The three ponies slowly trudged through Ponyville. Mirror and Fluttershy were walking beside each other, not talking, and even Pinkie Pie seemed strangely subdued, having stopped bouncing in favor of walking normally. She glanced guiltily back at her changeling friend, then turned away, lost in her own thoughts.
“Why didn’t you warn me about this form?” Mirror whimpered to the yellow pegasus beside her.
Fluttershy just looked at the ground, avoiding eye contact. “…I’m sorry.”
Mirror sighed and looked back towards the road. Now that she had been given the chance to stop and calm down and her rush of adrenaline had worn off, she was keenly aware of how sore and tired her body was. Especially her leg; even if she had spent more time flying than running, she had still put far too much stress on it while it was still healing. She limped along slowly, her body screaming for her to stop and rest.
The transformed changeling suddenly felt something soft and warm press against her coat, and she turned to see Fluttershy beside her, supporting her as they continued to walk down the empty street. All the other ponies had long since left to see the commotion that the three had accidentally raised.
“You look like you’re tired.” Fluttershy told her, her voice gentle. “Here, you can lean on me for support if you’d like.”
“Thank you, Fluttershy.” Mirror said, letting the pegasus help her. Reflecting on her situation, she realized that despite the love these two had given her back at the cottage, the changeling was still in no condition to be doing anything remotely strenuous yet.
Feeling Fluttershy’s love so close to her though, Mirror couldn’t help but absorb it in greedy amounts. She was well aware that she shouldn’t be taking in love this quickly (Fluttershy still needed energy, after all), but Mirror was tired and needed the strength. She’d make it up to the pegasus later.
“Hey, how long do you think my leg’s going to take to heal?” Mirror asked Fluttershy, looking at the bandaged appendage.
“Well, I’ve never tried treating a changeling before,” Fluttershy said, her voice so soft that Mirror had to strain to hear it. “But Rainbow Dash’s wing healed three days after being broken once, so I’d assume yours would take about as long as that.”
“I see…” Mirror said. She looked up from the ground just in time to see Pinkie Pie jump in front of them, staring directly into Mirror’s eyes.
“Oh, Matchie, I’m sorry! I didn’t know that pony was actually a changeling!” She apologized. “It was an accident! Please forgive me!”
And there it was. The one topic Mirror had been purposely pushing to the back of her mind in order to avoid having a nervous breakdown. Sighing shakily, the pegasus-changeling struggled to fight back her growing distress.
“I-I know, it wasn’t your fault. You couldn’t have known. I didn’t even know, and I’m one of them!” Mirror said, glad that there were no ponies around to overhear them.
“…Did you know him?” Fluttershy asked.
Mirror was taken aback by the question. “I… I don’t know. I mean, he was probably my brother, but most of the swarm’s changelings are my siblings, so that doesn’t mean much. He looks the same as most of them, and without my horn, I can’t tell him apart from the others!”
Mirror let herself fall to the ground and rested her head on her hooves. “I wonder if he’s been calling out to me.” She said softly. “I wonder if he’s been trying to contact me telepathically, to tell me that he was there, and I never knew because without my horn, I… I can’t hear or even recognize him.”
“Ah, come on Matchie! Don’t be so down!” Pinkie said, pulling the changeling off the ground and into a tight hug. Mirror didn’t protest. “It’s not your fault it broke; you don’t have to take the blame for it. Come on, turn that frown upside down! Please?”
“I know. You’re right, I know. But I should have done something.” Mirror said. “I feel like I should go back and help him, but what can I do? I’ll just get arrested too, and all this trouble will be for naught.”
“But you don’t even know if you know him!” Pinkie protested. “For all you know, you could have never spoken to him a day in your life!”
“…That is a big possibility. The swarm is near infinite in numbers, after all.” Mirror sighed and let go of Pinkie Pie, standing on her own. “I wonder, if one changeling ended up here, do you think others might have, too?”
“Possibly,” Fluttershy agreed. “But we don’t have any way to tell, do we?”
“Not without my horn, no.” Mirror confirmed.
“Well then, nothing we can do about it then, right?” Pinkie Pie asked.
“I suppose not.” Mirror sighed. “Maybe what I’m upset about is that this just confirms my worries. They’ll never accept me; if I reveal myself, they’ll see me as nothing but an enemy.”
“But we accept you.” Fluttershy said. “Isn’t that enough for now?”
Mirror stared at her, surprise evident in her eyes, before a small smile crossed her face. “…Yeah. You two like me, and I suppose that is enough for now. I really am grateful to you both for taking me in.”
“Oh, Matchie, we’re the Elements of Kindness and Laughter, remember?” Pinkie said, ruffling Mirror’s mane as she spoke. “What kind of Elements of Harmony would we be if we rejected you based on what you looked like?”
“Well, what about Zecor-” Fluttershy began, only for Pinkie to quickly cover her mouth with her hoof.
“We agreed to never speak of that again, remember?” Pinkie whispered, blushing slightly in embarrassment.
Mirror giggled softly and gave them a full smile. “Thanks, you two. I needed the cheering up.”
“That’s the spirit, Matchie! We could all use a little help when we’re feeling down!” Pinkie said. “And about that changeling, don’t worry; I’m sure things will work themselves out eventually. Well, probably…”
Mirror tried her best to ignore the uncertainty in Pinkie’s voice and focus on another subject. “So, where are we going next? After all this, I kind of just want to go back to the cottage.”
“What? You can’t! We still have so much to do!” Pinkie said. “You at least have to meet Rarity and Applejack before the day’s over!”
“Okay, okay, whatever you say.” Mirror said hurriedly. “So again, where are we going?”
Pinkie Pie thought about it for a moment before an idea came to her. “I know! We’ll go to Carousel Boutique! You see, Rarity’s a fashion designer; she makes clothes for other ponies. We’ll go see her, and not only will you make a new friend, but she may be able to make you a new disguise!”
“A new disguise?” Mirror repeated. “You mean, something that’ll help me look less like Daring Do without drawing more attention?”
“Exactly!” Pinkie confirmed, adding a little trill to the ‘x’ sound as she spoke.
The earth pony turned and started bouncing away once more. “Race you there!”
“What? But Pinkie, I’m tired! Wait up!” Mirror groaned, spreading her wings and flying after her. Fluttershy just followed behind at her own pace.
The three soon arrived at Carousel Boutique, which, true to its name, was a clothing store designed to resemble a large carousel, complete with riding horse statues towards the top of the building. Mirror thought the place looked rather fancy and refined compared to the rest of Ponyville.
Pinkie Pie didn’t even bother to knock this time as she just threw open the boutique’s door. “Rarity! Are you here?”
The unicorn in question, who had been carefully working on the stitching of a hat, jumped at the sudden noise and dropped both the needle and hat. Quickly regaining her composure, she turned around and put on a smile for her cheerful friend.
“Pinkie Pie! What a surprise! I didn’t expect to see you here. Is this a friendly visit, or did you need something?” Rarity asked.
“Uh, both! Fluttershy and I have some big news!” Pinkie Pie exclaimed.
“Really now, big news? I have some too, you know. I bet my news is bigger, though!” Rarity said.
“You’re on!” Pinkie said, accepting the challenge. She pointed a hoof at the open door, where Mirror and Fluttershy were just entering.
Rarity’s eyes lit up when she spotted Mirror. “Oh, well hello! I don’t believe I’ve seen you around here before! Welcome to Carousel Boutique! My name is Rarity; it’s a pleasure to meet you.”
“Pleased to meet you, Rarity. I’m Mirror Match.” Mirror said, taking in the unicorn’s appearance. She had a white coat and an elegantly coiled purple mane and tail, along with deep blue eyes and three diamonds for a cutie mark. The changeling couldn’t help thinking she looked very beautiful.
“Mirror Match? What a lovely name.” Rarity smiled warmly at her.
“Thank you! Finally somepony thinks so!” Mirror said. Hah! Take that, part of me that thinks my name is stupid!
“Although, I can’t help but think you look familiar.” Rarity said. “Are you that pegasus from-”
“No! I mean, yes, but, I mean, ugh! It’s complicated.” Mirror said, frustration welling up once again at the sensitive topic. She forced herself to stay calm.
“Well, if that’s the case, I won’t bother you about it. Celestia knows all the complicated problems I’ve had before.” Rarity said. Mirror silently thanked the unicorn for not pursuing the subject.
“Hey, speaking of which, what’s your big news, Rarity?” Pinkie Pie asked her.
“Big news?” Fluttershy repeated.
“Oh, you two won’t believe what happened this morning! My cousin, Sparkler, has dropped in unexpectedly for a visit!” Rarity revealed.
“Your cousin? You never told us you had a cousin.” Fluttershy said, she and Pinkie wearing similar confused expressions.
“Yes, well, Sparkler and I have never exactly… got along well. She’s haughty, overbearing, and, though it pains me to admit it, rather similar to myself. The two of us just don’t mix very well.” Rarity explained.
“…Are you happy to have her over, then?” Mirror asked.
Rarity stared at the pegasus, surprised by the question. “But of course! Even if we don’t always get along, she’s still my older cousin! She’s family, and I love her all the same. After all, this is the first time she’s come to visit me in five years!”
“Five years?! Why is she coming to visit now, then?” Fluttershy asked.
“She told me she was in town for a while on business matters, and decided to pay her little cousin a visit. Despite our differences, I couldn’t let her stay in some plain old hotel room. She’s going to be staying with Sweetie Belle and I while she’s here.” Rarity answered.
“Wow, that’s so exciting!” Pinkie Pie said. “But a little bit suspicious. Hey, maybe you’re right; maybe that wasn’t the only changeling in Ponyville after all, Mirror!”
“Maybe…” Mirror tried to keep calm and looked back at Rarity, waiting to see what her reaction would be, when she suddenly saw a small flash of green flicker in the unicorn’s eyes. The light was gone as quickly as it came, however, leaving the changeling to wonder if she had just imagined it.
“Did you see that?” She whispered to Pinkie Pie.
“See what?” Pinkie whispered back.
“That light in her eyes, you didn’t see it?” Mirror asked.
“Ah, nope! Nothing out of the ordinary!” The pink pony replied. “Why, was it weird?”
“…Ah, no, never mind.” Mirror said. She quickly looked at Fluttershy, who didn’t seem to have noticed anything odd either. Am I the only one who saw that?
Rarity finally decided to address the statement. “If you’re implying that Sparkler is actually a changeling in disguise, then you should know that your accusation, while… plausible…” She sounded like she had trouble getting the word out, “…is ultimately incorrect.”
“What do you mean?” Fluttershy asked.
“I’m sure you must have noticed, but not even the queen of those horrible creatures could be bothered to actually act like the pony they impersonated, whereas Sparkler acts exactly like how I remember her… well, I guess she does seem to be more haughty than usual, but I suppose spending five more years being the head of an Equestria-renowned jewelry business would do that to you.” Rarity growled out the last part of the sentence.
“Equestria-renowned?” Fluttershy repeated.
“Oh yes, Sparkling Jewelries, the most famous jewelry chain in Equestria. All of the Canterlot nobles wear her designs, but you’re not likely to recognize her as its founder unless you’re extremely involved in the fashion world.” Rarity explained.
“Your cousin is that famous?” Fluttershy asked, to which Rarity nodded in response. “Wow, I’m sure we’d all like to meet her.”
“Yes, well, unfortunately she’s not here at the moment.” Rarity said. “She’s acquainting herself with the rest of Ponyville. But I hope you all realize now that Sparkler is not a changeling. It’s simply too impossible to even consider.”
“I… never implied that she was.” Fluttershy said timidly.
“Good, and let’s keep it that way. Because if you say otherwise to anypony and get my cousin arrested, I’ll never forgive you!” Rarity shouted. Fluttershy nodded quickly in agreement. “Good! I’m glad you understand.” The unicorn smiled, her demeanor doing a complete 180.
“Don’t worry, Rarity, we won’t! It’d be really mean of us to sentence somepony just because of suspicious circumstances, after all!” Pinkie said.
“What about Zecor-” Fluttershy began, only to be once again cut off by Pinkie Pie’s hoof.
“I thought we agreed to never speak of that again?!” Pinkie said, casting a quick glance at Mirror.
“R-Right…” Fluttershy squeaked once Pinkie removed her hoof.
“Oh, but now this means I’m going to have to throw two parties to welcome you and Sparkler!” Pinkie said to Mirror. “I wonder if I can combine them? Do you think that would work? I’ve never tried one party for two guests of honor before!”
“I’m sure it’ll be fine, Pinkie, but I’ll talk with Sparkler later, just to be sure.” Rarity said.
“Thanks Rarity!” Pinkie said. “Anyway, I’ve gotta go! I have to go set up and send out invitations; everything has to be perfect! Fluttershy, I’m leaving you in charge of showing Matchie around the rest of Ponyville, okay?”
“Um, okay…” Fluttershy looked nervously at Mirror, who quickly turned away, looking uneasy as well.
Great, I’ll see you all at Sugarcube Corner at five! It’s going to be so much fun!” Pinkie said, zooming out the door and slamming it shut behind her.
Mirror stared at the door that the pink pony had just exited through. She couldn’t quite place it, but she felt like she just lost something important when the earth pony left. Oh well, can’t do anything about it now. Maybe I’ll figure it out later.
“Well now, I believe Pinkie Pie said you needed something?” Rarity asked, catching Mirror’s attention.
“Oh, right! Well, as I’m sure you can tell, I look a lot like Daring Do,” Mirror said. “There’s a story behind this, and I’ll tell it to you, but it’s really been causing me a lot of problems lately.”
“I see. Yes, Daring Do is rather popular among the ponies here, that’s for sure.” Rarity nodded.
“Exactly, so I was hoping you could make me look… you know, less like her.” Mirror admitted.
“Oh, you mean a disguise?” Rarity asked.
“No, not exactly. I just want something that’ll make the similarities between us less noticeable.” Mirror explained. The last thing I need is to get involved in recursive disguising. That’s always annoying.
“Hmm, ah! Idea!” Rarity said in a sing-song voice. She grabbed the changeling and began leading her to a large mirror. “Come stand here. I have just the thing to help you!”
“You do?” Mirror asked, her voice hopeful.
“Indeed I do! This unkempt mane of yours- no offense- is an iconic part of Daring Do’s image. Therefore, a little change to it should help you with your dilemma.” Rarity explained.
“So, you mean a manestyle change?” Mirror asked. Huh, never had one of those before. Not a real one, anyway.
“Exactly!” Rarity said, magically picking up a brush and scissors. The unicorn began brushing Mirror’s mane. “Now, why don’t you tell me that story while I work? Make the time go by.”
“Oh, okay…” Mirror said. The changeling then began reciting her fake backstory once more as Rarity worked, brushing and snipping off small bits of hair, along with an occasional magic spell to make the hairs longer.
“That’s quite the story.” Rarity commented once Mirror finished. She took the scissors to an uneven part of the pegasus’s hair, cutting it straight. “How did you feel about all that?”
“Well, I guess it’s not too bad anymore. It wasn’t that fun, being forced into activities I never really enjoyed, but it’s all behind me now. I’ve finally got the chance to start over, here in Ponyville.” Mirror said, casting a glance at Fluttershy, who had settled down with a magazine in order to watch them.
“And how is it? Your first time in Ponyville, that is?” Rarity asked, casting a knot-removal spell on her mane.
“Fine I guess, there have been a couple of incidents, though.” Mirror said. She began telling Rarity about her visit to Twilight’s library, but was interrupted when she reached the part about freaking out and attacking Twilight.
“So, let me get this straight. You… bucked Twilight.” Rarity said.
“Yeah…” Mirror said sheepishly.
“…in the face.” Rarity repeated.
“It was an accident!” Mirror insisted. “I panicked!”
“No, no, dear. I believe you. Keep going.” The unicorn said, snipping off another lock.
Mirror continued her story, soon reaching the end. She waited to see if Rarity would comment on it.
“And Rainbow just accused you of being a changeling?” Rarity asked. “That’s rather rude.”
“Yeah, I thought the same.” Mirror said.
“You’re not a changeling, though, are you?” Rarity asked.
“No, of course not!” Mirror said quickly. “If I was a changeling, do you really think I’d be stupid enough to attract attention to myself by taking the form of a famous fictional character?”
“It does sound pretty ridiculous.” Rarity agreed.
“Exactly! I mean, come on!” Mirror said, smiling a little too widely. Dear Chrysalis, I am an idiot!
Desperate to get onto another topic, Mirror continued the story of what happened after they left the library, all the way up to when they came to Carousel Boutique, leaving out all the parts that could hint at her true nature as a changeling.
“…and here we are now.” Mirror finished.
“…A changeling in Ponyville? That’s rather worrying.” Rarity said.
“Yeah, I suppose…” Mirror trailed off, not knowing what to say.
Snipping off one final lock, Rarity put away her tools and grabbed two magenta hair bands, tying them onto Mirror’s mane and tail. “There! All done!”
Mirror looked into her reflection, silently taking in Rarity’s work. Her grayscale mane and tail, now straight and tidy instead of messy, were both considerably longer and fuller to the point where they almost touched the floor. The top of her mane still had a ruffled look, but it was fuller and more refined-looking than before. Her mane hung off to one side of her head, and both it and her tail were tied at the ends by the magenta hair bands Rarity had added. Wow…
“Do you like it? I styled Rainbow Dash’s mane this way when we all went to the Grand Galloping Gala, but she wouldn’t keep it afterward. I can tell that you’re not quite as… impatient as she is, though, so you should be able to hold it together much better than her.” Rarity explained. “And if I say so myself, I think a more sophisticated look suits your personality quite well, don’t you think so?”
“I… I love it.” Mirror said, still staring at her reflection in amazement. She turned and gave a genuine smile to the white unicorn. “Thank you, Rarity! I don’t know how I can repay you!”
“Think nothing of it, dear! I’m always willing to help out a friend!” Rarity said, clearly flattered despite her words.
“Friend?” Mirror repeated, her smile faltering the slightest bit due to nervousness.
“Well of course! Any friend of Fluttershy and Pinkie Pie is a friend of mine!” Rarity said. “I’m just glad you’re happy with my work.”
“Yeah, it looks great.” Mirror said. “Still, there must be some way I can repay you for this.”
“Well, if you insist, I could use a pony to help model some of my dresses for me.” Rarity said. “Could you do that for me?”
Mirror nodded. “Sure, trying on two or three dresses won’t hurt.”
Three hours later, Mirror found herself trying on her twenty-seventh dress (she had kept count) for Rarity to inspect. The dress was blue and gold and looked suspiciously like a showgirl outfit, and it was about three sizes too tight for her.
“Well, what do you think?” Rarity asked her as she held up a measuring tape.
“I think it’s cutting off my circulation!” Mirror gasped, struggling to breathe. “How tight is this thing?!”
“Hmm, perhaps the sash could stand to be a little looser. Stand up for me, will you?” Rarity commanded.
Mirror groaned but complied, rearing up on her hind hooves and using her wings to balance herself. Rarity began magically loosening the gold sash around her body.
“Hey Rarity,” Fluttershy suddenly spoke up, looking up from the magazine she had been reading. “Is it true that Chrysa- er, the Changeling Queen and Princess Celestia are in a forbidden relationship and that the chrysalis the princess was put in was supposed to…?” She trailed off at the last part, not wanting to say it out loud.
“WHAT?!” Mirror shouted in shock, losing her balance and almost falling off the podium she stood on. Rarity’s magic, which was still active towards the sash, was the only thing that kept her from doing that. Through Rarity’s help, she steadied herself again and fell back onto all four hooves.
“Fl-Fluttershy dear…” Rarity began, looking very nervous. “You shouldn’t believe everything those tabloids write. They’re all mostly lies for the purpose of selling stories to as many ponies as they can!”
“Then why are you reading-?” Mirror began asking, but Rarity quickly sent her a glare that clearly said ‘be quiet right now or I’ll personally show you that article.’ Mirror opted not to finish her question.
“Are you sure about that? These photos are pretty realistic. Not to mention pretty intimate-looking…” Fluttershy said, trying to look closer at one when the magazine was promptly yanked out of her hooves by Rarity’s magic, crumpled up, and thrown in the trash bin.
"Alright, I think you’ve both stayed here long enough! Thank you for your help, Mirror, I really appreciate it!” Rarity quickly said, roughly pulling the dress off of Mirror.
“Hey, watch it! I just got this cast on this morning! You’ll pull it off!” Mirror cried as she struggled against it.
Rarity quickly succeeded in pulling it off, though, and began herding both ponies towards the door. “Here Mirror, take this hat, it’ll do marvels for helping you blend in better,” She quickly put a large yellow sunhat with a magenta ribbon on Mirror’s head. “Anyway, thank you for visiting, but I really must get back to work now! So many orders, so little time, you understand, don’t you?”
“But Rarity, I don’t understand what-” Fluttershy tried saying as they were pushed out the door.
“Really Fluttershy, take it from one of your best friends. Don’t read those tabloids ever; they’ll poison your innocent mind! Anyway, it really was nice of you to visit, but I’ve kept you too long and you simply must get back to seeing the rest of Ponyville! Okay bye!”
With that, Rarity slammed the door to her home shut, leaving both ponies in a shocked stupor at her doorstep.
“…What just happened?” Mirror finally asked, pulling off her giant hat to take a look at it. Is magenta my iconic color or something?
“I’m not sure…” Fluttershy responded, still not fully understanding why Rarity had freaked out. “But she’s right, we’re supposed to be at Sugarcube Corner in an hour, and we still have to see the rest of Ponyville.”
“Okay, so where to next?” Mirror asked, putting her sunhat back on.
“I’m not sure. Maybe we could head to Sweet Apple Acres and see if Applejack-ah!” Fluttershy started walking away, but as soon as she took one step, her legs gave out and she fell to the ground with a soft gasp.
“Fluttershy!” Mirror cried out, fluttering to the pegasus’s side and helping her up. “Are you okay? What happened?”
“I… I don’t know. I feel so tired all of a sudden…” Fluttershy said, struggling to stand up. “I know a lot happened today, but I didn’t expect it to take this much out of me. Sorry.”
“You have nothing to apologize about.” Mirror told her, feeling a stab of guilt run through her body. She’s like this because I’ve been feeding off her love all day. I didn’t mean to take so much, but it just happens automatically sometimes. This is my fault.
“Here, lean on me,” She instructed. “Should we head back to your cottage?”
“No, there’s no need to go all the way back. I’ll be fine once I get something to eat, hopefully…” Fluttershy said.
“Is there a store or restaurant nearby?” Mirror asked, looking around.
“The market is just a few minutes' walk from here.” Fluttershy said, her voice quieter than normal. “I don’t really like going there; the ponies aren’t exactly friendly, but there’s plenty of food stands there.”
“Then that’s where we’re going. Come on, I’ll help you.” Mirror said. Wrapping her wing around Fluttershy, she helped support the pegasus the entire way to the market, setting her down at a table with a shady umbrella cover. “Wait right here. I’ll be back with something for you soon.”
“Wait!” Fluttershy said, but the pegasus-changeling had already flown off and disappeared amongst the large crowd of ponies there. “But you don’t have any money to buy anything with…”
Pushing her way through the crowd, Mirror emerged into open space and began looking around for a suitable food stand. To her delight, she quickly spotted an apple cart being tended to by an orange earth pony with a blonde mane and tail, both in a ponytail, and three apples for a cutie mark. Looking at the Stetson hat the mare wore, Mirror realized that she had been one of the ponies at Canterlot, and as such, an Element of Harmony and one of Pinkie’s friends. That must be Applejack. I’m sure she’ll be able to help.
Mirror unfurled her wings and flew over to the earth pony’s cart, the pony in question hidden behind it. “Hi there, you must be Applejack.”
“Yes indeed ma’am, that’s me. What can ah do for-” Applejack popped her head out from behind the cart, abruptly breaking off as she got a good look at the pegasus. Her surprised stare filled Mirror with anxiety.
“Um, is something wrong?” She asked nervously, her good hoof pawing at the ground.
The question brought the earth pony back to reality. She shook her head and smiled at the disguised changeling. “Sorry, ya just… reminded me of somepony, that’s all.”
“Yeah, I get that a lot.” Mirror said.
“Well anyway, yer correct. Ah’m Applejack. Ah don’t believe ah’ve seen ya around here before. Ya new in town?” Applejack asked.
“Yeah, I am. I just got here this morning. I’m Mirror Match.” She responded.
Applejack gave her a strange look when she introduced herself. “Mirror Match, huh?”
“Wh-What’s wrong with it?” Mirror asked somewhat defensively.
“Nothin’, it’s just a rather strange name for a pegasus, that’s all.” Applejack responded. “Sounds more like a unicorn name.”
“Yeah, well, it’s my name; can’t do anything about it.” Mirror said. I really should have come up with something more original when I had the chance.
“Hey, no need to get defensive, yer name’s perfectly fine. It’s a pleasure to meet ya, Miss Mirror! Anyway, did ya need something, or did ya just come here to chat?” Applejack asked.
“Um, well, I was actually looking to buy an apple. It’s for my friend, Fluttershy. You know her, right?” Mirror answered.
“Oh? Yer friends with Fluttershy? That’s pretty impressive. She’s real timid, ya know? Didn’t think she’d warm up to a stranger like yerself.” Applejack said.
“True, but I’d say we get along pretty well.” Mirror said. “So anyway, I’d like to buy an apple, please? These look really good.”
“Well, ya have good tastes, then. These here are apples fresh from Sweet Apple Acres, bucked just this mornin’. Best apples on this side of Equestria.” Applejack said.
“Really?” Mirror asked.
“Well… probably.” Applejack said, sounding a little uncertain about the claim. “Anyway, yer new in Ponyville, so ya get yer first apple free of charge! It’s a little promotional thing we’ve got goin’ on.”
The earth pony took a bright red apple and placed it in a small bag, handing it off to Mirror. The changeling looked in the bag at the plump, luscious fruit and felt a feeling of longing welling up inside her. It does look really good. It won’t do anything for me, but it still looks really tasty…
“Um, is it okay if I have one more apple, please?” Mirror asked.
“Sure, ah’d never turn down a chance at business. Course, yer goin’ to have to pay fer this one.” Applejack said. “One apple, so that’ll be one bit, please.”
Mirror suddenly frowned as she realized that she didn’t have any money on her at all. A hot feeling of embarrassment swept through her. Wow, I can’t even buy what’s likely the cheapest thing in this market. How could I not have remembered I needed money to buy anything? Stupid!
“Um, I don’t… have any money.” Mirror admitted, her ears folding back in shame.
“Really?” Applejack frowned. “Not even one bit?”
“No… I’m sorry.” Mirror said, staring down at the ground to avoid looking at the earth pony.
Applejack stared at her for a few more seconds, then sighed. “Well, if you really can’t afford ta pay, ah suppose I can let ya have another freebie just this one time…”
“EXCUSE ME…” A voice called out, so loud and echoing that Mirror had to cover her ears to avoid going temporarily deaf. Both she and Applejack looked to the source of the voice. A unicorn mare was walking towards them, the glow from her horn quickly fading away as she approached.
“There, now that I’ve got your attention…” She continued in a normal, cultured voice. Mirror took a good look at the unicorn. She had a blue coat and an elegantly coiled purple and red striped mane and tail. Her eyes were a deep blue, and her cutie mark was a trio of dark blue jewels. She wore a pair of red, stylish glasses, a gold necklace decorated with rubies, and two saddlebags with diamond clasps. If it weren’t for her colors, Mirror could have mistaken her for Rarity.
“Um, who are you?” Applejack asked, glaring lightly at the new arrival.
“Oh, where are my manners? So sorry!” The unicorn said. “My name is Sparkler. Are you Applejack, by any chance?”
“Yeah, that’s me. Did ya need somethin’?” Applejack asked.
“No, no, just getting to know the locals, as you say. I assume you know my cousin, Rarity?” Sparkler asked.
“Yer Rarity’s cousin? Ah didn’t know she had one.” Applejack said, eyeing her suspiciously.
“We don’t exactly get along well. But, I’m staying here in Ponyville for a while, and Rarity has generously offered to let me stay with her during my visit. So in the meantime, I’m getting to know the townsponies better. You understand, right?” Sparkler explained.
“Well, ah suppose so. Ah’ll ask Rarity about ya later.” Applejack said.
Sparkler frowned slightly at the comment, then turned to look at Mirror beside her. “Hello, dear. What’s your name?”
Tensing up slightly, Mirror turned to look at Sparkler. She felt her fear quickly draining away, however, as she looked into the unicorn’s eyes, which were filled with warmth and kindness. “Uh, I’m Mirror Match.”
“Mirror Match… such a wonderful name.” Sparkler said. Mirror felt herself blushing at the praise. “So, what are you here for?”
“Oh, I… I’m buying an apple.” Mirror answered. “Though I suppose it’s not really buying, since I don’t have any bits…”
“Ah’m givin’ her a freebie just this once.” Applejack explained. “She’s new to Ponyville, so ah’m cuttin’ her some slack, that’s all.”
“Oh, there’s no need for that.” Sparkler said, her horn beginning to glow. One of her saddlebags opened up and two gold coins floated out of it. She handed them to Applejack, then pulled two apples from the pile. “There, I’ll take one for myself, if you don’t mind.”
“Um, sure…” Applejack said, watching the unicorn as she turned and placed one of the apples into Mirror’s bag. She held up her own apple and took a bite out of it. Swallowing, she frowned at the fruit, then rolled her eyes and took another bite before walking away.
Mirror quickly looked between the bag and the departing unicorn, then swept up the bag and flew after her. “It was nice meeting you Applejack. Hey, wait up!”
Without waiting to hear what Applejack said next, Mirror quickly caught up Sparkler. “Why did you do that?”
“Do what?” Sparkler asked in a tone that feigned innocence.
“Pay for my apple. You didn’t have to.” Mirror answered.
“Oh, that. Well, it was only one bit; hardly a large investment.” Sparkler said.
“But… but I don’t even know you!” Mirror said. “We just met!”
“Doesn’t mean I can’t help you out, now does it?” Sparkler replied. Her horn glowed once more, and the necklace she wore was lifted up off her. She placed it around Mirror’s neck and smiled. “Here, another gift from me to you. Don’t worry, I’m not losing anything by giving it to you; I got it from a vendor here for a remarkably low price.”
Mirror placed a hoof on the necklace, stunned into silence. All she managed to get out was one word. “…Why?”
“Why? Because I want to be your friend, that’s why.” Sparkler said. She turned and began walking away. “If you ever need me, just come by Carousel Boutique, okay? I’d love to see you again soon.”
Mirror just stood in silence long after the unicorn had disappeared into the crowd. Suddenly remembering the apples she carried, she snapped out of her trance and quickly flew back to Fluttershy, who was still sitting in the shade of the table’s umbrella.
Mirror pulled out the two apples and set one in front of Fluttershy. “Here, eat this. I met Applejack, and she gave me these.”
“Oh, really? She gave them to you for free?” Fluttershy asked, taking a small, dainty bite out of the apple.
“Well, she was going to, but Sparkler showed up and paid for one of them for me.” Mirror said.
“Sparkler? You mean Rarity’s cousin?” Fluttershy asked.
“Yeah, her. She’s pretty high-class, but she’s also really nice and generous.” Mirror tapped her hoof to one of the rubies on her necklace. “She gave this to me.”
Fluttershy stared wide-eyed at the necklace. “She gave that to you? It’s really pretty, and it looks expensive too.”
“Well, she said she got it for a low price, so who knows.” Mirror said. “Hey, Rarity’s the Element of Generosity, right? Maybe it runs in the family.”
Fluttershy chuckled slightly at the idea, and the two began eating their apples in silence. Eventually, Fluttershy brought up another topic. “Hey, Mirror? About that article, do changeling chrysalises really-”
“No! No they do not!” Mirror forcefully whispered, tensing up at the question.
“Then what do they do?” Fluttershy asked.
“Well, they, uh… they… turn ponies into changelings!” Mirror said, so quickly and quietly she almost thought that Fluttershy hadn’t heard her. Judging by the pegasus’s surprised expression, however, she had.
“Oh. That's... awful...” Fluttershy said.
“You think so? It's something to be celebrated amongst changelings.” Mirror said.
Fluttershy still looked rather bothered by the revelation. “So… are you…?” She asked.
“No, I’m not.” Mirror whispered, quickly looking around to make sure no one was listening in. “There are natural changelings that are born from eggs, and then there are synthetic changelings transformed by chrysalises. They’re pretty much indistinguishable except for slight attitude differences, though.”
“Oh, I see…” Fluttershy said, falling silent. Mirror took off her sunhat and placed it on the table, looking very uncomfortable at having disclosed that information. I’ve probably tainted her innocent mind or something.
“Hey, is that Daring Do?” A pony’s voice rang out. Mirror froze in fear.
“I don’t know, the mane’s completely different.” A second one replied.
“Let’s go and find out!” The first one said.
“Oh, feather!” Mirror cursed, quickly putting her hat back on. She took off, pulling Fluttershy along with her. “We’re leaving, now!”
Once they had flown far enough away from the market, the two pegasi landed and began walking at a slower pace.
“I think we should head to Sugarcube Corner now.” Fluttershy said. “It’s almost five. Come on, it’s this way.”
Fluttershy leading the way, the two eventually reached a large bakery styled after a gingerbread house. “Does Pinkie Pie live here?” Mirror asked.
“Yes, she does, along with Mr. and Mrs. Cake, and their children, Pound Cake and Pumpkin Cake.” Fluttershy answered.
There’s a dessert theme going on here. Mirror observed. “Hey, what exactly are we doing here again? With all that’s happened today, I kind of forgot.”
“You’ll see soon enough.” Fluttershy said, pushing the bakery’s door open.
The room inside was dark, but as soon as Mirror stepped through, the lights flipped on and a large group of ponies, led by Pinkie Pie, jumped out and yelled, “SURPRISE!”
In fact, the collective greeting almost drowned out Mirror’s screech of shock and panic as the pegasus-changeling turned and flew off at breakneck speed, leaving her hat behind. The sunhat slowly drifted down onto Fluttershy’s head.
The room was silent for several seconds. “…Um, is she coming back?” Fluttershy asked, lifting the hat out of her eyes. She winced as she heard the dull sound of something impacting a hard object, followed by a distant cry of pain.
“Uh…” Pinkie said, pulling out a long scroll of paper and looking through it. She frowned as she threw it aside. “…No, she’s not. Alright everypony, sorry! Party’s over! We’ll try again another time!”
The group let out a collective sigh of disappointment.
“But, you’re still welcome to some cake and party favors!” Pinkie Pie added with a smile.
The ponies let out a combined cheer.
Mirror laid on the branch of a tall tree near Fluttershy’s cottage, feeling utterly dejected. Her injured hoof hung limply off the side of the branch, still stinging with pain from where she had hit it against a stop sign in her mad dash out of Ponyville. Just great. I’ll be lucky if this ever heals properly now.
“Hey Matchie?” Hearing the familiar sound of her nickname, Mirror looked down from the tree and saw Pinkie Pie and Fluttershy standing at its foot.
“Oh, hey. What are you doing here?” She asked.
“Looking for you. You just took off so suddenly, we wanted to make sure you were okay.” Fluttershy answered.
“Is something wrong? You can tell us, Matchie. We just want to help.” Pinkie added.
“…I’m never going to be able to blend in as a normal pony.” Mirror admitted. “I’m too nervous about being caught, and I can’t calm down and stop worrying about it.”
“What are you talking about, Matchie?” Pinkie asked. “You did great today! You made lots of new friends! I talked with Twilight and Rainbow and Rarity while we waited at the party for you, and they all said they loved meeting you!”
“Really?” Mirror asked in disbelief.
“Totally!” Pinkie said. “You don’t have to worry about being seen as weird or anything! This is Ponyville; you can never be too crazy for us!”
“I don’t think that’s something to be proud of.” Mirror pointed out.
“Yeah, I guess not, but so what? We love you, Matchie, and we’re going to help you every step of the way! We wouldn’t let anything happen to you!” Pinkie said.
After a long moment of silence, Mirror smiled and flew down from the tree, wincing as she landed on her injured leg.
Fluttershy ran forward to check the leg. “You’ve knocked it out of place. I’ll have to reset this. Here, come inside so I can treat you.”
As Fluttershy led her towards the cottage, Mirror turned back to Pinkie Pie. “Hey Pinkie, could you do me a favor?”
“What is it?” Pinkie asked.
“Could you go to Twilight’s library and get me some Daring Do books?” She asked. “If I’m going to sell my story, I need to know what I’m talking about. Just don’t tell Twilight they’re for me, okay?”
Pinkie smiled and nodded. “Don’t worry, Matchie, You can count on me!”
Mirror nodded and turned away, but stopped when Pinkie called something else out. “Oh, by the way…”
Mirror turned back towards her. “Yes, Pinkie Pie?”
“I like your mane.” Pinkie said, giving her a friendly smile.
Mirror blushed lightly. “Thanks.”
With that, Fluttershy led the changeling inside the cottage. Pulling out her medical supplies, she reset the hurt leg and recast it. By the time she was done, Pinkie Pie had returned with the first eight Daring Do books, then left to help clean up the failed party. Three hours later, Mirror was laying in Fluttershy’s bed, still in her pegasus guise with her hat and necklace cast off, reading the first book.
“How do you pronounce that?” She asked herself as she read. “Ahu-zot… Ahu-e-zot…Ahu-Ahuizotl, there, that’s it! Ahuizotl!”
“Hey, Mirror, how are you doing? Are you feeling okay?” Fluttershy asked as she walked up the stairs.
“Yeah, I’m fine. I’m at the part where Daring Do gets the Sapphire Stone stolen by Ahuizotl.” Mirror answered. “This is actually pretty good.”
“That’s good to hear. That’s halfway through the book, too; you’re a pretty fast reader.” Fluttershy commented.
“Well, I’m pretty smart for a changeling.” Mirror said. “I was taught to read by Queen Chrysalis herself, you know.”
“Really?” Fluttershy asked.
“Yeah. Well, me and a few others, but most changelings are taught by the older drones. It’s a special honor for the queen to teach us. But it’s all part of our training to blend in as ponies. We can’t read pony-written things in our natural form; our eyes see differently from a pony’s. So we learn to shapeshift in order to read. That’s why I’m still in this form.” Mirror explained. To demonstrate her point, she closed the book and set it aside, then changed back to her changeling form.
“I see. Well, I think it’s time we both got to bed, now. See you in the morning.” Fluttershy said, turning to go back down the stairs.
“Wait!” Mirror cried, stopping the pegasus. “Where are you going to sleep?”
“Oh, just downstairs on the couch. You can sleep in my bed.” Fluttershy answered.
“What, no! I can’t just take your bed after everything you’ve done for me! You can sleep here; the bed’s big enough for us both!” Mirror said.
Truthfully, she was afraid of spending the night alone; she usually had the constant company of her siblings in the back of the mind to ease her, but with her horn broken and her connection cut off, she was scared of being completely alone in the dark.
“Just, sleep with me tonight, please?” Mirror pleaded, her bright blue eyes wide with fear.
After a moment of contemplation, Fluttershy relented. She turned off the lights and climbed into bed, Mirror squirming to the side so that there was space between them. An hour passed and Fluttershy fell asleep, but Mirror stayed awake, too busy thinking about the day to sleep.
Sighing in frustration, the changeling crawled out of bed and fluttered over to the open window. She looked up at the stars and the full moon, feeling herself slowly relax as she did so. I suppose today didn’t turn out so bad after all. I wasn’t found out, and I made new friends. Two of them don’t even care that I’m a changeling! I just wish I knew what happened to the swarm; what happened to that changeling from earlier today? I’m not sure I want to know.
Mirror yawned and struggled to keep her eyes open. Oh well, maybe I’ll find out one day. I’m too tired to think about it any further.
As she stared up at the night sky, memories of a song that Queen Chrysalis would sing to soothe her and her siblings as hatchlings came to her mind. Mirror closed her eyes and recalled the tune, altering the lyrics to suit her situation.
“This day has been just perfect,
The kind of day of which I’ve dreamed since I was small,
And despite my early woe,
I have two true friends to show,
Who knew I’d have such fortune after all?”
Her song finished, Mirror stared down at the ground. A dark shape suddenly sprinted across the yard, jumping into a bush and then sprinting off towards the Everfree Forest. The shape moved too fast for her to accurately make out.
Nonetheless, Mirror felt frozen with fear. Was that a pony? Did it see me in this form? Quickly backing away from the window, she turned and climbed back into bed, keeping her distance from Fluttershy to avoid possibly scaring her in the morning.
Despite her worry, Mirror soon drifted off into a deep, but troubled sleep.