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Northwest Slobovia
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Postby Northwest Slobovia » Sun Sep 20, 2020 5:14 pm

Suite, Cadance's Plot-Coupon Emporium and Crystal Spa
Crystal Empire, Equestria

Giovenith wrote:The employee stayed behind. "I have also been instructed to guide the rest of you to whatever treatment or feature you'd like. Remember, all expenses paid."

"Warm up a hot tub, please," Amanda said, rising from her seat. She disappeared into the Belas' room.

Sandy turned to Domenica as he stood up as well. "Thalia is the Muse of Comedy, a minor Olympian goddess. I spoke to Her and one of Her sisters either a few years ago or twenty-one hundred years ago, depending on your point of view." A smile flickered across his face. "But you'll have to join us in a hot tub to, uh, discover Amanda's opinion on slavery."

"And if you'll excuse me, I need to change clothes." He also entered the Belas' room, and pulled the door closed behind him.

Amanda returned, wearing a red tankini. Much of her exposed skin was marked by small scars, and there was a birthmark-like blotch covering most of her left leg. She looked at Giovenith and Domenica with a smile. "You're welcome to join us."

Sandy joined her a moment later, wearing only a tiny, barely-decent black speedo. "I'm sure the Equestrians can fix you up with a bathing suit." He glanced toward the spa's guide, who hastily nodded, causing Sandy to nod in reply. ...even if Cadance needs to conjure them herself.

As the two of them left with the spa pony, it became apparent that Sandy was rather the worse for wear. An inch-wide pucker scar on his lower right, just below the ribs, was matched by a ragged, tea-saucer sized scar on his lower right back. There was a birthmark-like area colored like the one on Amanda's leg covering most of the left side of his torso, with a keyhole-shaped area of normal skin in the middle, and he also had a long scar on his upper right arm. None of this seemed to bother him in the slightest.


Hot Tub

The hot tubs were tucked away in a corner of the spa's pocket park, secluded from the park's other amenities and lightly screened from each other by bushes. Only one was in use, and the Belas followed the guide to another, much larger than the others and clearly recently made: a huge barrel, easily seating six or eight humans, made of new wood with shiny metal bands.

Amanda started to dip her hand in the water to check the temperature, but Sandy stopped her with, "No need. It's hot enough. They must have a... staff unicorn sorcerer." She climbed the short staircase to the top and settled in. She let herself float down until just her head was above the water, and leaned back to rest it on the tub's rim, closing her eyes, and relaxing as she did so.

Sandy climbed in beside her, stretching his arms out so that one was loosely around Amanda; he played with her curls while he let the water loosen his muscles.

For a while, they switched between sitting in silence, making small talk, and idly snuggling. Finally, Amanda propped herself up against the hot tub's side. "How do they do it, Sandy? Thousands, maybe millions of them, just like you, plus the little pegasai controlling the weather, and they're more or less at peace. How do they manage?"

"Doubtless, the presence of active and friendly gods helps immensely. Both Celestia and Cadance say they were created to fill their roles; the Equestrians have a friend in the highest place."

Amanda turned to face him. "Which reminds me, did you ask Celestia about Cape Town in the sky?"

"She said they were... like they are now before they invited Her to rule them. That's, uh, probably true; the pegasoi don't Sound like Her; She Sounds like them, in part."

"Great: so long as the bigger hammer sticks around and keeps them in line, they'll be good. That's not very helpful." She scowled at the conclusion. "No, wait, Willow said She's not all that active. And they have the rule of law." With a frown, she settled back in the water. "Back to square one."

"How many people in Philly have guns?"

"Our best guess was that about a quarter of the households have them."

"And the murder rate is...?"

"OK, Mr. Wizard, what's wrong with you guys then?"

Sandy had no immediate answer. He laid back in the water, steepled fingers resting on his chest; the hot tub was just wide enough for him to float on his back. A minute went by, then another, before Sandy sat back up. "They managed in Alexandria, dozens of spellcasters in the Mouseion, probably hundreds in the city. Better trained than we were, and with the Dawn too. They must have managed in Moslem Iberia as well."

He rubbed his jawline. "Back home is the Wild West. No central authority, and little tradition of cooperation."

"And we ended up at the OK Corral, with innocent people caught in the crossfire. Yes, indeed. So, elsewhere..."

"...where there's, uh, anything like a government that can--"

"...keep the supernatural peace, they'll be no worse than Philly." She looked around, and spotted one of the spa staffers off the distance, and waved them over. "A couple of glasses, please, and a side table to put them on."

When they arrived, Amanda asked Sandy for wine in hers. She sat back, sipping her glass, to think that answer over.
Last edited by Northwest Slobovia on Tue Sep 22, 2020 2:52 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Giovenith
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Postby Giovenith » Tue Sep 22, 2020 9:40 am

Giovenith looked from the Belas to the politely nodding spa pony, who was only wearing a comb to keep her hair up and a thin collar to designate her employee status, and resisted the urge to share her speculation that the Equestrians probably didn't have a concept of a bathing suit. Not that she needed one, she had several in her pockets. However, she had had her fill of vulnerability for the day with all the crying and sharing of personal woes, so dressing down and swimming with her friends seemed like pushing it (she’d never been much of a swimsuit person — never nude outside of bath time). The Belas’ scars were surprising but not all that shocking, she’d met plenty of people just as badly nicked if not worse, but she knew it wouldn’t be polite to pry.

“You guys go have fun, I’m good,” she encouraged, absent-mindedly patting her thick skirt and tights in self-reassurance. “I think I’ll go looking around for inspiration for what I’m going to do later.” She really wished that Toola hadn’t left so soon, they could have hung out some more. Oh well. She made her way back out into the hall in search of a spark.

--

“This is the best we could do on such short notice outside of season,” said the staff member who got the couple their wine, apologetically. “We made it from our local berries and got somepony to magically ferment it a little, but it’s not quite the same. We hope it’s alright anyway.”

They were shooed away and replaced by another employee.

“Good evening, sir, ma’am,” the employee greeted. “We hope you’re enjoying yourselves so far?” She smiled, but there was a cringe framing it. “I must admit, our ability to serve you is somewhat limited, since we don’t quite understand your physical needs. We were told by the Princess that we should avoid massages because we might hurt you, and obviously your hooves are very different from ours so we can’t do much with that…” She held up her fingerless digit to demonstrate. “... but we do have excellent skin and hair routines! We have a beautiful traditional style where we weave crystals into your hair for example, ma’am, if you would like to try it.”
❃and in time, and in time, we will all be stars❃

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Northwest Slobovia
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Postby Northwest Slobovia » Wed Sep 23, 2020 5:08 pm

Suite, Cadance's Plot-Coupon Emporium and Crystal Spa
Crystal Empire, Equestria

Giovenith wrote:"We were told by the Princess that we should avoid massages because we might hurt you[…]” She held up her fingerless digit to demonstrate. “... but we do have excellent skin and hair routines! We have a beautiful traditional style where we weave crystals into your hair for example, ma’am, if you would like to try it.”

With an indulgent and amused smile, Amanda agreed. "So long as you can do without me needing to get out of the water."

Sandy looked over at the poor, apologetic staffer. "I have a bit of magic that should let you massage us without hurting us. It will help your fine muscle control. Perhaps later I could demonstrate it to see if you want to give it a try. The spell is a gift from... a, uh, mutual friend Celestia and I share." Amanda gave him a quizzical look: 'us'? Sandy was going to relax enough to have a massage?

She slid down in the hot tub as far as she could so that the spa pony wouldn't have to reach too far to do her hair, but continued to face her husband as she spoke. "Back home was worse than the Wild West. We had no sheriff, and a it took a clear threat to everybody's lives to put together a posse. I think Lord of the Flies covers it, right down to a few of them just being wicked."
Last edited by Northwest Slobovia on Wed Sep 23, 2020 5:09 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Solisian Union
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Postby Solisian Union » Thu Sep 24, 2020 3:40 am

"The muse of comedy...Interesting." The Filipino nodded later to him on this, and again repeated the action when invited to join them at a hot tub. She blushed a little at this, but was all right, opening her mouth to speak again. "Sure. That would be nice."

And of course, she took care to leave Sandy alone so they'd change clothes. Unfortunately for herself, she wasn't really able to get a lot of clothes for changing into. She excused herself and simply undressed, coming out only in a small set of brown panties that hugged her hips as well as a black modest sports bra.

But at being told that the Equestrians could help her, she nodded and looked to the guide for a moment. She hesitated and decided with a shake of her head that she wouldn't need help just yet.

She could see that Sandy was quite roughened up, and Amanda was no stranger to scars either. She was a little surprised. She had never seen these many scars on people in a long while.

On the offer given about skin and hair routines, the Filipino beamed, saying to the pony around, "I'd like what you're offering on the hair. It would be interesting."
^_^

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Giovenith
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Postby Giovenith » Fri Sep 25, 2020 5:13 pm

The spa pony gestured for two more employees to come over, who brought with them each an assortment of specialized tools and a basket filled with twinkling gems of various cool colors, all very real, not the polished glass of costume gems. Smiling politely, they began to moisturize the women's hair with a lovely smelling foam, occasionally stopping a moment to scrutinize what they had to work with — they weren't used to hair that grew out radially from a spherical scalp, but it wouldn't be too hard. They began to comb it out.

"Well, it's not just a matter of our strength, I doubt that your backs and muscles are built the same way as ours," the head employee told Sandy. "But if you really want to give it a try, you could cast the spell and then try to help guide our masseuse through it."

"Excuse me, ma'am?" the spa pony doing Domenica's hair asked. "I don't mean to be intrusive, but a few of us have been wondering..."

"... why do you always wear so many clothes?" the pony doing Amanda's hair asked. "Even now, you're wearing a few. Don't get us wrong, they look lovely, it's just that we've never met a species who dresses as formally as all of you. Isn't it cumbersome at all?"
❃and in time, and in time, we will all be stars❃

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Northwest Slobovia
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Postby Northwest Slobovia » Sun Sep 27, 2020 11:44 am

Hot Tub Party, Crystal Spa
Crystal Empire, Equestria


Giovenith wrote:"Well, it's not just a matter of our strength, I doubt that your backs and muscles are built the same way as ours," the head employee told Sandy. "But if you really want to give it a try, you could cast the spell and then try to help guide our masseuse through it."

Sandy gave her a huge grin. "I think I'm... probably the most qualified person there is to explain the differences to them. They are substantial, but not, uhhh--" He waved a hand rapidly, trying to think of the best explanation. "Incomprehensible. With an outline-- overview, they should get the idea very quickly. I can provide them very specific help on the matter."

Giovenith wrote:"... why do you always wear so many clothes?" the pony doing Amanda's hair asked. "Even now, you're wearing a few. Don't get us wrong, they look lovely, it's just that we've never met a species who dresses as formally as all of you. Isn't it cumbersome at all?"

Amanda shifted a tiny bit and tried to catch the blue unicorn in the corner of her eye. "If it was just Sandy and I, we probably wouldn't be wearing anything, but since we're with people we don't know all that well..." She extended a hand to Domenica. "Stay, you're fine. We want your company."

Turning her attention back to the unicorn, Amanda went on. "It's mostly cultural." She flicked a gaze to Sandy, who bobbed his head. "But it does get very cold in the winter where we're from. You guys have winter too. How do you deal with the cold and snow?"
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Giovenith
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Postby Giovenith » Fri Oct 02, 2020 1:56 pm

The head employee chuckled. “Well, if you really want to give it a try, I guess I can’t stop you.”

She nodded to bring over a pink Crystal pony masseuse.

“You turn into a pegasus, don’t you?” she asked him. “They’ve obviously got a bit of a unique back structure, but I can fill in the blanks for non-winged ponies.”


"We don't get winter here in the Crystal Empire," said the employee, working Amanda's hair into a lather. "But in other parts of Equestria, it can get a little nippy, but most ponies are fine with a scarf, hat, and maybe some booties, but even that's not enough for the arctic outside the city. But outside it was the Summer Sun Celebration, right?" She began to separate her hair into strands. "Why not take off everything then?”

“Oh Pinova, stop it, you sound positively nosey,” said a green employee, who walked up and poured a little bit of a sweet smelling liquid into the tub. “It’s normal for other ponies to have a different sense of fashion, even the ones who aren’t ponies.”

“I’m sorry,” the hair stylist, Pinova, apologized. “I just have a hard time imagining is all, I already put so much work into my mane every morning, but clothes too?” She smiled, thinking about it. “Although I guess if you had a nice enough wardrobe, it could be fun.”

“Why don’t you tell us about the country you hail from?” the green employee offered a washcloth dipped in ice water to Amanda, in case she wanted to cool her forehead off. “It must be very far away, I think the only other creature I’ve seen walk on two legs are dragons, and you’re obviously not flying reptiles. I don’t remember hearing about you at all back in our time.”

Pinova combed out Amanda’s hair and began to slip on crystalline beads on the strands.
❃and in time, and in time, we will all be stars❃

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Solisian Union
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Postby Solisian Union » Fri Oct 02, 2020 9:34 pm

Domenica smiled when she settled down, watching the ponies come over with tools and a basket of gems. She let them do their thing, relaxing quickly.

She would have wanted to speak up, to give answers, but she let Sandy and Amanda speak. She let her companions finish speaking before she said to all of them, "Winter isn't a thing in my country. I come from the Philippines, a country of many islands. That is what we call an archipelago. It's quite warm there, sometimes hot and sometimes rainy."

She paused to think and to give herself a chance to sigh. She then gasped and turned to Amanda to nod and say, "Thanks, by the way, my mind was wandering." Domenica then paused again before turning to Sandy and softly asked, leaning over to his ear, "Do you suppose they'd be surprised to see how their counterparts look like back in our worlds?"
^_^

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Northwest Slobovia
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Postby Northwest Slobovia » Sat Oct 03, 2020 4:39 pm

Hot Tub Party, Crystal Spa
Crystal Empire, Equestria


Giovenith wrote:“You turn into a pegasus, don’t you?” [the pink Crystal pony masseuse] asked him. “They’ve obviously got a bit of a unique back structure, but I can fill in the blanks for non-winged ponies.”

Sandy nodded with great emphasis. "Yes, there's some big differences around the shoulders." He ran his eyes along the lines of the pony's back. "And our hips are nothing like yours. We're also a lot flatter front to back.

"It will be easier and safer to try me first, since we'll be using my magic. The spell... not only makes you more graceful, but stronger, and, uhhh, I'll keep a copy up too. If something goes wrong, I can dismiss your copy, and simply resist by strength. The-- It's-- We'll be strong enough that I could pick you up like a stuffed toy, and vice versa."

He looked over at Amanda, then back to the masseuse. "I can show you the key differences now, but I think we'll be here for a while. Um, assuming you don't mind being touched."

Giovenith wrote:[The hair stylist, Pinova] said. "But in other parts of Equestria, it can get a little nippy, but most ponies are fine with a scarf, hat, and maybe some booties, but even that's not enough for the arctic outside the city. But outside it was the Summer Sun Celebration, right? [...] Why not take off everything then?”

Amanda's impish smile suggested she had an answer that would sail across the PG-13 line, so Sandy interjected, "In places where it's warm all the time, people dress like I do, more or less, and have for thousands of years. Um, probably."

Giovenith wrote:“Although I guess if you had a nice enough wardrobe, it could be fun.”

This time, Amanda's grin reflected fond memories. "Yes, it is. Though getting this one into good clothes is like pulling teeth." She splashed water in Sandy's direction.

Giovenith wrote:“Why don’t you tell us about the country you hail from?” the green employee offered a washcloth dipped in ice water to Amanda, in case she wanted to cool her forehead off. “It must be very far away, I think the only other creature I’ve seen walk on two legs are dragons, and you’re obviously not flying reptiles. I don’t remember hearing about you at all back in our time.”

Amanda dabbed her face with the washcloth, largely out of politeness; she was in a hot tub for the heat after all. "Yes, we are from far away. So far, we had to use magic to get here."

"I'm not sure how to describe the US in a way that will make sense. It seems to be about the same size as Equestria, but it's so different--"

"US: United States. Our country is, uh, formally, a union of smaller polities, something... somewhat like Equestria was formed from a union of tribes." Sandy bobbed his head, trying to make difficult judgements. "I think the US is more populous – all humans, though, no other people – but comparing agri-- farming with magic to farming with mechanization... I guess your crop yields are about the same as ours, but harvesting without machines? How do you bring in that much food? And... we make much more use of very tall buildings in our cities.

"We live in a city of almost a million people called Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love. Though we don't usually live up to the name.

"And... we govern ourselves. We have no Princesses; we succeed or fail on our own. Mostly succeed though, we are pretty good at self-determination after only 2,500 years of practice." The last part was tongue in cheek.

Solisian Union wrote:Domenica then paused again before turning to Sandy and softly asked, leaning over to his ear, "Do you suppose they'd be surprised to see how their counterparts look like back in our worlds?"

A corner of Sandy's mouth curled into a lopsided grin, and he whispered back. "The one who asked a few days ago was for a moment, then reflected on monkeys and evolution."
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Giovenith
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Postby Giovenith » Sat Oct 03, 2020 5:46 pm

Somewhere else

Willow stopped several times on his way to the appointment, not to do anything in particular, just to procrastinate and worry. It wasn’t something he was proud of. He felt like a silly child scared of the principal’s office on top of the guilt of wasting the Princess’s generosity. It was largely this potential transgression as well as his promise to Giovenith that kept him marching on in spite.

How did it get to this point? he thought to himself with a sigh, brushing his nose with a wing tip. Why can’t I just be a normal guy with a normal head? Ugh, need to chill out. What do I think is going to happen, the therapist will stand up and yell at me for being fucking crazy? Even if she wanted to, they're paid to pretend they don’t.

Consumed in these thoughts and looking down, he nearly walked into somepony but stopped right as their hooves came into view. “Oh, I’m so sor-”

“Late for something?” A kind, familiar voice greeted him.

Willow looked up, surprised. “Ms. Gala!” he exclaimed, his heart jumping a bit.

Galleria Gala, Director of the Equestrian Museum of Modern Art that he had briefly met back in Cloudsdale, laughed. “Nice to see you again too, Willow Streaks. We’ve been crossing each other’s paths a lot lately. How did that meeting with your parents go?”

“Huh- O-Oh, just fine,” he said quickly. “What are you doing here? Are... you in therapy too?” It was hard to imagine, someone as responsible and elegant as her.

“Oh, it’s essential when you have a job like mine,” she said a smile. “Therapy is just a doctor’s check up for the mind you know, everypony can benefit from it even if they’re not sick. Sometimes you really need somepony who knows what they’re talking about to unload everything onto.”

“Oh yeah, I completely get that.” Willow hadn’t a few seconds ago, but it suddenly seemed so reasonable coming from her. He imagined her relaxed there, dark suit and make up immaculate and the next meeting never far from mind, in a clean polished room with huge urban windows and sighing intricate tales of a much more busy, important, and interesting life than his. He wondered what it would be like sitting as a listener in that room.

“So, what are you two visiting the Crystal Spa for?” Galleria asked.

Willow blinked out of his musings. “Two?”

He looked to his side to find Toola Roola standing there.

“Hello Ms. Gala,” she greeted the director cheerfully. “It’s great to meet again!”

All the light, pleasant thoughts surrounding Galleria Gala came shattering down around him as her presence was violently tainted by the annoying mare’s unexpected arrival.

“What are you doing here?” He slightly hissed, folding his ears. He was careful to hide his displeasure enough not to potentially make himself look like an ass to Galleria.

Toola smiled knowingly at him and produced a small bag like the one she had first delivered to him. “I figured that your forgetful self might not bring along the medicine I gave you to your appointment, so I made sure to pack an extra bag to give you on your way. Always gotta plan ahead.”

Willow made a face similar to an upside down U as he begrudgingly snatched the bag.

“Are you two friends?” Galleria tilted her head, curiously. “I’ve seen you both around the shows in Canterlot.”

“Oh, no! No, no,” Willow quickly asserted. “No. No. We’re just…”

“Acquaintances.” Toola smiled, chill.

“Sure.”

Galleria chuckled at the younger ponies. “Alright. Actually, Willow, I’m glad we met up again because I wanted to offer you something.”

“Me?” Willow perked, eyes widening. Toola stared at him and blinked slowly.

“Yes,” the director pulled a neatly folded sheet of paper from her saddlebag and handed it to him. “If you have the time in your schedule, you could apply to help out around the museum. My grandma used to tell me about all the help you gave her, and I’m not just being nice when I say that that really shows some good skills. We could always use a new pair of eyes to keep things fresh.”

Willow blinked, stunned. ”Me?” he asked again, stunned.

“Yes, you!” She laughed.

“You want me to help you at the museum?”

“Only if you have the time, I understand if you don’t.”

He grinned wide and held the paper close. “I do! I, uh- I’ll make time. I will! Thank you, so much!”

“It’s no problem at all, I’m excited to see you there.” She made a face and checked a pocket watch pulled from her suit. “Oh, I really enjoy talking, but I have to head off now or I’ll be late. You can mail that application to me using the address card I gave you, okay? Other than that, stop by any time.”

“I will,” he assured, continuing to smile and stare brightly at her, eyes full of shimmering mesmer.

“Good.” Galleria leaned in and gave his shoulder a friendly good-bye nuzzle, giving a startling moment where the softness of her mane and its strawberry floral scent brushed against his cheek. “I’ll see you around. You too, Toola Roola.”

Toola bowed her head and smiled kindly as the director took her leave, slowly shifting to a more knowing and smug expression as they exited Galleria’s sight. She straightened her neck and redirected this look towards Willow, who was still staring after the director.

She cheekily thrust her head down sideways to block his view. ”Oh my Princess,” she said, grinning. “You like her.”

Willow blinked and pulled back, snapping back to his usual annoyance. ”What? No I don’t!”

“You really going to fight me on this too, Streaks?” She calmly danced backwards out of his personal bubble. “It’s nothing to be ashamed of, if anything I’m pleasantly surprised that you even have a romantic side.”

“I don’t,” he declared firmly, turning away from her and heading down the hall again, not procrastinating at all this time.

“Willow, wait,” Toola called after him, taking on a more serious tone as she trotted to keep up. “Look, I didn’t follow you just to tease you, honest. I just wanted to clear some things up, for Giovenith.”

He looked back at her, eyes narrowed with both suspicion and curiosity, as he slightly slowed his gait. It was rare that they called each other by their first names and anything involving Giovenith automatically caught his attention. “Oh, really now?”

Taking on a look of determination, Toola sprinted ahead and stopped in front of him, forcing him to halt in his tracks. “Look, I know you’re not happy about having to put up with me when you’re around her,” she said. “Believe me, the feeling is mutual. We haven’t ever gotten along. But, I think for Giovenith, we should probably agree now to at least be respectful.”

Willow bristled slightly, offended at the notion that he was ever at fault for the disrespect between them, but deduced that trying to argue on that point would be a lost cause. He chose an easier one. “With all due respect, you don’t even know Gio like I do. I said that she can hang out with whoever she wants, but if you think we’re on some kind of equal ground when it comes to her, you’re dead wrong. So don’t act like we are.”

Toola rolled her eyes. “I know that,” she responded, patiently. “She said it herself, you’re like her big brother. I just met her and I know I don’t compare to that.” She was tempted to add her confusion at Willow having achieved such a high rank of affection in the first place, but wisely left it out. “But I am going to be friends with her as long as she wants me to, whether you like it or not, so we might as well make sure that we don’t make her miserable so long as we’re making each other miserable.” She glared at him. “If you love her so much, don’t you want to make her happy by at least agreeing to that?”

“You-”

“Or would you rather we make her more sad by putting each other down in front of her?”

Willow took a deep breath, desperately searching for some kind of comeback, but knew that he had none. He hated it, but she was right. While he was getting treatment, Giovenith was going to need all the extra support she could get. And he couldn’t deny what he had seen when she’d arrived back from speaking with Toola and Sandy. He held the breath and crinkled his expression into a sour, frustrated one.

Toola tilted her head, pointedly.

”Fine,” Willow finally spat, releasing the breath. He pointed at her. “But I don’t want you setting her up for more disappointment. Don’t get her hopes up for things that aren’t going to happen!”

“You don’t think she can find that boy?” Toola raised an eye.

“I don’t know where he is or why he’s gone, but it shouldn’t matter,” said Willow. “Gio doesn’t deserve to put up with all this crap. If he can’t fight to drag his ass back here and be with the woman he supposedly loves for this long, then she’s probably better off without him.”

Toola gave him a scrutinizing look.

Willow looked critically right back at her.

Staring.

More staring.

Toola booped his nose like a button and gave a satisfied smile. “And you say you don’t have a romantic side.” And with that, she finally took her leave down the hall.

Willow glared after her, feeling his face grow hot in what he wasn’t sure was rage, embarrassment, or something else. There was no point in standing around to guess, he already had an appointment to explore his feelings. Giving a final, frustrated sigh, he took off running to the doctor’s office, eager to get this all over with.

He stopped at a door labeled “White Veranda” followed by some official-looking acronyms, hesitated a moment, and knocked. A voice told him to come in. Folding his ears, he timidly opened the door.

“Hi, Willow Streaks,” a twinkling, lavender Crystal pony sat in a chair across the door. “Come on in and sit down.”

He stared at her through the cracked door a moment, hesitating.

“Come on,” she urged gently, again.

He finally came in, closing the door behind him, and walked over to the comfortable looking seat. He considered continuing to stand, but figured that would be rude and awkwardly sat down, ruffling his wings slightly to cover more of himself.

Dr. Veranda smiled and tapped a pen. “I get the feeling that you don’t like to admit vulnerability, do you, Willow?”

“Oh, I’m not vulnerable,” he said.

She jotted something down on her board.

Shit.

“So, why don’t you start with telling me why you think you’re here,” said the doctor.

[...]

Willow didn’t get any less vulnerable during the course of the session. Instead, he spent the whole time clutching himself with his wings while making dismissive gestures as he told the vaguest possible version of what had happened during his trip through time, hoping that avoiding thinking about it too hard would prevent another episode. This didn’t seem to deter the therapist, who patiently nodded and asked questions while occasionally writing something down. Willow knew that this was how therapists were supposed to work, and yet somehow, her unperturbed demeanor managed to wind him up further. Not that he would admit it, but he was nervous that she could see right through him.

“So, the Umbrum,” said Dr. Veranda. “You told me a bit about moments from your past that they showed you. Do you think you could tell me why you think they chose those moments?”

Willow sucked his teeth, anxious but still trying to seem on top of it. “I’m not really sure, they were all petty things, really.”

“They wouldn’t have chosen them if they were petty to you.” He didn’t like the implication of that, and she seemed to see it in his face because she followed it up with: “Is it possible that you don’t want to see them as important because you don’t want to acknowledge what it says about you?”

“I would hope that it didn’t say much about me,” said Willow. “I don’t want to be the type of person who still whines about their seventh birthday party or high school. Those aren’t big deals.”

“Willow,” said Dr. Veranda, her tone taking on a more pressing yet comforting tone. She leaned back and set her pen down. “Contrary to popular belief, not all trauma needs to come from extraordinary circumstances. The way trauma works is that something happens, or even something that should have happened but failed to, that affects our ability to perceive and process our experiences. Think of it this way…” She held up her hooves in demonstration. “... let’s say that you have a factory machine that is manufacturing the parts that will be used to make other machines for other purposes — think maybe a bolt, nut, or screw. Its purpose is to make the same parts, the correct way, over and over. And then, one day, a bug crawls up inside the machine and damages it, causing it to produce its parts incorrectly. The faulty bolts, nuts, and screws get shipped out, and then suddenly, machinery all over Equestria is failing at their tasks. Now there is little doubt that one little bug is hardly a big deal in itself — certainly less big of a deal than if the machine had oh, say, exploded — but the bug isn’t the problem, it is the way that the bug has disrupted a larger process and thus lead to larger problems. That bug is trauma, and you are the machine. Mental self-care, and often therapy, is maintenance.”

Willow lurched back a bit, surprised by this explanation. He looked down, processing. “I... think I’ve actually heard of something similar before…”

“Oh?”

“Back in Cloudsdale,” he said. “When I was growing up, they used to tell us stories of how the weather worked outside of Equestria, and how senseless it was. They said that the winds blow on their own and are completely random, and that the random winds crashing and building onto each other is what creates storms. Legend said that even the fluttering of a butterfly’s wings could cause a chain reaction that would lead to a hurricane.”

“That’s a fitting analogy in its own way too, yes.”

“But I still don’t see how that applies to my situations.”

“Let’s use a far more serious example,” said the doctor. “A pony who has been sexually assaulted as a child may have trouble engaging in trust and intimacy in the future, because their way of looking at that aspect of life has been upset. Every time they try, they are at risk for reliving many of the same emotions they felt from their trauma. From what I hear from you, Willow, you’ve always been a fairly sensitive, vulnerable pony at heart, that’s probably why you’re an abstract painter now. But historically, expressing your sensitivity has led to both direct and indirect punishment from the ponies around you. You said yourself about your party, ’I understand why nopony wanted to come to the party of the weird crybaby kid’ — you were expressing a belief that neglect and exclusion is a proper response to expressing your sadness.”

“I don’t believe that at all,” Willow protested. “I would never treat somepony like that.”

“You wouldn’t treat somepony else like that,” the doctor pointed out. “Often, the standards we hold for ourselves do not match the standards we hold others to. I’m sure you did grow up being taught to be considerate of others. However, you also grew up being taught, albeit indirectly, that your expressions of vulnerability can be expected to lead to attacks and shame. Thus, when you feel yourself entering a vulnerable position, you may try to hide this fact by appearing less vulnerable or by subtly trying to threaten off those who might attack you.”

Willow looked down at this antagonistic body language and quickly forced himself into a stiff, neutral position. “I uh, still don’t think that I think that way.”

“‘Think’ isn’t quite the right word,” said the doctor. “Much of the way we perceive and respond to the world around us is unconsciously learned, that is why we have things like culture or prejudice, or how ponies can differ so much in behavior from city to city or family to family. It’s not a flaw, it’s simply easier on our brains to do some things automatically, but it can turn into a problem if we start doing something damaging automatically — hence, our bug in the machine analogy.”

He took a long moment to take all of this in. It did… make sense. Not perfectly, but it did. It was a bit like spreading out the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle and putting all the pieces with similar colors into individual piles, you didn’t have the full picture yet, but you were beginning to see where it was going.

Willow drooped slightly. “Look, I’m sorry,” he said. “I don’t mean to make your job harder, I guess it’s just… just like you said, really, I’ve just always felt bad about putting my hard feelings on others. I don’t want to hold them back or make them carry me along.”

“Everypony needs help and support sometimes, Willow,” said Doctor Veranda. “I can tell that you’re somepony who puts others before yourself, and that is admirable in its own right. But none of us can do anything to properly help anypony else unless we take care of ourselves too. Each of us has an emotional tank inside of us, like a water tank in the weather factory, that needs to be kept full if we’re to keep going and doing things. Sometimes you need to stop to refill it, and that’s okay, and other ponies need to be okay with that.”

“It’s just hard sometimes,” said Willow, rubbing the back of his head. “Telling the difference between caring about yourself and, well, being selfish. I guess I’m scared of that, because selfish ponies don’t know that they’re selfish, you know?”

“I understand,” the doctor nodded. “And you’re right, there isn’t always an easy answer to that. It’s something that we have to learn over time, and practice. But that’s what her Highness has brought you here for, to learn and to practice, in a safe and healthy place.”

Willow looked down again, but this time, he allowed himself a small but noticeable smile.

“Well, I’m afraid that’s all the time we have for today,” said the doctor, stretching slightly as she stood up. “I’m sorry we couldn’t go over everything today, but these things do take time. I hope you’ll continue to schedule with us.” She held out a hoof.

“I will,” Willow agreed, standing up and shaking her hoof. “Thank you a lot, by the way, doctor. I’ve got to admit this… went a lot better than I expected it to.”

“It’s all in a day’s work,” she said, unclipping something from her board and handing it to him. “This is my contact information so that we can schedule further and if you need me for anything else. I trust we’ll be in touch soon.”

“Definitely.”

“Good. Enjoy the rest of your day at the spa, Mister Streaks.”
Last edited by Giovenith on Sat Oct 03, 2020 9:29 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Solisian Union
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Postby Solisian Union » Mon Oct 05, 2020 3:53 am

A corner of Sandy's mouth curled into a lopsided grin, and he whispered back. "The one who asked a few days ago was for a moment, then reflected on monkeys and evolution."


Domenica chuckled at the answer from Sandy, giving him a slight grin in return. "Oh, yes, now I recall. Thanks, Sandy." The Filipina then let the grin stay on her face for a while before she sighed and paused again. Then her attention was to the pony attending to her hair. "Say, if I may ask, what crystals are you using for my hair? Thank you again, by the way." She smiled at her and even took a look at the stuff the other ponies were doing with the hair of Amanda. And to her own surprise, she thought a bit over the things she said about the United States. And at this point she offered to share some details about her own country, especially to Amanda.

"We too have a lot of tall buildings, but regarding agriculture, we don't really use that many machines ourselves, and yet, we were capable of bringing in a lot of food. Our country is fertile for a thousand or so islands. I guess that's the advantage of us living on land made out of volcanoes." She paused to think about it, gently washing her body and face a bit with the water, then she continued on. "And wasn't there a man who claimed that he was the emperor of the United States?"
Last edited by Solisian Union on Wed Oct 07, 2020 7:18 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Giovenith
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Postby Giovenith » Thu Oct 08, 2020 6:06 pm

"I am a masseuse," the Crystal pony reminded him, smiling and waving a hoof. "Being comfortable touching others is most of the job."

As Sandy worked with the masseuse on finer muscle points, the other employees finished Amanda and Domenica's hair. Pinova explained to Domenica that they were a special breed of gem that only grew here in the Crystal Empire. When they were done they nipped two hand-held mirrors for the women to see themselves: their hair had been done up and put into elborate, twisty updos, many bits of hair pinned this way and that to create a curled effect, with hundreds of tiny crystals lined along the curls like twinkling stars and flowers forming a natural crown.

Pinova giggled slightly at Sandy's confusion over their nation's crop management. "These things are much simpler when you don't rely on chaotic nature," she said, collecting her tools. "I have heard of democracies before, I suppose they work well enough for their nations, and they say the Earth ponies were once democratic. But I'm quite happy with the Princesses."

"All communities have their dark times," the co-worker added. "We of all ponies should know. If you really are magicians though, and it is true that you self-determine, perhaps you should put some thought into copying the Crystal Heart?" She made a motion that indicated something beyond the spa walls. "When the ponies here in our city are happy and well cared for, our joy powers the Heart and reflects it back into powerful magic, giving our city protection and prosperity. There is no greater incentive to treating your fellows kindly than to know that your own kindness will be the making of your sanctuary."

"Oh!" Pinova caught sight of a familiar pony entering. "Hello Mister Streaks, come to join your friends?"

Willow walked in and looked around, smiling as he saw that his human friends seemed to be enjoying themselves. "Yes, my appointment went a little faster than expected."

"Would you like any treatments, a massage perhaps? Your friend is about to discuss the finer points of pegasus backs with Agate."

"Ah ha, no thanks. Not a touchy guy."

"As you wish!"

Willow flew up to the side of the tub, looking between Amanda and Domenica. "You two look beautiful. Things going well over here?"
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Postby Northwest Slobovia » Sat Oct 10, 2020 5:44 pm

Hot Tub Party, Crystal Spa
Crystal Empire, Equestria

Giovenith wrote:When [the hair stylists] were done they nipped two hand-held mirrors for the women to see themselves: their hair had been done up and put into elborate, twisty updos, many bits of hair pinned this way and that to create a curled effect, with hundreds of tiny crystals lined along the curls like twinkling stars and flowers forming a natural crown.

Amanda admired the hairdo, smiling with delight. "It's too busy for every day, but I like it!" She turned to look over her shoulder at the stylist. "How long would it take to do this myself?"

Sandy gave her a funny look. "It's a bit radical for back home, unless you really want attention. In your line of work..."

"...I'd have to be strategic with the look. But for seeing and being seen, yes, it could get me some valuable clients."

Giovenith wrote:"If you really are magicians though, and it is true that you self-determine, perhaps you should put some thought into copying the Crystal Heart? [...] When the ponies here in our city are happy and well cared for, our joy powers the Heart and reflects it back into powerful magic, giving our city protection and prosperity."

"Hmmmm..." Sandy rubbed his chin thoughtfully. "That sort of sympathetic magic is... doable, but given the size of Philly..." He stared into the tub. "May be beyond our abilities, at least-- We would have to find a lot more new students, and train them. And hope we get a few Enchanters or Artificers.

"But if we are magicians?" He studied Amanda's hairdo carefully, then turned his left hand palm up, and made elaborate gestures over it with his right hand, fingers moving like a piano virtuoso. A barrage of tiny skyrockets shot golden trails from his palm, bursting in a complex crown with a striking resemblance to Amanda's coiffure. He grinned like a maniac at the co-worker, exceedingly pleased with his display.

Giovenith wrote:Willow walked in and looked around, smiling as he saw that his human friends seemed to be enjoying themselves. "Yes, my appointment went a little faster than expected."

Amanda perked up, beaming at him. "It went well, I take it?"

Giovenith wrote:Willow flew up to the side of the tub, looking between Amanda and Domenica. "You two look beautiful. Things going well over here?"

"Thank you! And yes. You're welcome to join us in the hot tub. You could get your mane done, too. I'm pretty sure I saw some other stallions with handsome styles.
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Solisian Union
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Postby Solisian Union » Mon Oct 12, 2020 10:35 pm

Domenica delighted at the gems that were lined along the strands of her hair. She adored at how they displayed themselves, especially as she touched her hair so gently and lightly as she could. She smiled at Pinova and thanked her and the other ponies for their work.

But she was quite happy to see Willow come in. She grinned and actually stood up from her place in the tub to wave a bit at him. When told she was beautiful, the Filipina blushed and looked away, trying to hide a little smile.

Nevertheless, she gestured to Willow to come into the tub. "You wanna join us in the water? How was the appointment? I'm curious to know. Hopefully, you getting in the tub with us can help you relax more than just talking while sitting down on some chair, huh?"

And remembering what Sandy said about students, she turned to him and quickly asked, "What about me? Do you suppose I and my pens are something of note for teaching magic stuff?"
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Postby Giovenith » Wed Oct 14, 2020 1:39 am

"Fifteen if you're slow," Pinova answered Amanda in regards to the hairdo. "Ten with experience."

The other employees nodded politely along with Sandy's demonstration.

"You might be able to talk with the Royal Crystaller about that," said Agate. "He's probably the closest we have to an expert on the Crystal Heart right now, but I heard even he's a magic school drop out. An imperfect expert is better than none though, right?"


Willow huffed a small chuckle. "No, no thank you on the tub, wet and close contact don't mix well for me. Plus it seems like it'd be a bit deep for me." He slightly adjusted his moppy bangs back into place. "And as fabulous as the boys here in the Crystal Empire are, I think I'll let the Heart take care of that when it's time."

He didn't specify what he meant, but made himself comfortable on the ledge by the rim of the tub where people stepped in.

"The appointment went pretty well," said Willow. "Obviously it was mostly foundational stuff, but I feel like even just that put some things into better perspective, made me consider the way I've been thinking about myself and others..."

He briefly explained what Dr. Veranda had said about bugs in machines and of refueling the emotional tank, to the best of his ability.

"... I guess it's easier for me to think of it that way, like a broken machine that I can tune up," he admitted. "I know that sounds really cold, but it makes me feel like the problem is simpler and more controllable. Maybe after a while I'll begin to understand it from a more personal perspective."

One of the employees offered the guests drinks, which Willow accepted.

"What about you?" he asked Amanda. "The Princess offered you therapy too, have you thought about it at all?"
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Postby Northwest Slobovia » Wed Oct 14, 2020 5:47 pm

Hot Tub Party, Crystal Spa
Crystal Empire, Equestria

Solisian Union wrote:Domenica [...] turned to [Sandy] and quickly asked, "What about me? Do you suppose I and my pens are something of note for teaching magic stuff?"

Sandy blinked at her a few times, trying to shift mental gears at the unexpected question. "I... I'm not sure. Do you... teach magic? You haven't mentioned it.

"And I—I've Seen only a few of your pens in action, so... It's hard to judge what they can do."

Giovenith wrote:"You might be able to talk with the Royal Crystaller about that[...] but I heard even he's a magic school drop out. An imperfect expert is better than none though, right?"

Sandy hemmed and hawed in reply, considering the statement. Students drop out for many reasons, and without knowing which – or even if, since Agate apparently had the information second hand – a definitive answer was impossible. "Possibly I, uh, will talk to him, though I may be able to learn nearly as much just by Listening to it."

Giovenith wrote:"What about you?" he asked Amanda. "The Princess offered you therapy too, have you thought about it at all?"

Amanda nodded along as Willow described his appointment, but was now drawn up short. "No. I've been with everybody else since we got here a few hours ago. I haven't had time to think about it. Sitting here in the hot tub is my first chance to relax and think things over.

"But since you mention it, I'm not sure they can help humans."

"They can, dear." Sandy turned to her. "They'll try at the very least. We're not the first humans to visit Equestria, Cadance is a goddess, and the staff are her priests, in essence."

Amanda's expression mixed frown and furrowed brow in equal measure. A corner of Sandy's mouth lifted for a second and fell back. "It was the historian, at the front desk, with the special requests." He blew her a kiss.

Amanda sighed and let herself settle deeper in the hot tub, letting the water come up to her shoulders. "Thanks, I think."

She turned back to Willow. "I'm not sure anybody here would understand my situation." She pursed her lips. "It would take a long time to explain, if it is even possible." Her tone dropped. "Equestria may be a little too perfect to understand my--" She fell silent, realizing who she was talking to. A faint peep: "Sorry."

She realized the hair dressers had slipped away while she'd spoken. Agate still hovered by Sandy's elbow; they were conversing in whispers, Sandy directing Agate to run her hooves down his back to trace the major muscle groups.

"Bugs in the machine..." She reached for her wine on a side table, and took a sip. "Better than the hornets' nest in my head." Her tone was flat, glum even.
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Postby Solisian Union » Wed Oct 14, 2020 5:59 pm

She smiled at Willow and made sure to note down what he told her mentally. That and to ask a few more questions. But it made her quite happy to see that he got some help. "Interesting. That is one helpful way to think about it, though I agree that it is cold. Sometimes it's necessary. On the other hand, do you think you'll be able to handle more appointments with them or? Forgive my curiosity. I've had some experience with stuff like that."

Sandy blinked at her a few times, trying to shift mental gears at the unexpected question. "I... I'm not sure. Do you... teach magic? You haven't mentioned it.

"And I—I've Seen only a few of your pens in action, so... It's hard to judge what they can do."


Domenica blushed and fiddled with her fingers a bit. "W-Well, I don't really teach magic. I just write and do what I can with my publisher. A-And, well, I haven't been able to use all my pens. I have been pretty much an airhead recently. That, and well, I was more content with listening and observing you guys until I could, when I felt it was appropriate, to get into the discussion or whatever." She then shook her head and looked at Sandy more solidly. "W-What I mean is, well, why not teach me some magic?"
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Postby Giovenith » Thu Oct 15, 2020 7:19 pm

Willow didn't look offended by Amanda's slip of implication. Instead he calmly listened, gaze kept on the swirling bubbles of the hot tub.

"I don't think anypony can ever be truly understood," he finally said. "Even by a therapist, or the ponies we love. Especially not when bad things happen to us. There's an essential essence to it... we can only use others as examples and help, to understand ourselves. And even then, I'm sure way more people die never really getting there than not."

It wasn't a very upbeat sentiment, but there was a calm sincerity to it, the kind that came from acceptance of the unchanging. It was a gloomy tranquility; like the rain.

"I can't tell you where to find help or how to begin; I barely understand those things for myself," said Willow. "We're consumed in the darkness right now, just like this city was for a thousand years. But a Princess isn't going to magically save either of us one day, not fully anyway. You can't just get up and walk to the door either. You've got to feel your way out — slowly, little by little, bumping into stuff and hurting yourself over again. But you have to, otherwise you'll sit there for eternity."

Pinova arrived again and cheerfully handed Willow a piping hot cinnamon roll in a fancy wrapper as Sandy and Domenica engaged. He raised an eye at the employee, who smiled and nudged the roll closer, insisting he try it, before prancing off. She, at least, didn't seem like somepony who had suffered much from her shadowy imprisonment by the evil king.

"Sorry, I don't mean to sound dramatic," he apologized, holding onto the cinnamon roll for later and taking more sips of his drink. "I guess what I'm trying to say is that I know you're an independent person Amanda, and being independent plus knowing that nopony else can fully understand you is a hard mix to deal with. It'll make you feel like you have no choice but to figure things out by yourself. I know, because I'm constantly in that position too. But, I think I've been figuring out lately, that the point isn't to find a single individual or two who can fix you... the point is to find others that can give you enough general direction so that you can fix yourself, like a sounding board or grip handles. And accepting that 'fix' doesn't necessarily mean going back to the way you used to be, but finding the best way to operate the person that you are now."
Last edited by Giovenith on Thu Oct 15, 2020 7:20 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Northwest Slobovia
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Postby Northwest Slobovia » Sat Oct 17, 2020 5:34 pm

Hot Tub Party, Crystal Spa
Crystal Empire, Equestria


Amanda listened patiently to Willow's spiel, occasionally frowning, but giving little other reaction. "Then there's no need for me to commit to anything now. Cadance gave us an open invitation, so I can take my time. I can even interview the therapists to see what sorts of problems they've treated before. Maybe one of them has treated somebody with problems like mine.

"Help comes in many forms. Here, there's just talk therapy. At home, there's also drugs. Magic may help my problems too, and Sandy says he knows enough to make new spells now. So--"

At the sound of his name, Sandy raised a hand to interrupt Agate. "That's more of a hypothetical, um, sort of help than a practical one. Other than adjusting an apprentice exercise, I've never so much as altered a spell, much less tried to write, uhhh---" He fell silent, searching for a word. "Psychothaumaturgy de novo. All I know about that is most of a Classical volume on the subject."

"But you could if you wanted to."

Smiling, Sandy turned to wordplay. "I could if you want me to. But that... treatment might not be available for a year or more."

When he paused again, Domenica took advantage of the silence to speak.

Solisian Union wrote:Domenica [...] then shook her head and looked at Sandy more solidly. "W-What I mean is, well, why not teach me some magic?"

Sandy blinked twice, a blank expression on his face. He shifted mental gears. "Well... this is hardly an ideal place for instruction. And, ummm, you've never mentioned it before. Aaand..." He stared over her shoulder, thinking.

"We'll need to start with the basics. Do you have the Sight and the Art? Uh, can you work magic without your pens? Do you perceive magic directly... do you See my casting, Hear it?"

He slowly recited the beginning of the fireworks spell, moving his right fingers at an equally slow tempo. He stopped half-way through, staring intently at a space above his left hand. "What do you See? What do you Hear? Do you Smell anything? Do your fingers tingle or feel warm? Anything?"

Amanda turned back to Willow. "OK, no magical help for me in the short term. Still, Sandy understands what I've been through. He was there, both times. He's been with me ever since, so he knows what I'm going through, what I go through when something stirs up the hornets' nest.

After a hard swallow, she went on. "And he's here now, so what would you like to know? I'll be fine with him around."
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Postby Iridencia » Tue Oct 20, 2020 8:45 pm

Willow smiled sincerely and nodded. "I think it's really great that you had each other throughout it all and you can rely on him to help you. If nothing else, at least you've got that."

He took a bite out of his cinnamon roll and chewed softly while thinking. He'd never really considered if there was anything he actively wanted to know about the Belas before, but he realized that there wasn't much he did know. It seemed strange when he thought about it, two older adults wandering the multiverse alone, seemingly not using their magic knowledge to get home.

"Well, how did you guys end up here?" he asked. "You're human, but I know that you're not really from the... main human world we're used to, I guess. What made you leave it and stay here? I arrived because of a silly little chipmunk and didn't have the power to get back home, but can't you go back any time?"

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Postby Northwest Slobovia » Wed Oct 21, 2020 5:22 pm

Hot Tub Party, Crystal Spa
Crystal Empire, Equestria

Giovenith wrote:"I arrived because of a silly little chipmunk and didn't have the power to get back home, but can't you go back any time?"

"It may not be safe to go home." Amanda shook her head sadly. "Sandy has, or had, enemies. When we last met them, we left them badly injured.

"They left us with some souvenirs as well: that huge blotch on Sandy's side... and this." She lifted her left leg to the surface, letting Willow see the matching discolored mark that covered it. "Done with a spell that burns like fire and acid. This is the best we could do with the Balm and Ox Blood. Oh, that's a name of another alchemical medicine, not actual ox blood. I was riding Pegasus at the time; when Sandy's him, it covers part of his left side.

"We don't know if they survived. But the fighting left part of a French village in flames. And since that was only a few weeks after the other attack, the police may have put two and two together, and all the remaining supers are in hiding, if we're lucky."
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Postby Solisian Union » Fri Oct 23, 2020 6:59 pm

Sandy blinked twice, a blank expression on his face. He shifted mental gears. "Well... this is hardly an ideal place for instruction. And, ummm, you've never mentioned it before. Aaand..." He stared over her shoulder, thinking.

"We'll need to start with the basics. Do you have the Sight and the Art? Uh, can you work magic without your pens? Do you perceive magic directly... do you See my casting, Hear it?"

He slowly recited the beginning of the fireworks spell, moving his right fingers at an equally slow tempo. He stopped half-way through, staring intently at a space above his left hand. "What do you See? What do you Hear? Do you Smell anything? Do your fingers tingle or feel warm? Anything?"


At that, Domenica shook her head. She did not have Sight nor the Art. She didn't really know what he meant. And she said, "I don't think so. I mostly need my pens to do magic. And perceive magic...well, I do see things, I think?"

She watched him recite a spell, moving his fingers. Domenica could only blink and say, "I feel a bit of warmth. And I kinda smell just a bit of...fire?" The Filipina sighed at herself and bowed her head to Sandy. "Sorry. Perhaps my perception isn't so great."

Domenica felt herself drop in the tub a bit, going down to having her chin just barely above the water, when the conversation drifted to talking about home. Home. She remembered how she was just abruptly pulled out of her world and into this one. She was worrying now about her mother, when she barely did as she continued on her first journeys with Amanda and the others. While she appreciated the talk about therapies and magic and what not, she could not help but think now about how her mother is doing. Was she also worrying about her? Was she trying to call the police and ask them for help? Domenica frowned at herself, knowing that the police in almost all parts of the country were just not great. They could barely get things done unless they were paid off or full of integrity. Not to mention, they just tried doing things as they were always done; they couldn't imagine changing too much about what they do.

Despite all those thoughts, she slipped words out of her own soul, quite sadly perhaps. "I wish I could go home and let my Nanay know I'm okay. Dili nako gusto na mag kabalaka siya sa akoa. I find it unfair that I got sucked in so suddenly without getting to let my mother know where I was going."
Last edited by Solisian Union on Fri Oct 23, 2020 9:11 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Giovenith
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Left-wing Utopia

Postby Giovenith » Sat Oct 24, 2020 5:54 pm

Willow winced at her injuries, sympathetically. "I'm very sorry... that must have been terrifying. I've thankfully never met an evil magician before..." Evil spirits, evil soldiers, sure. "... they're all formally sworn to Celestia here. It's hard to imagine. And you must have left people behind too because of that."

As if following up on that sentiment, Domenica expressed her own sadness regarding her mother. Her worries, especially those about being able to let her family know that she was okay, were familiar to him, and he scooched over to lay a wing on her reassuringly.

"I know how you feel," he said, gently. "But it's going to be okay, we have tools back home, you're not stranded like you could have been. When we get back to the Shore, I'll help you find a way to contact your mom, I promise. You too, Amanda..." Willow turned back to Mrs. Bela. "... I don't know if we can do anything to face off against those people who drove you and Sandy away, but with the Shore's traveling abilities and Giovenith's paper magic, we could probably send a letter to whoever you left behind. If it's safe to, that is." He smiled. "You guys helped me reunite with my family, after all."

There was a moment of further relaxation, the girls getting to chill while Sandy talked muscles and Willow finished off his cinnamon roll. He sat quietly for a moment, thinking, trying to separate his genuine thoughts from what felt thought out of propriety.

"Do you think if you could, you would change anything?" he asked Amanda, looking down pensively. "Like at the moment everything went wrong, before this whole journey started... would you change it?"
❃and in time, and in time, we will all be stars❃

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Northwest Slobovia
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Postby Northwest Slobovia » Tue Oct 27, 2020 5:18 pm

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Crystal Empire, Equestria

Giovenith wrote:Willow winced at her injuries, sympathetically. "I'm very sorry... that must have been terrifying."

"The cat-and-mouse beforehand was much worse," replied Amanda, in a matter of fact voice. "Cat-and-cat, really, whoever got the drop first won. We lucked out: Sandy Heard the fire-mage casting – Pegasus is like that, he can Hear for miles – and turned sharply as he got the spell off."

Amanda fell silent, looking at her husband chatting with Agate, though her masked expression left her thoughts a mystery. Sandy had stood up on the tub's bench; he was demonstrating something about human hips to Agate, prodding her with a finger while she poked at spots on his less bad side with a hoof. A smile crossed Amanda's face: they moved with the supernal flow that came from the Boon. This would be a massage like no other.

She turned back to Willow. "I wasn't in good shape then. I was worse later, when... when the full effects of the bus fight sunk in, but up until then, I'd rather have run. But afterwards, after Sandy got us back on the ground, after we'd slathered on the Balm and drunk some of the Ox Blood, the choice crystalized in my mind. We had to fight. I just couldn't keep running, keep fearing them. Fighting was less frightening."

For a moment, she was quiet again, reflecting. Gradually, her smile returned, but this time it was different, predatory and fearsome. "We're bad news in a night fight, Sandy and I. With the Wolf's Eyes and Ears, and Pegasus' Hearing, we can find people. Before, we were just using it to avoid them, now, the game was different. Sandy found another spot to spread his wings, and-- Well, you've heard him fly: his wings whoosh and boom, but are completely silent gliding. Above the town's lights, we could find them, and they had lots of trouble finding us: everything echoes in a stone-walled town."

"They had magic for fighting, but I had a gun and the last of the spell-cutters: cold iron bullets that magic doesn't touch. And Pegasus is steady as a rock, better than firing from the ground."

"Yes, with your heels dug into my ribs." Annoyance filled Sandy's voice, but he put his arm around Amanda anyway. He and Agate had finished talking, and she waved goodbye, calling out, "Half an hour, don't be late!" as she left.

Amanda kept going, without reaction. "We lost the tack for Pegasus in Spain, after crossing the Atlantic the hard way, so bareback was the only choice.

"Anyway, once we had them pinned down in the open, it was just a question of finding my mark." She shook her head, showed a bitter frown. "Couldn't quite do it. I hit them a couple of times with the spell-cutters, but iron slugs at the edge of the Walther's range aren't that bad. They did bring down the sorcerer's wind wall, so I could switch to lead. And I got Sandy to circle tighter."

The predatory smile returned. "Popped the fire mage in the lung. Missed his heart, but it was good enough." With that, she turned back to Sandy, beaming up at his face. He didn't share her enthusiasm, but he knew how to take a cue. "Since he was in no shape to cast, I dove at the sorcerer. He... casts no faster than I do, so he had no chance to, uh, catch me with a spell. His magic would have taken me apart... he knew some, uh, weapon spells.

"But I-- He stepped out-- He took a step at the last moment. I don't know if he heard me, but that saved his life. I knocked him down, and landed on his shoulderblade with my rear hooves. A ton and a half of horse moving at fifty miles an hour does awful things to the human body, especially when concentrated onto a few inches. He somehow got up as I climbed back into the air, but I could hear sirens in the distance – Uh, yes, we name our warning horns after the Seirenes – police and firetruck sirens in the distance, so I didn't come back for a closer look.

"He should have survived – that's not a fatal injury – but dodging the police? Hard to say. And Jo--"

Amanda pressed a finger to his lips, cutting him off, and pulled herself closer. "Shhh, that's the end of the story, and we lived more happily ever since." Now, nestled up against him, Amanda relaxed, and neither of them spoke for a while.

Giovenith wrote:"... I don't know if we can do anything to face off against those people who drove you and Sandy away, but with the Shore's traveling abilities and Giovenith's paper magic, we could probably send a letter to whoever you left behind. If it's safe to, that is."

Amanda turned her head to glance up at Sandy's face.

"Uhhh..." In reply, he tossed his head. "Safety is a bit hard to judge from here. But that's a-- It's an interesting idea, and one we didn't think of. Didn't really have time to think of it before arriving in Bermeja. Well..." He stopped, furrowed his brows momentarily, then contined. "During the Year of the Empty Building, we could have, but both of us were so glad to have something like normal lives again, it... just didn't occur to us.

"Letters are a good idea. It would make the most sense to send somebody without Gifts back, somebody who knows the area, and who could avoid being recognized."

"You mean me, with a holocloak." Amanda sounded nonplussed.

"If they're looking for needles in haystacks, send them flowers." He flashed a smile. "You could mail mundane letters to our families from there. Contacting Susan and Remy..."

As Sandy trailed off, Amanda looked doubtful. "We don't even know were to start." She mimed addressing a letter as she spoke. "Remy (possibly an alias), the bayous, Louisiana.

"Finding them will take your Gifts, Sandy."

"Which means we can't look unless it's safe. Right." His face lifted to Willow, happy despite the difficulties. "Still, finding out what's going on at home is a good idea, as is, uh, letting people know we're still alive."

Giovenith wrote:"Do you think if you could, you would change anything?" he asked Amanda, looking down pensively. "Like at the moment everything went wrong, before this whole journey started... would you change it?"

Amanda pulled her face into an expression of mock surprise and amusement. "Oh, you mean agreeing to a date with this guy? Yeah, that was a mistake!" With a hand on Sandy's upper arm, she gently pulled him within range of a kiss. "But other than that, there really wasn't a single episode that turned our lives upside down.

"Sure, looking back, there are things we could have done differently, things we should have seen coming. Use knowledge of the future to win the battle on the bus?" She tilted her head at Willow, as though she expected an answer. "But then what? We'd still have a lot of bodies to hide, and a lot of witnesses to silence." She dismissed the idea with a flick of her hand.

"How do you weigh it, Willow? A life that might have been lived versus the one that was?" She held her hands like balance pans, raising and lowering them. "We could have saved a lot of people then, but what's that worth relative to the one slave we freed already, and the others we can free in the future? The wider world we live in now? And the people we've met since?" Her face clouded.

Sandy was amused: "You sound like me."

"Yeah, yeah, yeah: historian's caution about unknowable effects."

"But that is why I discuss them: Willow offers you a Jonbar point, and you acknowledge you can't see very far down either future that splits from it." He turned to the pony artist. "I'll keep this timestream, Willow, despite the price we paid. It's already paid for itself." A wry expression crossed his face. "And I've doubtless given the Moirai enough work to do cleaning up after me in Alexandria." He dropped his eyes, considering something. "Perhaps I'll find out how just how much shortly."

Brightening, he dropped the line of thought. "And you, Willow? Avoid that chipmunk or not?"
Last edited by Northwest Slobovia on Wed Oct 28, 2020 6:29 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Giovenith
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Left-wing Utopia

Postby Giovenith » Fri Oct 30, 2020 7:31 pm

Willow nodded, wordlessly agreeing to look into the letters once they got home. He considered the following philosophical question.

"Hm," he hummed a slight chuckle. He smiled, but there was a sadness to it. "I was kind of asking you because I don't know myself..."

Pinova dropped in again to offer him yet another cinnamon roll, but he declined. She pouted a bit but scurried away.

"I first arrived in the humans' world when I was eighteen, now I'm twenty-five," explained Willow. "I moved away from my parents and into Ponyville at fifteen, so I've actually lived with the humans longer than I have there. That's a lot of time... I don't know what I could have experienced if I had stayed, but I know enough to know that a lot of it could have never happened outside of Equestria. I haven't lived the way other ponies my age have, and I won't ever get that back. Obviously I can't know if I would have preferred that life, but the fact that I can't know, that I can't make that choice, that's hard to deal with sometimes.

"On the other hoof, if I hadn't ever left Equestria, I wouldn't be here now to support Giovenith. Nobody would have saved Kerouac from the trash. Sallow wouldn't have been born. Nobody..." His face went cold for a second. Nobody would have been there to help Pansy. "... There's lots of people that I love and try to protect, and I would never throw them under the carriage just for some peace for myself. So I guess from that angle I would prefer my current life, but I'm not going to exaggerate how happy I am with it, because I paid a lot to have it."

Pinova returned, this time wielding a large red and white lollipop, smiling enthusiastically. Again, Willow politely turned down, and she again pouted before leaving.

"I'm hoping it will get better soon," he said, brightening a bit. "I got invited to help a friend at a museum, and I'll be crashing with my parents when I come here until we get me a new Equestrian place to live. I'll obviously try to start up my career again too." He frowned, remembering something, and turned to Sandy. "Can I ask you something? What exactly did you talk about with Giovenith, that made her react like she did when she came back? I'm not sure..."

He trailed off, considering the way to put it.

"... I'm sure it's the best thing that she believes that sort of thing," he admitted, visibly concerned. "Finding Marcus and all. I understand though... I think, in a weird way, Gio blaming herself has been her way of coping, and being optimistic. If it's all her fault, then she gets to keep believing that he's still alive and a good person who doesn't abandon people, and that it's not accident of fate she can't control. I'm not sure how to convince her to basically accept one of those other options."
❃and in time, and in time, we will all be stars❃

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