A Crystal Blend

Dec 4th, 2018
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  1. A radio turned low created a background of smooth jazz as Jasmine Leaf zipped around in her shop. Around her were tall shelves stacked to the brim with boxes full of every kind of tea any pony could ever dream of. She worked with practiced precision and speed, picking a little bit of this sort and some of that sort into her paper bag. The heavenly scent of prime quality leaves from every corner of Equestria mixed together in the air.
  2. Jasmine didn't let that slow her. She had a very specific scent in her mind. It'd popped up in her head, unasked and uninvited, a few minutes earlier. A wave of her hoof cleared the air around her long enough for a sniff at the bag. Fruity and alluring, but not quite what she had in mind. It needed a bit of edge to it, something to shock slumbering taste buds into action.
  3. There were a few things that could do it. The stark, in-your-face flavor of Southern Equestrian tea, the sort cultivated near the desert, would do. There was something better, though. Something that'd draw in and mesmerize the drinker. Crystal tea. Grown in the far northern reaches of Equestria, where the bushes only survived thanks to copious amounts of love seeping up from the very soil.
  4. Jasmine trotted behind the counter. She dropped the bagful of nearly complete tea blend on the tabletop, then leaned down to lift the crystalline box next to it.
  6. Ding-a-ling! The bell attached to the shop's door rang out a high note. “Hello, welcome to- Oh. Hi Fluttershy.”
  7. “Hi.” Fluttershy's pink mane bobbed in rhythm with her hoofsteps as she trotted between the shelves, out of Jasmine's sight. The pegasus had her ears put back, her eyes on the floor, and her usual mellow smile was nowhere to be seen. Would she be in the mood to talk about whatever troubled her, or did she just want tea instead of a nosy pony digging into her business? Maybe the best course of action would be a simple 'How are you?' when she came to pay?
  8. Right. The Crystal tea. The most expensive kind of tea in Equestria. And it tasted absolutely terrible. It was so thick and syrupy, a bit like concentrated strawberry juice. Some upstarts drunk it plain, for they'd heard it was the best, but that was a total waste. No, it was best used in blends, as that finishing touch to round off something else.
  9. Jasmine added a single pinch of translucent blue leaves to her mix. She slid the box of Crystal tea back to its spot under her counter, then pinned the paper bag with her blend in it between her hooves, and shook. It was a delicate act: too rough would break the leaves, too gentle wouldn't mix it properly.
  11. “Hey.” Fluttershy's voice, quiet but from right next to the counter, made Jasmine flinch. “Oh my. I didn't mean to scare you!”
  12. “No, no, it's okay. My fault for getting so caught up with this blend.” She set said bag down and fixed her gaze on it, instead of staring at Fluttershy. Poor mare. She still had her ears put down and, despite the concern on her face masking the worst of it, the corners of her mouth were drooping. “So, how can I help?” Why was she looking so down? Had something happened? What would make her feel better? She looked so happy when she visited a few days ago, and couldn't stop babbling about how Rarity and Twilight Sparkle were going to come over.
  13. Jasmine put on her salesmare smile to ensure the the nagging voice in the corner of her mind wouldn't show.
  14. “Just a little green for me tonight.” A yellow hoof pushed a tiny paper bag onto the counter.
  15. “Okay. That's Sencha, isn't it?” Fluttershy nodded her head. Tak tak tak. Jasmine's hooves danced on the register's buttons. “That's seven bits. How'd it go with Rarity and Twilight, by the way?”
  16. “They... had to cancel.” There was just the smooth jazz in the background as Fluttershy dug out her coin pouch. “The map called them for a mission somewhere far away.” Her voice was even quieter than usual and the words slurred together, like she didn't want to say them. Coins clinked together as she dropped the correct amount of bits on the counter.
  17. “Oh.” Go on. Cheer her up. Fast! “Are you... free tonight? I made this-” Jasmine nudged the bag of tea blend she just finished. “-and I need someone to try it out with.” Her smile turned into a slightly too toothy grin, but it was too late to back out.
  18. “Uhm, yes. I'd love to have some tea with you.” A shy smile crept onto Fluttershy's face. “I have one thing to take care of before that, but it won't take long. How about my cottage in an hour, or would you rather I come here?” Her voice became clearer, and the tiniest bit louder.
  19. “What is it that you have to do? Could I help you with it?” If it was anypony else, Jasmine would've asked them to decide whose place to have tea at. Fluttershy was, however, too meek to voice her opinion. “Then we can go to your cottage. I'll take the tea with me, that's no problem. We could even stop by Sugar Cube Corner for some cake and cookies. How's that sound?” She bent down, reached for another spot on the shelves beneath the counter and pulled out her saddlebags.
  20. “Well, I could do it myself, but I'm not going to say no if you want to come.”
  22. ***
  24. A chilly wind made the hair on Jasmine's back stand on its end. She had a red woolen scarf wrapped around her neck, over the sky blue cotton one she always wore, but it did little to protect her back and limbs. Saddlebags with cookies, cake and tea in them covered most of her sides, shielding them from the wind. Thick red boots separated her hooves from the ground that had frozen rock solid. A few dry and brown leaves, speckled with frost, danced in the air as the wind stripped the last remaining ones off the trees surrounding Jasmine and Fluttershy.
  25. “Your nest is all warm and cozy, Mr. and Mrs. Squirrel.” The pegasus fluttered in the air next to a hole in the trunk of a tree. “It's going to snow tonight, so now's your last chance to make it even better.”
  26. Chk-chk-chk!
  27. “Okay. I'll do that for you. Just a moment.”
  28. “What do they want?”
  29. “Some soft down to sleep on.” Th-th-th-thud. Four hooves hit the ground. Fluttershy folded her wings, then shuffled them to get them just right. “There's a lot around in the nests abandoned by migratory birds. This will only take a minute. Then we'll go have tea.”
  30. “Is there anything I can do to help?” Jasmine couldn't keep herself from shivering as a frigid gust blew straight through her coat. “Brr.”
  31. “You can go ahead and get the fire going if you're cold. The door's open.”
  33. ***
  35. Warm.
  36. It was so warm.
  37. A wonderful heat radiating from the fireplace and its crackling flames licked Jasmine as she shied as close to it as she dared.
  38. “Haa.” She squeezed her eyelids shut, planted her rear on the floor, and spread her front hooves wide like she was about to hug somepony. Her saddlebags hung off a hook on the wall next to the door, along with her woolen scarf. The water for the tea could wait for a bit, especially since Fluttershy was yet to arrive. Being in her cottage without her did make Jasmine feel like she was intruding, but she wasn't about to leave her spot by the fire. Especially since she was told to go light it.
  39. After a short while, when she could feel her hooves again, she chucked another piece of firewood into the flames and trotted off to the kitchen. There had to be a pot somewhere, one that she could hang off the hook in the fireplace. Sure, she could put it on the stove and pop it on, but it wouldn't be the same. It'd taste the same and be just as hot, but there was that something with fire that a stove couldn't replicate.
  40. The doors of a cupboard flew open as Jasmine yanked on them. Cups. Not what she was looking for, but something she'd need later. She stood up on her rear hooves, happy that Fluttershy's cottage was low despite her being able to fly, and pulled a pair out. She set the cups down on the stove, closed the cupboard, and pulled open the next one. Plates, pans and platters.
  42. Ice cold water sloshed around in the copper pot as Jasmine hauled it out of the kitchen. She was halfway to the fireplace when hoofsteps carried from the outside. Fluttershy, with snowflakes dotting her mane, came in a moment later. She shivered from head to hoof.
  43. “Mmh!” Jasmine set the pot down. “Come sit by the fire. It's wonderfully warm.”
  44. “Hrr! I d-didn't t-t-think it w-was that c-c-cold.” Poor mare could barely speak with how her teeth clattered. “Good t-t-thing you are h-here.”
  45. “I'm glad to be of any help.” The earth pony scurried to the door and Fluttershy, and wrapped a hoof around her shoulder. Her coat was as cold as ice. “You're going to sit in front of the fireplace until you're all warm and cozy. Don't try to protest, I won't have any of it.” She guided the pegasus across the room and pushed her rump down in front of the fireplace. “Now stay there until the tea is done.”
  46. Fluttershy watched her as she picked up a hook with a long handle and used it to hang the pot on the hook that jutted out of the fireplace's side wall. The flames reflected off the pot's soot-blackened bottom as they reached up towards it like claws trying to grasp something that was just out of reach.
  47. “T-thank you!” A smile spread to Fluttershy's face, though her shivering dulled the expression's effect.
  48. “I said I'd help you, didn't I?” Jasmine sat her behind down so close that their cutie marks touched, then wrapped a hoof around the pegaus' shoulder, and pinned the mare to her side. Fluttershy's skin and coat were so cold that the parts of Jasmine touching her felt like they were submerged in cold water.
  49. “You're burning hot.”
  50. “It's you who's cold. You got so carried away with helping your animal friends that you forgot about yourself.” One last squeeze left Jasmine delighted at how silky soft Fluttershy's coat was. Much better than her own, which always felt patchy and rough, no matter what she did with it. “I'll get the cookies and cake ready, you focus on warming up.”
  52. “I really like what she did with the blueberries. This is delicious.” They'd dragged two massively plushy armchairs and a small table to the spot near the fireplace. The cake Pinkie had suggested, a blueberry white chocolate one, rested on the table, along with a platter of cookies. The teapot, also on the table, had the optimal amount of blend in it, but the water had yet to boil.
  53. “She really is the best confectioner in Ponyville. I don't usually like white chocolate since it's too sweet, but she managed to balance it perfectly in this.” Both of the ponies lounged in a chair, occasionally popping a bit of cake or cookie in their mouths. They were both nice and cozy since the fire had warmed both them and the room.
  54. “Too bad she's so busy helping the Cakes with their Hearth's Warming treats.” Munch. The savory taste of dark chocolate filled Jasmine's mouth as she bit into a cookie, before it was balanced out by the sweetness of the batter. “I would've loved to have her here with us.”
  55. “And Applejack is in Southern Equestria, trying to sell their farm's harvest.” A faint fizzing sound, barely audible over the hum of flames, drew Fluttershy's gaze to the pot of water. “Even Discord said he has 'a chaos-related incident' to handle and will be gone for a while. Maybe we should have asked Zecora to join us?”
  56. “If you want to go ask her, go ahead. But...” Jasmine craned her neck so she saw out of a window. A flurry of white flakes dancing in the wind was the only thing to see. “...I'd wait until tomorrow.”
  58. ***
  60. “I think it should be about done now. Go ahead, give it a taste. Or do you want me to go first?” The teapot rang a high note when Jasmine tapped it with her hoof. A fruity aroma wafted from the cups as she poured them full of the bluish liquid – the crystal tea tended to overpower the color of anything it was blended with.
  61. “I haven't ever seen anything like that. And I have tea with Discord.”
  62. “Yeah, Crystal tea is quite obscure. I only know about it because Twilight and Spike happened to talk about it when they visited my shop once. Its existence was forgotten when the Crystal Empire was gone.” Tink-tink. Jasmine stuck a spoon in the cup, then stirred and sniffed. A very fruity aroma, mixed with the sourness of lingonberry and the syrupy sweetness of love. She opted against adding sugar, and nudged the cup towards Fluttershy.
  63. “The crystal ponies must have forgotten about it too, because I don't remember any of them mentioning it when we held the Crystal Fair and saved the Empire.” After a few delicate touches, she had the cup on her hoof, and brought it to her lips for a sip. As she shifted the tea around in her mouth to get most of the taste, her eyelids slowly opened up ever wider until she gulped. “Oh. Oh my.”
  64. “Yes? How is it? It's not too sweet, is it?” Jasmine could barely stay on her seat. She just had to know!
  65. “No, not at all. First it greets you with a flavor that's a lot like apple juice, but that's almost immediately replaced with the savory taste of green tea. It doesn't leave a sour taste in your mouth, though: the aftertaste is kind of like that of persimons.” The hoof that wasn't holding her teacup moved to pat her stomach. “The best thing of all is how it leaves you feeling all warm inside, like you'd just been hugged by somepony.”
  66. “It does?” That had to be the Crystal tea, but nothing like that had ever been said about it. “That's strange. Let me try.” Jasmine stirred the other cup, balanced it on her hoof, then sipped a bit. Sure enough, it was apple juice, then green tea, and finally persimon. And it all left her feeling all warm and giddy inside. “Huh. We'll have to ask Twilight to investigate this. But for now, let's just enjoy it.”
  67. Fluttershy's lips curled into a smile. She nodded her head, then took another sip. A sudden gust of wind hit the cottage in just the right angle to make some corner howl, but it was outside and far away. It was warm, they had cake, they had tea, and most importantly, they had each other.
  69. ***
  71. “Sounds like the weather ponies went all out with this blizzard. Would you mind if I stayed overnight? I'd really rather not go out there.” Jasmine leaned back on her chair and stared out of the window at the swirl of snowflakes.
  72. “He-he.” A hoof shot up to cover Fluttershy's chuckle. “I was just about to ask if you could stay. I'm... not too fond of how the wind howls, especially now that Harry the bear is hibernating. Never mind the fact that he's more afraid of it than me.”
  73. “Oh, I forgot you had a bear living with you. How has he been?” A clink brought Jasmine's attention back to the table. She noticed that there was nothing but crumbs left on Fluttershy's plate. “More cake?”
  74. “Please.” Nod. Her pink mane bobbed with her head. “Harry's been fine. He went to sleep a bit later than usual since autumn was so warm and winter was brought in so late. There hasn't really been a lot for him to do, not after...”
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