Chapter 35: The Challenge
"Lightning Flash, do we really need do this now?"
"Yes we do, Ace! You and Rainbow Dash. Half an hour, at Ghastly Gorge!"
Lightning Flash had arrived at Rainbow Dash's cloud dwelling roughly a week after the birth of Blazing Dawn. Rainbow, not fat from bearing the baby anymore, was holding the the baby colt with a confused look on her face while Ace and Lightning Flash glared at each other. Both stallions looked like they were about to clash heads.
"What's this even about, you two?" Dash asked. "Something about Ghastly Gorge?"
Dan kept up the stare, "Oh, he's angry that his Winter Wrap-Up job didn't go as planned..."
"Didn't go as planned?" Lightning snorted angrily, "You sent me with Derpy! To get birds! That Fluttershy had already retrieved!"
Dash snickered trying to hold back a laugh as Lightning Flash recounted his tale.
"And then, when I reprimanded the idiot Pegasus, she yelled, quite loudly: 'I just don't know what went wrong!' And BOOM!" Lightning Flash threw his front hooves up in the air and finally clashed heads with Dan, "Avalanche central..."
Rainbow Dash burst out laughing finally. The baby started giggling in her arms, and Dan smirked, "Even Blazing Dawn thinks you're out of line, and he's only a week old..."
"Ghastly Gorge!" A frustrated Lightning Flash barked, turning around in a huff, "Half an hour!"
With that, the angry Pegasus flew off.
Dan sighed and turned towards Dash and the baby, "Looks like I gotta play peacekeeper before Flash completely loses his cool."
Dash laughed and nuzzled the baby. "Flash has always had some anger management issues..."
"Look who's talking..." Dan said dryly.
Dash chuckled and shook her head, "Uncalled for." She turned around and started walking back into the house. "Let me know how it goes, Ace."
"Whoa! Hold up!" Dan grabbed Rainbow Dash by the back of one of her wings. "You're forgetting one thing..."
Dan smirked and feigned thoughtfulness, putting a hoof to his chin. "What was it Lightning Flash said? What was it? OH! Yes, that's it! You and Rainbow Dash, he said."
Dash smiled nervously. "I uh...I have to look after the baby..."
"That's why babysitters were invented, Dashie." Dan chuckled, "Look, from what I heard from Lightning Flash, half the town's gonna be there. It's gonna be a big race, because he has a really big mouth."
"I...I don't know..." Dash looked down.
"C'mon, Dash! I don't understand!" Dan walked closer to her, "What happened to the Rainbow Dash I fell in love with? She wouldn't back down to a challenge like this!"
"Ok, look..." Dash sighed, rocking the squirming alicorn back and forth in her front hooves, "You know my pet turtle I keep with Fluttershy, Tank?"
"Yeah, Tank." Dan shook his head in confusion, "Tank's awesome, but...what in Equestria does he have to do with racing Ghastly Gorge?"
"It has everything to do with it, actually..." She looked up into Dan's eyes, which were glowing gold with concern, "A little while ago before you came to this world, I wanted to get a pet. I held a contest..." She started pacing in the air, wings flapping, "To determine which pet would be mine through a series of skill tests. The last one was a race against me through Ghastly Gorge."
"What happened?" Dash felt one of Ace's hooves wrap around her shoulder, his body floating in the air behind her.
She let out an embarrassed chuckle before saying, "I almost died in a rock slide. My wing got crushed under a boulder and..." She sighed, "I was stuck."
"Oh my gosh..." Dan hugged her from behind, navigating his head to rest on her shoulder, "Your wing gets crushed a lot..."
"Yeah, I'm just as surprised as you are that I can still use it properly..." Dash smiled at Dan's optimistic attitude.
"So, how did you get out?" Dan asked.
"Tank came and moved the boulder and saved me, but-" She turned around to face her lover, "That's not the point! Dan, Ghastly Gorge is dangerous! I'm not only worried about you, but I'm scared to ever go back there!"
Dan frowned and folded his front two hooves, "Ah, c'mon. Please, Dashie?"
"I'm sorry, Dan." Dash used his real name to emphasize her seriousness, "I just can't do it."
"You'll never hear the end of it from Lightning Flash!" Dan insisted.
"I can deal with that idiot at work. I have for the past couple years." She turned and tried to fly away.
Dan growled, "Would the Wonderbolts take on somepony who backed down from a big race like this?"
Dan shook his head, "I think having a baby has made you soft, Rainbow Dash."
Dashie turned around a zipped toward him so fast he barely saw it. The baby was still safe in her front two hooves as well. "Let's go, Ace!"
Dan smiled, "There's the Dashie I love!"
"Are you serious, Applebloom?" Scootaloo said excitedly as they approached the start line of the race that was about to happen, "It's Ace and Rainbow Dash versus Lightning Flash?"
"That's what mah sister told me!" Applebloom smiled back.
Scootaloo could barely contain her excitement, "Ooooh man!" Her wings fluttered rapidly. "The fastest pony is Equestria versus two of the second fastest ponies in Eqiestria!"
"I assume you're rooting for Rainbow Dash..." Sweetie Belle said dryly as they approached the spectator area, where ponies had laid out picnic blankets and were getting ready to watch the match.
"Of course I am!" Scootaloo did a mini hoof-pump in the air, "Rainbow Dash is so gonna win!"
"Scootaloo, ya'll know that Ace did a Sonic Rainboom too, right?" Applebloom said as the three crusaders sat down within view of the starting line.
"What?" Scootaloo looked shocked.
"Yeah!" Sweetie Belle said, brushing off her spot her her tail before she sat down, "Ace did his version of a Sonic Rainboom to save Rainbow Dash from falling."
"They called it a Shinin' Rainboom 'cause it was all gold-like." Applebloom concluded. "Mah sister talks about it all te' time."
Scootaloo whistled in amazement, "Wow...I guess if that's true, Lightning Flash is an idiot for challenging those two..."
"He must have somethin' up his sleeve..." Applebloom said, "It's never that simple with that stallion..."
"Quoting your sister there?" Sweetie Belle asked.
"No, actually." Applebloom sighed, "Sadly enough, ah've seen that stallion before. Hot-headed chump."
"There's the hot-headed chump now..." Scootaloo said, pointing a hoof at the starting line.
Sure enough, Lightning Flash was conversing with Rainbow Dash and Ace, who had just landed. An official Wonderbolts Derby ref from Cloudsdale was there too to determine the winner and discuss rules.
"Is Rainbow Dash holding...?" Scootaloo pointed.
"She's holding her alicorn baby, guys!" Sweetie Belle smiled. "Aw! It's so cute!"
"Is it a colt 'er a filly?" Applebloom said. "Mah sister only told me it was an alicorn."
"A colt, I think..." Sweetie Belle answered.
Rainbow Dash appeared to be searching through the crowd while Ace and Lightning Flash again bashed heads and began arguing, while the ref tried to break them up. Her violet eyes fell on the Cutie Mark Crusaders as they got settled into their spot.
"Guys! Rainbow Dash is looking over here, guys!" Scootaloo waved furiously with a big smile, and Applebloom and Sweetie Belle casually waved as well.
Rainbow Dash giggled and took to the air, flying over the field in between her and them.
"Why'd reckon she's comin' over here for?" Applebloom asked confusedly.
"Beats the hay outta me..." Sweetie Belle remarked as Rainbow Dash touched down in front of the mischievous trio of fillies.
"Hey, kids. Come to see me own Lightning Flash and my coltfriend?" She chuckled and smiled warmly, rocking the baby alicorn in her hooves.
"Heck yeah, Rainbow Dash!" Scootaloo fluttered her wings excitedly. "I know you'll win for sure!"
"I don't know about this one, Scootz." Rainbow Dash leaned down and wrapped one hoof around her figurative little sister, "I'm kind of out of it from having this baby, and Ace can do a Rainboom now, too."
"Told ya'll..." Applebloom remarked dryly.
"Anyway, kids. I need a favor...if you are up to it." Rainbow Dash gently lowered her arms and deposited her baby alicorn onto the ground. She chuckled as she stepped back and watched as Blazing Dawn sat up on his back legs and yawned, rubbing his eyes and gazing up at the three filly friends.
"You want us to babysit?" Sweetie Belle raised an eye, "Us? The troublesome Cutie Mark Crusaders?"
"She has a point, RD." Applebloom remarked as she eyes the baby colt, "We ain't exactly the ponies you'd call...trustworthy..."
"We don't exactly have the best rep, either..." Scootaloo pawed the ground. "What about Applebloom's sister selling apples over there?"
"I think you guys'll do fine!" Dash turned and started flying away, "Just make sure he stays on the ground! When he tries to fly, he hurts himself!"
"But-" Scootaloo protested, "But Rainbow Dash!"
"Bye, girls!" Rainbow yelled behind her back and flew back to the starting line, where Ace and Lightning Flash were still arguing.
The three fillies were silent as their eyes simultaneously moved from Rainbow Dash to her child, who was gazing at a butterfly soaring through the air a few centimeters above him.
"He has Ace's eyes and wings, and Dash's tail and mane style, but I have no idea where the blondeness comes from..." Scootaloo remarked.
"He's so cute, though!" Sweetie Belle cooed softly.
"And besides, pony genetics ain't the easiest thing ta' understand...maybe Rainbow's grandma was blonde...er' maybe Ace's cousin twice-removed was a blonde..."
Blazing Dawn gleefully swiped at the butterfly, but ended up rolling forward right into Applebloom's lap as she was sitting down.
Blazing Dawn started to cry at his short tumble, but Applebloom quickly picked up the baby alicorn and tried to calm him.
"Shhh, sh! It's okay, ya' little rascal!" Applebloom smiled, "Applebloom's here ta' take care of ya'll!"
"I don't think that'll work, Applebloom..." Sweetie Belle sighed, "He wants his mommy..."
Blazing Dawn opened his eyes for a split second and saw Applebloom. Upon seeing the young filly holding him, her orange eyes sparkling in the sun, Blazing Dawn stopped crying instantly and smiled, flapping his little wings and trying to fly towards Applebloom from her arms.
"Whoa..." Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo both said at the same time, shocked.
"How in Equestria did you do that?" Sweetie Belle questioned, still staring at the baby colt, who was laughing and giggling.
"Ah...ah didn't do anythin'!" Applebloom chuckled as she tossed Blazing Dawn up into the air and caught him, "Wee!" Applebloom exclaimed, ruffling his blonde mane and watching the baby chuckle, "I don't know what yer mommy was talkin' 'bout! You can too fly!"
Blazing Dawn started giggling even more, fluttering his wings in excitement.
"Here, lemme see him, Applebloom!" Scootaloo reached out her arms. Blazing Dawn leaned away from Scootaloo's outstretched arms and shook his head, whimpering a little.
"Sorry there, Scootz..." Applebloom chuckled, "I guess he only likes me."
Sweetie Belle giggled as Scootaloo rolled her eyes. "Yeah...I guess..."
Applebloom looked down at the baby in her arms and turned him around sat him down on her lap, "Excited to see your mommy and daddy race, are ya'?"
Blazing Dawn waved his hooves up in the air in excitement as a response.
Applebloom closed her eyes and smiled warmly, "Ah thought as much..."
The three ponies were lined up at the starting line, and the crowd and since then doubled in size. Over the cheers of the ponies, Pinkie Pie and Spike's voices were heard over a megaphone coming from a flying pink hot-air balloon.
"Weclome everypony!" Pinkie exclaimed. "To the first ever official Ghastly Gorge Sprint Race! Oooooh, this is going to be super fun!"
"And super dangerous, Pinkie!" Spike added. "Our competitors today are three of the fastest and talented Pegasai ever to grace Equestria with their speed. First, the challenger. Co-captain of Ponyville's weather team, and out for revenge against Ace, please give a rousing welcome to Lightning Flash!"
The grey Pegasus snorted and pawed the ground in response to his cheers, his eyes narrowed and focused on the cliffs of Ghastly Gorge.
"Our second competitor is a mare you all know and love!" Pinkie Pie said. "An Element of Harmony, like me, she is also Captain of the weather team and the first ever pony to pull off a Sonic Rainboom! Please give a big 'Yeah! Woo-hoo! Hooray!' to Rainbow Dash!"
Rainbow Dash jumped and did an airborne flip when the thunderous stomping of hooves followed her announcement.
"And lastly..." Spike said suspensefully. "Our final competitor is a stallion that has now saved Equestria twice. You know him as the DJ at PON-3's club in town..." PON-3 was in the crowd, who cheered and did a hoof-pump. "You know him as the master of the Canterlot guitars and expert duelist. You know him as the second pony ever to pull off a Shining Rainboom! Please welcome, the 7th Element of Harmony! Blue 'Ace' Bass!"
Dan smirked and stomped the ground, waving at the crowd.
"Before we start the race, we should recognize our very special guests to today's race, huh, Spike?" Pinkie Pie asked.
"Yes we should, Pinkie." Spike took the mic. "In the crowds today we have the Wonderbolts Soarin' and Spitfire! And the Princesses themselves, her Highnesses, Celestia and Luna!"
All three racers turned their heads in shock to see that Celestia and Luna were seated on a raised platform above the crowd with Red Hoof guards surrounding them, including Blue Arrow and Papyrus. Also next to them were the Wonderbolt team captains, Soarin' and Spitfire.
Rainbow Dash almost hyperventilated. "Omigosh omigosh omigosh omigosh omigosh omiGOSH!" She grabbed the nape and Dan's neck and pulled him toward her. "The Wonderbolts showed up to watch me race?"
"Ow ow ow!" Dan gritted his teeth in pain. "Well, why wouldn't they? You're a hero AND you're fast! OW!" He closed his eyes in pain as she gripped even harder.
"I'm gonna mess up!" Her teeth were visibly chattering. So much so that Lightning Flash took notice and began to cackle maniacally. "I'm gonna crash and burn and die!"
"ARGH!" Dan cried out in pain. "Let me go, please!"
Rainbow Dash released her grip and Dan shook his head, backing away. "Sorry..." She apologized sheepishly.
"Is Rainbow Crash scared?" Lightning Flash chuckled. "Wanna forfeit and leave the racing to the stallions?"
"Don't talk to her like that, brony!" Dan turned and scowled.
Rainbow Dash was equally flustered. "OH! It's ON, now Flash!"
"That's what I thought!" Flash snorted and took up his position.
The ref took his place at the starting line with the green starting flag.
"The race is about to begin, everypony!" Spike exclaimed. Massive cheers and stomping of hooves arose from the audience. "When Celestia shoots a blast of magic in the air, the race will begin!"
"Oh boy!" Pinkie Pie shouted. "A race and a magic blast from Celestia? WOO!"
The three Pegasai took their positions as they listened to the ref's rules.
"Alright, you three. Standard derby rules apply here. No uncalled for physical contact, no touching any obstacles without a time penalty, and no touching the ground!" The ref nodded. "No magic or cheating of any kind! And above all else..." He pointed at each of them. "Stay safe. It's Ghastly Gorge. Rockslides are prone to happen in this area."
Rainbow Dash gulped, but she felt a reassuring hoof on her shoulder. She turned and saw Dan smiling at her.
She smiled back, and then they both turned and readied themselves.
"On your mark!" The ref shouted into a megaphone of his own.
The three Pegasai took up their positions, kneeling down almost.
Out of the corner of his eye, Dan could see Celestia powering up a magic blast from her horn.
"It's go time..." Dan muttered, pawing the ground and gazing at the cliffs below him. Rainbow Dash fluttered her wings rapidly. Lightning Flash snapped on his flight goggles.
A flash of light flew through the air.
The crowd cheered.
"GO!" The ref shouted.
Like a bullet, the three Pegasai were off, rounding the first bend in under a few seconds.
Lightning Flash (c) Lightning Flash
Blue Arrow, and the Red Hooves (c) QTXAdsy