Spike was roused from a particularly pleasant dream by the sound of two ponies having an argument in the main room of Golden Oaks Library. He curled himself up tighter in bed, only for the voices to grow louder. Pressing the pillow over the top of his head, he hoped to drown them out and return to dreamland, but even that wasn't enough to quell the noise. Finally fed up with it, he threw the pillow off and rolled out of bed, making his way to the main room of the library to find out what exactly the issue was. As he sleepily stepped down the staircase, rubbing his eyes, the voices became clear enough for him to make out what was being said.
"Rainbow, you can't be that ignorant about reading!"
"I’m not the one being ignorant! I know what ponies like to read! You're the ignorant one!"
"You can't be serious. Rainbow, with all due respect, I think I know a little bit more about stories than you do, and you are totally wrong."
Spike rounded the corner that led into the main room, and found Twilight Sparkle and Rainbow Dash sitting across the main table, glaring at each other. Rainbow had a copy of Daring Do and the Pearl of Dantneigh open in front of her, while Twilight had the library’s massive copy of Mare and Peace. Both were leaning in towards each other, their voices getting louder with each sentence.
"So you won't even give one of the most influential books in Equestrian history a chance, just because it doesn't have any action?" Twilight asked, pushing her book towards Rainbow.
Rainbow recoiled as if the book was going to bite her. "No, I won't give it a try! That thing is total snooze-ville! Everypony knows that adventure stories are the best kind of books, and I don't think a book with 'peace' in the title is going to have any of that. I'll stick with cool stories, thank you."
Spike walked towards the arguing ponies. "What are you two arguing about? You woke me up fro—"
"Spike!" Twilight interrupted, and she quickly reached over and plucked the baby dragon off the ground, setting him down on the table in between her and Rainbow. "Spike, would you please tell Rainbow Dash what makes a good book?"
Spike blinked, then scratched his head. "Uh, high quality paper and hoofmade binding?"
"No, Spike, what makes a good story?"
Spike nodded. "Oohhhhhh, a story! Well, you're gonna need some words in there. That's a given. Probably a lot of them, actually. Nouns, verbs, adjectives, the works. Oh, and you'll need characters too! Those are important. Let's see, you'll probably want a location in there as well, those are always helpful. This sounding about right, Twi?"
Twilight's glare was enough to tell Spike that he was still way off course. She sighed and shook her head.
"No, Spike. Prose. Detail. Setting. The most important part of any story is creating a world for the reader to be drawn into. Because without that, there's no way to keep the reader interested," Twilight said, before shooting her glare to the side at Rainbow Dash. "Everypony knows that."
"Oh, I guess that makes sense," Spike responded, but as he started to open his mouth again, Rainbow Dash pounded one of her hooves on the table.
"No it doesn't!" She flew up into the air and hovered right in front of the dragon. "Spike, you know what makes a good story? Action! Adventure! Suspense! What would you rather see, Spike, a boring ol' story where ponies talk endlessly, or a story with a kick-flank mine cart chase scene?"
Spike's eyes widened. "That second one!"
Rainbow Dash nodded in approval and stuck her tongue out at the unicorn across the table, but Twilight Sparkle just shook her head.
"That's not fair, Rainbow! Now Spike, would you rather see two ponies running around in circles trying to grab each other with no point? Or would you rather have a scene where a pony explores the very essence of their soul, discovering who they are?"
Spike rubbed his chin. "Well, when you put it that way..." Before he could continue, Rainbow Dash leapt forward.
"How is that any more fair than what I said? Spike, this isn't hard! Action or boredom?"
Twilight jumped forward too. "Elegance or pointlessness?"
"Adventure or snoozing?"
"Intelligent or dimensionless?"
Spike held his claws out. "Whoa whoa whoa, I don't think I want any part of this," he said, backing off and turning around to leave. Twilight and Rainbow craned their necks back to each other.
"Rainbow, imagine if all the backstory of Daring Do was gone," Twilight said. "Imagine if she wasn't an archaeologist, she wasn't trying to find artifacts to put them in a museum for all the world to see. Imagine if on page one, she's suddenly in the temple, and just spends the whole book running from traps. What would the book be like then?"
"It'd be awesome!" Rainbow replied. "Now what if that boring book you were telling me about earlier wasn't just a big downer of ponies talking? What if it had a fight scene, or a stunt jump or two?"
"It's called Anpony and Cleopatrot, and it'd be awful!"
"No, it'd be awesome too!" Rainbow folded her front hooves and turned away. "Twilight, those stories are boring. Heck, I could write a story more exciting than those!"
There was a pause, and Twilight's face turned from frustration into a sly smile. "Oh, really? Care to prove it?"
Rainbow turned back. "What?"
"You said you think you could write a more exciting story? Well, do it. Write an action story, with all the pointless adventure you want. I'll take a look at it, and I'll let you know how it stands up to those 'snooze-fest' stories you so despise."
Rainbow pondered for a moment, then shook her head. "No way."
"What? Why not?"
"Come on, Twilight. All you're gonna do is look at the story and tell me it's bad because it's just action!"
Twilight sighed. She had a feeling that Rainbow was going to be averse to writing anything. "Well then, do you have a better suggestion?"
Rainbow scratched her chin for a moment, before a mischievous glint appeared in her eyes. She thrust her hoof into Twilight's face.
"You write a story too! Write something with all the flowery language and insomnia curing stories that you love. Let's have a little competition, and we'll see whose story turns out better!"
Twilight couldn't help but laugh. "What? Rainbow, I don't want to be rude here, but I've been reading my whole life! Not to mention that my mom—" She bit her lip and stopped herself from talking, then shook her head. "N-nevermind. Not to sound braggy, but do you really think you can write a story more compelling than me?"
"Buck yeah! You don't know the first thing about action!"
Twilight smirked. "Alright then, it's a deal. Now, the proper way to go about this would be if we mutually agreed upon a subject matter." She turned and started browsing through one of the many shelves that lined the walls.
"Spy thriller!" Rainbow enthusiastically replied, and Twilight turned around to face her.
"Spy thriller? Doesn't that strike you as being a little, well, skewed towards your style? What about something like 'coming of age', that—" Twilight began to say, but was interrupted by loud, exaggerated snores from Rainbow Dash. Twilight sighed, realizing that no suggestion from her was going to leave both her and Rainbow happy about the selection. After pondering for a few moments, she had a brainstorm, and she turned to the staircase.
From upstairs, a loud groan was heard. "Twiliiiiiiight, I was just falling back asleep!"
"Spike, come down here please. Bring some paper, a quill, and your hat."
A few minutes later, Twilight floated the hat in front of her, with Rainbow Dash carefully looking through the scraps of paper that had been strewn around the desk.
"Rainbow, are you okay with these choices?"
Rainbow paused, then nodded her head.
"Great!" Twilight said, lifting all the slips up into the air and depositing them into the hat. "Now then, Spike, will you do the honors?"
There was a long pause, and Twilight looked over at her assistant. Spike had curled up into a ball on the ground, his eyes shut as he happily snored.
Spike's eyes fluttered open. "Hnnnn—whaa?"
"Have you been paying attention for the last few minutes? Do you even know what we're doing here?"
Spike lazily stared at Twilight, then over at the hat that was brimming with slips of paper. "Uh, you've discovered a way to make hats more comfortable?" he asked, before laying his head back down on the ground. Twilight grumbled to herself as her horn glowed, and Spike floated into the air and hung above the hat, upside down.
"Spike, pay attention! You're the impartial third party here. We've agreed on a list of possible subjects. Now, all you have to do is simply reach into the hat and pull one out, and that will be our prompt for the story."
The dragon, still half asleep, dangled his arm down and reached into the hat, pulling out a single slip of paper before dropping it on the table and letting his arm droop, trying desperately to fall back asleep. As Twilight put him down, Rainbow Dash picked up the piece of paper and raised a single eyebrow when she saw the word on it. Twilight approached her, trying to see the paper.
"So, what is the prompt? 'Finding yourself?’ 'Soliloquy?’ Please tell me it's 'soliloquy!'"
Rainbow was just smiling, and Twilight finally leaned her head over the shoulder of the pegasus.
After a pause, Rainbow Dash chuckled. "You want to pick a new one? I think I might have the advantage here."
Twilight stepped back, scoffing. "Excuse me?"
"Come on, Twi. I think I have a little more experience with romance then you do," Rainbow responded, her voice cracking with more laughter. "You don't strike me as the romantic type."
"And what's that supposed to mean? I can write a romance story just as well as anypony, and I'll prove it to you!" Twilight yelled, getting in the face of the pegasus. "Let's give it one week. Meet me right back here next Saturday with your story, and we'll find out just who the better writer is."
"Fine! And FYI, it's going to be me!" Rainbow responded.
"We'll just see about that!" Twilight retorted.
The two friends remained nose-to-nose for a few moments, sharing a tense stare before Rainbow slowly backed out the door to the library. As soon as she was out of sight, Twilight raced to one side of the room and started rummaging through a drawer, pulling out a stack of parchment and a quill. As she sat down at the table in the center of the room, she turned to look for her assistant. She finally located Spike, crawling up the stairs near the top and slowly reaching out for his bed.
The dragon's claw froze in midair.
"Spike, I have some brainstorming to do. Would you please run downtown and pick me up fifty rolls of parchment, ten quills, and five extra bottles of ink? That should be enough to get a good start."
Spike's claw slowly lowered to the ground, and his head hung in sadness.
"Goodbye, nap time. I will miss you."
For the next couple of days, there was an uneasy feeling in Ponyville's atmosphere that nopony could quite put their hoof on. Several ponies cited the change at Golden Oaks Library at the center of town, where the head librarian was suddenly missing in action and her baby assistant was put in charge. While some passed that off as a standard anomaly for Twilight Sparkle, others disagreed. Some ponies noted that when the library appeared empty, there was often the furious scratching sound of quill on parchment, sometimes accompanied by a frustrated groan. Other ponies argued that the unsettling nature of the library was caused by the pile of crumpled paper that continued to grow outside the back window of the library.
Meanwhile, complaints had started to pour in to the weather department of Ponyville, which took a lot of the blame for the strange feeling in town. Ponyville had been much cloudier than usual with no explanation given at all. The clouds would build up and block out the sun for hours before some fed up citizen would fly up and deal with the problem themselves. Many ponies raised concern that the pony in charge of weather control for the town was slacking off, but visitors to Rainbow Dash's cloud home returned reporting no answer despite repeated knocks. Even Rainbow's favorite napping cloud remained empty for days, leading many to speculate that she was off on some kind of adventure. However, many ponies also reported seeing her in town for the briefest of moments, usually just grabbing food or other supplies before taking off towards her home again.
As the odd behavior continued into its fourth day, the uneasiness only continued to grow. Concerned, four ponies close to the two of them gathered at Sugarcube Corner to discuss their friends' well being.
"Alls I'm sayin' is that somethin' must be up," Applejack said, looking at each of the assembled ponies at the table. "I ain't never seen either of them actin' like this before. We just gotta find out what's goin' on here."
"Well it strikes me as just a little tiff between friends, that's all," Rarity replied, gingerly sipping a cup of tea. "Unless they ask, I think we needn’t get involved. Since they both live here in Ponyville, they probably simply don't want to run into each other."
"Oh, you think they're fighting?" Fluttershy's voice dropped as she said the final word, and her head fell a bit. "I hope not."
"Fluttershy, dear, it's perfectly normal for friends to fight,” Rarity said, nodding at Fluttershy. “Don't you remember the little issue that you had with Pinkie and myself several weeks back?"
Fluttershy's ears fell and she averted her gaze from Rarity. "I don't like thinking about that."
Rarity nodded. "The point is, I think it's best if we simply let them work out the issues that they are having. If they come to us for help, then we should intervene, but other than that, this has all the markings of nothing more than a little friendly argument. The best thing to do—"
Pinkie Pie interrupted Rarity by placing both her hooves on the table and excitedly leaning forward, her voice piercing the air. "Well I think there's nothing to worry about! There's no need to make a mountain out of a mole!"
"Molehill," Fluttershy quietly corrected.
"Moles don't live on hills, silly! They live in the ground!" Pinkie responded. "Anyway, I bet Dashie and Twily are just planning something super duper amazing for us! Like a party!"
Applejack raised an eyebrow. "A party?"
"Yeah! We're only four days away from the five month anniversary of the day that the 'Welcome to Ponyville' sign got fixed, so what better way to celebrate then with a big party for everypony in Ponyville?" Just talking about parties was getting Pinkie more excited than usual, her voice loud enough to be heard out in the streets. "I bet the two of them are planning out some kind of massive party celebration! With Princess Celestia, and the Wonderbolts, and a big magic-assisted Sonic Rainboom at the end that sends confetti flying for miles and miles! Can you imagine it? It'll be the… the”—Pinkie Pie's eyes widened as her voice dropped to a whisper—"best party ever."
"Pinkie? Ya'll okay?"
Pinkie slowly sat down at the table staring straight ahead. After a few moments, she shook her head. "They're going for my spot as best party pony. I can't let that happen."
Applejack blinked in confusion. "Uhhhhh, Pinkie?"
"I have to stop them. I'll never let them make me second best. I have to stop them."
As Pinkie continued muttering to herself, the door to Sugarcube Corner opened, and Twilight Sparkle trotted in. As soon as she saw the assembled ponies, she smiled, not breaking her stride.
"Oh, hello girls! Nice to see you," she said as she trotted up to the counter and rang the bell. Mrs. Cake quickly walked through the back door and smiled.
"Hello again, Twilight! What can I get for you?"
"Hi, Mrs. Cake. Can I get a quadruple shot latte with whipped cream and chocolate sprinkles?"
Mrs. Cake paused. "Erm, Twilight, I do appreciate the business, but four in one day? Isn't that a bit excessive?"
"Nonsense, I'm well below the limit for dangerous levels of caffeine! I just need another quick boost, that's all!"
As Mrs. Cake sighed, the door to Sugarcube Corner opened again, and this time Rainbow Dash stepped through. She turned to say hello to her friends, but as soon as her stare met Twilight’s, her eyes narrowed. They frowned at each other for a few tense seconds before Dash walked up to the counter next to Twilight.
"Mrs. Cake, whatever Twilight ordered, gimme something with twice as much energy."
"Twice as much energy? Oh dear, uh, well, I could give you a glass full of sugar, I suppose!"
Mrs. Cake chuckled at her own joke for a moment before looking back at Rainbow, who responded with an enthusiastic nod.
"Perfect! Lemme get that to go."
Mrs. Cake stared at Rainbow for a few seconds before just shrugging and walking off. As Twilight and Rainbow glared at each other, Applejack decided she’d had enough.
"Alright, just what in the hay is goin' on between ya'll? I ain't never seen you two actin' like this before."
Twilight looked over at Applejack and the rest of the ponies gathered at the table, and put on a self-sure smirk.
"Oh, Rainbow and I are just having a little competition to see which writing style is better."
Rainbow suddenly jumped in front of her. "And by that, she means we're gonna find out who’s the better writer!"
The ponies at the table blinked, staring at Rainbow and Twilight as they continued to glare at each other. Finally, Applejack spoke up.
"That's what all this is about? Some silly competition?" AJ sighed and shook her head. "Twi, didn't ya’ll learn anything from the Runnin' of the Leaves? Come ta think of it, wasn't it you who told us not to let competitions get in the way of friendship?"
"Well, this is different," Twilight responded.
"How? How in the name of oats 'n apples is this situation any different from that one?"
Twilight paused, rubbing her chin for a few moments, before smiling. "That was just running. But this is reading! Reading is much more important than something like running."
As Applejack tried to comprehend what Twilight had told her, Rarity finally stood up and stepped in between Twilight and Rainbow. "Darling, that aside, don't you two think that Twilight has an unfair advantage in this little competition? I mean, no offense Rainbow, but you're still new to the world of reading."
Rainbow rolled her eyes and scoffed, but Rarity continued. "And meanwhile, Twilight is the resident librarian of Ponyville, and has been reading pretty much all her life. Plus, let’s not forget that her mother—"
As soon as the word "mother" was uttered, Twilight gasped, rushing over and jamming her hoof over Rarity's mouth. As Rarity struggled, Twilight leaned close to her.
"Shhhhhh! Rarity, Rainbow Dash doesn't know!"
Rarity shoved Twilight's hoof out of her mouth and stared at her. "What? You haven't told her? Why on earth not?"
"I just haven't found the right time is all. It's going to be awkward, I don't know what she'll think of me, I just—" Twilight started to explain, but suddenly found the pegasus hovering directly next to her, carefully listening in.
"Tell me what?"
Twilight jumped back in surprise, nervously laughing. "Hahaha, nothing! Nothing at all, Rainbow."
Rainbow narrowed her eyes, then just scoffed. "If you're trying to get help from them, don't bother. You can get all the ponies in Equestria to help you. Your story is still gonna make me want to nap, while mine is going to be the most exciting thing ever written!"
Twilight stepped forward, getting right in Rainbow’s face. "Excitement does not equal a great story!"
"Yes it does!"
"No it doesn't!"
"Yes it does!"
"No it doesn't!"
The argument between Twilight and Rainbow was cut off by the faintest of squeaks from the assembled ponies. Fluttershy's chin rested on the table, her head shivering as she averted her eyes from her two arguing friends.
"Please don't fight. Please just stay friends, you two."
Twilight turned to Fluttershy. "Fluttershy, we are still friends,” she said, then turned back to look at Dash. “Right?"
Rainbow nodded her head. "Yeah, we're still friends. This isn't about friendship."
Fluttershy's ears perked up. "Oh, really? That's so good to—"
"This is about me being the better writer! And it's about me proving that action is the better story!" Rainbow interrupted, proudly hovering in the air with a smile on her face. Twilight immediately turned right back to Rainbow, her horn glowing as the pegasus was suddenly yanked down by the magic, until she was face-to-face with the unicorn again.
"No! Elegance and background make for the better story!"
Fluttershy slowly raised a hoof towards the two arguing ponies. "Um, are you sure you two are still friends?"
"YES!" both shouted in unison, causing Fluttershy to squeak and duck her head underneath the table. As she shivered, Mrs. Cake returned to the front counter, carefully balancing a tray on her head with two cups on it.
"Alright, girls, one quadruple shot latte with whipped cream and chocolate sprinkles, and one, uh, large cup of sugar," she said, sliding the tray onto the table. Twilight Sparkle and Rainbow Dash took their respective cups and, still glaring at each other, slowly made their way out of Sugarcube Corner. They shared one last glance before Rainbow took off towards her home and Twilight galloped in the direction of Golden Oaks Library. As both quickly disappeared from sight, Applejack sighed, shaking her head before sitting back down at the table.
"Ya know what? I think we all know that this is endin' with a letter to Celestia. And I’m thinkin' we should all jus' sit this one out and let ‘em work out this lil' issue themselves," she said, leaning back.
Rarity nodded in agreement as Fluttershy gently stuck her head out from under the table and gave a slight nod as well.
"Great. Pinkie, you agree?" Applejack waited, but surprisingly, not a peep was heard from the pink pony. "Pinkie?"
She finally turned to look at Pinkie Pie, who was huddled down over the table. She was frantically scribbling something on a napkin, and muttering to herself.
"Take my spot as number one party pony will they? I'll show them. I can probably torch Twilight's notes if I can incapacitate Spike and Owlowiscious…"
Rarity sighed. "Mrs. Cake, can we possibly get another cherry milkshake? I believe Pinkie's blood sugar is a tad low."
When Saturday finally rolled around, most of Ponyville was stunned to see Rainbow Dash happily flying through the sky first thing in the morning. Everypony knew that she valued her sleep, especially on the weekends, so to be up that early on a Saturday had many ponies convinced that something was wrong and that the Elements of Harmony themselves had been called back into duty. Even Rainbow was surprised at all the stares she was getting, but she ignored them as she landed in downtown Ponyville and trotted to the entrance of Golden Oaks Library. After only knocking once, the door flung open, revealing Twilight Sparkle with a confident smile. The two ponies stared at each other competitively as Rainbow entered the library and sat down across the desk from Twilight. As they continued staring, Spike jumped in between them.
"Alright, you two! You both know the rules for this write-off, which is good because I don't. Rainbow Dash, since you issued the challenge, please present your story first."
Rainbow Dash smugly nodded and reached into her saddle bag, pulling out a stack of papers and dropping it down in front of the unicorn. Twilight looked it over in surprise.
"Wow, I'm impressed. You wrote all this in the past week?"
"Heck yeah I did! When I compete, I go all out,” Rainbow responded. "Now let's quit talking and you get to reading! I'm eager to win."
Twilight rolled her eyes as she looked at the papers in front of her. “’A Daring Dash?’ Alright, let's see what this is all about," she said, flipping to the first page and immediately grimacing. "Oh dear. Rainbow, your hoofwriting leaves a little to be desired."
"Hey, I'm not shelling out the money for a typewriter. Those things are expensive."
Twilight sighed, then began reading.
Rainbow Dash entered the room and quickly saw—
Twilight immediately stopped reading. "Wait. Rainbow, did you put yourself in this story?!"
Rainbow smiled and nodded. "Well yeah! What's that old phrase, 'write what you know?’ Well, the thing I know best is how awesome I am, so why not write about myself?”
Twilight shook her head, laughing. "Oh brother."
Rainbow Dash entered the room and quickly saw her. Across the room, sitting behind a desk, she sat. Starlight Shimmer was carefully planning out—
Once again, Twilight stopped reading, but now her eyes were wide. "Starlight Shimmer?"
Rainbow nodded. "Yup."
"As in, the author of the Daring Do series? That Starlight Shimmer?!"
A few beads of sweat formed on Twilight's brow as she cautiously looked back down at the story and continued.
Across the room, sitting behind a desk, she sat. Starlight Shimmer was carefully planning out the next Daring Do novel, but the second she looked up and saw Rainbow Dash, her thoughts on her awesome books went away. Instead, all she could focus on was the fit, trim, and beautiful pegasus that stood before her. Rainbow Dash was just as captivated, finally meeting the pony who she respected so much and who had written such an awesome story. As they looked at each other, they both realized that simply being fan and celebrity wasn't enough for them, they wanted more. So much more.
They stared deep into each other's eyes before the tension finally reached a breaking point. The bolder of the two, Rainbow Dash, leapt forward and planted her lips on Shimmer's mouth. Shimmer, surprised at first, quickly embraced the moment, returning the kiss and wrapping her forelegs around the back of Rainbow's neck. The moment lasted what felt like an eternity, both lost in the throes of passion as the kiss became more and more heated, both ponies wanting to send the other into pure ecstasy. After several minutes, they broke the kiss and stared longingly at each other, a silent realization coming between them; they both wanted the same thing. With a smile on her face, Rainbow slowly lowered her body and—
Twilight slammed the story back down on the table. "Rainbow, I am not reading this!"
Rainbow raised an eyebrow. "What? Why the heck not?"
Without responding, Twilight started flipping through the story. Each page she landed on only shocked her more, her eyes widening more and more with every turn. "Dear Celestia, this story is just one giant sex scene! There's not even dialogue, or any semblance of a plot!"
With a big smile on her face, Rainbow nodded. "Yeah! Action packed, exciting, guaranteed to hook a reader! Great, ain't it? And for the record, there's plenty of plot. Check out page twenty-seven."
Twilight flipped to the page and read a few sentences before recoiling and tossing the story back onto the table. "Not that kind of plot! Rainbow, this isn't a romance story! There is no way I'm going to continue reading this!"
Rainbow shook her head. "Oh, don't be a prude. Just because the story is a little saucy, you get all flustered."
"This story is not 'a little saucy,’ it's downright pornographic! The fact that you wrote a sex story about yourself is creepy enough. But, well, I'm not going to read something like this about Starlight Shimmer!"
Rainbow cocked her head. "What? Why?"
Twilight bit her lip awkwardly and averted her gaze from Rainbow. "I have my reasons."
"What? What on earth do you have against the pony who wrote the greatest series in Equestrian history? Starlight Shimmer is awesome! She's brilliant, she's creative, she's cool, she's—"
"She's my mother!"
Rainbow immediately stopped talking and stared at Twilight. Twilight was sweating nervously, and finally let out a long sigh.
"Look, I'm sorry I haven't told you this sooner, but Starlight Shimmer is my mother, Rainbow. Where did you think my love of reading first came from? It's really not hard to fall in love with books when your mother is writing some of the most popular adventure stories in all of Equestria. Heck, the popularity is why we were able to live in Canterlot and how they could pay for me to go to Celestia's School for Gifted Unicorns." Twilight averted her gaze and pawed at the ground nervously. "I'm really sorry I didn't tell you until now. I was going to tell you right after you finished the first book, but when you became such a huge fan of the series, it just felt awkward if you knew, so I kept—"
Rainbow raised a hoof to interrupt. "That’s the issue here? Twilight, I already knew."
Twilight raised her head immediately. "You did?"
Rainbow nodded, leaning back and resting her head on her hooves. "Yeah. I mean, there's a big picture of her in the jacket of the books. She looks just like you, too. Not to mention that she makes it a point to thank 'my beloved children: Twilight and Shining,’ at the start of each book; it wasn't exactly hard to figure out. Didn't you see how much I was talking with her at the wedding? I kinda thought you knew that I knew."
As Rainbow shrugged, Twilight took in a deep breath and let out a long sigh of relief. "I guess I never thought of that. That's a huuuuuge load off my mind, I was worried about what would happen if you found out. I should have given you more credit. I guess I was all nervous about nothing. And when I was reading this, I just sorta..."
Twilight trailed off as she looked back down at the story. Her eyes widened and she started involuntarily backing away from the story in horror, as Rainbow stared at her.
Rainbow jumped back in surprise. "What?!?"
"Rainbow, you knew? And you still wrote this?!"
"Uh, yeah. What's the problem?"
Twilight pounded her hooves on the table. "The problem? Rainbow, you wrote a story where you have sex with my mom! Doesn't that strike you as really, really, really creepy?"
"What? Creepy? No way! It's just a story, Twi. I don't actually want to do any of that stuff," Rainbow said, shuddering.
"But you wrote about it anyway? Rainbow, I don't even have words for how horrifying that is," Twilight said, staring at the story in front of her. She shoved it back across the table, then turned away. "I'm not reading this. I can't read this. And I think I need to take a shower."
Rainbow rolled her eyes. "You are such a prude, Twi."
After Twilight took a few moments to get the horrifying mental images out of her head and had composed herself again, she managed to smile. “Putting that unpleasantness aside, it is your turn to now read a real story.”
Twilight's horn glowed for several seconds. A monstrous stack of paper slowly floated in from upstairs, causing Rainbow Dash to go wide-eyed in shock. The papers levitated down to the table and dropped in front of Rainbow with a loud thud, tilting the entire table in their direction. Rainbow slowly moved her head out of the way of the papers and stared at them.
"You’re kidding. You wrote all this in a week?"
Twilight excitedly nodded. "Yup! 735 pages. I wanted to break a thousand, but I figured for a competition like this, I should keep it simple."
"Simple. Yeah," Rainbow said, hovering over the massive stack of pages and examining them before taking the top sheet off the stack and staring at it. "'The Vivacity of a Bygone Spring Enchantment'? What does that even mean?"
"Took me forever to come up with the perfect title. Well go ahead, read it. I think you'll find the attention to detail I put in to be quite admirable."
Cautiously nodding, Rainbow picked up the first page and began to read.
Celestia's midday sun was shining brightly over the town of Newburrow. It was a quaint old town, barely a population of five hundred, but over the years, it had sustained and thrived despite its small stature, populated mainly by strong earth ponies, wise unicorns, and pegasi.
“What, no descriptions for pegasi?”
Twilight shrugged. “I couldn’t think of a really positive one.”
Rainbow grunted and continued reading.
Having been founded shortly after the beginning of the reigns of Celestia and Luna, Newburrow was initially known for its hearty bounty of corn from the fields that surrounded it. A disaster had hit the town five hundred years ago when an infestation of canterpillars threatened to destroy the crop, but thankfully the ponies of the town had banded together to fight off the menace. Things weren't perfect after that, though. Three hundred years later, the canterpillars returned, more numerous than ever. It had seemed as if the crop would be all but wiped out, but one smart pony by the name of Clover discovered their greatest weakness: the bristles of the saddleguaro cactus. Mixing a potent potion out of them, the ponies of Newburrow were able to drive away the canterpillars once and for all.
The town had also been a haven for injured ponies during the Griffon Wars. After the poor militaristic decisions of the battle-hungry Commander Hurricane left hundreds of ponies injured and without homes, Newburrow became a safe place of healing for all the ponies that he had shortsightedly sent into most assured danger—
Rainbow glared up at Twilight again. “What is with the knock at Commander Hurricane? Why do you keep picking on pegasi?”
Twilight shrugged again. “Hey, my story is historically accurate. It’s not my fault Commander Hurricane was a ruthless, shortsighted official.”
Rainbow grumbled again and tossed the sheet away, ignoring the second half of the page and skipping to the top of the next.
Fifty years ago, during the Industrial Uprising of Western Equestria, Newburrow had undergone a major change… no longer were ponies hauling corn manually back and forth, but rather an automated system had been implemented in order to not only streamline the system, but to move Newburrow into the future. Some ponies had grumbled over Newburrow "moving away from tradition"… but in the end, all the ponies knew that it was the right decision to make. By carefully implementing the ponies who worked with the corn into the automated system, they could ensure that no jobs would be lost while still keeping Newburrow as the center of corn production that it had been known for.
The town itself was full of different shops, each one run by ponies who had lived in the town for years. The landmark building in town was Tender Trot's General Store… a building that had withstood the test of time, having been in Newburrow for nearly fifteen hundred years… and yet it still remained as beautiful and pristine as ever. It was a small store, just selling a little bit of food and necessities for everyday life, but its importance to Newburrow could never be denied. During the uprising of Nightmare Moon, the owner distributed all of the non-perishable food in the store to the ponies in town in order for them to stave off the hunger caused by the eternal night, while it's basement had served as a shelter during the Great Dust Storms, protecting ponies from the harsh—
Rainbow Dash stopped reading. "Twi, I thought we agreed that the subject of the story would be 'romance'."
"We did. Why?"
"So far it's just a boring history lesson on some boring town."
Twilight was aghast. "Well I had to set the scene! I wasn't going to write a story without creating a world for the characters to live in!"
"Well when does the setting end, and the main characters actually show up?"
"Page twenty-five. Daisy Petal makes her first appearance."
Rainbow Dash's jaw dropped, and she flipped through pages. They all contained intricately detailed information on the town of Newburrow, histories of every building and pony that was in them, and the backstory of every pony in town. She finally reached page twenty-five and resumed her reading.
The door to the small cottage opened and Daisy Petal exited, trotting off to the garden in the center of town to do some reading. Daisy was a calm and collected pony, possibly influenced by having spent her whole life in the laid back environment of Newburrow. Her story was a common one for Newburrow—her parents had moved to town at a young age shortly after getting married, and she was born not long after that. She was the middle child in a family of three, and despite two unicorn parents and two unicorn siblings… she had been born an earth pony. When she had begun attending school at the age of three and a half, she got a few laughs from mean spirited ponies about the lack of a horn, but she always kept her chin up and knew that she could make her own magic in her own special way. It was an attitude that would lead to her discovering her love of singing when she turned five, after being assigned a musical assignment by her teacher, Mrs. Silver Glitter. Daisy had—
Rainbow glanced up at Twilight. "So, uh, when do the main two characters actually meet? When does the actual romance part of this romance story start?"
Twi racked her brain for a second. "Daisy Petal and Golden Shine first meet on page 106, if I recall correctly. Their first actual date happens on 204. No, wait, 205."
Rainbow shook her head and put the papers down. "Twilight there is no way I am reading this whole thing. It's already putting me to sleep."
"Rainbow, don't be close-minded. It's not as sudden as your story, because I have gone for a completely realistic portrayal of a romantic relationship beginning."
"Nopony wants to read that!"
"Of course they do! With proper pacing, detailed backstories, and an entire world created, 'The Vivacity of a Bygone Spring Enchantment’ is a story that will draw the readers in guaranteed! Much better than your sudden, no-explanation-given portrayal of your idea of romance."
"Whatever. I'm done with this story.”
Twilight sighed. "Oh, fine. I guess it's not important anyway," she said, then turned to Spike, who had been sitting and watching the contest unfold. "Spike, you know what to do."
"Yes I do!" Spike yelled, jumping up excitedly. After a few seconds, his smiling face turned to one of confusion. "Wait, no I don't."
"Just read both stories, and then come back to us with the winner of the write-off."
Spike gasped and waved his hands forward, backing up. "Oh no, I'm not reading either of those."
Both ponies turned to him in surprise. "What? Spike, you're the impartial judge here!" Twilight yelled.
"No way! I quit as judge as soon as the subject was picked. No way am I reading any of that girly kissy junk. Sorry, I'm out," he said, backing up. Twilight tried to call his name, but Spike had run up the stairs of the library faster than she had ever seen him move before, and he was out of sight within seconds. She let out a frustrated grunt and turned back to Rainbow.
Rainbow tapped her hoof on the table in frustration. "We gotta find another judge, and soon."
"Well, let's stick with the subject. Do we know any ponies who might have an interest in reading romantic stories?"
A few hours later, Rainbow Dash and Twilight sat across from one another at Carousel Boutique. They had been waiting for quite a while, just passing the time and occasionally exchanging glares at each other. Finally, the back door to the boutique opened, and Rarity stepped through. She had a pair of reading glasses perched on the edge of her nose, and both stories were levitating behind her. She sat down at the other end of the table, carefully placing the stories in front of their respective authors, then cleared her throat.
"Before we begin, I have a few things to say. First of all, while Applejack did not want the rest of us getting involved in this little spat between you two, I can assure you that there is no better expert on all things in the romantic medium than moi. You two have come to the right pony, and I truly appreciate the compliment that you would choose me to judge your stories."
Rainbow Dash and Twilight nodded, and Rarity smiled.
"There is something more important than that, however. You are two of my closest friends, and I love you both dearly. No matter what happens in this contest, no matter the quality of your stories, I want you to know that our friendship will always win out. So please bear in mind that I am not judging you as ponies, nor am I judging the contents of your character. I am merely here to give my opinion on your abilities as romantic authors."
Both ponies nodded in understanding, and Rarity turned to the pegasus.
"Now then. Rainbow Dash, your story was positively awful."
Twilight snickered as Dash went wide-eyed. "What!?"
"Let's set aside the fact that you appear to be harboring some, erm, 'interesting' feelings for Twilight's mother. The prompt was romance, but I saw absolutely none of it in your story. By simply jumping into the intimacy without giving us any reason for it, it becomes nigh on impossible to connect with the story, or characters, in any way. Why should I care about Rainbow Dash and Starlight Shimmer? Why is what they are doing meaningful? There's no backstory, there is no reasoning, and for that, the entire story suffers. It's more of a spectacle than a story itself, something that you look at in shock, then forget about five minutes later. In addition, you need to work on your grammar and spelling."
"I am the judge, Rainbow, and you will accept my opinion of your story. I'm sorry, but it's terrible."
Rainbow bonked her forehead to the table in frustrated shame as Twilight laughed. "See, Dash? I told you."
"Ah, shuddup," Rainbow mumbled. As she did, Rarity turned to Twilight.
Twilight's face lit up and she turned to Rarity. "Yes? Yes?"
"Your story was also positively awful."
Now it was Rainbow's turn to burst out laughing as Twilight's jaw dropped. "What?!"
"Twilight, darling, I have read many a romantic story in my life, and I can safely say that I have never read one where so little happened. It barely even qualifies as a romance story. Rather, it is a long, boring, frustratingly detailed account of absolutely everything that happens in the lives of these two ponies, while taking long breaks to go off on tangents. For example, there is a scene where Daisy Petal presents Golden Shine with a rose, and the story suddenly breaks away into a three page discussion about the history of roses in Equestria, and any emotion we feel for the characters is completely lost. It is a story that goes absolutely nowhere for page after page after tedious page."
"But I went for a realistic portrayal of romance!"
"Yes, you did, and it completely fell flat because when I read a romance story, ‘completely realistic’ just isn't interesting. I want at least some semblance of thrills and excitement, and this story contains absolutely none of it," Rarity said, finally removing her reading glasses. "Also, you use ellipses far too often."
Twilight laid her head down on the table. There was a long pause as they took Rarity's words in, before Twilight spoke up again.
"So, who won?"
Rarity was utterly perplexed by the question. "Come again?"
Rainbow Dash looked up. "Yeah, who won? That's the point of this whole thing."
"Won? You expect me to pick a winner from these two awful stories? I'm sorry, but I'm not going to do that. Both stories get a zero out of ten from me, and I am forced to declare this a no-contest due to complete lack of quality."
Rainbow and Twilight stared at Rarity in shock, then looked down at their stories.
"And quite frankly, I was expecting better from you two. After this silly little fight you two had been having, I was hoping you would have put your best hooves forward with this competition, and yet you come to me with these poor excuses for stories. I'm sorry, girls, but I'm going to recommend that you leave romance writing to the experts."
Twilight and Rainbow dejectedly picked their stories up and walked out of Carousel Boutique, heading back in the direction of Golden Oaks Library. As they did, Rarity shook her head and sighed, then turned around to start work again on the scarf she had been designing before her friends had interrupted her.
"Can you believe it, Opal?" Rarity said to her cat, who was half asleep, curled up on the floor. "The two of them rack their brains for a week straight, and they can't even come up with a halfway decent romance story. It really isn't that hard. Likable characters, a steady pace, a bit of sauciness to keep the reader interested, it can't be too difficult. Any pony even marginally interested in the romance genre should be able to do it."
Rarity continued to work on the scarf, but as she was sewing a pattern on it, she began moving a bit slower as she thought about the stories. She eventually came to a complete stop, staring out the window again. After a brief pause, she placed her tools to the side, then sat down at her desk. Her horn glowed and a typewriter floated into the room in front of her, along with a small ream of paper. Once everything was set up, she began to type, reading along with her own writing.
"Spectrum Sprint and Sunset Shimmer had known each other for years, and had grown quite close over that time. In fact, as their relationship had grown, they found themselves sometimes closer than either one could have ever anticipated…"
Once they had arrived back at Golden Oaks Library, Twilight and Rainbow Dash sat down again at the table in the center of the room, placing their stories in front of themselves and just staring at them. For a minute neither one said anything, until Twilight broke the silence.
"This was a really, really stupid idea."
"Yeah, it was. Twi, sorry if I was a jerk. I kinda get way too competitive when it comes to stuff like this."
"No, I'm the one who should be apologizing, I took this way too seriously."
There was a long pause as they continued to stare at their stories. Suddenly, Rainbow started chuckling to herself, shaking her head. Twilight looked up at her.
"What's so funny?"
"It's just hitting me that I wrote a story where I have sex with your mom. That's really weird, isn't it?"
Rainbow continued to laugh, and now Twilight joined in. "Yeah, it was. But at least something happened in your story. I spent five pages discussing the mechanics of a gentle kiss."
As the realization of what they had written finally hit them, the chuckling quickly turned into laughter. Dash nearly fell over laughing, having to brace herself on Twilight's shoulder to steady herself while Twilight put a hoof down on the table to keep herself from falling over. Spike heard the commotion and came down the stairs to see what was happening, and just the sight of the two ponies laughing was enough to make him join in. Finally, Twilight began to compose herself, wiping a tear from her eye.
"Hey Rainbow, I have an idea."
"Let's get rid of these, call it a dishonorable draw, and pretend this whole thing never happened."
"That's the best idea I've ever heard."
Rainbow and Twilight shook hooves, then Twilight turned to Spike.
"Spike, would you do the honors?"
Spike held one hand up to his head in a salute "Yes ma'am!"
As he carefully picked up both stores, Rainbow Dash patted him on the head. "Thanks, little guy. And hey, if anypony asks, just tell them we were arguing about, uh, pegasi versus unicorns."
"You got it!"
Spike started to step away, but as Rainbow turned around and walked over to Twilight, the edge of her wing brushed up under Spike's nostrils. He took a few steps back, trying to get a finger under his nose, but carrying both stories in his hands prevented it. His face scrunched up and he struggled to keep his balance, as Twilight cocked her head.
"Spike, are you okay?"
"I'm… I'm… WHACHOO!"
Spike let out a monstrous sneeze, shooting green flames out of his mouth and completely engulfing the two stories. The masses of paper gently floated up into the air for a few seconds before disappearing into wisps of green smoke and flying out the open north window of the library.
Rainbow Dash and Twilight stared in Spike’s direction, frozen, their mouths agape, as he fidgeted nervously under their wide eyes. There was an awkward, tense silence for several moments.
"What color is the fire that teleports stuff straight to Celestia?"
Silence filled the room again.
"What color was that fire that just hit the stories?"
"That's what I thought."
They continued to stare in horror at Spike, who just gulped a massive swallow and continued to remain motionless. Twilight looked up at the clock.
"The next train to Canterlot leaves in fifteen minutes. If we're lucky, we can probably get there within an hour. I don't know if Princess Celestia will look at them, but if she does, I know that she's always preferred shorter stories to longer ones…"
Rainbow reached out and grabbed Twilight by the hoof.
"Hold on, Twi."
"Because no chance in Tartarus am I waiting fifteen minutes."
"Dash what are yoaaaaaaaaagh!—"
Twilight couldn't finish her sentence as Dash rocketed into the air and straight out the back window of the library, dragging a flailing, panicking Twilight behind her as she raced through the sky due north. The shockwave from her sudden takeoff sent books and papers flying all over the library, none of which affected Spike in the least, still frozen in horror.
"Uh… I'm sorry?"
Princess Celestia lay on her bed. It had been an uneventful week, and while she treasured the peace that Canterlot was in, it was starting to take its toll on her, as she found herself bored out of her mind. Sighing, she gazed over at the massive bookcase that covered nearly half of the wall of her bedroom, and looked through the shelves for something to read. As she started to float her well-worn copy of Much Ado About Neighing off the shelf, she saw the green wisp of smoke enter her room, and a smile grew on her face. It wasn't much, but one of Twilight's friendship letters was always enough to cheer her up. However, as the wisp flew up to her, instead of the usual scroll, two stacks of papers instead dropped neatly on the front of her bed.
"Hello, what do we have here?" Celestia examined the two stacks of paper, flipping through them briefly. "That was generous of Twilight, sharing her and her friend's works like this. Hmmm...”
Celestia looked the two stories over for a moment before picking one up and laying back down on the bed, reading over the cover.
"A Daring Dash… this looks interesting!"
SPECIAL THANKS: Shortskirtsandexplosions, RazgrizS57, Propmaster, and WardenPony