“Me? Twilight asked, a slight whimper in her voice. “I’m the weak link?”
“Are you surprised?” Pinkie asked.
It wasn’t Pinkie. Twilight knew this. There was only darkness around her and none of this was real. But the form of Pinkie stood before her and stared at her. She would say Pinkie stared into her soul if she weren’t sure this was all taking place within her soul already.
“No,” she said, hanging her head.
“It’s okay Twilight,” Pinkie said. “You’re just… not like us.”
“We’re all different, Pinkie,” Twilight said. She felt tears on her cheek even as she reminded herself that this wasn’t even really her body.
“We are. But the friendship thing?” Pinkie asked. “It’s just another lesson to you. You know that. You’re just playing at friendship until Princess Celestia calls you back to Canterlot.”
“That… that…” Twilight sniffed and shivered on her hooves. “That’s not true!”
* * * * *
“Come on, Pinkie,” Applejack said. “You know ya just ain’t like the rest of us.”
“I… I…” Pinkie shrunk back, dragging her hooves against the not-ground.
Applejack wasn’t really Applejack. She was Pinkie. But Pinkie was Pinkie too, and so was all the darkness around her. It was all part of the spell. But it didn’t make Applejack’s words hurt any less.
“Yer just a silly pink pony who throws a party now and then,” Applejack said. “Not exactly world hero material, ya know? Yer jus’ playin’ at bein’ a hero is all.”
“But…” Pinkie whimpered and shook her head. “Y-you’re wrong! You’re wrong!”
“Oh yeah?” Applejack asked. “How’d ya figure that?”
* * * * *
“I ain’t give a hay if I ‘ain’t like the rest of ya,’ damn you!” Applejack snorted.
Rarity snorted and shook her head. “Yes, well, you’ve certainly made that quite clear.”
Applejack had a feeling none of this was real. When you got hit with a beam of light and woke up in a black room and one of your closest friends was suddenly at your throat, you tended to doubt your surroundings a little.
“That… that ain’t what I mean,” Applejack said, shaking her head.
“Face it, darling,” Rarity said, stressing the word ‘darling’ in that condescending way she always did. “You’re just a crude, rough farmer who likes to play at being something bigger than she is.”
Applejack’s face knotted up in anger but her cheeks burned with shame. “That ain’t true. You’re lyin’!”
“Really now, darling? Rarity asked. “And what, exactly, isn’t true about it? Please, be a dear and point out one of these lies for me.”
“I… I ain’t playin’ at nothin’,” Applejack said. “I know jus’ what I am and what I ain’t.”
* * * * *
“I don’t believe you,” Rarity said. “You’re not Fluttershy.”
Not-Fluttershy did not, Rarity noticed, deny this accusation. She just tilted her head gently and sighed, looking sadly at Rarity. Rarity had enough magic in her to feel that this dark place was not real. She remembered a test, but she couldn’t remember what it was.
“I’m sorry. But… it doesn’t change anything,” Fluttershy said. “You’re just… just a dressmaker. You only play at being generous. You just pretend to be… anything at all below the surface.”
“How dare you!” Rarity shouted, advancing on Fluttershy.
Fluttershy backed away and squeaked. “It’s not my fault! It’s just you. It’s who you are.”
Rarity shook her head and glared at Fluttershy. It was not an easy thing to do, looking at that timid yellow face. But she held her gaze nevertheless.
She took a deep breath and shook her head. “I deny nothing that you say. I am no paragon of generosity. I am greedy and ambitious and I just want every little jewel in the world for myself.”
“Then you understand,” Fluttershy said. “You understand why you failed the test.”
Rarity stared at her again. “No. I did not. And I will not.”
* * * * *
“You’re right,” Fluttershy said, sighing. “I just pretend to be strong.”
“Ugh, see?” Dash threw up her hooves and groaned in frustration. “This! This is what I’m talking about! You don’t fight for anything! You don’t even defend yourself!”
“Well, um,” Fluttershy said, blushing and looking away.
She kept telling herself that Dash wasn’t really Dash. Dash wouldn’t say these things to her. Not for real. She only said those things in Fluttershy’s head. It was all part of the test.
“Well what?” Dash grunted, flying up in Fluttershy’s face.
“I know I’m not really that strong,” Fluttershy said. “I’m scared of everything, I never speak my mind, and all I really want to do is impress…” she looked up at Dash and blushed. “Well, anyway, I know all that.”
Dash raised an eyebrow and chuckled. “Real compelling case you’re making there, Shy. Great job!”
“But…” Fluttershy hung her head. “But I’m trying. I’m.. I’m stronger than I’ve ever been.” She looked up at Dash. “And I’m going to keep getting stronger.”
* * * * *
“So I’m not exactly the image of Loyalty, is what you’re saying?” Dash said, chuckling.
“Precisely,” Twilight said. She sighed and smiled at Dash. “I’m glad you understand. I was worried you’d fight about it.”
Dash grinned at Twilight. She wasn’t Twilight. It was all part of that test, Dash knew. She couldn’t remember all the details but there was a bright light and a booming voice that asked “Who among you is worthy?” Some sort of big magical spiritual journey she’d have to ask the real Twilight about more later.
“Heh. I didn’t say that,” Dash said. She sighed and dropped the grin, and Twilight frowned at her sudden serious face. The real Twilight did that a lot too. “I might be crap at being a team player, but I’m learning, you know? I’m trying. Not to be such a pain in the ass, you know? To try to be… good.”
Twilight snorted and shook her head. “What makes you think you can change? You’re you. You’re the Rainbow Dash.” She snickered and smirked at Dash. “That’s who you’ll always be.”
Dash’s eyes narrowed and she blushed. She didn’t like what she was about to say any more than she liked what Twilight told her.
“Heh. If it were just me, you’d be right,” Dash said. She took a deep breath. “It’s my friends. It’s for them. They’re the reason I try. And they’re the only reason I have a chance.”
Twilight narrowed her eyes, but she said nothing.
There was a light, and the Elements of Harmony were together again. They’d passed the test.
Oooh, another bunch of mini-confrontations! The idea of a test is really interesting, though I have to wonder who’s testing them, and what for. All in all, though, good job!