If there’s any irony that Rainbow Dash can truly appreciate on a personal level, it’s the fact that Rainbow Dash, finalist in the national Equestrian Flying League competition, had to fly to Canterlot in a chariot.
Her ribs are slowly healing, but she’s still in no condition to fly long distance. I hadn't flown in one of those chariots since my initial arrival in Ponyville.
We arrived in Canterlot this morning, and we spent the entire day looking for someone who knows High Flyer. We found a total of three ponies who had even heard of her. None of them knew where she lived, or, more importantly, where her parents live.
Tired and frustrated, Rainbow and I retired to my parents' house, my childhood home, as the sun was setting. I'd told mom that I'd be in Canterlot today and possibly tomorrow, and she graciously offered Rainbow and me a place to crash.
It's just past midnight now, and I'm horribly lonely. I'm lying in my childhood bed, alone, wishing Rainbow weren't sleeping in the guest room. I'm not even close to sleeping. Luna's moon sits fully in the sky, illuminating my room just a tad too much.
I know Rainbow is frustrated about our relatively unproductive day, but I'd be surprised if she was as frustrated as I am currently. We've come so far, only to have all of our dreams turned on their heads, and to have all of our nightmares come true. Tears sear my eyes.
I've never felt more powerless.
Rainbow's house was foreclosed because, despite trying her best, she wasn't able to impress the Wonderbolts. Just when she was about to finally achieve her dream, it crumbled because of a flying accident that she tried to avoid. If we had it our way, High Flyer would be taking on the competition, but because of some stuck-up jerk, she was faced with an impossible decision and had to run away to her parents' house. And to top it all off, after we thought we'd finally fixed her problem, we can't find her. We've asked countless ponies, and life has still refused us success.
No matter what we try, no matter what solutions we devise, we're always sailing into a headwind. It was when I lived in this very house that I was promised that if I try my hardest, and always make the right choice, everything will work out in the end.
Why did I believe that?
None of my success was any of my own doing. My magical aptitude is a talent I was born with. Heck, I almost failed my school entrance exam, except for a freak accident. All of my 'grand epiphanies' from my previous adventures were consciously spurred on by Princess Celestia. She obviously knew the answers before I did.
There's nothing special about me. It could have been anypony that was taking their entrance exam when I was, and they could have been startled into uncontrollable magic, and they would have been the Princess's personal protégé. She would have sent them to discover the magic of friendship. She would have tasked them with defeating Nightmare Moon. Discord. Sombra. She would have invited them to the gala.
I would still be here, lying alone in my bed. Not because of anything I did or anything I thought. Just because the secretary at Celestia's School for Gifted Unicorns penciled some other pony in for noon instead of me. That's all it would it take.
Perhaps I've risen to the challenges I've been presented with, but I don't deserve to have been presented with them.
I let out a quiet sob and bury my face in my pillow. I'm so lonely. I've never felt so isolated. I can't afford to keep feeling this way. I need to talk to somepony.
I can't wake up Rainbow. Not again. I've kept her up plenty of nights, and now is not the time. She's been through everything I have and worse, and she isn't in here complaining to me. And I'm certainly not waking my parents. They've been gracious enough to let Rainbow and me stay in their house; I couldn't bother them.
Who would be up at this time of night?
Oh, of course.
With a sigh, I stand by my bed and slowly walk through the moonlight to my door. Gently opening it to ensure it doesn't creak, I slip into the hallway and quietly make my way out the front door.
I walk the dimly lit streets of Canterlot. They are deserted. The only illumination comes from small laterns hanging from the fronts of buildings, and the occasional bedroom candlelight from the apartment buildings. I come to a tall, slim marble tower and look between the two stallion guards that stand in front of it.
"Good evening, Twilight Sparkle. You may pass." Says the one on the left.
"Thank you." I say quietly. I walk into the tower and I eye the spiral staircase that winds to the top. I begin my trek. The staircase is longer than it looks. By the end I'm fighting gravity and my innate fatigue from the active day. Finally I reach the top of the tower and find the pony I'm looking for, standing, relaxed, looking through a telescope. Without looking away, she speaks.
"Twilight Sparkle." Princess Luna says.
"Princess." I greet. "I hope I'm not bothering you."
"Not at all, friend." She assures, turning to face me. "The night is beautiful, but we--I am thankful for company. May I ask what brought you here tonight?"
"I...to be honest, I wanted your advice." I admit.
"You wouldn't happen to know anything about the Equestrian Flying League competition this Saturday, would you? And what's going on with it?" I say, softly kicking at the ground.
"Your friend Rainbow Dash was to compete." Luna says. "And then she injured herself, and now she cannot fly."
"W-what?" I stammer. "How did you...?"
"I have seen your dreams and nightmares, Twilight. Yours and Rainbow Dash's. I know of all that has happened with you, and with High Flyer, and with Checkered Flag." Luna explains. "You have not had the best of times this week."
I chuckle at the understatement.
"You could say that." I muse. "I'm just so hopeless. Things have just been getting worse and worse."
"Perhaps not, Twilight Sparkle." Luna says with a grin.
"What do you mean?"
"Where was Rainbow Dash a month ago?" She prompts.
"Sleeping on my balcony...?"
"Rainbow was living on a dwindling supply of income, homeless, fruitlessly trying to impress the Wonderbolts." Luna explains. "Now she's a national-level competitor in the Equestrian Flying League, certainly under the radar of the Wonderbolts, and now she is living comfortably with you, Twilight."
I stand silently for a second, processing the new perspective.
"Even High Flyer." Luna says, walking past me to a telescope on the opposite side of the tower, peering through. "A month ago, she was homeless, bullied by Checkered Flag, working as a waitress, with a tiny chance of making it as a flyer. And now, she's living with her parents, she's a prestigious EFL competitor, no longer bullied, no longer worrying about her next meal."
I look at the ground. When you put it that way, maybe this all hasn't been so bad...
"I know you feel like you are not in control of your destiny - your nightmares have a pattern, you know - but that is because you are concerning yourself only with things you cannot control, and not with the many things you can control." Luna says, turning once again to face me. "Do you know to what specific thing I am referring?"
"I...can't say I do, your highness." I confess.
"You have felt lonely at times, recently." Luna says. "Your friend Rainbow Dash has been a faithful companion to you all this time."
"She really has been wonderful." I concur.
"She fends off your nightmares." Luna says. "And she occupies your dreams."
"You...saw those too, huh?" I say bashfully.
"There is no need to be embarrassed, Twilight." Luna assures. "Your dreams are sweet and innocent. But..." She gives another sly grin. "I do sense some young love at play."
I feel my face get hot and I look at my hooves.
"To be honest, your highness, I don't know how I feel about Rainbow Dash." I admit, and look back up at Luna. "I know we share a pretty profound bond. She's my best friend. And she certainly seems to think I have a crush on her."
"Perhaps she is perceptive." Luna offers.
"You might be right." I say, and my heart beats fast and my face feels hot. So I've finally admitted it to myself. I do have...feelings for Rainbow Dash. Feelings I can act on. Something I can do that'll have some effect.
"Pick your battles, Twilight Sparkle." Luna says firmly. "High Flyer has made her choice. Fate has made hers. This is your choice."
I smile gratefully and nod.
"Thank you, Princess Luna." I say sincerely. "Thank you so much."
"Anything for you, Twilight." She assures. I turn and make my way down the stairs with a new spring in my step. The trek down is much easier now that gravity is on my side.
I trot briskly by the guards, down the streets of Canterlot. The laterns that pepper the facades of the buildings are bright signs of life in an otherwise deserted city street. I round one last corner to find my childhood home, its windows shining with activity.
Oh no. They must be up and looking for me!
I see and hear the front door slam open and in the doorway is just the pony I want to see: Rainbow Dash. I smile to myself and we begin walking towards each other.
"Twilight, where did you go? We're all freaking out back here." Rainbow explains. As I get closer I can see her fur is matted with sweat.
"We looked everywhere; where did you--" I wrap a foreleg around the back of her head and pull her into a kiss, right on the lips.
At first she's frozen in shock, but she gently returns the kiss after a moment. We break apart. She blinks, wide-eyed, and in the moonlight I can see her blush.
"W-w-what was that for?" She asks, her voice trembling.
"Because I can, Rainbow." I say with a happy sigh. Rainbow simply cocks her head to one side.
"You what now?" She asks.
"All this time I've been worrying myself sick over things I can't control. Life can get crazy, and sometimes things are just out of our hands. But right here, right now, I have the power to tell you how I feel. And while I hate to admit it: you were right. I have a pretty big crush on you, Rainbow. No matter what happens, good or bad, you're always there for me the whole way through. And I don't know if you were just teasing me about having feelings for you, but it's true. I really do feel about you...like that."
Rainbow stands still, her eyes shifting subtly between mine, her mouth agape. She shuts it and brings me in for another kiss.
I suppose that answers that question.
"Oh, get a room, you two!" A voice comes. It's my mother's. Rainbow and I break apart and blush intensely, looking at the silhouette of my parents in the doorway.
“Mom! Dad!” I say nervously. “How long have you been standing there?”
“Long enough.” My mother chuckles.
“Twilight, dear, where did you run off to?” My father asks.
“I needed to catch some air, and I ended up walking quite a way.” I say. It’s not entirely true, but there’s no need to worry them.
“Looks like you got your head clear, little lovebird.” My mother teases. “Now come inside, girls, and get some sleep.” With that, both of my parents walk inside. As the door shuts and the light ceases to spill onto the porch, Rainbow and I face each other.
“So?” Rainbow says eagerly. I blink and subtly shake my head, confused.
“So what?” I prompt.
“Am I a good kisser?” Rainbow asks confidently. I let out an exasperated sigh and smirk.
“Really?” I deadpan. “That’s all you got out of that?” I walk past Rainbow and towards the door.
“Hey!” She calls. “Where are you going? You didn’t answer my question!”
Lightning Dust. The answer is Lightning Dust. It has been all along. High Flyer gave me the answer herself, a few days ago.
“Me and Lighting Dust used to be good friends when we were younger.” She’d told me. I sent Lightning Dust a letter this morning and asked her if she knew where High Flyer’s childhood home was. She did, and she promptly wrote back to me, and, as it turns out, High Flyer lives not far from my parents’ house.
Rainbow and I are walking the short distance to High Flyer's house when Rainbow turns to me.
"So you never told me where you really went last night." She pries. I look away, pondering if I should answer the question. I suppose I should be honest with Rainbow; goodness knows she deserves it.
"I went to talk to Princess Luna. She told me that I need to pick my battles, and she made me realize that there was...something else on my mind. Somepony else." I say, my gaze drifting to Rainbow. "She said she'd seen my dreams about you..." I blush and Rainbow snickers.
"You have dreams about me?" She says with a teasing smile. "That's sweet." She says, stifling a laugh.
"Don't be so coy, Rainbow. She told me all about your dreams too." I lie.
"She--she did?" Rainbow says nervously. Her face turns red. "How much did she tell you?" I giggle at my trickery.
"She didn't say anything." I admit smugly. "But it's nice to know the feelings are mutual."
"Very funny." Rainbow says, still blushing intensely. After a few silent moments, she playfully bumps into me, and I nearly fall. I laugh and go to shove her back, but I fall on my face when she's stopped and not there to receive the blow. She breaks out in laughter.
"That...was perfect!" She manages. "Anyway, this is the place." She gestures to the humble, two-story townhouse similar to my parents'. "Are you ready?"
"Ready as I'll ever be." I confess.
We walk up to the door. I give Rainbow a final look, which she returns, and I bring a hoof to the door and knock. After a few seconds, High Flyer opens the door.
For a split second her expression is blank. Then she realizes who it is and her eyes go wide, and her pupils shrink slightly. She stands silently for a second, before her mouth closes and her eyes redden with tears.
"I'm sorry..." She chokes. "I'm so sorry, I was too weak to face you, to face him."
"No, Fly." Rainbow says. "You don't have to be sorry."
"That's right." I confirm. "We're here to apologize to you."
"You...you what?" High Flyer sniffles in surprise.
"First of all, I'm sorry I tried to pressure you into doing something you weren't ready to do." Rainbow says. "It was pretty selfish of me to push my dreams on you."
"And I'm sorry we butted into your business and possibly put you in danger." I offer. "And I'm glad you were able to get yourself somewhere safe."
"I...don't know what to say..." High Flyer says. "You came all this way just to apologize to me?"
"Of course!" Rainbow says happily. "We owe you that much, at least."
"So we just wanted to let you know that whatever happens, we wish you the best, and we hope you keep flying. You're one of the best out there." I say.
"You really think that?" High Flyer asks.
"Well of course!" I confirm. High Flyer smiles sadly and looks at the ground.
"You know, I am starting to regret resigning." She says. "But thank you, that gives me hope. I need some hope."
"Well, about that..." Rainbow says. "We kind of talked to the Wonderbolts, and Spitfire said she'd let you back into the competition if you wanted."
"She...she did?!" High Flyer says, amazed. Rainbow and I nod. High Flyer looks at the ground again in thought. "You're absolutely sure I've got a real shot?"
"Sure as can be." I say. High Flyer looks up, and bites her lip.
"Okay." She says. "I'll do it. I'll compete."
Rainbow and I look at each other in surprise.
"Really?" I ask. "Just like that?"
"I've wanted to compete from the start. I was afraid, but you two have shown me that if it's your dream, then you never give up, no matter how hard things get. I'm willing to risk it all for my chance. Because if I'm not good enough for the Wonderbolts, then there's no use staying in Cloudsdale anyway. It's worth it."
"That's the spirit!" Rainbow cheers. "Now come on, the competition's tomorrow! We've gotta practice!"
"Right behind you!" High Flyer says, stepping through the doorway. Rainbow looks at me.
"Ready?" She prompts.
"Ready." I affirm.
This is going to be an interesting weekend.