Making the soup took her a little longer than she had expected, but it had come out tasting spectacular; it wasn’t apples, but tomato soup wasn’t a challenge for the farmer. As she readied a tray with the soup, some toast, and a glass of water, she heard the bedroom door open. She walked out of the kitchen to see Trixie going down the stairs.
The unicorn noticed the farmer as she reached the bottom of the staircase. Her expression turned into a relaxed smile as she explained Fluttershy’s condition. “She’s perfectly healthy, as I guessed; the wound has mended up quite fine, though without any fur currently covering the wound. She just has some low blood sugar from that blood loss. Food and rest will be all she needs… and if you’d be so kind, I’d like a request of you.”
“Sure thin’,” Applejack responded cheerfully.
“I recommend you spend the night with her.” Trixie’s face turned stern in an instant. “I’m worried the pony that attacked her might come back, and I can’t stay the night.”
Applejack nodded. She knew that, from Trixie’s “testimony” earlier, that it didn’t look like she had “planned” to attack Fluttershy; yet, the fact that she wasn’t provoked into attacking the meekest of ponies meant that maybe, for some reason, getting rid of Fluttershy was this pony’s best option. “Ah’ll keep her safe Trixie, but where do you have to go?”
“Into the Everfree Forest. I do not have time to explain. Perhaps we will the next time we meet. Good luck.”
Applejack watched the magician leave, and decided against thinking about her. The farmer instead decided to care for Fluttershy first and foremost; she retrieved the tray from the kitchen and went up the spiral staircase and into Fluttershy’s room.
Fluttershy was still in her bed and sitting upright, while still mostly under the covers. She turned to meet the farmer as she entered the room. Applejack noticed that she looked a little worried as she spoke. “Oh, hi Applejack,” she said, looking around aimlessly, her gaze drifting around and fixating on various pieces of furniture in the room for a few seconds before continuing, “Is Trixie gone?”
Applejack nodded, unable to talk properly with the tray in her mouth. At her response, Fluttershy started outright sobbing, the pegasus barely staying upright on the bed, her face falling forward into her hooves. The orange mare was so startled by her friend’s sudden change that she almost dropped the tray. She managed to keep her composure and slowly set it down on a chair near her instead before rushing up to the weeping pegasus. “F-Fluttershy? What’s the matter? Did soemthin’ happen?! Are ya hurt?!”
Fluttershy brought up her head a few inches, looking up to Applejack with desperate eyes. The farmer saw her mouth quiver, opening just the smallest way before she burst into another set of sobs and brought her head down into her hooves again.
Applejack hadn’t the faintest clue how to respond. She didn’t expect Fluttershy to suddenly burst out crying, no matter how meek the earth pony thought her friend was. She did know that she couldn’t leave her alone in her distressed state; Fluttershy wasn’t the strongest pony she knew, that much was for sure, but she could stand up for her friends, and Applejack wasn’t about to walk away when her friend needed her.
Applejack slowly went around to the other side of the bed and got onto it, sitting right next to Fluttershy. After a few seconds, Fluttershy looked at her curiously as she tilted her head without taking it away from her hooves. The farmer then took her into a sudden hug, squeezing the pegasus tightly. “Fluttershy… ya don’t have to worry about anythin’ right now, okay? Nopony’s gonna hurt you…”
Fluttershy weakly brought her own hooves around the farmer, crying into her friend’s mane. “B-But Applejack... for the s-second time in my life... somepony’s tried... to kill me. Why... why would they do that?”
Applejack wanted to approach the subject delicately, but she had no idea what to say besides the plain and simple truth: There are just evil ponies out there who would step over anypony in their way to get what they want.
Yet even she had trouble saying this, despite knowing that Fluttershy was an adult who should be able to handle this. She knew these kinds of things, but Applejack wanted to be comforting. Ah can’t mince words, but ah can still say somethin’...
“Fluttershy,” she said, pulling herself out of the hug to looking Fluttershy’s large, tear-filled eyes, “ah hate to say it, but it needs to be said.” Even with tears still slowly leaking from her eyes, the pegasus managed a confused, curious expression. “There are all kinds of ponies, Fluttershy. Good, kind, generous, bad, violent, selfish, all kinds. These ponies will just do what comes natural to them. You take care of animals, and ah take care of the farm and mah family. Some ponies lie and cheat, and others attack ponies.”
“But why attack me?” Fluttershy said, almost pleading with the farmer, as if she could change how the world worked. “What have I ever done to anypony? Why do there have to be ponies that want to do bad things like... what she did to me...”
Applejack closed her eyes, as if thinking in great detail about how to respond, yet she answered quickly, “Nature.”
“Nature?” Fluttershy repeated, extremely confused.
“Yeah, nature.” Applejack moved herself to Fluttershy’s side of the bed, sitting next to her as she let her hind legs dangle over the side of the bed. “This might be a bit hard to explain… but there isn’t exactly a reason, so to speak. See, there’s nothin’ decidin’ that somewhere today, somepony is gonna go and attack somepony else. There’s nothin’ decidin’ that somewhere, an earthquake will hit a city so hard that buildin’s fall and ponies get hurt. There’s nothin’ sayin’ ‘today, ah think that this nice, kind pony should die.’ Bad thin’s happen to good ponies because that’s just in the nature of bad ponies, and they’ll do what’s natural to them.”
Fluttershy was in rapt attention the entire time, wide eyed as she stared at the farmer, and after a few seconds, her gaze moved downward, towards away from her comforter and friend. Applejack cleared her throat and started again. “Look, that was a really roundabout way of me sayin’ that there isn’t really a reason. Ya didn’t do anything to deserve what happened to ya, Fluttershy. Nopony deserves bein’ hurt like that. So what ah want you to do,” she took a hoof to Fluttershy’s chin, moving her face up to meet her own, “is chin up. Know that whoever that pony was, that yer friends will make sure she doesn’t ever hurt ya again.”
Fluttershy nodded, the pegasus still looking somewhat distracted. “Thanks Applejack. You… you always know just what to say.” As she looked up to smile, her stomach grumbled loudly, interrupting any further thoughts either pony could have on the matter. There was a moment of silence, and then Fluttershy started to chuckle. “My, I didn’t notice it before, but I’m actually really hungry!”
Applejack laughed. “Trixie knew ya would be, so ah made some soup while ya’ll were up here talkin’.” She got off the bed, heading over to the tray of soup that was still sitting on a chair near the entrance to the bedroom. The soup wasn’t as hot as it was when she brought it up, but it was still pleasantly warm, from what she could tell by quickly taking a big whiff of it. She brought it over to the pegasus, placing it on her lap.
Fluttershy gave the soup a sideways glance. “You made something that wasn’t apples?”
Applejack groaned as she placed the soup over Fluttershy’s lap. “No, Fluttershy, not everythin’ ah make has apples in it!” Applejack’s indignation made the pegasus chuckle again. “Believe it or not, ah actually know how to cook.”
“I’m sure it’s good Applejack, I was just surprised is all.” She took a spoonful of the soup, letting the liquid glide over her tongue slowly and swallowing it slowly as she studied the taste. “Wow, Applejack, that really is
“Granny’s old recipe. She always made it for us when we… were tired of apples.” Fluttershy didn’t respond to Applejack’s attempt at humor, intent on finishing the soup as fast as possible, taking large spoonfuls of soup, barely pausing to touch her water or the toast. She musta been really hungry…
In a few minutes, Fluttershy had finished the soup. Her face brimming with happiness, she looked to Applejack, who barely had enough time to retrieve a chair for herself. Her jaw was dropped as she sat opposite of the pegasus. “Fluttershy, ya ate that faster’n anypony ah’ve ever seen eat in mah life.”
“I-I was hungry… and it was
really good…” Her voice turned quiet and she blushed out of embarrassment.
Applejack figured she was self conscious of having acted so differently around her friend. “Don’t fret none, sugarcube; it means yer already startin’ to feel better.” Applejack got out of her chair. “There’s still some more sittin’ on the heat in the kitchen. Ya need another bowl?” Fluttershy nodded quickly, still somewhat embarrassed. “Well then, gimme a minute, and ah’ll be back with another bowl for ya, lickety split.”
Applejack took the tray in her mouth and headed towards the door, glad her friend was already feeling better, mentally and physically. She didn’t hear Fluttershy whisper to herself as the farmer exited the room, “thanks Applejack. Thanks for always being there.”
They spent the afternoon in each other’s company, Fluttershy finishing her second bowl at a much slower pace as she conversed with Applejack. The farmer decided that she would avoid what were probably sore subjects to the caretaker: Rainbow Dash. She figured that the pegasus had enough on her mind with being attacked earlier that day, so Applejack made due with small talk: asking Fluttershy about her animals, and in turn talking about her own ventures with the farm.
As the evening started rolling around, Applejack decided to ask Fluttershy if she was well enough to walk around, and if she needed any help caring for the animals. In response, the pegasus slid out of bed, standing on all four of her hooves quite easily. Giving an affirming nod, the two headed downstairs to see to her chores, mostly caring for and feeding animals. For the first time all evening, Angel Bunny appeared, not remotely worried for the pegasus, but still quite demanding that he receive a carrot.
Both ponies split up duties evenly, finishing Fluttershy’s chores wasn’t a problem; she had already done most of them that morning, before the attack, so it was laid back enough for the still-recovering pegasus to accomplish her tasks without issue. Applejack had no problem either, despite the animals being somewhat wary of a new pony giving them their food.
When they were finished, Fluttershy opted to make some tea for the two of them, and they decided to relax for a while in Fluttershy’s living room, sitting around her coffee table.
It was then that Fluttershy posed an odd question. “Would you... like to go for a walk? Out to the outskirts of the Everfree Forest?”
Applejack looked at her with a raised eyebrow. “Why would ya wanna do that?”
“Well, we’ve only been outside to feed the animals, and, you know, I don’t really like being cooped up all day, even if it is with a good friend.”
Applejack shook her head. “Ah can sympathize with ya Fluttershy, but ah’m here to protect ya from that pony. What if she comes to attack us? The Everfree Forest might be the only place we can run.”
Fluttershy moved forward with a certain urgency as she responded immediately, “I know Applejack, but I need this right now. You’re here to protect me aren’t you?”
“Well yeah, but-“
“Then you just have to come with me, and everything will be all right! I promise!”
The pegasus sudden assertiveness struck Applejack as odd. She sighed, knowing in her mind that as much as she wanted to keep her friend safe, that it was doubtful anything would happen. What right do ah have to refuse her somethin’ so simple as walkin’?
“Fine,” she said, disheartened, “Just promise me two things, okay?
“Anything! It’s the least I can do with all you’ve done for me today!”
“First promise that if we so much as see a monster from that forest or a dark-furred unicorn, that we’ll turn around and ya’ll fly away if they get too close, and ya won’t freeze up on me like ya did when we had to go get that nappin’ dragon out of Equestria.”
Fluttershy blushed as she recalled the incident, and she nodded to Applejack. “That’s no problem,” she responded, “but what’s the other promise?”
“Is it okay if ah ask what Trixie’s been doin’?”
The yellow pegasus raised an eyebrow. “That’s fine. She... wants to keep it a secret, but since you’ve seen her, you might as well know. As long as you don’t tell anypony else, okay?”
“Ah won’t until she does.” Applejack got off of her chair, motioning with a hoof for Fluttershy to follow her. “Well, let’s go then!” Applejack headed for the door, and turned to see a dumbfounded Fluttershy just staring at her. She coughed, which brought the pegasus out of her staggered state. She got off of her couch and walked swiftly to meet the earth pony. This place still gives me the creeps, no matter how many times we go in,
the farmer thought, looking down at the path that led to the forest. The simple light-brown dirt path with tall, grassy fields on either side shifted instantly into a wide and wild path with gnarled trees and ominous flowers on either side. They took a right, along another dirt path that was just feet away from the trees that made up the seemingly wall-like appearance of the forest.
Applejack’s thoughts strayed as they walked along the path, Fluttershy seeming to understand the comfortable silence between them. Nopony in mah lifetime’s ever been hurt in here, unless the six of us count as getting’ hurt,
the farmer thought. Is this place really so dangerous?
She shook her head to herself, falling a few steps behind the pegasus to draw less attention to herself. No, of course it’s dangerous. We’ve found manticores, a hydra, a cockatrice, even a dragon in this forest. It’s dangerous… but just being outside of it should be safe enough, right? Fluttershy’s lived out here as long as ah’ve known her… she knows the dangers.
“Wah!” The farmer leaped yards into the air out of pure surprise, barely managing to land on all four hooves. She looked to Fluttershy, only to see her giggle. Applejack cleared her throat before speaking, “Sorry, ya just… startled me a bit.”
“I can see that.” Fluttershy smiled warmly as she asked, “What were you doing?”
“Thinkin’,” she responded. She started walking again, a slightly brisker pace than they had earlier.
Fluttershy matched it with little effort, walking alongside the farmer. “About what?”
She frowned. “It’s fine if you don’t want to talk about it.”
The orange mare shook her head. “No, that ain’t it. Mah mind’s just swimmin’ with all this… ‘new information,’ ah suppose.”
“What do you mean?” Fluttershy asked, attempting to be helpful. “Do you need to talk about anything?”
“Well... ah never said what ah came over here for, did ah?”
“No, but I didn’t think it mattered. You came, you helped Trixie after... a little misunderstanding, and now you’re protecting me!” She met Applejack’s eyes with a curious glance. “What did you need, Applejack?” Ah wanted to ask ya why ya were so upset about Dash askin’ ya leave her alone, even for just one dang night.
Applejack’s thoughts were so abrupt that she almost stopped walking. She resumed her pace in a second, her friend no noticing her pause. No, that’s just… why ah came over here, right? ah can ask about somethin’ else…
“Is something the matter, Applejack?” Fluttershy noticed how distracted Applejack was.
Now it was unavoidable. No,
she thought, attempting to be stern with herself, just say what ya really wanna say, and it’ll be okay.
Applejack took a deep breath, bracing herself as she asked, “The original reason ah came over here was to see how you were doing.”
“What do you mean?” Fluttershy’s expression turned worried.
“Well… Dash told me what happened last night.”
“O-Oh… she did…” Fluttershy looked away in shame. “I… could we please-“
“Ah’m sorry if ya don’t wanna talk about it. Forget ah asked; how about we start with somethin’… not so personal.” Fluttershy nodded while still looking away, and Applejack continued. “Why don’t ya tell me what Trixie’s been doing, like we talked about earlier?”
Fluttershy nodded again, and started looking more comfortable immediately. Guess she really is okay… ah was worried she might start ballin’ again…
“Trixie… she’s been in the Everfree Forest trying to regain her magic.”
Applejack nodded. “Well, it looks like she’s been successful…”
“She hasn’t... exactly been successful, actually,” Fluttershy clarified.
“What?” Applejack came to a halt. “Fluttershy, her magic is what saved ya today! She used it to keep me floatin’ up to the ceilin’ so ah couldn’t stop her!
Fluttershy turned and nodded, stopping as well. “What she used today... wasn’t her magic exactly. It’s a different kind of magic.”
“What does that mean? Isn’t all magic the same?”
Fluttershy shook her head, and quietly cleared her throat, readying an explanation. “Well, uh, how she explained it, not really. Unicorn magic is just them making things happen around them, like moving things through the air or changing it into something else. They can also use their magic to do whatever it is their special talent is, like how Rarity always uses it to do all of her work in her shop.”
“Ah guess the only time ah’ve seen her use her hooves is when she’s usin’ a sewing machine... and that’s only ‘cause it’s faster than magic.”
Fluttershy nodded. “There are other kinds of magic beyond those, though.” Fluttershy’s expression turned cheerful. “Pegasi and Earth Ponies have magic too.”
Applejack raised an eyebrow. “Yer tellin’ me ah got magic?”
Fluttershy nodded again, her excitement building for some reason. “You should know that Applejack; do you ever have to check your apples by going up to the tree and looking at the fruit to know that they’re ready?”
“Ah’ve never had to do that a day in mah life.”
“That’s an Earth Pony’s magic. It’s a connection to the earth that’s so strong, that they have an instinct about their surroundings. Pegasi have magic too: it lets them manipulate water and wind in all kinds of ways. I’m sure you can figure out how they use this magic most of the time.”
“Helps them control the weather.” Applejack nodded to herself. “But ah don’t get it; if those are the kinds of magic, then what is Trixie learnin’ in the Everfree Forest?”
“It’s the same kind of magic she used today. It’s a kind of magic that exists in nature.”
“The magic of nature? But ya just said that was what Earth ponies had, right?”
“Well... not really. As Trixie explained it, Earth Ponies just have a connection to nature. You understand it better than anypony else. What Trixie does is manipulate nature to do her own bidding.”
Applejack nodded, and the two continued a brisk pace down the dirt path once again. She thought for almost a minute, and Fluttershy waited patiently for her to respond. She seemed happy, as far as Applejack could tell, humming to herself. Ah bet she’s glad to tell somepony about this, instead of keepin’ it to herself all this time. Ah know she doesn’t like secrets.
Applejack spoke again, just as the two reached a designated turning point in their path. “What’s got ya so excited anyway?”
The pegasus blushed. “O-Oh, well, uh, I never really get to talk about this, and since she’s told me, I’ve really wanted to get it off my chest... but I kinda think it’s interesting too.” Just as ah thought.
“Ah got another question, Fluttershy.”
“What is it Applejack?”
“Why is Trixie keepin’ what she’s doin’ a secret?”
Fluttershy thought for a few seconds before answering, “Learning this magic will make Trixie what she says is called an ‘Elementalist.’ That’s what you call a pony who’s learning what she’s learning. She said that she found a book explaining it in Twilight’s library, and that using it can help strengthen a unicorn’s magic. That’s why she’s in the Everfree Forest: that is where nature’s magic is at its strongest.” Fluttershy sighed and continued, “But... it’s forbidden. There are dangers involved in learning all of that.”
“What kind of dangers?” Applejack was starting to get more worried for Trixie the more she heard about what she was doing.
“Dangerous to her. She said that, according to what she had read, being an Elementalist is controlling the four primal energies that make up magic in the natural world: Earth, Fire, Water, and Wind magic. She only wants to learn Water and Wind magic, because those are tamer; Wind just moves thing at her will and can change the weather, whereas Water magic is medical magic, and what she used to save me earlier. Earth and Fire magic are powerful magics, meant to hurt and destroy. She wants to avoid them, but she has to learn all four, or learn none of it at all.”
“That didn’t answer my question Flutteshy. What’s so dangerous about it?”
“That magic... it can be very
powerful. Fire magic can cause eruptions of lava beneath her target, or Earth magic could bring an avalanche of boulders down on somepony.”
“Trixie ain’t dumb enough to do that!” Applejack shouted. Fluttershy backed up a little as Applejack went on. “Sure, she can be a little short tempered sometimes, and maybe she could get down off her high horse, but she isn’t gonna go around attackin’ ponies!”
“R-Right...” Fluttershy nodded to herself. “It’s just... there isn’t a lot known about Elemental magic. She says... there’s a chance using it might make her less like herself. She isn’t sure how though. All she’s read about it is from Twilight’s books-“
“Ya said that a few times. So she read it all in a book at the Library?”
“Y-Yeah. If she hadn’t read about it, she might still be in Ponyville right now.”
Applejack shook her head. “Okay, that’s in the past ah guess, and it’s a good thin’ she’s learnin’ this magic, or ya wouldn’t be here right now. Just... are ya sure she’s okay?”
“I’m never sure Applejack. But I haven’t seen herself hurt yet, so I think she’s okay.” The two came upon Fluttershy’s home, the walk seeming to have passed by in an instant. “I hope she’s okay...”
It was well into nightfall when they arrived. Angel noticed Fluttershy’s mood, even looking to Applejack with what she thought was a questioning look. All she could respond with was a shrug.
The two seemed unable to talk to each other; Applejack would give a concerned glance, and Fluttershy would reply with indifference or solemnity. More than an hour passed, Applejack not entirely keeping track of the time. Her mind preoccupied her the entire time, the farmer’s thoughts coming to her far faster than she could process them. Fluttershy always fusses over us if we’re doin’ something she thinks is dangerous… why doesn’t she try and stop Trixie? Why does she think Trixie is safe? Ah just don’t get it… but then, is there anythin’ for me to get? Ah can understand Trixie riskin’ herself for magic. Ah’d risk myself for mah family, and it probably means just as much to her. But… she seemed so off today. Ah just don’t get it.
Applejack’s thoughts were interrupted by Fluttershy coming out of the bathroom, fresh from just having taken a shower. No, that ain’t important; ah can think about that later. Remember Applejack: somepony wants Fluttershy dead. There’s no way in heck yer gonna let anypony hurt her.
Applejack decided to pose a question to Fluttershy, their first words spoken since they returned to the caretaker’s home. “Fluttershy, ah’m supposed to...” while her tone was calm and helpful, Fluttershy was still surprised enough to freeze up. Applejack saw her friend’s reaction, and waited a second for her to calm down before resuming, “…to be protectin’ ya.” Fluttershy looked at her curiously, much to the farmer’s relief. “Do ya want me sleepin’ down here in the livin’ room, or up in yer room?”
Fluttershy thought for a moment. Applejack couldn’t tell if it was about what they talked about, or about what she had just asked, but she responded soon enough, “Uhm… I guess in my room. If she really wanted to hurt me, she could teleport in…” she looked upwards, both towards her room, and in thought. “You don’t think she’ll really try again, will she?”
“Ah don’t know, and ah don’t want to take any chances.”
“Okay, well, uhm, I’m gonna go get ready for bed. I’ll set something up on a couch I have up there…”
“I-It’s no problem Applejack. You’re just looking out for my best interests… thank you.”
Applejack nodded. “Hey, remember that yer the one in danger. Ah’m just doin’ my duty.”
“Huh?” All Fluttershy could do was blink. “Duty? Applejack, you don’t have any kind of duties to me. You volunteered for this.”
“Well... yeah...” Applejack suddenly felt self-conscious of her position. “Ah just... ah kinda feel like ah failed ya today Fluttershy. Ah feel like ah’m not doin’ anypony any good.”
“I-I don’t understand, Applejack.” Fluttershy approached her friend, who only back up toward the stairs.
“It’s just... all this dumb... stupid... crap that we’ve all been goin’ through!” Applejack yelled out, some of her anger surfacing. “You and Dash have been fussy, Dash and ah got real mad at each other, Pinkie’s been so alone that she wanted to see me and only me today just so she had somepony to talk to, and now ya’ve been attacked, and almost died!”
There was a pause. At the farmer’s shout, even the animals were quiet, watching the two. Applejack was in a corner near the stairs, and Fluttershy was in the middle of the room. Ah’m so darned stupid... why am ah tellin’ her all this crud?
“W-Well... it’s just like you said, isn’t it?”
Fluttershy’s question broke the chains of silence around the room, giving Applejack enough momentary courage to look up to the caretaker. “What?”
“A-Applejack…” Fluttershy walked forward, placing a hoof on Applejack’s face. The farmer turned to the shy pegasus with a confused expression, only to meet a reassuring smile. “You told me just earlier today... that some ponies just do bad things. You can’t help it when they do it... but that doesn’t mean ponies can’t try and stop it.”
“Ah-ah still don’t understand Fluttershy. Ah haven’t stopped anypony. If anythin’, ah keep messin’ up.”
“You haven’t messed up, not once Applejack.” Fluttershy shook her head. “You’ve done a lot for everypony! You... you helped Rainbow Dash up from out of a slump, and you’ve been keeping me company all day when I needed it the most.”
“But ah can’t stop whoever attacked ya... ah can’t stop whoever wants to take the elements...”
“You can’t stop everypony, Applejack. You can only do the best with what you have.” Fluttershy cleared her throat and chuckled. “So chin up.”
This made Applejack laugh a bit as well, and with that last line, the mood of the entire cabin brightened up. “Thanks Fluttershy. Ya seem to know what yer talkin’ about too.”
She kept on smiling as she went up the stairwell past Applejack. “It wasn’t a problem at all, really. I’ll go make a place for you to sleep on the couch, okay? I’m pretty tired, so I’ll just go to bed when I’m done. Just come up whenever you want to.”
Applejack nodded. “Goodnight Fluttershy.