Lessons Learned from Loyalty

First main installment in the Tutelary Spirit universe. Recommended reading order: Loyalty, Honesty, Generosity, Kindness, Laughter, and Friendship.
Many ages after the original adventures of the Elements of Harmony, a young stallion soars high into the clouds, searching for the Element of Loyalty.
Her original life lived and gone so long ago, Loyalty, like the rest of her friends, has changed and grown over her many lifetimes to guide the ponies of Equestria.
Because even after so long, the Elements of Harmony will always share their lessons of friendship.

https://www.fimfiction.net/story/213635/lessons-learned-from-loyalty

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4. Learning the Lessons

"Nah," the Mare of Loyalty answered callously. With that, she turned and got off her stool, before calmly sauntering away from the bar, leaving Bourbon to openly gape at her in frozen shock.

"What? Nah? Nah!?" Bourbon repeated her unbelievable answer as he looked at the retreating form of the Mare of Loyalty, "Hey! Hold on!" he shouted as he quickly exited the bar to follow after her.

Rainbow Dash walked past the columns that greeted the entrance of her home, and past the guards that stood resolutely before them, watching the way. Walking down the stairs that led to the top of her pet's shell, her right ear twitched at the sound of galloping hooves that only ceased when Bourbon slowed his pace next to her.

"Wait a minute! What do you mean 'nah'?" he asked her, his tone a mix of distraught anger and confusion, "Aren't you going to help me and my friends?"

Stepping onto the mist covered shell and heading towards the center pool, she looked at him from the corner of her eye, "I'm not going to force your friends to be loyal to each other, or to you. Sorry, but that's not how loyalty works, trust me," as she said these things, she extended a wing into the mist at her hooves. Walking with her wing low, the mist gathered up against it, until finally, when she reached the edge of the pool of water, she swung her wing forward. The thick mist glided through the air to a short distance over the pool where it stayed and magically condensed into a cloud. With a single flap of her wings, the rainbow mare jumped over the pool to land on the cloud, where she laid herself over it, relaxed and cool.

"I'm not asking you to force them to do anything," pleaded Bourbon as he stopped near the edge of the pool, "I only want you to talk to them."

"Mhmm, right, I can already see how that will play out," she replied sarcastically, "The Mare of Loyalty herself flies down between them and tells them to stop fighting, before she dramatically flies off into the sunset," she gave him a pleasant smile that almost seemed sincere, "And yeah, they'll listen, I'm sure of it. And maybe, just maybe, they'll become friends again over time," she frowned, "or maybe they'll look at each other hatefully behind your back, holding a grudge, until someday they forget my words and they'll start fighting again."

Bourbon looked desperately at her, "Is there nothing that you can do to help them?"

Laying on her small cloud, she shrugged her wings, "I don't see why I should. Loyalty is a choice, I mean just look at me. I'm not loyal to everypony I see, just to those who I choose to be, and it seems obvious to me that your friends have decided that they don't want each other's loyalty, or each other's friendship," she looked away from him, casually viewing the horizon that was provided for her, "but you know what? You're right. I'm the freaking Element of Loyalty. I could recover the friendship between the two if I spent enough time with them," she looked back at him, "I just don't want to."

Feeling like a fly that's been annoyingly swatted away, Bourbon could only ask, "Why?"

Her violet eyes stared deep into him, "Because it wasn't them that came looking for me," she answered, "it was you."

Desperation and now confusion etched Bourbon's features, and Rainbow Dash smiled and leaned forward as she spoke, "Even after all of the trouble that you're going through, you still think of them as your friends. Friends that you don't want to lose. I can respect that. So, instead of helping them, I'll help you."

Pulling her head back, her features were full of pride and her tone was boastful, "Now get ready, because I'm about to hoof out some quality wisdom that's going to make sure you never lose those friends of yours."

Hope surged back into Bourbon at those words and he leaned forward with his ears propped up, ready to catch this wisdom.

With a smile that never left, the Mare of Loyalty said these words.

"Be there."

The words were short and abrupt, and Bourbon waited eagerly for more, but when she didn't say anything else, his expression fell and his ears drooped.

"Is... is that it?" he asked, confused.

"Yup," she answered, grinning so blissfully, "Simple, isn't it? Just be there for your friends," raising herself back on all fours she flapped her wings and rose into the air, "well, you should probably be heading back. I'll tell Tank to lower himself down so you can have an easier time flying back home," with that said, she spun around in the air and glided towards the gigantic turtle's head.

Meanwhile, Bourbon was so underwhelmed by her advice that he just sat there by the pond of water, too shocked to move. He was so out of it that he barely noticed when Rainbow Dash returned to rest on the cloud before him, or of the massive cumulus, the same one that he had gotten lost in so long ago, rising above him on his left as the giant turtle descended by its side.

It was only when the massive cloud's shadow encompassed both him and the rainbow mare that he finally reacted.

"Be there? Be there!? That's it!?" he sounded furious, and his eyes were heated as he looked at her, "I don't believe this! I did not just go through all of that," he pointed at the massive cloud towering over them, "to find you," he pointed at her, "just so that you could tell me to go back home!"

"Well," she began as an amused eyebrow was raised, "going back to your friends is kind of the major theme of loyalty."

"It's that easy, huh?! Well, I don't believe it!" yelled Bourbon as he loudly voiced his objection, "It can't be as simple as that!"

She shrugged her wings apologetically, "What can I say? Loyalty is a simple concept to understand."

Bourbon stared at her unbelievably, before his eyes narrowed at her, "You're a hypocrite."

She looked startled by the accusation, before she let out a burst of laughter, "Ha! A hypocrite! Wow! I've been called many things in my life, but I haven't been called that in a very long time," she continued to let out more laughs.

"But you are!" shouted Bourbon loudly as he tried to be heard over her laughing, "You're the very embodiment of loyalty and you tell me to 'be there for my friends,' but where are your friends!?"

Her mirthful laughing immediately stopped.

"Here you are!" he shouted as he gestured around him, "Hundreds of miles off the ground, alone! Where are your friends? I don't see how you can 'be there' for them when they're not around," he stared up at her coldly, "some Element you are, and I bet your friends are no better."

CRACK! The powerful whip of a bolt of lightning was heard and Bourbon cowered.

Before him stood one of the most frightening sights in Equestria: the Mare of Loyalty, fierce and angry. Although she stood tall, her head hanged low and she fixed him a charging glare that would give a minotaur pause. Her eyes, once peacefully violet, now glowed white with power and fury, while her mane and tail billowed chaotically. And at her sides, her wings were sharply angled away from her body, like a deadly arrowhead ready to shoot and strike its target.

This sight before him triggered a deep survival instinct within Bourbon and his wings sprung out, ready to fly away from the danger.

Her eyes narrowed at his reaction, and with a stomp of her hoof, the cloud under her darkened and a bolt of lightning shot out to strike against the pool of water below.

"Don't."

Bourbon's wings snapped closed and he trembled before her.

The Mare of Loyalty snorted at the sight, of the quivering stallion before her. Raising her head and relaxing her stance, she closed her eyes and breathed in a deep sigh. When she opened them again, her violet hues had returned and her mane and tail were less chaotic.

Fixing Bourbon a stern stare, she spoke with an even tone and an air of warning, "I'm going to forgive you for that insult against my friends. You're angry and lashing out, and I get that. But if you do it again, there will be consequences. Now sit down, stop cowering, and pay attention; 'cause I'm going to explain to you three reasons why you're wrong about me."

Doing as he was told, he sat up straight and attempted to stay as still as possible despite his trembling.

"First, loyalty doesn't mean having to be with your friends at every hour of every day of the week," she explained, her tone still stern, "so if I wanted to do a bit of traveling around Equestria on my own, even if it's to freaking Nowheresville, then I can do so at my own pleasure. Loyalty isn't slavery. Understand?"

Bourbon nodded once, too nervous to use his voice.

"Good. Second, my friends and I are powerful, semi-immortal spirits of Harmony, so trust me, we've got all sorts of ways to contact each other," she said before scoffing at a thought, "Heck, I just told you a few minutes ago about how Pinkie visited me by jumping out of the mouth of her pet alligator. So it's not like I abandoned them or anything, which leads me to the third reason."

She stood straighter, her eyes closed, and her tone became even more serious, "The third and most important reason that you need to know, is that—" Suddenly, with a loud snapping sound, she unfurled her wings to their enormous scale. A single, powerful flap launched herself into the air, the sheer kickback of the wind obliterating the miniature cloud under her. With the momentum, she angled herself to the right and dive bombed over the side of her massive pet. With a bright trail of colors following her, she flew under the belly of Tank, flapping one more time with her powerful wings to increase her speed immensely. With this speed, she then pierced through the covering layer of the massive cumulus that towered over her pet and home like a mountain.

Bourbon watched on, entranced as she flew through the cloud. She zigzagged in and out of its sides as she climbed up it, her every entrance and exit into the immense cloud leaving huge, gaping holes that molded its shape into that of funky cheese. In no time at all, she pierced through the top of what remained of it to climb higher still into the sky. When she reached high enough, she twisted around and dived down at an unbelievable speed that left an explosion of colors behind her.

The Sonic Rainboom.

Diving into the cloud like an unstoppable comet, she let out another burst of speed, triggering a second Sonic Rainboom inside of it. The sheer kickback of her speed and of the explosion of colors tore the mountainous cloud into nothing, wiping it clear from the sky as if it had never existed.

Flying down to the ground at phenomenal speeds, she expertly bent to an angle, diverting her path from the ground. Curving in a low arch, she returned to flying upward, letting gravity assist in lowering her speed. After climbing so high and slowing down to a more manageable level of control, she flew speedily back to her home that sat atop of her pet.

She flew so fast that when she suddenly braked over Tank, her gust of wind blew away all of the mist that had covered her pet's shell. Leaving it bare by only the algae that covered it.

Still in the air, she hovered over Bourbon, her mane and tail stretching in the light and her feathered wings casting long shadows over her home. Staring down at him with a smirk adorning her features, she said the words.

"Ten. Seconds. Flat." She wasn't even breathing fast as she said them so smugly. When her expression became serious again, she continued off where she left, "The third reason, is that I am the fastest flyer in Equestria. Distance doesn't mean anything to me anymore. That means, where ever my friends are, whatever trouble that they're in, I'll be there, with them."

Bourbon looked up at her, amazed and breathing deeply, as if just watching her exhausted him. He looked down, diverting his gaze away from her. He felt so ashamed. So small in front of her.

Suddenly, he felt a large wing cover around him. Looking up, he was surprised to see Rainbow Dash sitting next to him, wrapping her cyan wing around his body and giving him a small, fond smile.

"And that," she said so assuredly, "is what loyalty is all about. Being there, when your friends need you, or when you believe that they need you. Even if they think otherwise."

Bourbon didn't say anything, he just silently gazed back at the beautiful mare, accepting her comfort that was given. As she spoke, he listened. He listened as Loyalty Herself taught him Her ways.

"Your friends want you to choose a side? Don't! You're on both of their sides!" She said firmly as she looked into his eyes with such conviction, "Help Onyx Stone search for his diamonds, and if you find out that Borrower did steal them, you make sure that they're returned with an apology, but you also make sure to defend Borrower from Onyx when he screams at him for it. Whenever Onyx starts pestering Borrower about his past, you get him to stop. Whenever they start fighting, you whack'em hard and pull them off of each other. If any of them get scrapes, you make sure that they're both patched up. Make sure to spend personal time with the both of them, separately if you have to, but always an equal amount. Don't let there be any jealousy. And finally, you make sure that they know that you are a friend to both of them and that there is nothing, absolutely nothing, that either of them can do about it."

She looked at him fiercely, "And you keep doing this, you hear me? You keep doing this until they're friends again or until they've learned how to tolerate each other's presence around you, for you. Because you're their friend too, and I'm sure that they want your friendship as much as you want theirs."

Bourbon weakly nodded, the corners of his eyes glistening, "Okay," he said, his voice quiet.

Rainbow Dash smiled warmly at him, before turning to look off into the distance, her face serene as she watched the horizon.

"I'm... I'm sorry for insulting you and your friends," apologized Bourbon, "I shouldn't have said those things."

She didn't look at him, instead she continued watching the horizon, "You know, to tell you the truth, I've lived through a lot of lifetimes," she turned slightly back to him, giving him a look, "and I mean my lifetimes, by the way. No exaggeration, I've lived and died multiple times," ignoring his confusion, she looked back out over the sky and continued on, "and I've gotta say: insulting somepony like me, just because you thought that their advice wasn't going to help your friends, has got to be one of the dumbest and most bravest things I've seen in a long time."

Bourbon pulled back from her slightly, looking at her wholly, "What do you mean you've lived and died multiple times?"

Blinking once, Rainbow Dash returned the wholly look back at Bourbon, only this time with an amused expression, "Wow, you really don't know much about us Elements do you? I mean, not knowing we had familiars was one thing, but now you're getting to sheltered levels of ignorance here."

Scratching his mane awkwardly as the corner of his cheeks burned in embarrassment, Bourbon couldn't help but look away from the Mare of Loyalty's gaze as he responded, "Well, I mean, I don't really pay much attention to these sorts of things. In fact, most of what I learned about you guys was from my bar's patrons."

Rainbow Dash raised an eyebrow "But isn't this basic stuff that's learned in school?"

Bourbon shrugged, "My hometown didn't really have the best of educational systems while I was growing up."

The Mare of Loyalty sighed, "Okay, guess I'll have to explain it to ya," looking off into the horizon, she explained in a casual manner, "You see, it's part of being an Element. My friends and I? We're immortal, but not like how Princess Celestia or Princess Luna are, whose sun and moon are always a constant. We still age and die like every other pony. The difference is just that, well... it turns out that being an Element of Harmony has this whole reincarnation aspect to it."

Bourbon looked at her surprised, "Reincarnation? You mean like what those llamas in the eastern mountains practice?"

"Mmm, kinda, but not really," Rainbow Dash replied distractedly as she remembered her time with them so long ago, "our reincarnation is a bit different than what they describe it as. For one, it's not immediate. We don't die and then immediately get reborn, instead we spend some time in the afterlife," the sun's light reflected off of her violet hues as she smiled, "which is awesome no matter what way you look at it. Not because it's a nice place—although it is, don't get me wrong—but because I get to see and hang out with all of my friends who have passed on."

"You've been to the afterlife!?" uttered an amazed Bourbon.

"Yeah, but don't expect me to tell you what Paradise is like," replied Rainbow Dash, "I'll get in trouble for that. Bonnie and Faust help me if I do."

"Who?"

"Never you mind," Rainbow Dash told him in a quick fashion, "Anyways, besides hanging out in Paradise for awhile, we also reincarnate in a few different ways too. Like how we always come back the same. Basically, I'm not gonna die as a pony and come back as a duck or something. I'm always going to be the one and only Rainbow Dash, accept no substitute," she said with humor and pride, "Oh! And also, there is absolutely no rebirth process, which I think is a relief, because growing up through one foalhood was quite enough for me, thank you very much."

"Wait, if you're not reborn then how do you come back?"

Rainbow Dash shrugged her wings in an almost bored way, "It changes a bit each time. First time, my friends and I all came out of those memorial statues that they had built for us back in Ponyville. This time though, I just popped out of some clouds that had taken my shape. A lot less dramatic, but whatever, I'm cool with it."

Bourbon stared at her evenly, her words echoing through him, "You make yourself out to be like one of those god-created heroes from ancient myths. Of course," he looked at her with a smile, "you kind of are one, aren't you?"

She was quiet.

"...Yeah," she looked at him with a somber smile, "but you know, my friends and I weren't always like, well... this," her large wings flared slightly, and her spectrum tail flicked, "in our first life, we were all normal," she hesitated, putting a hoof to her chin in thought, "well... somewhat normal. What I'm saying is that we could have passed for normal ponies ...at a glance," she broke down with a laugh, "ah, who am I kidding? We were never normal. But the point I'm trying to make is that we weren't always like how you see me now."

"What changed?"

Rainbow Dash didn't answer immediately, instead, she looked away and contemplated. When she finally answered, she did so casually at first.

"We lived a good, full life. We fell in love, had a couple of kids, accomplished our dreams, y'know, that kind of stuff," she said, before staring off into the distance again with a lost look, "but then we died, and that's when things changed for us. It's kind of hard to explain, but before, I had always felt like there was a difference between me and the Element that I carried. Like, I was Rainbow Dash and the Element of Loyalty was inside of me, and I could see a line that separated me from it," she raised a hoof to her chest, as if remembering, "but when I died, when my soul was free and my body gone, I... I felt like I had become both, like Loyalty had become me and I had become Loyalty. There was no line between us anymore, only different shades of the same color. Me and my friends were no longer just us, we were more. And when we came back," she lifted her wings high, their large frames catching the sun's light, "it showed."

Shivering slightly at the exposed air, Bourbon looked at her amazed, "Wow."

"Wow, indeed," she agreed wholeheartedly. Lowering her wings, she adopted a teasing posture and gave him a playful smirk, "So, did you like my life story or do you want me to bust out the foal pictures too?"

"Oh! I'm sorry," Bourbon apologized sincerely, "I didn't mean to pry so much."

"Hey, it's cool, besides it's what friends do," she replied all natural-like, "they share stuff with each other."

Bourbon looked at her startled and baffled, "F-Friends!?"

Rainbow Dash raised her hooves into a ridiculous shrug and gave off a bemused expression, "What can I say? We bonded over drinks. Besides," she smirked warmly at him, "you seem like a pretty cool guy, at least when you're not kissing my hooves in devotion."

 

 

Standing at the shell's edge, Bourbon, with his satchel again strapped around his body, looked out into the horizon. His eyes trailed across the stretching green fields to rest on a small hamlet of buildings and lights that laid against the side of a lone mountain. It was the small mining community that he lived in.

The giant turtle known as Tank had carried them close to the little village, but far enough away that they wouldn't catch the eye of any curious pony.

It was time for him to go home.

Turning his head back, he saw Her.

She stood there, her great wings folded to her side, and a small smile adorning her features.

"It's going to be difficult, isn't it?" said Bourbon as he looked at her, "Following your advice."

"Are you kidding?" she laughed out loud before walking closer to him, "it's going to be one of the hardest things you'll have to do in your life. Heck, they might even hate you for it." She was by him now, the difference in height obvious now, with her violet eyes peeking just over his mane.

"I said that loyalty is a simple concept to understand. And it is," her eyes bore into him, "but it's also the hardest to follow through with."

Wrapping a wing around him, she drew him in closer for a wing-hug. She gave him a confident grin, "But it's worth it. It's always worth it to try and hold on to your friends. If you don't want to lose them, then you have to stick with them through thick and thin," she let out a short laugh, "whether they like it or not."

Bourbon smiled warmly, "Thank you, Rainbow Dash," with that, he leaned in and wrapped his hooves around her in a hug. She was startled at first, but she soon accepted it. Even wrapping a hoof around him to lightly hug him back.

Eventually though, the show of affection had lasted too long for her liking and she lightly pushed him away with a hoof, "Okay, okay, that's enough hugging for today," she said in an almost objectionable tone, but with a clear smile, "you've gotta get on your way."

Relenting his hug with a smile of his own, he nodded his head in agreement, "Right, I've got to get back to my bar. I'm sure ponies are wondering where I am." He looked up at her with glistening eyes, "I guess this is goodbye, isn't it?"

"Yes, it is," Rainbow Dash said quietly before smirking and poking him in the chest, "but hey, you keep that bar of yours well stocked, alright? Because I'm gonna come back and visit you someday. That's a promise," her eyes shined brightly, "and I keep the promises I make with my friends."

"I will," he said resolutely. With that, he unfurled his wings and leaped into the air, letting the wind carry him away.

On his flight back home, he only looked back once to see the silhouette of Tank disappearing into the clouds. From the silhouette, he could also see a rainbow trail emerging from the top of its shell and rising upward into the sky. Following this trail, he saw that it arched over his head like a rainbow bridge. Continuing to follow it, he ended up turning right around, where he found a cyan hoof that poked him on the nose.

"Boop!" said a flying Rainbow Dash cheerfully.

"What was that?" asked Bourbon as he rubbed his nose. It felt like her touch had triggered some static electricity between them.

"Just a little 'going away present'," she replied, before laughing and playfully flying around him several times, a rainbow trail following her and surrounding him. Then with a short wave 'goodbye,' she flew faster than he ever could, after her pet, before she too disappeared into the clouds.

Curious at her words, Bourbon hovered there and stared where she had flown off, pondering what she meant. When no clear understanding presented itself, he decided to simply shrug and fly back home.

And as he flew back home, he never noticed the small rainbow that followed his trail or of the colors that sparkled in his eyes.

 

 

Author's Note:

This short story, and indeed this entire universe, started off as a self-imposed challenge by me to write a story about the mane 6 (or at least one of them) and turn them into sacred, immortal beings similar to Celestia and Luna, but without sacrificing their character traits or turning them into alicorns. The end result was that I turned them into a mix of a patron saint (transcends and protects a concept after death) and the Dalai Lama (reincarnates to guide and teach).

It's up to you readers to decide if I succeeded my challenge or not.

 
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