• Published 13th Oct 2011
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To Be a Better Stallion - Autumn Wind



Blueblood works hard to improve in order to regain Rarity's affections.

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Chapter the Third - He Wears a Mask

Atop the tallest hill in all of Sweet Apple Acres stood Risky Roots, the most adventurous tree on the farm, and the only one to have the courage to grow in such an odd place. Through the years, the young sapling had been a pioneer: innovating, standing strong, and making an example of itself. Its chosen place was an odd one for sure, but Risky was sticking to its choice. Its growth had proven it fully capable of making its ambitions come true.

Today, the apple tree was in the company of a kindred soul. In its shade, Big Macintosh stood proudly, looming over his little kingdom. A long time ago, his ancestor, Cortland Apple, had purchased this land with the ambition of making it one of the largest and most prosperous orchards in all of Equestria. A dozen generations later, that dream had long been fulfilled. The passion had been passed down from parents to children generation after generation, and there was no end in sight to this wonderful dream.

Ma and pa sure did good work on this farm back when they were around, just like Grandpa and Granny Smith before them. Applejack’s doing great in following pa’s legacy, and I’m willin’ to bet little Apple Bloom will be the one to finally return the barn to its former glory when she grows up.

Of course, he was no pushover himself, balancing equal parts backbreaking labor and organized bookkeeping to keep the farm standing. Today, Granny Smith hadn’t much left in her except to live peacefully through her days, sharing words of wisdom and delicious recipes with family and friends alike. However, Big Macintosh knew just how major her contributions had been to the farm. Back when she had been a younger and more energetic mare, Granny Smith had been the brains of the operation. It was thanks to her that Sweet Apple Acres had become a well-known name and that several towns in Equestria regularly purchased large amounts of their produce, allowing them to greatly expand the farm’s potential.

As her successor in the farm’s management, Big Macintosh had a plan of his own: He would make Sweet Apple Acres the first orchard to ever sell apples to lands outside of Equestria. She had taught him well in the ways of business, and he would make her proud.

Big Macintosh smiled peacefully. There was nothing quite like spring at the orchard. Much like a choir singing out in one voice, the trees offered a perfect harmony of flowers, giving the gift of a flood of bright colors and sweet scents to any willing spectator.

The stallion was pulled out of his contemplation by a speck of bright white in the distance, which was soon revealed to be a white unicorn stallion walking down the path leading to the farm from Ponyville.

That crazy party filly, the rainbow pegasus, Princess Celestia’s personal student, and now that highfalutin’ noble. I swear, Applejack, you have a knack for running into the strangest ponies.

As he set out towards the farm’s main entrance to greet the incoming guest, Big Macintosh thought about the next few days, wondering just how things would work. He had agreed to help Prince Blueblood, of course, knowing that the colt was genuinely seeking to change. The Apple family was always open to strangers in need.

That being said, he also had to think about the farm. It was planting season, and it was very important for the work to get done as soon as possible. The pegasus weather report had warned of a series of spring showers in the afternoon culminating into an overnight rainstorm. He’d need to wrap up work earlier today if he didn’t want to get stuck working under the weather.

A sudden flash of inspiration brought these two ideas together, causing an amused smile to manifest on Big Macintosh’s face. This was going to be hilarious.

~~~

Prince Blueblood observed the farm from a distance as he approached. Over the hilly terrain, he could only see the leafy crowns of the flower-clad trees as he approached, and the scenery was magnificent and colorful, a noble sight indeed.

So, these are the famed Sweet Apple Acres I have heard about. This certainly seems like a nice place. The flowers are a nice touch.

However, as he closed the distance separating him from a clearer view of the orchard, Blueblood lost control of his jaw as he stared in shock. All over the orchard was loose earth. More loose earth than he had ever laid eyes on. He had expected that the paths between the trees would have been paved with stone tiles or other materials of the sort, or at least, at the bare minimum, gravel. Apparently, even that much had been denied. Coming to a sudden stop, Blueblood gasped in horror.

“W-what is this travesty! It’s… an ocean of dirt! Oh, the horror! It’s a cornucopia of filth! The Promised Land of all that is unclean! The El Dorado of mud and stains! Why must this world make a mockery of me?”

Dirt. So much dirt. More dirt than the eye could see. More dirt than he ever could have imagined. A heavenly roof of flowers over a horrible pit of dirt. Prince Blueblood found himself shaking in place, nervous at the idea of having to set hoof in that place. How would he ever keep his coat clean in such a place? Maybe it wasn’t too late to turn tail and flee...

No, no. I can’t back out now. I have my honor. Prince Blueblood does not back down in the face of adversity... or dirt.

Prince Blueblood swallowed nervously. He focused for a moment, and his horn shimmered brightly, a bright white aura lighting the farm’s wooden gate and pushing it open. The unicorn set down the path to the main barn, an evident pained expression on his face. He could feel himself getting dirtier by the second as his steps kicked up small puffs of dust.

“Hello? Is anypony home?”

The sound of a second pair of hooves began echoing in the distance. They were heavy steps for sure, no doubt made by a stallion of a remarkable stature. A deep, calm voice echoed out from the distance, and a few moments later, a large red stallion, clad in a work collar and absentmindedly chewing on a sprig of hay came into view.

“Eeyup, I’ll be right over. Sorry to keep you waiting.”

So this is Big Macintosh? He certainly lives up to his name.

Try as he may, Blueblood couldn’t remember ever meeting anypony so large, except for himself and Princess Celestia. Of course, she was a goddess, and he himself was, if by far, one of her royal descendants. But, what could make a farmer grow so tall, let alone that muscular? Blueblood was left puzzled.

“I take it you’re Prince Blueblood?”

So, Applejack had indeed mentioned his coming to her brother. That made things far simpler.

“Why, yes, that would be I. And to whom do I have the pleasure of speaking?”

Blueblood made an effort to be polite. After all, he was in need of help, and the red farmer was his best chance.

“Name’s Big Macintosh. Ain’t every day we get nobility visiting ‘round these parts. Welcome to Sweet Apple Acres.”

Macintosh respectfully offered a hoofshake. The noblecolt, used to bowing from a distance, was startled and nervously stumbled back. He carefully eyed the extended hoof, noticing a dab of mud on the tip of the farmer’s hoof.

Oh... the sacrifices I make for proper protocol.

Shakily, Blueblood returned the favor, only to have his breath cut short by the sheer strength Macintosh had put into the gesture.

Surprised by his guest’s panicked reaction, the red stallion quickly pulled his hoof back, watching with slight confusion as the royal stood stunned, his still-outstretched hoof twitching in pain.

“I reckon I might have overdone it a little there. Mighty sorry.”

Blueblood paused for a moment, slowly lowering his sore hoof back to the ground. He inhaled deeply and exhaled slowly, mentally counting to ten before answering.

Stay polite, Blueblood. He may not be the cleanest or most distinguished pony you’ve met, but at least he’s making a good effort to be polite, and you need his help. It would be a terrible thing to start off on awful terms.

“Oh, that’s... quite alright. Please be careful not to do it again, that being said. I doubt my hoof can take such a battering a second time. Now then, I assume your sister has already explained most of the situation to you?”

“Eeyup. Thought about it for a while. We’ve been having some troubles on the farm as well. ‘Reckon I have an idea that could work out for both of us.”

Big Macintosh motioned towards the large farmhouse up on the hill ahead.

“How ‘bout we move inside so we can discuss this more comfortably?”

Blueblood paused for a moment, puzzled.

Troubles on the farm? What does that have to do with me? I don’t like where this is going. I really, really don’t like where this is going.

~~~

“I really don’t like where this has gone.”

In the middle of a bare field of packed dirt, Blueblood struggled to pull an old plough, grunting with every step at the exhausting effort. He was, to say the least, very glad that few ponies would ever see him like this. The paparazzi would have a field day with his current wardrobe. A set of strong rubber galoshes guarded his hooves from any offending dirt, while a brown wool poncho draped over his back and a hat woven from straw protected his precious coat and mane. It would be a shame if he were to get dirty from a wayward cloud of dust, and a tragedy if he were to catch heatstroke from the glaring sun.

“So, Macintosh. Please remind me why I agreed to this, again? I must admit that such hoof labor isn’t a very common part of my daily regimen.”

Next to the unicorn, Macintosh was having a very hard time not laughing. He could remember a few times where Applejack’s friend Rarity, a unicorn known for her cleanliness and fear of dirt, had given the farm a hand, but even she hadn’t gone to such extreme measures to keep herself clean. In contrast, Blueblood’s borrowed attire looked utterly ridiculous. He had to turn away for a moment to mask his amusement at Blueblood’s carefully-chosen words. Not a very common part indeed. Blueblood had clearly never done a minute of manual labor in his entire life.

“It’s simple, really: You wanted to develop some humility and courtesy, and the farm needed some extra help for planting season. Oh, and you said that kind of work might be good to ‘keep one’s flanks and calves well toned.’”

Blueblood swallowed his pride, giving the plough another solid pull. His shoulders were sore and his legs protested the heavy effort. Yet, if this ordeal was to help him, he would do it. His honor was at stake, after all. At first, he had thought that the farmer was asking for him to work as a repayment for the teaching. It was only logical. After all one’s time is a precious commodity. However, Big Macintosh’s stubborn refusal to accept any amount of bits instead, even an unusually large sum, had given Blueblood some insight on the true reason for this arrangement. He would learn far more from a few days on the farm than from any kind of teaching.

“If, last week, somepony had told me I would be working on a farm today, I would have laughed and called them out of their mind. Yet, here I am. Ah, the things one does for love.”

With a chuckle, Big Macintosh paused his ploughing for a moment and turned to answer.

“So that’s what your wanting to improve yourself’s all about? Sis hadn’t mentioned that. Who’s the lucky filly?”

A swarm of butterflies fluttered to Blueblood’s stomach.

“I believe you might know her, she lives in this town. Her name is Rarity.”

Big Macintosh almost choked on his ever-present sprig.

“Wait, wait. Rarity? Rarity of Carousel Boutique? Hoo wee, you’ve sure got your work cut out for you.”

Blueblood shot the farmer a puzzled glance.

“What ever do you mean?”

“Y’see, Rarity might look that way, but she’s not one of those high class noblemares lookin’ to rut their way into a big fortune. She works hard, probably even harder’n me. She does everything carefully, from working her boutique to taking care of her little sister. Sorry t’say, but I’m not sure you really stand a chance.”

A smirk traced itself on Blueblood’s face. Macintosh’s words had left him far from discouraged. Rather, his desires were bolstered, reinforced. No longer a simple conquest, she was now a challenge with a priceless reward at its end. His pride and his heart were now working in tandem.

He had his chances. She’d sought him out at the Gala, after all. Surely there must have been something about him that attracted her. He’d have to find out what and build from there. Hesitating for a moment, the unicorn figured he may as well let Macintosh be aware of the finer points of the story.

“Well, it’s... kind of a strange story actually. You see...”

The two workers settled down for a break as Blueblood recounted the entire timeline of events, from the gala to the feline assault.

“Hah, reckon maybe you’ll stand a chance if you play your cards right. Looks like y’do fine when it comes to manners, and you’ve got the same obsession with staying clean. Reckon that should earn you some points with her.”

Blueblood was standing proudly, eating up the praise with great gusto. Macintosh’s next comment, however, deflated his ego entirely.

“Though, you keep up that haughty act, and she’ll never even give you the time of day.”

“But then, what should I do? This is what I’ve known all my life. We nobles are supposed to be a cut above other ponies; that’s what my mother always told me. How can I simply bow to her? What would my family think?”

“You’re getting this all wrong. This ain’t about anyone submitting to anyone. That’s not love. Love ain’t about joining someone’s family or getting part of their fortune or I don’t know what else.”

Macintosh spoke with an energy that ran contrary to his usual stoicism. Soon, he was punctuating his words with energetic gestures.

“Take your case, for example. Rarity’s no gemdigger. Well, she does dig for gems, but that’s to put them on dresses. She ain’t what you’d normally call a gemdigger. If she accepts you at one point, it won’t be for your wheelbarrows of bits or your fancy shmancy titles. It’ll be because you’ve treated her well, and made her feel like she matters to you. You need to make that real clear in your head right now, or you ain’t gonna get anywhere.” Blueblood nodded in comprehension, displaying an air of silent awe.

“Love’s about caring for someone and wanting to make them happy. S’about doing things, not because they profit you, but because you care for the ponies around you. It’s that simple, really.”

The farmer’s words carried strong conviction and emotion, wisdom and experience. Blueblood hesitated for a moment, awed by the speech that had just been delivered.

“That goes against everything I’ve been taught, Macintosh. I... don’t know what to make of it. Are you sure of what you’re saying?”

“Eeyup.”

“I’d... like to try what you said, doing things just to make others happy. You make it sound so fulfilling. But, it’s so strange. I don’t think I’ve done something like that before.”

A smirk traced itself on Macintosh’s face.

“Really? Never? I find that hard to believe. When’s the last time someone smiled at you?”

“Hm, this morning, I think. Why do you ask?”

“What made them smile?”

“It’s a pretty funny story, actually. These two fillies asked for my autograph. They pretty much fainted in excitement when I gave it to them.”

“How did that make you feel?”

“... I guess I felt happy that they were so full of joy, but what does that have to do with-”

Blueblood stood there for a moment, confused and blinking, as the realization dawned on him.

“Oh... Oh! I see.”

Macintosh hadn’t lost his smirk.

“Told you.”

“But where do I go from there? What should I do?”

“It’s simple, really, if you ask me. Stick around town for a while; make an effort to be nice to everypony. I reckon it’ll be an effort at first, but it’ll get easier as you go.”

“Ah! Yes, as George Oatwell so eloquently wrote, ‘He wears a mask and his muzzle grows to fit it.’ I understand!”

Macintosh didn’t feel the need to answer. He’d heard of George Oatwell before, but the reference was lost on him. He contented himself with rising back up on his legs and resuming his labor. Seeing Blueblood having trouble once more with the heavy tool, he had mercy on the noble.

“Y’know what? I think you’ve got enough revelations to digest for today. Why don’t you go mull it over wherever you feel like it and come back tomorrow morning?”

Blueblood eagerly nodded, relieved to get out of doing any more backbreaking labor for the day. Politely bowing to Big Macintosh, he headed back to town, packing up the protective vestments for the next day. His legs wobbled with every step, and his head was spinning. As he walked, he looked over his coat and mane. They weren’t quite filthy, but they were certainly in need of a good cleaning.

Oh, the things I do...

~~~

Blueblood was walking down the main street of Ponyville, headed to “La Rose Dorée” for his evening meal, having taken a moment to stop by his hotel room and clean himself up. He was certainly taking a liking to the establishment. Distinguished and elegant, the restaurant was considered the pinnacle of haute cuisine in Ponyville. It was also recognized for its exorbitant prices and very small size, though it was clearly turning a sufficient profit from the occasional ponies seeking a gastronomical experience.

Although his body was exhausted, his morale was going strong. He’d managed to keep up with the work, and realised that he did stand a chance of redeeming himself.

The second of what would be a long series of spring showers soon began falling. Fortunately, Prince Blueblood was prepared. Though he had left the hideous poncho at his hotel room, he had had the presence of mind to bring along his fashionable navy canvas cloak.

Hm... what should I try tonight? I must say the truffle quiche sounds very appetizing, but perhaps the orchid fricassée would be-

A loud and cacophonic voice screeched through the sky.

“LOOK OUT BELOW!”

A blur of cyan shot down from the sky, hurtling towards Blueblood, who froze in a panic, dumbfounded at seeing everypony scamper away. Unlike the locals, the visiting noble had no idea what to expect from such a shout.

A resonating thump, a blur of colors, a painful collision, and a very cold splash later, a dazed Blueblood lay confused in a puddle of rain water while a cyan pegasus mare lay on the ground next to him, dizzy from her great plunge.

Blueblood slowly came back to his senses, shakily standing up onto all four legs. He quickly ran a mental check of his body, making sure he wasn’t feeling pain. Fortunately, the collision hadn’t left him injured. Unfortunately, it had left him cold and dripping wet. Looking around him, he soon spotted the perpetrator of his assault. He had heard of her before, that rainbow mare. She was Rainbow Dash, weather captain of Ponyville, victor of this year’s edition of the Cloudsdale Young Flier Competition, and aspirant to the Wonderbolts. She had come much more quickly to her senses, and was now staring at him with a look of amusement.

If the fury that overtook Blueblood at that instant had been any more extreme, the sheer heat of it would have done an amazing job of drying his drenched mane. Flicking a dripping lock of golden mane away from his vision, he took a fierce step towards Rainbow Dash.

“Does my destroyed grooming amuse you so? You insane foal! You could have killed me! You disgrace of the skies! You public menace! If this were Canterlot, I would have you locked up in an instant! Do you know who I am?”

The pegasus rose up to her feet, her own anger boiling up. She flapped her wings a few times to make sure they were fine, before leaving them wide open in anger. In turn, she took a step towards Blueblood, fiercely looking him straight in the eyes.

“Yeah, I know who you are! You’re that stuck-up colt who upset Rarity at the Gala! Forget about getting any apologies from me after that!”

“Why, I never! You ruffian! Show some respect!”

“Like you would know anything about respect! Jerk!”

Rainbow Dash lowered herself to the water’s level, and fiercely flapped her wings, drenching the prince with a torrent of cold water. With a panicked yelp, Prince Blueblood attempted to shield himself with his forelegs, but only succeeded in losing his balance and falling over into the puddle with a resounding splash. Struggling to stand up, he slammed his right forehoof against the pavement with a resounding clop.

“Jerk? How dare you! You flew like a madmare, crashed into me at breakneck speeds, almost left me injured and utterly annihilated my careful grooming! Now you refuse to apologize, and I’m the jerk?”

“Yeah, you’re the jerk, jerk! When somepony tries moves as awesome as mine, accidents are always bound to happen! I shouted to make sure nopony would get hurt, and you didn’t even try to move! If you weren’t such an oblivious upstart, none of this would have ever happened!”

“What? Surely, you must be mocking me! You dare accuse me of-”

“NOW WAIT JUST ONE APPLE FLIPPIN’ MINUTE!”

The pegasus and the unicorn were interrupted by a shout and a thunder of hooves as Applejack came to a stop near them, pushing them apart. Rainbow Dash smirked at her rival, convinced the farmer would take her side against the rude stallion.

“I’m really disappointed in the two of you! Rainbow Dash! You should be ashamed of yourself for shouting like that! Blueblood, for all that talk about wantin’ to improve, you’re pretty quick to be shoutin’ and insultin’.”

The pegasus’s grin dropped instantly, while the prince was left even more fuming.

“He’s the one who should be ashamed! He didn’t even move when I warned everypony!”

Applejack gave a disbelieving stare as her only answer, refusing to treat Rainbow Dash’s desperate excuses as anything but what they were.

“Dash, what has Mayor Mare been tellin’ you ‘bout practicing your crazy tricks over Ponyville?”

“Fiiiine. I guess I should have been more careful. Still, he didn’t have any right to be snapping at me like that!”

“There, you’re right. Still, that doesn’t excuse-”

Rainbow Dash turned to Blueblood and stuck her tongue out at him defiantly.

“Ha! I was right! I’m getting out of here, all this shouting is too much work, and I’ve got some rain clouds to deal with. See you later Applejack!”

With a powerful flap of her wings, Rainbow Dash took off, leaving Blueblood and Applejack behind. Applejack simply rolled her eyes.

“That filly, I swear. I’ll catch up with her later.”

Prince Blueblood chuckled and displayed a smug smile.

“Looks like she realised who really was in the wrong after all.”

In a flash, the earth pony turned to face Blueblood, piercing him with the most horrible of glares from under the rim of her cowfilly hat.

“Now look here. You said you wanted to learn to become nicer, right?”

Blueblood rolled his eyes.

No, you simpleton, I wanted to become a three-layer buttercream-and-lily sponge cake. Of course I wanted to become nicer, I’m not hanging around this mudhole of a town for no reason.

Swallowing the thought back, he gave an irritated sigh.

“Yes, yes I did.”

“Yep you said that. Next thing I know, you’re getting in a fight with one of my friends. That’s mighty impressive. I thought you’d last at least a full day.”

“It is only normal that I be affronted, that crazy mare you call a friend almost caused my untimely death.”

“Don’t you untimely me! That mare’s crashed into about everypony in this here town, and she’s never injured anyone.”

As she spoke, Applejack slowly moved closer and closer to the prince, speaking louder and louder.

“Accidents happen, and if you think being nice just means being nice when it’s convenient for you, you’re so far off the track you’d need that compass on your flank just to get back! Sometimes, you have to go farther and be nice even if it’s a heap of trouble for you."

Applejack brought her face very close to his, staring him straight in the eyes with a frown that could have scared the leaves off an apple tree. Prince Blueblood stumbled back and stuttered.

“But... But...”

“Don’t bother, I don’t need to hear it. You just take some time to think about it, and my brother and I’ll see you tomorrow on the farm.”

Without a word, Applejack trotted away, ignoring the Prince’s self-righteous pleas. Shocked at the turn of events, Blueblood simply stood there, not entirely managing to process the scene that had unfolded. His body was burning with irritation, his muscles were sore from the work, and his legs were feeling cold and wet. In retrospect, perhaps stepping out of that puddle should have been his first course of action.

With a resigned sigh, the unicorn trotted back to his hotel room for a second bath and grooming.

~~~

An hour later, Prince Blueblood was out on the streets again. Princess Luna had long ago heaved the moon into the sky and decorated the darkness with a generous sprinkling of bright stars, shining for all to admire despite the cloudy cover. The main street of Ponyville was dimly lit by a series of lampposts, giving the town a quiet and relaxed mood. The pavement sparkled in the moonlight, slick with rainwater.

The songbirds had gone to sleep, having passed the work of creating a musical ambiance on to their nightly counterparts, the crickets.

The royal unicorn was troubled. For a moment, everything had appeared so easy. Yet, it had only taken one chance encounter for everything to crumble.

What is it I’m supposed to do, then? I should be nice, of course, but I can’t just let everyone trample over me! Where’s the balance? What should I-

His train of thought was interrupted when his stomach gave a rumbling noise the likes of which he had rarely heard. Having had to redo his grooming, he was running quite late for his usual dinner time. Perhaps he would do better to find a simpler meal than his usual five-star fare.

Suddenly, the sweetest of smells, the perfume of fresh dough and sugar, caught his nostrils. Of course, in a small town such as this one, a visitor was more likely to find regular pastries than the sort of fine delicacies Blueblood was used to, but at this point, he didn’t care. He just wanted something tasty.

The building soon came into view. It was a rather large shop, brightly colored and decorated to look as though it had been garnished and frosted like a giant gingerbread house. An enormous cupcake crowned its roof. Blueblood shuddered at the memory of his last encounter with a pastry that large.

Still enchanted by the smell, the prince pushed the door open. The interior of the boutique matched the outside perfectly, with candy stripes and fixtures of falsified chocolate adorning every nook and cranny. A joyful chime accompanied his entrance, as a middle-aged earth pony mare came into view. Her colorful display of a blue coat and a rose-colored mane could only try to rival the sweetness of her tone.

“Welcome to Sugar Cube Corner, where life is always sweet! How may I help you today?”

Prince Blueblood politely returned her smile.

“Thank you very much, madam. If it’s no problem, I’d like to browse for a moment. I’m not quite sure yet what strikes my fancy.”

“Oh, of course, no problem. Would you like some green tea while you look? It’s only one bit for a cup.”

“Ah, that sounds exquisite, thank you very much.”

Prince Blueblood focused for a moment and levitated a single golden coin over to the counter. Ms. Cake carefully grabbed the coin out of the air and left it in the cash register, then busied herself with getting a fresh cup of tea ready.

Blueblood glanced over the display of fresh pastries, eyeing the common fare with slight disdain. This was all too ordinary. He slowly scanned across the display, but nothing struck his fancy. Finally, the display’s lighting shone to him like the most beautiful ray of morning sun, as his eyes set on a particularly interesting morsel.

"Oooo!", Blueblood exulted. "Are those chocolate éclairs I see before me?"

Ms. Cake came back, setting a piping hot cup of tea onto the counter.

“Why, yes it is. I see you have an eye for fine pastry. They’re quite the trouble to make, but they’re worth every ounce of effort. Would you like one?”

A hoofful of golden coins hovered over to Ms. Cake, stopping a comfortable distance in front of her for her to seize.

“That would be wonderful, thank you very much.”

With a polite bow, Prince Blueblood levitated the tea and pastry over to a small coffee table in a quiet corner of the boutique and sat down on one of the very comfortable cushions that had been provided for the Corner’s prized customers.

Unlike what he had expected from such a small town bakery, the pastry was exquisite, and the tea rich in flavor. He quickly made his way through a third of the pastry at the behest of his growling stomach, before reminding himself of his manners.

Soon, as he was approaching the end of his snack, the tinkling of the door chimes could be heard. Two ponies walked in. In the lead, an excited unicorn filly almost bounced into the bakery. Following behind her was a pegasus mare, an empty pair of mailbags resting on her back.

The filly had a purplish-gray coat and a light blond mane, and her tiny horn sparkled in the light. A large smile livened up her face. She was simply glowing with joy. The mare’s coat was completely gray, and her mane matched that of the filly. Most likely, the two of them were mother and daughter. As she stooped to look over the displayed wares, one of her eyes slowly lost focus and drifted off, resting its gaze somewhere on the ceiling. Prince Blueblood paid little attention to that fact. He had met other ponies suffering from a lazy eye before, one of whom was in fact his prized butler. Such a purely physical trait didn’t even register in his judgement, because, really, what could Ditzy Doo do about it? Unlike a bad choice of manecut or clothing, a lazy eye was something one was born with, not something one could change.

“Hi Mrs. Cake!”

“H-hello, Mrs. Cake. H-how are you today?”

Prince Blueblood couldn’t help but notice the slight stuttering. Surely, some common cause was at the root of the mare’s lazy eye and speech issues. Prince Blueblood judged it better not to pry.

“Ditzy and Dinky Doo, how nice to see you two tonight! I’m very well, thank you. Shall I get you your usual?”

The two gray ponies nodded in unison, and Mrs. Cake set herself to work, soon producing a tray holding a pair of blueberry muffins, a small mug of coffee, and a large glass of milk.

“That’ll be eight bits, please.”

Ditzy nodded, and set down her mailbag, opening the zipper on one of the smaller pouches, and digging inside. Quickly, her smile turned into a confused frown, as she frantically began tearing through every compartment of the bags.

“Mommy, is something wrong?”

Ditzy was silent for a moment.

“I t-think I left my money at home.”

“Aww...”

The filly’s excited smile soon turning into a sorrowful grimace. Her mother looked completely ashamed at the consequences of her distraction, her head hanging low. Mrs. Cake was just about to speak up when a voice made itself known from a corner of the shop.

“Ahem, if I may...”

The tinkling of coins on glass resounded for a moment, and it took a few seconds for the mares and the filly to comprehend what had happened. Prince Blueblood put away his satchel with a smile on his face.

The glowing smiles and thanks that the duo soon offered made everything clear to him. The words that had left him confused slowly came into order and harmony.

“If you think being nice just means being nice when it’s convenient for you, you’re so far off the track you’d need that compass on your flank just to get back. Sometimes, you have to go farther and be nice even if it’s a heap of trouble for you.”

“Stick around town for a while; make an effort to be nice to everypony. I reckon it’ll be an effort at first, but it’ll get easier as you go.”

Having finished his snack, Prince Blueblood bowed to Mrs. Cake and stepped out of the boutique, taking a moment to smile back to the filly and her mother.

“Now, Dinky, w-what do we say to the nice stallion?”

“Thank you, mister!”

Blueblood owned many gems, and several priceless pieces of art lined the halls of his luxury home in Canterlot. However, none of them, no matter how precious, could possibly ever contend with the smile the young unicorn gave him.

~~~

That night, Blueblood slept peacefully, remembering the gleaming smiles of the two ponies he had helped. He felt reinvigorated, confident. He could do this. Improvement was in reach. He was unstoppable.

~~~

To Be Continued

~~~

Coming up next in To Be a Better Stallion

“How preposterous! How ridiculous, how outrageous, how... utterly absurd! Confound all of this mud!”

~Prince Blueblood

“Together we are...”

~Apple Bloom

“The Cutie Mark Crusaders!”

~Apple Bloom, Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo

“It all started when I was but a young colt...”

~Prince Blueblood

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