Twilight and I were completely silent for a while as we walked through more areas of Ponyville. I had no idea what to say to the unicorn after our little mishap at the Carousel Boutique. I was trying to think of a way to either ease or avert the situation of the idea of every citizen in this town coming under the impression that I and Twilight were boyfriend and girlfriend… or should I say “colt-friend and filly-friend…?” I also wondered if she was thinking the same, but when I looked at her, she seemed to be… blushing as her head hung low. She seemed to be gluing her eyes to the ground like she didn't want to look at me. I hoped to goodness that that blush was nothing more than out of embarrassment for what happened with Rarity…
Nonetheless, we had practically wandered blindly into what looked like a shopping center, as there were concessions stands left and right with ponies everywhere picking up groceries. I even saw Applejack at one of the stands with a big red stallion and tons of baskets of apples. I would have stopped by to say hello, but she and who I guess was her big brother looked extremely busy as the line in front of her stand was incredibly long. As Twilight and I continued to walk through, I finally decided to break the awkward silence.
“Hey, wassup? You ain’t said nothin’ for a while now. The thing about Rarity still on ya mind?” I asked with concern.
“Yeah… But that’s only half the reason.” She answered, finally bringing her eyes to mine. She seemed more distraught than I initially thought about the ordeal, which worried me a bit.
“Wha’ss the other half?”
“Well… it’s…” she went silent once again as she averted her eyes from mine. Now I was really curious, given this new demeanor of hers.
“It’s… what?” I prodded her.
“It’s just that… um... Y’know what? Just forget I mentioned it,” the unicorn dismissed, too embarrassed to bring up the topic.
"Why?" I asked, not willing to just drop the subject matter so soon.
"Because... it's... it's not important."
“I am not takin’ that as an acceptable answer, Twilight. Talk to m— OW!” I was cut off by something hitting me, forcing me to stumble back a little as I saw fruits and other miscellaneous groceries fly into the air and rain all over the place. I shook my head and looked at what suddenly attacked me. It was a yellow pegasus with a long pink mane and tail, dizzied from the sudden head-on collision as she lay on the ground in front of us.
“Hey, you alright?” I asked.
“Fluttershy? Are you okay?” Twilight asked after me. We both moved to help the pegasus up, but when she got up, she took one good look at me, then quietly squealed and swiftly snatched away from me and hid behind Twilight.
“I’m sooo, so, so, so sorry. Please, don’t be angry at me, sir,” she fearfully pleaded .
“Angry? Why would I be angry?” I asked. She refused to budge and didn’t respond.
“Fluttershy, it’s okay. He’s with me. He’s a new friend of mine,” Twilight told the startled pony.
"H-he is...?" the frightful canary mare asked, lifting her head just enough to get a peek at me.
"Yes. Please, introduce yourself..." Heeding the unicorn’s words, Fluttershy slowly rose to her hooves and took a few steps towards me while looking at the ground. For a full grown mare, she sure was timid…
“Um, hi… I’m Flu’rsh…” She mumbled, still looking at the ground and rubbing one of her fore-hooves on the other.
"Huh? I didn't hear that. Say again?" I requested.
"I... I'mFlutterzhy..." she squeaked in an even MORE inaudible tone. Taking note of this mare's unprecedented timidity, I decided to take an approach that might coax her out of her shell.
“Hey now,” I said in a gentle, quiet tone as if I were speaking to a baby. I walked up to her and placed a hoof on her back. She flinched, of course. “It’s okay. You don’t hafta be afraid o’ me. I won’t hurt you…”
“Oh no, I’m sorry. It’s not that I’m afraid of you…” Fluttershy began to speak more audibly as she finally got the courage to look look up at me with her large, shimmering turquoise eyes, her voice still very soft and quiet.
"Wow... such an innocent, childlike disposition... and here, I thought these ponies couldn't get any fluffier..."
“Well… maybe a little…" she continued. "But it’s more that I… I just have trouble meeting new ponies… And seeing as this isn’t the best way to meet a new pony…”
“Ah, you’re fine."
"You're not upset at all?"
"No. There ain't a reason t' be. Other than that, you remind me o’ myself a little…”
"I... I do??"
“How so?” Twilight asked with piqued curiosity.
"Ehh, I'd rather not bore you with another story about me..."
"No, please, I insist." Twilight urged, seeming interested in what I had to elaborate on. "I'm all ears."
“Alright. Well, when I was younger, I had the same problem with bein' too afraid of what others would think o’ me. Generally I didn’t feel like anybody would like me for me, so I cut myself off from others an' interacted as little as I possibly could. That an’ I showed a general disinterest in social interaction in the first place. It forced me into a reclusive shell. I was a huge introvert. It took a while, but when I finally realized that I’m just as hu… I mean equal as everybody around me, I began to get comfortable with talkin’ to others. It took a lot of help from forced social interaction in places like school an’ at basically any place where there’s a large group of… ponies, but eventually, I grew an’ was able to get to know an’ become comfortable enough with myself to be able to present myself to others. I still got some learnin' t' do though, cuz I still have my tendencies t' prefer t' be completely alone...”
"Even after what you've learned, you still prefer solitude over interaction?" Twilight asked.
"Not quite... Well, sorta... I still communicate, but it takes a bit more effort for me t' actually initiate conversation a lotta times. Most times, when I come home, I close myself off from the world around me t' become a proverbial hermit..."
“Wow… You and I aren’t so different in that department…” Twilight replied, awestruck. “I... I didn't take you to be that kind of pony."
"Yea, but what can I do. At the very least, I learned not t' be so scared of others that I couldn't talk to 'em."
"I see... Come to think of it, I never knew how strong the connection was between self-image and social interaction… My reason for being that way when I was younger was a slightly different one, but I get it now…”
“Really? Looks like we still haven’t gotten very far in knowin’ each other, huh?”
“Yes, I see what you mean, too,” Fluttershy began. “A little while ago, I took an assertiveness class that I thought was teaching me to become more comfortable with myself, as well as how to not let others walk all over me. I learned my lesson, but only after I realized that the class only taught me how to turn my insecurity into aggression. I went from being bullied to becoming a bully. I almost lost two of my best friends because of my behavior, too. It was just awful…”
“Ahh, wow…” I said, thinking about how a pony that seemed so sweet and innocent could ever possibly be aggressive. “I can’t really see you bein’ a bully. I don't know you jus' yet, but you seem too sweet an’ innocent to do such a thing…”
“Oh my… th-thank you,” She said, regaining a little bit of her timidity as she blushed.
"You're welcome, uh... um... F..."
"Fluttershy," the yellow mare finally gained enough courage to pronounce coherently.
"Nice t' meet ya!" I exclaimed, offering up a hoof. She was actually pretty forward in touching her hoof with mine, even going the extra step in shooting me a warm, friendly smile, which I couldn't help but return. "So, Fluttershy... How are ya?"
"I'm good. Thank you for asking. How are you?"
"I am also good. Y'know, i'ss always nice t' meet somebody you can relate with."
"Yes, it is. I'm sorry for being afraid of you..."
"I'ss fine, really. It ain't like you're afraid now... Right?"
"Oh, goodness, no. I think you're a nice stallion now. But I don't think I've seen you around here before... Are you new here?"
"Yea. Twilight brought me along so she could give me a tour o' the town."
"Oh. That's very nice of you, Twilight," Fluttershy praised the unicorn.
"Well, you know me; helping everypony out in any way I can..." Twilight casually replied. "Speaking of, Maybe we should gather your things up off the ground."
"Oh! You're right. I almost forgot. Would you two be willing to lend me a hoof?"
"Of course!" with that, Twi and I committed ourselves to the task of helping Fluttershy gather up her groceries.
“Ooh! Then there was this time where I was supposed to help all the other pegasi, including my friend Rainbow Dash, whip up a tornado big enough to carry all the water from a lake up to Cloudsdale…” I saw that she’d warmed up to me very quickly. All it took was a single point for us both to relate on for her to cast her shell away and talk without fear of judgment. I was also surprised she knew Rainbow Dash, but then I figured that if they were both friends with Twilight Sparkle, why wouldn’t they be friends with each other?
“Is THAT right?” I asked, amazed by the quality of the story she was telling me.
“Oh, yes. My problem there was that I was didn’t want to help because I was too afraid of what other ponies would think of me if I tried. I let my filly-hood memories of being teased for being a weak flier get the best of me. Time and time again, I tried to conquer my fear of failure and humiliation, but I soon realized that I had to do it not for Rainbow Dash, the other pegasi, or even because all of us were required to do it; I had to do it for myself. I had to do it to prove to myself that I was able to make an impact and stand against the odds.”
“Wow, Fluttershy… I saw that you were having trouble with your self-confidence, but I didn’t realize how much that day made you grow…” Twilight said as we finished restocking the yellow pegasus’s saddlebags.
“Yea, I see your experiences are teachin’ you to be more comfortable with who you are as a pony,” I said. “Those were some very big examples. It seems to me that you learned how t' assert yourself without bein’ mean about it, and to have faith in yourself and your abilities. The only thing left for you t' conquer is meetin’ new faces an’ interactin’ with ‘em."
“Thank you both so much!” Fluttershy exclaimed as she pulled Twilight and me into a group hug. “I’m so happy to have this discussion with you, Twilight and…”
“Ponder Memoir,” I finished. “But please, call me ‘Ty.’ Would you like us to walk home with you?”
“That would be nice. But I’m actually headed to Sugarcube Corner. Pinkie Pie came by here earlier. She said something about a surprise party for somepony…”
“Pinkie Pie…?" I wondered before the name rang a bell. "Oh, she’s the pink one who saw me an’ ran away for no reason! Looks like now’s the time to catch her and ask her why…”
“I’m sure she was just in a rush,” Fluttershy dismissed. “But please, let’s head there now.”
“Hmm, aight,” I responded as we trotted our way towards Pinkie Pie’s place of residence. On our way there, my curiosity about the unicorn was piqued. “Hey, Twilight?”
“You ain’t share a story with Fluttershy and me about how you came outta your shell. Care to enlighten us?”
"That depends... what would you like to hear about?"
"Anything, really. Even your life story, if you want."
“Hmm… okay. It’s a long one, but I’ll try to nutshell it so I can finish before we arrive. That sound good?”
Fluttershy and I simply nodded.
“Where to begin… As a filly growing up in Canterlot, I was always into my studies. I wanted to learn everything about magic and the many possibilities surrounding it; so much so that one day, during an entrance exam for a very exclusive unicorn magic school, I wound up showing a great deal of my raw, uncontrolled ability."
"Raw, untapped ability, huh? I take it you're pretty strong...?" I speculated.
"Mm-hmm. It was that day that I not only got accepted into said school, I also earned my Cutie Mark and was enlisted by Princess Celestia herself as her direct student. From then until a little after I moved here to Ponyville, my main focus was making the Princess proud as I learned more and more about magic every day. I unfortunately let that focus consume me to the point where I would avoid social interaction at every chance; for fear that it would only hinder my studies. I had almost no friends…"
"Get out... Really??" I was captivated by the lavender mare's story, listening intently to every detail she had to share.
"I know, it's a bit hard to believe, but yeah. The only ponies I’d ever talked to other than Celestia were my older brother Shining Armor, and my foal-sitter-turned-sister-in-law, Princess Cadence. Sadly, even they couldn’t keep consistent amounts of communication with me. Once I was old enough to stop needing a foal-sitter, I lost all contact with Cadence. As for Shining Armor, he had become captain of Princess Celestia’s Royal Guard. As a result, his duties tied up his time more and more until I rarely saw him at all. At that point, the only 'friend' I had was Spike, whom I was allowed to keep as a pet of sorts after I had hatched him from an egg during that entrance exam. Even then, I had no clue on what friendship truly was or how important it was to me, and I treated him like little more than an employee. That doesn’t go to say I didn’t love the little guy… I just didn’t know how to show it."
"Yes, I wasn't exactly the most approachable pony in Equestria... I'd put money on it to say I was one of the LEAST... But yeah, eventually, Celestia sent me to Ponyville to learn about the magic known as friendship. I’ll admit that at first, I thought she was just setting me up so I could get out more, but boy was I wrong…"
"Now THERE'S another story in itself. It took a whole lot of crazy things to happen, which I’ll fill you in on another time, Ty, for me to finally realize how friendship strengthened me and all of my friends and played a huge factor in forming us into the mares we are now. In fact, on that very day, Fluttershy, Rainbow Dash, Pinkie Pie, Rarity, Applejack, and I had become the representations of the Elements of Harmony, the most powerful magical objects in this entire world. I think that’s good enough for now. I hope that wasn’t too much for you two to take in…”
“…Incredible…” I could only mumble, my eyes and mouth agape. This unicorn had a lot to say. I was shocked to find out that she allowed herself to become so… lonely, and all because of an obsession with learning. I gained a new feeling for Twilight after hearing that. I wasn’t sure if it was pity, empathy, respect, or something else… Another thing was that FINALLY, I learned about that thing about Elements. But what I learned only made me want to explode with questions about what they were and how Twilight and all of her friends managed to get their hooves on them. I figured that would wait for a different time, as I was still getting to know Twilight as a pony.
“Wow, Twilight. That’s amazing,” Fluttershy began. “I had no idea you had so much trouble meeting ponies, too. When we first met, I assumed you had a lot of friends and that you were just trying to talk to me, so I shut myself off from you. Instead, I spent that whole time talking to Spike and not giving you the time of day. I’m so sorry…” the pegasus frowned as she contemplated her new-found guilt.
“Aww, it’s okay, Fluttershy! We’re friends now, and that’s all that matters,” Twilight said to comfort the pegasus.
“Thank you, Twilight…” Fluttershy smiled warmly at the unicorn, which she returned. I couldn’t help but smile myself.
“Man, the both o’ y’all are so adorable when you smile…” I said, prompting the two mares to giggle as they turned their gaze to me. Their cuteness could have given me a heart attack.
“Looks like we’re here,” Twilight announced when she looked forward. The building itself was quite a wonder. It looked almost exactly like one of those crazily decorative gingerbread cookie houses bakers back in my world made; except that this one was enormous! I almost wanted to take a bite out of it right then and there. Once we reached the entrance of the extravagant structure, a question popped up in my head.
“Hey, quick question before we go in, Fluttershy,” I requested.
“Yes, Mr. Ty?”
“Just 'Ty' is fine. But your Cutie Mark… I see that i’ss three butterflies. I guess that means you’re good with animals?”
“Yes. I take care of many different animals back at my home. It also represents the fact that I’m a calm, gentle mare who is nice to everypony, which is why, when it comes to the Elements of Harmony, I represent Kindness.”
“I see… That makes sense,” I simply said, nodding as we moved closer to the door. Judging by the strong, overwhelmingly delicious pastry smell emulating from it, I could tell that this house wasn’t just for show; it was an actual bakery. However, I noticed that all the lights were out and that it seemed completely black inside. I wondered if we came at a bad time or if the place was closed. I got my answer the second I set hoof on the doorstep. The lights inside flicked on, the door flew open, and before I was able to process what was happening, a pair of pink legs suddenly wrapped themselves around my neck and yanked me inside…