The Carousel Boutique was exactly as Blueblood had envisioned it. Small, neat, efficient, and absolutely perfect. Meanwhile, the sky was still blue, the breeze still balmy, and the birds still singing.
Exiting his carriage, he looked up at the sky again with a frown. As he thought of it, shouldn't it have been raining? A pony had died, after all. One with many friends, and well before his time. But he put the thought aside with an internal shrug. Probably the weather bureau hadn’t found out about Filthy’s death in time. No doubt they’d arrange for rain tomorrow.
Meanwhile, the Canterlot newspapers were well ahead of the curve, with their ridiculous headlines. Murder at the Rarity Boutique! they screamed. Celebrated Hero Accused of Murder!
Blueblood snorted, re-folding his paper as he did. What rubbish. Filthy hadn’t even been found anywhere near the boutique, but in a public museum that he and the lady Rarity had been assembling together for months. But only those in certain circles knew the Carousel Boutique by name, and almost nopony had known about the museum. Meanwhile, everypony knew about Rarity, fashion designer and Element of Generosity. So of course they went with the most recognizable names and places possible.
How absolutely typical, he thought. Wrong name, wrong location… all to catch the eye and sell a damned paper.
Still, they’d managed to keep the funeral confidential. Sensationalism might have ruled the day, but at least the newsponies had remembered to not be cruel.
Stepping out of his carriage, he dropped the paper in a nearby rubbish bin and looked over the building he had reached all too soon. The weather, the building, his own presence… almost nothing was missing from the bitter irony of the day as it unfolded.
As he approached the door, a white filly – a young mare, really – happened to glance out the window at him. Then, scowling, she vanished from sight again.
Blueblood sighed. Perfect.
As he rapped on the door, he could hear Twilight’s voice from within, saying, “No, I’m just saying, let’s not jump to any conclusions…”
Then the door was flung open, and Blueblood found himself face to face with a glowering Applejack.
“Wadda you want?” she demanded.
“…right, like that,” Twilight’s voice sighed from within. “That’s exactly what I was talking about.”
Blueblood, meanwhile, took in the resentful green eyes of the Element before him, her considerable power poised and ready to defend her friend from him at any cost.
Ah, yes, he thought. Of course. That’s what was missing. The day is now complete.
Just the same, he met her gaze with perfect poise, asking, “May I enter?”
Looking the interloper up and down suspiciously, Applejack never took her eyes off him.
“Rarity?” she asked.
“May as well let him in, darling,” Rarity sighed from within. “He can hardly make things worse.”
“Yeah,” Applejack muttered. “Never say that.”
Begrudgingly, the earth mare stepped aside, allowing his entrance. Blueblood took in the scene as she closed the door behind him, and found it to be about as he’d anticipated. All the so-called Mane Six were there, of course, along with Spike. And even as they gathered at her home to offer aid and comfort, Rarity was serving her friends tea and sandwiches. Treating her comforters as beloved guests, using her hostess’ tasks to keep herself calm.
Naturally, Rarity was being assisted in her chosen duties by her sister and Spike. But also helping to pass out refreshments was a young mare who could only have been Filthy Rich’s daughter, Diamond Tiara.
Interesting, he thought. Interesting, and unexpected.
Every pair of adult eyes appraised him with suspicion, save for Twilight. She was looking at the scenario overall with concern, trying to gauge how Blueblood might aid or harm the situation overall.
Ignoring that for now, he addressed the room, saying, “Please, all of you, forgive the intrusion. I know I started off on the wrong hoof with most of you, but I do come as a friend. Aunt Celestia asked me to help Miss Rarity however I can, and I intend to do just that.”
Rainbow Dash swallowed her sandwich, chasing it down with most of her tea in one swallow.
“Yeah? So, what, you gonna be her lawyer now?” she asked.
“Now, Rainbow Dash,” Rarity chided gently, as she refilled her friend’s cup, “His Grace was sent by Princess Celestia. I’m sure she knows what she’s doing.”
“Blue does have a degree in law, among other subjects,” Twilight added dubiously. “Though I don’t think that’s what he has in mind.”
“It isn’t,” he affirmed. “I’ll admit I’m not certain how best I can help just yet, though to start with I will be assisting Miss Rarity’s attorney. But however things turn out, wherever this particular problem leads me, I’m going to need something from you. From all of you. And it may well be the hardest thing you’ve ever been asked.”
“Name it,” Applejack said.
“Anything to help Rarity,” Fluttershy added softly.
“What can we do?” Rainbow asked.
Blueblood nodded. “Nothing.”
The room went silent.
“The more you are involved in the case, the more problematic it becomes,” he explained. “All of you are her friends, magically powerful through your Elements, and connected intimately to the princesses.
“And yes,” he added as several of them opened their own mouths, “I am well aware that I am related to my aunts. However, I have neither your public influence in Equestria, nor your magical ability to falsify evidence.”
“What??!?” Applejack stepped towards him angrily. “How can you say that? Why, we would never—”
“Never?” Blueblood interrupted coldly, his own ire rising at last as he locked her eyes with his own, biting off the words as he spoke. “Even to save your friend? Are you actually going to tell me that all of you would allow Miss Rarity to be wrongfully convicted and imprisoned, with all that implies, rather than tell. A single. Lie.”
Again, there was silence. Blueblood allowed it to coil around the room for a moment before impaling it upon his voice, low and calm once more.
“There will be times that I will need information, I’m sure,” he said, addressing the room once more. “And I’ll be counting on all of you during those times. But if you truly wish to help Miss Rarity’s case, the best thing is for you all to distance yourselves from the proceedings. Spike, are you still willing to act as Twilight’s greenfire?”
The young drake nodded. “Of course.”
“Then I will count upon you for that. Thank you, sir.” Then, addressing the rest of the room again, the prince continued, “This is not to say she should be isolated, of course. Please, by all means, be there to support the lady as you are now. But I cannot stress enough: allow me to handle what I must handle. Only in this way will both ponies and history itself judge her as innocent without a reasonable doubt.”
“And only then can the real killer be found,” a young voice said.
Everyone stopped as Diamond Tiara looked around at them all, her face contorted in misery.
“It… this still doesn’t seem real,” she managed. “Any of it. I…”
Then her voice failed her, and she fled up the stairs in tears.
Sweetie Belle cried, “Diamond, wait!” and ran after her.
Once again, the room was quiet.
Blueblood looked sadly at the stairs where the young mares had gone.
Damn me, he thought.
Rarity cleared her throat.
“Your Grace,” she said faintly, “perhaps I could offer you some tea? I was just about to put on another pot…”
Blueblood shook his head.
“No, thank you,” he replied quietly, still looking at the stairs. “I appreciate the offer, but I’ve disrupted your home quite enough already.”
Turning to face the white mare, he continued, “That being said, I… do need to speak with you, if I may.”
“Thank you. First and foremost, of course, I owe you an apology. And while I don’t mind offering my apologies publicly – and I do apologize for my behavior when we last met, completely and unequivocally – I also owe you an explanation. Between that and a few questions I have regarding the case itself, I was wondering if you might be free for dinner later tonight?”
“I…” Rarity glanced around at her equally startled friends, then back at the prince before her, “…suppose?”
Blueblood nodded. “Thank you. If I picked you up around eight, would that be too early?”
“I… no. No, that would be fine.”
“Thank you again. I appreciate your courtesy, and your consideration.” He gave another nod to them all as he opened the door. “Ladies, Spike… good afternoon.”
The door closed quietly behind him, and the room was quiet again.
After a moment, Rarity lifted her own cup in her magic, then put it down again.
“You know, girls, I’m suddenly just exhausted. Would it offend anypony if I just…?”
“Aw, hay no,” Applejack assured her. “You just go on an’ rest. We’ll take care a’things. That’s kinda why we’re here, y’know?”
Rarity gave them all a grateful smile.
“Thank you, my dears,” she said. “For everything.”
Then, she, too, ascended the stairs. There was the sound of a gentle knock and a few muffled words between Rarity and Sweetie Belle, and then the closing of Rarity’s own door.
Applejack paused then, looking at the boutique’s outer door.
“So, that’s what His Nibs is like on a good day,” she nodded to herself. “Yeah. Still not a fan.”
“I know, right?” Rainbow Dash chimed in. “And he’s all, ‘oh, so you’d neeeeever lie for a friend!’ Just who the hay does he think he is?”
Pinkie Pie considered this. “He wasn’t wrong, though. I mean, if it meant saving any of you…”
“That ain’t the point,” Applejack retorted. “Point is, y’don’t walk into somepony else’s place an’ start tellin’ folks what’s what! ‘Specially now.”
“But, um, maybe he didn’t mean to be rude?” Fluttershy suggested. “Maybe he was just nervous? After all,” she added, looking at the floor, “I know I would be.”
“Nah, he just thinks he’s better than anypony else,” Rainbow said with a dismissive wave. “Trust me, I’ve seen it before.”
“Girls, I know you don’t like him,” Twilight said to them all quietly. “And I’ll admit I never got to know him super well, even though we both lived at the palace.”
As the other ponies turned to face her, she went on, “But in his own way, Blue was also Celestia’s pupil. She trusts him with Equestria when he travels, and with her seal to make treaties in her name. And now, she trusts him with Rarity.
“I think we should trust him, too.”
For a heartbeat or two, nopony spoke. Then, Applejack sighed ruefully, rubbing the back of her neck.
“Yeah,” she said. “Okay.”
“He’s still a jerk, though,” Rainbow Dash added.
“Oh, but what about Diamond Tiara?” Fluttershy asked. “Shouldn’t somepony make sure she’s okay?”
“Well, now, she’s already got Sweetie Belle with ‘er,” Applejack pointed out. “This ain’t been easy on either a’those two, figger the least we can do is give ‘em some time. I know when my folks died, I didn’t care much for bein’ crowded. An’ Rarity just checked in on ‘em.”
“Agreed,” Twilight nodded. “Let’s give them their space for now, and see how they’re doing later.”
“Yeah,” Pinkie sighed miserably, looking down. “I just wish I could help them smile again.”
“Ain’t nothin’ for that but time, sugarcube,” Applejack said gently. Putting an arm around her kin’s withers, she gave her a squeeze, adding, “Now, c’mon. Let’s get things cleaned up a lil ‘round here.”
There really wasn’t anything else to say. Wordlessly, the friends began gathering up dishes and tidying up the room, settling in to give the younger mares and Rarity whatever aid they might need.