When Valianwing left us to go to school at Cloudsdale, he truly believed that it wouldn’t be for long. He knew in his heart that I would be getting the cutie mark of the Storm Scouts, and his precious little daughter would be home to train with the rest of his beloved weather team. As a young foal, I thought that was going to be the case too. I didn’t want to disappoint my father, and at a young age I never believed I was destined for anything else. My father had been telling me my destiny my entire foalhood, and when you’re as young as I was, you tend to believe everything your parents tell you. But that was before I spent even two days in Cloudsdale.
I had no dreams for my future (not that any sane foal would) for all my years in Canterlot. I was happy being an innocent filly, who just wanted to stay out of trouble and have fun. My first day of school changed my view of the world, and made me discover what I really wanted to do.
I don’t think loyalty really became a real part of my life until this next memory. I made lots of new friends in Cloudsdale, and even a few enemies. That’s one of the flaws of the Element of Loyalty, when you are loyal to one, you have to be disloyal to another.
“Alrighty, fillies and gentlecolts! Welcome to your first day of Summer Flight Camp at Cloudsdale Flight School!” the instructor was speaking to a large audience of pegasi, all of us very young and most of us with blank flanks. I was sure that Aero was in the audience, but I was unable to find him, so I was stuck dragging Fluttershy along with me, who had barely even said a word to me the entire morning. We had overslept the night before. We were late for the opening assembly, and were forced to the very back of the crowd. We were standing in the bleachers of a large cloud coliseum, with an open area in the middle, where the announcer pony was floating, addressing the audience.
“Cloudsdale takes much pride in its youth, investing most of its resources on making our fillies and colts into the best flyers they can be! You all will leave this program being the best of the best, to graduate from Cloudsdale Flight School is to graduate from the best aerial academy in all of Equestria!” loud, shrill applause erupted from the large crowd of young foals. I scanned the ponies below me, trying to find Aero’s bright red coat in the sea of multicolored bodies. Fluttershy was shrinking in her place, as pegasi shifted around her, closing around her personal space.
“Alright! Settle down! We have a very special treat for you to kick off this years’ camp. I would like to welcome some very special guests, the pride and joy of Cloudsdale Flight School, the one and only fantastic flying Wonderbolts!”
thunder cracked in the distance. A group of six ponies flew into view, and my heart stopped. Trailing behind them were clouds of black thundercloud. They flew faster than anypony I’ve ever seen fly before, coming into the middle of the arena. They began doing a ton of different tricks. Flips, dives, rolls, all the while staying in perfect formation, flying through the air at supersonic speeds. I couldn’t cheer. I almost stopped breathing. I couldn’t believe what was happening, it was the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen.
I paused. The words came out of my mouth, and something about them just felt right. There was no other way to describe what I was feeling. Fluttershy was crying, covering her ears with her hooves. I had never seen something that inspired me more than that day. I knew from that very moment that I wanted to be a Wonderbolt, and suddenly everything else didn’t really matter.
I continued to watch in amazement. My heart was racing now, and I couldn’t hold back my cheering any longer. I was screaming at the top of my lungs, my tiny voice growing hoarse from the strain.
The Wonderbolts gave one last aerial flip in unison, and flew out of sight, away from the coliseum. I was struck dumb, I just stared in the direction they had left, paralyzed with excitement. That was the most amazing thing ever! The show was over. The announcer pony released us to go to our classes. Fluttershy had disappeared in the crowd of foals, and left me alone, not that I wasn’t too unhappy about that. I waited, trying to find Aero in the crowd. I spotted him, and called out for him. He flew toward me, and practically tackled me to the floor.
“Hey, Rainbow! That show was amazing!” he had no idea. “How did you sleep last night?” He released me from his grip, I stood up and brohoofed him in the shoulder.
“It was alright, I just wish we didn’t have to wake up so early…” I lied to him, in truth I was really homesick before I fell to sleep, and woke up miserable and tired from a nightmare filled night. I didn’t want Aero to worry about me, since there was nothing he could do about it anyway.
He looked at me, smiling, not really believing me, “What’s your first class?” I pulled out my schedule from my small saddlebag.
“Maneuvering 101,” I read the first thing on my list. He looked kind of struck down.
“My first class is Diving…” I looked at my hooves. “Hey, no worries, I bet we’ll have at least one class together!” The bell rang, Aero hugged me, and flew off to find his class. I choked up a little bit, seeing the only thing that reminded me of home fly away.
“Alright everpony! Since this is your first class of the day, you will all be taking a mandatory speed exam to get an estimate on where you all stand for the beginning of the year. You will fly 100 meters straight to the finish line, going as fast as you possibly can. We’re going to do this by name, so Aurora Sunset, you’re up first.”
I was standing in line with all the other ponies in my class. We slowly moved forward as each of our names were called to complete the race. I was thinking about the Wonderbolts show, lost in thought, I didn’t notice two big colts walk up to me. They both started snickering at me. Trying to be nice, I started to talk to them.
“Hi, my names Rainbow Dash. What are your names?” I said. They started laughing at me. The lighter brown one with the mane covering his eyes, grabbed my wing and stretched it out, jerking on it slightly. “OW! What was that for?”
“Look at this one, Dumb-bell! She’s so small! I bet you she can’t even fly yet! And look at her mane! What kind of pony has a rainbow mane?” he jeered at me.
I was confused. These pegasi were making fun of me. I didn’t know what to say back, nopony ever bullied me in Canterlot. I started getting upset. They were making fun of my mother, making fun of the gift she gave me. Why would anypony say something like that?
I started getting angry. Tears of confusion and sadness began to drip out of my eyes.
The bigger, darker brown one spoke, “aw, look she’s crying. Maybe you should just go home and cry to your mommy!” He rolled over on the floor, laughing hysterically on his back. I started shaking with inward anger.
I was bawling now. One of the judges came over and broke it up.
“That’s enough you two, leave her alone! If I hear you say anything like that to anypony else I will fail you for the speed course.” They gave me a dirty look, and walked to the other side of the line.
“Rainbow Dash, You’re up next.” I sniffed, and walked up to the line. I was shaken from what had just happened. They shouldn’t make fun of anypony, that was just mean.
I lifted into the air, and tried to fly towards the end of the course. My thoughts got the better of me, and I spun out of control landing in a heap in the middle of the track. The ponies who were watching all started laughing at me. I felt my face starting to get hot with embarrassment.
“Rainbow Dash? More like Rainbow Crash!” another round of laughter came from the group of pegasi. I was a better flyer than this. I walked off the track, humiliated and weak from sadness and anger.
I walked to my next class, sniffling and shuffling my hooves from my first bully experience. I had only been in Cloudsdale for two days, and I was already starting to hate it. Why did Valiantwing have to send us here?
Aero came into view. He saw me, and his smile quickly faded from his face. He rushed over to me with a concerned look on his face.
“What’s wrong, Rainbow?” he wrapped a foreleg around me, and I started crying in earnest.
“T-these colts were calling me names, and making f-fun of me! They said I couldn’t even fly! Then I failed my flight exam, ‘cause they hurt my feeling. They told me to go home and made fun of my mom!” I whined and he hugged me tight. I heard laughing in the distance. I looked up, and saw the three colts walking towards us. I hid behind Aero, shivering.
“Hey, Rainbow Crash! Nice stunt you pulled back there, I’m sure you’re a shoe-in for the Wonderbolts after a performance like that!” Aero took a step foreward.
“Leave her alone! Why don’t you pick on somepony your own size!” Aero yelled at them.
“Yeah, what are you gonna do about it?” the light brown one said.
“Keep making fun of her and find out!” He took another step forward, and pedaled his forelegs in the air, nickering loudly.
The colts started to move towards Aero and me. But an older looking pony walked up, and eyed the two colts suspiciously.
The other of the two pegasi started walking away, “c’mon Hoops, she ain’t worth our time.” They both walked the other direction.
Aero picked me up from the ground. “Don’t listen to them, Rainbow, you’re the best flyer I know. They’re both just bullies. If they ever bother you again, you have to stand up for yourself, tell them to back off, and if they don’t listen, come and find me, or tell one of the teachers, understand?” I sniffled, and nodded. The bell rang for our next class to start. He sighed, and looked me in the eyes.
“Remember Rainbow, you have to always stick up for yourself and everypony else who is in danger, or being bullied. Sticking up for your friends is a very important thing to do. It’s called being loyal. Loyalty means you will never leave your friends, or your family hanging. My parents weren’t very good at it…” He looked at his hooves for a moment. “…but I’m not going to make the same mistake they made. A few months ago, I didn’t think loyalty mattered. But it’s something that you have to keep in your heart, so that you can always be there for the ponies you love. I will always be here for you, Rainbow, don’t you ever forget that.”
I smiled. He embraced me, and flew off.
“Loyalty,” I said the word, and committed it to memory. It gave me a chill when it came out of my mouth. I really liked that word. For some reason, that word seemed to have a lot of meaning to me. I felt a lot better, knowing that Aero would protect me.
Several weeks had passed, and the bullies started paying less attention to me. I started to ignore them whenever they would come and bother me, and if they didn’t leave, I would just get one of the teachers to get them to stop. My nickname had spread to a lot of other students in the school, and almost everypony knew me as Rainbow Crash, even though I only crashed that one time. Fluttershy had started to become a little more talkative at night, and I even began hanging out with her on occasion. She was scared around Aero, so whenever I would hang out with him, she would always shy away and disappear.
I started using my downtime to learn some of the tricks I had seen the Wonderbolts do the first day of Flight Camp. Aero would always want to come watch me, and always encouraged me to learn more tricks. He knew how passionate I had become about them, and he later told me that he was happiest when he saw me flying through the air, doing tricks, not thinking about bullies, or Valiantwing, or my mother.
I had cried myself to sleep less frequently. I still thought about my mother every day, but somehow I knew that she was always there, and I had no reason to be sad. She would be here to protect me, and Aero would make sure that I didn’t do anything stupid.
I wrote to my father every week, telling him about classes, and problems, and just random things about my day. He sent me letters almost every other day, telling me how much he missed me, and what was going on at home.
It was now late Autumn, and the winter months were just about to roll around the corner. I was missing home more than ever, but flying helped keep my mind off of it, and Aero helped me cope. In a few weeks, we would be visiting Canterlot for Hearth’s Warming. I was really looking forward to going back home, if only for a few days.
Aero and I were flying slowly toward the Cloudiseum. There was an assembly this morning. Aero wouldn't stop talking about it, he was really excited. The focus of the meeting was a talk from one of the Storm Scouts, who would be visiting from Canterlot to talk about weather control. He still thought that I was going to be a Storm Scout, and always told me how exciting that would be, with a little bit of regret in his eyes that I pretended not to notice. I still thought that it was unavoidable.
Neither of us knew how wrong we were.
We made our way into the packed bleachers, and took a seat, just as the dark grey pony in the middle of the field began to speak.
“Good morning everypony, please to meet you all! I’m excited to be here to talk to you about weather control, and what it means to the citizens of Equestria! My name is Smokeshade, and I am part of a group of top notch pegasi who are in charge of the weather all over the four corners of Equestria, the Storm Scouts.” A sound of awe spread throughout the foals in the assembly. Aero looked at me, and smiled from cheek to cheek, his excitement showing throughout his body. Nopony had never heard of the Storm Scouts, and every young pegasi hadn’t spent at least one day wishing they could be one of the best and fastest flyers, so that they could join them. Joining them isn’t so easy, though. You had to be destined to do it, and the only way you could join is if you get the cutie mark of the Scouts.
Aero whispered to me, “Just think, I’ll be able to say I know two of the Storm Scouts! Everypony’s gonna be so jealous.” He laughed hollowly. I looked back at the speaker, and saw Aero droop his head out of the corner of my eye.
“…about twenty percent of you will be involved in some form of weather stability. Who knows, maybe one of you will even become one of us!” The speaker puffed out his chest, and displayed his armored suit, the one I had seen on Valiantwing a thousand times before.
“…I wish,” Aero spoke under his breath. I knew how much he wanted to be a Scout. I felt bad for him. He gave me a sideways glance, then turned back to the speaker.
I was walking through the courtyard, back towards my room from my last class of the day. After the speech, Aero had walked me out of the Cloudiseum without saying anything to me. I said goodbye, and he just started walking the other direction. Aero never got upset about many things, so I knew something was wrong, but I didn't have time to ask him. I had to go to class, I had already been late too many times.
It was late in the day, and I was feeling extremely tired from my speed class. I wanted to just go to my room and rest. I trudged toward the filly dorms, and was suddenly confronted with a certain bright red pegasus, blocking my way. The colt walked up to me, and looked at me with wet eyes. It was Aero.
He had been crying, tears had matted the fur on his cheeks. He looked down toward his back, and I spotted what he was trying to show me. On his flank, where only a few hours ago there was nothing, was a solid white cloud, with two black wings in the center. I had seen that mark before. It was the mark on my father’s flank. The mark of the pegasus floating in front of the crowd at that very moment. I gasped in realization.
It was the mark of the Storm Scouts.
“I’m… I’m sorry, Rainbow.” He was sobbing now, looking at me with regret in his eyes, "I was in weather control class, and we had gotten to the storm cloud test, and the Storm Scout from earlier today was there. I... I was feeling jealous. I was angry, angry at you. I shouldn't have been... I had no reason to be. I started the test, I rounded up the clouds and started the storm... and... It was just suddenly there! I didn't know what to do, but I knew I had to find you, so I left class..."
I was shocked. I didn't know what to say.
The pony who had given the speech earlier that day flew towards us, and landed directly in front of Aero. “You are the one who got the Storm Scout cutie mark! Please, you must come with me at once. Valiantwing will want to hear about this as soon as possible!” He turned to one a teacher that was accompanying him, "Get me your fastest mail-pony!"
Aero wrapped his arms around me, shaking with mixed emotions. I hugged him back, I was so happy that he got what he really wanted.
“What is your name, young stallion?”
“A-Aero…” He was hit with a sudden wave of pride. “Aero Rightwing!”
“Nice to meet you. If you don’t mind, I would like you to come with me.” He took off into the air and motioned Aero to join him.
He grabbed my tail, and turned my head to look him in the eyes.
“R-Rainbow, I want you to know that no matter what happens to me, you have to be strong. I may be leaving you…” He choked on the last word. “But you have to be brave without me. Don’t worry about me, you just have to stay here and stay strong. I love you, Rainbow Dash.”
I was frozen with fear. Fear of being alone. Fear of losing my best friend. Fear of losing the only thing that reminded me of home.
“N-no…” He locked his lips with mine, and before I could object, he flew off with Smokeshade. Fear spread throughout every limb in my body.
I was alone.