35w, 2dThe Minotaur's Labyrinth
There were forty-eight hours to kill before fee collection and not a single sports bar or strip club to be found. Iron Will did not expect to find this stuff in a quaint little Equestrian town like Ponyville, but their absence was still kind of irksome. Looking bummed out, however, was not part of the persona he was selling, so he strutted and swaggered down the dirt streets with a smug look of satisfaction hiding his anger at the mediocrity of his surroundings. He turned heads wherever he went; and it was not just because he stood a solid eight hoof lengths tall and had a crazy-ripped minotaur beach body, but also because he had a gawky entourage of goats.
“B-b-baa,” Billy reminded him.
Iron Will looked down at his PR manager. “Yeah, you’re right. We should definitely try to get an interview with some local press before we move on to Hoofington. The more ponies who remember Iron Will, the more we grow the brand.”
“B-b-b-baa?” Willy asked, as they approached the outskirts of the flimsy little town.
“We’re going to visit a little pony who goes by the name of Fluttershy. You guys remember her, right?”
“B-b-baah,” Nilly protested.
Iron Will shrugged his broad shoulders. “I doesn’t have anything else to do right now. Fluttershy is my best student and she gave us that ‘no means no’ catch-phrase that’s done so well. We parted on less than pleasant terms and I just want to tell her that there’re no hard feelings.”
“Baa,” Billy argued as they advanced on Fluttershy’s cottage.
“I won’t dignify your whining with a response,” he responded to his nagging PR manager.
Fluttershy emerged from her cottage and trotted happily down the steps to meet them on road. She seemed happier to see Iron Will than he expected, but when she looked up and jerked to a halt, kicking up dust from the road, it became apparent she had been happy about something else entirely and was not at all happy to see Iron Will and his entourage of goats.
“Iron Will hopes you’re having a rock on afternoon!” he said to smash the ice between them.
“Well, um, yes, I guess you could say I’m having a really, um, ‘rock on’ afternoon.”
“Bhaa,” Willy joked to Nilly.
Iron will immediately snatched his imbecilic lackey by the collar and held him up at one strong arm’s length. “Watch what you say in polite company!” he bellowed in the goat’s face, spraying him with spit.
“Oh, it wasn’t a bad joke,” Fluttershy said nervously in Willy’s defense. “I’m a grownup; I’ve heard dirty jokes before.”
Iron Will dropped his trembling lackey to the ground and turned disbelievingly to this innocent little pony. “You think that was a dirty joke? You need to get out more often, Fluttershy.”
“Well, I’m getting out now,” she happily. “I’m going to the spa to meet my friend Rarity.” She nodded a terse goodbye and skirted Iron Will and his feckless goats, giving them a much wider breadth than was really necessary.
“Uh, Iron Will was just going to the spa himself,” he said, thinking fast, like a sprinter. Iron Will had not yet cleared things up with Fluttershy and he would not be denied what he wanted.
“Oh, um, we could go to the spa together then,” Fluttershy offered hesitantly, as if this might be last thing she wanted.
“Spas aren’t really Iron Will’s sort of place,” he admitted, scratching at his Mohawk as he walked along beside Fluttershy and his gangly goats.
“I was very nervous the first time Rarity invited me to go to the spa with her,” Fluttershy said, giving him an encouraging smile. “It turned out to be very nice though.”
Iron Will scoffed. “Iron Will isn’t ‘nervous’ about going to a spa. Iron Will isn’t afraid of anything . . . ‘Uncomfortable’ might be a better word though,” he admitted in a mumble that only she and his goats might hear.
“Baaah,” Billy warned.
Fluttershy looked back at the goat reproachfully. “I don’t think anypony should think less of Iron Will for going to a spa. There’s nothing ‘unmanly’ about relaxing and having good hygiene.”
Obviously, such things were pretty unmanly, but Iron Will was clever enough to find a workaround. “Billy, do you remember back in Las Pegasus when Iron Will was wearing that pink T-shirt to prove how comfortable he was with his own manliness?”
“Well, this is the same kind of thing. In fact, find me that T-shirt, will you? Iron Will might as well go all out if he’s going to a spa.”
Their procession stopped for a minute, so Nilly could fumble around in a satchel to find the manly shirt. It was so tight Iron Will was amazed he didn’t rip it to shreds when he stretched the triple-extra-large shirt over his frame. For a minotaur it would have just been a large, but it was a shirt originally intended for little ponies. FIGHT FOR THE CURE: CRUSH MAMMARY CANCER, the shirt read.
Fluttershy admired the charity-drive shirt. “That’s very sensitive of you.”
Billy’s eyes went wide. “B-b-b-ba!”
Iron Will narrowed his eyes thoughtfully and nodded. “Yeah, Billy is right. Sensitive is a bad word. It sounds too much like weak.”
Fluttershy cringed and blushed deeply. “I’m so sorry. I promise I won’t call you sensitive again if it hurts your feelings so much.”
Iron Will knelt down and put his finger under Fluttershy’s chin, nudging her to make eye contact with him. He adopted a softer voice. “You could just say that Iron Will has heart. That sends the same message without making me sound lame . . . It almost sounds vaguely athletic too,” he mused.
Fluttershy’s cheeks pulled back into a bright smile and her eyes sparkled in the sunlight. “I think you have a good heart.”
Lotus Blossom grabbed Iron Will’s head and violently yanked it back and forth, wrenching a catastrophic cacophony of cracks from his spinal column. The relief was immediate and overwhelming. All bodily tension had ceased and unmanly tears flowed uncontrollably from his eyes. He wasn’t sad though. Iron Will had never felt more ecstatic. It was like being drunk, but better.
“Wow, you’ve got to tell me how you did that. I might want to do that to myself sometime to prevent sports injuries and such.”
“I think it’s best if you leave that to a professional, dear. I don’t think it’s something that should be attempted upon yourself,” Fluttershy’s white unicorn friend said as Aloe massaged her shoulders on an adjacent table.
“You underestimate the kind of things I can do,” he said.
“So what do you think of the spa?” Fluttershy asked, leaning over the side of a hot tub to peer down at him.
“I should have been doing this years ago,” he said enthusiastically.
“See, Rarity, he’s really not so bad if you give him a chance.”
“Yes, he seems fine, but you can understand why I was surprised to see him; he threw me and Pinkie Pie in a mud puddle last time we met.” The white unicorn looked over at Iron Will. “You still haven’t given me a proper apology for that, by the way.”
“Iron Will does not apologize,” he mumbled as Lotus Blossom worked his spine.
The white unicorn had the sense not to push the issue further and they all relaxed in the quiet bliss of the spa, but the peace was soon interrupted by a loud group of stallions who could be heard from another part of the facility. Iron Will might have ignored the voices and continued his relaxation, but he caught his own name coming up in their conversation.
Fluttershy’s and Rarity’s ears perked up as well and Iron Will motioned for the spa sisters to stop so they could better eavesdrop on the conversation, which came from behind a decorative median separating the facility’s hot tubs.
“Hey, Rich, what did you think of Iron Will’s assertiveness seminar this morning?” one stallion asked.
“I tell you, even as a smart investor, that monster’s seminar is well worth the money.”
“I heard you don’t have to pay him if you’re not one hundred percent satisfied with his advice,” another stallion said.
“That’s why I won’t be paying him,” said the stallion called Rich.
“Yeah, but you were satisfied thought, weren’t you?” yet another stallion asked.
“Certainly, but that oaf has no way of knowing it. I would be foolish to give him a single bit.”
“I heard even Fluttershy refused to pay him the last time he ran his seminar in Ponyville,” another stallion said. “He must not be making very much money if a wimp like Fluttershy won’t even pay him.”
“Well, what can I say, he has a bad business model,” Rich said.
Fluttershy grimaced. “Those meanies are planning on cheating you,” she whispered nervously.
Iron Will jumped to his hooves. “If they think they can pull a fast one on Iron Will, boy are they mistaken.” He tried to crack his neck and fingers, but found that all the tension had already been released from them.
“Oh, I hope you’re not going to hurt them,” Fluttershy whispered.
Iron Will paused and shook his head. “Of course I’m not going to hurt them. Being assertive isn’t about being violent; it’s about using your words to get what’s yours.” Violence hadn’t worked out so well for him in the past and he wasn’t about to turn his stay in Ponyville into another Appleloosa.
“We’d better go with him to make sure he doesn’t do anything stupid,” he overheard Rarity whisper to Fluttershy as he stepped around the median to find a group of snobbishly groomed stallions lounging in a luxury whirlpool bath, their polo collars and polo mallets arranged pretentiously on low tables beside the hot tub. A middle aged brown stallion with an oily, slick black mane seemed to be positioned as the leader of the clique. Iron Will suspected that this was the jerk who had been bragging about his plan to cheat him.
Fluttershy and Rarity stood at Iron Will’s side as he cleared his throat and drew himself up to truly tower over the polo ponies. “So, Iron Will heard you were very satisfied with his assertiveness seminar. Iron Will is assuming that you won’t have any problem paying Iron Will’s fair and reasonable price tomorrow when Iron Will shows up at your door demanding his rightful payment.” Iron Will pawed at the floor with his hoof and snorted dangerously as if he was about to charge into the hot tub and strangle the bastard. Intimidation was one of the most important parts of assertiveness, even if backing it up with real violence was less than ideal.
Mr. Rich recovered from his surprise almost instantly. “No, I was only about seventy-four percent satisfied. Your show seemed a bit gimmicky and half-baked at points, so I won’t be paying you one cent,” he said smugly.
Iron Will felt his anger rising and started taking ten deep breaths to calm down, but his breathing itself must have sounded threating, because the polo players all climbed out of the hot tub and spread out to surround Iron Will, Fluttershy, and Rarity. There were over half a dozen of them and they were all in good shape, but Iron Will know he could make short work of them if it came down to it. He was more worried that Fluttershy or Rarity might get caught in the middle of this stupidity.
Mr. Rich seemed to be taunting him as he dried off and put on a fancy business collar and a silky red tie with a large golden money symbol emblazoned in its center. He had more than enough wealth to afford his seminar fee. Iron Will resolved that he would get paid.
“Iron Will overheard you say that you were totally satisfied with Iron Will’s assertiveness training and Iron Will is going to make you eat that tie of yours if you don’t eat what you said about not paying him. Little ponies who try to cheat Iron Will had better have a good contingency plan for avoiding the major flank kicking that they’ve got coming to them!”
“Sir, are you threatening me?”
“What, you couldn’t tell? Was I not making that abundantly clear?” A quick movement in his peripheral vision caused him to wheel about just in time to see that one of the polo ponies had crept up behind to attempt kicking him into the hot tub. Fluttershy had also noticed and jumped in the way to prevent the attack.
Rarity screamed. “Fluttershy, no!”
The kick hit Fluttershy straight in the eye and sent her sprawling to the floor. Rarity was immediately at her side. “Oh no, you’re going to have a nasty, horrible black eye for weeks!”
At this point, a thousand deep breaths could not have calmed Iron Will down. “You hurt my friends, your pain begins!” He bellowed, ripping out of his pink T-shirt to free up his burly arms and chest.
He lunged among the polo ponies, throwing a flurry of hard punches and kicks precisely and devastatingly. He was mobbed, kicked, bitten, and pummeled every which way at first, but soon enough polo snobs went flying in every direction, smashing against walls, falling into the tub, being thrown over counters, and smashed into the ceiling fan as he dealt with one after the other. The annihilation of the room and the thrashing of its inhabitants took so little time Iron Will was stunned at how quickly it had all ended. He then realized things might have gone worse for him if Rarity had not also set about using her magic and hard kicks to neutralize as many polo players as she could.
Lotus Blossom and Aloe poked their heads out from behind the decorative median and gaped with horror at the destruction of their business.
“It was mostly his fault,” Rarity said quickly, pointing an accusing hoof at Iron Will.
“No it wasn’t,” Fluttershy said as she got shakily to her hooves from where she had been cowering on the floor. Her left eyelid had already begun to swell badly.
The groans of the defeated polo team could be heard from every corner of the room, but they made no move to get up and continue the fight. Only the stallion who had been thrown into the hot tub surfaced, gasping for air and looking around desperately for an escape. Mr. Rich had not been in the fight. He crouched in a corner and bolted from the room and out into the street as Iron Will turned to confront him.
Iron Will pounded after him, smashing the spa entrance to bits with his horns and bulky shoulders. “You’re not getting off that easy! You still haven’t paid me yet,” he yelled after the cowardly businesspony.
Fluttershy flew beside Iron Will. “Oh, please just let him go,” she pleaded. “I don’t want anypony else to get hurt.”
The sight of Fluttershy’s horrible black eye just made him even angrier. “Iron Will won’t be satisfied until that bastard admits that he was one hundred percent satisfied and pays his due.”
“I’ll pay you whatever he owes you,” Fluttershy offered desperately.
“That won’t solve the problem. At this point, this is about honor not money.” Iron Will charged after the disappearing brown stallion. He threw hapless ponies, barrels, food stands, and even small houses this way and that as he barged forward in a direct route to catch his fleeing debtor. “You can’t escape Iron Will in any hoofrace!” He bellowed. “Iron Will got his name winning an Iron Minotaur competition. Iron Will is endurance incarnate!” He made a mental note to remember this catch-phrase for later use.
Rich glanced over his shoulder for a moment and dived into a narrow alley.
“Fluttershy! Fly around and cut off his escape!” Iron Will barked as she kept pace with him.
“Just do it! If we catch him now, we can end this destruction before it gets out of hoof.”
Fluttershy gave a little squeak and flew away, presumably to cut off Rich’s escape.
The alley was too narrow for a minotaur to fit through without turning sideways and Rich managed to slip out of sight long before Iron Will bashed and tripped his way through to the other side. Fluttershy landed breathlessly nearby. “Sorry, I couldn’t stop him just by asking nicely. He ran up some stairs and is hiding on the roof,” she said, indicating the flimsy two-story building they were standing next to. “He’s tired and scared. You should let me try to work things out between you so nopony gets hurt.”
“It’s long past time for words.” Iron Will punched hand holds into the walls of the building as he scaled it like some sort of champion rock climber. Mr. Rich yelled in terror and leapt to a nearby rooftop as Iron Will burst through the thatched roof.
“All I want is my fee,” he yelled, leaping through the air and smashing the top story of the next house to smithereens, thatch, wood, stone, and glass window panes going everywhere at once. Rich continued scrambling and jumping from roof to roof as Iron Will charged and smashed after him, obliterating the top stories of house after house, toppling chimneys and ripping through rafters. Crashing through a room and knocking a large mirror over to shatter into a trillion shards, Iron Will reflected that he had never had such bad luck as to encounter a client as stingy as Mr. Rich.
After Iron Will had destroyed a good swath of the town, Mr. Rich had the misfortune to tumble off a roof and plummet, flailing desperately, down into the street. For a moment, Iron Will doubted that he would survive the fall, but, lucky as ever, the damn stallion had his fall cushioned by a cart of cushions and scrambled to his hooves, panting, scraped up, and as filthy as a pony ever looked. Iron Will vaulted from a rooftop and landed in the street, his impact creating a small crater.
Rich reared up and charged out into the open town square. Big mistake. He can only stay ahead of me if I have to crash through stuff that slows me down.
The only building in the square was a ridiculously elaborate candy shop, which Iron Will had wanted to go into earlier that day, but had figured it was just for fillies and colts. Mr. Rich bolted inside, slamming the door behind him. Iron Will looked back at the damaged and collapsing houses in his wake and decided he would not destroy this candy shop if he could help it. When he ducked inside the shop, Mr. Rich was nowhere to be seen. Instead, a vaguely familiar pink pony was tossing an orange-haired baby unicorn up and down. The sight would have been cute if Iron Will was not in such a homicidal rage.
“Where is Mr. Rich?” he demanded of the oblivious pink pony.
She set the laughing baby down on a counter and extended a friendly hoof, which Iron Will shook in spite of himself. Her voice was high pitched and excited. “Hi, I’m Pinkie Pie.”
“Yeah, that’s great,” Iron Will said, standing up as tall as he could without tearing the ceiling to shreds with his horns, “now tell me where Mr. Rich is.”
“Sorry, he told me not to tell you.”
Iron Will snorted hot steam from his nostrils. “Don’t play games with Iron Will, because Iron Will always wins and losing to Iron Will hurts like a motherf—” He decided it was best not swear in front of the baby.
“Sorry, my lips are sealed,” Pinkie Pie said obstinately. The baby unicorn clapped and laughed as if mocking Iron Will’s frustrations.
Iron Will glared at Pinkie Pie. “Then I’ll just have to beat the information out of you!” he yelled, attempting to crush her with a barrel of beats. The pink pony moved faster than greased lightning, dodging this way and that without a hint of fatigue or fear. Within a few seconds, he had managed to smash everything in the shop except her and the baby.
Iron Will gave up trying to smash her and set the barrel back where he found it. He turned back to Pinkie Pie, who looked aghast at all of the destruction he had wrought. “So you like to play games do you?” he asked bitterly.
“Oh most definitely!” Pinkie Pike’s face lit up and she hopped up and down as if Iron Will was suggesting that they play an especially fun game.
“Well then, let’s play fetch!” In one smooth motion, Iron Will grabbed the annoying baby, opened the front door and put all his force behind hurling the tiny unicorn infant out into the sky.
Pinkie Pie finally looked scared; she shot out into the town square to try to catch the falling baby. Unfortunately, Iron Will still had no idea where Mr. Rich was hiding. He looked around the ransacked pastry shop and wondered if he should finish demolishing it to discover where his debtor was hiding. Mr. Rich could have easily slipped out a back door though.
Iron Will had only just begun to realize how much trouble he was getting himself in. He hoped his goat lackeys would have the good sense to stay out of it this time, so only he would be punished. He paced around the wreckage of the shop and wondered how he would talk this way out of this one. At least he knew he was in the right; that would help his case.
When he stepped out of the shop, he saw six mares galloping toward him. Fluttershy, Rarity, and Pinkie Pie were among them. There was also a blue one with rainbow hippy hair, an orange one in a cowpony hat, and a purple unicorn who led the charge. Pink bolts of light shot from her horn. One of the bolts hit Iron Will in the chest, dropping him.
“Oh no Twilight, you killed him!” Fluttershy wailed.
“Twilight, we weren’t trying to kill him,” said Pinkie Pie.
As Twilight cautiously approached him, Iron Will reached up and grabbed her by the head, forcefully snapping her neck with a sickening series of cracks.
Rarity’s voice was shrill with anger. “You monster! You killed Twilight!”
Twilight collapsed in a heap beside Iron Will as he climbed to his hooves. “I didn’t kill her. I merely neutralized her by releasing the stress she was holding in her spine.”
Twilight rolled over and looked up at the sky in a daze. “Wow, it feels so good,” she said as if to no one in particular.
“Yeah, Twilight tends to hold on to a lot of stress,” Pinkie Pie commented.
“Sorry about throwing the baby,” Iron Will said, realizing too late that he had just violated his rule against apologies.
“Pumpkin Cake is just lucky Equestria’s best flier was there to save the day,” the hippy pegasus bragged.
“Ya have got a lot o’ explainin’ ta do, ya hear me,” the country pony said, glaring up at Iron Will.
“What’s there to explain? Mr. Rich was trying to cheat me and I did what I had to do to get what was mine, speaking of which, one of you little ponies needs to tell me where that cheat is hiding or Iron Will is going to bring down a world pain.” A damaged house nearby imploded into a cloud of dust and falling debris.
“We’ll have no more o’ this nonsense. We’re taking you in . . . and no funny business. Ya may be big and tall, but you’re a bit outnumbered.”
Iron Will stood up and flexed his muscles menacingly. “Iron Will was outnumbered earlier today and you can see how that worked out. Do your worst. You’ll never take Iron Will alive.”
The orange cowpony promptly lassoed him around the waist and gave him a surprisingly forcefully tug which almost caught him off balance, but Iron Will was always ready for a fight and made sure to slip his arms out of the lasso before the orange pony could pulled it tight about him. He grabbed the rope with both arms and yanked the orange pony toward him, giving him enough slack to swing her into the air and twirl her as she hung on to the other end with her teeth. The other ponies scattered out of her trajectory as Iron Will spun her in faster and faster circles before her teeth slipped from the rope and she sailed into the sky, the second orange blur he had sent there that afternoon.
The hippy pegasus shot off after the flying cowpony. With the trigger-happy unicorn called Twilight still lying in the street, giggling and crying from her chiropractic release, and Fluttershy and Rarity possibly still being his allies, there was only one annoying enemy left in the battlefield, but Pinkie Pie made no move to shoot or lasso him, so they all just stood looking at each other stupidly while Twilight kept saying “Wow.”
“There he is! Stop him!” shouted an authoritative male voice. Iron Will noticed a group of strong white royal guards charging across the town square toward him.
Will they ever learn? He wondered. Snapping to his senses he gave some quick orders of his own. “Fluttershy, get Twilight out of the street so nopony steps on her during the fight. Rarity, take a sniper position on a roof and take down targets as you can. Pinkie Pie, start making me a victory cake.”
Fluttershy carried Twilight to safety, but Pinkie Pie and Rarity made no move to follow his orders. Rarity knitted her brow. “You’re not serious are you? You practically destroyed Ponyville. I’m glad the authorities are here to put an end to all this ugliness!”
As the royal guards poured into the square and encircled them, Iron Will wondered why he had let this happen again. Now he would have to beat up fifty or even a hundred ponies whom he had no reason to beat up aside from the fact that he was in the right and they were preventing him from getting his way. Diplomacy seemed to be the best course of action. He made his living talking, so talking his way out of this wouldn’t be a problem.
“Okay, stop,” he said, looking around at the now almost innumerable guards. “All I was trying to do was collect a debt that was owed to me. Now the last time I checked, that was a perfectly legal thing to do. I am in the right here, so you can all just go back to Canterlot and nopony needs to get his flank kicked.”
A white unicorn with a blue mane and purple armor stepped forward, presumably to tell Iron Will that was right and that the royal guard would be leaving shortly, but instead he said, “Seize him!”
Big Mistake. Iron Will sent punches and kicks in every direction he needed to, sending guards crashing into one and the other, banging their helmets together concussively. He snatched and tossed guards off his back when they tried to bring him down in a pony pile. He saw a few guards escorting Pinkie and Rarity out of the fray, presumably they were being arrested.
The captain cast magical pink coils around Iron Will’s wrists, but he broke free as if his bonds were no stronger than thatch. He fought his way toward this foolish captain who had brought this upon himself by trying to seize an innocent minotaur. Just as he reached the unicorn, fighting through a second imprisonment spell, all of the guards stopped attacking. They were all looking to the sky and no longer seemed to be worried about seizing Iron Will.
Iron Will considered seizing the opportunity to sucker punch the captain of the royal guards while he stared into the sky like a sucker, but Iron Will hesitated. Whatever they were all looking at must have been really important for some reason, so he looked to the sky as well.
“Oh thank Celestia,” he murmured, seeing that Princess Celestia herself had come to intervene on his behalf. She was known for her mercy and justice, so Iron Will knew he would have a good chance of setting everything straight and getting paid if she afforded him a chance to explain himself. On the other hand, she might not afford him such a chance; like Iron Will, she was pretty busy and might not have time to listen. She could just as easily banish him, imprison him, send him to a forced labor camp, or turn him to stone.
The guards bowed and stepped aside as Princess Celestia alighted gracefully and approached Iron Will. She was evidently very angry and explaining what he had done, no matter how justified he was in doing it, immediately seemed like a lost cause. He formulated a brilliant escape plan in his mind, scrapped it, and came up with a better one. Remembering to maintain appearances in front of royalty, he licked his palm and used it to slick back his Mohawk. He knelt down and gave a graceful bow as the princess stood over him.
“What is the meaning of this?” she demanded. “Why have you hurt so many innocent ponies?” As the other guards had cleared away to give the princess space to approach Iron Will, she was now the only creature blocking his escape route. If he could just get past her he knew he could outrun all of these guards. Well, the pegasi were faster than him, but he could take them on easier if he did not have to also fight the unicorn and earth pony guards.
Iron Will continued kneeling before the princess, but tensed his muscles and took a deep breath. “The only ponies I ever hurt were blocking me from my objective . . . And when somepony tries to block, SHOW THEM THAT YOU ROCK!” He sprung up from his bow like a sprinter exploding off the blocks and gave the princess a rock-solid uppercut. Everypony gasped as the princess crumpled to the ground. KO!
Iron Will had no time to run. Fluttershy flew overhead and threw a net over him in which he became hopelessly entangled. The more he kicked and punched and rolled on the ground the more the net twisted around his horns and limbs. He could hardly move.
Fluttershy landed beside the unconscious princess. “Oh Celestia, I’m so sorry. This is all my fault. If I hadn’t tried to defend Iron Will and gotten hurt, he wouldn’t have gotten so mad and destroyed everything.”
Disappointingly not unconscious, the princess rose to her hooves and dusted herself off before peering curiously at Fluttershy. Iron Will was astounded at how far his friend would go to defend him. This certainly wasn’t her fault. “No, Fluttershy, it’s my fault! It’s Iron Will’s fault.” He called out from the net.
“Bha-aaa,” Billy chided Iron Will from the other side of the bars.
“Look, mistakes were made. We’ll recover from this one. So long as ponies lack confidence somewhere, Iron Will is going to be there to help them learn to be more assertive. The fact that Iron Will demolished a good section of a town to make sure he was fairly compensated will only make him that much more famous.”
“Ba-aa-a,” protested the PR goat.
“Okay, infamous might be a better word, but the bottom line is that everything is going to be fine. At least the princess had Mr. Rich pay up. I suspect that very few other ponies who attended this last seminar will think twice about denying me my fee now that they’ve seen what happens.”
“Yeah, you try and get some sleep too.” As the goat left, Iron Will peered through the bars of his tiny cell window and watched the moon slowly drifting through the night sky. He started to feel the full toll of the countless scrapes and bruises he had sustained during the day. A small voice startled him and he bumped his head on the low stone ceiling.
“Are you okay?” Fluttershy asked. Even in the dim torchlight, her black eye looked worse than ever. It made Iron Will want to bend the bars of this cell and burst forth into the night to continue trashing the town, but he restrained himself. Twilight had cast some sort of spell to reinforce the flimsy bars and he had a suspicion that it was some sort of shocking spell.
“I’m kind of tired,” he admitted.
“I’m sorry about all this,” Fluttershy said sadly.
Iron Will limped painfully over to the bars to get a better look at her in the dim light, making sure not to touch the magical bars. He adopted the gentlest tone of voice he could. “I’ve got a little lesson for you, Fluttershy. Listen closely; Never blame yourself, when you can blame somepony else.”
Fluttershy frowned distastefully. “That’s not a very good lesson, really.”
Iron Will considered this for a moment. “Yeah, you’re right. It’s probably not generally a good lesson, but it’s true in this situation. Almost everything bad that happened today was my fault and none of it was yours. All you did was try to protect me and stop me from being stupid.”
“Do you want some dessert?” Fluttershy asked, taking a small tub of ice cream, two bowls, and two spoons from a satchel.
“I don’t really deserve it,” he said, as she pushed the little bowl of ice cream between the bars. He hoped the bars would not shock her.
Even with her grotesque black eye, the sight of Fluttershy’s smile still warmed Iron Will’s heart. She took a small bite of ice cream and looked up at him between the bars. “Well, at least I’m going to forgive you. I’ve gotten really mad and done bad things before, and my friends always forgive me, because they know I’m good inside. I believe you are good on the inside too.”
Iron Will considered this and wondered if she was right. For such a long time, his main priority had been to be awesome and prove to everypony how much he rocked. He couldn’t remember the last time he had just been trying to be a good person. Maybe it was earlier in the day when he went to visit Fluttershy just to make sure there were no hard feelings between them. He had no business interest in doing it and his managers had told him as much.
Fluttershy was his new manager, at least for the next year. Princess Celestia had assigned him three thousand hours of community service, which would mostly be spent repairing Ponyville. The bowl of ice cream Fluttershy had given him was so small by minotaur standards that it was an effort to not eat it all in one swallow, but he took tiny bites and savored each one. In spite of everything, he felt surprisingly happy just sitting there on the stone floor of his cell, sharing ice cream with this little pony whose kindness he felt he had hardly earned.