81w, 2dTwilight's Library
Rainbow Dash was what one might call a specialist. There were plenty of things that she wasn’t too good at, all of which she was continually prepared to deem “uncool” at a moment’s notice; several things she was really good at; and not too much in-between. Going halfway into a skill or interest was for timid ponies like Fluttershy: once you started something, according to Rainbow Dash, you had better be prepared to see it all the way through. One effect of this was that her promises were extremely powerful; another was that she tended to take things rather farther than necessary.
Right at the moment, though, she was quite content to lie comfortably beneath the shade of a tall tree, one of her best friends resting comfortably against her side, while the sun lowered peacefully in the west and the clouds made their steady progress across the sky. It had been a good day.
Rainbow Dash’s most obvious skill, and the one she spent the most time by far practicing and boasting about, was flying. The sky was a second home to the bright blue pegasus, the fact that her home was in the sky notwithstanding, and her airborn accomplishments were familiar to the tongue of every pony in Ponyville. Clouds shivered in fright at her approach well before her powerful hind legs could even make contact with them, silly little barriers like the speed of sound knew better than to get in her way, and many was the shopkeeper or homeowner who had bought comprehensive Rainbow Dash Insurance for the near inevitable pony-window collisions that plagued the otherwise frequently peaceful village of Ponyville. One day, Rainbow Dash had bargained her way into getting a cut from each Rainbow Dash Insurance policy sold, putting her conscience at rest as far as crashing into buildings was concerned, even if she had little to no understanding of the legal intricacies (or possible future repercussions) of the deal.
Napping, and other forms of rest, were not exactly skills as Rainbow Dash traditionally chose to list them, but it was hard to deny how well she and sleep got along at all hours of the day. At present she was doing her best to pursue some rather premium resting, although she had to admit her choice of current companion, though undeniably awesome, did not allow for a very restful experience. The other pony was poring over the contents of a large checklist, reciting its contents to herself in a sort of delighted-yet-faintly-worried singsong.
Next to flying, one of Rainbow Dash’s most beloved activities was the fine art of pranking ponies. Even the thrill of performing an especially difficult aerial feat before a cheering crowd had trouble standing up to the pure joy that was a properly perpetrated prank. There were many steps that had to be executed perfectly, but it was all worth it for the aftermath as the prank victim stood, or sometimes sat, bewildered, until the moment that Rainbow Dash revealed herself from her hiding spot, triumphant, full of good-natured and infectious laughter. And after a few seconds of further befuddlement, the victim would join in the laughter, realizing the brilliance of the prank they had just undergone. Or at least, that was how it went these days.
Rainbow Dash opened her eyes wide enough to gaze fondly on her companion, the vibrantly colored candy seller known as Pinkie Pie. Once Rainbow Dash had let Pinkie into her life, around the time Gilda had vehemently left it, the party pony had boosted Rainbow Dash’s pranking to a whole new level. Rainbow Dash was full of energy, ideas, and raw power itching to be let lose. Her pranks were extravagant, complex, and sure to be the talk of the town for days afterwards. But Pinkie brought another factor to the equation: a deep and individualized understanding of practically every pony in Ponyville. It was Pinkie who could tell Rainbow Dash when a planned prank would be too much and would end up hurting the victim’s feelings, or alternatively, when it was too simple and could stand to be ratcheted up a notch to truly tickle the victim’s funny bone. Far beyond simply keeping Fluttershy safe from their fun, Pinkie would always seem to know exactly how far was too far or not far enough for dealing with any given pony, and the strange thing about it was, she was practically never wrong.
The nearly-finished day behind them had been a bountiful oasis of pranking. It had started innocently enough, as Rainbow Dash had flown headlong into Twilight Sparkle’s library to return a book she had just finished and pick up a new one, reading being a skill that she was working on becoming as amazing at as at everything else that she did. While there, she had run across one of Twilight’s old day-planner checklists, which the studious unicorn had been about to throw away. An instinct had inspired Rainbow Dash to ask for the checklist, and Twilight, understandably confused, had allowed her to take it away with her. With Pinkie Pie at her side, Rainbow Dash had devised the perfect plan.
It had been a while since the two of them had gone on a pranking spree of any real merit, and loathe as Rainbow Dash was to admit it, this was in large part due to a lack of new big ideas. Hanging a hammock from the outside of the Carousel Boutique and dumping Rarity into it while she slept had been fun, but they’d had precious few ideas since then. Twilight’s checklist, however, brought with it inspiration. The unicorn forever insisted on creating large colorful pictures for each item on her checklists, rather than writing out the task in actual words. Rainbow Dash and Pinkie Pie had no way of knowing what the drawings had originally meant to Twilight, but the two of them together could read each image as a suggestion for a new prank to be pulled somewhere in Ponyville. The fruits of Twilight’s hard-earned organization had therefore become the haphazardly constructed road plan for a full day of fun and games with Ponyville’s unwitting citizens.
The first item on the checklist was a series of red apples, which was boring enough until Pinkie noticed that the apples looked unusually large. After some hurried scheming, the idea had arisen to try inflating some of Applejack’s apples with helium, to see if they would expand like Pinkie’s beloved balloons. The apples had not actually expanded as they had hoped for, but the addition of a levitating apple tree to the Sweet Apple Acres orchards was a source of pure consternation for their farmer friend, and pure delight for the two pranksters as they revealed themselves to her.
Second was a picture of a bright blue diamond, a pair of wings attached to it. Rainbow Dash had immediately defined the diamond as a baseball diamond, but it had been Pinkie Pie who decided the wings meant there had to be an aerial game of baseball. Rainbow Dash had a large collection of fancy outfits from her childhood “dressing in style” days, and these had been rolled into a ball and inserted into one of Pinkie’s many differently-sized cannons. That had left them needing only a bat, and, well, they already had this nice floating tree. Admittedly this second adventure wasn’t exactly a prank, but it was a lot of fun, and Rainbow Dash was glad to see those clothes gone before Rarity could somehow have accidentally discovered them.
Next was a bulky white blob, which Pinkie proclaimed was clearly coconut. Rainbow Dash had flown to the nearest beach and brought back a large quantity of sand, which they proceeded to dye white and dump in a large pile outside of Coconut Cream’s house. When the baker pony got home, she was initially horrified to discover what appeared to be her entire store of her “secret” ingredient stolen and poured out onto the dirt. Shortly after she had discovered it to be sand, however, the unicorn Beachberry had walked by and interpreted the white pile as Coconut Cream’s attempt at making her own private beach. The two prankster ponies could only watch curiously as a new friendship was struck up right before their eyes.
The next picture was of a giant mustache, which gave Rainbow Dash the inspiration for them both to go to a hairstylist’s and get each other’s hairstyles, to see if they could fool anypony into thinking they had switched bodies or something. Unfortunately, Pinkie Pie’s mane always snapped back into its usual poufy mass a few short seconds after anypony did anything to it, so that didn’t end up working out. Still, Twilight was nothing if not well-organized, and those four items were only the beginning of a long list of pranks and other activities that occupied the two close friends for all the rest of the day. Now Rainbow Dash was lying lazily under a tree, one eye partially open and keeping an eye on Ponyville and the skies above, while Pinkie Pie went through the checklist again and again to see if there was anything they had forgotten to reinterpret.
“Geez, Pinkie, give it a rest,” said Rainbow Dash at last. “If you read through that thing one more time, you’re going to grow a horn or something.”
“Oh, Dashie,” answered Pinkie, “you’re such a silly filly! What would little old Pinkie Pie do with a big horn growing out of the top of her head? I’d much rather have a pair of awesome wings like yours. But I can’t help it, I just feel like there’s something I’m forgetting that we’re supposed to do!”
Rainbow Dash sighed. “It’s not baking cupcakes again, is it? I swear to Celestia, that strawberry syrup got everywhere last time and I was cleaning it out of my feathers for weeks. I gotta say, I don’t think I’m cut out for kitchen stuff.”
“No,” said Pinkie with a giggle, “I think it’s something bigger than that! Like, record-breaking party-throwing finger-licking big! But I just can’t think what, and I don’t think it’s anywhere on this list.”
“Hey, you want record-breaking, I’m your gal!” said Rainbow Dash, before frowning. “Hold on… what’s a finger?”
Pinkie Pie, however, had already completely abandoned that train of thought. “I hate forgetting things, Dashie! Once I forgot to turn the oven off after baking some cakes, and then I went out for a spontaneous picnic with Twilight and Colgate and a box of staplers, and when I got back everything was covered in icky smoky black smoke! Fortunately I got the Cutie Mark Crusaders to help me clean everything up before Mr. and Mrs. Cake got home, but that could have been really bad!” She raised a hoof to her face, looking very thoughtful and inquisitive for a moment until she began sucking on it. “Hey, Rainbow Dash, what are ‘child labor laws’?”
Rainbow Dash groaned and shifted herself against the tree trunk. As she lay back down, her head bumped into something soft and plasticky that was decidedly no more a tree than Fluttershy was. “Huh?” she said.
Pinkie Pie rolled over to see what Rainbow Dash had found. “Oh,” she said, “that’s one of my balls! I keep balls stashed all over Ponyville, in case I need them for any ball-related emergencies!” Suddenly she blinked several times in quick succession, and her face lit up in jubilation. “That’s it! Oh, Rainbow Dash, you’re a genius!”
“What? I mean, yeah, of course!” Rainbow Dash stared at her easily-excited pink friend in mild alarm. “What did I do this time?”
“That’s what I’ve been forgetting!” said Pinkie Pie, now bouncing up and down on top of the abandoned checklist. “You! Balls! Your party! You were about to break the Equestria ball-bouncing record of three hundred and fifty bounces, and I was going to throw you a huuuuuuge celebration party with everypony in town! Remember? Then we all got called away to calm down that silly red dragon, and we never got to have your party!”
Rainbow Dash did remember. She also remembered that both times she had gotten close to the record, it had been Pinkie Pie who had broken her concentration – first by trying to count her while planning the party, and later by roaring like a dragon – but she was enough of a good friend to hold her tongue on that particular detail. What mattered was that a dragon had cheated Pinkie Pie out of one of her beloved parties, and more importantly, that she, Rainbow Dash, hadn’t proved her awesomeness by breaking the ball-bouncing record! Leaving that record in the hooves of another pony would mean only going at ball-bouncing halfway, and Rainbow Dash did not do things halfway.
“You’re right, Pinkie!” she said. “Tell you what: you have that party, and I’ll break the record right then and there, with everypony there to see!”
Pinkie Pie cheered. “Hooray! Dashie, you’re the best! I mean, I feel I’m still forgetting something, but first, I’ve got a party to plan! Ooh, I’m going to need so many balloons! And streamers, but mostly balloons. La la la la la…!”
As the pink pony bounced happily away, Twilight’s checklist long since forgotten, Rainbow Dash smiled to herself. With Pinkie’s help, she would break that pesky ball-bouncing record once and for all, show off a little for her friends, and reinforce for anypony who hadn’t gotten the memo that it was she, not that made-up Mare-Do-Well, who was the true hero of Ponyville. Yep, there was no doubt about it: Rainbow Dash was amazing.
Rainbow Dash was a terror.
Rarity’s latest string of difficulties with the cerulean pegasus had begun just the other day, the day of her appointment to meet with Filthy Rich to discuss his daughter, Diamond Tiara, modeling a new line of filly fashions she had been developing. Filthy Rich, however, had mistaken the time of the appointment and arrived early. This would not have been so egregious an issue, had that not been the day that Rainbow Dash had snuck into the Boutique – wearing a ridiculous ninja get-up, no less, she had later been informed! – and spirited her away from the comforts of her bed, only to deposit her in an outdoor hammock. And so Filthy Rich, on his arrival, had witnessed her sleeping there.
Still, that minor embarrassment was not completely irreparable for a pony of her considerable talents, and she had been able to reschedule the meeting with Filthy Rich for a later date, at which time he would bring his daughter along as well. The day before the meeting, Rarity had had Twilight come over to cast the Glimmer Wings spell on her, so that she could visit Rainbow Dash’s house and apologize for her less than polite language following the hammock incident. Rainbow Dash had not been home, however, though Rarity had noticed some rather gaudy outfits in her house that she had resolved to ask her pegasus about sometime later.
The next day, Rarity had met with Filthy Rich and Diamond Tiara, who both appeared understandably impressed with her sales pitch. At last came the moment to reveal the designs themselves, and with her typical flair for the dramatic, Rarity had instructed them both to close their eyes and wait. As Rarity walked away to fetch the new outfits, she heard a distinctly undignified crashing sound. She spun around, discovering as she did so that Diamond Tiara had become mysteriously covered in incredibly loud and colorful filly-sized costumes that might have been fashionable several years ago, but were no longer remotely cutting-edge let alone magnifique. Diamond Tiara had fled, disgusted, and Rarity had been left to glare at the guilty garments and recognize them as the property of… Rainbow Dash.
Now here was Pinkie Pie, being her usual bubbly insensitive self, proffering an invitation for Rarity to come to Sugarcube Corner to celebrate some one or other of Rainbow Dash’s less than financially motivated accomplishments. She graciously accepted the invitation – a party would likely be good for her current frustration, after all – but the resentment continued nevertheless to simmer within her. Seriously? That weather team ruffian was getting the full gala treatment, or at least Pinkie Pie’s equivalent thereof, for bouncing a ball up and down on her head?
It wasn’t that she was against balls or anything, Rarity thought, once Pinkie Pie had departed in search of more ponies to invite to her party. Allowing herself a faint smile, the fashionista unicorn walked over to an old closet, quietly opened the door with her magic, and looked inside. There on the closet floor lay the old white ball that had occupied such a surprising number of hours in her childhood, a trifle dusty and yet just as round and inviting as it had ever been. Before Sweetie Belle and the enticing world of fashion had become her companions in life, that ball, with its serenely painted replication of her own cutie mark, had accompanied her everywhere. It had been perfectly sized for her young filly self to ride around on, or else to send rolling madly at the hooves of unsuspecting adults. She had always meant to pass it on to Sweetie Belle, but she felt her sister might be a little too grown-up for such innocent pleasures at this point, and besides, the presence of Rarity’s cutie mark on the ball might make it not nearly so enchanting for other ponies.
Rolling, riding – now those were the ways a gentlelady played with her ball, none of this hooligan bouncing nonsense. Although, now that she thought about it, Rarity supposed that she had witnessed even gentle Fluttershy bouncing a ball on her head on occasion. Either it was some sort of pegasus thing, or perhaps it was not so disreputable as she had first assumed. Gingerly, making sure that she was not near to any windows, Rarity levitated her old ball onto the top of her head, disconnected it from her magic, and began to bounce it up and down.
After several false starts, Rarity found herself quickly getting the hang of bouncing the ball atop her head. The most important quality was control over one’s body, and she had to admit, that was one talent that she and Rainbow Dash certainly shared. The pegasus speedster needed fine control over her every muscle for some of her more complicated maneuvers, whereas she was a lady of grace and poise. Bouncing a ball up and down assuredly required paying attention to her body in a different way than did appearing elegant and ladylike, but it was by no means outside of her abilities.
Moreover, some ten or twenty bounces in, Rarity found herself enjoying the sensation of the bouncing ball. The impact was soft enough that it was not remotely painful, instead reminding her of some of the gentler massage sessions at the spa. The regularity of the bounces additionally provided a certain calming air to the exercise, one which Rarity found herself deeply welcoming after the frustration of pondering Rainbow Dash. Somehow, she felt more peaceful with her old ball bouncing on top of her than she had in some time. For a moment she even considered recommending the treatment to Aloe and Lotus, but realized quickly that she undoubtedly looked quite ridiculous right then, and few of the spa’s other patrons would be likely to test out such a regimen voluntarily.
Gradually, Rarity began to lose herself in the peaceful rhythm of the bounce. She wandered through the rooms of the Carousel Boutique, the tools and priorities of her trade all but forgotten as she inspected herself serenely in the full length mirrors stationed within the building. Yes, there was no getting around it; she had misjudged Rainbow Dash. Nopony who practiced so refined and delicate a pastime as this could be as roughhewed as Rarity had previously thought her. Perhaps this was how Rainbow Dash relaxed? Well could she imagine the stresses of the speedster’s life, what with the demands on her time brought about by her fame, the catastrophic results possible from the mismanagement of the Ponyville skies, and… well, that was about it, she supposed. Still, what did she really know about weather? For all she knew, it took great effort to ensure that no lightning bolts struck the thatched roofs of Ponyville, and if Rainbow Dash wished to destress herself after such strenuous effort by the judicious application of a ball to her head, well, who was Rarity to blame her?
It was in this state of profound calm and forgiveness that Rarity was once more interrupted by the ringing of the bell over her front door. Placing aside her endless parade of mirrors, Rarity made her way to the front door to greet her newest visitor or perhaps customer. This time, instead of Pinkie come to bring her another invitation, it was only Fluttershy, and Rarity smiled warmly at her in welcome.
“Why, if it isn’t Fluttershy that visits me,” she said. “Come in, come in, my darling; say what business brings you to my door.”
Fluttershy stared at her in obvious concern. “Umm… Rarity, are you all right?”
“All right? Why, Fluttershy, I can’t for anything imagine any time that I’ve felt better!”
“Oh, um, okay,” said Fluttershy. She stared worriedly at the air above Rarity’s head. “It’s just, umm… you’re bouncing a ball on your head. Also, you’re talking in an iambic rhythm in time with the ball?”
Rarity, startled, stared upwards. The white ball completed its latest arc and fell onto her face, but narrowly missing being impaled by her horn. Rarity let out a soft screech and backed up several steps, suddenly remembering the impropriety of her actions. “Oh, dear!” she cried. “What am I doing? Fluttershy, this secret must not escape your lips. Nopony must know that I was engaged in so base an art as one of Rainbow Dash’s hobbies!”
Fluttershy gave her a curiously satisfied smile. “You can count on me,” she said, resting a sympathetic hoof against Rarity’s side. “Um, that’s actually kind of why I’m here. To ask for your help, I mean, with Rainbow Dash.”
Rarity gasped, certain of Applejack’s less plausible suspicions springing to her mind. “My help with Rainbow Dash?” she repeated. “Fluttershy, my dear… surely you do not mean… a tryst with her, do you?!”
“What? No, I… oh my goodness!” Fluttershy went instantly scarlet. “No, never! I mean, not that I wouldn’t want your help if I did, but, uh, I don’t, and…”
“No, no, I understand,” said Rarity. “Forgive me; I assumed too much. Won’t you come in? We can talk better in private.” As she spoke, she telekinetically urged her ball back into the closet from whence it had come.
“Oh, thank you,” said Fluttershy, “but this really shouldn’t take very long. I just wanted to ask for your help in, um, dissuading Rainbow Dash from going through with her plans. I don’t think she should try to break the ball bouncing record, and I’m not sure if she’ll listen to me.”
Rarity frowned. “Well, I doubt I have much influence on her, but I can certainly try. Why is this so important?”
“Well, umm…” Fluttershy gulped. “It’s a pegasus thing. If we bounce balls too long, um, our wings fall off.” She gave a feeble grin. “Right off, feather by feather. It’s simply horrible, and you know how much Rainbow Dash loves her wings! So I’m sure you can see how you’re just being a good friend by keeping her from doing it, and…”
“Fluttershy, you are lying to me.”
Fluttershy drooped. “…yes. Yes, I am. Oh, I’m sorry.”
Rarity watched, concerned, as her friend shifted back and forth on her hooves. “I won’t tell you everything,” she said at last. “It’s complicated. But, um, if she breaks the record, then the current record holder wouldn’t be very happy, and that might not be so good for Rainbow Dash. So you see, you’re protecting her!”
This second story did sound more plausible, Rarity supposed, if agonizingly devoid of detail. “And who is the current record holder?” she asked. “Some awful thug, defending his position through threats and violence?” Her eyes flashed once. “Blueblood?”
Fluttershy sighed. “I can’t tell you that,” she said. “Oh, please, Rarity, just say yes. It truly won’t be a good thing if Rainbow Dash breaks this record, really it won’t.”
Rarity looked at her closest companion, who was obviously concerned for her old friend if curiously unable to explain fully the reason, and felt her own heart soften in response. “My dear, how could I refuse?” she answered. “I will try my hardest to make Rainbow Dash forget this mad plan of hers.”
“Oh, thank you, Rarity!” said Fluttershy, breaking into a wide smile. “If there’s anything I can to do help…”
Rarity returned the smile with one of her own. “Oh, don’t worry. I’m sure I can handle Rainbow Dash.”
Two hours later, after sitting through an entire party’s worth of Rainbow Dash’s smug boasts and incessant conceit, Rarity had had enough. A fit of pique inspired her to assert that being able to bounce a ball on one’s head was nothing to be proud of; anypony could do it. Things spiraled out of control from there, and so Rarity found herself agreeing to compete against Rainbow Dash the very next day to see which of them could bounce their chosen ball for longer. As she squeamishly shook Rainbow Dash’s spat-upon hoof to settle the deal, Rarity spared a thought for Fluttershy’s warnings, but pushed them aside; she was a unicorn of means and influence, after all, and could surely handle herself against the current record holder if need be. In the meantime, she had a contest to win.