"I'm sorry, dear, but I simply cannot find a thing to wear!"
Five friends stood outside the sixth's bedroom door, and had been for the better part of twenty minutes.
"Then don't wear anything!" Twilight said, getting a bit frustrated with her fashionista friend. "Just come on! The royal carriage is waiting!"
"Oh, alright," Rarity said, opening the door and stepping out. Behind her was a room, with dresses of every shape and size scattered all around. The white unicorn hesitated for a moment, and then bolted back inside. A second later, she came back outside, wearing a simple yet elegant sunhat. "There, how do I look?"
"Stunning," Twilight said flatly. "Now can we go?"
A short while later, a carriage was travelling along the dusty road that had led out of Ponyville, pulled by two golden armoured stallions. Inside, Twilight Sparkle and her friends were chatting away.
"So, what exactly are we doing, anyway?" Rainbow Dash said. "I was still half asleep when you were shaking me awake and saying we had to go."
Twilight rolled her eyes. "I told you, Princess Peach is coming from the Mushroom Kingdom to meet with Princess Celestia, and we were asked to be her official welcoming party."
"Riiight..." Rainbow Dash said. "...Who's Princess Peach?"
"What's the Mushroom Kingdom?" Pinkie Pie asked.
"And why is this Princess Peach comin' to meet with Princess Celestia?" Applejack queried.
"Didn't anypony read that book I gave you all on kingdoms beyond Equestria?" Twilight asked. When she was greeted with blank stares and a couple of head-shakes, she sighed, and launched into her explanation.
"Princess Peach Toadstool is the ruler of the Mushroom Kingdom, a kingdom west of Equestria," Twilight began. "A long time ago, Discord controlled the entire world with his chaos, as you all know. When Celestia and Luna used the Elements of Harmony to defeat him, most of the world was cleansed of his magic. However, some regions to this day still have lingering traces of his touch. The Mushroom Kingdom is one of those places, and because of this, there are certain natural resources available there that aren't available anywhere else. Of course, not a lot of ponies know of the Mushroom Kingdom here in Equestria, as there generally isn't much contact between the two kingdoms, save for the small Earth Pony/Toad settlement along the coast of Equestria, Mareshroom Beach. That's where we'll be meeting the princess."
"Toad?" Fluttershy asked. "You mean there are toads living with ponies?"
"They're not the kind of toads you're thinking of, Fluttershy," Twilight explained. "They're more like walking, talking mushrooms. You'll see when we get there.
"Anyway," Twilight continued. "About a month ago, a bunch of strange leaves blew into Equestria-"
"Ooh! I remember that!" Pinkie said suddenly. "I found one on the ground outside Sugarcube Corner, and all of a sudden, I was in a racoon costume! And I could fly! Dashie's face was priceless when I popped up out of that cloud!"
"Actually, I think it was a tanuki costume..." Fluttershy said quietly.
"Yes, well, as it turns out, those leaves, called Super Leaves, came from the Mushroom Kingdom, after a huge storm blew them off of their Tanooki Tree. When Earth Ponies and Unicorns found them like Pinkie did, and were suddenly able to fly, there was suddenly a huge demand for them in Equestria. The only place equipped to receive shipments from the Mushroom Kingdom, though, is Mareshroom Beach, and being such a small town, they can't receive a lot at a time, so their supply can't keep up with the demand. Princess Peach is coming to Equestria to talk to Celestia about the possibility of expanding Mareshroom Beach, and make it able to handle the huge demand for Mushroom Kingdom products."
Twilight looked around as she finished her explanation. Fluttershy seemed to be the only one listening now, as Pinkie was talking with Applejack, Rarity was examining her hat, and Rainbow Dash was hanging out the carriage window.
"Wow, Twilight," Dash said with a laugh. "You managed to talk us all the way there!"
The others all moved to the windows, and sure enough, they were passing by a sign reading "Welcome to Mareshroom Beach, Gateway to the Mushroom Kingdom!"
As they stepped out of the carriage onto the cobblestone street, they looked around taking in the atmosphere. The town seemed to consist of two perpendicular streets, one lined with various homes and shops, the latter of the two all decorated with signs like "Authentic Mushroom Kingdom Flowers and Fungi", "Royal Shroom Tea Shop", "Toadles' Mushroom Kingdom Fashion", and "The Yoshi Shop; Yoshis Imported Straight from Yoshi's Island". The intersecting street, which seemed to have embedded lights, was bare along the sides, save for a building at the end with a sign reading "Equestrian International Airport".
Wandering the streets were Earth Ponies, as Twilight had said on the carriage ride. Mingling among them were short little creatures, which walked on two stubby legs, and almost universally wore vests. Their defining features, however, were the bulbous, spotted caps that sat atop their heads, which nearly doubled their height. As the six Ponyville residents marvelled at the small town, two figures approached, a lime green mare with a yellow mane and tail, and a mustachioed Toad wearing a mayoral sash, with purple spots decorating his cap.
"Welcome to Mareshoom Beach!" The Toad said with a rich, deep voice. "I am Toadimer, the mayor of our little town, and to my left is my assistant, Citrus Splash."
"If there's anything we can do to make your visit more enjoyable," Citrus Splash continued, "please don't hesitate to ask."
"It's nice to meet you both," Twilight said as the mayor and assistant greeted them. "My name is Twilight Sparkle. Princess Celestia asked my friends and I to come and meet with Princess Peach on her arrival."
"Ah yes, Miss Sparkle!" Toadimer exclaimed. "Princess Celestia sent word that you would be arriving. Well, we've received word that Princess Peach has just left the Mushroom Kingdom, so she should be arriving here in Mareshroom Beach within the next hour and a half."
"In the meantime," Citrus Splash continued. "Feel free to tour the town. We'll have someone come find you all when the Princess is about to arrive."
"Thank you," Twilight said, with a nod and a smile. She and her friends dispersed throughout the town, seeing what Mareshroom Beach had to offer.
A while later, everyone had gathered near the airport building, everyone having spent their share of bits. Twilight had purchased a few books, mostly detailing the Mushroom Kingdom's history, mythology, and famous figures. Fluttershy had spent her time and money at the Yoshi Shop, purchasing a manual on Yoshi care, as well as some food. She had also applied for a certificate allowing her to raise Yoshis in Equestria. The beast itself would have to wait for another visit, when she wasn't pre-occupied. Rainbow Dash had obtained a few varieties of mushrooms and flowers, for use in some of her stunts. Rarity, after visiting Toadles', had elected not to purchase anything there, and instead had made a similar purchase to Dash, for inspiration in her designs, which Toadles himself had agreed to possibly stock in his shop. Pinkie, being Pinkie, had purchased a large number of novelty sweets and pastries, and Applejack had bought some work clothes at Toadles', a thick shirt and overalls (fitted for ponies), apparently inspired by one of the Mushroom Kingdom's greatest superstars. The six ponies gabbed and chattered away before Toadimer and Citrus Splash approached them again.
"We've just received word that the Princess and her travelling companions will be arriving shortly," Toadimer stated with a grin under his mustache. "Miss Splash, if you could activate the runway lights?"
"Of course, sir," Citrus replied. She trotted inside the airport building, and a moment later, the lights in the street sprang to life, flashing in sequence down toward the building at the end. Toadimer admired the street, and then turned to the Ponyville ponies. "Now, this will be the first time you all have seen an airplane, correct?" The confused looks from all but Twilight told him as much. Toadimer smiled. "Well then, you're all in for a treat. Just keep your eyes on the skies." Toadimer gestured up into the skies above, and as the ponies looked up, there seemed to be something large and pink headed in their direction.
"You see, the Mushroom Kingdom ships all of its products by air. This is why Mareshroom Beach is the only place in Equestria that can receive products from the Mushroom Kingdom; it's the only place with an airport!" Toadimer gestured proudly to the runway and airport building. The ponies looked only somewhat impressed, which seemed to make Toadimer feel a bit put out. "Humph. Well, we'd best clear the runway; the Princess's plane will be landing shortly."
Everyone backed off from the flashing street as the pink plane began its decent, the roaring engines growing louder as it got closer. After a couple of minutes, the tires touched down on the far end of the runway with a loud screech, and it slowed to a stop just at the end near the airport, the mayor, and the ponies. A few Toads and ponies wheeled a set of steps up to the flying machine. A door opened on the plane, and a figure stepped out. As the figure walked down the steps, Toadimer cleared his throat.
Everyone gave a bow to the princess, and Twilight stepped forward. "It's an honor to meet you, Princess. My name is Twilight Sparkle, and these are my friends Applejack, Rainbow Dash, Pinkie Pie, Rarity, and Fluttershy." Each pony nodded her head as she was introduced. "On behalf of Princess Celestia, we welcome you to Equestria."
Princess Peach dipped her head in greeting to Twilight and her friends, a sweet smile on her face. "Thank you; it's a pleasure to meet you all."
"If I may, Princess,” Toadimer cut in. "I was informed that you were travelling with others."
"That's right," Peach said. "In fact, they should be out in just a moment."
Everyone turned to the plane door, and suddenly, there was a loud "Wahoo!" as someone jumped out of the plane, completely ignoring the steps. The red clad figure landed beside the princess, and with a spin, introduced himself in the signature fashion. "It's-a me, Mario!"
"Ladies and gentlemen," Peach said. "Meet Mario, Superstar of the Mushroom Kingdom, and my personal saviour more times than I can remember." She bent down and kissed Mario on the cheek, who's face went beet-red behind his iconic moustache.
The ponies all greeted Mario, while Toadimer seemed beside himself with excitement. "Imagine that! The Princess AND Mario himself, visiting my humble little town!"
"Mario," Peach said. "Wasn't Luigi coming out with you?"
Mario seemed puzzled for a moment, then turned to the plane and called out to his brother. Someone staggered out of the plane, but whoever it was, they were obscured by a large stack of suitcases that they were carrying. They neared the top of the stairs, but mis-stepped, sending them and the luggage tumbling down to the ground. Everyone stared as the green-clothed Luigi got to his feet and laughed nervously.
Twilight looked at all the scattered bags. "Let me help you with those, Princess," she offered.
"Oh, no, that's perfectly alright," Peach said.
"Please, I insist." Twilight said. Her horn began to glow, and the various bags were bathed in the same purplish glow. They all levitated over on top of the carriage sitting nearby, stacked neatly according to size. Princess Peach, Mario, and Luigi al seemed to be impressed by the simple levitation spell, and lightly applauded.
Twilight blushed a bit, embarrassed. "You all thought that was impressive? That's something just about every unicorn can do."
"Then I suppose it goes without saying that just about every unicorn is quite talented," Peach said sweetly.
"You're too kind, Princess," Twilight said. She looked up at the sky in order to judge the time. "We should probably get going, if we want to reach Canterlot by nightfall."
Peach nodded, and then turned to Toadimer. "I wish I could visit with the town for a while longer, but I have important business in Canterlot that needs to be attended to. Please give my regards to the townsfolk."
Toadimer bowed. "Of course, Your Highness."
Everyone began climbing into the carriage, and as it pulled away, Rarity kicked off the conversation. "I must say, Princess, that really is a lovely dress. You simply must tell me who designed it..."
"...so we'll have the party after you're done your stuff with Princess Celestia. I'll even make a really big cake for everyone!" Pinkie said as the carriage came to the castle.
"I'd love to help you with it, Pinkie," Peach said. "Baking happens to be a passion of mine; I couldn't tell you how many cakes I've made for Mario."
"That would be fun! Of course you can help!" Pinkie said, beaming.
"Hey, we're here!" Dash said, hanging out of the window once again. There was a red carpet leading up to the castle entrance, with armored stallions lining each side. Standing at the entrance was Princess Celestia herself, and at her side stood her sister, Princess Luna.
"Well, we mustn't keep the Princesses waiting," Peach said. At that, the carriage door opened, and Princess Peach climbed out, followed by Mario & Luigi, and finally, the six Ponyville ponies. A fanfare sounded out as they walked up to meet the Equestrian princesses, and Celestia and Luna dipped their heads as Peach ascended the steps up to them.
"Princess Peach," Celestia said. "It's good to finally meet you."
"And you as well, Princess Celestia," Peach replied, dipping in a formal bow. Mario, Luigi, and the ponies followed suit.
"We welcome you and your companions to Canterlot," Luna said. Twilight chuckled internally. Even if she was still using the old vernacular, it was a relief to know that she had learned to switch off the ROYAL CANTERLOT VOICE.
"Please, everyone, come inside," Celestia said. "We've had our chefs prepare a banquet for your arrival. One of our attendants will take your things up to your rooms." As if to confirm this, the carriage pulled away with everything still on top. Everyone followed the Princesses inside, and the guards returned to their normal posts.
In Peach's room, the buscolt had just finished bringing the last of the bags up. "Man," he said to himself, panting. "Why do all the guests’ rooms have to be up so many stairs?" He sighed, and exited, muttering "They don't pay me enough for this..."
A few minutes passed, with nothing in the room stirring. Finally, a muffled voice sounded out. "Private Goomp, status report."
"I'm in a suitcase, sir. It's very dark and cramped," a second voice said. "Based on previous events, I believe that you and Corporal Paraplonk are also in suitcases."
"No, I mean, is there anyone nearby?" the first voice said.
"I'm not sure," the second voice said. "The silence leads me to suspect that there isn't."
Suddenly, three suitcases clicked open, and three figures popped out of each. A Goomba, a Paratroopa, and a Shy Guy. They all looked around, attempting to figure out where they were.
"Wow, it actually worked," Paraplonk said. "One of Bowser's ideas actually worked."
"Well, now that we're in, let's have a look around. Bowser wanted us to scout out weak points in the castle, remember?" Sergeant Guy said.
"Why don't we try the gardens?" Goomp suggested. "That's one of Peach's castle's weak points."
"Good thinking, Private Goomp," Paraplonk said. "Alright team, let’s move out!" The three soldiers marched out of the bedroom.
A short while later, Goomp, Guy, and Paraplonk were wandering around the royal statue garden, examining the various sculptures.
"You know," Goomp said. "These are pretty nice statues. I don't think there's anything as good as these back at Bowser Castle."
"That's because King Bowser doesn't care about art," Guy noted. "Not unless he's the subject."
Paraplonk seemed to share Bowser's views, as he merely seemed bored. "This is getting us nowhere. Come on, let's go check out another-"
"Hey, guys, come look at this one!" Goomp said. Guy and Paraplonk hurried over.
"Would you keep it down!?" Guy hissed. "You're gonna get us caught!"
"Sorry," Goomp replied. He then turned to the statue that had grabbed his attention. It was of a strange looking beast, which seemed to be a mish-mash of several different creatures. "Pretty weird-looking, huh?"
"'This statue, depicting a creature known as a draconequus," Paraplonk read aloud, "represents discord, or a lack of harmony among ponies. It serves as a reminder that while things may seem hopeless at times, friendship and harmony can topple the largest obstacles and defeat the greatest foes. Note: Please do not cross the rope surrounding this statue.'"
While Paraplonk read, Goomp walked under the rope and approached the statue.
"Goomp, don't touch it!" Guy hissed. "Didn't you hear Paraplonk? You probably just set off some kind of silent alarm!"
"Relax, I'm just getting a closer look," Goomp said. "Besides, what am I gonna touch it with?"
Guy rushed under the rope and attempted to push Goomp away from the statue. Goomp resisted, and the two got into a shoving match. Paraplonk looked up from the sign and noticed the two fighting minions.
"Knock it off, you two!" Paraplonk said. He flew over the velvet rope and attempted to break the two up. "You're gonna get us caught!"
As the three began to fight, cracks began to form along the statue. A small chunk flew off and hit Guy on the head. He looked up and noticed the missing piece.
"... Nice going, Goomp!" Guy said. "You broke it!"
"I didn't break it! You did!"
"Guys, stop, we've gotta get back to work!"
"You did break it and you know it, Goomp!"
"Are you three about finished?" I'd like to get a word in."
All three stopped at the sound of the fourth voice. They all turned to look at the statue, only it wasn't there anymore. Instead, sitting on the pedestal, surrounded by fragments of granite, was the creature the statue had depicted.
"Now, why don't we start with our names, hm?" The creature said. He snapped the fingers of his taloned claw, and with a flash of light, he appeared behind the three. "I am Discord. And you?"
"Oh, military men!" Discord clapped his paw and talon together. "You don't look like Celestia's forces though... Ooh! Did I miss an invasion?"
"N-n-no," Goomp said, shaking. "We're King Bowser's men."
"King Bowser?" Discord repeated. "Hm... he isn't here in Canterlot, is he? I'd like to thank him for sending you three out here and freeing me."
"No, h-he's back in the Mushroom Kingdom, readying his airship armada," Guy said.
"Well, let's go see him then!" Discord said. "If he plans to invade, he could use my help." Discord snapped his fingers, and he, Goomp, Guy, and Paraplonk vanished in a flash.