The BYOM Special to Loch Azure left Ponyville in good weather, but the rail line ran through Coltchester, which was due to be drenched in rain. As the train approached, a pegasus dived out of the sky and flew alongside the locomotive.
“Heavy rain ahead, guys!” she called to the crew over the thundering of the pistons. “Better cover up!”
She took to the air again and the driver and firemare opened the tender cupboard. The firemare magiced a tarpaulin out of the cupboard and stretched it from the cab roof to the tender. And not a moment too soon. The locomotive and its carriages and brake van were suddenly buffeted by rain drops the size of pumpkin seeds. Both driver and firemare were bone dry, and the engine’s coal supply was, while hidden and difficult to shovel, safe from being flooded.
Three carriages away, Rarity woke with a start. She looked around and began to cough. She had fallen asleep with her mouth open and her throat was parched.
“Glass of water?” Pinkie Pie asked.
She opened the window. Water poured in and Pinkie held up a glass filling it right up. She closed the window and offered the glass to Rarity.
“Thank you,” said Rarity, taking a sip.
It wasn’t her dry throat that had woken her. Nor was it the banging of the rain on the coach exterior. Her horn had twinged in her sleep. She didn’t feel anything now, so she turned back to Pinkie Pie.
“Much better. I’m so glad you’re here, Pinkie.”
“Happy to be here with ya, Rarity,” smiled Pinkie. “Uh… where are we going again?”
Once she realised Pinkie Pie was serious, Rarity said “We’re going to Loch Azure. We shall be competing in a BYOM event.”
“Who’s BYOM?” asked Pinkie.
“Not a who, but a what, dear,” Rarity corrected. “BYOM means Bring Your Own Model.”
“Oh. I see. And who did you bring to be your model?”
Rarity didn’t respond, not because of Pinkie’s ludicrous question, but because she felt that twinge in her horn again for a moment.
“Ooh, guessing game! Um… Carrottop? No, uh… Silverspeed! Oh, oh, oh! Is it a stallion? Is it Neon Lights or Noteworthy or…?”
“It’s you, Pinkie Pie!” Rarity burst out.
“Oh! I knew there was a reason I turned down Cheerilee’s offer to teach a class about frogs!” Pinkie slapped her forehead.
That twinge returned again. Rarity massaged her horn. Could one of the other passengers have some jewellery in their luggage?
“Wait, how come you wanted me to be your model?” inquired Pinkie Pie. “Why not Carrottop or Silverspeed or…?”
“Because,” Rarity interrupted, “the fashion show is going to be held on the lake. As you know, Loch Azure’s safety marshal Professor Lactic has put a spell on the water that prevents ponies from going into the lake in a foolhardy attempt to find the Loch Azure Monster.”
“And he didn’t take it off after Azurey moved away?” Pinkie asked.
“No. It became something of a tourist trap.”
“Um, so this BYOM show will be held on the water,” Rarity went on. “So I decided I wanted somepony whose coat, mane and tail could compliment the reflection of the lake.”
“And who’s that pony?” asked Pinkie. “Waitwaitwait! I remember! It’s me, isn’t it?”
“Yes, it is,” Rarity said, more impatient with her horn than with Pinkie Pie’s cretinism. “Have you ever seen a gorgeous pink sky at sunrise reflected on a pond? Your coat and hair would be just as WHAT IS GOING ON WITH MY HORN?!”
Rarity hopped off her bed and walked briskly along the carriage towards the locomotive. Her horn was trying to tell her that something was concealed on this train. It would not leave her alone until she discovered what it was. She pointed her horn at ponies’ bags, but there didn’t seem to be anything of interest in any of them. Not many of the passengers took a second look as Rarity glared at their luggage. She strolled along the corridor and entered the second coach from the engine. A pleasant surprise and a welcome distraction awaited her.
“I have met the Loch Azure weather captain, but he doesn’t seem interested in the weather whenever I see him.”
“I never knew the Manehattan weather captain. And if things go well in Loch Azure, maybe I never will.”
“Who’s that?” asked Lightning Dust.
“That’s Rarity!” cried Coco. “She’s my friend from Ponyville. She got me a job with that Bridleway costume designer.”
Lightning suddenly recognised Rarity as she sauntered to their bed and she and Coco hugged.
“You’re one of Rainbow Dash’s pals, aren’t ya?” she asked.
“Oh. Yes,” Rarity replied. “You were once in the Wonderbolt Academy with her until you produced that tornado that destroyed our balloon, weren’t you?”
“And you were the one who spread that rumour that foals were crossing Loch Azure to the Sepia Forest, right?” asked Rarity.
“Well, lovely to see you,” Rarity said, shaking hooves with Lightning Dust.
Coco Pommel was looking forward to chatting with her old friend, but Rarity’s horn was bugging her again.
“Listen, darling, I have a problem with my horn and I must discover what’s causing it to tingle,” she said apologetically to Coco. “I promise I’ll come back once I’ve finished and we can catch up.”
“Sure,” Coco smiled.
Lightning Dust pulled her bag off the coach floor and opened it. “Anything interesting in here?”
All Rarity could see was some Wonderbolts paraphernalia and a box of nougaty chocolates; none of which stopped her horn from twinging.
“I’m afraid not,” she replied. “I must press on.”
Coco Pommel and Lightning Dust watched Rarity stagger along the carriage pointing her horn at ponies’ bags.
“What was that about, Rarity?” came a voice. “Have you gone loco in the coco?”
Pinkie had caught up to Rarity and entered the second coach. She spotted Coco Pommel and Lightning Dust.”
“Hey Rarity, look!” she cried. “It’s Coco in the loco!”
Rarity didn’t find what she was looking for in the second carriage, and nothing in the first carriage stopped her horn from twinging either.
“Surely it couldn’t be somewhere on the engine,” she groaned as she made her way to the front of the coach.
She decided she’d have to get her mane drenched if she wanted to put an end to this annoying search. She went through the compartment door and poked her head out into the rain.
“Coal!” she cried.
Her horn stopped twinging and she receded back into the carriage.
“Coal and jewels are both made up of carbon atoms,” she explained to Pinkie, Coco and Lightning two carriages later. “It seems my gem finding spell can give me a minute signal if there is coal covered up nearby as well as diamonds and rubies.”
“Bonus!” Pinkie Pie grinned.
“You could tell us if there’s any coal left in the Feldgrau Mine,” said Lightning Dust. “Ever heard of that?”
“Another of Loch Azure’s supposedly haunted landmarks,” Rarity answered. “It has two entrances that meet in the middle after about fifty yards. Myth would have us believe that if one pony goes into one entrance and another pony goes into the other, they shall never meet in the middle.”
“So no BYOM partners will be trying it,” smirked Lightning Dust. “Too bad. There’d be no competition. We’d be all set.”
“What? Are you two taking part in the fashion show?” Pinkie Pie asked. “Neato!”
Coco gulped. “You too?”
“Why, yes,” Rarity smiled. “How wonderful. The perfect opportunity for you and I to see how we’ve progressed since Fashion Week in Manehattan.”
Lightning Dust had left her bag open and had opened her box of nougaty chocolates. The four contestants were snacking on them when Pinkie spotted the Wonderbolts paraphernalia.
“There was a Wonderbolts Derby in Manehattan two days ago, wasn’t there?” she asked.
“Yeah. That’s where me and her met,” Lightning replied, hugging Coco with one hoof. “Our tickets were for seats that were next to each other, and we both happened to be routing for Misty Fly; who won by the way.”
Coco smiled again. “Uh, huh. We bonded a bit and when I told her I was a seamstress, she told me about the BYOM event. She convinced me to sign up. She offered to put me up for a few days in her home town.”
“Why not?” said Lightning Dust. “Never had a roommate before. And she came up with this wicked cool idea for an outfit that would help me with my training.”
“Training?” repeated Rarity.
“You’ll see what it’s all about at the show,” Lightning Dust grinned. “But I could show ya what I’ve been up to since Spitfire chucked me outta the academy.”
A van had been added to the rear of the passenger train to accommodate the BYOM contestants’ clothing racks. These racks were draped with translucent black material to keep the entrants’ creations secret. When the special train arrived at Loch Azure station, Professor Lactic met the contestants on the platform. He instructed everypony to take their racks from the van and follow a trail of pylons to a shed close to the lake. As the contestants made their way to the van, one of the passengers who wasn’t taking part in the BYOM event stubbed her hoof on one of the pylons.
“I’m sure I’d made an announcement that I’d put a spell on those pylons to prevent them being moved and causing somepony to lose their way,” Prof Lactic grumbled.
A wailing sound surrounded the van, making more noise than the rain in Coltchester had.
“Thieves!” cried Prof Lactic, looking frantically around. “Who was it?! Who took someone else’s rack?! Out with it!”
No one came forward. No one appeared to be making a run for it with a stolen rack.
“Who’s missing their rack?!” demanded Lactic.
No one spoke up for a moment, but then somepony said “Oh, sorry. I grabbed the wrong one.”
Two contestants had grabbed the other’s rack by mistake. They exchanged racks and apologized.
“So, it seems you have all had the benefit of a demonstration of one of my security precautions,” Prof Lactic said to the crowd. “If a rack is taken by anypony other than its owner, everypony within this town will hear that siren. No one will be getting away with any theft or vandalism. Now, on to the shed, please.”
After all nine racks were stored away, Lightning Dust beckoned Rarity to a bank several yards away from the shed.
“Just a moment,” Rarity said. “Where’s Pinkie Pie?”
She and Coco Pommel looked around. Coco spotted Pinkie standing on the surface of the lake looking down at her reflection.
“Pinkie, Rarity’s looking for you,” said Coco, trotting over to the edge of the bank.
Pinkie hadn’t heard. She was admiring her pink reflection against the blue water.
“Rarity was right. Pink and blue go great together. I can’t wait to get on the outfit she made for me again. It’ll be a knockout.”
Coco gulped. “Um, Pinkie?”
“What’s up, Coco?”
“Rarity’s gonna watch Lightning Dust perform a few flying tricks,” Coco said. “Do you want to see?”
“I can see her from here,” Pinkie replied. “Tell her she can go ahead.”
Coco made her way back to Rarity and Lightning Dust, and told them that Pinkie would be staying put for this demonstration.
Lightning Dust gave her bag of Wonderbolts paraphernalia to Rarity.
“OK. While I’m up in the air, throw something up in different directions at random intervals,” she instructed.
“Very well,” Rarity nodded as Lightning Dust took off.
Rarity watched Lightning Dust zoom around the sky for a few moments before tossing a baseball cap up to her left. Lightning Dust shot towards it and caught it before it hit the ground. Instantly, Rarity threw a scarf in the opposite direction. Lightning caught it effortlessly. A flag with Misty Fly’s face on it was next to be flung into the air, and it almost hit the water before Lightning Dust scooped it up. The same went for a second scarf and a Spitfire plushy. Rarity soon realized that Lightning wasn’t dropping anything she caught. She had done this activity with Rainbow Dash once before, but Rainbow had always thrown everything back to her soon after she caught it. Lightning Dust didn’t drop a single item and after about four minutes, she at last failed to grab something. Pinkie Pie ended up catching the headband Lightning missed.
When Lightning Dust returned to the ground to join Rarity and Coco Pommel, she looked like the craziest Wonderbolts fanatic anypony could imagine.
“Bravo, Lightning Dust,” Rarity applauded. “Twelve out of thirteen items.”
She didn’t mention that Rainbow Dash’s record was fourteen.
“One question, though,” she continued. “Are you training for anything in particular?”
“Isn’t it obvious?” asked Lightning Dust.
Rarity scratched her chin.
“How can you not get it?” Lightning impatiently indicated the paraphernalia which was making her nearly invisible.
“Just a moment!” Rarity exclaimed. “You’ve already been expelled from the Wonderbolts Academy.”
“Yeah, but the academy ain’t the only way to become a member,” Lightning Dust said confidently. “There’ve been other admission rules since General Firefly’s time.”
“Darling, those stipulations were only relevant in General Firefly’s time,” Rarity said. “Rainbow Dash used to try breaking areal acrobatic records to get the Wonderbolts’ attention, but nothing panned out. Firefly’s initiation methods have been out-dated for hundreds of years.”
Lightning Dust wasn’t discouraged.
“They’ll be scrambling to bring back those old rules once they see my accomplishments,” she insisted.
“That is exactly what Rainbow Dash used to say,” Rarity shook her head. “She’s long since abandoned trying to become a mere record breaker.”
“She racked up dozens of records at the academy and Spitfire wouldn’t shut up about her,” Lightning Dust retorted. “After she catches wind of my records outside of the academy…”
“I’m sorry, Lightning Dust,” said Rarity bluntly, “but I’m afraid this is utterly fruitless. Surely you know that it’s futile to think you can go anywhere with your efforts, no matter how hard you work. If you know it’s a lost cause, you ought not to go through with it.”
Coco Pommel’s legs began to shake. She’d been feeling intimidated ever since she discovered that Rarity was taking part in the BYOM event along with her.
Lightning Dust scowled a bit. Rarity noticed that she was squashing the Spitfire plushy under her hoof.
“If I’d given up on myself and my training,” she hissed, “Coco Pommel here wouldn’t have anyone to model her Parachute Pinafore.”
Coco yelped. Rarity glanced at her.
“Oops. Sorry, Coco,” Lightning Dust blushed. “Kinda lost my temper.”
Rarity looked around, and lowered her voice into Coco’s ear.
“You mean to tell me that the dress you made for Lightning Dust deploys a sort of parachute?” she asked. “To hold Lightning Dust back so she can strengthen her wings?”
Coco managed to nod.
“How innovative,” Rarity complimented. “Practicality is the one area of dressmaking where I struggle. My outfit for Pinkie Pie merely compliments her…”
“Compliments her coat and hair,” Coco interrupted. “Pinkie dropped a hint by mistake and I figured it out.”
“Oh.” Rarity said. “Well then, that evens things out quite nicely. No need for anyone to go and touch up their entrees out of panic. I must admit, I was on the verge there.”
“Could you three ladies move away from the bank, please?”
Prof Lactic had approached, flanked by some construction ponies.
“We’re going to set up for the show tomorrow,” he said.
Rarity, Coco Pommel and Lightning Dust vacated the bank. Pinkie Pie joined up with them and returned Lightning’s headband to her.
“So,” said Lightning Dust as though nothing was bothering her, “how about the four of us grab some dinner at the Nepeta Hut? There’s a cool ghost story about that place you just gotta hear.”
“Okey-dokey-lokey!” Pinkie Pie agreed.
“We’ll meet you there once we’ve checked into our hotel room,” Rarity smiled.
The story Lightning Dust had in mind certainly made Rarity and Pinkie Pie shiver a bit. Coco Pommel was very tense, but it had nothing to do with the superstitions surrounding the restaurant. She felt like she had no chance in a fashion contest against Rarity. They’d had similar time constraints and she’d had to use Rarity’s own fabric against her, but Rarity still pulled ahead. And as if that wasn’t enough, Rarity had told Lightning Dust that her chances of becoming a Wonderbolt were zero. Coco’s Parachute Pinafore wouldn’t be of any use to Lightning Dust now.
Coco decided to get rid of her entree and head back to Manehattan. After sundown, when she was sure Lightning Dust was asleep, she crept out of #1933 and made her way to the shed where the racks were kept. She quickly located her own rack and wheeled it out of the shed, careful not to graze any of the other racks in the process. The wheels didn’t squeak much, but the bumpy ground made the rack rattle a lot as Coco made her way out of the town. She didn’t feel the need to keep a good lockout because virtually nopony came out after dark in Loch Azure. So many ghost stories in one area made going out into the night practically a crime here.
After a lot of manoeuvring and one particularly sharp bump that Coco was sure somepony must have heard, she made it out of city limits. She stared ahead and found herself in front of a cliff face. A stack of mining carts was wedged in the rock. Coco realised that this was one of the entrances to the Feldgrau Mine. She towed her rack along the cliff face to see if the other entrance was blocked or not. She came across a pile of crumpled mining carts lying pathetically in front of a square hole in the rock.
Perfect, Coco thought. I’ll hide my rack in there, head back to Lightning Dust’s place, and catch the morning train to Manehattan tomorrow. By the time anypony realizes my rack’s missing, I’ll be on my way home.
It was difficult to get the rack over the pile of crumpled carts. Coco got the fright of her life when the top of her rack smacked one of the support beams in the entrance. A nasty crack formed in mine wall, but the mine didn’t collapse. Coco sighed in relief and carried on pushing her rack further down the mine.
Coco halted and wheeled around. No one was there. She turned back to her cart and toppled backwards in fright. Pinkie Pie’s furious face was sticking out of the curtaining around the rack.
“How did you steal this rack without setting off the alarm?!” Pinkie demanded, voice echoing around the tunnel. “I mean, it’s impressive that you beat the system and everything, but you said you wouldn’t be influenced by Suri Polomare’s cheating ways! And now I find you stealing Rarity’s rack!”
Coco picked herself up. “It’s my rack.”
Pinkie’s face went blank. She receded into the rack, and then emerged again.
“Well I’ll be a honey glazed donut,” she said, stepping out into the cracking mine. “That’s how you got that rack out of the shed. But you still haven’t gotten your hooves on Rarity’s dress.”
“I’m not trying to hide her dress. I’m trying to hide my own,” Coco admitted.
“Well, now I’m really confused,” Pinkie groaned.
The mine was groaning too. There was a booming crash. Pinkie and Coco saw the support beam at the entrance slam onto the ground.
“Cave in!” they cried.
The roof started to crumble. Pinkie grabbed Coco, tossed her into the rack and pushed it quickly away from the collapsing entrance. The mine floor was littered with low-grade coal, and the rack was buffeted about as the crumbling ceiling chased Pinkie, Coco and the Parachute Pinafore along the tunnel. Pinkie couldn’t outrun the cave in with all these obstructions, but when she spotted a fork in the mine, she shoved the rack to the right. Moments later, she and Coco found themselves stuck in the other entrance between a wall of boulders and a stack on mine carts.
Morning came and it was soon public that Pinkie Pie and Coco Pommel were missing. Rarity and Lightning Dust were frantically inquiring around as to their whereabouts and no one had an answer. When Lightning Dust discovered that the rack with the Parachute Pinafore was missing, she suspected that Coco might have taken her rack and caught the train to Manehattan. She zoomed to Loch Azure station and was relieved to find that the train had been delayed due to the locomotive having a broken spring. But after a frantic search of the platform and all of the carriages, Coco Pommel was nowhere to be found.
Pinkie Pie had injured her hooves during the cave in, so she and Coco Pommel had had no luck shifting the stack of mine carts that were wedged into the exit.
“Never fear, Coco,” said Pinkie Pie with a confident grin. “All we have to do is clean all this coal off the floor and use your rack as a battering ram.”
“But what if we don’t break through and this entrance falls on us?” groaned Coco.
“You don’t like taking chances, do you?” Pinkie frowned. “You tried and back out of the BYOM competition and now you’re stuck in a mine. Now we’re doing things my way.”
With that, she set to work kicking lumps of coal against the walls.
After Rarity had informed the other contestants about Pinkie and Coco, they agreed to help her and Lightning Dust search for their friends. After hours of searching, the BYOM competition was due to start. There was an uncomfortable moment when the other contestants were tempted to ask if they could forego the competition and carry on the search. Rarity and Lightning Dust decided that the two of them would sit it out and told the others that they could go ahead with the show.
Lightning Dust searched around from the sky, and there was no sign of Coco Pommel or Pinkie Pie. All she could really see was the floating judges table on the lake. Ponies were beginning to sit in rows to watch the BYOM show commence. Suddenly, Lightning Dust’s vision went blue. She shifted to her left and saw a blue circle in the sky with three diamonds inside it.
“What is that?!” she exclaimed.
She followed the beam of light down to the ground. It led to Rarity.
“What are you doing?”
“This is my pony signal,” Rarity explained.
“What are doing that for? You’re not the one who’s lost,” Lightning frowned.
“It will provide a beacon for Pinkie and Coco,” said Rarity. “Give them something to look for.”
“Oh. Good one,” nodded Lightning Dust. “Hey, look at this!”
She flew back up to Rarity’s beacon.
“Lightning’s in the sky with diamonds!” she called.
Even with Coco’s help, Pinkie’s sore hooves were making long work of shifting the scattered coal against the walls.
“Wait! I got a better idea!” Pinkie suddenly cried. “Coco, do you mind if I take the curtaining off your rack? If we can cover up all this coal, we can make Rarity’s horn twinge. She’ll have to follow it and it’ll take her right to us!”
Coco had no hesitation in helping Pinkie Pie remove the curtaining from her rack and draping it over the pile of coal they’d made against the wall.
“Rats! It’s not enough. The pile’s too big,” Pinkie groaned. “Aww, we gotta kick around coal all over again.”
“No, just use my Parachute Pinafore,” Coco said, taking her dress off its hanger.
“But it’ll get covered in coal dust,” objected Pinkie Pie.
“I don’t care. You know I decided to drop out of the contest,” said Coco stubbornly. “Come on, Pinkie. We’re both breathing in a lot of carbon. We won’t last long in here.”
Pinkie reluctantly stood aside and allowed Coco to cover up the rest of the coal with her exquisite dress.
“What’s up, Rarity!” Lightning Dust called from above. “Why’s your pony signal fading?!”
“My horn’s twinging again!” Rarity called back. “Just like on the train!”
Lightning Dust nearly fell out of the sky when she realised what was happening.
“The mine! The Feldgrau Mine! They’re in there!”
Rarity’s eyes popped. She stopped shining her signal and told Lightning Dust to lead the way to the haunted mine.
“Pinkie! Coco! Are you in there?!”
“It worked!” whooped Pinkie Pie.
She and Coco hurriedly explained through a tiny crack in the stack in mining carts that the other entrance collapsed.
“Don’t fret!” Rarity called. “We’ll free you!”
Rarity gripped one end of the stack of carts, Lightning Dust grasped the other, Pinkie Pie and Coco Pommel pushed against the other side, and they four ponies attempted to take down the obstruction. The carts creaked and groaned, but they didn’t come away.
Lightning Dust examined one of the carts. “If I can break through the walls of this cart, the whole stack will fall down. Stand back, everypony!”
Rarity backed away from the stack. Pinkie Pie and Coco moved down the tunnel. Lightning Dust flew about a mile away from the entrance, took a deep breath, and zoomed towards the stack of carts. With her hooves outstretched, she slammed into the chosen cart, punching out its sides and causing the rest of the carts to fall apart and tumble.
Coco helped Lightning Dust get back up.
“Thank you so much for freeing us,” she said as she and Lightning hugged.
“You’re not hurt are you?” Rarity asked Pinkie, who exited the mine.
“Just my hooves,” replied Pinkie, who hugged Rarity nevertheless.
At that moment, cheering could be heard from the lake.
“The show’s starting!” exclaimed Pinkie Pie.
Forgetting the pain in her hooves, she gathered the curtain and the dress off the pile of coal, hung the Parachute Pinafore back on the rack and draped it with the curtain.
“All aboard!” Lightning Dust shouted as she grabbed Rarity and Coco and tossed them into the rack.
Pinkie Pie clung onto the rear of the rack. Lightning Dust grasped it with her hind hooves and flew out of the mine towing the rack and her three friends behind her.
“Wait a minute!” cried Coco Pommel.
“No time!” Lightning Dust called back. “You and Pinkie Pie can explain everything after the show’s over!”
Coco’s heart pounded as Lightning rushed her, Rarity, Pinkie Pie, and her dress towards the lake.
The judge’s table had inflatable legs. The contestants’ racks were line up in a row, their owners standing in front of them and they’re models concealed inside wearing their outfits for the show. The spectators were standing in a wide circle around the judges and contestants.
“Make way! Late entries!” bellowed Lightning Dust.
The crowd looked around. The ponies who were standing behind the racks all moved over. Lightning Dust had stopped at the shed so Rarity could collect her own rack. The two of them rushed into the circle and stopped abruptly. Rarity parked her rack on one side of the line-up and Lightning Dust took the other. Pinkie Pie was already dressed inside Rarity’s rack. Lightning Dust stopped her rack so abruptly that Coco Pommel spilled out of it. Lightning quickly hid herself within the drapes as Coco picked herself shakily up.
The contest began with Rarity’s dress as she was now first in line. Rarity pulled back the curtain and Pinkie Pie stepped onto the lake surface sporting her gown. It had three different shades of pink and reflected nicely on the blue water. Pinkie herself on the other hoof didn’t quite complete the look. She was still covered in coal dust and her black coat, while not ruining the look of the dress, didn’t have the effect Rarity had intended. Pinkie seemed to realise as she walked about within the circle that her coat and hair didn’t match her dress, so she rolled around on the water to wash herself off. It worked, but she didn’t exactly put on an elegant show for the judges. They were looking at her like she was picking her nose with a turkey.
“Well…” said one of the judges, “I guess there is no rule that says the models have to bathe before the show.”
Pinkie Pie burst out laughing, water dripping off her and her dress. Rarity went so red, her reflection looked better than Pinkie’s. Nevertheless, the crowd gave the two of them a round of applause when Pinkie’s time was up.
If Rarity was embarrassed, Coco Pommel was absolutely mortified. Even though Pinkie Pie hadn’t been a dignified model, she still looked good in Rarity’s dress. Coco felt dread well up inside her as the other contestants showed off their models and their garments. She wanted to run away, but she was sure bullet-fast Lightning Dust, who was coughing within her rack, would prevent her.
When Coco and Lightning were the only pair left, Lightning Dust didn’t wait for Coco to pull back the curtains. She propelled herself out of the rack and achieved such a distance, she was standing a few feet from the judges table. Coco shuddered. Her Parachute Pinafore had once been silvery, but it was now black with coal dust. Two of the judges grimaced, but one of them leaned forward on the table grinning.
“What, do you like it?” asked one of his fellows.
“It’s definitely durable,” he answered. “It’s clearly been dumped into a steam engine’s tender and it’s still intact. Really look at it. No rips, no holes, no stitching’s come away… it’s solid as a rock.”
The other two judges had to agree now that he’d brought this up. Coco’s eyes widened as the crowd began to chatter interestedly. Lightning Dust, hit with a sudden inspiration, lifted her legs and flew along the lake’s surface. Water sprayed up all around her and the coal dust gradually washed away. Like Pinkie Pie, Lightning Dust got drenched, but she knew what to do. She took off about thirty feet above the crowd and pulled on one of the tassels. This was the release for the parachute. It deployed into a huge silvery oval and caused little drops of water to rain down on the audience, the judges, and the other contestants. The crowd went wild and burst into applause.
Coco Pommel could not believe what was happening. She and Lightning Dust had won first prize. There in front of her was a gold, meticulously polished trophy with both their names engraved on the plaque.
“And you wanted to pull out,” snickered Pinkie Pie, her hooves lightly tapping the lake; the cool water was soothing on her sore hooves.
“What?!” Rarity cried. “Surely not!”
Coco sighed. “I didn’t think I had a chance if you were competing. You’re the best. You had to improvise an entirely new line after Suri gave me your fabric to use, and Prim gave first prize to you.”
“I would never want anyone I was competing with to give up,” insisted Rarity. “Giving up is the only way you really lose.”
“I coulda told ya that,” Lightning Dust grinned.
Rarity decided to say nothing to this for the sake of Coco Pommel’s self-esteem.
“What I’m saying is you should do your best to not lose confidence when competing,” she chose her words carefully. “You never know what your chances really are until you’re in the game, and the only way to find out is to take part.”
Coco Pommel smiled. “Thank you, Rarity. You never fail to inspire me.”
At that moment, Coco Pommel’s and Pinkie Pie’s stomachs growled. Neither had eaten all day.
“How about another meal at the Nepeta Hut?”