• Published 28th Jun 2012
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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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Flurry of Emotions

I constantly murmured to myself as I began brainstorming a list of possible things we could do or places we could go, but I was unable to settle one that would prove the most effective. I thought about grabbing a bite to eat with her, but I believed it wouldn't be enough to get her to talk about what she'd been going through lately.

"I need to do something that'll get her to open up." I told myself as I paced around my room. "Maybe go someplace or do something that doesn't necessarily involve other ponies. It's not like she'll feel comfortable spilling out her feelings in front of others anyway…"

I paused in my walk cycle to look up and stare at the ceiling in thought before I resumed both my pacing and mumbling.

"I don't want to just outright point out that I want to know what her troubles are. She'll just react defensively and probably throw a fit with me. There has to be a mix of casualness and privacy… Something to both loosen things up and fire up a personal environment between us…"

"…do I want to know what you're talking about?" I heard at my door.

I felt my coat jump before I quickly turned towards the unexpected voice. "Don't scare me like that." I reacted a bit sensitively. "You need something?"

"I just wanted to see what you were up to." Athena leaned towards the wall with an innocent and pouty look on her face. "Twilight and Spike are too busy talking to Nurse Redheart right now about some plans they have later on today. What about you?"

"I'm trying to think about what to do with Octavia." I answered. "I want her to confide in me with whatever she's dealing with, but I don't want to just straight up ask her because I know that she's just going to brush it off. I've been trying to think of a way I can get that to happen by deciding on a particular thing for us to do together. Maybe some kind of bonding exercise or something? I don't know. This is too confusing."

"Well, what does she normally do?" She asked. "She has any hobbies you could maybe learn more about?"

I shook my head lightly. "I don't really get to spend time with her, to begin with. If any pony knows about her schedule, it'd definitely be Vinyl. But, I don't even know if she's working right now. Gah. I think I should just start with hitting up Octavia and asking her if she's busy. That's a start, but then I'd have such a short amount of time to think of something to do with her. I don't just want to go out to eat or anything." I finally sighed, feeling the pressure of possibly overthinking the things restlessly floating around in my head.

"Hmm." Athena wondered as she placed a hoof to her chin. "I don't think you need to get answers right now. Maybe it'd be a great start just to spend some time with her without worrying about whatever's on her mind. If she's ready to tell you, then I think she will."

I thought back on our conversation during Hearth's Warming. She had already been extremely close to opening up. It was probably a better idea to stop worrying about how I could help her out during a troubling time and instead just be there for her to begin with.

"Yeah… You're probably, right." I told Athena as I felt myself slowly coming to my senses. "I think I've been thinking way too hard about this. I don't want to force her to talk if she doesn't want to. I just don't want her to hide her feelings in case she feels like she needs to for whatever reasons. It isn't good to keep things to yourself like that."

"I know. Believe me." Athena understood. "For now, just focus on showing her that you're there for her. You know how to do that, right?"

"I'd hope so." I returned, looking back on how much experience I had gained when it came to Fluttershy. Octavia and Fluttershy were two different ponies, but I had hoped that being able to relate to them without any issues would be achieved in a similar fashion. "Just gotta be myself, I guess."

I began walking through the halls out of my room as Athena accompanied me by my side.

"So, I'm just wondering, but was it today that you were planning on hanging out with Octavia?" She asked.

"I was planning to. Why?" I questioned.

"I just thought that you would be going to visit the sick foals at the hospital today with Twilight."

"If I wasn't dealing with this, I probably would have." I answered. "But, Twilight and I had a little talk about this the other night. I told her how I felt worried about Octavia's behavior, and she ended up sort of treating this as a 'friendship emergency'. In other words, she told me she could easily handle this hospital visit without me. She'll be partnering up with Spike as usual when it comes to finishing up tasks, schedules, and all that. I guess she sees it as a similar situation just like when it was Starlight Glimmer and me."

"Oh, you mean when Starlight was worrying about how she'd get along with the other girls that one day?" Athena recalled. "Yeah. She went to go do that presentation thing. I remember. Anyway, she is the Princess of Friendship. Personally, I'd want to get in touch with Octavia as soon as possible if I were you too. Like I said before, I have no idea what she's going through, but it definitely doesn't seem like something you can just ignore."

"Which is why I want to make some good progress today." I pointed out as we passed the front doors of the castle. "I don't want to her to be so closed up that it ends up being awkward silence all around. That's why it all starts with where we hang out in the first place."

Several knocks landed firmly on the castle doors, taking Athena and me by surprise. We exchanged a glance with each other before we approached the door and pushed it open in order to get a look outside.

Another pair of eyes wandered about between Athena and me before a calm voice spoke up.

"Am I interrupting something?"

Coincidently, it had been Octavia. For a split second, I had almost begun to convince myself that she had been listening to our conversation the entire time somehow, but I managed to react calmly to the strange circumstance.

"Uhh. I think Twilight needs my help. See you later!" Athena immediately took her leave of absence for obvious reasons, leaving me alone with Octavia.

On the other hoof, Octavia didn't react much in regards to Athena's sudden leave. She continued to stand there on the other side of the door with a neutral expression on her face. My first thought was to invite her in since it seemed a little rude just to watch her remain outside like that.

"Oh, hey. You want to come in?" I asked.

"Sure." She walked past the doors, leading me to ask my next question.

"What's going on?" I followed up. "What brings you here?"

"There's something I wanted to talk to you about." She surprised me with.

"Oh, yeah?" I wasn't sure what exactly had been on her mind, but I figured now would be a good opportunity to learn a few clues in regards to the way she had been feeling unless she was ready to tell me right there on the spot. "Why don't you come to the dining hall? I can make you some tea."

"Thank you…but that's really not necessary." She responded with.

Warm her up, Alex. Remember that you want her to know that she can trust you.

"Don't worry about it." I flashed her a small grin. "I know how much you like your green tea."

"If you insist…" She seemingly accepted with a small shred of enthusiasm, following me to the dining hall.

She patiently waited for me to pour her a cup of tea on the table, but the look on her face was bothering me greatly. I didn't want to say that she looked ungrateful, but there had been no "warmth" to any part of her quiet expression. She didn't glare or have any kind of pout. I don't know. To put it simply, it just looked like she didn't have a reason to smile. In fact, her expression reminded heavily of our first meeting. It was almost like we were back on those terms again, but if that was the case, she wouldn't even be coming to me in the first place, right?

As much as I wanted to bring it up, I didn't want to upset her or make her angry enough to storm off. She didn't look too far off to annoy easily. For the moment, I had to be extra careful with my words and actions.

"So, what was it that you wanted to talk to me about?" I asked after filling her cup and setting the teapot on the middle of the table.

She silently stared at the interior of her cup for a moment before she responded. "There's an art show at the Ponyville Café. I'm not sure if you've heard of it."

I thought for a bit and tried to recollect any mention of an art show in Ponyville. "I might have heard or seen something, but I don't know what it's about or what it has exactly."

"Well, I've been meaning to attend the show." She continued. "I had asked Vinyl and Ditsy if they wanted to go as well. However, it seems they had other plans of their own…" Her pupils shifted to the corner of her eyes as she narrowed them. Despite her calm exterior, it seemed she had been clearly annoyed. "…I'm not in the mood to attend this showing on my own, so I stopped by to see if you were free to accompany me. I figured it may be something that interests you since I believe you're an aspiring artist as well?"

Not that I wouldn't have wanted to go in the first place, but this was an offer I definitely couldn't decline for a multitude of reasons. I had originally been planning to come up with the right setting for the two of us to hang out, but Octavia making the decision instead actually wouldn't be bad at all. While the art show itself sounded interesting, it was the last thing on my mind when it came to accepting her offer.

If I said yes, then that only added to the trust she had for me, right?

"Uh, yeah, sure!" I nearly accepted whole-heartedly. "Sounds like something fun!"

"I know you're a prince, and that you surely have more important things to take care of. You don't need to come with me if there are other matters you need to see to." She mentioned.

I remembered about the hospital trip Twilight was taking. I figured it would be best to keep Octavia from knowing about it, or she might start feeling guilty about keeping me from visiting sick kids…

"No, it's totally cool." I responded. For a second, I almost wanted to say that going with her to this art show would actually technically be a kind of royal duty to tackle as a prince on the job, but she could have easily taken that as something entirely else. I wanted her to know that I was going with her as a friend, not as a chore to cross off the list. "You know, I was actually meaning to talk to you about hanging out sometime." I managed to bring up. "It's great that you came to me with this."

"You were?" She repeated as her eyes stretched out a bit in surprise, but she quickly shut them as she lifted up her teacup and took a sip. "I see. That's good to hear."

"When'd you want to go?" I asked.

"The show has been open all day." She stated. "If you don't mind, we can start heading over there right now."

"Sounds good to me."

Octavia finished whatever was left of her tea and placed it back on the plate it normally sat on.

"Thank you for the tea." She expressed and stood up.

Again, she still wasn't smiling, but she didn't quite seem like she was annoyed with me. However, I made sure to keep myself in check so nothing I did would ruin any part of the day that was ahead of us.

I began by opening the door and held it in order to allow Octavia to pass through. However, there were a few unexpected visitors right on the other side. Within the door frame stood Twilight, Spike, and Athena. If I wasn't mistaken, there was a particular something that sat on her neck.

"O-Oh, sorry." I apologized for the scare. "I wasn't expecting you to be behind this door."

"Forget about that! Guess who came to visit?!" Without a second to spare, she reached behind her head and suddenly pulled out a foal with her magic. "It's Flurry Heart!"

In front of me was a cooing baby who adorably stuck out her tongue like a dog. At the sight of me, she reached out her forelegs in curiosity, but Twilight was quick to gain her attention once she started walking in.

"H-Huh?" I questioned, staggered by confusion. "Not that I'm not happy she's here, but…what is she doing here? She didn't accidentally teleport all the way over here or something did she?"

"Cadence and Shining Armor actually stopped and asked if I could watch her for a bit while they went and had a day off! I never thought I'd have an entire day to be with my favorite niece!" She chimed out excitedly, rubbing cheeks with the baby in the room.

"Not to mention that you decided to watch your only niece while you also have a jam-packed day." Spike pointed out as he held a long checklist that remained unchecked for the most part.

"Your trip to the—" I almost slipped out until I managed to catch a glance of Octavia, who was silently waiting nearby. I shook my head and tried my best to remain vague about it in the heat of the moment. "Twilight, are you sure you'll be to handle today?"

"Don't worry." Athena waltzed in and answered for her. "I'll be helping her with the baby and any other kind of stuff she needs to do." Afterwards, she pulled in close and mentioned a few more things softly in order to keep it just between the two of us. "Besides, you need to get to work on 'you-know-who'."

"We'll get right to work on today's schedule as soon as I get some food in this cute little foal's belly." Twilight rubbed Flurry Heart's belly playfully, igniting a few bursts of laughter from her.

"Word of advice: You might want to get out of here before you find mashed peas on your face." Spike told me with an unamused look in his eyes.

"Uh, yeah. Well, let me know if you need anything…" I hesitantly said but felt it was necessary to mention. I finally turned back to Octavia and gestured her forward with my head. "Sorry about that, Tavi. Let's go."

"Right…" She responded with before following me out of the dining room.

"You've ever seen Princess Cadence's and Shining Armor's baby before?" I asked as I escorted her out of the castle. "She's pretty cute, right?"

"I haven't with my own eyes." She shared briefly. "Yes, she's quite cute."

I was hoping she'd be a little more enthused after witnessing the sight of her, but she still seemed a little annoyed by something in particular. I turned my head back to the path in front of me, feeling my neck tighten up a bit. I had no clue what kind of conversation to spark up with her. I didn't want to talk too much about pointless things and end up annoying the heck out of her. At the same time, I didn't want her to think I was ignoring her or finding her boring.

Ugh. Why do girls have to be such an enigma sometimes?

We didn't really make any more conversation on the way over to the Ponyville Café. Thankfully, it wasn't very far, to begin with, so taking a silent walk with her wasn't all that awkward. Seeing a small gathering hanging around outside with ponies walking in and out from time to time gave me the confidence to walk in and a take a look around.

"This is the place?" I asked.

"Undoubtedly so." She responded with.

With her neutral and serious tone, it almost sounded like she was being sarcastic, but I decided to give her the benefit of the doubt.

As a matter of fact, I heard a couple of voices nearby that sounded too familiar to ignore. A simple turn of my head granted me the opportunity to witness a warming sight. If my own eyes didn't deceive me, Shining Armor and Cadence had been speaking with someone else by one of the pieces that had been set on the floor.

"Oh, hey! It's them!" I said out loud and felt my legs move on their own towards them. "Wasn't expecting to run into you two here!" I greeted them with.

"Alex!" Cadence turned in my direction and shared jubilantly. We exchanged a brief embrace before she continued speaking. "We stopped by the castle earlier, but we didn't see you there."

"Yeah, I must have just missed you. I heard you let Twilight have Flurry to herself for the day?"

"Oh, you know." Shining Armor returned. "Being parents can be so exhausting. It's nice to just be able to relax for once."

"No kidding. I remember the look on your face when Twilight and I were just about to see the baby for the first time." I remembered.

"It's certainly been tiring, but we've managed to get a schedule worked out. Although, it certainly is a jam-packed schedule, to say the least."

"Aww, no way!" The pony they had been speaking to exclaimed excitedly. "This is really inspiring for me, you know? I didn't think my art would be bringing friends and family together like this! Not to mention royal visitors!"

"This is an old friend of mine from the royal guard, Spearhead." Shining Armor smirked at the fairly large stallion's behavior. "In case you didn't know, he's quite an enthusiast for art."

"So, what brings you here today?" Cadence asked.

"Oh! I'm actually here with a friend." I turned to my right to get an eye on Octavia, but I nearly jumped from my spot when I found that she had been standing right beside me. The expression she wore remained unchanged, and for some really strange reason, I almost felt that she was upset with me at the moment. "T-This is Octavia. Octavia, Shining Armor and Princess Cadence."

"It's a pleasure." Octavia respectfully and calmly stated, bowing a bit in place.

"Oh, no need to be so formal." Cadence lightly chuckled and waved her hoof a bit.

As I watched their exchange, I felt a small pool of guilt rise within me. It wasn't that I did anything necessarily wrong, but it was the possibility that I may have reacted poorly around Octavia. I meant to dedicate this day to her, but I almost went off without her to say hi to Cadence and Shining Armor. Once again, I was probably leaning towards the side of overthinking things today, but Octavia really seemed to be in a…complex state of emotion at the moment.

"We should probably get started on the other side of the room. If you're not too busy with Flurry, maybe we can set some kind of plans later on?" I suggested.

"Of course! We can talk more about that when we go and pick up Flurry Heart at the castle." Cadence agreed.

"Sounds good!" I shared and began turning my body away. "See you then! Enjoy your day off!" I found Octavia silently accompanying me as I waved back and stepped towards the other end of the room. "Sorry about that. I didn't expect to see them here."

"It's fine." She stated. Once again, there was hardly any emotion to her voice. And it wasn't like Maud's voice. It almost sounded like an "I don't even want to look or talk to you right now" voice. Then again, it could have just been me.

To be utterly honest, she wasn't much different when it came to taking a look around the exhibit. I was more interested in her than the art, so I didn't really have any elaborative input on the pieces themselves. This definitely didn't help with the kind of coldish behavior she seemed to have been adopting, which was becoming more noticeable the more time passed by.

Anytime I'd try to engage her in some kind of conversation, she'd give me simple and short answers, similar to her previous response when it came to the subject of meeting Flurry Heart for the first time. Sometimes, she wouldn't even respond with words, only soft grunts or hums. I didn't want to be thinking negatively for any part of our day together, but it almost seemed like she didn't even want to be with me at that point.

Knowing her, I figured if that was the case, she would have left a long time ago, but she didn't. This is what really confused me. Could she have been having a bad day? Then, why would she invite me out when she's clearly not in the mood to be doing something like this?

I ended up following her silently around, the air around us slowly but surely growing awkward. It wasn't until she stopped and paid particular attention to one specific portrait in the art gallery. I stopped and took a look for myself. Out of every painting or sculpture in the gallery, I found that this one was actually pretty worthwhile to look at. It was one of a snowy landscape, possibly inspired by the Crystal Empire.

It was just a background shot though. There were no subjects inside, and the painting definitely seemed like one that could invoke many different interpretations from many kinds of ponies. As an example, one might think this painting symbolizes loneliness, and another might take this painting as an appreciation of the beauty of nature. In other words, being "one with nature" or something like that.

Nevertheless, I thought it was a pretty intriguing painting apart from all the art here, no disrespect to the artist intended of course.

"Hey, I see this one caught your eye." I mentioned with a smile on my face. "What do you think? Looks pretty amazing, right?" I asked as I turned to grab a definite look of her face.

Despite my hope, she didn't appear to feel the same way I did based on the kind of expression I saw her leak out. Her mouth was slightly agape, but her eyebrows seemed to furrow a bit sadly. It surprised me. Maybe even shocked me. Out of the stoic look she wore the entire I had been with her, for some reason, this painting changed that. I was only able to assume that whatever it was that bothered her, it had to have been something incredibly significant enough to break through her apathetic attitude.

"You okay?" I finally asked.

Her lips immediately drew together like two magnets, and she turned away, giving her back to me.

"I'm feeling quite ill. I'm afraid I'll have to cut our time short today. Goodbye."

"Hey, wait a min—"

I tried to call out to her, but she had already begun leaving.

I wasn't sure whether to follow her or not for the same reason I was being wary around her the entire time. Maybe today wasn't really the best day to talk to her after all. Maybe she was having an off day, and tomorrow might be better? Whatever I thought, I couldn't help but worry that all of this may have had to do with how she had been acting lately.

If I had been in her shoes, I'd definitely want someone to talk to, but I wasn't her. I didn't want to break or crack any part of what we already had between us. I was sure that there were just certain times a pony had to be left alone.

"I knew something was up with her…" I heard a familiar voice say beside me.

I looked to my right and became startled enough by the sight of a strange pony that I nearly tipped over and touched the painting Octavia and I had been looking at just a moment ago.

There had actually been two strange ponies standing together by my side, and what was strange about them was the way they were dressed. Both of them had been wearing goofy bushy-browed glasses with a big nose and mustache, the kind you'd find at a joke shop. They also wore some kind of old-fashioned hat that covered the majority of their mane. Still, taking a closer look, I believed I was able to distinguish a pair of familiar faces.

"Hold on… Are you…?"

Her eyes maneuvered all around the corners of their sockets before she began pushing and shoving me out of the building. The two led me outside until we arrived at a particular spot where they felt comfortable enough to remove whatever ridiculous getup they had been wearing inside. As expected, the two ponies had been Vinyl and Derpy.

"What are you two doing?" I asked. "Why are you walking around looking like that?"

"We were watching you and Tavi." Vinyl oddly confessed straight up. "We couldn't let you know what we were doing, obviously."

"And why were you watching us?" I inquired, finding their admitted behavior something to scold them about. "Octavia said you two supposedly had plans today."

"Exactly. We were busy doing what we were doing just a few minutes ago." She easily answered.

"So…why were you doing that?" I repeated, growing a little impatient.

"You've noticed, haven't you?" Vinyl began speaking with concern in her voice. "Tavi's been acting totally weird, and she doesn't give us a straight answer when we ask her about it. It's always: 'It's nothing', or 'I don't know what you're talking about'. And then she gets mad when we don't drop the subject. So, we had no other choice but to watch her without knowing. She had asked us out to the art gallery in there, and I didn't want to reject her like that, but she made me! If she's not going to tell us straight up what's bothering her, then we gotta go the extra mile and take matters into our own hooves! Besides, if we had ended up going with her, she just would've done the same thing she did to you right before she left."

I took a glance over at Derpy, who only looked at us speak without having nothing much to say regarding the topic. "So, did you talk Derpy into doing this with you, or did she want to do this by her own will?"

"Psh. I didn't make her do anything." Vinyl returned.

"Vinyl said doing this would make our friendship stronger." Derpy shared.

I turned to Vinyl with a raised eyebrow.

"It will once we get to the bottom of things." She excused. "Anyways, now that you're here, you've gotta help us. You want to find out what going on with her too, right?"

"I do, but not by spying on her." I said. "I'll wait until she tells me herself."

"Bro, no offense, but I've been her friend since we were fillies. If she doesn't bother telling me, I'm not so sure, she'll ever tell you. It's just the way she is. She's always tried to keep things to herself like this."

"Maybe that's why you wait for the right moment?" I suggested. "I know that sounds cliché, but it's the truth. If you're upset, you don't exactly want to be pestered about the very thing that's bothering you in the first place."

"Look, just help us out, will you?" Vinyl continued to pursue my assistance.

"What exactly do you want me to do?" I asked with uncertainty.

"Well, to tell you the truth, I've got no better idea than to dig for info. That pony keeps everything to herself, so I'm going to go ahead and assume she has some kind of diary hidden somewhere at her place. If we move quick enough and find the info we need, we can think of a way to approach her about it. Sounds good, eh?"

"No!" I whole-heartedly objected. "Sounds bad! That's an invasion of privacy! How do you even expect to find this 'diary' without her knowing or seeing you?"

"Easy. Cook up a distraction and sneak into her house right-quick. I mean, I've hung out at her place before, and there have been tons of opportunities to distract her. Heck, she's even left me alone in her room before, but, of course, there was no reason to take a look around then."

"That's a bad idea." I repeated. "There has to be a better way to get what you're looking for."

"Well, talking hasn't helped at all! If you want to try to pry it straight from the horse's mouth, be my guest, but I'm telling you, that doesn't work. She'll just chew you out for asking."

"Mmm…" I groaned to myself. As much as I did want to find out the source of Octavia's sour mood, I wasn't comfortable with Vinyl's plan. I did get close to getting answers from her that one time on Hearth's Warming, but even then, she was a little clammed up. I couldn't discredit Vinyl at the same time. She's known Octavia way longer than I have, and if Octavia hasn't told her own best friend about her problems, then I wasn't sure what chance I had to succeed.

I mean…if all we need to do is just take a quick peak at only what we need to look at in order to learn just enough how we can confront Octavia about her problem, then maybe

"Fine, I'll go with you guys." I succumbed just as Vinyl began to turn to leave.

She turned around rather quickly as her ears shot up in interest.

"Really?" She asked.

"Only to make sure that you don't go overboard and just focus on finding a clue to what's been going on with Tavi lately. I still don't think this is a good idea, and I'm pretty sure you're going to go through with it anyway. For your and Octavia's sake, I'll tag along and make sure you don't look any more than you need to."

"I'm not trying to find her unmentionables, dude." Vinyl stated unnecessarily. "Unless, that's actually the reason why you changed your mind, and you're just pretending that you're making sure we don't go over the top." She tacked on with the largest snarky grin I've ever seen her with.

Finding myself short of something worthwhile to respond with, I kept it short.

"You're funny."

At our side, Derpy only kept quiet as she observed the scene between us with a small and innocent smile on her face like an obedient child.

I followed the two as they walked on over to Octavia's home. It wasn't until they came to a firm stop a few steps away from her door when Vinyl turned over to me and seemed to shoo me away with her hoof. "Yo, go somewhere else. It'll be weird if she sees you with us."

I slightly shook my head in confusion, but I found myself abiding by her request as she had already begun stepping forward to knock on the front door. I stayed nearby her home just enough so I could get a safe look at the kind of excuse Vinyl had cooked up.

"Hey, Tavi!" I heard her say a bit exaggeratedly. However, I didn't have a view of Octavia from where I had been keeping myself out of sight at. "You know, Derps and I are really sorry we couldn't come to that art show with you, so how about we go and hang out at Sugarcube Corner? Sounds fun, right?"

There was a somewhat heavy sigh.

"I don't know, Vinyl. I'm not really in the mood to go out."

"Come on!" Vinyl encouraged. "You're always so moody, you know? I get it. You're mad because we didn't go with you. And hanging out with us is exactly what'll fix you right up! You spend too much time by yourself, Tavi. You've gotta hang with us constantly."

By her side, Derpy nodded enthusiastically.

A period of silence.

"Perhaps, it's not such a bad idea…" Octavia seemed to be convinced. "I was just about to practice for the remainder of the day. Only you are capable of coming out of nowhere at such a time."

"Thatta girl!" Vinyl grinned brightly.

With another light sigh, Octavia replied. "Give me a minute to put my cello away."

"Oh! No need!" Vinyl suddenly jumped at. "Let me take care of that for you! Why don't you go ahead and get us a seat at Sugarcube Corner?"

I imagined Octavia's brow lifting up in confusion at this point. "It'll only be a minute, Vinyl…"

"I know, I know. But, it's just a small way of apologizing to you, you know? Besides, I think I, uh, left one of my records somewhere in your room last time I was here, heh heh. I also wanted to take a quick look around to see if I can find it."

I began hoping that Vinyl hadn't already been caught snooping around before, otherwise this would definitely be a suspicious red flag for her best friend.

"Oh, did you?" Octavia responded surprisingly calm. "Well, it'll save me the trouble of finding it and taking the time of day to return it back to you. I'll leave it to you then. You know how to put away my cello, right? Without breaking it?"

"Yeah, yeah!" Vinyl flapped her hoof around excitedly as she seemed to try to get Octavia out as soon as she could. "I've seen you do it a ton of times! I'll be careful. I promise!"

"You better." Octavia stepped out as she shared a firm warning.

I watched her finally come into view without noticing me, and she seemed to finally be off in the direction of Sugarcube Corner.

She was so casual and cool about it. For some reason, it seemed a little weird. Then again, I guess I had never really let anyone just be in my personal space on their own before. Not that I really had anything to hide, of course. It was only a moment before I was gestured back by Vinyl when it seemed Octavia was far enough and out of range.

"Come on, let's be quick and make like a banana and split before she starts getting suspicious." Vinyl advised and then turned to Derpy. "Hey, Derps, keep an eye out for me, will you? If you see her come back for whatever reason, try to keep her from coming in here or stall her. If all else fails, come straight back and bang on the window to her room."

"You can count on me!" Derpy responded with a salute before flying off and taking refugee on a tree nearby.

"You'll be helping me look, aight?" Vinyl told me.

"Sure…" I responded hesitantly.

I just wanted to get this over with.

I started feeling a little nervous as I walked inside. It wasn't like it was the first time being in her home, but I almost felt like a criminal, especially since she didn't know I was actually in here. Nevertheless, Vinyl seemed to head straight for her home in an extremely nonchalant manner, even when knowing she was about to commit one of the worst crimes you could do to a best friend.

"Alright, we should be done with this a lot quicker if we split up the room." Vinyl directed as she simply walked right into her room, leaving me slowly poking my head in. "I'll start with the closet. You take the bed."

"What about her cello?" I reminded, finding it resting on top of the bed near an open case.

"Oh, yeah. Put it away, will you, please?" Vinyl turned over the burden to me, opening the closet door and taking a gander inside.

I rolled my eyes for a second before carefully picking up cello with my magic and slowly fitting it back into its case. Once I locked it shut, I allowed myself to take a breath of relief before kneeling down and lifting up her bedsheets. Personally, I wasn't so sure she'd keep something like her diary under her bed, but I suppose every pony had their own measures to protect their secrets.

Dear Celestia, I feel so dirty right now even just thinking about these things…

How could you, Alex? I can hear her telling me. I thought I raised you better than this.

I know. I'm sorry.

"Find anything?" Vinyl snapped me out of my thoughts as I had been staring into an endless abyss of darkness underneath her bed.

"Not yet…" I answered back a little annoyed as I forced myself to spark up a light on my horn.

It didn't take much time to see that the underneath of her bed was practically spotless. It made sense, considering she didn't seem to be the type to just lazily stuff things under the bed like Vinyl most likely would.

Nevertheless, I made a thorough scan with my eyes from the right back corner of the bed to the left. At the very end of the left, I actually spotted something a bit odd. It definitely didn't look anything like a diary, but even with the light from my horn, it was too small and far to see. I wasn't sure if whatever it was had anything to do with what we needed, but I decided to take the chance and bring it toward me with my magic.

As I brought it to me, I noticed that it appeared to be the back end of a photo. Judging from its place under the bed, I assumed that it must have flown there by a gust of wind or something and found its home in a corner that would be hard to see. I also wondered if it was a photo Octavia cared much for, considering its location. She never mentioned losing a photo, and even if she had tried to look for it, it would only be harder for her to find it and pull it out due to the fact that she's an Earth Pony.

Hoping it wasn't something like an embarrassing photo of Octavia at a Hearth's Warming party, I slowly turned it around, ready to turn away and shut my eyes if need be. To both my surprise and relief, it wasn't anything that I was dreading it to be. In fact, it appeared to a familiar normal picture.

Actually, normal was probably more of an understatement. There were two ponies in the photo, one clearly being Octavia. She was wearing a light layer of winter clothing, such as a black professional-looking scarf and a set of matching earmuffs. Noticing the snowy background behind her, it was safe to say that it was obviously and definitely winter time.

However, there was something that caught my attention the most. It was the look on Octavia's face. She had this…beaming smile, something I don't remember ever seeing her wear before. She looked extremely and genuinely happy like she was in the prime of her life. I studied her expression silently for a moment before my eyes rolled over to the left side of the picture.

There had been somepony else beside her. It was an unknown stallion based on my current knowledge. His hair was fairly long, kind of like mine, but that was all I could really tell due to the beanie he wore on his head.

To put it simply, he looked a little ordinary. There was nothing that really stood out to me in the chance I actually might have met or talked with him somewhere. At any point, the more important thing I wondered about the photograph was the context behind it.

Octavia and this other stallion stood together as if they were close acquaintances. I wanted to say friends, but as mentioned previously before, I didn't remember seeing him before, much less seeing him with Octavia. Could he maybe have been…?

"Oooh…! Tavi, I didn't know you were into this kind of stuff!" I heard Vinyl say suggestively behind me.

My mind becoming blank, the photo slipped away from my hoof onto the floor as I turned to see just what Vinyl had been up to.

"Hey!" I raised my voice to scold her. "I told you to look through only what you needed to look through!"

"Chill out, brah." She returned casually, seemingly scavenging through things in the closet. "I am. But, it's not like the diary is just going to be out there in the open, right? What about you? Find anything?"

"No, not really…" I sighed and rubbed the back of my head. "The longer I stay here, the more I hate myself. Can we just leave already? Tavi has to be wondering what you're doing."

"Just a little longer man. We haven't looked through all the places yet." She searched through the closet a little more before she pulled herself out and sighed tiredly. "Dang, girl. Where do you keep your diary? I'm not sure she even has one anymore."

"That's why I'm saying we should be going. Give her some space and we can try talking to her again later." I suggested.

"Just a few more minutes." She requested. "Tavi isn't messy, so it shouldn't take too long to look through the other places."

Just as she finished saying that, we heard a loud banging on the window by her bed.

We immediately turned to find a frantic Derpy holding one hoof on the window as she banged loudly on the other. She looked at us as if she was trying to escape from some deranged madpony, but based on her very clear signal, it was us that in imminent danger.

"Oh, snap. We gotta get out of here." Vinyl stated as she stared back at the window with a shocked and wide-eyed expression.

In the next moment, we heard noise and movement outside of the room.

"Vinyl? Are you still in here?"

It was definitely Octavia.

Vinyl slowly leaned and peered through the small opening she left with her bedroom door.

Bump. Bump. Bump.

We could hear the sound of her hooves stepping on the floor outside, and they slowly but surely grew louder.

"She's coming in!" Vinyl whispered in a state of panic. She quickly looked all over her until she spotted the closet she had been searching through.

Before I knew it, she tackled me straight into the closet. As I tried to fully understand what exactly had been happening in our fast-paced moment, Vinyl turned and closed the closet door as quickly yet softly as could. She then pressed her back against me as if I was some cushion to fit herself in the fairly small closet, especially since Octavia had already been keeping stuff in here.

"What are you doing?!" I whispered loudly. "Go out there and talk to her! It won't look as suspicious if she only sees you hanging around here!"

"Oh, yeah…" Vinyl returned in a dumbfounded state. Just as she was about to press her hoof against the closet door, we heard the door to the bedroom being opened. "…too late…" She muttered softly.

I wasn't sure if overall it was a good thing or not, but Octavia's closet door was one of those doors with slats. We were able to see somewhat outside being close to the door itself. As far as us being visible from the outside, we could only hope she didn't poke around her closet enough for some reason to see us stupidly hiding inside. It would be a disaster if anypony had found Vinyl and I hunched up together like this inside of a closet.

"I hope she didn't fiddle around with that new bow I bought…" We heard her speaking to herself as she stepped in and looked around. She faced our direction for only a second or two, but it was enough to get our hearts riled up and pumping extremely fast. She soon seemed to turn to the bed and walk towards it. "Well, she put away the cello as I asked." We heard clicking as if she was opening the case. "Thank goodness it's not damaged. I nearly forgot I left the bow in there."

There was a bow in there?! I didn't even notice! It must have been in a black case or something. Thank Celestia I put the cello in as slowly as I could…

We heard Octavia release what sounded like a sigh of relief. It was quiet for a few seconds until she spoke once more.

"I suppose you should go back inside the closet."

Vinyl's eyes immediately widened, and I wouldn't doubt mine did the same.

There was another moment of silence.

"No… I'll probably practice when I come back. I'll leave you out for now."

She seemed to make some more kind of movements that we didn't have an exact clear view of. It sounded as if she began stepping across us towards the door, but then she stopped and made what sounded like a light gasp.

From what I could see, she appeared to lean her body towards the floor as she picked something up. It was extremely quiet for what felt like a long moment. I was afraid that she might've picked up our stifled breathing. When she finally made a movement, it was her head, and it was facing towards the bottom of the closet door.

What's she doing?! Did she hear us!?

Without saying anything, she proceeded to continue walking, but it wasn't towards her bedroom door. She was heading straight for the closet door.

I felt my mind go blank much severely this time. In fact, I almost thought I had lost consciousness because I couldn't understand the cold harsh reality I had suddenly been pulled in until I was staring back at a pair of extremely unfriendly and sharp glaring eyes. They were hardly expressive at all, which made it all the scarier. It was the kind of look you give someone in public to let them know how you were feeling without attracting much attention from others.

"U-Uh, H-Hey!" Vinyl stammered at the large shadow in front of her. "S-Surprise! Haha…!"

Vinyl tried to flail her forelegs around excitedly, but I was sure she knew it was over for us.

Octavia finally stepped back and ordered us to get out of her closet without a word. Vinyl somewhat slowly got on her hooves and cautiously stepped out as she hung her head low, and I shortly joined her afterwards.

"L-Listen, I can explain." Vinyl nervously spoke. "You see, you were acting all weird, and I just wanted to—"

"Get out." Octavia shared with a deathly stare.

"H-Huh?" Vinyl seemed to try to get a clear response, but Octavia kept quiet. It was enough for her to get the message and start turning to leave the room.

Not wanting to witness the look on her face a second longer, I quickly began following Vinyl as subtly as I could until Octavia suddenly spoke sharply once more.


I couldn't help but turn my head back.

"You're staying." She ordered.

"A-Ah?" I heard Vinyl gasp before she came racing back into the room. "Tavi! It wasn't his fault! I forced him to come with me and—"

"Go!" Octavia raised her voice as her eyebrows furrowed.

Vinyl immediately sewed her lips shut. She was only able to send me a worried glance before she continued walking off. I nervously stayed to hear her steps move further away until the front door opened and closed.

My heart was beating extremely fast, and I genuinely felt in fear for my life. This situation was like…worse than any encounter I've had with any other villain ever. I was honestly considering bolting straight out of there, but I knew I needed to face punishment if I wanted any chance of recovering my possibly now broken friendship with her.

I nearly shivered when Octavia walked past me, afraid of any moment she'd strike. However, she had her sights on the open bedroom door behind me. She placed a hoof on it and closed it shut. I fearfully gulped in response.

It was so silent. I felt like I could die at any moment.

"I…" I tried to say, but I felt anything I could have possibly said would just warrant more anger from her. I didn't want to sound like I was just making excuses, and I didn't want to sound like I was begging for my life either. "I'm sorry." It was all I could muster up. I wanted to explain the situation to her, but I was afraid she wasn't in the mood to hear it, even if I did it out of goodwill.

I stared at the ground, ready to clench my eyes shut for whenever she'd get close. I was expecting her to hit me soon. She was probably just keeping me in suspense to torture me. I heard her walk some more, but I didn't dare look up.

After a short moment, I heard some kind of flapping sound.

"Hm. I've been meaning to find this."

I finally brought my head up cautiously and found her eyeing the photo that I had been looking at earlier. There was still a lack of emotion to her face, and in the next moment, she tore the photo in half.

With a cold sweat hanging down the side of my head, I carefully looked at her. "…Tavi…?"

She continued to stare at the two torn pieces of the photo for a while longer. "This isn't enough." She now turned to me. "Can you zap it with your magic? I want you to disintegrate it into ashes."

It was an odd request. In fact, it was a scary one coming from her.

"…W-Why?" I took the risk by asking.

"I want to forget." She simply answered. "Do this for me. Please."

She pushed the pieces towards me. I didn't know what to do. I looked at them for a moment longer, taking extra consideration of the look Octavia wore in the photo. Just what happened to her…?

Nevertheless, she continued staring at me, waiting for me to fulfill her request. I felt immensely pressured, so with a touch of hesitation and regret, I focused the magic on my horn and zapped. There was a small pile of ash left on my hoof.

Octavia stared at my hoof for a long while before she finally sighed. She turned away and looked out her window. I stood there in silence, waiting for her to make her next move.

"I'm stuck, aren't I?" She mentioned. "No matter what I do, nothing will fill the hole that remains inside of me."

"Who was that, Tavi?" I asked, referring to the stallion that had been in the photo.

"Someone who used to be special to me, or so I thought." She returned, turning her head to the side.

Have you ever had your heart broken?

That's what she had asked me during Hearth's Warming.

"He's the one who broke your heart, isn't he?" I assumed.

She remained still and silent, and for the first time, I witnessed the bangs of her mane fall just enough to practically cover the majority of her eyes.

"I met him at my work. He was another musician just like me. He played the piano. Beautifully, I must admit. I didn't think I'd grow so fondly of him, but I did. He said he had been interested in my music, and I turned out to be interested in his piano playing as well. We began talking and before I knew it, we're playing duets together." She chuckled faintly as she seemed to recall something sweet. "I told Vinyl about him, and all she ever did was encourage me to pursue him. Supposedly, she somehow got word about what he thought about me. Believed I was 'cute', 'an inspiration', things like that. I never felt so elated in my life. At that point, I decided to follow on through with Vinyl's encouragement. We'd go out for things like coffee in our free time. He'd walk me to the train I'd take back to Ponyville and made me feel like such a special mare." She scoffed. "It was only a matter of time before I'd end up making a fool of myself. I had convinced myself to believe that what we had was real. That we were perfectly compatible considering our passions for music. I allowed myself to be so defenseless and naïve…just like some silly schoolfilly."

She paused with her story, and from what I could see, her brow furrowed as her mouth frowned solemnly.

"I had convinced myself that he was 'the one'." She continued. "We had been somewhat 'seeing each other' for a good while, but we were nothing 'official'. I can imagine if you were to ask him, he'd respond with something along the lines of 'Oh, she was just some pony I worked with'. You don't flirtatiously treat a naïve little mare like a princess if she's just some acquaintance to you." She shook her head firmly in disapproval. "I allowed him to 'crawl under my coat', and I paid the price for it in the end. I was ready to let him know how I truly felt about him and hear his answer within the days before Hearth's Warming Eve. I tried to find him where the two of us would practice with a few other acquaintances of ours. He wasn't there, so I asked the others about him. They had mentioned that some mare they hadn't seen before had stopped by, and he was quick to leave right after. I was scared a little at first, but I wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt. He'd continue to show up for practice, but all that we had between us just…disappeared. No walking together to the train station. No after-practice coffee. That 'bond' we had just vanished into thin air all of a sudden, and it was right after I had heard about that mare that caused him to leave so suddenly that day. I began hearing things at practice regarding how that mare was actually an old love interest of his, but they had never been able to see each other due to issues with family. I immediately disregarded them as rumors. I wanted to speak with him directly, but I only ever saw him during practice. Immediately afterwards, he'd just leave like if I wasn't even there. I purposely convinced myself to live in a fairytale lie, but the bitter truth was soon spoon-fed to me during Hearth Warming Eve. Shortly after I boarded the train to Ponyville…I saw them…together at the station. As I saw them draw closer towards each other, my eyes finally opened. What he did was evidence enough for me to realize I had been taken for a fool. Even if I had wanted to confront him the next time I saw him at practice after the holidays, I couldn't, because he had taken off. With that mare, I assume. I never saw him again. I don't know where he moved, and I hope that I never do because I never want to see his face again."

Her hoof tensed and lightly shook as she picked it up.

"As you may already know by now, that's when I came to growing a hatred over any stallion I fear would wrong me as he did. I never drew close to any of them any more than I needed to. I mean…I suppose I still feel somewhat the same way. Oddly enough, you proved me wrong. Only about yourself, however. I'm still wary of others."

"Tavi…" I finally intervened, remembering what Vinyl had told me about being out of the loop. "How could you keep this all to yourself? Why didn't you tell someone like Vinyl? She's your best friend."

"I told you already." She answered. "It's trivial. Pointless. Vinyl shouldn't know. She…wouldn't see me the same way."

"…what?" I inquired.

"I'm supposed to be a 'strong', 'responsible', and 'independent' mare." She listed. "I'm not one to be easily scarred by some kind of foolish and pitiful heartbreak. I'm supposed to be unfazed by it. That's how she sees me. Somepony who takes their work seriously and doesn't let silly things like that affect them. I can't have her know how weak I really am. I can't let her find that I've been in contempt over this issue for so long. As a 'strong' mare, I should have been over this a long time ago, but I'm not. I still feel wronged, and I'm not so sure if that feeling will ever go away. What if…she leaves me too?"

Her hooves moved as she finally turned and faced me. At this moment, I noticed tears begin to gush out from the corner of her eyes. "I-I'm scared. I don't want this hole to grow bigger." She admitted as she sniffled several times after. "But, I can't just 'fill' the hole that stallion left me. I can't just 'get over it'. I try so hard to ignore it, but at times I feel absolutely mortified and miserable. When I look at you, it's so much harder. For a second, I believed that…maybe…you might help me…fill that hole. But…" She shook her head somberly. "I know it's impossible. I need the kind of love you'd see from a stallion and mare, not just 'friendship love'. A strong kind of love that would allow me to move on for good. I find you compatible, but…you already have someone else."

She proceeded to turn her head away after confiding in me. "…I know you mean well, but sometimes I can't help but remember that same sunken feeling I felt then when I speak with you at times. I feel like I can really trust you, and that's exactly what scares me. I'm not so sure I can keep up this façade any longer."

"Then, don't." I told her. "You're so worked up over hiding a part of yourself you don't like from others that really care about you. You've been holding these feelings for so long, and they're at the point where you can't hold them in any longer without hurting yourself. You need to let them run their course with the ponies you trust. Ponies like Vinyl…"

"If…If she knows…"

"If she knows, she'll understand." I assured. "Everyone has their weaknesses, so you shouldn't feel like you need to act like you don't. Just because you've gone through your share of emotional rollercoasters, stuff like heartbreaks, it doesn't make you weak. You are strong, Octavia. And you can become an even stronger pony if you stop hiding the fact that this is hurting you. I understand how you feel, but to be honest, I don't really think you need to replace the role that stallion used to have in your heart. You just need to fill that love with any kind of genuine love, but you've been having a piece of plywood over that hole in spite of him. Open your heart and let your friends help you recover. That's what you did for me…"

"You…" She latched her gaze back onto me. With a great sniffle, she proceeded with an attempt at speaking to me clearly. "You won't abandon me too, now, will you? Now, that you know?"

It was absolutely ridiculous of her to ask such a question to me, but at the same time, I knew how she must have felt. During our most vulnerable times, we can hardly think. During times like these, it isn't so far-fetched to believe you're at the end of your life. That's why the kind of pony you confided in mattered the most because it's ultimately them that is the driving factor when it comes to decision-making at a time like this.

"Of course not." I answered. "I don't expect you to be some kind of pony who keeps her cool all the time. I mean, look at me. I think a lot of ponies look to me as somepony who knows what to do or say all the time, but I panic a lot of the time when things get personal. I've let emotions get in the way of my decisions before instead of thinking things through. You have nothing to be ashamed of. It's all part of who you are. And, quite frankly, the only thing you can do about it is either keep worrying about it or just accept it. There are some things we can't just change about ourselves whether you like it or not. And that's how you know who your true friends are. True friends accept you for who you really are, and the sooner you talk things over with Vinyl, the sooner I'm sure you'll feel better about yourself."

She continued standing there in front of me, looking slightly away as if she was still enduring a great deal of hesitation and doubt.

"Just let it all out." I encouraged her. "Stop holding back."

Her lips quivered at that last remark. Her eyes closed shut, and she gritted her teeth as sobs began to march out. It wasn't long before she began stepping towards me and allowed herself to fall against me. From there, I placed a hoof around her and lightly patted her as I patiently waited for her tears to run dry. After a calm period of time, her crying seemed to slowly subside. I continued waiting silently for her to make her next move.

"I'm okay now." She answered with a balanced voice and then lightly pulled her head away from my chest. "Thank you." Her lips shortly curved upwards. "I apologize to be pressing onto you like this. I don't think your special somepony would appreciate it."

"She's not the 'jealous' type, so you don't have to worry." I told her. "I'm kind of glad too, otherwise I'd be getting chewed out every single day." I laughed lightly.

Octavia seemed to appreciate my comment, but her brow furrowed angrily unexpectedly shortly after. "You better not be doing anything hurtful behind her back. She's a lucky mare, and if I ever find you maliciously taking advantage of that trust, I will personally admit you to the Ponyville hospital."

Knowing her experience with martial arts, I found myself nearly swallowing heavily out of fear. I tried to convince myself that she wasn't being entirely serious, but at the same time, I couldn't put it past her. Nevertheless, I personally would never be able to bring myself to intentionally hurt Fluttershy, so in reality, I didn't have anything to worry about.

"H-Hey, you've got my word, okay?" I told her.

Her brow relaxed and her lips came to a calm smile. She lowered her head and appeared to think to herself for a moment before she raised it back up to me. "…I think you're right. All this time, I've been dealing with this feeling of being wronged on my own, and in return, it only caused me to feel even more bitter about it. I suppose you can even say I blamed others for my own actions. I scared Vinyl out of my home. I think she deserves to know why."

"You want to know something?" I brought up. "The only reason why she came in here in the first place was to help you. She couldn't get answers from you directly, so she felt like she needed to get them through extreme measures. I wouldn't entirely condone or find her methods ethical, but, hey, shows how dedicated she is when it comes to caring about you, huh?"

"So, that's why she was hiding in the closet?" Octavia remembered and then giggled lightly. "Perhaps she'll remember to keep her tail from poking out underneath the closet door. However, for her best interest, she better hope that there isn't a next time. That goes for you too. I figured you would have stopped her, not join her."

"Oh, believe me, I tried." I explained in a small fit of embarrassment. "But, I'm telling you, she was so persistent. Thought if she was going to go through with it no matter what, I might as well make sure she didn't go over the top."

"I don't know why she went and hid. I wouldn't have found it odd for her to be in my room. I'm sure she could have avoided this little episode had she remained visible."

"I wonder the same thing. I guess her emotions got the better of her." I stated. "See? You two aren't very different."

Octavia giggled and nodded. "Yes, you're right. You're absolutely right. Why don't we go pay her a visit? I'm willing to make a bet that she's standing right outside this house as we speak."

"Let's go." I agreed. "She's probably wondering if she should call an ambulance at this point."

Octavia returned a jubilant grin at my assumption before she led me out of her room to finally settle things for good.

"What did you do to him?!" I heard Vinyl's voice outside after Octavia walked out the front door first. "He doesn't belong in Tartarus! I'm the—" She ceased her rambling once she saw me walk out unscathed. "Y-You're okay! I think?"

"We just had a long talk." Octavia explained vaguely. "And your schedule better be free later on today because you and I are due for one ourselves as well."

Vinyl gulped and slightly flinched. "It'll just be a talk, right…?"

"Guess you'll have to wait and find out." Octavia responded with a kind of poker face. Then, she turned to me and gestured her head in the direction of a road ahead. "Come on. We're going to Sugarcube Corner."

"Oh, so you're going there after all?" Vinyl asked. "Hold up. I'll come with."

"No." Octavia stated firmly. "As a part of your punishment, you're forbidden to join us. Use that time to think about what you have done."

"…you're grounding me…?" Vinyl questioned sadly and in confusion. "…what…?"

"That's right." Octavia held her head up high like a scolding mother. "I expect you to be at home by the time the sun sets. If you're not, you can add a few extra days to your grounding."

"…yes, ma'am…" She returned with flopping ears.

Octavia began striding down the road. Just before I decided to join her, I stopped by Vinyl and offered her a reassuring smile.

"Things will be alright."

"Alex." I heard a firm voice call me out, causing me to quickly catch up with her.

"…I kind of thought you'd get things settled on the spot right there." I admitted as I walked by her side.

Octavia relaxed her pose of confidence and spoke with me much more naturally. "Well, you said it yourself. I'm…a 'strong mare', correct? Just because I've been using that as a mask doesn't mean that side of me has disappeared. I'll make sure that pony learns her lesson, not because I'm upset with her, but because I care about her." With a beautiful smile stretched out on her face, she faced me directly. "I love the both of you. I may not have many friends, due to my unfortunate nature of keeping myself distant the majority of the time, but I truly cherish and care for those close to me. And, I believe I've become a better pony because of it. Thank you."

"I'm just glad I was able to help." I shared appreciatively to her as my heart felt like it was being bathed in a warming light.

She unexpectedly stopped in her tracks, causing me to do the same and face her.

"I want you to know that you can count on me to be there for you in your darkest moments." She mentioned genuinely as she locked her gaze onto me. "You've played such a crucial part in my life, and I greatly hope that we can remain together like this for as long as we keep standing. Saying that, I'm willing to put myself on the line if you're ever in trouble, even if that means risking my life. Nothing makes me happier than doing something useful to the ponies I care about."

"I agree with you completely." I returned. "Don't worry. I'm not going anywhere. You and I can see each other anytime we want. You've got VIP tickets to see the Prince of Ponyville anyway." I told her with a playful smirk.

"Hm." Octavia shut her eyes as she took that with a warm smile. "Thank you. From the very bottom of my heart."

Making up for our previous troubled time at the art show, Octavia and I proceeded to head over to Sugarcube Corner and spent a good while talking with each other.

Octavia and I separated for the day outside of the sweet shop at the first sign of sunset. Before I could get walking back to the castle, I suddenly heard a loud banging followed by a muffled and hollow voice.


I turned to find it coming from the large mailbox used for public drop-offs nearby.

"…is someone there?" I asked, bringing my head close to the mailbox.

"Please! Get me out!"

Standing there dumbfounded, I decided to push open the flap at the top and look inside. There, I found a cross-eyed face looking back at me.

"Derpy…? Is that you? How the heck did you get in here?" I questioned.

Realizing who I was, she called out my name. "Alex! Please help me! I'm stuck!"

Using magic, it only took a second or two to easily allow her to escape. Once free, she inhaled a large breath and stretched out her hooves before pummeling me with a thankful hug.

"Mind explaining what you were doing in there in the first place?" I focused my interest on.

"Well, after I warned you guys, I didn't know what else to do. I was scared that you two might have been caught and that she would be coming for me next! The first thing I could think of was hiding out inside the mailbox. It wasn't until a while later that I realized I got myself stuck in there…"

Finding her first "hiding place" an unnecessary option, I decided to relieve her of her worries.

"There's no need to hide. Everything's fine."

"She didn't find you?" She asked, surprised.

"She did." I answered. "But you don't need to hide from her." I assured her with a small grin. "I think you might want to head over to Vinyl's right now. You can probably get the story straight there."

"Oh, okay." She seemed to hesitate for a bit. "You look okay, so I guess she's not mad."

She might be a little upset, but I didn't want to scare her away so I didn't tell her that.

Finally arriving back home, I found Twilight and Athena with slightly damp towels hanging around their necks. However, it didn't seem Spike or Flurry Heart was with them. Did Cadence and Shining Armor already pick her up?

"Hey, you two." I greeted. "Did you just finish taking a bath or something?"

"Yep!" Twilight answered. "I love Flurry Heart, but she really loves to make a mess."

"I can't look at mashed peas without feeling sick now." Athena informed as she held both a relieved and grateful smile.

"So?" Twilight questioned as she leaned closely towards my face. "How'd it go? Did you straighten things out with Octavia?"

"Yeah, Alex. How'd it go?" Athena repeated with a peaking curiosity.

"It was a little rough at first, but things worked out great in the end. She's on the road to recovery." I reported a little too professionally.

"I'm really curious about what exactly happened." Twilight admitted. "I want to hear about what this 'rough' part of your mission was and how friendship overcame it in the end. However, I understand that based on what you told me before, what you experienced today might be a little too personal to tell on her end. As much as I want to know, I'll simply be satisfied with the result instead."

Yeah, I didn't think Octavia would appreciate me spilling her story, even if it was for "friendship business". Being someone she completely trusted, I didn't want to do that to her without her consent in the first place.

"So, Cadence and Shining Armor already came and picked up Flurry Heart?" I asked.

"Oh, yeah. You just missed them a while ago." Twilight recalled. "They were asking about you. Are you free next Tuesday? They want to have dinner."

"As long as I'm not dealing with another 'friendship crisis', I think I should be good."

"Great! I'll be sure to write that down on the schedule then."

"What about Spike? Where's he?" I questioned next.

"Still finishing up at the hospital for us." Athena answered. "Flurry Heart was…quite the troublemaker. I have to say…I've never watched over a baby before, and I think taking care of an Alicorn baby was too high of a level for me."

"I can't wait to see what she's like when she grows up." Twilight mentioned. "Imagine when she starts going to school!"

"Oh my gosh!" Athena reacted expressively. "You think she's going to give the teachers a hard time? Oh, I already feel so bad!"

"Hm…" Twilight tapped her chin with her hoof as she looked back in thought while wearing a small yet mischievous grin. "Maybe a particular amazing aunt can actually be said teacher in due time?"

"You think that's possible?"

"Well… I'm sure a little research can tell us exactly what we need to know about what qualification we'd have to…"

Twilight began to trail on, and, despite the commonly boring subject, Athena looked invested enough to participate in a chatty subject between the two of them. It looked like whatever they did today strengthened the bond between the both of them as well. I decided to leave them be for the time being and returned to my room for some well-deserved rest.

As I laid on my bed and silently stared at my ceiling, I began to recall my title as a "Prince of Light". I knew I was obviously a prince and was involved with all that "light" business, but I never really truly understood the title. It sounded so generic, but after today, I believed I began to understand it more.

Maybe that's been my purpose all along? Even during the times I didn't even know it, all I've really wanted to do was make ponies happy. Well, more accurately, I wanted my friends, the ponies I care about, to be happy. As cliché as it sounded, the happiness in others ultimately made me happy, and if I can really bring the light to others' lives by whatever means necessary, then I was willing to abide by that for the rest of my life.

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