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A Harmony To Be Treasured (Closed: River)


SteelEagle
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Applejack stopped singing as soon as she couldn't stand the pedestal she was putting herself on. She blushed when Coloratura complimented her singing by implying her voice being on stage. "Aww shucks, I don't know, Ra-Ra. She gave that up a long time ago because she didn't want to live a life away from her family. But I know her talents would love to mingle with the likes of a pop star in a recordin' studio in order to give her life-long fillyfriend that extra edge of country." Applejack caught her toast that popped out of the toaster. "Is that the kind of thing the Countess is lookin' for?"

 

She spread jelly on her toast and started smacking on it without much care for her chewing noise. It tasted amazing and like home, as expected. Applejack cleared her mouth with a convincing gulp and then drank the whole glass of water Coloratura got for her. She exhaled refreshment. "Ra-Ra, really? A run? What is this, fat filly camp? Let's just go play some music. Lemme go back to my bedroom and get ready and I'll meet you in the studio."

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Applejack played it off well, just as Rara knew she would. Of the pair only one of them was a pony who loved the limelight. In a way, one hid behind facades most of her life to perform and the other had nary a dishonest beat of her heart. It was strange to know that in order for the tour at the end of all this to work, the facade user was learning to be a little more honest and the one with an honest heart had to use a mask a long time discarded. "Well, the Countess won't be learning anything, just Rara. The Countess won't be stirred to action again for...ohh, about another eight months or so. This is all Rara season. Unless you ask my publicists, they all want another Countess record," she laughed and then sighed with only the smallest hint of annoyance, "it's been a bit long for some of them."

 

It was true. She still portrayed Countess Coloratura during some tours and had even put out a full album of songs under the name since her revelation with Applejack all those years ago. Still, she had spent a considerable amount of time as Rara with music and styles that were either more authentic to her or were experiments in range. They had been received well but weren't big hits compared to her pop material. She now had to deal with publicists and distributors on her own with Svengallop gone and while they were all supportive of Rara and what she wanted to do, they all had a personal preference. It wasn't a bad thing per se or something she regretted. It was all part of the system and while the system had done her dirty once or twice, she had benefited as much as anypony else from it. No cause for sadness there.

 

Same story with Applejack's desire to get to work musically. It was actually refreshing to have her just get to work. Rara could always run in the afternoon. "That sounds good bto me. I'll stretch these mustang legs later," she said with a smile before she arched herself and let out an aggressive yawn. "To the studio! I might not have the dulcet tones of one Apple Chord today, but I think Apple*jack* will suit me just fine."

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Applejack rinsed off her few dishes in the sink and then straightened up the small kitchen mess she might have made. "Alright then. Let's get to it!" Applejack grabbed her bag and started making her way back up the stairs to the studio. Before she turned the hallway to the room, she detoured to her bedroom. "I'll meet you in the studio, I just need to get my guitar and get ready." Applejack spend a considerable amount of time in her bedroom for just having to grab her instrument. It might have needed a new string, or maybe she was tuning it. Applejack tried to hurry so that Coloratura wasn't waiting for too long in the studio but eventually a mare would come out from her borrowed quarters.

 

Spoiler

 

The apple mare made her way down the hallway and stepped into the studio, she swung the door wide open and presented herself as if there was an audience of several ponies waiting for her. "Well hello there! Mah name is Apple Chord, and I've been told my help is needed in this little ol' room. Somepony sayin' she needs help with a new style. Well, it's like my ma always said, If you don't like the road you're trottin, then you better start pavin' a new one!" The earth pony was dressed in her traditional performing outfit which was mostly green and had tassels hang off of different ends of it. She also wore a pink stetson and was carrying her guitar.

 

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"Alright Applejack. Meet you there!" She said jauntily as she bounded her way up, a healthy pep in her trot as she met this new musical challenge with as much excitement as she hoped to have the day before the first show. A little nervousness always helped her do better. In a short time she found herself in the studio, sliding into a wooden seat next to the wall on the far end, not far from a guitar which she picked up and started aimlessly strumming it while she leaned against the wall, taking some deep breaths as she allowed herself to get into work mode. Se ha to let the music flow through her sure, but she also had to be observant. Details big and small, lessons seen and heard. Music was eighty percent skill and a hundred percent heart.

 

And when Apple Chord made her appearance, her heart was a hundred percent into it. She had the outfit that was blazed on the few vinyl records of her performances that reached the cities. The clothes didn't seem to fit just as well but that eas years ago. What didn't fail was that smile, and the country charm that shot out of her like a radiant sun in the fields.  "Well well, there she is, Apple Chord herself. Now where have you been?" She asked with a laugh as she made room in her area for the country star. Applejack never let a pony down, so hopefully Apple Chord would follow suit! "I'm that mare who needs your help. Now, I've never even seen one of these, how do you say, geee-tars, so would you mind lending me a helping hoof?" She asked with a wink as she picked hers up and plucked at the with practiced lack of skill.

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Apple Chord started strumming her guitar happily, not having to look at her hooves for coordination and speaking joyously as she did so. Her hooves were more accurate and consistent than the heart she had that made this whole exposure possible. "Oh, I had to see a mare about a dog. But we don' gotta worry about the past, right now its all about the present. What we're doin' now, and what we can do in the future." She looked down at her guitar briefly as she changed her keys positions but then looked back up. "You don't need help learning how to strum, Missy, because learning how to play music doesn't come from the hooves, it comes from the heart. All you gotta do is love the things around you and let your heart sing out your loves of life, and the best thing about it is ain't no pony can take that from you!"

 

Apple Chord stood on her hind legs while strumming her guitar and walked over to a place where she could get comfortable making music. "Like take this here song for an example. Some ponies got the good life, like you and me. You get to arrange your own hours, plan your whole day, and never worry about a thang, but many of the ponies who love your music, some of them you see at the market, they got to work a normal job, and many of them are happy doing it. And that inspires me to deep heavens. After all, these are the ones that love your music, right? I take that inspiration and hold it tight and it helps me to sing a song about truth. If it comes from the heart, the music practically plays itself!" Apple Chord started stomping her hooves to give herself a beat and then continued to play a song. She sung the lyrics with precision and conviction in what she was saying.

 

"Tumble outta bed and I stumble to the kitchen
Pour myself a cup of ambition
And yawn and stretch and try to come to life

 

Jump in the shower and the blood starts pumpin'
Out on the street the ponies starts trottin'
With folks like me on the job from 9 to 5

 

Workin' 9 to 5, what a way to make a livin'
Barely gettin' by, it's all takin' and no givin'
They just use your mind and they never give you credit
It's enough to drive you crazy if you let it

 

9 to 5, for service and devotion
You would think that I would deserve a fat promotion
Want to move ahead but the boss won't seem to let me
I swear sometimes that mare is out to get me!..."

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  • 2 weeks later...

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There were many styles of song, many genres that ponies adhered to in the wide world of music. But in Coloratura's experience, in Rara's lived life, there were some universal truths that were unquestioned across them all. Every song at its core was about an emotion, and about something that the singer had some passion for. For all the flack she wanted to give the Countess, Rara knew that it was true even there. The Countess was about empowerment. She was about being in charge of yourself and dictating the world around her. The high life. The god times. The ferocity of your pride. And as much eye-rolling as Rara could engender, the Countess knew that Rara's music was just as important. It was about honesty, and the strength inside of a pony even when they felt weak. It was abut coming to terms with yourself. It was a hoof being offered to help you up, with brighter days ahead. One was aspirational and the other was inspiration, but both were important facets of Rara.

 

Apple Chord was different. She wouldn't call the music inspirational or aspirational, but rather, relatable. A pony could listen to the Countess and wish they were her. A pony could listen to Rara and feel emboldened. A pony listening to Apple Chord would understand every word not through language, but the action. It was sun with the same level of confidence however, an ingredient of almost every successful song. Even then it was different. The Countess had an aggressive confidence: She was great and you were gonna have to deal with it. Rara was a reflective confidence. She wasn't about dominating you, but ruling over her own demons. Anypony could do what she did and that was the message. But Apple Chord had a cheery confidence about her even when she discussed the drudgery of a common life. She was inviting.

 

The song itself wasn't necessarily very complicated, but it put a lot of emphasis on Apple Chord herself. The instrumentation was simple but that meant every chord had to be pitch perfect or a mistake had to be turned into a tune that was worthy of her and the audience's time. Her words weren't full of wordplay or stretches of intense schemes, but had a melodious method to the madness that relied half on her own vocal talent and half on that same cheery confidence that was her song's emotional spine. The subject matter itself? Relatable, and a mix of happiness and the stress of an average life. Not bad at all. As she listened, the other members of the crew started to enter, half-listening to an excellent song and half getting the studio set-up going.

 

"Wow, that was amazing, Apple Chord. Your voice has a nice rhythm too it, and the words come naturally to your lips. Your instrumentation was fantastic, too," Rara said as she leaned back into her chair. Oh, the things she could imagine and plan with a mare like this. Focused on the task at hoof for now though, Rara smiled. She started strumming a tune on a nearby electric guitar. "Can't say I'm an expert at this style, but what do you think of that?"

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Apple Chord stopped singing but continued to pedal with her hooves the upbeat melody. Coloratura wanted to reflect on what just happened. And from Apple's prospective, she was excited but trying to maintain composure. The mare picked up an electric guitar and to Apple Chord's amazement started to play it effectively. After a short while, she stopped and asked for Apple Chord's opinion on her melody.

 

Apple Chord chuckled a high-pitched hoot. "It ain't about style, Missy, it' about creating the music that's already inside of you. Don't try to play an instrument and just act on instinct. Here's lets try something." Applejack took a break from her constant strumming and pulled up a small saddlebag that looked like it was made custom from Appleloosa. It matched the pattern and colors of the rest of her attire. She opened it and pulled out a few pieces of paper. She trotted over towards her partner and put the sheets of paper onto a music stand and placed it in front of her. "Let's try this one. This is a song I wrote many a time ago. When I wrote the song I was feeling slightly used and underappreciated, but I also knew at the time that I was worth more than what the devil was whisperin' in mah ear. So I started playing music from my heart and this came out. You can play A minor and D right?"

 

Apple Chord went back to her place and grabbed a bass guitar which was stashed among the instruments stored in a corner of the room. She plugged it into a local amp and adjusted the volume so that it would be loud enough to make an effect without dominating the room. Once she felt comfortable with the guitar in her possession she started playing the song. "Let the music come from inside, Ra-, I mean, Missy!"

 

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Azure Velour grumbled. She wasn't a morning pony. Truth was she was a midnight pony, used to dancing into the wee hours at clubs with friends and burning away her youth and money on entertaining and exhausting activities in Manehattan parties. She saw the sun rise before she slept as often as any other cause, at least on days when she wasn't on the early morning mail route. She hadn't hesitated a moment when she was offered the position of working alongside Countess Coloratura, the biggest pony in pop music. What a huge step in her career! She took dance classes all the time and worked heer flank off at one audition after another. She always did rather well and got good reviews, but there was so much brownnosing in the industry and she very much wasn't one of those and so she rarely saw any dedicated work offers. One projector video here, another show as a replacement there. So the chance to apprentice under the Countess, a pony who famously went through lesser backup dancers like they were tissues to be discarded? Azure knew her worth. Knew her quality. She was excited.

 

Azure grumbled as she walked up the stairs, yawning as she did so. But she wasn't working with the Countess, was she? No. She was working for Rara. She liked Rara. She seemed like an honestly good pony with a lot of musical talent that was being bottled up by overproduction. But you know who liked overproduction because it meant more work for an aspiring dancer? Azure. She had just been working with the b-team back in Manehattan on a routine for her next projector video when she got the news that Svengallop was fired and that the production would be slimmed down. Trimmed down. Sorry, she meant almost entirely cut. That had been a hard few nights in some Manehattan bars as they worried over what was going to happen next. Azure was offered a position on Rara's team shortly afterwards.

 

And these broken dreams and plans that didn't last
I'll trade them for a future, I can't use them anymore

 

She grumbled to herself as she drew close to where the sounds of Applejack and Rara were coming from, muffled as they were. She was happy to have a job this 'cool', she guessed. But that didn't mean she was happy to have her career stifled. Rara was going to do a tour with the Countess but not before she released a new album as Rara and, before that, had a tour with Apple Chord. Yeah, really. Apple Chord. Why not just say Applejack? That would do banging business and it would be honest, and wasn't that mare all about honesty? Seriously, she didn't get it. Nor did she understand why Coloratura needed help. Rara knew she could play acoustic guitar, had the vocal talent to pull it off, and was musically intelligent enough to know what was being 'taught' to her. Nah, she wasn't confused. Azure knew exactly why Rara had invited Applejack to her compound in Mustangia for the summer and change and it wasn't for a musical education, though an education of some kind it would be anyway.

 

She took a deep breath and waited. She had to let these thoughts have their space to trot out of her mind before she went back in and worked with her boss again. It wasn't right to her, and it wasn't right to Applejack. 


If you don't mind the fact that all the merchandise is used
With a little mending, it could be as good as new

 

She opened the door and trotted in with a half-smile on as she worked her way into the booth.

Rara sang in tune and line with Applejack, knowing this song well. Apple Chord hadn't made it to the big time but her albums had received enough acclaim for a pony of Rara's tastes to have found them. And when she put the equation together and knew who was the beating heart beneath these words she had listened to them plenty of times, especially recently.

 

"The bargain store is open, come inside
The bargain store is open, come inside,"
she finished close to Applejack, her eyes lidded with sadness mixed with a hint of desperation as she allowed the emotions to wash over her and end.

She played out the song, putting the guitar down when she was done.

 

"One of your bests, missy," she joked back, stretching her hooves as she looked back to Azure. "How's the morning treating you so far?" She beamed, clearly excited.
Azure gave a hooves up. That was good enough. Rara nodded.
"You know Apple Chord, your voice is really quite nice. Your guitar work too, not to mention the honesty of your lyrics. Why'd you call it quits, in the end?"

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"Heh heh, YEEE haw!!!" Apple Chord shouted as the song ended. She loved the way Coloratura sung the song, it obviously wasn't the first time she had played or sung it. As they ended the song, Coloratura's assistant walked into the room. Coloratura greeted her, and Apple Chord did the same. "Azure, right? Come join us, we're having fun singin' songs about life."

 

Apple Chord set her guitar to the side in order to make gestures with her hooves that were always necessary. "Why thank you. Why did I quit? Well, in some respects I never quit. I quit singing for some ponies, but I never stopped singin' for myself and my family. So I guess you could say my family is the reason I quit. If anything takes away from your family, it's not worth doin', most likely. When I realized what a career in music tours would do to my relationships I held dear, it was an easy decision to indefinitely end my tours and keep this one mare song-story to the confines of the farm's fences."

 

Apple Chord wanted to keep the momentum, but it was slightly adjusted by the new mare in the room, so she started asking her some inviting questions. "Azure, how did you come to associate with this beautiful singing voice with four legs?" She pointed at Coloratura who had a huge smile on her face. She seemed to be really enjoying herself.

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Rara sat back, brushing her mane back with a hoof while she listened to the story behind Apple Chord's 'retirement'. It was as expected, keeping in line with everything that Rara had been told before. It was so frustrating. Applejack had a rare voice talent and a simplicity of vision that meant she could produce such impactful and emotionally taut songs. That combination was something a music producer would kill for! But then again, that same vision is what made her reasoning for calling it quits all the more solid. A mare who sung from the heart and valued those around her couldn't really be counted on doing something that would damage the emotional bonds that made her so special in the first place. 
A tragedy for the music scene to be sure, if a blessing for Ponyville, the Apple clan, and Equestria as a whole by the end. "Makes sense. How do you think your more, how to say it, life experiences would influence your music if you were still active now?"

 

Azure was caught off guard by Applejack-slash-Apple Chord asking her a question. "Me?" She asked out of shock, before shaking her head and regaining her composure. She wanted to lay it out on the line but that seemed petty, and driven by her still being tired. She'd stick to the truth, but a diplomatic version of it at that. "Oh, I was hired to be a background dancer. I am trained for it and I love doing it! Svengallop hired me to be part of the production. We don't do a lot of heavy production, but here I am, still employed!" She said with a respectful nod towards her employer. It was way more boring than what she had been hired to do but work was work. She needed to get off this subject. "Are you ready for your vocal exercises yet, ma'am?"

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Apple Chord smirked and expressed a disappointing reaction to Azure's explanation of her role. It seemed a lot more plastic than she was expecting. She looked at Coloratura who followed with a question on her would-be future had she not given up touring. "Oh, well. Probably a lot like you. I would still have great life experiences to be sure, but at the expense of the farm and family I came from. In a way that experience would be troubled by regrets of the past. I'm sure a mare like yourself it works for you jus' fine! But little ol' me? I grew up and lived my entire life on a farm and the whole life experience that came with it. My life experience was given to me the day I was born. My only options were to stick to it, or abandon it for some dazzled phony covermare pigeon hole that burns up the moment the industry doesn't like my music. The decision was more simple than washin' the side of the barn with a garden hose."

 

She continued with what might be taken as a snide remark. "Why, if I had taken that more famed path, I'd probably be just like you and hire somepony to be my sister!" She chuckled, giving a suggestion that Azure had been hired for her companionship more so than her ability to help her employer make music.

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It would have been a very different world with Apple Chord instead of Applejack, but Rara wasn't one to say the decision made was bad. Opposite- she figured that for the most part it was the smartest thing a mare like Applejack could have done. For all of her talents she was a mare who loved home and hearth far too much to stay away from it for long. It was why Rara felt especially happy that she was the one who got her to agree to a few months away from it. "I couldn't imagine you anywhere else but home, on the farm," she said truthfully as she stretched herself, priming her neck for some vocal work.

 

Azure, meanwhile, couldn't help but laugh loudly at the idea of being Rara's sister. Talk about a gravy train, but super boring at the same time. She'd try to look after the wannabe dancer but Azure would likely sneak out at night to attend cheap auditions just for the thrill of it. "Ha! I wish!" She snorted. "Little missy over there would spoil me with chocolate and gifts. She's such a softie when it comes to her sisters and brothers!"

 

"Yeah. You wish," Rara said with a weary smile before shaking her head with a single giggle. She loved her family, have no doubt about that. But they certainly asked her for a lot- if Azure only knew all the times she had said no! "My older sister and my two younger ones would argue with you there. Are we ready to work, Azure?" She asked as she stood up and walked over to some equipment.


"Yes, ma'am. Vocal exercises?" She said as she touched some buttons and dialed some knobs. On her side, Rara tuned on the machine and put some headphones on. "Starting with range. Want in, Apple Chord?" Azure asked with a wink.

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  • 2 months later...

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Apple Chord listened carefully at the interaction between Azure and Coloratura. She found the subtle truths in their voice linger and their coy sentence fragments. But then something stunned Apple Chord. She did not know Coloratura had three siblings. Why did she never talk about them? Did she have songs about her family? It was hard to imagine a Countess Coloratura song during her heavy pop phase having lyrics that hinted towards togetherness and the warmth of family. She would never know if she never asked, and she planned on it, after whatever activity the star was wanting to do next. "Why, sure! I'd love to." She put her own headphones on. "But the only range I know is the home that's on it." She said jokingly, as if to suggest she didn't know what vocal exercises were. Although Apple Chord would never object to it, she wondered if the famous singer was trying to mask her vulnerable image with a well-known professional action. Voice exercises were helpful but they didn't help a pony sing from the heart.

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With Apple Chord joining them the terrible two became a terrific trio when it came to the early morning vocal exercises. Rara was a mare of many competing talents and genres and it put a healthy strain on her as she switched from style to style. The earnest, heartfelt tone of Rara was different from the powerful ballads of the Countess and it worked on different vocal wavelengths. And from what little had been heard so far of Apple Chord and through Rara's own research she knew that country music tended to come from a place deep, deep in the diaphragm. A solid bass to pop's music tremendous treble which would give the popstar no shortage of trouble. She relaxed her body and shook her head, loosening up her neck.

 

Azure entered in with her own cup of coffee and a piece of paper. "Alright, so the two-active pitch glide warm-up will be how we start. Sound good?" Azure asked. Rara nodded and started making a deep-seated 'ohhhhh' sound. This helped her gradually glide through the chromatic notes of a two-octave range. She went up and then back down. This helped transition from her chest voice to her head voice. "Sounding good. I'll bore you with some detes. Feel free to be bored alongside us, Miss Apple. Lemme see...Canterlot Records has sent their latest offer, though its lower than the last one," she rolled her eyes. "All the critical success in the world doesn't change the fact that Rara doesn't sell as well as the Countess. Though Rara has been offered a chance to sing in the coronation festival of the new Saddle Arabian Pharaoh," she waggled her eyebrows. "Now that's a handsome stallion. Think you can put a nice word in for me?"

 

Rara had to stifle laughter as she continued her exercises.
"We have statements coming later with your latest bit transfers, got a few dozen pieces of fan mail, Svengallop's latest court filing," she continued or some time before blissfully reaching the end, "-and a revised touring schedule. Now, transition to a vocal siren exercise after a half-minute break," Azure finished, allowing Rara to stop and take a deep breath.
"How're you holding up there, Applejack?" She asked as she stroked her neck to get the soreness out.

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  • 4 weeks later...

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As the vocal exercises continued, Apple Chord tried to follow suit. She wasn't familiar with Coloratura's daily routines, but when in Roam. Azure provided a little personality diversity in the room, as she contrasted Coloratura's composure with a little schoolyard-type conversation. It was then that Apple Chord wondered if Coloratura had any significant someponies in her life. For the short time that she, and Applejack, had known her, it was never obvious that the music star would even have the time to have any kind of relationship, especially one that might raise a family. From her point of view, it seemed Azure was the closest family she had.

 

Along with the exercises, came the ugly but necessary bad news feed, reports from music labels making lowered agreements and lawsuit notices from old partners that wanted retribution. Very callus. Was this also part of the vocal exercises? Were listening to the toxic mail bag increase the range of Miss Coloratura? When Coloratura asked how she was doing with the exercises, Apple Chord stopped her best attempt to mimic whatever it was the music professionals were doing. "I don't know no," she coughs. "No Applejack, but little ol' Apple Chord is getting along just fine. I don't usually do these types of vocal exercises. I usually just let my throat croak a few times during the first verse. Helps make the song feel more authentic to whoever's listenin'." She was joking and serious. Should it be wise or funny, it could achieve both at the same time.

 

"Say, you gettin' any mail from any secret admirers? I bet a popular gal like you gets single stallions stuffin' your inbox all the time."

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Applejack recovered quickly but Rara knew when a pony's defenses were falling and that was clear a sign as any that she was having some problems keeping up with the Apple Chord character. It was easy enough to split them apart. Applejack's voice was a lot more defined as Apple Chord spoke, saving those moments when she really sold out for a certain word. And of course she couldn't help but notice that she tried to run back into the character when the mask fell. That told Rara a few things. One of them was that Apple Chord was just that, a character, and that eager playing may have come from the heart but was filtered through a mask. A well-played mask but a mask nonetheless. Rara was familiar with that- she wore the Countess well.

And then Apple CHord asked if Rara had many stallions stuffing her inbox, and that earned a hearty chuckle from the musical mare. "Oh, you know it-"


"Portamento two times from bottom to top and than exhale on a hiss," Azure interrupted her like a stern taskmaster. It was fun to interrupt your boss!


Rara rolled her eyes and started sliding in between notes in her wide, wide range without pitching into them gently. It was excellent training for sudden shifts of tone and notes, and also gave Azure all the time she needed to dish about her increasingly reddening and blushed superior.
"Apple, filly, you have no idea how many admirers she gets. Stallions, colts with their first crush, fillies likewise, mares- ponies, Saddle Arabians, a few griffons, a changeling or two. Even a yak," she laughed, "though she wouldn't admit to it, I think she probably likes them a little tough and ready, not to mention a bit more on the mare side. Ain't that right, boss?" She asked with a wide, accusatory smile.


All Rara could do was finish her exercise after a pregnant pause, exhaling on a hiss that seemed anything but forced. She was blushing rapidly.

Azure had succeeded. "Hey, good work," she said, patting Rara on the head before trotting out.
Rara sat there for a second, the blush refusing to leave. Then she too stood up, not making eye contact.
"I really need a run."

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  • 1 month later...

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Apple Chord was more than a few splinters of Applejack's personality. In part, it was all Applejack, but there were a few moments that her musical side split off and took control of the mare's body, and her tone and voice would go into a hyperactive version of the spontaneity Applejack's country living was known for. When talking about family and relationships, Apple Chord did not have to tread too far from Applejack's foundation, to the point where the mare herself wasn't sure who was talking.

 

Listening to the voice coaching and instruction, Apple Chord could see that Coloratura was getting flustered slightly with Azure's banter. But it came to a climax where once they seemed finished, Coloratura was silient and full of blush. "Hey, family is family. Might be a little hard creating a family without a proper stallion to lift the heavy things around the house, but family comes in all shapes and sizes. It's all moot though, considering how busy I know you are right now." Apple Chord said in jest. Upon seeing Coloratura lose composure and declare needing to run out, Apple Chord interjected and questioned. "What? Ya'll are leavin' now? I thought we were just gettin' started?"

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  • 2 weeks later...

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Coloratura needed to get out. This room was starting to feel unnaturally hot, or maybe that was just her. It rose from a hidden place deep within her but was sustained by this heightened sense of embarrassment and an inability to be honest, with herself let alone Applejack. Even thinking of her as Apple Chord did little to dissuade her from the belief that what she needed right here, right now, was a run. It would help clear her head, and she always went for a run anyway. She'd go with that tact. "A daily run, Applejack, is as good for the mind and soul as anything else I can think of," she said before bopping her friend's stomach. "Not everypony is lucky enough to work on a farm. Some of us have to seek our physical exercise out, you know," she said with a laugh. "Azure, get the mix ready. When I get back, time to actually start some production. Feel free to run with me, AJ," She said hopefully, leaving the studio and allowing her facade to crack a little as she cursed under her breath. They had a lot of work to do but if Azure was gonna press those buttons...well, Rara could press some buttons of her own. Some of those buttons included sending Azure packing.

 

Once outside she took a deep, deep breath of the country air. It was fresher and purer than the air of cities, that was something anypony with a functioning nose could say with certainty. The undisturbed earth mingled with that which was freshly churned, and large sections of it would remain untouched by hoof or claw for eons before experiencing impact ever briefly. The wildness of Mustangia was heavy in the air as well, as if the sounds of the stampeding, galloping herds that Mustangia was known for could be heard and felt and smelled and lived with. It was a wondrous land full of wondrous ponies, and deep in its heart lay an estate owned by one of her leading citizens. It was here that Rara would work her creative magic but sometimes that meant being a little Mustang herself.

So she ran, both for herself and from herself, around the track she had built along the edges of her estate.

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  • 4 weeks later...

When Coloratura and Azure both left the studio room, it left Apple Chord alone with nothing but her thoughts. And since the whole point of Apple Chord was a personality cheered on by others, the only real thing left was Applejack. She sensed that something was off. A recording artist like Coloratura had many procedures that kept her motivated and ready to perform at will with the best possible result her talent could unleash. But even Applejack knew that going for a run was not a method that improved your singing voice. It might help relieve stress, and it might allow your body to balance out physically, but it would never be something you would do in the middle of vocal preparation for creating music. Coloratura wasn't running towards something. Every instinct Applejack had told her that she was running from something, and she wanted to find out what it was.

 

Carefully, Applejack took her hat and outfit off and set them to the side. She let her mane down from its done up position, and then tied it with one of her many hair ties. She walked out of the studio and into her room, grabbed her brown hat, and made her way down the steps to follow Coloratura. She looked outside and saw her friend making laps around her private track. Applejack waited for Coloratura to run by her, and then Applejack joined her pace. Before Applejack spoke anything, she noticed how primal her run was, the strides were tormenting and the look in her eyes was almost blank. Applejack could have imagined many things upon arriving at a superstar music pony's home, but this was not one of them. Had Applejack not known her, she would have assumed she was some kind of pony marathon runner. Applejack matched the stride of Coloratura and ran next to her for a minute or two before softly speaking in between pants. "You alright, Ra-Ra?"

 

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As fate would have it, she didn't have time to herself for long. Indeed, fate had a bitter and wonderful sense of irony to it, with luck colliding on the paths she galloped across. Applejack made her way into the track alongside Rara but allowed the silence between them to grow.  Coloratura redoubled her efforts. She wasn't sure why, in its entirety anyway. She could guess. She didn't want to look weak in front of Applejack. She wanted to impress her. If not with her actual speed and power, then at least her effort and drive. A bit of peacocking. That slammed against the other likely reason, however. She wanted distance. Needed distance. The cause of her own mental consternation was getting closer, not further away. That was the exact opposite reason she came out for a run today. To lose this effort to the very cause of it? She had to admit it was funny.

 

For all of that though, it wasn't long before Applejack had caught up to her and was no longer willing to reman silent. She asked a simple question. It was not so simple to answer, but she buried it anyway. Coloratura was nothing if not good at wearing a mask. "Yeah, I'm doing pretty good," she responded as she slowed down a little, smiling. No small amount of confusion flashed ever so momentarily before she continued, looking ahead. "I try to get a run in every morning. I don't get a lot of time to work out. That and it helps me clear my head," she admitted with a grin before turning to her friend. "What about you? I'd think a mare like you, you get runs in all the time," Coloratura said before she picked up speed again. She had no doubt AJ got mor exercise on a day to day basis than she did in a month. Just look at those legs!

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  • 4 weeks later...

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Applejack continued her pace with Coloratura, holding a reply after her musical friends explained herself. After a few dozen strides, she responded. "Well I think that's just dandy. I thought we was about ta record some songs or somethin', but if this is what you need to do, then go for it. I don't really feel like runnin', so I'll head inside the next lap around and make a nice drink for you when you're ready to come back in. And I'll go tune my guitar. I think one a Aunti Golden Delicious' cats messed with the strings." She said all this with barely a hesitation in her breathing and without breaking a sweat.

 

Once the track met the path back to the studio home, Applejack peeled off it, slowed to a trot and entered back into the musician's large villa. She walked up stairs and started strumming her guitar and listening for casual imperfections.

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  • 4 weeks later...

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"Yeah, tune that guitar right up, AJ! I'll be in soon," Rara replied as she waved, before continuing her run. With Applejack gone she could now think. Think think think.

 

The pair strummed the guitars they had with purpose. Rara was not yet to the level of comfort as her teacher, but time would tell.

 

It was hard being smitten and not being able to admit it. Made you do a lot of things like a fool. 

 

Cooking was an adventure any day of the week with Rara but with Applejack alongside her it was proving to be a learning experience. At least, thats what Applejack had to hope for as Rara failed to complete the pancakes in the proper fashion- unless burnt was proper. She was too distracted.

 

She didn't need to be perfect, but she did need to be the best version of her she could be.

 

Applejack needed to get a crash course in stage dancing and performance. While Apple Chord was a performer of little movement, Rara sure wasn't and they were gonna share the stage! Marrying the two's styles was hard work. Most telling was how Applejack kept on tripping during an easy move, with Rara there to pick her up.

 

It didn't take long for the Mustang to learn the breakfast recipes. It would take a long time for her not to be a messy mess or make one in the kitchen, but what was a little cleaning between friends? 

 

But sometimes that just meant she needed to try harder, for the both of them. She had to be willing to learn.

 

Time was telling. Rara grew in confidence across her playing and with a friendly smile started to sing with her instructor. 

 

She had to be willing to teach.

 

Applejack was getting better. Moving, performing, singing all at once came more naturally with practice. It didn't hurt that Rara could be very hooves on, helped direct her legs until Applejack had it down. All that was missing now was confidence.

 

She had to be willing to grow.

 

The song they sung grew in comfort for the songstress, who couldn't help but throw herself into the soul of the ballad as she locked eyes with Applejack.

 

When you got good enough at baking, you could turn anything into a game. And the mess that was made was made in play, and the cleanup that followed was its own bonding experience.

 

And most of all, she had to learn to be honest- with herself, with Applejack.

 

The song ended with the two locking eyes, the last word 'yoouuu' trailing off into silence, breathless as Rara allowed her eyes to linger in their hazel target. A smile, a chuckle, and a look away.

 

Rara finished another early morning run and trotted back to the house. Applejack should be starting to cook, then they had a full day. Some more practice of course, as well as going over lyrics and setting the dates down in stone with the rest of the production company. They had a bunch of work done now and it was time to make some...moves. "Hello there AJ! Bright mornig sun so far, isn't it?"

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  • 1 month later...

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"Bright morning sun so far and wide...
...uh...    ...The greatest feeling of being by yer side!"

 

Applejack finished her improved lyrics at Coloratura's introduction to the morning. She had been working a skillet flipping pancakes. Even though the ingredients for these flapjacks were different than the ones she was used to back at Sweet Apple Acres, they flipped well in the pan all the same. She chuckled. "I don't know, that doesn't sound like too bad a melody does it? What's that now, forty-six songs now? Maybe we don't need any more songs."

 

Applejack made a final flip of a couple pancakes onto a plate and slid it towards her recording partner. She also slid over a bowl of chopped fruits and a glass of apple juice. "Eat up, Rara. Don't worry they're gutton-free or gluten free, or whatever it is your dietician suggested."

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Applejack carried a good tune even as she cooked- especially as she cooked. She had a naturally melodic voice hen she unleashed it and a certain vocal strength and elascity that was rarely seen in the untrained and unexperienced, or at minimum one who had abandoned the trade long ago. "Forty-six is a good start, at the very least," she said when she took her seat half-laying on the counter where they could share the space. "When I was working on The Spectacle, I ended up with sixty songs,"  she said, allowing herself a creative flex before deciding it may have been a bit much. "You have a lot of extra material floating around the edges of release when you've got a creative heart, AJ," she laughed optimistically and booped a friendly snoot as food came into the picture.

 

"Thanks," she said as she wasted little time in launching a frenzied attack. The run certainly gave her an appetite and Applejack had yet to fail to come through as the cook. "Hmm, this is soo good! Compliments to the chef!" She winked as she continued eating. In time, in thought, she'd slow down. The next question was a little more difficult since it was the one aspect that Applejack had been most reticent about: the tour.
"Excited for your wardrobe fitting? I know I am. Once I'm fitted I won't have as many dietary requirements. Maybe even get a nice apple when its all said and done!"
 

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  • 1 month later...

"My what? Oh, for Apple Chord? You know, it was fun at first but I think I'll just be myself since we're just doing these sessions in private." Applejack chuckled as she explained. "I mean, it's not like I'm actually going on the tour with you." Applejack rinsed a few dishes off and slowly churned a thoughtful look on her face. She meditated on the cadence of Coloratura's voice, and though Applejack was no expert on vocal melodies, she could sense the feeling and intention behind her friend's words. She looked at her without softening her look of concern. "Rara, you ain't talkin' 'bout me going on the tour with you, are ye? You know I gave that up."

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