Rough in the Diamond

by Sharp Spark

Chapter 1: Rough in the Diamond

“You know,” Pinkie said as she happily bounced alongside Rainbow Dash, “I think Rarity is going to Canterlot this weekend too!”

Rainbow paused right there in the middle of the path, threw her head up towards the sky, and groaned.

Pinkie’s head tilted to the side at an alarming angle. “What? I was just going to say, you two should totally—”

“Should tooootally pal around and go shopping and be besties? Save it, Pinkie.” Rainbow Dash rolled her eyes. “She’s your friend, not mine.”

Pinkie gasped. Then she said, “Gasp!” a bit louder just to make sure Rainbow got the point.

“Not like that,” Rainbow groused. “I mean, she’s… our friend, but she’s not really my friend. Me and her don’t have anything in common. It’d be like… like Spike hanging out with Big Macintosh.”

“I think they play poker with some of the other stallions every other Friday,” Pinkie said.

Rainbow waved a hoof. “You know what I mean.”

“Oh.” Pinkie smiled sweetly. “You mean like how weird it would be for you and Fluttershy to be good friends.”

Rainbow Dash rolled her eyes. “More like you and Gilda.” Pinkie didn’t respond and Rainbow winced. “Sorry. Too soon?”

“I just think we could be friends, y’know? Do you think she’ll come back?”

“I doubt it.” Rainbow Dash looked back to check that her saddlebags were properly fastened and started off again, picking up pace into a canter as the train platform came into view. “Sometimes you find out someone you think’s a friend is just a jerk underneath.” She frowned and muttered to herself, “and sometimes it’s not buried very deep at all.”

“What are you gonna do in Canterlot anyways?” Pinkie said.

Rainbow shrugged. “Thunderlane’s got some kind of plans made. Or so he says.”

“Soooomeone’s got a daaaate!”

A smirk flashed across Rainbow’s face. “Maybe. He is kinda cute. In a dorky way.”

“Rainbow and Thunder, sitting in a tree! K-I-S-S— Hey, Rarity!”

Sure enough, Rarity was standing there at the train station, next to a pile of luggage that would have been absurd for any other pony but qualified as restrained for her. She wore a yellow kerchief and an impatient expression as she stared down the still-empty train tracks, but it softened into a smile as she caught sight of the two of them.

“Hi Rarity!” Pinkie said. Rainbow mumbled a greeting as well.

“Pinkie Pie, it’s wonderful to see you,” Rarity said. “And, ah, you too, Rainbow. I certainly hope you didn’t come all this way to see me off, because—” Her eyes drifted to the full saddlebags on Rainbow Dash’s back. “Oh,” she said, the enthusiasm in her voice gone.

Rainbow’s brow knit together as she looked up at Rarity. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

Rarity pursed her lips. “I’m sorry, darling. I simply have a very busy schedule planned when I arrive in Canterlot, and I really don’t think I could spare the time to get together.”

You don’t want to spend time with me?” Rainbow said.

“Really, Rainbow. It’s nothing personal. As I said, I have important business to attend to, and it’s not as if I’m really looking forward to it myself.”

Rainbow’s eyes narrowed. “Wait. This is one of those… You're embarrassed to be around me, aren’t you?”

“Let’s not be dramatic about this.”

Rainbow’s face twisted in a bemused grimace. “Yes, because I’m the dramatic one here.” She glared in Rarity’s direction “Trust me, I had no desire to go to some stupid opera or pretentious art gallery anyways. If I wanted to be bored out of my skull I could do that right here in Ponyville.”

“Hmph. It's not my problem that you seem to be entirely lacking in class and refinement. Besides, that’s hardly—”

“Oh, don’t bother,” Rainbow Dash spat out. “Have fun at your prissy parties with all the other horrible elitist snobs.”

Rarity sniffed, her nose elevating in the air. “You don’t have the slightest clue about me, you know that?”

“I know enough,” Rainbow said.

Pinkie’s head swung between the two of them, tears welling up in her eyes. “C’mon girls, let’s all—”

Rarity and Rainbow Dash turned in unison and Pinkie’s words withered away under their combined glares.

Rainbow Dash stomped off to further down the platform. Pinkie gave Rarity one last plaintive look before hurriedly following.

“So… where are we going?” Rainbow Dash asked.

Thunderlane looked back at her, then flapped his wings a couple of jerky times, shooting forward to peer down a dark alleyway.

Rainbow frowned. “You do know where we’re going, right?”

He looked back at her, his smile a little shaky. “Yes, of course. I think. Absolutely.”

She trotted to catch up to him, right as he darted into the alley.


He flew back and pressed something into her hooves. She looked down to see a thin mask in the shape of a pale pink butterfly, wings outstretched. Her head swung back up to stare at his hopeful grin.

“Okay,” she said, dangerously calm, “if you’re planning on taking me to some kind of masquerade ball, I’m gonna tell you right now, you can take this mask and shove it.”

His eyes widened. “No, no. This is going to be awesome, I swear. You’ll love it! But you gotta wear a mask.”

Her eyes drifted down to the plain black cloth in his own hoof, two eyeholes cut in the strip. “Fine,” she said, “but you’re wearing the butterfly.”

One short argument later, she had tied the black mask around her head, and followed a subdued, butterfly-bemasked Thunderlane deeper into the alley. He paused in front of an unmarked door, one of several set in the bland, unpainted stone walls. It didn’t even have a handle on their side.

He reached out with a hoof and gingerly tapped a sequence of knocks. A panel slid open in the door, then slammed shut again, and it creaked slowly open.

To Dash’s surprise, inside sat a brawny minotaur, a tiny tiger mask resting on his snout. To get inside, they had to squeeze past him, into a narrow, grungy hallway, and as they passed over the threshold, Rainbow felt a cool tingle across her flank. She glanced back to see her cutie mark gone, magic having hidden it from view.

“Hey,” he grunted before they could get much further down the hall. Thunderlane jumped at the sound. “Boy. You know the rules, right?”

Rainbow looked over to Thunderlane, who seemed to be sweating a bit more than usual.

“Yessir,” he said.

The minotaur just nodded and went back to staring at the door.

Thunderlane hurried down the hall, and Rainbow followed, not even glancing at the dirty floor and industrial-looking pipes running the length of the hall. “What did he mean,” she whispered. “What’s going on?”

“Shh,” Thunderlane whispered, and he pushed open the door at the hall with one hoof, allowing a bright light and a sudden roaring cheer to burst out from within. He held the door open and Rainbow found herself drawn inside and quickly overcome with a strange sense of awe.

In contrast to the dirty hallway, the huge open room was nice. They came in at the top, at a walkway that made a wide circle, broken up occasionally by sets of stairs that led down into rows and rows of descending benches. At the very center, an open space hosted two ponies, currently in the midst of trying to bash one another’s brains out.

Rainbow Dash gawped, eyes on the two below. “Told you you’d like it,” Thunderlane whispered, as he came up behind her and pushed gently to direct her down to an open seat.

Given the size of the arena, it wasn’t packed, but still plenty crowded. More than a few looked up with interest at their arrival, curious eyes peering through the slits in a wide variety of masks.

Rainbow Dash couldn’t help but stare at the fight going on though. A hulking earth pony stolidly crouched in the middle of the arena, one bent foreleg held up to protect his face. Buzzing around him, a light-coated pegasus was on the offensive, darting in to strike again and again in a rain of blows that looked brutal.

One hoof struck just right past the earth pony’s guard and his head snapped back as he stumbled slightly. The spectators gave another appreciative roar, but the earth pony regained his position.

“Wow, he’s toast, huh?” Thunderlane said in her ear.

She shook her head absentmindedly. “He looks tough. And… see there?” her hoof shot out.


“She’s slowing down.”

Sure enough, the pegasus’s movements were becoming ever-so-slightly slower, the fatigue of such high-speed maneuvering catching up to her. She pulled back, disengaging for a moment, and Rainbow turned to Thunderlane.

“How did you…? This has got to be illegal, right?”

Thunderlane shrugged. “I figured it better not to ask. Pretty great though, huh? Somepony would have to be pretty brave to fight, if you know what I mean.” His eyes darted to the side. “Even if they wound up losing.”

“Mhm,” Rainbow muttered. She was already intently watching the fighters again.

Having caught her breath, the pegasus moved back into attack position, and began raining another flurry of blows down on the stallion. One, two, three, and—

The stallion caught her hoof just as it was about to strike, and swung with all his might, sending the pegasus crashing down into the floor with an impact that set Rainbow’s teeth on edge. Not wasting another moment, he leapt forward and landed right on top of her with his full weight, and the whole crowd let out an instinctive ‘Oooh” of sympathy.

“Did you see that?” she said, a huge grin on her face as she turned to Thunderlane. She noticed he looked a little more ashen than normal. “You okay?”

He swallowed. “Yeah,” he croaked out. “Doing good.”

The pegasus laid limp on the tiled floor as the earth pony stood, raising one hoof high in victory. He turned in a slow circle, basking in cheers and whoops from the crowd, before stopping to look up to a section of the seating opposite Rainbow and Thunderlane.

Rainbow followed his gaze and felt her blood run cold.

There, seated on a plush red cushion in a section cordoned off by velvet ropes, was a white unicorn with an indigo mane. Her mask was understated, a domino of deep purple, and she lounged idly with her hooves crossed.

The stallion reared back, raising both hooves high, and the applause grew even louder. The unicorn glanced around at the cheering spectators, then back down at the fight’s victor. One of her hooves daintily raised, the sound growing to nearly deafening… and then it covered her mouth as she yawned.

A hush fell over the crowd. The stallion dropped down to all four hooves again, glowering as he trod over to the corner of the arena. A few other ponies trotted out with a stretcher to cart off the pegasus.

“Huh,” Rainbow Dash said. “Huh.”

“Th-there’s just one thing I hadn’t mentioned,” Thunderlane said, looking down to where he was twiddling his hooves. “The rules. They say… uh. They say that since we’re new, one of us has to fight tonight, but I—”

“Fight?” Rainbow Dash said, turning to him with laserlike focus. “Fight who?”

“Well, anypony, I guess. Don’t worry, I’ve been training and—”

When he had looked up again, he realized that Rainbow Dash was already gone. Thunderlane blinked, turning his head from side to side, trying to figure out where she had vanished to, when he heard her shout from below.

“I want to fight!” Rainbow Dash yelled, standing in the center of the arena.

There were a few scattered claps, but also more than a few polite laughs. The earth pony stallion’s ears perked up and he trotted out, a hard smile forming.

“Not him,” she said, stopping him in his tracks. Her hoof rose, pointing at the unicorn still lounging above, watching her with an idle curiosity. “I want to fight her.”

The stallion looked between Rainbow Dash and the unicorn, and then took a step back. The crowd exploding in a confused tangle of discussion and chaos, ponies debating, laughing, yelling. Rainbow didn’t let her gaze waver for an instant.

And when the unicorn stood up, a smirk crossing her face, the noise dropped away into silence.

“Okay,” she said, her soft voice carrying all the way down to the arena.

Rainbow Dash shivered, one leg pawing at the tiles underhoof. They felt slick and hard, not exactly making for a soft landing. Across from her, a lanky mare finished talking to the unicorn and turned to trot over to her.

The mare wore a featureless grey mask that hid her entire muzzle from view. “Name?” she said.

“Oh, uh—”

“Not your real name either. Arena name.”

Rainbow Dash paused, eyes darting side to side. “Prism Blitz?”

“Okay. There’s not much in the way of rules. Anything goes, including your wings or her magic. Fights are until tap out or knock out. The spell that hides your cutie mark keeps track of your health, and we’ll call it if you’re unconscious or determined to be too hurt to continue.”

“Don’t worry, won’t come up,” Rainbow said, forcing a grin. “At least not for me.”

The other pony looked at her, expression hidden behind the mask. She turned and trotted to the center of the arena. “Ladies and gentlecolts!” her voice rang out. “For our next match, we have a special treat. In this corner, a new challenger: Prism Blitz!”

There was a scattering of applause and some noises of mild interest. Rainbow could hear the reedy voice of Thunderlane cheering loudly from his seat way up.

“And in the other corner, you all know her. You all love her. The Queen of the Ring, the Mare of Mayhem! The one and only Lady Diamond!”

This time the audience let out a roar that seemed to shake the foundations of the whole arena. Rainbow Dash shook her head, staring down at the unicorn opposite her.

“Diamond?” she said, and she wasn’t sure the other pony would even be able to hear her over the roaring and stomping.

“Diamonds are unbreakable,” Lady Diamond replied, her face blank. “This is your final opportunity to back out. Are you sure you want to do this?”

The mare in the grey mask trotted away, leaving just the two of them standing in the center of the arena, all eyes in the house on them.

Rainbow Dash’s wings flapped as she lifted up, hanging in the air slightly off the ground. “Absolutely,” she said.

Lady Diamond reared back, standing entirely on her hind legs with a curious balance, one foreleg bent in a graceful curve, the other held outstretched. “Then bring it on.”

Rainbow Dash didn’t hesitate. With another beat of her powerful wings, she took off straight towards Diamond, twisting at the last moment to lead with a vicious kick from a hindleg.

She caught only air, feeling a touch as slight as silk flutter across her body as Diamond slid out of the way. Rainbow kept the momentum, banking at the corner of the arena and turning back. Diamond had already regained the same posture as before, facing her once again.

With a growl, she tried to go even faster, leading with her front hooves this time in what would be a pair of punches that would leave a mark. She kept her eyes narrowed but open, watching as— Diamond dropped to the floor again, a hoof trailing along Rainbow’s body to redirect her slightly and once more causing Dash to completely miss.

Dash continued her flight to the edge of the arena, her ears burning at the laughing of the crowd. The unicorn was making a fool of her, treating her like an angry bull. Instead of banking and coming around for another sweeping pass, she flew straight at the edge of the arena, flipping around at the last minute and letting her back hooves rest against the short wall and kick off for more speed.

She wasn’t going to let Diamond duck again. She aimed low, a bit under the other pony’s center of mass, trying for a full-body tackle and putting every ounce of her speed to use. Her lips curled back, and she whispered, “Dodge this,” into the cutting wind as she rocketed forward.

She kept her eyes narrowed again, but when Diamond disappeared from view, they sprung open wide. Then she felt the hoof trail lazily through her mane and the sudden pressure on her shoulders and realized that Diamond had jumped up, flipping over her to land on her. The presence of another pony’s weight on her threw her askew, sending her flight path straight into the ground where she slammed into the tiles, skidding to a stop further along.

Rainbow let out a muted groan. “What in th— ghk!” A white hoof snaked around her throat and pulled tight, cutting off her air as she thrashed. The weight was still on her back, her opponent holding her pinned down, and Rainbow Dash flailed against hooves that seemed made of iron.

“This is the part where you tap out, darling,” a sultry voice whispered in her ear.

Rainbow reached up to try and pull at the foreleg around her neck, but couldn’t budge it. Her lungs burned, the panic and physical exertion making them scream for fresh air, but she couldn’t move, couldn’t do anything. Her back legs lashed out again and again, trying to kick at Diamond, kick at something but the angles were all wrong and her leg just hit air.

She was starting to see spots in her eyes when she struck out instinctively with one last idea. Her wings. Her wings flew open, drawing upon accumulated thousands of wing-ups in practice, demonstrating a strength that belied their fragile appearance. They shot up between her and Diamond, the combination of surprise and force momentarily loosening the unicorn’s grip enough that Dash could push all her hooves off against the floor at once, flinging herself and her unwanted passenger backwards.

Diamond let go entirely, using the momentum to cartwheel backwards, landing calmly several feet away as she watched Rainbow Dash cough and gasp.

“Go ahead,” she said, her tone bored. “Catch your breath.” She raised one hoof, rubbing it against her other foreleg and then idly checking it for any chips or imperfections.

Rainbow Dash shook her head, staring at her with a mounting fury as she drew in shuddering breaths one after another. After a moment, her heart stopped racing so fast, and she flapped her wings again, drawing herself up in the air. “Let’s try that again,” she muttered, voice rough.

“If you must.” Lady Diamond reared back again, settling into her fighting form.

Rainbow Dash took a sharp angle and flew straight at her again, aiming high, forelegs outstretched. Diamond ducked underneath, a mirror of their first interactions.

“Really? Is this all you have?”

“Shut up!” Rainbow yelled as she swung around for another pass, high again, her eyes drilling into her opponent as she found herself swooping through thin air instead of contact. Her head tilted back as she passed, and she watched Diamond smoothly stand once again. “Grrrah!” she growled out in fury.

She kept going, making an entire circle of the arena, picking up momentum faster and faster and faster. Diamond stood still at the center, not bothering to try and keep track of her. Then, with a sudden change of course, Rainbow Dash aimed for her headlong, directing as much of that momentum as possible as she shot across the tiles towards her foe.

It was barely a second before impact that her wings snapped open, screaming against the air in the sharpest of emergency halts, sending out a blast of wind forward at the abuse they were taking. Diamond stumbled, already starting to drop to the floor but then frozen for a moment in indecision at the unexpected turn. “Gotcha,” Rainbow Dash whispered, and spun into a punch with the entire weight of her body. It connected dead-on with Diamond’s face with a satisfying impact that Rainbow felt shiver through her whole form.

Diamond crumpled, falling back at the force of the blow, and Rainbow Dash moved forward, her wings flapping awkwardly as she tried to follow up, her hooves moving forward to— Diamond had dropped to the floor again, and Rainbow suddenly felt a pair of back-hooves against her stomach. With a springing motion, Diamond launched herself back up off her forelegs, kicking out to send Rainbow spinning head-over-hoof into the air.

She was barely able to right herself, her wings snapping out and steadying, before she slowly dropped back to the tile.

Diamond held one hoof pressed to her eye, still hunched over slightly.

“Go ahead,” Rainbow Dash said. “Catch your breath.”

Diamond’s hoof dropped and she pulled herself back to her standing position. She didn’t speak a word, but her outstretched forehoof wagged in an invitation that was plenty clear to Rainbow.

This time, Rainbow Dash moved in a jittery flight, rapidly shifting directions as she approached. She kept her eyes trained on the unicorn, waiting for some dodge, but instead Diamond let her get close before turning on the offensive herself. A hoof flew out in Rainbow’s direction that she barely ducked under. A second followed, and then a backleg, Diamond spinning in place gracefully, her horn suddenly alight with magic as she poured on a storm of blows.

Individually, they didn’t look like much, Rainbow thought as she twisted and circled, using her wings to keep her aloft and darting in and out of reach. That was until a lucky hoof planted itself in her ribs with a shocking force that caused her to pull back entirely, scarcely a moment before the flurry of follow-ups threatened to end the fight right then and there.

Rainbow threw herself back into the fight, dedicating all her attention to staying close enough to be a constant threat but focusing on dodging the seemingly unending torrent of offense. She was glad she was a pegasus. There would be no way for a pony not naturally dextrous to keep up, and her natural ability to read the air currents meant that she—

She realized suddenly when actually reflecting on it, what Diamond was doing with her magic. The flow of wind was weird, artificial. Diamond was using magic to manipulate the currents, to allow herself to spin and twirl unnaturally fast to keep up that ridiculous pace.

And that meant Rainbow Dash could read her, could see what she intended with a level of precision that eyes would never be able to match. She just had to choose her moment carefully.

She was watching closely when she saw her chance, a kick that stretched long. Rainbow Dash rolled herself around it, spinning to the side and in close, where the next thrown punch would have been awkward to reach her. Her hoof raised out to swing, not in the place Diamond was, but where she knew she would soon be, swinging forward with a heavy inevitability until—

Diamond twisted entirely at the last minute, bending in a way that ponies shouldn’t have been able to do, causing Rainbow’s punch to glance off her without its full force. Rainbow barely had time to feel the strike land before she had to duck back herself, feeling a hoof slam into her head, then another, then a third. She reeled back, wings flapping, and suddenly felt the air surge forward as Diamond followed, darting forward—

Into both of Rainbow’s hind hooves, lashing out in a kick, connecting firmly this time and sending the two ponies both flying apart, tumbling across the tiles.

Rainbow Dash shakily stood. It took a moment to realize that the roaring sound in her head wasn’t her ears. It was the crowd, an audience that she had completely forgotten in the moment. She looked over to see Diamond also slowly getting to her hooves. The unicorn’s eyes were closed, her breathing steady even as her legs trembled slightly. But more than anything, what struck Rainbow Dash the most was that Diamond was smiling. And not mockingly or contemptuously, but with a strange, genuine kind of happiness.

Rainbow Dash reached up to feel wetness dripping down her forehead, and when she looked at the hoof it was red with blood. She realized that for some reason, she was smiling too. Practically grinning like a loon.

Diamond’s eyes opened and she focused on Rainbow Dash before slipping back into her fighting position, gracefully balanced on her hindlegs. Rainbow’s own wings flapped as she pulled herself up in the air.

“You ready for this?” Rainbow Dash said.

“More than anything,” Diamond responded.

As Dash rocketed towards her, Diamond actually leaned forward too, going this time, rushing to the fight with her horn aglow. The two moved towards one another with breathless speed, destined for a momentous collision, grins still plastered across both faces.

Pinkie stood anxiously waiting at the platform as the train from Canterlot pulled in. She was practically vibrating in excitement at seeing her friends again. As the door to the passenger car slid open, Pinkie took a huge breath.

“Welcome back, Rainbow Dash! I hope— Oh my gosh!”

“Hey Pinkie,” Rainbow said as she limped out, gingerly stepping down to the platform. One of her wings was in a cast, the opposite foreleg hung in a sling, and her prismatic mane poked through a thick wrapping of bandages.

“What happened?”

Rainbow shrugged, and then winced as the motion. “You know. Flying accident. No biggie.” She grinned. “I got fifteen stitches this time, wanna see?”

“Rainbow!” Pinkie gave her best stern look. “We’ve talked about this. There’s no competition for craziest crash. What if you had really gotten hurt?!”

Rainbow chuckled. “I don’t think I have to worry about that. We— I had it under control.”

“That sure must have been a bummer still.” Pinkie’s eyes shot open. “Oh no, did this mean you had to cancel your date with Thunderlane?”

“Who?” Rainbow said. “Oh look, there’s Rarity. Hey Rarity!”

Pinkie blinked, watching as Rainbow Dash awkwardly hopped over to where Rarity was supervising the unloading of her luggage. As Rarity turned towards them, Pinkie gasped. The unicorn had done her best in trying to cover it up with makeup, but it was exceedingly clear from the bruising showing through that Rarity had a serious black eye.

“That’s some shiner,” Rainbow said, smirking.

“What happened to you?” Pinkie chirped.

Rarity smiled. “Wouldn’t you know it, I was walking down Fifth Avenue, doing a bit of window shopping when I saw the most delightful scarf hanging in a storefront. I was so captivated that I walked right into a lamppost! I feel dreadfully silly about the whole thing.”

Pinkie winced, eyes darting towards Rainbow Dash in the expectation of some fresh verbal jab and another round of bickering.

“Happens to the best of us,” Rainbow said.

Rarity’s head tilted as she looked Rainbow up and down, taking in all the bandages. “I suppose it does. Are you quite alright, darling?”

Rainbow nodded. “Doctors say I’ll be as right as rain in a couple of weeks. No sweat.”

“Good to hear.” One of Rarity’s bags landed with a bang next to her, and her head snapped up to the sheepish baggage hoofer who had tossed it there. “If you’ll excuse me girls, I must ensure that my belongings suffer no further abuse.”

“Sure,” Rainbow said, and she and Pinkie began trotting towards town. She halted a few steps past Rarity and looked back over her shoulder. “Oh, but Rarity?”

“Hm?” she said absentmindedly.

“How often do you have business in Canterlot, anyways?”

Rarity turned, her eyes sharp and lips pursed. “Usually on the first weekend of every month.”

“Ah,” Rainbow said, voice nonchalant. “Neat. I think the Wonderbolts have a show that same time next month that I was planning on attending.” A smile crossed her lips. “Maybe we’ll bump into each other while we’re both in Canterlot.”

Rarity watched her carefully. One of her hooves raised, covering a small smile of her own. “You know... I’d like that,” she said.

Return to Story Description


Login with