• 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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Rock Solid Friendship

"Huh? There's like no one here." Athena mentioned as we came across what appeared to be the school that was holding the graduation. "Are you sure we're at the right place?"

I took a look at the invitation I had been holding and double-checked the location details on it. "I'm pretty sure it is." I spent a while searching for some kind of indication on the building and eventually found some engraved letters that matched way too closely to the exterior color of the surface. "Equestrian Institute of Rockology. Yeah, this is it." I read.

"Are you sure it's today?" She asked next.

"Yeah. It has to be." I answered, despite feeling a little doubt linger by.

"Why didn't Pinkie just come with us?" Athena questioned a little frustratedly. "I mean, we're going to the same place, right?"

"She took an earlier train back home to her rock farm." I explained. "She has family there, remember? She should be coming here with them."

"…I guess…" Athena responded with slightly puffed out cheeks before she turned her attention to the empty chairs in front of the barren stage. "Let's go sit down and wait then."

Athena and I sat at the front on the leftmost side and waited quietly. Honestly, it was a little hard imagining a student coming to school here, considering how barren everything around us was. It was like a desert…but a rock desert. Judging from the number of seats that were laid out in front of the stage, it didn't look like many students were lined up to graduate. How many students were there anyway?

"I can't see myself coming to school here." Athena opened up the floor for discussion. "It seems so…boring."

"That reminds me. You've never officially met Maud, have you?" I recalled. "You've seen her, but I don't think I've introduced you two."

"Er…" Athena shifted in her seat a bit uncomfortably. "…you…um…don't really have to introduce me or anything. I'm not sure how I'd be able to…'connect'…with her. I've seen some of your conversations with her and man… It's just so awkward! Like how do you not feel weird when she just looks at you without saying anything? It can be really intimidating sometimes."

"It looks that way, but once you get to know her, you get used to it, I guess."

"Maybe when I'm a lot more advanced in my friendship lessons, I'll think about it, kay?" She settled on.

Well, I didn't want to force her to do something she didn't want to do anyway.

"Hey!" We heard behind us. "We're here! We're here!" Turning our heads, we came across a family of, quite frankly, mundane colors. However, Pinkie was the only exception, of course. "Everypony, meet my two good friends! Mr. Blue here is a super wealthy and royal prince that lives with us in Ponyville! His name is Alex!"

"…wealthy?" I questioned, but I was completely ignored as she moved on to my sister.

"And this is Athena!" Pinkie stretched out her foreleg and hung it around Athena, pulling her in for a tight embrace. "She's super sweet and a great friend to bake with!"

Athena appeared to be a little too surprised by Pinkie's enthusiasm that she couldn't really give out a proper hello, but it wasn't necessarily a problem since Pinkie was quick to excitedly move on to introducing the rest of her family.

I know I had heard about them before, and I already had an image in my head before Athena and I even came here. However, meeting them for real like this, I still couldn't help but be a little surprised. All of them were just so different from Pinkie. Her father looked so serious, it almost gave me flashbacks of the father I grew up with. Her mother nearly looked as if she was genuinely annoyed to be standing in front of us, and I would've believed that she was against the idea of attending this graduation if it wasn't for the rare brief moments she would show some bit of emotion. Her sisters, on the other hoof, were extremely different from both their parents and Pinkie in their own way.

One of them made sure to make a convincing approach as if she was trying to assert her dominance in the group. Never once did a smile draw out on her lips and never once did her brow unfurrow. Her name was Limestone Pie. To be honest, after taking a glance at Athena to catch her reaction, I believed she may have been slightly afraid of Limestone.

Then there was the last of Pinkie's sisters. She was extremely quiet and reserved. In fact, she looked as if she wanted to escape out of introducing herself to us, but Pinkie happily dragged any part of her that managed to somewhat slip away back into the conversation. She didn't say a word as she stared at the two of us with a quivering head. Pinkie actually began speaking on her behalf as if it was the norm. Her name was Marble Pie.

I was actually afraid that Marble Pie may have possibly been a mute, but then she surprised the two of us when she agreed to Pinkie's commentary on her behalf with a soft yet slightly firm "Mm-hm." Having an extraordinarily vast amount of experience when it came to a shy personality of a pony, I was sure that Marble and I could actually get along, especially when comparing her to her brash and slightly vulgar sister Limestone. However, seeing as this may be the only time we might actually see each other, I didn't look too much into establishing a friendship with her just yet.

Overall, just like with Maud, Pinkie's family seemed like some genuinely nice and caring ponies, even if they didn't necessarily show it. After all, if Pinkie thought they were amazing, I was willing to take her word on it.

With all of us, we took up the entirety of the front row of seats, but things grew even stranger shortly afterwards. No other pony had shown up, and only two ponies appeared on stage. One was Maud, and the other was the announcer going through the process of giving Maud her degree.

I didn't know whether to believe it was completely circumstantial that Maud was the only one at the time who was graduating, or if she was literally the only student who attended this school. At this time, I couldn't lie and say I was worried about how serious her degree and studies would be taken.

Nevertheless, her graduation was rather a short one for obvious reasons. In fact, the only thing that kept it lively was Pinkie's constant screaming. Other than that, it was your standard "Congratulations on making it this far. Here's your diploma." kind of deal.

It wasn't long before we were gathered at the train station where Maud began to ditch her graduation gear. The two sisters waved goodbye to their families before they accompanied us on the train back to Ponyville. To be honest, I found it a bit strange, especially since the last time I remembered her being in Ponyville was when she met us for the first time.

"So, Maud. If you don't mind me asking… What are you planning to do now that you're finished with school?" I asked, sitting on the seat in front of her inside the train.

"Actually, I was considering moving to Ponyville." She answered in her usual deadpan tone.

Pinkie gasped immediately afterward. "You are?! Really really?!" She tugged at Maud's clothes tightly with her two front hooves as she stared at her with an over-the-top grin.

Maud nodded a bit slowly. "It was actually a really tough decision. I was also considering Ghastly Gorge."

"Ghastly Gorge?" Pinkie's lips curled downwards in both surprise and disgust. "That terrible, awful, no-fun, all-alone canyon in the middle of nowhere? Why in Equestria would you ever think about moving there?! You'd be all by yourself!"

"And that's exactly why I decided on Ponyville." Maud responded before casting her head down a bit. "As much as I would have loved studying the unfamiliar rocks there, I wasn't really looking forward to being alone…" Unexpectedly, Maud turned her expressionless gaze over at me. "I had a good time at Manehattan, and I thought if I actually moved to Ponyville…there'd be a lot more opportunities to enjoy myself as I did then…"

Her stare remained fixated on me, and I wasn't sure if I was supposed to personally address it or not. Somewhat fortunately, Pinkie Pie grabbed the spotlight above me by the neck and focused it on her as she excitedly lurched over to her sister.

"Are you kidding?! You'll make ALL kinds of good memories in Ponyville! I'm so glad you're moving home with us! We'll live together and get bunk beds and I'll make us fuzzy slippers that say 'Best Sister Friends Forever', although I probably can't fit all those words on a slipper, so maybe just 'BSFF', but we don't have to decide right now because we'll be together all the time since when it comes to Ponyville, the doctor is in!"

Contrary to her continuously babbling sister, Maud's facial features remained unmoved. "I don't mind living together at first, Pinkie, but I would like to find a place of my own sometime."

"No problem! That's A-Okay! I'm just glad that we'll be living so close together! It's been so long since we've been in the same town for more than a few days!"

As Maud and Pinkie continued their conversation, I noticed Athena giving me a sort of an attentive look in the middle of it. It was the kind of look you gave someone when you wanted their attention but didn't exactly want to say anything to merit it. As soon as we had been looking directly at each other, her brow lightly furrowed, and I began hearing a distinct voice in my head.

I don't want to have to talk like this, but I didn't want there to be a chance in anyone else hearing this. I kind of want to talk to Maud, but just looking at her is hard enough. Like, I can pretty much tell how she feels, but having that blank and expressionless face right on the forefront makes things so awkward. Have you ever been in a situation where you know someone loves you but at times you feel they might hate your guts? It's kind of like that. How do you do it? How do you not get even a bit scared when Maud just stares at you as if she finds you extremely boring or something?

Uh. That's a hard question to answer. I just feel comfortable around her, I guess? I think what helped was that she sort of made a good first impression on me personally. When she had made that joke about her dress not talking because it's a dress, I knew this pony was something entirely else in a good way. In other words, she definitely seemed like somepony I could get along with, despite the unfamiliar personality.

Hm. I guess I'm a little late to the party, huh? I wonder if things would have been different if we both had met her face-to-face at the same time.

Well, not that I'm forcing you to do anything, but since she's moving to Ponyville, you could always try starting something to get to know her. That's if you're interested though.

Heh heh. Maybe.

With that last remark, Athena returned a short and simple smile.

"Ooh! Why didn't you guys tell me you were having a staring contest?!" Pinkie exclaimed, snapping our attention back to them almost immediately. "Maud and I love that game! She always beats me every time though…"

As Pinkie thought to herself for a short moment, I ironically noticed Maud holding a fixated stare over at her, and it seemed she hadn't blinked at all for the last few minutes.

"What do you want to do first, Maud?!" Pinkie asked as she eagerly hopped past the train station after we had arrived back in Ponyville. "Since this is officially your first day here in Ponyville, I was thinking we could throw you a 'Congrats on graduating and moving to Ponyville with your Best Sister Friend Forever' party! Of course, it's a shame it won't really be a surprise because I love surprises. But, you can definitely help me bake the cake and set up the decorations! It'll give us so much sister bonding time! Oh…but it isn't exactly party etiquette if the pony the party is for is helping set up the party itself…" Pinkie gave her head a good shake after making her lengthy suggestion before stopping in her tracks and facing Maud directly. "You're the smarty pants doctor here, Maud. It's your choice to make!"

"I wouldn't mind a party." Maud simply answered. "But, I'd like it if we just kept it between us."

"Aaah." Pinkie returned a bit of a cheeky yet playful kind of smirk as she pulled a clipboard out of her mane and began making notes on it. "No problemo. After all, if the whole town was invited, we wouldn't really get to focus our time together on each other, huh? Totally cool. Small party. Got it. And for your cake? Type of frosting? Color? Size? Do you want number candles or stick candles that make out the numbers? Wait. That's for birthdays. Well, it doesn't matter! It's your big day, so whatever you want is fine with me!"

"Surprise me." Maud calmly replied.

"In that case, I'll make the most amazing cake you'll ever lay your taste buds on!" Pinkie promised as she scribbled hastily on her clipboard. "We can start heading over to Sugarcube Corner right now! If you see anything that catches your eye, you can let me know and I'll be sure to work some of my Pinkie magic!"

Pinkie began to continue to hop forward at a lively pace, but Maud's response froze her in place for a short moment.

"Actually, I was interested in checking out that gem cave you told me Ponyville has, Pinkie."

"Oh, sure! But, what about your party?" Pinkie asked.

"Hey, you said it yourself, didn't you?" Athena spoke up, walking over to Pinkie Pie. "It's not really 'party etiquette' if the pony you're throwing the party for is helping you set up for said party. Why don't you let her explore the cave while we get the party together?"

"Excellent idea, Athena!" Pinkie praised with a satisfied smile. "Can I count on you to help make this one of the best parties ever for our newly graduated doctor?"

"I always love a good party." Athena enthusiastically accepted with a bright closed-eye grin. "Especially when I get to eat some of the sweets beforehoof."

Pinkie Pie and Athena bumped hooves with each other before Pinkie giggled giddily to herself in excitement. "Then, it's settled! Ooh, I can't wait!" She then turned over to Maud. "Okay, Maud. You go on ahead, and I'll let you know when we're done if you haven't stopped by Sugarcube Corner by then. The cave is pretty dark and is a little spooky at times, so you should definitely take Alex with you! You wouldn't want to be by yourself, right?"

Maud faced her attention over to me for a short while before she turned back to Pinkie Pie. "Mm-hm." She nodded and said softly.

"Great! Come on, Athena! It's time to embark on an everlasting quest to make Maud the bestest cake she'll ever have the pleasure of eating!" Pinkie encouraged as she began to make a dash for her bakery.

"Right behind you, Pinkie!" Athena accepted as she raced after Pinkie, leaving Maud and me on our own.

Maud and I turned towards each other, and she only revealed an expected unreadable expression on her face to me. I honestly wasn't expecting for things to turn out the way they did, but I did have the day open for Maud for her graduation. So, there wasn't any problem with the plans that were just made on the spot a moment ago.

"Guess we should get going, huh?" I asked.

"Sure." She answered with a slightly raised pitch in her voice.

Maud and I strapped on hardhats and began wandering the gem cave with our attached lights practically leading the way. I couldn't remember the last time I had been in this cave, and if it wasn't for the gems, I most likely would have felt uncomfortable being in such a dark, quiet, and fairly narrow place.

Maud's eyes noticeably wandered around as the light from her helmet followed the direction of her head. As hard as it still was to tell what exactly had been running through her mind, I wasn't afraid to ask her about it.

"See any rocks that catch your eye?" I asked.

"Not really." She replied, shifting her focus onto me. "All of these gems on the walls are actually really common."

"Oh, yeah?" I took a look at the gems for myself. Whether they had actually been common or not, they were still pretty to look at. "I hope this isn't making you regret choosing Ponyville over Ghastly Gorge." I half-joked.

"Rocks aren't the reason why I chose Ponyville." She claimed, analyzing a jagged part of the wall with her hoof.

"I don't think I ever asked you before, did I?" I brought up, realizing something I couldn't believe I still hadn't learned about her. "If you don't mind me asking, what got you into rocks so much? Was it from working at your family's rock farm when you were little?"

"You could say that." Maud pulled her attention away from what she had been studying and turned to face me. "But, that was only the start. After all, having spent nearly my childhood on a rock farm, I found that each one of them has a different story to tell." Digging into her pocket, she pulled out a familiar pebble. "Like Boulder here." She lifted her hoof and pointed at a particular line on the surface of her pet rock. "This tells me he's over two thousand years old, but he hardly looks a day over six hundred to me."

"…wow. You're really smart." I could only compliment her, seeing as I had nothing else worthy enough to share in regards to her keen eye. I turned over to glance back at the multitude of gems surrounding us as she stuffed Boulder back into her pocket. "I know some ponies can think rocks are just dull and boring, but, I mean, I think they play a much bigger role than we let on. To be honest, I don't see myself going as far as to study them as intricately as you do, but I do definitely find myself appreciating them, especially when you come into the equation. I guess you just have a way of giving 'life' to rocks, so to speak."

"You really think so?" She asked.

"Yeah. Thinking about it, you can't help but wonder about the stories these rocks have when you find them all together like this. You have sapphires, emeralds, rubies, the works. Were they all brought together like this by some kind of force or something? Or did they just…you know…happen to be together by coincidence?" After rambling for a bit, I found myself lightly chuckling. "Sorry, this might be a dumb question coming from somepony who hardly knows anything about rocks."

Maud shook her head and averted her eyes to the ground for a moment. "That's another reason why I like rocks. They don't exclude you if you're…different from other ponies."

Sensing she had been speaking from experience, I felt the need to address it.

"Well, different can be good. Life wouldn't be interesting if we were all the same, right? I definitely wouldn't want to exclude you from my life at all."

"I know." She slowly nodded and drew a little closer to me. "That's why I like being with you. You don't ignore me, and you don't act nice to me just because you feel like you have to be."

"You know I'm not the only one, right?" I wondered, feeling a little concerned when it came to Pinkie Pie. "Pinkie loves you with all of her heart, just in case you haven't been able to tell." I smirked lightly.

"I know. And I feel the same way about her." Maud clarified. "It's just…she's my sister. It's really nice to have somepony who's like that and isn't family."

"Yeah, I think I get what you mean."

It was hard to relate to her completely, considering I sort of experienced love from friends first before family. However, I supposed Pinkie Pie fell into the category of loving her sister naturally because she was family. It was different when it came to ponies that you weren't related to. In other words, I guess it was more of an accomplishment when it was some pony you didn't grow up with and thus achieved a friend through your own social merit, in a sense.

"Anyways, if somepony like me can appreciate you just the way you are, I'm sure there's other ponies that'd feel the same." I continued.

"Thanks. But, I'm really happy just having you around." She admitted, despite her neutral and untouched facial expression that would say otherwise. Although, even if her true emotions weren't plastered on her face like they usually would be with Pinkie, I genuinely felt as if I could feel them touch me faintly at the very least.

Unexpectedly, she raised her head and began sniffing at the air a little bit.

"What is it?" I asked.

"I smell the breaking of minerals." She faced me and answered. "Somepony else is here. Or, maybe even…something else."

I was usually able to laugh at her obvious jokes, even when she looked serious about them. However, during this moment, it was honestly a little difficult. Her statement could have been easily taken as something gravely serious. With me knowing that different kinds of creatures could be definitely lurking underground, I wasn't so confident to simply brush it off as a joke.

"What do you want to do? Do you want to leave for now?" I questioned her.

"No, it's fine." She responded and began walking forward.

"…if you say so." I returned, finding her vague answer acceptable enough to continue our exploration.

A short moment after, we found what appeared to be another faint light ahead of us. Accompanying this light were barely audible sounds. I wasn't sure in Maud's case, but I decided to cautiously step towards it until I was able to get a good look at whoever else was also in here with us.

Once I was in a position where I was able to shine my light at the slightly darkened figure, I noticed the color of another hard hat with a bright blue bow on the back of it. After having a quick glance over her mane and coat, it didn't take more than a second to figure out who it had been this entire time.

"Oh. Rarity?" I called out.

She brought her head over her shoulder to have a look behind her before facing her body towards me completely. "Oh! Why, hello, Alex!" She then noticed the pony besides me and acknowledged her as well with a small gasp. "Maud, darling! It's lovely to see you again! Oh! I heard about your grand accomplishment. Congratulations on your rocktorate. What are you doing now?"

Realizing what Rarity had just gotten herself into, I somewhat anxiously tensed my hooves and turned directly over to Maud in expectation for a piece of her often-misunderstood humor.

Here it comes! Here it comes!

"Talking to you." She delivered after a few seconds of complete and utter silence.

I couldn't help but snicker.

"Oh, y— Right." Rarity laughed along after taking notice of my reaction, but I wasn't sure if it sounded a little forced or not. She then cleared her throat before changing the topic. "Well, if your trained eye happens to see a chartreuse gem, I'm desperate to find one."

Maud looked to her right for a second before bending down to pick something up.

"I found one."

"Oh, you're an absolute darling!" Rarity spotted the gem on her hoof and graciously accepted it with her magic. "Spike?" She looked over her shoulder and called over. It wasn't long before a small dragon appeared by her side and held out a basket of acquired gems.

"Oh, Spike's with you?" I questioned, feeling a small sense of relief. "I was hoping you didn't come here by yourself."

"Nonsense." Rarity dismissed. "Spike is such a dear. He's been helping me for a while now. I only have to get after him a few times when it looks like he's ready to snack on a really important gem, which reminds me… Be sure not to partake in this one, okay, Spike?" She pointed out her newly attained gem. "This will surely make my gown stand out at Countess Coloratura's album release party. Do you know how rare this is?"

"That's actually a really common gem." Maud pointed out.

"Huh?" Rarity and Spike returned with a look of confusion on their faces.

Without turning back, Maud kicked out a piece of the wall with her hindleg. Behind her, dozens of the same gems poured out. Turning her head upwards, she lifted her hoof in order to present all the other gems that surrounded us. "These are all really common gems."

"…they are…?" Rarity lips began to tremble as water leaked out from her eyes.

…uh, she probably didn't need to know that.

"So, what, right?" I immediately began talking. "Just become they're common doesn't mean that they won't look great, right?" I approached Rarity and made an attempt to comfort her. "They don't need to know about that. I'm sure a lot of the great-looking things sold in Canterlot aren't all made from rare things."

"…I…I suppose you're right." She seemed to agree, but I was left unsure if her opinion was based on the need to cease the tears that were just about ready to come out from her eyes or if it was what she really thought. "After all, I've many of my dresses from what once began as really common fabric. I really was looking forward to using what I thought were rare gems, however…" She sighed sadly as she spent a moment staring over her basket of collected gems.

"Don't worry about it." I tried to tell her with confidence. "Just…forget the fact that they're…um…common."

"Alex is right. You still make pretty dresses." Maud added.

"Thank you, you two. Um…I'll keep looking around."

I turned to Maud a bit worriedly before responding to Rarity. "Be safe."

"Mm-hm." She nodded and then faced Spike. "Let's go then, Spike."

The two left in the other direction, leaving me feeling both guilty and awkward with Maud.

"Um." I began as I rubbed the back of my neck a little bit. "You…want to go see how Pinkie's doing with your party?"

"Sure." Maud answered familiarly before we began heading back to the entrance of the cave.

Arriving at Sugarcube Corner, I had to admit that the party wasn't really a party in my eyes. I didn't know if Pinkie had particular names for differentiating types of parties, but since no more than four ponies participated in this event, it was more of a 'get-together' than a party in my opinion. Nevertheless, it was comfortable enough for Maud, and each of us spent a good while partaking in the celebration.

As for a few interesting details, the cake that Pinkie had surprised her sister with took the appearance of a fairly large rock or boulder. In other words, the cake had jagged layers, and its color was dull which went against Pinkie's usual tastes. Despite the exterior color, cutting inside revealed a chocolatey interior. I was almost afraid that it would end up being as hard as an actual rock, but thankfully it wasn't.

"That was delish!" Pinkie commented as she licked away any remaining crumbs on her lips. "What do you say we call it a day, Maud? It's been such a big day for you after all. You're probably tired from the crazy graduation ceremony and the train ride over here! How about we get you settled in upstairs?"

"Okay." Maud answered briefly.

"I guess Athena and I should get going to." I acknowledged as I stood up from the table we had gathered on. "Thanks for the cake, Pinkie. It was really good."

"Just wait till Maud's birthday! I'll make an even better cake! Say goodbye, Maud!"

"See you." Maud stared directly at me as she softly expressed her farewell before she was practically dragged upstairs by Pinkie.

Athena shuddered lightly beside me. "It's so uncanny. It's like her emotions and her actual being are two completely different ponies. I know I can read emotions pretty well, but, man, I think Pinkie does a way better job at it when it comes to Maud."

"Yeah." I returned, continuing to look at the stairway they had used to leave for a moment before I faced towards Athena. "It's still a little hard for me to read her mind. All I can really do is just not take her mannerisms too literally, if you know what I mean."

"Well, since she's going to be staying in Ponyville, hopefully, I can get used to it as well you are in the near future." She then lightly nudged me out the door. "Come on! Let's head back to the castle."

I spent the rest of the day/night doing the usual, such as hearing about Twilight and Starlight's day. Other than that, there didn't seem to be anything out of the ordinarily new. However, things were a bit…different the next morning.

I had been unexpectedly woken with a monotonous knock on my door. I had still been somewhat half-asleep as I dragged myself out of bed to answer it. When I opened the door, it took me some time to register who the pony in front of me had been.

"Hello." She calmly greeted.

"…Maud?" I rubbed my eyes to make sure I was seeing correctly. "Oh. Uh, hey. What are you doing here? Is something up?"

Maud lifted her head directly upwards and froze it in place for a good while before bringing it back down. "The ceiling."

"Oh. Yeah. Heh." Usually, I would have laughed much more expressively at one of her jokes, but since I was still recovering from being suddenly woken up, all that came out was more of a heavy exhale. "I wasn't expecting to see you here all of a sudden."

"I thought we could do something together today." She replied. "Are you hungry? We could get breakfast."

I wasn't sure exactly what it was…but something seemed off about Maud here. It wasn't that anything was wrong with her. It was more like…maybe I was witnessing something of her that I hadn't seen before?

Athena, Twilight, Starlight, and Spike were surely surprised to find an unexpected guest at the dining table when everypony gathered for breakfast.

"Uh…hi, Maud!" Twilight greeted, clearly put off by her sudden presence. "Pinkie's not with you?"

"She's working right now." Maud answered as she remained still in her seat next to me. Afterward, she reached into her pocket and pulled out Boulder, placing him on the dining table by her empty plate. She spotted Spike across from her and proceeded to ask him a question. "How's Rarity doing with her gems?"

"Oh, uh." Spike scratched the scales on his head with his claw and shifted a bit uncomfortably. "She didn't really find any new gems to use for her dress, so she's a little worried about it."

"Oh." Maud responded with.

An unfamiliar and disturbing silence enveloped between all of us after she had said that. I felt like I needed to say something to break it, but there was honestly nothing that came to mind.

"I told her that she'd be great! So…" Spike tried his best to dispel the void, but he only seemed to prolong it.

"So…Twilight!" Athena brought up, turning her head from where she sat in order to get a view of a pony balancing a large serving plate with her magic. "How are those pancakes coming?"

"Coming right up." Twilight hovered a large stack between us onto the center of the table. She then proceeded to take the seat between Spike and Starlight across me. "Alright, everypony, dig in!"

"Ooh!" Athena nudged me with her hoof. "Get me five!"

After Twilight, Starlight, and Spike had their share on their plates, I went and fulfilled Athena's request by using my magic and also grabbed a few for me as well. I turned to Maud, who was the only one left with an empty plate. "How many do you want, Maud?"

She faced Boulder for a few seconds before she lifted up her head to answer me. "Three's fine."

As I brought her pancakes over to her, I noticed Starlight looked to be studying Maud intently for a good while. "Now that I look at you, you seem familiar. Have we met before?" She asked.

"Yes." Maud responded shortly, tearing her eyes away from the pancakes lying on her plate.

"I knew it!" Starlight exclaimed out loud.

"Huh?!" The rest of us turned our heads towards the two, heavily surprised.

"Y-You two know each other?" Twilight questioned.

None of us ever believed that Starlight had actually met Maud for herself ever since she had joined up with us, so this was definitely something we weren't expecting to hear about like this.

"Yeah!" Starlight answered and continued to study Maud for a bit. "When was it? Hm. No, no, don't tell me. Um..." She placed her hoof onto the bottom of her chin as the same silence from before began to unfold quickly upon us once again. Thankfully, it didn't take long for Starlight to speak back up. "Yeah. See, I was really hoping you'd tell me while I pretended to remember."

"So, when did you two meet?" I asked Maud myself, curious to know.

"I traveled Equestria for my rocktorate dissertation." Maud proceeded to explain as she recalled. "I had been studying a rock that caught my eye outside of a village in the middle of nowhere when she showed up and asked me where she could find a super-powerful stone that can store the cutie mark magic of an entire village. So, I pointed her towards a big cave I had looked through before we met. We never saw each other again after that. Not until now, at least."

"Hold on. So, Starlight was able to enslave a whole village because you told her where to find a rock that could do just that?" Spike questioned.

"Maud and Starlight met when she still lived at the village. Let's just leave it at that, okay? Heh heh." Twilight motioned for the topic to close as she laughed a bit uncomfortably.

Starlight followed soon after with a slightly nervous and bothered chuckle of her own. "Hehe, yeah. Actually, I think I'm going to take this to go." Starlight pushed herself away from the table and brought the plate along with her. "There are a few things I have to take care of, so I'll see you all later!" She went on to laugh a bit more as she left before the last thing we heard was a drawn-out sigh.

"Um…" With a worried look on her face, Twilight turned over to Maud. "Maud, let's not, uh, tell anypony else about that, okay?"

"It's not like she's enslaved anypony lately." She reasoned with.

There was another still silence between all of us before Athena went ahead and blurted something out quite forcefully with a mouthful of pancakes.

"Mmm! These sure are some good pancakes!"

I had to admit that an uncomfortable vibe lingered around for the rest of our breakfast together.

Nevertheless, things began feeling a little…different even after we had finished breakfast. None of us wanted to address the elephant in the room, but each of us except for the elephant herself knew it was kind of troubling.

If it wasn't obvious enough already, that 'elephant' was Maud.

It's not like any of us didn't want her around. It was just that, for some reason, she was sticking by us pretty closely and following us around whether it was simple tasks or for work. Whenever we had tried to ask her about, she would only respond with literal and serious statements.

Maud, is there something you need from us?


Maud, are you okay with just standing around like that?


Twilight and I felt tempted to get to the root of things and ask her why she kept hanging around us straight up, but both of us felt that saying that would be a little too rude.

It wasn't until I stopped by my room sometime during the day when I had a better understanding of why she had been staying inside the castle the entire time. Maud had been following me quietly all the way towards my room, and I didn't bother questioning her about it until she was inside my room with me.

"Hey, Maud, can I ask you something?" I said.

"What is it?" She responded with, keeping direct eye contact with me.

"Don't take this the wrong way, but I…kind of want to know why you've been here since this morning. Considering you just graduated and are settling here in Ponyville, I thought you'd be looking into what you're going to do, where you're going to stay, and all that stuff."

"I'm hanging out with you." She stated, surprising me a bit.

"…'hanging out?'" I felt the need to question.

"I'm here in Ponyville now, so that means I can hang out with you a lot more than just one day, right?"

I wasn't sure if she had a good grasp on what hanging out with a friend really was.

"Um, yeah, but I've been just mostly doing other stuff here at the castle while you followed around. I don't want to keep you here if you're just going to watch, you know what I mean?"

"It's okay. I've spent practically my whole life looking at rocks and studying them. I don't find it bothersome at all when you're busy with work. I just like being with you."

I found myself unexpectedly being brought onto some weird predicament. I didn't believe I ever had been in a situation where a pony just followed me around, almost like a pet, and didn't mind at all when there's plenty of other better things that pony could be doing than sticking with me.

"Oh…" I merely responded with, not knowing what else I could say at the time.

"Also, whenever the time comes that you're finally free, I'll be right here if there's something you want to do with me."

I couldn't help but also find myself feeling an overwhelming layer of responsibility being pulled over me. No offense, Maud, but you're not the only pony I spend time with…

"You sure there aren't other things you'd have more fun doing? I'm sure Pinkie Pie has games she'd love to play with you after she's done with work." I suggested.

"Whenever she wants to play, she usually just comes and finds me, so I think I'm okay for now."


Well…Pinkie Pie has been crazy about Maud coming to stay in Ponyville for the longest time, so surely it won't be long before she comes and picks Maud up to drag her back to Sugarcube Corner, right?

I actually received my answer to that the time that Pinkie Pie ended up finding Maud with me at the castle.

"Oh, so that's where you've been this whole time! I've been wondering where you were, silly!" Pinkie hopped right into the room we had been in.

"Hi, Pinkie." Maud answered in her usual tone.

"Whoa!" Pinkie pulled herself closer to Maud until her face was in full view of her vision. "What happened to you!? You're like…beaming with excitement! Did I miss something super fun and amazing?"

"Not really." Maud responded with no change in her facial expression.

"Ahhh." Pinkie lightly poked her sister as she drew up a kind of mischievous grin on her face. "I see what's going on! You're having loads of fun with Alex, aren't you? I get it now!" She then drew away from Maud and continuously glanced at us both. "Don't let me stop you! If it keeps you in Ponyville, by all means, keep the party going! Oh, but save some fun for me too, will you?"

"…but we aren't even part—"

"I'm going to check out other parts of Ponyville! See you later!" Pinkie exclaimed loudly before leaving the room.

I couldn't help but glance over at Maud to see her returning the look.

I didn't want to believe it, but my feelings towards Maud were faintly yet undeniably changing. And I couldn't say it was the good kind. All I could assume was that it was related to her sticking by me practically all day every day, and there were no signs of this kind of behavior wearing out.

Maud was there when I'd spend time with the others, such as Rarity, Applejack, and especially Fluttershy. It was only natural of them to try and get along with Maud, but it was painfully obvious that our time with each other was being heavily affected by her presence.

It wasn't all bad, as her behavior wasn't exactly intruding whatsoever. She was mostly passive, but it was just the fact that she was there simply watching that was causing some problems. It was definitely one of the reasons why I couldn't share intimacy with Fluttershy as if it had been only the two of us.

Of course, if I asked Maud to leave the room for a bit, she'd be obedient, but if I was to do that constantly, that'd only layer over from her being a friend to something more like a pet. I honestly didn't know how I felt about this situation in it's entirety. It was the first time I had ever experienced this, and I had no clue on what to do about it. Sure, I could have informed her of the issue as gently as I could, but I also didn't want to hurt her feelings. She had just moved to Ponyville, and I didn't exactly want to give her some kind of push to move away.

Whether it was a mistake on my part or not, the only path I could bring myself to take was to accept it as wholesomely as I could and hope that things smoothed themselves out in the near future.

I didn't feel like my complete self as I almost absentmindedly helped set the table for dinner in the castle dining room. Maud and Twilight had been there with me while Athena and Spike were back at the kitchen. Maud had also been helping us set the table, and we had already been expecting that she'd be joining us. Whether Pinkie would be joining us as well was a mystery.

I noticed Twilight make a few subtle glances at me before we heard Maud making an announcement at the end of the table.

"I'm going to go wash my hooves."

She quietly stepped out through the doors before Twilight raised a question to me.

"You've been acting a bit different lately. Is everything alright?"

"I can't say it is." I placed down the plate I had been holding and then simply stared at the glass I had set earlier. "Look… You know I like Maud, right? I think she's pretty awesome to be around. But, obviously, you've had to notice it lately. I don't know how to feel with her being by my side all the time. I can't even get time with Fluttershy in properly."

"Haven't you tried talking to her about it?" Twilight asked.

"…I don't really want to hurt her. Considering that it's hard for me to tell what she's really feeling, I don't know how I'd do when it comes to a serious talk like that. Besides… She told me that I'm the only pony who isn't family that gets her, and I'm thinking that that is something that heavily influenced her to move here. I don't want to be the reason she moves away because I 'need my space'."

The more I thought about it, the more upset I began feeling.

"Argh!" I, unfortunately, exerted out a piece of that frustration. "I hate this! I don't know if it's a good thing for Maud to be living here. She wants to keep spending time with me, and I don't know if I can do it anymore. I like Maud, but there's only so much I can do with her every day. I'm starting to wonder if she would have been better off in Ghastly Gorge."

I sighed heavily afterwards. It was mostly silent in the room we were in until the sound of Twilight's hooves clacked on closer to me.

"Believe me. The last thing I want is for her to be alone, but I've got certain duties to do with you too, you know?" I continued a little more calmly now. "Not to mention that I like spending time with our other friends too. I don't want to tell her that I've got other important things to do just because of the way it sounds. I don't want her to think that she's not good enough or something because she doesn't really have any other friends to spend time with. If she was at Ghastly Gorge, she could be doing what she loved. There aren't many rocks here that catch her eye. If she's going to be spending her time looking at rocks on her own, it'd be better to do it at Ghastly Gorge, right? The place she was interested in the first place because of all the kind of different rocks there that we don't have here. Ugh..."

I buried my head within my forelegs after resting them on top of the table.

"Maybe that's why I was able to get so along with Maud before she came and moved here…" I mentioned, my voice being slightly muffled by my legs. "I didn't think she was going to want to stick by me every day. Before, we only saw each other every once in a while, so it was only natural for us to be together the day we'd see each other. I just wish I could tell her this and know for sure that she wouldn't take it hard."

"Well, I'm with you." Twilight supported. "I think it's obvious that she likes being around you. I'm sure you can find a way to tell her that won't sound as bad as you think. Tell you what. After she goes home for the day, why don't we get together in the library and I'll help you figure out a way to tell her how you've been feeling?"

I slightly lifted up my head and noticed the kind look Twilight had been sending me.

"That…sounds pretty good. Okay, I guess we can give it a shot."

We heard the doors to the dining room open, surprising us when we realized that Maud was supposed to be back in a manner of minutes.

However, it had only been Athena, and she seemed to have an odd look on her face.

"…uh, hey." She greeted as she took a few glances back at the hall behind her. "Did something happen with Maud?"

"No? I don't think so. She said she was going to go wash her hooves. Why?" I asked.

"Oh. Hm." Athena seemed to juggle something on her mind before she turned her attention back to us. "It's nothing, I guess."

Everyone gathered in the dining hall once the food had been ready. All but one pony actually…

"Huh? Maud's not eating with us?" Starlight noticed the empty plate and seat in front of her.

"She never came back from washing her hooves." Twilight mentioned with a confused look on her face. "You think Pinkie might've come and dragged her off for something?"

"Let me go check." I excused myself from the table and proceeded to start my search around the castle.

First, I looked around the nearest washroom, but there was no sign of her. I began checking a few rooms around the area, but I had no luck. I even went as far to check my room, but there was nothing worth noting. Trying to find a particular pony was pretty difficult in a huge castle like ours, but after nearly searching every room, I came up empty-hooved.

At this point, I felt myself began to lightly panic.

Is it possible that…she…might've heard me…? Does her 'Maud Sense' actually include some kind of super hearing? No… there's been a bunch of times that would make that a stupid assumption. Then, what? Did Pinkie really come and pick her up for something?

That was all we could assume when she wasn't back at the table. Either way, I began feeling an abnormal amount of guilt as the seat beside me remained empty. For the rest of the day/night, she hadn't shown up, and this thought bothered me so much that I couldn't even concentrate when Twilight tried helping me come up with something to tell Maud about my troubles. In fact, I hardly was able to even sleep that night.


A screeching voice startled me so much that I nearly fell out of bed listening to it. It was far more effective than a loud and constantly clanging alarm bell.

"Huh? What's—?"

Before I could even clearly ask, a pair of pink blurry hooves shook me hastily.

"What happened?!"

"What are you talking about?!" I responded angrily, finally removing the pony on top of me with the use of my magic and allowed myself to stand back up on my own four hooves.

The pony that had caused the interrupting intrusion was none other than Pinkie Pie.

"Maud's gone!" She exclaimed, causing my heart to drop once I heard it clearly. "I found a note on my bed this morning that she left, and she said she changed her mind about staying in Ponyville! She's moving to Ghastly Gorge!"

No way!? Did she really hear me talking about her?! Gah! I'm so stupid!

"Come on!" Pinkie Pie began dragging me. "We have to go catch up to her!"

It took me a moment to get my legs working, but I was able to run with her outside of the castle. However, at the train station, she surprised me by literally throwing me into the closest train we could see.

Ghastly Gorge had been an entirely new location for me, and that was a straight disadvantage when it came to trying to find Maud. It was extremely windy and even a bit foggy, its attributes contributing to the name.

"Hold on!" Pinkie stretched her foreleg out in front of me and began sniffing at what appeared to be imprinted on the slightly muddy ground. Unnecessarily, she stuck out her tongue and chewed a part of the dirt. "Maud tracks!"

"You didn't need to taste it." I told her. "Who else would be here?"

I looked out at where the tracks led, and I found that they were dangerously close to the cliffside. I unintentionally gulped, instinctively fearing the thought of Maud falling victim to the depths below. We continued our search, almost as if the howling winds within the gorge literally pushed us on ahead.

Up ahead, Pinkie gasped sharply. "There she is! Maud!"

She was right. We saw her quite a way in front of us wearing her usual dress along with a hardhat. I was relieved to see her, but at the same time, that relief died out as soon as I saw what she stood in front of her. She directly stood at the edge of the cliffside, and she had been clearly gazing out into the abyss. I didn't like the look of it at all.

"Maud!" I called out.

"You were the one that got away." She mentioned suddenly. "I can't let you go."

What…? What was she talking about?

All I could do was slowly step towards her as her back faced me. I didn't want to make any sudden movements.

"I really need you in my life. If I can't have you, then I don't know what else I can do."

She continued speaking oddly. Despite this, I focused more on approaching her without startling her.

"I'm sorry, but I can't hold back my feelings anymore. I'm doing this because of you."

Just as I was about to gently reach out to her, she suddenly jumped.

"Maud!" I cried out as Pinkie finally released the breath she had been holding through a loud scream.

I poked my head over the cliffside, afraid that I'd see a terrifying sight. However, I had been completely taken aback by what laid below. I saw Maud's body, but it took me a short moment to realize that she had been standing upright.

From what I was able to see, she looked okay. In fact, she had been holding something in particular in her hoof. It wasn't until I jumped down for myself when I realized that the drop wasn't all as dramatic as it looked. Pinkie joined me by hopping down the wall shortly afterwards.

"…Maud?" I cautiously called.

"Hm?" She pulled her attention away from the object she had been holding and noticed Pinkie and me gazing back at her in concern. "Oh, hi, Alex. Pinkie."

"What are you doing here, Maud?!" Pinkie nearly cried out.

"Emerald Jasper." Maud raised her hoof and revealed some kind of rock with greenish stripes on it.

"Wait a minute. Up there on that cliff. You were talking about the rock?" I raised my question.

"Of course. What did you think I was talking about?" She responded with.

I was sort of at a loss for words. All I could do was just let a sigh of relief escape from my lips.

"Why, Maud?!" Pinkie was left unsatisfied. "Why did you go and leave like that?! What do you think you're doing leaving us for Ghastly Gorge?!"

Maud remained silent for a moment as she blinked exactly two times before answering. "What?"

"You left a note on my bed! You said you were moving to Ghastly Gorge instead of Ponyville!" Pinkie clarified.

"…I said I was just going to go to Ghastly Gorge for a while." Maud corrected. "I needed some time to myself."

I felt my heart drop once again when I heard that.

"O-Oh… Heh heh." Pinkie reacted a little nervously as a wave of heat rose up on her face. "I read the note so quick, I guess I read it wrong, hehe."

"H-Hey… Are you okay?" I couldn't help but ask Maud.

"I'm okay." She answered directly.

However, for some reason, I felt as if the type of tone she used was significantly different than the one she used when she was with me before. It could have just been my guilt misreading things, but I didn't want to write it off so easily.

"How do you feel about going home now?" Pinkie asked. "It's actually kind of scary here, especially if you're all alone."

Maud raised her hoof to take a look at the rock she had obtained. It must have been pretty rare if she was still holding on to it. "Sure." She answered. Once again, the tone was much different, and I couldn't keep from worrying over her true feelings.

"I have to say, Maud. I know this place has rocks and everything, but I don't think it's a good place at all for you to be at. You look pretty gloomy after all." Pinkie's comment stuck a dagger in me. She continued speaking as she led us out of here. "Sheesh. Even I'm starting to get bummed out by the place. Not to worry though! I've got just the thing for you when we're back in Ponyville!"

"Okay." Maud returned briefly.

Inside, there was just something tugging at me to come clean with her, even if I actually had nothing to do with how she was feeling.

Pinkie hopped on over to the train stop and looked out for the next train. It was probably going to be a while before the next one came and imagining the awkward wait between us pushed me even further.

"Maud, mind if we talk for a bit?" I softly called for her before she could catch up to Pinkie.

She turned back and faced me. "What is it?"

"Um…" I tried thinking of a way to start it off. "Are you…mad at me?"

She stared at me for a second. "No."

"Last night." I brought up. "Why'd you leave without saying anything?"

Her eyes averted, and she remained silent for another moment before she answered. "I was scared." That was the only confirmation I needed at that point, and the guilt that had been growing inside me finally fell on my heart like a huge weight. "You put up with me so much that you got tired of it. I almost can't believe I didn't see it earlier. I'm… I'm really sad." She said all this while keeping her usual deadpan look. "I just really like spending time with you. You were the only friend I ever had that felt real to me. But, I understand. You don't want to be friends anymore. It's okay. After all, I guess it's why I don't really have any other friends besides rocks in the first place…"

"Huh?!" I almost yelled out. "Maud, no…! Why would you think I didn't want to be friends with you anymore?"

"You said that I'd be better off in Ghastly Gorge." She repeated. "It was pretty clear you were tired of me." She turned her head away and seemed to stare towards the area we had come back from. "To be honest, I didn't come here to just to have some time to myself. I came here to take a look around for somewhere to stay. Of course, I couldn't tell Pinkie that."

I could only assume that Maud heard little of what I had said and took it out of context if she thought that I was dumping her as a friend. I fervently shook my head and proceeded to correct her. "Maud, you'll always be my friend. What you heard… I was…trying to figure out a way to tell you that…you know…you were hanging out with me a...bit too much. Believe me, hanging out with you is great, but when I've got other stuff on my plate, it gets a little stressful, you know? I didn't want to send you away like a jerk, but I guess I ended up doing that anyway, huh? I never wanted you to leave, nor did I want us to stop being friends. I just…I don't know…"

"Do you really mean that?" She asked, returning her gaze back at me.

"Of course, I do." I told her. "You're important to me. I wouldn't want to lose you just like I wouldn't want to lose Pinkie."

She focused on the ground below her for a moment. "I'm sorry." She suddenly apologized. "I guess I should have talked to you about it before going off on my own. I was just really…scared of hearing the truth straight from you. I wasn't sure if I would've been able to handle it."

Coming from someone who's normal expression is a poker face? That's a lot…

"I'm the sorry one." I stated. "I should have been the one to talk to you first. I guess I was just a little scared of losing you too, heh." I chuckled a bit embarrassingly.

Without saying anything, she proceeded to step closer towards me. After locking eyes with mine for a somewhat long silent while, she pressed her chest against me.

"I don't really know how friendships work." She admitted. "But I want us to be honest with each other. If I'm spending too much time with you, I want you to tell me. If I'm worried about something you said or did, then I want to talk to you. Is that okay?"

"Yeah, of course, it is." I returned earnestly. "And, I promise you. I'd never want the two of us to stop being friends. So, if I say anything that might sound a little bad or mean, just know that I don't mean it like if I don't like you anymore."

"Mm." I felt her head slightly nod before she pulled away. "You know… It's actually pretty rare for me to talk about my feelings like this."

"That's a good thing…? I think…?" I couldn't quite figure out how I was supposed to take her comment.

Nevertheless, Maud continued to stand there in front of me without saying anymore. Then, she surprisingly lifted a smile from her lips.

"Train's here! Come on! Let's go!" We heard Pinkie scream over from the stop.

"Let's head home then." I told Maud. "That is, I'm hoping you'll still be staying in Ponyville."

"Rocks could never be worth more than friendship." She stated before sending me another sweet smile.

Some time after returning to Ponyville, I felt the need to offer a very short and not as dramatic explanation to everyone at the castle for Maud's behavior the night she had left during our dinner. And, this ended up leading me to have a more in-depth conversation about it with Athena in our room.

"Ah! So, that explains it!" She stomped her hoof as if she had just finished solving some puzzle that had been on her mind for a while now.

"What?" I asked.

"That night." She referred to. "Before I went into the dining room, I noticed Maud acting strange when she was walking past me back in the hall. I told her 'Hi', and she told me 'Hi' back. But, I noticed she was extremely and unusually blue for some reason. I couldn't think of a reason why she'd be so sad, especially after hanging with you all the time. But, her misunderstanding of the situation explains it all. Hm. Guess I should have brought it up to you sooner. Sorry!" She apologized while sticking her tongue out a bit playfully.

"It's not like you kept it for weeks before we could straighten things out." I said. "I'm just glad we got things settled before they could've gotten any worse."

A few brief knocks sounded at the door, surprising the two of us.

I walked up to the door and opened it, finding Maud standing outside in the hall.

"Hello. I was just wondering if you wanted to take a look at my new place."

"Whoa. You got a place already?" I questioned, generally intrigued. Taking a short look back at Athena, I accepted her offer. "Sure. I'm actually interested to see what kind of place grabbed your attention."

"Well, it's not exactly in Ponyville." Maud mentioned as she began leading us out of the castle. "More like Ponyville-adjacent."

Stepping into Maud's new personal space, I was at an utter loss for words. To be quite honest, I believed she had us all beat when it came to our own homes, especially considering that our castle was something that magically popped out straight from the ground.

Her place of living was something more of an outdoor-living space that I supposed was still technically an indoor-living space since it was in a part of the gem cave we had explored together not too long ago. I had no idea that such a place like this with waterfalls existed within the same gem cave.

"Wow, Maud." I spoke soon after I was able to have a good look at the place and realize it wasn't just my imagination. "I can't imagine a place any more perfect for you to stay in."

"Mm-hm." She nodded. "You could say I picked a real 'gem'."

I was surprised to hear laughter other than my own. It hadn't been Athena, but it was actually someone else that we were used to seeing back at the castle.

"Starlight?" I questioned the sight of her.

"Hiya." She returned a friendly wave.

"She actually helped me find and decorate the place." Maud explained. "She's pretty cool."

"Thanks!" Starlight expressed gleefully. "You're cool too."

"If you want to come over or stay the night, you're more than welcome to." Maud offered to those that were interested.

"Sounds good, Maud." I answered. "Any idea what you're going to do now that you've got somewhere to stay?"

"I kind of feel like taking a nap."

I wasn't so sure if she was being serious or just pulling our leg as per her literal humor.

Either way, I was glad to see that she was already making new and unexpected friends. Plus, I was looking forward to seeing her around more now that she was in Ponyville. Without her acting as if I'd be gone the next day, of course.

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