For a child like myself, listening to a story would eventually tire you out until you're fast asleep. But I generally read online stories in bed before I go to sleep in hopes of calming me down. I never realized that, depending on the story, it can actually keep you awake due to curiosity on what it's going to tell you next.
So why was it that Starlight's tale on her backstory making me feel queasy?
I know it can't be from a lack of sleep because I've been sleeping for at least half the time I've been in Equestria.
Was it because the details of her story were so drastic? I know I didn't like the part about her reason for starting a cult was due to her only friend suddenly forgetting about her and moved away. My initial thought after hearing about that was 'Is she for real? Talk about overreacting.'.
I love Starlight, but now that I understand her a lot more, I can clearly see that she still has a few scars that have yet to fade away.
I lament my concern for her as we walked together back to the Town Hall to collect my official documents. We both walked side-by-side at a minimum proximity so we don't get separated.
I can feel the hot, blazing stares of other ponies as I walk by them. I keep my eyes focused on the road in front of me as I feared the potentially scared expressions of those ponies.
I always hated attracting malevolent attention while I was minding my own business.
I picked up the pace and my casual walking speed increased to almost being a jog. Starlight noticed and trotted after me until we arrived at our destination.
After the most uncomfortable walk I've ever experienced, I finally stopped at the front doors leading to Town Hall. I quickly caught my breath from the slight anxiety attack I developed just from being stared. I feel like I walked in and out of a lingerie shop after buying one of every variety of underwear.
Starlight finally caught up and noticed my sorry state.
"Zero, are you alright? What happened back there?" She asks, trying to comfort me with a back rub.
After a long exhale, I answered her.
"All those stares, Starlight! I feel so alienated! I didn't even look at them, but I can feel their gazes on me. I thought I could handle showing myself in public, but I nearly had a panic attack!"
Starlight's back rub turned into a comforting embrace as she pulls me towards her soft chest.
"There, there, sweetie. It's gonna be alright. I know for certain that everypony will accept you as one of us. Just give it a little time. I mean, if a baby dragon like Spike could fit in with pony society, than so can a human child."
Her words were so soothing, I don't know how she does it. I'm pretty sure she doesn't have kids of her own, but she can handle a child's tantrum as if she was 'Mother of the Year'.
I pull back from Starlight's embrace before standing back up straight.
"Thanks, Starlight. You really know what I needed to hear. I'm surprised you're not a mother yet."
Those last words must've been TMI, because Starlight looks completely flabbergasted at my comment.
"Uhh... did I say something wrong?" I asked her nervously.
"No, no, no, it's okay." she responded, equally as nervous. "I just never thought of the idea of me being a mother. I've never even been in a romantic relationship before. I'm not sure I could the handle the responsibility."
Her nervousness makes her look so innocent, which I found quite cute. I placed a hand on her head to reassure her.
"It's okay, Starlight. I've been single my whole life too."
I pushed the doors open and we both walked inside. Once I come back out, I'll officially be a whole new person.
If it wasn't for the fact that I still had my memories of my post-traumatic experience with my father that justified my social awkwardness, I'd probably be waving to these pony folk left and right as I walk by them without being so nervous. That experience didn't happen until I was a few years older, but even before that, I lost my innocence prematurely.
I've always had my mother to watch over me, and I turned out to be a pretty okay guy. I didn't need the parental influence of a patriarch to tell me how to live my life. In a way, I envied my mother. She raised 4 offspring without settling down with any of her previous life partners all by herself.
She was the most hard-working woman I've ever known. I just wish I could've shown her how much she meant to me.
And that's why I look up to Starlight Glimmer with the respect she so rightfully deserves.
After receiving my documents, we made our way to the schoolhouse where Ms. Cheerilee provided us with my finalized enrollment form. Honestly, I was both excited and afraid to be going back to school. Especially a school so distant from what I've already attended in so many ways.
Luckily, school was out today because it was a Saturday, so we weren't interrupting any of my new teacher's lessons. I already admire her dedication to her job by coming to meet us at the school when it's not even open.
Just before we were about to make our leave, Cheerilee stopped us before showing us a special coupon for new students to purchase school supplies at a huge discount. Starlight happily accepted the coupon and we both thanked her before finally departing. As we walked along the path leading to the road, I turned around into a backwards walk while waving to Cheerilee who was watching us leave through one of the windows. She waved back with a big smile.
"Still getting cold hooves, Zero?"
I was slowly walking along the path next to Starlight, who I barely noticed was speaking to me. I shook my head as I snapped out of my trance.
"Huh? Oh, well, not as much as before. I'm actually looking forward to being taught by Ms. Cheerilee. She seems like a nice pony. I wish I had a teacher like her back on Earth."
"Oh? Were all your teachers not as friendly as her?"
"Mmm, no... Although, there was this one teacher who was too friendly."
"What do you mean?"
Weird, I was expecting her to know what I meant. But I don't want the idea of a child giving an adult mature thoughts to go to her head. I'll just drop the subject.
"I don't wanna talk about it." I said coldly.
"Oh. Alright, then." she replied carelessly.
Good. She might not be able to take a hint that much, but at least she knows a boundary when she sees one.
"Anyway, since my first day at school won't be until Monday, can we put the school supplies on hold until tomorrow? No point wasting a whole day on nothing but errands, right?" I asked gleefully.
"Couldn't agree more. Let's go home, Zero."
3rd Person POV
As Starlight and Zero finish their errands of the day, they decide to enjoy the rest of the day at their leisure together. Little did they know, they were being watched by the curious eyes of three fillies.
Not far behind the pair, the three fillies were making themselves discreet behind a bush next to the dirt road. Knowing they have not yet been discovered, they took a break to rest their poor little legs.
"So that kid's the reason you've been acting so weird lately?" One filly, Scootaloo, asked; An orange-coated Pegasus with a purple mane.
"Mm-hm." Sweetie Belle, another one of the fillies and Rarity's little sister said shyly.
"Y'all weren't kiddin' when ya said he ain't a pony." The last filly, Apple Bloom, said in a Southern accent. This one was a yellow-coated Earth Pony with a red mane and a big pink bow tied behind her head.
"I still don't see what's special about him that you had to turn red every time you think of him." Scootaloo stated ignorantly.
"I don't know why either, Scootaloo! But when I saw him at Princess Twilight's castle, he just... triggered something in me that I've never felt before. I convinced myself and Rarity that it was love at first sight." Sweetie Belle exclaimed.
The nervous filly then faced away from her friends and sat on her haunches, still somewhat embarrassed sharing the details of her crush with them.
"And did you hear what Ms. Cheerilee said back there?..." She said, her voice increasing in pitch, "He's going to be in our class!"
"Well, ah'm happy for yah, Sweetie Belle. We both are." Apple Bloom said, getting a nod of agreement from Scootaloo, "And don't y'all worry 'bout a thing. Scootaloo and ah'll be your wing-ponies while y'all both get more... intimate." she teased.
"Thanks, but no thanks, girls." Sweetie Belle retorted.
"What? Why not?" Scootaloo asked, disappointed.
"I'm not sure if you girls realized yet, but we have a pretty bad history with matchmaking. Remember when we tried to hook Ms. Cheerilee up with Big Mac? We had to resort to making a Love Poison and it resulted in uprooting a whole house and doing chores on Sweet Apple Acres. No offense, Apple Bloom."
"None taken. But ah see yer point. We'll just cheer for yah on the sidelines."
"Yeah! Besides, what kind of friends would we be if we did anything to stand in the way of your true love?"
Sweetie Belle and Apple Bloom both gave Scootaloo a questionable look, as if she said something rude.
"Wh-what did I say?"
"Too soon to know that for a fact, Scootaloo." Sweetie Belle replied. "I haven't even said a single word to him yet. But I'll make my debut when I see him at school on Monday."
"That's the spirit, Sweetie Belle!" Apple Bloom said confidently. "Anyhow, ah think we've stalked yer crush long enough today. I gotta get back home for lunch."
"Oh, no problem. I think I'm gonna go back to Rarity's too. What about you, Scootaloo?"
"Actually, my Aunt Holiday wants me to go shopping with her and I promised her that I'd be home soon to meet her."
"Alright, girls. I'll see you both on Monday."
The fillies said their farewells before splitting up from their bushy camouflage, each going in different directions off the path.
Zero Fate's POV
I sneezed roughly before gently rubbing my nose. I wonder what could've caused it. I doubt there are enough dust mites outside in the streets to trigger my allergies.
"You alright, sweetie?" Starlight asked, stopping in her tracks before patting my back for relief.
I gave a big sniffle before letting out a long exhale. Doing that always makes my head spin and I sometimes end up seeing stars around my field of vision. I slap the sides of my head, making me more focused. Once I pulled myself together, I answered Starlight.
"Yeah, I'm alright. I have a severe dust allergy, but I didn't expect to sneeze out here. Maybe I'm getting a hay fever."
"Oh. Well, maybe somepony's talking about you behind your back."
"You believe that Urban legend?"
"No, but I expected my liddle-widdle human to~." She mocked, squishing my cheeks together, turning my face into that of a bloated fish.
"Okay, okay, you've had your fun, cut it out." I played along before gently taking her hooves off my face.
We both shared a giggle before resuming our journey through Ponyville.
Seriously though, who's idea was it to decide that people talking behind your back causes you to sneeze out of nowhere? Where's the logic in that?
Putting aside my questioning on superstitions, I began to think of ways that I want to repay Starlight, Twilight and all their other friends for everything they've done for me. Such an act of kindness deserves to be rewarded. I know I'm not satisfied with just constantly saying 'thank you' on every occasion. I need another way to express my gratitude somehow.
...I've got it!
"Starlight, do you know if there any way I could make some pocket money?"