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* Princess Not Included · FiM Minific ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 400–750
The Times They Are a-Changin'
A little silver bell rang as Twilight Sparkle pushed open the door of her favorite Ponyville mom-and-pop arcane supply shop. Desiccated crow skulls dangling from braided strands of spider silk bobbed and bounced against her horn.

“Just a minute!” An ancient voice, dry as the bones hanging from the ceiling, called from behind a tattered curtain. It parted to reveal a wizened crone whose face split into a smile at the sight of her customer.

“Why, Twilight Sparkle!” She tottered over and gave the princess a fragile hug. “What brings you in today?”

“Oh, the usual.” Twilight trotted between the aisles, pausing to sniff at a bowl of fresh monkey paws marked half-off. “More gloom ink, maybe some wailing gems for Spike. Oh, get any new tomes?”

The crone sighed. “I’m afraid not, dearie. I can barely afford candles ever since that big-box arcana store moved in. I just haven’t got the customers any more.”

Twilight frowned and glanced out the window. Across the street, a steady stream of ponies flowed through the doors of the giant brick Barns and Noble magic supercenter. Goliath helium-filled spiders bobbed in the wind, each holding a “Ponyville Grand Opening!” sign in their fangs.

“Well, those ponies don’t know what they’re missing,” Twilight said. “Magic isn’t about corporations! Why, I bet there’s not a single vial of quality virgin blood in that entire store!”

“That’s a lot of virgin blood,” Rainbow Dash said. “There’s, like, fifty different flavors here.”

Twilight Sparkle scowled at the display before them. A sign hanging from the high, well-lit ceiling proclaimed it to be the Virgin Blood, Tears of Enemies, Flavored Fizzy Water aisle. Thousands of bottles lined the shelves.

“Earth Pony Mare, Pegasus Stallion,” Applejack read the names off the labels as she passed. “Lavender Unicorn Mare… Gosh, they take this serious.”

Twilight snatched a bottle at random with her magic. Dark fluid sloughed lazily inside the clear crystal, and the cap was sealed with a tight plastic wrap. It was a far cry from the corked, cloudy, bubbled glass vials in her favorite shop. Her eyes narrowed.

“Look at this.” She snorted and slammed it back on the shelf, rattling its cousins. “It was probably filled by a machine at a bottling plant.”

“Pretty cheap, though,” Rainbow said. “Aren’t you always complaining about how much virgin blood costs?”

“Well, uh…” Twilight snuck a glance at the prices and blinked. They were less than half what she normally paid. “Quality commands a premium.”

“Right.” Applejack set a hoof on Twilight’s withers. “Look, I know you love that little shop—”

“Everypony loves that little shop!”

“—but Ponyville’s a big town, now, and that means bigger stores. Times are changin’, and all.”

“But…” Twilight spun, taking in the enormity of the store. Dozens of aisles stretched away, filled with books and beakers and bunsen burners and everything else a magical laboratory needed. “There’s no soul here, Applejack! Nothing that cries ‘Ponyville.’ When you buy knives, where do you go?”

Cutlery, Haemophilia Medication and Loose Banana Peels, just like my pappy did.”

“Well, what if they go out of business, because some big-box store like this starts selling more knives? Cheaper knives?”

“Aw, shucks, Twi. That ain’t never gonna happen. Why, every knife I’ve ever bought has been from that little store, and I’m never—”

“Hey, Applejack! Applejack!” Rainbow Dash’s voice sounded from the next aisle over. “Check this out! They’ve got, like, a million knives here!”

“Oh wow. Be right back, Twilight.” Applejack gave her another pat and trotted off.

Twilight’s ears sagged. She could see the future stamped on these bright, clean floors. In a few years the little mom-and-pop stores would all be gone, empty husks left behind. Where would she buy sparrow hearts, then?

“Excuse me, miss?” A high, scratchy voice interrupted her musing, and she turned to see an acne-dappled colt wearing a store vest. “Would you be interested in signing up for a rewards card?”

She sniffled. “What kind of rewards?”

“Anything in the store. Our live spiders are very popular.”

“You have live spiders?” Her favorite little arcana shop didn’t have live spiders. Theirs were all preserved in alcohol.

“We do. Fuzzy and spindly ones.”

“Oh.” She frowned and looked around the store again. It was filled with smiling ponies. Colts and fillies galloped around a special play area filled with foam monsters. From the far end of the store, the scent of fresh-roasted coffee teased her nose.

She sighed. “Sign me up.”
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#1 · 1
Alas, such is the march of capitalism. How’s the little incongruous-collection-of-items specialist supposed to compete with the likes of Stall-Mart? Though Applejack’s probably going to be singing a different tune when a supermarket comes to town…

In any case, I quite enjoyed the juxtaposition of grim occult paraphernalia, meditations on the consequences of chain stores, and typical pony goofiness. My only complaint is that I’m really not seeing the prompt connection. Maybe if you didn’t get reward points when buying alicorn bile…
#2 ·
I quite like this! The jokes were funny -- particularly the one about types of virgin blood -- it had a whimsical and friendly tone, and the conclusion nicely wrapped the whole thing up. It felt right for its length, and kept very solid pacing.

SCORE-O-METER: 8.8/10 Very solid, made me smile. Didn't blow me away, but I will not be upset if it wins.
#3 ·
Two nitpicks:

One, as noted, where is the prompt here? I mean I guess Twilight feeling left-behind-ish and all, maybe?

Two : Why is everything so dark and like, occult? I mean its all blood and spiders and ooze, and uh. You know. We ain't see any of that in-show. Did Ponyville suddenly turn like, Mirror-Universe-ey?

Ignore those and it is an amusing critique of the March of Progress, and how even though we all bemoan the Big Boxes, they are still cheap.

Fortunately in a few decades Amarezon.clop will come out and destroy them.
#4 ·
This is a cute metaphor, maybe more relevant in some parts of the world than in others (at least here in France, some mom-and-pop shops still survive). The dark tone you gave to your story is gobsmacking at first, as if you had set it up in an evil Equestria counterpart. So be it, once you take its weirdness in stride, it doesn't detract from your plot, rather it spices it up.

Otherwise, the execution is fine. I wish you'd chosen Pinkie Pie instead of AJ as the next target, and described a supermarket full of pastries and party appurtenances. But eh, knifes are fine.

So, yeah. Fair story.
#5 ·
This ended up being a really entertaining read for me--a really easy story to consume and enjoy. You strike a great easygoing tone in the narration, and the characters' voicing all serve well to complement it.

The one thing I have to note is that while I definitely thought this was fun, I didn't quite find anything to be outright humorous to me. Honestly, I don't know enough about comedy to figure out why, though. The best that I can come up with is that there wasn't much that was genuinely unexpected for me, and comedy needs an element of surprise to really pop. Again, though, I'm not sure if this really makes sense, but I hope it was at least kinda-sorta helpful. :twilightblush:
#6 · 1
In a way it was a lot like visiting Wal-Mart. It had some of what I wanted but, didn't wow me either. The writing and jokes were fine but not laugh out loud funny. You could see the ending coming as if staring at it through a vacant aisle. The story is what it is and there's nothing wrong with that.
#7 · 2
This has got to be Bad Horse's work. Who else has enough 'Tears of Enemies' to sell them wholesale?

This was interesting, but it kinda went off the deep end on the AU without ever really trying to rationalize it. Although I enjoyed the unfamiliar scenery, I couldn't help but wonder why or how you reached this from the show. I normally don't care too much about how 'pony' something is, but... I'd like at least a sniff of rationalization, I guess? This could have honestly been submitted to an Ofic round with the pony incidentals gone, and it wouldn't have made any difference. Unless this is something from that one episode that I haven't watched yet?

Still, it was fairly amusing, even if the arc was mild at best.
#8 ·
Okay, that was amusing.

The juxtaposition between the horrible, dark, nasty, evil nature of the products... And how it's all treated as absolutely mundane is very well done and rather amusing in and of itself.

The way the Eeeeevilll bit box store is running the little mom and pop stores out of business... But ponies still love it because everything is so cheap always makes me chuckle.

I have to admit though, I'm not seeing the connection to the prompt. Maybe if when listing available virgin blood, they mentioned that there was no Alicorn blood?