• 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 Fifth - The Turning Point

“I cannot say it enough; I am so thankful that you two agreed to join me today. Much as I told you earlier, I’ve been simply beside myself about Prince Blueblood being in Ponyville... Oh, this stress is doing my poor, poor body a serious number!”

Rarity had invited Twilight Sparkle and Fluttershy to join her for an afternoon treatment at the spa. Thanks to the fashionista’s influence as a frequent customer, they had been able to secure a quiet jacuzzi bath all for themselves.

The air was warm and comforting as they entered the dimly-lit room. The twirling and bubbling water had been infused with jasmine, leaving the room perfumed with its enthralling smell. The walls of the small bathing area were decorated with an ornate ceramic mosaic depicting a field of colorful flowers. The air was almost dripping with humidity, yet it offered a comforting embrace of warmth instead of a sweltering, strangling heat. All in all, it was a fortress of relaxation and rest, a barrier against the stresses of the outside world.

“I should be the one thanking you, Rarity. I could never afford this place by myself.”

Though Twilight Sparkle did receive a salary for her caretaking of the Ponyville library, she was by no means rich; not to mention that most of her leisure budget tended to go up in dragon flames and teleport straight to mail-order bookstores all over Equestria. While Celestia had often offered to fund her studies, Twilight had vehemently refused every time.

Fluttershy nodded in agreement as she slowly climbed into the upraised bath. She gave a contented sigh, feeling the warm water envelop her.

“Twilight’s right. Thank you, Rarity.”

As the two unicorns sat down, Fluttershy paused for a moment, closing her eyes and frowning in deep thought.

“What did you want to talk to us about? I mean, um, I know you mentioned Prince Blueblood being in town, but what about him?”

Rarity was silent for a moment, letting the warm bath wash and massage all of her problems away. She chewed on her words for a moment. Her answer had to be perfect.

“That is exactly what I’ve been wondering, darling. What about him? A stallion in town, on a personal quest to better himself, all for my sake... I can’t make heads or tails of this. I don’t know how to feel. Should I be flattered or scared? Should I give him a chance? What if he turns out to be the same lout I saw at the gala? On the other hoof, what if he becomes the Prince Charming I’ve dreamed of for so long? What is a lady to do?

“I can’t just leave him in hesitation, can I? With everything he’s been doing in my name, what would I be if I tried to ignore the whole thing? I agreed to let Applejack’s brother help him out, which, I guess, is pretty generous of me, but at some point, I’ll have to get involved... isn’t it so?

“Oh, girls, I don’t know what to do with myself anymore. Just look at me. I’m the one who’s supposed to be turning heads, and then this royal colt comes into town, and leaves mine spinning with questions! This is Discord all over again!”

Rarity dramatically slumped against the edge of the bath, visibly tired from her sudden outburst. There was a pause, as Twilight Sparkle and Fluttershy processed Rarity’s barrage of doubts and questions.

Twilight Sparkle was quick to notice Fluttershy biting her lower lip and sinking down to the bottom of her muzzle. At least she still looked like she was managing to relax, as evidenced by her wings floating limply in the water.

The violet unicorn sighed and adjusted her position, lowering herself further into the water and leaning back against the side of the jacuzzi. She gave a soft sigh.

“That’s... an awful lot of questions, Rarity. Let’s just take this logically, one thing at a time. Trying to answer five questions at once is like trying to read five books at once: It just doesn’t work.”

Twilight hesitated for a moment, noticing the awkward glances she was receiving.

“Trust me, I’ve tried.”

Rarity settled down, taking a deep breath. She let herself sink down to her neck, basking in the feeling of the warm water against her coat.

“You’re all too right, Twilight. I must admit this is all leaving me terribly, terribly shaken. I’ve had colts pine after me before, of course, but I do believe this is the first time one has gone to such lengths. Usually, they just present me with a bouquet of tulips and leave it at that, as though a lady’s heart could be bought with nothing but a fancy snack. Blueblood’s case, however, is different. I simply don’t know what to make of all this dedication...”

Suddenly, a spark seemed to shoot through Rarity’s eyes.

“’Of course! Why didn’t I think of this before. Both of you, please tell me, what do you think of this whole story?“

Fluttershy perked up from her relaxed state, offering Rarity a reassuring smile.

“Well... I think, maybe, that it’s good that he’s trying to improve for you. I don’t think it’s really all that odd that he’d come here from Canterlot if he likes you, but on the other hoof, I see why it could bother you. I mean, not that you’d consider yourself too good for him, but, you know, after what he did at the Grand Galloping Gala, it would be understandable if you didn’t want to see him again.”

Twillight was quick to follow suit.

“I haven’t really had much in the way of colts’ affections, so it’s kind of hard for me to judge. That being said, if I remember correctly, the Filly’s Folio of Fantastic Flirtation would probably tell you that Prince Blueblood’s sudden resolve reflects positively on him, but also that you should make sure it isn’t something he’s doing dishonestly just to impress you. If you ask me, the best course of action would be to observe the events and get a clearer idea of what’s going on before you take a decision. I’ve got to admit, I’m still kind of surprised at how badly he turned out since the last time I ran into him.”

The other two mares gaped at Twilight, surprised. Rarity was quick to press into Twilight’s last statement, dramatically flailing a hoof in the air.

“When you last ran into him? You’ve run into him before, and you didn’t warn me about him? Twilight! How could you do this to me?”

Twilight recoiled in surprise, pressing herself against the edge of the tub.

“Rarity! Calm down! I couldn’t have known you’d run into him! Back then, he was nothing like the... jerk you encountered. He was well-behaved, educated, and mostly quiet in class, if a little too eager to look good in front of the teacher. We even did some assignments together, and everything went fine.”

“But... why didn’t you tell me about him earlier? I’ve been trying to learn more about him for days!”

The heater paused for a moment, as Twilight’s annoyance was all the water needed to maintain its temperature.

“I tried to tell you! I’ve been trying to tell you since he first came to town and you started worrying about him! You wouldn’t listen! You were too busy being dramatic!”

Rarity became even paler than her usual white as she suddenly remembered Twilight’s words about Prince Blueblood over the last two days. Her voice became mellow again, and she settled back down.

“Twilight, darling! I do believe I owe you some apologies here. I... certainly hope you’ll be able to forgive my passing moment of unladylike acrimony.”

Still somewhat surprised by her friend’s outburst, Twilight slowly settled back down and elbowed Fluttershy, who had taken to hiding her head behind her wings. The frightened pegasus slowly bloomed back into a state of relaxation, listening to the conversation. She had nothing to add.

Placing a hoof on the distraught diva’s shoulder, Twilight Sparkle gave a reassuring nod.

“It’s alright, Rarity, I know this whole ordeal is pretty trying for you. I accept your apologies.”

Bringing a hoof to her chin, Rarity pondered the earlier advice for a moment.

“Thank you very much, Twilight... Where were we... Ah, yes! I must admit there is much merit to the ‘wait and see’ approach. It would allow me to have a better idea of what to expect from him, as well as give me some time to relax without worrying about all of this. Might I be able to count on you two and the others to let me know if you hear or see anything about him?”

The other two mares nodded in answer, appeasing Rarity’s concerns. Almost immediately, her pupils shrank and she suppressed a gasp.

“But, what if he loses interest? Oh, no, no, no, that wouldn’t be good at all. What if he believes I’m not paying attention to what he’s doing and he just goes home to Canterlot? Then, I’ll never know what could have been! I’ll forever wonder if, perhaps, he could have become the pony I had first thought him to be! The mere thought of it is horrifying!”

Unfazed by the dramatic unicorn’s outburst, Twilight gave an encouraging smile.

“You could always go and talk to him. That would let him know you’re at least interested.”

Rarity’s jaw dropped in horror, as she almost threw herself at Twilight.

“No, no, no, no, a thousand times no! That would be so awkward, so uncomfortable. I am not ready to see him, and he is not ready to see me. After all, he still has much to learn about dealing with a mare such as I, and I must admit I am rather uncomfortable with the prospect of reliving that fateful evening. An encounter at this point in time simply will not do!”

Softly, Fluttershy displaced Rarity’s hooves from a panicked Twilight’s shoulders.

“Um... Rarity? Maybe you could just leave a note at his hotel room? Then, you wouldn’t have to face him, but you could still let him know about your feelings. I mean... if that’s what you want.”

Sparkling with interest, Rarity gave an elated smile.

“That is a positively brilliant idea, my dear Fluttershy! I’ll write the note tonight, and have it delivered to him tomorrow! Oh, what would I ever do without you?”

Fluttershy blushed at the compliment.

“Oh... it was nothing special really... I only had the idea because...”

Fluttershy dissolved into incomprehensible mumbling, much to Rarity’s disapproval.

“Pardon?”

The pegasus spoke no louder, slowly sinking under the surface. Twilight raised an eyebrow in curiosity, motioning upwards.

“Fluttershy? I think you’ll have to speak up.”

Her muzzle now entirely submerged, a few small bubbles were Fluttershy’s only answer.

The two unicorns awkwardly stared for a moment at the cowering pegasus, until finally she surfaced for air. As her lungs refilled, she couldn’t hold back the words.

“IonlyhadtheideabecauseIgavesomeponyalovenoteyesterday!”

There was a pregnant pause as the revelation sunk in. Twilight Sparkle’s muzzle soon cracked into a mischievous grin while Rarity appeared to marvel at the situation.

“Fluttershy’s in love! I’m so happy for you!”

“Darling, I beg you, you must tell me all about him! Or is it a her?”

Fluttershy slowly backed herself against the wall of the tub, as the two curious mares slowly edged toward her.

¬¬¬~~~

Blueblood and Big Macintosh walked into the barn. It was quite large for a storage area, offering a ground floor and a low-ceiling attic. Despite the large windows, it was somewhat dark and dusty, and it had fallen into disarray over the winter. Tools and equipment were strewn about without a care for order. Most likely, orderliness had fallen to the sidelines during the long rush of the applebucking season.

The door had been propped open in order to let some fresh air in. Immediately, two young mares poked their heads out from the second floor, looking down at them. One bore a cowfilly’s hat, while the other was graced with a fuchsia mane that seemed to defy the laws of physics and magic alike.

“Hey, big bro, hey Blueblood. You two came to give us a hoof?”

Big Macintosh cracked a smile, nodding towards the disheveled colt clad in the borrowed set of poncho, straw hat and galoshes.

“Eeyup. I didn’t have it in me to bring this here prince into the muddy fields.”

Prince Blueblood snapped out of his dirt-induced torpor.

“I could have handled it!”

While the pink pony retained her eternal grin, oblivious to the Prince’s denial, both farmers gave him a disbelieving stare.

“... Okay. I couldn’t have.”

Pinkie Pie hopped the guard rail of the second floor and landed near Blueblood, using her curly tail as a bouncy landing cushion. The prince could only stare, dumbstruck as she draped a foreleg over his shoulders and flashed him a big smile.

“You silly stallie! Nopony here’s gonna laugh at you because you can’t handle some mud. Everypony has their weaknesses! I mean, I always eat way too much sugar, Applejack is the stubbornest Stubborn von Stubbornpants I know, and Big Macintosh still sleeps with-”

“Pinkie! That ain’t the kind of thing you mention in public!”

“Heehee! Sorry, Applejack. Was that supposed to be a secret?”

Big Macintosh gave a relieved sigh.

Prince Blueblood slipped out of Pinkie’s grasp, somewhat startled at the physical contact. He took a deep breath and let it go slowly and calmly.

What is wrong with this mare? Was she raised by rocks? Okay, no matter, no matter. She was only being overly friendly. Keep calm, Blueblood. Keep. Calm.

Unfazed by the madness that was Pinkie Pie, Big Macintosh motioned for Blueblood to follow him.

“Looks like these two fillies have the top floor under wraps, so what do you say we get started on the ground level?”

Blueblood gave the barn a close inspection. It had spent the entire winter closed, and had become the home to a large colony of spiders. Indeed, cobwebs hung from the ceiling and the tools. The Prince shuddered at the sight. Still, thinking back to the ocean of filth that Big Macintosh had called a field, he figured the situation could have been worse.

“I guess so. However... I believe a little magic is called for, here.”

Before Macintosh could react, Blueblood focused deeply.

Let’s see... How did this spell work again? Ah, yes!

Bright teal light enveloped the prince’s horn, causing the inside of the dimly-lit barn to glow similarly. Soon, the cobwebs gathered together in a single ball, which casually floated out of the window.

“Okay, ready.”

Big Macintosh shrugged at the display. He would have discouraged the use of magic for the actual work, but he figured he’d be able to get more cooperation out of the prince if the latter didn’t constantly panic at the sticky touch of cobwebs in his coat.

“Okay then. Mind giving me a hoof with these apple baskets? I’ll go get the cart.”

Prince Blueblood nodded and grabbed a basket with his mouth. He was somewhat bothered by having to handle objects with his mouth rather than his magic, but if Big Macintosh believed it to be important, then he was bound to go along with it. He was still under oath, after all.

For a few hours, the four ponies labored on getting the barn cleared up, making sure the tools were in working order, and putting everything back in its rightful place.

After a while, the work seemed to become mechanical. Grab a tool, bring it to the workshop, clean it, sharpen it if need be, bring it back. Once they had settled into a rhythm, the two stallions began talking. At first, only of general things, like Blueblood’s evening the previous day, his encounter with Rainbow Dash and his gift to the Doo family. Soon, however, Big Macintosh asked a question that left Blueblood somewhat surprised.

“Say, Blueblood, your story from earlier’s been makin’ me wonder...”

“Mhm?”

“What exactly does it mean to you, leadin’ ponies?”

Prince Blueblood put down the rake he had been dragging to its proper place. He showed a cringe of confusion.

“What ever do you mean, Big Macintosh?”

Stepping away from the whetstone he had been using to sharpen a pair of shears, Big Macintosh turned towards Blueblood.

“Well, y’see, you told the foals your special talent was about leadin’ ponies, right?”

Prince Blueblood gave an approving mumble around the handle of the rake as he set it down with a pair of shovels and a hoe.

“I haven’t been seeing you do much of anything that resembles leadin’. I mean, that magazine article led you to Rarity, Rarity’s cat led you to the river, Applejack led you to me, I led you to startin’ to get better... well, you get the idea. You seem like you’re more of a follower than a leader, if you ask me.”

Blueblood frowned sourly, his hoof slamming thunderously against the barn’s wooden floor.

“What? That’s preposterous! There is more to leading than simply directing people around oneself. One leads by example, by standing tall and showing a proud, noble allure. One leads by being a beacon of light in the darkness of mediocrity. Most of all, one leads by being proper and chivalrous.”

Big Macintosh kept his composure, unfazed by the prince’s display of indignation.

“Eeyup. Wonder what Rarity would say to that.”

Prince Blueblood stood still for a moment, processing Macintosh’s simple answer. With a gulp, his bravado seemed to melt down in an instant.

“I... see your point. I’ll need to do some thinking on that, I believe.”

Big Macintosh nodded, giving a smile of support.

“I’m not meanin’ to tell you what your special talent’s about, but it does sound like- Blueblood! Watch out!”

“Huh? Whoa!”

By now, Blueblood was going through the motions mechanically. He backed out of the barn, a shovel held in his mouth. Distracted, he tripped on a stack of firewood. The assembled ponies could only watch in horror as the logs came crashing down, grazing the prince’s leg but fortunately otherwise missing him.

The Prince dropped the shovel and fell to the ground, the sharp pain in his leg attracting his attention almost immediately.

Blood. A trickle, a stream, a river, a torrent even, colored his fur all of glistening crimson. He was bleeding. Bleeding his own blood. Sharp pain coursed through his leg, causing him to wince, cringe and recoil. Tears of shock soon formed in his eyes. He couldn’t look away. If he looked away, his massive injury would only get worse; he just knew it. He could hear distant echoes, ghostly voices vying for his attention, and yet, they sailed through his mind without finding port.

He saw only his red blood on his white coat. The pure fluid of life on a pristine canvas. Precious red wine spilled on a tablecloth of priceless lace. A single rose losing its petals one by one on a bed of lilies. The traitorous lipstick on the white vest’s collar, revealing an affair of the most sordid kind. The blood of the fallen royal guard agonizing on the white snows of Stalliongrad.

Red and white. Red and white. Red and white and pink. Pink?

A shrill voice rang out.

“Bluey? Are you okay? You don’t look okay, but then I don’t really know how you’re like when you’re okay so it’s really hard to judge. I know everypony in Ponyville, though, and none of them look like that when they’re okay. I’m not sure I get why you’re all scared like that. It’s just an itty bitty little scrape, no? I mean, I don’t see any blue...”

Distracted from his state of shock, Prince Blueblood stared blankly at the young pink mare. Slowly, his panic turned to incomprehension.

“But... you... I... what? Oh... you thought... Huh?”

Blueblood blinked. He blinked again. Pinkie Pie cracked him an enormous smile, the likes of which no other pony could replicate.

There was an awkward pause.

To the great surprise of everyone involved, Blueblood cracked up. The barn rang with the pure laughter of a stallion free from worry, free to laugh like the colt he once was, free from the constraints of his noble upbringing. The sharp pain of the cut on his leg had been completely forgotten, leaving place to nothing but pure amusement.

It didn’t take long for the cheer to catch up with Pinkie, who soon accompanied the prince in his laughter, herself collapsing to the ground in a fit of hilarity.

Watching over the two, Applejack and Big Macintosh shared a chuckle and a smile. Pinkie could cheer up anyone, that much was clear.

~~~

That night, Prince Blueblood arrived at his hotel room tired but in high spirits. He’d managed to last through the entire day of work. When he had left, the barn had seemed twice as spacious as when he had first arrived, clean and orderly.

Fortunately, his wound had turned out to be a very minor affair, and he felt somewhat silly for how far out of proportion he had taken the whole thing.

The two stallions had come to an agreement that it would probably be better if Blueblood took the day off farm work tomorrow. He had some thinking to do, and was also getting rather curious to see more of the town.

Settling down on the luxurious sofa that throned in the hotel room, Blueblood poured himself a glass of wine nectar, purchased just some hours earlier.

What did it truly mean to be a leader? His mother had always told him that he should lead by example, by being the best stallion he could be. Though he had often tried to become an example of good behavior, his mother seemed to take exception to any of his enterprises. At one point, he had even thought of joining the royal guard, but to his great surprise, his mother had flown into a frenzy, telling him that the guard wasn’t the right place for a colt of his stature, that he would hate it. She’d forbidden him from trying out as a junior recruit.

The prince had never known much about his father, Duke Blueblood the Fourth. Mother had always told him that his father had left soon after the young prince was born, that he had abandoned his family. It came to Blueblood’s attention now that he had never taken a moment to look into the matter. However, he now felt curious. Over the last few days, his mother had proven to be wrong in more than a few ways. Perhaps there was more to his supposedly ingrate father than he had been led to believe. Blueblood made a mental note to look up his ancestry as soon as possible the next day. Looking back at one’s hoofprints, the elderly wisemare had said.

Having already returned to his past, the thought of his old friends came back to him. Amethyst and Apricot. It had been years since they had seen each other. After a particularly crazy adventure of theirs during which the young prince had nearly hurt himself very badly, his mother had forbidden him from seeing the two of them again.

Of course, they had continued meeting in secret, but things had gone sour. Amethyst was the first to drift away.

“You’re not the colt you used to be, Blueblood. You’re no longer the colt I liked. You’ve become haughty, stiff. It’s like you don’t even care about ponies anymore.”

Apricot had stood by him for a while, out of misguided admiration and friendship for his noble friend. Soon, however, Apricot had left as well.

“What happened to the Blueblood I used to know? You used to be awesome. Now you’re just a blowhard. I’m not good enough for you, huh? It’s all about social rank to you now. Can’t be seen with a commoner, huh? Well, fine with me! Go be seen without me all you want!”

Blueblood sighed at the memories. He had failed in the past, but he would not fail again. It was time to take back control of his life.

~~~

Dear Lady Amethyst of the House of Gemstone Heart

It has been a long time since we last met, and I understand that I have not always been the best of friends to you. Our last meeting was, perhaps, rather tense.

Recently, I have been having somewhat of a change of heart. Events have pushed me to reconsider many things about myself, our lost friendship being one of the first.

I would like to extend an invitation for an amicable reunion, to see if, perhaps, we might be able to rekindle our lost friendship. I have extended a similar invitation to Apricot, and I am hoping that the three of us may one day stand again with one another.

With heartfelt hope,

~Prince Blueblood the Fifth

~~~

Dear Apricot of the House of Fallen Leaves

I have come to realise, recently, just what I have done to drive you away. I recognize my faults and fully admit to my guilt.

I am sending the present letter in hopes of rekindling our friendship. Recent events have led me to reconsider myself and my actions, and to see just how much of a good friend I had driven away from my life.

In hopes of reviving our lost kinship, I hereby extend an invitation to you and Lady Amethyst for us to have a friendly reunion. Perhaps we might be able to work out our differences and resume our friendship where we had left off.

With the humblest of apologies for my past actions,

~Prince Blueblood the Fifth

~~~

Prince Blueblood gently set down the two scrolls on the bedside table, and put the quill and ink away. Tomorrow morning he would send the two letters off to Canterlot. Perhaps, with some luck, there was a chance to salvage that which he had stupidly thrown away.

Satisfied with his accomplishments for the day, Prince Blueblood settled upon the bed and slowly drifted off to sleep. Tomorrow was another day entirely, and would likely bring its share of surprises, but for now, all was good.

~~~

To Be Continued

~~~

Coming up next in To Be a Better Stallion

“Third nebula left of Orion, the skies tell a shining story!”

~Prince Blueblood

“Fifteen stars north, fifteen stars east, a comet flies straight to glory!”

~Twilight Sparkle

“He’s up to something! I’m sure of it!”

~Spike

“Rarity, this is Prince Cakeface we’re talking about! The jerk of the gala! Just a couple weeks ago you were calling him words I’d never even use to describe Discord!”

~Rainbow Dash

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