• Published 25th Apr 2012
  • 9,431 Views, 266 Comments

Harmonic Spectrum - Lux Klonoa



The Elements of Harmony... What happens when one single pony uses all of them at once?

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2. Honesty

"So you were trapped in there by one of them, huh?"

"Yup."

"Darn..."

A mere few minutes had passed since the blue pegasus, Rainbow Dash, rescued her friend, Applejack, from the burning ruins of the Sweet Apple Acres barn. If it were not for the unshakable loyalty and bravery of the rainbow-maned pony, her friend would not have been here in the safe confines of Ponyville Hospital with the nurses tending to her burns and injuries.

Dash stood there in the room at the side of the bed with her, watching as the two nurses apply various healing salves and bandages all over her orange-coated body. Applejack twitched and jumped as the salves were being applied over her burn marks, from her chest to her sides and back, with a slightly painful expression on her face.

"A Changeling got you," Dash said, looking concerned, yet worried. "Darn! They've been everywhere recently."

"Yup," nodded Applejack, groaning with her teeth gritted a bit. "Well, now you know why I said it ain't gonna be so surprisin' to you... and I guess it was lookin' pretty darn likely that they were gonna attack us next after all."

Dash sighed, looking down. "Great. Just great."

Just then, the sounds of several hoof steps were heard in the open doorway to the left of the pegasus, making her look.

"Guys!"

Who had just trampled through the doorway and had stopped to the left of her was the rest of their friends, standing there with worried and shocked looks on their face.

"Applejack! Are you alright?!" asked Twilight Sparkle, with an alarmed tone to her voice and her eyes slightly wide open. "We saw what happened out there!"

"Yeah, just fine and dandy," replied the orange pony, sarcastically. "Ow!"

A salve being placed on another burnt spot on her body had made her jump in pain again, gritting her teeth further.

"Oh my, you look horrible!" exclaimed Fluttershy, holding a hoof to her mouth as she saw the injuries.

"Did somepony pour a box of matches on your barn or something?!" asked Pinkie Pie, with her mouth being open and her eyes being wider than Twilight.

"What kind of nonsensical ruffian did this to you?!" asked Rarity. "That is, if it wasn't something else entirely..."

"No, you're right, Rarity," replied Applejack. "It was someone."

"Who?" asked Twilight.

The orange pony tilted her head down with her eyes downcast.

"Well... I thought it was her, but then, it turned out to be a gosh-darned trap," she said. "See, I was just outside the barn, doing my usual apple-buckin' business, when in the corner of my eye, I saw her: Apple Bloom."

"Huh? Apple Bloom? But, didn't she, Big Macintosh, and Granny Smith go on vacation not too long ago?" asked the purple unicorn, raising her eyebrow.

"Yeah, and that's what I thought. Not to mention that they ain't comin' back 'till a few weeks later. So when I saw her inside the barn standin' there, lookin' directly at me, I wondered, 'Have they come back already? Why so darn early?' So I went over to her and asked her. To my surprise, like some strange pony mime, she didn't say anything and took a few steps back into the barn, smilin’ at me for some reason. I followed her in, tryin’ to figure out what in the hay was going on, when all of a sudden, the barn doors had shut in behind me.

"And then, it happened," continued Applejack, tilting her head up to look at her friends. "I heard this awfully familiar hissin’ noise and, the next thing I knew, the filly who I thought was Apple Bloom had then changed into one of them."

"...Oh no, not here too...!" exclaimed Twilight, moving her head back a bit as she heard her. "So it was a Changeling that had trapped you in there?"

"Yup,” nodded the orange pony. “More likely, it was two of 'em workin' together."

"Oh, wow! They've been eeeeeeverywhere!!" exclaimed Pinkie Pie, shaking her head wildly as she yelled. "And now they're here, too?!"

"I guess it was inevitable, then," said Twilight, moving her head forward with her eyes cast to her lower left. "We've been getting several reports of Changelings attacking parts of Equestria lately, over the last week. And it's only been two weeks after my brother's wedding with Princess Cadence."

"I don't understand it," said Rarity, with a puzzled look. "Those nasty creatures should have been weakened by their combined love spells. Why are they attacking us again?"

"I don't know. But you're right. Judging from the reports, they still are very much weakened from the love spells, as apparently, they no longer have the ability to steal love from other ponies. Not to mention they can't stay changed for long."

"Hmm, if they're still weak," said Dash, turning to face Twilight. "Then maybe they're just attacking us for revenge? For stopping their queen from 'gaining her rightful place' or whatever?"

"Honestly, I wouldn't be surprised if either of those were the reason," said Rarity.

Twilight shrugged. "Whatever the reason, we must be on alert at all times now, everypony, especially since two of them almost got Applejack here."

"Yup," nodded Applejack. "If it wasn't for Rainbow Dash here..."

"Yeah, I know. Well, at least I woke up at the right time," said Dash, looking back at her. The blue pony then glanced ahead at her friends. "Well, I'm gonna go see if our weather team's taken care of the fire yet. Get well soon, Applejack."

"Yeah, don't you worry 'bout me. I'll be back up like nothing's ever happened," said the orange pony. She twitched again. "Ow!"

Looking ahead, Dash proceeded towards the doorway, past the rest of the ponies, and she walked out. As she began to walk down one of the main green-painted hallways of the hospital, a thought had entered into her head, making her stop and glance back at the doorway that she just exited.

Did she really wake up at the right time, right when the gray, burning smoke was covering the morning sky? Or did something woke her up? No, it had definitely been something, and whereas she couldn't remember before, now she did. It had been a voice.

Destined one? She thought. Who or what was that voice? Did it know that Applejack needed saving?

---

It had been a rough morning for Rainbow Dash, waking up to find one of her best friends trapped in a barn fire and rescuing her from it. Now that it was over with, she could finally do her usual morning routine.

Dash was now on the way back to her cloud home, flying through the air with her front hooves forward and her wings flapping at a steady pace. She had just come back from the barn, having seen that the fires have at last been put out. All that now remained of the barn were pitch-black ruins of its former self. Dash and the others had no reason to worry, however. Through the combined might and partnership of Ponyville's citizens, the barn could be rebuilt in a matter of days.

She flew on. Nearing her home, something came into her view as she flew to the front door.

"Oh. Derpy," she noticed.

A gray-coated and blonde-maned pegasus mare was flapping her wings near the mailbox, wearing a blue hat on her head and a brown saddle bag around her. Hearing the sound of Dash’s flapping wings from nearby, the gray mare turned and glanced at her, looking at her with yellow-irised wall eyes.

"Special delivery for Rainbow Dash!" exclaimed Derpy, with a goofy-sounding tone.

"Yeah, yeah, thanks for the delivery," replied Dash as she stopped in front of the mailbox, still hovering in the air. "I hope you haven't been doing anything funny lately, Derpy?"

"Nnnope! Just the usual." The wall-eyed pegasus smiled.

"The usual... Right," Dash said with a so-so look, rolling her eyes as well. "If that means being your usual clumsy self..."

Sighing, the blue pegasus proceeded to open the mailbox and grab the mail with both hooves, observing each of them one by one and then shuffling them to the back.

"Junk, junk, junk. Where's this special delivery at, Der— Oh..."

Looking a bit surprised, Dash came across a light-blue envelope with clouded lightning symbols all over, sporting a stamp in the upper right-hand corner that depicted a city in the clouds with rainbows arching over it.

"To Rainbow Dash, from the captain of the Wonderbolts, Spitfire. Oh!" Dash smiled at this. "Wonder what she wants with me? I really hope it’s an invitation for me to finally join them!"

Becoming a bit excited as a slight grin appeared on her face, she proceeded to open it and pull out its contents. It appeared to be a letter, and she hastily unfolded it to read its contents, becoming increasingly excited.

"’Dear Rainbow Dash, in great recognition of your efforts of leading the weather team of Ponyville to migrate the lake water over to the raincloud-producing factories on Cloudsdale, and in recognition of your heroic deed to save all of us back at the Best Young Flyer's competition, I, Spitfire, Captain of the Wonderbolts...’ Oh my gosh. I really hope this is it!"

Dash had a wide grin on her face, with her eyes wide open. She had longed for this day ever since she was a little filly. Was she finally going to join her dream idols, the Wonderbolts? Did her grand day to shine finally arrive for her?

"...hereby grant you an invitation to... one of our... upcoming shows in... Manehattan...?"

The grin on her face slowly turned into a frown as she read it. As much as she eagerly wished it to be, her day to fulfill her lifelong dream did not arrive after all.

"Darn... So much for that," said Dash, disappointed at the letter. "After everything I've done, it's still not enough to prove myself as one of them? Come on! ...Huh?"

She noticed something at the bottom of the letter, below Spitfire's signature.

"’P.S. I'm sorry that we didn't get to hang out much last time at the Grand Galloping Gala, what with all the distractions of the other ponies at the time. Honestly, what can you do when you're famous celebrity daredevils? Tell you what, if you can make it to our show in Manehattan, we'll let you hang out with us for a long while. I hope this'll make up for what happened at the Gala."

Dash smiled at this. "Huh. Well, that's better at least. Maybe then I'll finally get to show 'em what I'm made of. Heh! I definitely won't miss this show, then."

In the same envelope where the letter was before, there was a small blue-colored ticket that she noticed and grabbed. The ticket appeared to be her special invitation to the show, and written upon it, below the eye-catching Wonderbolts logo, was the date, time, and location of the show. Seeing the date and time suddenly surprised her.

"Oh snap! It's tonight?! Wow, talk about catching you off-guard here! Guess I better tell the others then, in case they need me tonight."

Putting both the letter and the ticket back into the envelope, the blue pegasus turned and headed towards the front door of her cloud home. Just as she did, though, she noticed Derpy floating over one of the pools of rainbow liquid that was a part of her home, looking at it with a curious expression.

"Uh, Derpy? What are you doing over there?" asked Dash, with an eyebrow raised at her.

"Nothing. Just looking at it," replied the gray pegasus, smiling.

"Riiiight... You do know that rainbow liquid will put your tongue on fire if you try to drink it, right?"

"Oh, I know. It's just that it's kinda... charming to look at."

The blue pegasus sighed and rolled her eyes again, looking at the door afterward.

"Whatever, Derpy. Just don't jump in it, okay? Especially if you do a cannonball into it."

Putting the gray pegasus at the back of her mind, Dash opened the door by the knob and entered her home. Of all the things to do, satisfying her hunger of the morning was the first on her mind.

---

"So, they invited you to a show, huh?"

"Yep! That, and Spitfire's allowing me to hang out with them after the show for a long while. 'Cause of, you know, what happened at the Gala a while back."

It had been five hours since Dash received the letter from the Wonderbolts. After five hours of doing her daily routine as well as preparing for the trip, now the only thing left to do was to inform her friends of her miles-long trip. Miles-long, if she was just an average pegasus flying at the speed of a small bird. But she wasn't. Amongst all of her abilities, she had something that was only unique to her. Something that was merely originally thought to be an old mare's tale.

With her saddle bag on, the pegasus now stood at the doorstep of Ponyville's local library, the home of the purple unicorn, Twilight Sparkle, who stood on the other side of the doorway smiling at Dash.

"Oh, that's great," said the unicorn. "Now that you mentioned it, yeah, none of us had a really great time back then. I mean… well, let’s see.”

She glanced upward as she thought back to the time in the Gala.

“Yeah, Fluttershy went crazy, Rarity was frustrated with the Prince, Applejack couldn't sell any of her food... It was the worst night ever before we gathered up and turned it into the best night ever. Heh heh... But yeah, good to see them allowing you to hang out with them for a while, especially since you saved them before," she said, looking back down at the pegasus.

"Yeah," nodded Dash, closing her eyes with a proud smile on her face. "I'm hoping for them to check out what I can do, though, since I didn't get to show off my awesome skills to them back then. Well, I did, but you know..."

Opening her eyes, she sighed happily. "There's no way they'll miss it this time!"

Hearing her, the purple unicorn rolled her eyes at the pegasus, chuckling in response. "Riiiiight... Hehehe."

Just then, Twilight was reminded of something, causing her to look back inside the library for a brief bit before glancing back at Dash.

"Oh, hey. By the way, Rainbow Dash, did you begin reading that book on the Elements of Harmony yet?" she asked.

"Oh, yeah. I did… Though, I sorta only skipped to the chapter that explained the mysterious incident that supposedly happened long ago," replied Dash, scratching her rainbow mane with her left hoof and with her smile fading.

"Ah, I see. Then, did you get what I meant when I said that there was something in there that reminded me of you?"

"Yeah, I know now... Strong willpower and bravery. Something I definitely know that I've displayed in the past many times before. One of the things needed to unlock the hidden power of the Elements of Harmony."

"Hehe. Yep! That one.” the unicorn said, nodding. “Well, you've heard me saying this before, but... your strong will and bravery, I wish I had them myself, Rainbow Dash. After all, there were times where I really thought that you'd be the one to save the day."

"Really?" asked the pegasus, looking slightly surprised.

The unicorn nodded. "That, and when both Trixie and the Flim Flam Brothers ran away from us, you tried to go after them. You wanted them to personally pay for what they've did, didn't you?"

"Yeah, but… you always said that they needed to learn on their own, Twilight." said Dash, looking away while she raised and lowered her hoof slightly. "I think it'd just be easier if they learned the hard way, but..."

The pegasus shrugged. Then, she glanced at the unicorn. "Anyway, aren't you brave yourself, Twilight? You were the one who put that Ursa Minor to sleep after all, along with other things."

"Yeah, I did do those things in the past... But am I brave enough to kick a dragon right in the face, or destroy a barn with crazy skills and with a rainbow explosion to boot?" asked the unicorn, turning her head slightly with a sly smile on her face.

"...Okay, yeah. I guess I am the bravest after all. Hehe," chuckled Dash, nervously.

Twilight nodded again.

"But, as for that other requirement," said Dash. "The one where you gotta represent all of the Elements of Harmony at once... As much as I really hate to admit it, I don't think I'm fit out for that, Twilight."

"Oh, that one... Yeah, I see what you mean."

"Yeah, and I don't think it needs explaining, really," the pegasus said, her eyes downcast with a frown on her face.

“…Hmm.”

Looking up and away from Dash, Twilight pondered about it with her hoof touching her chin. The unicorn knew very much that being kind and generous were not exactly Dash's strong suit. As she saw in the past, the blue pegasus had often been rude, blunt, and selfish at times, not to mention being a braggart about things. But at the same time, Dash had learned through her actions. She had learned these lessons of friendship, just as Twilight herself learned them as well as to study them, being chosen to do so by Princess Celestia.

The same could be said for the rest of her friends as well, she realized, and she also further realized something else as well. Thinking back to the time when they were finding the Elements and what each of them did for their respective Element, using that as a reference point, she realized that nearly all of them had shown enough in order to represent all of the Elements at once, through their later lessons of friendship.

Nearly, with Dash being the exception. She really hadn't shown enough kindness and generosity in the past, if at all. But that won't stop her from learning in the future, Twilight thought, especially since the pegasus had already met the other requirement and had continued to meet it ever since.

If the current known potential of the Elements of Harmony would ever fail to stop something that would threaten the world, Dash would be the only one left to stand against the darkness and unlock the hidden potential of the Elements. The only one out of them all with the strongest willpower, and it'd only happen if she successfully represented all of the Elements at once as well.

Of course, however, there was still the matter of whether or not the historical records that were proclaiming such a thing were accurate or not.

Were they? No one knew for certain.

"...Uh, Twilight?" The pegasus noticed the deep thoughtful look on Twilight's face.

The unicorn jumped a bit, snapping her out of it.

"Oh, uh, sorry about that. Deep in thought again," she said, chuckling nervously and lowering her hoof. "Yeah, I definitely know what you mean, Rainbow. But, even so, it doesn't mean you can't learn from there. Remember when you used to see reading books as nothing more than a thing that eggheads love to do?"

"Yeah, definitely, and I know what you're trying to get at. But I doubt that I'll ever show kindness and generosity towards somepony. That's... just the way I am, really."

Dash turned around and glanced around at the town.

"Oh well, no big deal," she said. "We don't really know if the Elements of Harmony do have a hidden power or not, anyway. Besides, we easily took out both Nightmare Moon and Discord with them, didn't we? They're strong enough as it is."

"Yeah... as long as we can keep our friendship together, that is," Twilight said.

"Ha! Nothing can break our friendship," said Dash with a determined smile. "Dopey Discord tried to do that, and it didn't last long, did it?"

"Nope!"

"Then it’s safe to say that we're simply unstoppable!"

Twilight chuckled. "You definitely got that right."

Dash gazed up to the sky, now orange-tinted as the sun began its descent towards the other side of the world, enveloping the town in its rays of light.

"Well, I gotta go, Twilight. Night is coming, and I definitely don't want to miss this show."

"Alright, then. Don't let me stop you from going. See you, Rainbow Dash."

The pegasus grinned and nodded back to her. Then, lowering herself to the ground, unfolding her wings, and then quickly flapping them, Dash skyrocketed high into the air and then took off forward with haste, fading into the direction ahead of her.

Observing her friend's departure, Twilight then thought of something as she watched, her smile fading away.

"...The day when darkness overwhelms us and the full potential of the Elements is not enough to stop it... Let's hope that day never comes."

No longer seeing her friend now, the unicorn turned and walked back into her home, closing the door behind her.

"The Flame of Harmony... Hmm..."

---

As the sun continued to descend into darkness, flying high above the ground and amongst the clouds, Rainbow Dash was well on her way to her destination. With each flap of her wings, her speed continued to increase until the natural forces of the wind stopped her from gaining more speed.

She grinned, her mane flowing backwards as she flew, fighting against the aerodynamic forces around her. To her, as she knew from within, the forces of the wind were merely walls to be broken apart and barriers to be taken down. Voices that were distant to her. Voices that were not worth listening.

It was like a window-less jail to her, with no sunlight penetrating the inside. It was a jail that was meant to be escaped from.

She pushed herself, flapping her wings harder, with her front hooves out in front of her. Soon enough, a white cone slowly appeared around her that was also becoming more arrow-shaped, pointing in the direction ahead of her. The aerodynamic forces tried to stop her, putting more pressure on her entire being. Yet, all it served to do was motivate her even further, like cracks of the earth that were opening up to its core.

Flapping her wings even harder, the cone around her became more arrow-like than before, looking as if something was struggling to burst itself out of a container. A colorful rainbow aura then appeared around her, swirling around her as she continued to fight against the winds.

If someone were to tell her one reason why she should stay within this prison, she would not listen to it. She did not need a reason at all.

She would refuse it, for it would conflict with the needs and wishes of her very soul within.

"Haaaaa... Yaaaaaaaaah!"

The container had finally been broken apart, and Dash was set free. A massive, giant, circular explosion of colors erupted at the point of the break. The huge, circular rainbow then spread outwards, growing larger and larger until it was large enough to be spotted from the surrounding great distances. At the epicenter of the great circular rainbow, a long trail of sparkling rainbow was seen leading into the distance far ahead in the direction she flew.

Free of her confines and performing her one favorite move that she had become a master of, the Sonic Rainboom, Rainbow Dash now zoomed through the skies and clouds at a speed faster than sound itself, with her mane and tail leaving a long stream of sparkling rainbow behind her. She was living up to her reputation as the fastest flyer in all of Equestria.

---

The sun had set, and night had fallen over the world of Equestria. The sky was now a darker shade of its former self, with the bright white moon and several shining stars littered across it like sparkling dust.

The blue pegasus was now sitting in a seat that was one of many around her. The many rows of seemingly endless seats had stretched on for nearly half a mile, going around and forming the circular shape of a bowl. Surrounding her were thousands and thousands of pony crowds that were cheering loudly, with some of their hooves up in the air as they cheered and with nothing but sheer excitement on their faces.

Although the stadium had a large, open, green strip of grass in the middle of it, what the massive pony crowds were cheering at was what flew in the air above them all.

A group of six pegasi, dressed in blue uniforms with lightning symbols all over them, was swiftly flying above the crowds below, emitting long trails of thundering gray storms behind them as they flew. After flying over the crowds, the six pegasi shifted their direction towards the sky and then immediately shifted towards the direction which they first flew from, performing a U-turn. As they flew in that direction, two of the pegasi then deviated from the group, flying away from them and spinning around sideways like a fan. The two then flew to each other, and before they came close to each other, they immediately flew upwards, spinning again. Then, they flew down, performing a full loop that had them flying close to each other again. They looped and looped and looped as gracefully as they could.

The crowds below the acrobatic pegasi continued to cheer on for them, basking in the great performance that they displayed. But none of them were as excited and happy as the rainbow-maned pegasus that was sitting amongst them.

With a happy look on her face, her mouth open, and her eyes as open as they could possibly be, Dash sat there, watching her idols, the Wonderbolts, perform in the sky above. Indeed, they were such stylish acrobats, performing to the best of their abilities with grace and flair. Something she could easily do with her own abilities as she had proved to the Wonderbolts in the past.

With Spitfire, their captain, inviting her to hang out with them after the show, perhaps the moment for her to shine will finally come.

A few minutes passed by. The crowd was just as excited as before, if not more excited since the Wonderbolts were now at their peak state, performing more dynamic acrobatics by the second.

“...Hm? Huh...?!”

As she watched on, suddenly, Dash spotted something directly ahead of her on the other side of the stadium and in the middle of the crowd that sat there. A group of ponies sitting there, to her sudden surprise, were engulfed in a bright green flash. The flash then disappeared, and sitting there now weren't the ponies that they were before. They were something that Dash recognized all too well.

“Changelings?!” she exclaimed, jerking her head forward with a look of great surprise.

The ponies sitting around the transformed beings, black insect creatures with bluish-green wings and bug eyes, saw them in an instant, screaming in horror and catching the attention of everypony in the stadium. Upon sight of them, more and more horrifying screams were heard, and everypony began to jump out of their seats and run for the nearest exit on sight, hoofing it out as fast as they could.

As each of the Wonderbolts ceased their performance and turned their attention to the source of the horror, the ten Changelings spread out from their seats and ascended into the air, with their insect wings buzzing at a fast pace. A green glow appeared on some of their black horns, and a second later, green-colored energy blasts were shot out of them, heading straight for the escaping ponies.

The blasts hit on impact. Sections of the stadium blew up in fire, smoke, and debris, quaking the place to its very foundation. The explosions knocked some of the fleeing ponies away, injuring them in the process. The Changelings continued their fire, tearing the stadium apart.

With her mouth open in shock and surprise at this sudden turn of events, Dash witnessed the continuous destruction that surrounded her. As the explosions increased, so did the destruction and casualties that were inflicted with every passing second. Then, she quickly saw one of the Changelings turn towards the section of the stadium where she was in, with its horn glowing bright green.

“Oh, snap!”

The insect creature fired its blast directly towards her, swiftly approaching her. In the second before it hit, the pegasus unfolded her wings and quickly flapped them, propelling herself straight into the air above. The seat below her exploded in fire and smoke, leaving behind burnt debris and a small smoking crater.

Dash saw the explosion below her, floating in the air with her saddle bag still on her.

“That was close!”

Seeing the smoking crater below, the sounds of screaming and continuous destruction then caught her attention again. As she continued to witness the destruction and the horrified looks of the fleeing ponies, her shocked expression then changed into a frowning one, with her eyes laden with anger.

“Darn Changelings! Surprising everypony like that is so not cool. I gotta do something before more of the ponies get hurt! ...Huh?”

Suddenly, in the corner of her eye and to the left of her, she noticed a Changeling flying towards one of the Wonderbolts in the air, who was unaware of the creature approaching from behind. As it approached, the creature opened its fangs, ready to jump on its unsuspecting prey.

“Watch out!”

Hearing Dash's yell from the right of her, the suited pegasus then quickly noticed the creature behind her, seeing its open fangs and surprising her. Just as it was about to bite, the creature was suddenly punched to its face by a blue hoof, with the strong force of it knocking the creature away from its target. Hearing the yell and the punching sound, the Wonderbolts turned to see who had just saved one of their members.

“You aren't laying a hoof on one of the Wonderbolts, you ugly creep!” exclaimed Dash, angry at the Changeling she just punched away.

Falling from above, the Changeling swiftly crashed onto one of the seats, hitting it hard and rebounding off of it. It then crashed onto another seat below, staying there as pain surged through it.

“Yeah, that'll teach you,” Dash said, seeing it lay there.

“Rainbow Dash! You made it here!”

“Huh? Oh, Spitfire!”

Hearing her voice, Dash turned and faced the group's Captain who was approaching her, sporting a mane and tail that resembled an orange flame.

“Did that Changeling sneaked up on us just now?” she asked.

“I believe it just did, Captain,” replied the Wonderbolt next to Dash.

“Yeah, it definitely did. You would've been a total goner if I hadn't knocked it away,” said the blue pegasus. “And yeah, I'm here. I would never miss out on an invitation like that, Spitfire!”

“I see. Good to have you here, then, Rainbow,” said the Captain.

“You're still letting me hang out with you guys after this, right?”

“Yeah, definitely. But right now, we got a big problem on our hooves here.”

“Right! The Changelings!”

The group of pegasi refocused their attention on the terrorizing insect creatures, only to notice that they suddenly seemed to be looking at one of their own who was just knocked out. To the surprise of the pegasi, all of the Changelings then gazed up to them, hissing with an angry tone.

“Uh oh. Looks like they've noticed,” observed Soarin', looking a bit afraid.

Seeing them, Dash flew ahead of Spitfire and stopped, gritting her teeth.

“It's me they want!”

With their insect wings buzzing again, the group of Changelings turned and faced towards the pegasi above, hissing again and ignoring the escaping ponies they were preying upon.

“Guys, Spitfire... I know I'm not one of you yet, and I know I shouldn't be telling you what to do,” said Dash, frowning at the creatures below. “But could you please get everypony out of here before these creeps go after them again?”

“Huh? But what about you, Rainbow?” asked Spitfire. “You think you can take them on by yourself? There are a lot of them down there.”

A smile of confidence appeared on the face of the blue pegasus.

“I'd be lying if I didn't think I could take them on. I never lie when it comes to my awesome skills! Trust me!”

Spitfire stared at her for a bit. Could Dash really take on nine of the remaining Changelings by herself? Doing it seemed like she was in for a world of hurt. Then again, this was the one who saved the Wonderbolts from their falling doom a while back by performing the Sonic Rainboom. Hearing stories of her blowing up a farm in a rainbow explosion with her body alone and leaving out unscathed also further reminded the Captain, as well as being there personally to see the blue pegasus lead the weather team of Ponyville lift up the lake water to the factories on Cloudsdale.

Last but not least, Dash also took on these creatures before with the rest of her friends when the invasion of Canterlot happened, and she took on a lot of them. If there were any doubts about her that needed to be erased, it was her skills, indeed. Dash was very capable of what she could do, and she definitely wouldn't lie about it either, having proven her skills time and time again.

“...Right!” Spitfire nodded. “Okay, then!”

Turning around, she faced her team with a look of determination.

“Wonderbolts, prepare to evacuate! Get everypony out of this stadium immediately! That's an order!” she exclaimed.

Just as she ordered, the team nodded in acknowledgment and flew out, flying in separate directions and heading towards the escaping scattered ponies below.

“Rainbow Dash?” called the Captain, looking back at her.

“Yeah?”

“When this is over, meet us at the Haystack Hotel in Manehattan here, as I promised in the letter.”

“Oh, right! Yeah, I'll definitely be there! Don't worry!”

The Captain nodded, flying off afterward.

Dash refocused her attention on the Changelings below, grinning with confidence. “Well, what are you guys waiting for? I did just knock out one of your friends after all!”

The group of creatures stayed there, continuing to hiss angrily at her. Unbeknownst to her, however, one of them was secretly speaking to someone telepathically.

My queen, one of the wielders of the Elements of Harmony is here somehow. She just knocked out one of ours, and now those suited pegasi are helping the ponies escape. What should we do?!

Hmm? One of the accursed ponies that helped stop our invasion is there...? Hmm, this would help my plan greatly, replied a mysterious, sinister, female voice. Take care of her. Do not leave her alive. If we can get her out of the picture, it will render the Elements of Harmony inoperable, and then no one will be able to stop us from reviving him.

What about the rest of the ponies?

Spare them. Equestria has more than what we need to do this. In fact, it is almost infinite. The city you are in is but a tiny fraction of it... For now, focus on the Element wielder. Do not fail me. Succeed, and you shall be rewarded.

It shall be done, my queen.

With their wings buzzing louder than before, the group of Changelings took off and ascended towards Dash. Seeing them coming, she prepared herself, with her grin fading into a frown.

Soon enough, the nine creatures surrounded her, still hissing at her angrily with some of them snarling at her as well. With her head slightly lowered and her eye pupils moving left and right, Dash floated there with a firm look, waiting for them to make their move.

A second passed, and the creature to her very right began to fly over to her. At the same time, the creature to her very left began to move as well. Both of them were coming straight at her, with their fangs open and their hooves pulled back, ready to swing at her.

They neared her, but before they could swing at her, Dash quickly swung her left hoof at the right creature, hitting its face and knocking it away. Then, she quickly swung her right hoof up towards the left creature’s jaw, knocking it and its entire body upwards with the creature falling down afterward.

Seeing two Changelings coming at her from ahead, she faced them. The two swung their hooves at her, but with her wings, she propelled herself upward, dodging their attacks and letting them fly below her. In the immediate half-second after their pass, she quickly descended and kicked both of them with her lower hooves, bucking them away.

The five remaining Changelings surrounding her in the air had brightened up their pointed horns, aiming their charged energy at her as she saw.

“This again, huh?”

The horns fired at her. Just as the blasts neared her, Dash propelled herself upwards again, dodging them. She then descended, flew over to the creature to her right, and stopped next to it. With her in close proximity, it decided to directly approach and attack her with its hoof when the other four creatures fired their horns at her. Seeing them coming, the blue pegasus quickly grabbed the creature and yanked it to the front of her, turning towards the incoming blasts and using it as a shield against them. The creature's blue eyes opened widely as the blasts came for it. Before they hit it, Dash let go and swiftly flew backwards, letting the blasts explode on the lone Changeling.

The resulting fire dissipated, and the creature fell down with hot smoke trailing from it.

“Heh heh! Now that's what I call friendly fire!” Dash grinned, looking at the fallen creature. She then glanced at the four of them ahead. “Now it’s just you guys. Better back off now. My hooves are pretty strong, you know!”

Disregarding her threats, the four Changelings charged their horns again, aiming them at her. They definitely weren't going to back off, she thought.

“You asked for it, then! Hyah!”

Flapping her wings as fast as she could, Dash took off to her left in blazing speed. Turning right and nearing one of them, the pegasus directly bashed her head against the Changeling's body. As the creature's eyes popped open with pain shooting from within, Dash kept her head against it with her wings still flapping rapidly, effectively moving it back and taking it along with her as she aimed for the next Changeling.

Seeing her, the three creatures tried to move out of the way, but in one fell swoop, Dash hit all of them as she circled around, stacking the helpless Changelings against her head one by one.

“Your play is over! Time for you to exit the stage!”

Dash flapped her wings even faster, increasing her speed, as she flew towards the outside surroundings of the stadium with the creatures still on her head. Nearing the side of the stadium, with her strength, she pushed her head against the creatures and lifted her head upward, coming to a complete halt with her wings and stopping there with the Changelings being thrown upward and far ahead of her in the air. Having been catapulted from her, the creatures then faded into the distance, falling downward as their speed slowed down.

With the four of them thrown out of the area, Dash turned around and looked to see if there were any of them that were still up and buzzing. As she saw, the rest of them still in the stadium were scattered all over, laying there and reeling in pain due to Dash's attacks and their resulting fall from the air.

“All of them are down. I oughta ask them why they're here, then.”

In the center of the grass field below, one of the Changelings laid there on its back, groaning painfully and moving left and right to ward off the pain. The sound of hoof steps was heard as well as the stirring of the ground that it felt. With its blue bug eyes, it looked at who had just landed a few feet from it.

“Hey, mind answering something for me, bug eyes?” asked Dash, looking firm and walking towards the creature on all fours. “Why are you creeps here? Why are you attacking ponies all over Equestria? To steal the love from us to satisfy your appetite, like last time? 'Cause I heard that you actually lost the ability to steal from us. Besides, that blast from Princess Cadence and Shining Armor should've taught you all a big lesson, anyway!”

The creature continued to groan painfully, not answering the pegasus' questions. Then, a second later, its horn began to emit a bright green glow, making Dash stop and take a step back at the sight of it, preparing for whatever the creature was going to do.

Out of nowhere, an echoing voice was heard that seemingly surrounded Dash, and it was one that she recognized.

“Ah, the wielder of the Element of Loyalty, Rainbow Dash... How surprising that you would be there at that city.”

“...You! The queen of the Changelings!” exclaimed Dash, gritting her teeth as she looked around for the source of the voice. “Show yourself!”

“Ha ha ha ha ha! How can I show myself when I'm not even there? No, my little pony, I am far away from where you are now. I am simply using my dear loving Changeling here to communicate with you.”

The pegasus growled in response, glancing at the downed creature before her.

“You know, Rainbow Dash, I must admit. I underestimated you,” the queen said, her voice continuing to echo. “You and your little pony friends put on quite a show for us back when we invaded Canterlot. If it wasn't for my would-be betrothed's annoying little sister, I would have succeeded, and my dear children would have had a whole new world for them to feed upon... But now, we can make up for that failure, with this grand scheme that we've now put into motion.”

“...And that is?”

“Ha ha ha! Do you think I'm going to reveal such a great plan to you, now that I know who you really are? The wielders of the only magic that can truly put a stop to us? Never... This land will soon be ours, and once we succeed, you will never be able to stop us this time, even with the Elements of Harmony at your disposal.”

Dash growled. “Oh yeah?! Think again, you creep! If we can stop you before, we can stop you again!”

“So you believe. But beliefs can be false, and we aim to prove that... Hm hm hmmm. Now then, if you will excuse me, my children and I have to... consume. Farewell, my little pony.”

“Hey, wait! I'm not done with you—”

Before Dash could finish, suddenly, the glow around the horn began to envelop the creature in whole, and within a matter of seconds, a brief bright flash occurred.

“...Yet?”

To her surprise, the creature was gone, having seemingly teleported out of sight. Soon, she noticed brief glimpses of green flashes all around, making her look at them. The Changelings she had just knocked out were now gone from the stadium, and only burning and scattered debris remain around her.

Consume? She thought. That was the last word the Queen of the Changelings had uttered. Having just heard that, it could only mean one thing. The Changelings still have the ability to steal love from innocent ponies and were still bent on taking over Equestria after all.

With the threat of the Changelings still out there and with some kind of mysterious plan that they were enacting right now, she definitely needed to inform both Twilight and Princess Celestia as soon as she made it back to Ponyville.

That can wait, though, she thought. After all, she took a long trip to get to this place, and it would likely be the same on the way back.

Turning around, Dash glanced at one of the tall steel buildings in the distance ahead of her, knowing that there was an opportunity waiting for her that she could not miss.

---

“Mmmm! What a delicious-looking pie this is!”

“Yep. You wanted to try it out after the performance, right? Well, here it is. Dig in, big guy.”

“Don't mind that I do!”

Sitting down in a chair, the cobalt-maned colt proceeded to dig his muzzle into the pie that was on the table before him, situated in a corner on one of the top floors where the restaurant of the Haystack Hotel was located. To the right of him stood both Spitfire and Rainbow Dash, watching him happily dig his face into the pie and making a slight mess.

Dash chuckled at this. “Soarin' sure loves pies, doesn't he?”

“He definitely does,” replied Spitfire, smiling. “And apple-flavored pie just happens to be his favorite, albeit with whipped cream on top of it this time.”

“I guess he'd have a field day with Applejack if you guys had a show at Ponyville. Man.”

The orange-maned pony chuckled, watching as Soarin' continued to eat with the mess getting bigger, covering up half of his face.

Spitfire sighed, smiling as she turned around to face the glass behind her that had a great view of Manehattan itself. Noticing her, Dash turned around as well, and both of them now stared at the many tall buildings and skyscrapers that were lit brightly, like burning candles in a veil of darkness.

“Well, like I said earlier, I'm glad you made it here, Rainbow Dash,” Spitfire said. “We really didn’t get to talk much at the Gala after all, as, you know, we were constantly preoccupied.”

“Hey, it's no big deal, really!” Dash exclaimed. “I was just happy to see you guys there, that's all, even if you had to deal with all the crazy distractions and whatnot.”

“Yeah, it was crazy, alright. Well, that's what happens when you're famous. You have a fan here and there who's trying to get your autograph, alongside other things.”

“Yeah, I know how that's like,” Dash said, scratching her head with her hoof and being reminded of how she became a hero back in Ponyville some time back, gathering some fanfare before it went to her head as she just thought. She certainly had to learn a lesson about it.

Spitfire nodded. “Speaking of the Gala, by the way, I heard that it didn't go so well for your friends as well.”

“Oh, yeah, it definitely didn't. I mean, Applejack tried to sell her food, Pinkie Pie thought it was her kind of party when it wasn't, Rarity had an embarrassing time with the Prince, Fluttershy went totally crazy over the animals, and Twilight didn't get to spend enough time with Princess Celestia 'cause she kept on getting distracted… like you guys, really.”

”Huh, I see. Good to know we weren't the only ones, then,” the yellow pony noted, blinking in surprise a bit.

“Yeah. It was pretty much the worst night ever for all of us, really. But we made up for that by grouping up together and turned it into the best night ever. Now that was fun.”

Spitfire chuckled, looking at her. “I'm glad it ended up that way, then.”

“Yep!” Dash exclaimed, smiling and nodding.

Hearing all of that, however, had made the Captain realize something, causing her to look away and frown at the floor with her orange eyes filled with indecision in them.

“...Hmm.”

The blue pony noticed her. “Huh? What's wrong, Captain?”

After a second, Spitfire then glanced ahead at the view of the city.

“Rainbow Dash... Was it always your lifelong dream to join us?”

Hearing that, Dash jumped a bit in excitement, with her eyes wide open. She quickly turned to face her. Could this be it at last? She thought.

“Y-Yeah! It-it's always been my dream, Captain Spitfire!” she exclaimed, stuttering a bit with utter excitement on her face. “Ever since I was a little filly and all. In fact, the only reason why I attended the Gala was to—”

“Prove yourself to us?” interrupted Spitfire. “Yeah, I think I know that already, Rainbow.”

“Y-you do?”

“Yeah. Well, we didn't exactly see them, but we certainly heard what you tried to do to get our attention at the Gala. They didn't exactly work, did they?”

“...Uh, I guess not,” Dash said, nervously chuckling with her eyes looking left and right. “But there was no harm in trying, really. I did what I could.”

“Certainly... Well, to be honest, Rainbow Dash, I think you've proved yourself to us more than enough.”

“What? Really?” asked Dash, looking excited again. “Oh wait, you mean...!”

The Captain turned to face her, smiling. “Yep. We haven't forgotten what happened at the Best Young Flyer's Competition in Cloudsdale, Rainbow Dash. With your spectacular Sonic Rainboom, it was you who saved us from the inevitable, and it was you who won the competition in the end, amazing everypony with it. And then, just recently at the Canterlot Wedding, you performed the Sonic Rainboom again and in an instant that time.”

Dash chuckled at this, grinning with a hint of shyness on her. “Yeah. I've prepared myself a lot for that… But, yeah, I guess you could say that I've become a master of pulling it off now.”

“I see. Heh heh, yeah, if it’s anything ponies expect when they see us at a show, it's that we gotta have the skills to perform flawlessly. And you definitely have them, Rainbow. Not only that,” continued Spitfire, walking closer to Dash and stopping there right in front of her. “But you've also proven that you have quite the leadership skills, when you led your weather team to lift up that lake of water up towards Cloudsdale. Not to mention you pushed your team to their limits, intent on breaking the wingpower record... even though you didn't manage to in the end.”

“Yeah... I'm still kinda disappointed about that. But you're right. We did lift the water up with enough wingpower after all. Heh, if it wasn't for Fluttershy...”

“Right. I'm glad she did it as well.”

Dash nodded in agreement. The Captain gazed over at the view of the city again.

“So, with all of that,” she said. “Yeah, I think you're definitely Wonderbolt material now, Rainbow. Definitely.”

Oh my gosh, this is it, Dash thought, with a wide excited grin on her face. The day for her to fulfill her lifelong dream had finally arrived.

“What's stopping you, then?” asked Dash, her body shaking with excitement. “Come on, spit it out!”

Noticing her, Spitfire knew Dash was eagerly waiting for her final word. However, deep down, the Captain also knew something about her that could bring about a compromise. A great one, she just thought. One that could have wider long-term consequences if she were to recruit Dash into her team now. Consequences that Dash would not see, unless the Captain was willing to tell her.

“...Hmm.” Spitfire looked down and frowned, her downcast orange eyes filled with indecision again and a bit of sadness. She wasn't about to willingly crush Dash's lifelong dream to join them either if she told her, as it would likely make her very depressed in the end. But on the other hoof, again, the consequences will likely happen if the Captain didn't tell her. And unfortunately, it was the latter she was slowly in favor of, as those long-term consequences would not only affect them both, but everything around them, as they know it, as well.

“...Spitfire?” noticed Dash, seeing the Captain's sad face and calming down, her grin fading away. “What's wrong?”

The Captain sighed. “Rainbow Dash... You're one of the wielders of the Elements of Harmony, are you not?”

“Huh…? Well, yeah, I am. But what's that got to do with this, captain?”

“Well, as much as you've proven yourself to be a great potential member of the Wonderbolts, there's... a problem with letting you join us.”

“What? What sort of problem?” the blue pegasus asked, now with a worried look on her face.

Spitfire glanced at her, still with the sad expression. Then, she began to walk away from the view of the city.

“As you know, the Wonderbolts are famously renowned all over Equestria. Thus, we travel to different places all over to perform for them, as well as to make money, of course,” she explained, stopping a few feet away from Dash and looking downward. “Thing is, it takes us a long time to travel between each place, from a few hours to a day at most... Rainbow, you're from Ponyville, where your friends, the rest of the Element wielders, live as well. With the six of you being together, you hold the most powerful magic ever seen in Equestria right in your hooves, and you've saved the world twice now with that same powerful magic.

“So, if we let you join, Rainbow Dash,” she continued, turning towards her, looking at her as well. “If Equestria ever gets attacked by some evil force again, the Elements of Harmony won't work… because you'll be with us and not with your friends, as we are always on the move. Can you imagine Equestria being devastated, all because you chose to pursue your lifelong dream instead of continuing to be one of the Elements of Harmony? Think about it.”

“...Uh...!”

The blue pegasus stood there in shock, with her eyes and mouth open as she tried to process this sudden revelation in her mind that came straight from the mouth of the Captain herself. The glass of her ambitions and her excitement to finally join them, contained within her, had been shattered into pieces.

For a few seconds, Dash stood there like a statue, as a strong mixture of feelings swirled up within her and began to overwhelm her as well, taking up every fiber of her very being. Sorrow, emptiness, and despair were all she could feel at the moment.

Spitfire sighed sadly at this, turning herself away to avoid Dash's now-trembling eyes. She had to do this after all. It was either this, or compromise Equestria's safety.

“I know... I know how you feel, Rainbow,” she calmly said. “Well, if it makes you feel better, I'll give you this. A choice. Now that I've told you everything, you can either still choose to join us despite what I've said, or you can continue being the Element of Loyalty. Just... remember what I've said, alright?”

Facing the glass view again, the captain proceeded to stare at the city, awaiting an answer from the blue pegasus.

A choice, Dash thought, as tears began to swell up in her eyes. Soon, as she slowly sat down on the floor, her expression changed to a sad one, with her pony ears pointing downward. She looked down and tried to think this through.

Why? She thought. Why hadn't she realized it until now that joining the Wonderbolts would mean suddenly abandoning her best friends and, ultimately, her duty as the Element of Loyalty? She can't do that at all. Otherwise, if she did, she'd be going against her Element in pursuit of her selfish dream. Well, maybe she could transfer her Element to somepony else and... Nay, she didn't feel right about that as well. Her friends would still look at her as being selfish as well as being disloyal, especially after being friends with them for so long.

Her mind tried to bring up ways to make joining them seem more feasible. Maybe, with her Sonic Rainboom, she could keep up both duties at the same time, as it increased her speed a lot. But then, depending on the location, it could still take hours to reach Ponyville regardless, much like her earlier trip to get here. And what if her friends weren't at Ponyville at all, but someplace else instead? It could take even more time to reach them, and by the time she did, it could be too late already, and the world might already be on the verge of destruction.

Dash forcibly shut her eyes at that thought, her tears splashing off of them and going down her cheeks afterward. The image of an apocalyptic Equestria was suddenly burned into her mind, seeing burnt debris of the buildings in Ponyville that had fallen. As if that wasn't enough, immediately, another image flashed into her mind, making her grit her teeth at it. This time, it was of a ruined Canterlot, with its once beautiful standing towers having fallen into great disrepair, with its waterfalls no longer running. All while hearing an all-too-familiar voice that sounded male and was seemingly laughing, with echoes of it trailing afterward.

“...Ugh!”

“Hm? Rainbow?” noticed Spitfire.

At that, Dash's eyes snapped open, with her tears still flowing outward as she slowly looked up at the Captain. A second passed, and she sighed sadly, her eyes downcast again. She now knew what was going to happen if she made the wrong choice here.

The blue pegasus stood back up on her hooves and glanced directly at the orange-maned pony.

“Spitfire... Captain... It's still my lifelong dream to join you guys. It always has been, as you've said. But, I'd be lying to not just you, but to myself as well, if I simply said that I choose to be with you guys instead of my friends,” Dash said, calmly. “No, I'm not going to make that choice.”

Lifting up her right hoof, she wiped her tears off with it, sniffed loudly, and changed her facial expression to that of a determined one.

“I'm going to make the right choice, instead. An honest choice. Captain Spitfire, as awesome as it'd be, I no longer want to join the Wonderbolts anymore. At least, not at this time. Instead, I'm going to continue being the wielder of the Element of Loyalty. I'm going to stay loyal to my friends from now on!” she exclaimed, with a proud smile on her face.

Hearing that declaration from her, the Captain smiled at her, facing her again. She then walked up to her, stopped by her side, and turned around, lifting up her right hoof to grab and bring Dash close to her.

“Glad to hear that, Rainbow Dash! Glad to hear it.”

“Hehe. Yep!” Dash happily smiled at her.

---

A few minutes had passed by. Spitfire sat in front of the table where Soarin' had just finished his pie, his face covered in a huge mess all over. Dash was nowhere to be seen, having just left the building.

“Oh gosh, that was the greatest pie I've ever had in my life,” he said, sitting back on the chair in a lazy-looking position. “Whew!”

Spitfire chuckled. “Delicious, wasn't it?”

“It sure was. Mmm...” The colt looked around a bit. “...Huh? Rainbow's gone already?”

“Yes. She's gone back to her home. Kind of surprising that she left here without becoming deeply depressed after what I had to tell her. But I'm glad she stayed strong and accepted it like that.”

The colt nodded in acknowledgment. “That's good, unlike the other ponies we had to turn away… So, that dream about her you had the other night. If it didn't happen...”

“Yeah, I would've recruited her straight away without even knowing what would happen afterward. I'm glad I had that dream, though.”

The Captain sat back in her chair, forming a slightly puzzled look on her face as she recalled it, staring down at the table.

“What an odd dream that was, though. I mean, it began with us recruiting Rainbow into our team. Then from out of nowhere, this... huge dark thing appeared. I don't know how to describe it well. It looked like a gigantic porcupine or maybe a hedgehog of some sort, with these huge spiked things all over the top of it and with this weird-looking mouth at the front of it... Then, it attacked and knocked us all to the ground, with Rainbow lying close to the dark thing. The next thing you know, her friends suddenly appear out of nowhere as well, and they all had what looked like the Elements of Harmony on them. They stood against the dark thing, but then, it knocked them all away from it, with their Elements flying off of them.

“Rainbow and her friends then just laid there for a while, as if they were all unconscious from the hit,” she continued. “Afterward, the dark thing proceeded to go after us. I honestly thought we were going to share the same fate as them, but... suddenly, Rainbow woke up and stood, appearing to be angry at the dark thing that was going after us. Then, from where they were, the Elements of Harmony began to fly up and over to her, surrounding her as she growled at it. The last thing that happened was that she let out this loud and furious scream that suddenly made her explode with this blinding white light. It was so bright that you couldn't even see anything... except for one short glimpse of her attacking the dark thing. And the weird part of that? Rainbow wasn't the blue pegasus she was before, but a white one, and her rainbow mane and tail looked like somepony lit up a fire match to them.

“Just as this white flaming Rainbow Dash attacked it, well, the dream ended and I woke up,” finished Spitfire, sighing. “Like I said, it was an odd dream. A dream that made me realize that she was still one of the Element wielders and, well, you know the rest, Soarin'.”

“That, I do. And I agree. It's a strange dream,” the colt said.

The Captain nodded. “I have a feeling, though, that it may have more importance than it seems. And letting her go like this, Soarin'...”

Before she could finish, suddenly, a loud booming sound was heard to her left, making her glance at the great view of the city. Past the buildings and skyscrapers, a large circular explosion of rainbow was seen, growing larger as it spread outward. She smiled at it as it grew larger and larger.

“...was probably the best decision we've ever made.”

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