• Published 25th Jun 2012
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The Sisters Doo - Ponky



Daring pays a visit to her sister in Ponyville. Due to buried grudges, things get out of hoof.

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15 - I Thought You Liked Bubbles

Chapter Fifteen
I Thought You Liked Bubbles

“How in Tartarus did this happen?” asked a familiar, large pink mare, looming over the splintery crater and glaring at the crowd.

Ditzy tore her distorted gaze from Rainbow Dash as the racer stormed away. Slumping in defeat, she stepped closer to her unconscious sister lying eight or nine ponylengths from the dip in the deck. “It was our fault,” she called out over the mumble of the race’s audience to the big, blue-vested mare, bowing her head to hide her flushing cheeks.

The bulky pink pony swiveled her head toward Ditzy, snorting once before approaching the Sisters Doo. “You two? Why am I not surprised? You’re the mares who tried to get on board for free.”

Ditzy attempted to roll her eyes; thanks to the downward tilt of her head, nopony noticed her failure. “We paid our dues, and… and we’ll pay for the damages to the ship.”

“You bet your Cutie Marks, you will,” the mare growled, bending close to Ditzy’s twitching face. “How’d a couple o’ lazy pegasi blow a hole the size of a sea turtle in the deck of my ship?”

Your ship?” The distinctively Canterlotian laugh of a stallion bubbled up from behind the mare. “Come now, Sickle, she’s as much your ship as she is the Changeling Queen’s.”

Ditzy lifted her head just enough to see the newcomer. An ivory unicorn with a navy blue mane and well-trimmed mustache adjusted his monocle and smirked at the threatening mare. Her wide mouth curved into a frown and she took a step sideways, allowing the impressive stallion to take her place by the Sisters Doo.

“Cheer up, old girl,” he encouraged, bumping the bottom of Ditzy’s lowered chin. “Don’t mind Sickle for a minute. She’s been working the deck of this old haul for years and years. Just a bit touchy of its state, you see; I’m sure you’ll understand.”

His tone was colorful and genuine. Even Daring stirred under its dulcet influence.

“What’s all this then, hm?” he asked. “It’s not every day I get to handle this kind of excitement in open air.”

Ditzy stifled a laugh at that, imagining the debonair gentlecolt knocking drunken heads together in the bar downstairs. “My sister here,” Ditzy began, nudging the yellow-coated pony on the ground, “got drunk and raced… another pony… around the balloon.”

An eyebrow raised above his monocle. “How reckless. And then?”

Ditzy blinked. “Um… she… crashed.”

There was a moment of silence before the unicorn laughed skyward. “Haa haa! Of course she did. Hmhmhm!” After a deep breath, he cleared his throat and faced the slumping mailmare. “What’s your name, old girl?” he asked.

“Ditzy Doo.”

“Well then, Miss Doo, what would you say to helping your sister here to my room at the bow?” He lifted an edge of the pith helmet tossed haphazardly over Daring’s head and grimaced at her tangled, greyscale mane. “She certainly appears to be in need of a good washing up, doesn’t she?”

Ditzy grinned and chanced a joke. “I’d say she’s plenty washed up already.”

“Hah hah! Good show, old girl!” the captain laughed, pushing back the large blue cap that sat behind his horn. A golden glow of practiced magic wrapped around Daring and she lifted—twitching—to hover beside the amiable captain. “Come now, Miss Doo. I imagine I’ll need your help to revive her.”

Ditzy followed his march to the wall of doors. The pink mare eyed her with a snarl as they passed the crater, but by focusing on how silly Daring looked wriggling in midair, Ditzy was able to ignore her. They headed for the rightmost portal, guarded by a swinging white door with a centered, circular window identical to all the others. As they entered, Ditzy briefly glanced over her shoulder in hopes of spotting Rainbow Dash, but the speedster was nowhere to be seen.

She hadn’t realized how loud the deck was until they left it behind for a bright, narrow hallway. The ground was covered in fuzzy green carpet and the walls were of polished wooden panels. It stretched onward for a surprising distance until Ditzy was sure they would fall out the front of the ship. The hall was narrow enough that the captain had to keep Daring suspending directly behind him as he led the way; Ditzy stayed close to her sister, snickering at her limpness.

Finally they reached another door at the opposite end of the hall. The captain extended another tendril of magic to unlock it. The metal rectangle swung noiselessly on its hinges, inviting the small group into a wide, open room decorated almost exclusively with large, extravagant seashells.

Ditzy gasped at the unexpected beauty of the room. With a smile, the captain carried Daring to a square bed set against the center of the far wall, raised on a short wooden platform. On both sides of the bed, the wall was entirely glass, illuminating the spacey chamber with crisp morning Sunlight. The windows were considerably convex, allowing Ditzy to see the ocean far beneath the flying ship.

“Wow!” she breathed.

“Sometimes I feel terribly guilty,” the captain said as he arranged Daring into a comfortable position. “Compared to the rooms of the passengers, my quarters are rather extreme.”

“It’s wonderful,” Ditzy said, slowly turning to the left to admire the huge, swirling seashells hanging on the walls.

“Had I designed the ship, it would be less than a third of its size.” He shrugged. “But, as I did not design it, I make use of its gratuitous space.”

“These are all yours?” Ditzy asked, closing one eye to better appreciate a shell of swirling browns and creams.

“It is a personal collection, yes,” he said. “I’m rather fond of the ocean’s natural beauties.”

“Uh-huh!” was all Ditzy could say, overwhelmed by the colors and patterns both her eyes were throwing at her brain. She shook her head clear and turned instead to the calming windows, each six ponylengths long and almost three tall. “Do you own the ship?” she asked the captain.

“I do,” he said, trotting to her side. “I purchased it from an old friend of mine.”

“Ocean Liner?” Ditzy asked.

The captain looked surprise. “Why, yes, in fact! Are you familiar with him?”

Ditzy grinned and nodded, turning to face the captain for the first time. He recoiled slightly, surprised by her wild eyes. She whipped her head back to the window, wilting as she said, “Sorry.”

“Oh, no, please don’t apologize!” the captain said, removing his hat. “It was entirely rude of me to act appalled. I am very sorry, Miss Doo.”

“It’s fine,” Ditzy assured him, waving a hoof, unable to take her focused eye from the blue-meets-blue horizon. “I know it’s pretty shocking, and I’ve seen a lot worse reactions than that.”

The captain chuckled and extended a polite hoof, his long-sleeved jacket wrinkling in all the right places. “My name is Fancypants. I own three Transoatlantic Airships and captain the boats, when I can.”

Ditzy shook his hoof and mimicked his introduction. “I’m Ditzy Doo, full-time mailmare and, um... mother of one. Heheh....”

“If you don’t mind my asking, what is your business in Stirrope, Miss Doo?” Captain Fancypants asked, moving to a sturdy desk near the room’s doorway. “Hiding your sister away?”

“Oh. Heheh… well, not exactly.”

“What’s your destination? Itaily? Cheval?”

“Haissan.”

Fancypants gave her a sideways glance. “Haissan? Really?”

“Yes, sir.”

The stallion kept his eyes trained on Ditzy’s face as if analyzing her answer. “Aren’t you Equestrian?”

Ditzy giggled. “I am.”

“From where?”

“Ponyville.”

Fancypants suddenly brightened. “Ah! Ponyville! Why, I know a mare or two from your neck of the woods. Tell me, are you familiar with a Miss Rarity Belle?”

Ditzy beamed. “Yeah, of course! She runs the local boutique, and she’s really nice to everypony.”

Fancy’s smile softened. “Indeed she is,” he said thoughtfully, turning back to his work. “Well, that’s splendid. I can’t imagine what business a mare like you would have in Haissan, but I’m sure you’ll manage yourself just fine.” His magic scratched a quill over the bottom of some document and he turned his eyes to the bed. “Your sister, on the other hoof…”

Tilting her head, Ditzy asked, “What do you mean, ‘a mare like me’?”

“Well, you strike me as the type of pony who takes good care of herself,” Fancypants said. “Haissan is a notoriously dangerous country and they don’t take kindly to Equestrians these days. I’d assume that, unless you had a good reason, you’d stay away from such roughness.” He trotted to the bedside and ran his eyes over Daring’s snoring frame. “I may be subjected to a poor first impression, but it seems to me that your sister does not possess the same sense of caution.”

Ditzy laughed. “Yep, that sounds like Daring.”

Fancypants lowered his brow in thought. “Daring?” he repeated. Something flashed behind his sky blue eyes and he lifted his chin knowingly. “Aaaahhhhh, of course. The Great Daring Do. I knew she looked familiar.” He adjusted his monocle and chuckled under his breath. “Ocean Liner is a big fan of the series. I imagine she’s the author?”

Impressed, Ditzy swished her tail. “That’s right.”

“I’ve never read the books myself,” he admitted with a polite shrug.

“You’re not missing much,” Ditzy said, chuckling.

Fancypants grinned without comment and replaced his hat. “Well, then. If you’ll undress her, I’ll go get a bath started. As soon as she is in a more… agreeable state, shall we say… we’ll discuss the matter of repairing my deck.”

Ditzy nodded. “That sounds more than fair. Thank you, Mister Pants.”

The captain’s lips pursed in a small smile. “It’s all one word, ma’am. Fancypants.”

Ditzy blushed. “Oh… sorry.”

“A fair comeback for my earlier rudeness,” he teased, and left the room.

Ditzy found herself smiling, even as she worked to pull the vomit-stained shirt from Daring’s essentially boneless figure.

{-DD-}

Rainbow Dash circled the ship like a seagull, keeping below the edge of the deck and out of most ponies’ sights. Occasionally she dove to the ocean surface, working her wings to stay a few feet above the constantly heaving waves. Though exhausting, the difficult practice stole Rainbow’s thoughts away from her recent race and Daring’s taunting.

She swept over three, four, five crests before smashing through the sixth one. Shining streams and particles of water exploded over her coat and wove into her mane. Beating both wings to one side, she lifted a hoof above her head and spun like a prismatic cyclone. The water blossomed around her in beautiful patterns reflecting her mane.

She closed her eyes and listened as millions of droplets returned to their home in a lingering patter of spray. Grinning, and without opening her eyes, Rainbow took off from the ocean’s surface, climbing higher toward the ship on quickly drying feathers. By the time she broke over the edge of the ship and landed gently on its deck, her azure coat was sheen and dry and her mane had returned to its natural clumps.

Her stomach gurgled painfully and she headed for the wall of doors, wondering which level of the ship housed the cafeteria Ditzy had used. Fifteen or twenty minutes later, she resorted to asking for directions.

“Second level,” the skinny stallion said with a smile, pointing up, “toward the back of the ship. When you get close, you’ll hear it. They’re always noisy in there.”

“Thanks,” Rainbow said, returning his smile with a sheepish one. “Awesome hoodie, by the way.”

The stallion’s grin widened and he adjusted the blue and yellow jacket. “You a fan of the Wonderbolts?”

“The biggest!” Rainbow said. “I hope to join ‘em someday.”

“Whoa, really? That’s rad!” He ruffled his pair of stark white wings that Rainbow hadn’t noticed. “I’m not much a flier myself, but I always admire the ponies who are!”

“You’re a pegasus,” Rainbow acknowledged. “I didn’t think there were many on the ship.”

“There aren’t,” he said, smirking. “You ever been to Stirrope?”

Rainbow shook her head. The stallion rolled his bright green eyes.

“It’s, uh… well, they’ve had a lot of trouble with griffons in the past, so I can’t really blame ‘em, but Stirropeans aren’t exactly mane over tail for us wingéd sort.”

Rainbow snickered. “Yeah, I sorta know about that. What’re you goin’ over there for?”

He waved a hoof. “Nyaw, it’s a long story. I don’t wanna keep you from the cafeteria.”

“What are you tryin’ to say?” she asked, leaning toward the stallion and squinting hard.

“Erm…”

His shrinking pupils broke Rainbow’s resolve and she let out a short, brash laugh. “I’m just joking! Thanks for the directions.”

His wings drooped in relief. “Heh… yeah, no problem, uh…?”

“Rainbow Dash,” she finished, turning toward the staircase for higher levels. Something held her in place, and a voice that sounded suspiciously like Twilight’s whispered something about friendship in her head. She stifled a groan and looked over her shoulder.

“You, uh… you wanna come with?” she asked the white pegasus. With a wry smile, she added, “You look like you could use a meal or two.”

The stallion glanced down at his bony body and snorted. “S’genetic. The hoodie doesn’t quite hide it, eh?”

“Not even close.”

“Heheh…” He bit his lip. “Thanks for the offer, but I’d rather not go in there. Too many ponies for my taste.”

“Gotcha,” Rainbow said, saluting him. “See ya around.”

“Arrivederci.”

Rainbow ducked into the stairwell, hurrying up a couple of flights with a few helpful beats of her wings. Reaching the second level, she wove through a hallway of ponies toward the back end of the ship and, true to the stallion’s word, noticed a cacophony of chatter and utensil use steadily growing the farther she went.

With the noise as her guide, it wasn’t long before she entered a large, plain area where scores of ponies were eating from trays. It was a far better maintained facility than the bar, well lit and clean, with several stations along the walls offering a variety of food. Licking her lips, Rainbow flew over tables from station to station, gathering as much as could fit on one tray and ignoring the glares from the many seated eaters.

Though it wasn’t crammed, Rainbow could see how a pony might feel claustrophobic in the cafeteria. She wasn’t in the mood to sit elbow-to-elbow with anypony she hadn’t met, and the only round table that wasn’t already in use by some five or six ponies was a small one in the corner at which a single griffon sat, drumming his talon on an empty plate. Shrugging to herself, Rainbow darted to a seat across the table from the griffon, slamming her tray onto its plastic surface and digging into a small bowl of seedless grapes.

The griffon balled his tapping talons into a loose fist that he tucked under the table. He tilted his head, covered in grey and white feathers that spiked upward in the back, and stared at Rainbow Dash long enough to make her feel uneasy.

“Is it okay if I sit here?” she asked through a mouthful of grapes.

He snickered. “Sure thing, pony,” he said in a deep, raspy voice. “I’m just making sure you really want to.”

Rainbow swept her hoof at the rest of the room. “Nowhere else to sit, really.”

The griffon grunted and Rainbow went back to her gorge, filling her rumbling belly. That apple Ditzy gave her was the only thing she had eaten in way too long. She barely chewed, swallowing mouthful after mouthful of red and blue berries.

“Do they feed you in Equestria?” the griffon asked, crossing his forearms amusedly.

Rainbow laughed a little. “I’m just hungry, okay?”

“Clearly.” He narrowed his eyes in thought. “Hey… are you the pony that was racing around the balloon not too long ago?”

The next hoofful of berries missed her mouth completely. She winced as they splattered on the ground behind her and avoided eye contact with the griffon. “Uh… yeah, that was me.”

“Impressive stuff,” he said, nodding. “I’ve never seen a pony fly that fast.”

A proud grin returned to Rainbow’s face. “Thanks. I learned a thing or two from a griffon friend of mine, as a matter of fact.”

“Aaaahhh…” He tilted his head back and leered down his beak. “So that’s it. I was wondering why you sat here.”

Rainbow’s brow creased. “Huh?”

“These ponies are all too scared to eat with a big, bad griffon,” he said, leaning halfway across the table to lower his voice. “You’re the only one who’s even gotten close to me since I walked in here.”

“Are you serious?” Rainbow asked, raising an eyebrow. She glanced around, noticing how deliberately the ponies were avoiding that corner. “What the hay? That’s messed up.”

“Hardly,” he said, examining the tips of his talons. “I try to stay away from them, too.”

Rainbow guffawed. “You want me to leave?” she asked, spreading her wings with half closed eyes.

“Nah, you seem pretty cool,” he admitted, shrugging his large, charcoal wings. “But most of you ponies are lame.”

Rainbow grimaced at the word. “Hmm. Yeah, I’ve heard that before.”

“From your griffon friend?”

Her frown deepened. “I don’t really know if I can call her my ‘friend’ anymore.”

“Heheh… see? We stay away from each other.” He leaned back again and popped his shoulder with a quick movement. “That’s just the way things go.”

Rainbow pushed a strawberry around her tray. “Yeah, well… it sucks.”

“Hmm?”

She scowled. “It sucks. I… I don’t care that you’re a griffon and I’m a pony. We can both talk, we can both fly, we can both… I dunno, make friends and stuff. What’s the big deal?”

His beady eyes followed her strawberry for a long, speechless minute. Finally he said, “Ponies think they’re better because they have natural magic, and their princesses cycle the days.”

“I don’t have magic!” Rainbow argued.

He held up his claws. “You asked a question, I’m just answering. Besides, you’re not the only ones at fault. Deep down, griffons are jealous of ponies’ unity, I think. Our society has never seen the peace yours has maintained for thousands of years. We compensate for that by thinking of you as small, frilly, lame… y’know, weak.” He shrugged. “We’re both wrong, of course, but like I said: that’s just the way things go.”

Rainbow blinked.

“And yeah,” he continued, “it does suck. I made a few pony friends while I was in Equestria over the last few months, but am I gonna keep in touch with them? Am I ever gonna see them again? No way. My friends back home would never let me hear the end of it.”

A lump grew in Rainbow’s throat. “R-really?”

“Oh, yeah. Sympathizing with ponies is the equivalent of social suicide in Aquila.”

Ak-wuh-luh?” Rainbow repeated.

“It’s our homeland,” the griffon explained, “a little country north of Itaily and Haissan.”

“Oh.”

“I thought you had a griffon friend, pony.”

“Yeah, but she was born and raised in Equestria.” Rainbow waved a hoof around. “Mount Griffon, or something like that.”

“Griffon Mount,” he corrected with a lopsided smile. “Heheh… we don’t think too highly of them, either.”

“Wow.” Rainbow pulled at a green lock of her mane. “I didn’t know that.” She stared through her messy tray with a distant expression.

“You going to Itaily or something?” the griffon asked, stretching his lion legs beneath the table. “I hear lots of ponies think it’s pretty there or something.”

“Haissan,” Rainbow answered without raising her head.

He whistled through a beak, a loud and screeching noise. “Woo-wee. Why the heck are you doin’ that?”

Rainbow didn’t answer, prompting the griffon to crack his neck and ask a different question.

“Who was that pony you were racing earlier? Your sister?”

Her eyes darted up to meet his sharply purple pair. “Huh? No, way. Why would you think that?”

“Sibling rivalry, I guess,” he said. “You two were really going at it. Besides, you look almost exactly the same.”

What? We do not!”

“Sure you do. I may not have been very close to the crash, but I saw you two flying; us griffons have pretty good eyesight.”

“Ha! Yeah you do! I remember Gilda spotted an apple tree in the middle of a forest once. We must have been a mile up!”

He shook his head. “Heh. That’s nothing. But speaking of eyes—” He pointed one talon at Rainbow’s pair. “—yours match your not-sister’s exactly.”

“We’re ponies,” Rainbow said with a twitch of her wings. “There are only so many colors, y’know.”

“I do,” he said, staring at her mane.

She tousled her bangs with a hoof and bit off half an apple.

“So it wasn’t sibling rivalry, eh?” the griffon asked, folding his forearms over his dark feathered chest. “How do you know her?”

“She’s my, uh… partner,” Rainbow said.

“Ooooooh-ho-ho,” he crooned, winking at her. “So that’s it.”

Rainbow paled. “What? No! No, no, no, I… we’re on an adventure!”

Rowwr. Is that what they call it these days?”

“Gaah!” Rainbow slapped her hooves over her eyes. “No! Her name is Daring Do, she’s a famous explorer, and I’m helping her find… something.”

“And what’s your name, pony?” he asked.

Rainbow peeked over the edges of her hooves at the griffon’s sincere expression. She lowered them into her lap and took a deep breath before saying, “Rainbow Dash.”

“I’m Filoplume,” he said, extending a claw halfway across the table. “You can call me Filo.”

Rainbow grinned at the golden talons curled into a familiar fist. With a nostalgic tilt of her brow, she reached forward and bumped the flat of her hoof against it. “Good to meetcha.”

{-DD-}

Daring awoke in a sea of warm bubbles, and that scared the living daylights out of her.

“What the gak!?” she spat, nearly swallowing a mouthful of sudsy bathwater. Spluttering and splashing, she tried to get to her hooves.

“Calm down, Daring!” said a high-pitched voice that froze the thrashing mare. “You're spilling water everywhere!”

“Ditzy?” She parted the wall of tiny bubbles surrounding the edge of the tub, revealing Ditzy’s scowling face inside a spacious, spotless bathroom. “Whooooaaa…” she said, dragging her sparkling eyes over the practical gold and white décor. “Are we, like… dead?”

Ditzy blinked. “Excuse me?”

“Did we die?” Daring asked again in a floaty voice, pupils slowly enlarging. “Are we in Pony Heavennnnn?”

“Are you still drunk, Daring?” the mailmare asked with a squint.

“Probably,” said Daring, flicking a hoofful of foam into Ditzy’s face.

“Gaah! Daring, quit it!” she complained, brushing the tiny bubbles from her cheek.

“Quit what?” the adventuress asked, pushing an entire section of the bubble wall onto her sister.

Ditzy started to giggle. “Daring, what are you doing? Do you even know what’s going on?”

“You’re being annoying,” Daring said with a smile, dumping another chunk of foam over the edge.

Ditzy shrieked with laughter, leaping away from the large, porcelain bath. “Eeeeheehee! Don’t do that!”

“I thought you liked bubbles!” Daring said, scooping a ball of the weightless stuff and trying to throw it across the room. It didn’t work, landing on the tiles just outside the tub. Both of them cracked up, wiggling their hooves helplessly. More water splashed onto the floor making Ditzy cringe and snort as she struggled to contain her snickers.

“Daring, stop! This is the captain’s bathroom. We don’t want to ruin it!”

“The captain?” Daring’s goofy grin vanished. “Oh, ship!”

“Right, we’re crossing the ocean,” Ditzy said, “heading for Haissan. Do you remember what we’re doing there?”

“Uh…” Daring squeezed her eyes shut, running a hoof along her dripping grey mane matted against the side of her neck. “We’re… oh! We’re rescuing those foals!”

With a sigh, Ditzy approached the tub again. “And… do you remember how you got—”

“Ah, crap,” Daring said, rubbing the circles under her eyes. “The race.” She cracked one eye open and glanced around the bathroom. “Is the kid okay?”

Ditzy pushed her mouth over to one side. “I hope so.”

“I think I…” She creased her brow and reached for her memory. Slowly, a wry smile stretched across her face. “I think I won.”

Ditzy pulled her head back. “What?”

Daring beamed. “Ha! I did! I totally beat her!” She pumped her hoof a few times, cackling to herself. “Ah, yeah! I beat the Best Young Flier! Take that, Prism Speeder!”

“Her name is Rainbow Dash!” Ditzy yelled. “You know her name is Rainbow Dash!”

“Her name might as well be ‘Loser’ now! Haa haaa!”

“Uuuugggh!” Ditzy spun on the slick floor and stomped out of the bathroom as Daring hooted behind her. Infuriated, she slammed the bathroom door closed and startled Fancypants writing something at his desk.

“I take it she’s awake,” he said, eyeing her expression with a curious air.

“Awake and idiotic,” she growled. “They go hoof in hoof for Daring.”

Fancypants’ mouth curved into a small smile and he released the magic around his quill. “How long will she be in there, do you think?”

“I dunno. I brushed the tangles from her mane while she was out. I don’t know if she’ll realize how clean she is. We might have to wait a while.”

The bathroom door suddenly swung open and Daring slid past her sister, grinding to a stop between her and Fancypants. He raised his eyebrows in surprise as she tossed a white towel over her back, flicking her wings open and posing heroically. To Ditzy’s bewildernment, her golden coat was sheen and dry and her mane had returned to its natural clumps.

“Did I miss anything?” she asked with a thin half-smile.

“Ah, Miss Do,” Fancypants greeted. “It’s a pleasure to meet you consciously.”

“Heheh!” Daring stretched her neck and gave Fancypants a sideways glance. “Sorry about that, Cap. Guess I had one too many drinks at your awesome bar. You know how it is.”

“Hardly,” he said in an even tone. “How do you feel?”

“Fresh as a cool night breeze!” she said, bouncing her hind hooves a few times. “Thanks for the hospitality, Cap! That was sure nice o’ ya.”

He blinked at the gratitude and exchanged a quick glance with Ditzy, whose scowl had only deepened. “Er… you’re quite welcome.” His monocle gleamed in the windows’ Sunlight as he lifted his head. “Did you manage to get all the splinters out of your mane?”

Daring frowned. “Splinters?”

“Your crash created quite the imprint on my deck,” he said. “I worried you may have been injured; the health care in Haissan is far from affordable for someone of your nationality.”

“Nyeh, I’m fine,” Daring said, shaking out one leg at a time. “And even if I wasn’t, a few hundred bits is no fur off my coat.”

“Excellent,” Fancypants said. “Let’s discuss your bill of repair, then.”

Daring’s ears drooped. “Huh?”

“As you were responsible for the damage to my ship, I believe you should contribute to its restoration. Don’t you agree?”

A strangled cough came from Daring’s throat as she flapped in place. “I-it wasn’t my fault! Raindash made me do it!”

Ditzy opened her mouth to correct her but ended up shrugging. “Eh, close enough.”

Daring didn’t let Fancypants ask any questions. “I’m not payin’ nothin’! I didn’t do anything wrong!”

Ditzy gaped. “Eh-hexcuuuse me?”

“It was the kid’s fault!” she argued, turning to her sister. “I shouldn’t have to pay a bit. She totally grabbed my wings!”

“Your participation in the race was witnessed by an irrefutable number of ponies—”

“So what? It costs money to race now?”

“When the race inflicts substantial damage on somepony else’s property, yes.”

“That’s stupid!” Daring’s flapping lifted her into a jerky hover. “I refuse!”

“Daring!” Ditzy hissed. “Take some responsibility, will you? We both know you have plenty of money! It’s the least you can do for—”

“Oh, shut up, you,” Daring said, swooping in front of her sister and shoving a hoof over her mouth. “The grownups are talking.”

Ditzy’s eyes widened and swiveled in opposite directions. Her face donned a scarlet hue and she screamed into Daring’s hoof, forcing her to pull away.

“Whoa-ho-ho! That tickles!”

“Daring, you… you thankless brat!” Ditzy’s furious stomping rattled the seashells on the nearest wall. “You stupid, thankless, selfish brat!”

“Miss Doo…” Fancypants said quietly.

“I can’t stand you, Daring!” Ditzy growled. “I… nnnrrng... I... hate you! I hate you so much!”

Daring stared at her for a moment and folded her wings at her sides. After an uncomfortable silence, she cast her eyes toward the ceiling and said, “Meh.”

Howling behind tightly closed lips, Ditzy darted to the chamber’s main door.

“Miss Doo!” Fancypants called out, but she paid him no mind, yanking the door open and flying down the long hallway as fast as she could. By the time she burst through the wall of doors into the late morning Sun, a few hot tears were building at the corner of her eyes. She groaned and brushed them away, landing hard on the deck and trotting absentmindedly toward Daring’s crater.

“Why do you let her get to you like this?” Ditzy asked herself in a tight voice. “We used to be so happy… and just now, with the bubbles, she was so….” She sighed in defeat and collapsed against the banister, staring at the endless ocean sloshing far below. “…friendly.”

She didn’t even have to try to ignore the ponies along the edge of the deck giving her strange looks. Her mind was in a completely different place and time, and her eyesight was blurred in more than one way.

“I hate her,” she mumbled under her breath. “I hate her so much.”

{-DD-}

“It’s not like I hate her or anything,” Rainbow said, tugging at her ears, “but… she was so mean! Totally different than the Gilda I knew at Junior Speedsters!”

“What was she like, then?” Filo asked.

Rainbow spun her hooves around each other. “I dunno… nice? Nice to me, anyway. We started there the same year and just clicked, I guess. We were always the best fliers, so we practiced together a lot… and we both had problems with our dads, so… I dunno, we just clicked!”

“I understand, Rainbow,” Filo said with a chuckle.

Rainbow stuck out her jaw. “What’s so funny?”

“You’re getting pretty worked up over this,” he said. “It’s amusing.”

“It’s not amusing! It sucks!” Rainbow yelled, throwing her hooves above her head. “I… I haven’t seen her in, like, a year! I’ll probably never see her again!”

“And that’s—”

“—just the way things goooo,” Rainbow mocked, rolling her eyes. She dropped a foreleg onto the tabletop and rested her face on her hoof. “I dunno… it’s just weird when you think you know someone, and they turn out to be totally different.”

“Is that what happened with your partner?” he asked.

Rainbow’s lips pushed into a pout. “Yeah. She’s just… she’s such a flip flop.”

“Cool one minute and lame the next?” the griffon asked.

Rainbow snorted. “Not really. I guess she’s pretty consistent. But she’s consistently selfish.”

“Ha!” Filo twirled a claw as if to say “Go on.”

“I dunno, dude… she’s a total jerk! She just wants to be better than everypony else at, like, everything. And she’s loud about it, too, like she needs everyone to know exactly how awesome she thinks she is.”

“Competitive?”

“Totally! Like this race we just had… I couldn’t believe she was serious at first, but she was so eager to prove that she was a better flier.”

The corners of Filo’s beak twitched. “Can you blame her?”

Rainbow glanced up. “Huh?”

“You’re telling me you’ve never competed with your friends?” he asked. “Or that you’ve never wanted to prove you were the best at something?”

Rainbow was frozen. “But… but I am the best!”

“Hahaa!” The griffon leaned back and pointed at Rainbow. “I see what’s going on here. You two really are like sisters. You have very similar personalities, and they’re clashing.”

“What!? No, way! Daring is a total jerk. I’m nice to my friends!”

“So you consider yourself a friend of hers?”

Unexpectedly, Rainbow’s heart started to hammer. “Uh… well… yeah, I guess so.”

Filo nodded. “And what about Gilda? Is she your friend?”

Rainbow lowered her head. “No. I guess not.”

“Don’t be disheartened,” Filo said, shaking one extended talon. “There’s a valuable lesson to be learned here, Rainbow.”

Her eyes shimmered. “There is?”

“What do you like about Gilda?”

“Um…” Her brow wrinkled. “We used to fly together a lot, and she used to—”

“Not ‘used to’. None of that. What do you like about her, right now?”

Rainbow swallowed. “Oh. Well… nothing, really.” She winced. “Huh. That’s kinda sad, isn’t it?”

“And what do you like about Daring?”

A warmth spread beneath Rainbow’s ribs as a smile slowly stretched across her face. “Daring is… funny. Really funny. And she’s super confident; doesn’t care who’s around, she says and does whatever she wants.”

Her smile was mirrored on Filo’s face. “What else?”

“She’s super talented,” Rainbow said. “Like, she can do a whole bunch of cool stuff. She’s a really fast flier when she tries hard—I mean, she kept up with me! That’s pretty impressive! And she can write like nopony’s business. The way she writes her books, it’s, like… it’s like you’re right there with her, going on all her adventures and braving the dangers! It’s really crazy and exciting and just cool.”

“What else?”

“She… heh, I know this kinda goes against what I said before, but most of the time she’s actually really nice to me. Like, she kinda has this snarky way of doing it, but she compliments me a lot and makes me feel like she’s glad I’m here.”

The dark feathered griffon drew in a deep breath and offered Rainbow a thoughtful nod. “She sounds like a friend.”

Rainbow’s stomach tightened. “Well, yeah, but—”

“Rainbow Dash, there’s a big difference between friends and enemies,” Filo said, leaning across the table and looking directly into Rainbow’s wide, ruby eyes. “Though they might act in very similar ways at times, in the end, your friends want to help you, and your enemies want to help themselves. I’ve never met Gilda or Daring, but the way you talk about them makes it very clear to me which of them is your friend and which is your enemy.” He stroked the bottom of his beak and glanced around the room as he continued. “There will always be moments when your friends act like your enemies—some more often than others—but when it gets down to the wire, the distinction becomes undeniably clear.”

The warmth in her top half overpowered the tension in her gut as Rainbow Dash’s smile grew stretched from ear to ear. “Wow… you’re totally right!”

Filo shrugged. “I like to think so.”

“Rainbow Dash!”

The Element of Loyalty and her advisor turned toward the shout. Ditzy Doo was weaving between the emptying tables in the cafeteria as quickly as her uncooperative eyes would allow.

“Well, I think that’s my cue to go,” Filo said, rising from his seat. “It was honestly a pleasure to meet you, Rainbow Dash.”

Rainbow beamed. “You too, Filo! See ya around, right?”

“I hope so. Good luck.” With a brief stretch of his huge wings, the impressive creature sauntered away from the table several seconds before Ditzy plopped into the seat at Rainbow’s right.

“Who was that?” she asked, watching the griffon leave with one eye.

“A new friend,” Rainbow said. “What’s up?”

Ditzy ground her teeth. “Daring is… well, she’s just such a… grrr!”

“Hahah! I know what you mean.”

The mailmare buried her face in her hooves. “I’m so sorry about her, Rainbow Dash. I bet she said some nasty things during that race.”

“Yeah. She did.”

Ditzy sighed and laid her head on the table facing Rainbow. “At least now you can see why I hate her,” she said, taking an apple from Rainbow’s tray and spinning it under her hoof.

The blue mare gave her a wary look. “Uh… no, actually, I can’t.”

Ditzy’s head popped up and she dropped the fruit into her lap. “What?”

“She was drunk,” Rainbow said, shrugging. “It’s not like she would say that stuff to me right now.”

“Of course she would!” Ditzy said loudly, scooting to the edge of her chair. “Rainbow, don’t let her fool you. She’s a mean, manipulative, selfish pony.”

Rainbow’s eyebrow knitted as she said, “Not to me. She compliments me all the time, and I think she can be really funny.”

“What!? She is as far from funny as Discord!”

“Oh, please. I’ve seen you smile at her dumb jokes.”

Ditzy’s jaw dropped. “Rainbow Dash, are you serious? You can’t be serious!”

Rainbow donned a serious expression. “Come on, Ditzy. Daring might be an idiot sometimes, but she’s still your sister, and she’s my friend. We can’t get so mad at her that we lose our cool.”

Three whole seconds of silence went by before Ditzy got up and left.

“Hey! Where are you going?”

“I cannot believe you, Rainbow Dash!” Ditzy screamed without turning around, drawing the attention of several eating ponies. Her face flushing, Ditzy used her wings to hurry out of the cafeteria and head for their little room. She hoped a nice rest would calm her down.

As the cafeteria was on the same level as their room, it didn’t take long to get back. Unnervingly, the door was already open when the frazzled mailmare reached it. Daring was inside, sitting on Rainbow’s cot, rolling up the sleeves of her freshly laundered canvas shirt.

“What the hay are you doing here!?” Ditzy exploded.

Daring didn’t look at her. “Fancypants said we’ll reach Stirrope around sunset,” she said. “Guess the trips are faster these days. Better engines or something.”

Ditzy fumed and twitched in the doorway.

“I’m gonna go get something to eat,” Daring continued, adjusting her collar and flexing her wings. “The cafeteria in the same place?”

The silence in the room was colder than ice. Daring clicked her tongue and moved toward the door. Ditzy stepped aside and glared at the copy of Daring Do and the Poison Whispered Kiss on Rainbow’s pillow.

“See ya, Sis,” Daring grunted on her way out the door. Ditzy slammed it shut as soon as her sister’s greyscale tail was in the hallway. Her breathing quickened as she stormed to the cot, glaring golden daggers at the smug, stupid mare on the book’s garish cover.

“Grrr-raaaauugh!” Ditzy roared, pounding her hooves into the novel’s hard exterior. Again and again she slammed them down until her forelegs became a blur of ferocious movement, pummeling the artwork into unrecognizable blurs of dull color.

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