“Score's three to three,” uttered a red-haired mare with a smug grin. She dribbled the ball through the dewy field and came to a stop along with the rest of her athletic colleagues. “You thought your team had it made, didn't you, Brisk Run?”
“You just had a stroke of luck, Cherrymane!” exclaimed a breathless, brown-maned stallion in a black-wooled sweater, flanked by several ponies in identical fatigues. “So you've got Grassy Fields on your team and he's caught his second wind! So what?! Give us the ball so we can kick it in already!”
“Heeheehee...” Cheerymane's cheeks turned rosy as she winked at him. “I'm not letting you start the play until you realize just how badly you and all your teammates are gonna lose.”
Brisk Run rolled his eyes. “Oh please, Cherrymane, spare me...”
“I hope your bit bag is full!” She retorted as the rest of her team snickered. “Cuz you're going to be paying for all our drinks tonight!”
“Hah!” Brisk Run cackled. “In your dreams! Me and the other guys have an entire roof to paint tomorrow morning! Kicking your sorry flanks is the only thing that's gonna energize us tomorrow!”
“That's why you're always losing, Brisk Run,” Cherrymane said. She sashayed past him and brushed her tail hairs under his twitching nose. “You put all your time into making Ridgeside beautiful when you could be doing the same to your body!”
“Hey!” Brisk Run blushed beet-red as his own teammates chuckled. “What's wrong with the way I look?”
“I'm just saying that if you grew muscles like you raised barns—”
“Give us the ball, Cherrymane,” Brisk Run growled, sporting a devilish grin. “You can use those smug lips of yours for pouting when you buy us drinks later...”
“Pfft! As if!”
All the while, Rainbow Dash observed the conversation atop the wooden shack sitting beside the field. She stared at the two teams beyond the heads of multiple Emeraldine spectators. Despite Brisk Run's good-natured pokes at Cherrymane, it was obvious to the pegasus that the stallion's team was running short on courage. Cherrymane's ball players were energetic, pumped, and had a spring in their step. Brisk Run's cohorts, however, were positively trembling. It looked pretty obvious who was going to be crushing who in just a few minutes' time, if even that.
This only made Rainbow Dash smile all the more, especially as a wicked idea circulated through her head. Swiftly, she swung open her saddlebag, yanked her blanket out, and fastened it around her neck. Soon, she was sporting a cloak and hood that resembled the “disguise” she had once used to infiltrate a quarry full of minotaurs. Once so thusly garbed, she took one leap and glided towards the middle of the field.
She landed dead-center within the group like a blue comet from the sky. They gasped and jumped back from her, gazing in utter amazement. They couldn't see this stranger's wings, nor her prismatic mane through the blanket's fabric. However, they could definitely see her vicious grin.
“It looks like things are getting tense! Mind if I change the game a bit?”
Cherrymane stammered, “Wh-where did you come from?”
Rainbow Dash pivoted so that her grin was encompassing the mare's trembling vision. “From your dreams. You just haven't had them yet.” She turned slowly in a circle, facing both teams and the spectators beyond. “You guys all seem to be good friends. Why force each other to lose your wallets? Can't winning itself be awesome enough without forcing the loser to go broke?”
“And just what are you suggesting, stranger?” Brisk Run asked with an arched eyebrow.
Rainbow Dash swiveled about once again. “What I'm suggesting, Mister, is that you let me represent your team, and I...” She glanced over her shoulder at Cherrymane. “...will single-hoofedly score the next point and win this game for you.”
“You?” Cherrymane made a face. “By yourself? Pffft! Do you even know what you're up against, lady?”
“Funny, I was about to ask the same of you,” Rainbow Dash said. Several ponies snickered as she paced past the group. “And would you like me to make this more interesting? Ahem.” She cleared her throat and stood up straight under her cloak. “If I lose against your entire team, this stallion's team doesn't pay for your drinks. I do.”
A shocked and confused murmur surged through both halves of the crowd. Cherrymane's jaw dropped. Brisk Run scratched his head and leaned forward.
“Uhm...” He muttered. “And... what if her team somehow loses the match?”
She looked over her shoulder and smiled at him. “I still pay for drinks.”
“Hah!” Cherrymane grinned. “This is all a huge joke! How could one single pony possibly have that many bits on her?”
“Who said anything about bits?” Rainbow Dash exclaimed.
Cherrymane blinked. “But—”
Rainbow Dash turned and smiled at Brisk Run. “I paint the roofs that you and your buddies were going to tomorrow. And if that isn't enough 'payment'...” She turned and looked at Cherrymane's team again. “I'll gladly do half of your menial labor for a week. Now how about that? Nopony here loses!”
Again, the two teams murmured in amazement and disbelief. One pony tilted forward and asked, “I don't get it. Just what would you win?”
“That's just the thing.” Rainbow Dash's teeth glinted in the sunlight. “I'm always winning.”
Several ponies on Brisk Run's side chuckled and nodded their heads with admiring smirks. Brisk Run merely shrugged and smiled in Cherrymane's direction.
Cherrymane tossed her namesake and bluntly said, “Fine. We'll play the game your way. It's your funeral.”
“I bet you'll give a stunning euology,” Rainbow Dash said with a curtsy.
Several ponies chuckled as Cherrymane roughly passed her the ball. “You do realize, that if you're the only one representing Brisk Run's team, then you'll have to kick to yourself.”
“It's what I'd be doing even if I had other ponies helping me,” Rainbow Dash said, already flexing her limbs and licking her lips. “Now get your flanks ready, cuz things are about to be given the hoof.”
“Ahem.” Brisk Run leaned in for one last time. “Are you sure about this, stranger? There's no need to put your neck on the line for our behalf. This was all just fun and games, after all...”
“Brother...” Rainbow Dash hissed his way. “You're about to learn the very definition of 'fun'.” She turned and motioned towards Cherrymane. “Call it in, already!”
“Consider the play called—”
Rainbow Dash kicked the ball, did a somersault, caught it, and dribbled it forward in a blue blur.
“—whoah!” Cherrymane gasped and spun as Rainbow Dash darted past her. She lunged with her forelimbs, only to collapse into a face-full of gasp. She sat up, her ears flicking to the sound of several spectators gasping in awe.
The cloaked pegasus was surging past lines of dimwitted teammates. Cherrymane's posse gasped and fell over themselves in their awkward attempts to steal the ball from the brash stranger. She danced around them as though it was a ballet in fast-forward, and yet she managed to toss in a trick or two every other second. She'd kick the ball several yards, only to dash forward, overcome the sphere's momentum, flip over a defensive line pony, and steal the ball back for herself. Then she'd flip at random occasions, twirling her tail hairs in a brief blur of color to distract her opponents. All in all, she made a very flashy, very brisk, and very succesful charge to the opposing net.
Then a mountain of a muscular pony stood in her way. No amount of tricks and side-jukes and twirls seemed to faze him.
“Lemme guess,” Rainbow Dash panted amidst her sweat as she wrestled to kick the ball past him. “You're the one they call 'Grassy Fields.'”
“You got that right, gorgeous,” he said with a snicker. “Your biggest mistake was thinking you could get past me, never mind the rest of the gang.”
“And your biggest mistake was your name.” She winked, lifted the ball high, and jumped up after it. “Eat it, Grassy!” She spun upside-down and bicycle-kicked the thing in mid-air.
It bounced hard off the top of his skull. “Whoah!” Grassy Fields was shoved muzzle-deep into the soil, spitting up green blades as Rainbow Dash landed behind him.
But she didn't need to dribble the ball anymore. She watched in a victorious lean as the ricocheting sphere flew from Grassy's head and landed neatly in the center of the goal's net.
“That was amazing!”
Grassy Fields was struggling to get up. A blue hoof reached down towards him. He grabbed it and looked up.
“No hard feelings?” Rainbow Dash asked.
He got up to his hooves, a little woozy. “Ugh... No. Ahem. Just a hard head. Heheh...” He smirked at her. “Where did you learn moves like that?”
“Eh...” Rainbow Dash shrugged. “Somewhere between a nap and a snooze.”
“I've got an even better question...” Cherrymane marched limply towards her, flabbergasted. A thick crowd from both the teams and the spectators closed in. “Where in goddess' name do you come from?”
“I've never seen a pony move like that!” Brisk Run stammered. “That agility you have is insane!”
“Well... heheh...” Rainbow's voice cracked as she stirred under the cloak. “I suppose I could let you guys in on a little secret.” In a blur, she tossed the blanket off of her, exposing the Emeraldine populace to her cyan wings in full spread, along with the kaleidoscopic glory of her billowing mane.
A heavy gasp sucked the oxygen from the atmosphere above the field. The middle of the village lit up from the pegasus' exposed colors. Even random bystanders saw the sight and galloped over in awe.
“A winged pony!”
“I thought they were made-up!”
“No wonder she moved so fast!”
“Wow, I never thought I'd see the day...”
“I gotta tell my folks about this!”
Cherrymane was fumbling for words. “It... You... How...?”
“Well, at least I don't feel so bad now,” Grassy Fields said with a shrug. Several of his comrades laughed and patted him on the shoulder.
Rainbow Dash closed her eyes and waved daintily before the crowd. “Now now. I know what you're thinking. And guess what? I'm willing to make it up to you.” She opened her eyes with a cool stare as she flexed her wings before their admiring eyes. “How about I hang out and do enough tasks to buy the drinks for all of you?”
“Hah! Buy us drinks?!”
“We should be the ones buying you drinks! This is spectacular!”
“Are you from beyond the mountains?”
“We don't know anypony from beyond the ridge!”
“What's it like on the other side?”
“Can you really fly?”
“Are you actually a flying pony?”
“Jee, I dunno.” Rainbow Dash's forelimbs crossed and remained so as she effortlessly levitated above the crowd. “You tell me!”
They merely cooed and clapped their hooves in delight.
“We must let us hang out with you!”
“Tell us where you came from!”
“Tell us how to do those really quick moves!”
“Yeah! You just gotta!”
“Hey! Hey! One at a time!” Rainbow Dash hovered in circles above the ponies. “I meant what I said! Let me do some tasks around here for you guys!”
Brisk Run called forth, “And just what do you get in return?”
“Well, I dunno.” She shrugged, then smiled. “You can tell me all about this village of yours.”
“Heh...” Brisk Run grinned. “And why would a strange, flying pony from faraway lands care so much about out tiny little Ridgeside?”
Rainbow Dash scratched her chin and nodded in midair. “That's a start. Could stand to be cooler, but it's a start.” She cleared her throat and looked down at him. “Well, you seem happy enough to live here. So...” She smirked. “Wow me.”