your gift all ready for you," said Twilight. "But first I'd like you to put on this blindfold!" Twilight levitated said blindfold close to Applejack, but she shook her head as it got close.
"Not now Twilight, business first if ya don't mind."
"If that's what you prefer," said Twilight, eager to show Applejack her gift. Twilight had worked very hard on it after all.
Applejack removed her saddlebags and riffled through them, pulling out a few stacks of paper and hastily scrawled charts. Twilight had no idea Applejack was any good at anything relating to Mathematics.
"Big Mac helped me with most of these," said Applejack. Twilight smiled at realising once again that Applejack wasn't very good at math.
Twilight's smile grew as Applejack looked from paper to graph, graph to paper, trying to figure out what she was supposed to do with them. Eventually she just settled to putting them all on the table and looking at them all that way.
"Well, anyway," she said, looking a little nervous. She paused for a moment, looking at the papers again before speaking. "Ah well, I don't need these things anyway, I know what's going on." Twilight cocked her head, wondering what she was talking about.
"Because of these Survival Pills, our food sales are way down. Nopony is buying our vegetables. Worse, we're not seeing as many sales of the Survival Pills as we used to. The Apple Family's gonna go under Twilight, if we don't do something.
"Now, most ponies come to me, they wonder if there are pills that don't last as long. Ponies tell me they want to eat, but don't want to eat when they're not hungry, and others... well... there are ponies out there who like to sip on something a little stronger than apple juice if you get what I mean."
"I guess then I should make some pills that don't last as long," Twilight said. "This way you'll sell more pills, and you'll sell more food."
Applejack nodded. "That's what I figured." She looked back down at all the papers she had put on the desk and scoffed.
"Now I told Big Mac I didn't need all these things. Just a waste of paper is what it is."
Twilight chuckled. "Well, you might have needed them if you weren't so good at speaking," she said. She briefly wondered why she had said that at all, but quickly put that question out of her mind.
"Well thank you Twilight," said Applejack, gathering everything up off the table and putting them back in her saddlebags. Once that was done she turned back to Twilight and asked, "So, what's this gift you got for me? Should I put on that blindfold now, or wait 'till we get up the stairs?"
"Now please," said Twilight. "Oh, and let me take off your pendant."
Applejack shrugged as Twilight removed Applejack's Artificial Unicorn Horn. After that was done she gently placed the blindfold over Applejack's eyes.
"Can she see anything," asked Twilight to Mephistopheles.
Twilight, satisfied, slowly led Applejack up the stairs and into the old storage room. Soon it'd be a storage room again. Once inside, Twilight had to be careful to guide Applejack so she wouldn't knock over or step on anything and ruin the entire room or worse, hurt herself. Finally she was in the proper place, and Twilight felt giddy as she was finally able to see this project come to an end.
"Okay Applejack, I need you to stand still there and wait," began Twilight. "This might feel a bit weird. Don't be alarmed!"
"A bit weird, Twilight what are you -"
"Now now," interrupted Twilight. "Don't speak, you'll have your gift in a second."
Applejack trustingly stopped talking and Twilight began to concentrate. The entire room began to brighten slightly, and the Cinnabar paint on the floor, walls, and ceilings began to move violently, swirling and revolving around the room, culminating on Applejack. Everything else too was acting strangely, but it was all in accordance with what should be.
Slowly the light in the room began to brighten, as did the tip of Twilight's horn as she filtered more energy into her machine. Soon the light became too bright and Twilight had to shut her eyes. Later, the room began to shake slightly and Twilight hoped Applejack was still in the right spot.
Suddenly there was a large bang. Though Twilight was prepared for it, Applejack wasn't and she was flung from her position towards one of the walls. Twilight opened her eyes at the thud of Applejack hitting the wall. Though she was concerned that Applejack might have hurt herself, she was happy to find out that it had worked.
Applejack had a pair of wings.
"Ugh," said Applejack, holding a hoof to her head. "What was that? I don't understand. Can I take this blindfold off now?"
"Yes Applejack. Take a look at yourself!"
Applejack put a hoof to her blindfold before pausing for a moment. She stood up as a hopeful smile suddenly appeared on her face. It looked like she now had an idea of what was done.
In one fluid motion she turned her head to look at her back and pulled the blindfold off. Her hopeful smile turned into a grin so wide it looked like her head might just split in half.
Applejack unfurled her wings and gave them a few test flaps before expertly moving above the ground.
"Oh thank you, thank you, thank you!" she shouted at Twilight, hovering just above her head. "I can't believe you were able to do this for me! Thank you!"
And just like that she leaned herself forward and kissed Twilight on the cheek.
"This is just the greatest thing anypony's ever done fer me!" she said. But Twilight didn't hear it. Applejack continued to lob praise and thanks at Twilight, but Twilight didn't hear that either. Somehow, Twilight had been put in a daze by what she knew to be just a simple kiss that Applejack only gave due to overwhelming excitement.
Twilight thought she heard something about "trying my new wings out" and "thanks again" as Applejack flew out of the room, but she wasn't sure. All she knew was that at some point she was alone, dazed and confused not only by what happened, but by her own dazedness and confusion.
Twilight didn't know exactly how much time had passed by the time she managed to shake herself out of her stupor, but by the looks of things it really wasn't that long. Still, that she was so affected by Applejack meant only one thing. A very strange thing that looking back, she should have seen coming, but nevertheless came as a surprise.
Twilight had a crush on Applejack.
"Twilight?" came a sudden familiar voice. "Why are you standing here by yourself?"'
It was Spike, back from running her errands. He was holding a bunch of small boxes which Twilight assumed were her purchases.
Twilight then shook her head to help clear her mind before saying, "Sorry, I was just thinking."
"About what?" asked Spike.
Twilight cracked a goofy grin. "Something secret."
Spike shrugged before setting the boxes down on the floor.
"Should I clean this room up now?" he asked. "You said it could be turned back to a storage room today."
"Yeah, go ahead," said Twilight. "It served its purpose."
Spike then held up something shiny. It was Applejack's pendant. She hadn't picked it back up when she left. Twilight was kind of glad. There was now a good excuse to show up at Sweet Apple Acres tomorrow.
Applejack was so excited when she flew home, she gave no thought to how her family would react to seeing her new wings.
She wasted no time and simply busted through the door, landing clumsily on the floor right in front of Big Macintosh who was just heading back out to do some more work on the farm. His shocked face brought Applejack back down to earth enough for her to realise that she just broke the farm door and would have to get it fixed. She also realised then that she hadn't chosen the best way to tell her family what she'd done.
"Uhhh," began Big Macintosh. "Most ponies would have just done something new with their mane ya know." He wasn't smiling as he spoke.
Applejack looked down at the ground in embarrassment, trying not to look at any of the pieces of broken door littering the floor.
"Sorry about the door," she said. "Got a little excited there."
"Those are some pretty real lookin' wings," he said. "Twilight do this to you?"
"She did this for me," said Applejack forcefully. "You know I've wanted wings ever since I was a filly, and she managed to work some magic to give them to me."
"Honestly, I thought you grew out of that. I know I did." He didn't seem so unhappy anymore, though Applejack couldn't tell exactly what he was thinking, which in itself was worrying. Big Mac was usually an open book to her.
There was a long moment of silence between the two of them. Finally, Big Mac sighed softly. "Granny ain't gonna like this. Not one bit. Apple Bloom... I don't think you'll have to worry about what she thinks."
"I can deal with Granny," said Applejack. "These wings make me the happiest I've been since I got my cutie mark. Granny will understand that."
Back at her house, Twilight was busy asking Mephistopheles all manner of questions relating to Applejack, completely neglecting her usual work.
"What's her favourite variety of apple specifically?"
"She likes her own Red Delicious apples the best for eating raw, and likes her own Granny Smith apples for cooking."
"Has she tried lots of different types?"
"Has she... ever been with another pony before?"
"Do you mean physically or romantically?"
"Romantically. But now that you mention it...."
"Does she... like mares?"
"Not very much, no."
Twilight sighed. "Could she be... I don't want to say 'persuaded', but that's the closest word I can think of. Could she be 'persuaded' to like me romantically?"
Twilight sighed again. "How is it you can never help me with other ponies. It's a huge gap in your understanding."
"I've explained this to you before."
Twilight tried to interrupt him by saying "I know, I know," but he continued to speak through it anyway."Just because I understand doesn't mean I like it."
"That you don't like it shouldn't make you continuously ask me."
Twilight grumbled to herself. It didn't matter that he wasn't sure. It just meant he didn't know. She could still get Applejack to like her, that way. Maybe.
She also didn't think she liked mares, but she wasn't about to get confused and have an identity crisis just because she realised her own crush on another mare. It just wasn't that big of a deal. Nevertheless, it pointed to the hope that maybe Applejack liked mares and perhaps didn't know it, or had the potential for developing a taste for mares.
Twilight shuddered. She was making this out to be more sinister than it should be.
"Anyway, back to the questions," said Twilight, before launching into more questions about Applejack.
When Granny Smith became aware of Applejack's new wings, she wasn't happy.
"How could you do this to yourself?" asked Granny Smith. Applejack scoffed at the implication that she had done anything wrong.
"I didn't see you complainin' when Twilight fixed you up!
Granny Smith gave a low grunt, acknowledging the point. Applejack continued.
"I also didn't hear no complaining about those pills! You take em, we sell them and we spend the money, all thanks to Twilight!"
Granny Smith's frown deepened. "Now I ain't saying she's done no good for ponies. I ain't even talking about her. It's about them wings. You was born an Earth Pony and wishin' you was a different pony is for foals. You ain't a foal are ya?"
Applejack stamped her hoof on the ground. She couldn't clearly remember a time when Granny Smith was so disapproving of something she'd done.
"Now you know I ain't no foal Granny," said Applejack, trying to keep calm. "But this was my decision. I'm sorry I didn't grow out of the want-to-be-a-Pegasus phase like Big Mac did. It ain't no slight on being an Earth Pony. I'm not gonna change just because I got some fancy new wings, I'm the same old Applejack as before. I just can fly now. And I'm happy to be able to."
There was a long pause. Granny Smith gave no indication of being convinced. Finally she spoke.
"I don't know what to say," she said. "I don't approve. But there ain't nothing I can do about it. It's already done and everyone'll have to live with it, including me."
"I'm sorry it makes you unhappy Granny," said Applejack. "But these wings make me happy. I've wanted wings for so long and to actually have them, it's... well, it's incredible."
Granny Smith said nothing, but waved her hoof to indicate she wanted Applejack to go away. Applejack frowned, but left.
Applejack didn't seem soundly that night. While she was overjoyed about her new wings, she hated to disappoint granny. But there wasn't anything she could do.
The next day Twilight had trouble concentrating. Her mind was so wrapped up in Applejack, she didn't give much attention to her students, who were supposed to have completed projects ready to show off. All of them did, but Twilight just didn't care. Except for Apple Bloom's project. While she had made something very impressive it wasn't what interested Twilight. It was that Apple Bloom was Applejack's sister, and paying attention to Apple Bloom might get Applejack's attention.
"So Apple Bloom," said Twilight, passing up everyone else's projects. "Tell me how you made this." Twilight already knew exactly how it worked, and a quick question to Mephistopheles had informed her of the reason behind it.
Apple Bloom's face perked up at Twilight seemingly more interested in her project than anypony else's. Twilight smiled back, happy that her plan was already working.
"Well, my family's always complainin' about how hot it is in the summer, so I realised I could make something to keep the house cool! See, the air comes in through here," she indicated with her hoof the backside of the device, "brought in by strengthened Xi lines. Then it's compressed and goes in through a filter made of woven strands of Water-Silver. It comes out real cold. The only problem is I haven't figured out a good way to turn it on and off. I have to go in and re-paint the cinnabar lines every time I want to start it."
Twilight nodded. "You could simply use the Earth-Metal interaction to build a disconnected switch."
Apple Bloom's ears folded back. "Oh. I didn't think of that."
"It's alright Apple Bloom, it would have been a lot more work and what you have now is just wonderful. I'm very impressed."
Apple Bloom beamed, and as much as Twilight wanted to shower her in praise in hopes that Applejack might notice, she had other students to look at.
Nothing done by the foals was worth commenting on. Sweetie Belle's idea for a fabric-cutter was interesting, but her design was all wrong and in the end all she had was a stupid looking hunk of painted wood. Twilight couldn't even tell if she had a good grasp of theory or if she had somehow gotten stupid over time. Scootaloo's project was just a small Xi-based motor attached to a scooter. It was too weak to even carry Scootaloo herself, but it was something at least. Sunny Days, Dinky Doo and Peachy Pie's projects were similarly something at least.
Ditzy Doo however had managed something pretty interesting, a floating ball that always gave out light. It was made with Electrum infused with as much Fire and Air as it could hold, covered in a layer of glass. The glass was etched with a particular pattern and filled in with cinnabar paint. Totalling at a radius of only one inch, it gave off about twice as much light as an oil lamp, and was paired with a stand that kept it floating through Xi interactions.
"Good job Ditzy Doo," said Twilight. "How are Snips and Snails doing?"
"Who?" Twilight didn't repeat herself, sure that the mare would figure it out quickly enough. "Oh, right! Snails is doing fine."
Ditzy Doo frowned. "Oh I don't know about him."
"He stopped coming after three lessons."
"Why didn't you tell me! I had him listed as a student in my notebook!"
"I forgot. I didn't even notice the first day he was gone." She smiled sheepishly.
Twilight rolled her eyes, annoyed. "Well, alright. I'll change my list later."
Later, when everypony was filtering out of the library, Twilight held Apple Bloom back.
"Hey Apple Bloom, mind if I walk with you?" said Twilight.
"Sure," said Apple Bloom. "But why do you want to walk with me?"
Twilight chuckled. "Well, I have to head over to see Applejack anyway. She left something at my house yesterday and I need to give it back to her."
"Well, alright then," said Apple Bloom. Twilight quickly grabbed Applejack's pendant and left Spike to clean up the library as they headed off together to Sweet Apple Acres.
As they walked, Apple Bloom carrying her project on her back, she spoke.
"So, how'd you give my sister those wings?"
"It's complicated," replied Twilight. "She told me she wanted wings, so I figured I could make some for her."
"Could'ya make me wings?
"I could, but I already disassembled the machine for it."
"Aww, having wings would be so cool." Apple Bloom kicked a rock as they walked. Twilight stopped walking for a moment, causing Apple Bloom to stop too.
"Tell you what Apple Bloom. How about I give you some extra lessons, and you can make your own machine to make wings! I'll keep watch over it so it won't be dangerous. That way you can eventually have wings if you want, and it'll provide motivation for you to learn more."
"Really?" said Apple Bloom. "You think I could give myself wings?"
Twilight laughed, making sure it sounded convincingly mirthful. "Maybe in a year or two, if we focused on what you'd need to know for it."
"That sounds great!" said Apple Bloom, jumping in the air. "Let's do that!"
They chatted the rest of the way, and when they arrived back on the farm, Applejack was there waiting for them.
"Hey there Apple Bloom!" said Applejack. "I take it Twilight here was pleased with your air coolin' thingy." Her new wings were unfolded, but closed as they approached. Twilight then wondered if maybe she should have given herself wings. But it was too late for that now.
"It was very creative Applejack," said Twilight. "But I'm here to drop this off to you." She levitated the pendant in front of Applejack, who stepped forward and let Twilight clasp it back around her neck. She chuckled softly.
"Guess I just plain forgot it after all the excitement of getting these here wings and all," she said. "Thanks again for them. Can't say everypony else has been as excited to see me with them as I have. Rainbow Dash and Pinkie Pie were pretty happy though. Pinkie's holding a party for me by the way, she told me to tell you next time I saw you. It's next week."
Twilight gave a genuine smile. "A party for you? I'll be there."
"Twilight says she'll give me extra lessons so I can eventually make wings for myself!" said Apple Bloom. "I can go right?"
"Well I dunno, when will these lessons be?"
Twilight thought about it for a second and said, "I have medical classes every other weekday after my normal classes, so it wouldn't be too hard to give Apple Bloom her extra classes after class on every day when I'm not teaching the medical students."
"Well that sounds fine," said Applejack.
"Yay!" said Apple Bloom, before trotting past them and heading into the house, humming some tune to herself.
"Boy I tell ya, I never thought I'd see Apple Bloom that excited for schoolin'," said Applejack.
"She's very bright," said Twilight. "Brightest student I have. Except for maybe Ditzy Doo, but she's older."
"But Apple Bloom ain't as...well, ditzy and Ditzy Doo."
"That's true," said Twilight, smiling at Apple Jack. Her mane seemed much shinier than normal, her coat a brighter orange. Had it always looked that way? Or maybe it was that Applejack was happier now with the wings? Or it could just be all in Twilight's head. Romantic Attraction did all sorts of strange things to the mind.
"Well, I was out here waitin' for Apple Bloom. Now that she's back I best be headin' off to finish today's chores. You're welcome to keep me company if ya'd like, but I figure you got lots of fancy projects to work on in that house of yours."
"Fancy projects?" asked Twilight. She didn't really know what Applejack was talking about. Her mind had stopped paying attention at being invited to keep Applejack company. Her mind backtracked for a moment trying to figure out what Applejack was asking.
"Oh, yeah," said Twilight, suddenly feeling the urge to mess with her mane. "Lots of work to be done."
In truth, there was lots of work to be done. Several textbook copies were on the way to being completed, and she wanted to get started on those short-term survival pills for Applejack. They said their goodbyes and Twilight made her way back to her own house.
That went rather well, Twilight thought to herself. She then realised that nothing had happened and she shouldn't be congratulating herself on a job well done at acting normal. She was going to have to be a bit more overt, she thought, if she wanted to win Applejack eventually.
When Twilight entered her house, she found Spike already there. He greeted her, and handed her a letter he said had come from the Xiscriber. The one that only the princess could communicate with. Twilight read it quickly. Upon finishing she was confused.
"Both Princess Celestia and Princess Luna want to see me," said Twilight to Spike. "The day after tomorrow. I'm supposed to wait for them to send a chariot to pick me up." Twilight asked Mephistopheles why that was.
"They don't want you to teleport in the middle of the courtroom like you have been doing," he said.
"And what do they want to see me for?"
"They want to set down a few rules on your research."
"Oh...." Twilight said aloud. Spike asked her why she said that, but she didn't answer. She was going to have to do something about this.
Apple Bloom flicked the switch she installed on the wall of the Cutie Mark Crusader Clubhouse and smiled brightly as her air cooling machine sprung to life. Already the warm spring air was lowering in temperature to something a bit more comfortable after running around all day questing for Cutie Marks.
"This was such a great idea Apple Bloom," said Sweetie Belle. "I wish I had come up with something as cool."
"I wish my idea worked," said Scootaloo, in a tone which said she was only slightly annoyed. "It would have been cool."
"Don't worry about it Scootaloo," said Sweetie Belle. "The engine was just too weak. I'm sure in a few months Twilight will teach us enough that you can make it with a better engine."
"Or you could just ask Twilight about it right now," said Apple Bloom, now sitting in front of her machine, letting the cooled air hit her face. Her voice sounded funny as she spoke. "She's giving me extra lessons so I can build a machine to give me wings!"
"Like how your sister got them?" asked Sweetie Belle.
"That's so cool," said Scootaloo. "Maybe I'll ask then. Just so I can get an engine powered scooter. I don't want to be stuck in school all day."
The castle halls were decorated in both Princess's banners, far in excess of what was normal. Twilight asked Mephistopheles what all the decorations were for, and he said the Princesses were trying to remind Twilight who was in charge. As she walked, she thought how she didn't need reminding of that. She never tried to go against Celestia. She was a good subject, so why were the Princesses, especially Celestia, acting this way?
Twilight stepped towards the Princess's chamber, two guards flanking the huge door which slowly moved open as she approached. She stepped inside. The Princesses stood all the way at the front of the room, waiting for her. Nopony else was inside. As she entered, the doors behind her closed. She continued, noting the unhappy look on Celestia's face, and the stern look on Luna's. Finally she stood before them, and bowed her head in supplication.
"So what should we try out today?" asked Scootaloo. "I was thinking we could try ice sculpting for our cutie marks!"
"Sorry, I can't make it Scootaloo," said Apple Bloom. "Now that I finished putting this here air cooler in the clubhouse, I wanted to get to work on making another one for my family.
"Oh.... Well, me and Sweetie Belle can save the ice sculpting for later if you want?"
"That'd be great, I'd love to ice sculpt," said Apple Bloom. Shortly after, she said goodbye to her friends and started for home.
Twilight lifted her head back up.
"Twilight Sparkle," said Princess Celestia. There was none of the warmth usually heard when the Princess addressed her. Twilight stayed quiet, and the Princess continued.
"In the matters of your scientific and related endeavours, it is our belief," Celestia took a quick glance at Luna before continuing, "that there has been a lack of sufficient oversight. To correct this matter, we have appointed a committee of five ponies to oversee your research in various ways. You will report to them everything you are currently doing, and in the future, everything you plan to do. You will not act without approval from them. In turn these five will report to us, and they will not agree or disagree on anything without approval from us."
"Who are these five?" asked Twilight. She had to force her voice to be even and unemotional, as inside she was seething.
Celestia took a breath. "Violet Moon of the Canterlot Astronomical Research Department, Sweet Stuff, the head of Canterlot Hospital, Snow Berry, leading Chemistry Professor at Canterlot University, the famous Mathematician and Logician, Winter Carroll, and of course Spell Tome, head of Magical Research also of Canterlot University."
"They're all from Canterlot?" asked Twilight.
"Foal!" shouted Princess Luna. It was the first time since she had just been defeated as Nightmare Moon that Twilight had heard her speak. "Canterlot is the greatest city in Equestria, centre of arts and learning! It should be no surprise it houses the greatest minds in all fields of learning!" She spoke loudly, and Twilight's ears folded back in an attempt to save her hearing from damage.
"Luna, remember to keep your voice soft and level," said Princess Celestia. Luna took a step back and glared at her sister. "In any event, yes, they all work in Canterlot. I assure you they are all highly qualified, and their residence here in the capitol makes it easier for us to communicate with them, and they with each other."
Twilight bowed her head in acknowledgement and remained otherwise silent.
"I have sent you contact information for these five, and have sent them your contact information. On the subject of your creations that are already in public use, you are to also send them specifics and they are to be revaluated. I doubt there'll be too many problems with them however, most seem safe enough.
"I also request for you to keep track of your students and what they do. From now on, you are responsible for them, if they release something dangerous, you will be held accountable."
On and on it went, and Twilight was finding it harder and harder to stay quiet. At the moment, there was nothing she could do. But she'd find a way to get around this. She had to. The princesses were just showing themselves to be too short sighted. At least Luna was. Maybe it was her history with Celestia, but Twilight figured this "oversight" problem was completely the work of Luna. Sure, Mephistopheles said that Celestia was becoming afraid, wary of some of her knowledge. But it was probably only because Luna was bringing it all up in a negative light. She couldn't see past her narrow old fashioned view of the world, couldn't understand that the world had changed since her imprisonment, and would soon change even further thanks to Twilight's knowledge and hard work.
She would make Luna see. And Celestia would understand on her own if ripped away from the influence of Luna.
When Twilight got back to her house the first thing she did was see if Spike was around. He wasn't. She was alone.
Then she screamed. Not in pain or fear but in frustration. Her horn glowed with magic as she knocked projects off tables, broke bottles, tipped chairs, and smashed inventions. Pages from books she had written were dropping through the air, torn and ripped. Mephistopheles just stood there, impassive and unemotional as ever.
"Twilight, what have you done!" came the voice of Spike. Twilight turned her head, breathing heavily. She hadn't heard him come in. How much of her rampage had he seen? "It'll take me forever to clean this," Spike said to himself. Twilight said nothing.
"What happened?" asked Spike, louder. "All your things, your books, your tools? It took a long time to make them! Why would you do this?!"
Twilight remained silent.
"I guess the meeting with the Princesses didn't go too well?" asked Spike.
Twilight took a deep breath, trying to calm herself before she explained to Spike what had happened.
Spike wasn't appropriately angered.
"I don't see what the big deal is," he said. "You don't have anything to hide. And still, why break your stuff?"
"Don't you understand Spike?!" she yelled. "This is going to slow me down considerably. My plans for a better world will grind to a halt at the whim of Luna and a bunch of Canterlot ponies!"
"Okay but... why break your stuff?"
Twilight sighed. "I was angry. Besides, the things that are now broken are things I don't have to report to those five. Not that I'm going to report everything anyway."
"Wait, what?" Spike was in shock. "You're going to work behind the princess's backs?"
"Well what else can I do Spike?!" asked Twilight.
"You could just do what they say."
"That's unacceptable. No, I'll have to find a way to work around this for now, until I can think of a way to defeat them."
"Who said anything about defeating anypony?! Who needs defeating?"
"Slip of the tongue Spike. I just meant I need to get rid of this oversight."
The question was how to do it without being found out. She could learn everything there was to know about these five ponies, everything about their habits, their likes, dislikes, family, their loves, their secrets, and one by one remove them from the picture, but could she do so without bringing even more problems down on herself? She also needed to work against one of the princesses. She would have to move carefully from now on. And she'd need help. Preferably help that didn't know it was helping.
Already a plan was forming in her mind. She needed some alone time with Mephistopheles to forge it into something workable.
"Spike, clean this place up." Spike groaned and nodded his head. He had known it was coming. "I'll be at the library if you need me."
Twilight closed the library door behind her. After a quick check to confirm she was alone, she made it to her old room for some extra privacy. It was still furnished like she lived there. You never knew when you might need another place to sleep.
"So...." began Twilight. She sounded more conniving than she knew, her eyes glaring as she looked out the window at all the ponies who didn't know anywhere near as much as her. They were like ants when viewed from up high like she was. "Tell me Mephistopheles, everything there is to know about the five ponies that are to keep watch over me. Specifically about their fears, insecurities, secrets and weaknesses. Anything I could use to manipulate them into letting whatever I want to do gain approval. I also need to know about Princess Luna, but for her, additional details as to her relationship with Celestia. I have no doubt it all ultimately comes down to Luna who's doing this to me."
"To summarise each one. Violet moon is lazy. Her job involves her allowing those below her to do the work while she gets to take credit as an intelligent and hardworking pony. While she may be fairly intelligent compared to the average pony, she no longer has the patience to work. She enjoys things like fine food and drink. She has no children, no romantic partners, but enjoys the company of colts quite often.
Sweet Stuff is rather the opposite. She is a very hard worker, has a husband and twin foals but works so much she hardly sees them. Though she loves them, she finds her work too important. The only non-work related activity she does besides be with her family is run a small hothouse in her basement, growing Rhubarb for personal use. Her Husband sneaks some every now and then, and she pretends not to notice.
Snow Berry is old, and has not retired yet because her son runs one of the largest chemical companies in Equestria. Essentially she puts the chemistry department to work for her son's company and nopony notices.
Winter Carroll is already quite amiable to your views and would most certainly be willing to let anything of yours go unchecked. However for your convenience, his most damaging secret is that he's married and having an affair, for his wife is sick and dying. He also likes trying new ways to have fun.
Spell Tome is the oldest of the five, set in his ways, and the most hostile to your views. He views himself as the definitive authority on magic, having worked all his life studying it, with a vigour not unlike your own before I arrived. He also is the most politically powerful ponies in Equestria who isn't a politician. He has no major skeletons in his closet, and nothing that can be easily pointed to in order to manipulate him. Hopefully a more expansive description will help.
Speaking of, first, Violet Moon was born on..."
He went on in that vein for a very long time, giving Twilight essentially a full life history of each of the five. Already a complete plan was forming, a way to get all five out of her mane and get back to work.
The next day was a schoolday for Twilight. Already she was breaking the rules, as she wasn't supposed to teach until her lesson plans had been approved. Then again, she wasn't going to teach what she had had planned for that day.
Twilight waited patiently for everyone to arrive and settle down. She went ahead and let them do it on their own, waiting for Sunny Days and Peachy Pie to finish talking, and Apple Bloom and Sweetie Belle to finish listening to whatever pointless thing Scootaloo was telling them. Ditzy Doo was just staring straight at her with those crossed eyes of hers, and her daughter had her head on the desk in boredom.
Eventually heads started to turn Twilight's way as ponies realised she hadn't said anything for a while. At that point, they had settled down. Twilight looked at each of them, wondering who would be up for the task she was about to give.
"Everypony," she began. "This will be the last class I'll be teaching for a while."
There was a few moments as that statement sank into the heads of everyone.
"But what are we supposed to do?" asked Apple Bloom. "Going back to Mrs. Cheerilee's class would be a waste of time!"
Twilight held a hoof up to stop Apple Bloom right there.
"The reason I can't teach for a while is that the princesses, or one of them anyway, has decided that there needs to be more control over what I teach, with my lessons given direct approval before I can teach them to you. So I have a suggestion for you all. This isn't a requirement, but if you want to continue learning from me I highly recommend this. You all know my workshop and where it is. Whenever you have free time, show up there. Nopony can say no to you hanging around where I live, and nopony will mind if you happen to learn a few things from watching or talking to me or anypony else who'll happen to be there."
"On that note, if anypony at all shows interest in what you're learning, don't hesitate to explain it to them. In fact, I urge you to be as forthcoming about it as possible. Yes Ditzy?"
Ditzy Doo had a hoof raised.
"What should I do with Snails?" she asked.
"I was going to talk to you about it after class, but I guess now is as good a time as any. Any lesson plan you plan for him, you have to run by me so I can run it up for approval too."
"Why can't I just get approval myself?"
"I don't know," said Twilight. "All I know is what I was told, and for now that's the way it is. Of course, Snails is welcome to show up anytime he likes at my workshop as well. Actually... you know a good amount about this stuff, would you mind opening your home to all these wonderful ponies... and if they just happen to learn a thing or two from you, all the better?"
"Well uh, sure," said Ditzy Doo. "That'd be uh, wonderful. If anypony wanted to show up."
"Everypony hear that? Two places where you all might happen to learn things. I hope you'll take the offer. I don't know when I'll be able to teach classes again, and if I do, I don't know how much I'll be able to teach you."
The class began to whisper to each other. Twilight allowed it. She knew what they were saying, as Mephistopheles was told to relay it all to her. Almost all of them considered this an acceptable change. the only one who didn't was Scootaloo, who seemed to be wrestling with the problem of having less free time, but having it eventually lead to something she wanted; a powered scooter. After that was done, Twilight figured she'd lose the pegasus filly as a student.
Twilight didn't have much more to say, and soon everyone was filtering out of the library, probably for the last time in a good while. She only hoped the medical students would be so understanding. Though they didn't have as far to go, being limited to Medicine, Twilight had to admit she didn't spend much time on basic medical advancement. If they showed up at her workshop hoping to pick up something they wouldn't get as much useful information as her general students.