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The Big Metal Balloon

by Zealcrown

“Gardening isn’t easy. Once a gardener finds the right soil, positions the sunlight just right, and waters just the perfect amount, the gardener may find trouble in the form of weeds or bugs. Many factors fall into creating the perfect flower, and for one to wilt or to suffer, well, it can mean a big drop in one’s confidence. That’s why I, Lily Valley, bring to you the best of the very best. With my super duper great team of Rose and Daisy, we only present the top quality of all flowers one can find in Equestria, and we bring it right to your doorstep! Smell your flowers today!” Lily stood up and held her hooves out. Her routine performance was typical for a day like today, when nopony was around.

Tumbleweeds could have crossed paths and none would think of it unordinary. Daisy held her head up on her leg as she stared across the empty market. “Smell your flowers today?” She asked. “Isn’t that a little weird?”

“Well if you have a suggestion, I’d love to hear it.” Lily fell down to her hooves and trotted around the tent. “What we need is more sparkles. No, something with more...pizazz. Something that you wouldn’t be able to tear your eyes from. Like sparkles!”

“You already said sparkles.” Daisy groaned. Her head has since slipped and fallen straight to the register, causing the bits they hadn’t received to fall invisibly onto the floor. “The problem isn’t our motto. We don’t need a motto. We need ponies.”

“What we lack is positivity. Pull out your smile and ponies will flock from the edges of Luna Bay to have a smell at our flowers!” Lily struck a valiant pose and brushed her mane from her eyes. “It’ll be great!”

“But there’s no one here. No amount of cheering and hollering will bring ponies here if they’re all gone.” Daisy emptied the dust from her purse and sighed. “Looks like we’re eating our stock tonight, again.”

Lily spun around and stuck her tongue at her partner-in-crime. “Some attitude you got. Come on, I’m sure they’ll be raising to smell our flowers in another hour. We just gotta wait.”

“Give it up. Not a pony in sight, not a pony all day, and we’re a failing business. I think we ought to throw in the towel soon, before we end up living out our lives on flowers we’ve grown by tender hooves.” Daisy poked at a wilting flower, hoping it would find the courage to stand up on its own and shine.

“Wait!” Lily gasped out loud. “I see somepony! Hey! Want to smell some flowers!?”

The pony, cream in color and a red blur, came racing up to the flower booth. “You two won’t believe it.”

“Customers!?” Lily and Daisy both said in unison, the former with much more eagerness than the latter.

“Nope!” Rose answered with a smirk. “Something better. Quick, let’s clean up the stand, and I’ll take you to what Pinkie Pie built. It’s by the castle.”

“If it’s something to do with Pinkie Pie, I’m not going to be surprised.” Daisy began grabbing bushels by the bucket and lifting them into the wagon they stored in the back. “Pinkie is always up to something. What could be so unusual this time.”

Rose cleared her voice, and her smirk remained locked upon her face. “A balloon made of steel.”

Both Lily and Daisy stopped in their tracks and gave Rose a look. “What do you mean?” Asked Daisy. “How would it fly? What would be the purpose? How practical is its use?”

“I’m not sure.” Rose said. “But it’s an amazing sight. And it’s set to fly soon.”

“Are there ponies waiting for its launch?” Asked Lily. “We could set up our stand nearby! Perhaps that’s why nopony showed up today.”

“If it’s so special,” Daisy began, “Then why haven’t we heard about it before? And what does Princess Twilight have to say about a flying piece of metal?”

Rose carried baskets on her back and kicked them into their respective corners of the wagon “Who knows? But we gotta hurry. Follow the crowd, you know?”

~~~***~~~

Rainbow Dash and Twilight flew laps around the metal balloon, and Twilight’s horn lit up. What she was using however, nopony could see. Rainbow Dash held a hammer in her mouth, and she would occasionally stop to pull a nail out, or push another in. Everypony watched from the shadow it cast in astonishment.

“You weren’t lying,” Lily said. “It really is one massive metal balloon.”

“Pinkie is just up to her usual antics.” Said Daisy, unimpressed. “We see stuff like this every week. Are you sure it’s a balloon?” She tilted her head for a better angle. “Looks much more like an egg to me.”

“Or a giant egg!” Declared Lily, which earned her a roll of Daisy’s eyes.

“Or maybe it’s a big balloon!” Said Pinkie, who stood beside Rose like she had always been there. Maybe she had always been there, and nopony noticed until now. Either way, it earned a fright from Rose, whose skin fell off of her body. “Oh, maybe it’s a giant egg?”

“Pinkie Pie.” Daisy began with a raised eyebrow. “How do you not know what this is? Aren’t you the one building it?”

Pinkie squinted her eyes and stared deep into the big metal thing. “No, I don’t think so. Looks to me like Rainbow Dash and Twilight are building it.” She hopped on her legs and jumped towards the crowd, which took its place upon a nearby hill, on either side of Twilight’s castle.

Rose, her back to the ground, with her hoof to her chest, slowly climbed back properly to her hooves. “If Pinkie Pie isn’t making it,” She said, “Then who is?”

“Rainbow Dash and Twilight.” Lily said with her own rolling of her eyes. “Didn’t you hear Pinkie? She just said so.”

“Whatever it is,” Said Daisy, “It's puzzling me. But come on, we’ve got other puzzled ponies to sell flowers to.”

“So they can smell them!” Lily set the wagon down and began setting up the tent where they stood, as she was soon helped by her two companions.

“Yes Lily, so they can smell them.” Rose humored. “Though likely, with everypony watching the metal balloon in the valley, we may sell to hungry ponies too!”

“Who’s going to buy flowers to eat if it’s not a restaurant.” Grimaced Daisy. She held a barrel on her back and a basket on her head. “I’m not suspecting customers are going to line up to buy flowers to give to mare or colt friends, just to watch a big organic shadow.”

Rose was quick to answer. “Who knows? But as the leader of this operation, I suspect somepony will want to buy something. After all, we never question what ponies buy our stock for. You remember that one customer, right?”

Both Lily and Daisy shuddered. “Yeah, that was weird.” Lily rubbed at her head. “I wish you didn’t bring it up again. That picture is going to be stuck in my mind forever.”

“Anyways,” Interrupted Daisy, “How about I ask around and you can-”

“Gardening isn’t easy!” Began Lily, as she spun to the crowd of picnickers on the hill. “Once a gardener finds the right soil, positions the sunlight just right, and waters just the perfect amount, the gardener may find trouble in the forms of weeds or bugs!”

Daisy groaned and moved beside Rose. “Good luck keeping LIly in check,” She said. “I’m going to investigate.”

~~~***~~~

“Not a single pony tells me the right story.” Daisy said as she pushed through the small line that had formed in front of the makeshift booth. “I even asked Rainbow Dash and Twilight. They wouldn’t tell me a thing. Even Rainbow Dash!” She raised her voice to speak over the crowd which had since grown bigger since the shadow stretched over the town. “Nopony has a clue, and it’s starting to scare me.”

“Doesn’t matter.” Rose said as she motioned Daisy behind the counter. “Can you grab more stock from the back? We’re selling like crazy here, and we can’t keep up with just Lily and I. Please Daisy, come back and help us.”

“Petunias, coming through!” Shouted Lily as she charged through the curtain.

“What?” Daisy asked in confusion as she watched the line grow. “How are we low on stock? We didn’t sell a single bushel before the tumbleweeds, and now we’re low on stock? Where have all these ponies come from?”

“Canterlot, Cloudsdale, Appleloosa, Luna Bay, you name it. All these ponies are apparently here for the big metal puzzle.” Rose thanked her customer and invited the next one to step forwards. “Did you figure out what it is?”

“Not a clue.” Daisy restocked what was left of the flowers, and she emptied each barrel down to the very soil that sat at the bottom. “Is that what ponies are calling it? The metal puzzle?”

“It’s what we’re calling it.” Said Lily as she threw an empty basket into the back. It landed nicely on top of the stack of other baskets. “Everypony is calling it ‘the school.’”

“Well why is it here?” Asked Daisy. “I asked Princess Twilight, and she wouldn’t say. She was far too busy scratching her chin.” Daisy thanked another customer beside Rose and waved the next forwards. “But as long as our flowers sell, I’ll take a metal puzzle any day.”

Before anypony else could respond, the earth trembled. Ponies everywhere stopped what they were doing and looked upon the metal balloon. Twilight and Rainbow flew away and met each other near the front, where the balloon touched the ground. The metal balloon slowly rose into the air, casting an even bigger shadow across the already dim town, and before anypony had a chance to interpret what had happened, the balloon popped with a brilliant flash of light and a boom that could be heard for miles. Rainbows streamed across the land, lighting up everywhere it crossed, leaving not a grass upturned.

Once the commotion had settled down, everypony looked to where the metal balloon once stood. In its place was a massive school, which mirrored that of the castle it stood beside. Towers sprung up from every corner of the mountain it stood before, and waterfalls fell across the roofs into the ponds that had formed from the formation.

Lily, Rose, and Daisy all stared with big eyes and open mouths. Rose was the first to break the silence. “I guess it really was a balloon.”

“A balloon that popped into a school.” Lily followed up with.

“That doesn’t make sense.” Said Daisy. “Why would they need a big metal balloon? What was the point of keeping it a secret? Why did, well…” Daisy waved a hoof at the school in frustration. “Why!?”

Rose watched Twilight Sparkle, Starlight Glimmer, and their friends walk into the school, and she giggled. She couldn’t help it. “It’s a school!” Quickly, her giggles turned into laughs, as did Lily.

Lily smiled wide. “You were so worried, Daisy!” She said as she held a hoof to her stomach. “It was just a silly little school you were so afraid of.”

“I was absolutely not afraid.” Daisy said with a smile. She couldn’t help but to smile at herself, and even give a few laughs. “But that doesn’t explain why it was so secret.”

“Maybe you were just hungry.” Suggested Lily. “It’s hard to hear ponies over your grumbling tummy, don’t you think?”

“Or perhaps you just weren’t wanting to listen well enough. What did we say? It will work out in the end, right?” Rose looked behind her at the stall they created. It was empty enough to be filled with rolling tumbleweed. “And I’d say it worked out great.”

“Yeah, I suppose.” Daisy admitted. “It certainly wasn’t easy.”

“Gardening isn’t easy.” Said Lily.