Rarity was in the zone, holding a dozen needles and gems in her telekinetic grasp working on the garment that would undoubtedly sweep the pony nation in a fashion craze. A loud knocking with a particular glassy ring to it broke designer’s concentration, leading to several gems droping to the ground… Rarity let out sign and looked at the closest window in the room, behind which a cyan pegasus mare was hovering, looking sheepish and gesturing towards the door of the boutique.
- Rainbow, darling, have you ever tried knocking on the door as us, civilized ponies, do? And I do mean knock on the door, not knocking the door down…
- Yeah-yeah, I get it, sorry. I just came over, so that we could pick up Crusaders …
- SWEETIE BELL, I completely forgot! – Rarity was suddenly gasping in panic, - I didn’t pick her after classes today! Oh my goodness, I failed as a sister! Woe is me, my sister will hate me forever!
- Whoa-whoa! Calm down, will you? Big Macintosh was picking up all of the Crusaders after school today – as YOU agreed with him a week ago. We just have to get them from the Sweet Apple Acres.
- Oh… oh… I guess I forgot that too, - Rarity gave her friend a slightly embraced smile and quickly picking herself up, - But did I hear you say “we”, darling?
- I’m picking up Scoots. I also wanted to talk to you about something on the way, - Rainbow shuffled uncomfortably, - About something I am not really good at – which is saying something! Since, you know, that I am fastest, strongest and all around best pony in Poniville.
- Why yes, I do know, darling. And I praise Celestia everyday for her blessing that is Rainbow Dash - Rarity cooed smiling slightly, as two ponies went on their way to the Apple farm. Next moment both mares shared a heartly laugh, - What did you want to talk about, dear? Mysteries of the heart? The delicate art of charming your dream mate?
- Oh no, not that. I wanted to talk about the kids.
- Whoa-a?!! Are you planning to have foals already? I always thought Fluttershy would be the first of us – Rarity looked like she was pondering something.
- Oh no-no-no-NO! I meant the Crusaders. Don’t you… don’t you worry about them sometimes?
- Worry about them, dear? I DO worry about my sanity sometimes, especially when they run amok in the shop, but I’ve never really worried about them. Why do you ask, darling?
Rainbow Dash looked at the ground and shrugged slightly, without braking her trot.
- I dunno. I mean, look at them: all they do is this crusading thing. They don’t try to learn stuff if it doesn’t have something to do with getting their cutie marks, they don’t have a lot of friends besides each other…
- Oh, they are ok, Rainbow Dash. Just remember - we all ran around and did silly things when we were fillies. Well, maybe some of us did not “ran” as much as “gracefully trotted”. And perhaps the things we did were not “silly” but rather “eccentric”. But the general idea still holds.
- I don’t know, Rares. – cyan mare did not looked convinced. - I can’t stop thinking that they could do better. That we can do better for them.
The sky over Sweet Apple Acres was completely covered with clouds showing that the local weathermare has not done any work today. Said weathermare, together with her friend Rarity, was approaching the Apple farm, where three little fillies and a red stallion were waiting for them.
- Oh, Macintosh, darling, thank you so much for watching over the girls. Whatever would we do without you? – dramatic tone of white unicorn made her cyan friend flinch a little.
- Yeah, thanks big fella. I’ll be picking Scoots of your hooves, her parents asked me to get her home in one piece, - as Rainbow finished that sentence, pegasus-filly let out a squeal of delight.
The cream filly with a pink bow was not so keen on parting with her friends just yet:
- Rarity, Rainbow Dash – but it’s still too early. We thought that we could play some more? We actually even thought of the game we could ALL play - we could play piggyback riders!
On the signal of the last two words, remaining two fillies gasped as much air as they could and screamed:
- CUTIEMARK CRUSADERS PIGGYBACK RIDERS! YAY!
- No-no-no, dears, I just can’t allow it, – Rarity was looking apologetically at the kids, - Sweetie Bell has her dancing classes today. We simply have no time.
- An’ besides, lil’ sis, think ‘bout it, - Big Mac stepped between the older ponies and the yellow filly, looking down straight at Applebloom, - You aren’t bein’ a good sport suggestin’ that. Given you’d be ridin’ me…
Applebloom immediately noticed a familiar mischievous glint in her brother’s eyes – the signature Apple family glint that usually meant that somepony was up to no good.
- HEY! What do you mean by that? You’re trying to say that me and Scoots wouldn’t be able to beat you two? – Rainbow Dash was suddenly hovering over the red stallion, trying to stare him down
- I tend to agree with Rainbow here, darling. Brute force does has its uses, but it would not in anyway guarantee your success. – Rarity was speaking in a level voice, with nothing but just slight irritation in her voice. - With her agility and speed, Rainbow Dash would surely win second place in this contest.
- Second?! And who would beat me? It’s not like you would risk messing your hair over a kid’s game…
- Meyep! – with that sound Sweetie Bell was lifted off the ground in a purple haze of unicorn magic and forcefully placed on her sister’s neck. The white mare puffed loudly and glared at the pegasus.
- You were saying, Rainbow?
A few minutes later three fillies, each sitting proudly on the neck of an older pony, were facing each other on a round field surrounded by a cattle fence.
- My fellow knights! – Applebloom pronounced loudly, - I, sir Appleheart, and my honorable steed Bucephalas, challenge you to a piggyback tournament. Will you accept or will you concede?
- Dat name has some history in our family, A’Bloom. – Big Macintosh spoke with approval, -Now we just hav’ ta win.
Orange filly spoke next.
- I, legat Scootaloos, and the fierce Sleipnir accept your challenge, sir Appleheart! Let the best knight win!
- Sleip-what-now? – Rainbow Dash asked the filly on her neck, looking genuinely confused.
- Sleipnir, dear, a mythical hero of the pegasi with four wings and eight legs, – Rarity spoke in condensing tone.
- A mythical hero with four wings?! – cyan pegasus contemplated the idea for a second, - He must have been awesome! This name just got my seal of approval!
Sweetie Bell frowned for just a moment, thinking of how to introduce herself.
- And I, Sweetie de Bell, warrior-maiden of Ponyville, and my graceful mare Le Diamant, accept your challenge, sir Appleheart! We will fight here, we will fight now, we will fight until there is only one of us left!
- Why thank you, darling, the name is simply charming. – Rarity looked at her sister with adoration.
And so it began.
The earth rumbled.
- Sweetie, do you remember our dance classes? – unicorn mare asked calmly, no signs of anxiety whatsoever.
- Y-y-yes, sis. Why? – Sweetie couldn’t keep her voice steady, her gaze riveted to the sight of Big Macintosh charging at the unicorns full speed and Applebloom barely holding on.
- Because right now we will be doing Canterlot waltz, me dear. Double-time, on the count of three. A-one, a-two, a-three!
Macintosh rushed past them, as Rarity sidestepped in the last second. Applebloom tried to shove Sweetie Bell, but unicorn-filly instinctively dodged, leaning back, almost completely flat over her sister’s back. “A-one, a-two” Sweetie said to herself, keeping with the suggested tempo and adjusting her movements to the wild skips and hops of her elder sister, seemingly random for an external observer, but completely in tune with the rhythm of their usual dance routines.
Big Macintosh charged again, this time lunging left and right, trying to catch Rarity off-balance, but the unicorn skipped out of his way again and again. Applebloom bucked hard, missing Sweetie by an inch every time, as pearl filly dodged easily.
- This is what makes us unicorns special, darling, –lunge– Other ponies reach and grab –swing- We make the world come to us, -step– Other ponies run and fly –dodge– We just slip to where ever we are needed –hop– We are graceful –skip– needles –jump- piercing –pirouette– Equestria!
Rarity spoke the last word with a triumphant cheer in her voice, as she landed just a few steps away from Big Macintosh, who was desperately gasping for air.
- Now you see, Sweetie, why I insisted on you taking dancing classes? It’s not just essential for a proper sophisticated mare, it also helps you to develop your inner elegance.
- That’s was beautiful, sister! – Sweatie Bell was amazed at Rarity’s natural grace.
- Yeah, nice moves Rares, - a raspy voice said, - You almost got the big fella. But for my liking you were a bit …slow.
Rarity managed to jump away, as rainbow-colored blur speeded past her. Before the unicorn managed to gather her thoughts the blur came back and forced Rarity to jump again, almost losing her balance this time.
- Sweatie, dear, – The older unicorn’s voice had determination in it, her lips curling in a wicked smile, – Let’s show miss Dash the second thing, that makes us, unicorns, special.
- And that is?
Rarity’s horn shone brightly with purple light, every hair in Rarity’s mane wavering as if in an invisible updraft. Following her sister’s lead, Sweetie let the magic flow through her and added her own to the torrent. Force lines extended from the manes of both unicorns, reaching out for the pegasus.
- Magic?! – Rainbow Dash screamed loudly, dropping down to a racing stance. – Knew you wouldn’t play fair! Hold on, pipsqueak! TO THE SKY!
With these words, duo of pegasi – Scootaloo desperately grasping at the multicolored mane – flew up into the air, rapidly gaining height and disappearing behind the clouds. As they penetrated the cloud cover, orange filly gasped at the sight of endless white fields around her. Never before had she had the chance to appreciate the vastness of the world on this scale: on the ground the horizon always seemed cramped, squeezed between the mountains of Canterlot and the trees of Everfree forest.
But here, above the clouds, there was only the setting sun and endless space.
- The sky… It’s so… BIG… - filly was completely out of words, unable to express her feelings and thoughts.
- And we, pegasi, own it! – Rainbow was flapping her wings at a steady pace, sounding very pleased with herself. -Remember that no matter how grim and dark it can be on the ground, it’s always sunny up here. And this – all of this – is yours.
Than Rainbow Dash chuckled:
- Now let’s show those ponies some tricks. Watch and learn - we are attacking from the sun!
Back on the ground duo of earth ponies was having a hard time holding their own against the unicorns. Big Macintosh was jumping and dashing from side to side, barely managing to stay away from the purple pincers of magic reaching for him.
- C’mon Applebloom! Not that Ah’m not havin’ fun, but you got to find a way to beat ‘em!
- But they got magic an’ I’m just an earth pony!
- Not true, lil’ sis! – red stallion was breathing heavily as he spoke,- You’re not just an earth pony – you’re an Apple. Think like one!
“Think like an Apple – that’s what Granny Smith always says!” Applebloom thought hard, remembering that particular time when the matriarch explained the family creed to her.
- An Apple always thinks of ‘er family, - wrinkled olive mare was speaking strongly and clearly, her voice devoid of the usual mumbling, - An Apple always remembers ‘er roots. An’ lastly - an Apple always stays close to the ground.
As Applebloom was repeating this in her head, she noticed Applejack standing just a few feet away and watching the battle from behind the fence. From the look of her, cowpony was enjoying her entertainment after a hard day of cattle herding. And than suddenly everything clicked into place.
- Hey, big sis! You mind borrowing me your lasso for a spell?
Without a single question or argument, AJ reached for the lasso, hanging from her belt, and threw the rope to the yellow filly.
Then, just as Applejack taught her, Applebloom started spinning the lasso above her head, keeping balance on the back of Big Macintosh, who was dashing wildly from side to side. Well, compared to what rodeo bulls liked to pull off, Big Mac was giving his sister a gentle ride in the park.
As the lasso picked up the speed, a scream pronouncing “SWAG FROM ABOVE!” boomed over the field. Rarity, still enveloped in the purple haze of magic turned to address the source of disturbance, but had to cover her eyes - cyan pegasus tore through the clouds and unleashed full force of the setting sun onto her opponents.
As the unicorn stumbled back, the pegasus dashed forward full speed. In the fraction of moment when Rainbow Dash was passing dumb founded Rarity, Scootaloo easily dislodged Sweetie Bell with a well-placed shove.
But while Rainbow Dash concentrated on the unicorns, she completely forgot about the earth ponies – and was rudely reminded by a lasso gripping her right hind leg.
• Hold ‘er big brother! – Applebloom quickly threw the rope around the thick neck of Big Macintosh, who was sporting a crooked grin, - Hey Rainbow – Apple Acres are sayin’ “Hello!”
As the rope snapped tightly into full tension, cyan pegasus completely lost control and swung to the side, crashing into the ground. After a few seconds of rubbing newly acquired lumps on her head, Rainbow noticed a heap of orange feathers on the other side of the field grunting loudly. Cyan pegasus smirked.
- Scoots, if you’re worth your feathers, this crash will not be your last!
As the weathermare spoke, grunts subsided and a single orange hoof protruded from the heap, waving weakly in the universal sign of “I’m <generally> ok”
- So, I guess you, Apple guys, have beaten us, huh? - Rainbow Dash finally rose from the ground and turned. Applebloom was running to her, looking happy and covered with dust from head to hoof.
- Nah, Ah fell, as you tugged mah brother there. So Ah guess it’s a draw!
- A draw would be most satisfactory, dears, – Rarity and Sweetie Bell approached other participants of the battle, - I must say, it was fun to stretch your muscles for a bit. Although it was quite messy.
The white unicorn gave a visible shudder while saying the last word.
- Well, I guess we can call it a draw than, - Rainbow Dash was not too eager to accept anything short of victory, - But if I knew from the start you would be using magic and stuff, we would have beaten you!
- Hey, are you proposin’ a rematch, Rainbow? – Macintosh’s voice had a slight hint of challenge in it.
- Yeah! Next week, same time, same place! Hop on Scoots, I got to get you home, but tomorrow we start practicing!
As the pegasi flew off, Rainbow enthusiastically explaining her winning strategies to Scootaloo, and unicorns trotted gracefully towards the village (Rarity planning a small detour to the spa, no doubt) – Applebloom turned to her brother and jumped on his back again. She laid down, yawning loudly and saying:
- Thanks, big brother.
- It’s nothin’. – Big Mac turned his head and noticed that the filly was already fast asleep. – Sleep tight, lil’ Apple.