• Published 3rd Oct 2014
  • 2,154 Views, 34 Comments

What do I win? - HapHazred

Rainbow Dash returns as the Mare with the Rainbow Mane as she is pitted against Applejack in a series of four games designed by their friends testing more than just their physical ability.

  • ...

Chapter Six: Twilight's Challenge

It was a Tuesday.

Twilight often viewed, or at least, used to, Tuesday as being the worst of all the days. It was just after Monday, where you were still full of energy from the weekend, but before Wednesday, where you've fully gotten into the swing of things, and are comfortably in your routine. There wasn't even any competition with Thursdays and Fridays, where the end was in sight.

Twilight was determined to enjoy this Tuesday, however. She knew exactly what she was going to have Rainbow Dash and Applejack do, and there wouldn't be any need for judges: there would be only one right answer, and a very distinct scoring system. It would be algorithmic, not artistic. Mental, not physical. It was exactly the sort of thing Twilight was good at, and that was why she had picked it.

That was, after all, the point.

"You really think they'll enjoy this test you've come up with?" Spike asked. He was very dubious: he thought they should have done, Celestia forbid, an obstacle course using magic. Twilight had been quick to shoot that idea down.

"They seemed to enjoy the art competition Rarity came up with... they should be able to handle a few mathematical and physics questions." Twilight said, confident as ever that her way was, when it came to matters of the mind, the best way. Spike groaned, shrugged in defeat, and left. He didn't particularly care anyway: he'd just go around with punch and cookies when everything ended in a letter to the Princess. That was what he did: put out the fires Twilight made. That and do the dishes.

The door opened: it had to be one of her guests. The library, whilst well stocked, didn't get a lot of visitors. Apparently Ponyville was not a throbbing centre of reading. A pity, but it was their loss.

As the morning went on, the door opened and closed four more times before the room was full of ponies. Now tied, it was harder for everypony to figure out who out of Rainbow Dash and Applejack were going to win their competition: Rarity and Applejack's grand scheme to get Rainbow Dash active and energetic again during the Sun Season Holiday.

The atmosphere in the room was slightly off, however: even Twilight, not at all paying attention to the moods of her friends, far too occupied double checking her papers determined to make this event perfect, could sense that the make-up of the room was wrong: Rarity was watching Applejack in silence, and Rainbow and Applejack were on opposite sides of the library. Twilight narrowed her eyes and smiled: it was nothing a little testing wouldn't solve.

Rainbow Dash couldn't stop thinking about the picture, and she hadn't stopped thinking about it all evening. Every time she thought about Applejack, her mind came up blank: she didn't know for sure whether she had just drawn a pretty sketch of her, or whether it meant something more. Normally she wouldn't have thought twice about the occurence, but, for Applejack's sake, she took it seriously. Applejack's behaviour was speaking for itself, however. Rainbow Dash rubbed her eyes. What if she was wrong?

She was awoken from her internal struggle by Twilight.

"Okay, everypony! I have devised a series of short, simple questions on a diverse range of mathematical techniques, and some physical applications." she said, loudly, capturing the attention of everypony. Rainbow Dash groaned even more, her problems forgotten in the wake of mathematical destruction.

"Augh! More thinky stuff? Can't we have an obstacle course made of magic?"

Twilight made a point of not noticing Spike's glare.

"Yes! More thinky stuff." she said, and slammed the papers and books heavily onto the table. Rainbow Dash shrugged in resignation and picked up some of the papers, reading them through, checking the contents.

"I think I can remember some of this stuff from way back." she muttered, unenthusiastic. Applejack chuckled.

"It can't be that hard, huh? Just countin' coppers is what Big Mac' says." she commented as she, too, read through the papers. After a minute, her face fell. "The hay's a matrix?"

"It's a series of equations." Rainbow said as she browsed the questions, as if that would explain everything. Spike put his head in his claws: he could already see in his mind's eye how this would turn out. To Twilight, the outcome of the event was still a mystery.

"Okay, is everypony ready?" she asked. Applejack swallowed nervously.

"Uh, wait a sec... I just need t'get mah brain in gear." she said.

"I'm ready whenever." Rainbow Dash declared, sitting down, flicking her pencil up and down the table.

It was Pinkie who filled in the silence as Applejack worked her brain as hard as she could. She leapt up, a large plate covered in delicious treats piled up like a pyramid in hoof.

"Anypony want some baked goodies?" she asked. Fluttershy and Rarity both nodded: the others were too occupied by what they were about to do.

Spike shook his head: Twilight had made the mistake in doing something that would leave out Rarity, Fluttershy and Pinkie. He sighed: she still had a fair bit to learn, but in all fairness, it was an easy blunder to make. And anyway, the three would occupy themselves quite happily on their own.

"Mmf! They're delicious, Pinkie." Rarity declared, already helping herself to a second, despite knowing that they would go straight to her flanks. "What do you put in them?"

Pinkie grinned.

"The secret ingredient is love! And sprinkles!"

"Applejack, are you ready?" Twilight asked.

Applejack was breathing rather heavily now: she had a pretty good idea of her mathematical ability, and it wasn't optimistic.

"I guess..."

"Then... begin!"

Rainbow Dash lazily flicked the page over and began scribbling. Applejack took a look at the question herself, and once again found herself wondering what a series of equations was. Multiplying numbers was easy... she knew she could do that. She could do divisions, too... all the sort of skills you needed to keep track of the farm's money.

This wasn't a number though... it was lots of numbers arranged in a square. What in Celestia's name did that mean?

Applejack decided she'd come back to that question later. After looking through the next question, she held up her hoof.

"Yes, Applejack?"

"Ya'll made some sort of mistake here... you put the letter 'i' in there, but, well, 'i' ain't a number."

Rainbow Dash nudged Applejack's flank.

"It means the square root of minus one." she whispered. Somehow, that didn't make things any clearer to Applejack, who grunted in annoyance as she skipped the question. Rainbow Dash blinked as she gathered some of the nerve she needed to break the silence.

"So, um, about that picture?"

Applejack spluttered. The last thing she needed right then was Rainbow reminding her of that. She clenched her hoof so hard that the pencil tip snapped.

Spike continued looking on in passive horror as Applejack's face turned from confusion, to despair, as she could neither work out the question, nor what to say to Rainbow Dash, who was already on the second page whilst she glanced anxiously at Applejack.

Both problems were too much for Applejack.

Rainbow Dash flicked over another page: her dirty hoofwriting was all over the place, but at least the page was filled in. She sighed.

"Jeez, I hate egghead stuff." Rainbow muttered.

Applejack was beginning to think they didn't hate it for quite the same reasons. Rainbow Dash got flicked in the back of the head.

"This 'egghead stuff' is very important, you know!" she retorted.

"But... if it's so great, why haven't I seen any of this before?" Applejack asked, suddenly furious. Rainbow Dash looked at Twilight, then over at Applejack, and put down her pen.

"Hey, Twi, can we call it a day? I'm not really in the mood to do this right now." she said.

Applejack saw Rainbow Dash giving up as pity.

Twilight saw it as if her efforts weren't being appreciated.

Neither mare was very happy.

"I worked all night on those!" Twilight exclaimed. "You haven't even worked for five minutes!"

Applejack pushed her chair back, getting ready to leave.

"Well, Rainbow's already half-way through, so I guess that's it." she muttered. "Rainbow wins."

Rainbow Dash caught a glimpse of Applejack's face as she swiftly made her way out of the library. Rainbow Dash hesitated when she recognized, to her dismay, the Face.


"See ya'll tomorrow." she said. The door opened.

The door closed.

The entire room was silent.

"Jeez, you had to go and make her feel stupid, huh?" Rainbow asked, annoyed. "Now I'll never know what the hay that picture was all about."

Twilight looked hurt. She was hurt. The last thing she had wanted was to injure one of her friends, and getting shouted at by another was a close second.

"Hey, that's not fair." Spike declared. "What else would you have wanted her to do? I thought the point was to make you all try different things."

The room didn't say a word.

"It's not her fault that this turned out like that... even if it was rather predictable." Spike added. He turned to go to the kitchen. "I'll go get the punch and cookies... you five have fun on your own."

Winning never really hurt this much. Rainbow was a very good winner, and she knew what it took to make a victory worthwhile.

The first step was it had to be a challenge. The second was it had to be fair... at least a little.

The third was that it didn't hurt anypony involved.

Rainbow Dash knew she had bent those rules in the past... and probably would later on, knowing her. But that was when she got caught up in things, and that was different. That was why physical stuff was fun. You did your best and that was it: your best. You'd get better later.

She hadn't meant to see the Face today. In fact, she thought she'd never have seen the Face on Applejack, ever. She didn't seem the type to wear the Face that much.

Admittedly, two wins in a row was pretty hard to live down, especially when they challenged mental attributes instead of physical ones: Rainbow Dash was hotheaded and didn't like to plan things in advance, so she knew what it was like to be called stupid. It wasn't fun.

So she wasn't at all surprised that Applejack had left: but all she could think about the whole time she watched her slam the library door behind her was the drawing of her she had seen the day before.

There were some pictures you couldn't get out of your head: that was one of them.

As Spike fetched the punch, Rainbow Dash leant back, and began to ponder.

Rainbow needed to figure out what Applejack was thinking, and perhaps more importantly, what Rainbow would do if she was right.