18w, 12hTwilight's Library
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The first day of Summer Flight Camp. Rainbow Dash was so excited she couldn’t stop her wings from buzzing like a bee. She couldn’t wait until she got up in the air! For the moment the coach had taken them all down to the boring old ground.
When the coach wanted to see what they could do, it was all Rainbow could do to keep from whooping in glee. She flew as fast as she could across the track. She couldn't resist a giddy giggle as she heard the started exclamations and gasps of the crowd at her speed.
Rainbow grinned as she banked around and came back for a landing. But stopping seemed to be more difficult than starting. She reduced her speed and gently tried to lower herself until her hooves touched the ground.
The next thing she knew she was tumbling head over hooves on the hard ground. She bit her lip to prevent herself from screaming—or from possibly throwing up. After a panic filled lifetime that in reality was only a couple of seconds, Rainbow came to a stop—right in the middle of a muddy puddle.
The young filly wiped the mud off her face as she heard the crowd of her peers that only a moment ago had been in awe of her skills were now laughing at the pitiful spectacle. Rainbow Dash felt her face burn beneath the cold mud as heat rode up her neck, her cheeks and even ears. She was just glad the mud was obscuring the tears welling in her eyes.
A high-pitched young colt snickered. “Nice going Rainbow CRASH!”
“Ha ha, yeah! Rainbow Crash!”
“Rainbow Crash! Rainbow Crash!”
Rainbow wiped the mud off her reddened face, trying her hardest not to cry. It was only her first day but she had already learned an important lesson. Ponies who stood out were either admired or laughed at. Rainbow Dash knew which one she wanted to be.
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Rainbow woke up with a start. “Whoa-oh!” She panted as she looked around. “Who, huh, wha?” Blinking the sleep from her eyes she found herself staring nose to nose with a creepy face leering at her. “Aah!”
She flailed, and fell out of bed onto the hard floor. Shaking her head she remembered where she was. “Oh right…” Rainbow looked around Zecora’s hut. Potions in vials and bottles lined spaces on shelves and some even hung from the ceiling. And of course, the large masks that lined the walls. She glared at them. “At the risk of sounding like Rarity, Zecora could really use an interior decorator.”
Rainbow climbed to her hooves and walked until she was about a pace away from the mask that had startled her. Because she was totally not scared by a mask. At all. Nope. No way. She puffed up her face and stuck out her tongue in mimicry. Imitating that mask was no easy task. Could a pony—or zebra?—face really twist that way? Maybe Pinkie Pie’s but other than that…
She leaned in, giving it a leering glower as she puffed out her cheeks and stuck out her tongue. The mask wobbled and Rainbow back up, giving a panicked yelp as the mask fell from its perch and landed on the floor with a rattle. The cyan pegasus panted at the sudden fright, her heart beating so loud she thought it might pop out of her chest.
“I bid you good day. Has sleep eased your cares away?”
“Huh? Zecora?” Rainbow looked around to find Zecora in the middle of the room…balanced precariously on a staff. On her head no less. With her eyes closed. “Um, uh…yeah, sorry about that.” She picked up the mask and put it back on the nail it hung on. “Did you…see any of that?”
Zecora smiled serenely from her position. “I my meditative state I ignore all distractions and noise. My mind is calm so I may keep my poise.”
“Oh. That’s…cool.” She said neutrally.
Zecora went on. “Why does it concern you if you were seen, before you primp and pump and preen?”
Rainbow shuffled her wings awkwardly. “W-well, when you’re the coolest pony in town there are certain expectations that are well…expected, of you. A heh.” She gave a weak chuckle.
“Ah, and that is all you are? The coolest by far?”
“What do you mean?” Rainbow asked. But Zecora didn’t say another word. “Well…okay, thanks for patching me up and letting me spend the night. I guess I’ll be going now?” Still nothing. “Bye!” Rainbow zoomed out of Zecora’s hut.
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Rainbow Dash wanted nothing better than to get back to her training regimen but her stomach raised an objection. Realizing that she hadn’t eaten since yesterday, she flew towards Sugarcube Corner.
Poking her head in, she saw that there weren’t that many ponies inside. And behind the counter was none other than the party pony herself.
Pinkie Pie bounced in place. “Hiii Dashie! Oooooh I was hoping you’d come by! Do you want a cupcake? I made them special for you!” Before Rainbow Dash could blink Pinkie somehow was now on the other side of the counter and was shoving a tray full of rainbow-frosted cupcakes under Rainbow’s snout. “Yummy yummy! They’re rainbow-riffic!”
“Uh, thanks Pinkie.” Rainbow slowly took a bite of one. “Hmm, these are really good!”
“Of course they are! I made them special for you and friendship cupcakes are at least twice as yummyriffic as your ordinary cupcakes which already really yummy!” She threw her front hooves around Rainbow’s neck even as she managed to keep the tray of cupcakes balanced on her back.
“Well that’s really cool of you Pinkie. I guess I’ll take some cupcakes to go.” Pinkie immediately gave her a full lipped Pinkie Pie Pout (Patent Pending).
“Go? Awww, why Dashie? You just got here!”
Rainbow Dash lowered her ears as she looked around. No pony seemed to be paying attention to her at the moment. Usually that would’ve annoyed her greatly but things being what they were…“I—I really wanna be alone.”
Pinkie giggled. Too loudly for Rainbow’s taste as other ponies started to turn their heads towards them. “Oh silly Rainbow! Why would you ever want to be alone? Don’t you know….?” With a sudden feeling of dread, Rainbow Dash knew what was coming.
“Pinkie no, please don’t—!” But it was too late. Pinkie Pie leaped onto the counter and started to sing.
“Life's a happy song when there’s somepony by your side to sing along!
You’ve got everything that you ne-eed!
Right in front of you!”
Rainbow facehooved. Now everypony in the bakery was giving her and Pinkie a good look. A few started tapping their hooves. Say what you will, but Pinkie’s tunes were rather catchy.
“No-othing’s stopping you!
Nothing that you can’t do that the world can throw at you!” Pinkie hopped and danced around on the counter.
“Everything is perfect, it’s falling into place
I can’t seem to wipe this smile off my face
Life smells like a rose!”
“With somepony to paint—” Cheerilee smiled.
“—and with somepony to pose!” sang Blues.
“Life’s a piece of cake!” Mrs. Cake beamed.
“With somepony to pedal—” Peachy Pie said as she skated past the window.
“—Somepony to break!” Sunny Daze sang right afterwards as she careened into Peachy Pie.
“Life is full of glee!” Chirped Twist.
“With somepony to saw—” Snips waved from the park playground’s seesaw.
“—and somepony to see!” Snails agreed.
“Life's a happy song when there’s somepony by my side to sing along!” Pinkie took back over.
“I’ve got everything that I ne-eed
Right in front of me!
No-othing’s stopping me
Nothing I can’t be with you right here next to me!”
“Life’s a piece of cake!” Mr. Cake provided, hugging his wife as he deposited a piece of cake to Silver Spoon and Diamond Tiara.
“With somepony to give—” Silver Spoon looked longingly at the slice of cake in front of her.
“—and somepony to take!” Diamond Tiara added as she helped herself to the lion’s share, not noticing Silver Spoon’s pout.
“Life’s a piece of pie!” Granny Smith crooned.
“With somepony to wash—” Berry Punch sang from across the street as she dunked some clothes into the washing basin.
“—and somepony to dry!” Finished Colgate as she put the wet clothes up on a laundry line.
“Life’s an easy road!” Big Macintosh sang.
“With somepony beside you to share the load!” Caramel chimed in as he and Big Macintosh carried bushels of apples on their backs to the market place.
“Life is full of highs!” Whooped Cloud Kicker as she soared past.
“With somepony to stir—” Started Pokey Pierce.
“—and somepony to fry!” Horte Cuisine agreed.
“Life’s a bunch of flowers,” Lily sang from her seat next to Rose and Daisy.
“—With somepony to while away the hours!” Chimed in Lotus and Aloe.
“Life’s a fillet of fish, hey!” Hayseed added as he suddenly walked past a window. There was an awkward pause.
“…Yes it is!” Pinkie led everypony in agreeing after a second. “Life’s a happy song!”
“When there’s somepony by your side to sing…” Lyra chimed from her booth as she wrapped a hoof around a beaming Bon Bon.
“Life’s a happy song!”
“When there’s somepony by your side to sing…” Doctor Whooves agreed as he offered Ditzy Doo a muffin.
“Life’s a happy song--when there’s somepony by your side to sing alooooooong!”
Every pony in Sugarcube Corner (and immediately outside it) but Rainbow Dash joined in on the end. Somehow Gummy appeared in his little black tuxedo and grinned his toothless grin. Pinkie hopped down and gave her friend a wide smile. “See?”
Rainbow Dash blinked, shook her head and said the only thing she could say to that. “Pinkie Pie…you are SO random.”
“Aww c’mon silly!” Pinkie wrapped her hoof around Rainbow’s neck and gently mussed up her mane. “We’re all friends here! Sugarcube Corner is the happiest place in Equestria! I would’ve said on earth, but that phrase is copyrighted and I’m never quite sure what planet we’re supposed to be on…”
“Pinkie Pie, NO pony is sure what planet you’re on.” Rainbow rolled her eyes as she pulled her head free.
“You say the funniest things Rainbow!” Pinkie giggled. “You always make me laugh! That’s why you're my best prankster pal ever! And now I’m gonna make you all smiley and not frowny so everything can go back to normal! So will you give Pinkie a just a little teeny tiny rainbow smile?” She asked hopefully, her blue eyes big and pleading. It wasn’t in the category of Fluttershy’s Stare or Apple Bloom’s pout, but it was in the very next level beneath them.
“Pinkie…” Rainbow Dash groaned as she looked away. “Don’t do that—I’m not in the mood.”
Pinkie gasped dramatically—though really how many other ways are there to gasp? Oh darn that pony, she’s got ME doing it! Anyway, Pinkie looked gobsmacked. She had been meaning to look gobsmacked before but could never manage to pull it off. “Not in the mood to smile?! Oooh, this calls for extreme measures!” Pinkie dove behind the counter. Before Rainbow could blink she found herself flat on her back as a pink blur tackled her and plunked her pink rump down on her belly.
“Pinkie, what are you do—eeek!” Rainbow gave a little squeak as she felt something tickle her belly. She raised her head to see Pinkie clutching a feather duster in her mouth. “Pinkie don’t you da-hahaahare!” Rainbow squeaked as Pinkie started tickling her. “Hahaha, s-stahhapit!” Over her own laughter, she could hear the giggles from the bakery’s patrons. Rainbow felt her face heat. “P-pinkie! Haheek! Quitit!”
Pinkie’s reply was muffled by the feather dusters in her mouth. But when she didn’t get off, Rainbow bucked. The pink earth pony flailed her arms and slid off Rainbow’s belly. Rainbow Dash immediately rolled over and climbed back to her hooves, shaking herself out. Amid the odd giggles, Rainbow stormed out the front door.
“Dashie wait!” Pinkie called from behind her. Rainbow Dash didn’t turn around. She turned a corner only to find herself face to face with Pinkie Pie.
“Auugh!” Rainbow leapt back. “How did—but you were---ooh, Pinkie!” She fumed and tried to shoulder past her but the little pink pony was sturdier than she looked. “Pinkie Pie, let me through!”
“Nu uh! I just wanted to make you happy Dashie! I’m sorry.” Pinkie gave Dash such a sad look that even Rainbow Dash couldn’t stay mad at her. But she did cross her forelegs across her chest and sit down on her rump, sulkily facing away from Pinkie.
“That was NOT cool Pinkie! I’ve got enough ponies laughing at me without you doing that in front of everypony!”
“Aww, but it was just in good fun!”
“Pinkie Pie I’ve got a reputation to uphold! You don't look cool when you’re being sat on and tickled!”
“But Dashie, you’re always cool!” Pinkie said like it was the most obvious thing ever. “Duh!”
“Y-yeah? Well—well I know that! It’s everypony else that needs to remember it!” Rainbow huffed.
Pinkie giggled. “Silly Rainbow! You can’t be so worried about how other ponies look at you that never have any fun! If you’re soooo busy looking all cool and awesome-y then when are you gonna have time to have fun?”
“Hey, being cool and awesome is fun!” Rainbow protested.
“Am I cool?” Pinkie suddenly asked.
Rainbow Dash blinked in confusion. “Well, yeah, Pinkie, you’re pretty cool.”
“And I like to have fun! That’s what I do! So smiling and having fun makes me cool! Ergo, you don’t have to be cool to have fun! You have to have fun to be cool!” Pinkie concluded, whipping off a pair of glasses with her hoof that had somehow appeared without Rainbow Dash noticing where they had come from.
Rainbow took a moment to process this. “…ergo?”
“Yeah, I dunno what that means either. Twilight says it a lot. I thought it had something to do with waffles but...but that’s not important!” Pinkie shook her head, surprising Rainbow by cutting off her own tandem for once. “Anyway, you can’t be so worried about how you look that you never enjoy yourself! It’s—oooh! It’s like Rarity when she’s so worried about dirt and stuff that she can’t bring herself to have fun! Or when Twilight wants to study and study and study and not come out to play!”
Rainbow Dash frowned. “I…I dunno Pinkie. I guess—I need some time to think about this.”
“Try not to take too long.” Pinkie suddenly hugged her. “You’re our friend Dashie. Please don’t leave us behind?”
The pegasus suddenly felt struck by something she couldn’t explain as she wrapped her hooves around Pinkie. “Never gonna happen Pinkie. Even I’m not fast enough to leave you gals behind.” She smiled. “Now c’mon enough of this mushy stuff. I’m gonna go train and you better get back before Ditzy cleans out your stocks of muffins.”
Pinkie jolted as if stung. “Ooh! Right! Um, see you later Rainbow Dash! Think about what I said and remember,” she looked at her seriously. “If I make cupcakes too cool then they’d freeze and everypony would have to go see the dentist cause they’d chip their teeth and the dentist would have to fix our teeth and it'd hurt a lot and then nopony’s happy. Okay?” Pinkie smiled as she said everything without taking a single breath. Then she pulled out a tray of cupcakes from her mane and left it for Rainbow Dash. Then she hopped back to work, leaving Rainbow there to shake her head.
“So. Completely. Random.”
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“Okay Rainbow Dash, c’mon. You can do this! You can totally do this!” Perched on a stray cloud at the edge of Sweet Apple Acres, Rainbow Dash got into her pre-flight position. “Ready. Set. GO!” With a mighty kick that ended up breaking up the cloud she had been sitting on, Rainbow launched forward. She flew down until she was only a few feet from the ground. Then she started to weave her way around the apple trees through the densest part of Sweet Apple Acres. This was called slaloming. It was the ultimate test of agility, requiring swift banks, rapid turns and razor-sharp reflexes.
Rainbow Dash loved it.
Her mane fluttered in the wind as she twirled, narrowly avoiding a large Red Gala apple tree. She dove up and between two of the larger branches of a tree sporting Golden Crisp apples. “I am totally in the zone!” She pumped a hoof. “Oh yeah, I am awesome!” She slipped between a pair of trees. “I am amazing!” Rainbow darted between the branches of another. “I am—”
“RAINBOW DASH?!” Applejack shouted as she saw the rainbow blur heading towards her. Rainbow’s eyes widened as she started flapping her wings backwards, trying to pull back and away but it was too late.
Rainbow closed her eyes as she bowled Applejack over. The two mares became entangled as they tumbled head over hooves through the orchard.
“Daaagnabbit Rainbow!” Applejack yelped as they rolled downhill, coming into a stop in a small pond. “Pfffff!” The farm pony sputtered as she crawled out of the pond, her coat dripping and her hat plastered to her face. Rainbow Dash emerged a second later.
“Ugh…that was awesome, but uncool.” She shook herself off, then winced when she saw the doubly doused Applejack glare at her. “Er, whoops? Sorry about that.”
“Darnit Dash!” AJ grit her teeth and fought the urge to explode at her friend. She counted to ten. She was still mad so she counted to twenty. Then she sighed. “Look, it’s just as well that I ran into ya, or the other way ‘round anyways. Can we talk?”
Rainbow sighed. “Do we have to?”
“Yes.” Applejack said firmly. Then her face softened. “Rainbow, we’re worried about you. Hyped up like a hummingbird that got into th’ coffee, crashing all over the place, trying to avoid everypony…”
“AJ, I need to do this!” Rainbow flared her wings in emphasis. “I need to rebuild my image!”
“Sugarcube, you need to relax! You’re letting your dangblasted pride get the better of you!”
“MY pride?! You’re the last pony in town, no, in *Equestria,* who should be talking about pride getting in the way! Remember, Miss Sleep Deprived Super-Bucker?”
“Well, that makes me you-niquely qualified to talk some sense into that thick skull of yours.” AJ took a deep breath. She didn’t want to get into a shouting match with Rainbow. It only made her dig in more. “Rainbow, yer right, I acted like a foal throughout that whole business. I could’ve spared myself and my friends a whole lotta grief if I had just listened to Twilight when she offered me her help in the first place.”
“So, what I shouldn’t care what ponies say about me? Shouldn’t care that they snicker when I go past and wondering if I can rent out my rump as a lightning rod?”
Applejack bit down hard to prevent herself from snorting or showing any amusement. “W-well, maybe you shouldn’t mind so much…”
Rainbow Dash frowned then she suddenly shrugged and said “Okay.”
“…Really?” Applejack blinked. Dash nodded.
“Yeah, I guess it is a bit silly…it’d be like if you got all worked up over all that talk going around town about you.”
“Just a mite bit sil—what’s that now?”
“What do you care, it isn’t important right? I mean, so what if you put on a few pounds? You’re allowed to let yourself go a little—and hey, who could blame you with all of Granny Smith’s delicious apple pies?” Rainbow asked airily, waving a hoof nonchalantly.
Applejack turned her head to look at her hindquarters. They DID start to look a little…plumper than she’d like. “Uh, yeah.” She replied dully.
“And hey, at least they’re talking about that instead of that rumor about you having a roll in the hay with Caramel.”
“WHAT?!” Applejack’s hat almost flew off her head as she stamped her hooves on the ground. “Why of all the lousy, rotten, ridiculous notions ah ever heard that is--!” She paused when she saw the smug look on Rainbow’s face. “…ponies ain’t saying a thing, are they?”
“Hm, no.” Rainbow shrugged nonchalantly. “Why, did it *bother* you when you thought they were? When you thought that it was *your* reputation that was being dragged through the mud?”
AJ counted to ten. Again. “Look…I understand what you’re saying. Yer right, ah do care what ponies think about me, say about me. All ponies do, whether they say they do or not.” Rainbow smirked triumphantly. Applejack waved her hoof. “Hold on there, nelly, ah ain’t done yet. It’s one thing to care about what ponies think about you. Being so wrapped up in trying to change how you’re thought about that you don’t do anything else…that’s something else.” She could see that Rainbow Dash didn’t see the distinction.
The earth pony sighed. “You brought up when I went full out trying to harvest the entire orchard all by my lonesome and do all those things ah said I’d do in town. It was embarrassing having to admit to Twilight that I was wrong and needed help to manage my own farm. It was embarrassing that I caused a bunny stampede through town. And it was sure a shootin’ embarrassing when ah sent over a dozen ponies to the clinic because I put earthworms and potato chips into cupcakes.” AJ shuddered. “No pony ate anything ah baked for weeks after that, and you know how good I am at fixin’ up vittles.” Rainbow nodded in agreement. “That ate at me something bad. But all I could do was apologize, do my best to make up for it and wait for ponies to move on and give my baking another go. And now everypony trusts me again…so long as ah get my sleep.” She smirked ruefully.
“I see you didn’t say anything about falling on your face repeatedly and then launching me into Twilight’s balcony.” Rainbow noted laconically. AJ facehooved.
“…That too. But Rainbow, you weren’t listening. I jest made a joke about what happened. At the time, yeah, it was embarrassing as all get out. But once you give it a little time and a little distance it doesn’t hurt so bad. You’ve got to learn not to take yerself so seriously all the time or you’ll drive yourself nuts. Laugh at your mistakes. Become part of the joke and it don’t sting as much. I promise.”
“But everypony in town. They just…laugh. All of them.” She sounded so forlorn and miserable that Applejack trotted over and put her hoof on Rainbow’s withers.
“Ah don't think it is everypony. You haveta realize that folks ‘round these parts kin get all sorts of nonsense into their heads and get themselves worked up over nothing. Remember when Zecora first moved in? A few ponies started whispering nonsense and it spread. Even WE hid when Zecora came to town remember?” She prodded. Rainbow Dash reluctantly nodded. “Us! Yer the bravest—and most foolhardy—pony ah ever known and ah ain’t a chicken neither, but mah knees were a quakin’ when Zecora came to town. And remember how everypony acted when Princess Luna showed up for Nightmare Night? First they were all scared of her, then they liked her, then they were all scared of her again, then by the end of the night they were all friends again! And remember when Apple Bloom got Cutie Pox? A few ponies got scared or worked up and it infected everypony else, like a stampede!”
Rainbow Dash suddenly had a mental image of being trampled by a stampede of everypony in Ponyville. She shuddered.
AJ continued. “Ponies around here, are, well, a mite easy to lead. But, the thing about stampede is, that once you head them off and give them some time to think they realize that they made a big deal over nothing and it all goes back to normal. It’ll be the same way here. You’ll do something all awesome-like and cool and they’ll realize just how foalish it was to razz you about Trixie and the lightning.”
“But that’s what I’ve been TRYING to do!” Rainbow Dash all but wailed.
“Exactly mah point!” Applejack prodded Dash’s chest with her hoof. “You been trying too hard! You’re at your most awesome when you ain’t TRYING to be awesome, you get me? It’s like Apple Bloom and her friends with their Cutie Marks. The harder they try to get them, the longer it’ll take for them to realize what their true talents are. But if they’re *patient* and let it come naturally, their problems will be over. Just like yours.”
“I don’t know Applejack…patience isn’t exactly my strong suit.” Rainbow Dash fluttered her wings. “And…and I don’t think I can wait much longer. It’s just so bad even going into town that I—”
“Rainbow…” Applejack said softly. Rainbow Dash backed up.
“I—I gotta fly. Sorry for crashing into you!” Rainbow lived up to her name and dashed off.
Applejack stamped her hoof. “Darnit Rainbow! Too gosh durn stubborn for her own good.” She muttered, familiar with the concept of irony but clearly wanting no truck with it.
Rainbow Dash zoomed across Sweet Apple Acres, leaving a rainbow trail in her wake. Her mind full of turmoil, she responded the only way she knew how: by flying her heart out.
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