• Published 28th Jun 2012
  • 17,954 Views, 1,427 Comments

A New Hero - Alex The Lone Wolf

What if there was another pony who joined the pony gang? (Look at longer description...)

  • ...

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It was almost hard to believe that it was already Hearth's Warming Eve, and I'd be spending it with the girls for the second time. Actually, that wasn't entirely true. For our first Hearth's Warming Eve, we had spent it together as a group in Canterlot. However, for this year, every pony seemed to have been separating to spend it with their own families. In a way, it was a bit depressing, but I had to remember that everyone else had their own families to think about.

Twilight and I had just found out Pinkie Pie and Applejack were going to be spending their time with each other and their families. In other words, both of their families were actually going to meet together and practically spend it as one big happy family. I found this extremely intriguing. I wasn't sure how it was going to work out, knowing how Pinkie's family is very much the opposite of her, but I wished them well.

I would have loved to see Maud again, but seeing as I had other plans, that would have to wait until another time. Fluttershy, too, holding a bashful expression on her face, invited me to spend the holidays with her family as well. I had only realized then that I never actually met Fluttershy's family. As much as I wanted to, I had to decline, seeing as there was a promise I had to keep.

In the end, Twilight, Spike, Spirit, and I were the only ones left in the group. Twilight and Spike were going to celebrate Hearth's Warming in the castle. I was wondering why they didn't travel to Canterlot to spend it with their family as well, but maybe they were busy. I know Shining Armor probably had his hooves full at the Crystal Empire.

I wasn't sure who I was going to end up spending the day with, but keeping my mind in the present, Spirit and I had to get ready to head back to Manehattan. It was the day of the opening play Coco Pommel had written herself, and she had given us each a script with enough time to practice before the main event.

Twilight and Spike had already opened their presents a little after Applejack and Pinkie Pie had left to board the train. I thought it was a little odd, but it was their tradition to open them the night before Hearth's Warming. Either way, the time for us to leave, for the moment, eventually came.

"We better get going." I announced towards Twilight and Spike. "We definitely do not want to miss this train." Not when you're a main part of an extremely important event."

"You're right." Twilight agreed, looking to her side to pick up her scarf and wrap it around her neck. "Come on, Spike! Let's get moving!"

"Huh?!" Spike, Spirit, and I returned in unexpected unison.

"What do you mean?" Spike followed up on each of our reactions. "Where are we going?"

"To their play, of course!" Twilight explained as she began placing on the rest of her winterwear. "We already finished opening presents, and there's no way we're going to miss this!"

"You didn't tell me you'd be coming…" I responded a little nervously, seeing as there'd be a couple of extra visitors we knew watching the play. They were friends, but it still unfortunately added more pressure onto how the play would turn out with us.

"Surprise!" Twilight beamed, pulling a Pinkie on us.

And just like we had not planned, Twilight and Spike boarded the train to Manehattan with us. It's not like I didn't want them to come or anything. It's just…Spirit and I had once again made plans with only us and Coco being at the play. To suddenly find out that Twilight and Spike were coming, it just shook us up a little. If any of the other girls were to show up without us even knowing, we'd at least not know they were in audience watching us in the first place.

I found myself continuing to shake my head on the train ride to Manehattan. Twilight and Spike's sudden visit continued to distract me from focusing on the play. Unfortunately, Spirit noticed this, and she had a case of the butterflies as well no doubt. I tried to play myself out as a role model, since I've had some kind of experience with the play back on last year's Hearth's Warming Eve, but I believed I only continued to psyche myself out even more. I guess I forgot that doing last year's play wasn't as bad because I had all of my other friends up on stage with me. Coco Pommel's play was going to feature mainly only Spirit and me, so one could imagine how much pressure was building up the more we continued to stupidly think about it.

"You think we'll be good?" Spirit worriedly asked as she joined me at the window for some air.

I would be lying if I said I sometimes felt like I was going to have trouble breathing. "It's just a play. It's just a Hearth's Warming Eve play that families including fillies and foals will be going to see. Really. No pressure."

"I'd be fine if it was just going to be a few ponies watching…but something tells me there's going to be a lot more." Spirit mentioned unhelpfully.

I shook my head. "Coco's Midsummer Revival had quite a lot of ponies, but there weren't that much. It'll be cool. Let's just focus on each other like we did in our rehearsals."

"Mm…" Spirit groaned lightly as she bit her lower lip.

As if she had transformed into the element of surprises for this one day, Twilight popped up between us and hung her hooves around our shoulders. "You guys are going to be amazing. Don't worry about being good. Just act natural. Your characters aren't like some foreign creatures or something."

Twilight was right. If I remembered correctly, I think Coco had mentioned something about basing the two main characters of her play on us. That's why she believed we were best suited for the job. "Yeah, yeah… You're right." I took in a deep breath and slowly released it out. "I think I had a harder time with that one Alicorn role from last year."

"Well..." Twilight rolled her eyes as she visited last year's memories. "I don't think your character was too far off from the real you, you know?"

Oh yeah… It turned out that I actually became an Alicorn…but I didn't know that then!

"You know what?" Spirit spoke. "Let's just stop talking about this. The more I think about it, the more nervous I get."

It was a sight to see when we arrived at the location the play was going to be held. Of course, it was the same area where the Midsummer Revival had been. However, this time, today's play was going to be held on the stage that desperately needed to be rebuilt the last time we came. The times Spirit and I had come for rehearsal, the foundation and the basics for the stage had been completed, but it wasn't until now when we had seen the stage after a finished, painted, furnished, and polished job.

"Wow! This place looks amazing!" Twilight commented after taking a gander for herself.

Several ponies, who I assumed were volunteers, were paving the way inside to what would be auditorium. Unfortunately, the stage was outdoors, so ponies obviously wouldn't be indoors like in Canterlot to keep warm. Nevertheless, the snow was being shoveled out, and it wasn't too cold outside, considering we already had our own natural coats.

"Coco's probably at the stage." I pointed out, leading us towards there.

To my surprise, she was by herself and looking pretty busy with a clipboard in front of her face.

"Hey, Coco. We're here." I called out.

She looked up and put down her clipboard the moment she saw us. "Hey, you guys!" She hastily trotted over to us to give us a warm hug before noticing the extra company. "Oh! You're… Twilight Sparkle and Spike, right?"

"That's right!" Twilight answered and eyed the clipboard she had been focusing on. "I see you got a neat little clipboard there. You wouldn't need any organizing here, would you?"

Coco chuckled heartily. "I'm actually just going over a few things for the play. I want to make sure we have everything we need before we actually start. Are you two going to be watching the play too?"

"Yep. Wouldn't miss it for the world." Twilight replied with a teasing tone, making sure to glance at me in the process.

I get the feeling that Twilight's just having fun with this now…

"What a nice surprise!" Coco reacted with soft glee.

"Tell me about it." I responded in a light groggy kind of manner.

"How are you two feelilng?" Coco asked Spirit and me.

"Eehh…" Spirit answered while slightly waving her hoof side to side.

"Hanging in there." I decided on.

"Don't worry." Coco assured. "The play's not long. I'm sure it'll be over before you know it."

We ended up spending whatever time we had remaining before the actual showing practicing. I was thankful for how lenient the play really was. In other words, we weren't exactly expected to act differently than we usually did in everyday life. All we had to do was remember our lines, and Coco was even nice enough to allow us to recall our lines liberally. We had lines to remember, but with her, we didn't have to follow the exact line stated on the script.

The lines don't matter. The point was getting the message across. That's how she put it.

Minutes before the opening act, Spirit and I took a peak past the heavy curtains covering the setting of the stage. It seemed to be a full house, most likely the majority of ponies being the same ones from the Midsummer Revival, but it wasn't overflowing with visitors or anything. Twilight and Spike had already taken their seats at the front of the stage.

"Alright, remember." I advised Spirit. "Just act the way you usually do. You remember what to say, right?"

"Yeah, yeah, I do." Spirit returned with a quick burst of nods.

"You two, ready?" Coco came by to inform us. "The show's about to start. You're going to want to get to your places. And don't forget. Just act natural, and try not to turn your back to the audience."

"We got it…" I clarified as I began leading Spirit into our positions. "…I hope…"

The first scene was set inside a home. In the story, it was supposed to be early morning. Spirit's character had been jubilantly energetic, and I had been obviously tired and groggy from having been interrupted from a good sleep. We could only look at each other and give a slow and silent nod as we waited to begin.

"Fillies and gentlecolts!" We heard Coco Pommel announce beyond the curtains. "I'd like to welcome each and every one of you to this short yet warming performance I wrote after receiving feedback from my last play revolving around one of my biggest inspirations, Charity Kindheart. Many of you loved it. And…some of you…well…didn't like it so much." It seemed Coco didn't want to directly point out the complaints or the source of them. "However, I've come to realize and constantly remind myself that the most important thing I can get out of something like this is bringing the community together. And it's because of all of you that we were able to clean up this place and rebuild the stage! I can't even explain how thankful I am for that. I suppose I can start by sharing a little story with you all that wouldn't have been possible in the first place without any of you. Today, I bring you a story of love and acceptance, which compliments the very idea of Hearth's Warming Eve, which we're celebrating right now. Please enjoy!"

Thus, the curtains opened, and it was show time.

Our story began with two characters that were siblings. I played a character named Star Chaser. Spirit played a character named Faith Meadows. It had been the first day of art school for Faith, and she was clearly excited. I, on the other hoof, didn't share the same feeling.

"Come on! Come on!" Faith pulled my hoof towards the front door, which was located at the other end of the stage. "You promised you'd walk me to school!"

"I did…" I answered as I lazily wiped my eye. "But I didn't expect you to be up so early. School doesn't start until another four hours!"

"Yeah, but I wanna check out the whole place before my classes start!" Faith had released my hoof and began performing her signature pouty face. "There's supposed to be a lot of other cool art that ponies had done and hung up there. I want to see all of it, so I can have a huge burst of inspiration and motivation for my first day!"

"Can't you just go by yourself then?" I asked, but it wasn't until the moment Faith heard those words for herself that I knew I fudged up.

"How cruel can you be, Chase?" Faith's eyes had been swelling up with tears, and I had to admit that Spirit was doing a pretty darn good job of it. "You're going to let your little sister walk outside all alone in the scary darkness? Oh, I'm pretty sure you're just begging for me to be ponynapped!"

"Alright! Alright. I get it!" I exclaimed out in frustration. "I'll go with you. Hopefully there's still some place serving breakfast this early…" I muttered as I began walking towards the right side of the stage. Before she moved on to join me, she revealed a gleeful look of accomplishment. In return, a small collected laughter broke out from the audience, allowing Spirit to skip over to my side of the stage.

In between scenes, Coco would fill in the details by narration, similar with what Spike did during my first Hearth's Warming Eve play.

"And so, young Faith began her first year at art school with a bright and positive outlook on life. To her, nothing would stop her from creating beautiful work and sharing it with the world. 'If I could inspire the world, then maybe I can make a real change for the better', she thought." Spirit and I continued to silently act out a few scenes throughout Coco's narrative, giving a visual aspect for the audience to engage upon. "From the beginning of the year, Faith returned home afterschool with a hop, skip, and a jump each time. Each and every one of those days, she would bring something new out of her creative and aspiring mind to share with her loving brother. It seemed like things were going to be just fine. But like life usually loves to surprise us every now and then with bad news, it was only a matter of time before Faith hit a major roadblock on her free-spirited way of thinking."

For this scene, I was out of the picture, and Spirit was on her own with one other extra. She had been inside a classroom, and she was about to be the last one to leave before the instructor called her over.

"Faith Meadows?" Spirit's head perked up at the sound of her character's name being called. "I need to have a word with you."

"Sure, Miss Heartbreak!" Spirit bounced over to her desk and answered quite bubbly. "What can I do for you?"

"We need to speak about…your work…" The instructor slowly slid some papers over to Spirit with a borderline tone of disgust.

"What about them?" Not one hint of falter crossed the look on Faith. Despite the instructor's heavy hints of tragic wind, Faith did not once appear to be terrified for what was to come.

"Your… 'creative style'." The instructor dryly spat out. "It is, how do I say, unprofessional."

"…unprofessional?" Faith's eyes turned side to side from confusion. She still held a bold smile, but her eyebrows grew worryingly furrowed.

"Let me try to put this in a manner you will understand. No real and successful artist will take any of the work you've made seriously. If I may compare this work to something, I would consider it something a simple filly could draft out. A filly who has no real understanding of the complexity of art."

"W-what do you mean…?" Faith responded in utter confusion. "Wasn't it you who said art itself was purely subjective?"

"It is." Miss Heartbreak retained her strict and blunt prose. "But you wouldn't exactly put an old simplistic crayon drawing in a museum, would you? If that was the case, museums would be filled to the brim with children's fridge art hung horridly all over the place. It would be utter madness and completely destroy the meaning of art."

"…you're saying…my work is the equivalent of…"

"Yes." Faith's instructor answered hastily. "You might as well turn in any kind of hoofpainting you did when you were just a little foal."

"B-but…" Faith began to appear shaken up. "It can't be… I have fun doing what I'm doing. It's my passion. Isn't that what art's supposed to be about? Expressing yourself?"

Miss Heartbreak merely scoffed. "I'm afraid you made the wrong choice coming to this school, Miss Meadows. You can't simply 'have fun' when it comes to creating art. Your art must have meaning, and it must fit a qualified criterion."

"It does have meaning!" Faith almost cried out.

"But you can't do whatever you wish to do with it. Art is a tool, and you must respect it. Presenting work as disastrous as this is absolutely disgraceful."

"B…but…" Faith looked absolutely torn apart. "…the others thought it looked interesting—"

Miss Heartbreak practically slammed her hoof onto the wooden desk, shaking Faith's papers with a small burst of wind for a moment. "I decide what is interesting or not. I am the instructor, and the rest of you are students. It is my job to shape you into professional artists that will put out acceptable work for the rest of the world to see. This will simply not do. Take it back." With trembling hooves, Faith slowly pulled her papers towards her and into her school bag. "If you continue to find this kind of environment unacceptable, I strongly urge you to leave and pursue another kind of career. Good day."

With that, the instructor took her leave out of the classroom and stage. Faith continued standing there on her own, looking absolutely distraught and shocked with the utmost disbelief. Eventually, the curtains closed, allowing Coco to continue her narration.

"Faith was absolutely speechless about what had just gone on in her own classroom. She never knew that her instructor, somepony she looked up to and believed to be a role model for the students in her class, would be capable of crushing her dreams into broken pieces. Faith didn't want to believe it, but instead of the supportive and encouraging teacher she envisioned on her first day of art school, Miss Heartbreaker really turned out to be bitter and coldhearted that day. With their meeting remaining on her mind, Faith returned home a different pony."

In the next scene, we were back inside the interior of our home. I was shuffling through blank papers as if I had been engrossed in work of my own. Faith entered in through the right side of the stage, and she absolutely held a completely opposite personality from the sparkly one she had from our last scene.

I took notice of this and addressed her as she walked in.

"How was school today, Faith?" I asked. She didn't answer this time. In fact, the most noise that came out of her was almost inaudible mumbling. "Hey, you okay?"

"I'm going to my room…" She shared exhaustedly.

"That's weird." I pointed out. "Usually, you shove every drawing you make in my face as soon as you get home."

"Yeah…that's not going to happen anymore…" She informed as she began walking past me.

"What? Why not?"

"Because…" She paused and stood still for a moment. "…my art's a joke."

"What are you talking about?" I answered in a state of confusion, my character unaware of what had occurred at the school.

"I'm no real artist!" Faith exclaimed. "Just some dumb filly who thought she could make a living off silly pictures."

"Your drawings aren't silly." I approached her. "They're really amazing! I've shown a few of them to my co-workers, and they're all super impressed by what you can do."

"But they aren't artists, are they?" Faith immediately responded as if she had already come across this answer in the middle of my encouragement.

"Uh…not exactly…?"

She threw head side to side. "You can tell a little filly that her crayon drawing is impressive, but it is something you hang in a museum? No!"

"Faith, where is this coming from?" I asked, genuinely concerned for her. "Why are you acting like this all of a sudden? You never once brought up anything like this before. What happened at school?"

"My dreams were crushed. That's what happened." Faith answered bluntly, allowing her head to fall towards the floor. "My instructor told me my art isn't good enough. It isn't 'professional'. Maybe she's right. After all, I've never taken any other real classes on art before. I always just did…my own thing. But I thought that was okay. I thought one of the best things you could do is just be yourself. I just wanted to show ponies another way to look at things. I guess I was wrong…"

"Your teacher didn't like your work? So, what? At the end of the day, she's just another pony. Just because she's a teacher doesn't make her any better of a judge than you are."

"You don't get it!" She grabbed ahold of my shoulders and lightly shook me. "Of course she's a better judge! She knows all about art! That's why she's teaching it to begin with! She knows what is considered art, and it's clear that my work has nothing do with it."

"Faith…" I tried to reach out to her, but she shook her head and pulled away, unwilling to hear any more.

"I'm going to my room to study. Maybe there's still some time to get a sense of real art than some 'make-believe' trash…"

Spirit now exited out of the left side of the stage while I stuck around there to reveal how apprehensive I had grown from Faith's unexpected confession.

Once more, the curtains closed and allowed Coco to continue her narration.

"Over the course of the following days, Faith continued to believe that she wasn't good enough to take her rightful place as an artist in the world. She attempted to adhere by her instructor's example, but she just couldn't bring herself to follow through. She knew that it wasn't like her to do things by how others expected them to be done, but she felt as if she had no other choice. This was truly a dilemma for Faith Meadows. She so desperately wanted to be an artist, but if it meant having to cater to others wishes, she wanted no part of it. Her brother, Star Chaser, had stood from the sidelines and witnessed how much she had been affected by this. However, no matter what he did to try to convince her otherwise, it was all to no avail. Faith had fallen in too deep, and eventually, she settled on ultimately giving up on her dream. It wasn't until one day where a few of her classmates came to visit her out of concern."

We were still inside the home of the story, but this time, before the curtains had been drawn back, knocks could be heard. Next, two other extras had walked into the scene, and they began their dialogue once they were visible to the audience.

"Hi, is Faith Meadows here right now?" They asked.

"Uh…yes…" I answered hesitantly. "Are you friends of hers?"

They turned to look at each other for a moment before they decided to answer. "We're her classmates. We haven't seen her come to class, and we were starting to get worried about her."

I rubbed my head and turned in the direction of the other side of the stage. "She…hasn't been feeling well lately."

"Oh, no!" One of them reacted with great concern. "Is she sick?"

"Not exactly." I tried explaining to them without going into details. "She's just been feeling down lately."

They took another moment to let my answer sink in. They thought about how to approach it and then returned another question.

"Can we see her?"

"Oh…" I was supposed to be returning a bit of both shock and surprise. "Um. I don't know if she'll be up to that…but I'll go ahead and call her." I turned my body towards the other side of the stage and called out. "Faith? There are some ponies here to see you!"

Spirit was supposed to take her time in coming down in order to give the subtle hint of Faith's hesitation and doubts, so I went ahead on offering the other two seats. "Here. Why don't you two sit down?"

Once they did, there was a brief moment of silence among both the stage and audience. Fortunately, the silence didn't last too long to cause a hushed stir with our watchers, but it was enough to give Spirit a dramatic entrance. It had been so quiet, that the sound of her hooves was all what we could hear. When she finally made it onto the set, we could see her mane was a bit messy and disheveled.

After having shared a timid gasp, Faith acknowledged the two mares that had been waiting to see her. "Hi, you two… What are you doing here?"

"Faith!" They immediately jumped from their seats, due to the sight of her, and raced on over to approach her. "What's wrong?! You haven't been coming to class! Everypony's been so worried."

"Not everypony…" Faith responded depressively as she turned her head away from them.

"What are you talking about?" They yearned for her answer. "You're all everypony's been talking about."

"You don't need worry about me anymore." Faith began to lightly push them away. "I don't think I'll be coming back to class. In fact, I think I'm set on dropping out."

"Dropping out?!" They cried out in unison.

Faith slowly and solemnly nodded her head. "I'm no artist. I don't even think I know the first thing about art…"

"How can you say that? You're an amazing artist! You know that we've seen your work, and we all really love what you have to share!"

"I appreciate that, girls. I really do. But it all comes down to what our teacher thinks…and she certainly doesn't like what I do at all. She thinks my work is…unprofessional. Nothing more than a simple hoofpainting that any filly could do."

"Faith, no…!" One of them enthusiastically shook her head. "That's not true at all!"

"But…she said…"

"She may be the one teaching us about art, Faith. But just because she doesn't think your art is good enough doesn't mean it's true." The one speaking placed a hoof on her chest as she closed her eyes to speak earnestly. "I know how hard it must feel hearing somepony, who seems to know what she's doing, say something bad about what you do. In fact, I've heard similar stories from other ponies who have taken her class as well. But you've got to remember something important. Even though she's a teacher, she's still just a normal pony like you and me. If she told you that you needed to jump off a bridge in order to be a real artist, would you do it?"

"What?!" Faith reacted in complete shock. "Of course not!"

"So, what difference does it make when she tells you that you aren't good enough to be an artist? Miss Heartbreak has very strong opinions that she likes to sort of…implant in others. She's not necessarily a bad pony, but that's just the way she is. I guess you could say she's a little close-minded." Her classmate lightly giggled. "She's told us some stuff too. Like today, she told us we were putting out disappointing work, but we don't let it get to us! At least, we try not to."

"You wanna know the reason why she got after us today, Faith?" The other classmate asked Faith.


"She noticed that we were starting to take inspiration from you."

"Huh?!" Faith arched back from startling surprise. "From me!?"

"You don't know how much you inspire us, Faith." They continued to share with the upmost compassion. "You were always so bubbly and friendly in class. On the first day, we weren't sure what exactly we were going to get into, but we'd be lying if we said that you didn't make the class absolutely fun to be in. And seeing your work was no different! We would always wonder what crazy new thing you'd come up with. It was absolutely a thrill to see how passionate you were with your work, so we began striving to be more like you!"

"You guys…" Faith was practically left speechless. "I had no idea…"

"Well you do now!"

"We'd love for you to come back to class. It's been so boring without you around!"

Faith wiped her eyes as a genuine smile began to form on her lips. "Well…I guess…why the hay not, you know? I didn't know you ponies liked me so much."

"Of course we do! In fact, we'd really like it if maybe we can hang out every now and then! You could totally teach us some of your inspirations and techniques!"

"Hehe, okay!"

As they grew closer together to share a heartfelt hug, the curtains began to close.

"After that day, Faith Meadows returned to class to receive a heartfelt welcome from her other classmates. On the other hoof, Miss Heartbreak didn't change, nor did she feel inclined to. She continued to scold and express her disapproval to her students, especially Faith, when the moment arose. However, knowing that she wasn't alone, Faith didn't let it faze her. In fact, she somewhat embraced it, taking the opportunity to learn that there'll always be at least somepony who won't approve of what she'll do. But as long as her passion for her dream stayed true, she knew to never give up so easily as she had almost did."

Afterwards, the stage opened up to visually support the story once more as Coco neared the end, providing different settings and scenes that matched the depictions Coco provided in her narration.

"In just the matter of a few years, Faith's popularity grew larger before she knew it. She was not only practically friends with everyone in her local area, but she became widely known all over Equestria. With the massive amount of recognition she had gained, it was no surprise that she'd find herself meeting face-to-face with the Princesses themselves. However, there were a few things Faith made sure to never forget. One of those things were that she would have never got to where she was now if she had given up. For that, she always remembered to keep going, even through the worst and toughest times. Lastly, she never lost sight of her friends and family back home, especially Star Chaser."

Things were wrapped up at the end as Spirit and I expressed various actions of affection. Originally, I had believed that Spirit and I were going to sort of have the main focus of the story, but Coco surprised the both of us. It seemed she kept the story short and sweet, and she didn't drag it on any longer than it needed to be. Coco was certainly right about one thing. The play was over before we knew it.

A roar of applause succeeded as every one of us that participated bowed respectfully. I especially took notice of Twilight and Spike that had been at the very front. She gave off a look that seemed to express congratulatory heartwarming praise. I supposed the best way to describe it was a teary-eyed look without the tears.

When I was off the stage, I didn't even realize that the play was just a small part of the festivities. Either during our rehearsal or the actual showing, several stands of activities for all kinds of ponies had been set up. Gingerbread houses were being bought, carols were being sung, and even gifts were being given. It was a truly amazing spectacle to see, seeing as I didn't see much of this to begin with.

"Oh, that was just amazing." Twilight commended the three of us as we regrouped with her and Spike.

Coco chuckled modestly. "Well…it wasn't all that great. After all, it was just a short story I had thought of. Besides, I didn't have much time to write it, considering all the preparations I had to get through with, so I could have it ready in time."

"Don't you worry yourself about that, Coco." Twilight mentioned as she shook her head. "I could tell you put in a whole lot of heart."

"Yeah!" Spike agreed. "I really liked it. It's not like the whole bunch of other books Twilight has that puts me to sleep."

Twilight returned a soft yet stern glare for a second, but she immediately exchanged it with an accepting smile. "Hey. To each their own."

"How broken must thy playeth writing skills beest yet again. This wilt maketh a fine addition to chuckle and bite mine hoof at."

Oh Celestia. Not this guy again.

"I see you didn't like it." Coco surprisingly answered first, and she was very calm for that manner. "And that's okay." She returned a bright beam that was strictly shocking for Spirit and I to witness. I couldn't tell if she was messing with him or if she was genuinely accepting of his personal thoughts.

"Uh…who is this?" Twilight asked, since she hadn't met him in the first place from before.

"Just some jerkwad." Spirit pointed out in disgust. "Don't listen to him. He just wants attention."

He had been wearing the same attire, if not more, we had seen him wearing the last time. At least, it wasn't exactly over the top for this moment since it had already been winter.

He returned a sort of boastful laugh. "I chuckle at thy utter incompetence. Leaveth now, as the adults art talking."

I noticed Twilight scrunch her face up as if she had been sucking on something sour in her mouth. I assumed that she noticed how forceful and broken his dialect had been.

"Oh yeah? Well I'd rather be a kid forever than be some pony with no friends!" She stated before giving him the tongue.

Coco lightly giggled, but she seemed to try to deescalate the situation on good terms. "He deserves to have an opinion just like everypony else. If he thinks it's bad, then that's okay."

"Tis not just me that thinkest this. Through me, everypony wilt appreciate real literature. Tis I who wilt reveal the true nature of completely disgusting filth like this—"

"Oh, just give it a rest already, you dud!" We heard a sharp exclaim intervene in. It had been another new voice, and he soon revealed himself after having made quite a verbally explosive introduction. "No one cares what you think! You're not some kind of 'literature savior' you always claim to be. Just shut up already and let other ponies enjoy what they want to enjoy!"

It took me a good while to realize who this was. If I wasn't mistaken, I believed it had been that one other pony that had accompanied this boasting fellow the last time.

"Et tu, mine cousin? Wherefore must thee speaketh to me like this? Has't thee gone mad?"

"No! No! No!" He flailed his hooves around and shook his head in a nerve-wracking manner. "Stop it! Quit talking like that! It's so freaking annoying for pony's sake!"

"But cousin, I am merely destroying the nature of unpleasant literature. As mine pupil, thee must realize this for yourself as well."

"Dude!" This stallion had apparently been so fed up that veins were popping out from his neck. "There are children here! You think they care about any of that?!"

"Doth mine ears deceive me? Art thee saying that thee actually findeth this atrocious pig slop acceptable?"

"I'm saying that you don't have to critique every little thing you see!" He lurched forward as he bellowed his words out. "If you don't like something, then move the hay on! No one gives a flying hoot what you think!"

The opposition stood heavily silent for a moment. I couldn't tell if he was somewhat surprised or trying to cover up for his buddy's mutiny against him. "Thee poor tortured soul. I fear thee aren't cunning enough to share a common ground on real literature. In that case, I banish thee from the group. We wilt not miss thee. Farewell, thee with no more brain than stone." Afterwards, he immediately left, hardly allowing much time for his former acquaintance to come up with a proper response. In fact, he only released a heavy sigh.

"…that was…interesting…?" Twilight merely commented on the exchange we had just witnessed.

"Aren't you supposed to be friends with him…?" Coco Pommel asked. "Why did you lash out on him like that?"

"I was never really friends with him." He answered despondently. "I only hung around him because I was scared."

"Scared?!" Spirit reacted with an outburst. "Dude! You're like bigger than him! What do you mean scared?"

"It's not like that!" He shook his head bitterly. "You see… The truth is…" He turned over to Coco. "I wasn't lying when I thought your first play was good. In fact, it really motivated me. No offense, but I didn't really see you as a pony with a good amount of recognition. Yet, you had gotten so much attention from your Midsummer Revival. But for some reason, I guess the guy that claimed to be my 'mentor' didn't like that. I could never see why he didn't just let it go if he hated it so much. No. He always feels the need to tell the whole world how much a piece of fiction bothers him. If that isn't enough, he'll even find the creators of these works and make a 'formal compliant'."

"I don't get it." Spirit brought up. "If that bothered you so much, why the heck did you keep hanging around him?"

He released another drawn out sigh. "It's embarrassing to say, but, you see, I want to create things that ponies will enjoy, just like Miss Pommel here has done. But, when I've personally seen how emotionally heartbroken ponies get by his harsh and unnecessary opinions, which he practically forces down every pony's throat, I can't imagine something like that happening to me. Storytelling is one of the only things that has really interested me. I knew I wanted to pursue this kind of career when I was kid, but I was so scared of having ponies like him cream any piece of motivation I had. I couldn't imagine…completely losing the spark because of some idiot who thinks the world runs around him. I thought if I…you know…play along with his little ruse, he'd avoid running his mouth on anything I make."

"Not to rub salt on the wound…" I threw in my own two bits. "…but it seems you might have bought a little more attention on yourself with your betrayal."

"Yeah…" He appeared to have wanted to sigh heavily yet again, but he didn't, possibly having grown tired of sighing depressively. "I mean, it's not like it was any better knowing I was a part of the problem. In fact, it was stupidly selfish of me. I should be helping others instead of just watching from a safe distance."

"Are you going to be okay?" Coco Pommel asked in genuine concern.

"I'll manage, I guess." He decided. "After all, there was no way I could have kept going on like that. He was bugging the hay out of me. It had already gotten to the point where I almost slipped my little outburst from my tongue in the past. I guess it wasn't until now that I wasn't able to hold it in."

"If it makes you feel any better…" Coco offered. "I'm pretty sure I'll be having my fair share in his column."

For some odd reason, the stallion laughed at this. "His 'column'. It's run by him and a few other members of his little 'group'. That was another thing that annoyed the heck out of me. He didn't work to get his little precious column. I'm sure he's got some wealthy parents or something that easily takes care of the financial costs. I've never seen him do some actual work in his life." Pausing to dwell in his thoughts for a moment, a small smile outstretched on his face. "You know. Now that I think about it, why should I have to worry about some pony that's never held a real job in his life? At least you make dresses for well-known clients!"

"I guess I do…" Coco bashfully scratched her cheek with her hoof.

He lightly shook his head and softly chuckled. "I guess I better be going. When can I expect another play from you?"

"To be honest…you probably won't see another until the next Midsummer Revival. I'm a dressmaker after all, not a writer." Coco shared with an embarrassed grin.

"Right…" He nodded his head, preparing to take off. "I better let you get back to your Hearth's Warming Eve. I know I can finally spend mine in peace."

Once they waved each other off, we were finally able to get back on track with what we were previously doing before the whole commotion.

"Hehe. Sorry about that." Coco felt the need to apologize as she chuckled in a lightly nervous manner. "Were you guys planning on leaving back to Ponyville after the play?"

"What do you think, Alex?" Twilight turned to me. I guess she was here for me in the first place anyway.

"It's really up to you all." I allowed the decision to them. "I don't mind staying if there's something you want to do here."

"I really want to check out that place over there!" Spike pointed out a specific stall. "I could really go for a cup of hot cocoa right now!"

"Hot cocoa, it is!" Twilight agreed as she shared a beaming smile.

We spent a good amount of time in Manehattan until we noticed it growing dark out. Seeing as it would probably be freezing cold later in the night, we decided it'd be best to pack up and head back home. Before we left, Spirit and I had one more short talk with Coco before we were to board the train.

"I'm really glad you two could make it." Coco expressed gratefully. "It was a lot of fun."

"No problem, Coco!" Spirit exclaimed energetically. "I ended up really liking it!"

I glanced over to Spirit as I rubbed the base of my chin with my hoof. "That reminds me. You looked like you were really getting into your character."

"Ah-hah…well…you know…" Spirit mumbled as a tint of red formed in her cheeks.

The train whistle blew, urging us to get on before the doors were to close completely.

"You two better get going!" Coco gestured by flicking her hoof forwards. "I wouldn't want you to miss your train."

"Alright. We'll keep in touch, alright Coco?" Spirit and I hugged her firmly for a brief moment before we turned to board the train.

"Of course! And Alex?" She suddenly called me, causing me to look back.

She stepped towards me appearing to be quite flushed. "Thank you for everything, really…" She mentioned while staring downwards. "I hope this isn't too weird…but seeing as it's Hearth's Warming Eve and all…" She closed her eyes intensely for quick second before leaning forward and planting a peck on my cheek. "Bye!" She waved, providing her own kind of warmth through the heavy blush that spread below her eyes.

I wasn't sure if I needed to come up with another kind of proper response, but with the train's bell on our flanks, all I could do was smile and wave before joining the others inside.

Once we were back home in the castle, we were quick to bundle up around the extremely cozy fireplace that Spike felt extremely satisfied to light himself.

"What a day…" I couldn't help but slip out. For some reason, it was a little hard to believe that we had just come back from being in a play. Either way, I was honestly glad to just be home. "I wonder how the others are doing with their Hearth's Warming Eve."

Twilight giggled. "I can imagine Applejack and Pinkie Pie having a crazy time with both of their families."

Spike came jogging in with a tray holding several cups. "Hot cocoa! A perfect end to today."

"Thanks, Spike!" Twilight expressed cheerfully as she accepted a cup.

Once we all had a steaming cup of hot chocolate, we all sat there in front of the fireplace in comfortable silence. I glanced over to Spirit and saw her staring at the interior of her cup for a long while. Unexpectedly, she lifted up her head and spoke. "Hey, Spike. You forgot something important."

"Oh, shoot!" He suddenly hovered a claw over his mouth. "I totally forgot the marshmallows!"

Spirit chuckled heartily at this. "Well, that wasn't what I was talking about, but yeah that too!"

"Well, what were you talking about?"

Spirit carefully placed down her cup and stood up. "What's even better than hot cocoa near a warm fireplace? Hot cocoa with cookies near a warm fireplace!"

"Hey, yeah!" Spike immediately agreed. "That's an awesome idea!"

"Come on, Spike!" She invited. "I'll get started on the cookies. You can get the marshmallows!"

"Yes, ma'am!" He followed behind as they raced out of the room.

Twilight and I were left there to bask in the silent ambiance. She was the one who was now staring at her cup. I couldn't tell if she was too busy thinking, or if she just didn't have anything to say. I decided to open up with some small talk.

"What do you think?" I asked.

"Huh?" She reacted by lifting her head away from the cocoa.

"About this Hearth's Warming Eve." I clarified. "Did you like it?"

"Oh, that…" She chuckled a bit unsteadily. "Yeah. It was cool." She paused for a moment. "It's a little different though. Last year, all of us spent it together. But I guess it isn't all that surprising. After all, before last year, I only spent Hearth's Warming Eve with Spike."

"Oh, right." I remembered. "Before we all were forced to become friends."

"What do you mean forced?" Twilight sent a lightly scolding scowl.

"Hahah." I chuckled. "I'm just kidding, you know."

She formed a relaxing smooth smile in her response. "I know. But…" It sounded as if she wanted to say something, but her words kind of trailed off.

"What?" I inquired.

"Hmm…" She thought to herself for a moment. "Alex…have you ever really wondered about Spirit?"

I had been caught off guard by that question. In fact, I found it a little odd that she'd bring up her like that to begin with. "A lot of times, I guess. But, like with almost anything that happens to us, I don't know if there's a definite explanation for everything about her. I just learned to live with it."

"I see…" She answered with a hint of despondency in her voice.

"Twilight, what's wrong?" I leaned in towards her. It was now my chance to dig in to what possibly could have been getting at her from the days before when she acted a bit strange. "For the past few days, you've been spacing out a bit. What's up?"

She slowly twirled the cup on hoof around as she seemed to properly come up with a response. "I don't want to assume anything…but I think…Spirit might be jealous. Of me."

"Huh?!" I almost threw myself back from surprise at her answer. "Why would you think that?!"

"This other day…" Twilight calmly explained. "She came to me when I was by myself in the library. She started…asking me this really pressuring question. I could just tell that this question was something that really bugged her."

"What was the question?"

"She was asking…why I hadn't just stuck with Shining Armor as my brother instead of you. She didn't seem to like that fact that we were so close. If you ask me, she came off as a little hostile…"

"Really?" I almost couldn't quite grasp that idea. "But I'm super close with Fluttershy too, and I don't think she's ever got that way with her…I think…"

"Spirit's always around you, Alex." Twilight mentioned directly. "I think it's pretty reasonable to say that she might be jealous." Spirit was pretty clingy…but was she that possessive to act so bitterly to Twilight? "I can't help but think…" She continued. "Maybe Spirit would be a better sister for you."

"Huh?!" I responded with shock once more. "Why would you say that?"

"Well, for one, she literally protects you. She's your light, and from what it seems, she's practically been there for you your entire life. When I think about it, I can kind of see why she'd get jealous. After all, you're the only pony she's really known."

I had to think about that for a good minute. Sure. Spirit may have technically been with me my entire life in some way or another, but that doesn't change the fact that everything you did is the reason why I'm surrounded by amazing friends. "But…the reality is that I've known you for way longer. It wasn't until I had actually begun talking to Spirit when I really felt anything for her, you know? To be honest, she was somewhat of a stranger to me, even when we had first started to secretly hang out with each other. Spirit's my friend, of course, and I love her. But to think that she'd make a better sister than you…" I shook my head to that. "If it wasn't for you, I don't think I'd be where I am today. I think you've looked out for me in more ways than one, and of course you're always there for me during the worst of my times. I think I can honestly say that, out of every pony I know, I would pick you in a heartbeat to be my real sister…"

Twilight had silently sat there with her mouth slightly agape. However, the still yet comfortable moment between us had suddenly been thrown into a disorderly state once we heard the crash of what sounded like a baking pan. Along with the sound of this crash, we heard an extremely sharp gasp, causing us to quickly turn to the source of these sounds.

At the door, we noticed Spirit sitting extremely tense there. She had been covering her mouth with both of her forehooves, and she only stared at us with enormously wide eyes like if we had committed a tremendously horrible crime.

"…do you really mean that…Alex…?" Her words had barely slipped past her lips. I almost couldn't even hear them.

"What?" I had only been able to muster out a word. Spirit's sudden behavior caused me to be unable to think during that moment.

Despite my vague response, her hooves slid upwards to her eyes and covered them as she turned away with a breaking voice. "I can't believe it… It's not fair…!"

"Spirit?" I tried to reach out to her, but she immediately pulled away. As I tried to step closer, she completely turned around and ran out the door. "Spirit!"

For the longest moment, Twilight and I remained there in utter silence. It wasn't until we were able to catch up to speed with our minds when we finally decided to take action on what had just happened.

Twilight decided to stay behind when I went to go look for her. I assumed it was due to what she had mentioned earlier about the situation between Spirit and her. My first guess was my room, and I realized I had guessed correctly when I found that I couldn't open it by normal means.

I slowly shook my head and sighed. "…Spirit…" I closed my eyes and simply teleported a few feet into my room. Inside, I was able to hear soft whimpers pretty clearly. Turning to my bed, I noticed my blankets hovering over something quite spacious. "Locking the door doesn't exactly work for me, you know?" I mentioned as I unlocked it.

"Go away!" She immediately cried out. "Leave me alone!"

Obviously, screaming at me to go away wasn't going to cut it. It was best to get to the bottom of this before things got any worse. "Just tell me what's going on, Spirit. I can't help you if I have no idea why you're acting like this all of a sudden. Is this about the thing between you and Twilight? If it is, then you can't let something let that get to you. I'm not saying I like her more than you or anything…"

"…that's not the point…!" I could hear her mutter underneath blankets. It sounded as if she had to push those words through clenched teeth. "…you…you just don't get it…!"

"Then how do you expect me to get it?!" I frustratingly leaned forwards. "How do you expect me to get anything when you're always keeping everything a secret?!"

In that instant, the blankets formerly covering her were thrown upwards and out of the way. Spirit had removed herself from the bed and stood directly in front of me with tears still gushing from her eyes. "I…I…!" She momentarily paused between each breath she took to speak, revealing that there was clearly something she couldn't simply just spit out. "…I…!" She closed her eyes and furrowed her eyebrows as hard and tense as she could before her mouth finally opened. "I'm supposed to be the one you love so much! But you…you just don't get how much it hurts to love you with everything I have! I've loved you ever since we were kids, and to see you giving the same kind of love I'm supposed to be getting to some pony you haven't even known for as long as I've known you sucks!"

"Spirit, listen…" I tried to approach her in the way I could understand with her rant. "I know you said that you've known me for my entire life, but…you didn't come into the picture until just some time ago… Twilight's been there since—"

"Shut up." She bitterly slipped out.

"Huh?" I immediately reacted in surprise, never having expected this kind of reaction from her.

"I said shut up!" The volume of her voice escalated tremendously. "You can't just stand there and tell me that I'm just some stranger to you! We've been together for as long as we've been alive! We know every little thing about each other from our favorite colors to our worst fears! You couldn't have forgotten all about us and everything we've been through! Could you…?"

The volume of her voice unexpectedly had shrunken down at the end, and it seemed she was giving me a chance to respond. However, there was nothing I could respond with, not at that moment at least. Everything she had been telling me did not click whatsoever. It was as if she was speaking to the completely wrong pony.

"…you did, didn't you?" She resumed speaking after observing my silence. At that point, her voice raised yet again as she aggressively squeezed the usually jubilant parts of her face. "You forgot all about everything between us, didn't you?!" She only paused for a second or two before continuing on. "You did…" She mentioned, sounding as if she had lost all hope. Soon enough, her aggressiveness spiked once more. "Well, if that's how it is, then why do you even care about me now?!" She decided to take a short breather, seeming to realize that she was being overwhelmed and exhausted by her emotions. However, there was no sign of her calming down and thinking things through for a minute. "…I was…just so happy when I got to see you again. I was happy because I thought we'd be able to be together again…just like when we were little. It felt like I was finally given a chance to make up for what I did to do you, and everything would soon be back to normal. That's what I thought." She stared at the floor as tears continued to roll down her cheeks. "But I guess…true love only conquers in fake bedtime stories…doesn't it…?"

There was one more pause. An opportunity to possibly fix and deescalate things before they got any worse, if I had knew the words that should be said. But I didn't. My mind was utterly blank. Finally, Spirit looked up to me in one of the most depressive states I had ever seen her in.

"If this is how it's going to be…then I wish I would have never existed in the first place…" She lifted her hooves and tried to wipe her face from any irritating tears, but it was practically useless. "If that was the case, then I wouldn't have ever had to wake up every day with this stupid burning sensation I feel and have to cover up every time I see you." Her voice was now breaking up and sounding as if it'd soon reach a point to where she could no longer form complete sentences. "I wouldn't have felt sad and jealous when I found out about her." Lastly, she took in one large and sharp gasp for what she had to say next. "And I wouldn't have realized that I lost my own twin brother to TWILIGHT INSTEAD!" She screamed out those last words.

Afterwards, for a few seconds, we only stared at each other in complete silence. It wasn't until after those few seconds where she suddenly covered her mouth as if she had unintentionally said too much. Nevertheless, I was just completely lost as I had been since her rant had started. There was nothing else to do but to express how much I felt that everything she said didn't relate to me whatsoever.

"What are you talking about?" I unnecessarily emphasized.

This time, she didn't return a heated answer. Instead, she continued staring at me for another brief moment before relaxing her hooves. The next look she gave me was…an oxymoron at best. It appeared as if some wave of relief washed over her, but at the same time, she looked absolutely miserable.

After continuing to sniffle and lightly whimper, she finally spoke. "Forget it… Just…don't talk to me…"

She bumped herself against me, whether intentionally or not, as she walked past me. I found her heading to the bathroom, but she was quick to slam the door behind her. This time, I remained outside and only carefully listened at what occurred inside. The shower had been turned on to full blast, but I could still distinctly hear the sounds of whimpers and weeping.

I stood there leaning towards the door, feeling almost utterly guilty for something I had no clue about in the first place. Feeling another presence nearby, I turned my head around to find Twilight not too far back behind me. She was just as speechless as I was, which gave me the indication that she had listened into every piece of the commotion that I thought had been just between Spirit and me.

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