Rarity had to be careful, very careful. If not, it could be the second worst thing that happened during this entire trip, after the horrible way she had treated Twilight. It could spell certain doom for her.
After all, Prince Blueblood was standing not five feet from her, and if he turned his head just a few inches to his left, she’d be spotted.
Slowly she backed away, thankful the spoiled unicorn was too absorbed in Twilight’s singing to notice her. Unfortunately, she ended up backing into the side of another pony.
“Ah, Rarity, so good to bump into you again,” Fancypants chuckled. “Though I must admit, I wasn’t expecting it to happen so literally.”
The white unicorn blushed, turning to face him. “Oh, Fancypants, I’m so sorry...I was distracted, you see...”
“I did see,” he assured. “Attempting to avoid Prince Blueblood. I take it you’ve had a personal encounter with him?”
Rarity gave a weak smile. “Yes, the last Grand Galloping Gala I attended didn’t quite land me the dream date I was hoping for.”
The unicorn stallion simply grinned. “Yes, I heard of that, it made me regret having to miss the Gala that year. Reports of a cake covered mare really letting the Blueblood have it were all over Canterlot. Many agreed it was worth the event being destroyed if it meant seeing that twit get his just desserts. But I didn’t know that mare was you.”
Rarity felt the blush creep back onto her face. “I didn’t exactly want it advertised. I was grateful he didn’t recognize me at any of the events I was invited to back when we met.”
Fancypants nodded understandingly, adjusting his monocle. “Believe me, even Jet Set and Upper Crust believe he’s too self-absorbed. Well then, perhaps he won’t bother you if he sees you dancing with a handsome gentlecolt. May I?”
The purple maned pony blushed. “Won’t Fleur be angry?”
“Oh don’t worry,” the stallion assured. “Fleur won’t mind me dancing with a friend. Besides, the poor dear was feeling a bit under the weather, so she remained home.”
Rarity smiled. “It would be by honor.”
The pair was out on the dance floor before Twilight’s first song was over, both of them moving with flow and grace to the end of the song, through Pinkie’s rendition of “Equestria Girls” to Twilight once again taking back the microphone. Octavia then stepped up with her slow songs.
The musical earth pony got through three songs of slow dancing before Vinyl Scratch interrupted one of them midway through by switching to a more upbeat tune. Octavia glared at the unicorn, who only gave a wicked grin while bobbing her head up and down. Finally, she rolled her eyes and stormed off, leaving the deejay to have free reign over the stage.
At this point, the pair decided they had had enough dancing and excused themselves from the dance floor. Stopping to get two mugs of cider from the buffet table, the pair had a seat at one of the tables.
“Well, I must say your dancing is quite lovely.”
“You flatter me,” Rarity replied. Now having her wits about her, she didn’t blush at his compliments, she merely batted her eyelashes flirtatiously.
Fancypants smiled coyly, taking a sip of his cider. “So, tell me what happened at the Gala.”
Despite all his high-class training, Fancypants was finding it difficult to suppress his laughter. “So you actually smashed your glass slipper?”
“Well, had I been thinking clearly I would have simply picked it up, but the thought of seeing Blueblood again made me panic. Honestly, how does he merit an invitation to so many events?”
The stallion just sighed. “He’s a prince. One who will hardly do anything beyond his basic duties, but a prince nonetheless. Having him in your parties is good for any of those social climbers that make up most of the elite,” he noted, some clear disapproval in his voice. “I swear, if they didn’t contribute so much to my philanthropic pursuits, I wouldn’t associate with them either.”
Rarity nodded understandingly. If Fancypants wasn’t a prince, he might as well be. His constant charity work had greatly influenced a good deal of Equestria, to the point where Princess Celestia had commended him publicly.
“Well, would you look at that,” Fancypants commented suddenly, looking up at the sky.
Rarity turned in that direction, and gave a little gasp. After all, seeing one of her best friends flying off with a Wonderbolt was not something that happened every day.
“Rainbow Dash?” she asked out loud.
“Ah, yes, that’s one of your friends, isn’t it? She’s a lucky mare, Soarin is quite a gentlecolt.”
“You know him personally?” Rarity asked, a bit surprised.
“Yes, he’s a regular contributor to my charity events. He’s not much for the high life, so he doesn’t attend unless I request a show for the events. Still, he’s a good stallion, your friend is in good hooves.”
Rarity couldn’t help but put on a sincere grin at her friend’s fortune. “After the day we’ve had, I think she deserves pleasantries,” she couldn’t help but muse.
“Yes, the changeling invasion was quite harrowing. I can’t imagine how you must be feeling after being in the middle of the whole thing.”
The unicorn mare sighed. “It’s not so much that...” she began, but stopped, unsure if this was something to bring up to an acquaintance such as him.
Fancypants noticed his date’s hesitation. “You can tell me,” he assured. “You’ve been at the epicenter of the three biggest threats to Equestria in recent memory. Oh yes, I am aware of your accomplishments, even if most of the elite are not. After all you’ve done, the least I can do is listen.”
Rarity was briefly taken aback by the fact that a pony outside of Ponyville was actually acknowledging her heroism before sighing. For the next few minutes, she told the upper-class stallion what had happened earlier that day. How Twilight had seen the problem coming, how all of them had coldly ignored her warnings, how they had left her to face the Changeling Queen heartbroken and alone, and how she had been so quick to forgive them after such treatment.
“She does admit she acted irrationally while trying to warn us, and that we were justified in not believing her. I can’t say I don’t see her logic, but I can’t help but feel awful.”
Fancypants nodded. “Well, that’s understandable. Twilight sounds like a good friend to have, it’s quite natural you’d feel bad at having hurt her.”
She sighed. “Do you remember that dress she wore at the garden party?”
“I do indeed, it was very charming.”
“That wasn’t the dress I intended to make for her. I had a whole ensemble planned with glorious feathers, and enough shining sequins to make Sapphire Shores jealous. But I chose attending all those events you and the others invited me too instead of finishing it.”
“Something you’ve regretted I’m guessing.”
“I do, and it wasn’t the only mistake I made. Looking back on that design again...it was all wrong for her. Glittery, frilly, a hat that covered her horn...she prides herself on her magic, you see...I wasn’t thinking about her. I was thinking about showing up ponies like Jet Set and Upper Crust. When she saw that simple thing she was wearing, she loved it, because it was so simple and practical.” She shook her head. “And when she found out I was skipping out on her birthday to attend your garden party, she let me go with her blessing, she understood it was important for my business.”
“A good friend indeed,” Fancypants agreed. “And I take it the day’s events have made you feel that guilt all over again?”
Rarity nodded sadly. “Indeed. But it’s quite a bit worse than that.”
Fancypants put on a puzzled expression. “Go on...”
“Twilight’s a dear, really...she’s put up with a lot from us. My horrid mistake was just one instance. There have been other times when we’ve let her down. And every time, she’s been quick to forgive us. Even today...when I made the same mistake I made months ago.”
“You feel like you let her down for the sake of your business again?”
“Exactly,” Rarity said simply. “It’s what we were all thinking. I wanted my dresses to be worn in a royal wedding to generate more business. Applejack wanted the food grown on her farm to be tasted by the elite, to boost sales of her produce. Rainbow Dash wanted to perform her flying to get more notice from the Wonderbolts. Pinkie Pie wanted the honor of planning the reception, and perhaps was interested in the commission as well...she’s a party planner for the bakery she works for, you see...and Fluttershy wanted to let the birds she trained perform before royalty. Twilight tried to assure us that we had every reason to doubt her, but I can’t help but feel she’s giving us too much credit for how badly we hurt her.”
She stopped. Even with her usual composure, it was hard to stop herself from sobbing again. “If you had just seen her face, you’d understand. She looked as if we ripped her heart out. Honestly, when we went up to apologize, we were all bracing ourselves for an absolute volley of insults. I actually brought up a cough drop because I expected the poor dear to yell at us until her throat bled. But she was so calm and dismissive. Honestly...it made each and every one of us feel even worse.”
“I see,” Fancypants nodded. “Well, from what you described, I’d say the average pony would be a bit less forgiving. But considering that there are other factors here that weren’t present when we first met, must you really be so hard on yourself? She herself acknowledges her shortcomings.”
The mare nodded. “That has occurred to me, but it’s not a thought that soothes me very well.” She paused, wondering the best way to put this. “I’m the one who holds the Element of Generosity, so I guess I simply feel like I betrayed myself...though I guess a lot of us did today,” she gave a bitter chuckle. “Rainbow Dash has the Element of Loyalty, yet she turned her back on a friend in favor of somepony she’d just met. Fluttershy’s the Element of Kindness, yet she coldly broke Twilight’s heart along with the rest of us.”
“Hmmm...” the stallion rubbed his chin in thought. “So, you think the others feel the way you do?”
“I know Rainbow Dash does,” she replied. “With how emotional she became during our apology, it has to be that. She usually puts on a façade to toughness, you see, really hates getting emotional. I’m not sure about the others at the moment, but I know they all still feel guilty, regardless of their reasons why.”
“I see,” Fancypants nodded. “So I assume you’re going to tell the others of your thoughts, then sit down with them until you manage to talk this out.”
“I really don’t see what else I could do,” Rarity confirmed. “We need to fully let everything out. No pony goes through this kind of guilt and heartbreak and comes out with no emotional baggage.”
“I should say not. But tell me, you said that Twilight believes she herself was responsible for not being believed. Do you think she might be harboring some guilt the same way as you are?”
Rarity opened her mouth to give her answer, only to stop when she realized she had none. “I…I’m not sure. She seemed so calm, but…”
Suddenly, she wanted to kick herself all over again. “How could I…” she trailed off in frustration. Forgetting her upper class manners, she lowered her head against the table. “Oh, I don’t believe myself! I was so relieved at being forgiven…the poor dear must be hurting thinking of how she lost control. Oh, how could I miss that?”
“Don’t feel bad,” Fancypants assured. “You’re close to an emotional situation. I’m an outside observer. It’s easier for me to see the big picture when I’m farther away. It’s simple pony nature, nothing to be ashamed of.”
Rarity sighed. “I suppose…believe me, I know Twilight. She has a lot of pride in her intelligence, but very little in her worth as a friend, regardless of how great of one she is. When we first met, she’d overreact to any little thing she thought might make us think less of her. I have no doubt she’s tearing herself up over this, and putting on a brave face for us.”
Her date nodded in understanding. “Well, then that’s something else to discuss tomorrow. That’s the best you can do, correct?”
The mare sighed. “I suppose…”
“Tell me, are you worried about the future of your group of friends? Are you afraid that maybe you’ll never recover from this?”
“Not in the slightest,” Rarity assured, with enough confidence that it left no doubt in her date’s mind. “We’re all very close, and we’ve had our falling outs. This isn’t the first time our friendship has been tested, and Celestia knows it won’t be the last, but we’ve always recovered splendidly. We will make it through this.”
Fancypants gave a warm smile. “That is something of which I have no doubt.”
She smiled at the compliment. Then she blushed. “I’m terribly sorry, this is inappropriate conversation for an event like this.”
“Quite alright,” the stallion assured. “As I’ve said, the least I can do is give you a chance to get a few things off your chest.”
“Well, I do feel better talking to a third party,” she admitted. “Still, let’s not dwell on this any longer. How have you been these last few months?”
“Just fine. My stocks are still up, and my last charity fundraiser managed to get some good money raised for better treatment of the donkeys and mules that live in Equestria. How about you? How is Carousel Boutique doing?”
“Just fabulous! Oh, those referrals I received from your party guests really gave my business a boost! And Hoity Toity even ordered another dozen items for his next fall line. And with me designing all the dresses for this wedding, I’m bound to get more business than ever.”
The philanthropist pony grinned. This was exactly the opening he was looking for. “Actually, I was hoping to discuss that with you.”
Rarity blinked in surprise. “You want to commission me for an outfit?” she asked hopefully.
“Six, actually. I’m holding a charity auction to try and raise bits to help support the children in Zebrica. Dreadful conditions there, I’m afraid.”
“Yes, I’m aware,” the mare assured. “A zebra lives on the outskirts of Ponyville. She has told us of the conditions of her country.”
“Really?” Fancypants asked, generally surprised. “Such an unusual occurrence for Equestria. Zebras hardly leave their homeland.”
Rarity nodded. “I know what you mean. We all assumed she was a pony who painted stripes on herself until Twilight informed us otherwise.”
“Yes, many of the more rural areas of Equestria have never even heard of zebras.” It wasn’t condescending, just a statement of fact. “Anyway, dresses designed by the designer of the latest royal wedding would be big ticket items. I was hoping to commission half a dozen from you. How quick can you have them ready?”
“I managed to make six dresses for my friends and myself in less than a week, I can manage an important order in the same amount of time.”
“Splendid! Then I will drop by Ponyville in about ten days to pick up my purchase. And I would very much like to meet this zebra. What’s her name?”
“Zecora. She was a doctor by trade in Zebrica, and she still handles some of the more unusual cases in town.”
“Well, ask her if she’d care to contribute anything to the auction. It is for her homeland, after all.”
Rarity tilted her head at this. “Would anypony in the upper class care for a genuine Zebrican object?”
“They would if I said it was worth having,” he replied simply. This time he did speak in a condescending tone, not towards Rarity, however, but to the mindless conformity that constantly surrounded him.
“I suppose that’s true. Anywho, assuming nothing unexpected happens, your order should be ready by the time you arrive. I’ll be ready for you. Will Fleur be coming with you?”
“Oh yes, she is interested in seeing Ponyville. It would help remind her of her hometown.”
Rarity blinked. “Wait, you mean...Fleur is a country pony?”
“Oh yes, she comes from a small town, very much like you. I first met her when she came to Canterlot for some formal education. You see, she has always detested the way the upper class tends to, in a majority, look down on other classes. She got her cutie mark when she realized she wanted to learn social and cultural studies in order to bring the classes together. So she came from her hometown to here. Even without a big city makeover, she was just as lovely then as she is now.” The stallion sighed, smiling at the mere memory of the first meeting with his wife.
“Oh my,” Rarity said, giggling at the thought. “That sounds so romantic.”
“Indeed,” he sighed, still looking through his memories. “The first mare I ever met who wasn’t interested in me for my bits. We fell in love so fast...”
Fancypants looked dreamily into space for a few moments before remembering where he was. Blushing slightly, he readjusted his monocle. “Forgive me, I tend to drift off when thinking of that...”
“That’s quite alright,” Rarity assured, “after you listened to me ramble on about my situation with Twilight, I feel it’s the least I can do.”
The rich stallion smiled appreciatively. “Anywho, we’ll be there in about ten days, if you need any more time message me by fire and we’ll reschedule. Do you have a fireplace capable of doing that?”
“I do not, but Twilight’s assistant Spike can send and receive messages the same way, so it won’t be a problem.”
“Excellent. Now, let me tell you a little about what I want in the order...”
The two unicorns talked for the next hour over some specifics that would be appreciated in Rarity’s designs. All throughout, however, the issue of Twilight lingered in the back of her mind, a nagging voice that wouldn’t be drowned out, even by a prospect as exciting as getting a major a client as Fancypants.
When she first got the invitation to put on the wedding, she was convinced it would be a night that would never end. Now, she wanted nothing more than for it to be over, for it to be the next morning, so that she could get a chance to talk to her friend again, and for them to be back in Ponyville, to get some assurance that things were back to normal between them.