Facets and Reflections

by RandomGreymane

First published

After her recent triumph, Rarity recalls a previous challenge....

Now that she's shown it from her most recent success, Rarity is wondering where that strength came from. She's elated at the recent events, so why doesn't she feel confident about moving forward?

She can vanquish evil monster so why can't she do the same to her doubts?

Chapter 1

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Facets and Reflections - Chapter 1 By RandomGreymane

Breakfast in the Wind Walker finished up, Rarity firmly the toast of the day. Her sisters had many questions about the memory they’d received from their friend, and Rarity was happy to answer all of them. In the end she was just happy to see them smiling freely again. The fear magick of those spiders was just so dreadful! she thought.

Breakfast concluded, Celestia decided that they should have another day out on the town - this time without spiders. It was agreed to by all, though Twilight reminded them that they must seek out the spider nests and collect any items that they might have gathered there.

Rarity was lost in thought. She kept going back to the memory of killing the spider. What am I that I could do such a thing? she thought I never considered myself able to take a life before. I’ve had my conflicts before but for the most part they’ve never come to blows. Well there was that manticore...and then the one...incident.

Shaking her head to clear it, she put on her winning smile and trotted along with her friends to enjoy the day.

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Several months previous...
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“This fabric is simply fabulous!” Rarity exclaimed as she used her magick to weave the outfit onto the pegasus in front of her. “It’s so thin and light!”

“It’s awfully fragile don’t you think?” said Airflow as she stood motionless. The fabric swirled around her. “If I so much as take a simple dive it’ll rip.”

“Well it IS for fancy dress ‘Flow.” Rarity replied. “It’s not like I’m making armor or anything. Or, Celestia forbid, coveralls!”

“Have it your way.” Airflow continued. “I’m just questioning the wisdom of clothing that may rip at any moment.”

“Oh it’ll be fine. You’ll see.” said Rarity. “The magick that I’m putting into the stitching will protect the seams and reinforce the fabric enough. Still...you are correct. This is fragile by nature.”

Sweetie Bell stuck her head in the door. “Your second model is here sis!”

“Thank you dear! Send her in please.” Rarity replied as she fussed with the final piece of fabric.

A blue and green earth pony entered and nodded her head to Rarity before speaking. “That looks beautiful! I can’t wait for you to try it on me!” said Teal Dancer.

“All in good time Teal.” Rarity said without looking in her direction. “There! I think that’s it!”

The dress on the pegasus flowed like water as she turned and displayed herself as if on a fashion runway. The colors rippled and changed with each movement. Understated when still, they caused a feast for the eyes when in motion.

“Simply fabulous.” said Teal with awe in her voice. “If I could do half as well as this I wouldn’t have to come to you for my costumes.”

“Oh please Teal, your flattery will go to my head!” replied Rarity. “And if my head swells I’d have to adjust all my hats. And nopony wants hats any larger than mine are now.”

“Agreed.” Teal said. Those ARE some big hats. she thought as she looked over at a collection of hats almost obscuring a window.

“So let’s get you started shall we?” Rarity said as Airflow left the room to change and store the dress for the show.

“Let’s do it.” said Teal happily.

Rarity levitated fabric and thread, then began to work.
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“I just don’t understand it.” said Rarity as she once again repaired a seam on the dress constructed around Teal. “If you stand still it’s fine but every time you move it falls apart!”

“It’s not my fault!” said Teal in frustration.

“Oh of course it isn’t dear.” said Rarity as she placed a hoof on Teal’s shoulder to calm her. “I just simply have no idea what’s going on here!”

Sighing, Rarity instructed Teal to take the dress off but it wasn’t necessary. The dress seams all separated at once and the fabric fell to the floor. This distressed Teal Dancer so much that she ran out of the room crying.

Rarity instructed Sweetie Bell to have ‘Flow go and find Teal and calm her down. Turning back to what was now a pile of scraps on the floor, Rarity just sat and stared in confusion.

What could possible cause this? she thought. I wonder if Twilight would know?

Once they got Teal calmed down they tried again. And again. And again.

Each time Rarity constructed the garment around Teal. And each time it disassembled the moment Teal started moving. Much to Teal’s relief, Rarity had Sweetie Bell fetch another earth pony and the results were the same. Also the same to Rarity herself and another unicorn.

Curious, Rarity tested with another pegasus and found that the dress stayed put. Well buck me. she thought. That is beyond strange.

Dismissing everyone for the day, Rarity wrote a quick letter to Twilight and had Sweetie Bell run it to the library. A short while later, she received a response from Spike that Twilight was dealing with an issue but promised she would look into it.

Several weeks passed and Rarity, having temporarily shelved the entire project, found herself standing in the crowd at the reveal of the Twilight Council building. As the letter from Spike had requested, she had a small amount of the material in her bag. She nodded to Applejack as she followed the crowd into the building.

Quite a bit of time later, after the tour had ended and the majority of the crowd had dispersed, Twilight led Rarity to the research lab beneath the council building.

“So did you bring it with you?” Twilight asked as she set up some magickal detection equipment.

“I did indeed!” replied Rarity. Removing the fabric from her bag she carefully handed it to Twilight. The fabric frayed slightly the moment it touched Twilight’s hooves and magick but otherwise was unaffected. Whereas it had simply slid off the earth pony, it clung slightly to Twilight’s foreleg.

“Interesting...” said Twilight with a puzzled look on her face. “Let me do a couple of tests. Just have a seat on the cushion in the ring over there.

Rarity did as instructed. As soon as she sat down, a magickal barrier rose around her that separated her from the rest of the room.

“Umm...Twilight?” Rarity said.

“Oh! Sorry!” replied Twilight. “That’s just a protective barrier for when someone is working. It’s nothing to be worried about. We didn’t have those for a long time...until...well...I happened. I’ll tell you later but for now just please be patient.”

Twilight worked for more than an hour while Rarity sat there. To pass the time, Twilight explained each test in detail as she performed them. This of course caused Rarity to become bored very quickly. Soon she was dozing slightly on the cushion, then fell completely asleep. Twilight noticed, and concentrated on her tests to complete them quickly. At one point she called in one of the pegasus members of the council staff to test something before sending them back to their duties.

“Eureka!” Twilight shouted.

The shout woke Rarity from a dream of Teal dancing in the shimmering fabric. “Yes my dear?” she said after yawning. “I take it you’ve found something?”

“I did indeed!” said Twilight. “And it turns out to be the same thing I’ve been studying recently - earth pony magick.”

“Darling, not to question your findings, or ability, but the fabric did the same to me and I’m hardly an earth pony.” Rarity said with some snobbishness in her voice. Then she continued in a less offended tone. “Unicorns are obviously not earth ponies.”

“No, but they may have once been.” replied Twilight. “But it turns out it’s not just about that. What’s happening is that there is a low level energy field around pegasi that is designed to keep their coats cleaner while flying.”

“And that means what precisely?” Rarity asked with a raised eyebrow. “How would a cleaning field affect my fabric?”

“That’s what confused me at first too. It’s not a cleaning field though.” Twilight said as her eyes ran themselves over the colorful cloth. “It’s a very subtle stasis field. I’ve never seen anything like it! The fabric clings to the pegasus closely and is beneath the field. The field keeps it held together. Earth ponies and unicorns don’t have that field.”

Suddenly Rarity understood the results she was seeing. “Is there any way to replicate that...field?” she asked.

“Oh Rarity it’s so subtle!” said Twilight. “I tried several times while you were asleep but I couldn’t even replicate a portion of it. It’s such subtle natural magick that anything I could create would be bulky and uncomfortable by comparison! I’m so sorry Rarity but I just can’t fix this!”

Seeing her friend in distress, Rarity leaned in and hugged her deeply. “Twilight, it’s quite all right. It just means I’ll have to make a decision on if I wish to release this or not.”

“If it helps I’ll publish my findings in the next journal of Universal Magick.” Twilight said.

“That’ll be fine dear. Thank you.” replied Rarity with a smile on her face.

Twilight was relieved and began cleaning up after her testing and experiments. Rarity wished her well and headed back to her boutique.

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It took Rarity a week before she made her decision. Sending out messages to her usual contacts, and some more pegasus-specific ones, she announced the new designs as “Just the thing for the fashionable flier!”

Before a week had passed Rarity began receiving orders Cloudsdale, slightly more than 100 total. Working diligently, she was able to complete at least half those orders in yet another week. By that time the first complaint arrived.

“Dear Miss Rarity” Rarity intoned as she read the letter while Sweetie Bell swept the floor nearby. “I have recently purchased your latest creation. It was stunning! Until my daughter put it on of course. Then it simply fell to pieces! I was aware that the design was intended for pegasi however, as an earth pony, my daughter has worn many similar designs without incident. Usually we have a local tailor sew the wing slits shut. This time we didn’t even get a chance to do that before the dress simply disintegrated! I would like either a replacement or an immediate refund! Fuming, Miss Floral Bucket”

Placing the letter on her workbench, Rarity carefully formulated a response. “Dear Miss Bucket,” Rarity wrote. “I am mystified how someone with such taste in fashion could not form a similar taste in reading. The label on the dress clearly states that the dress construction is only suitable for pegasi. It even specifically outlines what will occur if the dress is worn by an earth pony or unicorn. As a fashion producer I stand by all of my creations - provided all instructions and warnings are followed. In this case you did not in any way follow those directions and therefor have voided any recompense for your purchase. Regardless please have a pleasant day. Miss Rarity.”

Sweetie Bell looked over the letter quickly as her sister levitated a suitable envelope from a nearby stack. “A little harsh don’t you think?” she asked as Rarity folded and sealed the letter.

“Sweetie, I could refund her purchase but the fact of the matter is that she didn’t read the directions.” Rarity said while writing an address on the envelope. “There are care instructions on almost every piece of clothing out there, mine included. If I refunded a purchase every time someone shrunk a sweater, I would be out of business in a flash.” Affixing a stamp to the envelope, she set it in a small wicker and fabric basket she kept for outbound correspondence.

Shrugging, Sweetie Bell went back to sweeping the floor.

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Two weeks later, as Rarity was taking a nap, a large delivery cart pulled up in front of the boutique. Sweetie Bell went out to greet them. The cart was piled to the brim with boxes. Sweetie Bell instructed the two burly unicorn stallions to stack the delivery inside the main room of the shop until they could be sorted out. “That is an awful lot of boxes.” Sweetie Bell remarked as they floated in and stacked themselves quite high. I don’t remember Rarity ordering so much. I wonder what’s in them?

The boxes were soon stacked in the room and almost filled it to capacity. Sweetie Bell, her curiosity getting the better of her, levitated a nearby pair of scissors and used them to cut open one of the lower boxes.

Unfortunately the delivery ponies had stacked the particular box she’d chosen on it’s side rather than upright. As soon as the young filly cut the tape on the box it collapsed.

And so did the entire stack of boxes. From under the now jumbled pile Sweetie Bell said “Oh ponyfeathers!”

Drawn by the commotion, Rarity entered the room. She levitated her sleep mask to a nearby hook as she stared at the pile of cardboard. “Sweetie Bell, how many times have I told you. A proper mare doesn’t swear!” she said as she extracted her sister from beneath the pile.

Sweetie Bell emerged covered in scraps of shimmering fabric. She eyed her sister with a raised eyebrow as Rarity swore herself upon seeing the fabric.

With Sweetie Bell’s help, one by one the pile of cardboard and scraps was sorted into collapsed boxes, fabric scraps, and complaint letters. There were 23 in all - approximately half of the initial shipment.

“Well at least the letters are as colorful as my fabric.” Rarity said as she read the final letter before setting it back onto the stack. Egotistical Ragmaker indeed! she thought.

“So what are you going to do?” Sweetie Bell asked as she folded and stacked the last of the cardboard off to the side to be recycled.

“Well I’m certainly not going to take this lying down.” Rarity said with conviction. “I’ll call a press release and explain matters. That should settle this once and for all!”

“And refunds?” Sweetie Bell asked with a note of caution in her voice.

“Oh honey in this case it would be bad business NOT to refund.” Rarity replied. “I’m glad we didn’t use any of the money to order more material yet.” Or pay any bills. she thought.

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It took them a few days to get the refunds and letters of apology sorted out. By that time 4 more returns had come in, along with a note from one of her distributors informing her that three more recipients had said they would not return their purchases for refund if they were “repaired” so as to allow a non-pegasus to wear them.

Hastily composing a reply to her distributor, Rarity collected all the letters and put them in her mailbox for delivery. Slightly angrily, she hit the flag into an upright position to indicate mail to be picked up. The flag bent slightly. Sighing, Rarity used her magick to straighten it again. Get a hold of yourself girl! she thought You can’t let this ruin your composure!

Rarity went inside and sat at the window and waited for the mail to be picked up. All the while thinking about what to do next.

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The press conference was held in front of the boutique approximately a week later. The gathering of media ponies was much larger than normally attended such an event. So much larger in fact that the crowd was overflowing into the traffic patterns of the other nearby shops. This caused the aforementioned businessponies to take extra time clearing their front walkways of wayward journalists and photographers.

When it was time, Rarity came to stand in front of the podium that had been set up for her. Clearing her throat she began to speak.

“Hello everypony! I have gathered you all here to clear the air about my latest design and the peculiarities of the fabric it’s constructed from.

The fabric that I constructed the latest design from is incredibly fragile and artificially created using a number of spells by the manufacturer. This makes it extremely sensitive to certain things. My friend Twilight Sparkle will be publishing the findings of her research concerning the material and it’s reactions in the next journal of Universal Magick.

Unfortunately, the material in question simply comes apart when in contact with earth ponies or unicorns. If you’ll look at the sample I have here you can see it’s fraying in my hooves as we speak.

This reaction makes it plainly impossible for the material to be used where anypony but a pegasus is concerned. In light of that issue I will happily refund the purchase of my latest design if it was with the intention of being worn by an earth pony or unicorn.

Questions?”

A brown pony with black splotches raised his hoof then put it back down when Rarity pointed at him. “Miss Rarity, while I can accept the fact that there may be an...interaction...of sorts between the material and non-pegasi, I am hard pressed to believe that someone of such skill as yours can not find a solution.”

“As I stated before,” Rarity replied “my friend Twilight Sparkle investigated the issue and found that even she could not replicate the conditions necessary to keep the material intact. Next question? Yes, you over there in the brown derby?”

“Some of the public don’t believe there is a physical issue.” the pony stated. “Perhaps you just don’t feel the earth ponies and unicorns look presentable enough in the new design?”

“Nonsense!” Rarity said sharply. “I spent quite some time attempting to get the design to work on my earth pony and unicorn models - myself included! The design just has an insurmountable technical issue.”

Another pony stood up and spoke. “Miss Rarity, you said that you tested the design on yourself. Is it possible that you have self-esteem issues and wish the design to be sabotaged for anyone like you?”

“I beg your pardon!” Rarity said with some heat in her voice. “I have plenty of self esteem thank you very much! And again, it has nothing to do with me! The material simply doesn’t function properly!”

“Then if it didn’t function for everyone why did you choose to make the dresses?” a voice interjected from the crowd.

“Did you even consider the psychological implications for earth ponies if the dresses fell apart while on them?” came another voice nearer the back of the throng.

“Do you consider earth ponies beneath your design skills?” a pony in the front row said.

The questions began to jumble as more and more reporters spoke up in the crowd. “Did you think you would be able to slip this design past the general public?” “If the material can’t be worn by non-fliers then why did you allow them to buy the dresses?” “Miss Rarity do you feel pegasi superior to other ponies?” “Did you test on bat ponies?” “Why do you hate earth ponies?” “We are a united nation so why would you only support one third of the population?”

Rarity stood there stunned. Not saying another word, she slowly backed into her shop and locked the door behind her. Shutting the shades, all the questions from the ponies outside merged into a muffled din. Rarity sank against the wall and began to cry.

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It was several hours later when Sweetie Bell came home from school to find the shop closed and the shades drawn on all the windows. Using her key to the back door she entered the boutique. “Rarity?” she called. From the bedroom she could hear her sister sobbing softly. She knocked on the door with her hoof. “Sister?” she said. “Are you okay?” The sobbing continued unabated, as if Sweetie Bell had said nothing.

Hanging her head, Sweetie Bell went to her bedroom and collapsed upon the bed. In time she fell asleep, her dreams filled with her sister’s tears.

Chapter 2

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Facets and Reflections - Chapter 2 By RandomGreymane

Rarity awoke on her bed, the pillow showing the dark marks of where her crying had stained the case.

She didn’t move from where she had flung her body the previous day. Her eyes were drawn to slivers of light escaping through the edges of the window coverings. She could see a small patch of green through the window where one of the drapes had caught on the corner of the window in her haste to close them.

The bright sun shone on the green grass, inviting and warm.

It doesn’t matter. she thought. What’s the point of it all?

Shifting her body slightly, her horn lit slightly and the patch of green was gone. With the sunlight blocked the room seemed dour and uninviting. Her normally colorful bedding was lost in muted shades. The colors pale copies of what they should be.

Rarity laid back so she was staring up at the ceiling. Adorning the ceiling were more of the small slivers of light and despite her best efforts Rarity couldn’t adjust the window coverings to make them go away.

Sighing, she closed her eyes and thought back to the crowd of press-ponies and others. In her mind’s eye they jeered and frowned at her disapprovingly. No matter how she pictured them the image was always the same - anger and reproach.

As she pictured them, their words came to her. First one at a time, then in a torrent until she took her hooves and folded the pillow against her head as if the sounds came from the quiet of her bedroom itself.

Why? Why did they bother me so? It’s not like I haven’t had trouble before. Why is this time different?

Because this time you’re wrong. her mind whispered to her. THIS time you aren’t the one who was wronged.

Rarity dismissed this with a wave of her hoof. How could I be wrong? It’s the material! It just won’t hold together on anything but a flier. No, as much as I’d like to blame myself, that’s not what happened here.

Sitting up, Rarity carefully stretched her legs and neck. Ow! she remarked mentally as her neck issued a loud pop! Serves you right girl.

Rarity put her hooves over the edge of the bed onto the floor and stood up. Walking to the nearby full length mirror she regarded herself in it. “You look like absolute dung.” she told the pony in front of her with a smirk. “Let’s fix that shall we?”

Anyone who had watched the seamstress work in her element would be completely surprised at how many things suddenly hovered and whirled around the room. One by one, each item flew in to hover next to Rarity’s head as she cleaned, adjusted, and applied. At last the pony in the mirror looked presentable and all the items returned to their original positions in the room.

“There.” Rarity said with approval. “Much improved.”

With some trepidation, Rarity carefully unlocked the bedroom door and stepped into the hallway beyond. Descending the stairs she found things as she’d left them the day before except that her sister’s book bag was gone from it’s hook by the door.

Moving her eyes from the hook, Rarity cast her gaze on the contents of the room. Boxes littered the floor, papers strewn about the room haphazardly, it was simply put - a mess. It was then that she noticed that there were more papers than she recalled.

Reviewing the contents of the room revealed that someone had managed to chisel a slot at the bottom edge of the door and push papers through. There was a pile of them in an arc around the door as if someone had reached through and pushed the paper as far as possible but was limited by distance.

Rarity floated one of the papers over to her and regarded it. It contained crude insults and even cruder drawings suggesting Rarity’s lineage was sourced from uncouth beginnings.

It wasn’t the insults that bothered Rarity, she’d seen those before - anypony who spent time in Manehatten had been exposed to far worse, but rather the insult to her parents. It stung her strongly. So strongly that once again tears gathered at the corners of her eyes.

How am I going to explain this to my family? she thought. For all her lack of experience Sweetie Bell probably understands this sort of thing...but dad.

She could see her father stomping and rearing about her parents family room upon hearing the insults. Swearing himself and threatening even worse action on the source of the filth in question.

I have to handle this alone. she told herself. If they read it in the paper I must be able to say it’s all handled.

Straightening her spine, she floated a tissue from a nearby box to dry her eyes with. Carefully she collected all of the rest of the crude papers and placed them face-down in the recycling bin.

Then she started to clean.

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Several hours later, the boutique was cleaner than it had been in several days. She’d even worked through all the returns and made sure they were ready to be disbursed to their recipients.

“Done.” she said in the empty shop.

Empty. she remarked to herself. My shop is closed and empty.

Throwing open the front door she stepped outside. Nopony was waiting there. This was remarkable as of late she’d had a steady stream of clients, some even arriving from the further reaches of Equestria to get custom designs made for their personal events.

But never this empty. There weren’t even any hoof-prints. The grass was untouched on the path to her shop.

Surely they couldn’t ALL believe this disgusting tripe. she mused as she followed the path into the heart of Ponyville.

As she walked through the town she noticed that shop windows were covered and doors made slight clicking noises as she passed. One pony even closed a window, making careful effort to avoid meeting her gaze. She caught a fleeting edge of a grimace as the shades came down.

Wow. I must have really upset somepony this time. she thought. Still, could this all be over the dress issue?

Or did I do something else? her mind whispered to her.

Shaking her head she proceeded through the town to Sugarcube Corner. There she found the Cakes cleaning the front porch for the morning crowd. She glanced at Rarity but continued sweeping.

“Well at least somepony isn’t afraid to talk to me.” she said to Mrs. Cake.

“Oh...Rarity...didn’t see ya there.” she said, looking at Rarity briefly before returning to her sweeping.

“Is Pinkie around this morning?” Rarity asked.

“I’m sorry but she’s not.” Mrs. Cake replied not looking up. “She went to deliver an invitation for a party. Celestia only knows when she’ll be back.”

“Will you please tell her that I was looking for her.” Rarity asked.

Mrs Cake did not reply but instead nodded briefly then retreated to the interior of the shop, broom and all.

Rarity was at a loss. Mrs. Cake was known throughout Ponyville for being one of the most charming and friendly ponies in the town. The brusqueness with which she’d addressed Rarity was unheard of. Rarity left the shop more puzzled than ever.

It appeared to be the same all over town. Most ponies wouldn’t even speak to her, some wouldn’t even acknowledge she existed. They chose instead to go about their business as if her words were no more than an errant breeze.

After several more attempts, she gave up and headed back to the boutique. The door closed behind her and she collapsed into a heap on the floor. A few minutes later she sighed and pulled herself to her hooves and plodded in the direction of the stairs. Behind her, the lock turned at the behest of her tired magick.

=====================================================================

Fluttershy waited patiently at a table at the cafe in Ponyville. She’d gone through two books, three drink pitchers, and a large plate of fritters, before she began to become concerned that Rarity had not arrived.

As the afternoon began to draw to a close, she trotted in the direction of the boutique. I hope nothing bad has happened! she thought.

Arriving at the door, she tried to push it open only to find it locked. Timidly she knocked.

“Rarity?” she called softly. “Rarity are you home?”

Out of the corner of her eye she noticed one of the upstairs curtains move slightly. She backed away from the building to get a better look. The curtain was definitely showing signs of recent motion. “Rarity?” she said again as she spread her wings and hovered in front of the window in question.

Listening carefully, she could hear movement briefly but then nothing.

Something is definitely wrong. she thought. Rarity has never not answered me.

Still hovering, Fluttershy considered the situation. Nodding to herself, she bent her neck briefly and retrieved a bobby pin from her mane. Floating down back in front of the door she carefully regarded the doorknob.

The book said to try it this way... she mused. Carefully she inserted the pin into the lock. In a moment she retrieved another and also inserted it. Using her hoof she held the first one in place while working the other with her teeth.

Got it! she mentally exclaimed to herself as the knob clicked and turned.

“Well I guess reading pays off when helping friends.” she said to herself after placing the pins back in her mane. She smiled briefly as she recalled being skeptical when Pinkie lent her the book.

Carefully she pushed open the door and entered the boutique. Before she continued, on a rare impulse she turned and closed and locked the door behind her. I don’t even know why I did that. It’s not like anyone is waiting to come in.

Scanning the room she quickly confirmed that it was unoccupied. She flew to the top of the staircase and landed softly. “Rarity?” she said softly. “Are you here?”

A soft noise emanated from the nearby bedroom door and Fluttershy quickly moved towards it but paused. Taking a deep breath and letting it out slowly, she pushed her way into the room.

Opening the door revealed Rarity sitting completely still in front of her dressing table. Every speck of makeup had been removed, all of her jewelry laid in careful patterns on the surface in front of her.

She stared blankly into the mirror. Her lips moved but Fluttershy couldn’t make out the words. Moving closer, she put a hoof on Rarity’s shoulder. Leaning in, the words were soft but clear.

“They hate me.” Rarity whispered. “How is anything worth it if they hate me?”

“Rarity what are you talking about?” Fluttershy asked.

Straightening herself, Rarity slowly began to speak. Tears slowly leaked from the corners of her eyes as she poured out everything that had happened that day. Finally, exhausted, she deflated and leaned on Fluttershy.

Fluttershy carefully reached her hooves around her friend and just held her, and for a long while neither said anything further.

In time, Fluttershy guided Rarity to the large bed and tucked her in. Rarity’s stare remained blank the whole time and Fluttershy had to, in some cases, move the legs and tail of her friend so that she was resting comfortably.

When she was certain that Rarity had fallen asleep, Fluttershy curled up in a nearby reading chair and watched her friend through drooping eyelids. It’ll be better when you wake. she thought. You’ll see. We’ll figure this all out and it’ll be fine.

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When Fluttershy woke, Rarity was still sound asleep. Stepping quietly, she made her way out of the bedroom and down the stairs to the kitchen. There she rummaged a bit and found the kettle and a carefully organized collection of herbal teas of all types.

While she waited for the kettle to boil, she drew back the window shades to let in the morning sun. Dust motes caught the beams as they made bright pools on the kitchen floor. Fluttershy couldn’t swear to it, but she thought one of the pools moved slightly but when she focused on it there was only stillness.

Seeing Rarity like that must have upset me more than I thought. she mentally remarked as she put out two cups with bags in them as well as the sugar and milk that she knew her friend liked. She reached for the now whistling kettle, stopped, and then carefully sat back down. Picking up a nearby fashion magazine she started to read.

“Sweetie Belle! I could have sworn I told you never to let that kettle run on!” Rarity exclaimed in irritation as she entered the room. “Oh! Fluttershy! Didn’t you hear the tea kettle whistle?”

Fluttershy looked up quickly as Rarity rattled the kettle slightly while turning off the stove. “I’m sorry Rarity!” she said. “I got so caught up in the magazine that I didn’t notice!”

“I swear sometimes you are absolutely useless!” Rarity said. She stopped herself then and looked at her reflection in the kettle. “I’m sorry.” she continued. “That was uncalled for.”

“It’s okay.” Fluttershy said, her face carefully arranged into a soft smile. “You looked like you were under a lot of stress yesterday and I know that sometimes when I’m under a lot of stress I get SO frustrated that I say things I don’t mean. It happens to everypony sometimes!”

Without speaking further, Rarity poured the steaming water into Fluttershy’s cup. She paused slightly at her own, then poured hers as well. “I appreciate what you did last night. I’m just at a loss as to what to do. And I couldn’t...just couldn’t...”

“It’s okay.” Fluttershy said softly.

“No.” Rarity said, straightening up slightly. “It is most certainly NOT okay. And therein lies the problem.”

“Why don’t you sit down and tell Auntie Fluttershy all about it!” Fluttershy said, the corners of her eyes crinkling a bit with amusement. Her smile, however was only partially hidden by the teacup she was sipping from.

“You know you aren’t fooling anypony with that ‘auntie’ routine.” Rarity replied as she seated herself across the table from her friend. “We’re all about the same age.” She smiled before continuing. “But the point is not lost on me.”

As the sunbeams slowly made their way across the kitchen floor, Rarity recounted the events of the previous days that led to her current condition. By the time she had finished, they had consumed several cups of tea and the beams of morning light had long since merged into the general warmth of the sun through the windows.

The details retold, Rarity stared at the bottom of her teacup and then briefly at the fashion magazine. If I can’t solve this I might as well discard those. she thought. At least Sweetie Belle will be happy. She won’t have to clean them up any more.

“I think you should go see Twilight about this.” Fluttershy said as she placed her cup and saucer in the sink. “She always seems to have some idea that helps.”

“Well for one, my dear, if you recall I already went to Twilight.” Rarity intoned irritably. “And secondly, Twilight is quite clueless about public opinion. For all her mastered knowledge, she can’t yet fathom the fickle public eye.”

Fluttershy giggled slightly. “I can’t say I disagree.” In a more serious tone she continued, “If not Twilight then who? I mean you can’t do this all by yourself!”

“I can and I will!” Rarity said harshly. Catching herself, she continued. “If I can’t get myself out of this disaster then I don’t deserve...”

Fluttershy cut Rarity off unexpectedly by placing a hoof on her friend’s mouth. “Now listen here Rarity! If you think for one moment I’m going to let you go it alone you’ve got another thing coming!” Removing the hoof, she continued in a softer tone. “When I saw you yesterday I was so heartbroken! I don’t ever want to see you like that again. Ever.” She paused briefly. “Promise?”

Rarity didn’t quite understand how hard the tears had escaped her eyes until she felt them on her leg as she reached out to hug Fluttershy. “I promise dear.” she said into her friend’s mane. “I promise.”

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The remaining hours (it was afternoon by this time) consisted of a simple lunch of sprout sandwiches on a lightly toasted rye and some refreshing lemonade. (As well as Rarity getting cleaned up.)

When they were finished, Fluttershy helped Rarity wash and dry the dishes until there was no sign anypony had been in the kitchen.

“So what’s next?” Fluttershy asked as she hung up the dish towel.

“I’m not quite sure my dear.” Rarity replied as she put away the last of the dry plates. “I suppose I’ll have to find someone to help us figure out what is going on. Twilight would be the obvious choice but, among other things, she’s busy with council work and flitting to and fro to Canterlot. No...I believe we’ll see Zecora. Something is wrong here but I just can’t place my hoof on it...”

After briefly packing a small bag with some water and a few small snack items, they set off for the Everfree Forest.

As they walked, Rarity scanned the streets for other ponies. She stopped cold outside one of the many small shops in Ponyville and whispered to Fluttershy. “My dear do you notice anything?”

“Umm...” Fluttershy hesitated before replying. “Nothing in particular Rarity.”

“Look!” Rarity continued softly. “Look at your side of the street versus my own!”

Fluttershy cautiously glanced up and down both sides of the street before she caught what Rarity was referring to. “The shutters!” she exclaimed a bit loudly. “The shutters on your side of the street are closed!” she continued with reduced volume.

“Correct!” Rarity confirmed. “Normally when somepony hates another they care nothing for who’s accompanying them - associating them with the one they...despise. Thus they would bar the windows even on your side of the street. Shall we try a little experiment?”

Without waiting for her friend to reply, Rarity quickly switched places with Fluttershy. The results were immediately apparent as all the shutters on the previously open side of the street closed like an expanding wave from where they stood. Conversely the ones that were previously closed now stood open.

Fluttershy was aghast and turned in a circle to capture the entire scene as Rarity, not with a little “Pinkishness” quickly stepped from one side of her friend to the other and back again a few times. The shutters opened and closed repeatedly and rapidly until Fluttershy had to stop and lean on Rarity lest she become dizzy from her spinning.

“Well that clinches it I would say, wouldn’t you?” Rarity said with a smile. “What we’re dealing with here is some nefarious and heinous attempt to ruin my reputation. I can only hope Zecora has a good solution.”

Fluttershy, having recovered, righted herself and they continued their progress to Zecora’s hut. Rarity’s face reflected briefly in the display window of an empty storefront. At least this one doesn’t have shutters. she mused internally as they continued onward.

“For the life of me I just can’t imagine who would go to all this trouble though!” Rarity said in irritation. “It’s only fashion after all. I mean, while I’m an artist of exquisite caliber, it’s not like I’ve ruined anypony’s life!”

“Well you have had run-ins with certain fashion ponies.” Fluttershy reminded her.

“Oh darling! I’ve had all those people killed!” Rarity said, her eyes wide as she faced Fluttershy. “Allllll deaaad!” she moaned.

“Rarity!” Fluttershy exclaimed as she backed away.

Rarity held her pose for a moment then laughed and smiled. “Oh please! I was just indulging in a little dark humor. For your information, the fashion pony in question found that she had more fulfilling things to do with her time. Do you know that Suri is making clothes for orphans? She’s quite happy now. Coco let me know the last time I was in Manehatten.”

“It’s still nothing to joke about.” Fluttershy remarked in her subdued voice. Not when I think you could be broken enough to do it that is. she continued in the privacy of her mind.

“I’m sorry honey.” Rarity said, putting a hoof on her friend’s shoulder. “It truly was meant in the spirit of jest. I’ll be good from here on. I just needed...”

“I know.” Fluttershy said, cutting her off. “It’s okay. I was just surprised.”

Rarity smiled warmly as she and Fluttershy turned a corner to find themselves stepping onto the path leading out of Ponyville towards a dark forest and the friend hidden within.

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