by Colombiaguy

Chapter 26: Chapter 26 - Speed is key!... but so are results.

Previous Chapter

Author's Notes:

Omg. Been so long. 7 months too long. I can't say how sorry I am for the long breaks in between submissions. Just know I am constantly working on the story.

The town is alive with the sound of... hooves. Lots of hooves. Looking around Ponyville, there were citizens going here and there doing their tasks for the day. Despite the constant sound, it was very pleasant out. A fews clouds in the sky, a nice cool breeze, and a bright warm sun in the sky. Yet another beautiful day.

As we passed through the town, Twilight going over the various parameters for the test. I doubted I was going to remember these, but I was doing my best to follow along. Rainbow seemed less than interested in procedure and ended of breaking went ahead to inform Applejack about what we wanted to do. Eventually Twilight, Spike and I made it to the outskirts of the Apple family farm. The smell of the orchard was very prevalent even from the outside. We made our way toward the farm and as we got closer, I noted we had a small crowd waiting for us. Rainbow, Applejack, and the Crusaders were all assembled in front of the barn. Rainbow was talking to Applejack about something while the Crusaders seemed to be listening in.

As we approached, Rainbow took notice of our arrival and quickly waved us over. The group turned to see what Rainbow was waving at and quickly offered their own greetings. Twilight and Spike waved to the group. I gave my own wave, but I noticed that Sweetie Belle still looked a little unsettled. Well... at least she gave a wave. I call that progress.

Either way, we approached and did a round of greetings. After the pleasantries were taken care of, Twilight prepared to explain the test... except, Rainbow had already done it... kinda. Applejack explained, “Well, Dash arrived earlier and started barking about how she was gonna whoop me inna hoof race.” She shot a quick glare at Rainbow. “She didn’t mention it’d be fer a test.”

Rainbow pretended like she was innocent and didn’t hear the comment.

Twilight face hoofed before letting out a sigh. “Yes, it’s a test. We want to see if Dante’s new ability can give a physical boost to his host,” Twilight explained. “Since you and Rainbow are pretty well matched, I figured it’d be best to test to test against you against Rainbow for a baseline then do it again with Dante to see if there is any considerable difference.”

Applejack nodded her understanding. “Seems fair ‘nough. I suppose a little competition ain’t too bad,” Applejack stated before looking to Rainbow again. “Ya still could have just said this was gonna be a test, Rainbow.”

“Yeah, but tests are boring. A good race is way better,” Rainbow countered. Hmmm, I think I’m starting to see why Rainbow wanted to do this test. Well, as long as we get some results I don’t think it’s all bad. I mean... only the first race will really matters. The second race ... well, it might be skewed a bit if I can make Rainbow faster. Well, in the name of discovery I suppose.

Twilight rolled her eyes. “Fair enough. Let me set up and we can start.” She then had Spike hop off her back and got the supplies we needed out. The stopwatch, parchment, quills, and ink were the first things we took. Once Twilight was ready, she explained our process for the day, “So we need a baseline for how fast Rainbow is without assistance. We’ll be doing this on the ground and in the air.” Twilight then floated a stopwatch to hold before the group. “I’m just going to be timing you, Rainbow, since you are going to be the main focus of the test.”

“Okay, but I can still race Aj, right?” Rainbow asked eagerly.

Twilight shrugged and gave a uncertain, “I guess?”

Rainbow smirked. “Cool!” She shifted her gaze to AJ. “You better be ready. I’m gonna go all out.”

Applejack just smirked. “Ya know I’m always up for a friendly race.”

“Me too!” Rainbow replied confidently. “But just so you know, I don’t plan on losing.”

“You got this Rainbow Dash,” Scootaloo chimed in. “You always win!”

Applebloom took offence to that statement. “What?! My sis is gonna win. Hooves down.”

“Please, Rainbow doesn’t lose to anypony,” Scootaloo countered in a cocky voice. “She’s got this in the bag.”

Sweetie Belle attempted to stop the argument but the two fillies were locked into a back and forth argument. Rainbow looked like she was soaking up Scootaloo’s praise with a confident smirk. Applejack was looking pretty confident as well. No doubt the extra praise was spurring them on.

While Applebloom and Scoots argued, Twilight got down to plotting out the race. “Okay, so we’re going to keep this simple. You’re going to do a single lap starting at the barn to the entrance of Sweet Apple Acres, then around the orchard, before returning to the entrance, ending back at the barn. After the race, we’ll take a short break, get Rainbow set up, then do the run again with Dante adding additional support. After that, we’ll take another break and test if there are any additional effect when Dante’s ability is applied to Rainbow’s wings.”

Applejack and Rainbow nodded their understanding. “So you think this new ability of Dante’s will do something?” Applejack inquired as everyone moved to the entrance of the barn. Applebloom and Scootaloo were still going back and forth about best pony.

Twilight got all excited, “Oh, I do. I tested it earlier with my magic and we saw a whole ten percent increase!”

Rainbow and Applejack both snapped to attention and their curiosity seemed peeked. “So... did you feel any different?” Rainbow asked curiously.

“Not... really. Spike noticed some odd changes, but otherwise I never felt anything different,” Twilight explained casually. “If anything I felt... like I didn’t have to do as much. Like it was just easier to use my magic.”

Applejack cocked a curious eyebrow, “So, he made ya a little stronger, but ya didn’t feel any different?”

Twilight shook her head. “No. I was expecting something, but I never felt different.”

“Really? You sure you didn’t feel anything, Twilight?” Rainbow heavily suggested. I didn’t see her face, but based on how she phrased that I think she was referring to a certain... back side grasping.

Twilight could tell she was suggesting this as well, but rather than denying it, she did something a little more devious. “I don’t know, Rainbow. Did you feel anything when Dante adhered to you?” Twilight responded with a clever smirk. Rainbow flinched slightly and looked like she was about to retaliate when Applejack interjected.

“What the hay are you two talking about?” Applejack asked.

“Yeah,” Applebloom added,” Y’all are being really weird.”

Rainbow and Twilight shared a quick glance, and I think they both silently agreed not to push the issue. I know Twilight didn’t want to discuss it in front of the Crusaders. Instead, she went up to Applejack and said, “I promise to explain it later.” She was sincere when she said that and Applejack looked like she believed her, but that didn’t stop a curious look from glancing Applejack’s face.

With that, thankfully, avoided, Applejack and Rainbow got set up at the front of the barn with Twilight, Spike and I on the left side and the Crusaders sitting on the right. Twilight had Spike ready his stopwatch. “Okay, to the entrance then back, I’ll mark time when your hoof touches the barn. Understood?” Twilight announced to the racers.

“Yup” Applejack replied confidently.

“Got it,” Rainbow responded with a gungho smirk.

Twilight nodded and gave Spike a nod. Spike, in turn, got his thumb over the starter of the watch. “Okay, on your marks,” Twilight raised a hoof to the sky.

Rainbow got into ... the pony version of a sprinter's stance, back legs at the ready and the forward part of her body angled downward slightly. Applejack was in a similar position, both looked determined and ready to bolt.

“Get set!”

Both of their eyes locked forward and they didn’t flinch from their target.

“You got this, sis! You can do it!” Applebloom called from the sidelines.

“You got this, Rainbow Dash! Leave nothing but dust!” Scootaloo roared in protest.

“Do your best!” Sweetie Belle added. I guess she was being more neutral.

Twilight dropped her hoof to the ground, and both racers were off before the word “Go” even finished leaving her lips. Once the dirt cloud Applejack and Rainbow made cleared, I could already see them entering the path through the orchard. While I didn’t have a clear idea how fast they were going, they were covering a good amount of distance. From Twilight’s perspective, it seemed like both of them were neck in neck with each one jockeying for lead. However, the two soon turning into small cyan and orange blurs as they rounded the entrance of the orchard and it became virtually impossible to determine who was in first and who was in second. Even with Twilight squinting it was hard to tell. Until they got back, it’d be hard to say who was winning. In the meantime, I figured I’d talk to Twilight.

“So... if this does work and it enhances physical capabilities, What do you think will be the next step? Application?” I ask curiously.

Twilight was thoughtful on the idea for a moment and I felt a few ideas and possibilities cross her mind. They went quick and I didn’t catch too many details, but I could tell she was giving it a large amount of consideration. “More than likely. I’m not entirely sure if we’ve even scratched the surface of your abilities, but with what we have I’d say seeing how far they can go is definitely a must,” Twilight replied thoughtfully. “For now, let’s just see what you can do and we’ll determine appropriate application.”

“Okay, sounds fair,” I responded. Twilight took another glance towards the horizon to see if she could spot Rainbow or Applejack, but whether we were too far away or they weren’t at the point she was looking, they weren’t seen. Guess this might take a while. “How long do you think it’ll take them to make the lap?”

Twilight took a glimpse at Spike’s claw, the stopwatch was an old style analog watch, but I think it had only been about a minute and... forty seconds? I think that’s right.

Twilight pondered the question before she threw me an answer, “I’d say they should be done roughly between ten and fifteen minutes.” Ok, so we have a bit before they come back around. Hmmm, leaves me with a bit of time to think on things. Maybe... I should talk to Twilight about the whole combat instructor thing. I said I’d keep her in the loop and she did ask me to inquire.

“Oh, Twilight, I wanted to let you know. I talked to Princess Luna last night about the combat instructor.”

Twilight perked up. “Oh? What’d she say?” she asked although I could sense some interest and anxiety sinking in the depths of her mind.

“She was behind the idea,” I responded. “She said she’d talk to Princess Celestia about getting us a combat trainer.”

“Oh good,” Twilight stated with the worry still hanging lightly in her thoughts. “Did she say how long it might take to get an instructor?”

“She didn’t say, but she did say she would send a letter letting us know when one was found,” I responded before adding Luna’s suggestion. “She also suggested that training with a pegasus and an earth pony as well.”

This peeked Twilight’s interest. She saw the merit of the idea and was curious about the different combat tactics I could lend to each tribe. “That’s a good idea. Considering there are different combat styles used for battle mages, aerial combat, and close quarters combat it’d make sense to learn each one with those best capable of implementing them.” She sounded enthusiastic, which was good. And I was honestly curious myself. Aside from my small scrape with Luna and my minor victory against those changelings, I never really considered how ponies actually fight. I mean aside from a few episodes where the main 6 had to fight there aren't many times where combat is shown and they weren't all the flashy.

Well, I’ll be learning with a partner so at least I’ll have a little help. That thought eases a bit of worry I had had about learning to fight. “Well, at least I know I'll have one of Equestria's best unicorns as my training partner,” I stated, feeling a little better about the whole deal.

Twilight blushed slightly before smiling lightly. “Thanks, I appreciate that,” she replied. “Have you given any thought to who you’d pick as your pegasus and earth pony partner?”

Hmmm, I’m not sure how Twilight would take me suggesting her friends... but I really don’t have many options unless I partner up with a royal guard. And... hmmmm. I don’t know. One way or another I’m going to have to fight. I just... maybe I should really think on what Luna said and try to figure out what it is I’m fighting for before I start recruiting others to fight with me. “I... haven’t given it too much thought just yet,” I replied, doing my best to keep my feelings under wrap. It wasn’t easy because I could tell Twilight was really trying to figure out why my confidence began to wane.

“The idea of fighting still worrying you?”

“No, it’s not that. It’s... have you ever... wondered how you’d handle taking a life?” I asked feeling like I could have phrased that better. Who would think about that kind of thing? ... Well besides me. The idea had been plaguing my mind for some time. I’d been trying my best to avoid thinking about it too much, but something like that doesn’t just go away. It hangs around in that dark part of your mind and waits. In this case, it was done waiting.

Twilight wasn’t as thrown by the idea as I had anticipated and I felt a small amount of empathy radiate from her mind.“You still don't have your answer to that question yet?"she asked gently.

“No... I really don’t. I can see why I need to fight and how I can help, but when I think of the end result I wonder how I’ll deal with it. When I fought the changelings before, I fought for my life and I was lucky to have survived and no one... died...” Looking back on it... that really could have been bad for quite a few individuals. Night Glory could have died. Griff could have died... Oh, God.

That dark part of my mind went into overdrive. I saw all the ways things could have gone. What if the changeling hadn’t decided to end me personally? What if they had just decided to end Night Glory? I’m not sure what would have been worse, knowing someone died because of me or because I wasn’t strong enough to defend myself or others. The thoughts felt like weights on my mind, dragging me deeper into an abyss of what if’s and what could have been.

I was on the verge of being dragged deeper until Twilight pulled me out. “Dante! Stop!” she said forcefully. “You can’t focus on what could have been,” It was enough for me to come back to reality and refocus. “You need to focus on what is and what is coming. I know the idea scares you and that a lot of bad things can happen, but that’s why we asked for a trainer. So we can be ready.” Again, Twilight had a solid point. I had to think about the invasion and how I was going to be prepared. Yet...

“But even if I prepare and train... What if the time comes and I won’t? What if I can’t bring myself to do it and it costs someone their life? I really don’t know if I can live with that, Twilight. I really don’t.” I felt like a coward. Willing to fight but unwilling to finish what was started.

Twilight was silent for a while after that. She was thinking. “You have talents that are unique, and would be very helpful. But we will be alright if you don’t. You don’t have to fight.” I was relieved to hear Twilight say this. Like all the weight was... no, that’s not true. The weight was still there, it just had a new shape now. I felt ashamed.

Again, Twilight caught on to my feelings and interjected. “Fighting isn’t for everyone. You don’t have to feel ashamed.” She was doing her best to comfort me and I appreciated the gesture. But it didn’t ease the feeling. I couldn’t sit aside and let things just unfold. I had to do something.... But I can’t think of anything. I was studying to be a lawyer! I fight with words, not fists.

“I appreciate the kind words, Twilight. But I can’t, in good conscience, just take the easy way out. I brought this up. I’m committed to this,” I replied feeling a little less like a coward.

Twilight thought on it again, her face scrunching up in focus and contemplation. “Well, how about this. For now, just work with us like you are already doing. Take your time coming up with the answer to your question. Maybe some additional perspectives will help you,” she said in an assuring tone.

Also, a good point. Perspectives may reveal something I hadn’t considered. Regardless, I needed to really give this some thought. “Yeah, you’re-” I stopped when I heard Spike chime in suddenly.

“You guys talking to each other?” Spike stated with clear confusion in his voice. “You’ve been making faces at nothing for the last few minutes.”

Twilight’s focus immediately shot back to what going on around us. Spike was looking at us with a look of confusion that matched his tone. “Yeah, we were discussing some things for later down the line. Sorry, Spike,” Twilight responded in earnest.

“It’s okay,” Spike responded. “It’s just that you tend to make a bunch of weird faces when you talk to Dante.”

Twilight chuckled sheepishly. “Do I?”

“Yeah, you do,” Spike replied bluntly. “It’s really weird.”

Twilight had a mental image of herself reacting to an inaudible conversation and a sudden feeling of embarrassment swept through her face. “Well... I suppose that is an interesting note. Telepathic conversations elicit the same reactions as a face-to-face conversation,” Twilight mused through her embarrassment.

“Just sayin’, a little weird,” responded before looking back at the stopwatch in his claw.

“I’d imagine,” Twilight countered with a bit of blush still residing in her cheeks. “So, where are we on time?”

“A little past the twelve-minute mark.” He peaked up from the watch to see if he could spot the racers, as did Twilight. While neither of them caught sight of them first, Scootaloo did.

“There they are!” the number one fan called out with exuberance and a pointed hoof. Naturally, everyone in attendance looked to where Scoots was pointing and, sure enough, Rainbow and Applejack coming up through the orchard. They were still a distance away, so telling who was winning was still tricky... hmm, I feel a very strong urge to get my Kentucky Racer Announcer voice on. Eh, too easy. Either way, both racers looked to be neck and neck and this was the final stretch!

As the racers got closer, I noticed that both of them were clearly giving it their all. On top of it, there was this look of determination on their faces’ that gave a very clear indication that neither one of them was holding back what-so-ever. Damn, these two were competitive.

Soon, the two of them were past the farm’s entrance and heading right for the barn door. Scootaloo and Applebloom were cheering for their respective racers from the sidelines, while Sweetie Belle offered enthusiastic, but mostly neutral, encouragements. Twilight shot a glance to the stopwatch in Spike’s claw. They were nearing thirteen minutes thirty seconds. She shifted her line of sight back to the racers. There was so little space between them and only a few feet between the racers and the finish line. This was going to be a photo finish! ... And me without a camera.

The distance closed between the racers and the finish point. Yards became feet. I couldn’t tell who was going to win this. Even Twilight couldn’t... well, she was more interested in the time Rainbow finished really. Based on some of the thoughts running through her head, she really couldn't care less who won, so long as she got her baseline time. I was invested and I wanted to know who won, damn it.

As AJ and Rainbow came to the last few inches, I did my best to keep an eye on who was closest to the barn. Twilight had her eyes glued to Rainbow which helped me determine that I had I still had no clue who was winning. I hoped maybe the Crusaders were getting a better perspective. Maybe Sweetie Belle could tell Twilight who won. I’d ask Applebloom or Scootaloo, but I suspect they’d be a bit... biased.

Anyways, in the last few moments of the race, both Applejack and Rainbow reached for the barn door with an outstretched hoof. Oh snap, this is it!

“FIRST!” Applejack called out as her hooves hit the barn door.

“FIRST!” Rainbow called out just split seconds later.

Immediately after, I heard Spike click the stopwatch to halt the time. “Oh, damn! That was a close one.” I was kinda hoping Rainbow would win, but now I suppose I have a reason to see that this test yields some result. I mean... obviously me boosting Rainbow gives a bit of an unfair advantage, but a race would show a distinct difference right? If they were only a few moments apart on their first race, any improvement afterward should show when I’m attached.

This is going to be fun!

So with the first round done, it was time for the participants to cool off and recoup. Rainbow and Applejack went inside the barn home to get some water and some snacks. This gave Twilight, Spike, and I to go over the details of the race.

“So they finished the race in fourteen minutes fifty-three seconds,” Spike began.

"Okay... distance over time... five point five over fourteen point five three... wait, convert the seconds... umm..." Ugh, math! Twilight giggled as her mental math rendered her answer, “Twenty-two point one seven miles per hour! Now we need to see what Dante’s attachment will do.” Math aside, I was curious to see what I could do as well. I was actually feeling pretty excited. Just sucked that I had to wait to put this excitement to use. Uuuh, oh well. Not much I can do about it.

“Okay, so that’s my bench mark right?” I asked for clarification.

“Yes, if your abilities are consistent then we should see her speed improve by ten percent. If not, we may need to perform some additional tests to determine all the variables,” Twilight was practically buzzing in her thoughts. It was clear that she was beyond hyped to see what would happen and her scientific mind was begging for answers. While I could appreciate knowing what I could do, Twilight was curious about what I could do and the implications of said abilities. Probably best she was the one learning about all this. No way I’d ever figured out a lot of the science behind this. I get the gist of how things work, but that’s about it.

Anyway, Twilight and Spike wrote down the data and went to check on Applejack and Rainbow Dash. The Crusaders had followed Applejack and Rainbow inside, so we were the only ones still hanging out by the barn. We got inside and hung around while Applejack and Rainbow talked about their race. Apparently, they were, in fact, very closely matched during most of the race and they had been jockeying for every corner and advantage they could gain. Much like the three fillies hanging on their every word, I was curious to hear what they had to say.

Once Rainbow and Applejack were in better condition and Twilight was satisfied they were good to go, we reconvened outside the barn. Twilight made sure the stopwatch was reset and that all previous data was still recorded. “Okay, so I’d like you to follow the same path you did before,” Twilight explained to Rainbow Dash. “I need to make sure most of the other variables remain consistent. Your speed should be the only thing that changes.”

Rainbow looked like she could hardly care... well, that’s not entirely true. She looked like she cared about the next race, the scientific keep-the-data-consistent part... not so much. The blasé “Yeah, yeah” that came afterward confirmed that. I let Twilight know that I’d make sure she stuck to the course. Not like it was gonna be hard, but I figure Twilight just wanted to cover her bases.

I said bye to Twilight as I slithered my way onto Rainbow’s neck. “Hey, Rainbow!” I greeted my friend enthusiastically once the connection was made. “Ready to win this thing?”

Rainbow clearly appreciated my enthusiasm and reciprocated it with an equal amount of gusto. “You know it! I know we can win this one for sure!” I felt a confident smirk weasel it’s way onto Rainbow’s face. I felt a passion to win burning within her and I could easily reciprocate the feeling. I wanted to help Rainbow win this. However, a certain someone had to rain on our enthusiasm with an annoying tidbit of information.

“Just remember, not to use anything aside from your attachment ability. We don’t need outside variables skewing the data,” Twilight added.

Now, I understand exactly why Twilight mentioned this. If I used my tendrils to give Rainbow a boost it’d make the data unreliable since it’s not my new ability at work, but the tendrils. But man, I really wanted to try that during the race! It could have totally grabbed a tree at a corner and whipped around it. Uuuugh, in the name of science and discovery I guess I’ll have to restrict myself to assistant and observer. I’m thankful, Rainbow shared my thoughts on the matter. “Aaw, come on, Twilight! Dante can’t use any other ability?”

Twilight shook her head definitively. “No, it will mess up the results. He has to use only the attachment ability and nothing else.” Twilight was pretty firm in her call and, like I said, I understood her reasoning. Rainbow, kinda got it, but she more wanted to find out just how fast we could go. Regardless, I agreed not to use anything except for my attachment ability. I gave a basic tendriled thumbs up and Twilight picked up what I was saying.

After that, Rainbow and Applejack got back into place. Now, it was time for me to apply the attachment modification... erm... Exo, no Twilight can’t stand that one...Er... oh! Augmentation! Limb augmentations! That works. Right, so I had to do that... but considering how things went last time, I figured it might be best to request permission before I went ahead and did it. So, I began the conversation in as good a fashion as I could, “Um, so... I need to apply the tendrils to your limbs. You okay with that?” I was very tentative with this as I didn’t want to hint that I took any enjoyment out of this, which I don’t! Its an automatic reaction. I didn’t do it on purpose and I took ZERO enjoyment out of the results.... Actually, no... no. I’m not going to entertain the idea of if I can even get aroused in this body.

Anyway, I offered the enhancement up to Rainbow, who quickly blushed and got a little annoyed but came back with, “Y-yeah, do it quickly.” I ignored the stew pot of her emotions and went with the band-aid route. I produced two tendrils that quickly enveloped Rainbow’s front legs and barrel, then I produced to more to cover Rainbow’s back legs and lower back. Naturally, the tendrils constricted once the second set were put into place. Rainbow managed to withhold a small squeak that, out of consideration, I won’t go into additional details about.

The augmentation did have an additional effect, but it wasn’t on Rainbow. It was on our observers. Applejack had been watching the whole process and must have been impressed with the display. She let out a low whistle before adding, “Well, ain’t that something.” Likewise, the Crusaders were in various states of awe and surprise. Applebloom looked absolutely gobsmacked (it’s a word, look it up) and had her lower jaw firmly planted in the ground. Scoots was completely in awe and had a near perfect look amazement on her face. Sweetie Belle, however, was... I think uneasy was the word. She looked visibly uncomfortable and her entire stance was shifted away from Rainbow and me. The feeling of guilt I felt must have been palpable as Rainbow asked what was bugging me. I said it was nothing, but I suspect Rainbow knew. Again she didn’t push it, but I’m pretty sure she already knew.

That put aside, we got ready for the race. Twilight and Spike were on the right side of the barn with the Crusaders on the left. Once again, Twilight had Spike hold the stopwatch while she scribbled down some notes. Eventually, Twilight raised her hoof to signal she was about to start the race. Rainbow got into her ready stance along with Applejack. I did my best to offer my support for my host and cheer her on.

Twilight began the prompt. “On your marks!” The Crusaders shouted a quick cheer for their respective racer. Sweetie was silent. “Get set!” Rainbow’s body tensed. Her legs tightened as she loaded herself to sprint and her eyes locked dead ahead of her. Then... her mind went dead silent, every point of her mind became focused on the race ahead. She was ready for a command to go at a moment’s notice. She was dead focused. For the sake of not breaking her concentration, I kept silent.

“GO!” Twilight’s hoof came down, but Rainbow was already propelling forward in a strong pounce. Her fore hooves soon made contact with the ground and she was already starting her gallop. It took a short time to reach the entrance to the farm and Rainbow was already making her way onto the path out of Sweet Apple Acres. Her legs pounded the ground hard, but each step worked to propel her forward at faster speeds. Eventually, it felt like she had reached her peak land speed, but I noticed something. Whether it was nothing or something, I couldn’t tell, but making note of it couldn’t hurt. Rainbow was... barely struggling. Her breathing was even, her muscles weren’t straining, and it could feel my... erh... modifications constricting and pushing in rhythm to Rainbow’s stride. I didn’t notice it with Twilight since she was using her magic more than actual muscle, but I could say with certainty, this ability was working to move Rainbow forward with increased efficiency.

I didn’t feel anything wrong with Rainbow, but I wanted to make sure I wasn’t missing anything. We had just left the path heading into Sweet Apple Acres and were rounding the front of the orchard. This was basically the first leg, might be best to get a status check. “How you feeling, Rainbow? Doing okay?” I asked.

“Yeah, feeling really good actually!” Rainbow replied almost gleefully. “I’ve never been able to move this fast on the ground before! It’s awesome!”

Well, that’s a good. She seems in good spirits and nothing seems to bother her so far. Well, best not deter her. The better she does the better the data, right? “Okay, just wanted to check in. Keep it up!” Rainbow smiled under my encouragement and pushed herself onward harder. From time to time, Rainbow would glance behind her to see where Applejack was. At first, she was lagging slightly behind us, but as the race went on, I noticed she was slowly getting left behind entirely. By the time we made it to the second turn, she was struggling just to keep pace. One thing that was for sure, Rainbow was definitely holding a definitive lead and the gap was widening by the minute. Okay, I didn’t witness much of the first race aside from the beginning and end, but this seems like a drastic change. Hmmm, I may have to confirm with Twilight, but I think this is more than a ten percent increase. I mean, I could be wrong.

When we came out of the second corner, I decided to test Rainbow, and by proxy, myself. “Hey Rainbow, think you’d be able to push yourself to go faster?” Rainbow still didn’t feel like she was struggling and most of the path ahead was fairly straight with only a few curves in the path. This would be the best place to lay on a little extra speed.

Yeah, I can do that. Here we go!” Rainbow grinned as she gave a hard push with her hind legs. Rainbow began to adjust her stride to a strong gallop that took strong bounds that were propelling her forward much faster than before. Not only that, but I noticed how I was reacting to this. My attachments were almost preemptively moving before Rainbow was. Pulling her legs into position and adding additional force to each kickoff. It took a second for Rainbow to get used to this particular style of... advanced running, but eventually, she was really moving out. The new burst of speed actually made me reflexively pull closer to Rainbow’s body and I felt the black augmentations match my actions. The tendrils gripped Rainbow tighter, and for a moment I could swear I saw something cross Rainbow’s mind. It was quick, but I swear I saw an image. It looked like Rainbow was looking at someone. A stallion with very familiar rainbow colored mane and a dark blue coat color. Was... that Rainbow’s dad? I think I’ve seen him before in an episode before. But... where did that come from? Was Rainbow thinking of him? I didn’t get any inkling of it earlier. Might have to ask about that later.

With the additional burst of speed, Rainbow was now covering a decent amount of ground and with Rainbow’s athleticism, she was able to easily tackle the slight turns along the path. Eventually, we rounded the third corner and Rainbow was hardly feeling it. Some of the residual wear from the last race was creeping in, but she was powering through it pretty well. In truth, I was feeling a little self-conscious. Rainbow is pretty damn athletic. I wish I was this fit when I was alive... then again, I’d probably ended up doing stupid shit like parkour or something that would have ended up being a YouTube fail video... probably a mix of the both. Either way, Rainbow was able to quickly cover the remaining distance until we eventually returned to the entrance of Sweet Apple Acres. Rainbow was feeling a bit of the soreness from before now, but God bless her, she was powering through it.

Scootaloo was cheering Rainbow on as we came into view of the barn once again. Applebloom looked a little annoyed, more than likely that her sister was nowhere near us, and Sweetie was giving a... semi-enthusiastic hoof pump as we came up the entrance. While I couldn’t see her expression as well as the others, she was sitting behind Scoots and Applebloom. I saw Twilight momentarily peak at Spike’s stopwatch and a beaming smile almost immediately grew on her face.

No sooner Rainbow had crossed the entrance to the farm, she found herself in front of the barn with a small dust cloud kicking up at her sudden skidding halt. “Time!” She hollered out as her hoof came into contact with the barn door. Rainbow was panting hard as she stood in front of the barn and Rainbow suddenly noticed something, well noticed the lack of something, as she began to catch her breath. She was panting pretty decently and there was some soreness in her legs... but she wasn’t sweating. In fact, she barely seemed hot at all. That’s not right. She should be a little drenched if anything. But her coat wasn’t matted with sweat, and I didn’t even notice any sweat streaks. Something was going on here. Whether it was bad or not was hard to say, but I was going to bring it up.

“Hey, Rainbow. You feeling okay?” I asked in concern.

Rainbow nodded as she panted. “I feel great!” Rainbow replied enthusiastically. “I’ve never moved that fast on the ground before! Half the time I barely felt like I was on the ground at all!” Rainbow’s rushing enthusiasm was encouraging, as it appeared Rainbow was mentally fine. Considering every report of someone not sweating usually a precursor to heat exhaustion. Except... Rainbow wasn’t hot. If anything she was unusually cool for someone who just ran the perimeter of a farm at an enhanced speeds. She should at least be warm. Rainbow was along the same train of thought and she was a little concerned.

Twilight and Spike ran over to check on us, the CMC were not far behind. Twilight was looking positively giddy and Spike looked equally fascinated. Twilight almost instantly began asking Rainbow about something, but at the same time, Scootaloo was bouncing about investigating Rainbow and commenting on her coolness. Naturally, this created a cacophony of noise that made it hard to determine who was saying what.

In order to keep track of the questions, Rainbow had to interject. “Whoa, whoa! Hang on! One pony at a time!” Rainbow gave Twilight her attention and listened to what she is saying.

Twilight repeated, “Please tell me Dante did not use any additional abilities, even accidentally.” Her tone was still overflowing with excitement and when Rainbow affirmed I had never once used anything other than the augmentation ability, her excitement exploded. She began to visibly vibrate and a smile of pure exuberance caused Twilight’s mouth to stretch to their furthest reaches. This reaction prompted Rainbow to wonder what was causing the beaming smile, “What? What’s with the face?”

“You and Dante basically beat your previous time by a full twenty percent!” Spike interjected holding up the stopwatch for Rainbow to see. The stopwatch read eleven minutes and twenty-two seconds. Rainbow, in an involuntary attempt to match Twilight’s, began to grin as well. I felt a spring of excitement blooming within her and her wings began to twitch. Even with our mental connection, I didn’t need it to know how badly Rainbow wanted to test my augmentation ability on her wings. But before I would even entertain that idea, I needed to determine something.

I was still stuck to Rainbow since my augmentations were still active, but I was able to get Twilight’s attention with a tendril and directed her attention to Rainbow’s brow. Unfortunately, her confused look told me she wasn’t catching what I was getting at, so I directed her to the ground and wrote out, “Rainbow is not sweating. Check her.” Twilight took a second to read over my message before looking back at Rainbow and putting a hoof to her forehead. She held her hoof to Rainbow’s brow for a short time before pulling it away. There was a definitive look of confusion and intrigue as Twilight backed away and moved her hoof on Rainbow’s neck. I presumed it was to take her pulse.

While this was happening Rainbow and I, for a brief moment, shared a similar thought in that moment, “Was I the source of this issue.” Considering Rainbow wasn’t nearing collapse and she wasn’t burning up, the only logical step was that I was somehow involved. What it was exactly, was hard to tell.

The Crusaders also took note of my message and began to look at Rainbow with a tint of confusion in their faces. “Is it bad that Rainbow isn’t sweating?” Scootaloo inquired.

“Normally, yes,” Twilight responded. “Except, she seems fine.” Twilight finished with, what sounded like, contemplative thought. “Spike make a note of this. We’ll need to do some research.”

Spike nodded before scribbling down the information on the parchment he had brought along to mark times. “What are you thinking, Twilight?” Spike asked as he finished the note.

Twilight looked perplexed yet pensive as she mulled over the question. “I’m... I’m not sure. I have no doubt this has something to do with Dante, but...” Twilight halted as she seemed to ponder a new thought. “I’ll need to test some ideas, but clearly it isn’t causing any problems.”

“Well... that’s good.” A familiar, exhausted voice with a southern drawl added. Didn’t take much to determine who the voice belonged to. Rainbow and the Crusaders turned to see a very sweaty and panting Applejack. Sweat had matted a good portion of her coat to her body and even the inner rim of her Stetson looked darkened. Despite this, she had a smile on her face as she approached.

“Y’all were really goin’ back there,” she admitted with a chuckle. “Dante really gave ya a heck of a boost. I couldn’t keep up.”

Rainbow felt a fleeting amount of pride after hearing that comment, but it soon disappeared when she realized she needed my assistance to achieve it. She didn’t take it too seriously, but she didn’t like that she couldn’t win under her own power. I did my best to offer moral support. “Hey, you’re still the fastest thing in the sky. Plus the two of you were really close in the first race.” I kept my tone fairly light and jovial as I could. It was enough to lift her spirits enough, but I still noticed that she made a note to work on her legs a bit more in the future.

“Might need to borrow ya for some of those long-haul trips,” Applejack added with a smirk. She then turned to Twilight and asked, “So how’d they do, Twilight?”

Twilight didn’t answer immediately. When Rainbow looked back to her, she seemed engrossed in a deep thought and it took a jab from Spike to bring her back to reality. “Huh? What? Sorry?” she sputtered in confusion. Spike directed her attention to Applejack.

“Rainbow. She was faster this time, right?” Applejack repeated.

“Oh, yeah. They managed to cut twenty percent off their original time,” Twilight replied. I wonder what’s on her mind, she seems really focused on something. Knowing Twilight, she probably has some idea about what was going on. I’ll have to ask her about it later.

“Well, ain’t that somethin’,” Applejack replied with a smirk.

“Yeah,” Rainbow interjected. “Now imagine what is going to happen when it’s used on my wings!” Having figured out her health wasn’t in any danger, Rainbow’s mind had switched to the one thing she had been wanting to do since the start. Given what Twilight revealed about my ability, I couldn’t say I wasn’t curious. The way my body worked in sync with Rainbow’s was fascinating. Admittedly, I know a tiny bit about how birds fly, but I think pegasi are a tad different. There’s something more there, I feel it when I fly with Rainbow and I have a feeling the way magic flows off pegasi has something to do with it. I was curious to see how the augmentation would work in conjunction with Rainbow’s wings. I was more so curious to see what the fastest flier in Equestria could do with such a boost in physical performance.

Scootaloo was first to cheer on the idea and her little wings buzzed with clear excitement. “Oh, yeah! Do it, Rainbow!” she cheered as she momentarily hovered off the ground.

The prospect seemed to get Twilight out of her thought process, if only for a moment. She nodded her agreement and asked that Rainbow only get comfortable with how the ability felt in flight. Twilight wanted to run some tests later with more flight-related testing equipment.

“Man, Twilight seems like she’s really stuck in thought,” I mentioned off-handedly.

“Pretty sure, Twilight is always thinking. It’s kinda her thing,” Rainbow replied. “But I wouldn’t be surprised if she’s already on the way to figuring your abilities out.”

“Yeah, that’s what I figured. Just seems like she is really focused right now, doesn’t it? Like more than usual. ”

Rainbow nodded as a sense of familiarity began to come into her mind, “Yeah, she’s probably stumped on something. I’ve seen her do this before. Don’t be surprised if she spends part of the night just doing research or whatever.”

Hmm, curious. I’ll have to ask her about that later. Not like I know a ton about this body anyway. I’ll definitely need to help where I can, if only with reading material... well, and maybe some experiments too. Whichever comes first. Just as long as needles aren’t involved.

“Yeah, well that’s future problems. We have better, more interesting problems right now,” Rainbow added with determination and excitement. I had a good inkling where she was going. “We need to see what that ability can do in the sky!” Yeeeeup.

I admitted I was curious as well and gave Rainbow my okay. With this, she spread her wings and I created two tendrils to envelop them. It was a little awkward at first, as the tendrils did not attach immediately. For a few moments, I was just awkwardly slapping my arms against Rainbow’s wings. It wasn’t until Twilight suggested, I try the area closest to Rainbow’s body that we got the desired effect. The tendrils attached to Rainbow’s wings, but not in the way I was expecting. The black pretty much enveloped all of Rainbow’s back and up into the wing, but rather than turning the whole wing black, it seemed like the tendril worked its way under the feathers and added a dark hue below Rainbow’s natural cyan. It was oddly fascinating. I’m not entirely sure why it wrapped around like it did, but I’m willing to guess it has to do with how bird muscles really work. Lord knows my human anatomy was so-so, to begin with.

Either way, Rainbow was now sporting a pair of augmented wings with a slight color change. The one thing I noticed, however, was that I felt... tight. Like I literally felt stretched out and tight against Rainbow. While it wasn’t anything painful, it was a bizarre sensation. Regardless, I was hyped and so was Rainbow. She only needed a moment to get a feel for the augmentation work with her wings before she began flapping her wings and the two of us were airborne.

Compared to the other times I'd flown with Rainbow, it seemed like she wasn't exerting as much energy as she ascended. In fact, she was putting more power into each flap, again my tendrils seemed to be helping, but this time seemed to be pushing and pulling the wings into powerful flaps. Before long, we were high in the sky overlooking both Sweet Apple Acres and Ponyville. The view was spectacular, we could see way past Ponyville and far into the distant plains leading toward Canterlot. I could stare at this forever. However, we weren’t above the clouds for the view.

Rainbow took a good glance at the scene as well, but it was short lived as she arced into a steep dive with a heavy flap of her wings. The force of the acceleration took us both by surprise, but it felt amazing. The g-forces going against her body were welcomed and accepted. Additionally, Rainbow was consistently pushing us forward with empowered flaps. This combined with our downward trajectory was beyond enticing and I could feel our mutual excitement rocketing. This was AWESOME!

Eventually, we had to pull out of the dive and the g-forces altered. Rainbow pulled into an upward spiraling corkscrew causing the empty feeling in her stomach to be replaced with a force coming down over her back and wings. It felt much more tolerable than usual, not that it was ever a problem, really. Maybe earlier on, but not now, dealing with the g-forces felt much easier than ever before.

“Oh my gosh, that was a breeze! I barely struggled with that!” Rainbow said almost giggling. “Hehe, okay. Let’s take this a step further.”

“Wait, what do you-?” I didn't get to finish. Coming out of the corkscrew, Rainbow leveled out and gave a quick set of flaps to regain the speed we lost in the climb. With the additional boost and the gained altitude Rainbow decided to start pushing limits. She rolled upside down and arched her back toward the ground causing another sharp plummet. However, this time Rainbow pulled her wings in close to her body, but not enough that they were laying flat, just enough to let air move between her feathers and fur.

The drop quickly gave us speed, but unlike before, this was to set up for some tricky maneuvers that, if we pulled this off, was going to be amazing! “I’m gonna give everypony a show, hope you’re ready,” Rainbow warned me.

“Ready as I’ll ever be,” was my response. No point in saying anything else. Just gonna enjoy this ride.

The dive gave us the speed we needed and after a quick descent, Rainbow quickly angled her wings to pull us out of the dive and made us horizontal to the ground. Immediately after, she pulled her limbs in and went into a forward roll. The world spun around us as we spiraled forward, only for it to come to a solid halt as Rainbow spread her wings once again and arced us into a high g turn once again. This one took us to the left and Rainbow was tightening the curve as we went in.

“Headwind up ahead,” I called out noting a shift in the wind.

“Yeah, I see it. I’ll adjust,” Rainbow replied.

“What exactly are going to do next?”

Rainbow smirked. “What else, be awesome.” Sounds about right. She was enjoying this test almost much as her first cup of cider, but she was far from done pushing her capabilities. We were pulling some serious g-forces and powering through them with little issues. So now, she was going to start putting me through the paces. Pulling harder into the curve, Rainbow arced her back once again and twisting her wings so we were inverted toward the ground and diving once again. “God rollercoasters have nothing on this!” I said in my excitement.

“What is a rollercoaster?” Rainbow asked out of curiosity.

“Think what you are doing but on rails and fewer options for awesome,” was my reply.

“Sounds boring.”

“Compared to this, yes. Yes, it is.”

“In that case, let’s keep the show rolling!” Rainbow arched herself toward the distant forest. This time she was aiming to test her reactions. As we dove, Rainbow began to point herself toward a cluster of trees just outside the Whitetail Woods. They were spaced out just enough to slalom between them. Oh Lordy. This was gonna be a ride.I tightened my grip on Rainbow and prepared for what was to come.

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