The Traveling Tutor and the Royal Exam

by Georg

Chapter 29 - Diplomatic Reception Rejection

The Traveling Tutor and the Royal Exam
Diplomatic Reception Rejection

Time: 10:00 A.M. 34 Hours until Zero Hour.
Schedule For The Moment: Unified diplomatic meeting.
State of Alicorn Anxiety: Orange

The original purpose of the ongoing diplomatic summit was for all of the diplomats of various races to have an opportunity to say their goodbyes to the griffon emperor before he boarded The Indomitable and flew far, far away, thus lowering the subconscious tension a group of herbivores felt under the watchful eyes of many omnivore/carnivore ‘guests’ to a level where some actual enjoyment could be had.

Last night had changed more things than simply putting nearly a hundred griffons into the hospital. Although most of the griffons had been released after their treatment, a substantial number still were being kept under medical observation, and the subdued fear that normally came along with the griffons’ presence had been displaced by a nervous urge to ‘do something’ which had stirred the assembled diplomats into what could have been a dangerous situation.

If they had not been diplomats, of course.

“A sharp letter of reprimand to the guilty party would be the proper place to start,” stated Burros, Prime Diplomat from the Asinial Republic with a prim and proper sniff, as well as a sip of his cooling tea. “Along with reparations for the injured parties to be determined by a conclave of the affected.”

“Ah still think we oughtta just declare war on ‘em right now,” growled Steely Resolve, Gauntlet to the Right Fist of Minos, as the Minotaurs tended to despise the label of ‘diplomats’ for their representatives. Generally, if the phrase ‘War’ was not in their official title, the minotaur in question was most probably in charge of bringing it about or cleaning up afterwards. Over fifty years of all three activities had not dulled the natural combative tendencies of the old bull, even though the armor he wore fit only vaguely and rattled when he walked.

Green Grass cleared his throat and looked longingly at where Princess Celestia and Princess Twilight Sparkle were dealing with the more difficult diplomats, in particular a long muscular serpent-like creature with burly arms and a perpetual smile who was arguing (in diplomatic fashion, of course) with the squat lion-ish figure of a Sphinx⁽*⁾.
(*) It was a hotly debated topic among the diplomats for the last century or so if the Sphinx (which was its name, race and title) was actually a representative of a foreign power, or if he/she/it was a foreign power. The only concrete conclusion they could draw so far was that it enjoyed the diplomatic meetings, apparently for the tea, and could beat any of the other diplomats handily at Scrabble.

In an attempt to be useful without triggering a slight, Green Grass leafed through his mental collection of flashcards that Twilight had put together for him and tried to speak in his most diplomatic tone. “Gentlebeings, I believe that it is somewhat traditional to find the culprit for a diplomatic slight before waging diplomacy upon them.”

“Culprits, bah!” The small burro waved a disparaging hoof. “Any decent declaration of reparations should be completely prepared before the incident even happens. Which reminds me, I really should see if Princess Celestia has presented our bill to the Changeling Empire yet for that terrible incident a few months back.”

“Really?” Ambassador Honey Bear, or at least the creature disguised as an ordinary earth pony that Green Grass was trying to think of as such, purred slightly with the word and drew up closer. “As I recall, your demand was for twelve billion bits in compensation for damages to your embassy staff and facilities, which is rather odd considering that the host country — which is Equestria by the way — is providing all of your facilities, and that such staff of yours that were present during the wedding were entirely changelings.”

Before the little burro could speak, the minotaur scowled and snapped a response. “If Celestia had not been such a prude about our little disagreement with Cloudsdale—”

“You declared war on them, I believe,” added Honey Bear.

“—we could have beaten those bugs back into their holes.” All of the members of the ambassadorial circle jumped back as the ancient minotaur produced a double-bitted axe from somewhere and slammed it into the teak flooring where it stuck. “All that fighting, and we missed it!” The beetled brows of the minotaur lifted briefly as he squinted at Green Grass and added in an entirely too hopeful tone of voice, “Do you think the bugs will show up for your wedding?”

“It does seem to be a precedent to have some sort of invasion during a Royal Wedding,” mused Green Grass to Steely Resolve’s obvious joy and Honey Bear’s concealed jitters. “Although Changelings spook easily, from what I’ve heard. If you really want to fight them, maybe you should consider cutting a lower profile, perhaps.” Green Grass eyed the naked axe still sticking out of the floor, which the minotaur quickly snatched up and made to disappear behind his back.

“Uh, maybe if we was to do some flower arranging,” muttered Steely after grinding his yellowing teeth together for a short time. “Garlands and shit like that. Like camouflage,” he added, perking up. “We can hide behind ‘em and ambush the bugs when they show up, not like those sneaky pegasi.”

The Asinial diplomat somehow managed to look down his nose while looking up at the considerably taller minotaur. “It was rather unsporting of Cloudsdale to just leave when you began rolling out the siege artillery.”

Another faint grinding noise came from the minotaur’s flexing jaws as he huffed, “Raised our water rates too. The least they could have done was a skirmish or two. Buncha pansies.”

“Well, they had a schedule to keep, and an entire inventory of thunderclouds to deliver to the lightning festival at the Caprican Mountains,” pointed out Green Grass in a point that had been near the end of his cue cards for the morning meeting and that Twilight would be proud that he remembered after their somewhat delayed start to the morning.

“Yeah,” grumbled Steely. “Never get between goats and their parties, I suppose.”

“Speaking of parties,” said the Asinial diplomat, gesturing towards the open door to the diplomatic reception, “I’ve never seen His Majesty looking so hungover.”

The griffon emperor stood rather unsteadily in the middle of the wide doorway, with the somewhat smaller form of the nocturne wingmaster to one side much like an attack dog restrained from violence by a very small thread and an entirely theoretical leash. All of the conversation around the room slowly died out as the heavy griffon trundled forward in the direction of Princess Celestia, who met Emperor Ripping Claw with a very undiplomatic embrace and a kiss to the cheek right in the center of the reception.

“Oh, Rip,” she sighed once they separated. “You worried me half to death.”

“Fear not, Your Highness,” the emperor rumbled in return with a broad smile that only seemed slightly pale and strained, considering his situation a few hours previously. “I intend on living until you retire, so the two of us can elope to Haywaii and raise an entire nest of bouncing little hippogriffs.”

Celestia actually laughed at that, a joyous echoing sound like ringing bells that echoed around the room and brought an involuntary grin to the face of even the most glum diplomat. She drew one white wing across her own smile and gently flicked a few feathers into his face. “You had better be careful, Rip. Luna would be happy to sit on the throne for a few decades, and would spoil our little ones to no end.”

As the two rulers lowered their voices to a private conversation, Ambassador Steely nudged Green Grass with one elbow and pointed to the dark pegasus who remained at the emperor’s flank just as if he had been commanded to heel.

“So, that’s Emperor Ripping Claw’s newest wingmaster, eh? Does he lift?”

“I believe so,” said Green Grass, trying to figure a way around the next two inevitable questions that were to follow. “Pumpernickel is in medical rehabilitation for an earlier injury, so I would presume his weights and reps are not back up to normal. He does jog,” added Green Grass in a forlorn hope of changing the direction of the conversation.

Skipping the traditional Minos inquiry about the actual amount of mass said individual was able to lift and for how long, Steely went straight to the third question that Green Grass was dreading.

“So, does he spar?”

To Green Grass’ immense relief, he managed to spot a friendly face in one of the diplomatic pairings walking across the floor and he waved his old friend over. It had been over a year since he had seen Euripides, and from the muscular and silky zebra mare pacing by his side, the suave unicorn had not lost his touch with the ladies, as well as his sense of perfect timing.

“Lord Euripides,” exclaimed Green Grass with a short bow. “How good it is to see you again. And who is your companion this evening?”

During college, Green Grass had always thought that Euripides was destined to be a doctor who never saw the inside of a hospital or a lawyer who never saw a courtroom. Bedrooms had been more the style of the stylish unicorn who had such a perfect mane that he even made Graphite grind his teeth in frustration. The elegant young zebra mare to his side bent one knee in a short bow and a sweep of sultry eyes around the diplomatic grouping, all of whom subtly sucked in somewhat protruding stomachs or straightened slightly bent spines.

“Good morn, fellow diplomats. Lord Green Grass.” The zebra had a soft voice that caressed the ears and hardened just the slightest as that dark gaze swept over Ambassador ‘Honey Bear.’ “I am Ambassador Verdant from Southern Zebrica, and this is my husband, Euripides.”

“Good morn, Ambassador Verdant,” said Green Grass, shifting into his best behavior as he introduced the rest of his diplomatic grouping. “Steely Resolve, Gauntlet to the Right Fist of Minos. Senior Ambassador Burros from the Asinial Merchant Republic. Ambassador Honey Bear from the Badlands Confederacy of Small⁽¹⁾ Nations.” There was a faint shifting in the shadows around him and Green Grass felt a familiar touch on his flank, which he turned to with a brief nuzzle. “And Princess Twilight Sparkle, my future bride in just a little over thirty hours from now.”
(1) The Badlands Confederacy of Small Nations was somewhat of a misnomer. Some of the nations who made up the ruling body were so small they occupied the contested overlapping space between nations next to them, giving them technically a negative land area. Plus at least two of the supposed rulers shared rent on a small apartment/embassy in the lower levels of Canterlot, right next to the restaurant where they worked as kitchen staff.

“Good morning, everypony,” said Princess Twilight Sparkle. Her eyes shifted. “Good morning, Lord Euripides.”

The handsome unicorn did not respond. He also had apparently stopped breathing. Picking up his cue, Green Grass continued, “Twilight, I was just about to ask Ambassador Verdant about how she met her husband, Euripides. Until just a little over a year ago, he was still in Canterlot, and now I find out he’s already married.” He turned to the young zebra ambassador, who seemed to be imitating the same look of divine tranquility that Celestia could project at will. “Ambassador, I’m not sure if I should be congratulating you for catching one of my old classmates from college, or him for finding the most beautiful mare in Zebrica to marry.”

“I suppose you could congratulate us both,” she said with a diplomatic smile and a nod towards Twilight. “In another five months or so, we shall see the birth of our first foal.”

“Oh, how nice.” A short burst of mental calculations later, Green Grass added, “How did you two meet?” It was a far more diplomatic question than what he wanted to ask, which was how she managed to get Euripides into a wedding ring so quickly without having a spear pressed to his back.

“By good fortune⁽²⁾, actually.” Verdant cast a smoldering glance over her shoulder and batted her eyes at her husband. “Lord Euripides had just arrived in our country on a trip as a student physician with the medical group Médecins Sans Frontières, and my father directed me to see to their needs.”
(2) By coincidence, in Celestia’s school, the head of Canterlot University’s Foreign Experience Enrichment Program (FEEP) was also named Good Fortune. A former Royal Guard and rather large earth pony, he tended to show up at various Fraternity Houses after particularly memorable parties and right before the most memorable participants of said parties suddenly expressed an abrupt desire to go experience a foreign country for the next few years.

“Your father, the Achipeta Negus, of course,” said Twilight.

“Of course,” said Verdant with a slight inclination of the head towards Twilight. “I moved swiftly before my sisters and mothers could react, and captured him for my own in a matter of days.”

“Very prudent,” agreed ‘Ambassador Honey Bear.’

“It seems only proper to act preemptively when acquiring something of such obvious value,” said Ambassador Burros.

“Did you have to fight anyzebra? Were there changelings?” asked Steely Resolve with a bright gleam in his eye from the prospect of a good battle.

The subject of their conversation simply stood in place and cast an imploring look at Green Grass, who pointedly ignored it.

“Sadly, no,” said Verdant. “Our wedding was without incident. There are no changelings in Zebrica.” The Zebrican ambassador flickered a very subtle not-look at Ambassador ‘Honey Bear,’ indicating that perhaps said relocation of the unwanted pests had not been voluntary. Or non-lethal.

“No invasions?” Steely Resolve twitched, as if he were about to bring out the axe again. “No assassination attempts or military assaults? Don’t you ponies have anything interesting happen during your weddings?”

"I'm starting to wonder," said Green Grass, taking a quick look out of the nearby window.

“My mother-in-law attempted to have me jailed for embezzlement,” volunteered Ambassador Burros. “Only after the wedding, of course.”

“I’ve never gotten to complete a wedding,” said Honey Bear. “Too much outside meddling by the relatives, I suppose. Hold on. I think the griffon emperor is about to make an announcement.”

True to her words, Emperor Ripping Claw had moved to the lectern at the front of the room, and after a few brief coughs into a convenient kerchief, turned to address the assembled diplomats.

“My friends. This may be the last time I’m able to speak with all of you, so I shall endeavor to keep the normally long and rambling words of an old fool short. Last night, one of my people attempted to not only murder my entire flock, but to place the blame upon my oldest and dearest friend.”

There was a rising murmur among the diplomats, which he managed to quash almost effortlessly by raising one clawed fist. “Yes, I’m quite positive the culprit is one of my own, and with that in mind, I have ordered all of my subjects back to my flagship, which shall depart from Canterlot by this afternoon.” Those huge golden eyes tracked across the crowd and over to where Twilight and Green Grass were standing flank to flank.

“I’m sorry, young chicks, but as much as this old bird would love to see your wedding, it is far more important that I remove any threat to your pairing. A griffon has done this terrible deed, and since I do not know which of my flock is the guilty party, it is only prudent for me to remove them all from your presence. I hope you understand, if not now, then later after your chick is hatched.”

“I understand.” Twilight Sparkle stepped forward, one brisk step at a time with Green Grass following at her side until she reached up and placed both forelegs around his thick neck. “You are a true friend to Equestria, Emperor Ripping Claw.”

“The winds of friendship blow both ways, Princess Twilight.” Those massive taloned claws reached around to wrap around both Twilight and a startled Green Grass as the emperor returned the hug with delicate strength. “We are not yet ready to soar with your flocks. The ancient chill in our hearts prevent it.”

“Ice melts.” Twilight stepped back while trying to keep her expression diplomatically neutral. “I will see the day when griffon and pony share the skies, Emperor.”

“Yes, you will.” The emperor bobbed his head almost comically. “Until then, it would give this old bird great honor to have you and your young tiercel see me away to my airship this afternoon. I plan on making a show of it, for all of the pony press.” He winked. “It’s the last chance for you two lovebirds to elope to the Griffon Empire instead.”

“We shall be honored to see you to your ship, Emperor Ripping Claw,” answered Twilight over the amused chuckles of the assembled diplomats. “Although I believe we shall continue walking on our scheduled path to matrimony together as scheduled.”

Nopony remarked on the glowing magical zipper that had appeared over Green Grass’ mouth the moment that the griffon emperor had made his offer, and remained securely on his face until His Majesty had departed from the reception.

* *

“Ah, there you are,” remarked Green Grass as Papercut came around a corner in the corridor, being closely followed by two young Royal Guards. “You missed the entire party and it’s almost lunchtime. Were you showing Miss Crosswind your etchings?”

“Not exactly,” replied the unicorn servant, giving a cross glance at the guards in the otherwise empty corridor while pulling out his notes. “There have been several major alterations in your schedule that I’ve been dealing with. For starters, Princess Celestia Requests and Requires your presence in the Ice Blue Glacier Room in an hour, regarding ethics accusations made by His Royal Highness, Prince Blueblood. It seems there are some issues regarding your academic career that he was planning on taking up with Princess Celestia and Princess Twilight in a private meeting.”

After some consideration, Green Grass said, “If I’m supposed to be there, it doesn’t sound very private.”

“I get the distinct impression that Prince Blueblood does not know you are invited,” said Papercut, leafing forward a few pages on the schedule. “Also, I have one private matter that I need to discuss.” He paused, deliberately not looking at the two Royal Guards behind him, or the two alert guards who remained to either side of Green Grass as if they expected some griffon ninja to drop out of the rafters at any moment.

“That means you four,” said Green Grass. “Shoo. Give us just a minute. I promise I won’t get killed while you’re at the other end of the corridor.” Servant and prospective groom waited as the guards strode to opposite ends of the corridor, somehow making their brisk steps seem more of a truculent trudge until they reached a distance sufficient for a modicum of privacy. “So, have you heard anything from our mystery guest?” he asked Papercut, with his voice pitched in a near whisper.

“I’ve cleared out an hour at midnight for a rescheduled delivery of that ‘package’ to the elderly Istallion servant whom I told you about earlier,” started Papercut as he dug into his sidesaddle. “He, or agents in his employ, slipped me a note a little bit ago with the details.”

Papercut floated the note in question over to his employer while keeping his nervous glances up and down the empty corridor to a minimum. He remained silent while Green Grass read, only to add, “I don’t think having you deliver the… package this evening is a good idea, sir.”

“The alternative is far worse,” said Green Grass, tucking the note away in his brand new jacket and buttoning the pocket afterwards. “What makes you think our mysterious ‘friend’ is Istallion in origin, Papercut? From the phrasing of the notes and his accent when last we met, I thought he was from somewhere on the East Coat, perhaps Baltimare.”

“His rather obscene interjection when he caught wind of my… odor, sir.” Papercut shifted uncomfortably. “He was startled, and lost control of his accent for a few moments. Also, he seemed unusually nimble for a unicorn his apparent age. One moment he was there, and the next, exit stage left.”

Green Grass frowned. “Seems to be an odd turn of phrase.”

After a moment’s worth of consideration, Papercut agreed with a matching frown of his own. “True. I don’t know why I phrased it that way. It just seemed correct.”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Most of the meeting rooms in the castle were warm, inviting areas designed by the finest minds in Equestria to relax normally skittish ponies and put them into an agreeable frame of mind for whatever purpose Princess Celestia had invited them into her rather extensive house.

Not so the Ice Blue Glacier Room.

As its name suggested, the room was both a cool shade of blue and somewhat chilly, with just a hint of a breeze that tended to blow straight down the neck of any pony who was in the vicinity, no matter what direction they were facing. Very few gatherings used the small table and several chairs inside, despite the stunning view of Canterlot that could be seen out of the frosted pony-sized windows spread out across every speck of available wall space and a little more, due to a little creative spellscattering and some reinforcing spells. The floor even resembled a milky-white form of ice, translucent for the most part, but shockingly transparent in places that tended to catch a ground-bound pony’s eye as they walked across certain floor tiles, in particular the sections of floor that jutted out over the distant pavement below.

Both unicorns and earth ponies had been known to fling themselves out of the room with shrieks of panic. Pegasi merely thought the occasional unexpected glimpse of distant ground was cool. Green Grass was trying not to think of what alicorns thought of the phenomena, other than Celestia had intentionally reserved this particular room, therefore she had a particular reason for it, and he should take particular care not to muck things up.

Princess Celestia was currently reclining on a large cushion next to the table, which allowed her head to be nearly level with Princess Twilight Sparkle on her chair to one side, and Prospective Prince Green Grass on the other. The chairs were comfortable, despite the proximity to Her Royal Highness (Day Shift), and seemed to be considerably more padded than the hard crystal chair that Prince Blueblood was occupying on the other end of the table.

Between the Highnesses were several tall stacks of paper which Blueblood had brought into the meeting by floating them in his own magic and had dropped firmly on the table with a distinct glare at Green Grass. The gesture made him deeply appreciate the proximity of his future wife and future teacher-in-law, mostly for moral firepower, although to a certain degree, physical firepower too.

“Bluey,” said Celestia, interrupting Blueblood’s present tirade which seemed to be without a solid topic other than a repeated dislike of earth pony pretenders, “would you please get to the point. We have a wedding to plan.”

“There can be no wedding between the beautiful Princess Twilight Sparkle and this—” Blueblood spluttered in quite real indignation “—imposter!”

“He’s not a changeling!” snapped Twilight as some of the tension she had been suppressing for the last few weeks slipped out. “I check him out every time we meet. Sometimes twice.”

“Not that!” snorted Blueblood. “It is far worse. He is… a cheater!”

“Really?” Twilight seemed to be set back a step at that and eyed the stack of paper. “Those look like college notes.”

“Exactly!” exclaimed Blueblood as the stack of papers began to disassemble under Twilight’s magic and float over to her and Princess Celestia for closer examination. “When I found out that this charlatan had attended college in my honored and esteemed fraternity—”

“The only one that would put up with us,” added Green Grass while fighting a smile.

“—I was suspicious that his academic career—”

“Such as it was,” volunteered Green Grass.

“—had been falsified in some fashion. Well, when I consulted with my aged fraternal brothers, they permitted access to our research facility—”

“The frat house class crib notes,” translated Green Grass.

“—and to the archived tests—”

“Some of which have not changed since the founding of the school,” said Green Grass.

“—we uncovered evidence that the pony who took those notes could not have been the same pony who took the tests in Green Grass’ name!”

“Very neat and tidy,” said Princess Celestia with several sheets of paper spread out in front of her. “Your ancient Equish runic translations seem quite adequate, except for a tendency to reverse your qualifiers and nouns. What seems to be the problem, Twilight?”

The Princess of Friendship had extracted a smaller collection of notes and was busy chortling with one hoof held over her mouth as she paged through them. “It’s his tests from my mother’s class. Listen to this one.” Twilight cleared her throat and held the paper out of reach of a suddenly acquisitive future husband. “Definitions. Carrier Wave: A large bank of clouds suitable for the placement of at least two wings of Royal Guards on extended deployment. Hoofenburg’s Uncertainty Principle: You never can know what is in a sack lunch made by somepony else until you open the sack, no matter what it says on the outside. Neighton’s First Law: A male physicist will remain stuck in one place until sufficiently motivated by a spouse or parent to go get a real job that does not involve physics. No, wait!” she added as Green Grass climbed up on the table in a vain attempt to grab at the floating paper. “Standard Temperature and Pressure: The tendency for a thermostat to reach equilibrium at the comfort level of the most annoying pony in the room.” The pursued paper suddenly glowed violet and split into two copies, one of which floated over to the Royal Purse and tucked itself inside next to several paperback copies of wedding planning books.

“Strange,” remarked Celestia as she leafed through a section of notes. “These perfectly good notes don’t match his answers on the test. And Greenie’s name is right here on top of the page.”

“So you see!” gloated Blueblood, standing up from his chair and pointing dramatically. “The scoundrel hired a pony to take notes for him in class, which he neglected to even read afterwards!”

“Like you did?” asked Green Grass, who had returned the wayward test back into the collection and retrieved a short stack of papers in its place. These notes were every bit as neat and tidy as the other, only titled ‘H.R.H. Blueblood XLIII’ across the top in excruciatingly neat print. “The frat brothers mentioned something about your scribe when I was researching the class, so I checked. He was doing a pretty good job with your physics notes and tests until Twilight Velvet threw him out of class for making a pass at her. Then there was a significant drop in quality.”

Green Grass produced a sheet of paper that matched fairly well with the previous notes, at least until after the elaborately scripted name. Then it degraded into a set of rather disconnected scribbles, several intricate drawings of mares, and the word ‘boring’ repeated until the bottom of the page.

My academic record is not in dispute here!” snorted Blueblood, snatching the paper out of Green Grass’ grasp.

“Are you quite certain, my nephew?” said Celestia as she flipped through a set of similar notes. “If a certain amount of academic achievement is required for a pony to wed Princess Twilight, Greenie seems well qualified. Take his notes on Contractual Law here.” She cleared her throat entirely unnecessarily. “In the event a defendant breaches a contract for the sale of goods, plaintiff is entitled to specific performance when?” She eyed Blueblood when the answer was not immediately forthcoming. “Bluey?”

Blueblood appeared startled. “I… In two weeks?”

“If the plaintiff cannot reasonably obtain cover,” completed Green Grass.

Very interesting,” said Celestia. “And correct. Quite different than your test.” She held up a second sheet of paper with a large red zero at the top. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen anypony get a zero on this many multiple choice tests before. In fact, I believe Professor Legal Aid never had a student score a perfect zero in his entire class before. The odds against somepony guessing incorrectly on every single question are astronomical.”

“I really did not want to be a lawyer, Princess Celestia,” explained Green Grass.

“Probably a good thing,” said Celestia with a sigh. “We have so many of them. Still, I can’t help but notice that the notes you took for your fraternity are done in quite precise hornwriting.”

“Ah-HA!” shouted Prince Blueblood, striking a familiar hoof-pointing pose.

"Which is why I invited several other ponies to our little discussion today," continued Princess Celestia. "Lady Velvet. April Showers. Would you come here please?"

A side door to the room opened up and two ponies walked in. Twilight Velvet seemed unintimidated by the occasional transparent patch of flooring under her hooves as she strode towards the desk, but Green Grass' older sister was obviously shying away from the apparent holes with tentative hoof-pokes to ensure good footing. Green Grass wanted to get up and give his older sister a long-delayed hug, as it had been months since they had last met, but Celestia gave just the slightest flicker of attention in his direction and crushed that idea in its infancy.

But she was unable to prevent the smile that grew on his face as he caught a glimpse of a tiny glint of gold around his sister's alabaster horn.

"Prince Blueblood," started Celestia with a wave of one gold-clad hoof. "I would like to introduce Lady Twilight Velvet, the mother of the young mare that you wish to wed in Green Grass' place."

"We've met," said Twilight Velvet through thin lips and with a certain spark to her eyes that bespoke of a wish for one of her kitchen knives and a few unsupervised minutes with the prince.

"Also, I would like to present Lady April Showers, who has just been recently become engaged to Quantum Valebant, one of the junior members of Possidetis, Vinculum and Consensus, a fine law firm in Fillydelphia who has argued several cases before our court."

"Why are they here?" asked Blueblood in an impressive display of cluelessness, doubled when one considered just how long he had spent around Princess Celestia.

Instead of answering right away, Celestia separated several sheets of what looked like chicken scratches and floated them over to April Showers, who promptly blushed a shade of pink that nearly matched her softly-flowing mane. "April, do you recognize these?"

"It's been a few years, Your Highness," said April Showers in a breathy alto, "but they look like Greenie's shorthoof notes in Ponyponesian History. Yes, there's the introductory section where Dusty Whitherspoon talked about the sociological impact on Equestrian society of the discovery of multiple pre-diaspora civilizations in the heart of the Needlespine Jungles and the cyclical volcano eruptions that caused the various island populations to become more homogeneous."

"And yet here are his Ponyponesian History notes that were placed into the Phi Ipsilon Epsilon research files," said Celestia, floating out another stack of papers with neat and tidy writing in polite rows, quite unlike the scratches and commas of the previous sheets. "Explain please?"

"Well," started April Showers with a beseeching look at her quiet and quite well-behaved little brother, "there was this little scheduling screw-up in Greenie's first year in college. He had been enrolled in Prop Law by my parents and he wanted to take the history course. The classes were scheduled in the same period, and I had it free, and somehow he talked me into taking the law course."

"For him?" prompted Celestia.

"Oh, no," said April. "With him. Well, he went to the history class and took shorthoof notes, I took notes in the law class, and we got together with his frat brothers every evening after class to edit them up. He would never have been able to do it without a permission slip signed by the Dean of the History Department, or at least I thought it was signed by him."

April cast a rather suspicious glance at her little brother, who shrugged. "Somepony cleaning the office may have slipped it into his paperwork one morning. Totally a coincidence. Go on, sis."

"Anyway," continued April with a brief and practiced sigh, "he aced the history course. Property Law, not so much. The last exam, Professor Legal Aid literally sat right across from him and watched his every move, like a cat watching a mousehole. He was positive Greenie was cheating. He even threatened to give him an A+."

"A cruel, cruel instructor," said Green Grass, wiping away an invisible tear.

"Obviously not that cruel," said Celestia, looking through a folder. "The rest of your fraternity brothers all scored fairly high A's."

"See!" said Blueblood with a return of the accusatory hoof. "Not only a cheater, but an academic failure of the highest order!"

"They called him 'Curveball' at the frat," said April. "Those first few years, they used to beg him to take certain classes just to lower the grading curve. I did all of his fraternity note translations from shorthoof until I graduated and he found this cute little red-maned filly—"

"That's enough!" protested Green Grass, trying to get a hoof over his sister's mouth.

"But the two of you were so adorable together," said April, keeping out of reach of her brother with an ease that bespoke of much practice. "What was her name? Moonprancer or something? Frost says the two of you would sit in Dad's library for hours, just sitting there writing and reading without saying a word, like two frogs on a log."

"She was taking some very advanced magical theory classes," said Green Grass with as much indignation as he could muster. "She got a quiet place to study and I had somepony to transcribe my shorthoof neat enough to go into the frat files."

"And coincidentally, Mom and Dad saw you socializing with a female unicorn, which kept them off your tail about this 'marriage' thing they had gotten so stuck on since your grades in their preferred classes were so low." April shook her head. "You know, if you had just passed your Law classes instead of fighting Mom and Dad so much, you might have liked it."

"Yeah, that may be true, but I wouldn't be where I am today." The corner of Green Grass' mouth turned up in a smirk. "By the way, congratulations on the engagement. Can I borrow your prospective partner as groomstallion for our wedding? You see, Pumpernickel was supposed to be there, but there was this—"

"Can we please get back to the topic!" thundered Blueblood, looking a little red in the face.

"Which is your belief that Green Grass is morally or scholastically unsuited to marry Princess Twilight Sparkle," said Celestia. "I believe your arguments have been proven completely without merit. Now as I understand tradition," continued Celestia with what must have been the understatement of the century, "your next option is going to be challenging Lord Green Grass to a duel for the honor of Twilight's horn in marriage. Is that right, Bluey?"

Blueblood paused with the expression of somepony who had just walked into a minefield and heard a faint but distinct 'click' under one hoof. "Challenging a marriage proposal by combat has always been an option among the Unicorn Royals," he stated, although in a very weak voice.

"With the challenged getting the choice of weaponry," finished Celestia, "subject to various contingencies of the times. I believe jousting by horn is the current fad, correct?"

Blueblood took a breath to respond, but paused as he looked at Green Grass' round and very un-horned head.

“Since the groom appears to be unable to engage in a fair fight under those terms⁽¹⁾,” said Celestia, “an alternative method of settling your dispute is called for.”
(1) Although Shining Armor had volunteered his services as a second in any duel, Green Grass had turned him down ahead of time⁽²⁾ under the excuse that Princess Celestia must have some sort of positive role planned for Blueblood, and to have her nephew trounced to the degree that Shining Armor was likely to trounce⁽³⁾ might be displeasing to her.
(2) Prince Blueblood was fairly predictable. Green Grass even had the duel threat on his schedule.
(3) Said reason having nothing to do with Blueblood's marriage proposal⁽⁴⁾ to Princess Cadence several years prior.
(4) Said proposal had considerably less drama and bodily injury than his other two princess proposals. Cadence simply said 'No' quite firmly and returned the ring.

Twilight Velvet stepped forward and placed two short stacks of paper on the table, each of them entitled ‘Final Exam - Physical Sciences 104’

While Blueblood fought an outburst of anger and Green Grass fought to keep from laughing, Celestia continued, "Since both of your final grades in the course were nearly identically abysmal, and since Twilight Sparkle is a source of contention between you, it seems only rational to engage in a competition more to her natural preferences."

"This is outrageous!" thundered Blueblood, slamming a hoof down on the table.

"Where are the pencils?" asked Green Grass.

Spluttering incoherently, Blueblood slammed his chair away from the table and stomped out of the room, the heavy clatter of his hooves getting fainter in the distance until they had faded away entirely. That was not to say silence had completely taken over the room. There was a distinct and somewhat unsubtle giggling coming from April Showers, who had sat down on the floor and was holding a foreleg over her face, a faint grinding of teeth coming from Twilight Sparkle, and a look of pure smugness on Twilight Velvet's face that somehow was nearly audible.

"Whew, that was close," said Green Grass, sagging back in his chair and wiping his forehead. "For a minute there, it looked like I was going to have to take this darned test again before I could marry Twilight."

Celestia smiled and produced a small grouping of lead pencils, which she floated down to the side of Green Grass' exam. "You have two hours. Begin."