"And checkmate." Cloudcover declared, effectively trapping Breeze's king and ending the chess game. Breeze scrutinized the board for several seconds before sighing and sweeping the remaining pieces of the board with a hoof.
"That's the fourth game in a row you've won," the red pony grumbled indignantly.
Cloudcover grinned. "I've always been somewhat of a whiz at this game. Better luck next time, mate. Shall we set up again?"
"Nah," Breeze replied. "We've been at it all day," he glanced at the clock. "Literally. It must be a slow day for shipping in Equestria."
"Did anyone get assigned a job at all today?" Cloudcover asked.
"Yeah," said Breeze. "Haven't you noticed that we haven't seen Ditzy in a couple hours?"
"Ah, right," said the white pegasus, scanning the room to confirm that the mare was not present. "Sorry, it's hard to concentrate with those two always yelling."
He pointed the other side of the lounge area where, as usual, Watt and Glow were engaged in an argument, or maybe just plain conversation; When those two were involved, it was impossible to make that distinction.
"Watt, I told you, I don't care how many volts of electricity you got shocked with last week."
"Aw, come on, Cosmo! You never let me tell you stories about my electrician job!"
"That's because most of them are rather unsettling. And will you stop calling me Cosmo already!?"
Breeze shook his head. "Try to tune them out. It usually works for me."
Cloudcover was about to respond when the door to the lounge opened, and Ditzy walked in.
"Hey Ditzy!" said Breeze cheerfully.
" the grey pegasus replied in a subdued tone.
It was easy to tell that something was not right. Ditzy slunk into the room, her eyes trained on the floor. She eventually flopped down on the couch, staring out the window listlessly.
"Well, somepony's upset," Breeze said as he trotted up next to the other pegasus. "Wanna tell me what's wrong?"
Ditzy sighed. "I
I failed my assignment today, Breeze."
"Oh." Breeze said. "Was this the first time that's happened?"
"Yeah," Ditzy sniffed, not looking at the other pony.
"Ditzy, you've been working here for a month. You failed one, and only one, out of about twenty assignments. Most of us fail one in every four or five. Your record is still spectacular!"
"I'm not worried about my record!" Ditzy said suddenly, with a bit more energy in her voice. "I'm upset that, thanks to me, the pony I was helping today won't be able to go out with the mare he likes." She finally turned to look at Breeze; her big, usually joyful eyes showed signs that she had been crying. "I've finally come to realize the hardest part of this job. How can I live with myself now that I know I've let another pony down?"
Breeze thought about it for a moment, but he wasn't sure how to answer. He opened his mouth to respond, if only to say some clichéd comforting statement, but he never got the chance; another voice spoke out first.
"So, the rookie's little beginner's luck streak is finally over, huh?"
Ditzy and Breeze both looked at Glow, who had decided to acknowledge Ditzy's presence; this only occurred when she had something insulting or otherwise demeaning to say to the pegasus.
Ditzy narrowed her eyes and glared at the unicorn. "I don't need your input, Glow."
"Aww, little Ditzy is grumpy," Glow cooed mockingly. "You're looking a little upset there. What's wrong, can't handle it when things don't go how you planned?"
"I said be quiet," said Ditzy a little more loudly, though her sadness was still apparent through the veil of anger.
"Of course," said Glow in her sarcastic tone. "But first, I just thought it would be courteous of me to answer your question. You know, a pro offering a rookie a little piece of advice."
"Yes, you just asked Breeze how you can handle failing an assignment," Glow continued. "And the answer is pretty simple really. Just stop caring so much about your client. Your job is to do what they ask you, so you get paid. When you fail, you don't get paid, and that's all the incentive you need. If you actually concern yourself with the client's well-being, you're just going to be a mess when you fail."
Ditzy snorted. "That's not true. The clients are ponies like you and me. We change lives with what we do; a lot of times, we set up a lifelong partnership between two ponies. How can you work at a job like that without any emotion toward your client?"
"Because that's the most effective way to get things done," Glow said in a matter-of-fact tone. "But you aren't cut out for this job, Ditzy. You're way too emotional; those kinds of ponies can't make it in this line of work."
"Glow, shut up," said Breeze firmly, noticing Ditzy's increasingly horrified and despairing expression.
"Oho," Glow grinned darkly. "Coming to your marefriend's defense now, are we Breeze?"
Breeze's red fur managed to hide any resulting blush, but he still flinched at Glow's accusation. Ditzy blinked in surprise as well.
" Breeze stuttered. "
She's not my marefriend! I just try to be courteous to our newest team member, unlike you!"
"Oh, right Breeze. Give me a break. It's perfectly obvious that you're head-over-hooves for our walleyed little friend there."
Breeze snarled. "No one asked you, you irritating little
The cough was soft, almost inaudible, but it caught the attention of all five ponies immediately, and all heads turned to see a certain wispy white unicorn standing calmly in the doorway.
good afternoon, Candyfloss," said Breeze awkwardly.
"Sorry, what was that?" Candyfloss asked in an expectant tone.
Breeze groaned. "Good afternoon, Doctor Candyfloss
"Good Afternoon," the unicorn replied with a small, mischievous smile. "I would like the five of you to gather around the table, please. It's time for our monthly staff meeting."
The unicorn trotted toward the table, leaving the other five ponies wallowing in the awkward silence following their interrupted argument. After a moment, Ditzy rose from the sofa and fluttered to the table, and the other employees followed.
Candyfloss sat for a moment, using magic to organize the papers he had brought along. This left the others to wonder aboutt how much of the previous fiasco their boss had heard; was it really possible that he had missed the whole thing? Or was he simply pretending that he had?
"Okay!" the magenta-maned unicorn announced suddenly. "So, monthly news. Our newest employee arrived the day after our last staff meeting, so I assume you've all had time to get acquainted with her since then." He turned to the pegasus in question. "I know this is late, but welcome once again, Ditzy Doo."
Ditzy just smiled sheepishly.
"Let's see, what else
" he continued. "Ah, it appears Glow has reached an astonishing one-hundred-fifty successful ships! Let's applaud Glow as she continues to push the record higher!"
Glow held up her head arrogantly, and received a very halfhearted round of applause from the other employees.
Candyfloss brought up a few more uninteresting points concerning the last month, seemingly oblivious to the tension in the air. After a few more awkward minutes, he reached the bottom of his list.
"Alright, that concludes the news," the unicorn said quietly. "Are there any issues you all would like to discuss before we conclude the meeting?"
No one looked directly at Candyfloss. Breeze coughed quietly.
"Very well," said Candyfloss, smiling his usual mysterious smile. "The work day is over; I'll see you all tomorrow."
Gratefully, the five ponies rose from the table to leave for the day. Glow was the first to exit, with Watt following behind and attempting to start another pointless conversation with the unicorn. Ditzy was at the back of the line.
"Oh, Ditzy," said Candyfloss suddenly, just before the mare passed through the doorway.
"Yes, sir?" the grey pegasus asked hesitantly.
"Could you come to my office for just a moment before you leave?" the unicorn asked calmly.
Ditzy gulped. "Yes, sir."
Candyfloss nodded and proceeded down the stairs. Ditzy followed him into his office and sat down. Candyfloss didn't look angry, but then again, the unicorn's expression was never very indicative of what he was thinking. Ditzy waited uncomfortably as he stared at her for a few moments.
"I just wanted to ask you
" he said slowly. "
if you have any
specific concerns about your job, now that you've had a chance to experience a variety of situations."
Ditzy suspected Candyfloss had overheard everything that happened prior to the staff meeting. He was now prompting her to ask the same question she had tried to ask Breeze.
"Well," Ditzy started, shifting uncomfortably under her boss's gaze. "I failed a mission for the first time today. Now the pony I was trying to help won't be able to date the mare of his dreams. How
how can I continue while knowing that I wasn't able to help?"
Candyfloss took a very slow, deep breath. "Ditzy, I'd like to tell you a little story, if you can spare the time to listen."
"I have a few minutes," Ditzy replied.
Candyfloss leaned forward a bit. "Good, I haven't had a chance to tell anyone this in ages. You see, Ditzy, when I started this company a few years ago, it almost collapsed shortly after opening. Do you know why?"
poor advertising?" Ditzy guessed.
Candyfloss chuckled. "No. It was because as soon as I hired my first employees, I witnessed something I had never been exposed to before. I saw potential couples fail, despite the work of my shippers. And it didn't take long for me to wind up feeling a bit like you are now."
why didn't you close the company?" Ditzy asked.
"Because, just as I was about to do so, I received a letter from a client
a client whose request our shippers were unable to grant. In the letter, she expressed her happiness that our employee had failed, as she had learned a terrible truth about the stallion she had been infatuated with. Her life would, in fact, have gotten infinitely worse in a big hurry had we succeeded in shipping her with him."
"So you got lucky once," said Ditzy. "But that doesn't mean all failed jobs are a good thing."
"At first, you would think so," continued Candyfloss. "But you see, Ditzy, this little incident allowed me to compare myself to the rest of my employees. I am the only pony among us whose special talent is matchmaking; ponies like you, while quite capable of working in this job, would be at a disadvantage when compared to me, right?"
"Right," Ditzy agreed.
"Wrong!" Candyfloss cried, in the loudest voice Ditzy had ever heard the normally soft-spoken unicorn use. "Being born to be a matchmaker is both a blessing and a curse. You see, I have an innate, magical sense, that tells me when two ponies are meant to be together. The problem is, I cannot control when it arrives, or who it points to. Sometimes, ponies I don't even know are involved. But there are so many ponies out there who are meant to be together, who are living so very different lives that my powers cannot detect them. So, while I have matched many ponies myself, so very many more have developed a love for another pony that I cannot detect. This is natural; love is an ancient and powerful force that far exceeds the talents of any one pony."
you hire shippers, to help with the rest," Ditzy responded.
"Yes, I hire shippers, who act only upon request of a love struck pony, as opposed to the unsolicited help that I provide." Candyfloss answered.
"But that still doesn't solve the problem!" Ditzy yelled in exasperation. "The shippers
the ponies whose special talent is not matchmaking
can't decide for certain if a couple is meant to be like you can! So how can we know if a failure, or even a success, is a good thing, or a bad thing?"
"That," said Candyfloss, "Is what I aimed to discover. And I believe I found the answer."
He leaned still closer to his pegasus employee. "I believe that the magic that I possess, and that other ponies will this talent also control, is not confined to us select few. I believe
that Equestria itself is imbued with this same magic, and it channels itself through those it finds fit to wield its power."
"Huh?" Ditzy asked. "Sorry, but I have no idea what you mean."
"Let me rephrase," Candyfloss said. "This magic, that allows for good matches to be made, and bad ones to be rejected, can, and often is, wielded by ponies who do not possess a matchmaking Cutie Mark. But this only works if the pony is seriously, sincerely trying to create a bond between two others. If it is meant to be, it will be, and if it is not, it will not. Either outcome will ultimately be best for the ponies involved in the matchup."
you're saying that it's impossible for us to create a bad match?" Ditzy asked.
"Almost," said Candyfloss. "But it is possible for other ponies to choose the wrong partner. So, herein lies the value of a Shipping Service; assuming the job is done right, you effectively 'test' the other pony's choice for them. If you fail, it means that pony chose a partner poorly, and now they are prevented from acting on that poor choice. So in the grand scheme of things, you've helped them just as much as if you had matched them with the pony they were meant to be with."
Ditzy was stunned. "Is all this really true?"
"Well, it's my personal theory," Candyfloss said. "But it's yet to be proven wrong."
"Awesome!" the pegasus replied, leaping into the air. "So, what happened today was meant to happen anyway."
"Probably," said Candyfloss. "But remember, Ditzy, you are not infallible. It's still possible to perform an assignment so poorly that even the innate magic cannot help you, but I believe you think your assignments through well enough to avoid that. More importantly, you cannot be certain that the magic has worked if you withhold any effort or lack any sincerity about the work you do. If you stick to these principles, then it is far more likely that failure to create a couple can be blamed on the fact that they were not meant to be together, rather then on your own ineptitude."
Candyfloss glanced at his clock. "Goodness, it's getting late! Run on home now, miss Ditzy. I'll see you tomorrow."
"Thank you sir!" Ditzy called gratefully as she flew down the hallway and out of the building. Candyfloss gathered his things, and left for the day as well.
There was silence in the halls of Equestria Speedy Shipping Services for a few more minutes. Then the silence was broken by the faint hum of an invisibility spell wearing off, revealing a certain blue unicorn.
"What a load of horseapples!" Glow said to no one in particular. "I bet Ditzy totally buys that little story of Candyfloss's, too." She smiled deviously to herself. "I bet, if I wait 'till the time is right, I can make good use of that little fable; it's just another weapon for me to use against her later. I'm gonna' make that dopey pegasus regret joining this company, one way or another!"
The next morning, Ditzy Doo found herself on another early morning assignment. The pegasus flew contently along, feeling renewed in her devotion to her job after her talk with Candyfloss the day before.
Today, the main thought occupying Ditzy's mind was the address to which she had been sent. It was an easy address to remember; it was located on Everfree Lane, the street in Ponyville that passed closest to the Everfree forest. There was only one home on the street, and it belonged to a pony that, now that Ditzy thought about it, seemed a likely candidate to need a shipping service to help her in a relationship.
The house soon came into view; a quaint cottage next to a bubbling stream, surrounded by a plethora of underground dens, birds' nests, feeders, animal pens, and dozens of other signs that indicated the presence of Ponyville's resident animal expert.
After she landed (in the stream, unfortunately) Ditzy shook herself off and trotted up to the door, rapping on it a few times with her hoof.
There was silence for a few moments, and then the door creaked open a crack. A pair of bright teal eyes stared out for a second.
"Fluttershy?" asked Ditzy hesitantly. "That you?"
The door opened the rest of the way, revealing the aforementioned yellow pegasus. "Yes, and, um
good morning." Said Fluttershy. "Are you here to deliver mail already?"
"No," said Ditzy. "I'm here from Equestria Speedy Shipping Services."
"Oh!" Fluttershy squeaked. "Goodness, that was fast. I hope I didn't call too early
I thought they would wait until later. I'm so sorry for bothering you at such an early hour
"Shush," said Ditzy. "I was already at work anyway. I needed something to do."
okay," Fluttershy mumbled. "Um
won't you come in? Can I offer you some breakfast?"
In truth, Ditzy hadn't had time to eat that morning. She accepted Fluttershy's offer, and soon found herself seated at the table, watching Fluttershy whip up a large batch of oatmeal.
"So, Fluttershy," Ditzy asked. "What kind of job did you have in mind when you called this morning?"
" Fluttershy stuttered. "Well, I, uh
I'm not sure if I should actually, um, go through with it, until I've given it a little more thought and, um, time
Typical Fluttershy. Hesitant and wishy-washy as always.
"No, Fluttershy," Ditzy said firmly as Fluttershy placed a steaming bowl of oatmeal in front of her. "You can't back down now; I know you called us for a reason. I understand you're worried about making a move, but I can help. You just need to tell me who it is you're interested in."
Fluttershy hid the majority of her face behind her mane and thought about what to do. Ditzy waited patiently for the shy mare to work up the courage to speak. In the meantime, she helped herself to the oatmeal, which was exquisite, at least as far as oatmeal goes.
," Fluttershy mumbled something.
"Beg your pardon? Ditzy asked, putting a hoof to her ear expectantly.
"I said it's
"Rainbow Dash!" Fluttershy screamed, practically knocking Ditzy out of her chair with the yell. The timid pegasus immediately covered her mouth with both hooves, blushing madly.
I'm just... I'm really nervous."
"I can tell," Ditzy replied, patting down her mane to the style it was in before Fluttershy had blown in back. "But at least I know who we're dealing with now."
Fluttershy sighed. "Rainbow Dash and I have been friends for years; I've known her longer than any of my other friends. And lately, I've started having some feelings for her, but we're just so
Ditzy just nodded, since her mouth was again full of oatmeal.
"Rainbow Dash treats me like a friend," Fluttershy continued. "But it seems like she's only really interested in her stunts and her training. She'll probably fall in love with another amazingly talented pegasus like her, not a quiet, timid pony like me."
"You never know, though," said Ditzy. "I think we should go find Rainbow Dash now; I'll talk to her a little bit and see if I can find a way to make her like you."
"But won't she wonder what we're up to if we just start interrogating her?" Fluttershy asked.
"We'll just pretend the two of us are going shopping," Ditzy said, "And start a casual conversation on the way by."
Ditzy had used the 'going shopping' excuse for a number of assignments now; it was a good way to prevent the target pony from realizing that she and the client were in cahoots.
Fluttershy shrugged. "Okay, I guess that will work," she said. "But
I still don't know if you'll find out anything about her that will help."
"Well, we have to start somewhere," Ditzy said, finishing off the bowl of oatmeal. "Let's go!"
Fluttershy and Ditzy flew into Cloudsdale, where Rainbow Dash was likely to be at this time of day. It didn't take long to find the multicolored pegasus, pushing together a group of rainclouds for a scheduled downpour at a nearby town.
Rainbow noticed as the other two pegasi approached. "Hi Fluttershy. Hi Ditzy. How are you?"
"We're going shopping, why do you ask!?" said Fluttershy way too loudly.
Rainbow raised an eyebrow. Ditzy just facehoofed.
" said Fluttershy, finally realizing she had answered the wrong question, "
I'm fine. How are you, Rainbow Dash?"
"Can't complain," Rainbow Dash replied, chalking up Fluttershy's unusual behavior as another result of the yellow pegasus's frayed nerves. "But I'm really excited for later today! Do you know why?"
no?" Fluttershy squeaked.
"The Wonderbolts are coming!" Rainbow cried. "This afternoon, they'll be signing autographs in front of Cloudsdale stadium! I hope they remember me!"
"Oh," said Fluttershy. "That's
"Heck yeah it's nice!" Rainbow responded. "Listen ladies, I'd love to stay and chat, but I have to get the weather done in time for this afternoon! See ya!"
Rainbow turned and hauled the amalgamation of storm clouds off into the distance.
"Well, that didn't last long," Fluttershy said sadly. "But you can see what I mean, right? Rainbow Dash would probably rather be with the Wonderbolts then with me."
Ditzy didn't respond.
"Um, hello?" Fluttershy asked nervously, waving a hoof in front of Ditzy's face.
But the grey mare didn't respond. Somewhere, in the depths of her brain, another crazy plan was suddenly piecing itself together.
Fluttershy was just about to give up and go look for a pony with medical expertise, when Ditzy snapped out of her trance, and grinned at Fluttershy.
"I think I know just how we can get Rainbow to like you, Fluttershy
Fluttershy was unnerved by the sly look on Ditzy's face. "Is that
a good thing?"
"Go back to your cottage for now," said Ditzy, ignoring the question. "I'll meet you there a little later and we'll continue. I've got something to take care of first."
Fluttershy whimpered, unsure of precisely what she was getting herself into, but she turned and flew away, leaving Ditzy to begin her new plan.
"Fillies and Gentlecotls, and ponies of all ages! May I present to you
The huge crowd of pegasi cheered wildly as the famous flying team appeared, creating complex patterns in midair with their smoke trails, before finally coming to stand by the long table set up in front of the stadium. Rainbow Dash was one of the very first ponies in line, eager to talk to her heroes again, and get a few signed photographs. A certain grey pegasus was also there, a few ponies behind.
"Well, if it isn't our biggest fan!" Spitfire, the Wonderbolts leader, commented as Rainbow Dash approached. "How have you been, Rainbow Dash?"
"I've been great!" Rainbow announced. "I've been training hard, just like always!"
"Good to hear," the Wonderbolt replied. "Don't forget, Ponyville's round of new recruit tryouts are in just a few months."
"Wouldn't miss 'em for the world!" Rainbow replied.
Spitfire smiled. "I really like your spirit, Dash. I hope you manage to make the team one day."
Dash giggled giddily as Spitfire signed a photograph and passed it to her.
"Thanks, Spitfire! See you around!"
Spitfire waved as Dash clutched the photo tightly, and darted off to meet the other Wonderbolts.
Spitfire watched her for a few moments, and then turned to greet the next pony in line.
"Well, would you look at this! It's Ditzy Doo! How's my old roommate from flight school doing today?"
Ditzy grinned. "Not bad, Spitfire. And you?"
"Same old, same old," Spitfire laughed. "The life of a celebrity. Fun, but predictable."
The two long-time friends laughed, but then Ditzy's expression became more serious. "Listen, Spitfire. Remember that favor you owe me? I've come to collect it. I need you to lend me something."
Spitfire's grin diminished. "Uh, sure. What do you need?"
"Two Wonderbolts costumes. Both for mares."
"We're going to what?!"
Fluttershy stood, quaking, staring down apprehensively at the bright blue garment like it was a venomous snake.
"You heard me," Ditzy said. "You and I are going to pretend we're new Wonderbolts, get Dash to totally adore you, and then reveal who you really are. That will make her see how cool you can really be!"
I can't be cool," Fluttershy deadpanned. "I mean
I'm not good at doing aerial stunts or anything
"It doesn't really matter," said Ditzy. "I'm pretty sure Dash will be too excited about hanging out with a Wonderbolt to even notice if you're not up to the standards of the rest of them."
" Fluttershy stammered, fumbling for another excuse. "But my mane! She'll recognize that even if I'm wearing the disguise."
Ditzy hurled a bottle of temporary mane-dye in Fluttershy's direction. The timid pony groaned, but gave in and went into the bathroom to apply it.
"Now I look like the Great and Powerful Trixie," the yellow pegasus grumbled when she emerged, toying disapprovingly with her now blue-white mane and tail. Ditzy just laughed as she trotted in and applied the bright green dye she had purchased for herself.
Ditzy exited the bathroom to find Fluttershy finally decked out in the borrowed uniform. It was very convincing; Ditzy wouldn't have recognized Fluttershy at all if she hadn't been aware of her identity ahead of time.
"That just leaves one more thing to address," Ditzy continued as she donned the other Wonderbolts uniform. "Your voice. We need to disguise it."
"Oh, that's easy," said Fluttershy. "I
took voice lessons. I seem to have a natural talent for impressions."
"Really?" Ditzy asked. "You? With that little voice of yours? Show me."
"Hi, I'm Ditzy Doo, and I like muffins!" Fluttershy announced, perfectly mirroring Ditzy's voice in every aspect. Hearing another pony speak in her own voice caused Ditzy to collapse with laughter. Fluttershy giggled as well.
"Great, great!" Ditzy said as she hiccupped away the last of her chuckles. "Now see if you can fabricate a good Wonderbolt voice. Maybe like Spitfire's, but a little higher."
"Like this?" asked Fluttershy in a new voice.
"Perfect!" Ditzy remarked. "Your identity is completely concealed. Let's go!"
But I'm not sure if I'm
"Oh, just come on!" Ditzy grumbled, yanking the cautious pony out the door.
The Two "new Wonderbolts" crouched in the uppermost branches of the oak tree, their eyes trained on the prismatic pegasus napping on a cloud a few meters above.
"What do I do?" whispered Fluttershy anxiously.
"You just need to act like a Wonderbolt!" Ditzy hissed back. "Be confident! Be a little arrogant if you have to. Make up some stories about aerial feats you've done that will impress even Rainbow Dash! And I'll be right beside you to back you up. Just remember, keep your voice disguised, and whatever you do, don't break character, or it's game over."
Fluttershy gulped. "I don't know why I let you talk me into this
"Too late for second thoughts. Here we go!"
Ditzy jumped up from the tree and floated into the air, with Fluttershy following behind. Soon, they were within a few meters of Rainbow Dash, who had not yet stirred from her sleep.
Fluttershy took a slow, deep breath, cleared her throat, and began to speak in her synthesized Wonderbolt voice.
"Hey, that must be Rainbow Dash. Spitfire mentioned something about her."
Rainbow awoke at the mention of her name. She blinked a few times, and her eyes went wide when she realized two Wonderbolts were hovering over her.
"Oh my gosh! It's the Wonderbolts!" Dash got up, looking between the two newcomers excitedly. "Wh
what are you doing here? Are you looking for me?"
"We were," said Fluttershy. "We're two new recruits that passed the tryouts last time they were in Hoofington. Spitfire told us about you, so we figured we'd come meet you while we were in Cloudsdale."
"Awesome!" Rainbow Dash squealed. "So, what're your names?"
Fluttershy froze; she and Ditzy had forgot to come up with codenames before they began!
Stormchaser!" Fluttershy answered, hoping she had been quick enough. "And this is my partner
Ditzy, who was not as good at disguising her voice, just nodded. She wanted to avoid speaking when possible.
"Nice to meet you!" Rainbow said enthusiastically. "Spitfire probably told you this, but I'm Rainbow Dash! I'm one of the fastest flyers in Equestria, and I'll be joining the Wonderbolts myself just as soon as the tryouts arrive here again!"
"Really?" asked Fluttershy, managing to add a hint of curious skepticism to her voice. "Let's see some of your moves then, hotshot."
Ditzy had to turn around to hide her grin. Fluttershy couldn't be assertive, sarcastic, challenging, or anything else harsh in reality to save her life, but wow, could she act!
"Sure! Check this out!" Rainbow said, speeding off to do some tricks in the sky.
Ditzy floated next to Fluttershy. "You are amazing!" she whispered to the usually-shy pegasus. "How are you doing that?"
I learned it in a school play," Fluttershy mumbled back. "I discovered that, if I pretend I really am the pony I'm playing the part of, I can manage to act like that pony would, instead of myself. It's
all about the mindset, I guess."
Ditzy was stunned. "Fluttershy, you're a pony of many talents, you know that?"
"Who's Fluttershy?" Fluttershy asked, disguising her voice again. "I'm Stormchaser!"
"That's the spirit!" Ditzy whispered as Rainbow Dash came soaring back over to the pair.
"So how was that?" Rainbow asked smugly. "Pretty sweet moves, huh?"
"Yeah, not bad," said Fluttershy, trying to sound only moderately impressed.
"What about you, Sky Cyclone?"
Ditzy grinned and nodded fiercely to indicate her feelings.
Dash raised an eyebrow. "You don't talk much, do you?"
"No, she doesn't," Fluttershy said. "So, those we're decent moves and all, Rainbow Dash, but what about
"Oh! I just had an idea!" Rainbow suddenly cried, cutting the pseudo-Wonderbolt off. "Since you guys are recent additions to the Wonderbolts team, how about we have a race! If I can keep up with you, then I'll know I'm ready to ace the tryouts!"
" Fluttershy thought quickly, searching for a way out. "Alright then. Excuse us for a second while we discuss which of us will race you."
Fluttershy grabbed Ditzy and pulled her over to nearby cloud, where the two pegasi turned their backs to Rainbow.
"Now what?" Fluttershy squeaked. "Rainbow Dash will actually be paying attention to our performance now! She'll know we're not really Wonderbolts if we can't at least keep up with her!"
"Well don't look at me," said Ditzy. "My flying is terrible. It's hard to move forward with lots of speed when you're looking in two directions at once."
Fluttershy groaned. "I can fly decently, but there's simply no way I can keep up with Rainbow Dash."
" said Ditzy suddenly. "You can use strategy instead of speed!"
"We need to set a race course that you can somehow use to your advantage, to make it seem like you're going faster than you really are."
Fluttershy gasped. "Like during the Running of the Leaves last year
Applejack used a flexible tree branch to launch herself forward!"
"Right!" Ditzy answered. "We need to use stuff like that to help you. We'll set a course through the woods, and we'll find you a bunch of shortcuts and other surprises you can use to stay ahead of Rainbow! She'll never know what hit her!"
do you think it could work?" Fluttershy squeaked.
"I hope so. It's the only way you could win, I think."
The two ponies ceased their huddle and flew back over to Rainbow Dash. "Alright Rainbow," Fluttershy said. "Here's the scoop. Sky Cyclone here is going to mark a course through the woods, so neither of us will know the route by heart. Then you and I will race through there when she's done."
"A test of speed and agility!" Rainbow observed. "You Wonderbolts know how to do it right!"
"Meet us at the woods in about an hour," Fluttershy said. Rainbow saluted and took off, probably to go practice. Fluttershy turned to her companion.
"The next part's up to you, Ditzy. So, um
"There you are," Fluttershy panted in relief when Ditzy came into view. "Are you finished? Rainbow will be here any minute!"
"I'm done," Ditzy said. "I've lined up a trail of red mushrooms along the path you're supposed to follow. Every now and then, I've laid a blue mushroom on a patch of moss. When you see a blue mushroom on moss, it means there's a shortcut there. If you follow it, it will lead you to a later part of the red trail. If you use the shortcuts, you should be able to keep up with Rainbow, since she won't know they're there. Just don't let her see you take those routes, or she'll know you're cheating."
"Okay," said Fluttershy. "Anything else?"
"Yeah," said Ditzy. "At the end of the course is a long straightaway leading out of the trees. If Rainbow still manages to get ahead of you, you can use this one big tree branch just like Applejack did to throw yourself forward. Just flap your wings while you do, so it looks like you're still flying. If you can pull that off, you'll win for sure."
"Good," said Fluttershy. "Because here she comes!"
The two pegasi looked up as Rainbow Dash descended from the sky. The colorful pony's mane was very windblown; she'd probably been giving herself a serious workout to warm up.
"You ready?" Rainbow challenged.
"Of course," said Fluttershy coolly, again doing a fabulous job of hiding her nervousness. "Sky cyclone set up a trail of red mushrooms for us to follow. First one to reach the outer edge of the woods wins."
Both ponies crouched down, wings spread, ready to take off. Fluttershy glanced at Ditzy, signaling her to start the race.
"On your mark
" Ditzy said, trying as hard as possible to change her voice to literally anything other than its normal sound.
Rainbow tensed, flapping her wings once in anticipation. Fluttershy did the same.
Both ponies rocketed forward into the woods. Almost immediately, Rainbow Dash took the lead. "What's the matter, Stormchaser?" she called. "Can't keep up?"
"Just getting warmed up," Fluttershy called back, trying to sound arrogant.
Ditzy watched the pegasi disappear, and then flew around the outside of the woods to wait at the finish line.
Fluttershy weaved through the trees, moving as fast as her wings would carry her, but Rainbow was pulling further and further ahead. Fluttershy scanned the ground, desperately searching for the shortcut marker.
Just as Rainbow moved out of sight completely, Fluttershy spotted the first blue mushroom, and turned left sharply, passing through a narrow tunnel beneath the boughs. She emerged just a moment after Rainbow passed the spot where the shortcut ended.
The kaleidoscopic pegasus glanced backward in surprise. "Wow, you're faster than I thought! Time to step it up!" Rainbow beat her wings even harder, and Fluttershy watched in amazement as the pegasus continued to rocket ahead.
She's even faster than I expected, Fluttershy thought. I hope there's enough shortcuts for me to keep up!
She took a turn at the next blue mushroom, and found herself floating over a wide gorge that Rainbow was likely going all the way around. After a moment, she reached the other side, and after passing through a wall of brush, was back on the red trail. A few more shortcuts soon after kept her close behind Rainbow once again.
The two ponies turned a corner and came onto the straightaway. The light beyond the woods was visible, a speck a few hundred meters away. Fluttershy had a tiny lead, but Rainbow was closing in fast. Fluttershy slowed deliberately, letting her rival get ahead.
Quickly, the yellow pegasus grabbed the branch Ditzy had mentioned. She pushed it back, jumped up so the branch sat against her flank, and let go of the tree.
Woosh! The branch snapped back to its original position, hurling Fluttershy forward at a speed she had never experienced before. The pegasus spread her wings and rode the air easily thanks to the incredible momentum.
Rainbow Dash was stunned when the other pegasus blazed past her, plummeting toward the finish line.
I'm going to win! Fluttershy thought ecstatically. I'm actually going to
A loose branch caught on Fluttershy, which, given her uncontrolled speed, sent her hurtling into a chaotic tumble. She pitched forward with a shriek and plowed into the ground
and across the finish line.
It took Fluttershy a moment to get her bearings, but once she had, she realized she had beaten Rainbow. The other racer came to a stop at the finish line a moment later, her expression incredulous.
"Ha! Take that!" Fluttershy announced proudly.
Rainbow Dash said nothing. She just stared at Fluttershy with a shocked and confused expression. Fluttershy began to sense that something was wrong.
It took Rainbow a moment to speak. She was unable to piece this turn of events together.
Fluttershy's eyes went wide. How does she know? I didn't let my character down for an instant. And it's not like she can see my
Fluttershy stopped, and put her hooves to her fully exposed face. The Wonderbolts mask dangled from the branch that had caught her at the end of the race.
"But if you're Fluttershy," said Rainbow, in an almost scared-sounding tone, "Then
Ditzy made a move to get out of the way, but Rainbow was on her in an instant. The cyan pegasus tore off the mask, revealing Ditzy's telltale misaligned eyes.
"Ditzy Doo?!" said Rainbow, shocked once again. "Alright, what the hay is going on here!?"
" Ditzy stammered. She wasn't supposed to let anyone but the client know what she was up to. The matchup was destined to fail if she did.
"It was all my idea," Fluttershy lied smoothly. "Ditzy just agreed to help me. Leave her out of this."
but why?" Rainbow stammered. "And
Fluttershy moaned and sank to the ground, covering her face completely with her mane and holding it there. Rainbow stamped her hoof.
"Fluttershy! This isn't funny! I want an explanation now!"
I'm sorry!" Fluttershy squeaked. "I just
just really wanted you to think I was cool, Rainbow. But I was supposed to reveal my identity later, not like this
why did you want to make me think you were cool?"
"Because it was the only way I could get you to like me!" Fluttershy sobbed, collapsing yet again.
Fluttershy, I already like you!"
"No," sobbed Fluttershy. "I mean
Rainbow's eyes widened. "Fluttershy
" she started tentatively. "Do you, uh
Do you like me?"
" Fluttershy managed to gurgle between sobs.
Rainbow grinned. "Well, that saves me a lot of trouble, then!"
Fluttershy ceased crying suddenly. "Wait
" Dash was blushing now, but she was smiling. "I actually
have had a crush on you for a while now
but I was scared to tell you."
Fluttershy gasped and sat up. "You
"Yeah!" said Rainbow, her usual vigor returning. "I like the Wonderbolts and all, and I think their flying is really cool and all, but I don't, you know, love them."
"Nah," said Rainbow. "I find the sweet, timid types much more charming."
Rainbow jumped forward suddenly and scooped Fluttershy up in a big hug, lifting her into the air a bit. Fluttershy hugged back, the tears in her eyes now stemming from happiness rather than despair.
"Rainbow," said Fluttershy, after they touched down again. "Just give me a moment to properly thank Ditzy for all the trouble I put her through. Then maybe we can
Rainbow Dash smiled. "Yeah. Go ahead."
Fluttershy trotted over to Ditzy. Both ponies smiled broadly at each other.
"How much do I owe you?" Fluttershy asked.
oh, horseapples, I forgot to set a price before we started!" Ditzy admitted.
I'll just send you the money later," Fluttershy said. "Five-hundred bits."
"Fi-Fi-Five hundred?" Ditzy stammered. "That's so much!"
"Oh, you deserve it," Fluttershy cooed. "I put you through so much today."
The yellow pegasus removed her Wonderbolt outfit and gave it to Ditzy. "Spitfire will probably be wanting this back," she said sheepishly. "I'll see you later. I'm going to go 'hang out' with Rainbow Dash!"
Grinning, Fluttershy turned away and skipped over to her waiting lover.
"Wait!" Rainbow announced suddenly. "We can hang out, but only on one condition."
Fluttershy stopped. "And
"Wash that dye out of your mane. You look like the Great and Powerful Trixie."
Fluttershy and Ditzy laughed aloud, and Ditzy waved goodbye to the new couple before taking to the sky once again.