Beautiful Day, Part 4
And so I began my first day as Twilight’s assistant. It was mostly uneventful, like I expected. She and Spike left for the day to go shopping for new home décor, while I was left to write summaries and analyses of all her books labeled within the astronomy section of the library. It was fairly simple work, and nothing like what I had gotten used to doing in my past for money. I thoroughly enjoyed it, though. Reading has always been something I find solace in, even since my youngest days back in Manehattan. My best friend from my youth, Ben, had always told me that I should become a scholar when I become old enough.
That thought is what brings me to reminisce about my past. It’s something that plagues me daily and will do so forever. What I’ve done, what I’ve seen, are things that I can’t leave behind. They’re part of who I am, and part of my beliefs about Equestria, and the wide world beyond our land.
I realize that I’ve lost focus, and have simply been flipping through the pages of a book on constellations. I’ve landed on one I recognize, though for reasons I can’t pinpoint at first. It seems familiar, as though it meant something to me a long time ago. And then, I remember the night I saw it…
I’m sitting by the window in my dorm room at the Royal University of Canterlot. I’m making use of my hooves to draw out constellations I see in the night sky. Some are fairly easy to know, while others are ones I’m fairly sure I’m just making up. The door to my room opens, and it’s my roommate, Ben.
He sits atop his mattress, on the top of our bunk bed, and lies down for a moment. We briefly greet each other, and resume our silence. Our dorm room is fairly small; we’re here purely on academic scholarship, so we’re not awarded much beyond what we need. Our shared desk nestles comfortably on the other side of the room, with both of our sides showing a stark difference in usage.
My side is littered with novels of authors long dead, and with notes on all the literature devices I need to remember. I’m majoring in Equestrian literature, so I suppose my side is expected. Ben’s side is far different; a white-board graces the wall, with all sorts of scientific equations and forms plastered across it, written in a fervent hour of thought. Neat stacks of notecards line the back of the desk, all with small problems written and solved upon them, some with notes and reminders scrawled across the backs. The majority of his space is occupied by a large sheet of graph paper and a textbook, with a convoluted drawing I haven’t taken the time to look at in progress on the paper. He’s majoring in theoretical physics, so I can see why he’d need it to be neat.
I take a look at our bunk bed, where the remainders of my personal belongings are laid about. Strewn on the ground surrounding the bottom bunk are my clothes, some saddlebags, my wallet, and a photo of my mother. Only the photo is treated with any decency; it resides on a small nightstand by the bed, in a frame I bought long ago. My mom might be dead, but I’ll never forget her, I swear to myself for the millionth time in years.
I look to our closet, where Ben keeps his things. Our few outfits hang up in the closet, but clear boxes of stuff adorn the floor. In one are books which both Ben and I love passionately; they’re timeless classics, from The Aeneighd to The Count of Manete Cristo and more. In another are the few unique belongings which Ben took with him when he and I left to live on the streets after my mother died. He had lived in an orphanage, so he didn’t have much, but he cared about it deeply. There’s a sculpture of a marvelous green dragon curled around a dusty red marble, which he claims he discovered on the steps of the orphanage one day. There’s a journal, filled to the brim with personal details as a sort of diary, although it certainly doesn’t read that way. An old and tattered dream catcher rests under the journal, which Ben kept above his bed when he was younger. A stuffed toy mouse lies atop the edge of the box, a memory of his innocent youth.
And lastly, a small yet detailed figurine of a temple lies within its own corner of the box. Nothing even comes into contact with it, for fear of it being crushed or damaged. It’s the only thing Ben has to know that his parents exist, because apparently they sculpted it together. He claims it’s a temple that should lie in the faraway frozen north, and that it means something to him beyond his parents even. I’ve never understood it fully, but I’ve learned to let that go.
Ben sits up, and takes a good look around our room. His head swivels to me, and it looks as though he has something important to divulge. “Lev, I’ve made a decision about what I want to do with my life when we graduate next month, and I want you to hear it,” Ben declares. I turn away from the window, and assure him that I’m all ears. He sighs, takes a deep breath, and reveals “I plan on leaving Equestria.” I’m completely shocked.
“But why, Ben? I mean, you’ll have your physics degree from the most prestigious college in Equestria. You could become a really significant physicist. Why do you want to leave all of the sudden?” I ask. He hops off the top bunk, and comes to sit at our desk facing me sideways on his chair. He begins to reply, “Lev, all of my life I’ve felt imprisoned. Not physically, however. When I was in the orphanage, I felt trapped, like no foster parent would ever adopt me. I tried my best to look presentable each time they came around, but I was never adopted. I felt like I’d never leave. When your mom died and you asked for help, I knew I couldn’t let you down. So I left for the streets with you. I have to admit, though, I also did it to escape that orphanage. I had decided that I couldn’t stay there any longer. I couldn’t be trapped forever.”
His face is very serious, and I’m beginning to wonder if that’s his only reason. But then he opens his mouth again, so I listen intently for more. “But it didn’t help. We were struck by poverty and helplessness on the streets we traveled, and I realized that while I wasn’t trapped in a building anymore, I was trapped in a cycle of desperation. The worst part was that you were trapped there with me.” He hangs his head down at this. I wave it off, and excuse him, saying “I don’t care too much about that, Ben. I was with you, and we depended on each other. We wouldn’t be here now if all of that didn’t happen.” I smile gratefully at him, and he returns it. He continues, “Thanks, Lev. Anyway, after around three years of our struggling, I saw a chance at escape. I spotted that flier near a high school talking about the Starswirl the Bearded Scholarship for young students. We took that test, and got into the best college around. I thought finally I’d be free, and for a while I was. My days here have been some of the best in my life.”
Ben gets up again, this time striding over to our closet, and grabs the small temple he believes his parents made. He toys with it in his hooves, while struggling to find the right words for the rest of his speech. He seems to find them, and reveals, “But I never felt truly free. Sure, I was no longer plagued by the harsh times I had grown accustomed to. But I was still controlled by the rules of the university, of society, and of the laws of Equestria. Most importantly, I was bound by chains I had created for myself. I chose my major and my path, and left little leeway for my future. In the past few months, I’ve realized more and more that my duty in life is to free myself from my chains. I think that, only then, will I be able to fulfill the beliefs my cutie mark represents. Once I free myself, I will be able to free others.”
He gestures to his cutie mark, a hammer and sickle encased within a red star. It’s one similar to mine, but with the star added on to his. Our cutie marks represent more of what we are and believe, rather than what we’re good at doing. I seriously doubt being a communist could be considered a talent within any circle.
Ben places the temple on the desk, and pushes it over towards me. While I begin a careless exploration of its surface, he explains, “And that is why I need to leave. I am bound by the fact that I have never known my parents. That temple is the only clue to their existence, so I have to go find it in order to free myself. I’ve pinpointed the location to be within the faraway frozen north, so I’ll begin my search there. Hopefully, I’ll find my parents.” I take a look at Ben, and then go back to reexamining the temple. A worrying thought hits me, and I inquire, “But what if your parents aren’t there? Then what? Or worse, what if you find out they’re…you know…” Ben just stares at me with expectations lined up in his eyes. I manage to squeak out the last word: “…dead?”
I can see Ben’s expression harden, but then return to normal. “Even if I don’t find them there, I might find clues as to their current whereabouts if I go. And if they’re dead, well then at least I’ll have some closure on the issue.” I’m beginning to understand the depth of his devotion to the task, so I accept that he’s going whether I like it or not. I only ask him one more thing, before I let it go. “Ben…will you come back to Equestria? Will I see you again?” He shakes his head and chuckles lightly, while placing a hoof on my shoulder. “Of course. I wouldn’t abandon my only friend, no matter what,” he replies. I smile, and we both go to bed, thoughts of our futures swirling within our heads.
My memories are interrupted by a key turning in the lock to the library. I turn around, and see Twilight Sparkle come in after her day of shopping. It seems as though time’s passed rather quickly while I went on my nostalgic voyage, and dusk has lain upon the sky outside. Spike is lying on Twilight’s back, resting peacefully after a long, and likely boring, day. Twilight’s saddlebags are stuffed to the brim with new items for the library, from curtains to table embroidery.
She tells me, “Oh hi Lev. I’m sorry I’m back so late, but the day ran a little long because Spike kept dragging his feet.” She motions to the dragon on her back, who at this point has begun to quietly snore. I wave it off, with the usual “Oh it’s no trouble at all.” She begins to climb the staircase, and says, “You can go now, Lev, your shift for today is over. Remember to show up at the same time tomorrow.” I nod my head, put back all the books and summaries I’ve written, and leave the library for the night.
I enjoy a brisk walk back to my new abode at Fluttershy’s house, which I haven’t yet seen. I begin to wonder about the shed she mentioned. Why would she offer up something like that to a pony that caused a ruckus in her chicken coop? And then I realize something; when I left the chicken coop, I forgot my saddlebags inside during the incident. I really hope she didn’t find and go through my things. I speed up to a trot, my suspicions growing along the way.
I finally arrive at Fluttershy’s cottage on the edge of the Everfree forest. While during the day the sounds and sights of animals would be all over the place, as night falls the place has gotten a lot quieter. Upon closer inspection, I notice Fluttershy standing by the shed, anticipating my arrival. But it’s not much of a shed; rather, it’s the size of an average apartment room in Manehattan.
I greet Fluttershy, and open the door to the shed. Inside is amazing; it’s a roomy and well-cleaned place, with more than enough space for a pony to live in. There’s a bed in the corner, with my saddlebags lying on the mattress. The shed even has a window in the back. I look over to Fluttershy, with an incredulous look, and ask, “What did you use this shed for before I came around? It’s enormous!” She hides her face behind her mane, and stutters out, “Well, I didn’t always have this many animals, so I used to use this shed to store all the things I needed to take care of all my little friends. But when I started to take more of them in, I realized that all I had in the shed wasn’t enough. When I got more, it couldn’t fit in the shed, so I just moved it inside my cottage.” Fair enough, I suppose.
I gulp, and whisper, “You didn’t, um…look through my things, did you?” Her pupils dilate a little, and she shakes her head, declaring “Oh no, I would never do that without permission. I only moved your bags from the coop to the shed.” I let out a relieved sigh, and thank her again for her hospitality. “Really Fluttershy, if there’s anything I could do to help you out for this, I’m more than willing to comply.” She puts a hoof up to deny me once more, but then stops and thinks about my offer. She replies, “Well, my mailmare forgot to deliver today’s copy of the Equestria inquirer. Maybe you could go into town really quick and pick me up one?” I agree whole-heartedly, and rush into town in the hopes that I’ll get to a news vendor before they close.
I make it just in time, and purchase a copy of the Equestria Inquirer. It’s apparently a local newspaper, so I decide to peruse the headlines. I stop on one that catches my eye on the front page. It reads, Extradition Date Set for Terrorism Trial. I do a double take. Equestria is a land which rarely experiences conflict, let alone something as serious as terrorism. I read on, and find out a pony from another country who was born here is being sent back for a trial in about a week. I keep reading, and discover something absolutely horrifying.
The pony accused of terrorism and crimes against Equestria, is my best friend. Ben is going to be extradited.