I: The Talk of the Town
"They never let you be famous and happy."
The Song of Achilles
"The life of one is filled with an infinite amount of choices. One choice shall always lead to an other, and then one more; until a whole slew of choices have been made.
"Philosophers have pointed out that we tend to think of choices as a one time thing, when in reality there are so many factors involved in the choosing. From one choice, we get a branch of possibilities, extending in every possible direction that could ever be conceived. Yet, we focus more in the individual choice, rather than the whole pool.
"But that does not mean that we never look back. For some, all it takes is a set of events to make you stop and think and reflect. And for only a select few, those events are enough to make you question your very being. Such few are either the most bitter of cynics; or the most humble and intelligent of ponies, able to understand the very thing that they call 'themself.'
"These few ponies shall forever carry the weight of guilt on their backs; for they cannot find the strength to forgive their past errors. They move through life like it is a river of sludge, trying to get away from their darkened past.
"It is only through the interaction with others, that any hope of their return can be justified.
"Many a wise pony have said that fame is a two-sided coin. On one hoof, the pony receives national recognition; but on the other hoof, the pony receives unwarranted attention. There is no good side to fame; merely one perspective shown, and one perspective hidden.
"Such is the same with the pony who delves down this path of fame. One face, the one with the smile, hides the ponies true face; one filled with bitterness and regret, unwilling to bask in this "deserving" limelight.
"So how does one pony get away from this false fame? How does one pony actually end up down this road? What choices were made; and what choices can be made, going forward?
"Many a wise pony said that the past determines the present; ones actions craft who they are today.
"But only a few shall recognize that one can move on from the past.
"Only a few shall realize that the past can be overcome; but only through the help of others. No pony is a mere island; it is only a matter of time before they are invaded by foreign creatures, bent on becoming 'friends' with them.
"It is my wish that in the distant future, none of us ever become a lonely island, and that we all voluntarily welcome others into our life."
EXCERPT FROM FORWARD OF "ELECTIONES FACIMUS," WRITTEN BY O.P. AT CANTERLOT'S SCHOOL OF EXCELLENCE GRADUATION, AOE 1025
On a late Sunday afternoon, most of Ponyville was quiet. The day's normally exuberant activities had been subdued somewhat. A sleepy atmosphere hung over the town, lingering for the majority of the day. Even Celestia's sun seemed sluggish; it rose only halfway in the sky, not bothering to move any further. The quietness was deafening; it seemed that not a soul was alive.
Then Rarity returned home.
"Oh my gosh!" gushed Rarity as she entered her boutique. "That was… that was…" She couldn't complete her sentence, collapsing on her drama couch as tears welled in her eyes.
Sweetie Belle came down from upstairs, concern in her eyes. "Rarity? What's wrong?"
Rarity only sobbed louder. Her horn glowed and levitated over a tub of ice cream, and she began scooping the contents into her mouth, making om-nom sounds as she did so.
Sweetie Belle sighed and rolled her eyes. "Seriously, Rarity! This is the third time this week you've ended up on the couch!"
Rarity sniffed, turning over to look at Sweetie. "Well, I have a good reason as to why this has been the third time!"
"Oh, you wouldn't understand," Rarity said dismissively, waving a hoof at her.
Sweetie frowned. "Is this about that book series that Twilight got you into?"
"Well, of course it's about that book series!" Rarity's eyes glossed over. "Opacare Prose is an amazing author! His books enrichen the soul, burst open the dams of the heart, allow a river of emotion to pour through!" She sniffed, wiping away a few tears. "I just finished his third novel on the way here; Twilight loaned it to me from the library."
"You mean the one called Storm Song?" Rarity nodded. Sweetie walked a bit closer. "So then why are you crying?"
"Storm Song has got to be Prose's greatest work!" Rarity levitated over a box of tissues and blew her nose. "It was positively beautiful; very well written!" She sighed dreamily. "I wonder how he manages to do that…"
Sweetie still looked a bit unsure. "So… you're crying because you thought it was good?"
"Thought it was good?" Rarity glanced at her younger sister. "Sweetie Belle, I know it was great!"
She shrugged. "It doesn't seem that good to me… just another mushy romance novel."
Rarity sighed. "As I said before, you wouldn't understand. It's for more mature mares."
"Seriously? It's just a romance novel!"
"It is not just a romance novel!" Rarity's voice grew more heated. "It's a form of art, a type of expression! It's a way for Prose to unlock to mysteries of the soul and provide interpretation for the otherwise unknown aspects of the heart!"
"Yeah, yeah, whatever," Sweetie grumbled, going back upstairs. Rarity picked up another tub of ice cream and resumed her happy sobbing.
Sweetie opened the door to her bedroom with a grunt. Her fellow Crusaders, Scootaloo and Apple Bloom, were on the floor, looking at her with curious faces.
"What's wrong?" Scootaloo asked.
Sweetie Belle set herself down next to the orange filly with a low groan. "She's totally obsessed with that Opacare Prose writer. It's gotten so bad that three times this week she's come home in tears!"
"The books made her sad?"
"No, they made her happy."
Apple Bloom nodded. "Ah've seen Applejack and even Big Mac reading some of this guy's books." She smiled. "It was quite the surprise to come home and see Big Mac crying over a little book."
Sweetie Belle raised an eyebrow. "Big Mac reads romance novels?"
"Eeyup. Though, he won't admit it." She chuckled lightly.
"What about Applejack?" Scootaloo asked. "I thought she wasn't into that kind of mushy stuff?"
"Well, it's more like she'll pick up a romance once in a while," said Apple Bloom. "But Ah don't think she's as obsessed with it as yer sister, Sweetie Belle."
Sweetie Belle sighed. "I wouldn't find it annoying, if it weren't for the fact that it's made Rarity hard to talk to."
"What do you mean?" asked Apple Bloom.
"Everytime I try to talk to her, she somehow directs the conversation to that Prose guy." She snorted. "Seems like that's the only important thing to her now."
"Don't worry!" Scootaloo said. "I'm sure she'll get over it eventually. Everypony loses interest in an author once in a while."
Apple Bloom snorted. "Tell that to Rainbow Dash. Is she still hooked on those children books?"
"Daring Do is not a children's book!"
"It is so a book for children! Applejack told me!"
"Applejack reads mushy romance novels; what could she possible know about adventure books?!"
"Girls!" Sweetie Belle interrupted before the argument could escalate. "Calm down!"
They stopped bickering and turned their gaze back to her. "Sorry, Sweetie," Scootaloo said sheepishly.
"Yeah, sorry 'bout that," apologized Apple Bloom.
"It's alright, girls. I just wish I could figure out why Prose is so popular." She sighed. "I tried reading one of his books, but I thought it was boring. Rarity said it's because I'm too young to understand."
Apple Bloom nodded. "I asked why Applejack and Big Mac like his books, and they pretty much said the same thing."
"They're just books, though," Scootaloo said. "What's so hard to understand about them?"
"Apparently you have to be a 'mature mare' in order to understand," Sweetie mumbled, looking down.
"Cheer up, Sweetie Belle," Apple Bloom said, placing a hoof on her friend's. "Ah'm sure Rarity will get bored of Prose soon."
Sweetie nodded, though she still felt a bit unsure.
Only a few days later, and Prose's next book came rushing out. Immediately it was the talk of the town. It seemed that every mare, stallion, even foals were reading his works. The Town Hall quickly became a focal point of discussion, and lecture began popping up everywhere regarding his stories. Ponies everywhere began picking up his novels one by one, and participating in analyzing each story.
Several ponies petitioned Mayor Mare to have a holiday in Ponyville for Prose, as they felt that he deserved the recognition. Mayor Mare laughed it off as nothing more than obsessive fans wanting to explode something smaller. While she was guilty of reading and enjoying Prose's books, she was of the mindset that Prose didn't need any extra recognition.
Clubs were started, one for each of the various genres that Prose wrote. New members were joining everyday, and discussion grew more heated with each new pony. Arguments were shouted, punches thrown over disagreeing opinions, and a ton of bandages and disciplinary reports were applied. Yet, despite the injuries suffered, both to body and to reputation, the fanponies still got together and discussed with great eagerness all of Prose's works.
Sweetie Belle, though not against reading and being a fan, was enormously perturbed by it all.
"Why is he so popular?" she asked her fellow Crusaders at the Sugarcube Corner. They were sharing a trio of malts with each other. "Why are all the ponies reading his romance books?"
Apple Bloom shrugged. "Maybe everypony just likes reading mushy books like that."
"Well, I know one pony who wouldn't go for that kind of stuff!" Scootaloo asserted. "Rainbow Dash never reads that romantic stuff!"
Nearby, they could hear various other customers discussing the author's latest novel. Mrs. Cake was arguing with Rarity over the main character's manipulation of the lead female character. "It was simply preposterous that she allowed herself to be controlled like that!"
"Don't forget, Mrs. Cake; Jade liked being submissive to that kind of stallion!"
"Any female should be willing to stand up for herself, though!"
Their conversation continued for several more minutes, eliciting a bored groan from Scootaloo. "Seriously? Even Mrs. Cake is into that stuff?"
"I wonder who got her into that genre?" Sweetie Belle asked.
"Hiya, Rarity! Hiya, Mrs. Cake!" Pinkie greeted ecstatically. "Are you two talking about Mr. Prose's newest novel?"
"Indeed," Rarity said. "What did you think of it?"
"I thought it was rather cute! Just my liking!" She grinned at Mrs. Cake. "Aren't you glad that I introduced you to the series?"
"That I am, Pinkie," Mrs. Cake said. "I've even got my husband reading it!"
"Even Mr. Cake?" Sweetie whispered. "That's weird; I've never seen him pick up a romance novel before."
"It's like the ponies who wouldn't read this stuff are suddenly beginning to read them!" Apple Bloom whispered back.
"Well, I know for a fact that Rainbow Dash isn't going to be caught reading that stuff anytime soon!" Scootaloo said proudly.
The door suddenly swung open, and a cyan pegasus with a rainbow mane flew in. She carried a small handbag that seemed weighed down by its contents. "Morning, everypony!" she greeted, the customers greeting her back.
"Hiya, Rainbow!" Pinkie said. "We were just talking about Mr. Prose's latest romance!"
"Pfft. That stuff?" She waved her hoof dismissively. "How can anypony like reading those mushy books?"
"See?" Scootaloo whispered. "Told ya!"
"Have you read any of Prose's stories, Rainbow?" Rarity asked. "He writes more than just romance novels, you know."
Rainbow grinned. "Yep! I just finished his third book in his Trial by Fire series!"
"Really?" Pinkie asked. "I thought you only read those Daring Do books!"
"Daring Do?" Mrs. Cake questioned. "Isn't that series for children—"
"Yeah, well, now I'm reading Prose's adventure series," Rainbow interrupted. She shot Pinkie a partial glare. "Is that a problem?"
Pinkie giggled. "No, silly! It's awesome to see you reading something else!"
Rainbow smiled. "Yeah, it kinda is." She let out a sigh. "To be honest, I never thought I'd be reading something other than the perfection that is Daring Do. But… Trent Collins of the Trial by Fire series is pretty cool, too!" Her grin widened. "I guess I have to thank Twilight for introducing me to Prose!"
Scootaloo's jaw dropped, and the other Crusaders giggled at her expression. "Rainbow Dash? You read Prose's books?"
Rainbow chuckled. "Just the adventure stuff, squirt. None of that mushy romance stuff."
"It's not just 'mushy romance stuff,' Ms. Dash!" Rarity exclaimed. "It's an amazing journey of the soul—"
"Yeah, yeah, whatever," Rainbow interrupted, waving a hoof in front of her friend's face. "I'm not into that stuff, okay? Trent Collins is so much better than that Jade character. At least he gets what he wants."
"Why-I—" Rarity spluttered.
"Mrs. Cake? Could you whip up a batch of muffins for me? I'll be spending most of the morning reading the fourth book."
"Certainly, Rainbow," Mrs. Cake said, smiling. "One batch of muffins coming up!"
"We should totally have a party for Prose!" Pinkie said to Rarity as Rainbow waited for her muffins. "I think he really deserves it!"
Rarity raised an eyebrow. "You'd invite a pony all the way from Manehattan to Ponyville, just to have a party?"
Pinkie beamed. "Of course! Everypony loves parties!" The last comment made Rarity giggle, and soon the conversation was redirected back to Prose's latest book.
The CMC huddled closer together. "I can't believe this!" Scootaloo whispered. "He's even got Rainbow reading his stuff!"
"So? Maybe Rainbow just likes what he writes," Apple Bloom said.
"He can't be that good," Scootaloo argued. "Maybe he's brainwashing the town with his books!"
Apple Bloom raised an eyebrow. "Seriously? That's yer best guess?"
"W-well, what's yours?" she shot back, crossing her hooves.
"Mah guess is that this Prose guy writes many types of books, and it just happened that everypony in town likes his stories. Simple as that."
Scootaloo sighed and sat back. "Yeah, maybe…"
"Besides, why do you care what Rainbow likes?" Sweetie Belle asked, cocking her head. "Don't you look up to her and want to be like her?"
"I know," the orange filly responded. "It's just surprising to hear that she's reading other stuff."
"Everypony likes to read something different," Apple Bloom said. "We shouldn't judge ponies by what they like to read."
"Apple Bloom is right. If the town likes Opacare Prose, then they like Opacare Prose. Nothing we can do about that," Sweetie Belle said.
"Alright," Scootaloo said. "In that case, we should finish our shakes and try for our Cutie Marks again. What was it this time? Hang gliding?"
"Surfboarding?" Apple Bloom suggested.
"No, I thought it was shark jumping."
"Are there even sharks in Ponyville?"
As her two friends continued spouting out ideas, Sweetie Belle took this time to finish her malt. Her mind swiftly returned to the issue of Opacare Prose.
I shouldn't be worried about him; he's just another author. And yet… something seems… off. I can't explain it.
She sighed, placing the glass to the side. She would have to ponder this issue another day; right now, the Crusaders were about to embark on another quest for their Cutie Marks.