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Expert Teas (tacobob, Hippo, PM for invite or interested)


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Midday classes had finished and the campus halls and courtyards were now flooded with creature students of all shapes, sizes, and colors. Some students who lived off campus but in Ponyville would elect to trek through the market before going home to enjoy the rest of their evening. The ones who lived on campus generally did their own version of collective society within the school's venues. The headmare did a good job acknowledging that you can't properly teach friendship to a young population without giving them time and space in order to exercise what a friendly society should look and function like. It was never perfect, but through the trials and tribulations, students would learn in their own ways how to better themselves and others through the lens of imparting the magic of friendship around them.

 

Two particular creatures who have become veteran students of friendship could be seen together exiting the main hall to the main courtyard. This courtyard was centered by the iconic fountain and was surrounded by many students having conversations and sharing laughs about their day and their life. One of these creatures was Silverstream, who had just gotten out of a class with Professor Pinkie Pie. Today's lesson had been about knowing when to use a joke to lighten the mood of a damp situation. Well, is started that way. Somehow the session ended with the class being show a visual lesson on the proper way to store items in your mane, assuming you were the kind of creature that had a mane. The hippogriff was wearing a wide smile, which was par for the course. "What a blast today. I can't wait to see the second part of Davenport's lecture on friendly customer service. How were your classes today, Smolder?"

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The young dragon looked up from a school book she had been reading, "Oh hey Silver.", she placed what appeared to be a long, red scale between the pages of her book, closed it, and placed it into her bag.  "I had to sit through Mr. Quills And Sofas' lecture earlier today. Didn't get very far.", she slowly got onto her feet as she spoke, "I got as far as step ten, 'Look For Ways To Say Yes' before I was out like a light. I had a dream where I was working at my own store selling something called a 'humdinger'. I have no idea what those are.", she said with a huff. "Professor Rarity thought it would be a good idea to invite that Rockhoof guy to talk about 'Fashion In His Time Period' and he kept changing subject and Rarity kept making obvious fake coughing sounds. They got rather loud when he mentioned.", she paused to clear her throat before she broke out into a rather impressive 'Rockhoof' impersonation, "''n thar I was back in me village t' see me fav'rit wenches'. He then got into a rather detailed story about how he had to rescue a baby Maulwurf from an Ophiotaurus...Or was it the other way around?", she pondered this for a moment, "And like always, he got into his story just a tad bit and now Rarity's class will be held in the library until they can rebuild her classroom. There's also this test I have to study for which involves qualities of leadership from the founders of the Wonderbolts, so I'm sure you know who assigned that." After she pulled her backpack on, the dragon felt her stomach rumble, "Ooh. I woke up too late for breakfast today, so I'm starving. You wanna get something to eat?"
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  • 3 weeks later...

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"Sure!" Silverstream rebounded quickly to the dragon's suggestion. "I got a couple sandwiches in my pack. You can have one if you'd like. Do you have your tea kit on you?" Silverstream didn't like tea as much as Smolder. Of course, not many did. But she knew any request for a break or a meal would typically involve a minimum of a kettle, cup, and saucer set in order to properly enjoy the succulent sophistication of whatever Smolder poured into her cup. Tea parties 101 was a class that hadn't been setup yet by Professor Fluttershy or Professor Rarity, but Silverstream knew that Smolder would probably be able to ace the final test for the course during it's first orientation.

 

Silverstream scanned the courtyard for a spacious place to sit and talk. A tree that appeared to have been in it's current location long before the school was even built was standing proudly just past the outer quarters of the campus. It wasn't officially part of the land the school sat on, but it was practical enough to assume that it would be sat under by anxious teenager creatures trying to study for pop quizzes about the politics of friend-making. "Let's go sit under that tree."

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“Yep.”, the dragon patted the bottom of her pack as she followed the Hippogriff through the courtyard. She acquired the special R.E.A tea kit during last year's 'Hearth's Warming Eve Ponyville Gift Exchange'. It was a special kettle that could easily be heated up with a simple spell or an tea candle. Thankfully she would use her own magic, a simple dragon shout of 'Vor' would do it. As they walked on, smolder let out a sigh of relief. She was apparently  getting the calm and cool Silverstream today as opposed to the hyper and bouncy bird most were used to by now. She was like Gallus, but without the sass. This wasn't the strange girl that was going to sneak up on her and bite her on the tip of her tail as a joke. Ouch! This bird was as cool as a cucumber.
 
"Just to be safe, I actually have some different teas.",she pulled out a small wooden box. "I have some peppermint straight from Fluttershy's garden. Goes great with honey...And Miss Cake was selling packets of Coconut Macaron  tea at her shop along with something she claims tastes just like Red Velvet Cake." She was a simple dragon and preferred only the best tea ever. One created by the great Grey Dragon, Earllaurung or as he was better known, 'Earl'.
 
She nodded her head and soon they were under a rather old looking tree. The tea kit was simple to set up and after emptying two bottles of  warm drinking water and a very safe 'Vor', the kettle was soon full of hot water. Smolder pulled out two sturdy R.E.A. marked field cups. "So, what would you prefer to drink? The stuff I got from the Cake's is supposed to be sweet.."
 
 
 
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Silverstream sat under the tree and waited on Smolder as she heated up water in a kettle. She opened up her bag and pulled out a paper sack that had two sandwiches in them. One of them was cucumber, the other was kelp and mustard. Of course, the dragon had many kinds of tea to offer her. "Oh, I don't care, Whatever you think I should try. I love it when you surprise me." Silverstream had drank tea with Smolder at least a half a dozen times already. She was always hung up on what tea she wanted to try, and she always shrugged because she didn't know tea enough to really understand what she would prefer. However, the moment Smolder introduced a seaweed-tasting tea or a kelp-flavored brew, she would insist.

 

Silverstream put her two sandwiches on a paper plate she also had in her pack. She set the sandwiches on the plate and cut them in quarters with a picnic knife. "Help yourself." She grabbed a cucumber sandwich quarter, chewed it, and then swallowed it. As the dragon poured the beverages, Silverstream started combing her hair with her claws. She typically only did this when she was nervous, guilty, or if she was unsure of how others would react to something she plans to talk about. She had many opportunities to explode nutty subjects up with her friends about many things that didn't require her to fidget, so whatever was on her mind must have to be pretty substantial. "So. Smolder." She looked around making sure no one was within earshot. "Have you ever had feelings for anyone else." Silverstream's eyebrows bounced. "Like in a 'more than friends' sorta way?"

 

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"Ee-yaahhww-" *crick*

 

It was the audibility of her neckbones suddenly clicking into place that clued Archancellor Bluebelle into the fact that it was past time she stopped with the paperwork.  Truth be told, one of the main motivators behind the School of Friendship's preference in the curriculum for practical homework as opposed to the written variety was the current administrative staff's antipathy towards the stuff themselves, whenever they were forced to endure its professional analog.  That, combined with the timing being coincident with the first urge for afternoon teatime clinched the deal.  Levitating a stone to hold down the papers into place, the unicorn mare donned her doctoral tam and ventured forth from her office in search of sustenance.

 

Some students called out greetings to their headmare, which she returned with grace.  Despite anxieties, the student body had accepted her as successor to Twilight Sparkle with relatively little trouble, for which Blue had to give credit to her predecessor's teaching acumen.  No one here had been anything but friendly to her, but for all that, she couldn't really call anyone here a real friend either.  Not that she had the easiest time making them under the best of circumstances, substantial changes from her past self aside; not to mention there was the question of whether such a friendship would be professionally appropriate.

*That didn't stop Twilight from befriending both her mentor and her students.  What's stopping you?*  That little niggling voice of self-doubt and comparison never really went away.  Back in the bad old days, Prince Blueblood would drown it out through ego-inflation, to the detriment of his reputation and relationships.  Now, with all that's happened since, Blue had more constructive ways to silence it.  *Nothing.  Nothing is stopping me from befriending the students.  I just need the perfect opportunity- do I smell tea?*

 

As if the heavens were answering a call, the wafting steam through the courtyard gracefully brushed Bluebelle's nostrils, directing her attention towards the tree under which Smolder and Silverstream sat.  Approaching, with some degree of caution, lest the sudden appearance of authority spook them, she spoke up.  "Oh, I do hope I'm not interrupting anything, but would you girls mind if I joined you for my own break?  I've been dying for a cup of tea."

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Oh how Smolder dreaded picking other creature’s teas! She knew if the wrong flavor was served the whole break would be ruined! Most here were generally polite to a point and would drink (or pretend to) the entire cup even if they hated the flavor. But she would know. There were all kinds of tells she would notice. Really overdone smile. The constant ‘WOW! This is REAAAALLLY GOOD’ or ‘Yum Yum’ while rubbing their stomachs. This would be followed by a ‘look, isn’t that Princess Celestia?’ When she would turn to look and notice that there was no royal princess to be seen, her companion’s tea was always gone. At least with dragons, they would be honest. Her brother would shout ‘THIS IS GARBAGE! BLEH!’, spit out the offending drink and then proceed to stomp on his glass while shouting out the drinks he would prefer to have drank. Swamp water. Sulfuric Acid. Bleach.
 
Still, Coconut Macaroon was probably her best best bet.  According to the mare, this tea had real bits of coconut and hints of almond add a fresh, invigorating flavor to the perfect blend of rich black tea and earthy honeybush. Once the water was ready, she got the bird's drink read, "Just let them steep for a moment.", she whispered before she started work on her old favorite. As the magic was made, Silver had a rather interesting question to ask. The dragon snatched a cucumber sandwich and took a decent bite out of it as she listened. "Very good.", she kept her voice down low. This was really tasty! Far better than her attempts. Maybe she used fresh ranch dressing? Smolder generally went with Mayo and dried herbs.
 
She asked if she had feelings for anyone? Like beyond the usual friendly feelings she would have for her fellow students. "Eh.", she grunted, "Can't say I do....There's just certain things I like doing with you guys...I like joking and messing about with Gallus as he always has the best reactions to stuff. Ocellus is always the one to go if I just wanna relax and chill out. Sandy is a pretty good study-buddy...Yona is always good if you wanna just run amuck and knock stuff over as sometimes you gotta let go.. And then there's you..", she smiled at the Hippogriff, "Party girl and probably the most feminine of our bunch..", she paused to think before asking, "How about you?"
 
This question had to wait as the Headmare was here. Oh-Oh, were they in trouble? No, but she wanted to share a bit of tea with them.  "Oh, hey um, Headmare Bluebelle..I do have my backup cup here..Somewhere." she dug a claw into her backpack and rummaged about until she found it! It was a festive red mug, which she handed over. "I have some teas here...Peppermint....Red Velvet Cake..And Earl Grey...."
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Silverstream listened intently on Smolder's phrasings to catch a possible secret the dragon might have been holding onto. But much to her disappointment, Smolder's expressing of her closest relationships currently happening at the school were all too publicly known, and quite frankly, boring. She was expecting some spicy rumors much like the ones surrounding a certain green earth pony and a particular brown yak. "Oh, come on Smolder. Really? There's not someone you haven't thought deeply about, like maybe another dragon. Like Spike, what about him?" Spike was younger than Smolder, but Silverstream had no barometer as to how much younger he was. She had siblings that were as small as him when she left Sequestria for school, but during the last holiday, she returned to see that they were twice as big as she remembered. Maybe dragons didn't grow that fast. How old was Smolder? A few years old? Seventeen years old? A few hundred?

 

Silverstream wanted to elaborate and attempt to pry, but before she could, Smolder returned the question back to her. She began to sweat a little, which was odd considering how loose and free Silverstream is about many things in conversation. She started playing with her hair again. "Well, um. I think there is someone..."

 

The Headmare approached the two under the tree and asked if she could participate in the impromptu tea party. Silverstream stood straight up and resumed a more presentable posture. She held inside her confession for the time being. "Oh, hi Archancellor Bluebelle. Um. Sure!" Silverstream scooted over closer to Smolder to create room for a inner-facing shape of creature conversation. Silverstream didn't know Bluebelle very well. She knows she came from Canterlot and that she was somehow related to the royal family there. Silverstream was also a member of a royal family in Sequestria, but she never considered it a huge detail in describing herself. "We were just talking about who we, I mean, what we like." Silverstream would play coy for the time being, but she would also continue to be intrusively personal with those she talked to for the first time. It was her social default. "Archancellor. Are you in a serious relationship? Married maybe?" Silverstream giggled and smirked at Smolder who she hoped would return a giggle. Most times, the dragon didn't though.

 

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Archancellor Bluebelle wasn't about to raise a complaint about the quality of the china; honestly, she would have been rather worried if any of her students were carting around fine porcelain for common use.  Accepting the mug with grace, she contemplated which steeped libation would best fill it.  Smolder would have been able to detect the pleased expression of surprise in the mare's features at hearing the listing.  It seemed that Smolder was not merely humoring the locals, but was an actual tea aficionado!  At least, as far as one so young could be in a subject that could engross the hobbyist's attention for a lifetime.2
"Hm, quite a difficult choice, actually... tell you what, why don't you show me your favorite?  I'm actually quite interested in what caught your fancy, and why; I sometimes do diplomatic work with dragons, so it would be a very good piece of information to have.  Always pays to be a considerate host."  Not to mention, getting a glimpse into Smolder's thought process would be a good way of actually getting to know the little dragoness. 

 

As the chosen brew was steeped, Bluebelle would settle down, trying to integrate herself into the conversation.  She had, unconsciously, the feeling that she had interrupted something, and thus felt obligated to smooth over the little chat back into a casual mode.  A little self-sharing seemed to be the ticket, and the subject seemed to call for it!  Tastes in attractiveness and relationships was something that Blue had acquired a good deal of self-knowledge in over the past several years; she just had to be careful not to stray into TMI territory!

"Oh, how delightful!  I take it you're just now starting to discover your type?"  The unicorn mare smiled, taking Silverstream's intrusiveness in stride.  Honestly, she wasn't even as impertinently inquisitive as several Duchesses Bluebelle could name.  "Guards and Knightly sorts are mine, bonus points if they have wings."  She smiled, certain specific ponies coming to mind.  "And... well, I'm not married yet, that takes some rather more complicated arrangements for Royalty than for commoners, but yes, I'd say I'm in a committed relationship."  More accurate would be at least one serious relationship, but that, again, might be straying into TMI territory.  Or even into a realm where she could be accused of being a bad influence!

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While she was not sure what an ‘Archancellor’ was, it sounded royal and possibly important, so Headmare Bluebelle could only do with Earllaurung's best tea. The young dragoness picked up her strainer and placed some of her leaves into it. After pouring the right amount of hot water into it, she sat it down somewhere safe. Along with the tea, she had some sugar and honey packets next to an small plastic creamer. She remembered the first time she tried milk in her tea. The dragon had been told it would help mellow and smooth the flavor, even pushing away the more bitter taste of her favorite tea. She really wished no-creature had told her where this milk actually came from.
 
"Spike?" What about him? She did care deeply for the little guy, but as potential mate? "He's a great little guy, but that’s the problem. He's a little guy as in a kid.", she tried to picture what an older Spike would look like. He was such a tiny little fella. Hopefully he will be introduced to lifting weights when he is older.  She was pretty sure Canterlot had a really good gym. "And this is all very new to dragons. Dating. Stuff that goes on in dating.". Smolder found an book on dating last week, but It was VERY old. It involved something called a 'sock hop' or 'hootenanny'. The stallions in her book had weird, very short manes and the mares wore pearl necklaces, cat eyed glasses and beehive manes. Dragons did not even hug each other until recently. Her brother was now the patron saint of this for some reason.
 
"From the very little I know.", hopefully the others were not lurking around in the bushes as she would die of utter embarrassment if others heard her say what she just said, "When we're this age, you are usually not looking for a potential, life-long mate, but someone to be just more than friends, I guess. Friend that you can smooch. ", she shrugged. "So it wouldn't have to be another dragon." There were not any male dragons she knew of that would suitable for smooching. Her brother's friends were all hideous, both physically and mentally. She needed a dragon version of Terramar. He is, as they say, 'muy guapo.'. Shame he wasn't attending school here. But in Seaquestria! Smolder also knew she did not have to stick just to the opposite sex for her dating needs.
 
But there was something that was bothering her. "So, who is this someone?" She was not sure what the giggle was for. She didn't want to hurt Hippogriff's feelings. But she was HORRIBLE at faking a laugh. Fake giggling would be twice as bad a not giggling at all. However, the smile she had on was genuine. She really was curious who was invited to the all day and night Silverstream-Snog-Feast.
 
 
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The tea had set long enough, so Silverstream picked it up carefully and started sipping it. It was delicious. The autumn breeze combined with the warm notes of the tea gave her a perspective she wasn't expecting. The light wind that occasionally whisked away a leaf or two reminded her of the seaside breezes that often swirled around Mount Aris. The coconut flavor gave her hints of home memories while the almond taste gave her inspiration of a place she had never been. It was like a home away from home in a mug. Smolder was good.

 

Silverstream was conflicted. She had admiration for someone and was willing to tease talking about it, but regretted the feeling of embarrassment she felt in having the need to express it. This was highly unusual for her about basically everything, she typically did not need encouragement to spill her beans. However, she would suppress her blurting out of her excited hippogriff hormones in order to make some progress in digging deep into Smolder's thick scales instead. It wasn't very often she, or any dragon for that matter, would be willing to open up this much. "Yeah, I guess Spike is kinda young. I never think of him as that young, though. He seems pretty smart for his age."

 

Since smolder began hinting at the possibility that such a creature as Smolder might be interested in the occasional snuggle with someone that may not necessarily be a dragon, Silverstream began racing through her mind at the obvious message the orange reptile was attempting to send. Smolder must have a huge crush on someone. "Ho! You like someone don't you!? Is it Chiller? Blade? Zesty? Wide-out?" Silverstream began listing names of fellow classmates. Some of these ponies shared mutual classes with Silverstream and Smolder, but some of them may have not been. It then occurred to Silverstream that she was listing off names of several pony stallions. "Oh, is it Grubber?" She knew there were other non-pony students at the school, more than the original five that came last year during the inaugural semester. But there was still a vast amount of ponies that could serve as a suitor to many interested love scouts. Yet another fragment of imagination came to Silverstream when she realized all the ones she was naming were all male. Her eyes fell and her mouth curled up. "Are you and Ocellus getting closer than I think?"

 

Bluebelle's answer was all too practical and surprisingly blunt. Straight to the point and if Silverstream was honest, not as interesting as she would have thought. "Type?" She blushed. "Yeah guards are pretty neat, they have shiny armor and are usually very strong." Silverstream never thought about a profession or occupation being the thing she would be more attracted to, she always felt it was more of a sixth sense. She couldn't possibly understand her own infatuation with certain classmates of her's. It was why she was so interested to see what others thought before she began dissecting the pattern of her own crush. "Everyone I spend a lot of time with are all students. If one of them was my type, all of them would be!" She waved her talons around to match the gesture of her insane proposition. "Could you imagine! What if I liked everyone!?" She would gauge the reaction of course, in case logical discourse of that insinuation occurred and it lead to the idea that it was a possible outcome. It was a far-fetched idea though, even she knew.

 

Smolder asked who this someone might be. Silverstream in the back of her head was hoping she derailed long enough to avoid having to divulge her personal feelings. But since the dragon was too clever for her ability to redirect the conversation to something that had nothing to do with her, she yielded her focus to her shyly spoken interest. "Well." Silverstream circled the mug of tea with a talon. She took a deep breath and looked up. "His name is..." A hummingbird flew just above Smolder and quickly zipped in flight away from the group. It was orange and green. "Whoa! Is that a hummingbird!!?" Silverstream had genuinely never seen a hummingbird until now, although she had heard and read about them during her first studies in Ponyville. She took a large sip of her tea and emptied her cup. "Oh wow, all out of tea. It was good, though." Silverstream grabbed a kelp sandwich and munched on it happily.

 

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As the steam rose from the tea, Bluebelle recognized the aroma.  "Oh, Earl Grey!  I see you are a dragoness of class as well, Smolder."  The mare beamed an approving smile at the dragon, accepting the lemon once she noticed that the creamer was not natural.  It wasn't so much that Blue hadn't been disgusted at the natural origin of milk when he first learned it.  It was just that the chemical origins of food additives were even worse when you really thought about them.  "Oh, by the way, have you ever put in a bit of lavender into this kind?  Add in cream and sugar, and you've made what's called a 'Trottingham Fog.'  A specialty of the town, I'm given to understand."

 

The Archancellor sipped the tea as the conversation carried on around her.  Seemed Smolder wasn't more than curious about such things, and even then not to any serious level.  Which was expected, of someone her age.  Although, Spike was slightly younger, and had a fairly serious crush, she was given to understand.  But the little purple one was certainly an exception in many ways to dragons as a whole.  And what dragons were as a whole was changing too; the end result would partially depend on how Smolder chose to conduct herself here.  The Princess refrained from mentioning that, not wanting to put too much pressure on her student.  Something for her to reflect on, all the same.

 

Silverstream's enthusiasm was quite the contrast, and her smile was infectious.  When she posed her seemingly-facetious question, though, Bluebelle sat up a little straighter with more alertness.  Perhaps she might be able to afford a bit more openness.  "Well, that certainly would be a logistical challenge!  But you'd be surprised at the amount of leeway law and custom give you.  Being of royal blood helps in that regard.  Still, word of advice, half a dozen is as much as anyone can handle, and probably more than is prudent."  She giggled, still giving the remarks the plausible deniability of humor, though her tone throughout had been sincere enough.

 

Smolder, on the other hoof, wasn't one for dancing around the issue, and pressed her friend directly for an answer.  Fate, of course, was on the side of secrecy, as just as the hippogriff was about to spill the beans, nature intervened.  "Why yes, that is a hummingbird.  Lady Fluttershy cares for them, I believe.  I suppose they followed her here."  She let Silver off the hook, not really feeling it her place to press the share.  It was enough to just spend time out in the early autumn, pleasantly chatting.

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  • 2 weeks later...
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Once the good Archancellor's tea was properly prepared, Smolder turned to add a bit of milk and sugar to her own cup. "Mmmmm.", she purred after taking a 'test sip'. Perfect aroma and deep flavor with a nice little bonus of sweetness. Perfect days start with this sort of flavor. She could never be in a bad mood with a cup of Earllaurung's best. The dragon smiled as the Hippogriff spoke about her little purple pal.
 
"Spike is probably one of the smartest dragons I've ever known.", the young creature added. "I could fully understand considering who his adoptive mother is. And he did just go through the 'molt', which is absolutely horrible. And not a proper subject to bring up with such pleasant  conversation.", she added with a wink, "But the poor kid thinks he's gone through it all, but he still has puberty, which is coming up in a few years. That takes the horrors and smells of the molt and adds a heaping dose of awkwardness and goofiness.", she took a short sip from her mug.Spike was probably also either her brother or a very close cousin. Take two perfect dragons and you'll get a 'Princess Ember' while your typical cousins will get a 'Crackle' who looked less like a dragon, but more like  dragon costume suitable for two adult ponies.
 
'I.", who the heck were these creatures Silverstream mentioning? Zesty? Who names their kid Zesty? Chiller? Was she making this all up? "Grubber? Guy gives me the willies, the Jibblies, the heebie-jeebies and the screaming meemies, all at once.", she was pretty sure that annoying creature was one of Princess Twilight's magical 'oopsies'. She accidentally hit a kick-ball with one of her spells and ended up with that weirdo. Silverstream really had some low expectations for Smolder's future boy or girl toys. Freaking Grubber! Century long wars had started over lesser insults!
 
"Ocellus wouldn’t be a bad choice at all..Considering she could be just about any creature that she had seen before and her own original form is beyond cute.", Smolder could not help but frown as the agile bird dodged her question once again. But she knew there was one thing that would make her pay attention. "Now don't get mad or anything, but is your brother Terramar going to attend our school? I could see him being a good study buddy."
 
Smolder let out a chuckle. A dragon of class? She attended class, but was she fancy? "I'm familiar. Usually I get the steamed milk and vanilla...And.", she playfully groaned, "She's just dodging my question. Like that little bird. Look as she darts about.". She had a question to ask the very royal pony. "And your royal blood...Are you related to Princess Celestia or Princess Platinum? That's something I've been curious since Ember dragged me to Ponyville."
 
 
 
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Bluebelle's mode of speaking was not typical and Silverstream would struggle with deciphering some of the syntax she would speak. She was very formal about the way she presented her remarks, but the tone was often hard to discern. Silverstream chuckled lightly and rubbed the back of her head. "Heh, yeah. Half a dozen, that would be crazy. Who has time for that!?"

 

Silverstream had successfully dodged her own desires to express herself, but for the time being she had a tangent that allowed her to delay it even more. Smolder asked about her brother Terramar, and the possibility of him coming to Ponyville to study, and do other things that did not involve study. "Oh yeah, I think he wants to come, but Mom and Dad don't want him to until he is a little older. Next year at the earliest, I think. Why?" Silverstream paused and then made a goofy smile. "Do you like my little brother?"

 

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Bluebelle took another sip of the excellent tea as the conversation continued.  My, but did the bergamot settle ever so nicely on the palate.  The replies she was getting, however, were beginning to serve as a gentle reminder to speak at the level of her students.  This wasn't a real high-society little tea party, though fair play to Smolder, her handling of the tea kit was enough to make a pony forget!  Taking a deep, steamy breath over her cup, the Archancellor tamped down her tone, trying to bring in a more casual voice.

 

"Spike certainly impressed me, with the few times I have seen him lately.  His work is by no means easy, and I feel that he often doesn't get enough credit for it.  Almost every Royal owes some of their success to their private secretaries; Auntie Celestia had Raven Quill for the longest time.  I myself have one, maybe a few years older than you.  A unicorn by the name of Wordsworth Psmith, and for some reason he insists upon spelling his second name with a silent 'P'.  But I can forgive his quirks for his competencies; he does a good job, for all that I put on him."  Indeed, the young stallion was one of the few members of Blue's entourage left in Canterlot, to handle all non-school affairs while she was in Ponyville.

 

"Who indeed?"  She gave a small smile at Silver's passing laugh, less concerned at her dodging of any potential questionings.  It was enough to just be talking and spending time together.  "I barely have time for two, myself."  Let that settle in, see if anyone caught it...

Smolder seemed more interested in her lineage, at the moment.  "I am, in fact, the direct descendant of Princess Platinum.  My full name and title is Princess Bluebloo- Bluebelle Platinum the 57th, Primus inter Pares.  The last bit is in old Roaman, it means 'first among equals.'  Unicorns are a proud bunch; they have hard time admitting inferiority even to their leaders."

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Smolder snatched up her second sandwich while the others spoke. This was something she both hated and liked during a proper afternoon tea time. Tea-Sandwich-Roulette. There was always a chance she would get something she did not like. Like a herbed onion sandwich. Those always made her gassy, and one never should make a dragon gassy. Of course, she could always either ask the gal who brought the sandwiches, or simply lift up the bread, but where would the fun be in that? "Wow..This is really good..", she was out of her comport zone. This was new to her. So far she tasted mayo, a hint of onion, which was okay and artichokes? Hokey smokes, that was good and she feel slightly embarrassed once she noticed it was already gone. One must savor the flavor and not misbehaver and gobble her tiny sandwich so quickly.
 
"Hmm." Pony names were weird. She was just 'Smolder'. It wasn't a pretty name at all, as with most dragons as they tended to sound more like threats than actual names. "Yeah, I never got that. If you're not going to use that letter, don't have it in your name!" Guy was probably really far on the 'fancy' side. Wordsworth! Ha!
 
Oh right! He was her -younger- sibling, which confused the dragon as he was really tall. Like about the same size as Applejack's 'ayup'n brother. "Eh.", she shrugged her shoulders, "I have not really said that much to your brother, but I wouldn't." Uh-Oh! Don't go there Smolder! Thankfully her very own shoulder-angel that only she could see, appeared before her. No salty sea puns! No innuendos! To be safe, the angel carried a very large rolled up newspaper if the dragon dared to go astray, she would whack her with it! Yes, the dragon was gill-ty! She dolphin-ately wanted to get aboard his ship and..WHACK. "Ouch." It wasn't there, but she could feel it.
 
"I mean,who wouldn't want to hang out with Terramar? He's kind of cute..."
 
 
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Silverstream held in the subconscious portions of her brain the ideas the princess was introducing. The archchancellor seemed to like talking about herself and her identity and her relationships. She held in high regard the loyalty of a faithful companion. And Silverstream could relate to that, but in a much different way. Silverstream was distracted by Smolder's enjoying of one of the sandwiches, happy to see a dragon get a taste for something most scaly creatures would consider diet food. She was also distracted by the ever-so pinging thought that she wanted to share openly with the other girls her feelings for someone in her life, but held a remarkable level of restraint holding it back. It was good for her stress that the other two seemed non-urgent to get the hippogriff to squeal.

 

Silvestream had a hard time considering somecreature else having a liking towards her little brother. Terramar was always her little brother; He was a good swim partner, a good joke listener, and a well-groomed preening partner for those hard to reach spots you would only trust a lover or family member to get at. But envisioning little T wearing a dragon-scaled tuxedo at a school dance with a made-up Smolder in his wing fold was not something Silverstream was prepared for, and she loved surprises. "Cute? Cute if you like hippogriffs that complain a lot and seaponies that are afraid of some of the dark spots in the water." Silverstream openly teased her brother who was not here to defend himself. She rolled her eyes. "I guess he is alright. I've never thought of him in that way before. I know one of my old griffriends back on Mount Aris always said she wanted to marry him." She chuckled loudly. "But that was at least five years ago. I don't even think he could fly in high altitude yet at that time."

 

Silverstream's memory was jogged when remembered both Princess Bluebelle's royal perspective (as well as her duality predicament), and her time back in Sequestria. She was also part of a royal family. "Back at home, I'm known as Lady Silverstream because my aunt is the queen. But no one ever calls me that. My parents call me Silverstream, my friends called my Silverstream. Even the queen called me Silverstream. I'm not sure why they even have those titles." Silverstream fidgeted in silence as she started thinking more about her crush. But something perplexed her. "Princess, what do you mean two?" Silverstream never imagined that one could actually have more than one. If this was the case in Equestria, perhaps Silverstream could spread her potential love in multiple directions. But something about that seemed off, even to her.

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Bluebelle wouldn't expect a dragon to sympathize much with abstractly verbal peculiarities; they were creatures very much of the earth and matter.  While it wasn't strictly true that all dragons had hordes, it was true that they held material objects in much greater esteem than most other species, especially in relation to abstract ideas.  The Archancellor supposed that had something to do with the fact that they could eat almost anything, and therefore could appreciate any object will all of their senses.  *Though, I don't know if they consider ceramic appetizing.  Would it be offensive to ask?  Because if draconic tea sets are technically edible...*

 

She let this woolgathering continue in the back of her mind, not having much to say on the subject of Terramar.  She'd seen him mostly in pictures, and she supposed he was handsome enough, for a hippogriff.  Being an only foal, though, there was little understanding for her of the difficulty of imagining siblings in romantic contexts.  As she took what she promised to herself would be her absolute last sandwich, Silverstream's conversation drifted to the subject of titles.  "If Mount Aris is anything like Canterlot, they used to mean a lot more than they do now.  It used to be having a title meant that you were, well, drafted into a position of leadership.  It's a privilege... right up until the captain must go down with the ship."  Being a sailor by hobby, the nautical metaphor was a default for her.  "Although... that's probably less of an issue for hippogriffs, unless you're on an airship- oh, wait, you can fly too."  She look slightly nonplussed.  "Okay... bad example..."

 

Oh dear, that would be quite the diplomatic faux pas in a more formal context.  Thankfully, this was just between friends, and Silverstream's attention was already caught by the Princess' subtle allusion.  "Ah, yes..."  What was the best way to explain her romantic situation to younger ones?  "Well, my first marefriend and I began seriously dating shortly after my gender-swapping curse was put upon me.  I soon found out that she quite enjoyed sharing me; a bit like I was the best tea she ever tasted, she found her enjoyment enhanced by sharing me with somepony else who would also love me.  And, as it turned out, there was another pony, a dear friend of mine, who also turned out to love me very much."  Another sip of tea, as she sought for properly hedging words.  "This isn't... necessarily common in Equestria, but it's not unknown.  It's called herding; you might encounter it if you travel widely in this country.  It's not done so much anymore, partly because of inheritance complications, and partly because most ponies aren't like my marefriends."

 

 

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“Dwah.”, the dragon cooed, “His adorable little quirks make him far more appealing. And I tend to maybe.”, she tapped two of her claws together as she spoke, “Sometimes and occasionally might air a minor grievance from time to time.”, she added with a wink, “I don’t do it to be mean or just to hear myself holler, but to correct a mistake. And...”, she paused to take a sip from her mug. “When going to a public pool, I’m actually rather terrified to step on the drain as I’m worried that it might suck me in. Just don’t like them. They’re like jail bars or a gateway to another world.”. She shivered a little bit as she thought of what creatures could live there. Those hairless monkey creatures Spike told her about?
 
There was one thing that the good princess mentioned that confused her so. “Wait a second, you did not get a marefriend until your curse? Didn’t that happen recently? And you were already rather.” Her little Shoulder Angel who now appeared as a white rabbit for some reason shouted ‘Don’t Say Old!’ ,”Well into the early stages of being an adult. If I may ask.”, she moved a little closer to the royal pony, “Why did it take so long? I saw a picture of you as a guy and as we dragons would like to say, you were a bit of a hotty.”
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The plate of sandwiches was disappearing. Luckily, Silverstream had packed multiple sandwiches. She never knew when she would be really snacky or if she would burn more calories than she usually does. This conversation partnered with her emotions talking about hormone-based interests had increased her appetite substantially. She grabbed the last sandwich piece and threw it in her mouth. As she chewed, she took out another sandwich from her sack and put it on the plate, cutting it into smaller snack-sized pieces to share.

 

Silverstream was entertained by both the princess' and Smolder's silly stories, and it started to make her feel left out. Certainly she had silly stories of her own to share. The guy she liked made her feel silly. Maybe she would end up sharing that, eventually. But as Bluebelle started explaining her perspective a little more, the hippogriff was reminded of the fact that the headmare had a duality to her and him. A gender-swapping persona that seemed to be randomized. "Oh yeah. You randomly turn into a stallion some days, I almost forgot about it. What's up with that, it's kind of weird!"

 

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When understanding that the headmare was sometimes a headstallion, Silverstream started freaking out internally that maybe this impromptu meeting intended for only girls was being invaded by a spy that would later reveal all of the girls' secrets to the other guys, probably in a locker room full of testosterone and chest bumps and several towel snaps. She could hear the grunts and growls in her head now.

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Bluebelle did her absolute level best to not appear surprised in any way by Smolder's admission.  She was young, especially for a dragon, but even in their earliest years, Blue hardly remembered being afraid of going down a drain one obviously would not fit through.  *But that's not what she's really afraid of, is she?  Jail bars, portal to another world; Smolder fears imprisonment and banishment, though not in an articulate way, as of yet.*  The Archancellor filed this little revelation away, answering aloud the dragonness' other question.

 

"Well, I would think myself rather more than a bit of a hottie!"  She preened, a little of the old, omnipresent vanity coming to the surface once again as she tossed back her golden locks.  "And honestly, that's part of the reason why.  Its true that the young, beautiful, and rich are never short of suitors, but most of them were the sort of suitors who just wanted me as a kind prize or trophy to be won.  That's a very unpleasant attitude to be on the receiving end of, and it rather colored my opinion of the whole business.  Which meant, in turn, that even when a suitor was honest, or even just innocently naive, I treated them as if they were a cynical gold-digger; that is to say, terribly rudely.  I ended up getting into a lot of trouble over that, and it wasn't until I got out of that trouble that I was really ready to be a good stallionfriend, or marefriend, as it were.  The fact that the timing coincided with my curse was, well, a coincidence."

 

She took another drink of tea to soothe her throat after speaking so much in turn.  Honestly, that felt as much like a lecture as a self-revelation, but if either or both of her students could avoid the mistakes of her own past, that alone would redeem the time.  Not that spending the afternoon with Smolder and Silverstream wasn't valuable in its own right, of course!  The tea having cooled to the point where she could drain the cup without burning her mouth, she held it out for a refill as she answered the hippogriff's request.  "Oh, you don't know?  It's actually not random at all.  Whenever I drink tea, I become a mare.  Whenever I drink coffee, I turn into a stallion.  No, I don't know why those are the transformation triggers; this whole thing was a strange accident arising from me sneezing in the middle of Princess Twilight attempting a healing spell on me."  The instincts of a trained diplomat began to signal the mare that something was troubling young Silver, and she decided to hazard a guess and attempt reassurance.  "Despite all that, I can assure you that I am in every way empathetic to both sides of my nature.  I will keep things said over the tea-table in as much confidence as those said in the coffee-room, as it were.  Though I can keep specifics secret, if you want any general advice on the operations of the male mind, feel free to ask, and I shall answer."

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Smolder glanced over at at Silverstream as she spoke. Good question, but probably not the best way to ask it, aka it being 'weird'. Which it was. But they lived in a world where many things could be considered 'weird'. It wasn't that long ago that she would have considered anything ponies did as 'weird'. Smolder had also considered asking how the transformation went. Was it a nice and safe POOF? Or did she shift back into her male form bit by bit. Would it be painful? This she did not need to know. She would push this image into her mind. Bluebelle shouted 'Shimbaree, Shimbarah, Shimbaree, Shimbarah' or maybe even, 'Izzy wizzy, let's get busy!' and a magic poof of magic would magic into the air, and magic her into a him. That's it. Nothing like that one werewolf movie she saw last year.
 
The young dragon nodded her head as she spoke about gold-diggers. "I completely understand.", Smolder spoke as like someone who had been through the same thing. "During the last dragon migration I completely shattered old Belchgutt's record by letting loose a burp of over a hundred and eleven decibels! I nearly blew the scales off my brother!", she could not help but look a little on the proud side. "After that, EVERYONE wanted to hang around with me, which was cool at first with dragons hanging on my every word and offering to do stuff for me, but it got old very quick. Mostly they wanted to know my secret, and that was a cold can of Nozz-A-La Cola! Drink that really quickly, then you need to eat an apple, also quickly, jump up and down, and Walla! You got yourself a big ol' burp!" She thankfully, did not actually act this out.
 
After that PERFECTLY proper talk to a member of royalty was over, she listened to the dreaded secrets of her transformation! Was it a magic word? Magic Sword? Did it only happen on the second full moon of the third month? Nope! It was her choice of coffee or tea! Smolder tried to avoid coffee as it made her need to avail herself to the little girl's room and as dragons would say, dig for Andalusites!
 
"Well.", she actually had a question to ask, "Since dragons are slowly getting closer to the pony way of thinking in some areas, like relationships and marriages and families and such, how do you know when a guy or gal likes yah?"
 
 
 
 
 
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Silverstream held herself from overreacting to the peculiar nature of Bluebelle's appearance coupled with her explanation of just how temporary her slender look could be. She was bewildered. Of course there was magic all over the place, and Silverstream herself could change into a completely different creature by just touching and meditating on the rock necklace she wore everywhere. But changing of the composition of your chromosomes seemed way stranger than suddenly growing a fin. "Really!?" Her eyes were wide. She looked at Smolder for reaction fuel, and then looked back at the princess. "That's so weird!" She said bluntly as she started chuckling a roll of laughter. The hippogriff would flap her wings a few times before laying on the ground having collapsed her legs from the shear stunning information she had just been imparted to.

 

Of course, Silverstream knew she would sometimes be too much, but instead of pulling back like a normal creature, she pressed forward using compliments to save the atmosphere from being completely sabotaged. "I can't even imagine having to split my time with that kind of identity. But you pull it off so well! I thought maybe you had a twin brother."

 

Fortunately for Silverstream, the princess made it clear that she was not about to use her so-called curse as a means to compromise the confidentiality of this tea meeting. And Silverstream made no reservations to not take her at her word. She was thinking about asking her about what guys think about, but before she could, Smolder asked a question inline with her thought processes. Bluebelle had some experiences on both sides of the spectrum. Who better to explain it than her. It's not like there was another pony at the school, like a student, who went through a similar transformation. "Yeah, what does the guy I like think about? How do I know if he likes me?" Silverstream curled backwards from her revealing mental slip. "I mean, how do guys think?"

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It was a mark of how far Blue had come as a pony from the stuck-up snob they used to be, that all the Princess responded to Smolder's tale of belching glory was an amused smile and a "How droll."  Another sip of tea, to further control her expression.  "But I'm glad you do understand.  And like your own accomplishments, mine were rather more simple than they seemed.  I look as good as I do because I eat healthy, exercise regularly, and take the time to groom myself.  You'd be surprised at how well most ponies clean up with the effort."

 

She honestly couldn't blame Silverstream for thinking her transformation weird.  The unicorn thought it quite weird herself, if she was being honest.  "To be fair, I'm not sure how much credit I can take for that.  Usually, transformation magic at this scale does leave some mental issues in its wake, but the spell seemed to have spared me from any trouble or trauma.  The current working theory is that comes from it being an offshoot of a healing spell, rather than a transformation one, but I'm not a scholar, so I can't say.  In any case, it's not like I chose to be born a stallion in the first place; I just did the best I could with what I was given, and now I have twice as much.  No reason to slack off on the quality of my output!"

 

The whole conversation was putting Bluebelle in a decidedly candid mood, which she indulged to the maximum extent.  Her students were being very well behaved, and more than deserved a bit of confidence on her part.  Setting aside the teacup, she drew a little closer to the table, dropping the pitch of her voice a bit so it wouldn't carry so far away from them.  "Well Smolder, in general if they go out of their way to spend time with and attention on you, that's the first sign of interest.  Some have different ways of expressing affection, mind you, and some can be more shy than others, which means they may not approach, but watch from a distance.  Maybe send notes or letters.  Essentially, you should pay attention to who is paying attention.  That said..."

 

He turned to Silverstream now.  "Guys, on the whole, have their interest caught by looks.  Even if they're not superficial, and like you for more than your heart or mind, the best clue you have is where their eyes are.  They're generally not subtle about where they're looking, though they can be about other things.  Some times it gets them into trouble.  For example, if a guy really, thought you were great in every respect, he might not think you would ever be interested in him.  They might act tough and big, but they're constantly comparing themselves to other guys, and there's almost always somepony better at something than they are.  Its why you see them compete with each other so often."  She sighed.  "And of course, every once in a while, you get a guy who doesn't think anyone is superior to them.  They're generally not very pleasant to be around.  but I'm willing to bet the one you have in mind isn't that sort, right?"

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Smolder could not help but smile at Bluebelle's 'droll' comment. She understood why she said it. That was a bit silly. Judging a mate on how they can burp. Still, she patiently waited for the royal pony to exchange a few words with her friend and only spoke when she had the opening.
 
"I hadn't really noticed it until recently,  but with my brother's friends have been hitting on me and all... Well, they hit me and I then I hit them until they fall over. But instead of looking defeated, they just smile. That's the old way, dragons want strong mates to produce strong whelps. But now that certain pony things are coming in like marriage, I really don't want to end up with a big lunk-head. I' want something more than 'grunt punch breath fire grunt grunt' sort of guy and if you have something unique or different, dragons tend to mock you for it instead of celebrating like the other creatures do. "
 
The young dragon realized she was starting to repeat herself, so she asked, almost shyly. "Would I be bad if I looked to other creatures for my er. um.", A million words floated in the dragon's mind. None of them polite. A few would either get her suspended or arrested. "Aggressive cuddling? Eh?", she glanced around hoping she was safe. "Other creatures have more dimensions.", she glanced at Hippogriff, "They might be silly at times, but they're also cute and funny and know what to say to make you feel better, even if it's not positive but truthful. And also are capable of giving good cuddles. Some of my brothers friends look like they were put together by bored toddlers and are truly capable of very little. And I'm sorry I'm rambling but all of you have grown up with this experience. Families. Parents who stay with each other and do cute little things like give each other baby names or kiss each other on the snouts or beaks or whatever. Last Saturday, she purposely hung around Sugarcube Corner watching the Cakes interact with each other. After the one hundredth, 'Can we help you' ,. she told them a little white lie saying she needed to watch how a candy-store operates for her studies. Well, she need to watch how a candy-store married couple operate, and operate they did! They each knew when to support the other and how. They knew each others weakness and were able to counter them. Like some big stony bridge over rapid waters or a well oiled machine. They even knew how to handle Pinkie Pie!
 
"My kind might have that kind of relationship in the future, but now? I'm worried that if I go for the easy route and date a griffon or pony or any creature that's not a dragon, would I be bad for not helping my kind advance just a little? Am I making any sense?", she glanced at the pair with a true look of utter wistfulness.
 
 
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