Rainbow Dash swiftly led Fluttershy and I through Ponyville and towards one of her preferred training spots, which turned out to be an open field at the outskirts of town. There wasn’t really much in ways of trees and the landscape was dotted with small rolling hills, which I guess were ideal conditions in case of crash.
“Alright, this is it,” Rainbow said, presenting the field like it was something out of the ordinary. “This is where I come up with my coolest tricks!”
Rainbow was looking at us expectantly, and while Fluttershy gave her what I assumed to be a pity clap, all I did was cock an eyebrow at her unnecessary boasting. Seeing my deadpan expression, she quickly ceased her showboating and I swear I could hear her mumble something about this getting more cheers usually.
“So anyway, I can do some pretty neat tricks, is there anything in particular that you’d like to see?” Rainbow asked while doing some stretches.
I observed her stretching carefully, particularly the ones directly involving her wings and filing them away for later testing. “Not really, go nuts.” I shrugged.
“One Rainbow Dash special coming right up!” Immediately after the words left her mouth, Rainbow shot up into the sky, a gust of wind ruffling our manes.
In fact, Rainbow took off so fast, it took a second for me to register what happened and where the blue pegasus had disappeared to. I redirected my eyes towards the sky, and sure enough, I could faintly make out Rainbow Dash up there, apparently waiting in a hover until she had our undivided attention.
Shortly after, Rainbow fell into a dive bomb with a direct course towards us. It appeared as if her plan was to pull up shortly before hitting us in a display of skill, so I took a careful step to the side. Unfortunately Fluttershy wasn’t as quick on the uptake as I was, and when Rainbow practically grazed to top of her head with a hoof and she let out a meek shriek and toppled over backwards.
I quickly hurried over to her, concerned about her well being, but Fluttershy was already scrambling to get back on her hooves. It appeared like she had just received a mild shock from Rainbow Dash’s ‘awesome trick’. I sidled up to Fluttershy in an attempt to calm her nerves somewhat while refocusing my attention on Rainbow, which was back to a higher altitude, where she was performing some loops.
I watched closely as the speedster performed all kinds of complicated tricks; seemingly a lot more agile than earth's stunt fliers. Some of her tricks seemed downright physics defying, but considering that magic was a thing in this world I wouldn’t be surprised that it was to blame in this case too.
Rainbow Dash was up in the air for a good twenty minutes before she pulled out of a corkscrew and started gliding lazily towards us, panting slightly.
“So, what did you think?” Rainbow asked, setting down on the ground before Fluttershy and I. “Pretty awesome, right?”
“Aside from that first stunt, it was very entertaining, yes,” I confirmed. “Poor Fluttershy was so startled that she fell over backwards because of you…”
“Oh, don’t worry about me…” Fluttershy interjected. “I’ve seen her do that quite a few times already, but I still haven’t gotten used to it...”
“Sorry about that,” Rainbow said sheepishly. “I sometimes forget myself a little when I’m up in the air like that…”
I watched them apologize to each other some more. It was quite obvious that Rainbow cared a lot for Fluttershy, apologizing profusely and making sure she really was as okay as she claimed to be, while Fluttershy apparently just made a habit out of apologizing to others. A small smile graced my face as I listened to them.
Considering everything that happened up to this point, humans and ponies didn’t seem too different from each other. Of course there were pretty significant cultural differences, yet in terms of personality, one would be hard pressed to find any. The most obvious one right now seemed to be that ponies were a lot friendlier and caring towards people, or I guess, ponies they didn’t know.
“Aww, see?” Rainbow Dash said suddenly. “Short stuff actually can smile.”
I blinked a few times, confused at the two ponies in front of me looking happily in my direction. “What do you mean?”
“Oh, it’s just… You haven’t really been smiling ever since we found you,” Fluttershy helpfully supplemented. “I was starting to worry.”
“I haven’t been smiling?” I asked myself quietly, trying to remember if I had done so the past few days. “I guess I haven’t…”
With all that had been going on, the different world, the new body, trying to keep up my cover, it would appear that I was uncharacteristically serious the whole time. A fact that was reflected on my face whenever I was with them, apparently. Well, it wouldn’t hurt to leave my guard down just a little. Might as well enjoy myself while I was here. After all, the hardest part was over now. My presence was established, as well as my safe background. As long as I sticked to the story, my secret would be safe for a while, even if I wasn’t on guard twenty-four-seven.
“So, now that this is done, wanna go visit Rarity?” Rainbow asked tentatively after I had been blankly staring at the ground in thought.
Oh yeah, I almost forgot about the last hurdle I still had to pass. “Uh, yeah, sure,” I replied, making sure to flash the two a smile when I answered. “Lead the way,” I gestured into the rough direction of town and we took off towards Rarity’s boutique.
“So, what’s Rarity like?” I asked, curious about the mare I was about to meet.
“Rarity is all about fashion and high society,” Rainbow Dash answered with a roll of her eyes. “I know it sounds awful, but she’s actually pretty cool in my books. You can always count on her if you need any help.”
I chuckled at Rainbows description of Rarity, but found myself agreeing with her a bit. Personally, I never was too fond of being overly polite and high strung, so there might be a bit of a culture clash once I met with her. Well, even more than what was usually the case since I arrived here. But apparently I shouldn’t worry too much, since apparently Rarity wasn’t too extreme in her behaviour, or otherwise I’d wager to say Rainbow wouldn’t put up with her at all.
“I’ll try to come over as not to crass then,” I responded, thinking that if she was going to be my judge, I might as well butter her up a bit instead of kicking in the door and proclaiming my love for America while kicking back a can of beer.
“You shouldn’t worry too much,” Fluttershy commented. “Rarity is actually really nice, no matter how you behave in her presence, she always tries to be accommodating.”
“Well, that’s certainly good to know,” I said, feeling a bit of mental relief. The more I learned about this Rarity, the more it sounded like she’d respect my boundaries, which in turn meant, that the possibility of my secret being kept grew more likely.
“Now, we could be at Carousel Boutique in just about ten minutes of walking,” Fluttershy said. “But if you’d like, we could take a little detour and show you more of Ponyville.”
“Sure, I’d like that,” I replied, actually curious to see more of this quaint little town I’d found myself in.
After a short discussion between Fluttershy and Rainbow Dash, we walked back into town proper, emerging between two cozy looking houses into a somewhat busy road. Fluttershy took the lead for a change, with Rainbow being content just lazily hovering next to us as we made our way through the streets of Ponyville. It appeared like there wasn’t any rhyme or reason to how the roads were placed, giving the me a quite haphazard impression. If anything, Town Hall was at the center and everybody simply built away from it in whatever direction they pleased.
As we were passing through town, Fluttershy kept pointing out various things to me, such as stores that sold specific goods, restaurants and cafes, and the occasional house of a friend of theirs. Most notably among there were a store that exclusively sold quills and sofas, which just seemed weird to me, since there had to be a very limited demand for both of these things. The other one being an actual, life size gingerbread house, which was apparently the towns bakery. I stood in awe at the size to the thing, this absolute unit, and was wondering if you could actually eat it, when I remembered that this was probably where Fluttershy's friend Pinkie Pie lived and worked. Both Fluttershy and Rainbow Dash were expectantly looking at the front door of the bakery, seemingly patiently waiting for something to happen for a while, much to my confusion.
“Eh, probably isn’t home…” Rainbow Dash shrugged after a while. Fluttershy seemed to agree and the tour picked back up.
We passed through the market again, but instead of going straight towards Applejack’s produce stand, I actually paid a bit more attention to the individual stands and what they were peddling. The vast majority was selling some sort of produce, much like Applejack, but mixed in with them was the occasional utility, such a hoof woven baskets or woodcarvings. We waved at Applejack when we passed her by, but aside from waving back she didn’t interact with us all that much, since she had acquired quite a long line of ponies craving for apples since we last saw her.
I tried to memorize as much as I could about the layout of the town, for when I eventually would have to navigate it myself, and eventually we arrived at the most unique looking building in the all of Ponyville. At least if I was the one judging.
It was designed to look like a giant tent, mostly painted in purple, white and equipped with yellow curtains, giving it a very gaudy, yet elegant appearance. It seemed to be two or three stories high, I couldn’t really tell because of the peculiar design, and at the top was what I suspected to be the namesake of the store. Modelled after an actual carousel, bars were erected, each one holding up a pony mannequin striking a different pose.
“And this is Carousel Boutique,” Fluttershy explained. “Rarity’s shop and our destination.”
“It’s very… unique,” I commented, the building not exactly striking my fancy.
As I was saying this, the door opened up and out walked a rose colored unicorn mare, levitating besides her a bag, presumably containing a freshly bought dress. She shot us a smile as she passed by, but I was more focused on the bag floating in her aura. Magic in this world was really a thing, and it looked hella convenient, especially since manipulating things with hooves wasn’t as accurate as I’d like it to be, magical assist or not.
I’d really have to try and learn some proper magic myself.
Just as I was wondering what kind of clothes ponies even wore, a voice coming from the shops entrance interrupted my thoughts.
“Rainbow Dash! Fluttershy!” A white unicorn mare with a fancy purple mane stood in the entrance to Carousel Boutique. I almost didn’t believe my eyes, but she seemed to be wearing some sort of eyeshadow.
Ponies wearing makeup… this world was getting weirder with ever new encounter I stumbled into.
“So nice to see you two!” The mare, most likely Rarity, continued. “What brings you here today?”
“Hi Rares,” Rainbow Dash said while setting down on the ground once more.
“Hello Rarity,” Fluttershy said next to me with a smile. “Actually we’re here to ask a little favor of you, it’s actually something to do with little Steady Beat here.”
As Fluttershy pointed me out, Rarity's eyes focused on me. She had been curiously looking at me before, but seemed to prioritize greeting her friends instead of snooping out my identity first. Now that her attention was officially directed towards me, she was scrutinizing me without reserve, although I had the feeling she was more interested in my hoodie rather than me.
“Why, hello there young colt,” Rarity said sweetly, engaging her ‘talking to a kid’ voice, much to my annoyance. “Then, what is it what you need my help with?”
Alright, this was it. First impressions were always important, and if I wanted her to respect my boundaries and not inadvertently expose me, I would need to come over as really polite. Rainbow mentioned that Rarity was into high society so I’d have to peruse my vast knowledge of being stuck up.
“Greetings, fair lady,” I said in a slightly blase voice. “It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance on this beautiful day. I’m afraid I’m in quite a spot of bother and may need some assistance with identifying the origin of the piece of garment I’m presently wearing.”
I blinked a few times to clear my head. My brain had just gone on auto-pilot and said the most cliche thing I’d ever heard. Apparently I wasn’t alone in my surprise, as three pairs of eyes were looking at me. I took the momentary lull in conversation to check if the magic of this world had made me grow a neckbeard in the last twelve seconds, and was relieved to find no unsightly stubble on my chin whatsoever, excluding my fur, of course.
“Oh! Yes! Of course!” Rarity said after a few moments of silence. “What a polite little colt you are, of course I’ll help you out. Why don't you all come inside first?” Rarity gestured for us to enter and stepped aside to let us in.
We shuffled inside and I got my first look at the interior of the shop while Rarity closed the door behind us. The floor was incredibly spacious, with lots of free room to move around. Pony mannequins stood in various spots, each displaying a masterfully crafted dress. Apparently pony fashion mainly consisted of cloth being worn over the front hooves and extending up until just before the tail, which would explain why nobody taught me to wear something weird. No matter where I looked, pants seemed to simply not exist, or at the very least they weren’t made here.
Compared to the completely stuffed clothes shops on earth, this was actually rather refreshing. As I was curiously looking around at everything I could set my eyes on, I could hear Fluttershy behind me roughly explaining my current situation to Rarity in more detail. I guess not all of their friends new about me yet. Judging by the suppressed gasp, Rainbow Dash probably just told Rarity that Fluttershy gave me a name. What gave it away was mostly Rainbow laughing her ass off once again.
I turned around from the dark blue dress I was inspecting and gave Rainbow the stink eye, which she happened to catch. Fluttershy was apparently already correcting the false statement, voiding the need for me to step in. Slightly annoyed relief spread across Rarity's face and she gathered herself up again, assuming a confident posture.
Positioning myself in front of a mirror and pretending I was inspecting myself, I actually watched the interaction between the “adults” behind me. Rarity seemed incredibly invested in whatever Fluttershy was telling her, making me worry that Rarity might be one of these persons that just love gossipping, because Rarity looked like she had just caught the gossip of a lifetime.
It didn’t take too long for Fluttershy to fill in Rarity, so after a few minutes, the three cantered over to me, Rarity front and center.
“Alright Steady Beat,” Rarity addressed me, causing me to turn and face her. “I’ve heard about your regrettable situation, and of course I’d love nothing more than to help you out.”
“That’s…” I stammered a bit, trying not to revert into a neckbeard at full tilt. It obviously wasn’t necessary. “Very nice to hear.”
“I’m sure it is,” Rarity nodded sagely. “Well then, I do have a small dressing room over there, I guarantee you will have full privacy according to your wishes and I’ll handle your precious hoodie with utmost care.”
“Promise?” I said, trying to pull off some sort of puppy eyes, and most likely failing spectacularly.
“Pinkie promise,” Rarity said, much to my confusion. How’d a pony even make a pinkie swear, considering they didn’t have, well… pinkies. As if to answer my question, she began a series of movements while chanting a peculiar rhyme. “Cross my heart and hope to fly, stick a cupcake in my eye.”
“Uhhh… okay?” I replied while the three mares just smiled at me.
Rarity proceeded to herd me towards a small booth on the other side of her shop and lightly shoved me inside before magically pulling the curtain closed, effectively completely obscuring me from their view.
“Alright, now, if you’d please take off your hoodie and hoof it to me outside?” Rarity said from the other side, patiently waiting for me to reply.
“Just a moment,” I replied back, directing my gaze down towards my hoodie.
Considering how much trouble I had so far with dressing and undressing myself lately, this was bound to become awkward really quick. Not wanting to waste anymore time I began to do my best to take off my hoodie by pulling at it with my magnet hooves and occasionally just tugging at it with my teeth. My fine control over my hoof grip wasn’t really anything to write home about, combined with the still rather awkward body I now inhabited, taking my hoody off was a chore everytime.
When I was at Fluttershy's place inside the guest room, I had all the time in the world to take it off, but this time I was under time pressure. I’m sure, by now the mares outside were exchanging questioning looks as they heard the occasional grunt and me just generally shuffling around. Eventually I managed to get it off, though, and passed it outside, making sure that the curtain covered everything except my hoof. After it was taken off my hoof, I quickly pulled it back inside and breathed a sigh of relief.
Another mirror was placed inside the dressing booth and I looked myself again. My little stunt had absolutely destroyed my hair, which stood out wildly in every imaginable direction, making for a rather comical sight. I made to flatten it out a bit with my hooves, and used the time to stretch out my wings a bit. Letting them out of their cottony prison always felt liberating and incredibly relieving.
Meanwhile I could hear Rarity outside hmm-ing and aha-ing, as she was probably scrutinizing my precious hoody from every angle. I wondered if she was using any spells on it to determine anything about it when a movement in the mirror caught my eye. Right before my eyes, one of my feathers gently floated towards the ground. At first I didn’t really understand what just happened, just staring at the, admittedly, rather beautiful feather as it alighted on the ground. Looking from it to my wing and back, it slowly dawned on me that it must have fallen out of my right wing.
My brain took a moment to process the implications, but as soon as I realized that this was actually one of my own feathers, a shiver ran down my spine and I started panicking slightly.
What if one of my feathers fell out and was now stuck in my hoodie? What if they found one of my feathers? There was no doubt in my mind that they would ask some very uncomfortable questions if they discovered one.
“Uhh… Rarity?” I shyly asked, trying to mask the nervousness in my voice as good as I could. “Is there anything wrong with my hoodie? Anything unusual?”
“I wouldn’t say that anything is wrong per se,” Rarity replied. “But it is definitely highly unusual.”
“In what way?” I asked, dreading the answer.
“Well, for starters, I can’t really find anything indicating who made it,” Rarity began absentmindedly explaining. “Usually, whoever tailors the dress leaves behind some sort of signature, usually just a small depiction of their cutie mark, or sometimes they sew in their shop’s name. Yet there is quite literally nothing, making me believe that somepony must have made it just as a hobby. Although that would be a bit weird as well, since it is crafted absolutely expertly, if I may say this.
“All the parts are sewn together expertly and sewing itself is hidden expertly from sight, while at the same time the proportions give off the impression that it wasn’t exactly made for a pony to wear. Time has worn it out a lot, yet it’s still perfectly functional and doesn’t have too much visible damage, attesting to the quality of the fabric that has been used to produce it. I must admit, I haven’t seen wool that was processed like this before.”
“And that’s all?” I asked.
“Why, yes,” Rarity replied. “I do feel like this particular piece of garment might hold quite a few more secrets for me to discover. But after turning it inside out and taking a good look at everything, that’s all I can tell right now.”
I let out a huge sigh of relief. If she had scrutinized it that carefully and hadn’t found any feathers yet, there probably wasn’t one there.
“So is there anything that might tell us more about where Beat is from?” Fluttershy asked hopefully.
“I’m afraid not,” Rarity said, probably frowning. “Aside from the fact that this seems like it wasn’t made in Equestria, I really have nothing to go on…”
“Oh…” Fluttershy replies, most likely slinking back behind her mane.
“Well, why don’t we talk about something a little more uplifting than this?” Rarity tried to salvage the situation. “Beat, dear, I couldn't help but notice that your hoody seemed a bit tight for you earlier. Would you mind if I made a few adjustments to it?”
“Uhh, I guess I did kind of grow a bit bigger over time, it is rather tight,” I replied. “But don’t these things take a lot of time?”
“Psh, nonsense dear,” Rarity brushed me off. “Of course a complete adjustment would take me an hour or two and I’d have to take your measurements of course. But seeing as that isn’t exactly an option right now, some simple adjustments should give you some breathing room and I should be able to do it in just about five minutes.”
“That would be amazing,” I replied, thinking of the constant pressure on my wings. “But I don’t think I could pay you for this…”
“Oh, don’t worry about that,” Rarity said. “Something this small is barely worth any money, plus, I wouldn’t dare taking any bits off a colt in a situation like you. Just see it as a small favor between friends.”
“Then by all means, go ahead,” I replied, hearing them chuckle outside, not sure about what.
“I’ll be done in a jiffy,” Rarity said before I could hear her trot off to somewhere.
“Are you okay in there Beat?” I heard Fluttershy ask through the curtains.
“Yeah, I’m perfectly fine in here. Feeling considerably less nervous now that this is over,” I replied, letting on some of my true feelings about this whole situation.
“Rarity is a real sweetheart, isn’t she?” Fluttershy said and I could hear her settling down next to my little booth.
“She’s very nice, yes,” I nodded. “Where’s Rainbow Dash by the way? I haven’t heard her in a while.”
“Fell asleep on Rarity’ couch as soon as she started talking about the details of your hoodie,” Fluttershy chuckled, on which I joined in. I haven’t known Rainbow for very long, but that was such a Rainbow thing to do.
“So what would you like to do after this?” Fluttershy asked.
“Honestly?” I said. “I’m pretty exhausted, so I could do with a nap or something. Rainbow’s got the right idea…”
“How do you feel about returning home then?” Fluttershy asked innocently, not really knowing the implications of the question.
“There’s nothing that I’d love to do more…” I replied mysteriously, not realizing that I just agreed to go “home”.
We fell into a comfortable silence after that, each ruminating about the situation we found ourselves in, albeit from two incredibly different angles, until Rarity’s return brought us back to the present.
“All done!” Rarity announced loudly. I could hear her hoofsteps coming closer, and suddenly the curtain opened up a bit and my hoody floated inside, carefully being set down on the ground next to me. “I made everything a little looser and widened the sleeves a little by adding some more fabric. It’s a patchwork job, really, but you should barely notice the difference.”
Aside from almost getting a heart-attack when I thought she was just going to pull the curtain open all the way, I was pretty happy about this little adjustment. I picked up my trusty hoody, and true to Rarity’s woord, I could barely notice anything different at first glance. “Thank you, Rarity,” I said, truly grateful. “I’ll put it on right away.”
True to my word I began the arduous process of putting my hoodie back on, although this time it was considerably easier, since I had more room to wiggle myself into it. As soon as I got done, I took one last look in the mirror to see if my hair was messed up again, and after a quick flattening opened the curtain and walked outside.
“It fits perfectly, thank you,” I said as soon as I came out. “Much more comfortable than before.”
I had to resist the urge to wiggle around my wings a bit, since I now could, because Rarity was eyeing me with a critical gaze, most likely to see if she messed up anything. After a few moments she nodded her head once, apparently satisfied with her work.
“Alright, this should do,” Rarity said. “If you’d ever like for me to really fit it to you, don’t hesitate to let me know.”
“I’ll think about it,” I nodded. “Thank you very much.”
“Don’t worry about it, darling,” Rarity waved me off. “So what are you two going to do now?”
“Actually,” Fluttershy replied before I could. “We thought about going home and maybe taking a nap.”
“That sounds like a good idea,” Rarity said, eyeing me again. “You look really tired, Beat.”
“I am really tired,” I replied with a yawn.
“I guess it’s time for us to go,” Fluttershy chuckled.
“What about Rainbow Dash?” I asked, causing everybody to look towards the sleeping pegasus.
“I’ll let her be a little longer,” Rarity said. “I’ll tell her where you went after she wakes up.”
“Thanks a lot,” I said to Rarity. “For everything.”
After exchanging a few more pleasantries, we moved back towards the door, intent to leave, and just like before, it opened before we could get to it. A white unicorn filly with a purple and pink mane trotted in. She was wearing a purple saddlebag and almost walked into us, since we were standing so close to the door.
“Woah!” She exclaimed, taking a step back. “Sorry about that.”
Her voice was kind of squeaky, almost causing me to laugh. We managed to shuffle past each other while she greeted Fluttershy and me, although I felt like she was actually staring at me for some reason. I’m not sure why I was so interesting to her, but hey, whatever floats her boat. With a last goodbye, Fluttershy and I started on our journey back towards a soft bed.
God knows I need it.
“Who was that?” Sweetie Belle asked her big sister.
“Hello to you too, Sweetie Belle,” Rarity replied with a roll of her eyes. “That was Fluttershy of course.”
“No, I meant the colt that was with her,” Sweetie replied, her annoyance barely hidden. “Is he like, her little brother or something?”
“I’m afraid their circumstances are a bit more complicated than that,” Rarity smiled awkwardly. “Suffice it to say that he’ll probably be staying at Fluttershy’s for a while.”
“Do you think he’ll come to school then?” Sweetie asked hopefully.
“I’m… not sure…” Rarity said after thinking about it for a little. “I don’t think they mentioned anything about it. Why?”
“He doesn’t have his cutie mark yet…” Sweetie replied. “I’m sure he’d make for a great crusader!”
“Of course that’s all you think about when you see a handsome young colt like that,” Rarity let her disappointment be known, her hopes at discussing love and the likes with her little sister completely lost. “Now why don’t you go upstairs and wash up? I’ll make us something to eat soon.”
“Alright, but be sure to tell me if you hear anything about him coming to school,” Sweetie said as she trotted off towards the stairs leading up. “I’d like to discuss him joining with the others first.”
“I’ll make sure to do that,” Rarity said. “I guess that’s actually not too bad of an idea, I’ll have to talk with Fluttershy about it if I get the chance…” she added under her breath. “Alright then, time to clean up a little!”
With renewed vigor, Rarity went back to her work. Since she currently had no clients and she had completed all her sewing work for today, all that was left was to clean up shop, which consisted of meticulously dusting everything off and making sure the dresses on display didn’t have any wrinkles.
She went about her work while humming a little tune that popped into her head, completing the task with practiced ease. Being able to control about ten dusters at once with her magic certainly helped. As she passed by the booth Steady Beat used earlier, something caught her eye. She levitated the foreign object towards her, until it was right in front of her face.
“Hmmm… how curious…”
In her aura floated a single, grey feather.