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A Harmony To Be Treasured (Closed: River)


SteelEagle
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The meat and heat of the issue finally came up. It shouldn't have been entirely a shock to Applejack. Coloratura had discussed the touring schedule with her before, proposed dates and venues. Sure, sure sure! She had never outright asked Applejack to come with her and had never said she was, but the dates started before Applejack was supposed to end helping Rara. You know, she just figured it was better left unsaid. That way, Applejack couldn't say no. "Yes, yes, I know you said that buuuuttt...." Rara said before she hopped over to Applejack's side. "You wouldn't be doing it alone! It's just a few shows to start the tour near the Heartland. Not really all that big of a deal. Really!" She said with enthusiasm born from desperation. "Plus, it will be a lot of fun!" She added as an afterthought, searching for more positives. "And you're gonna look great too, I promise."
Well duh.

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Applejack finished her short kitchen duty and sat at the table. "Rara, why would I do live shows when I told you from the beginning that I didn't want to do it anymore." She was noticeably disgruntled, either by the lack of transparency or the general misunderstanding that happens between friends who would otherwise love everything about each other. "The reason why I don't feel comfortable doing shows is because it takes time away from the things that are more important to me. My friends. My family. The farm!" Applejack convinced herself of the story that played out in her head if she had gone a whole season away from home. "Am I supposed to believe Apple Bloom can throw all them hay bales when the grass is cut?" Applejack escaped from her nightmare to think about the things Coloratura was implying. Though she was a pony of integrity, she wanted to give Coloratura the full breath and chance to explain herself.

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  • 3 weeks later...

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You had to work everypony in a different manner. Some mares you could pull into your orbit easily enough that you didn't have to work hard at it. Still others you had to operate in a different manner. Applejack was that. Rara's celebrity didn't work in her favor. Her money didn't really work either, though there was some play there. All she had was their close relationship and a great deal of confidence in the both of them. She would have to be careful how she proceeded, because while what she suggested was in both of their best interests, one of them clearly did not see it that way. 

 

"AJ, what does that even mean? Does grass cutting even matter to hay bale tossing...?" The song are asked honestly. She didn't understand what the impact of one on the other was. She should her head and smiled. "Listen, I know you're worried. Your farm is your life. That's what I love about you. You are passionate about the things you care about and you never half-flank the things you are passionate about," Rara said confidently. She then placed a hoof on AJ's shoulder. "And you've done awesome so far, and so has your family. We aren't receiving news that there is trouble at the farm. They are working hard because you work hard. They aren't half-flanking it because you never half-flank anything." Rara finished with a smile.

 

"But now we move to the part where I am prepping for the actual tour. A lot of dates. A lot rides on it. And I'm not asking you to join me for the whole thing. I just want you for a few dates at the end of your stay and the start of the tour in Mustangia, and a date in Ponyville a few months from now near the end," She then playfully pushed on the shoulder. "You'll get to see me grow from a scrummy little country greenhorn to a bona-fide country songstress. All because of you, because you never half-flank anything, so I know you won't half-flank me."

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Applejack was a very stubborn pony. But even she knew when a reasonable argument was made, and it was even softer coming from a pony she respected. She was silent for a moment and continued to hold a grumpy attitude, though when she spoke again, her tone was calm. "The reason I came out here, Rara, was because you said you needed to grab from the inspiration I bring to the song writing process. Somethin' about my down-to-earth singin' from the heart. I figured that was noble, not the mention a compliment. I also thought it would be great to come out and spend time getting to know the older version of one of my best fillyfriends from my youth." She sighed. "So I came out here, on the condition that I wouldn't do any performances. But now you're telling me that not only do you still want me to, but you've already made arrangements to something I didn't agree to." Applejack was not happy. "I feel a little deceived."

 

"And anyway, when you cut the tall grass, you cut it, and then bale it."

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Rara allowed Applejack to speak at length about her understanding of the situation. It was hard to hear her say that she felt deceived. Rara wanted to fight against that but she had to admit- at least to some degree, Applejack had been deceived by her songstress friend. All of the well-meaning and spirited causes behind it only served to shade the event, not change it. She sighed and looked down, shaking her head and allowing the silence to grow between them before she summoned up the courage to look back at Applejack. 


"I made those arrangements because I wanted it to be a surprise. It was something I thought you'd like to try," she smiled sheepishly before getting up and trotting slowly up to a window. After a brief pause she turned around quickly, eyes bright and disposition completely changed. She looked sunny, happy and free, and her tail bounced with a nervous excitement that all performers knew well.

 

"When you perform, you show something of yourself that you don't at any other time. You share an experience with those you perform with and the audience. We all shine differently under those lights," she said as she trotted closer to Applejack. "And I...I think you'd shine bright. I know you would. You do when you perform with me, here. Maybe I just want all of Equestria to see you the way I see you, feel you the way I feel you," she nearly stumbled over her words as she smiled wide, but the smile lied. There was sadness in it, a faux smile to hide a drowning sensation of having failed your friend with something you had considered success. "But you're right," she said as she turned back around and away from Applejack, her voice lowered.

 

"It was meant as a surprise and a gift and something for you to enjoy, but you aren't," she turned around, clearly keeping her emotions as checked as she could, "and if you aren't, then you won't shine the way I know you can. I'll just go and...change some things. It won't be a problem. It'll just be a few minutes, okay?" She ended as she trotted out of the room, keeping her teary eyes driven away from Applejack as best she could.

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Applejack's frown flattened out. Her friend was sounding genuine, although it felt incomplete and chopped up by the words that she received. Applejack knew her words could cut deep sometimes. The way she exposed another pony's intentions through conversation was always cathartic to her. It shoveled away the nonsense and left a pure pony behind to love and cherish. Coloratura was the kind of pony who carried many experiences around with her, and it often affected her emotions. Applejack would always try to slice away the insecurities of her friends when it was appropriate, but she felt that maybe this time she struck a nerve.

 

Applejack interjected with a short grunt. "Rara." She plead for the filly to listen to her response before leaving the room. Applejack took a deep breath and stared at Coloratura's cutie mark. She concentrated on it before speaking her carefully selected words. She closed her eyes, took another deep breath, and then opened her eyes. "There are times when a pony can only do what she is willing to do. Anything more and it might ruin her life. And there are times when a filly is too scared to know when to take a chance. And sometimes it's a friend who helps show them how."

 

Applejack began another pause, and slowly cracked a smile. "If you really think this is the right thing to do..." she looked up and the ceiling and then down back at Rara. "Then I'll do it."

 

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It was hard to put into words the affections that a mare like Rara could feel. There were simply so many, and each one held a special place in her heart. There was the love she felt with her family, a familial joviality and well-meaning that felt as pure as a radiant sun. There was the energetic affection she shared with the crowd, her fans, at every show. She gave of herself to them every time and bared herself to them through song and performance. The emotional gamut she ran through in her songs were glimpses into her that she gave them, and their joy with her sustained her creative momentum. There was the affection she had with her coworkers, the affection she had for those she met in-pony. Then there was Applejack and the affection that Rara had for her, which was the scariest one of all for it cut deeper in ways that she had rarely felt leave to experience. 

 

"Applejack..." she began as her friend drew in close. She allowed a hoof to linger on Applejack's cheek for a moment as her eyes locked in, almost teary. But then she pulled away, smiling as she tried to maintain a sense of decorum. At least as much as she could "Thank you. This means a lot," she whispered before fighting to regain a normal sense of boundaries. She bounded back into the hallway, tail bouncing joyfully behind her as she bounded deeper into the house. "And I think when we're done, you'll thank me too!" She said with a laugh. Lower, to herself though, all she could muster was, "well, I hope you will."

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  • 2 weeks later...

Applejack followed Coluratura through the hallway to see what current venture or musing the pop pony was flowing to. The farm gal was now in stardom's possession, and she was along for the ride. She couldn't tell exactly how much of a difference her agreement to do a few shows would make, but she felt confident through the affirmation of her friend that she wouldn't be led astray. "So what's next, Rara?" Applejack tried not to sound too eager. After all, she was thinking a sandwich or a treat in the kitchen would do her fine. She had been pulled away from simple pleasures before, when Rarity would have an idea for a dress, or when Rainbow Dash would find yet another activity to challenge Applejack to a feat. For now, she would continue to see where the purple striped tail in front of her was bouncing to.

 

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  • 3 weeks later...

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Rara could hardly stop herself from skipping across the first floor of the complex, her tail bouncing in equal parts nervous excitement and simple joy. Still, she had the wherewithal to be task oriented for now. "Well next, we get you into your outfit. We can both be fit and ready for stage performance but if what we wear gets in the way, well, that is a quick way to get into the tabloids and tank an entire show. Tour, even! So, we're going to see what tickles you out here and then get to work on some stagecraft," she said as they rounded into the small stage and auditorium that took up half of the first floor. The stage was covered by a small host of workers adjusting this, that or the other, and a small squad that huddled around three different outfits. As Rara led Applejack up on the stage, the squad pulled away from the outfits. "And here are your choices!"

 

There were three outfits. They all shared some common features, being based broadly on the style that Apple Chord was known for.


The first was more or less an updated copy of the design with the features updated. The legs were more breathable than the old design and had a little more give to the, which would make it was to wear. The white hat with blue trim had the name 'Apple Chord' written in beautiful calligraphy and embroidered deep into the fabric. 


The second was a blue and white number that shared some features more commonly associated with the 'cowpony' look, with a vest that that was hoof stitched and laced. Adjustable, it would set in with a little more rigidity once set but was very workable. The hat was very similar though the colors were more reminiscent of the first piece.


The final one was a red and black number, more aggressively designed that accentuated Applejack's body more than the others. It had a big, long black trail behind it and seemed designed for legs and barrel. The black hat was slender and had a red feather tucked inside it, with 'Apple Chord' written and embroidered in a sinister white. It was the largest departure for sure.

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  • 4 weeks later...

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Applejack was almost jump-scared when the outfit designers step away from the choices. Two were immediately interesting, good even. But Applejack was not prepared for the judging of dresses, even though she could easily pick her favorite. And if she was honest, which she was often, Applejack found something fascinating about the red and black one, even though it seemed the least logical choice. Applejack was held silent for a few seconds but then confessed. "You know, Rara, I could honestly see myself in all of these. The first one looks like a better version of Apple Chord's original outfit, but that feels too simple. Which one is your favorite? Is there one that matches your outfit?" Applejack attempted to convey a fake opinion based in taste of performance attire. At least this time, she wasn't having to deal with an Equestrian-renowned seamstress.

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Coloratura's mind momentarily went blank as she thought about Applejack in the red and black number. She had not truly considered it a possible option when she suggested it. If anything, she was more than a little ashamed to have made it. Mostly because she made it more so for Rara's own imaginations than any realistic chance of it being chosen. It wasn't as if it were necessarily an improper or unrealistic choice, mind you. While it was certainly bolder than something Applejack would normally wear and gave Apple Chord more of an aggressive, impacting appearance, it wasn't something that a mother would shield her foal's eyes from seeing in horror at the lewd nature of the design. 

 

The middle design seemed more Applejack's speed. It certainly fit her cowgirl persona a lot more and was a bit less bold, even if it was still an exciting number. It was something that Applejack could appear in outside of shows if she wanted to. It was probably slightly more wearable in day to day affairs and was very eye-catching. She was certain that it would be a hit. Of course, it certainly pigeonholed her. She was a country mare singing country songs in a country setting, you betcha. Nothing wrong with that, but it didn't always reflect the great qualities that Applejack brought forth through Apple Chord.

 

The one that would be the easiest transition would be the first, It was, for all intents and purposes, just the old design with a few small quality of life changes. She chose that one first. Rara trotted forward to behind the three and started inspecting them. "Well, nothing is wrong with simple," she said with a bemused smile as she looked back at Applejack. "You taught me that. And Apple Chord will look great no matter what, so it really comes down to what speaks to you. Or, well, me. For you?" She asked rhetorically as she moved over to the third costume. "This is the boldest one by a mile. Aggressive, a bit sexy. Wearing this requires you to own it. I think you could, but at the same time it needs to be something you want and by virtue of you asking me..." she let the point live and die as she trailed off, wheeling around to the second outfit, the cowgirl.
"This is probably the best for you. Stylish, exciting, and very much absolutely *you*."

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  • 1 month later...

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Rara nodded. "First, you need to get dressed. We won't know if it is right until you do. So head into that room and get ready. When you're out, we'll have the stage ready. We're gonna work on stagework and practice some choreography during our songs," she said before noticing immediately what the concern might be. "And don't worry. We're not doing the Countess dance routine or anything too significant. Just some basic work. I am also going to be getting dressed in a stage outfit and we can work on some stuff together. It is going to be a lot of fun, Apples!"

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