• Published 13th May 2012
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Austraeoh - Imploding Colon

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Loyalty

“Rainbow Dash?” Ember Speak's voice called out, echoing through a crumbling corridor as she galloped swiftly after the rushing pegasus. “Rainbow Dash, wait up!”

“Don't follow me, Ember,” Rainbow Dash grunted, marching towards a brass gate welded to a tiny, ascending passageway just beyond the furthestmost wall.

“Rainbow Dash, please!” Ember skidded to a stop, pleading with her from afar. Her eyes glistened in the torchlight of the desecrated place. “I might never see you again! Don't do this!”

“But I always do this,” Rainbow Dash grumbled, stopping before the door and fumbling for the large brass key in her saddlebag's outer pocket. “It's what I'm good at.”

“No, I mean, don't leave like this!” Ember pleaded. “I know that you're blaming yourself—”

“You don't know anything,” Rainbow Dash said, her muscles tense as she struggled and struggled to get a good grip of the key. “You just live to die, and die to honor parents who did the same thing as the ghosts before them. Well that may be good and fine for you, but it's not for me.” Her nostrils flared as she hissed, “Should never have flown here. Should have just taken Cold Canter's advice and gone south. Friggin' A! Stupid key—”

“You are blaming yourself!” Ember said, frowning. “Rainbow Dash, you've tried so much for ponies you hardly even knew! You've given us gifts that we'd never even come close to expecting in so many years!”

“I've given you nothing, which is all I'm good at,” Rainbow Dash snarled, her shoulders and wings beginning to shake. “Aside from flying away like a stinkin' coward!” She sniffled once, shook, and grumbled, “I think in a straight line, Ember. I always have. I'm sorry for teasing with you stupid ideas of hope and peace and harmony and all that stuff. Sam's right. This is obviously not my home. What could ever have made me think I was capable of making a difference here?”

“But you have made a difference!” Ember exclaimed. “You're inspirational! You're mesmerizing! You're loyal—”

“And what did loyalty ever do for Limey, huh?!” Rainbow Dash spun her a frowning glance, her ruby eyes hard as daggers. “Or Swirls?! Or Stu?!” She waved a hoof towards the torchlight. “Your beloved prince was loyal to you! And look where it got him! He was in the wrong place at the wrong time! Heh...” She chuckled bitterly as a wave of dizziness overcame her. She teetered momentarily and rubbed a hoof over her forehead. “I'm always in the wrong place at the wrong time. That's not loyalty; it's rotten luck. And I've had enough of it. I'm leaving. You can have your dragons and death and delusions. Goddess help you when it's time to erect a memorial to so many corpses. Axan won't be delivering any eulogies...”

“Just tell me why you do this, Rainbow!” Ember said, leaning forward. “Why do you keep flying? Why do you keep going and going and going places?! You're no vagabond! You're a good, loving, awesome pony! Your heart yearns to help others! If it only hurts you so badly like this, why do you keep doing this?! Why do you keep moving, only to stop and sacrifice so much?!”

Rainbow Dash was struggling with the key again. “I'm tired of talking. Tired of answering questions.” She cursed under her breath and practically slammed the key against the door. “Haven't you realized that I've got nothing left to answer for? That I haven't a home to lay my head down in?”

“Rainbow—”

“Nnnngh!” She reeled from another dizzy spell, her eyes flickering yellow and red as she gnashed her teeth back in Ember Speak's direction. “Has it occurred to you that Axan and I might have something in common?!” Immediately after saying this, Rainbow Dash winced and fell to her haunches, hyperventilating as the dizzy spell shook through her.

Ember Speak's face twisted in confusion. “Something in common?!” She blinked, her eyes searching the floor. Just then, Ember's face paled and her jaw dropped in shock. “You're dying...”

Rainbow Dash was silent, seething, her head hung in a cold slump.

Ember gulped and gazed sympathetically at the pegasus. “You're dying, aren't you?” She looked at the pendant around Rainbow's neck. “Those dizzy spells: they keep getting worse and worse. You can barely even stand...”

Rainbow's eyes were shut as she took several deep breaths. The seconds ticked away under the flicker of the unfeeling torchlight. Eventually, her lips moved and a droning voice came out. “My body is in a state of flux. At least, that's what Princess Luna told me. I am one half harmony and one half chaos, but the chaos part is taking over. I should have been dead long go, but... well....”

Muttering, Rainbow Dash raised a hoof and shook the ruby lightning bolt around her neck.

“This thing right here? It keeps the ugly effects of chaos at bay. Princess Luna herself enchanted it, increasing its power, so that it could contain the chaos energies. But even though that's given me an extra lease on life, nopony has pretended to hope. I've got less than a year at best. At the rate at which I've been throwing myself around... heh... I'm lucky if I have a few months...”

“A few months?!” Ember Speak stammered. She took a few cautious steps towards Rainbow Dash. “But... But you're on a quest!” She gulped and exclaimed softly, “You're trying to get to some place called the Midnight Armory, right?”

“Hmmmm...” Rainbow's lips curved bitterly. “Yeah...”

“How will you ever make it there at that rate? I mean, a few months?”

“I don't know...”

“How do you know that you won't succumb to chaos and mutate into... into... whatever's happening to your eyes and head?”

“I don't know—”

“Why are you even flying?! I mean, why leave your home or your loved ones or your—”

“I don't know. I don't know!” Rainbow Dash shouted, hissing as one last wave of dizziness flew through her. She gripped her forehead, took several breaths, then calmly limped forth, “No, that's a lie. And I hate lying...”

Ember Speak gazed at her, trembling.

Rainbow gave her a soft look. She spoke quietly, “I hate losing. I always have, and I always will. Sam told me ages ago that in spite of all he's fighting for, he's still got a wasteland to deal with, even if he defeats the dragons. And you heard Axan herself talk about the end of the world, and she's a total whiner about it. Heh... I guess if you think about it real hard, life is something that constantly goes uphill with no peak as a reward. Well, I refuse to believe that. I want to reach the top of the mountain; I want to win.”

Ember smiled gently. “You've achieved so much, Rainbow Dash. Why do you always have to go it alone? I'm sure your friends would be proud.”

Rainbow shuddered, feeling a dull weight in the fathoms of her saddlebag. “They stopped being able to a long time ago,” she murmured in a dull tone.

To that, Ember blinked, and a tear fell down her cheek. She reached forward to touch Rainbow's shoulder. “Even after all that's happened, after all that Axan's taken from us, I don't think any of us know true loss like you do.”

Rainbow Dash stopped her hoof before it could make contact. With a dull glare, she coldly said, “Losing is for losers.” Her wings sprouted, startling Ember into backtrotting away. “You could have left this hole in the ground ages ago. You all could have. And now what? You're going to hide your butts in a deeper hole until you suffocate?”

Ember gulped and said with a slight frown, “We'll go down fighting, as we always planned to.”

“Yeah... uh... have fun with that.” With a mock grin, Rainbow picked up the key and slid it successfully into the door. “At least my way has more awesome sights along the way.” She opened the door to the eastern passage and swung it open with a ghostly squeak. She stepped forward but paused in the doorframe. Gazing down at the steps, she flicked her tail and sighed. “Maybe if your grandparents had done what I've done, then their legacies wouldn't have been hidden in the ashes of a place nopony born in the last century had ever heard of.”

Ember speak quietly managed, “And who will hear of you, Rainbow Dash?”

She flapped her wings. “The only one that matters.” And she soared up the corridor, into the grayness, and the bright promise of dawn beyond the smog.

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