18w, 1dTwilight's Library
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The next morning Twilight stepped outside the library to find the sun obscured by a sea of clouds…despite the fact that today was scheduled to be a clear day. She sighed. “Oh Rainbow…” Shaking her head, she trotted outside trying to see if she could spot her pegasus friend napping on one of the clouds she should’ve been clearing. To her surprise though, she couldn’t find Rainbow Dash on any of them. “That’s odd. I wonder where she could be?”
As if in answer to her question, a rainbow trail suddenly bloomed across the blue sky. “Rainbow Dash!” Twilight ran after it, which was heading towards the Everfree Forest.
At the edge of the woods Twilight stopped, panting and out of breath. She strained her neck as she saw Rainbow Dash fly over the expanse of trees and start performing a series of dives, twists, turns and other complex aerial acrobatic maneuvers. The lavender unicorn looked on in amazement. She had seen Rainbow Dash do some amazing things, but here she seemed determined to outdo them all (save perhaps for the Sonic Rainboom).
The longer Twilight watched though, the more worried she became. A lot of these tricks seemed awfully dangerous and even from the ground she could see the toll it was taking on Rainbow. Whenever she missed a trick or slipped up, Twilight could hear her exasperated curses and see her start the whole thing over again: except trying to go even faster to make up for lost time. Perhaps an hour and a half went by as Twilight silently watched Rainbow Dash give it her all and grow increasingly more frustrated whenever something didn’t go exactly the way she wanted it. She performed maneuvers Twilight had only heard her talk about: her Super Speed Strut, the Fantastic Filly Flash, the Buckaneer Blaze, cloud spinning…the works.
Twilight was worried. There was something about this that seemed familiar, but what was it? She winced as it came to her. It reminded her of her own frustrations when she couldn’t come up with a friendship report for Princess Celestia and of Applejack’s own stubbornness and frustration when she had to apple buck all of Sweet Apple Acres and keep up her promises to her friends all at the same time.
“Rainbow Dash!” She called, hoping she could hear her. “I need to talk to you!” But Rainbow either couldn’t hear Twilight or was ignoring her. She zoomed upwards, climbing higher and higher into the sky. Twilight’s heart sank. She wasn’t. She couldn’t. Not after all the things she’d already been doing…
But she was. Dash started diving down as she prepared for a Sonic Rainboom. Only this time, she was going down in a corkscrew maneuver intended to add a little certain extra something to her signature move. But as Twilight had feared, Rainbow had already tired herself out and no matter how hard she pushed she couldn’t break through the mach cone to create the Rainboom.
Rainbow Dash let out a startled yell as she snapped back against the incredible pressure operating against her. She tumbled head over hooves back into the air and then plummeted down—right into the Everfree. “Rainbow Dash!” Twilight shouted as she ran into the forest after her.
Pushing her way through bushes and thickets, Twilight headed deeper into the forest. She eventually found Rainbow Dash at the end of a long furrow in the ground, rubbing her head with her hoof.
“Urrrgh…” She groaned. Twilight was at her side in an instant.
“Rainbow Dash are you okay? Are you hurt? Are your wings broken? Do you need to see Nurse Tenderheart? Say something!”
“I would if you stopped talking long enough for me to get a word in!” Rainbow snapped. Twilight shrunk down. Rainbow Dash sighed. “Sorry Twilight. I just…I didn’t want anypony to see me like this.” She mumbled.
Twilight sighed and gently helped Rainbow back to her hooves. “Come on, it’s not like I’ve never seen you crash before.” Twilight winced when she saw Rainbow blush as she realized that what she said was precisely the wrong thing to say.
“Go ahead and laugh Twi. You and everypony else. After all, that’s all I’m good for, right?” Rainbow asked bitterly, looking down. “Being a laughingstock?”
“You’re not a laughingstock, Rainbow Dash.”
“I kind of am, Twilight.” She stomped her hoof. Then she blinked. “Huh, did you just get a weird feeling of day-whatsit?
“You mean déjà vu?”
“Whatever. The point is that the ponies in town have started to associate my rump with being a lightning rod! How am I supposed to have the Wonderbolts take me seriously if nopony else does?” Rainbow looked away. “How are you guys supposed to take me seriously?”
“Rainbow…” Twilight hadn’t heard Rainbow sound this forlorn since the Best Young Fliers Competition. “We’re your friends. We’d never laugh at you. Not like…that.”
“Yeah?” Rainbow brightened for a moment, but it soon passed. “Then that makes just it the five of you out of all of Ponyville.”
“Rainbow look, I’ve been reading a lot about your…situation and I think this can help.” Twilight’s horn glowed as she levitated a book out of her saddlebag. She held it up for Rainbow to read the title.
Rainbow squinted. “‘How to Deal With Embarrassment 101: Everything You’ve Ever Wanted to Know About Embarrassment But Were Too Embarrassed to Ask’…seriously?”
“Right! Now ever since Trixie zapped your…dignity.” Twilight amended at the last moment as she turned the book around and flipped through the pages. “You’ve been feeling what the book describes. There are several types of embarrassment, but most share a few common traits. The three components of embarrassment are emotional arousal or a feeling of heat, a sense of exposure and conspicuousness and a feeling of deficiency.”
“Twilight, I really don’t think—”
“The causes of embarrassment vary depending on situation.” Twilight went on in her ‘explaining voice.’ All she needed was her soapbox. “For example there’s identity management when you don’t know the name of somepony that you should. There’s also loss of poise—I think this one matches yours—which is related to a loss of self control, problems with clothing or loss of body control.”
“Twilight…” Rainbow groaned, her face bright red.
“…other types include breaches of privacy, faux pas, being overly rewarded or praised…”
“Surprisingly you can get embarrassed even when you’re alone because you can imagine how others would react if they had seen what you did in public, and we can feel embarrassed by watching somepony else be embarrassed.”
“TWILIGHT!” Rainbow barked, startling the unicorn into dropping her book. “I get it all right?! Yes, okay, I’m embarrassed! Every pony’s laughing at me and it’s embarrassing! So I’m gonna fix it!”
“My way! I’ll just have to train twice as hard! Yeah, I’ll become like, 200% more awesome than before! I’ll be so cool that nopony will ever even remember what Trixie did!”
“And now that I don’t have my lame-o job anymore I can spend all my time training and practicing!” Seeing Twilight’s face she added. “Don’t worry. Once everypony realizes just how amazing I am again and how lucky they are to have me around to clear the weather, I’ll do my old job again.” She frowned. “But not before they stop laughing. Until then…” She shrugged her wings. “Wonderbolts training time!”
“But Rainbow, you’re trying too hard! Look at what just happened! I don’t think your body—much less your wings—can take being put through that day after day!”
“I’m a pegasus Twilight, not a hummingbird! I can take a little punishment. My wings aren’t going to fall off if you look at them funny.” Rainbow retorted a bit angrily. “Besides, I *think* I know my own body’s limitations a little better than *you.*” Twilight lowered her ears. Rainbow snorted and tried to unruffle her feathers. “It’ll be okay Twi. I’ll be fine.”
“But Rainbow…what about us?” Twilight asked quietly. “What about your friends?”
“…it’ll be okay.” Rainbow Dash repeated quietly. “Everything’ll be cool once I get into the Wonderbolts. Then you’ll have a totally awesome friend to be proud of instead of a…well, you know.” She looked away.
“Rainbow Dash, you don’t have to do all that. Not for us.” Twilight wished she could will the stubborn pegasus into believing her. “We’re friends with you, Rainbow Dash. It doesn’t matter if you’re a Wonderbolt or a weather mare. Not to us: Me and Applejack and Rarity and Fluttershy and Pinkie Pie.”
“…See you around Twilight.” Rainbow flapped her wings and took to the air, flying further out over the Everfree Forest.
Twilight lowered her head in defeat and sighed. A familiar lilting voice startled her out of her thoughts.
“Such a heavy heart, for one so young. Tell me, why are you so glum?” Twilight turned to see a familiar face.
“Oh hi Zecora…Uh, young doesn’t rhyme with glum.”
Zecora pulled a face. “Have you never read Frost? Take a peak! When a rhyme’s not quite, it’s called oblique.” Zecora stamped her hoof for emphasis. “But a poetry lesson is not why I’m here. Now, what is truly troubling you my dear?”
“It’s…a long story.”
“Then come back with me and share your woes over a nice pot of tea.” Zecora nudged Twilight in the flank and soon the young unicorn found herself following Zecora back to her home. It wasn’t long until they found themselves sitting at a table in Zecora’s surprisingly cozy hut. Twilight thanked her as she levitated a cup of warm tea up to her mouth. “Hmm, this is delicious! Thank you!”
“You are most welcome, Twilight my friend. You know that I have an ear I can always lend.”
“It’s Rainbow Dash.” She sighed. “She’s going through some…difficulties. We want to help her, but she keeps pushing everypony away.”
Zecora’s golden rings jangled slightly as she nodded her head. “As I often tell Apple Bloom, sometimes you must wait and give them room.”
“Urg, but she’s—I’m afraid she’s going to hurt herself! She’s so wrapped up in getting over this embarrassing thing that happened that she’s decided to shut everypony out until she gets into the Wonderbolts or dies trying.”
“Ah, I see the predicament. A hard thing to handle is embarrassment.”
“Have you ever been embarrassed Zecora?” Twilight asked, before realizing that was a rather intrusive question. She was about to apologize when Zecora smiled.
“Has not every zebra and pony? Any who says otherwise is a big phony. And have you never heard said: what is white, black, and all over red?”
Twilight grinned weakly. “I guess you’re right. But Rainbow…how I put it? She’s so concerned with making sure everypony thinks she’s cool that she just can’t cope. She can’t move on.” She briefly explained what happened with Trixie and the lightning.
Zecora raised an eyebrow. “Ah, the one who work the slumbering bear? Such a racket I heard, coming from its lair. And poor Rainbow Dash and her poor bruised pride! As much as her outsides hurt, it hurts her more inside.”
“I wish I knew what to do.” Twilight looked down. “There isn’t anything in my books that can heal a pony on the inside.”
“My silly, clever chum don’t you know when you’re being dumb?” Zecora teased gently. “There is one true answer on which you can depend, be there for her—be her friend.”
“B-but she said she doesn’t want us…”
“Some times a friend says they wish to be alone; to think, to rest or to simply roam. Other times a friend will say that when feeling hollow; wishing to know if they have a friend who cares enough to follow.”
“…You’re right Zecora! Just like with Discord, I have to fight for our friendship!” Twilight stood swiftly, her eyes glinting. “Thank you Zecora! I’m going to head back home right now.”
Zecora inclined her head. “Any time my dear. As for your friendship, I think you have nothing left to fear.”
Twilight galloped on home as Zecora stepped outside her home and looked around at the green splendor that was the Everfree Forest. Most ponies found it frightening and mysterious, but Zecora knew how to find the hidden paths in the forest that took her around the lairs of deadly animals and away from patches of equally deadly plants. It was wild and untamed, much like her homeland.
Zecora sighed nostalgically as she remembered the sights and smells of Quaggania, her mother’s grain soup, dust motes drifting through the window of her classroom, years of studying...her reminiscing was put on hold though, when she found what she was looking for. Or rather, when it found her.
“Hey Zecora.” Rainbow Dash gave a sickly smile that was supposed to radiate confidence but fell somewhat short since she was limping and one eye was bruised.
The zebra clucked her tongue. “Do not ‘hey Zecora’ me young miss, when you come wobbling in all bruised and amiss.”
“Who’re you calling miss…” Rainbow’s voice slurred slightly with faint protest as she limped her way inside.
Zecora shook her head as she closed the door behind them. “Once again you come for a healing brew, to fix the damage you’ve done to you?”
Rainbow groaned as she flopped down on Zecora’s bed. “Ugh. Better make it a double, doc.”
Rolling her eyes, Zecora made her way over to her shelves. Once the ponies had lost their fear of her, her potions and brews had become very popular among ponies in need of a cure. Rainbow Dash in particular was practically a regular, ever since she had injured herself during a particularly nasty storm and Zecora had to patch her up. Since then, Rainbow always came to Zecora whenever she injured herself doing some particularly featherbrained trick or maneuver. “Once again we travel down this familiar road, but today you are not the only one who came for me to lighten their load.”
“Your friend Twilight came by most distressed and weary, concerned about a friend performing tricks of which she should be leery.”
“You…spoke to Twilight?” Rainbow lifted her head off the pillow, then grimaced regretting it.
“As I said. More attention to her you should’ve paid.”
“Zecora, it’s hard enough listening to Twilight when she’s in full-on egghead mode. Listening to it in rhyming doesn’t make it any easier. No offense.”
Zecora’s jewelry jangled as she shook her head. “Ah Rainbow Dash, I have cures to get rid of aches, pains, or a sprain. But sometimes I think you need a balm for your brain.” Her words were spoken without any real anger or frustration, taking the bite out of them. Zecora had come to know Twilight Sparkle and her friends fairly well. She might not be their closest of friends with them, but she was close enough and with time had gotten to know how each of the six acted and usually why. And since Rainbow Dash had started to see her for her training-related injuries, Zecora had come to observe a few things about her.
Rainbow was a pony who didn’t care if she was the smartest pony in the room. She didn’t like to look foolish but she didn’t mind if there was somepony—or zebra—else who was smarter than her, though she did grow impatient when told something she already knew. Perhaps it was part of her competitive nature. If she knew there was an event she could not hope to win, why bother competing and risk losing? Especially for something as non-physical and ‘boring’ as being smart?
But Zecora knew that Rainbow Dash was far from stupid or dumb. She had come to learn the difference between when Rainbow Dash was pretending to be dumb just to get ponies off their guard, pretending to be dumb because she was too lazy or impatient to think and wanted somepony else to do it for her, when she was pretending to be outrageously dumb to hide the fact that she actually didn't understand what was going on, and really being genuinely dumb. Rainbow chose not to think ahead, so as not to over think a maneuver or tie herself up in knots over worries and doubts; associating worrying and doubting with thinking and planning ahead.
Rainbow, at least, seemed to know as much herself so she didn’t rise to Zecora’s bait besides to cross her forelegs and pout. Zecora chuckled. “Come, make yourself comfortable Rainbow Dash, while I once again deal with consequences of you being rash.”
“Hey, she who dares, wins.” Rainbow pointed out as she rolled over on her belly and stretched out her legs.
Zecora started to dab ointment on Rainbow’s cuts and bruises. The pegasus hissed but soon relaxed and felt her muscles unclench as the tension was released. “If this is your victory, youth of rainbow hue, a defeat you must truly rue.”
“Mhhmem.” Rainbow mumbled into Zecora’s pillow. Shaking her head she went over to her shelf and returned with a potion that Rainbow guzzled with one quick gulp. “Thanks.” She panted as the pain left her body like a visitor who finally figured out that they had overstayed their welcome. “I should get back home before I start feeling worn out again.”
“If the night you wished to stay, I certainly would not send you away.” Zecora offered gently.
Rainbow Dash looked up at her gratefully. “Thanks Zecora.”
Inclining her head, Zecora walked away. Before she left Rainbow to her needed rest she paused. “One final note, this is not something you learn by rote.” She turned to stare Rainbow right in the eyes. “Most creatures use false bravado to hide their weakness. That behind your false bravado lies an even greater strength is your true uniqueness.”
Rainbow opened her mouth, but Zecora didn’t wait for a response before blowing out the candles. It was just as well.
Rainbow Dash didn’t have one.
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