"Well, that's taken care of!" Pinkie Pie said, as they left the school. "What next?"
"I should probably meet the other ponies who are helping with the Summer Sun Celebration," Twilight said. "They were...uh..."
"Fluttershy and Rarity!" Pinkie Pie said. "Oh, can I help, too? Can I? Can I? I love throwing parties!"
"...Sure," Twilight said, with some reservations. "I have to review all the purchases, before you make them, though."
"Yay!" Pinkie Pie cheered. "And I'm also going to throw a 'Welcome to Ponyville!' party for you and Spike this weekend! It's gonna be super fun!"
"We don't need a welcome party," Twilight said.
"Yes you doooo!" Pinkie sang. "You'll love it! Everypony gets their own Pinkie Pie Party when they move here!"
"I...okay," Twilight said, realizing that she probably couldn't say anything to change Pinkie's mind.
Twilight fell silent, as she followed behind the bouncing pink pony. Soon, they reached the market area, and Twilight's first impulse was to fly away to safety. Pegasi tend to feel claustrophobic in areas where they can't move around much, but in this case, it wasn't just the crowded space that disturbed Twilight. Her senses were being attacked by a variety of overpowering smells and equally overpowering vendors, who shouted as they walked past.
"Turnips! Turnips for sale!"
"Apples! Get your apples here!"
"Carrots! Tasty carrots!"
Twilight cringed a bit, causing Pinkie Pie to turn and look at her curiously.
"Something wrong?" Pinkie Pie asked.
"No, I..." Twilight said. She shook her head. "I just remembered, we need to get food."
"Food, you say?" one of the vendors—a yellow mare with an orange mane—asked. "Great! My carrots are the tastiest in all of Ponyville!"
"That's a load of hogwash!" said the mare in the stall next to her. The orange mare with a yellow mane adjusted her hat. "Why, everypony knows apples are healthier!"
"You're both being silly!" Pinkie Pie said. "Everypony knows I make the best food in town! Here, Twilight, have a free sample!"
Pinkie pulled out a plate, which had a brownie on top. Twilight wasn't sure where the food had come from, and she didn't get a chance to think about it, either. "No, no," Twilight said. "I...I didn't mean that I'm hungry now. I'm saying that we need food for the event."
"Sweet Apple Acres does a fine job of catering!" the mare with the hat said. "And our prices are real reasonable!"
"Fruits are so last year!" the other mare said. "You'll want the special vegetable blends from my golden harvest for sure! What's the occasion?"
"The Summer Sun Celebration," Twilight said. "I've been put in charge of organizing it."
Both the farmer/salesponies gasped.
"The Summer Sun Celebration?" the carrot mare asked. "The one that Princess Celestia is going to attend?"
"I'll do it for free!" the apple mare said. "Feeding the royal princess would be an honor!"
"No, I'll do it for free!" the carrot mare said. "The princess deserves the best, not some moldy apples which fell on the ground!"
"Are you calling my apples moldy?" the mare in the hat asked. "At least they don't grow in dirt like your carrots do!"
The two mares started squabbling with each other about their food of choice. Pinkie took this opportunity to sidle up next to Twilight. "You know..." Pinkie whispered in Twilight's ear. "I heard Princess Celestia loves cake! Sugarcube Corners makes some nice ones..."
"Okay, that's enough!" Twilight barked. "No more fighting!"
The three other ponies fell silent, and the two farmers glared at each other.
"Look, why don't all of you work together to provide food for the event?" Twilight asked. "That way, there will be a variety of foods, and everypony will be happy."
"Sounds good to me," the apple mare said. "What 'bout you, Carrot Top?"
"I guess we could work together again," the carrot mare allowed.
"Great, they can do the main course, and Sugarcube Corner can do dessert!" Pinkie said. "Everypony will love it!"
"That sounds fantastic!" Twilight said. "And best of all, you said you'd work for free, so it won't cost us anything!"
The farmers shared a glance. With a silent nod, they immediately agreed to rescind their offer.
"Er, about that—"
"I may have been a bit too hasty—"
"I never agreed to work for free," Pinkie said bluntly.
"You're all so generous," Twilight said, purposely ignoring them. "It might even be elemental to your natures! I'll make sure to mention that in my report to the Princess tonight! Can I have your names?"
"I'm Carrot Top," the carrot mare said.
"And I'm Applejack," the apple mare said.
"Great, thanks!" Twilight said. "I'm Twilight Sparkle. I just moved here from Canterlot to study friendship for the university!"
The farmers looked confused. "Ponies study friendship at the university?" Carrot Top asked.
"I thought universities were for fancy mathematics and such," Applejack said.
"Uh...friendship is more like a research project for me?" Twilight asked. She chuckled nervously under the stare of the two farmers.
"Why don't ponies believe me when I say I'm here to study friendship?" Twilight complained, once she and Pinkie had left the market.
"Maybe it's because schools don't offer degrees in friendship," Pinkie Pie guessed. "Or maybe it's because you're a grown-up, so you should already know how to make friends! Or...oh! I've got it! Maybe they don't believe you, because they suspect that you're on a top-secret mission from the princess!"
"What?" Twilight burst out. "How did you know—?"
"It's kind of obvious," Pinkie Pie said. She gave Twilight a sideways hug. "But don't worry! I'll help you learn how to make friends! That's what I do best!"
"Oh, um...yeah," Twilight said, feeling very confused. Pinkie was a nice mare, but following Pinkie's thought processes was starting to give Twilight a headache.
"Anyway, here we are!" Pinkie said, pointing at a large blue building in front of them. Twilight looked up at it, confused.
"The Ponyville Day Spa?" Twilight asked. "Why are we here?"
"Because that's where Fluttershy and Rarity are, silly!" Pinkie said. "They always go to the spa on Tuesdays, you know."
How was I supposed to know that? Twilight wondered, as she followed Pinkie inside. The spa's interior contained shades of pink and light teal, along with a few extra-fluffy couches. Peaceful flute music was playing in the background, and some ponies in robes were walking around.
"Are Fluttershy and Rarity here?" Pinkie Pie asked one of the workers. "We need to talk to them."
"They should be in the baths," the worker said.
"Great, thank you!" Pinkie Pie said. "That's this way, Twilight."
The two of them went down a small hall and through a door labeled "baths". This room was the pride and joy of the Ponyville spa; as the brochures proudly proclaimed, it was the largest indoor bath in over a hundred miles. It was kept heated at a constant temperature of ninety degrees, thanks to one of the unicorn staff workers who knew how to cast a warming spell.
The bath itself was rather grandiose, as polished stairs led around the sides and up to the top level. It was here where Fluttershy and Rarity were seated, letting the hot water soothe their bodies.
"Hi, Rarity! Hi, Fluttershy!" Pinkie Pie called, climbing up the stairs. Twilight chose to fly up to the bath area instead.
"Hi, Pinkie," Fluttershy said.
"Hello, Pinkie, dear," Rarity said. "What brings you here today? You don't usually go to the spa."
"I want to introduce you to my new friend, Twilight Sparkle!" Pinkie said, throwing a foreleg around Twilight. Twilight squirmed a bit at this.
"Charmed," Rarity said. "I am Rarity, the owner of the Carousel Boutique."
"I...I'm Fluttershy," Fluttershy said softly.
"Hello!" Twilight said.
"Twilight came all the way here to talk to you!" Pinkie Pie said.
"Is that right?" Rarity asked.
"I've been put in charge of the Summer Sun Celebration," Twilight said. "So I need to meet with all the volunteers. Fluttershy, you're going to be singing, correct?"
"Um..." Fluttershy said, turning red.
"I didn't know that," Rarity said. "Why, that's wonderful! You have such a lovely singing voice, darling."
"I love music!" Pinkie Pie said. "What songs are you going to pick?"
"Um, I'm sorry," Fluttershy said, sinking down in the water a bit. "But I'm not going to sing. My birds are."
"Your...birds?" Twilight asked.
"Fluttershy's special talent is dealing with animals," Pinkie Pie said. "Her birds are the best! They chirp extra beautiful, just for her."
Fluttershy smiled, relieved. "Exactly," she said. "I'm training a bird choir for the occasion."
"That sounds nice," Twilight said. "You'll have to give me a demonstration sometime. And Rarity, you're in charge of...decorations?"
"Exactly," Rarity said. "I've sketched out a few ideas for how we can set things up, and I'm sure you'll be quite pleased with the results. Making ponies look fabulous is my special talent."
"I've...never heard of anypony with that talent before," Twilight said.
"Oh, but it's true!" Rarity said. "You simply must stop by boutique sometime! I'll prove it to you! Why, with the right dress—I'm thinking light purple—and a proper manecut, you'd look fantastic!"
Twilight's hoof went directly to her loose bangs. "What's wrong with my hair?" she asked, more defensively than she expected.
"Nothing, of course," Rarity assured her. "I just mean that...well, I imagine your bangs constantly get messed up whenever you go flying."
"That only happens when I fly too quickly," Twilight said.
"I think Twilight's mane looks nice," Fluttershy said. "Sometimes, I wish I had short hair."
"I've given up on trying to control my hair," Pinkie Pie said. "I just let it do whatever it wants!"
"I noticed," Rarity said dryly.
Twilight frowned. She wasn't sure if she liked Rarity or not; the posh unicorn reminded her a bit too much of some of the snooty ponies back in Canterlot.
"Well, it was very nice to meet both of you," Twilight said. "I'll follow up with you both later this week, to make sure everything is good."
"That sounds nice," Rarity said. She shifted her upper body. "Won't you join us here in the water? It's sooo warm."
"No, I have to get—" Twilight began.
"CANNONBALL!" Pinkie shouted. She ran and jumped into the bath, making the biggest splash she could.
"Pinkie!" Rarity and Twilight cried.
When Twilight left the spa, she decided to dry off by taking a quick nap on one of the clouds. She was still somewhat tired from her long flight that morning, and before she knew it, she had fallen fast asleep. She didn't wake up until the town's clock tower chimed three.
"Mmmm..." Twilight mumbled, as she turned over in her sleep. "Three o'clock. The big after-school rush is coming..."
Suddenly, she bolted upright. "Three o'clock!" she cried. "I have to pick up Spike!"
Twilight flew over the town, trying to remember where everything was. She found the market easily enough, and she knew how to get back to the library, but she hadn't been paying close enough attention when Pinkie took her to the schoolhouse.
Twilight eventually landed and asked for directions. By the time she reached Ponyville Elementary, it was 3:21, and almost all of the children had left.
"I am so sorry," Twilight said, landing next to Cheerilee. "I got lost finding my way back here."
Cheerilee laughed. "No worries," she said. "It can be a bit confusing here, I know."
"Thank you so much for staying late," Twilight said. "I know you probably want to get home right away."
"Again, it's no problem," Cheerilee said. "I'm used to staying late. I can't leave here until all the children get picked up by their parents."
Twilight looked at the playground, where Spike was chatting with Scootaloo. "Glad to see I'm not the only parent who's late, then," she said.
"Er...Scootaloo is a special case," Cheerilee said. "I drop her off at the—at her home, after school every day."
"Why?" Twilight asked. "Can't her parents pick her up?"
"That's a private matter," Cheerilee said. She quickly changed the subject. "Anyway, let me tell you what happened with Spike today. Once you left—"
Cheerilee summarized what had happened over the past three hours. She promised to give Twilight a copy of the results of Spike's aptitude test, once it was graded, along with a list of supplies and schoolbooks that Spike would need. Twilight had experience in education—even if she had only worked as a university librarian, not a teacher—so she was able to share some insights with Cheerilee.
Once the discussion was over, Twilight walked towards Spike and Scootaloo. "Okay, Spike!" she said. "Let's go!"
"Okay," Spike said. "See you later Scootaloo."
"Bye!" Scootaloo said. She started a bit when she saw Twilight. "Wait, is that the pegasus you were talking about?"
Twilight raised an eyebrow. Spike was talking about her at school?
"Uh huh!" Spike said.
Scootaloo bounded towards Twilight. "Is it true?" Scootaloo asked. "Did you really fly all the way from Canterlot today?"
Twilight was a little surprised at the young filly's enthusiasm. "Um, yes," she said. "It took over two hours, but I flew all the way in one trip."
"She pulled me on a chariot the whole time," Spike added.
"Wow!" Scootaloo said. Scootaloo bounced a bit, and her wings fluttered in excitement. "That's so cool! Is that the farthest you've ever flown?"
"Definitely," Twilight said. "What about you?"
"I...um...I don't know how to fly yet," Scootaloo admitted. She closed her wings and looked down. "I've been hoping Rainbow Dash could help teach me, but..."
"Don't worry, I'm sure you'll learn soon enough," Twilight said, reassuringly. "Stop by the library someday, and I'll give you a book on flying for beginners, okay?"
Scootaloo nodded. "Okay!" she said.
"Nice meeting you...Scootaloo, right?" Twilight asked. Scootaloo nodded in response. "I'm Twilight, the new librarian. See you later!"
"Bye!" Scootaloo said, waving to Spike and Twilight as they left. Scootaloo smiled to herself, dreaming about the day she could fly across Equestria. She was brought back to reality when Cheerilee came up to her.
"Ready to go to the orphanage?" Cheerilee asked.
"Yeah, let me get my scooter first," Scootaloo said. She ran to the schoolhouse to retrieve her favorite possession.
"Don't forget your helmet!" Cheerilee called at the retreating filly's back.
Spike and Twilight spent some time getting their things settled in the library, before going out for dinner. It wasn't until later that night that Twilight got down to business and started interrogating Spike about the ponies at the school.
"I agree that Cheerilee seems like a very nice pony," Twilight said, writing down the teacher's name on a chart. "So who's the class clown?"
"The what?" Spike asked.
"You know, the pony who tells jokes all the time and interrupts the class," Twilight said. "Almost every school has a class clown."
"Well...Diamond Tiara was always whispering things to Silver Spoon, and then they'd laugh," Spike said. "Is that what you mean?"
"It's close enough," Twilight said, writing down Diamond Tiara's name as well. She put the pen away, then picked up the posterboard she had been writing on. She propped it up against a wall so Spike could read it easily.
"What do you think of this chart?" Twilight asked, looking proud of herself.
Possible Elements of Harmony Bearers
1. Element of Kindness—Cheerilee
2. Element of Generosity—Applejack, Carrot Top, Pinkie Pie
3. Element of Laughter—Diamond Tiara
4. Element of Loyalty—?
5. Element of Honesty—?
6. Unknown Element—?
"Um, half of the board is empty," Spike said.
"I know," Twilight said. "But unless the final element is party-throwing or fabulosity, I don't think anypony else I met goes in the other spots."
"How do we find the others?" Spike asked.
"Finding the Element of Honesty should be easy," Twilight said. "We need to put everypony in a situation where they want to lie. I already have something in mind..."
"What?" Spike asked.
"Do you know the story of The Empress' New Clothes?" Twilight asked.
"No," Spike said.
"Never mind, then," Twilight sighed. So much for showing off her brilliant plan. "Let's just get started on a letter to the Princess."
Dear Princess Celestia,
Spike and I arrived safely in Ponyville. After meeting with the mayor, we were shown around town by a helpful mare named Pinkie Pie. I enrolled Spike in the local elementary school, and I met with the two mares who are helping with the Summer Sun Celebration.
We have already found some ponies who we think could be the Elements of Harmony. I'm including our chart with this letter. Cheerilee is the local school teacher, while Applejack and Carrot Top are farmers who generously agreed to cater the Summer Sun Celebration for free. Diamond Tiara is the class clown, and Pinkie Pie, like I said before, is the mare who showed us around town.
We had a question about the Element of Loyalty, though. Does it refer to being loyal to a specific thing, or just loyalty in general? There are lots of things a pony can be loyal to. Maybe one of the Royal Guards could wield that Element? They're extremely loyal to you, and I'm sure my brother would love to volunteer for such an important duty.
We'll keep searching for the Elements of Harmony, until we find the right ponies. Once we have the right ponies—and once you approve of them, of course—I'll tell them about Princess Luna and everything. I'm sure we'll be able to save her soon.
PS. Some of the ponies here don't believe me, when I say I'm here to study friendship. Would it be better if I said I'm here to study something else?