Dinky Doo wasn't sure what to feel. For one thing, she was kind of afraid of the unicorn standing only a few feet away, constantly barking threats and insults even while the magic held her down.
On the other hoof, she wasn't listening to half of what the malicious mare said anyway, because she was too busy being proud and amazed at herself for suddenly being able to perform a true spell; she'd never even attempted such a thing before, and now here she was, locked in a paralyzing face-off with a unicorn with far greater age and experience.
But in that same vein came a large dollop of confusion. Why, exactly, was she able to do what she was doing right now, with no prior experience? Not only had she replicated her first spell, but she was able to use that knowledge to analyze Glow and produce a whole new spell.
Dinky wasn't stupid; it was pretty obvious that this kind of thing didn't happen to normal fillies.
What are you doing, wondering about that? Dinky mentally asked herself. At the moment, I think it's a little more important that you be grateful it's happening than worrying about why.
But as the minutes dragged onwards, the filly's strength began to wane. She wasn't used to the new and unique strains that the production of magic put on her body. She was tiring, and it was visible enough that Glow soon picked up on it.
"Hah!" the evil unicorn laughed. "Getting tired of holding me here? You can't keep this up as long as I can, kid. And as soon as your magic gives out, I'm gonna-"
The sound of the doors bursting open once again startled both Dinky and Glow so much that both their spells collapsed so they could move again. Ditzy Doo charged into the kitchen, followed closely by the rest of the team from Equestria Speedy Shipping Services, and, to Glow's surprise, Screwball.
Dinky immediately took advantage of the momentary lapse, and scrambled behind the protective wall formed by her mother and the rest of the team. Ditzy gave her daughter a quick, approving smile, before turning back to her nemesis.
"It's over Glow," Ditzy said. "Luna's assignment is complete."
Glow scowled, looking mainly not at Ditzy, but at Screwball. "What is wrong with you?" she asked the chaos pony. "You could have beaten them! Why didn't you finish the job?"
Screwball shrugged, and pointed to Ditzy.
"She said no."
Glow's eye twitched involuntarily. "You
you stopped causing chaos
because they asked you to? What kind of evil henchman are you?"
Screwball blinked obliviously.
"Oh, Screwball isn't done causing chaos for tonight," Ditzy said slyly. "There's still one pony here she wants to give a big thanks to."
With a huge, and perfectly innocent and sincere grin, Screwball floated into the air and began to drift towards Glow. The unicorn gasped, backing up until she was pressed against the far wall. Quickly, she activated another magical shield.
"Haha!" she laughed. "Let's see you get past that, you little weirdo."
Glow's demeanor changed pretty quickly when Screwball passed through the shield as if it wasn't even there. The unicorn quivered as her assailant floated up right next to her. The chaos pony stopped, and glanced back at Ditzy, as if waiting for a cue.
"Go ahead!" Ditzy urged. "Just like we planned!"
Screwball giggled, and then tapped the cowering pony gently on the head.
A moment of silence followed. Glow opened one eye, and glanced around, but nothing seemed different. Tentatively, she looked up at Screwball.
"What did you do?"
Screwball took a small breath, blew a gentle breath over Glow's head. The small breeze she produced demonstrated quite well what she had done to her victim; the unicorn's entire mane floated off in the weak air current without any resistance.
"You detached my mane?!" The now bald Glow cried, whirling to face Screwball angrily even as the other shippers burst into laughter. She grabbed the floating pony, yanking her down to her level. "What is wrong with you? Put it back right now, you sick little traitor?"
"I THINK THERE IS MORE THAN ONE SICK LITTLE TRAITOR IN THIS ROOM." Came a deafening voice.
Everypony turned to discover Princess Luna, who, having seen her friends off safely from the grounds, now trotted briskly through the kitchen doors, glaring angrily at the ponies that had nearly ruined her friendship with Twilight and company.
Glow yelped like a trapped animal and immediately teleported, accidentally taking Screwball with her.
"Shoot," Breeze growled. "There she goes again."
"Let her go," Luna said. "She'd be a pretty stupid pony indeed to dare to come back here again after that. Besides, I'm sure that little creature of Discord's will provide more punishment. The thing seems quite attached to her."
Luna was quiet for a moment. All the ponies waited for her to continue.
"With that taken care of," Luna said. "It is getting late; and I have my usual evening duties to attend to." She turned to Ditzy and Breeze. "And I would like to see the two of you tomorrow morning, before normal working hours. We shall discuss compensation."
Ditzy gasped. "You're still going to reward us? After everything that happened?"
Luna gave a tiny smile. "I suppose everything worked out in the end," she admitted. "Maybe not as well as I had hoped, but enough that I cannot let you go unrewarded. Like I said, come by in the early morning, and we will negotiate the proper payment."
Luna turned and strode regally out of the room, leaving the four adults and the filly alone.
"Equestria Speedy Shipping Services has closed for the night," Cloudcover pointed out. "Let's just catch the late train back to Ponyville. Tomorrow, Watt and I will provide the mission details to Candyfloss, and the two of you can come back here for your meeting with Luna. Does that sound good?"
Everypony nodded. "Until tomorrow, then," Breeze said. "I have a feeling it's going to be an interesting day at work for all of us."
Ditzy Doo was lost in thought. While her friends celebrated their victory on the train ride home, she sat quietly, thinking about everything that had happened. Dinky, whose bedtime had long since come and gone, leaned against her mother's side, dozing peacefully. The filly was so worn out from all the excitement that she didn't even wake up as Ditzy flew her home from the train station. Now, with the filly tucked in and sleeping peacefully, Ditzy wished she could do the same, but sleep came only in short, fitful spells. Too much was riding on her meeting with Luna the next morning; the mare hoped she would catch the princess in a generous mood.
At the crack of dawn, the sleepy pony climbed out of bed. She had no time to get breakfast, but that was fine; there was always some available at work. But first, she had a flight to and from Canterlot ahead of her. She brushed her mane, grabbed her saddlebags, and launched out the door.
A short while later, Ditzy sailed through the crisp air over Canterlot, approaching the gleaming spires of the castle. A red speck was visible in the air near Princess Luna's tower; it seemed Breeze had gotten here even earlier than she had.
"Good morning," said Breeze as his coworker joined him in the airspace near the tower. "So
are you ready?"
"I guess so," said Ditzy, still hoping against hope that Luna would take pity on the situation she and Dinky were in.
The pegasi landed on the balcony, and Breeze rapped gently on the door. After a moment, it opened magically. Princess Luna sat within; she invited her visitors inside.
"Good morning princess," Ditzy said as she and Breeze bowed. "How was your night?"
"It was very pleasant, thank you," Luna responded. "I'm glad the two of you were able to make it at this early hour. But, as you know, the life of a princess can be busy, and after our meeting I shall be retiring to my bed until this evening."
The princess stood up and stepped closer to her visitors. "Now then, I have decided to leave rewards open for you to decide. Each of you may make your request, and I shall grant it if I feel that your efforts were worth such a reward."
Ditzy swallowed hard. The moment of truth had arrived. She had thought about this moment for hours, and now the time had come for her to act on her decision.
Breeze smiled. "Go ahead, Ditzy. You first."
Ditzy nodded. "Alright, Princess Luna," she began carefully. "I've decided what I want to ask you for."
The Princess turned to her. "And that would be?"
Ditzy took a deep breath before continuing.
I want you to allow my daughter Dinky to be reconsidered for enrollment in your sister's magic academy."
A few feet away, Breeze jumped in shock. "Ditzy!" he gasped. "What about your-"
"Hush, Breeze," Ditzy said. "There's no way Dinky can attend the academy if I don't do this. It would make her so happy if she could go, and I
I can get by fine by myself. Even given the circumstances."
Breeze tried incoherently to argue, but Ditzy raised a hoof to silence him.
"What do you say, Princess?" she asked.
Luna looked pensive. "It may be possible
" she mumbled. "But special considerations for enrollment at the academy are not my responsibility; such decisions are the delegation of my sister Celestia."
"Did I hear my name?" asked a soothing voice from the doorway.
The three ponies turned to the large doors, beholding the great white alicorn that had appeared.
"Princess Celestia!" Ditzy and Breeze gasped, both falling to their knees respectfully as the elder princess entered the room.
"Hello, and welcome to Canterlot, my little ponies," Celestia said benevolently, before turning her gaze back to her younger sister. "Now, Luna, did I hear you talking about me?"
"Yes," Luna said. "It would seem my friend Ditzy Doo here has a daughter that has been rejected from the Academy for Gifted Unicorns. She wishes to see if there is any way the decision can be overturned."
Celestia looked intrigued. "Why was she rejected?" she asked.
"It was because of her lack of experience, your majesty," Ditzy said. "My little Dinky meets all the qualifications, except that of prior magical experience. You see, my late husband was the unicorn in our family. Being a pegasus, I was never able to teach Dinky the basics of magic most unicorns learn very early on. The letter I got from the dean of the Academy said that was unacceptable."
Celestia nodded. "Well, I would have to say I agree; the curriculum at the Academy is very rigorous. A unicorn without prior experience simply wouldn't be able to keep up."
"But Dinky's a quick study! She could manage, I know she could!" Ditzy argued. "Plus, she just used some magic last night
something that nopony taught her how to do!"
Princess Celestia suddenly looked intrigued, and listened as Ditzy described the effects of the spell Dinky had performed the night before. (Although, not going into detail on precisely why the spells had been performed and on whom.)
"Very interesting," Celestia said finally. "Sudden magical powers beyond the expected skill level of the foal are not unheard-of, especially under instances of high stress. What is unusual is for the foal to be able to easily replicate the accidental casting, or to manage another spell through simple observation. But your filly appears to have done both."
Ditzy scratched her head. "But
what does that mean?"
"I'm not completely sure," Celestia said. "But it sounds to me like she may have a special talent for magic."
"Like Twilight Sparkle?" Ditzy asked.
"No, not quite like Twilight," Celestia said. "Twilight does indeed have an aptitude for magic, but hers stems from a great deal of study. As a filly, her magic was very unpredictable, as is the case for most ponies in their foalhood. What made Twilight stand out was the sheer magnitude of her power. Dinky, on the other hand, probably matches with most fillies in the strength of her magic
but seems to possess noticeably greater control over it than one would expect from a filly her age."
"Then, given that circumstance
" Luna cut in. "
Perhaps we could agree to make an exception and allow this mare's daughter into the Academy after all?"
Ditzy nodded hopefully. Celestia, however, frowned.
"As unusual as her case is, I still don't think it would be prudent for her to attend the Academy before basic magical training. Unless we could find a way to give her a very accelerated tutoring course, so she could be prepared by the start of next term
Celestia's eyes glinted as an idea crossed her mind. "Wait here," she instructed. "I'll be right back. And Luna, would you come with me?"
Luna nodded, and both princesses left the chamber, leaving Ditzy and Breeze alone.
"Are you sure about this?" Breeze asked uncomfortably. "You're sacrificing your own well-being here."
"I've lived on the verge of poverty before," Ditzy said. "I'll hardly even notice, as long as I don't have to worry about Dinky dealing with it either. I knew there was no way I would be able to have her reconsidered for the Academy, unless I did this. I've been thinking about it all night; I know it's the right decision."
Breeze nodded slowly. He appeared to be pondering his teammate's logic. Finally, he looked back to her and smiled.
"Well, I'm behind you then. I know that you know what's best for you two."
Hoofsteps signaled the return of Celestia and Luna. The princesses entered the room; Celestia was carrying a scroll with her magic.
"I just sent a letter to Twilight Sparkle," she said. "And I received a response immediately. If, of course, this arrangement is alright with you, she has agreed to provide a highly accelerated training course for Dinky. If the filly keeps up and completes her training course by the time the next term begins, then Luna and I will overrule the dean's decision and allow Dinky to attend the Academy."
"Really?" Ditzy gasped. "Oh, thank you! I just know Dinky will be able to do it!"
"Don't thank me," Celestia laughed. "Thank Twilight for taking time out of her busy schedule. Although, she did seem excited to learn that there was another unusually adept unicorn living in Ponyville; I'm sure she'll be just as happy to teach as Dinky is to learn."
Celestia looked over her shoulder. "Well, I have to be going," she said. "I'm supposed to be visiting Hoofington in a short while. Tell your daughter I said good luck!"
"I will!" Ditzy called as Celestia disappeared down the tower stairs. "And thanks again!"
She turned to Luna. "And thank you too, for supporting my side of the issue, Princess."
Luna gave a profound nod. "Now," she began. "That still leaves the matter of my other aide from yesterday." She looked at Breeze expectantly.
Breeze cleared his throat. "Well, princess, I was actually having trouble making my decision; there are plenty of things in Equestria anypony would love to have, many of which I bet you could get for me without a second thought. I almost thought I wasn't going to have decided when it came time for me to ask. But luckily, I figured it out; there is one thing you can do for me that I would really like."
Breeze smiled as he continued. "So you see, my partner and friend Ditzy over here has a massive debt hanging over her head
It was Ditzy's turn to jump in surprise. "Breeze!" she cried. "You don't need to
I mean, this is about you! Don't go asking for stuff for me!"
Breeze ignored her completely, and so Luna did the same. "This debt
" he continued. "It's not really her fault. There were a lot of unforeseen circumstances and some very corrupt lawyers working against her. So, what I was wondering is
do you think you could have that debt erased?"
Ditzy tried to say something, but Breeze put a hoof on her snout to silence her. Luna's horn glowed and, from thin air, she summoned forth the bill in question and read it aloud.
"By order of the Royal Court of Canterlot, this document hereby files a charge against Miss Ditzy Doo, pegasus pony of Ponyville, of one-million Equestrian bits, to be paid incrementally until the full amount of the charge is met, for damages caused to irreplaceable artifacts in the Manehattan branch of the Canterlot Royal Treasury."
Luna lowered the paper. "I heard about this case. Personally, I thought the jury's decision quite ludicrous. But, as Celestia and I do not normally preside over court cases, I left it as it was." She looked down at Breeze. "This charge does not concern you, and its elimination will most certainly use up any reward I have offered. Are you sure this is what you want?"
Breeze nodded solemnly. "Absolutely, Princess."
The princess tossed the paper to the ground and spat on it, and much to the surprise of the pegasi, this caused the bill to alight with magical blue flames. It was consumed in barely an instant; only ashes remained.
"All record of Ditzy Doo's debt is null and void, by decree of the Kingdom of Canterlot," said the princess. "Now that you have both been properly rewarded, I will retire to bed."
"Yeah, we need to get going too," Breeze said, smirking slightly as he glanced at Ditzy, whose mouth dangled open in shock as she tried to comprehend what Breeze had just done for her. "We're gonna be late for work."
He leapt into the air. "Meet you there, Ditzy!"
The red pegasus darted away, leaving the mares alone. Luna glanced at Ditzy.
"You have quite a loyal friend, there," the princess said. And, with no further elaboration, she strolled lazily to her bed for the day. Ditzy gazed out at Canterlot, trying to process her feelings about what had just transpired. Finally, she slowly lifted herself into the air, and began the flight back to Ponyville.
Ditzy was, in fact, a few minutes late getting to work, but as usual, nopony noticed or cared. She trotted up the stairway to the lounge, and entered to find her coworkers chatting away, as if it was just a normal morning. Glow was absent, but that didn't come as a surprise to anypony.
The mare trotted right up to Breeze, who turned and flashed his usual casual smile. It made Ditzy a bit frustrated that he was acting so nonchalantly about what had happened.
"Breeze," she said finally. "I
don't know what to say. Can you at least tell me why you-"
"There's the pony of the hour!" Watt interrupted, having broken off his conversation with Cloudcover long enough to notice Ditzy's arrival. "I mentioned to Pinkie Pie that you had beaten the company record, and she instructed me to throw you a party!"
The earth pony dashed to the corner of the room and removed the tarp from a sizeable object it had been covering; Pinkie Pie's party cannon. He pulled the string, and with a loud boom, balloons, confetti, and decorations flew through the air and adorned the lounge.
"Let's all celebrate Ditzy breaking the record for most successful assignments!" Watt called. "Bravo, Ditzy!"
"Bravo!" Breeze and Cloudcover echoed.
"Yes," came another, much less mirthful voice. "Bravo, indeed."
To everypony's surprise, Cosmic Glow stepped into the room. Ditzy was shocked to discover her mane was back where it belonged
at least until she caught sight of the price tag dangling from the back. With a smirk, she realized the unicorn was wearing a wig. The pony looked much worse-for-wear then she had the previous evening; Screwball had probably given her plenty more 'gifts' before she'd managed to escape from her chaotic assistant.
"Glow," said Breeze coldly. "I've got to say, I'm surprised you had the guts to show up today after last night."
Glow shot Breeze a bored look. "Regardless of yesterday, I still work here, don't I?"
Breeze laughed. "Not for long, I bet. You'd be pretty stupid if you don't think Candyfloss knows what went down last night. He's not going to be happy."
Glow scoffed. "That old windbag is too soft to fire me over something like this," she mused. "After all, I'm the best-" she stopped speaking, frowned deeply, and started again. "I mean second best shipper at this company." She punctuated this sentence by glaring intensely in Ditzy's direction.
"You think so?" asked Breeze. "I don't know, Glow. I'm pretty sure Candyfloss doesn't need you anyway. Ditzy's been here half the time you have, and she's already beaten you out."
"Sticking up for little Ditzy again, huh?" Glow asked. "I suppose somepony has to; last night at the castle she demonstrated she's still too soft to stick up for herself anyway. You, and her own daughter, had to stand up to me instead."
Breeze was about to retort, when a familiar, quiet cough echoed from the doorway. Candyfloss had appeared, and as usual, it was impossible to tell how long he had been there, and how much of the recent argument he had heard.
"Boss," Breeze said. "What's up?"
"Quite a bit, actually," Candyfloss said in his normal, calm tone. "I have a few bits of business to take care of today. First and foremost, I would like to borrow Ditzy for a moment; she needs to come to my office and sign a few documents concerning yesterday's important assignment, and get her picture taken for the top employee board; I believe she has surpassed Cosmic Glow."
Glow turned away so Candyfloss wouldn't see her gritting her teeth furiously.
Candyfloss motioned for the pegasus to follow, and then turned and disappeared back down the stairs. Ditzy glanced at her companions, and then turned to follow, gently shutting the door behind her.
She hadn't taken two steps down the narrow stairway when the argument behind the door started up again. She hesitated for a moment, listening.
"What is wrong with you?" Breeze growled. "I just can't figure out why you hate Ditzy so much! Sure, now she's beaten your record, and your attempts to stop her might cost you your job, but you've been like this since the day she first walked into this place!"
"It doesn't matter what I think!" Glow shot back. "And why do you have to stick up for her in everything she does?" She paused briefly. "Oh, that's right, I forgot," she teased. "She's your marefriend."
"Glow, for the last time!" Breeze yelled in exasperation. "Ditzy is not my-"
The stallion stopped suddenly. From outside the door, Ditzy leaned closer, intrigued.
"Okay," said Breeze finally. "You know what, Glow? You're right. To be honest, I do like Ditzy. I like her a lot. I don't think she knows that I feel that way, but that's fine with me. She's so friendly and approachable, and she'll do anything to help and protect the ponies she cares about. I've never met anypony as sweet as she is. She's the absolute, complete opposite of you, Glow."
A few more seconds of silence passed.
that's why you hate her, isn't it
" Breeze continued finally, his voice full of dawning comprehension. "Ditzy Doo is one of the most likeable ponies in all of Equestria, while you, by contrast, are a selfish, manipulating pain-in-the-flank. And you're jealous of her!"
"That's ridiculous!" Glow snapped. "Why would I be jealous of Ditzy Doo's syrupy sweet dopiness?"
Breeze laughed sarcastically. "Why? You know perfectly well why, you dolt!" The stallion shook his head. "No, I guess I'm the dolt for not making the connection earlier. Of course you're going to be jealous of any new pony who seems better than you."
Glow attempted to respond, but Breeze continued. "Here's a little news flash, Glow. It's been a couple years now since I realized what you were really like. And Ditzy Doo or no Ditzy Doo
well, it doesn't change the fact that I dumped you, because you're a jerk, and I want nothing to do with you anymore!"
Outside the lounge, Ditzy jumped with such shock that she nearly fell down the steps.
Wait. Breeze and Glow were
Breeze stamped his hoof angrily. "How could I have been so stupid to not figure this out!" he yelled. "You hate Ditzy because I like her instead of you! The complaints about your shipping record provided you with a petty excuse, but that's really not what it's about at all! So you tried everything you could; you were extra mean to her, you made her upset about her job and her ideals
you even tried to drag her down to your level, probably just to make her less appealing to me! Glow, do you even know what kind of disaster you almost caused for poor Ditzy? The mare could have been in debt for the rest of her life!"
"Ditzy!" came Candyfloss's voice faintly from his office. "What are you waiting for?"
In her moment of eavesdropping, Ditzy had almost entirely forgotten about her manager's request. As quietly as possible, she snuck down the stairs to her boss's office, careful not to alert the others that she had overheard anything. She slunk into Candyfloss's inner sanctum, and sat down, her head swimming with the implications of what she had just overheard, and what was no doubt still going on a floor above.
"Alright," said Candyfloss calmly, lifting his head out of the filing cabinet drawer. "I just need you to sign the
Ditzy, are you alright?"
"Huh? Oh, yeah, fine
Absentmindedly, Ditzy scribbled her name onto the documents on which Candyfloss had requested her signature. She also produced a fake, cheesy smile for her photograph.
"Excellent," said Candyfloss in a businesslike manner. "Congratulations, by the way. Now, please head back upstairs. I shall be up in a few moments; there's more that we have to take care of today."
"Okay," said the mare quietly, stumbling out into the hallway.
Ditzy tried to shake herself from the stupor as she plodded back up the stairs. The sound of arguing had now been replaced with a harsh silence. Trying not to let her distress show, she reentered the room.
"Candyfloss will be up in a minute", she announced. "He said there's more stuff to take care of today."
Watt nodded enthusiastically. Everypony else seemed a little to tense to respond.
Luckily, the awkward silence that had befallen the lounge was quickly abated; within a minute or two, the sound of hooves echoed on the steps again.
Candyfloss entered the room, and glanced around at his employees.
"Good morning, everypony," he said quietly. "If you don't mind, I would like to have a brief meeting regarding the results of yesterday's assignment with Princess Luna."
A clipboard hovered into place in front of the stallion, and he briefly reviewed what he had written. "Now, as we are all aware, the assignment was a success, and I would like to commend you for a job well done. Success when working with royalty can only be a boon for our company's reputation."
Silence was the only response from the shippers, so Candyfloss decided to launch right on into the issue they clearly wanted to discuss.
"However, it has come to my attention that there was an incident last night that jeopardized that success," he continued. "Apparently, due to some personal grudge the details of which I neither know, nor want to know, our own Cosmic Glow took it upon herself to try to ensure the assignment's failure. Am I correct in this belief, or have I been misinformed?"
"You're correct," said Breeze sternly, turning to his unicorn coworker, who was avoiding her boss's gaze.
"I see," said Candyfloss, maintaining an almost indifferent air about the situation. "Now, Cosmic Glow, I hope you understand that this was a serious offence and caused me to place serious consideration into the removal of your position."
Glow said nothing.
Everypony was startled, and Glow thrilled, that there seemed to be a counterargument in Candyfloss's mind. "But what?" Glow asked.
"I did not see it fit to immediately terminate you as a shipper, considering the great deal of service you have done for this company. The good outweighs the bad, as they say."
"Exactly!" Glow agreed. "I'm far too valuable to get rid of! That's what I told the others."
"Now wait," said Candyfloss. "Miss Glow, you did not allow me to finish."
Glow shut up.
"You see," Candyfloss continued. "This event was the most recent in a chain of unkind actions directed toward your fellow shippers," he continued. "The way in which you treat the ponies around you has left me to wonder why you are such a successful shipper yourself; recently, I had begun to become worried that you were an exception to my theory of sincere shipping."
"Ugh, that again?" Glow whined. "Boss, I know you really think about shipping on a very high level, but you need to open your eyes to the real world; it's just as easy to bring two ponies together with deception as it is with sincerity. And honestly, the client never knows the difference, so what's the harm?"
"Indeed, you had almost convinced me that I was wrong," said Candyfloss very quietly. "The implications of that realization would have meant the implementation of an extensive reanalysis of the ethics of shipping."
A small smile crept onto the stallion's face. "But luckily, I found the loophole, so there's no need for any of that."
Glow snorted. "What loophole?"
"Last night, after I realized that you were planning to double cross us, I made a few calls to examine your past endeavors," Candyfloss explained. "The results were
"How so?" asked Glow skeptically.
"Well," said Candyfloss. "It turns out a great deal of the ponies that you specifically have shipped in the past, have seen those new relationships fall apart catastrophically. Several dozen cases of this came to my attention last night. Some ponies were never meant to be together at all, but since you bypassed the sincerity rule and forced them together with your trickery, you created a match that was never meant to be after all. What's worse, some matches that were valid fell apart because of the deceptive, unwholesome methods you used to bring them together. Such actions sowed the seeds of distrust that ultimately broke apart what could have been a happy relationship."
Candyfloss shook his head sadly. "In short, while you have the highest initial success rate of anypony at this company, save for Ditzy, you have the lowest rate of creating a lasting relationship. Calls to ponies shipped by our other members revealed no such problem."
Glow was stunned. She glanced around in panic at the surprised faces of her coworkers.
"Therefore!" Candyfloss announced. "Due to this recent information coming to light, it is quite apparent that you, Cosmic Glow, are simply too much of a detriment to the reputation we uphold at Equestria Speedy Shipping Services."
With a flash of light, Glow's contract appeared in front of Candyfloss, which he grasped in his front hooves and ripped cleanly in two.
"And so," he said, still in his perfectly businesslike tone. "You are hereby denied the opportunity for further employment at this establishment." He motioned to the door. "You are excused, miss Glow. Good day."
There was complete silence. Glow's mouth hung open for a moment in shock. Finally, with a furious growl, she turned and stormed out of the room, throwing the lounge door open so hard with her magic that it nearly broke off its hinges.
"Fine!" she cried as she stomped down the stairs. "I hate working here anyway! I can't wait to see you namby-pambies let this stupid business collapse, because without me around, it sure as hay won't be long!"
The unicorn's voice faded as she reached the front office of the building, and there was a dull thud as the front door slammed. Cosmic Glow had left Equestria Speedy Shipping Services for the last time.
"Good riddance," said Candyfloss, gently closing the lounge door with his magic.
Suddenly, a cheer broke out, quite startling the white unicorn. The other shippers whooped and jumped for joy, excluding Watt, who wasn't particularly excited to see 'Cosmo' go. The earth pony agreed that the right decision had been made for the company, though.
"That leaves just one final matter we must discuss," Candyfloss said once the cheering had died. "And that is the matter of you, Ditzy Doo. You may have forgotten this in all the excitement, but as of today, you have been working for us for one full year, and must decide if you wish to renew your contract. Given our recent loss of staff, we really would appreciate your staying. I believe my recent discoveries about Glow should alleviate any final concerns you had about the occupation."
"Of course I'll stay!" Ditzy said with a smile. "This is the best job I've ever had!"
"Wondeful," said Candyfloss, returning the mare's grateful grin. "I'll leave you all to have your little party, then. Be ready for assignment as usual. Good day."
Chuckling to himself, the enigmatic unicorn trotted from the room, tugging the door shut behind him.
"Well, it looks like that all worked itself out," Cloudcover chuckled. "Glow is finally gone, Ditzy will be sticking around
"There's still one thing," Ditzy interrupted.
The three stallions looked at their coworker. "What? Is something wrong?" Cloudcover asked.
" said Ditzy, glancing at the floor. "I, um
need to talk to Breeze about something."
Breeze's ears perked up. "What's up?" he asked. "Are you still going on about this morning at the castle?"
"No, it's not that," Ditzy said, still shamefully avoiding Breeze's gaze. "I, uh
kind of accidentally overheard some
some stuff. Stuff that you said to Glow, while I went downstairs."
Breeze's irremovably casual expression finally vanished, replaced in an instant by one of shock and embarrassment. "Oh! Oh, um, that
The stallion was at a loss for words. Cloudcover sucked in his breath nervously. Watt seemed to have suddenly become very interested in his own shadow, poorly attempting to fake obliviousness to the situation.
"So, you dated Glow a long time ago, huh?" Ditzy asked quietly. "I guess that makes her actions a little more understandable. I've never known a pony to act like she did over something as trivial as a company record. But
I guess once you throw a messy breakup into the works
"I'm sorry!" Breeze blurted suddenly. "I didn't tell you because I was embarrassed that I was stupid enough to ever date somepony as awful as her! But if I'd realized sooner that the real reason she hated you so much was because she saw you as
ugh, I hate to say it
as competition for my affections, I swear I would have let you know right away!"
"Okay, calm down!" Ditzy urged. "I know you would have! You're too good of a friend to let something like that happen intentionally. The only one at fault here is Glow."
Breeze blinked in surprise. "Wait
you're not mad?"
"Of course not," Ditzy said. "I'm kind of glad that I know about this now, actually. It makes Glow a little easier to understand."
The mare smirked. "Of course, that doesn't change the fact that she's a royal pain in the flank."
Breeze laughed. "You're right about that!"
The two ponies giggled for a moment longer, but soon Ditzy turned serious once again.
"Speaking of relationships," she said carefully. "I, uh, couldn't help but overhear something else interesting during that argument
Breeze's pupils shrank substantially. "You
heard everything, didn't you?" he asked morosely.
"Boy," said Watt in a loud and distracting manner. "Did you ever notice how good your shadow is at copying you? I mean, this thing would make a great mime!"
"Shut up Watt, you're not helping things," Cloudcover grumbled.
Watt frowned. "Fine, see how long you all last without my comic relief
" the earth pony hissed back.
Ditzy and Breeze seemed oblivious to the hushed argument of their coworkers, which was probably a good thing.
" Breeze stammered. "I guess that cat's out of the bag." He coughed awkwardly, pawing nervously at the floor. "I wasn't sure I wanted to tell you, since, you know
I mean, after you lost your husband, I wasn't sure if you were looking for somepony new or not. And then yesterday, when I found out the story behind how you lost him, it made me even less sure. Plus, after I finally realized that Glow was just manipulating me, I've been hesitant to start dating again; I didn't want to repeat that disaster
Breeze seemed to realize what he had just said and waved his front hooves defensively. "Not that you've given me any reason to think going out with you would be a disaster, of course! I mean, you're
you're absolutely the opposite of her!"
He laughed nervously. "It's kind of ironic, when you think about it," he sighed. "We all start new relationships for other ponies every day, but I manage to botch it up when I try to start a new one myself
"Breeze, you aren't botching anything up," Ditzy said. "Stop and think for a second: who was the pony who helped me get acclimated when I accidentally wound up at this company? Who was the pony that was there for me when I was dealing with the problems Glow created for me? Who talked me into finally telling Dinky about this job, and was kind enough to play along until I was ready? And most importantly, who gave up his reward selflessly to save me from a lifetime of debt just this morning?"
She smiled. "If you like me, those all seem like pretty good ways to express it."
Breeze chuckled nervously again. "Yeah, about that
this morning, I realized that, sure, there are plenty of material things I'd love to have. But it occurred to me that right now, the one thing that makes me happiest is seeing you happy. I mean, you've had it so hard for years, and you've gritted your teeth and pressed on every time. And I just couldn't bear to see you have to do that again."
He frowned again, breaking eye contact and staring at the floor. "
And I still want you to be happy. So, if you're not interested, or something, please, just forget what happened. We'll just be friends."
Ditzy smiled disbelievingly. "You really are the most selfless pony I've ever met," she said.
"Me?" said Breeze. "What about you?"
"Yes, yes, you're both very selfless," Cloudcover said. "Now, pardon me for asking, but
is this whole conversation going anywhere or not?"
All eyes turned to Ditzy. The mare giggled bashfully.
"Well, listen, Breeze," she began. "Do you know why I like having a job like this one, or why I liked being a mailmare before this? It's because I get to meet and interact with so many different ponies every day. Some are different than others; there's friendly ones and stern ones and mean ones and even some really goofy ones. But I love working with them because when I go home
all I have is Dinky. I've got no family left and not many friends outside of you all. And truth be told
it gets lonely. Work is a great way to relieve that
but it would be really nice to have somepony to spend time with more regularly again. Somepony who really understands me and likes me for who I am."
Breeze's eyes widened. "Does that mean
Ditzy laughed at her friend's sudden awkward state. "If I have to be so blunt about it, then yes, of course I'll date you, you silly!"
Ditzy giggled as the stallion collapsed on the floor, relieved. Cloudcover and Watt had a round of hip-hip-hoorays for the new lovebirds.
"Why don't you come over again tonight?" Ditzy asked. "In fact, why don't you all come over; we can have a party."
"Great idea!" Watt agreed. "It can be a Ditzy and Breeze are now marefriend and coltfriend/Glow is gone for good/Ditzy's not in debt anymore/Dinky got accepted into the Academy kind of party! Pinkie Pie loves combo parties! I'll have her bring the Doozy Party Cannon and everything, and there can be games and food and dancing and fireworks and-"
The three stallions and the mare continued their celebratory plans for that night, unaware of the mysterious old unicorn listening from just outside the door; he had been standing there since he left the company of his employees several minutes earlier.
Grinning somewhat smugly, the stallion crept quietly down the stairs and back into his office. Shutting the door with a burst of magic, he sat down at his desk and extracted a tiny, gold key from his personal belongings. Using this key, he unlocked a small drawer in the desk and removed a tiny, dusty book.
Candyfloss brushed the debris of the unmarked cover of the battered old tome, before opening it to the next available blank page. Lifting a quill in his magic's aura, he hesitated pensively for a few seconds, and then began to write.
Why did I ever doubt myself? Things always work out in the end.
This success spans a full year, perhaps the longest any one job has taken. I admit at times, it was not clear what my matchmaking magic was trying to accomplish. I was concerned that I had lost my touch; that it was too dangerous for me to continue acting upon the urges of this unusual magic.
The first event that I can contribute to this pairing was when I set out to fulfill one of the many random whims that my special magic dictated I perform. It was a simple task that afternoon; switch a sign pointing to Canterlot so it faced the other direction. I assumed this action would lead to some lovesick pony stumbling into the wrong town, and by extension, meeting the mare of his dreams. Such events are common results of my work. But this time, I was wrong.
Imagine, discovering the next day, that this seemingly harmless action had caused a desperate mare, dangling on the edge of employment, to lose her way when delivering an important message. Her tardiness cost her her job.
I was dumbstruck. How could my matchmaking magic, usually so benign or even beneficial, allow such a horrible thing to happen? I seriously considered never listening to the premonitions brought on by my own special talent again.
So when, by some serendipitous turn of events, the very mare whose life I had inadvertently ruined showed up seeking employment at this very establishment, I jumped at the chance to give her a job and correct my error.
This mare is my new star employee, the pegasus Ditzy Doo. Over the course of this past year, her life has become filled with new adventures and experiences as a member of Equestria Speedy Shipping Services. But I still wasn't convinced that my actions had been harmless, nor could I find evidence of a successful match made as a result of them.
My powers were dormant for a long time. I began to become convinced that the realization that my skills may not have been perfect had led to them being extinguished. But finally, they sprang to life again, last night. This time, they urged me to send Ditzy Doo's daughter along to Canterlot. I was left to assume that this was necessary to help with the successful shipping of Princess Luna, and indeed it was
but by extension, it proved to be the final step in bringing together another pair.
Now, two of my employees, Ditzy Doo, the struggling widowed mare looking for a companion, and Autumn Breeze, the stallion disenchanted with the idea of love as a result of an earlier relationship gone sour, have found a new partner in one another. This was the pairing that my magic had caused me to set out to make on that fateful day over a year ago; it just took a very long time to make itself apparent.
Love is a mysterious thing. Every time I've convinced myself I finally have grown wise to all its tricks, it throws a new tactic my way that I never could have expected. And once again, I must consider myself extremely humbled to be able to channel its forces, and make the decisions that allow it to spread more fully among the citizens of this fair land.
Congratulations, Ditzy Doo and Autumn Breeze. I wish you both the best in the future. Also, I must consider this my latest successful mission.
And my record is still perfect.
Several Months Later
Dinky Doo scurried around her bedroom, performing one final scan to make sure all of the necessary belongings were packed into her suitcases. In what was now an effortless action, she tore open the drawers of her bureau with a brief spark of magic. Glancing inside and seeing nothing of importance, she shut them again. Not wanting to be late, she lifted all her bags simultaneously, and ran out of her room with her belongings floating around her like a dense cloud.
"There you are, Dinky," Ditzy said when her filly finally appeared. "Come on, the cart is waiting outside. You need to get to the train station on time or you're going to be late getting to the Academy."
"I know," Dinky panted, absentmindedly shutting the door behind her with a flicker of magic. "But I'm ready now. Is anypony coming along?"
"Of course," Ditzy said. "Breeze is coming with us to the train station, and I think Twilight Sparkle is coming along too, if she can spare the time. Now let's go!"
The mare trotted outside into the early morning sunlight, followed by her filly and the suspended cloud of luggage. Luckily, the aforementioned red pegasus and purple unicorn were just arriving.
"Hello, Ditzy!" Twilight greeted. "Today's the day, huh? I had my doubts that I'd be able to put a filly through basic magic training in such a short time, but Dinky finished with time to spare! I haven't seen a filly so fit for Celestia's Academy for Gifted Unicorns since
Ditzy and Twilight laughed. Breeze trotted over to the filly.
"Need any help loading that stuff into the cart?" he asked her.
Dinky responded by catapulting the luggage into the vehicle, where it all landed, perfectly neat and organized.
"Nope! But thanks for asking, Mr. Breeze!"
Breeze chuckled. "No problem, kiddo."
The time had come to set off for Ponyville train station. Ditzy and Breeze pulled the large cart along while Twilight, Dinky, and the mountain of baggage rode in the back.
"So Dinky," Twilight began. "Are you excited? You're about to go to the greatest Academy of Magic in all of Equestria!"
Dinky squeaked with delight. "Of course! It's gonna' be so much fun!" The filly's smile shrank slightly. "But
you think I can do it, right Miss Twilight?"
"Of course," Twilight said sincerely. "I haven't seen a pony with your talent in a long, long time. Just study hard, and practice, and you'll do just fine."
Dinky blushed. "Thanks, Miss Twilight."
The trip seemed to take no time at all; soon, the four ponies arrived at the train station, which was packed with eager unicorn fillies and colts and their proud parents.
"Well, we made it," Ditzy said. "The train's leaving in a few minutes."
Dinky collected her bags, and looked at the train. Suddenly, she dropped all her possessions and turned around, wrapping her forelegs around her mother in a big, tight hug.
Ditzy patted her daughter on the back, fighting back a couple of happy tears. "Don't worry, Dinky. I'll see you this weekend, remember?"
"I know that," Dinky said, her voice muffled slightly by the fact that her face was buried in her mother's coat. "I just
I can't thank you enough, mommy, for giving me this chance. I promise I'll do my best."
"I know you will," Ditzy whispered back. "You're a smart filly; you're going to blow them all away up there."
Dinky broke the hug, kissed her mother gently on the cheek, and then trotted over to Breeze. "I'll see you soon too, Mr. Breeze," she said sweetly. "Take good care of mommy while I'm gone, okay?"
"And Miss Twilight," she continued. "I'll be sure to show you everything I've learned next time I see you."
Twilight smiled warmly. "Looking forward to it. And remember, you can always come visit me if you want some extra practice."
Dinky nodded. "Thanks so much, all of you."
"It's nothing, Dinky," Ditzy said. "Now go on. Remember to be safe and have a good time."
Dinky picked up her bags and turned to board the train.
"Hey! Dinky! Wait!"
A brown and white earth colt tore through the train station, catching up to the young unicorn just in time.
"Pipsqueak!" Dinky squealed happily. "I didn't think you were going to make it!"
"I ran all the way here," Pipsqueak said breathlessly. "Since you're not gonna' be at school anymore, I just had to come and say goodbye."
Dinky hugged her friend. "You're the sweetest, Pip. I'll see you next weekend, okay?"
"Yeah," Pipsqueak said. "Have a good time. And if you see Princess Luna, say hi to her for me!"
"I'll do that," Dinky said. "So long, Pip."
The filly took a deep breath, and stepped up into the train car.
"Anypony else?" the conductor called. "Last call for the train to Celestia's Academy for Gifted Unicorns!"
Dinky leaned out the window and waved at her mother and friends. Ditzy waved back, stopping occasionally to wipe away her happy tears with a hoof. A moment later, the whistle blew and the train began to move.
"Good luck, Dinky!" the mare called one final time. "We're all rooting for you!"
Dinky waved out the window for a few seconds longer before the train disappeared from the station and began to make its way into the mountains.
Sighing, Ditzy placed her head on Breeze's shoulder. "You think Dinky will be okay up there by herself?" she asked her coltfriend quietly.
"Okay?!" Breeze asked incredulously. "Ditzy, this is the same filly who fought off Glow without an ounce of prior magic experience. Now that she knows what she's doing, there's just about nothing she can't handle."
"I guess you're right," Ditzy admitted. "But it's only natural for me to be worried, you know?"
"Yeah," said Breeze. "That's just 'cause you're such a good mom."
"Oh, stop flattering me," Ditzy chided.
Breeze gave his marefriend a quick kiss. "Who's flattering?" he asked innocently.
Ditzy just laughed and shook her head.
The trail of smoke from the receding train vanished, and with it, most of the ponies on the station platform. Only a few remained.
"Come on," said Breeze. "Let's get going. Don't forget, we're meeting Watt and Pinkie Pie for a double lunch date later."
"Oh yeah," Ditzy remembered, spreading her wings to take off with the other pegasus. "Let's hope we don't wind up in any parallel dimensions this time."
"I still wish I had been there for that."
Laughing, the happy couple ascended into the morning sky.
One mistake can change your whole life.
One decision can create a whole new future.
And one good friend is all you need to help you light the way, and to walk that new path together with you.
Final Author's Notes: Well, that was certainly a heck of a project! I'd like to extend thanks you's to a couple of people.
First, I need to thank Seth and the whole staff of Equestria Daily for agreeing to post this on the site. It's an honor to have my work featured there.
Also, thanks to Retaya on Deviantart, who created the lovely cover art for Shipping and Handling. Thanks again, Retaya!
And finally, to the readers, who put up with nearly One hundred thousand words of text to reach this point. I sincerely hope you enjoyed this adventure.
Please remember to comment on your opinions on this chapter, and the story as a whole! Feedback makes me happy!
Also, the Shipping and Handling bonus chapters are now available! If you just can't get enough of the colorful cast of S&H, be sure to give those a look, too! Thanks again everypony!