Twilight Sparkle and her five friends were all moving around a large suite in the Canterlot Castle, unpacking from a long journey that they had started earlier this morning. They had to be at the train station at seven 'o clock in the morning to catch the train that would get them to Canterlot to see The Wonderbolts perform. At the moment, five of them were all standing around Fluttershy.
"Come on, Fluttershy, it's the freaking Wonderbolts!" Rainbow Dash said. "Don't you want to go see The Wonderbolts perform in Canterlot?"
Fluttershy flattened her ears and poked at the ground. "Of course I would, it's just..."
"Just what, darling?" Rarity asked, as she stopped unpacking long enough to listen in on the conversation. Fluttershy turned away from her friends for a brief moment and hid herself in her mane before mumbling something. Twilight sighed and walked up to her.
"Fluttershy, we're your friends! Just tell us why you don't want to go!" Twilight said.
"I'm afraid of large crowds!" she suddenly blurted out. Rainbow groaned and facehooved.
"So now you're afraid of large crowds?" she grumbled. Fluttershy nodded.
"I just hate how... trapped I feel in large crowds! I don't like it when the flow of the crowd is controlling where you go, I don't like the noise, I hate large crowds!" said Fluttershy.
"So then why didn't you tell us when we asked, Fluttershy?" Applejack asked.
Fluttershy bit her lip and poked at the ground. "Um... I didn't want yo say no and make you all feel bad."
Rainbow facehooved again. "Isn't it worth a few hours of a large crowd to see The Wonderbolts perform?"
"No, Rainbow Dash. I'm sorry, but I really, really really would rather not." She blushed and shrank back again. "I mean... um... if that's okay with you... I guess."
"So what do you want to do while we're gone?" Twilight asked. "Do you want to just sit around and wait for us, or walk around Canterlot aimlessly for a few hours?"
"Maybe I can help with that," a serene voice from behind them said. The six friends turned around and gasped when they saw Princess Celestia standing behind them. Twilight perked up and ran over to her for a happy nuzzle.
"Princess Celestia! What are you doing here?" Twilight said.
"I heard you were in Canterlot and decided to check up on you all, and I heard about Fluttershy's predicament. It seems that she really is set on not going," Celestia said.
"Well she still should," Rainbow Dash grumbled.
"So, I think I can help out with that," Celestia continued. "You see, I have a few hours off from running the country, and I think that it would be a perfect opportunity to spend some time with Fluttershy to get to know her better if she truly does not wish to attend." Fluttershy brightened up slightly.
"You... you want to spend some time with me?" she asked. Celestia nodded.
"I can only spare a few hours, but I can certainly keep you company while your friends are off at the Wonderbolts show. Is that something that you would enjoy?" Fluttershy nodded shyly and Celestia gave her a warm smile. 'It's settled, then, the two of us will spend some time together while your friends are off at the Wonderbolts show."
"Speaking of which, we must leave for that now if we are to make it to our seats before the show begins," Rarity said, glancing at a nearby clock tower.
"Yeah," Rainbow Dash replied. "We should really get going, then."
The five friends filed out the door with Rainbow at the tail end of the line. Before she exited the room, she looked back at Fluttershy and sighed.
"I'll uh, I'll bring you back a hat or something," she said. Fluttershy waved her out the door and Rainbow shook her head before exiting the room.
"Well, now that they're gone, what would you like to do?" Celestia asked, turning back to Fluttershy.
"I don't really know," Fluttershy replied. "I don't come to Canterlot that often.
"I'll tell you what: my sister and I have a private entertainment room in the castle; just a bunch of games and books and the like. Do you want to see it? Maybe there is a board game we could play or something."
"I'd like that," Fluttershy said. "It could be fun."
"Excellent," Celestia replied. "Follow me, then.
* * * *
"Well, here we are," Celestia said, motioning to a blank section of wall in a random hallway at the palace. Fluttershy frowned and tilted her head.
"Um... but this is just a wall," she said.
"When I say it's a private entertainment room, I mean 'private'," Celestia replied. Before Fluttershy could comment on it further, Princess Celestia fired up her horn and fired a spell at the wall. Immediately, the bricks themselves began to dissolve in front of Fluttershy's eyes, revealing a previously unseen, simple wooden door. Celestia lit her horn again and pushed the door open."
"Welcome to the Game Room."
Fluttershy followed Celestia into the room and her jaw immediately dropped at what she saw. The room seemed almost as large as the throne room, and each wall was a series of shelves that went from the floor to the ceiling. Fluttershy flew over to one to see hundreds of books on every subject that she could possibly imagine. On another wall, there was every single board game that Fluttershy could think of as well as hundreds that she had never heard of before. However, the main attraction of the room was a gigantic projector screen situated in the middle of the room. She cocked her head and walked over to it.
"You have your own projector?"
"We certainly do," Celestia replied. "We have a rather extensive collection of films as well, if you'd like to watch one."
"Maybe later," Fluttershy said. "I don't watch movies that often."
"I am certain that there are some you enjoy," said a voice to their left. "As my sister said: we have quite the collection."
Fluttershy and Celestia looked to the source of the noise to see Princess Luna reclining on a couch, her nose buried in the middle of a paperback book she was reading.
"Good afternoon, Luna," Celestia said with a little wave. "What are you reading?"
Luna sighed and shifted on the couch until she was lying on her back. "Oh, some trashy romance novel of no real artistic merit," she replied. "Massive Muscles is about to profess his love to Sweet Flanks, despite the wishes their families."
"Ah yes, one of my favorites," Celestia said with a little chuckle. "But as you said: it is rather devoid of artistic merit."
"Uh, hello Princess Luna," Fluttershy said, giving Luna a slight bow. Luna looked up and gave Fluttershy a casual wave before returning back to her book.
"So," Celestia said, turning her attention back to Fluttershy. “What would you like to do?"
Fluttershy walked over to the shelf of board games and began looking at her choices. None of them stuck out to her, so she took to the air to scan more of the titles. Suddenly, her eyes fell on one and she smiled.
"How about we play this one?" she said, gently taking it off of the shelf and cradling it in her forelegs. Celestia lit her horn and took out out of Fluttershy's grasp.
"Oh, you want to play chess? Well of course we can," she said. Luna looked up from her book and frowned at Celestia.
"Oh Tia, must you do that to her? You know--"
"Do not worry, Luna," Celestia replied, waving her hoof at her sister. "She wishes to play chess, so we'll play chess." Luna rolled her eyes and returned to her book.
Celestia directed Fluttershy towards a large table and a pair of overstuffed armchairs. Fluttershy sat down on one of them and made a little noise of contentment at how comfortable they turned out to be. Celestia opened up the box and used her magic to begin placing the plastic pieces on the board.
"So Fluttershy, would you like to be white or black?" Celestia asked.
"I guess it's up to you," she said as she examined the board. Celestia used her magic to pick two pawns off of the board before she flared out her wings and put the two pawns behind them. She moved them around for a moment before focusing on Fluttershy again.
"Okay, which wing?" she asked.
"Right wing, I guess."
Celestia lowered the wing to reveal the white pawn and she placed it back on the board before spinning the chess set so that the white pieces were in front of Fluttershy.
"White goes first," Celestia said. Fluttershy nodded and moved the pawn in front of the queen ahead one space.
"Princess Celestia?" Fluttershy began as Celestia made her move. "Now that we're here, I've always wanted to ask you about something, if it's alright."
"Certainly, Fluttershy. What would you like to know?" Celestia asked.
"Well, my friends and I have saved the world twice now and I'm just kind of curious why nopony seems to recognize who me and my friend are outside of Ponyville. I mean, not that I'm a glory hound or anything, but I am curious about that."
Celestia smiled fondly at her. "Before I answer that: checkmate," Celestia said. Fluttershy looked down at the board and flattened her ears.
"Oh come on, Tia," Luna growled.
"No, it's fine really," Fluttershy said. "I guess I just wasn't paying attention to her pieces. I've lost to the four move checkmate before."
"In any case, that was a rather short game. Would you like to play again, Fluttershy?" Celestia asked. Fluttershy nodded and Celestia used her magic to reset the board. Fluttershy once again moved the pawn in front of the queen out one space, prompting Celestia to copy her move. "To answer your question, Fluttershy, my sister and I did in fact do some cover-up work for those incidents."
"But why?" Fluttershy asked as she moved her king-side bishop two spaces.
"Well, for the exact reason that you just mentioned: you are not a glory hound. You just want to live a peaceful life in Ponyville with your animals, correct?"
"Exactly. If everypony in Equestria knew who you six were and what you had done, then I wonder if you would ever have a moment of peace to yourselves. Ponies would constantly be seeking you out, hoping to meet the ponies that saved the world twice over."
"I guess that makes sense," Fluttershy said as she moved her king-side rook three spaces to the left. "Does that mean that nopony will remember what we did?" Celestia shook her head and took Fluttershy's queen-side rook with her king-side bishop.
"Make no mistake, Fluttershy, you six will be remembered for what you did for the rest of time. You will be hailed as heroes for as long as ponydom remembers who Nightmare Moon and Discord are," said Celestia.
Fluttershy mulled this over as she captured Celestia's bishop with her queen. "But you don't want that for us right now?" Celestia shook her head as she moved her queen-side knight to fork Fluttershy's queen and remaining rook.
"Do you?" she asked. Fluttershy moved her queen out of danger, allowing Celestia to take her final rook before answering.
"No, I don't think that I do. But what about ponies like Rainbow Dash? I think she would really like it." Celestia took Fluttershy's king-side bishop with her queen before answering.
"I think that she would, for a time," she replied.
"You think she would get tired of it?"
Celestia grimaced as Fluttershy took her king-side rook with her queen, checking her king.
"Yes, I do," she said before moving her king out of danger. "She craves attention and excitement right now, but I feel that someday her desire for the spotlight will fade and she will want to settle down. As a retired Wonderbolt, she could do that. As the savior of Equestria..."
"She would have the spotlight on her forever," Fluttershy said as she moved a pawn forward.
"Exactly," Celestia took Fluttershy's queen with a knight. At the loss of her queen, Fluttershy examined the chessboard. She only had a single bishop and a pair of pawns left in way of protection and Celestia still had four pawns, both knights, her queen, king, and one rook. She sighed and took one of Celestia's pawns, allowing Celestia to checkmate her with her queen. Celestia smiled and once again reset the chessboard.
"Well, would you like to play again or would you like to play something else?" she asked.
"How about checkers?" Luna called out with a hint of laughter in her voice. "My dear sister could not defeat a blind chicken at checkers.
"Be quiet Luna, that was one time!" Celestia growled before she looked back to Fluttershy. "You were saying?"
"I guess one more game couldn't hurt," Fluttershy responded. "I mean... if you want."
"I would enjoy it if you would like one more game." Fluttershy nodded and moved the pawn in front of her king-side knight one space forward.
"So to you were talking about how nopony would leave us alone," Fluttershy continued. "What about Pinkie Pie? Wouldn't she see it as one big party?" Celestia laughed and moved the pawn in front of her queen forward one space.
"I think that as much as Pinkie Pie loves to laugh and make friends, she could not do it on a large scale. There are moments where I wonder if it takes more energy for Pinkie Pie to be Pinkie Pie than it does for me to run the country. It would not be long before she burned out completely from that kind of attention."
"And Applejack and Rarity would both be overworked because everypony would want to buy their apples and dresses just from them," Fluttershy finished.
"That was my way of thinking, too," Celestia said with a nod.
"Although I'm curious," Fluttershy said as she took one of Celestia's pawns with her king-side knight. "How did you do it? Cover it up, I mean."
"Swamp gas and weather balloons," Luna replied. Fluttershy frowned ant tiled her head at Celestia, who just rolled her eyes at Luna.
"Well, it's a bit more complicated than that, Fluttershy." Celestia shook her head as she returned her attention to the game. "But suffice to say, it took quite a bit of work." Fluttershy heard Luna giggle a bit but decided not to question it. She castled left before Celestia spoke up once more. "You know, this brings up a subject that I've wanted to discuss with one of you," she said as she copied Fluttershy's castle.
"Yes," said Celestia. "I want to ask you about Discord, or more specifically, what it was like to be under his control." Fluttershy tensed up and whimpered slightly. Celestia's eyes widened and she reached out to put her hoof on Fluttershy's shoulder. "Of course, we certainly don't have to talk about that if--"
"It was very cold," Fluttershy whimpered.
"Yes, very cold. I felt like I would never feel the feeling of the sun keeping me warm and it made me so angry." Fluttershy moved her queen one square to the right.
"Why did it make you angry?"
"I think it was because Discord made me feel that way. He wanted to twist our Elements around and I think he knew that if I was really angry then I would do unkind things."
"And you did. I am sorry that you had to endure that. I would not wish it upon any of you." Celestia said, capturing one of Fluttershy's rooks with a knight.
"Yeah." Fluttershy captured Celestia's final knight with her other rook. "But there was still a part of my mind that tried to get past all of that. I think that's the part of my mind that Twilight used the memory spell on. My mind was constantly resisting Discord's influence."
"It was?" Celestia captured Fluttershy's queen with her king-side bishop. "I didn't know that was possible."
"I guess it is," Fluttershy responded with a shrug. "I think that it was, checkmate, by the way, the fact that we were friends that helped my mind through that tough time." Celestia smiled at Fluttershy.
"Yes, I think so t..." Celestia froze in mid-sentence. "Hold on a minute. Did you say... checkmate?" Fluttershy shrank back a bit but she nodded, pointing to her rook.
"Oh...um, well, yes. I checkmated you with my rook here." In that instant, the two heard Princess Luna quickly stand up and bolt towards the duo. She had to flare out her wings to prevent herself from crashing into the table.
"Did you just checkmate Tia?" she asked as she stared at the chessboard..
"Well yeah. I moved my rook there and--"
"She did!" Luna said. Her eyes widened with surprise as she turned to Fluttershy. "My sister has not lost a game of chess in over four hundred years!"
"Oh, sorry. I was just--".
"Do not apologize, dear Fluttershy, for you have truly achieved an amazing feat!" Luna replied, draping a wing over Fluttershy's back. "How did you do it?"
"I admit that I'm curious too," Celestia muttered under her breath as she stared at the board.
Fluttershy looked at the floor and rubbed her foreleg. "Um...well you see--"
"Speak up child, we cannot hear you!" Luna said, pulling Fluttershy closer. Fluttershy closed her eyes and took a deep breath.
"Well, I used the first two games to learn about who you were as a player. The first one taught me that you weren't afraid to be aggressive against an opponent that you viewed to be as weaker or less skilled, while the second one taught me more about your strategies. I noticed that you favored your knights over your bishops in terms of offensive strategies, while you always tried to keep one rook and at least one bishop back for defensive measures. You view the other bishop as largely expendable which is why you use it as a kamikaze piece." Fluttershy opened one eye, but quickly closed it again when she saw that the princesses were staring at her.
"You castle early to get your other rook on the offensive to back up your knights and any pawns that you may feel may be able to get you another queen later. The queen herself you switch from being an offensive piece to a defensive one when you feel the situation calls for it."
"Hold on, hold on, let me catch up!" Fluttershy's ear twitched when she heard what sounded like the scratching of a quill on parchment.
Before either Celestia or Fluttershy could respond, there came a knock on the door. The three turned towards it and Luna sighed.
"I'll answer it," she said. Fluttershy looked at Celestia with a raised eyebrow.
"I thought nopony knew about this place," she said.
"Oh, the entire staff knows about it just in case they need to reach us for an emergency. Nopony but Luna and I have the ability to actually get in." Celestia sighed and continued to examine the game board. Just as Fluttershy was about to answer, both of them heard Rainbow Dash's voice.
"Rained out! Can you believe it? A Wonderbolts performance was rained out! How lazy are the Canterlot pegasi?"
"Now Rainbow, darling, I am certain that they're doing all they can to get the weather under control." Rarity said, putting a hoof on Rainbow's shoulder.
"You know that even with a team of pegasi, the weather can still be unpredictable," Twilight chimed in. Rainbow harrumphed but the group stopped talking about it when they noticed Fluttershy and Celestia sitting at the table. Twilight smiled and went over to talk to her mentor. Before she could get a word out, she saw the chess set between the two of them and her jaw dropped. "Uh, Princess Celestia, how many games did you play against Fluttershy?"
"Just three," Celestia responded. Twilight grimaced a bit.
"She got your whole strategy down cold in those three didn't she?"
"She most certainly did!" Luna said as she rejoined the conversation. "I've never seen anything like it!"
"Neither have I," Celestia admitted. Applejack raised her eyebrow at Twilight.
"Uh, Twi, didn't you tell the princess here to never play more than one game of chess against Fluttershy?" she asked.
"Yes, because that definitely came up at some point," Twilight said with a roll of her eyes.
Celestia frowned and tilted her head. "So this is normal?"
"Oh yeah," Rainbow said with a wave of her hoof. "Fluttershy routinely destroys everypony she meets at chess after game two or three. She beat me in nineteen moves once."
Celestia frowned and looked back to Fluttershy. "Fluttershy, how did you ever become so good at chess."
"Well, it all started when--" She was immediately silenced when Pinkie Pie cleared her throat. The group turned to look at her as she glared at Fluttershy and mouthed 'forever'. She gulped and started poking at the table. "It's too long of a story."
The room was silent as they all examined the chessboard and pondered the development that Fluttershy had somehow become a chess master at some point in her life.
Suddenly, the pieces all flew back to their original spots and a determined look spread over Celestia's face.
"I want to play again," she said.
* * * *
Twilight could hardly bear to watch what was going on in front of her. It was just too painful to see and she could hardly believe that it was actually happening. Applejack had tilted her hat low over her eyes and was trying to both watch the game and avoid seeing it at all costs at the same time. Rarity had become very interested in her hair as she too could not bear to watch what was happening. Rainbow and Pinkie both merely stared at the board, their mouths open in total shock. Even Princess Luna looked a little uncomfortable.
Together the six of them watched as Fluttershy's queen and her remaining rook chased Celestia's king across the board while Celestia was trying to block her with her remaining bishop and two pawns, frantically trying to find a way to stalemate the game.
"Tia, just give up," Luna said as Fluttershy took one of Celestia's pawns. "She managed this after five minutes. You cannot win."
"I know that Luna," said Celestia. "I think that I can--"
Luna, Applejack, Pinkie Pie, Rainbow Dash, and Rarity all cheered Fluttershy's victory and they gathered around to give congratulate her. Twilight walked over to Celestia and gave her a comforting nuzzle.
"You aren't mad are you?" Celestia smiled and shook her head.
"When you've been alive as long as I have, you learn very fast to not care about something as insignificant as this. Still, losing a chess game for the first time in four hundred years still hurts a little."
Before Twilight could respond, she saw Fluttershy get pushed off the chair she was in, only to be replaced by Princess Luna who eagerly brought her notes over to her.
"I think you may be slipping Tia." Luna cracked her neck and reset the chessboard. "What say you to a game?"
Celestia smiled, nodded, and motioned for her sister to start the game.
Luna got demolished.