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Applejack set another basket full of apples in front of Princess Luna. The alicorn levitated two of the fruits and popped one into her mouth, chewing slowly as she rotated the other. Luna studied it from all sides, humming softly to herself. Applejack smiled appreciatively. Nopony had ever been this interested in her apples before; the princess couldn't seem to get enough of them. She had already emptied three baskets, and the Earth pony estimated that the slight alicorn had eaten at least her body weight in fruit over the course of the afternoon. The businesspony in Applejack was irked by the value of what the princess had eaten, but she couldn't help but be fascinated by one pony eating in a few hours enough food for a week of generous meals. "Enjoying the apples, Princess Luna?" she asked.
"I thought I told you that it's just plain 'Luna'," The alicorn murmured softly. Applejack might have thought she'd offended the princess, if it hadn't been for her subtle smile. The apple that she had been examining began to lose its outer layer; large sections of bright red skin peeled off the fruit and began to orbit around it. The princess spoke almost absentmindedly as she concentrated on the apple, "In any case, I am enjoying the apples very much. I haven't eaten in a long time, and I had forgotten what a delight it is. Most art is concerned with the satisfaction of one sense at a time, usually sight or hearing. The culinary arts must engage all five senses to be truly effective." Her magic removed the last of the peel from the levitating apple, leaving an off-white orb surrounded by a ring of red debris. Applejack was entranced by the magical display. Luna continued to stare at her work as she spoke, "And of course, many of the most beautiful things in this world are to be found in very unassuming places. Consider the apple: it is a thing of nature, but no longer fully wild, guided by the hooves of ponies to its current form. It is pleasing to the eye, a wonder to every sense, but for all its beauty it is also functional."
Thin black lines began to appear on the apple, diverging and meeting in no obvious pattern as the alicorn continued her distracted murmuring, "Art at work, keeping ponies alive; many from my time would have dismissed it as common, pedestrian, and many more would have taken such things for granted, but I imagine that they'd miss them very quickly if there were none to be found." The off-white orb floating in front of Luna broke apart into a cloud of expertly carved pieces. Applejack could see right angles, sinuous curves, jagged edges, each fragment unique and minutely detailed.
Applejack had never thought of apples as items of beauty before; far as she saw, grub was grub. Still, she wasn't about to argue with a princess, and though she hadn't understood everything that Luna had said, she still swelled with pride to hear such kind words about her life's work. The farmer didn't consider herself qualified to discuss beauty with one of the immortal rulers of Equestria, so she changed the subject, "Uh, Luna... where do all them apples go? If I ate half o' that many apples, I'd be burstin' at the seams, but ya downed at least a hundred apples without slowin' down, and ya still look like one ah them Canterlot runway models. Do you alicorns have four hollow legs or somethin'?"
Luna glanced up from her project; the pieces of the core had begun to come back together in a shape quite unlike the original orb. She blinked at Applejack, looking confused, then glanced at the empty baskets around her. "A hundred apples?" she asked.
Applejack nodded, "Pips, core, and all."
"Well. There goes my diet. Sorry about this. I didn't realize how many I'd eaten. When alicorns eat, the food just sort of goes away. But we do enjoy it! Still, I feel bad about wasting so much of your crop. At least it'll be good for advertising." The alicorn said. As she spoke, the new form of the apple pieces became recognizable. Applejack marveled at the miniature trunk, roots, and branches that the fragments had formed; bits from the core served as knotholes on the rough, irregular faux bark. Luna's magic seemed to be keeping the fruit from turning brown with exposure to air, and the construct retained its ivory coloring.
"Advertising?" The Earth pony asked.
"Yes," Luna replied as the floating bits of peel tore themselves into ever smaller pieces, "Advertising. Ponies still advertise, right? Why, I recall that I couldn't even walk into a shop without them putting an 'Approved By Princess Luna' sign in the window. It got a bit annoying sometimes, but I never wanted to explicitly tell anypony to take such things down; I didn't want to feel responsible if their business went under." Tiny bits of apple peel formed a swarm that converged on minuscule branches. When the red blur stilled, a perfect model of an apple tree floated between the two ponies. White apple flesh formed roots, a trunk, and branches covered in foliage of red apple peels. Here and there among the branches, seeds hung in imitation of ripe apples.
"I'd never do somethin' like that without your permission, Luna," Applejack said, entranced by the unorthodox sculpture, "An' that. That tree. That is amazing. I've never seen anything like it, or anypony do magic like that."
The princess raised an eyebrow and spoke dryly, "Every night, I seem to move an unfathomably large object a distance that you'd be unable to put into words, and this, among all my feats, is what impresses you?" It sounded quite stupid to Applejack when Luna put it that way, but once again the princess didn't seem offended. She continued, "You have better taste than I gave you credit for, Applejack. As for advertising, I admit that I don't have quite the same name recognition that I did before, so I'll have to repay you another way. Wait here."
With that, Luna trotted to the nearest apple tree, one that had been mostly bucked clean to feed her, and sat down. The glow in her horn intensified as she considered the tree. A purple halo formed around it, humming with magic, then faded. Where shadows fell on the fruitless branches, blossoms as dark as night bloomed, and fruit began to grow from them. In mere seconds, a new crop of apples had fully grown; to Applejack, the lustreless black orbs looked for all the world like holes in the air. Then, with a final pulse of magic, the dark apples began to sparkle.
Luna plucked one with magic and levitated it to Applejack. She balanced the strange fruit on a hoof and gazed at the lights that danced across the black peel.
A sea of stars filled her vision, unfamiliar constellations spinning slowly across a window to a night sky. Spiral splashes of milky white whirled in the distance while pinpricks bloomed in brilliant flashes before they disappeared. The apple glowed momentarily as a sun seemed to pass close to its surface; Applejack could see what looked like huge plumes of flame flying from the orb, all seemingly frozen, moving too slowly to be perceived. There were more stars than Applejack could ever hope to count. She didn't know how long she stared into the apple, but she was only broken from her reverie when she heard Luna's voice, "You're supposed to eat it, you know."
So she did.
And it was delicious.