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From a distance, Canterlot was quite the site to behold. Built on the side of a large mountain, Equestria's capital city was designed to be a military stronghold during times of war. In an attempt to "brighten up" the city, the tall stone towers that appeared to touch the sky itself were accented with brights golds and purples. While the Elements of Harmony had been to Canterlot numerous times before, the view never ceased to amaze them.
"Well, welcome hone Twi'," muttered Rainbow, who was staring out the window along with the rest of her friends.
"What was it like growing up here?" asked Rarity softly.
Twilight shrugged. "It was alright I guess, but I like Ponyville much better. Mostly because I never had much of a life in Canterlot."
"Well don't tell Applejack," Rarity whispered to Twilight, "but I'm moving here at the first chance I get!"
"What was that?" asked Applejack, who was just out of earshot.
"Oh nothing, Darling," responded Rarity, "just talking to Twilight about our Canterlot experiences.
"Fillies and Gentlecolts, we have arrived in Canterlot. Have a nice day and we hope to see you again," announced the conductor as the train screeched to a halt.
The door to the train creaked open and everypony on the train began making their way off. The six ponies near the back were some of the last to exit the train.
"Twilight Sparkle?" a voice boomed out.
The six ponies turned to discover the source of the noise. "Shining Armor!?" responded Twilight in shock.
Shining Armor trotted over to his little sister. "Hey sis, how've you been?"
As brother and sister embraced, Rainbow Dash stared in intrigue. I wonder if Celestia told him. Would she do that? No, Celestia would let Twilight do that. What's he gonna do when we tell him? Dash shrugged. Guess we'll find out.
"You know all my friends, right?" proposed Twilight.
"Let me see," he began, "we have Rarity, Pinkie Pie, Applejack, Fluttershy, and Rainbow... uhh... Smash?"
Twilight was blushing, but it was subtle enough that somepony would have to be looking closely to know.
"Actually, it's Rainbow Dash," Dash corrected.
"Oh yes, I knew that! Sorry," apologized a slightly embarrassed Shining Armor.
How could he forget my name! I'm Rainbow Dash, fastest flier in all of Equestria for Celestia's sake! How could he... wait a minute... if he can't even remember my name, then there's no way he knows about me and Twi'. Alright, well, I guess that's just one more person to come out to. This is gonna get interesting.
"Shining Armor?" asked Twilight.
"Yeah?" he responded.
"Exactly why are you at the train station?"
Shining Armor smiled. "Because the Princess thinks my little sister and her friends needed extra special protection, so why not send her brother, captain of the Royal Guard?"
"Ooooo, the Princess thinks we need special protection!?" Pinkie Pie exclaimed, "she must think we are really special or something! Or are we in danger!? What did we do wrong!? Are we going to be okay!? Ooo, ooo, ooo! Do you think that they have cupcakes at the castle!?"
Shining Armor stood dumbfounded, not exactly sure what to do about Pinkie Pie. "Umm... maybe?" he responded.
Pinkie smiled. "I really hope they do because if they do, I'm gonna eat them all, then—!"
"So, you are our escort then?" interrupted Twilight, saving her brother from the randomness of Pinkie Pie.
"Yep!" answered Shining Armor, "would you ladies like to see your chariot?"
Rarity's eyes lit up, while Applejack just rolled hers.
"Umm, does the princess really think we need a chariot?" Fluttershy mumbled.
"It's 'cause we're really important!" exclaimed Pinkie, "and we need the best protection because we might be in incredible danger!"
Shining Armor laughed. "I don't know about that, but she does think very fondly of Twilight and her friends."
"Are you eggheads coming, or am I gonna have to fly to the castle myself?" Rainbow called out as she made her way over to the chariot which was partially visible behind the train station.
As everypony made their way over to where the chariot was resting, Twilight began catching up with her brother. "So, how are you and Cadance doing?"
"Oh we've been doing great ever since we got rid of those Changelings!" assured Shining Armor, "and we can't thank you and your friends for saving Cadance and getting me out of that trance! Who knows where we would be if it wasn't for you six!"
"Yeah, we're kinda used to saving all of Equestria by now!" interjected a boasting Rainbow Dash. She then sped ahead of the group.
"That pony's kinda full of herself, isn't she?" whispered Shining Armor to his sister.
Twilight gulped. "Ya," she laughed awkwardly, "that's just kinda who she is, but she's actually very loyal and a great friend!"
Shining Armor smiled slightly and shook his head. "Whatever you say, sis."
Twilight and her brother approached the chariot. This chariot, however, was abnormally large and enclosed, unlike the traditional open chariots. It could actually be classified as a carriage, which was most likely what it was and Shining Armor's description was most likely just due to his military background.
"Aren't you coming with us?" asked Twilight as she followed her friends into the incredibly carriage like "chariot."
"Of course I am, but somepony's gotta pull the thing, right?" asked Shining Armor rhetorically.
Twilight shrugged. "Whatever you say!"
Shining Armor strapped himself into the carriage. "Is everypony ready?" he called back.
"All good back here!" announced Applejack.
The six ponies felt the carriage move. Shining Armor had set off and, with the assistance of his magic, was single-handedly pulling the carriage. This did not seem to be a problem for him, as the ride was very smooth.
"So, Twilight, were you telling him about you and Rainbow Dash back there?" asked Rarity.
All of Twilight's friends, including a very nervous Rainbow Dash, stared at her. "One problem at a time, Rarity. One problem at a time."
The ride to Canterlot Castle was a relatively short one. While Rarity had briefly brought up the issue, the subject about anypony coming out was not discussed any further between the six friends, mainly because it was more than likely that Shining Armor could hear their conversation if he chose to listen and also because of the complete and utter randomness of Pinkie Pie.
"Ooooooo! Look at that!" exclaimed Pinkie with her head stuck out the window, "oh wow! Is that a bakery!? Do you think they have cupcakes!? Because I'd give my left hoof for some cupcakes right now!"
Pinkie may have been shameless, but Fluttershy was embarrassed for her. "Umm, Pinkie? Why don't you come back in here... I mean... if that's okay with you, I guess," murmured Fluttershy with a slight blush on her face.
"Look! We're here!" exclaimed Pinkie.
Then, on cue, Shining Armor magically propped open the door of the carriage. "Ladies, welcome to Canterlot Castle," he proclaimed humbly as he took a bow.
Twilight chuckled as she stepped out of the carriage. "Did the princess make you do that?"
"No but I have an image to keep up around here!" joked Shining Armor, "so do you ladies know your way to the throne room, or do I have to show you?"
"No I think we got it," responded Twilight.
"Alright, I have some stuff to take care of for the royal guard, so I'll catch up with you later!" Shining Armor explained as he began walking away.
As Shining Armor trotted away, Rainbow Dash flew next to Twilight and gave her a look as if to say 'what are we gonna do about that?'
Unlike Rainbow, Twilight decided to use words to express her emotions. "We'll cross that bridge when we get to it!"
"You might have to cross it," retorted Dash, "but I'll just fly over it!"
Twilight frowned. "Rainbow, what is that even supposed to mean?"
Rainbow shrugged. "I don't know, but it sounded good, didn't it?"
Twilight just shook her head.
"Are you two coming or what?" asked Pinkie Pie as she bounced past the couple, "we've got a princess to see!"
Dash nodded her head in the direction of the castle. "After you."
The six ponies entering Canterlot Castle were no strangers to the grand spectacle that it was. Beyond the entrance room was Princess Celestia's throne room. This room of the castle was adorned with a grand red-pink carpet that extended from the doors all the way to the Princess' throne. The sun shone radiantly through the stained glass windows honored the heroes of Equestria, including the Elements of Harmony themselves. At the far end of the room was Princess Celestia, perched on her throne and surrounded by four of her best guards, adorned in the most lavish armor that anypony could imagine.
As the six ponies approached Princess Celestia, they all respectfully took a bow.
"Twilight Sparkle, my faithful student!" echoed the princess, "how nice to finally see you! And I see you've brought all of your friends!"
"Hello Princess! It is great to see you too!" Twilight responded enthusiastically. Whether her enthusiasm was genuine or not was another question, however.
Celestia turned to the guards. "I do appreciate your dedication, boys, but I think I will be just fine."
Saying nothing, one of the guards, presumably the highest ranking guard, nodded his head and motioned for his fellow guards to exit. The guards, in typical fashion, filed out of the room silently.
"I really don't care much for them being here anyways," muttered Celestia.
Twilight approached Princess Celestia. "Princess, listen, I've told all my friends why you've called us here, so do you think that we can just cut to the chase then?" propositioned Twilight.
"They all know about you and Rainbow Dash?" Celestia asked under her breath.
Twilight nodded her head. "Of course."
"Okay then," began Celestia, "first of all, I must ask everypony here a question."
The other six ponies nodded their heads.
"Okay, shoot," said Applejack.
"Now I need all of you to be completely honest," stated the princess, "have any of you had any romantic interests amongst yourselves? It doesn't even have to involve any physical contact, even something as simple as a crush?"
Applejack and Rarity looked at each other, Pinkie Pie and Fluttershy looked at each other, and all four of them blushed.
Pinkie Pie was the first to speak up. "Oh ya! Me and Flutters here have been going at it for a while now!"
"And, uhh... me and Rar' have been more or less 'datin'' for a little while now," chimed in Applejack.
Princess Celestia, while shocked, quickly regained her composure. "It's worse than I thought."
"Umm... Princess Celestia? What's that supposed to mean exactly?" asked Twilight.
The princess took a deep breath. "Didn't it even occur to you six how unlikely your whole situation is?" she asked in a more serious tone.
The Elements of Harmony said nothing, only looking at each other.
"Don't you think that it is strange that all six of you ended up falling for each other?" asked the princess, "and that's not even mentioning the fact that you are all mares!"
The six ponies, even the usually exuberant Pinkie Pie, chose to remain silent, allowing Princess Celestia to finish her point.
She took another deep breath. "While it could be possible that your love for each other is genuine, I believe that you were forced into love."
"Forced into love? How?" Twilight asked calmly.
"I know this might be hard for you girls to hear, but you must know the truth," Celestia began, "Though it most likely went unnoticed, when you girls first wielded the Elements of Harmony, your friendships with each other may have grown stronger. This is because when you use the elements, you six actually become, for the briefest moment, a single being. Having your friendships grow stronger would seem like no problem, actually beneficial if you asked most ponies, but this was the start of a very slippery slope. By wielding the elements a second time when you failed at defeating Discord, even though Discord had turned you against each other, your friendship may have grown even stronger. Maybe at this point you began to see each other in a different light, possible a romantic light. But, more than likely, you repressed or ignored these feelings, or maybe you did not experience them at all. When you wielded the elements the third time and succeeded at defeating Discord, your bonds to each other grew even stronger. This is most likely the point when you six started outwardly expressing your romantic feelings, or at least allowing them to become part of your conscience mind. In the broadest sense, if I am correct, the Elements of Harmony cause you to fall in love."
The six ponies, each standing next to their respective partners, were completely stunned. For the longest time, nopony said a word, each still trying to completely wrap their mind around what they had just heard.
Rainbow Dash was the first one to speak up. "So you are saying that me and Twilight aren't actually in love, and this is just the elements making us feel this way?"
The princess sighed. "If I am correct, yes."
"Is there a chance that the elements did not make us fall in love?" asked Rarity, "that we fell in love on our own accord?"
Celestia nodded. "Yes, that is a possibility, but unlikely. I understood the possible consequences of using the elements excessively after you defeated Nightmare Moon, but I was desperate and Equestria was in dire need of your help. I took necessary risks in order to save this kingdom, and I hope that you all understand."
Fluttershy spoke up. "Umm... well is there anything we can do about this?"
Princess Celestia sighed once again. "Maybe, but there is no guarantee. It is possible that we could reverse the effects that the elements have on you, but it cannot be said for sure whether it will work or not."
Twilight looked at Rainbow Dash. "So if we did discover a, uhh... a 'cure,' so to say, for this, we would no longer have feelings for each other?"
"Yes, that is a strong possibility, but i cannot be sure that your emotions were effected by the elements, and that is exactly why this procedure carries such incredible risk," Celestia explained, "if it turns out that I am wrong, and the elements have not effected your emotions, then attempting to reverse the effects of the elements could have serious consequences."
"Are you talking about dying?" Rainbow asked.
"Well, no," the princess began, "the consequences would not be quite that serious, but at the absolute worst, you could end up with a different personality, but it could also have no effect you whatsoever, I just cannot be certain."
"So what if the elements did cause us to fall in love?" questioned Twilight.
"If that is the case, then, if we succeeded in reversing the elements' effects, you would be returned to the state you were in before you defeated Nightmare Moon," Celestia explained, "whether you would still have feelings for each other is a question that only you six will be able to answer. That is, if you choose to go through with this."
Applejack, Fluttershy, Pinkie Pie, Rainbow Dash, Rarity, and Twilight Sparkle all looked up at Princess Celestia, as if they did not understand what she had just said.
"That's right," she stated, "I am not forcing you six to go through with this, the choice is completely yours. The main reason I called you here was not to persuade you to go through with the procedure, but simply to inform you of the truth. And please, don't feel rushed to make a decision. All of you, whether as a whole group, as couples, or even as individual ponies, can come to me with a decision at any time, and you are all welcome to stay in Canterlot as long as you need. You are also free to return to Ponyville at anytime, but I recommend, as your princess but more importantly as your teacher and mentor, that you remain in Canterlot until all of you have made a decision. Please, do not be afraid to ask me questions of any kind. Finally, I have informed no other pony other than my sister, and she is also very willing to help in any way that she can."
There was a silence that filled the room. Everypony in the room, including Princess Celestia herself, was deep in thought. Considering that six of the seven ponies in the room had just been told that it was possible that an entire portion of their lives was a lie, it was understandable.
"Now I know that is a lot to take in," consoled Celestia, "but you six have all the time in the world to decide what you want to—"
"Ah want ta go through with it," Applejack said clearly and concisely.
"Applejack!" Rarity burst out, "don't you think that we should at least talk this over?"
"What's there ta talk over?" Applejack asked, "if this ain't real, don't you wanna know? Don't all ya'll wanna know?"
Rarity was still shocked. "Well yes, Darling, I'm sure everypony wants to know, but don't you think we should discuss this before making such rash decisions?"
"I'm with AJ," interjected Rainbow Dash, "what's the point of living like this if it's all just a big lie?"
Fluttershy nodded her head in agreement. "Rainbow Dash and Applejack and right," she said softly, "we need to know."
"Listen, why don't we just talk about this a little bit?" reasoned Twilight.
"We're talkin' 'bout it right now!," Applejack responded.
Pinkie Pie finally chose to chime in. "I think that, while it is basic instinct to want to know the truth, we cannot make such an important decision based only on our initial reaction. We have to talk about this, in detail, until we will have the necessary information to make the right decision. Whether we decide to take a risk and uncover the truth behind this situation or make the decision to continue living in this possibly false reality, we will make sure that our decision is an informed one, and one that all six of us can agree upon."
Everypony, including the princess, stared at Pinkie Pie, not saying a word, only blinking in amazement.
"What?" reacted Pinkie, "is the kitchen out of cupcakes or something?" Pinkie gasped in horror.
"Well, I think Pinkie's plan of attack is a good start," said Princess Celestia, still shocked by Pinkie Pie's response.
Everypony else simply nodded their heads in acknowledgement.
"Tell you girls what," the princess proposed, "why don't I have the royal guard escort you girls to lunch somewhere downtown and you can begin to talk this over?"
Rainbow Dash felt her stomach grumble. Sounds good to me.