Chapter II: Curiosities
In Ponyville's library, two purple beings stood stubbornly, staring each other down and trying to talk the other into their respective mindset. One was a unicorn, and one was a dragon.
"I know it's weird to have a pony just show up in the library, and I know that if he were any other pony, I'd agree with you, Spike," said the lavender unicorn, "but he seems genuinely clueless. He can't even remember his own name."
"How do you know he wasn't lying?" the purple dragon argued, drawing his crossed arms closer to his chest.
"He didn't even know what a cutie mark was," Twilight said in exasperation, lowering her neck and shaking her head slowly before continuing. "I don't know how or why, not exactly, but I just know he was telling the truth."
Spike's hardened gaze softened a bit, and he sighed to himself before relenting.
"Just... be careful, Twi," he said before glaring slightly at the wall behind the lavender mare. "I mean, if he just snuck in here like a-"
"I know. But I'm alright now, aren't I?" Twilight said with a sigh, placing a hoof on the baby dragon's forehead to placate him.
He took her leg between his clawed hands and looked up at her with wide eyes. "I just don't want to see you hurt, you know?"
Twilight looked down at him, tilting her head at the little dragon and smiling softly. She opened her mouth to respond, but she cut herself off as a thought appeared in her mind.
"Wait a minute... I'll be right back, okay?" She took back her hoof, scrambling down the stairs and poking her head around the corner.
Her suspicions were confirmed; the front door to the library's main room was wide open. The clueless pegasus, wanting to "learn about everything", had gone exploring Ponyville on his own.
"This place is so... nice in the morning!" the colt exclaimed to himself, trotting happily down the street.
The sun had just recently lifted from behind the horizon, but there were already a sizable amount of ponies milling about the streets. The yellow pegasus swung his head back and forth as he took in the sights. A few ponies did a double-take when they saw him, wondering who the unfamiliar face was and why he seemed so happy.
It was like a totally new place to the colt. At night, the small buildings all seemed foreboding with their harsh and angry lights, blocking out the stars and blinding him. But by the sun, the place wasn't scary at all. There were too many ponies around to make him feel alone, and the colorful surroundings were all too pretty to intimidate the young pegasus.
He didn't take the time to memorize the names of various shops that he passed, as he didn't care in particular about what they held due to his lack of money. However, one thing managed to make him stop in his tracks: the scent of something freshly baked.
He immediately turned on his hooves, surveying the building before him. In two words, it looked like a gingerbread house. It was larger than the houses around it, but it didn't frighten him. He looked around and spotted a name: Sugarcube Corner.
He cocked his head. Why was it called that when it clearly wasn't on a corner?
He didn't let that bother him; the scent was too attractive to spend time loitering around, and he couldn't even remember the last time he had eaten. Well, of course he didn't
He passed by a red unicorn with green eyes and a spiky mane as he entered, but didn't really pay much mind to the stranger pony.
But the stallion paused in surprise and looked back. However, the golden colt had already gone past the doors, both of which quickly closed behind him. The fire-colored pony frowned thoughtfully as if he were trying to recall something important before mumbling to himself.
Roxas? Is that you?"
He rubbed at a teardrop marking below his eye before sighing and walking away.
The colt stared at the tasty-looking sweets. He was making a conscious effort to not drool.
He had been standing there for about five minutes, just staring at the cupcakes and candy canes on display. It wasn't like he could just eat them, though. After all, he had no money, and he was pretty sure that there was another pony in the room that knew he had come in.
So he stared.
The young stallion jumped in surprise, whipping his head around to see the pony that had just snuck up on him. It was a pink mare with a curly mane and blue eyes. His eyes automatically went to her flank, which had three balloons on it.
"Whatcha doing?" she asked with her high-pitched voice, smiling avidly in his face. He was forced to lean back a little, or else their muzzles would touch.
"I, uh, ah-"
"I've never seen you before!" she said joyously, prancing back a couple steps. "Who are you? I'm Pinkie Pie!"
"I don't know who I am," the colt said awkwardly.
"Oh." The pink pony's face went blank for a moment, but then her expression erupted into cheeriness once again. "Oh, oh, oh! Can I name you then!?"
"Huh?" He gave her a look of confusion.
"You know, a name! I can't just go around calling you 'No-Name', can I?" said Pinkie, bouncing up and down in anticipation. "And I can't throw a welcome party for a nameless pony. What am I supposed to put on the banner? Just 'welcome' isn't welcome-y enough!"
The colt opened his mouth to reply, but was cut off by the mare, who went on anyways.
"Here, let me see your cutie mark!" she said enthusiastically. The pegasus stumbled a little farther away as Pinkie began to invade his personal space some more. She observed the black key and white heart on his flank for a few moments.
"...it's a key and a heart," she stated before stepping back and pointing a hoof at the winged colt dramatically. "What do you mean you don't know who you are!? It's so obvious!"
"H-huh?" said the colt, who eyed Pinkie's hoof nervously. He was feeling as if she were accusing him of something.
"Keyheart!" she nearly shouted. "Your name is Keyheart!"
The colt blinked in surprise. He already knew it wasn't his name, but he wasn't really sure how to respond.
"It makes sense! You have a key and a heart as a cutie mark so you must be Keyheart!" she said at him and his lack of speech. "And you want those cupcakes but you have no bits to spend on them!"
"Bits... you mean money?" The colt blinked at her in surprise. He was also a bit thrown off by the sudden change of subject. "How did you...?"
"I know a hungry pony when I see one, and you're a hungry pony!" Pinkie exclaimed, scooping one of the cupcakes into her hooves. The colt nearly drooled at the sight of it, but then Pinkie held it out to him.
"R-really? But I have no money... bits," said the pegasus. He took the cupcake anyways. He was hungry enough that he took the top part into his mouth all at once. As he chewed, his eyes grew progressively wider, a smile subconsciously spreading over his face.
"Good, huh?" Pinkie asked, although it was more of a statement than a question. "You're gonna pay it off by working here for a while!"
The blond colt would have spat out his cupcake, but it was far too delicious.
"W-what? But I-"
"Mr. and Mrs. Cake aren't here today, so I'm all alone, but being alone is boring, and not as many ponies come here on Mondays!" said Pinkie, bouncing up and down as she sang out the words. "So you can work with me and I'll give you your own pay and then you can use the bits to buy things like more cupcakes or maybe a candy cane because they're on sale today and so are Rarity's dresses although I'm not really sure why a colt would want to wear a dress but still-"
The winged pony had tuned out at about 'your own pay'. Little did he know, it was quite a feat that he managed to get that far anyways considering Pinkie Pie's average rambling speed.
He mulled it over for a moment. He could probably just reject and hightail it out of there, but he would have to leave behind the cupcake... and it would be mean to just leave her alone, anyways. And the cupcake was delicious; he really wanted to finish that cupcake...
"How long do I have to stay?" He asked, looking up at her curiously.
"Oh, just a couple hours," she answered, seemingly unbothered by his interrupting her.
"Okay..." he said unsurely, but he managed a smile. He gulped down the rest of his cupcake before sitting up straighter, looking the party pony in the eyes with newfound determination. "What do I have to do?"
The red stallion strolled leisurely down the streets of Ponyville, ears perked but eyes half-lidded in relaxation. The area was pretty tranquil, after all, if you didn't count the occasional tourist or business pony bumbling around.
He smiled slightly as he came into the town plaza, where there were numerous food stands around. Despite the time of week, many ponies were there that day, ordering carrot dogs and vegetable burgers and... ice cream?
The ice cream stand certainly caught his eye, especially the type of ice cream on its front sign. Its symbol appeared to be his favorite: sea-salt ice cream.
...that was his favorite, right?
He shook his head vigorously. Of course it was his favorite ice cream. He might have had to always double-check everything that went on in his mind since entering this world, but he should know better about his favorite ice cream, for goodness sake.
He walked up to the stall. The mare there, a pink unicorn pony with a curly light yellow mane, poked her head up from behind the freezer that supposedly held the ice cream. She squeaked in surprise and sprang to her hooves.
"I'm so sorry to make you wait, sir!" she exclaimed, pulling up a bowl of a creamy light blue substance with her. The red-colored unicorn just raised an eyebrow at the semi-solid before looking back at the mare.
"It's okay, I just got here," he told her. "What's that?"
"A new recipe," she said in surprise, as if she was expecting to apologize some more. "I've been trying to get it for my entire ice cream-making career."
"Sounds... interesting," the spiky-maned stallion said. Deciding he had time for small talk, he continued on. "What's it for?"
"The ice cream on our banner," she said, tapping the sign with the blue rectangular ice cream on it above her head. "For years, I've been trying to get the salty-sweet combination of the legendary sea-salt ice cream!"
"Oh? You mean-"
"Yes!" she interrupted him, slamming her hooves down onto the portable freezer. A few nearby ponies looked over at her in surprise, but she didn't notice them. "It hasn't been in Equestria since before Nightmare Moon was banished to the moon! Over a thousand years! The recipe just disappeared, but the ice cream was so famously wonderful that it's still mentioned as a modern myth. I'm trying to recreate it."
Mythical ice cream, huh? The corners of the redhead unicorn's mouth began twitching upwards. "Well, it does taste pretty good."
"W... what?" The mare looked at him bewilderedly. "You mean you've tasted it?"
"Yeah, I'm pretty sure I used some sort of spell to carry one around with me in case I got hungry," the stallion said nonchalantly. "Let me figure it out..."
The mare's expression was skeptical until her line of vision was met by a spontaneously spawned and floating bar of perfectly made sea-salt ice cream.
She gaped and he smirked triumphantly, going as far to wave the ice cream bar in her face using his magic. But his lack of knowledge caused his magic to falter for a moment; he dropped the bar by accident.
But the pink unicorn was quick, and she managed to catch the ice cream with her own magenta magic before it could touch the ground.
"Is this really
sea-salt ice cream?" she asked breathlessly, marveling at the ice cream with sparkling eyes as she inspected it. In any other situation, a pony would think that she was looking at the Sapphire Stone from the first Daring Do book.
"Of course," said the green-eyed stallion, sounding a bit disgruntled at having dropped the salty-sweet popsicle.
The mare gave it an experimental side-lick, tilting her head as she precariously touched it with her tongue. Her face slowly elevated into an ecstatic expression, and she began jumping up and down like a giddy schoolfilly.
"Thank you thank you thank you!" she squealed, unknowingly making the bowl with her old recipe tip over the freezer as she reached over and began shaking the fire-colored unicorn's leg vigorously. He couldn't respond; he was too busy trying not to lose balance and fall over.
"It's delicious!" she went on after taking back her hooves. "The flavor! The perfect amount of salt mixed with inner sugar! The temperature, perfect for any season!"
"I guess so?" the unicorn suggested, too busy rubbing his abused front leg to realize that he had just accidentally given a random pony his only bar of sea-salt ice cream.
"I promise, I will decode the recipe within this wondrous bar of ice cream," she said dramatically, pressing a hoof to her chest for extra effect. "I will experiment until I match this exact flavor, and when I do, when this great recipe brings me riches of the greatest, I will give you as much free ice cream as you can eat for the rest of your existence!"
The pony furrowed his eyebrows down, trying to figure out what exactly the mare had said (she had spoken quickly) until the last sentence. He heard the words 'free ice cream' quite selectively.
"Free ice cream sounds perfect," he said, deciding that going without the ice cream for a little while would be worth it when an endless amount of bars would be given out to him in the end. "Tell me when you've got it down, huh?"
"Sure! Oh, but what's your name?" asked the quirky unicorn, who had already packed the ice cream in a safe place inside her freezer. "I'm Sweet Dreams- oh, sorry, I mean Sweet Cream, and my husband is Ice Cream. We were married recently and I decided to change my name to match his, if you're wondering."
The stallion raised his eyebrows at the sudden lack of Sweet Cream's theatric speech, but he answered anyways.
"Axel," he said, turning and preparing to walk away, but smiling back at the mare.
She had a clear view of his cutie mark. It consisted of a dark red and circular weapon that appeared to have spikes on it, which was on top of an orange and golden flame.
"Got it memorized?"
The male yellow pegasus and the female pink earth pony let out a simultaneous battle cry before pounding their hooves against the treacherous dough.
Needless to say, it had no chance.
The colt had had his fair share of fun baking with Pinkie Pie. She had never called him 'Keyheart' again, thankfully. Either way, he found her antics kind of entertaining. Granted, some of them got a little annoying after the some amount of time, but in all he didn't mind. In short, she was the kind of pony he found to be quirky and fun, but not someone to hang around for overly extended periods of time.
He was, sadly, terrible at baking cakes, cupcakes, muffins, or anything else related to them. However, he was surprisingly good at baking cookies, and he was definitely adept at kneading dough. Pinkie had even gone as far to call him a master of it. It certainly helped his ego, which was bruised after continuously failing at almost everything else. Except for cookies.
Maybe his cutie mark represented making heart-shaped cookies?
A bell went off somewhere in the shop. The messy-maned colt jumped in surprise, but continued kneading his dough.
By the time Pinkie had returned from checking the bell, the blond pegasus had finished his share of the dough. He leaned back on his haunches, looking upon his work with satisfaction. Pinkie nodded happily beside him.
"Well, that's it for today!" she sang out.
"It's been that long already?" asked the colt, looking at the pink pony in surprise. He ducked his head and pulled off the chef's hat Pinkie had randomly stuck on his head earlier. He then patted his rat's nest of a mane, as if it were possible for him to tidy it.
"Yep! It was really fun baking with you too!" she exclaimed, grinning at him. "Maybe you can come back next time! Then we can bake more cookies- or maybe you can bake more cookies while I make some cakes and stuff that you can't! Then you can earn more bits so you can spend it on stuff like maybe even more sweets like I do, especially on the weekends when-"
Sensing a Pinkie ramble coming on, the golden colt cut in mildly, "Sure, I'll come by some time again. It was fun."
"Oh yeah! Your bits!" Pinkie nearly shouted, unfazed by the pegasus colt's interruption. She rushed over to the register and pulled out fourteen shiny gold coins, not even bothering to count them before she handed them over to the colt. He took them in surprise, inspecting them carefully.
"How am I supposed to carry these around?" he inquired.
" Pinkie's face went blank, but then she waved her hooves around as inspiration struck her. "You could carry them around in your mane, like I do!"
mane?" the colt said confusedly, but he did as she suggested anyways. However, as soon as he turned his head, three coins fell out and clattered onto the tile kitchen floor. His mane may have been messy-looking, but it was still too smooth to entangle something like a coin in it.
"Hehe, sorry," Pinkie said as the colt pulled the rest of the coins out of his hair. At least, he tried to; it was difficult to do so with hooves.
Pinkie ended up helping him pick out the bits with her mouth. At least she didn't get his mane wet. That would have been awkward.
"I don't know how pegasusesuses carry around their bits," said the party pony, "or really anypony in particular. I never asked. Manes are the best pockets!"
She took the chef's hat from the colt, who then considered asking to wear the hat around the town with his bits under it. However, he then dismissed the idea, figuring that he would look too ridiculous and attract too much attention walking around with a hat like it.
"Oh, I know! Why don't you ask one of my friends? Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy- they're both pegasus ponies!" Pinkie said as if she had just had a life-changing epiphany.
"Do they know how to fly?" asked the colt.
"Of course they do, silly!" said the filly. "Do you want to try and look for them?"
The flightless pegasus thought it over for a moment. Even if he didn't find either of them, he could still take the chance to explore his current residence some more before returning to Twilight's library.
He then frowned, wondering if Twilight had gone back to sleep or not. He hadn't considered the possibility of her going out and looking for him. In any case, if she did notice that he had left, he would have to apologize to her later.
"Are you okay?" Pinkie asked. The colt looked at her questioningly.
"Oh, you were frowning. Sugarcube Corner runs on happy faces!" the female pony said, grinning.
The pegasus smiled back, but it was quickly overshadowed by a foreboding feeling that churned in his stomach more than his heart. It was strange, really; he had no idea why, but Pinkie's last sentence was very strangely familiar.
"Come onnn!" Pinkie said encouragingly, placing her hooves on the colt's cheeks and pulling the sides of his face up. When she drew away, he was laughing. Pinkie had that effect on other ponies, he guessed.
"So!" She said. The colt sensed a topic change and pricked his ears.
"You see, Fluttershy usually stays around her cottage, but Dashie likes napping all over Ponyville's clouds
Sugarcube Corner's doors swung open. A looming figure stood at the door, blocking out the sun and casting a long shadow that stretched all the way to the counter. Pinkie poked her head up and smiled obliviously.
oh, hi Twilight! You'll never guess what I did this morning!"
The bedraggled unicorn dragged herself inside, forgetting to close the doors behind her. She looked up at Pinkie with baggy eyes.
"Sorry, Pinkie, that's going to have to wait a bit," Twilight said apologetically before sniffing a little. "Oh, no
I hope I'm not getting sick
"Okay then," she said, acting unusually mild. Twilight shook her head at the thought; it wasn't possible for Pinkie to be tired.
"Why're you here then?" asked the party pony.
"Have you seen a yellow pegasus colt? Key and heart cutie mark? Loss of memo-"
"Ohh, him!" The pink pony giggled. "Of course I know him! I've only been baking with him for like, three hours!"
Twilight's eye twitched. "He was here
all that time?"
"Yep!" she said happily. "It was really fun! He just left a little while ago!"
Twilight's other eye twitched. "He was here recently, too
Pinkie nodded happy, unknowingly encouraging a fit from the cranky and sleep-deprived lavender mare.
But Twilight just sighed; she was too tired to get angry at Pinkie, especially for something she knew nothing about. Placing a hoof to her aching forehead, the lavender unicorn asked, "Do you know where he went?"
"Yep! I pointed him towards Fluttershy's cottage," the party pony replied, waving her hoof in the general direction she had implied.
"Oh, thank you so much, Pinkie," Twilight said with obvious relief. Even if she didn't find the missing pony right away, at least she had some sense of direction now.
"No problemo!" the pink pony called after Twilight, who had turned and began to trot out of the building.
Twilight smiled back weakly before going towards the general direction of the animal lover's home.
"The first thing you need to know about flying