• Published 31st Dec 2016
  • 1,718 Views, 53 Comments

Rainbow Dash Is A Massive Fanny - forbloodysummer



Sirens or Shadowbolts, Rainbow Dash always wins. But one’s been outsmarting and embarrassing her in the school corridors, day after day, and she may have profoundly misunderstood the other. But she can’t NOT win, right? She’s Rainbow Dash!

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The Shadowbolts

“Like the Friendship Games all over again!”

And then a weird thing happened. Each of her friends looked at the others, sharing glances with them, none of which could be described as ‘comfortable.’ And although they did that with each other, they all avoided looking at Rainbow. She didn’t know what was going on, and she didn’t like it.

“What? Yeah, I remember the bit where a lot of people nearly died, but...” she trailed off and blushed, but only a little. She’d thought everyone was ok with talking about what happened at the Games: enough time had passed, nobody had been seriously hurt, they’d made friends with both Twilight and the Shadowbolts, everyone was generally over it as far as she knew. She remembered the seven of them joking about it a few months before, so why wouldn’t that be ok now?

“...I’m hoping this won’t get that out of hand!” she laughed nervously, thinking of Adagio getting so angry at losing that she’d suddenly be able to do magic again and would rip apart the school and everyone in it. She couldn’t see Adagio being talked down as easily as jumped-up Twilight was.

“We still won though, and it was awesome!” Rainbow finished. Technically, Principal Celestia had said that everyone had won, but nobody really believed that. Everybody who had really been there knew that CHS won, and had no problem talking about it as if that were the official result.

A long pause stretched, as if nobody was really sure what to say, and a few quick looks still passed between the others. Could Fluttershy and Rarity still be upset about nearly falling through the hole to Equestria? Neither of them were the toughest, she supposed, but nor had either of them mentioned to her that they were having a hard time dealing with what happened, even long after the event.

“Yes we did!” Sunset suddenly announced, much louder than expected, and with a big smile that didn’t look natural.

“Go us!” Pinkie cheered almost at the same time.

“Absolutely right, we did a great job!” Rarity joined in immediately afterwards. The others all wore the same tight grin as Sunset, and Rainbow had no doubt that they were all fake. But if they were upset about how everything fell apart at the Games, why would they now hide it and try to say that it was all fine? It didn’t make sense.

“...Guys?” she asked, “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing!” Sunset shot back much too fast to be true, and then spoke much quicker than usual, “Nothing’s wrong, why would you think that?”

“Because you’re acting like something’s wrong, but pretending it isn’t,” Rainbow said slowly.

Sunset froze, not moving or saying anything. Applejack spoke up a moment later, and she didn’t sound as panicky as the others had, but not quite relaxed either.

“Don’t worry ‘bout it, we’ll tell ya later.”

But now Rainbow was suspicious, and she wasn’t going to be distracted or let it drop until she had a clear answer to her question. One that she believed. She leaned forwards, frowning and crossing her arms, staring at each of her friends one after the other as she spoke.

“Why not now? What happened at the Friendship Games that wasn’t awesome, besides one of our friends turning evil and trying to smash through to another world?”

Because if they’d been fine joking about that a while ago, what could be so much worse that they didn’t want to tell her about it?

“Are you sure you want to talk about this now?” Sunset said calmly, after a deep breath. “Not focus on Adagio, and discuss it another time? It would probably only distract you, and it can easily wait until later.”

Rainbow could tell Sunset was doing her best to sound sensible, and, just as she knew that getting into an argument before a big game would make it harder for her to concentrate on playing, then finding out the truth about the Friendship Games, whatever it was, wasn’t likely to help in her struggle with Adagio.

But she also knew that she wouldn’t be able to forget about it, and would be even more distracted knowing that something was wrong but not knowing what. A part of her even wished that she could just let the subject drop, and find out another time. Wishing for it didn’t change anything, though.

“Tell me. It was awesome, I know it was.”

“Yeah...” Sunset slowly nodded, “we thought so too, at the time.” She didn’t appear embarrassed, but it was still like she was admitting something she shouldn’t have done. “But since then we’ve got to know the Shadowbolts a bit better, and sort of put two and two together.”

Oh, I have definitely missed something here. No one really knew how to start, from the looks of things, but no one wanted to come right out and say whatever the problem was, either, because it obviously made them uncomfortable.

“Have you spent much time with Sour Sweet?” Rarity asked.

“Sorry, can’t say I have,” Rainbow replied. “Should I have done?”

“She’s, ah, she’s who it’s most obvious with, it’s probably fair to say. She’s the one who made me first think about it.”

That wasn’t helping. Rainbow’s friends were almost being deliberately unclear, and leaving her with more questions than she started with. However good their reasons might turn out to be, the conversation trying to avoid the subject was annoying.

“Ok, what about her?”

“Well, she–”

“Um, excuse me, would you like me to tell it, Rarity? I probably know her best,” Fluttershy delicately interrupted from Rainbow’s left. Rarity gave her a grateful look, and made a hand signal for Fluttershy to continue.

Rainbow knew how much Fluttershy hated being the centre of attention, so her volunteering to tell the story was unusual, and gave Rainbow even more of a bad feeling about whatever Rarity had just been rescued from.

“Sour Sweet and I went against each other in the archery contest in the Games, if you remember. She was really good at it, too,” Fluttershy said, and even though she had been Sour Sweet’s opponent in that competition, she smiled proudly about the girl who had since become a friend.

“Yeah she was!” Pinkie burst in, “She was all commando rolls and three arrows at once, like she was a ninja!”

“I remember,” Rainbow agreed, “she wasn’t bad at all.”

“I was, though,” Fluttershy looked down at the table. “I only hit my target by lucky accident.”

“It’s ok, darling,” Rarity said kindly, “archery isn’t exactly an essential life skill. I’d have had just as much trouble myself.”

Fluttershy smiled, her cheeks turning red, and after a clear struggle she managed to meet her friends’ eyes again.

“A-Anyway, I tried talking to her once everything had settled down afterwards,” she continued. “We’ve met up for tea and cake a handful of times. I wouldn’t say I know her especially well, but I’d like to.” Although Fluttershy had been mainly looking at Rainbow while telling the story, as the person who wanted to hear it, she also glanced at each of her friends as she talked, including them in it too. She then looked directly and only at Rainbow when she asked, “Have you ever spoken to her?”

Rainbow tried to remember all the times she’d seen one or more of the Shadowbolts since the Games, there must have been a few times she’d talked to Sour Sweet, but she could only really think of one, and even that was hazy.

“I think we had a conversation at that party a couple of months ago. I’m not sure what it was about, though.”

“Anything you do remember? About her, and how she was to speak with?”

It hadn’t been a long conversation, just talking for a few minutes by the snacks table while they both filled up their plates. Had anything about it stood out to her? Why hadn’t they talked more afterwards?

“Oh yeah,” she recalled, “quite a few times she’d say something nice and then follow it with something really mean. That was kinda weird.”

“That’s her,” Fluttershy nodded sadly. “She’s lovely. So humble and friendly. Half the time.” Although everyone looked in her direction while she spoke, they didn’t lean in closer to her. Fluttershy always talked softly and doing that would have made it easier to hear, but they had learned that if they crowded around her, she’d just get even quieter and eventually stop talking altogether.

“She always has that behaviour of alternating between being so, so nice and... a lot less nice,” she carried on. “I did some research online; I mean, a lot of it’s too complicated for me to understand, and I’m certainly not medically qualified, and, even for those who are, there are so many variables that individual diagnoses can be difficult. And sometimes just reading about something on the internet is the worst thing you can do, especially if you then think that you know more about it than everybody else, and–”

“Fluttershy!” Applejack loudly grabbed her attention, cutting through how worked up she’d been becoming. “We get it, Sugarcube,” she said more gently, “ya could be wrong.”

“Enough with the small print,” Rainbow added impatiently, “on with the answer!”

Fluttershy looked shocked, and then embarrassed, staring at her plate again. But then she looked up to AJ and Rainbow and smiled, probably grateful that her friends had let her know she’d been stuck going off on one doubting herself. Then she made an obvious effort to be calm, and picked up her story where she left off.

“With all that said, it looks like she could be suffering from one of a few conditions.

“It could be that she hears voices in her head that aren’t really there – perhaps she has a second voice alongside the internal monologue that everyone has, one that doesn’t really feel like ‘her,’ and it might be influencing her thoughts. So half the time it would be her own reasoning behind her words, and the other half someone different advising her on what to say. That’s one display of symptoms from one of the eight forms of schizophrenia, as I understand it.”

“Or, much scarier,” she said, her voice dropping, and Rainbow remembered how Fluttershy usually handled things she found scary, thinking of all the years she’d spent trying to persuade Fluttershy to come out trick or treating with her, “it could be the two voices are constantly scrabbling for control of her body.”

To not be in control of your own body? A voice in her head that wasn’t hers would be bad enough, but for it to sometimes take over? Who did that other voice think it was, driving her body?

“Wait a minute,” she pushed in before Fluttershy could keep going, “why not just ignore everything she says in that nasty tone, if that’s not really her?”

Rainbow had thought Fluttershy looked sad about it before, but after that question it was worse.

“Um, well,” she answered hesitantly, “i-it can’t be nice, fighting for control every second, especially when half the time you’re losing. Or hearing your mouth saying things you don’t mean to the people you love most, and watching them react while powerless to do anything about it yourself.”

Rainbow couldn’t even begin to imagine what that would be like. All she could do was hope that she never had to find out the hard way.

“So I can’t rule out that the nasty voice is the one that’s really her,” Fluttershy said, “and the nicer voice is the one that doesn’t belong, because there’s every chance that in her position I’d be seething with rage a lot of the time.”

That helped to put it into perspective for Rainbow – it would be so bad that it would make Fluttershy that furious that often.

“Alternatively,” Flutters continued, “they could even be two entirely separate personalities, both of which feel like ‘her.’ That’s closer to something called dissociative identity disorder, although that also involves memory problems, and it’s quite a controversial area.

“Or it could possibly be very intense, sudden and short-lived mood swings, but I think that’s less likely. There is a condition called borderline personality disorder, but the mood swings involved in that are measured in hours rather than seconds.”

Fluttershy let out a sigh, looking relieved to have reached the end of her long talk, and shared a small smile with her friends at having managed to get through it, but then gave the same sad frown she had when talking about the pain Sour Sweet must be in.

“Whatever it is, I think she finds it quite difficult to get close to people.”

A gloomy silence followed, until Sunset spoke up, looking in Rainbow’s direction.

“And you said the way she acted was ‘kinda weird.’”

Rainbow flinched. There could be no denying it, that was exactly what she’d said. Which now felt mean, given what Sour Sweet must have been dealing with.

“Oh,” she hid her face behind her hand, “I did, didn’t I?”

Her hand dropped to cover her mouth, and she sat there red-faced, looking guilty.

“Well,” Applejack said from opposite her, “it is kahnda weird.” She sounded reassuring, but also determined, like she expected others to argue. “It’s not something most folk do, or behaviour ya come across ev’ry day.”

No one said anything, but each gave nods or sad smiles of agreement. Fluttershy was looking down again, probably wishing that the world was a kinder place, so Rainbow did what she could to cheer her friends up.

“It makes much more sense now you’ve explained it, though,” she said encouragingly. She’d had no idea there might be anything like that going on with Sour Sweet, but then she hadn’t really thought about it.

“Yeah,” Sunset said unhappily, “but she has to give that explanation to everyone she ever meets, or know that they’re thinking of her as ‘kinda weird.’”

That conversation must get old really fast. And people would probably ask the same few questions each time, too. And it would be worth the awkward few minutes of talking about it for the people you’d be spending a lot of time with, like classmates, but not so much for those you’d only speak to for a minute, like when paying for something in a shop, so you’d just have to live with those people thinking you were a bit strange. Day in, day out.

“Ouch,” she said out loud.

Again, silence was the only response to be made to that, but Rainbow’s friends all made signs of agreeing with her. After another few seconds of no one saying anything, Sunset moved on with the story, and they were all glad for the distraction.

“So, it’s looking like Sour Sweet has a pretty serious mental health condition. One that I don’t think any of us have encountered before. And yet,” she said thoughtfully, “the other Crystal Prep students don’t bat an eyelid, they act like it’s just Sour Sweet being herself.

“Which is wonderful, by the way,” she said quickly and cheerfully, “it’s fantastic to see, and it’s just how it should be.”

And so it was. She and her friends all looked more perky at that thought. But as most of the other Crystal Prep students they’d met were Sour’s friends and knew her pretty well, then them knowing about her condition and being understanding of it was mostly to be expected, as she’d have talked to them about it before. Rainbow wasn’t sure it suggested anything more, although she still wasn’t sure what the girls might be trying to suggest.

“They’re probably used to it,” she shrugged.

“That’s what I concluded, too,” said Sunset. “But it did strike me as unusual, especially with her being in a regular school when her condition is that severe, and it got me thinking.”

I guess it is pretty serious, having someone else in control of your actions for that much of your life. Everyone lost it a bit when they got really mad, but to not be in control fully half of the time? Both sides of Sour Sweet were probably completely harmless, but there was no one with anything like that level of health condition at CHS, so her situation was definitely a bit strange.

“And then,” Sunset said after a few moments, “I remembered Sugarcoat.”

Rainbow looked at her blankly.

“So, you know what Sugarcoat’s like, right?” Sunset asked. “How would you describe her?”

“Brutally honest, the whole time,” Rainbow said without hesitation.

“Right. And we don’t really question why that is, because she’s often really funny, and so we assume it’s all ok. And also, we’re used to Applejack not being too keen on lying.” Sunset’s eyes flicked to Applejack when saying her name, but they did the rest of the time while she was talking as well, perhaps because it was Applejack’s friend they were discussing.

“And her being blunt with us as the opposing team in the Games,” Sunset said, “that made sense: she was trying to demoralise the other side, and no criticism hurts more than the truth. But, you heard what she said to Twilight during the tri-cross relay. Why would she be so painfully honest with her own teammates?”

Rainbow did remember that, and both she and Sunset had frowned at Sugarcoat at the time. Neither of them had thought that was a good way to treat someone on your team, particularly when they were clearly struggling. Thinking of how differently Applejack and Sugarcoat had reacted to that situation, Rainbow was surprised those two had become such good friends since.

“I guess,” Rainbow said uncertainly, reminded of Spitfire’s reputation as captain of the Wonderbolts, “being frank with your team is good for knowing where to improve?”

“Yep, I could see that. And ‘come on Twilight, you can do better than this,’ might possibly have worked as tough love under the circumstances. But the way she did it didn’t help anyone. At a stretch I could put that down as aiming to do the right thing and missing by a considerable margin.

“But then she called out the hypocrisies of her principal in front of everyone. Given how strict Crystal Prep discipline is, she could have been expelled for that remark.” Sunset shook her head, looking like a hospital doctor with bad news. “That’s not ‘she doesn’t like lying,’ that’s ‘she has no internal filter.’”

Rainbow hadn’t thought of it like that before, and her eyes went to Applejack to see if she would confirm that view of her friend. AJ was nodding her head while not looking at anything in particular, with movements almost too small to be noticed. Huh.

“So Sugarcoat and Sour Sweet might have some... issues?” Rainbow had mostly forgotten wanting to get to the end of the story in a hurry, with how eye-opening it was turning out to be, but not entirely. “Where are you going with this?”

“Pinkie?” Sunset asked, showing no signs of rushing. “Would you like to tell Rainbow about Lemon?”

“Oooh, my turn!” Pinkie cried, waving her arms in excitement, and everyone at the table turned to face her. “I think Lemon Zest is great,” she said with a big grin, “I mean she’s so cool. Sonata and I hang out with her a lot, and one of the great things about her is how laid back she is about why she’s, ya know, the way she is – she thinks it’s hilarious. She told me straight up, and she’s mentioned several times that she doesn’t care who knows, so...”

Pinkie Pie stopped to take a breath, and when she started up again, she wasn’t as chirpy. She wasn’t massively sad either, perhaps because if Lemon Zest herself found the whole thing funny, then Pinkie was trying not to be too cut up about it. But she still wouldn’t joke about it, even if her friend did.

“Her parents were both stockbrokers. They made huge, huge amounts of money, but with massive stress. So to chill out and de-stress when they weren’t working, they smoked an awful lot of I-don’t-know-what-but-it-was-certainly-very-strong. And having thick clouds of that smoke in the air around the house when Lemon was a small child had a fairly permanent effect on her brainwave chemistry, as she put it.”

Rainbow sat, stunned. She liked Lemon, too, and it was weird to think that the girl she knew wasn’t originally meant to be that way, but only grew up like that because of stuff in the air she was breathing.

“That’s gotta be illegal,” she said, staring straight ahead.

“Eeyup,” Applejack told her with wide eyes.

“And no one did anything to stop it?!”

“I doubt anyone would have known,” Rarity said quietly. “It’s not often that social workers visit the richest neighbourhood in Canterlot.”

That was almost certainly true. Rainbow had jogged through that area the week before, and it definitely wasn’t the sort of place she’d think to associate with that kind of thing. Hugely overpriced wine, sure, probably whole cellars full of it, but not people sitting in their house smoking so much it screws with a child’s head.

“And what about now?” she asked, “Now that Lemon is old enough to go see Social Services herself?”

“What for?” Pinkie asked, and Rainbow froze. “Her parents are both retired now, and they haven’t done that kind of thing in years. Lemon loves them both very much, and wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.” Pinkie put a gentle hand on Rainbow’s shoulder, and spoke more softly. “That’s just who she is now. She doesn’t mind it, and it’s way too late to do anything about it.”

Rainbow had no idea what to say to that. It still seemed wrong to her, but she wasn’t nearly as sure what to suggest doing about it. Applejack appeared to have a much better idea, though, and picked up where Rainbow had left off.

“Ah’m not sure it’s somethin’ that oughta jus’ go unpunished.”

“But who would benefit from that?” Fluttershy said worriedly, “No one involved wants that to happen.”

“Ah guess it would show others thinkin’ a’ doin’ that that they can’t be expectin’ ta get away with it?”

“True,” Sunset said to the group. “But there can’t be that many similar cases.”

“No,” Applejack agreed after a second, hanging her head, “and ah’m not sure it’d outweigh the damage of takin’ Lemon away from her family.”

Applejack taking over arguing their point had left Rainbow free to think about what she’d been told. Sour Sweet, Sugarcoat, and Lemon Zest: three different people with various things like that affecting them, and one big thing tying them all together. The pattern was easy to spot.

“So you’re saying that the Shadowbolts are all...?”

She trailed off as her question was answered with nodding heads from everyone at the table. They had the same grim looks as when the subject had first come up, mixed with sadness and acceptance, confirming an unpleasant truth.

“What are the chances of that happening?” she asked, avoiding dealing with the issue by asking the first question she thought of.

“As in,” Sunset checked, “six people with various mental health issues within the same year group ending up at the same school? When we have none at CHS?” Rainbow nodded, and Sunset didn’t look hopeful. “All other things being equal, very low. So I strongly suspect that all other things are not equal.”

“Meaning what?” Rainbow said suspiciously.

“I can’t think of any external factors that would make poor mental health more prevalent around the Crystal Heights area of Canterlot than here. But,” she said more thoughtfully, like that was the bit that Rainbow needed to be catching onto, “being a private school, Crystal Prep draws students from a wide area of the city, and obviously isn’t an option for everyone, so it’s somewhere people choose to go to rather than being assigned to.”

Of course. If people could make the decision themselves, then it wasn’t just random chance who ended up there, including how many weren’t completely well. Twilight would be so proud if she saw Rainbow doing science thinking like that, she just knew it.

“So you’re saying that if kids have a mental illness, then that’s the school they go for, if their parents can afford it?”

“Yep. And those six girls were the best representatives of their school for the Friendship Games. So what does that tell you about Crystal Prep?”

Then the sledgehammer struck, inside her head, and everything she thought she had previously known about the whole thing shattered. All that was left was the question of why she hadn’t spotted it earlier. Like, months and months earlier. When she answered, she wasn’t able to think enough to add feeling to her words, or expression to her face, or look anywhere but straight ahead, and so she ended up sounding like Pinkie’s sister, Maud.

“...It’s a special needs school.”

Sunset gave her a smile which might have meant ‘welcome to the right answer, doesn’t it suck here?’ Rainbow’s mind searched around for some problem with the idea, something that would to prove it wasn’t true, so that she’d be able to piece the way she had seen things back together, as that seemed a much less scary option than rethinking it all.

“But aren’t we forgetting that Twilight was a Shadowbolt from Crystal Prep too?” she asked, grabbing onto the first thing she thought of.

Pinkie for some reason giggled and then held a hand over her mouth, and when that wasn’t enough to contain her laughter, stuffed a fist in her mouth instead. Rarity gave her an unimpressed look, and then turned to Rainbow.

“Obviously we’re all very close to Twilight,” she said delicately, “so I don’t quite know how to tell you this, but–”

“Twahlaht has the worst case a’ OCD ah’ve ever seen,” Applejack interrupted, not bothering to phrase anything gently, but still saying it with a kind smile.

Twilight’s got something up with her too? Confusion must have shown on Rainbow’s face, because Pinkie looked in her direction and finally exploded with laughter, so loudly that Rainbow drew back from her.

“Did ya never notice?” she squeaked between bursts, “She made a schedule of when she’d make her next schedule! I love her so much, but, woo yeah!”

Like Applejack’s smile, Rainbow noticed that Pinkie’s laugh wasn’t at all cruel. It wasn’t picking on her friend for not being normal, it was more like celebrating her for being different. Or maybe the laugh was more aimed at Rainbow herself not noticing anything unusual in Twilight.

“I thought she was just eccentric?” she said weakly, explaining herself but expecting to be corrected.

“Well that’s all it is, in a way,” Rarity responded.

“Look,” Sunset said, “you know you have a fiercely competitive streak, right?” Rainbow wasn’t even going to bother trying to deny that. She nodded, although if Sunset had asked, she would have said it wasn’t a bad thing, and it drove her to push herself harder. “And how sometimes, if you don’t keep it under control, you can be a bit difficult to be around?” Rainbow was less sure about that, but none of her friends were arguing with Sunset about it, so if they all thought the same thing then maybe there was something to it. “Well, it’s like that, but much harder for her to control.”

Rarity, who had been watching Sunset and pulling agreeing faces, then took over speaking.

“Some people have addictive personalities, some are more prone to being self-destructive, some less inclined to empathise – these are all natural traits, that each of us have in different measures. When one overwhelms the rest, and risks taking over your life, then that’s when we start thinking of it as a disorder.”

“And sometimes,” Fluttershy then said, “that can be overcome just by keeping an eye on it, or finding coping mechanisms to work around it day to day. But other times it’s so strong that only professional treatment will help keep it at bay, whether that’s therapy, medication, or anything else.”

What would Rainbow’s life be like if she were even more competitive? If she had to win (or had to win everything she cared about, remembering their earlier talk about Adagio), no matter the cost. Would she ever get a moment to herself that wasn’t spent training? How many of her friendships would fall apart if she never had time to see her friends? She knew they’d be understanding, of course, but how long could you go on thinking of someone as a friend, if they never had time to speak to you?

“I have no idea what Twilight would be like if she didn’t have OCD,” Sunset said a few moments later. She didn’t seem as sure about what she was saying; where before all five of them had been trying to persuade Rainbow, now Sunset was just thinking out loud. “I doubt she knows, either. She might be every bit as organised, but perhaps less likely to get as stressed out when things don’t go to plan.”

“Yeah,” Pinkie cut in, “but she could be completely disorganised and not care about organising things at all, like she eats chaos for breakfast.” The way Pinkie said it suggested it was something she’d quite like to see.

“I really couldn’t say,” Sunset replied softly. “With some conditions, such as OCD, it can be very difficult to tell where the personality ends and the disorder begins.”

Could Rainbow’s own competitiveness be a disorder? No, she really didn’t think so, that was just who she was. But what would she be like without it? She didn’t want it any stronger than it already was, but she didn’t want it weaker, either, that would be like making her a different person. And of course Twilight hadn’t had any choice in how strong her drive to put things in order was – ok, none of them had any choice in those things, but with Twilight it was like that wasn’t the way she was meant to be, and something had gone wrong.

Was that the right way to think about it? Or was it more that whether that part of her was a disorder or not, it was a big chunk of who she was, something that her personality had been built around and on top of?

Rainbow didn’t know. And weirdest of all was the thought that Twilight herself might not know. Maybe Rainbow was just thinking about it all too much, and by tomorrow her friend would just be Twilight again, whatever the reasons for why she was who she was.

“I didn’t get much chance to speak with Indigo Zap before her family moved away,” Sunset started saying after Rainbow had been lost in thought for a while, “but, from what Twilight’s said about her?”

Even Indigo had something up with her, did she? How did I miss all this?

Sunset looked off to the side and frowned, with everyone waiting for her to figure out what to say next. When she did, she tilted her head to one side and looked straight at Rainbow, speaking in a much less serious voice.

“Do you remember that bit near the beginning of Finding Nemo, where Nemo tells his classmates about his deformed fin, and the little octopus reveals that she has one tentacle shorter than the rest?”

Rainbow cast her mind back to the one time she’d seen that film, dimly recalling a scene with a pink fish or something, and so she nodded at Sunset, but didn’t look confident about it.

“And then the seahorse says he’s H2O intolerant and sneezes, and then a yellow fish gets right in Nemo’s face and announces ‘I’m obnoxious!’ like it’s a medical condition?” This time Sunset didn’t wait for Rainbow to confirm, she just went on, but sounding darker. “Well, Indigo Zap is obnoxious.”

Rainbow opened her mouth to protest, having seen a lot of herself in Indigo and hung out with her a couple of times before she moved away, but Sunset held up a hand defensively.

“I don’t mean it in a nasty way,” she said quickly, “that’s just what sprung to mind when thinking about her in that context. Personal space and indoor voices weren’t exactly concepts she was best known for defending, and even by Crystal Prep standards she took the competition very seriously.”

They all had, as far as Rainbow remembered, on both sides. Or maybe that was her own enthusiasm for it affecting how she thought of it, trying to adjust her memories to make her friends as into it as she had been. Maybe Indigo had been pushing harder than the rest of her team, but it still felt bad thinking about a friend that way, accusing her of having something other than herself controlling her actions.

“You seem to know that movie pretty well,” Pinkie said to Sunset, pulling a lollipop from her pink fluffy hair as she did so.

“I may have watched it a lot when I first got here,” Sunset admitted, embarrassed but smiling fondly. “It’s so colourful, it reminded me of Equestria. Finding Nemo is important to me, I guess.”

Rainbow was hardly paying attention, instead still trying to figure out whether she was being a bad friend to Indigo. It did seem kind of rude, suggesting that someone behaved so strangely that the best explanation you could come up with for it was mental illness. Obviously there was nothing wrong with that if it were true – but there was, wasn’t there? That was why things like that were called mental health problems, or disorders; problems and disorders were things to be cured if possible, and managed if not, right? So it wasn’t like it was all fine, and that having that kind of condition was just as fine as not having it.

But Rainbow didn’t think any less of Indigo as a person for having that. Nor would she of any of the other Shadowbolts, or other Crystal Prep students who didn’t make the Games team, or anyone. Maybe it was just like a physical injury, in that you were sorry if it happened to someone and you hoped they got better as soon as possible, but you did what you could to make stuff easier for them until it did, and it obviously didn’t affect your friendship with them.

Should she look up the details on the internet and try to find out more about what her friend was going through, and if there was anything Rainbow could do to help? Or go on as before, and treat her exactly the same, just as she would anybody else? Not that she was likely to see Indigo again, with how far away she’d moved, but what about the other five? Sour Sweet, Sugarcoat, Lemon Zest, Twilight, and–

“Wait a minute,” she suddenly said out loud, “what about Sunny Flare?” She then blushed and added more quietly, “I kinda forgot about her.”

Rarity was the person to answer, first making a face like she’d eaten something bad.

“Much to her displeasure, many people do. She’s the normal one of the group, in her own words.” Then Rarity went back to her usual smile, and continued, “She might be a terrible person, in her own way – although I am very fond of her – but there’s nothing different about her in a medical sense.”

Having barely ever spoken to Sunny, Rainbow couldn’t really comment either way. Rarity seemed to know what she was talking about, though, even if what she was saying caused an obvious problem.

“When she first told me that,” Rarity said, “about her being the normal one, I thought she was referring to how we had several things in common. We’re both interested in fashion and shopping, that sort of thing, and so I assumed she was implying that that made her normal in my eyes.” Rarity paused, and then lost some of her cheerfulness. “Since I pieced together the rest of the Crystal Prep situation, though, I’ve come to rethink that conclusion.”

“But then what would she be doing at a special needs school?” Rainbow asked, unable to help sounding confused. It just didn’t fit with everything else she’d learned that lunchtime.

“She wouldn’t. Nor would Fleur, for that matter.”

“Crystal Prep isn’t a special needs school,” Sunset said, “not officially.”

This did nothing to help Rainbow’s confusion. She’d finally come around to accepting that Crystal Prep was exactly that, and then they told her it wasn’t? She scowled at Sunset and Rarity, wishing they would just be open with her instead of dancing in circles around the subject, and would tell her the truth from the beginning.

“But it does offer the small classroom sizes and top of the line teachers and facilities that you’d expect in a private school,” Rarity said, as if that made things clearer.

“All of which are of even greater benefit to students with poorer mental health,” Sunset explained, so in-sync with Rarity that the conversation seemed almost pre-planned, although Rainbow was certain it wasn’t, “who’d be more likely to flounder in a regular school. Crystal Prep also offers a much higher ratio of teaching assistants to students, which help to no end those with special needs to fit in in school.”

“And the teachers, assistants and other staff have all been trained extensively in the best ways to reach those students and educate them,” said Rarity, waving a hand in the air as she made her point.

“So a sizeable contingent of the students there – I don’t have much hard data to go on, but I’d say 50 to 75% – have one form of special needs or another,” Sunset said.

Pinkie and Fluttershy sat quietly listening, and poor Applejack must have had conversation bouncing between her ears as Rarity and Sunset took it in turns to speak from either side of her. But none of them looked bored with the heavy conversation. So did that make Crystal Prep just a normal school? And if so, what had been the point of the whole conversation, which had taken up most of their lunch hour?

“The school is marketed as being a great place for special needs students,” Rarity began, shifting in her seat to get more comfortable.

“Rather than a school designed for them or explicitly designated for them,” Sunset finished, and Rainbow started to understand the difference between the two.

“I imagine that helps the students feel more empowered,” Rarity suggested, “making going there seem more like something they can choose to do, instead of having to, even if there aren’t many other options.”

“Exactly,” Sunset agreed, “no one is forcing anyone to go to Crystal Prep, or separating those with special needs from those without, and there are plenty of good reasons to still choose to go there even if you’re perfectly healthy and always have been.”

Rarity added, “Which probably helps anyone with those kinds of issues feel a little more normal, or at least a little less out of place.”

And yet it was coming to CHS that had made Twilight feel more normal. The way she told it, she’d pretty much had a closet at Crystal Prep that she’d stuffed with sciency things, and everyone else had kind of left her to it. But then, knowing Twilight, that was probably her own choice, and if she’d felt confident enough to do that, then maybe Crystal Prep really was good at letting students feel like they decided things for themselves. Should schools be pushing friendship, or leaving students to do their own thing? Maybe Twilight was a special case, and the CHS way was better for her but the Crystal Prep way better for the others?

Anyway, that was a distraction from the main thing Rainbow was trying to think about with Crystal Prep, how it wasn’t a special needs school but was a great place for special needs students, and so sort of was a special needs school, but also sort of wasn’t.

“Their website doesn’t come right out and say it,” Sunset said on a different note, “just asking parents of potential students with special needs to contact the school to discuss things directly, but there are almost certainly discounts and scholarships available for those suffering who would benefit from going to Crystal Prep.”

“It’s telling that Sunny,” Rarity picked up, “the healthy one, and Lemon, with the hard-to-medically-diagnose problem, are also the ones from the wealthiest backgrounds, as the only Shadowbolts who probably had to pay the tuition fees at full price.”

So the point was, as Rainbow understood it, that Crystal Prep wasn’t seen as any different to a regular school, other than being expensive and probably better. And that made it a good choice for students with mental health issues, who it was known to do well with, and that meant that those students made up a big part of the school’s total number. It wasn’t a special needs school by the way it was set up, but it kind of was because of its students. Mostly.

“So why did they set them against us in the Games?” she asked, not sure how whoever organised it could set up something so unfair.

“Th-There’s a lot of stigma attached to mental health, still,” Fluttershy said from where she sat on Rainbow’s left, flinching only a tiny bit when everyone turned to look at her. “What better way to break it than to show people with those issues competing against those without, and winning?”

“Crystal Prep went in confident they’d win, after all,” Rarity pointed out, “and they always did in the previous years.”

“That’s right,” Fluttershy smiled, “and even if we didn’t know about it, the Crystal Prep students did. That must have been quite a boost for them.”

“And quite a blow to have now lost,” Rainbow said, feeling her stomach sinking.

“Yeah,” Sunset sighed. “Why do you think Cinch was so up in arms about the whole thing?”

“...I thought she was just horrible,” Rainbow said, having not reached Crystal Prep’s unpleasant principal in her re-thinking of the school.

“Are you kiddin’?” Applejack snorted. “What kind a’ petty, mean-spirited twunt would Principal Cinch have ta be ta get that obsessed with the students of a school costin’ tens a’ thousands a’ dollars a term beatin’ those goin’ to a regular, public school?”

“That’d make her, like, the most horrible person on the planet,” Pinkie giggled from much too close, and Rainbow suddenly realised Pinkie was almost resting her head on Rainbow’s shoulder, “which would be...”

“...Statistically unlikely,” Sunset finished, as Pinkie returned to her usual seating position as quickly as she had come.

Yeah, but Cinch was pretty horrible...

“She’d spent years telling her students that they were just as capable as us,” Rarity said, her tone suggesting she felt sorry for the horrible woman, “in spite of whatever issues might be holding them back. To suddenly lose – and to a public school, no less – it must have been a crushing sign of the reality they would face when they graduated.”

Rarity managed to sound as disgusted when saying ‘public school’ as Rainbow could imagine Cinch herself doing, and Rainbow’s friends defending that woman was tough to hear.

“But she was horrible!” she burst out, listening to the word that had been bouncing around her head since the subject of Cinch had come up.

“Yep,” Sunset nodded, “she came across as a vile woman.” Then she hesitated, and Rainbow knew there was a ‘but’ coming. “Is the captain of the Wonderbolts known for being kind and gentle?”

The sinking feeling in Rainbow’s stomach struck again, because she knew Captain Spitfire was anything but that. Although she also knew that Spitfire on her worst day was still a thousand times better than Cinch on her best. She didn’t say anything, and Sunset took that as a sign to go on.

“I don’t like the idea, nor am I that keen on defending her, as I loathed her just as much as anyone, but it may be that only someone that caustic could do what she did. Some people will do anything to win, and unlike most, she had a good, altruistic reason to do so, and a nicer person might not have fought as hard as she did.”

“Also, darling,” Rarity spoke up, “we may not have been seeing her at her best. She knew what was at stake with the Games, and she couldn’t let the students in on it. She was fighting to protect them, and she was the only one doing so; the pressure of it may have got to her and been responsible for some of her waspishness.”

“And us,” Sunset jumped in, picking up her back and forth with Rarity again, “lucky enough to be in good health, must have seemed a slap in the face in our normalcy, never knowing the life problems many of her students would, and there we were beating them in the competition.”

“We didn’t know,” Rainbow protested, but Sunset responded instantly.

“No, we didn’t. And that may excuse us, but to her it may have made us seem all the more infuriating in our ignorance, not even realising the damage we were causing.”

“Ah didn’t lahke her one bit,” Applejack said grimly while Rainbow was thinking about what Sunset had said, “and ah don’t approve a’ cheatin,’ but her reasons were the best ah’ve heard.”

“The benefits of us winning didn’t come close to the cost of them losing,” Sunset agreed.

Rainbow could hardly believe what she was hearing. The reasons may have been good, sure, but that didn’t make it right, did it? If you couldn’t afford to lose something, you shouldn’t have entered it in the first place.

“She must have known that was a risk,” Rainbow said. That was always a risk, however many times you’d won in the past.

“A calculated one, I’d guess,” Sunset answered. “Clearly she miscalculated, or didn’t update her risk assessment with CHS doing better in recent years, and she realised it too late.”

Everyone went quiet for a few seconds, looking around in thought. Rainbow still wasn’t convinced, but she didn’t have any new arguments, just the same ‘but that doesn’t make it right to cheat, or even to be that mean about everything.’

“In my view,” Rarity said into the silence, “she sought to shelter them. A different identity: they weren’t the invalid patients of some educational funny farm, they were the privileged few of Crystal Prep.” Rarity said it in her usual drama-class manner, sounding sickened when saying ‘invalid patients,’ with her voice shining on ‘privileged few.’

“I agree,” said Sunset, “she tried to shelter them under a different banner. It’s sad the one she chose was wealthy elitism,” she made a face, “but for a long time it worked, and I don’t know if the same could be said of any alternatives.”

“That’s why she was so obsessed with reputation,” Rarity explained. “The first thing a college or future employer would see on a former student’s résumé would be ‘Crystal Prep Academy,’ and in some cases that would be all they’d need to look at.”

That didn’t really sound like a good thing to Rainbow, with jobs being given out just on the grounds of which schools people went to, but Sunset continued where Rarity had left off.

“Not a delicately-worded declaration of having a mental health condition,”

“Followed by a brief explanation of what it means,” Fluttershy interrupted, and the fact that she’d speak over anyone else, even as quietly as she had done, said a great deal about how strongly she felt about the subject.

“Right,” Sunset nodded in thanks, “or the name of an under-funded, under-performing specialist school that no one has heard of.”

“Or ev’ryone knows for the wrong reasons,” Applejack added unhappily.

Rainbow thought about it, and unfortunately could well see someone not giving a fair chance to a person with a résumé listing a mental illness. Not that that would have to be listed on a résumé, as far as she knew, but she could also think of times when it might not be a bad idea to do so. Her dad had once told her that employers usually decided whether or not to hire someone within the first thirty seconds of meeting them, and if you obviously displayed signs of a mental health condition when you walked in the door of the interview, having not mentioned it previously, then the unexpected first impression might throw your chances of getting the job.

“Crystal Prep’s reputation wasn’t a vanity project,” Rarity said, looking away, “or a tool to persuade the school governors to increase Cinch’s salary.” Then she locked eyes with Rainbow and said sadly, “It was a shield. It kept Crystal Prep’s students safe long after they left the protection of the school, which was when they needed it most.”

“And Cinch knew how bad things could get if that reputation was lost,” Sunset took over a moment later. “Perhaps she shouldn’t have risked it in the games, but it was public victories like the one she expected to have there that maintained it.”

“In hindsight,” Rarity said, “she probably would have been ok sticking to school exam results alone that year.”

“But,” Sunset responded, “how much of the school confidence, which served its students so well, was down to knowing they’d won the Games so many times before?” She looked to each of the others in turn, as if any of them would have a sure answer. “How would future exam results suffer following the blow to school spirit that would come from pulling out of the Games?”

Rainbow had no idea. It was all connected – how well the Crystal Prep students did in the Games would affect not just how confident they were in going against regular kids and interacting with the outside world, and how that confidence would carry over to their exam performance, but all of that would also affect how good their school was seen as being, and that would in turn give them a better shot in their future lives.

“As it was,” said Rarity, trying to sound hopeful, “Cinch had a lucky escape when Principal Celestia announced that everyone won, and Crystal Prep’s reputation is still mostly intact.”

“But I doubt it can survive a second round of that,” Sunset frowned, “Crystal Prep will have to win the next Friendship Games outright or choose not to compete at all. I suspect they may go for the latter.”

“That would be sad,” Rainbow said, thinking of how she had loved both the Games themselves and the buildup to them, “stopping future students from enjoying the competition.” She’d still had great fun, and even the things she’d learned that lunchtime wouldn’t change how fun she’d found it, any more than the crazy magic stuff had at the time.

“It wasn’t a real competition in the first place,” Sunset shook her head. “It was a PR exercise designed to boost the confidence of those with mental health issues.”

It had felt real, Rainbow thought, and she’d treated it as real. And it hadn’t been rigged. Not in any direct way, although it hadn’t really been fair either, so she wasn’t sure.

“That’s why it was called the Friendship Games,” Rarity said darkly, “a name only a short stretch from ‘Special Olympics.’”

Oh. When you put it like that... Had Rainbow competed in the Special Olympics without knowing it, as someone in perfect health? She remembered the bad guy deliberately doing the same thing in one episode of a cartoon series she liked, and it had been shown as a really, really bad thing to do. The thought of it was certainly not a good one.

But was it really the same? The Shadowbolts might have had their issues, but they didn’t have learning difficulties, not in the sense that the phrase usually meant. Was it actually even worse to think of them as needing that kind of special treatment? Or was that exactly what ‘special needs’ meant? What was the precise difference between ‘special needs’ and ‘mental health conditions,’ or other similar words? Maybe she did need to go away and look things up online.

Maybe thinking of it as being like the Special Olympics wasn’t right, maybe the two weren’t the same, but doing so did have the effect of showing Rainbow how the Games might look from the outside, or if the situation had been exaggerated, and with that she completely stopped defending.

“...If we had known,” Fluttershy said, almost too quietly to hear, “should we have let them win?”

On any other day, the thought of letting someone else win anything would have sounded crazy to Rainbow. At that moment, she didn’t know what to think, although she wasn’t sure she could convincingly lose.

“Or refused to compete?” she suggested.

“I don’t know,” Sunset said, staring ahead of her.

“I really don’t,” Rarity agreed, not looking up from the table.

“That just seems patronising,” said a very lost-sounding Pinkie.

“But goin’ ahead an’ tryin’ our best ta thrash ‘em anyway don’t seem great either,” Applejack finished.

They all sat silently for at least half a minute, not looking up at each other, just trying to run through the options in their heads, none of them managing to figure it out.

“I do know this, though,” Sunset said at last, “with how things turned out: For all the progress that’s been made with equal opportunities, and while of course the people at Crystal Prep are just as valid and as valuable to society as we are, beating them is not something you should be boasting about.”

“I didn’t know,” was the only thing Rainbow could say, knowing that Sunset was right.

“Ah know, sugarcube,” Applejack said kindly, and Fluttershy put a hand on Rainbow’s shoulder, “it’s ok, don’t worry ‘bout it.”

“But now you do know,” Sunset said regretfully, “I’m afraid it’s a victory you shouldn’t mention as often.”

All Rainbow could do was nod her head and stare at her hands in her lap. Fluttershy pulled her into a hug, and Pinkie soon piled in from the other side. Rainbow wondered how long ago each of them had realised the truth about Crystal Prep and the Games, and how they’d reacted when they found out. Was she that much more stupid than them when it came to picking up signs for that sort of thing? ‘Oblivious,’ Rarity had once called her when she’d accidentally tracked muddy boots across the bottom of a dress Rarity had been sewing, and maybe that description was more true than she’d thought.

“It’s ok, silly,” Pinkie said, “you’ve still got every other win of all the teams you’re captain of.”

“Ah’m sure there’s no shortage a’ vict’ries with ya name on them,” Applejack said as Pinkie and Fluttershy drew back to their normal seats.

Rainbow grinned weakly. She hadn’t been crying or anything, but it kind of felt like it, from the effort it took to laugh when Applejack added, “Not in arm wrestlin’ against me, though.”

“And I think it’s ok about the Games, too,” Sunset said gently. “For all that was wrong with them, we got six new friends out of it, and so did they.”

“I know she cared about winning,” Fluttershy smiled, “but given how hard Sour Sweet finds it to make friends, I think our acceptance means more to her than the Games would have done.”

“And I’m not saying that the sheltering reputation of Crystal Prep isn’t important to its students’ future prospects, darling,” Rarity added, “but they were called the Friendship Games. And in that respect, everybody really did win.”

Rainbow glanced over to the clock on the wall and saw that lunch hour was pretty much over. The outside sunshine would have to wait until the end of school. It hadn’t been a wasted hour, though, she’d learned a huge amount. Probably more than she would in class all that afternoon.

She was just about to thank her friends and probably say something embarrassingly mushy to them when the cafeteria doors flew open with a bang, and Adagio Dazzle casually walked in.

Immediately, Rainbow grabbed her chance and jumped to her feet. Her friends had managed to cheer her up again, but she’d probably still be a bit down over the whole Friendship Games thing for the rest of the day. Winning against Adagio could be just what she needed to be smiling until she fell asleep that night. And there was no risk of that battle being unfair, she thought, at least not to her advantage. Adagio had made it all too clear again and again how good she was at their game, and from her smirking, appeared to enjoy it, too.

“Don’t do it, Rainbow,” Rarity said, looking up at her.

“It ain’t worth it,” Applejack agreed.

Fluttershy didn’t say anything and just looked at her with huge eyes, begging her not to go.

Rainbow ignored them, and started walking towards the middle of the room. She needed to do it. She had to. It was too important not to.

“This won’t end well,” Sunset called after her, louder than the others, but not so loudly that Adagio would hear it on the far side of the cafeteria where she was filling a plate with whatever food was left yet to be served.

Rainbow kept walking. She looked from side to side, seeing something like half of the tables still with people sitting at them chatting, although everyone had finished eating. More than enough of an audience for the word of her winning to travel throughout the school.

It was finally time. In one blow, she’d gain a new victory to replace the Games, which she could no longer really call a win, and she’d deal with the problem that’d been bugging her for so long.

For weeks, Adagio had been twisting Rainbow’s words into implying she was a lesbian, and that she had a crush on Adagio. Not that there was anything wrong with having a crush on a girl, and if Sunset liked Aria then that was great, but that wasn’t what was happening with Rainbow, and Adagio obviously knew that.

Rainbow had stayed up for hours thinking of her comeback, the perfect witty line to imply that it was Adagio who was the lesbian, not Rainbow, and do so in a way that would stick in everyones’ minds. At last she’d found it, and now she was going to use it. If she were in a video game, she’d be hearing her superweapon charging up for the killshot.

Adagio had finished loading her plate, grabbed some cutlery, and was just turning towards the centre of the room to head to a table.

Rainbow took a deep breath.

Then she called out to Adagio, not quite shouting, but loudly enough to carry across the whole cafeteria, for Adagio to hear and everyone else in the room to overhear.

“How’s it going, Avagio?”

Adagio stopped walking. She didn’t instantly freeze in place, but she stopped her movement and stood with her legs together, plate in hand, looking at Rainbow across the room, not saying anything. Her expression didn’t change either, and Rainbow had the idle thought that being speechless must be a new experience for her. She didn’t look speechless, her mouth wasn’t hanging open or anything, or moving up and down as if trying to make words. But she wasn’t saying anything either, which was close enough to speechless to do.

Nothing else in the whole cafeteria moved or made a sound. Every single student was fixed in place, with only their eyes moving, flicking back and forth between Rainbow and Adagio. No one laughed, or made ‘oooh, sick burn’ noises, they were all just waiting to see how Adagio would react. Rainbow had a feeling most of them were even holding their breath.

And then, after a pause that felt like forever, but couldn’t actually have been longer than a second or two, Adagio answered, with a smile that looked real.

“All the better for seeing you, Rainbow Gash.”

Author's Note:

I think I might have quite a bit to say about this story, so will probably do a separate blog post at some point in the next few days and link it here.

So for now I will just acknowledge the influences and people I need to thank, which I haven't put on the front cover to avoid spoilers.

Firstly, the second half of this story wouldn't exist without CGPH's amazing story, A Talk Between Sisters. I really can't recommend that one enough, it deals with a complex issue in a way that is detailed but easy to understand, all the while showing rarely-seen sides of both Adagio and Sonata. It was after reading that and thinking about it that I later developed the Crystal Prep theory/headcanon discussed in this chapter, I then mentioned it to him in conversation and his encouragement spurred me to write this.

If anyone else wants to take on that headcanon and write further stories using it, please by all means be my guest, I'd love to read them.

Secondly, I should mention Nico-Stone Rupan, who is the go-to writer for Sour Sweet, and has painted a vivid portrait of her (or should that be crayon drawing?) in his sometimes very moving Sour Sweet Something Series. The idea of her friendship with Fluttershy came from there.

Finally, I hadn't really thought of it as a conscious influence, but it's probably too ingrained as my default picture of the sirens reintegrating at CHS not to be - Adagio having clashes of wit in the school corridors and coming out on top smirking every time almost certainly owes some debt to Sucker for a Cute Face, because of course it does.

Comments ( 50 )

You're a fanny Harry!

I'm a what?

....Random comment is random?

7832296 I have to say I don't know if I'd see any of them but Sunset and Aria in a relationship sense.

It's an odd mix. The Shadowbolt/Rainboom pairings aren't too far out, I think - since writing this, I saw a post someone did on a Friendship Games group detailing how each Shadowbolt was an opposite of one of the Rainbooms, and the list they came up with exactly matched the one here. Throwing the sirens into the mix really knocked it for six, though, but I was quite pleased with how that turned out.

But all those other pairings were intended to be much more friendship than romantic in nature, albeit with the close bond that having such an exact 'opposite number' might bring with it. One or two of them might end up less platonic sometime down the line, but I don't think there's much physical attraction at work there, if any.

I did wonder about Aria and Sonata showing up near the end, but decided it would be too distracting, and only really serve to even further big up Adagio, which she didn't really need. That would have included a few more romantic SunAria moments, although probably still not enough to warrant a romance tag.

7832226 :rainbowlaugh:

...He is a bit, though, isn't he?

Maybe that's why he hangs out with Ron, so that Harry looks less of a fanny by comparison?

Very interesting thoughts on the Shadowbolts and CP as a whole, and even a nugget of sympathy for Cinch! Once the (speculative) nature of CP had come up, I'd expected little more than a few comments about what an unforgivable monster she must have been to put students like hers through competitions just for bragging rights, but being pleasantly surprised is what got me reading fanfiction! :pinkiehappy:

I don't know if I buy CHS 'winning' when CP was overwhelmingly superior in all but three points; Sci-Twi's poor aim, the lack of encouragement at the archery section, and the equation (by which I mean that if someone else had been competing in Sci-Twi's place, I'm not sure just any of the Shadowbolts could have beaten Sunset, but as Sunset's intelligence is an informed trait and she got the equation wrong anyway, I'm not convinced nobody else could have beaten her either). We don't get to see how the scavenger hunt (in which CHS would have had the home field advantage, knowing the layout of the school where CP would only have whatever they remembered from walking around earlier) would have gone, but it looked to me like CP was still better overall.

Aaaand Rainbow stayed up all night to come up with a juvenile, slightly vulgar pun? One that, in all likelihood, spurred Adagio to pointedly ask why that bit of anatomy is so keenly on Rainbow's mind as to induce a Freudian slip following her new nickname?

Somehow I was expecting better if she was that confident, but maybe 'Oblivious' really does suit her. I had expected the very first line of the chapter to relate to how wanting to win no matter what was bad in regard to her (one-sided) struggles with Adagio, her friends trying to warn her that feelings would be hurt and the victory, if she got it, would be hollow at best, but getting the usual result at least made me giggle. :pinkiesmile:

Finally, I hadn't really thought of it as a conscious influence, but it's probably too ingrained as my default picture of the sirens reintegrating at CHS not to be - Adagio having clashes of wit in the school corridors and coming out on top smirking every time almost certainly owes some debt to Sucker for a Cute Face, because of course it does.

Aww, shucks. :twilightsheepish:
I bet Trixie enjoys the exchanges between those two, if only because it's a chance to see Rainbow Magic-Fueled Guitar Solo Dash humbled for a minute.

7832358 Thanks!

The angle with Principal Cinch followed fairly naturally for me, once I'd thought of Crystal Prep itself that way, in fact I'm not sure I even thought of the less pleasant alternative. I loathed her just as much as anyone, and it never occurred to me when watching the movie that she might have kinder reasons for her actions (or that I should give those to her), but it just made sense to me that if those were the kind of students in her school, then her motivations would be more protective in nature. I'm glad it made a nice surprise, I had been a little worried that adding a redeeming explanation for such a universally hated character would be frowned upon, but I like to think it works at least within the context of this story, and might even add a bit of depth to an otherwise one-dimensional Cruella De Vil copy.

I think you're right about Crystal Prep performing better, but most of the people Rainbow would have talked to about it would have been CHS students, so her perspective might be skewed. I think she'd have the Shadowbolts on Mystable and maybe a few other Crystal Prep students, but far more from CHS, and so the debate would always be one-sided as she saw it.

I forget, did CHS win the motocross bit in the end? Granted, that may have been because Rainbow was the only one stupid enough to keep competing once man-eating plants started appearing all over the place, as if winning a race still mattered at that point, but did she and Sunset go on to win, or was it called off before they finished? Not sure if I should admit my weak excuse for not knowing, but: I only saw Friendship Games once (wasn't a fan!), so doing research for this story was at times difficult as I did not want to watch it again. Who won the motocross is one of those things I should have Googled, but sadly didn't think to.

Sunset here is probably one of the smarter Rainbooms, I like to think of her that way as it makes her more of a dark mirror of Twilight. Also, I remember there being one short or something when she's in a lab coat testing the magical properties of the others, and I think she took charge in that environment, which to me suggests she's the most scientifically-minded of the Rainbooms. I would suggest that soon after arriving in the EG world, she thought of science as being their answer to magic, and so purposefully studied it a bit. I think therefore even if she's not much smarter than the other Rainbooms, she might think a bit more logically (I concede that the canon basis for that is flimsy at best).

Aaaand Rainbow stayed up all night to come up with a juvenile, slightly vulgar pun? One that, in all likelihood, spurred Adagio to pointedly ask why that bit of anatomy is so keenly on Rainbow's mind as to induce a Freudian slip following her new nickname?

Yes. Yes she did. And that might well be exactly what would happen next, if Rainbow didn't flee the scene immediately. I think her reasoning, if she did much of that, would be that with the way Adagio oozes sexuality (but in a tasteful way!), the nickname would stick, and she wouldn't be able to flirt with anyone afterwards without them thinking of that nickname. I'm not convinced Rainbow would consciously think that, but the idea might have been lurking somewhere at the back of her mind.

Somehow I was expecting better if she was that confident, but maybe 'Oblivious' really does suit her.

It might have worked, I think she just hadn't appreciated that Adagio might respond in kind, or could possibly do so anything like that quickly. It's like planning out the perfect checkmate-in-five-moves without considering how your opponent might counter. :rainbowhuh:

I think Rainbow is almost indoctrinated towards winning; she (probably subconsciously) believes that for every battle lost, she'll still win the war sooner or later, and she hasn't appreciated on a deep level that there's no reason the universe would work like that (barring the ever-reliable Contrivance and Handwave, that is :scootangel:).

I had expected the very first line of the chapter to relate to how wanting to win no matter what was bad in regard to her (one-sided) struggles with Adagio, her friends trying to warn her that feelings would be hurt and the victory, if she got it, would be hollow at best, but getting the usual result at least made me giggle. :pinkiesmile:

I think that's all true, all that's failed to happen is her learning from the experience and applying that to future situations (although it was written to be all one chapter, so that line starts this chapter only because it's the point where the topic changes most directly from Adagio to the Friendship Games, so it's still thematically relevant but only stands out by coincidence). And yep, that's pretty much why I put that 'oblivious' line in there; it all leads back to the title.

I bet Trixie enjoys the exchanges between those two, if only because it's a chance to see Rainbow Magic-Fueled Guitar Solo Dash humbled for a minute.

I very much imagine she does! :pinkiehappy: Hopefully she's wise enough to keep quiet about it, but that hardly seems like the Trixie we all know. Incidentally, you raise an interesting point there - does the guitar solo fuel the magic, or the magic fuel the guitar solo? I always thought the former, but... :derpyderp2:

I have to ask, did you spot the I Can Smile reference? :raritywink:

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I forget, did CHS win the motocross bit in the end?

CHS (that is, Sunset, Rainbow having ponied up and ditched her bike) crossed the finish line about half a second before CP (Indigo, Sugarcoat having fallen off her bike and not been seen again until much later), the same happening with the roller-skating part on account of a MASSIVE head-start for CHS. I'm honestly not sure how the motocross bit would have gone if not for the plant, but if the non-Twilight Shadowbolts proved that much more competent everywhere else, pattern indicates they'd have easily won that too. :applejackunsure:

Sunset here is probably one of the smarter Rainbooms, I like to think of her that way as it makes her more of a dark mirror of Twilight. Also, I remember there being one short or something when she's in a lab coat testing the magical properties of the others, and I think she took charge in that environment, which to me suggests she's the most scientifically-minded of the Rainbooms. I would suggest that soon after arriving in the EG world, she thought of science as being their answer to magic, and so purposefully studied it a bit.

I know Sunset is supposed to be smart, I just don't see it in canon, hence saying it was an informed trait. Like, as she got nothing whatsoever out of her experimenting (where Sci-Twi built a working magic scanner/vacuum with readings from across town, even if she didn't know exactly how) and anyone can wear a coat and fiddle with equipment, we can't really conclude that she definitely knew what she was doing. I can see her doing what you described, certainly, but we kind of have to assume it based on the thought that Sunset is already smart.

I think therefore even if she's not much smarter than the other Rainbooms, she might think a bit more logically (I concede that the canon basis for that is flimsy at best).

Just a little flimsy, in that I can see what you mean, but... Have you seen Legends of Equestria yet, bychance? Sunset's sleuthing in regard to the Timber Spruce/Gaia Everfree situation isn't exactly much to write home about. That in mind, I don't know how logical she really is. :twilightsheepish:

All of that said, it's certainly more fun to imagine that Sunset is pretty smart, and the best way to think of it I've heard of is that she lets her big ol' Unofficial Element of Empathy heart do more thinking than her head. :pinkiesmile:

I think Rainbow is almost indoctrinated towards winning; she (probably subconsciously) believes that for every battle lost, she'll still win the war sooner or later, and she hasn't appreciated on a deep level that there's no reason the universe would work like that (barring the ever-reliable Contrivance and Handwave, that is :scootangel:).

It sorta makes sense, in a "but this (her always winning in the end, that is) always worked before!" kind of way.

Incidentally, you raise an interesting point there - does the guitar solo fuel the magic, or the magic fuel the guitar solo? I always thought the former, but... :derpyderp2:

I'm not quite sure either. They were shredding, Trixie was winning, Rainbow got magic, blew her away, and all present act like they didn't even notice. Considering that the rest of the Rainbooms pick up their instruments in similar circumstances, one wonders if she's really all that good with a guitar, either. :applejackconfused:

I have to ask, did you spot the I Can Smile reference? :raritywink:

Even after looking through the story again, I did not! :pinkiegasp:

Would it be rude to ask what it was? Because the closest thing I could find was maybe relatable to Dazzle's Poor Career Choice (Sunset liking Finding Nemo).

This is largely well written. Kudos for that. I didn't finish reading it because it wasn't quite what I was expecting going into it based on the story description (and because I have an aversion to completely arbitrary F/F shipping for the sake of F/F shipping), but anyone who does enjoy this type of story would do well to read this.

7832955 Ah right, that does sound vaguely familiar. See, even with herself having flown away, and as you say being outperformed by the Shadowbolts in every way except the point of actually crossing the finishing line, I think Rainbow might still count that as an indisputable victory. Maybe she'd reassess it when viewing the memory of the games with her newfound perspective, after this story, and give them the credit they deserve?

I know Sunset is supposed to be smart, I just don't see it in canon, hence saying it was an informed trait. Like, as she got nothing whatsoever out of her experimenting (where Sci-Twi built a working magic scanner/vacuum with readings from across town, even if she didn't know exactly how) and anyone can wear a coat and fiddle with equipment, we can't really conclude that she definitely knew what she was doing. I can see her doing what you described, certainly, but we kind of have to assume it based on the thought that Sunset is already smart.

Sorry, I should have clarified - I remember the blog post where you went through the theory, and it makes a lot of sense. This was pretty much writing Sunset smart on the assumption that she already is. For what it's worth, I'd argue back against Twilight being smarter by comparison, given the obscenely bad decisions she makes, which makes me think it's more certain characters holding the idiot ball when the plot demands it. Also, I know Sunset gets the equation wrong, but am I right in thinking she at least knows what she's doing with it? Rather than not even knowing what branch of mathematics it comes from and being completely lost? I seem to remember both she and Twilight showing a lot of their working. I can't say I'm an advanced mathematician myself, but it looked quite advanced, which would imply she's at least quite bright?

Also, the fact that she would even think to test magic scientifically shows something of her intellect and her more rational approach, I think. One white lab coat and pair of goggles is more than, say, the entire magical community of Britain managed in seven Harry Potter books, so perhaps it's not as obvious as we might expect?

Just a little flimsy, in that I can see what you mean, but... Have you seen Legends of Equestria yet, bychance? Sunset's sleuthing in regard to the Timber Spruce/Gaia Everfree situation isn't exactly much to write home about. That in mind, I don't know how logical she really is. :twilightsheepish:

This is also true. I saw it once, didn't mind it but can't say I'm in a rush to see it again, so I don't remember exactly how inept she was, but it's a fair point that about it being a good indicator of skill with logic.

All of that said, it's certainly more fun to imagine that Sunset is pretty smart, and the best way to think of it I've heard of is that she lets her big ol' Unofficial Element of Empathy heart do more thinking than her head. :pinkiesmile:

I can see that working as an answer, or that she's too wrapped up in remorse, self-loathing and paranoia about how she's perceived, although those elements are very visible in Rainbow Rocks but I think not so much in the last two films.

It sorta makes sense, in a "but this (her always winning in the end, that is) always worked before!" kind of way.

Mostly, yeah. Indoctrination isn't something I have much personal experience with, other than I once remember asking someone about a particular band, saying they sounded like a darker Iron Maiden to me, and he promptly said, "Oh, they're much better than Iron Maiden." And it genuinely hadn't occurred to me that he might say that, it felt like he was breaking the rules of reality, and my brain instantly rejected it as a not-possible option. I can only assume that's what indoctrination is like, whether it's believing in a god, or not betraying a Masonic oath, etc. It's not so much that you're convinced about one thing, it's that the alternatives simply don't occur to you as possible. You haven't ruled them out, because you wouldn't even think to consider them as possibilities in the first place.

That's probably getting pretty deep into it, perhaps a bit too heavily, but I think that's how Rainbow pretty much sees the idea of her winning most things. In the end, she will win because she will, and there aren't really any other options in her book.

I'm not quite sure either. They were shredding, Trixie was winning, Rainbow got magic, blew her away, and all present act like they didn't even notice. Considering that the rest of the Rainbooms pick up their instruments in similar circumstances, one wonders if she's really all that good with a guitar, either. :applejackconfused:

Hmmm, that's a good point. To further confuse it, there's a marked discrepancy between the level of musical talent displayed in the Rainbow Rocks shorts, and in the film itself. The hardest thing to play in the film is probably the Awesome As I Wanna Be solo, and while it's sort of high intermediate/low advanced level of difficulty, I know at least one girl Rainbow's age who could play that. But the instrumental flourishes in the shorts? They're like lifetime professional or young virtuoso who never stops practising ever sort of level. And Rainbow does get notably better in her short once her magic comes out, so it might well be that the magic fuels the music, rather than the other way around (also, rewatching it, Trixie is the better guitarist without magic). Whereas in the film, it's more like the music fuels the magic I think, and Rainbow plays the Awesome As I Wanna Be solo on her own, with no magical help.

Even after looking through the story again, I did not! :pinkiegasp:

:rainbowlaugh: I always liked the description in Too Many Feet! of Rarity being a terrible person, in her own way, so I thought having Rarity describe Sunny Flare in exactly the same terms might highlight the similarities between them :twilightsmile:

For what it's worth, I'd argue back against Twilight being smarter by comparison, given the obscenely bad decisions she makes, which makes me think it's more certain characters holding the idiot ball when the plot demands it. Also, I know Sunset gets the equation wrong, but am I right in thinking she at least knows what she's doing with it? Rather than not even knowing what branch of mathematics it comes from and being completely lost? I seem to remember both she and Twilight showing a lot of their working. I can't say I'm an advanced mathematician myself, but it looked quite advanced, which would imply she's at least quite bright?

Sci-Twi is heralded as the best student of an extremely prestigious school, has her own little lab-closet in which actual results are achieved ("And you've done quite a lot, haven't you?"), and figured out enough about a foreign energy to actively work with it, even if she didn't fully understand what she was doing.
Sunset did most of a math problem that, while maybe above those taught to her peers, we can't say she never saw the likes of under Celestia.
Between the two of them, I'd only say one has given us adequate reason to think she's considerably smarter than average. :applejackunsure:

I responded to quite a few comments on that blog post and the best we could collectively come up with is that Sunset is probably a decent mathematician (ignoring any possible inferences of Fluttershy being the one shown to do well in chemistry and spelling, that is), which isn't quite enough to declare her a genius.

Also, the fact that she would even think to test magic scientifically shows something of her intellect and her more rational approach, I think. One white lab coat and pair of goggles is more than, say, the entire magical community of Britain managed in seven Harry Potter books, so perhaps it's not as obvious as we might expect?

It shows she's come a long way from assuming she can flawlessly use forces she barely understands, at least, but I don't think the basic-level step of gathering data qualifies her for the kind of smarts some people seem to think it does. As said in the blog post, I get that we're meant to infer that she's smart, I'm just not convinced she's solidly shown it yet.

If that doesn't make sense, remember the days when it seemed like Celestia was an amazingly powerful goddess of a pony, what with ruling a magical kingdom for a millennium, apparently always being in control of the situation (I can't convince myself that she's the manipulative chessmaster she's regularly thought to be anymore), and being able to move a celestial body? It seemed like a safe bet at the time, but actually observing the character...? :applejackunsure:

I can see that working as an answer, or that she's too wrapped up in remorse, self-loathing and paranoia about how she's perceived, although those elements are very visible in Rainbow Rocks but I think not so much in the last two films.

Maybe she was just stressed about the Games and worried about Sci-Twi, respectively? The Heart Over Head theory just relies on her being too emotional to think straight, so it might kinda still work as long as she has anything to feel strongly about while doing stupid things.
This explanation sounds a little flimsier the more I think about it. Element of Handwave, why have you forsaken me?! :raritydespair:

Hmmm, that's a good point. To further confuse it, there's a marked discrepancy between the level of musical talent displayed in the Rainbow Rocks shorts, and in the film itself. The hardest thing to play in the film is probably the Awesome As I Wanna Be solo, and while it's sort of high intermediate/low advanced level of difficulty, I know at least one girl Rainbow's age who could play that. But the instrumental flourishes in the shorts? They're like lifetime professional or young virtuoso who never stops practising ever sort of level. And Rainbow does get notably better in her short once her magic comes out, so it might well be that the magic fuels the music, rather than the other way around (also, rewatching it, Trixie is the better guitarist without magic). Whereas in the film, it's more like the music fuels the magic I think, and Rainbow plays the Awesome As I Wanna Be solo on her own, with no magical help.

If the way it worked was that magic infused musical skill and that musical skill drummed up the magic again, doesn't that still mean magic was still doing the hard part for them? Like, they still had to (or chose to) practice, we got to see that, but it kind of looked to me like magic kickstarted their abilities, which they continued to polish on their own. None of them just pony up the second they touch their future instruments and then start playing well, so they must have had some kind of practice before.

...However, the entire rest of the school became musicians (granted, outside the heroes and villains, we only hear Trixie's band and Snips and Snails, who prove that not everyone suddenly got good with music) pretty much out of nowhere too. Followed by the Rainbooms becoming whatever the merchandise made appropriate in Friendship Games, no lead-up whatsoever.

That doesn't quite dismiss the notion that even on the suddenly-musical wave everyone was riding, Rainbow might have cheated (Obliviously, at that...) in her contest with Trixie and the Rainbooms may owe just as much of their musical talent to their magic as the sirens apparently did to their gems (still no idea if those things were like cutie marks or just artifacts of doom, but I've got plenty of stories in me to keep speculating), but it's something.

Making this just a little more confusing is the uncertainty that unseen magic (the sort that lets pegasi walk on clouds, for instance) is not still active. Like, what if the sudden Musicing of CHS is because Sunset zapped everyone in the first movie, manifesting in just about everyone? Maybe Snips and Snails sucked because just being turned into demons doesn't come with the unseen, long-term effects being zombie'd does? Sunset told us she could play the guitar only after getting to wield magic again...

:rainbowlaugh: I always liked the description in Too Many Feet! of Rarity being a terrible person, in her own way, so I thought having Rarity describe Sunny Flare in exactly the same terms might highlight the similarities between them :twilightsmile:

Oh! I saw that line, but it didn't click. I think some of Sonata's observation still kinda holds, Rarity still being so centered on fashion shows and dressing up her friends, but she's always nice enough about it to be a lovely person in her own way at the same time. :pinkiesmile:

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Sci-Twi is heralded as the best student of an extremely prestigious school, has her own little lab-closet in which actual results are achieved ("And you've done quite a lot, haven't you?"), and figured out enough about a foreign energy to actively work with it, even if she didn't fully understand what she was doing.

All absolutely true! :twilightsmile: But she also took several different attempts at stealing peoples' magic to think that maybe it might be her fault, even when with Fluttershy in particular it was right in front of her. And even when she'd figured out that the thing she'd built was responsible, she didn't think to leave it on the bus or something, given the damage it was causing?

It may be that she's very good at the theoretical stuff, and applying that to the real world enough to build the device, but absolutely useless in the field or thinking on her feet.

Anyway, sorry, you're right, and I'm going off topic from Sunset.

I responded to quite a few comments on that blog post and the best we could collectively come up with is that Sunset is probably a decent mathematician (ignoring any possible inferences of Fluttershy being the one shown to do well in chemistry and spelling, that is), which isn't quite enough to declare her a genius.

That sounds about right, yeah. I don't doubt others have claimed it in their works and interpreted the canon that way, but I'm not saying she's anything massively special in this story, just the smartest among her friends, which still doesn't set her that far apart from them, in the same way as Rainbow being the dumbest. I'm just trying to work out how Sunset's intelligence would rank alongside Adagio's in my headcanon, I think they'd be close enough to make their thoughtful exchanges quite interesting, but still quite far from equal.

It shows she's come a long way from assuming she can flawlessly use forces she barely understands, at least, but I don't think the basic-level step of gathering data qualifies her for the kind of smarts some people seem to think it does.

Sorry, my fault, I phrased this wrongly and mentioned her intellect - this doesn't necessarily indicate huge intelligence, as you say, but I think it does offer some evidence that she thinks about things in the right way, and so in theory she can crawl her way to the right answer.

Maybe she was just stressed about the Games and worried about Sci-Twi, respectively? The Heart Over Head theory just relies on her being too emotional to think straight, so it might kinda still work as long as she has anything to feel strongly about while doing stupid things.

This explanation sounds a little flimsier the more I think about it. Element of Handwave, why have you forsaken me?! :raritydespair:

Could be, or Twilight's presence makes her nervous and flustered, reminding her of her past and stuff, and so she misses details?

Not too keen on the Heart Over Head angle, myself, as it conflicts with the more scientific approach, but I don't have a better idea.

I wonder if she might be undermined by her own insecurities whenever things get tense, and spends more time worrying about that than problem solving? That would be why she's able to let herself go for the final battle in Rainbow Rocks, because at that point there's nothing left to lose if the Dazzlings win, so she might as well try? ...Is that just Heart Over Head by another name?

If the way it worked was that magic infused musical skill and that musical skill drummed up the magic again, doesn't that still mean magic was still doing the hard part for them? Like, they still had to (or chose to) practice, we got to see that, but it kind of looked to me like magic kickstarted their abilities, which they continued to polish on their own. None of them just pony up the second they touch their future instruments and then start playing well, so they must have had some kind of practice before.

I think I agree, if I've understood that right? So they are essentially normal musicians, and when they're all warmed up and playing at the best of their ability, then the magic takes over and they get about 400% better?

...I had thought that was a solid theory, and the reason they're at a realistic level of teenage musician during the movie is because they never actually manage to pony up, but that just isn't true - they successfully pony up in Better Than Ever, and that's the most straightforward and simple song of the lot. Likewise, they pony up from the chorus onwards of their bit of Welcome To The Show, and technically that's got nothing on the Dazzlings' bit. There's the odd lead guitar break and drum fill in there, but nothing advanced. Also, we've been looking at the Rainbow Dash short, which fits the theory pretty well, whereas the Applejack and Pinkie ones have them playing at expert level before they pony up.

So I might have to revert to my previous headcanon, that ponying up while playing looks awesome but doesn't make much difference to playing ability, and the shorts aren't canon as they display a frankly ludicrous level of talent (they're great for the TV show, but if you're going into more depth for fan fiction, then maybe not).

The sudden onset of musicality could well be magical, but also that does often happen when teenagers hit a certain age, suddenly they can all play the guitar. And having the talent show coming up may have helped inspire that. Personally I think Rarity, for example, had piano lessons as a child, then quit, and picked it up again for when they decided to form a band. Wouldn't be surprised if Lyra and Bon Bon were in the same basket.

...as the sirens apparently did to their gems (still no idea if those things were like cutie marks or just artifacts of doom, but I've got plenty of stories in me to keep speculating)

Sorry, in what way? As in, connected to them personally, rather than external power sources they chose to wear?

Making this just a little more confusing is the uncertainty that unseen magic (the sort that lets pegasi walk on clouds, for instance) is not still active. Like, what if the sudden Musicing of CHS is because Sunset zapped everyone in the first movie, manifesting in just about everyone? Maybe Snips and Snails sucked because just being turned into demons doesn't come with the unseen, long-term effects being zombie'd does? Sunset told us she could play the guitar only after getting to wield magic again...

That is a very interesting idea! All those stories of blues musicians who sold their souls to the devil to be able to play guitar, when really they should have spent some time as the undead.

My headcanon is that that ambient magic is exactly what's missing from the EG world, and that's one of the crucial differences between it and Equestria. That's why Pinkie Pie bursting into song and half of Ponyville spontaneously joining in there makes sense, because there's literally magic in the air. Whereas in the human world, they have to use instruments, and learn songs beforehand if they want two or more people playing or dancing in-sync. I have seen various theories that the EG world uses technology instead of that ambient magic, and that the presence of one means the other is absent.

I think some of Sonata's observation still kinda holds, Rarity still being so centered on fashion shows and dressing up her friends, but she's always nice enough about it to be a lovely person in her own way at the same time. :pinkiesmile:

I think it's a great assessment of Rarity, she often manages to veer between the most generous and the most self-centred of the main cast, and the fashion industry has a bitchy reputation. She's definitely the elitist of the six, unafraid to look down on people at times. I really like her though :twilightsmile:

While it's certainly not a bad story, I really think this lacked quite a bit of focus. You spent the entire first chapter building up the Rainbow/Adagio conflict, but in the second chapter, you made a complete shift to the Shadowbolts discussion. Now, that discussion in particular was well written, but I think it does have it's flaws. For one, if Crystal Prep encourages it's special needs kids to compete, as a method of boosting confidence, how likely is it that they'd win every single year up until the events of the movie? The two individual parts are good, with Rainbow's attitude being called into question (though I wish you'd provided some sort of answer as to why she got so fixated on Adagio. Did she actually have the hots for her, or what?), and the second part does a good job of pointing out the difficulties that mental health issues create (is it condescending to let them win?), but together, they don't really add up. I'll give you an upvote because the writing is good, but you may want to be more careful in the future.

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All absolutely true! :twilightsmile: But she also took several different attempts at stealing peoples' magic to think that maybe it might be her fault, even when with Fluttershy in particular it was right in front of her. And even when she'd figured out that the thing she'd built was responsible, she didn't think to leave it on the bus or something, given the damage it was causing?
It may be that she's very good at the theoretical stuff, and applying that to the real world enough to build the device, but absolutely useless in the field or thinking on her feet.

I haven't analyzed anyone to the degree I have Sunset, so I'm not as certain with Sci-Twi. She most certainly does do stupid things as well, if one is considering long-term ramifications. In her single-minded pursuit of knowledge, however, her priorities are heavily skewed against what other people might consider rational behavior.

There was a comic somewhere showing two people labeled "Normal Person" and "Scientist," both touching an object and getting electrocuted. Normal Person says "That hurt, I probably shouldn't do that." Scientist says "I wonder if that happens every time..."

Sci-Twi is the scientist, no matter the cost to the well-being of herself and those around her, at least before the end of FG. Is that stupid behavior, or just not what most people would consider sensible? I would argue that it's not quite sane behavior, but that depends on where one places their priorities; the lives and feelings of those around them or the chance to advance the species in some way. Or, just sating her curiosity. She almost reminds me of Starlight Glimmer when put like that; arguably more insane than outright evil.
...Which, arguably, describes a lot of MLP villains. :derpyderp2:

Not too keen on the Heart Over Head angle, myself, as it conflicts with the more scientific approach, but I don't have a better idea.

Does the rest of Sunset's canon behavior really say 'scientific approach' either? :applejackunsure:

I wonder if she might be undermined by her own insecurities whenever things get tense, and spends more time worrying about that than problem solving? That would be why she's able to let herself go for the final battle in Rainbow Rocks, because at that point there's nothing left to lose if the Dazzlings win, so she might as well try? ...Is that just Heart Over Head by another name?

Maybe, I think it sorta depends on whether or not she reasoned that part out (without signaling that to the audience as far as I remember) or just went with what she was feeling at the time. Given Sunset's Feel-heavy track record, I've got a hunch about which was more likely.

I think I agree, if I've understood that right? So they are essentially normal musicians, and when they're all warmed up and playing at the best of their ability, then the magic takes over and they get about 400% better?

Possibly. Near as I can tell, magic just does whatever it wants in this world, Sunset saying it was 'changing' at the end of FG being the line that clued me in that the writers were making it up as they went. Maybe it's magic doing everything for them even without ponying up, and maybe they really did just become practiced musicians pretty much out of nowhere (the parts where they first started playing happening offscreen). As the latter is more flattering, I'm guessing that's the canon explanation.

...I had thought that was a solid theory, and the reason they're at a realistic level of teenage musician during the movie is because they never actually manage to pony up, but that just isn't true - they successfully pony up in Better Than Ever, and that's the most straightforward and simple song of the lot. Likewise, they pony up from the chorus onwards of their bit of Welcome To The Show, and technically that's got nothing on the Dazzlings' bit. There's the odd lead guitar break and drum fill in there, but nothing advanced. Also, we've been looking at the Rainbow Dash short, which fits the theory pretty well, whereas the Applejack and Pinkie ones have them playing at expert level before they pony up.

I said they might have gotten their start in musical talent from being ponied up at the end of EQG1, but Fluttershy had a tambourine in her backpack before she actually needed it to calm the hamsters down, so whether or not all of them happened to decide they wanted to make a band and got their perfectly normal start offscreen or were instantly infused with proffessional-level skill isn't quite clear to me. :applejackconfused:

Sorry, in what way? As in, connected to them personally, rather than external power sources they chose to wear?

I was thinking that in the same sense as the sirens not being able to sing without their gems (whether those were just trinkets or formally fused to the flesh of their normal bodies, as much a part of them as a unicorn's horn), how do we know the Rainbooms can play without their magic? Pony Rainbow could barely fly and Fluttershy couldn't talk to animals when their cutie marks were taken (no idea if Rarity could still sew, which had nothing to do with her cutie mark and special talent of gem-finding), one a skill the pony practiced since a very young age and the other something pretty much just granted to them instantly in a magical burst, treated as the same thing.

I don't know if the sirens' gems are more like that or the Alicorn Amulet due to lack of background info on those three, so I'm not sure where to stand in regard to where most of the main cast's 'talents' end and magic begins. :applejackunsure:

Whereas in the human world, they have to use instruments, and learn songs beforehand if they want two or more people playing or dancing in-sync.

Hm... If that were true... Pri-Twi's song in the cafeteria (EQG1), Rainbow's in the gym (EQG3), Sunset's at the dock (EQG4), all were rehearsed before they were performed? Because I'm sure that first one changes plot details, or is at least rendered unnecessary by the sheer fact of being able to do it. :twilightoops:

7834031 Thanks for the feedback :twilightsmile: I pretty much completely agree!

I can explain the reasoning behind certain decisions that made the story turn out like that, but of course doing so won't actually change anything. The story got away from me - it ended up being about ten times longer than I had intended. It was meant to be a one-shot of one to two thousand words written in a day or two, much like my previous story. And I think in that context, the two different subjects might have worked, because it wouldn't be putting the first on hold for anything like as long to cover the second (I think the punchline might have worked better like that, too). But with nine thousand words on each one, that does make it feel like the story is very much established by the end of the first chapter, which can give the impression the second one comes out nowhere, and then lasts for so long that the first one is either almost forgotten by the time it rolls around again, or has left readers itching with impatience for the conclusion during a nine thousand word diversion.

But the longer I sat with those characters in that situation, the more things they might say suggested themselves. And with the second chapter being both a slightly sensitive subject and a big twist on established canon, I wanted to cover all the angles I could think of, and head off as many counterarguments as I could. I have to say I don't think the special needs nature of the students would get in the way of Crystal Prep winning the games that many times in a row, if the student abilities are slightly reduced, then the schooling abilities can be slightly increased to counter it, so Crystal Prep as a school would be even further ahead of CHS than we'd thought it was, and that would bring their performance in the Games to the same level as we see in the movie, including winning all the previous ones. And most of the Shadowbolts handle their events with great proficiency - my argument in the story is that some of them are expending as much energy fighting against themselves as they are against their opponent, and that holds them back a bit, but even so they largely hold their own.

I don't think there's much that could be done at this stage to alleviate the two-subject problem. I don't think the Shadowbolt chapter could become much shorter and still convey its case as persuasively, and there are some tangents in the Adagio chapter that could come out (the whole thing with Applejack and Sugarcoat, for example, or Sunset and Aria - perhaps the flirting discussion and do-I-like-her considerations altogether), but they felt like things the characters would realistically suggest at the time. The best solution, I think, would be to split it into two separate stories, but that would cause its own problems perhaps. I think you're absolutely right about being more careful with it in future, though, that's what I will endeavour to do.

I did wonder about coming down more firmly one way or the other on whether Rainbow does like Adagio, underneath it all, but I didn't think it really added much to the story, but might take away from it if it crushed peoples' own takes on it while reading it. I can tell you what I think, if you'd like, it depends how much you go for the death of the author angle I guess? If you're interested in my thoughts on it:

Nope. I think Rainbow and Adagio have a great dynamic as rivals, but I couldn't for a second see them in a more romantic setup. There are very, very few Adashio stories out there, and I must say the ones I read left me unconvinced. I think what's actually going on is far more insidious. Rainbow is that bothered about it for most of the reasons she mentioned: Public humiliation makes her feel less cool/awesome, Adagio doesn't know her place as a defeated enemy (Sunset points out that being true would make Rainbow a not-great person, but being ashamed of her thoughts doesn't make them untrue), and while Rainbow doesn't care about being seen as book-smart, she doesn't like the idea of being stupid or being seen as such (and perhaps also doesn't accept it, refusing to realise that Adagio's intellect is superior enough to leave Rainbow outgunned in contests of wit every time). And Adagio does have a way of looking very, very smug not just after winning, but the whole way through each exchange, as if the outcome were never in doubt, and tactically she is using Rainbow's own competitive/loyal nature against her, always daring her into overextending herself and giving Adagio an opportunity to strike on her own terms. There's also the thing I mentioned to Eyeswirl in the comments below, that Rainbow may be indoctrinated into believing she can win anything if she just keeps fighting.

But none of those little reasons seem as convincing as a big, single reason with flashing lights on it, like 'because I like her' in huge letters, and it's only when they're all added up that they become a serious alternative possibility, which I think Adagio knows Rainbow won't do. So Adagio can be fairly confident that Rainbow won't understand the reasons she's so obsessed, and (prompted by her friends - in the way that friends have a habit of doing, especially high school girls) might well conclude that she does like Adagio in a special way, even if she in fact doesn't. And once Rainbow has started thinking that, the feelings may well genuinely start to grow, and then she finds herself all the more enamoured, and Adagio ends up with a girl who once defeated her ultimately being enthralled with her, and she can laugh all the way home.

Does that answer the question? And, out of very genuine curiosity, does that improve the story experience for you? Again, thank you sincerely for the feedback, you're the third person to make observations along those lines and I'd be mad not to listen to them, but I do think the flaws are too embedded in this story to fix, and all I can do is keep a closer eye on it next time. So thanks, you're helping me become a better writer and that's invaluable.

Minor nitpick if you don't mind - would you mind covering various bits in your original post with a spoiler tag please? There are a few bits in there - mention of Adagio and Rainbow liking each other for example, special needs, the mental health issue resolution bit, that sort of thing - I'd suggest just wrapping the entire paragraph in a blanket spoiler tag please, if you wouldn't mind. I know some people like to skim comments before reading a story, so if I could avoid plot details being given away I'd appreciate it, thanks :twilightsmile:

7833179 Thanks for the feedback :twilightsmile:

Just to double check, is it the Shadowbolts discussion you're referring to as not being what you expected from the description? It's concerning to think that the story description might be giving the wrong impression - I kept it pretty vague so as to avoid spoilers, but would you have any suggestions as to what to add into it? What could I have put in the description that would have kept you reading, if you don't mind my asking? I'm not nearly as attached to the description as to the story itself, so wouldn't be averse to changing it if it would better serve the story, that's honestly really helpful feedback, so thank you. :twilightsmile:

Ah, would that be the SunAria bits you mean about the shipping?

7834657 I remember that one, it was an old xkcd comic, which makes it one of my absolute favourite things! :pinkiehappy:

imgs.xkcd.com/comics/the_difference.png

Thing is, as far as I remember, she doesn't act like the curious scientist when most of those terrible things are happening, she acts like they're horrific and scary, recognising how traumatic they must be for the people involved and wishing she could do something to help, so I don't think that's quite it.

And yet she doesn't put it together that she's quite capable of stopping them, so I think it's more a very stubborn refusal to take responsibility for her actions and realise that it might be her who's hurting people, hence my poor impression of her reasoning abilities. That was my interpretation, at least - I agree she's much more into following scientific curiosity come Hell or high water as Midnight.

I agree about Starlight, based on Every Little Thing She Does it's more like she doesn't understand that people might not like having their free will removed or overridden, and therefore she shouldn't do it, more than she knows but doesn't care and thinks her own desires are more important.

Does the rest of Sunset's canon behavior really say 'scientific approach' either? :applejackunsure:

...Yeah, ok, maybe not so much :twilightblush:

Maybe, I think it sorta depends on whether or not she reasoned that part out (without signaling that to the audience as far as I remember) or just went with what she was feeling at the time. Given Sunset's Feel-heavy track record, I've got a hunch about which was more likely.

That's fair, I agree that's the safer bet :twilightsmile:

Possibly. Near as I can tell, magic just does whatever it wants in this world, Sunset saying it was 'changing' at the end of FG being the line that clued me in that the writers were making it up as they went. Maybe it's magic doing everything for them even without ponying up, and maybe they really did just become practiced musicians pretty much out of nowhere (the parts where they first started playing happening offscreen). As the latter is more flattering, I'm guessing that's the canon explanation.

Think you might be right about them making it up as they go along. I'd prefer to think they practised like normal people, I think it's more interesting than magic fixing their problems for them, but agree that the canon doesn't really confirm it either way (although given that we never see them practising, and their musical skills mostly go unmentioned for two films before suddenly being remembered at the end of Legend Of Everfree, magic does in many ways fit the facts better).

I was thinking that in the same sense as the sirens not being able to sing without their gems (whether those were just trinkets or formally fused to the flesh of their normal bodies, as much a part of them as a unicorn's horn), how do we know the Rainbooms can play without their magic? Pony Rainbow could barely fly and Fluttershy couldn't talk to animals when their cutie marks were taken (no idea if Rarity could still sew, which had nothing to do with her cutie mark and special talent of gem-finding), one a skill the pony practiced since a very young age and the other something pretty much just granted to them instantly in a magical burst, treated as the same thing.

I don't know if the sirens' gems are more like that or the Alicorn Amulet due to lack of background info on those three, so I'm not sure where to stand in regard to where most of the main cast's 'talents' end and magic begins. :applejackunsure:

Ah I see what you mean. Hmmm, it would depend how drained they were of magic after being shut under the stage, I think. Because the sirens manage to extract enough Equestrian magic from them to do their own ponying up, and then to project their siren forms over the crowd. And yet the Rainbooms play confidently when they interrupt the Dazzling performance, so either they must have enough magic reserves left within them to still be able to play to some extent, or they don't need it to play.

Hm... If that were true... Pri-Twi's song in the cafeteria (EQG1), Rainbow's in the gym (EQG3), Sunset's at the dock (EQG4), all were rehearsed before they were performed? Because I'm sure that first one changes plot details, or is at least rendered unnecessary by the sheer fact of being able to do it. :twilightoops:

But don't they sing the Cafeteria Song after they've had some time to prepare it together, after deciding to wear the Wondercolt ears and tails? I thought they had the whole buildup thing slapping trays on tables all worked out beforehand, along with the words and the synchronised dance moves and Spike activating the iPod. And all the songs in Legend Of Everfree are solo, as far as I remember, so they wouldn't require any previous coordination with anyone else, I figure Sunset's making that song up on the spot and the backing instruments are only heard within her own head, and we're seeing it from her point of view, same with the Midnight In Me from Twilight's POV and Gloriosa's one from hers.

7834823 I think the biggest problem with the description is that it is SO incredibly vague that all you really have to go on as to what to expect out of this story is the title, and the title doesn't seem to have any real relevance to the story (at least, as far as I got). I mean, your description spends more time explaining where in the timeline the story lies than what the story is actually about.

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Thing is, as far as I remember, she doesn't act like the curious scientist when most of those terrible things are happening, she acts like they're horrific and scary, recognising how traumatic they must be for the people involved and wishing she could do something to help, so I don't think that's quite it.
And yet she doesn't put it together that she's quite capable of stopping them, so I think it's more a very stubborn refusal to take responsibility for her actions and realise that it might be her who's hurting people, hence my poor impression of her reasoning abilities. That was my interpretation, at least - I agree she's much more into following scientific curiosity come Hell or high water as Midnight.

Hmm, good points. It may be that she really was Hell-bent on learning about this brand new thing, but whether her reason was to help humanity with it, bolster her own standing by becoming the world's first arch-mage, or just the burning need to know, she did ignore the damage she was causing. For such an analytical mind, I don't know if I'd buy that she would be as oblivious as Rainbow (I'm probably going to use that from now on, give or take...) and just plain not notice the side-effects of her precious studies.
Of course, if Sci-Twi were completely sensible, things wouldn't have gotten as magical and exciting, denying Sunset another Magical Girl Hero moment that the fans generally love, so it might be as much a matter of the idiot ball for her as it's sometimes been for Sunset.

(although given that we never see them practising, and their musical skills mostly go unmentioned for two films before suddenly being remembered at the end of Legend Of Everfree, magic does in many ways fit the facts better).

We do see them at the end of a practice session in FG... but they're all ponied up until the music ends. :applejackunsure:
I'm just saying, if we ever see the sirens again and people get on them for using magic to bolster their abilities (whether that's what it was or not), I don't think I'll be able to rest until the hypocrisy is thoroughly examined, even if only in a blog post.

Ah I see what you mean. Hmmm, it would depend how drained they were of magic after being shut under the stage, I think. Because the sirens manage to extract enough Equestrian magic from them to do their own ponying up, and then to project their siren forms over the crowd. And yet the Rainbooms play confidently when they interrupt the Dazzling performance, so either they must have enough magic reserves left within them to still be able to play to some extent, or they don't need it to play.

Considering how ridiculously overpowering the Rainbooms' magic tends to be (bar when Sci-Twi drained everyone pretty much dry and they still had enough to fight her anyway), I'm pretty sure they have plenty to spare. I'm not sure the Dazzlings ever drained anyone, either, just fed off an existing excess brought into being through negativity, because nobody ever shows signs of having lost anything no matter how much they feed.

But don't they sing the Cafeteria Song after they've had some time to prepare it together, after deciding to wear the Wondercolt ears and tails? I thought they had the whole buildup thing slapping trays on tables all worked out beforehand, along with the words and the synchronised dance moves and Spike activating the iPod.

It's possible, but as far as the viewer knows it's pretty spontaneous. I could be mistaken in thinking the rest of the students started singing along, hard to tell when there are already 6 voices at play. I thought everyone joining in would require willingness to work with Twilight in the first place, which was the goal of the song, but it's possible they just joined in once they'd heard the chorus, same with Rainbow's song. That not a one of them seems to be unpracticed or off-key is still interesting.

And all the songs in Legend Of Everfree are solo, as far as I remember, so they wouldn't require any previous coordination with anyone else, I figure Sunset's making that song up on the spot and the backing instruments are only heard within her own head, and we're seeing it from her point of view, same with the Midnight In Me and Gloriosa's one.

If Sunset is writing and performing a song on the spot (granted, it was the weakest one of the film for me), I'm chalking that up to magic doing it for her, which I maintain is how she got everyone to be good with their powers in 'just five seconds flat.' That's certainly letting it be part of her, at least.

Come to think of it, Cinch and the Shadowbolts sang a pretty well-orchestrated song too, one pointedly about how it was fair that they should start using magic, and couldn't possibly have known they were going to perform that day. So, either 90% of the population are spontaneous singers or the sheer existence of magic in this world is affecting people, like Sunset's use of the portal the first time brought more with it than just her, exacerbated by later events.

It's a messy subject, I think. :derpyderp2:

7834031 If I may make a further remark to the point you raised, about whether Rainbow really did fancy Adagio, another reason for keeping it mostly unconfirmed is that I quite liked the possibilities either way.

Numerous suggestions for what the 'true' version of events might have been, disregard if you're more into the death of the author angle (as I am) and would like to decide for yourself:

It could be that Rainbow liked Adagio all along and the nice feelings were buried under the angry ones, just as she suggested. It could be that the attraction was there but very deeply denied, to the point that she didn't even consciously realise it. It could be that she hadn't thought about it in that way until the conversation when she confronted Adagio about it, and that 'well, now you mention it I'm curious' line grew into more. It could be that following their discussion of it that lunchtime and Rainbow's defeat when she thought she was unstoppable, she concludes that Adagio is magnificent and basking in her radiance would be a happy way for Rainbow to spend the rest of her days.

And her rejection of the idea of liking Adagio, if not genuine, could be for quite a few reasons, too. It could be that Rainbow doesn't like the idea of coupling up with 'the enemy,' and so resents the part of herself that wants to (Sunset may not have the same hesitations to the same extent, but the element of loyalty might feel it a bit more keenly). It could be Rainbow's distaste at liking someone so unlike her, given that Adagio is probably most like Rarity of the six, and least like Rainbow or Applejack, and she's witty and pretty (and, perhaps, evil) and all those things Rainbow isn't fussed about. It could be homophobia, that she's scared of being gay whoever it's with - I'd like to think it's not that, and that there is no same-sex taboo in the EG universe, but in this story there's clearly something about Adagio's implication that bugs her, and you could read something into no mention being made of her mother, and perhaps her dad filling her with macho ideas and being straight as a manly thing to aspire to. That said, she doesn't react aversely when Sunset mentions liking Aria (and again, that could be Sunset coming out as bi/gay for the first time, or Aria might be only the latest in a long line of girls she's openly admired), and as I said, I'd like to think that's not it.

The final question is how Adagio feels about the whole thing. I think it's most likely that she just enjoys winding Rainbow up, perhaps as the leader of the band who defeated her, perhaps just to knock the girl who thinks she's awesome at everything down a peg or two, or perhaps just because witty exchanges like theirs entertain her. There could be some sinister revenge plan at work there, whether just for the satisfaction of turning Rainbow into a lovesick puppy to freely toy with, or something much more dangerous, like seducing Rainbow into revealing the location of the portal or even going through it to Equestria to obtain new magic gems for her and her sisters. Being a fan of Changeling Courtship Rituals, I quite like the idea that Adagio likes Rainbow in a romantic sense, and genuinely thought that she was going the right way about winning her over (and I'm not saying she wasn't, or that it wouldn't have worked - Rainbow almost concluded that she fancied Adagio, and probably would have done if she hadn't rejected her thoughts and gone with her instincts instead, something that Adagio perhaps wouldn't have considered as a possibility). Adagio's 'real' smile in the penultimate line kind of suggests this, although it could just as easily also be that she really enjoys their clashes.

So there are lots of options! And part of the joy of not confirming anything is being able, in a way, to keep all those options alive almost simultaneously, creating a whole wealth of potential what-happened-next stories in peoples' heads, many of which might be quite good in their own right.

As I said, my own thoughts on the true version of events was what was listed in my previous reply, but I do like many of those other options as well, and so would encourage people not to just go with my thoughts on it.

7834931 Thanks, that's a good point. I've amended both the short and long descriptions now, hopefully that should clear up any future misconceptions. It adds some more specific plot details, and while the beginning will read a bit differently if the audience already knows those things, it should be mostly ok, and well worth it to avoid the previous description's problem of readers not being sure what they're getting. Thanks for your help, you might have just saved me from numerous dislikes.

7836177 That works much better. :twilightsmile:

7834932

It may be that she really was Hell-bent on learning about this brand new thing, but whether her reason was to help humanity with it, bolster her own standing by becoming the world's first arch-mage, or just the burning need to know, she did ignore the damage she was causing.

That could be it, however sad she is about the side effects she's unwilling to end the experiment, and again perhaps doesn't see that as an option to consider despite the suffering she's causing.

For such an analytical mind, I don't know if I'd buy that she would be as oblivious as Rainbow (I'm probably going to use that from now on, give or take...) and just plain not notice the side-effects of her precious studies.

To reverse the Sunset argument, how much evidence do we see of her analytical mind? Cinch mentions her getting results, but I don't think she goes into any more detail than that. And she builds the magic scanner/stealer, but doesn't have much idea how to control it, so it could almost be lucky fluke rather than careful skill. I wonder if she summoned it from the aether via dark ritual rather than built it herself, it would explain why it has an (evil) mind of its own and why she doesn't know how to control it.

We do see them at the end of a practice session in FG... but they're all ponied up until the music ends. :applejackunsure:

I'm just saying, if we ever see the sirens again and people get on them for using magic to bolster their abilities (whether that's what it was or not), I don't think I'll be able to rest until the hypocrisy is thoroughly examined, even if only in a blog post.

Sorry, I meant as in individually practising on their instruments, rather than rehearsing together as a band. A throwaway dialogue line could have implied it so easily, but never did.

That's a good point about the sirens, though, I hadn't thought of that. Maybe their sequel appearance could involve both sides playing and singing completely without magic, and the whole film would sound like Bad Counterspell?

Considering how ridiculously overpowering the Rainbooms' magic tends to be (bar when Sci-Twi drained everyone pretty much dry and they still had enough to fight her anyway), I'm pretty sure they have plenty to spare. I'm not sure the Dazzlings ever drained anyone, either, just fed off an existing excess brought into being through negativity, because nobody ever shows signs of having lost anything no matter how much they feed.

Yeah that's all true, and I have a feeling you'd be right about endless Rainboom magic reserves.

It's possible, but as far as the viewer knows it's pretty spontaneous. I could be mistaken in thinking the rest of the students started singing along, hard to tell when there are already 6 voices at play. I thought everyone joining in would require willingness to work with Twilight in the first place, which was the goal of the song, but it's possible they just joined in once they'd heard the chorus, same with Rainbow's song. That not a one of them seems to be unpracticed or off-key is still interesting.

Yeah, no one ever sings off key, except Twilight in the aforementioned bad counterspell. That's not impossible, and it might be that CHS has a very good music department and they're all used to singing, it's one of those breaks from reality I can probably live with. I don't think there's anything the students sing along with in the cafeteria song that would require prior knowledge of the song, if I remember rightly. I did used to think that Rainbow Rocks was the only film of the four that played it with real-world musicality, but I remembered Spike with the ipod when I went back and rewatched the first one, and I'm pretty sure it all worked out that there was nothing there that couldn't have been arranged beforehand.

If Sunset is writing and performing a song on the spot (granted, it was the weakest one of the film for me), I'm chalking that up to magic doing it for her, which I maintain is how she got everyone to be good with their powers in 'just five seconds flat.' That's certainly letting it be part of her, at least.

Could be, they're all stuffed full of magic at that point so it's a reasonable explanation. That said, the lyrics aren't the most imaginative; there are millions of rappers and beat poets out there who could come up with something far more impressive on the spot, and given that Sunset plays guitar and didn't have many friends before Rainbow Rocks, I wouldn't put it past her to have spent a good few hours making up songs on her own.

Come to think of it, Cinch and the Shadowbolts sang a pretty well-orchestrated song too, one pointedly about how it was fair that they should start using magic, and couldn't possibly have known they were going to perform that day. So, either 90% of the population are spontaneous singers or the sheer existence of magic in this world is affecting people, like Sunset's use of the portal the first time brought more with it than just her, exacerbated by later events.

...And then there's that. Film 2 obeys the rules perfectly, 1 and 4 can work that way if you think of the instrumentation happening within a character's head (and the cafeteria song and the Rainboom performance at the end of film 4 being pre-prepared), and then film 3 goes and throws that completely to the wind. I mentioned that I wasn't at all keen on Friendship Games, this (and Sci-Twi) are the main reasons why. Especially when they went to such effort in Rainbow Rocks to show everything coming from real instruments and being learned in advance, except for the Dazzlings because that's the whole point of their talent, and then they undid it all with the next film, from Rainbow's opening song to Unleash The Magic with its synchronised group vocals. :facehoof:

7836259 Awesome, thanks very much!

7836443

To reverse the Sunset argument, how much evidence do we see of her analytical mind? Cinch mentions her getting results, but I don't think she goes into any more detail than that. And she builds the magic scanner/stealer, but doesn't have much idea how to control it, so it could almost be lucky fluke rather than careful skill. I wonder if she summoned it from the aether via dark ritual rather than built it herself, it would explain why it has an (evil) mind of its own and why she doesn't know how to control it.

Well, analyzing readings that she apparently had the means to catch before the magic across town even started tells me she liked getting data, and being able to assemble the device at all tells me she must have had some idea of what she was doing. A burning drive for knowledge was pretty much her whole characterization at the start, so it doesn't seem far-fetched that one hoping to absorb as much knowledge as possible would constantly be making an effort to take it in.
Then again, Twilight didn't seem to know her spectrometer ("It measures things.") could or would absorb the energy it measured, so she most likely did luck into that part. If she's not analytical, I'm wondering how she learns at all.

I really don't think a dark ritual was involved, because that would raise more questions than it answered. If she could just magic the thing into existence, would she still need the spectrometer in the first place, as opposed to studying whatever means she used to conduct said ritual? Wouldn't she already have to know a thing or two about magic to pull such a thing from thin air?

Could be, they're all stuffed full of magic at that point so it's a reasonable explanation. That said, the lyrics aren't the most imaginative; there are millions of rappers and beat poets out there who could come up with something far more impressive on the spot, and given that Sunset plays guitar and didn't have many friends before Rainbow Rocks, I wouldn't put it past her to have spent a good few hours making up songs on her own.

Coming up with songs on the offchance she needed to convince her friends to be okay with magic, that thing she was obsessed with for so much of her life? ...Yea, I think I can actually see her doing that. :twilightsheepish:
That it paid off is weird, but I'm running on the theory that that universe exists to serve Sunset, so it isn't that much of a stretch if she didn't do it spontaneously. (Did not know that competently assembling a song as you went was actually possible, not a staple of cartoons. :twilightoops:)

...And then there's that. Film 2 obeys the rules perfectly, 1 and 4 can work that way if you think of the instrumentation happening within a character's head (and the cafeteria song and the Rainboom performance at the end of film 4 being pre-prepared), and then film 3 goes and throws that completely to the wind. I mentioned that I wasn't at all keen on Friendship Games, this (and Sci-Twi) are the main reasons why. Especially when they went to such effort in Rainbow Rocks to show everything coming from real instruments and being learned in advance, except for the Dazzlings because that's the whole point of their talent, and then they undid it all with the next film, from Rainbow's opening song to Unleash The Magic with its synchronised group vocals. :facehoof:

Sunset does say in FG that she was the one to bring magic into this world (to the explosive degree we see in action), and maybe this was the kind of thing she was talking about. CP students and staff were at CHS for several hours during the Games, which is probably more than enough time to be affected by Equestrian magic. And, given that the local population was being swayed with songs as early as Pri-Twi showing up, maybe Equestrian magic really does just lean toward song. I think something like that was implied in that Ponytones episode, where they sang the same song over and over through a montage.

7837080

If she's not analytical, I'm wondering how she learns at all.

Yeah, that would be the question. In a way I wouldn't mind so much if she'd been shown to be not so smart from the beginning, it's the discrepancies that bother me more. But I think as you say that's probably down to script-dictated idiocy at certain points, which they all probably should have been vaccinated against, but it looks like she and Sunset caught the worst of it.

I really don't think a dark ritual was involved, because that would raise more questions than it answered. If she could just magic the thing into existence, would she still need the spectrometer in the first place, as opposed to studying whatever means she used to conduct said ritual? Wouldn't she already have to know a thing or two about magic to pull such a thing from thin air?

No you're right, that wouldn't make a lot of sense :twilightoops: I did see one panel of a comic that suggested that the Dazzlings enrolled at Crystal Prep under different names after Rainbow Rocks and help Twilight design the spectrometer, again that probably has more problems with it than not, but having three magic experts on hand would probably help, and also offer some explanation as to why it started attacking the Rainbooms.

Coming up with songs on the offchance she needed to convince her friends to be okay with magic, that thing she was obsessed with for so much of her life? ...Yea, I think I can actually see her doing that. :twilightsheepish: That it paid off is weird, but I'm running on the theory that that universe exists to serve Sunset, so it isn't that much of a stretch if she didn't do it spontaneously.

Or that because she'd practised making up songs before, it was easier for her to do so on the spot, fitted to the situation she found herself in? That would be my guess, but she could equally adapt a previous one, or have one pre-prepared that perfectly fit. The universe serving Sunset is as good an explanation as any, I remember reading your blog on it, it fits the facts. :twilightsmile:

(Did not know that competently assembling a song as you went was actually possible, not a staple of cartoons. :twilightoops:)

It's less common to do it with sung things rather than spoken or rapped things, just because it's not so much of a staple in other genres, but in theory that would be significantly easier as the words don't flow nearly as fast. I once saw a poet at an open mic night improvise a poem pretty much rapped out at lightspeed that would have taken me all day to come up with, I would hardly have believed it possible before seeing it.

Sunset does say in FG that she was the one to bring magic into this world (to the explosive degree we see in action), and maybe this was the kind of thing she was talking about. CP students and staff were at CHS for several hours during the Games, which is probably more than enough time to be affected by Equestrian magic. And, given that the local population was being swayed with songs as early as Pri-Twi showing up, maybe Equestrian magic really does just lean toward song. I think something like that was implied in that Ponytones episode, where they sang the same song over and over through a montage.

That's a pretty good theory, I like that. And it's music that leads the parasprites away, pied piper-style. Perhaps that would even explain why Chrysalis took the time to sing a song as she was walking down the aisle. And the two most important episodes for character development in the show's history, Magical Mystery Cure and Crusaders Of The Lost Mark, are two of the three musical ones.

If the magic for singing in Friendship Games at CHS didn't come from Sunset, it could have been remnants of the sirens' power. Pulling music out of thin air was very much their thing, making up songs that fit the situation with an invisible backing track and dancing in unison, and their gems were full of magic and running on full power when they smashed; presumably that magic had to go somewhere. It would be strange for it to linger in the air doing basically nothing for the in-between months only to flare up at the games, but CHS had probably been fairly peaceful and harmonious for the period between the two films, and then suddenly in the run up to the Games CHS goes all 'What's so wrong with a little competition?'

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I once saw a poet at an open mic night improvise a poem pretty much rapped out at lightspeed that would have taken me all day to come up with, I would hardly have believed it possible before seeing it.

That new data in mind, maybe Sunset really did come up with lyrics on the spot a few times. It wouldn't explain Cinch's song, but it's still kind of neat. And not just because I dream of a future in which the sirens return, regain (or reveal that the effect was temporary) their voices, and Sunset joins their spontaneous sing-alongs in a former-villain quartet. :pinkiesmile:

That's a pretty good theory, I like that. And it's music that leads the parasprites away, pied piper-style. Perhaps that would even explain why Chrysalis took the time to sing a song as she was walking down the aisle. And the two most important episodes for character development in the show's history, Magical Mystery Cure and Crusaders Of The Lost Mark, are two of the three musical ones.

On the list of unofficial Elements of Harmony, we now have Contrivance, Handwave, and perhaps the most powerful of all: Showtunes. No wonder the sirens were such effective bad guys. :derpyderp2:

If the magic for singing in Friendship Games at CHS didn't come from Sunset, it could have been remnants of the sirens' power. Pulling music out of thin air was very much their thing, making up songs that fit the situation with an invisible backing track and dancing in unison, and their gems were full of magic and running on full power when they smashed; presumably that magic had to go somewhere. It would be strange for it to linger in the air doing basically nothing for the in-between months only to flare up at the games, but CHS had probably been fairly peaceful and harmonious for the period between the two films, and then suddenly in the run up to the Games CHS goes all 'What's so wrong with a little competition?'

With CHS being CHS, there may have been random songs popping up with no one batting an eye ever since Pri-Twi showed up, but if the sirens magic were just hanging around and anything were to wake it up, the school that pretty much screams "It doesn't matter who you hurt..." is a likely suspect. :eeyup:

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And not just because I dream of a future in which the sirens return, regain (or reveal that the effect was temporary) their voices, and Sunset joins their spontaneous sing-alongs in a former-villain quartet. :pinkiesmile:

Given the magic leaking into the world at the end of Legend Of Everfree, I'd have thought fixing siren voices is easily achievable in future films. Sunset I could see doing that, but not so much Twilight and Gloriosa. Possibly Vice-Principal Luna... :twilightsmile:

And that's honestly one of the better answers to how the sirens might sing in the plot if they made a future appearance. The chances of getting three more Dazzling songs? :raritydespair:

On the list of unofficial Elements of Harmony, we now have Contrivance, Handwave, and perhaps the most powerful of all: Showtunes. No wonder the sirens were such effective bad guys. :derpyderp2:

Hooo yeah. They didn't cause disharmony across Equestria, they started a mosh pit. And Star Swirl was the council official who insisted they keep the noise down.

With CHS being CHS, there may have been random songs popping up with no one batting an eye ever since Pri-Twi showed up, but if the sirens magic were just hanging around and anything were to wake it up, the school that pretty much screams "It doesn't matter who you hurt..." is a likely suspect. :eeyup:

...That would be quite funny :rainbowlaugh: There's a Buffy The Vampire Slayer episode where a musical demon shows up and makes everyone burst into song for no reason, I can imagine that translating well to CHS.

Even without the Crystal Prep students, the CHS lot went fairly nasty in their competitiveness, so it could link in with Rainbow's song, too. They went from the siren line you mention in film 2 about it not mattering who you hurt, to Sunset explaining in film 3 that winning wasn't enough, the important thing was that Crystal Prep lost.

Incidentally, I'd completely forgotten that line of hers when I wrote this story. Wow must she feel bad about it now.

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Even without the Crystal Prep students, the CHS lot went fairly nasty in their competitiveness, so it could link in with Rainbow's song, too. They went from the siren line you mention in film 2 about it not mattering who you hurt, to Sunset explaining in film 3 that winning wasn't enough, the important thing was that Crystal Prep lost.
Incidentally, I'd completely forgotten that line of hers when I wrote this story. Wow must she feel bad about it now.

Do you mean "They don't just want to win, they want to beat Crystal Prep! It isn't going to matter if they don't really think they lost."? Because at the end of EQG3, nobody really 'wins,' Celestia says "We're all winners!" and no one minds in the slightest. My take on it was that Sci-Twi's shenanigans left everyone feeling kinda drained (no pun intended) on the whole competitive spirit thing, so nobody had the energy to care if they spent all day sounding a lot like last year's bad guys. Or something like that.

But, yea, give time to reflect on all that and they might kinda feel like tools. :rainbowhuh:

Wow. This is gonna leave me thinking.
Also, I wish I was having thoughtful conversations like this.
That was quite a change in mood there, and the title doesn't really make sense to me, but hey, it's good.

7841606 Yep, that's the one. I thought it unusually vicious of Sunset at the time, but a Sunset Shimmer: Retrospective video I saw discussed it as relating back to her time as a villain, and how it made her otherwise-silly plan to beat Twilight as Fall Formal princess a lot more understandable, as, say, breaking into Celestia's office and stealing the crown from the drawer wouldn't have had the same public defeat for Twilight.

I did find that aspect of Friendship Games really jarring, after Rainbow Rocks, to have suddenly gone from the villains to the heroes being the ones pushing competitiveness. So I rather like lingering siren music magic as an answer :twilightsmile:

7843628 Whoa, I am surprised, impressed and flattered that you read all of this, I remember how you feel about long stories! :pinkiegasp::pinkiehappy:

Thanks, it's been a really interesting discussion, and it was highlighted to me yesterday that the comments thread is now longer than the chapter :rainbowlaugh: I think we've covered quite a bit of ground, though.

Yeah, the mood did shift there, I quite liked how Rainbow suddenly felt everything falling away from her, when she'd been so sure of herself before, but I can see how it would be jarring. The harder thing to write was how to bring it back to a happier mood for the final thousand words; I had originally thought Adagio would come in when Rainbow was at her most vulnerable, but it didn't quite round off the Shadowbolts discussion properly, and left it a bit less realistic that she'd then jump straight up into another confrontation.

I can explain the title if you would like...?

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Not too long on my terms, I suppose. It was good.
Oh gosh, the dreaded spoiler block. I kinda get the title, yeah, I'm good.
The accent was definitely better than just saying "Applejack said in a country accent." :rainbowlaugh:
Anyway, it was a good read! I can see the all the discussions :derpytongue2:

Aww I was just getting ready for the party to really get started then it ended! :rainbowlaugh: All that build off only to have it cut off before we see the end result, brilliant in all the evilest ways :rainbowlaugh:

Loved how you handled the Shadowbolts in this, very mature approach to it, the way the girls reacted the second Rainbow brought up the group I could just sense what was coming. LOVE the sensitive atmosphere that was set up, like everyone was walking on eggshells, brilliant :pinkiehappy: I almost wish this could have been done as two separate fics, one focusing on Rainbow having a crush on being bullied by Adagio and the other focusing on the explanation about the Shadowbolts, as I felt both stories deserved to be in the lime light. Saying that though, I think you mixed them together very naturally.

And of course I knew you had to find someway to shoehorn Spitfire into your story with that alarm clock at the start :rainbowlaugh: But 10/10, earned yourself a like my friend!

Comment posted by forbloodysummer deleted Jan 27th, 2017

7899374 ...And there he is! :pinkiehappy::pinkiehappy::pinkiehappy: I wasn't sure how much longer I could keep hinting 'you kinda need to read this one, it's a little bit relevant...' without spoiling why :rainbowlaugh:

I hope you don't mind that I went ahead and wrote it; for months I'd had the Rainbow and Adagio idea, and it had been a while since we had that conversation when the Shadowbolts thing was mentioned, but the first didn't really have the middle bit it needed to meet the thousand word minimum (I first pictured it being quite a bit shorter), and the second didn't have much of a story, it was just a conversation that didn't really go anywhere. And then I thought of combining the two a few weeks ago, but I wasn't planning to do anything with it, except I couldn't sleep that night, so I dragged myself out of bed, sat down with pen and paper and just started writing. 6 pages later, I had the first half of that first scene, and I hadn't paused at all, it all just flowed out. There is some benefit to writing much slower than typing, I suppose; your brain can work much faster than you can get it down, so you never break the momentum by pausing. So I wasn't planning to write this at all, it just came out, like King Of The Stingers before it but much more so.

Yeah, you're absolutely right, if there were one thing I'd change writing it again, I'd make it two separate stories. At the time I thought the two ideas needed each other, but actually I think now that they distract from each other. They're thematically related, though, and both tied up with the title, so maybe the second chapter should have been a sequel story instead, perhaps with the lazy-but-fitting title of 'Rainbow Dash Is Still A Massive Fanny. There are some advantages to having it all as one, though - it means I don't have to deal with the aftermath of whatever happens at the end of this one with Adagio, which leaves it opens to peoples' imaginations (it was never meant to be a tease or a cliffhanger, more like the punchline of a joke, and it's rare that you'd carry it on past that). Many people have pointed out that the sudden change of subject in the middle is frustrating and unexpected - and they're right - but I do quite like the sense of foreboding that it gives the Shadowbolt discussion; that however worked up Rainbow is about the Adagio thing, she can sense that whatever the issue is with the Shadowbolts, it's so serious that she needs to drop everything until she knows what's going on. And the way they reacted, as you said, I think works far better when it's a sudden contrast to how they were before. We've spent 7,000 words watching them happily prod and tease Rainbow when she at least thinks she's in a bit of personal anguish, so that they suddenly go serious and sombre and not in the slightest bit joking I think shows how uncomfortable they are with the whole thing, and how guilty they feel about it. And I don't think you'd get that nearly as much if the story started only shortly before that conversation.

If there were ever a draft where Rainbow Dash wasn't woken up by best pony - best yellow pony - best pegasus - goddammit Fluttershy, can't you let Spitfire have something?! - best Wonderbolt, then it never made it out of my head; the first thing I wrote down was that Spitfire line. I'm glad she made it in there, something to brighten up Rainbow's morning, though the two mentions in the second chapter happened accidentally. Now I think of it, why are all the best characters yellow? Fluttershy, Adagio, Spitfire, even Derpy's mane :twilightoops: Sunset, too. The real shocker about certain characters turning up in my stories is the newest one, in which Adagio Dazzle does not appear :pinkiegasp::fluttercry: Like, not even a line about sirens doing things to people in their sleep! :rainbowlaugh:

I'm really really glad you liked it, and that you thought it handled the topic well :twilightsmile: I think it all really came from that line in yours where Adagio reacts to Sour Sweet's name; that's what made me think that the writers were taking something quite hard to explain away with anything other than serious mental illness, and treating it as an incredibly lighthearted thing, and so I wondered why they might do that and if there might be an alternative explanation for it, like maybe to Sour Sweet and her friends, it isn't such a serious thing, that's just how she is, and of course that brought with it about the environment that they must therefore all be in. In reality, of course, it was almost certainly just a rather insensitive gimmick to make Sour Sweet stand out as a memorable character when only given a handful of lines of dialogue, but frankly I prefer it as it's written here and in A Talk Between Sisters.

(Accidentally got confused and posted this twice, so that's what the below comment deletion was).

7899599 I was reading it like.... yes.... yes.... oh my god he's doing it.... yes... HE'S GOING THERE..... AHHH THEY SAID IT I LOVE IT :rainbowlaugh::rainbowlaugh: It was very well handled, I'd say your handling of it was beyond what I did in A Talk Between Sisters, so hats off to you for that :scootangel: I think I would have preferred to see the two subjects as separate stories, if anything because I felt like the (brilliant) hard hitting conversation about the Shadowbolts overshadowed the comedy factor of Rainbow's plot. Yes I'm aware I could have worded that better but I've already typed it now and I refuse to go back on myself :rainbowlaugh: Now you've explained it I do understand how they couldn't really stand on their own due to lack of conflict, so I think you mixed the two well. I think a lot of people came into the story expecting a fun fluff about Rainbow Dash, so to get slapped in the face with a hard hitting topic like that could be very disorientating for them. I like the hook that you put in the stories description mentioning the Shadowbolts, it lets the audience know they'll be some sort of twist in it while also giving them a reason to read to find out what it is.

Really, it's definitely in spirit with what I tried to do for A Talk Between Sisters, and I couldn't have asked for anything better than that fic inspiring others to tackle issues like this. Keep up the good work :moustache:

“So, you know what Sugarcoat’s like, right?” Sunset asked. “How would you describe her?”

“Brutally honest, the whole time,” Rainbow said without hesitation.

(skipped a few lines, otherwise, this'd be a huge ass quote.)

“But then she called out the hypocrisies of her principal in front of everyone. Given how strict Crystal Prep discipline is, she could have been expelled for that remark.” Sunset shook her head, looking like a hospital doctor with bad news. “That’s not ‘she doesn’t like lying,’ that’s ‘she has no internal filter.’”

This.

Anyway, to be honest, when you bluntly hinted towards me reading it on my page, I was going to give it a try right then. Didn't sadly enough, but I'm glad I finally got around to it! This is really well written, and I've ended up adopting a new headcanon for the Shadowbolts, or Crystal Prep in general. I mean, I'll likely never pen it out as I'm not a very serious writer and will likely end up inadvertently making fun of it, but still. It's nice to think of :twilightsmile:

Continuing on, I really related to Sugarcoat in the bolded quote above. Grew up without an internal filter myself, still don't have one, and it's made things pretty annoying or difficult for me. I'd say something I didn't think of beforehand and would end up insulting someone without even realizing. What really grinds me is that that's not even the half of it; it's rough, being 'funny' when you're not even trying to be; turning a simple answer into a complex amalgamation of words that sometimes swerve away from the actual conversation and/or answer. It's like, why tho. I like to think it's to a somewhat lesser extent nowadays, luckily enough, but it still gets me at times :applejackunsure:

Anyway, wanted to say thanks for the amazing reccommended read. Got me thinking and all that. This is now easily one of my favorite stories on the site :trixieshiftright:

8244773 Thank you very, very much :twilightsmile: I'm really happy to learn that you connected with it like that; nobody's said that about anything I've written before. I was worried when writing the story about how it would be received by anyone who was affected by any of the things mentioned - so much so that the story was originally going to be only about 10% of the length it is now, but making the Shadowbolt arguments convincing and wording them in a way that explored each issue while also giving a sympathetic portrayal took way more words than I imagined.

The price of that length increase was that it brought out the subject change between chapters a lot more than I'd intended, and left the punchline at the end hanging a bit, but I'm really glad I did it anyway, as it gave the topics the attention they deserved. There's a very fine balance between being conscientious and being patronising, or between trying to be understanding of others and treating them the same as anyone else, and as that's kind of what the story was exploring, I was always wary of how far in each direction was right to go.

So to hear that you appreciated it, as someone who can relate to it, means a great deal to me, and offers a lot of reassurance that it was worth sacrificing the short, light-hearted story (similar to the faux-spoiler one you mentioned reading before) with snappy dialogue and no breakneck subject change that it could have been.

Having said that, I'm sorry to hear you had to live with that, and grateful for your perspective on what it's like to do so, especially about how it feels to be unintentionally 'funny.' I hope it continues to improve for you as time goes on.

Please by all means do whatever you'd like with the headcanon - it may be invalidated by future EG releases, but for now I happen to think it makes Crystal Prep and the Shadowbolts a lot more interesting, and Principal Cinch a far more unusual and compelling character who I'd actually like to see more of. So if you'd ever like to write a story using it, however frivolous, be my guest, and if not then I'm just glad to have supplied it for people when thinking about Crystal Prep :twilightsmile:

Sorry for shamelessly plugging it like I did after you read one of my others; I think that's the only way I get people to read it now :twilightblush: It's come on a bit recently, having overtaken my ongoing story in views and with me having written a much less popular story since (yay?), but for a long time this was the one of mine that didn't get much attention; when I think it's perhaps my best, and definitely my longest.

So I shall finish by just saying thank you for reading it, for your lovely comment, and for adding it to both favourites lists :pinkiehappy:

As someone on the autistic spectrum, I'm not sure how to feel about this story. It's very well-written, but I don't particularly like the concept. But that's just me. However the part that I have to say I really have a problem with is the idea, and this is just my perception on how comes off, and to me it seems like you want the Shadowbolts to be given special treatment, which is nice at all, though I don't think that was your intent.

But people with these sorts of problems just want to be treated equally, Believe me I can attest to it being on the spectrum and having known many individuals with such conditions, and the human Mane Six's, seven if you include Sci-Twi, comes off as slightly offensive to me personally.

However regardless of this, you did a good job writing this and you clearly wrote it with the nicest possible intent in mind. Honestly you're clearly a good writer as far as I'm concerned, but as somebody who had to deal with these problems, I just don't try to go looking for them in my entertainment media. But once again you didn't job writing this, and the story itself is pretty good, it just hit a little too close to home for me.

You had me for chapter 1, but 2 lost me. Lemon Zest's bit was ridiculous, then you started winning me back. Cinch though, Cinch and everything after ended it for me and the terrible extended joke put the last nail in the coffin. You have two disparate stories shoved together in a very slapdash manner. The CPA story ends up having no bearing on the Dash story at all. Why is it even there if the 'lesson' learned is instantly forgotten?

8495725 Thanks for reading and commenting :twilightsmile: The anniversary of the story's posting seems a good time to respond.

I would make a couple of counterarguments and points in the story's defence, though you're welcome to be offended by it as that's your right, and I'm not trying to argue you into liking the story. I also do appreciate how nice you were about my writing skill, and can understand why reading about any subject close to home might not be ideal for escapism.

However the part that I have to say I really have a problem with is the idea, and this is just my perception on how comes off, and to me it seems like you want the Shadowbolts to be given special treatment

Something I would highlight is that the characters here aren't medical professionals. Nor am I (and, I'm guessing, nor are you). The characters here are schoolchildren. They have no previous experience with anything like these issues, and only Fluttershy has really done any reading up on it, and even that was only regarding Sour Sweet's condition. The conclusions they reach are those of laymen, using the evidence they can see and the conjecture they can imagine. Their answers shouldn't be taken as definitively correct or the best opinions of experts, though I did try to make sure most arguments were examined from most angles and have the ones that seemed strongest to me win out, so that the conclusions were reasonable.

But people with these sorts of problems just want to be treated equally, Believe me I can attest to it being on the spectrum and having known many individuals with such conditions, and the human Mane Six's, seven if you include Sci-Twi, comes off as slightly offensive to me personally.

This sounds uncomfortably like you're presuming to speak for everyone who faces the kinds of issues discussed here, like your experiences lend you the credibility to declare that anyone who's been through anything along those lines thinks the same way you do. I don't believe anyone has that authority, or that people who deal with this kind of thing aren't as wide and diverse a group as any other, with their own opinions and preferences on the best way to handle it.

All I can say is that your own experiences are not universal. The anecdotal evidence of those you know isn't nearly enough to back it up, and I can offer plenty of similarly-sourced opposing anecdotal evidence in return. The people I've discussed it with over the last two months who've been through that kind of thing have read your comment and unswervingly disagreed with you. Given that I've written eighteen thousand words on the subject here, it doesn't seem out of the question to suggest that mental health issues might be something I have more experience with than most?

I'm not saying you're wrong; I'm saying you can't assert that you're right.

Regarding segregated education, the jury is largely still out. As for segregated sporting events, the comparison is something like a man running in a womens' sprint race - there's a biological advantage, and statistically the man is more likely to win than each individual woman. If the man should win, is that really a victory he ought to boast about? Apply the same thing to a healthy, able-bodied person competing in the (absurdly patronisingly-titled) Special Olympics.

The Friendship Games aren't quite equal to either of those examples. But imagine trying to aim a bow when there's more than one voice in your head advising where to point it. Or to keep your balance speed skating when you're permanently spacey. More than anything, building a birdhouse or competing in a spelling bee can't be easy when suffering from severe ADHD. The argument is that the Shadowbolts are expending some of their energy fighting their own natures, while the Wondercolts are free to focus entirely on the task, having an unfair advantage.

Thank you again for your comment and feedback - that I disagree with some of it or offer counterarguments doesn't mean I don't value it. I was expecting a comment along these lines right from the start, so I'm pleasantly surprised it took ten months to arrive, and particularly thankful that Tactless' comment came in first. Not that one opinion negates another, but the first personal comment is the one that makes the emotional impact, and I'm glad it was the positive one which did so. As I said, you are welcome to be offended by the story, and you're welcome to dislike it, and to criticise it however you like. But please don't assume that you know better, because you have no idea what I or others have gone through, and please don't think you can speak for those who might just as easily disagree with everything you say.

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Fair point. And thank you for the reply.

8637940 No problem, thanks for understanding, sorry the reply took so long :twilightsheepish:

8564628 Thanks for the comment, and for reading the story after I was tasteless enough to suggest it :twilightblush: I should have warned you about the subject swerve, I usually do when mentioning the story to people but forgot.

What was it about Lemon Zest's section you weren't sure about? The nature of her condition, that social services didn't know, that the others decided it best to do noting, or all of the above?

She's the one based on a couple of people I know in real life, because it's hard to work out what exactly is wrong with her in a medical sense. It's not really ADHD (though neither is Indigo), just this sort of spaciness. So there was someone I used to know who smoked a lot of pot one year, and hasn't really been the same since. Kind of distant behind her eyes, like she's there but also far away. And then another person mentioned how her child had never really screamed when young, which she put down to how she and her boyfriend would likewise smoke a lot of pot all around the house (all day, every day), and as such the child was rather dreamy and sedate.

Well aware that most people haven't experienced that kind of reaction with cannabis, I left the drug non-specific in the story and implied that it was something perhaps stronger, which I thought believable enough, and suitably adapted to fit Lemon's exact symptoms. But that one does come purely from anecdotal evidence and I haven't looked into its statistical backing, so I appreciate that I could be making it up for all you know.

Was it that you felt the kind explanation for Cinch's actions wasn't believable for her character (or that you simply didn't like it, which is completely fair in itself)? I was wary about offering a defence for the EG character with the fewest redeeming features, but it came out of the story fairly naturally. If Crystal Prep is a school with some focus on caring for kids with mental health issues and special education requirements, what reason would the headmistress have for being a tyrant? She clearly wants Crystal Prep to do well, and expects its students to deliver on that, but she looks down far more on the CHS students than she does on her own. So if they are those requiring special support, it would suggest she's on their side, which make her intentions broadly good, even if her presentation is very negative.

The dual subject matter of the story, and how it's presented, has been (as a look through the comments will show) quite controversial. I think reception is generally better when I do warn people about it first. It never struck me as odd, but that's the unusual perspective an author has of always knowing what's coming :twilightoops: I like how it suddenly changes tone, like someone dropping a conversational bombshell, but I find that quite interesting when you're trying analyse what exactly it was you said and why it provoked the reaction it did, like you've obviously missed something, but aren't sure what. The Adagio discussion is all resolved by that point, all that remains is for Rainbow to say her clever line and see how it goes down, so I don't think it's massively breaking off mid-conversation.

The two different plot threads are tied together thematically in how they both reflect the title. Rainbow Dash is a massive fanny because she doesn't learn from her mistakes, and believes that she'll win sooner or later if she just keeps fighting. She's almost indoctrinated towards winning, in that respect. So the Adagio conversation is about how Rainbow is trying the same approach again and again, confident she'll get it right sooner or later when all the evidence shows that it isn't working. Not to mention that if Rainbow does score a 'win' one day in her verbal battles, Adagio's counterstroke the next day is likely to be far worse, but Rainbow sees her own win as an inevitability sooner or later and so sort of treats it as the finish line, if only she can get there. Mostly down to a supreme belief in her own superiority. It doesn't really manifest in her looking down her nose at people, but she knows that she's the most awesome person in the school, so it stands to reason that she can win anything. She's blind to critical self-evaluation; she doesn't need to improve, because she's already awesome, so she just needs to keep going as she is and it'll work out in her favour.

And then the second half shows her how she's made a far bigger, more heinous mistake in the past than she'd realised, and while ending up in that situation wasn't her fault, that she's spent the last few months bragging about it and unknowingly looking like a terrible person is. Again that's down to her obsession with winning, her inability to not be thought of as the most awesome person in the room, and her lack of self-awareness.

And still, after learning that she'd got something that wrong, and (figuratively) lost that badly, she still believes she'll win if she just keeps fighting, still refuses to learn from her mistakes, and still lacks the self-awareness to take a more objective view and evaluate how she simply isn't as good as Adagio at certain things. In all cases, her friends are warning her that her competitiveness is threatening to get her into trouble. As such, she escalates things with Adagio, making her move in front of a big audience. And so the last line of the story is Adagio literally and explicitly calling Rainbow a massive fanny.

The lesson not sinking in the first time around can, I appreciate, be frustrating, but it's not uncommon in MLP, especially with Rainbow Dash. Twilight had to learn not to get so worked up over little admin details in both Lesson Zero and About Time, Spitfire had to learn about not letting ambition get in the way of getting along in Wonderbolts Academy and again in Rainbow Falls, Rainbow learned the perils of wanting to be adored by everyone in Mare Do Well but had to again in Newbie Dash, and she learned about choosing her friends over her dream career right back in Friendship Is Magic part 2, but did again in Rainbow Falls. And Fame And Misfortune went as far as to joke about how often Fluttershy had had to relearn her main lesson.

And I think it's realistic; sometimes things don't go in all the way on the first go, or get forgotten or brushed aside. I think if anything can teach Rainbow the lesson of the story, it's whatever happens after the last sentence, when she has to face the fallout of her decision. The Shadowbolts thing was just a stepping stone to get there, in that respect.

Thanks again for your comment and for reading the story. I really appreciate that you then read my others as well :twilightsmile: I'm responding to this comment first as it was the first one you left. And on that note, warning messages are flashing up that my hard drive is about to die, so I'm off! :twilightoops:

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Had to go back and reread a bit since it's been over a month.

Re: Lemon. It just sounds like bullshit rather than a real thing and comes off badly is all.

Re: Cinch and CPA. First, not a fan of your idea for CPA, but your logic tracks. Second, Cinch left the line she crossed, burning, about 50 miles back, regardless of your interpretation or mine. With your secret nature added, it's not any better. It's much worse, setting their standards so high they'd be ruined immediately at their first big failure out of school. Being an overzealous asshole doesn't get wiped away just because you are trying to help. I'm sure I had better organized thoughts here the first read, but it's been 3-4 novels worth of reading since then.

Re: story structure. I can see what you were trying to accomplish with the two parts, but it does not work at all for me. The disconnect is very strong, with the first story seemingly over. There are no mentions, no little glances from RD looking for Adagio, nothing to indicate this tonal shift is temporary so when the shift does happen back to comedy, it just doesn't land.

Off topic, fuck Knighty and his adding more ads. I have lost 15% power and constant stutters trying to type this because of fucking video ads.

8639141 Sorry, I was slow to reply to the initial comment below yours, and felt bad skipping that one to answer yours quickly.

With Lemon, I don't think it's implausible, but you're welcome to disagree. We know how seriously foetal alcohol syndrome can mess with a child's development, we know that passive smoking brings with it a host of health problems, much more so in children, and we know how some drugs can destroy the mind over a sustained period. Ozzy Osbourne being a good example. Everyone knows the stoner stereotype, Lemon Zest seemed to echo that in a way, and that seemed the best explanation to me.

With Crystal Prep itself (for some reason I can't bring myself to use the acronym CPA, yet CHS is fine :rainbowhuh:), I don't know if it's true that their high standards means the students couldn't then cope with failure (which is Rainbow's problem here, she's never really lost before and so can't handle it). The focus would ideally be that they have the best chance to get it right, not that they can't possibly get it wrong. Indeed it doesn't wipe away overzealousness, and most of the characters here point out that they think Cinch is horrible. That doesn't change just because they appreciate the reasons for it. I think it makes her more of a force for good in the world, but not one you'd like to be around.

I agree about the shift back to comedy; that's the bit that doesn't work as well for me as the shift towards drama does. The joke at the end would definitely have worked better in a much shorter comedy story, without the Shadowbolts angle and probably without most of the Adagio discussion either. But this is a story with some funny moments here and there, not a comedy.

Have to say I haven't noticed any more ads, or them being any more intrusive than usual, but then I'm on a desktop and hardly notice them anymore amongst the screen space. Are you on mobile then, and it's more prominent there?

8639603
Yeah, I tend to read on mobile as I have a million other distractions on PC. He added another ad either between the title and first paragraph, or between first and second. When they all line up as video ads my phone starts to chug hard.

Re: Lemon Zest. I just have never seen anything conclusive on marijuana second smoke affecting a child like that. I seems outlandish to use that rather than plain old ADD.

Re: Cinch and winning. It's more that the school is shown to never lose and Cinch is insanely zealous about continuing that streak. If you never lose, the failure just hits harder.

Sorry, but the story didn't really work for me, it went from discussing Rainbow's feelings towards Adagio to suddenly talking about certain disorders. That last part with both her and Adagio simply felt like it was tacked on as an afterthought because the author suddenly remembered what the story was originally about. It comes off as less satisfying and more an uncomfortably jarring excuse to make Rainbow Dash look like an idiot than anything else.

Not a direction I'm inclined to work in myself, but I'm impressed. This does fit adequately in the movie's space for interpretation, although Cinch should have been doing this long enough to have seen all the problems her strategy can cause for graduates, and it puts holding Twilight's future and her family hostage (from her perspective) against perfect attendance and performance in an even worse light than mild pressure on a random student whose record suggests she'd benefit the team... but it's entirely possible to be well-meaning and deeply compassionate and still be somebody who should not be allowed to influence children ever, and the former traits can get you behind the desk in the first place.

One small hole is the lack of provision this makes for Celestia and Luna, who to some extent hype and to a greater extent tolerate this system - and their general attitudes do fit, especially considering that they're best capable of judging which of their students shouldn't be competing and who's mature enough for a few private words on the subject. But if Cinch isn't doing her homework on CHS, she is leaving that side of things to them. I can understand neither being eager to have "that conversation" with Rainbow after her very public rally of the student body to finally show Crystal Prep what losers they are, but the Games didn't start the next morning. There was time. And simultaneously pressuring Sunset to make sure the competition goes properly without ever explaining the full situation to her - especially when they've had two examples of just how magic can mix with strong emotions and they're expecting a team of lightning rods for "all the bad magic stuff, simply all of it" to show up - and to not try to talk to Cinch about even vaguely defined problems this year when instead of thinking of the Friendship Games as a mixer they know what this really means to their counterpart? It's certainly explainable, and it's also reasonable nobody would feel at that moment like discussing that with Rainbow Dash, but it's a hole.

9581848 :pinkiegasp: It's you! Your comment on my metasiren story was the best I've ever received out of the blue, and I kept meaning to reply to it but also kept having other things to do and I really should have written back by now. Sorry about that :twilightsheepish: I really do appreciate the big, in depth comments :pinkiehappy:

I agree with both your points, that it makes Cinch's blackmail of Sci-Twi look worse, and that it's hard to see Celestia and Luna letting Rainbow Dash continue as she did in/since Friendship Games if they're aware of Crystal Prep's true nature. And any defences I would raise are retrospective rationalisations rather than things I'd planned from the outset, because I didn't think to consider either of those factors. Figured I should just admit that up-front rather than pretending otherwise :twilightsheepish:

Cinch pressuring Twilight: hmmm, that's an interesting one. On the one hand, it's pressure being strongly applied by an authority figure in a position of responsibility, and that's definitely going to have a negative effect on Twilight's mental health, perhaps with long-term consequences. But if Twilight doesn't help, and Crystal Prep lose the games, then she suffers through their reputation faltering. And since that will apply to every single student who goes there, every past student, and every potential future student, I suspect that doing the greatest good for the greatest number still involves pressuring Twilight like that, because her sacrifice will save many.

And with Celestia and Luna... Well, firstly we're assuming they know about what Crystal Prep is. They may not. Fond though I am of Celestia and Luna, canon doesn't paint too kind a picture of them sometimes. There was the 'my door is always open - slam!' from EG1, as well as it needing Flash Sentry exonerating Twilight from Luna's suspicion when Sunset faked the pictures, holding Sunset to account for magical goings-on in EG3 right after lambasting her for bringing the same thing to their attention with the sirens in EG2, and, yeah. I like them, but they're not great at their jobs. And sometimes not great people. So I wouldn't put it past them to not put too much thought into what goes on at Crystal Prep. They could probably piece it together if they wanted to, but I'm not sure they do, so I could also see them turning a blind eye.

One conversation segment I considered including in this story but ultimately abandoned was the notion that, yes, Crystal Prep is using its considerable clout to achieve victories for health-disadvantaged students, but it's doing so at the expense of financially-disadvantaged students (those who can't afford Crystal Prep and end up at CHS). I'd say the Crystal Prep students win in terms of being more disadvantaged, but still, it's not great. From Celestia and Luna's perspective, an elite school costing thousands of dollars a term (and no doubt with entrance exams, meaning it only takes the best in the first place) is pitting itself against their catch-all state school and calling it a fair competition. That might lead to Celestia and Luna being so incensed over the whole thing that they really don't feel like looking any deeper into Crystal Prep's motivations, happy to assume the worst which the surface-evidence suggests.

Thanks again for the kind words and big comment :twilightsmile:

Greetings from WAR: We Are Reviews! The review for this story has been completed and published on the Reviewer's Mansion here: https://www.fimfiction.net/group/215274/reviewers-mansion/thread/473369/war-rainbow-dash-is-a-massive-fanny-by-forbloodysummer

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