Chapter 13: Extracurricular Activities
Fluttershy’s brow was furrowed in concentration as she watched the quill she held scratch against a leaf of parchment. Her writing, as always, was hopelessly unsteady.
Fluttershy flinched, causing a few small drops of ink to fly from the quill and splatter against the page. The yellow mare’s gaze shot instantaneously to the source of the creak that had startled her. Starshade was nudging the door to her room open with his muzzle.
“Oh, sorry,” the colt apologized as soon as his head was visible. “I didn’t mean to scare you.”
Fluttershy removed the writing quill from her mouth and placed it beside the inkwell on her desk. “It’s okay. I’m not doing anything important,” the mare said. “Is there something you wanted to talk about?”
Starshade was not looking at Fluttershy as he answered. Instead, the colt’s gaze was fixated on the letter that Fluttershy had been writing. “You’re telling Miss Luna, aren’t you?”
The small pegasus looked from the letter directly to the floor. His eyelids were drooping, hiding the upper curve of his green irises and just barely obscuring the top of his pupils.
“Oh Starshade,” Fluttershy said softly as she stood and moved closer to the foal, “You know that I have to.”
The yellow mare trotted past Starshade as she spoke. Circling around behind him, she stopped at his side, standing in parallel his small winged body. He did not follow her with his eyes as she did so; his wide pupils remained focused on the ground.
Raising a forehoof, Fluttershy began gently massaging the base of the little colt’s wings. Starshade looked up over his shoulder and back at her. The mare detected the slightest smile on the pegasus’ face, but he still looked to be on the verge of tears.
“Don’t worry,” she reassured, “Everypony slips up a little bit every once in a while. Emotions can be a very hard thing to control. Even adult ponies have trouble sometimes.”
“Even you?” he asked, untwisting his neck and looking forwards again.
“Of course. I get really scared. Especially in the Everfree forest around all the scary creatures in there.”
“I wasn’t scared, though. I was angry. That’s so much worse.”
“You’re right,” Fluttershy said in a soft voice barely above a whisper. Starshade was on the verge of tears.
Fluttershy pressed her hooves into Starshade’s side, causing him to wince a little. “But dealing with those negative emotions is even more important than dealing with being afraid. When I get scared, I have to work up the courage to face my fears in order to help my friends.” Fluttershy ran a second hoof along the colt’s side and began massaging a little bit more vigorously. She could see Starshade beginning to un-tense under her touch. “But you don’t just need courage when you’re scared. You need it even more when you’re angry. Do you understand why?”
“No,” the little pegasus admitted. “I don’t understand.”
“You need the courage to calm yourself down and forgive the other pony. That’s so much harder than finding the courage to stare down a cockatrice or a big dragon, you know.”
“Because, a dragon can only hurt you on the outside. But not fighting back against a mean pony can hurt you on the inside. At least, that’s what you think will happen. But in reality, being in control of yourself when they’re not shows everypony else, and sometimes even them, that you are the better pony. If you get angry too, then you’re acting just like they are.”
Starshade’s eyes were closed as he answered. “I think I understand.”
“So what do you think you should do, then?”
“Miss Cheerilee already made me apologize to Silver Spoon,” Starshade preempted.
“Did you mean it?”
“Not really,” the colt said slowly, his eyes trailing back to the floor.
“Then I think you know what you need to do tomorrow,” Fluttershy said. “For now, you should go to sleep; it’s late. In the meantime, I think I’ve found the perfect way to finish my letter.”
Starshade looked up at Fluttershy again. “Does Miss Luna get scared about things?”
The mare paused for a moment, unsure of her answer. The image of a damp castle room filled her mind’s eye. Princess Luna was lying on a lone cushion in the center of the cold space, cuddling a small teal-maned pegasus foal in her forelegs. She was crying.
“Of course, Starshade.”
“I’ve never seen anything – pony, alicorn, or otherwise – more scared in my entire life.”
“That’s it?" Scootaloo stared at the colt, mouth hanging open.
“Uh… yah,” Starshade said as he glanced between the three Cutie Mark Crusaders surrounding him.
With a burst of laughter, Scootaloo fell to the floor. “Don’t worry. Three little days of detention is nothing. She’s given me a week before and I live with her!”
“I say ya got lucky,” commented Applebloom. “Cheerilee must like you or somethin’.”
Sweetie Belle said, “Did you see the way Silver Spoon cried? I wonder if she’ll even show up–”
Starshade put a hoof to the white filly’s lips as a certain gray earth pony trotted, head-held-high, into the classroom. Silver Spoon moved directly past the silent Cutie Mark Crusaders and took her seat. If she had looked at them, it was through the utmost corner of her nearly-closed eyes.
“Do you think…?” Scootaloo whispered.
Starshade shook his head. “I don’t think I could live with myself.”
“Why?” asked Applebloom and Sweetie Bell simultaneously.
“Because I know I would break down and let loose. I don’t ever want to go through losing it like that again.”
“You should talk to her during recess, I think,” said Sweetie Belle.
“I was planning on it. She was still crying when Cheerilee had me apologize. I wasn’t really sorry, and she knew.”
“Time for class, everypony!” shouted Cheerilee to the now fully occupied room. “Find your seats and get out Modern Cosmology. We’re starting our new unit today.”
Scootaloo, Starshade, Applebloom, and Sweetie Belle made their way to their seats with the remainder of the students that had not yet taken them.
As Starshade passed Silver Spoon’s desk, he felt the slightest tap against his shoulder.
“Bring Scootaloo,” she whispered to him.
Twilight Sparkle gently closed her book as her lavender eyes finished scanning the last paragraph on the page. She brushed a hoof over the blue and yellow cover. A History of the Wonderbolts, the purple mare read once again. She shrugged and levitated the volume to one of the bookshelves beside her bed. It was a particularly dry history.
Twilight glanced around the room, looking for her assistant. “Spike!” she called, “Spike!”
The mare trotted down the stairs to the library’s ground floor, looking quickly into each side room that she passed.
Where has that dragon gotten off to?
As Twilight reached the ground floor, she called again, “Spike?”
The purple mare heard hoofsteps echoing out of one of the ground floor rooms. “He’s not here,” answered Tantalus from behind her. “He left to go see Rarity about an hour ago. He told me that he didn’t have anything to do here.”
“Oh,” Twilight said. “I didn’t think he’d…”
“… just leave without asking you?” finished the stallion.
The mare nodded.
Tantalus trotted alongside her, smiling. “He’s getting a little too accustomed to all the free time. It’s probably pretty hard for him to justify staying around here and waiting on the off chance that you might need his help.”
“I guess I don’t ask for it much anymore,” Twilight said.
Tantalus raised an eyebrow.
“Not that that’s a bad thing,” she quickly corrected. “It’s just…”
“… different?” he finished again.
Twilight nodded. The two ponies stood there for a moment, silent. Neither was looking at the other.
“So…” Tantalus said slowly, “What were you reading? If you don’t mind me asking.”
“A History of the Wonderbolts. With the show coming up, I figured I’d brush up on the subject. It was rather unentertaining, though.”
“That’s in a week, right? The show, I mean.”
“Ten days,” the purple unicorn answered.
“Are they planning anything special?” asked Tantalus. “I’ll admit I haven’t looked too closely at the schedule.”
“Nightmare Night is just two or three days after that, isn’t it?”
Twilight Sparkle paused for a moment and looked at the ceiling, thinking. “Probably,” she decided.
Twilight and Tantalus were silent again for a moment. The stallion was watching the floor as the mare intently examined a bookshelf to her side.
“Would, uh… you like to play some chess?” offered Twilight after a few moments.
Tantalus smiled. “You’re really bored, aren’t you?”
“You have no idea.”
“School gets out in an hour, right?” asked Tantalus.
“Yes. What are you thinking?”
“I’ll teach you how to play antichess.”
“It’s a shorter variant of chess in which you try to loose and captures are compulsory. Spike said he’d be back forty-five minutes from now, which should give us time for three or four games. After that, I think I have a plan for the rest of our day.”
“Oh?” Twilight asked, “How does it involve the schoolfoals?”
“I think we need to get out more. How does a big picnic sound?”
“And what about Spike?”
The stallion grinned. “We’ll need someone to help us round up all of your friends. Come on, let’s get started.”
Starshade tapped Scootaloo and pointed a hoof in the direction of Silver Spoon. The earth pony was standing at the opposite end of the playground, doing her best to avoid the gaze of the other ponies that were playing around her.
“What about her?” asked the orange pegasus.
“She told me to bring you. I’m not really sure why.”
Scootaloo paused and watched Silver Spoon. After a moment, the filly pointed at the saddlebags on her back. “Why did she bring those? That’s so not cool.”
“I don’t know,” answered Starshade. “But I doubt she’s planning something.”
““Let’s get this over with,” Scootaloo said with a sigh as she started plodding in the direction of the gray filly.
Starshade cantered out of the Ponyville schoolhouse; he was not going to spend a moment longer in after school detention than he had to. As he hurried down the short path to the road that ran in front of the school, he looked back over his shoulder. Silver Spoon trotted out of the red building behind him, beaming.
The colt stopped moving when, just past the junction he was approaching, he saw Fluttershy, Rainbow Dash, and several other ponies that he recognized. In front of the group, his three best friends milled about playfully. Everypony else was looking at him expectantly.
Silver Spoon, maintaining her pace, passed Starshade without making eye contact. She was still grinning, and Starshade could have sworn he heard her humming.
Rainbow Dash shot forward from the group and alighted just in front of the colt. “Pick up the pace; we’ve got places to be. I had the time to fly all the way over to Rich’s mansion and back in the time it took you to get out of there.”
“Where are we going?” Starshade asked as Dash started moving forward again.
The light blue pegasus was hovering just above his side and slightly ahead of him as she answered. “Twilight and Cobalt decided to organize a picnic for all of us. I wasn’t planning on coming originally, but when she said that you and Scootaloo would be invited too, I figured I’d give it a shot. With the Wonderbolts show coming up and all, I think you foals need to see some awesome beforehoof so your minds don’t get totally blown when they all start flying. That, and I’ve got some new tricks I want Fluttershy to see.”
“So, uh, who is Rich, and why did you fly over to his mansion?”
“Rich is Silver Spoon’s foster father. We had to make sure that it was okay for her to give Scootaloo the ticket.”
Starshade looked worried. “I… hadn’t thought of that. Did it go okay?”
“Oh, yah. I went just fine. Scootaloo was freaking out when I told her it was alright with him.” The rainbow-maned mare nudged the colt from above. “You know, in a way, she owes getting that ticket to you.”
Starshade chuckled a little. “I told her I’d get it somehow. Just… not quite how I expected.”
The pair stopped in front of the waiting group of ponies. An orange earth pony mare that Starshade recognized as Applejack smiled at him as he came to a halt. “Good to see ya again, Starshade.”
“Likewise,” added the white unicorn standing beside her.
Starshade nodded, answering the two mares in kind. His attention, however, was focused on the lone stallion of the group. He was studying the colt a little too intently to escape notice. As their green eyes met for a brief moment, the unicorn Starshade knew as Cobalt Rooks looked genuinely scared.
“Hello,” the stallion mouthed weakly.
Applejack straightened the lime green saddlebags on her back and said, “Well, let’s get movin’, everypony. It’s not like we all got all day, here.”
“Yes,” said Twilight Sparkle as she tried to round up the three young fillies, “We really should get going. The park’s still about ten minutes away.”
Starshade jumped backwards as Rainbow Dash streaked past him, her wings flapping only centimeters beyond the bridge of his nose. The blue mare twisted into a tight corkscrew as she shot along the carefully arranged line of the ponies watching her.
The colt craned his neck as Rainbow Dash rose skyward. For a moment, she vanished within the glow of the low afternoon sun before circling backwards and diving into a low curve that would take her behind the row of spectators.
There was only one problem: the row of spectators was no longer a row. Several of the ponies in the line had jumped backwards just as Starshade had. He could already tell that Rainbow was moving too fast to correct her course.
Starshade ducked to the ground as the rainbow-maned pegasus flew over him, her tail brushing lightly against his back. Turning his head, he looked down the line. The colt forced his eyes closed; he did not want to see what was about to happen.
Starshade cringed as Fluttershy’s squeal of surprise split the humid air of the riverside park. The colt opened an eye to watch as his friends gathered around the small pile of blue and yellow feathers that remained where the collision had occurred. Ten meters distant, he could see Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy.
Everypony was running towards the two prone mares now, Starshade included. Before the first of them had even reached the two mares, Rainbow Dash was already on her hooves. She nudged Fluttershy with a foreleg as Cobalt and Applejack stopped beside her.
“That don’ look very good,” said the orange mare.