• Published 22nd Mar 2018
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Pound and Pumpkin Tales 2 - Never2muchpinkie

The continuing adventures of the now seven years old Pound and Pumpkin

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6-23: Who am I?

Flurry felt all scrambled at first, unsure of what to say or where to start. In the end she decided to focus on the two questions Starlight asked of her.

“What do my friends mean to me?” she asked out loud. The answer came to her in a heartbeat. “Everything!”

Her life used to feel so cold and dim. She lived in a state of constant fear, dedicating herself endlessly to studying until she’d become so exhausted she had to do something else to relieve her thoughts.

She felt afraid to tell anyone what she was really thinking, foolishly feeling like they’d tell her to get back to work.

When her parents told her that a friend of Twilight’s was having a birthday party she was all for staying home. She didn’t know them. Why should she care? But they forced her to go, overriding her protests.

A tear came down her eye. She had been such an idiot then. That day changed her whole life. Friendship, which she had dismissed before, became such a beautiful thing, solving half of her issues. And because they pushed her into a rant her parents overheard all her fears, and showed that they had prepared for them already, taking care of the other half.

And, just like that, the sun came into her world again. All the pressure, all the fear, all the uncertainty and heaviness that had pervaded her life for months… gone. She smiled more. She laughed more. She didn’t have to pretend to be feeling alright when she wasn’t.

That day… it was everything to her. After her issues were solved, and they were all having a crazy snowball fight indoors, life just felt right.

And her friends didn’t stop there. Pound and Pumpkin went out of their way to help her build up her friendship with Crystal Mine.

Even though she had ultimately been the one to settle things with Crystal, she never could have done so if the twins hadn’t gotten Crystal to reveal her true feelings. By having some ordinary ponies there Crystal could talk to, the filly had spoken of what lied in her heart.

Following that, Crystal had been a steadfast friend, just as good as the rest. Her instincts hadn’t steered her wrong. Once Crystal could see past her princess status and just look at her as another pony it made their relationship real. She knew it was okay for them to get mad at each other sometimes.

It wasn’t just about negative things, either. Crystal accepted her for her abnormally sized wings. Seeing how sensitive she felt about them Crystal didn’t just try to ignore them. The filly actively sought to help her get over that stigma of her previous bullying, and she was successful. Crystal’s unceasing support of her allowed her thoughts to slowly shift, until she got to the point that she was proud of being different.

Pound, Pumpkin, Peppermint, Tree Leaf, Masky, Crystal… even Mayhem, despite his betrayal… they were all irreplaceable friends, who opened up her world to something she had never thought possible.

She began to gently sob. What did her friends mean to her? She couldn’t imagine not having them in her life. What they had done for her made a permanent impression on her heart. So long as she had them in her life there would always be a light in the darkness. She could persevere. She could keep going despite any hardship.

Even when they weren’t right next to her they were always close by inside. Just thinking about them could make some hard days a little easier.

Of course, she had her mother and father, as well as Twilight, Starlight, and Sunburst, but they were all family. She expected them to love her. The others had chosen to be a special part of her life.

She put a hoof to her face, wishing that she had listened to Twilight earlier.

She sniffed as she slowly composed herself, her heart full of the love she had for her friends.

She wiped her eyes, turning her mind to Starlight’s second question: what did she think she meant to her friends, and what would they be without her in their lives?

That one was harder, because it wasn’t coming directly from her own thoughts and feelings.

She felt a bit of an ache inside. For all that they had done for her, had she ever done anything for them in return? Even a single thing? They worked well as a group, having fun together, but was she just taking advantage of their kindness? Was she just another face in the crowd to them, someone who didn’t stand out at all?

She bit her lip, feeling a sense of anxiety. “I… I know I need them, but…” Tears came down her eyes. “… but maybe they don’t need me at all. Maybe it wouldn’t have made any difference at all to them if I had never met them.”

As despair began to clutch at her Mayhem’s voice echoed through her mind, as if to defy that thought. "No matter how bad I got, as long as it was the six of you, I knew you would be able to stop me."

Mayhem knew that he might one day fall back into darkness, but he wasn’t afraid of that because of his friendships with them. He knew that they would be able to save him. Somewhere inside he regretted what he was doing, but he was too into the game to acknowledge it.

Pound and Pumpkin had asked for her help with one of their classmates because he was dealing with the same sort of pressures she had been going through.

They had also requested her presence to be part of helping Mayhem get past his boredom, even if things had gone sour.

They didn’t exclude her from the group simply because she lived far away. She couldn’t always make it out there because of the far distance, but it wasn’t like distance was an issue with the magical journals. When one of them was having a bad day she’d be encouraging or compassionate.

When she could make it out there they always looked happy to see her. From what she could figure her friends didn’t really hang out unless everyone was there.

It was nonsense to think that she meant nothing to her friends. Maybe what she had done for them wasn’t as big as what they had done for her, but it wasn’t nothing. She wasn’t just an afterthought.

Flurry spent a long time just sitting on her bed, thinking about what Starlight had said.

“Who am I?” she said to herself. “Aunt Starlight seems to think she knows… so how come I don’t?”

Her mind turned to what had happened today. She had been avoiding thinking about it, and the role she had played in things, but she couldn’t put it off forever. It might be scary, but she had to push forward if she wanted to find the answer she was looking for.

She used the same spell Starlight had used to summon a memory, and saw her and her friends right before Mayhem’s defeat.

Compared to how she felt inside now she could barely recognize herself. The Flurry before her was confident, staring danger in the eyes and laughing at it. She was openly defiant to a force far beyond her abilities and a source of hope to her friends.

“Is this… me?” The question hung in the air. No one else could answer the question for her.

She replayed the memory, focusing on a particular part.

“The five of you… you taught me things that no book could ever prepare me for. You taught me about true courage and not backing down no matter the danger, by risking your lives to protect me. Now I’m here to return the favor.

“I know who I am now. I am Flurry Heart, alicorn princess, and I don’t want to be anyone else!”

The Flurry in the memory looked so tough at that moment. Her eyes were blazing with confidence and purpose, a raging inferno of inner strength.

The Flurry of the present felt like she was looking at someone else. Twilight had even asked her how she could feel more confident in the face of imminent death than when there was no danger.

She looked at her friends, so recently in a state of terror, and saw the calm looks on their faces now. She had been the one to give that to them.

She thought back to her battle against Sombra disguised as Starlight. She had put all of them in danger because she had been unwilling to fight. They had all suffered because of it.

She thought of them all injured and laid out on the ground, and remembered the crushing despair that had ate away at her in that moment as she had screamed.

She could feel it at the edge of her consciousness, just waiting to emerge like before. She glanced towards the past Flurry again, wishing she could have her strength. It was quite an odd feeling, for sure, to be jealous of herself, to wish she could be more like herself.

Earlier, Starlight had said that the "real" Flurry had begun to emerge after she met Crystal, and then came out completely today. Was this Flurry the one Starlight was talking about?

“Who I am… is determined by the things that are important to me.” Flurry put a hoof to her chin thoughtfully, thinking again of Starlight’s words. The mare had seemed to be telling her something, but not directly spelling it out.

She thought back to before, back before she had met her friends. Not having any sense of modesty or restraint she used to… well, not flaunt her wings. That would imply she was doing it to show off or for attention. The reason she used to always have her wings out was because she was proud of them, in the sense that it made her like her mother. The two of them were alicorns, and her wings were as big as her mom’s.

She had been a cheerful child back then. Things had been so simple, but suddenly they weren’t. The stares of others, which she had thought of as similar pride that she was so close in appearance to her mom, actually weren’t. The first time one of the children made fun of her wings she thought he was just being mean. She brushed it off.

But it kept happening. As her family started her socializing the teasing continued. Sometimes it was whispered but overheard. Sometimes it was blatant and to her face.

She began to connect the stares of the children and their harsh words with the stares of the adults, realizing what they were really thinking. The adults didn’t insult her like the children did, but they didn’t have to. Once she understood what their looks meant they didn’t have to say a word. They thought she was abnormal… a freak.

It… hurt. It hurt her deeply. The pain only grew and grew until she stopped opening her wings in public at all. Even at home she was very restrained, feeling like she was just an outsider to everyone who wasn’t part of her family. She could remember crying her eyes out some days over it.

Her parents were very supportive, but it didn’t change the way she acted. Whenever she went out in public she kept her wings firmly at her sides at all times. She had no interest in learning to fly. It would only make her stand out more.

If that wasn’t bad enough, the same ponies that scarred her heart with their stares were the same ones piling more wood on the fire of her pain. She knew they were trying to be encouraging, but the more they talked the worse she felt. They got into her head, always bringing up the future where they expected her to be taking her mother’s place.

The children were no better. No matter who she hung out with it always made her uncomfortable because they were uncomfortable. Even as young as she was she could tell they weren’t being genuine with her. She compared the way her family treated her, and the way the kids acted, noticing a big difference.

Most were overly polite, always trying to stay on her good side. There was always an underlying fear in the way they treated her, confusing her. What had she done to deserve such treatment?

That was something else she came to understand after many such encounters. They always called her by her title, never by her name. It was always “Princess, Princess” with them. They wouldn’t call her Flurry, even in addition to her title.

It always created an uncomfortable gap. No matter how much she wanted to close that gap it remained as wide as it always was.

Oh, sure, she did meet a few ponies who weren’t afraid of her, but they were all self-serving. She had been having a great time with one colt, but he didn’t think much of her.

She sniffed. She could still remember the hurt she had felt when he dismissed her, telling her he had only played with her because his dad was hoping to get something out of it.

She put her hooves to her face as a few tears came down her eyes. Outside of her parents, Twilight(who she didn’t see often), Starlight, and Sunburst, it felt like nobody cared about her. She couldn’t connect with anyone who wasn’t already supposed to care for her.

She slowly gave up on friendship, considering it a waste when there was studying to be done. Eventually, she’d give it another shot, but only out of necessity.

Things changed a little when she first met Crystal. After accidentally shoving herself out a swing with her magic the filly had come over to check on her, and they played together happily. For a time she experienced a genuine connection with another child. Crystal hadn’t noticed that she was an alicorn, and so treated her like any other kid.

Things went sour during their second meeting. Once Crystal discovered who she actually was her attitude shifted to just like all the other children. That cursed gap, which hadn’t existed with this filly, returned in full measure. Crystal acted like she thought she was beneath her and unworthy of her time.

Her dream of a stress-free time of play, something she really needed at the time, was shattered. It was something so slight, but when Crystal spilled a drink on her she needed to leave before she exploded in anger. It was stress all over again.

She had had high hopes for their friendship, for a short time seeing what her aunt had talked about. Having that friendship regress just made her give up on friendship altogether. She just didn’t want to care anymore.

That could have been the end for her, but her Aunt Twilight was still looking out for her. She argued and complained and whined and cried, but her parents insisted she go to the birthday party of some friends of Twilight’s. What she thought would be an annoying, dull waste of her time turned out to be the best day of her whole life.

After the birthday party she thought about Twilight’s words. A friendship wasn’t only one-sided. Both people have to participate. If someone thought she was odd, or defined her by her princesshood or alicornhood, then it was her responsibility to show them she was more than just that.

Without those heavy feelings weighing her down she returned to Crystal and began their relationship anew. She tried to bring things back to the way they had been the first time they met, but it was difficult. She tried showing the filly a great time, but it felt like no matter what she tried she just couldn’t shrink that gap that kept them apart. She couldn’t form the connection she wanted.

Crystal only seemed to reluctantly allow their friendship. Flurry knew she was afraid, but she was hoping that after a few times the filly would calm down, but it just didn’t happen. Crystal still had that annoying forced politeness that drove her crazy.

Feeling discouraged, she elected to ask her friends for help. Things hadn’t quite gone how she expected. She excused herself, claiming it was to go to the bathroom, but really she just wanted to hear Crystal’s true thoughts.

She found out that she was at fault for the gap between them as much as Crystal was. Crystal eventually revealed that she really did want to have the same kind of friendship that she had with the twins. The reason it didn’t happen was because she had only been focusing on showing the filly a good time. She never once bridged the distance between them by opening up her heart and talking to her about her feelings. She hadn’t shared any of her problems and made Crystal feel needed.

Crystal even called her out on that during her rant, asking why she never told her about the bad thoughts going through her mind so Crystal could help her with them.

Only a short while later she found herself creating that gap anew by being afraid of letting Crystal see her wings. Once more her friends came to the rescue, calling her out for not trusting Crystal enough to show everything she was.

To her enormous relief Crystal dismissed her fears, telling her she was perfect just the way she was.

Things didn’t stop there, though. As their friendship grew and she told Crystal about the past the filly didn’t just offer encouragement or nice words. Crystal wasn’t content to just ignore the problem. She went out of her way to help her past it.

When she tried to resist with pathetic excuses the filly called her out on it hard, becoming super determined to be a good friend to her by helping her through her feelings.

Crystal told her that her wings were a part of who she was, and she shouldn’t have any shame for something that wasn’t her fault.

The next few weeks were hard and embarrassing. Crystal pushed her into going around with her wings out like she used to. Once more she had to endure the stares of others and remember that painful feeling of realization of what they were thinking when they did so.

It felt so humiliating for a long time. She approached her hangouts with Crystal with a sense of trepidation, knowing what she’d be forced to do once the filly arrived.

In the beginning her gaze was always focused outward, seeing every pony looking at her as silently mocking her. She could only go a few minutes before she couldn’t take it anymore and had to take a break.

Those days she felt like crying a lot of the time, hating how it made her feel.

Gradually, through Crystal’s endless encouragement, she found her gaze shifting inward. She began to truly see Crystal for what she was doing. Crystal has said that no matter what it took she was going to help her through her stigma. Day after day Crystal proved her words true, never faltering… never backing down. Crystal deeply wanted to lift her out of the darkness and free her of her self-hatred over her most noticeable attribute.

She saw how hard Crystal was fighting for her, and how much the filly truly cared about her. Crystal saw it her duty to help her, because she wanted to prove herself worthy as a friend. It was that realization that got her motivated in turn.

She didn’t get past her feelings about her wings for her own sake. She did it for Crystal’s. Crystal was giving it one hundred percent in trying to be a good friend. She wanted to keep the filly close by and not see her get hurt. When she thought that Crystal could be put in danger because of her embarrassment about her wings she grew determined to overcome those feelings no matter what it took. She didn’t want to be the only one to be a good friend. She didn’t want to be the only one to fight for the sake of their friendship.

Her wings, which had long been a source of negative feelings for her, began to make her happy. They became a symbol of those she could truly trust with her heart. Pound and the rest didn’t laugh at her wings when she showed them, telling her that they liked her just the way she was. When she showed Crystal the filly had told her she was perfect as she was.

Time passed, and she found herself changing. She began to find confidence in who she was. She found she no longer cared who stared at her wings, or who made fun of her for it. The only thing that truly matter to her was being as good a friend to Crystal as Crystal had been to her.

She could remember that she had told Crystal she wanted to fill the void in her heart with her. Even after forging that bond with her Ponyville friends there was still an emptiness inside because she couldn't always go to Ponyville, even with magical aid. Even with the magical notebooks it just didn’t compare to a face to face conversation.

She would never dismiss her Ponyville friends, especially considering she never would have forged that bond with Crystal without them, but Crystal was a friend she truly needed even more than them. Crystal was someone who lived within walking distance, which made setting up days to hang out easy.

Each of her friends had given her something special and improved her life. She thought back to Starlight’s words. “She said that Crystal helped me to start seeing the real me.” She was uncertain. “She helped me to become more confident and accept myself more, but… I don’t really know if I’d say I saw my 'true self' just because of that.”

She’d keep that idea in mind though.

She let her mind drift for a minute, knowing she was avoiding concentrating on Mayhem’s world and everything that had occurred in it.

Was she ready for this? She didn’t really think so. Without anyone else nearby to hold her or offer comfort the thought of reminiscing about what happened felt daunting, especially because she knew it would be the most effective to use the memory spell to see it for herself.

She put her hoof to her heart, a habit she had picked up, and thought of her friends. Even when they weren’t right next to each other they were still there inside her heart. She wasn’t alone.

She focused on her breathing for the next few minutes to calm herself. She did feel fear, but beyond that she found an overpowering curiosity. She wanted to know what Starlight was talking about. If she had a “true self” she wanted to know who it was.

She didn’t exactly feel able to handle it, but she was at least willing to start probing.

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