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[Canterlot] Rehearsal [Closed]


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WHUMP. WHUMP. WHUMP.

The sound of cloth-wrapped hooves on canvas-wrapped sand was a familiar one to Corporal Stone Bones. The smell of old canvas, the bitter taste of adrenaline on his tongue, the tremors of footwork on gym padding and the shock of hooves on the heavy bag swirled around him in a symphony of controlled violence. The barn back home. A dingy arena in Hoofington. An army gym. It made no difference so long as it had enough space so that Bones didn’t need to hold back when he trained. Of these, though, Bones found himself most at home in the REA barracks. The gym wasn’t terribly large, but it was well equipped and gave him plenty of quality time alone when he needed to train.

WHUMP. WHUMP. WHUMP.

But today was different. Today, Stone Bones had a partner, a certain pegasus who had apparently gotten herself wrangled into an intramural boxing match, something she admitted she was ill-prepared for. She was in need of a coach, somepony to show her the ropes so it didn’t go from a fight to a farce. It showed. Stone Bones tightened his hold on the heavy bag as the white pegasus slammed into it again. The big warhorse grimaced, not from the impact, but the pitifully poor form he was observing. His charge was a feisty one to be sure, but at this rate she was more likely to hurt herself than land a solid hit.

[colour=#8b4513]“Stop focusin’ on hittin’ hard an’ focus on hittin’ straight!”[/colour] Bones said, keeping himself braced against the bag. [colour=#8b4513]“Ye have ta’ keep yer heed in the game. Now back up an’ try it again!”[/colour]

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[colour=#222222]Again and again, Radiant Steel pounded away at the bag with her hooves. At one point she had imagined this would be fun, but it was proving to be an exhausting workout, each successive buck depriving her of increasingly more stamina. No, she wasn't used to this. She trained herself regularly, she had to to be a soldier--but this was different; it was more rigorous, more demanding than her usual training regiment. The speed and power in her wings were useless to her here. She was simply put, out of her element... and soon enough she was expected to actually go and face somepony else in an intramural boxing match.

As she continued to hit the bag, her mind began to wander back to how she had gotten into this mess. Repeated reports of undue aggression in dealing with situations at her guard post had been filed. After the penultimate of these reports, she had agreed to undergo some counseling at the Mending Hearts Clinic and hoped that would be the end of this issue, but even with Heart Healer's guidance another report ultimately came regarding the mare's temperament. Talks with superiors had followed, it was suggested that if she couldn't work out her aggression perhaps she could at least find a proper outlet for it. That's what ultimately led her to that gym; she was to compete in intramural boxing in hopes that it would make her a better, more even tempered and disciplined guard.

Radiant couldn't fault the reasoning. In fact, it had sounded like a great idea at first. Sure, she had never boxed, but how hard could just hitting stuff be? There was nothing simpler. Now that she was there; now that she had met her trainer, the massive and rather intimidating corporal, Stone Bones; now that she was doing it, it no longer looked so simple. No, Radiant was beginning to wonder if she had bitten off a little more than she could chew. She wasn't sure she was going to ever meet the standards Corporal Bones was looking for.

[colour=#8B4513]“Stop focusin’ on hittin’ hard an’ focus on hittin’ straight! [/colour][colour=#8B4513]Ye have ta’ keep yer heed in the game. Now back up an’ try it again!”[/colour]

The Corporal's words brought Radiant back to a focus. [colour=#FF0000]"Yes, Sir, Corporal, Sir!"[/colour] she started staunchly, backing up. It was looking bleak, but Radiant wasn't the sort who gave up. She wasn't going to let this beat her. She would persevere.

[colour=#FF0000]"I can do this, I know I can!" [/colour]she started, with a bit of a snarl as she moved forward again. A mighty buck pounded at the bag, throwing it back. More blows followed, one after the other. [colour=#FF0000]"How's this?"[/colour] she shouted as she puled back slightly and put her all into a forceful kick. [/colour]

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Quadruped boxing was something of a novelty in Equestria. The Griffons had been doing mixed martial arts for years, but being a peaceful nation populated by decidedly nonviolent ponies, the sport was not as widespread as it was in Aquellia. The technical side of boxing was unique: it combined hoofwork of all four legs with jabs and strikes from the front legs, blocking with sides and flanks, and delivering knock-out blows with the hind legs. The only hard rules were no grappling and no use of magic during the match for unicorns or remaining airborne for extended periods on wing for pegasi.

Because of their strength and endurance, earth ponies had a natural advantage, something that Stone Bones had capitalized upon during his time with the league in Hoofington. Despite this, there were still plenty of pegasi and even some unicorns who stepped into the ring against him, more than eager to prove their mettle against their earthbound, magickless cousin. As Radiant laid into the bag again, Stone Bones picked at her individual movements with practiced eye.

[colour=#ff0000]"Yes, Sir, Corporal, Sir!"[/colour] The pegasus shouted as she threw herself at the bag again. [colour=#ff0000]"How's this?"[/colour]

[colour=#8b4513]“Dornt call me sir, Ah wark fur a livin'!”[/colour] came the practiced retort.

Using her legs instead of her body. Wings splayed out during the swing. Gritted teeth and neck tilted to one side. And of course, the knock-out blow. Stone Bones braced the bag against the strike, feeling the shock of both of Radiant’s rear hooves smashing into the heavy bag. Bones had hardly budged an inch. The big earth pony frowned behind the bag. Had his prior instructions fallen on deaf ears? This had been going on all day.

[colour=#8b4513]“That's enough fur noo. Sit doon an' drenk some water. We've got quite a bit tae go ower.”[/colour]

Bones picked up Radiant’s towel in his teeth, throwing it past the bag, where hopefully she’d be alert enough to catch it. Slinging his own towel over his shoulder, the brawler ambled over to the break room. Less a room and more a tape demarcated space where no equipment was allowed, the break room hosted a few cushions for athletes to lay down between sets and a water fountain/sink apparatus for cooling off and hydrating. Taking a seat, Stone Bones reached into his duffel and retrieved a canteen, taking a long swig before turning back to address Radiant Steel.

[colour=#8b4513]“How’re ye feelin’?”[/colour]

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[colour=#8b4513]“That's enough fur noo. Sit doon an' drenk some water. We've got quite a bit tae go ower.”[/colour]

The answer she received made her sink. She could tell from his tone alone that the Corporal was not pleased. Was she really so unable to do this to his standards? She had been trying so long now, but he remained unappeasable. There was little Radiant hated more than the feeling of failure. The fact that failure to learn this spelt her inevitable defeat in the match itself made it even worse for her. She needed to figure this out. Giving up was never an option for her. This was no different.

Radiant's ever drifting mind was brought to attention when her towel suddenly landed atop her head. In her exhausted state, this confused her for a moment, and stagger ahead, until she pulled it off and gave a sigh. She used the towel to wipe away some of the sweat from her weary frame and then stepped after Corporal Bones, following him back to the break room.

[colour=#ff0000]"Yes, Si--er... Corporal Bones!"[/colour] she finally voiced a reply. Correcting how she addressed others was another thing that could be hard for her. She almost invariably heard the Corporal's prior line at least once a day from other enlisted. She got it, but at the same time it was a force of habit, probably from a life lived in the house of strict and proud officer. "Yes, sir!" was so customary to her that it slipped her tongue for civilians even at times. For an imposing stallion like this corporal, it was even harder.

[colour=#8B4513]“How’re ye feelin’?”[/colour]

The stallion spoke as Radiant found a seat upon the nearest cushion. She gave a few deep breaths and then a sigh. How was she feeling? Well, she was exhausted, physically and emotionally. She was worried about her training, she was worried about the match, she was worried about failure and she was worried about what her superiors and her father might think about all of it. While getting a chance to unload all the anger and force she could muster on a bag had been therapeutical much as she had hoped, aggression was only supplanted with more anxiety. The aching soreness in her shoulders, flank and all four of her legs only exacerbated things. Was she going to tell her trainer that though?

[colour=#ff0000]"Feeling fine, Corporal! Ready to go another round or two whenever you are!"[/colour] Radiant gave her reply, even stiffer than her usual stiff self, her slow breaths and the tired look in her eyes betraying the lie.

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Bones couldn’t help but chuckle. Really? She was going to pull that routine? Back in the league, Bones had seen his share of athletes who had refused to quit. Tenacity was admirable, but bullheadedness wasn’t. Overtraining could cause serious injury, even more so than getting hit in the ring. After all, as an athlete, he spent far more time conditioning and practicing the technical aspects than he actually did in competition.

[colour=#8b4513]“Thas horse apples an’ ye knoo it!”[/colour] he said with a snort. [colour=#8b4513] “And stahp callin’ me that. My name’s Bones, not ‘Corporal.’ We’re aff duty; we shooldnae have tae bortha with ranks in here.”[/colour]

The big earth pony reached into his duffel again, taking his second canteen out and tossing it at Radiant, again expecting her to catch. Bones snapped the cap shut on his own canteen and began unwrapping his front hooves. Radiant could use a longer rest and they could both stand to have a legitimate talk.

[colour=#8b4513]“Get those hooves unwrapped, Radiant,”[/colour] his ‘r’ on ‘Radiant’ rolling nearly into another syllable, a unique part of his Fet Loch brogue. [colour=#8b4513]“We need tae talk.”[/colour]

[colour=#8b4513]“I’ve bin watchin’ ye fight for the pest week an’ a half. You’ve got chin an’ you’ve got speed an’ you’ve got power,”[/colour] Bones said, specifically addressing Radiant Steel’s toughness, agility, and strength, respectively. [colour=#8b4513]“An’ I like that. It means you’ve got what it takes already; we dannae have tae build ye up from a wee filly. But the thing is you always treat it like a life or death fight, like ye need tae kill your opponent tae win.”[/colour]

[colour=#8b4513]“I’m gonnae teel you right now that’s not whit we’re here tae do. Boxin' isn’t abet beatin' th' horse apples out a’ th' other pony, it’s abet learnin' every bit of yer own body an' puttin' it all tae use oan demand.”[/colour] One wrap down, now the other. Only stopping long enough to undo the knot which held the wrap in place, Bones continued. [colour=#8b4513]“The way you’re hittin’ right noo, you’re gonnae break a fetloch afair ye e’en get a bloody hoof in th’ ring. After we rest up, Ah want tae tak’ it slow an’ go back tae fundamentals. Ye can’t dance until ye know the steps.”[/colour]

Bones paused for a moment to tug at a particularly persistent kink in his hoof wraps. That was about as long-winded as he got. Bones wasn't much of a lecturer; he preferred to set examples rather than preach and throw books at ponies. But before he could do that, he needed to know whether Radiant would even bother following his example. [colour=#8b4513]"But thas enough frae me. Ah haven’t heard a wuid out ah ye ta-day ‘cept 'yes sairrr nae sairrr.' What’s th' craic in yer barracks corner, Radiant?"[/colour]

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[colour=#8B4513]“Thas horse apples an’ ye knoo it! [/colour][colour=#8B4513]And stahp callin’ me that. My name’s Bones, not ‘Corporal.’ We’re aff duty; we shooldnae have tae bortha with ranks in here.”[/colour]

Radiant's carefully constructed composure collapsed with just a few direct words from the intimidating corporal. She froze up. An anxious smile appeared on her face as she struggled to look anywhere but at the other pony. Not only could this pony see through her, but he wanted to be addressed informally? That would potentially be difficult, but she would comply. The corporal deserved her respect for offering his service in training her after all. She would do her best!

[colour=#ff0000]"Understood, sir! I mean... er..."[/colour] she started, but trailed off when she realized she was already messing up terribly. She went a little flush and more than a little quiet as she unsuccessfully resisted the urge to cover her face with her hoof.

[colour=#8B4513]“Get those hooves unwrapped, Radiant. [/colour][colour=#8B4513]We need tae talk.”[/colour]

Radian just gave a sheepish nod and did as told. She had no clue what to expect, but couldn't imagine it was going to be easy to discuss. She just unwrapped her hooves and gave a small gulp.

[colour=#8B4513]“I’ve bin watchin’ ye fight for the pest week an’ a half. You’ve got chin an’ you’ve got speed an’ you’ve got power. [/colour][colour=#8B4513]An’ I like that. It means you’ve got what it takes already; we dannae have tae build ye up from a wee filly. But the thing is you always treat it like a life or death fight, like ye need tae kill your opponent tae win.”[/colour]

The pegasus considered the words and sighed. It was common criticism. Since early foalhood she had always been the sort to throw herself full force into all of her pursuits. She was exceedingly headstrong when it came to all things. Sometimes this was to her benefit. Reckless conviction sometimes did pay off, often times it was the very thing that got her into trouble. She just couldn't settle for giving things any less than the absolute best she had.

[colour=#8B4513]“I’m gonnae teel you right now that’s not whit we’re here tae do. Boxin' isn’t abet beatin' th' horse apples out a’ th' other pony, it’s abet learnin' every bit of yer own body an' puttin' it all tae use oan demand. [/colour][colour=#8B4513]The way you’re hittin’ right noo, you’re gonnae break a fetloch afair ye e’en get a bloody hoof in th’ ring. After we rest up, Ah want tae tak’ it slow an’ go back tae fundamentals. Ye can’t dance until ye know the steps.”[/colour]

Radiant gave a small nod. From how the corporal described it boxing really did sound like a noble pursuit. She understood the things he said; she wanted to do as he said. Holding back just wasn't her specialty. It was hard for her to hold off even the smallest ounce of power, when she was up there. She was compelled to give it her all.

[colour=#8B4513]"But thas enough frae me. Ah haven’t heard a wuid out ah ye ta-day ‘cept 'yes sairrr nae sairrr.' What’s th' craic in yer barracks corner, Radiant?"[/colour]

For a good twenty seconds, Radiant had no idea what to say. She just glanced about awkwardly and gave the slightest anxious laugh. Eventually she found a rigid nod and the composure enough to piece together an awkward response. [colour=#ff0000]"Well, Cor--Bones, I-I... it's just... Well, I've always believed in giving everything I do my full 100 percent! If I don't go after it with everything I have, I fear I'll come up short..."[/colour]

The pegasus glanced down as she paused a moment more. "[colour=#ff0000]And I do fear failure. There is nothing that I hate worse than letting down those who expect me to succeed,"[/colour] she added, her voice becoming more vulnerable.

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Bones paused unwrapping his hoof to glance quizzically at the pegasus in the seat across from him. Radiant Steel’s eyes around nervously, as if looking for something, anything to take the attention off her. She shivered a little, chuckling at nothing in particular as an awkward silence congealed between them. Bones was tempted to say something, but he’d already passed his partner the proverbial hoofball. It was up to her now.

Haltingly, one word at a time, Radiant finally stuttered on, [colour=#ff0000]"Well, Cor--Bones, I-I... it's just... Well, I've always believed in giving everything I do my full 100 percent! If I don't go after it with everything I have, I fear I'll come up short..."[/colour]

Bones resumed stripping the wrist wrap from his hoof. It was a valid point for anypony, to be sure. He couldn’t count the number of times he’d had stage fright, as it were, before a bout. But he’d always pushed past it, centered himself, and focused on the fight rather than what everypony else thought. By Celestia, sometimes he had to do that in the office when filing reports... Bones cleared his throat, concealing the shake of his head that it took to get him back on track.

The pegasus glanced down as she paused a moment more. [colour=#ff0000]"And I do fear failure. There is nothing that I hate worse than letting down those who expect me to succeed,"[/colour] she added, her voice becoming more vulnerable.

Her last few words came out as more of a whimper than a statement. Stone Bones swore he saw tears, but Radiant looked away and it would have been impolite to stare. The larger pony shuffled uncomfortably. It wasn’t so much what Radiant had said so much as how she’d said it. He’d expected a sigh of exasperation and an effort to refocus at best or an angry tongue-lashing at worst.

This... this vulnerability... how was he supposed to deal with it?

[colour=#8b4513]“Radiant...”[/colour] Bones began. The soldier hesitated. [colour=#8b4513] “I... we... everypony... everypony has doubts sometimes.”[/colour]

His voice softening, Bones continued. He was here to work with and encourage his partner, not beat her into the ground. [colour=#8b4513]“I expect you tae succeed, Radiant, but I expect you tae dae it on your ain terms. Th’ sport is abit yoo, about improvin’ yoorself. Focus oan that. Every other pony can trip and faa through the gates ‘a Tartarus. You’ve got potential. We jist need tae approach this differently.”[/colour]

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[colour=#8B4513]“Radiant...[/colour][colour=#8B4513]I... we... everypony... everypony has doubts sometimes.”[/colour]

The other soldier's words caused Radiant to grimace. What was she saying? These were words for Heart Healer at the clinic, or perhaps Damask when he was around to listen. She shouldn't be talking like this, showing this manner of emotion in front of this stallion. It was unprofessional and it reflected badly upon her. He would surely think her weak saying such things. She couldn't be so soft here. She shook her head briefly and took a breath, hoping to collect herself. She had to get it together here. Everypony may have doubts, but like Tartarus was she going to make a display of hers here. She was cut from tougher stuff than that.

[colour=#8B4513]“I expect you tae succeed, Radiant, but I expect you tae dae it on your ain terms. Th’ sport is abit yoo, about improvin’ yoorself. Focus oan that. Every other pony can trip and faa through the gates ‘a Tartarus. You’ve got potential. We jist need tae approach this differently.”[/colour]

[colour=#ff0000]"Yes, Sir!"[/colour] Radiant responded instinctively, stiffening both her body and her expression. [colour=#ff0000]"I mean... uh.. er..."[/colour] she looked away and sighed as she relaxed herself.

[colour=#ff0000]"Thank you, for helping me, Bones,"[/colour] she said, earnest, a slight smile at the corners of her mouth. [colour=#ff0000]"I know I can learn this. I know I can do this right. I just need to..."[/colour]

The pegasus' words trailed off to silence and closed her eyes. Giving a rigid nod, she then finished her thought, [colour=#ff0000]"I just need to keep trying... and I need to listen."[/colour]

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