“No, no, no! This is all wrong!” Rarity slashed a quill across her latest design, if one could call it that. She crumpled up the paper she was using and tossed it into the rest of her discarded designs. Hundreds of papers piled on top of one another. Each scrapped idea reminded Rarity that she could not come up with a new dress design.
“Why,” she asked no one in particular. “Why isn’t my muse speaking to me?” She paced around her sanctum. Her design room was the place she normally used to create the initial designs of dresses. It was the very room she was standing in where she got the inspiration to create her friends' Gala dresses. It was the same room that told her to create cloaks for herself and her friends. The room was where all her ideas came from. So why wasn’t it speaking to her?
“Perhaps I need a little bit of help with this,” she said. As if on cue, her pile of rejected designs exploded and they sent themselves around the room.
“Hi Rarity,” said Pinkie with her head sticking out of the pile. Rarity turned her head towards the pink pony as she was shaking herself free from the paper. A perfectly sane pony would have questioned how exactly Pinkie managed to materialize from the bottom of a pile of scrap paper, but Rarity was far too stressed to care about such a minor detail.
“Wow, that’s a lot of paper. You should really put them in the recycling bin.”
“Pinkie, I would love nothing more than to clean up that mess but I’ve too much work to do.”
“Oh I wouldn’t want to bother you with something like this. Besides, I don’t exactly feel like playing therapist with you.”
“Would you prefer to play therapist with Twilight instead?” Rarity shuddered at the thought. She didn’t want a repeat of that episode, ever. “Talk to your dear Auntie Pinkie.” Rarity stopped her pacing and looked straight at Pinkie.
“My muse Pinkie,” Rarity sighed. “My muse isn’t speaking to me.”
“Well that can’t be good. Is there something wrong with its voice?”
“No, that's not exactly what I meant. I meant I have no inspiration. I can’t seem to design a new dress. All the pieces are there in my mind, yet whenever I try to put them together, the design comes all mangled and mismatched.” Pinkie stared at her in what Rarity assumed was deep thought.
“I know what you need,” Pinkie said in a triumphant voice. “You need-“ Before she could finish her thought some measuring tape wrapped itself around Pinkie, binding her legs
“I highly doubt a party will help me,” Rarity said while telekinetically pulling Pinkie. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to get this done.”
“Oooo, kinky. I can work with this. What’s the safe word?” Had Rarity any patience she would have come up with a retort. But that idea was impossible at the moment.
“Goodbye Pinkie,” said Rarity as she tossed Pinkie out of the boutique’s entrance. “And I’ll eventually need that measuring tape back.” She shut the door and began her trek back to her sanctum. After a few steps back into the boutique, the bell above the door rang.
“Pinkie, so Celestia help me if you do not leave me alone I will-“ Rarity’s rant stopped right in her throat as she saw a different pony in her boutique. An ecru coloured unicorn with chestnut brown eyes was looking straight at her. She had a black mane that was tied in a bun with three loops coming from the back it, one to her left, one to her right, and one from the center. A scarlet ribbon was tied from the center from it. But all those details were lost on Rarity at the moment; she was staring at the mare’s dress.
“Ahem,” she coughed. “So sorry about that, I thought you were somepony else. Welcome to Carousel Boutique; where everything is chiqué, unique, and magnifiqué. I am Rarity, how may I help you?”
“我叫長襖,” said the mare bowing her head. “很高興認識你.” Rarity blinked.
“Beg your pardon?” the mare lifted her head up and blinked. After a few awkward seconds, her face showed understanding.
“I am sorry about that,” she laughed. “Force of habit, let me try again: my name is Chang’ao. It is a pleasure to meet you.”
“Likewise,” Rarity said as Chang’ao entered the show room. Her eyes were fixed on Chang’ao’s dress. It was a single piece dress and it shared the same colour as her ribbon. At her forelegs were two sleeves that stopped at her upper arms. It seemed to hug her figure and flowed down her body. The dress separated just under her cutie mark leaving two flaps to flow down her rear and in front of her hind legs. Along the entire dress was a floral pattern. While it may have looked ugly on other dresses, it somehow worked for this one. The strangest thing about the dress was that a black tail was sticking out of the end of it through the fabric. “Your dress darling, where did you get it?”
“Do you like it?” Chang’ao asked doing a little pirouette. “I made it myself. It’s a cheongsam. I added a little bit something to make it stand out from the others.”
“I’ve never seen a dress like it in Equestria.”
“I would be surprised if you could. They come from the country Ma. This particular one I designed at my store in Neijing.”
“It’s beautiful. But if you could design something like this, why do you need to come to my humble store?” a sad expression crossed Chang’ao’s face as the question was asked.
“Lately,” she explained. “I have lacked inspiration. I can’t seem design anything new. So I decided to come to Equestria to see Western fashions. I came to, what is the expression; pick an Equestrian’s brain for fashion ideas.” Rarity couldn’t believe her luck. Somepony with most likely hundreds of designs stored in their mind could share them with her. If she was right, she could build on top of those designs to create something original.
“Perhaps we can help each other,” Rarity said. “Like you, I’ve hit a bit of a wall when it comes to designs. I haven’t been satisfied with my recent works. Since you have designs that have not been seen on Equestrian soil, you could share them with me. And in exchange I can share with you some Equestrian dress designs. We will both see designs from different nations, most likely giving us inspiration, and we can create new dresses. How does that sound to you?” Rarity stuck out her foreleg hoping that the Ma-nese pony would accept it. A smile formed on said pony’s face and she shook Rarity’s outstretched leg.
“Where would you like to start?”
Author’s Notes: The Chinese. If translated literally, it will say “I am called Chang’ao. Pleasure to meet you”. Now for some probably unknown facts. Chang’ao is named after a formal women’s dress that was created during the Ming Dynasty. A cheongsam is that formal Chinese dress that most people think of when Chinese clothing is brought to mind. Ma, is actually the Cantonese way of saying horse.