It was with a yawn that Starlight Glimmer groggily stumbled into castle foyer that morning. She could smell the pancakes from the library where she had awoken, and it had been the only thing to rouse her from sleep after the all-nighter she had pulled. She knew she had woken up late, so Spike’s pancakes were probably cold by now, but it didn’t matter. She was hungry, tired, and needed a pick-me-up. It had been her and a pile of magical theory books all afternoon and all night, and it had to have been four in the morning when she finally collapsed.
Twilight will probably be upset about that, she thought to herself as she slunk across the crystal floors on her trek to the dining room. She could just imagine the lecture Twilight was ready to give her, focusing on “Don’t push yourself too hard” and “you need to eat” and “sleep is not for the weak”. She shook her head to clear her mind and replaced her frown with a sleepy smile. Pancakes now, guilt trip later.
She was almost at the dining room doorway when she heard a knock resound through the foyer. Starlight looked to the dining room which had previously been calling her name, then to the front entrance, then back to the dining room. She sighed and turned back. “Be right there!” She pushed the wide double doors open. Fluttershy pranced in immediately.
“Good morning, Starlight,” she said cheerily. Her face fell as she took a closer look at the purple mare. “Oh, wow. You look exhausted.”
“Yeeaah…” she said, rubbing a hoof behind her head. “I was up late trying to work out a counterspell.”
“Oh, that’s good. Any luck?”
“Eh, not quite.” She chewed her lip with the answer, feeling a little ashamed of it. “More like I learned why forward age spells are harder than reverse. Apparently it's because…”
“Oh, Starlight, you’re up!” came the voice of the castle’s resident dragon as he walked towards them from the dining area. “Twilight wanted me to make sure you were okay. Hey, Fluttershy!”
“Good morning Spike.” Fluttershy smiled warmly at him.
“You came to check up on Rainbow Dash, right?” Fluttershy nodded. “Okay, great. We’re all in the kitchen if you two want to come watch.”
“Watch?” Fluttershy asked with an eyebrow raised.
Starlight felt the same confusion at the vague statement. “What would you be watching in the kitchen?”
Spike laughed. “Oh, boy. Rarity and Pinkie, they…” another giggle fit. “Aw, you just need to see what they’re doing to Rainbow right now!” He turned around and quickly jogged back to the dining room door, throwing it open excitedly and vanishing behind it.
Fluttershy and Starlight shared a confused look, then followed.
“Rainbow Dash, dear, could you possibly hold your wings still? It’s a little difficult to apply dye to one’s coat when they can’t stop fidgeting.”
“Sorry,” the filly mumbled in return as she stretched out her tiny wings again. “Does it really have to take so long dye my coat? We’ve been here for hoouuurs!”
“No we haven't!” Pinkie Pie chirped from beside Rarity. She pulled out a clock and pointed to it with a smile. “It’s only been about twenty-three minutes and fifty-three seconds to be exact.” The clock ticked seven times more. The mare piped up again. “Twenty-four!”
The filly groaned.
The sight that greeted Starlight and Fluttershy was a strange one. Old newspapers were spread out in a wide radius on the kitchen’s crystal floor. They were splattered with mane dyes both yellow and blue around the similarly-colored and absolutely bored-looking pegasus filly in the center. The pegasus’s once cyan coat was now a golden yellow throughout while an azure blue coloring pervaded most of her rainbow mane and tail. Multicolored strands of hair still poked out at the tips, but were receiving their due attention from the white unicorn who was hovering around the filly. Rarity pulled the applicator brush away from her victim’s mane as she got to work rubbing in the blue dye with her plastic-gloved hooves. The mare held a smile and hummed to herself while the filly beneath her pouted.
Twilight stood to the side, watching intently with a small grin on her face.It was clear she was enjoying the show, but didn’t want to make it too obvious. “Don’t worry, Rainbow Dash. You look great.”
“Oh, but the dear would look even more stunningly adorable when I finish,” the white unicorn stated confidently. Finishing up with the lather, she stepped backwards to admire her work. “Hm… I still think it’s missing something…” She tapped her chin thoughtfully, then her eyes lit up. “Yes, I think that would work. In disguise or not, I still want it to feel like you. A mane-streak will do just the trick, don’t you think?”
The filly groaned. “Will it take long?”
“Maybe five minutes, dear.”
“And it won’t look weird?”
“Then sure. Have at it, Rares.”
Rarity beamed despite her subject's overpowering lack of enthusiasm. She turned to Pinkie Pie at her side. “Pinkie, darling, do you happen to have any white dye in your, how you call it... ‘hidden emergency temporary hair-dye kit’?”
“Yupperooni! I’ll be riiiiight back!” Pinkie affirmed with a bounce. With a sudden surge of energy, she dashed out of the kitchen door leading to the dining room, leaving behind a vibrant pink streak. All four mares, filly, and dragon looked to the door in surprise.
“Woah,” Spike said wondrously. “Rainbow Dash, Pinkie Pie might be faster than you.”
“Nuh, uh.” The filly shook her head with a smile. “Pinkie is just Pinkie. She’s fast, but she’s no Wonderbolt!” With a cocky smile, Rainbow puffed out her chest and outstretched her tiny golden wings with pride.
Pinkie quickly zipped back into the kitchen with a white tube held up with her outstretched hoof. All eyes returned to her. “One tube of white hair coloring, cooked to order!” She handed it to Rarity, who received it with a word of gratitude.
“Why, thank you, darling. Okay, Rainbow, let’s get your mane looking magnificent!”
“Yay,” the filly said halfheartedly, letting her prideful pose deflate.
“So,” Starlight ventured, drawing everyone’s attention to the two mare’s presence. “What’s with the dye job? Did I miss something?”
“Rarity agreed to make Rainbow Dash a disguise,” Twilight said as she walked over to the new arrivals. “We figured it would be best if Rainbow didn’t stay cooped up all day for however long this takes.”
“So you’re dying her mane and coat?”
“It’s just temporary dye. It’ll wash out if she hates it.”
“And I guarantee she will not!” Rarity assured in a sing-song voice.”
The golden filly in the middle of it all grumbled a bit, but said nothing to the contrary. Instead she contented herself with fidgeting, much to her mane stylist’s disapproval.
Despite her charge’s apparent annoyance, Twilight couldn’t help but chuckle. “Oh, hush, Rainbow. You thought it was a good idea too. You look great!” Rainbow Dash grumbled again, and everypony in attendance rolled their eyes with a smile. “Anyway,” the alicorn said turning back to her student with a pointed frown. “It’s about time you got up. It’s getting close to noon!”
“Sorry, sorry,” the purple mare apologized, rubbing a hoof on the back of her neck. “It was a long night. Just trying to get things fixed sooner than later.”
“And?” the filly chirped up excitedly, flaring her petite wings in a way that startled Rarity. “Will it be sooner?”
“Uhhh… well… I don’t know yet. Still trying to figure it out.”
Rainbow Dash deflated again at that declaration. Her ears laid flat against her head and she looked downcast. Her head then rose again while Rarity fought to keep up with the movements. She cast a pleading look back to the purple unicorn. “But you will, right?”
Starlight felt herself wilt under the sad eyes Rainbow was giving her. It contrasted starkly with the angry glare she received yesterday, and she wasn’t sure which was worse. She smiled reassuringly despite herself. “Yes, I promise.”
Pinkie Pie zipped over to Starlight in a flash with narrowed eyes. “Juuust a promise?”
Starlight sighed and rose her hoof to do the motions. “Cross my heart and hope to fly, stick a cupcake in my eye.” Pinkie’s scrutiny turned into glee as she bounced back to the side of the room. Starlight couldn’t help but chuckle, and tried not to think of how tough keeping that promise would be.
Rainbow Dash, meanwhile, was thinking about that promise. From what Starlight and Twilight were saying, she definitely wasn’t stuck at her age. Magic wasn’t something she knew much about, but she trusted her friend well enough to know that if Twilight says she’d be fine, then she’d be fine. That didn’t mean she was happy about the wait. Nor was she happy about what she was going to miss out on. She felt another gentle tug on her mane before she saw the white applicator brush float over and rest on the table.
“Aaaaaand, voila! I think we have your new look, Rainbow Dash!” Rarity cheered.
Rainbow bristled her feathers and stretched out. “Finally! I thought that would never end.” Rarity huffed, and rolled her eyes while the rest of the group giggled. “So,” she prodded. “How do I look?”
“ADORABLE!” Pinkie Pie squealed as she zipped in front of the filly. Rainbow took a step back in surprise. “You’re like Raindrops, but more gold than yellow. And with a darker blue mane. And with a stripe. And a you're a filly!” she cheered with another gleeful bounce.
“Huh? I look like Raindrops?” Rainbow asked, looking to Rarity.
“Well, sort of, but not quite. It’s a similar color scheme, but nobody would ever mistake you,” the mare provided. “Oh, Spike, would you do us a favor and fetch a mirror for us?”
“Yes, ma’am!” The drake gave a cheery salute and quickly scampered out the door.
“You do look like you could be related to Raindrops, though,” Fluttershy said, breaking her long-held silence. Starlight and Twilight nodded their heads in agreement.
“I agree. Even when you were… uh, older…” Rainbow winced a bit at Twilight’s word choice, “...you even had similar mane styles. You look like you could be her little sister.” She looked to Rarity, who was packing up her supplies. “Was that intentional?”
“Oh, no, certainly not! I just think the color scheme works very well on Rainbow. Ponies have similar color schemes all the time. It’s nothing to worry about.”
And indeed it wasn’t, but that didn’t stop Rainbow from frowning. She was hoping that whatever Rarity cooked up for her would be unique. She hadn’t really gotten a good look at herself yet, but by the sounds of it her new style wasn’t as unique as she was expecting. Her frown didn’t last long as Spike promptly returned with a lightweight mirror, which Rarity graciously accepted in her magical grasp. She held it up for the Filly, and her jaw dropped.
Her friends weren’t wrong, she did look similar to a filly-sized Raindrops, but outside of the coat and mane colors the similarities ended. Her golden coat and azure mane contrasted vividly against one another. The white streak that penetrated the otherwise solid blue spiky locks was slightly jagged, but not in a haphazard way. It instead looked vaguely like a lightning bolt, stretching from the tips of her bangs to the end of her tail, slightly off-center from the middle.
The sight in the mirror gave her a feeling of being in the uncanny valley. It was very much her shape, but it was not her colors or pattern. It was strange, and for a moment the filly felt a little uncomfortable with the image. But as she continued to stare at the glass, she couldn’t help but crack a smile. If she wasn't so cute, she could maybe consider it at least a little awesome.
“So? How do you like it, dear?” Rarity asked with a slight smugness in her voice, already knowing the answer.
“Weeeeell…” Rainbow started, trying to hide her interest. “It’s not nearly as awesome as my normal look, but I can dig it for now.” The mares in the room all giggled. She looked away from the filly in the mirror and turned to Rarity, who was looking very pleased with herself. “It looks great, Rares. I barely even recognize myself!”
“Glad you like it, darling. I may be a clothier, but my talent is fashion and beauty!” she announced with pride. “And that includes mane and coat styling. Or coloring, as the case may be. I thought contrasting colors and a well-placed mane-streak would be a perfect fit for you.”
“But what about her cutie mark?” Fluttershy asked. Rainbow nodded in agreement to the question. Cutie marks couldn't be covered up with just dye. It was part of their nature that they should be seen through the coloration on the coat, which was why despite the gold covering her everyone could still see Rainbow Dash’s signature cloud and lightning bolt.
“Oh, I am sure we can find something that could cover that up.”
“I could do that!” Starlight Glimmer proudly announced. When all eyes were on her, she realized what that implied and wilted. “I’ve got some makeup that works wonders hiding cutie marks.”
Twilight raised an eyebrow curiously, but not accusatory. “From your village?”
Starlight scratched the back of her neck, breaking eye contact. “Uh… yeah. I have some leftover in my room. I can just change the color to match her coat and she should be set.”
“Yay,” Rainbow droned dryly with half-lidded eyes. “Can’t wait to finally be a blank flank again.”
Fluttershy took that moment to move beside the filly. “Oh, don’t be like that, Rainbow. I think this is a wonderful idea.”
“Abso-positively-lutley!” Pinkie Pie agreed. “It’s like that thing ponies say about lemons and lemonade, but it’s, like, MAGICAL lemons. You even look like lemonade! But with too much sugar and maybe with some tea added. BUT IT'S STILL GOOD!” She wrapped her forelegs around the startled filly, who couldn’t help but chuckle at her exuberance.
“Oh, Pinkie, Darling, her dye still needs to dry!” Rarity spoke up, getting Pinkie’s attention. The earth pony took a look at herself, slightly discolored with golden splotches, and laughed.
“Whoopsie! Sorry about that.”
“That’s quite alright, darling. It washes right out.” She turned to Rainbow, who looked considerably cheerier after witnessing Pinkie’s usual antics. “You should be completely dry and ready to go in about twenty minutes or so, dear. Is everything to your liking?”
“Yup! I mean, I wish I didn’t need it, but it does look good on me.” The filly stretched out her wings in a triumphant pose, puffing out her chest and lifting her head up high. The mares around her cheerfully giggled, amused with her bravado. Rainbow Dash smiled broadly. For the moment, dyed coat notwithstanding, the filly felt a sense of normality that being with her friends usually caused. It was refreshing, she thought, despite all that had happened so far.
Starlight then excused herself to go grab her makeup with a guilty smile that Twilight quickly tried to dispel. Rainbow watched her go before turning back to the mirror to admire her new look. It definitely wasn’t something she planned to keep after this was over, but she had to admit it really did suit her well. She struck a few poses in the mirror while all her friends conversed with each other. I look good, don’t have to be cooped up this week, and nobody will notice, she thought to herself. Awesome.
It didn’t take long for Pinkie to renew her giddy bounce as she happily circled her now golden friend. Dash smirked, drifting her gaze from the mirror. “What now, Pinkie?”
“Now we need to get you a new name!” she cheered. Rainbow Dash blinked for a moment in confusion before understanding. The others seemed to understand around the same time as well.
“Of course!” Twilight exclaimed as her hyperactive friend’s words registered. “If she’s going to be walking around assuming a new identity, it’s only fitting we figure out a pseudonym for her.”
Rarity nodded. “Hm, quite right. We should have thought of that earlier.”
“A what?” Spiked asked. Rainbow felt equally confused.
“A pseudonym! Or an alias, if that fits better. It means an assumed name.”
“Oh, that makes sense.” The others nodded along in agreement. There was a moment of silence as everypony in the room began contemplating, Rainbow Dash included.
“OOOH! OOOH! I vote ‘Golden Oriole'!”
“That’s a bird, Pinkie Pie. We can’t name her after a bird.”
“Though golden orioles are really sweet and cuddly…” Fluttershy quietly said.
“Cloudy Skies?” Spike pitched. Rainbow vetoed that with a shake of her head.
“Naw, I know, like, three Cloudy Skies. If it’s gonna be my suitoname-”
“ ...Pseudoname, it’s gotta be unique!”
“What about ‘Morning Glow?’” Rarity asked. “It does seem to fit your colors nicely, like a dazzling sunset!”
“Hmm, it’s not bad... but I don’t know....” It was fitting, Rainbow thought to herself. But it didn’t seem right.
“Meadow Gold?” Fluttershy asked.
“Eh, maybe if I was an earth pony. Nothing really Rainbow Dash about that.”
“C’mon, Twilight, that’s gotta be the second most common pegasus name out there!”
Twilight rolled her eyes. “Well what do you think sounds good?”
“Umm… ‘Skylight?’ That sounds kinda cool.”
“That’s a type of window.” Twilight deadpanned.
“I got it!” Pinkie announced. “Skylancer!”
“Like a sword? I guess it sounds cool, but I dunno….”
“Hey, if ‘Spitfire’ is a name, then I say ‘Skylancer’ can be too!”
“What about ‘Nimbus Rush’?”
Rainbow Dash’s rose-colored eyes lit up at Fluttershy’s quiet addition. It definitely sounded good, having a ring to it that just sounded awesome. It reminded her of storms, of speed, and of the sky. That's perfect!
“Nimbus Rush, huh?” Spike echoed, tapping a claw to his chin. “I like it.”
“Hm, distinctively pegasus, yet unique enough to fit your personality,” Twilight added thoughtfully. “I can definitely see it.”
Fluttershy and Rarity voiced their agreements with smiles and nods. Rainbow took the moment to look herself in the mirror once more, taking in the golden coat and azure mane. “Nimbus Rush… I can definitely live with that.”
“Okay then, Nimbus,” Twilight said with a pleased grin. “We have officially made you a different pony than Rainbow Dash.”
“Yeah,” Rainbow agreed, still looking at herself in the mirror. Her smile wavered at her friend’s words. No longer Rainbow Dash, huh? She didn’t like the sound of that at all. “No,” she then said, shaking her head. “I’m still me, just no one has to know I’m me. This is just a test drive, right?”
“Yes, darling,” Rarity replied, frowning slightly. “All you need do is take a bath and all the dye will come right out. If you decide you’d rather just be yourself-”
“Nuh uh! Nopony else needs to know I’m a kid again! If I have to go out, Nimbus Rush works well enough for me!” she insisted. The other mares in the room traded an uncertain glance at each other which Dash hadn’t noticed. “So, now what?”
“Oh, well, um…” Fluttershy started, fidgeting slightly before letting a warm smile replace her uncertainty. “I was just stopping by to check in on you before going to the market for some supplies. Maybe, um, you’d like to come with me?”
A wave of trepidation swept through Rainbow Dash as the reality that she was going to be in public crashed around her. She shook her head in defiance to that uncertainty. I”m Rainbow Danger Dash. I’m not at risk of humiliation. It’s just the marketplace. I can handle some crowds. With that, the filly donned a cocksure grin that she told herself was genuine and looked at her friend.
“Ah, what the hay. I’m down.”