• Published 11th Mar 2015
  • 10,110 Views, 206 Comments

Mate in Five Moves - Karrakaz

Friends who play together, stay together. That was the philosophy Rarity had in mind when she suggested she and Pinkie play a game of chess every week. Unfortunately for Rarity, however, she finds out that Pinkie is playing more than just one game.

  • ...

Knight Threatens Queen

Their first outing happened that same evening, even if Rarity had some reservations about the venue Pinkie had chosen. The fairgrounds at the base of Canterlot mountain should have made finding somepony that Pinkie liked easier, were it not for the fact that it was hard to distinguish Pinkie’s platonic ‘like’ from her romantic one. First and foremost on Rarity’s list of priorities was figuring out what had attracted Pinkie to her in the first place, but so far all she’d found out that it wasn’t a shared taste in fairground rides.

“Come on, Rarity! This one is great!” Pinkie yelled enthusiastically, dragging her along to the third in a series of rides that threatened to make her regurgitate the brownies from earlier in the day. At least this one only spun horizontally.

Once they were strapped in, she turned to her friend, trying to glean what insight she could before the ride forced her to focus all of her attention on keeping her lunch on the inside of her stomach once more. “Well, darling?” she asked curiously. “What is it about me that you like so much?”

Much as she had done the first time, Pinkie merely shrugged. “I already told you... I don’t know! You’re just... you’re always kind, and pretty, and you never say no when I ask you to help decorate for a new party... and lots of other things!”

Rarity groaned softly. A groan that swiftly turned into a shriek when the magical machine set itself in motion and the beam she and Pinkie were strapped to left the ground. She had been wrong; the machine did make vertical loops as well.

A few minutes later, when they were released from the restraints that had secured them to the infernal contraption, all Rarity could think about was finding the nearest bathroom so as to not make a mess of herself.

“Are you okay?”

Bent over a toilet wasn’t a position she would have wanted to be caught dead in, but then, that was before she had accompanied Pinkie to this... this place. Nevertheless, she waved a hoof back at Pinkie; if she was going to have to suffer this indignity, she would rather do so privately.

It didn’t dissuade Pinkie from helping her hold her mane away from what had been dinner. Why are there carrots in there? I didn’t even eat carrots!

They remained in the restrooms for a good half hour before Rarity felt well enough to move, and even looking at the rest of the machines the fair had to offer was enough to make her uneasy for some time after that. They eventually found a bench in the quieter part of the fair and Rarity gratefully sank down on it. Pinkie hadn’t stopped smiling apologetically at her since they’d left the restrooms, and she had done her best to ignore it for fear of snapping at her friend. After a good long while, she finally felt that she had enough control of herself not to say something she might regret. “This wasn’t quite what I had in mind when I said I wanted to go and have some fun.” She watched Pinkie deflate a little and gave her a nudge with her shoulder. “But,” she continued in a cheerier tone of voice. “It wasn’t as terrible as I feared it would be either.”

It wasn’t that she thought she would ever get used to being spun around in every direction, but she simply couldn’t stand seeing Pinkie morose. The pink pony was supposed to be the smile of the group, laughing at anything and everything; full of life and promise.

“How about we space those rides out, and intersperse them with some of the gentler fare next time, hmm?”

Pinkie nodded. “Yeppers. Being sick is no fun, so...” She looked around briefly and then turned back to Rarity with a smile. “How about... a game of chess?”

“As much as that would be a welcome distraction right now, darling, I fear that I’ve left my chess set at home.”

She hadn’t finished half of her sentence and Pinkie was already shaking her head. “No, silly. Look over there.”

Rarity’s eyes followed the length of a pink leg and came to rest on a princess-esque chess piece that was large enough to compete with the real thing. At first glance she had mistaken it for a statue, but statues generally didn’t float through the air every few minutes.

“It’s an outdoor chess set,” Pinkie told her happily. “Wanna go have a look?”

Rarity nodded her assent and got up to follow Pinkie over to the life-sized pieces. The chess board had been set up in an alcove of the mountain, out of the way from most of the attractions. As such, the surroundings were a lot less intense, and for the first time in a while Rarity could actually hear herself think. The board itself had been drawn on the floor with simple chalk lines, and by the time they arrived, an aging stallion was picking up the pieces with his magic, and shrinking them down to a more familiar size, which he then put into a well-used box.

In a fashion only she could manage did Pinkie waltz up to the stallion. “Hiya!” she called out, looking as though she might glomp her new friend right there. Her outburst made the stallion stiffen. His magic faded from one of the tower pieces which dropped like a stone. Rarity caught it in her own magic out of reflex and found to her surprise that the pieces weighed little more than her own did despite their size. They had obviously been imbued with several enchantments, and she idly wondered if Twilight could do the same thing with her chess pieces.

“Good day,” the stallion replied good naturedly after he had recovered from Pinkie’s unique form of greeting. “Fancy a game?”

Pinkie smiled widely. “Do we ever!”

Rarity added her own more sedate smile and said: “If it’s not too much of a bother?”

The stallion waved away her polite uncertainty with a hoof. “Not at all, not at all. The evening was a little slow, is all.” He dipped his head to the both of them. “Name’s Castle, professional chess player; currently ranked fourth in the worldwide rankings. Always pleased to meet a pair of pretty fillies.”

“Ohhh...” Pinkie said, her eyes growing to the size of dinner plates. She bounced around the stallion, checking him from all sides before disappointedly exclaiming; “You don’t look like a castle. You don’t even have the pretty towers.”

“Forgive her, she can be a little excitable,” Rarity told the stallion quickly, silencing Pinkie with a look. “My name is Rarity. It’s a pleasure to meet you.”

Castle took one of her hooves and planted a kiss on it. A gentlemanly gesture of respect for those in the know, but from the corner of her eyes she could see Pinkie's expression darken almost imperceptibly. "Well then," he said after letting go. "Shall we begin? Don't worry, I'll go easy on you."

Pinkie made her way over to the black side of the board and took up position next to the princess-piece. "Bring it on, buster! We'll show you!"

The chess match quickly became a two-against-one game. While Pinkie had a better insight, and more experience, it proved difficult to move the pieces without magic, which Rarity provided without comment.

The beginning of the match consisted mostly of mirror moves, and for each piece they took from the stallion, he took one of theirs. Rarity didn’t know exactly how it happened, but steadily Castle gained ground, taking unprotected pieces where she hadn’t expected him to even have pieces of his own. Truth be told, she was only half paying attention to the match. Beyond the movement of the pieces, most of her focus was on Pinkie Pie who looked more focused and determined than Rarity had ever seen her.

Despite their best efforts, however, they were losing steadily. Castle lived up to his reputation, and it wasn’t long before Pinkie pushed over their own princess piece.

“That was well played,” Castle said when they met in the middle of the board. “It isn’t often that I meet ponies that last for more than a few moves, let alone make me work for my victory. Would you like to play another game?” He held out a hoof to Pinkie, but the earth pony merely stared at the floor.

Rarity took the hoof in her stead and shook it steadily, treating the stallion to an amicable smile. “Thank you for taking the time to play a game with us. We’d love to play another round, but it’s getting to be rather late, and we really must be heading home. Another time perhaps?”

“If I’m not playing a tournament, you can usually find me right here,” Castle replied, returning her smile. He then turned to Pinkie and said, “Cheer up, Miss Pinkie, you have a lot of potential. I’m looking forward to playing you again some day.” He nodded at Rarity and then began shrinking and packing his equipment.

Rarity watched him for a moment before turning to Pinkie, leaning forward a little to see if she could make out Pinkie’s expression. “Darling, are you alright?”

Pinkie said nothing, and despite Rarity’s best efforts to coax her out of her shell, remained morose for the remainder of their stay at the fairgrounds. She followed Rarity without question or care for her surroundings, and in doing so drove Rarity up the wall with worry.

Why can’t she just tell me what’s wrong?

It wasn’t until they reached the train station that Pinkie let out a sigh and looked a little like herself again. “I’m sorry, Rarity,” she said, keeping her ears folded back against her skull.

Biting back a derisive response, Rarity stepped closer to her friend and gave Pinkie a gentle nuzzle. “Darling, I have never seen you act like this. Whatever is the matter?”

“I wanted to win,” Pinkie admitted after a moment.

Rarity arched an eyebrow. “Darling, I’ve never seen you upset because of a game. What makes this one so different?”

Pinkie shrugged helplessly. “I wanted to show you that I was just as good as that stupid stallion mc-meaner-pants was.”

“Oh my,” Rarity said with a giggle. “Fighting for my honor now?” She gathered Pinkie in a quick hug and made a show of swooning all over her back before taking a step back and regarding Pinkie with a calm expression. “He wasn’t doing anything untoward, but I think I understand how you feel. Regardless of the outcome, you did very well against somepony who is the fourth best in the world in their field. Such gallantry should be rewarded.”

She circled Pinkie, looking at her from every angle. Talking seemed to have helped Pinkie as she looked no worse for the wear, aside from her ears, which were still flattened. Rarity put a hoof to her chin and hummed softly. “Now, what would be a suitable reward, I wonder?” The answer was easy, and with a mischievous smile, she began circling Pinkie again.

The earth pony twisted her neck, trying to keep Rarity in sight and her ears perked up as well, which Rarity considered a victory. After the fourth circle, even Pinkie’s neck lacked the elasticity to keep up with the constant movement, and unwound itself quickly enough to make Pinkie dizzy.

That was the moment Rarity had been waiting for. With only a few graceful steps did she move close to Pinkie, and placed a chaste kiss on her cheek.

“There,” she said, giggling at Pinkie’s blissful smile. “Shall we head home, darling?”

Pinkie nodded, still dazed from her head spinning.

The fair had been a lot of fun, even if Rarity refused to admit it. And despite her insistence on calling them ‘outings’, it was only the first of a long line.

The following week was spent barhopping, during which Pinkie Pie literally drank her under the table. She didn’t remember a lot of the rest of the evening, but to hear Pinkie tell it, she was a snuggly drunk. She hadn’t known if she wanted to be glad that she wasn’t destructive while inebriated, or mad for allowing herself to become such in the first place.

In the week after that, they went to an open air opera that Pinkie had somehow gotten tickets for. The performance itself wasn’t all that interesting, sadly, but they enjoyed themselves nevertheless; and that was what really got Rarity thinking. In many ways Pinkie was a perfect gentlemare. Her intentions, however badly they might sometimes turn out, were always to make Rarity smile, which was a big step up from some of the stallions she had dated.

Even after several more outings, it was difficult for Rarity to admit that she might enjoy Pinkie’s company as more than just as a friend, even to herself. That didn’t mean, however, that she didn’t look forward to the next date—outing. Which, as it so happened, was tonight. And Rarity was right in the middle of a rush order.

“Rarity? Are you ready yet?”

“Just about, darling. Give me a moment to finish up this cross-stitch... and then...” Rarity sighed as she went through all the adjustments and sewing that needed to happen before she could really call the order finished. In a moment of resolution, she put her needle down and left everything the way it was. Doing so meant that she would fail to meet the deadline, or at the very least ensure that she wouldn’t be getting any sleep tonight, but she considered her promise to Pinkie to be more important.

Tonight, they had planned—Well, Pinkie had planned—to go to a self-defense workshop, which took place in the same dojo where Rarity had learned her karate. It had been a bit of a surprise to say the least; Rarity hadn’t expected Pinkie to be into, or even need that sort of thing. Pinkie had insisted, however, and Rarity had come to understand that this, too, had been more for her benefit than Pinkie’s.

They arrived only a little late. The doors to the dojo had already opened, and inside, the sensei had just begun showing off a few of basic moves which were enthusiastically being mimicked by a group of foals and grown-ups alike. Rarity recognised every move and ran through the rest of the first set in her head. She smiled when Pinkie hopped into the group and followed along while doing what she did best: enjoying herself.

That was one thing Rarity could honestly say she loved about Pinkie: her friend knew how to have fun, and, perhaps more importantly, knew how to make things fun for others as well. She was pulled from her thoughts when the deep voice of the sensei reverberated through the dojo. "Well, if it isn't my star pupil!” the aging stallion thundered, smiling at the crowd.

For a moment Rarity looked around to see who he might have been talking to, before she realised that he was, in fact, talking to her. She hadn’t ever considered herself to be particularly good at the sport, but then, she had been little more than a filly when she last attended any sort of lessons at the dojo.

“Come over here,” the stallion said, beckoning her over and smiling when she began moving. Maybe she wouldn’t have, if Pinkie hadn’t pushed her, but there was no going back now. “Take a good look, folks,” he continued when she had reached the center of the mat that covered the entire floor of the dojo. “This lovely mare and I will show you what you came here to learn.” And with that as her only warning, he attacked.

The long hours of learning and repeating the moves and techniques saved her from a black eye. She ducked beneath his first swing and blocked the second with one of her forelegs. Then, in the split second it took for him to regain his balance, she put all of her weight on her front hooves and used them as a swivel, sweeping his legs out from under him. She wasn’t fast enough, and while she did managed to snag one of his legs, he hopped over her attack with the others. She rolled back when he jumped forward and ducked out of the way when he came at her again, this time with a flying kick.

Blowing a few strands of her mane out of her face, she finally got a chance to adopt a traditional fighting stance. Standing on one’s hind legs and staying balanced was the first big challenge that came with learning karate. It made moving around more difficult, but in return provided more options and avenues of attack, and Rarity used one of those as her next move. Unfortunately, she misjudged the distance when she tried to kick him again. It had been a long time since she had really even thought about practicing, and the long hours of sitting still behind a sewing machine did her no favours. The sensei landed a blow on her chest and she fell onto her back. Before she could move she was staring at the frog of his hoof, an altogether familiar sight.

“You should come back to the dojo, Rarity,” the sensei said while he helped her up. “I think you could use some refreshers.” They bowed to one another, and then he turned to the crowd of spectators and said; “And those are some of the moves you will learn here. Now, everypony who wants to get a little more of a feel for it, please find a partner and I’ll be by to explain what the correct movements are and some of the history behind them.”

After he stepped away, Pinkie immediately bounded up to her and caught her in a surprise hug. “You were amazing!” she exclaimed, smiling happily. “He was all like ‘pow!’ and ‘fwoosh’ and you were like ‘ha, missed me!’” She made a few more chops with her hooves before looking at Rarity again. “I didn’t know you could do karate!”

Rarity had a hard time with her own smile after the sudden flurry of activity, but when her brain and the excitement of a fight finally caught up with her, she found it and smiled back at Pinkie. “Yes, well...” she said with a soft giggle. “It’s not like I have a lot of time for it these days.”

“Well... you should do it more,” Pinkie said, nodding to herself. “You were great." She grabbed a hoof and dragged Rarity over to a different section of the mat, bowing to her in a crude imitation of the bow the sensei had given her.

“Hold on. Darling, stop.” Rarity told her before she could begin performing the moves that the sensei was showcasing.

“What's wrong?”

“Nothing's wrong, darling,” Rarity said, pretending to idly look around the room. She didn't know how to broach the subject she really wanted to talk about so she fibbed it. “I just think you should find a different sparring partner. I already know all of these techniques, so it wouldn't really be fair.”

Pinkie considered her proposal for only a moment before nodding. “Oki-doki-loki, Rarity. Are you going to be—”

“I'll be fine, darling.”

Pinkie nodded before bounding off to the back of the dojo, where a group of adults were trying their best at following instructions. It was good to see how easily she was welcomed into the group and Rarity left her to it, deciding that she might as well make herself useful by giving some pointers to the younger students-to-be.

Rarity found that she enjoyed giving instructions in a sport that she herself had practiced for over half a life, and only became aware of the time when the next group of curious ponies stepped through the doors. She watched the foals and fillies she had been helping run back to their parents with some bewilderment and only then remembered that she had come to the event with Pinkie.

The earth pony wasn't hard to find, having drawn the attention of the crowd to herself and her sparring partner with quick moves that, while lacking any sort of refinement, proved to be effective in sparring. It helped that they were amusing to watch, obviously, but Rarity couldn’t deny that both Pinkie and the stallion she was fighting had picked up the moves rather quickly. They circled one another, occasionally trading a jab or ducking underneath a kick, making for an effective showcase match, perhaps even moreso than the one Rarity had been dragged into due to their obvious inexperience. As far Rarity was concerned, even the collection of their admittedly impressive moves could not even begin to compare to the excited gleam that Pinkie's eyes held.

It took her breath away, and for the first time since the whole bizarre arrangement had started did she feel part of what Pinkie must have felt for her. It was a mixture between a light feeling in her stomach and an excited sort of happiness at the thought that she could make Pinkie happy by telling her how she felt. And then she realised that she had never felt this way before. She’d had crushes before, first on Blueblood, and later on Trenderhoof, but neither of them had made her feel remotely similar. Perhaps that was what love was about? Caring more for the happiness of another than your own?

She decided that she should tell Pinkie how she felt as soon as equinely possible; although preferably in a somewhat more private setting.

“Hey, Rarity.”

Rarity smiled at her friend. “Hello, darling,” she said, her smile fading a little when she saw that Pinkie was dragging the stallion along by a hoof. “Are you ready to go home?”

“Well...” Pinkie drawled, looking at the stallion next to her with a sort of awe Rarity had scarcely ever seen from her. “I actually wanted to introduce you to Stampy!”

Rarity turned her smile on the stallion, trying not to let the panic she felt consume her. The stallion had an, in her opinion, hideous gray coat, and white hair to match. Still, he looked like he took good care of himself, from the shorn fetlocks to well maintained mane and the rubber stamp cutie mark... he had to be the opposite of Pinkie Pie in every way imaginable. Or so she tried to tell herself. “Hello...Stampy. It’s a pleasure to meet you.”

The stallion nodded amicably. “My name is Rubber Stamp, actually. Pinkie told me it sounded stuffy so...” He smiled sheepishly. “Pleasure to meet you as well, Miss Rarity.”

“Rarity?" Pinkie cut in smiling apologetically. “Stampy invited me to goof around a little, and I really wanna go, but it’s not really... y’know... your kind of party?” She awkwardly rubbed the back of her neck before asking; “Do you think you’ll be okay getting home by yourself?”

It was Rarity’s turn to nod and she did so with a heavy heart. “Of course, darling. I have some work I need to get done anyway. Just promise me you’ll enjoy the rest of your evening.”

“Cross my heart and hope to fly,” Pinkie replied, in a quick rendition of her age old promise before grabbing Rubber Stamp by the hoof once more and dragging him off to stars knew where. “Bye, Rarity!” she shouted over her shoulder, not looking back for long enough to see the subdued wave Rarity gave her in reply.