"But... we're supposed to announce one of your great deeds!"
"Ah, but who gets to say which deeds are great?"
The guard nervously stammered and shuffled, looking around. Twilight gave him a placating smile.
"Look, you won't get in any trouble. Just do as I instructed, okay?"
"If... you're sure it's alright."
Twilight nodded, a mischievous grin forming. A few minutes later, she was entering the ballroom under the announcement of 'Twilight Sparkle, Tutor of the Cutie Mark Crusaders'. A few heads turned her way, recognizing her name, but without the title of 'princess', most of the attendees seemed to gloss over her entrance.
Good. If they're going to insist on having royal guards at these things, then at least I can make them introduce me how I want!
Twilight adjusted her glasses and slipped into the room, angling straight for the schoolboard representatives for Ponyville. Attending random state functions across Equestria had given her a lot of unexpected insights into the country's structure, and now she was going to put it to use close to home.
Didn't have the bits to fix the playground equipment, huh? Well that's not what I heard, buddy! You better have a good explanation for where those donation bits from the local chamber of commerce went!
Twilight's grin was growing somewhat manic as she approached her prey, and she considered what she would do if their answers didn't satisfy her.
Perhaps I'll write a report to Celestia, hmm? It was so easy to turn down the schoolponies when they asked, but we'll see how easily you lie to Celestia face-to-face! Oooh, maybe I can be like her spy, getting around, seeing what's really—
Twilight's train of thought was derailed as she heard somepony raise their voice outside the entrance to the building.
Was that Luna's voice? She's not supposed to be here... is she?
She heard the guard outside respond in what sounded like a pleading tone, only to be reprimanded with another yell.
Twilight broke into a gallop back to the door, slipping through and closing it behind her. Before her was Luna, reared on her hind two legs, yelling and flailing her forelegs at the poor guard who, for his part, had his ears laid back and his posture reduced, but appeared more apologetic than outright afraid. Seeing Twilight, Luna, landed on her forelegs and turned her fury down a notch.
"Twilight! Didst you not hear how this guard introduced you? He claims t'was your idea!"
Twilight almost smirked at Luna's odd verbal lapse into archaic speech, but quickly focused on the problem at hand.
"It was my idea, Luna! He was just doing his job!"
To Twilight's surprise, Luna seemed to grow more irate at that. Her eyes quickly tracked to Twilight's dress, and then back to her face.
"Princess Twilight, what is the meaning of this?! You would deliberately conceal your station? Why?!"
Twilight raised a hoof in a placating gesture, hoping that Luna's volume wasn't carrying inside too much.
"It's not really about concealment, Luna! I'm just – I just wanted to be introduced on slightly different terms than, you know, 'Hey, I'm a princess'! I want ponies to get to know me first, so they won't judge me based on my title."
Luna's expression turned a bit darker.
"I believe I know what you mean. I have had some experience with ponies being afraid of me, as you know, but... does this mean that your association with us, with me... is something you are ashamed of?"
Twilight's mind came to a screeching halt looking at Luna's forlorn expression. Then her mind promptly exploded with a variety of half-formed thoughts to the effect of 'No, I would never think that, Luna.' Unfortunately, her mouth attempted to translate all of those half-formed thoughts and feelings at once, resulting in Twilight making something of a wheezing, choking sound for a second, and then spluttering a bit.
"Wha—No-nonono-NO! No! Never, never, no! No! I don't feel ashamed, it's – it's a great honor, Luna! I deeply respect all three of you! No, it's nothing like that!"
Luna seemed somewhat surprised by the outburst, but her forlorn expression turned to confusion.
"What is it, then? Why would you hide your station so?"
"Oh, I wish Cadance had explained this to you... Look, I don't mind admitting I am a princess, not to anyone! It's just, that's not always the first thing I want them to know about me. I'd prefer them to see me as Twilight first, you know? It's not because being a princess is negative, it's kind of the opposite – a lot of ponies are afraid to talk to me. I don't want that!"
Luna contemplated that for a bit, a small frown forming.
"But, if you do as you say, then they will see you as a peer first. Even after they discover you are a princess, that will be the dominant perception."
Twilight nodded enthusiastically. "That's the idea!"
Luna shook her head. "But you are not their peer, Twilight. You are their ruler. Doing as you say, you erode your authority – and you are denying yourself the chance to be recognized for your achievements."
Wow. I hadn't really thought of it that way, but...
Twilight chewed her lip for a few moments before answering. "I had said to Cadance before, my title... my responsibility... as the princess of friendship, I think maybe I'm in a bit of a different position than the rest of you. What I need isn't authority, it's... well, it's friendship. I mean, heh, I guess that's a bit obvious, buuuuut..."
Twilight uneasily trailed off, waving a hoof and smiling uneasily. Luna just silently regarded her, chewing her own lip a little in contemplation.
"Would you really rather that others not know of your accomplishments, though? Will it not sting to do so much with so little in return?"
Twilight shrugged instinctively.
"That never seemed so important to me. I mean... I'd rather have their friendship than their admiration, you know?"
Twilight spoke casually, not thinking much of it, but when she saw Luna's expression, she started to wonder if she had said something horrible. Luna looked like she was a thousand miles away, her mouth hanging open slightly, and her gaze directed at the sky slightly. She opened and shut her mouth a couple of times wordlessly before finally responding.
"Of course, Twilight. You must do as you see fit – and know that I and my sister will do what we can to support you in your efforts."
Luna smiled uneasily after speaking, an expression Twilight was unused to seeing on her. It set off alarm bells in her head, but she wasn't sure what to make of it.
"Luna? Are you alright?"
"Yes, certainly. I am fine. This was all simply unexpected."
Luna bowed to the guard, and apologized for berating him, before turning back to Twilight.
"I will take my leave. Enjoy your evening, Twilight."
Twilight wordlessly watched Luna take off, unsure of whether to call after her to see what was wrong, or just let her go. She finally decided to head back in and try to enjoy the evening as Luna had suggested, only to find all eyes in the house on her as soon as she walked in the door. She felt like a pony in the spotlight on stage, and awkwardly waved a hoof and smiled at the crowd.