• Published 30th Mar 2012
  • 61,028 Views, 720 Comments

The Best Night Ever - Capn_Chryssalid



Grand Galloping Gala meets Groundhog Day time-loop

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Chapter One

A/N

This fanfic is obviously inspired by the awesome movie "Groundhog Day" – one of my personal favorites. You'll find that much of the fic mirrors the movie. The idea of a 'GHD fic' is one I've seen used in other fanfictions, perhaps most famously in certain Naruto fanfics. I point those out, because while fascinating (at least to start) I always found that they tended to become tangential, and to deviate too strongly from the core element of Groundhog Day, which was the existential wonder and emotional growth of the main character. We don't love Groundhog Day because Phil Conners (the inimitable Bill Murray) because of what he learns to do or what 'powers' he has, but because of the person he becomes, and how it hints that we, too, can be more than we are.

Having noted this, I knew when I began writing that I had to keep the story focused, yet the setting required a great many changes, alterations and rethinkings. Compromises and cuts had to be made. I wanted things to have a set beginning and end and not to drag on unnecessarily, telling the story and maintaining the homage that this is to the original movie.

Special love and appreciation goes out to Bill Murray and Harold Ramis for giving us this incredible story; the most memorable thing about an otherwise obscure holiday.

I hope you enjoy it.

A/N #2

I am updating this fic after a fine bout of editing courtesy of RB Dash. I think the fic should now be as polished as it can be. Thanks again for the hard work!

- - -

(1)

- - -

Unmitigated.

Unprecedented.

Unabashed.

Unsalvageable.

Disaster.

The Gala was a disaster.

It was, Prince Blueblood reflected as he dragged himself to bed, "Truly, the worst night ever."

Collapsing face first into the pillows, his body shook with a resounding sigh.

At least it was over.

- - -

The Best Night Ever

Capn Chryssalid

- - -

"You'll be seeing Rain Booms!

Ooo-ooo-oooh!

Equestria Girls, we're kinda magical!

Boots on hooves, bikinis on top!"

An alabaster hoof silenced the infernal electronic device transmitting its unbearable pop-culture sugar-sweet ear pollution. Sapphire Shores. He hated Sapphire Shores. What was the radio even doing on that station again?

Blueblood found himself on his back, eyes bleary but open, staring up at the delicately tiled ceiling. The damnable machine had done its job and woken him up, at least. Pulling his regal and 'royal' self upright, he gently massaged a hoof into his forehead, willing himself to deal with the post-Gala fiasco he had abandoned last night. Celestia's Triumph, celebrating the glorious founding of Canterlot, overrun by a horde of crazed critters.

Rolling out of bed, he paused only to glance outside at the lush palace gardens and then to ring a bell to summon the Palace grooming staff for his morning routine. It most certainly would not do to arrive at breakfast in a disheveled state. An antechamber served this purpose well, and a pair of unicorn mares quickly arrived to groom away the night's frustrations and prepare him for the supposedly casual meeting he had with his Aunts. Blueblood closed his eyes, not needing to see the servants to gauge their work. They had been doing this for years, after all, just as he had: the same thing, day after day.

Similarly, he resisted the impulse to doze off.

No: his thoughts turned to the ruined Gala. Specifically to the foalish mare who had so showered him with low class cake, and then to the cascade of destruction that had turned the noble Ménagerie Ursae into a house of cards. Compared to the structural and artistic destruction, the stampede of wild animals that followed was really almost an afterthought: an insulting addendum to the devastation. The Royal Guards had mysteriously disappeared soon after, leaving dazed and confused nobleponies and guests of honor to stagger around, lost and confused, unable to process the fact that their evening had been so thoroughly ransacked. A tribe of savage griffins could as well have walked through, plucking tapestries from the walls and jewels from the necks of aristocrats, and not a single pony would have batted an eye.

Something would have to be done to mitigate the aftermath. Blueblood mentally prepared to meet with the Royal Bouteiller, as soon after breakfast as possible. The image of the Gala needed to be repaired – his precious image as well, of course – which meant that they needed a patsy. Yes. A public face to blame the disaster on. The social circles of Canterlot would do the rest, if given only a rumor or two.

No royal hooves would need to be involved. The question was who to string up? It needed to be someone believable but also someone already unpopular. The noble families had to subconsciously want to blame this pony, or these ponies, beforehoof. He would have found a pyrrhic pleasure in pinning it on his would-be date for the evening, but no one cared about a mare from Ponyville. One didn't bait a tiger with cheese.

Dismissing the two groomers with a haughty wave of his hoof, Prince Blueblood glanced for a moment at the nearby full-body mirror. He looked fine. None the worse for wear, despite last night. The bump on the back of his head had even disappeared. How fortuitous!

Now, for his attire.

Opening the walk-in dressing closet, he saw his shortened dinner jacket and blue bow tie, hanging waiting for him, pressed and prepared. It had been left in a place of honor, with the expectation that he would come for it later tonight. The Prince's expression darkened immediately. What was that doing there? Granted, he had many dinner jackets, but he had ordered this one from Hoity specifically for the Gala.

Last night's Gala.

"Idiots," he grumbled, pushing aside the formal wear for a pale silk collar. "I am surrounded by foals and idiots."

The living quarters of the Palace opened up to him, but the Guard only became noticeable as he approached the pantry and dining hall. Truth be told, the Prince was in little mood to see his beloved aunt, not after her pointed disappearance last night had sounded the death knell for what should have been the most magnificent night of the year. He had personally invested much in the entire affair, bringing together select patrons of the arts and arcane who had sought him out as their patron. Now those guests were humiliated and no doubt silently enraged at the farce the night had become.

Lost in his thoughts, paying little heed to his surroundings, Blueblood sat before the table hosted by his exalted Princess-aunt. In fact, both of his great aunts were in attendance, a somewhat rare occurrence. Twice in as many days. Blueblood didn't remember the last time that had happened, but he didn't let it distract him from his sullen displeasure. It was an impotent displeasure as well, for Celestia damn well did as she pleased, and there was little anypony could or would say or do about it.

The Princess of the Sun sat at the head of the table, cheerfully and contentedly munching on low class oats and apples. Again. Luna had finished eating what was actually and effectively her dinner, and remained quietly lost in introspection. She often partook of a glass of wine before going to sleep for the day, a rather strange custom though Blueblood recognized the vintage of the bottle kept cool by her place on the table – the same as yesterday. A true creature of the night, that one. Not that it was any business of his what she did with herself.

Blueblood placed an order for tea, with milk and ginger, and freshly imported yucca.

Waiting for it to arrive, he pondered how he could possibly chide his immortal and all powerful relative without actually sticking his hoof into the proverbial fire. She looked so irrepressibly yet silently smug about something this morning, like she had some plan or another that she expected to pan out. The last year had been just one thing after another, and Blueblood had come to associate his aunt's good morning moods with some trouble or another looming appropriately on the horizon.

"Prince Blueblood," a cultured voice interrupted the noblepony's thoughts.

"Proper Place," the Prince greeted the Royal Chamberlain, and officer of the Household. The elderly unicorn was just finishing his meal, and shadowed by his ever present assistant, the Keeper of Seals. Not that Blueblood remembered that pony's name.

"I trust you are looking forward to this Evening's Gala?" the elderly pony inquired. "I have heard you hired from the Canterlot Chamber Orchestra company? I look forward to their rendition of Entry of the Princess in Sun's Light."

Blueblood opened his mouth to agree, when he caught what was being said – besides the compliment.

"W-what?" he asked, dumbly, and quickly shook his head. "What was that just now?"

"The Gala, Prince," Proper Place repeated. "I look forward to it."

Instantly suspicious of some sort of joke or trick – the likes of which his dear aunt had become quite fond of recently – Blueblood glanced back around the room. Sure enough, nopony seemed to be deriving any perverse enjoyment from the conversation, nor were they even interested. It took a moment to settle in, but it quickly became clear that all the ponies in attendance were seated and eating at the exact same places as yesterday. It was normal, really, but also gave him the strangest bit of deja vu. Even this conversation with Proper Place... hadn't they had it yesterday?

"Of course," Blueblood settled on saying, still a bit wary of some further joke at his expense.

He glanced at Celestia once Proper Place finished and excused himself, but aside from whispering something to Luna, the godlike Princess hardly seemed interested at all. She was a good actor, to be sure, and could simply be planning some larger joke.

Yet it seemed both uncharacteristically rude and mean spirited to not only effectively facilitate the ruin of the Gala, but then to rub his face in it the next day. It was a celebration in honor of her, after all, and in how she had founded Canterlot. She was the Sun and the Center of their world. His participation was an effort to demonstrate the depth of his affection and admiration for her... while, yes, also furthering the political game of which the lesser, mortal Royal family was a part.

He wanted to speak – to demand to know if something was afoot – but cowed, dared not to.

Instead, he determined not to play along. If Celestia had set things up to mimic the day before, then so be it. It seemed strange that Proper Place of all ponies would play along, but Prince Blueblood would not.

He would stay in.

- - -

Night came, and Blueblood just couldn't believe what was before his eyes.

It was the Gala.

The bloody, damned Gala from the night before.

"What in the starless Hells...?" The curse was muttered silently as he peeked out the window, observing the procession of guests arriving at the castle. It couldn't be –

It just... couldn't!

And yet, there it was! There it was!

There was even some sort of curious impromptu musical number breaking out before the castle gates. That was... odd... but such things happened in Equestria from time to time, or so he had heard. Having sequestered himself away all day to catch up on his duties as Grand Veneur – as pointless and powerless as that title really was – he had purposely avoided any chattering or rumoring of the "Gala prank" he had been certain was being planned at his expense.

He had even thought of it as a gay little game: he would overhear some servant talking about the "Gala tonight" and it would be an exercise in self-restraint to keep from correcting or disciplining the little pawn. The Gala was yesterday. It was over, and it had been a flop.

Blueblood had even waited patiently for the angry and shocked letters of those who had sought his patronage, now demanding he do something about the debacle – as if there was anything much he could do except to help assign blame, and direct it as much as possible away from himself. Yet no letters came. No word of insulted nobles demanding to see him. No nothing!

Just like...

Princess and gods... just like yesterday, when he had expressly cleared the entire day's schedule!

Suspiciously watching as the musical number outside died down, the Wonderbolts themselves beginning their scheduled performance, Blueblood felt a cold shiver run down his spine. Aside from his actually getting some work done formally approving yet another minor expansion to the borders of Everfree, the entire day was a spot on ringer for the day before. Now there was even a faux Gala underway!

Madness!

"Lord Prince!" The gentle rapping on the door of his study would no doubt have caused the frayed Royal to jump out of his cummerbund, had he been wearing one. "Lord Prince! The Princess has inquired as to your presence at the Gala!"

"She – she has?" Blueblood's rump hit a desk, scattering scrolls and maps onto the floor.

"Yes, Lord!" the voice called, but didn't dare to barge in when unwelcome. "Are you well enough to attend?"

"I... yes," he decided, and raised his voice to be heard. "Yes, I will attend."

Pressing an ear up to the study door, he waited for the sound of hoofsteps to die down before opening the door. This was all... simply too strange. Too bizarre.

Yet, rote and routine called to him. He descended down to the Royal apartments and summoned his preferred servants. Quietly, stunned that he was going along with what had to be an insane prank of some kind, Blueblood went through the motions of being washed, groomed one last time, and finally fitted into his custom Hoity dinner suit. At last, one of the nameless chamber fillies presented him with his reflection in a mirror. He looked perfect, of course. Just perfect. Simply perfect.

The same as yesterday.

Late to the Gala now, he endured the heralds announcing his arrival in the Grand Oratory. Normally, this would be a moment to relish: to stand before his peers – and peers aspirant – and the cream of society and aristocracy. To have them look up and measure his presence as he descended to join them. Princesses knew he had savored the moment yesterday, intending to play coy for a time before he formally began to mingle. It was all a great display, after all.

The repeat performance, however, filled him with unfamiliar unease and quickly concealed anxiety and confusion. He tried to remember what faces he had seen and recognized yesterday when he had been announced, but this was different than before. He wasn't arriving at the right time – the same time – and he saw some ponies missing and some extras present.

One in particular.

He ignored her for a moment, and saw Celestia at the intersection of the stairs leading from the Oratory to the Ménagerie, the three wings of the Palace where the Gala proper was being held. Next to the regal Princess was a petite purple unicorn in a blue dress covered in five-pointed stars. It took Blueblood a moment to remember and realize that she had to be the "bright student" his aunt often waxed on about. Usually in comparison to himself. Twilight Sparkle, if he recalled the name. The mare who was, he had been told, both a magical prodigy and most certainly not a layabout who would shirk her responsibilities to take a trip to the Clopogos – as if he did that every year, instead of once in his entire life.

There, too, was the Master of Rivers with his wife, and the High Steward of the Stables!

And... then there was her.

Just as he remembered her from yesterday. Which was much like today. She was a beauty to look at, to be sure: pristine white coat, vivid violet mane with a distinctive and feminine curl, actual crystal slippers and an intricate, layered dress in shades of red and gold. And – yes – she was looking at him with that exact same expression he had noticed at the other Gala. The... same Gala? Wide eyed, like she had found the Prince of her dreams. He felt the cruel temptation then that he had before, but quashed it. Something was going on.

Blueblood screwed his eyes shut, and made a bee-line for Celestia.

This couldn't be a game. This couldn't be a trick.

That meant magic.

"Ah, Prince Blueblood!" Celestia greeted him with a warm, welcoming smile. One that reminded him of when he was just a foal and she had found him wandering about her garden outside. "I'm happy to see you could make it. I was a bit worried when I heard you'd been in your study all day."

The implication being: it isn't like you.

"Yes, well," he stammered slightly, trying to think up an excuse. "There were matters that needed immediate attention." He quickly bowed his head in a public show of respect and deference. "Princess."

Celestia's smile was gracious, and as usual, she tried to skip through the formality.

"This is my student, Twilight Sparkle." She inclined her head towards the young unicorn mare. A little tentatively, Twilight extended her hoof.

"Charmed," Blueblood said, taking her hoof and favoring the filly with a suave grin. His body and mouth were mostly working on automatic at this point. He needed to pull his Aunt aside! "I've heard so very much about you, Miss Sparkle."

"Um. Likewise?" She clearly phrased it as a question.

Not too much for social niceties, it seemed. Well, Celestia had painted her as a mare of magic and diligent academic study. Not that she mattered at the moment.

"Princess." He didn't dare cause a scene by calling her 'Auntie' anywhere near prying ears. "I have a bit of a problem I'd like to speak with you about..." he then added, leadingly, "in private?"

"Nephew." Celestia didn't have the same qualms, and her tone was just hinting at reproachful. "Whatever it is, surely it can wait until later, after all the guests have arrived. Tonight is a very special night; let's not ruin it with work. Just mingle a little and enjoy yourself."

"But..." He tried to inject a little pleading into his voice.

"Later. I promise." Celestia put her hoof down, and he became silent. She shooed him off like a disobedient child. "Go. Have fun."

Damn it!

"Of course," he acquiesced immediately, lowering his head. "Perhaps later."

Glancing over his shoulder, he saw that insufferable unicorn watching him. Her eyes were intelligent and calculating, now, and not quite so blinded by awe and infatuation as before. All too cognizant of what had happened ...the last time, Blueblood gave one last farewell to the Princess' little apprentice and retreated to the Ménagerie.

A certain measure of sloth aside, Prince Blueblood was not a foal. Nor was he ignorant of the magic that was his birthright. There was something truly strange going on. This meant that it was best to observe, for the moment, so as to formulate a proper response. What happened before – and he felt a little sick thinking of things in this kind of weird "loop" – surely couldn't and wouldn't repeat itself if he just removed himself from the picture. Perhaps doing so would also reveal some clue? Perhaps doing so would just fix things by chance!

The latter was realistically his best bet.

The Ménagerie was a series of prominent rooms and adjoining salons. Each of the main chambers was named for a prominent constellation, the very same one that adorned the ceiling of each hall in the form of a great mural. Facing North was the Bear, East the Scorpion, and West the Hound. Within each individual Ménagerie, the walls were decked in the finest tapestries and frescoes, the most elegant of marble statues were on display, and stained-glass windows provided a rich ambiance.

Blueblood mingled in the loosest sense of the word.

Autopilot.

His body switched to autopilot, doing what it had been trained to do. He hardly spared a thought for the mares and gentlecolts he exchanged empty greetings and idle chitchat with. He was looking for anything particularly strange. There had to be something a-hoof with this situation. He also did his best to seem occupied and keep that one unicorn mare from getting involved. There was no time to waste with her.

In the Northern Ménagerie Ursae, one of the guests seemed to be causing a scene up on stage. The perpetrator was a neon-pink mare whose legs seemed to have been replaced with springs. As gauche and out of place as that one seemed to be, there wasn't any overtly offensive magic about her. Plus, just how could an earth pony be involved in anything like... this... whatever this was?

The Prince moved on to check on the Eastern Ménagerie Scorpius. The smell of the grand banquet was alluring, but Blueblood found his royal appetite blunted by the uncertainty of the situation. The eastern quarter of the Gala, like the west, was partly open air and bordered the most public section of the gardens. The view of the night sky was particularly striking here, and sections of the colonnade had been prepared to allow guests to sit on the grass and relax while they ate.

Everything seemed normal on this front, though as he made a more thorough look around, Blueblood noticed that peculiar food vendor he had visited yesterday. IF... yesterday had been real? Either way, it and she were there now, exactly where they had been before. He snorted to himself at the common fare on display. It wasn't even a matter of price – the banquet being free – no noble pony with a sense of decorum would be seen indulging in such plebian fare. It was shocking even to contemplate and remember that he, Blueblood, had paid so little attention to his surroundings that he had partaken of such things.

Luckily, no one seemed to remember about that "other day" except him.

Satisfied there was nothing sinister going on, he elected to investigate the Western Ménagerie Canis. This area was quite popular, as it included the VIP Wonderbolts section of the party. It also had a very well stocked bar. Yet, here, too, everything seemed normal. Ponies were chatting and enjoying themselves. That puddle on the floor was still present as well. Really, were the staff slacking or what? Inexcusable. Yet it was beneath him to remand one of them while the party was in full swing. He would have seen to it tomorrow... but there could well be no tomorrow!

It was soon after all this that the commotion began.

There was a shout, a crash from the Ménagerie Ursae, and a mad rush of critters of all shapes and sizes. A frightened buzzard swooped low, forcing Blueblood to throw himself to the floor. Yes: this. This was what had really driven home the end of the Gala. Once again, the Palace Guard were all gone. Once again, there was a sound of breaking statuary and the panicked bemoaning of guests as they rushed, pell-mell, from the crazed animal horde. Once again, Auntie had disappeared.

For a second time, the Gala was ruined.

Yet, as he dusted himself off, Blueblood found himself watching the surroundings with a strange calm, a certain detachment. He had seen it all before. The surprise was gone. Yet... he wasn't resigned, either. He was curious, confused, perplexed. It was like watching a painting being made, knowing already what it will look like. The fascination was in the technique, not so much the end result.

In a apathetic daze, he quietly retired to his room in the Royal Apartments.

- - -

"You'll be seeing Rain Booms!

Ooo-ooo-oooh!

Equestria Girls, we're kinda magical!

Boots on hooves, bikinis on top!"

A hoof reached for the gilded gold and silver radio, fumbling for a moment, before turning it off.

Blue eyes opened, wearily. Blueblood inhaled, exhaled, and sat up in bed. He looked down and saw the same sheets. He was even waking up in the same position. The song from a moment before still crawled unwanted in his ears, echoing in the sleepy morning lucidity of his brain.

Sliding out of bed, he took a moment to look outside. The Grand Gardens stretched out below, and he could see the old groundskeeper already up and working checking and fixing the hedge rows. It was a beautiful morning, and the risen sun was shining brightly on another glorious day in Canterlot.

Another... glorious... day...

Ringing the same bell to summon the same servants, Blueblood began his morning routine. It just... wouldn't do... to arrive at breakfast looking disheveled. He was the Prince, after all. The one member of the Royal family who wasn't immortal. The one member of the family who couldn't command the sun and the moon. He had powers of his own, yes, but they were not the sort that would wow or inspire the masses of Equestria, peasant and noble alike. At the least, he could do what little he did while looking good.

On a lark, he spoke to the servant fillies this morning.

"The Gala is tonight." He stated it with a sigh. "Isn't it?"

The two mares exchanged surprised and unsure looks. They weren't used to conversation with him, and perhaps wondered if it meant trouble. A second or two of silence followed before one of them dared to answer: a light blue filly with soft red mane.

"Yes, my Prince," she hesitantly replied.

"How nice." He said it without emotion, and held up his right hoof. "Continue."

Like before, but not quite like before, he hardly paid attention as they finished with him. Soon he was presentable, and dressed, and ready for breakfast. The castle was the same as always... except now, it was the same as always. Blueblood felt a shiver run through his frame as he entered the dining hall, and saw everyone just where they were before. Eating the same things as before. Chatting about the same things as before.

He blinked, hard, and felt a rush of relief as he realized: Celestia was here. Now. He would ask her now! Well. Not quite now. He didn't want to make a scene. Soon. Very soon.

A servant came by, and he placed an order for tea, with milk and ginger. A dish of freshly imported yucca. It was tasty in and of itself, but it was refined and expensive. He had been hoping to start a trend with it. He also had a cliens doing business in the plant. There was that, too, but it also brought back pleasant memories.

"Prince Blueblood," a cultured voice spoke up. Just like before. And the time before that.

"Proper Place," the Prince greeted the Royal Chamberlain, and officer of the Household. He was present with his aide. Neither of them had the faintest idea that Blueblood already knew that the esteemed unicorn was about to say.

"I trust you are looking forward to this Evening's Gala? I have heard you hired from the Canterlot Chamber Orchestra company? I look forward to their rendition of Entry of the Princess in Sun's Light."

"It should be quite fitting," he replied, glancing across the long table. "Once the Princess shows up, and if nothing goes wrong before that."

Strangely, Princess Celestia choose that moment to cover a small smile with a sip of tea, one of her ears twitching.

Ah-ha! Blueblood wanted to yell. Either you know what's going on, or you planned that mischief in the first place! Ah-bloody-ha!

Naturally, he said not a word of it.

Instead, he listened quietly to the conversations around him. Normally, he just tuned it out, only paying attention if it was something immediately or obviously important. This time he really listened. Of particular note was what Celestia and Luna were whispering about... though it was mostly the former whispering and the latter listening. Eventually, Luna finished her drink, and her dinner, and excused herself to rest for the day.

Blueblood took that opportunity to speak up.

"Auntie," he said, comfortable using the word here among the Household and servants. "I would like to have a moment of your time, if I may?"

The serene Princess was unreadable and affable. As usual. "Of course, nephew. What seems to be the matter?"

He coughed politely. "I would rather discuss it in private, if I may."

"You may," she permitted. Which meant, not now, but quite soon. Blueblood waited and listened.

And prayed.

- - -

"So, if I understand you correctly," Celestia said, craning her neck in bemusement. "You are repeating the same day, starting from when you wake up?"

"Yes," Blueblood replied, blushing a little at how silly his story sounded.

Fortunately, it was just the two of them, alone in her sitting room. It was among the most elegant of apartments in the Palace, as befitting the Princess of the Sun. It was here that she entertained private guests, heads of state, ambassadors, and other ponies and personages of high honor and status. The entire room seemed to give off a soft, gentle glow. Celestia was not one for finery in the strictest sense of the word. Instead, or at least for the last few centuries, her preference had been for a simple, dignified, yet majestic aesthetic.

"And ending after you go to sleep after the Gala?"

"Yes."

The regal alicorn raised a wing to briefly cover her smile. "And no one realizes this except for you?"

"Again," Blueblood replied, "yes."

Celestia gave a thoughtful hmm sound as she pondered his words and his situation.

"I must say, my sweet little nephew..." Blueblood's heart leapt at the assurance that his all knowing aunt had the answer to this problem – like all problems. She gave him a serious look. "I just don't see where this joke is headed."

Blueblood's face fell and he nearly collapsed forward into his hooves.

"This is no prank!" He actually raised his voice. Just a little. "Auntie, please." He lowered his head, all but groveling. "I'm not playing a joke. I'm being serious."

"Nephew," Celestia began, and gently lifted his eyes with her hoof under his chin. "You're clearly distraught, but no magic on Equestria could have the effect you describe. Even Discord himself couldn't cast such a spell." Her eyes narrowed for a fraction of a second. "Probably."

"The Gala will be a disaster!" he vowed, looking up at her and willing her to believe him.

"Really?"

"Oh yes," he warned. "Cakes will fly and animals will run rampant! You'll disappear and... and..."

He deflated.

"And it'll all just be ruined," he finished, not even knowing all that went wrong with the Gala and how. Even with him avoiding that unicorn, things had gone downhill. And Celestia – his great aunt Celestia – didn't seem to care.

Blueblood hung his head in defeat.

"And you probably already knew that," he realized.

"You give me too much credit," the Princess of the Sun cooed gleefully. "The fun in life is not knowing what's going to happen. The wisest of ponies relish a little nonsense now and then." Still, her good mood did falter a bit. "But I'm surprised. How did you know...?"

"I've seen it happen," he answered with a frown. "Twice."

For a few pregnant seconds, the two Royals – alicorn and unicorn – sat in silence.

"Nephew," Celesia finally said, placing a compassionate hoof on his shoulder. "You are free to search the Royal Libraries for an answer, but I think the problem isn't with magic. The problem," she tapped his chest, "is in here."

"Or maybe here," she added, gently rapping her hoof against his forehead. "Perhaps you should see a specialist?"

For the second time, Blueblood's spirits sunk, and this time they took his face with them as it planted into the cushions on the floor. "Auntie!"

- - -

Celestia's personal physician and apothecary, Willow Bark, was a learned and much esteemed graduate of her School for Gifted Unicorns. She had a remarkable penchant for all forms of medicine, traditional, holistic, and magical. Blueblood watched her back as she stared as a series of arcane sigils that had materialized on sheets of paper. This sort of magic, he didn't understand himself. He just hoped that whatever Willow saw, it was something useful, good or bad.

"I see," the pale coated unicorn mare muttered, her hoof rubbing absently against the pocket of her lab coat. "I see..."

"Well?" Blueblood snapped, growing impatient just sitting on place within the circle of runes and salt. "What do you see? What's wrong with me? Is it parasites? OH GODS IT'S PARASITES! They're in my brain, aren't they?!"

"No. No. Not parasites," Willow Bark assured him, finally turning around to look him in the eye. "Nor is it lesions, contusions, concussions or infractions. You are in perfect health, Prince Blueblood."

"Then what did you see, you see?" he repeated, impatience making him rude. Ruder. Or at least snarkier.

"I see that you have not had your wisdom teeth removed!" Willow exclaimed. "May I schedule you for next week? Next month?"

"NO!"

- - -

"Are you sure a zebra hasn't cursed you?"

"Quite certain one hasn't," Blueblood answered, left eye twitching.

"Well, sir, I can't detect even a hint of magic on you, harmful or otherwise." The response came not from a physician, but from one of Blueblood's own trusted subordinates. Not without his own resources, he had immediately left the castle and called together – by fiat and demand – every learned scholar in his employ he could find. Unfortunately, most "learned scholars" under his employ were versed in magic rather unrelated to pony physiology or psychology.

Hence why Blueblood currently sat, wet and miserable, in a tub of magic-suppressing water, with an enchanted blinder and cap preventing use of his horn. He was personally de-enchanted in every way possible. There wasn't a shred of magic left that wasn't his own natural energy field. A beeping machine of strange earth pony construction whirred and hissed and vomited out a ream of paper covered with scratched lines.

"I want you to be sure!" The demand came from a Prince of Equestria.

Blueblood's underling just quirked an eyebrow. "We've done all we can to make you magically neutral, sir."

"I'm not moving a damn inch."

"Um. But... sir... what about the Gala?"

"The Gala can go straight to –"

- - -

"You'll be seeing Rain Booms!

Ooo-ooo-oooh!

Equestria Girls, we're kinda magical!

Boots on hooves, bikinis on top!"

click

Blueblood forced himself out of bed with a long, slow sigh.

Well.

That hadn't worked.

Outside was the same as before. Another beautiful early morning. Inside was the same as before. The chime of the bell to summon his servants sunk a pit into the Prince's royal stomach. The pair met him in the antechamber, and just like before, they helped him get groomed and dressed for the day. One couldn't simply attend breakfast looking like a damned slob, after all.

Eyes open, he watched the two chamber maids for once.

"The Gala is tonight," he asked, directing the question at neither of them in particular. "Isn't it?"

The two mares exchanged looks. Just like before. Blueblood noticed one looked particularly nervous, while the other seemed mostly surprised. It was the latter filly who eventually replied: the light blue mare with the pinkish-red mane.

"Yes, my Prince."

"How very nice," he groaned, and peered more closely at the filly. Normally he wouldn't have cared, but since he was talking to her anyway, he couldn't help but be a little curious. "What's your name?"

"Light Touch, sir." She bowed her head respectfully.

"And you?" he asked the other mare, the unicorn filly with a dark brown coat and straw colored mane. She lowered her eyes and dipped her head. "Speak up already," he commanded.

"Excuse her," Light Touch interrupted, trying to still sound deferential. "She doesn't talk much. Her name's Sandy."

"Wonderful," he deadpanned. "Well, may as well get me ready for my big, wonderful Gala Day."

- - -

"Announcing, his Highness, Prince of Equestria and Grand Veneur, Lord Blueblood of the House Blueblood."

This time, he went to the Gala.

Why, he wasn't even sure. Not that it mattered, but he went anyway.

He didn't try to avoid her, either.

In fact, after taking note of the musical number at the castle gates, he waited in the Royal Oratory, chatting with two businessponies from Manehattan. One eye on the clock, he took note of when she entered the room, looking about at the many noble personages with a mixture of nervousness and self-confidence. She was clearly certain she could fit in if given the chance. She look the part. Like a true lady of the court.

Blueblood remembered how they had met before outside by the garden. Experimentally, he lingered longer than before among the gathered ponies waiting to ascend the stairs and meet Princess Celestia. The purple pony – Twilight Sparkle – was up there, too, hanging by his aunt's side. Blueblood wondered for a moment if she planned to just hang around Celestia all night? She didn't seem like the type who wanted to reinforce her own position by flaunting her close relationship with the Princess in the snouts of the nobles and lords. What was she up to?

He put that question on the back burner.

Rarity.

Rarity was demurely mingling on her own, but he could see her keeping a discreet eye on him. Not particularly caring just how much his decision would end up bringing ruin to the Gala, Blueblood graced her with a small, polished smile. Excusing himself, he headed for the rose bushes. It would just be a few minutes, and then he'd "catch" her coyly sniffing a rose, and use it to introduce himself. Just like before.

If the Gala wanted to screw with him, he could screw with the Gala.

- - -

Old habits, it was said, die hard.

He'd intended to enjoy himself. To not care one whit about the end of the Gala.

It had proven harder than he thought. In his heart, he wanted the Gala to be a success. He wanted the power and prestige of being patron to successful cliens. He wanted supplicants to approach him, begging to be given a hoof in the door for next year. He wanted compliments for his contributions to this most high society of all events. He wanted things to go his way. He wanted...

Well, it seemed fate didn't care what he wanted.

At the least, however, he wanted to not have to lament the disaster to come, yet it was always there in the back of his mind. Contrary to what he had expected, being around Rarity didn't make it easier. It made it harder. Despite being his charming self and having quite a little fun at her expense, the mirth of watching her expression fall as he took the rose she had clearly expected him to give her for himself... and then her ruining her dress with that spill... and then making her pay for that carnival food, which he ate just for the fun of following through... on repeat, it was all so stupidly hollow. Two days ago, he had been laughing inside at what he could put her through. Now it was already stale as rotten millet.

The cake hit his face, and Blueblood realized he didn't even care.

At least this time, the walls didn't come crashing down. Not until after the animals attacked and everypony turned to a blind panic. No. Blueblood just watched and counted as twenty-thousand bit tapestries ripped free and fell to the ground, a million-bit Trotsuir sculpture of Luna, inlaid with gold, shattered, and then, finally... single piece marble pillars, each a priceless original from the Old Castle... toppled.

Snorting, a bit of apple cake dribbled down his nose to his upper lip.

Instinctively, his tongue darted out to wipe away the frosting and flakes.

It actually wasn't that bad.

- - -

Prince Blueblood, Royal Scion of Equestria, Illustrious Veneur and Marker of Stupid Little Lines on Maps...

Sighed as he drank.

He'd retreated to the Wonderbolt VIP lounge as soon as the Gala started. He didn't even want to see Rarity, or any other familiar faces. Over and over he had been through that mess. He didn't want to know. He didn't want to care. It was all just so... pointless and stupid. Here he was. Again. At the Gala. Again.

"Hey, if it isn't the Prince!"

Blue eyes lifted from staring at his cup, finding bold gold and blue markings on a coat-tight suit. A Wonderbolt suit. It made sense. He was in their VIP lounge, even if it was just to put a wall between him and... everything else in the Gala. He had been standing alone, purposefully so, but leaned back at the two guests. One was an electric blue stallion with a sloppy dark blue mane, the other an attractive gold-coated mare with amber eyes and a shockingly bright orange mane.

He knew these two; he'd paid for much of their paycheck tonight.

More wasted bits, not that it mattered anymore.

"Prince Blueblood." The female half of the duo had the grace to bow, and elbowed her companion to do the same. "What a surprise to see you here."

"I suppose it is," he replied, injecting a bit of his old self into his flagging spirits. One must look good, after all. Even if one felt like barnyard shit.

"I'm Spitfire." The mare kept her amiable tone. "And this is Soarin’. Are you..." She looked around, but only half-heartedly. "Are you waiting for anyone? If you want, we could get Captain Thunderhead or Raging Storm?"

"That isn't necessary." He wasn't here to see either of the senior Flight Leaders.

"Hey," Soarin’ spoke up with a familiar grin. "Did ya see the performance? What'd ya think?"

Blueblood shrugged, the drink half finished and half warm in his gut granting him a comfortable indifference. Normally he would have showered the performers with praise, regardless of whether he meant it or not. Courtly life had taught him well to only speak ill of others behind their back.

"It did the job," he replied. "The crowd liked it."

"Well." Spitfire seemed a bit surprised by the answer. She shared a quick look with Soarin’ before turning her eyes back on the Prince. "Did you like it?"

"I said it did its job," Blueblood repeated. The Wonderbolts weren't here at the Gala to impress him. They were there to impress the guests.

"You still haven't answered the question," Spitfire pressed. Boldly, too, since she was starting to get on his nerves. Wonderbolt or not, that wasn't particularly wise.

"What'cha got there?" Soarin’ asked, changing the question and gesturing to the drink.

Before Blueblood could answer – he wasn't even sure what he was drinking, but was willing to just make an answer up – he noticed a duo of photographers hovering close by. Literally. They were pegasi. Soarin’ and Spitfire noticed it, too, and had the decency to blush a bit at the unwanted attention. There was a line of guests just waiting to have their picture taken with the famous young Wonderbolt duo. Impatient guests.

Yet the photographers were wary of interrupting when the two were in the presence of certain royal company. Even a little drunk, Blueblood put things together. Seeing all three staring at them, one of the photographers got a bit bold, and tried to step in.

"Excuse me," he began. "If we could just..."

"Leave us," Blueblood ordered... suppressing a grin until the two pegasi fled back to find some other Wonderbolts to corral. Spitfire and Soarin’ gave audible sighs of relief, and smiled at him in thanks. It was ironic. He had hired those photographers, too.

The thought actually dredged a genuine laugh out of the sullen Prince.

"Thanks," Soarin’ said, scratching the back of his mane. "We haven't had a minute to ourselves all night."

"Hm?" Blueblood asked. "You are quite famous."

"I hate parties like this," Spitfire explained with a grin, suspecting that maybe he did too. And the truth was... now.. he kind of did. Or at least this one, specific Gala. "I mean, yeah, we're famous... but our fans are out there." She pointed to the gardens. "Not in here."

It took Blueblood a second to realize she wasn't pointing at the gardens, she was pointing past them. Out into the streets of Canterlot and beyond.

He turned his head to gaze out there.

Slowly, he returned to Soarin’ and Spitfire.

"You want to get out of here?" Spitfire asked, and Soarin’ grinned widely.

"...Yes... why not?"

- - -

Wonderbolts or not, he was a proud and noble Prince of Equestria. Such a place was beneath him.

Blueblood took a certain perverse pleasure in going inside anyway. He had heard of such establishments: "dives" and pubs and gathering places for riffraff. It wasn't quite as scandalous as entering a house of "ill repute" but it was far worse than he had ever dared to do before. No doubt the tabloids would be all atwitter with the news. Ha!

As if.

Soarin’ and Spitfire had shed their Wonderbolt uniforms, and he had thrown his Hoity-exclusive dinner jacket into the bushes outside. No one had dared question any of them. They had just walked out of the party. Just walked out.

Blueblood still couldn't quite believe it.

Leaving the castle grounds had, at first, filled him with a certain trepidation. Canterlot was a clean city, but there were more than a few ways to get truly dirty out here. There also weren't any servants or guards to call on... unless one counted the two Wonderbolts themselves, both of which had at least some military training. It took a little while, but finishing off another drink had calmed his nerves enough to relax more properly.

He had all but reared when Spitfire suddenly jumped up and tousled his mane – his precious mane – to better hide his identity. It was shocking! Scandalous! Improper! His perfect mane was one of his finest features, not that he liked to discriminate. The horn was number one, of course, but all his other features were equally perfect and all tied in second place.

"Now you're ready to hit the town!" the Wonderbolt had declared, elbowing him playfully.

"This is the place!" Soarin’ had declared as they approached the... business.

They'd delved into the Merchant District. Not the seedy part, mind you – the "new money" rich part of Canterlot. The bar wasn't even particularly low brow. It was just so un-aristocratic! It catered to rich and middle class working ponies. They were a social strata below proper landed nobility.

Getting inside was actually due to the Wonderbolts, who the two security ponies recognized. They did not even recognize their beloved Prince. Blueblood wasn't sure whether he was more shocked or disgusted by this. Or even a little thrilled. Anonymity was so... alien...

They paid just to have a private booth.

After that, he offered to pay for the drinks. He was rich, after all, and it wasn't like it mattered. No one but he would remember the money he threw away tomorrow. They began with a round of the house's most expensive vintage cognac.

Soarin’ and Spitfire were full of stories of their years flying together. They had attended Young Fliers Camp together, and their parents had put them in the same class in a Gifted Fliers program. Soarin’, from a middling family in Cloudsdale, had entered the Territorial Air Guard for a time to get into the Wonderbolts. Spitfire, from a richer family, had learned from a tutor and then become one. They met again in the Wonderbolts 'bootcamp' and become inducted in consecutive years. Now they flew together, living their dream.

After listening to them, Blueblood wished he had a story like that. As much as he wracked his brain, he simply didn't. He had been tutored since he was a foal. He really had neither peers nor friends. The only colleagues he had were the other secretaries and ministers of the Royal Household. He thought instead about telling a raunchy story about Princess Celestia. Auntie was the one with the interesting and eternal life. Either that, or he could make something up... change some names around...

Before he could, however, he noticed the two Wonderbolts glancing back at the door.

A cyan blue pegasus in a Gala dress had somehow managed to talk – or bull – her way inside. She was Spitfire's size and body type, but clearly a few years younger. Her dress – a rainbow colored affair – had gotten dirty from the descent from Castle to Canterlot, the billowy white clouds behind her now streaked with bits of brown and black.

"It's... um...?" Soarin’ clearly remembered this filly, but not her name.

"Rainbow... Dash, I think?" Spitfire corrected him with practiced ease. "I guess she followed us?" The Wonderbolt turned to Blueblood. "Is it alright if...?"

He shrugged. Two pegasi or three. It didn't matter.

Starless Hells, that may as well become his new motto.

Spitfire got up, and hustled over to greet the younger mare. The filly seemed relieved to have not made her little trek in vain, and pointing back at their booth, Spitfire seemed to invite her over. Blueblood couldn't help but raise an eyebrow at the look of absolute adulation and fangirl-like pleasure that this new pegasi radiated.

Another Gala reject, he couldn't help but think. Like all of us here, I suppose.

"Kinda cute, isn't she?" Soarin’ leaned over the booth's table to whisper.

Blueblood could only stare at the Wonderbolt. A grin found his lips. "Spitfire is at that."

Soarin’ laughed easily. So damn easily. "Not her!"

He leaned back to tuck his legs under him in his seat.

"Rainbow Dash. Gotta remember that," Soarin’ muttered to himself. "I totally suck with names."

"I don't see how you could forget," he drolly replied. "She's named after her color scheme."

A few seconds later, and this 'Rainbow Dash' was seated opposite, Spitfire having cannily switched seats and sides. She introduced herself, her childlike glee for the Wonderbolts dissipating a bit as she reached out to shake his hooves.

"So you're the Prince, huh?" she asked, giving him a hard stare. Like he was an otherworldly space-pony.

"I am the Prince of Equestria, yes," Blueblood replied, glancing at the pegasus's hoof with some disdain. She was hardly the most lady-like of mares, but considering the company, and the circumstances, he shrugged and brusquely shook her hoof in his own.

"Nice to meet ya!" The multi-colored filly shook back, quite firmly. "I'm Rainbow Dash! Future Wonderbolt and one of the Elements of Harmony! But you probably already knew about that part!"

"Ah. Yes. Of course," he lied. This was one of the Elements of Harmony?

Of course he knew about the Elements. In a general sense.

He hadn't actually been told about the bearers of them, or if he had, he'd promptly forgotten. It didn't seem like it mattered. It had nothing to do with him, or with his tedious work, and the Elements themselves were Auntie's pet project. He'd sort of assumed that the six mares they were bonded to had been kept somewhere close by for training or... or something. Deployment. It was strange seeing one as... well, as a mare.

And... if this one was at the Gala, then were the others as well?

Could the Elements also be the answer to his problem?

It was something to consider.

Blueblood's attention wandered for a bit as Dash regaled two of her idols with chatter about Rain Booms and chasing lightning and exotic weather phenomenon. It was typical pegasi chat – kind of annoying, actually, since he doubted any of them would appreciate him gibbering on about unicorn magic. There were some interesting anecdotes behind and between the boasting, and Blueblood just let himself relax. Another round of drinks, and then two more, helped in that respect. They even all had a good laugh when Dash downed about two hundred bits worth of Royal Stables Brandy in a single gulp, leading to much coughing and repeated assurances of "I can handle it; it's cool!"

It was so... mundane and pedestrian.

But the Prince couldn't help but marvel that there was a certain intoxication, not just to the actual physical intoxication, but to being so carefree. A dozen paparazzi could burst in, cameras flashing, and he wouldn't bat an eye laughing in their faces. None of it mattered, and he was starting to wonder if that was really such a bad thing.

"Hey, Blueblood!" Soarin’ pounded his hoof on the table. "Let's hear something from you, man! Story! Story!"

"Yeah!" Dash quickly joined in, also stomping a gold-slippered hoof. "Let's get a story from the Prince!"

Spitfire just smiled at him. "Come on. You know you want to."

"You want a story, is that it?" He didn't really have that many options. He didn't have any tricks to tell of, and he didn't think anypony would be excited to hear about backroom deals or political scheming or... map making.

"Story!" "Story!" "Story!"

"If you insist. If you insist." He held up a hoof for some silence. His thoughts were already a bit murky; a cheering section just made it worse. He did have one semi-good story to his name. "Do any of you know where the Clopagos are?"

The three pegasi returned questioning stares.

"I suppose not," Blueblood continued with a sigh. "They're islands far to the south. Tropical islands. Equatorial."

He shook his head; tried to focus. "Anyway. Some pegasi wanted permission to go down there to collect wild cloud samples. They came to me for money to fund the trip. You know, since..." He tapped his flank, and the compass rose there. "It was on the no-fly list. I got things together and even went down myself. I thought of it as a vacation; a chance to relax on a beach... far from Canterlot... far from Auntie... you know, while the pegasi did all the actual work."

He smirked at that.

"There was one mare, though." He looked longingly at the ceiling. "On the last day down there, she came down to the beach. We talked. Had a few drinks. Ate exotic fruits. Then we swam in the water and made love like Sea Ponies. That..." The Prince of Equestria sighed. "Well... that was a good day. Why couldn't this day... be that day...?"

He stared into his drink, his voice becoming quiet. "Over and over again?"

He paused, noticing the beet red blushing of the mare opposite, hiding her cheeks behind her hooves. Soarin’ was chuckling to himself, clearly having enjoyed the story. Spitfire leaned over and cleared her throat.

"Well, I think it's romantic." She gave him a teasing look. "In the water, hm?"

"Y-you guys!" Dash objected. "Come on!"

"Mid-air is the way to go," Soarin’ boasted, holding up his drink. "Nothing like it!"

Blueblood snorted dismissively. "Pegasi."

"Live for the moment, man!" Soarin’ finished off his drink and set it down on the table, grinning broadly all the while. "No regrets!"

"Live like there's no tomorrow?" the noblepony asked, staring across the table and then to his side at the three accomplished flyers. He shook his head.

"And what if there literally was no tomorrow?" he asked. "What then?"

"If there's no tomorrow," Rainbow Dash spoke up, despite her embarrassment. She put her hooves on the table, her cheeks still blushing. "Then you can just do whatever you want today!" Her rose colored eyes darted over to Soarin’ sitting next to her. "Sounds kinda fun, actually."

The Wonderbolt caught the stare and grinned cheekily.

"You know what?" The Prince of Equestria made up his mind. He noticed Spitfire smiling at him. There wouldn't be any objections there, it seemed. "I think... you're right."

- – –

"You'll be seeing Rain Booms!

Ooo-ooo-oooh!

Equestria Girls, we're kinda magical!

Boots on hooves, bikinis on top!"

A white hoof hovered, gently turning off the radio.

A second later, and a bed-headed Blueblood sat straight up. A quick glance to his side didn't reveal any company. Everything was the same. Not even a hangover.

Everything was the same!

Running his hooves through his hair, Blueblood laughed. And laughed.

And laughed.

"Yes! Goo-oood morning Canterlot!" Hopping out of bed with a spring in his step, he pulled open the curtains to take a good look at the morning. And what a beautiful, carefree morning it was! Today was the day! A fresh new day of infinite possibilities and no consequences!

Ringing the bell for his chamber maids, he waited for them with an almost giddy smile.

"Light Touch." He pointed to the blue coated mare. "Right? Just a quick brush over. Just get out the knots. I'm going natural today."

"But... but sir..." Light Touch very nearly protested. "We were told to..."

"Ehhhh. It doesn't matter!" He said that with almost Dash-like glee. He really had to thank that little filly sometime. "Just a quick bushing."

"If you insist, sir," Light Touch relented.

And, if Blueblood wasn't mistaken, he actually caught Sandy smiling a bit, too.

Perhaps his mood was infectious?

- - -

"Hello, Auntie! Hello Auntie!" He greeted the Princesses and the dour Household ponies around the table. He singled out one Princess in particular. "Quite the morning today! I don't think I've seen the sun this radiant in years!"

"Oh, why thank you, Blueblood," Celestia took the compliment with due decorum while still seeming visibly pleased.

Taking his seat, he noticed Proper Place staring at him. The old unicorn looked lost for words.

"Before you ask," Blueblood gleefully held up a hoof to cut the old advisor off. "I am looking forward to the Gala tonight, yes I did hire the Canterlot Chamber Orchestra to play for us, and I've heard their rendition of Entry of the Princess in Sun's Light is a wonder to behold."

Knowing the servant was within speaking distance even before she got there, he continued:

"Tea, with milk and ginger. Nothing else. I'm going out this morning."

"You are?" This time, to his surprise, the question came from Luna.

It was also spoken more than a little loudly.

"We mean," she repeated, more quietly. "You are?" The dark alicorn gave him a curious look. "You never did so before."

"That's quite true," Celestia agreed.

"Things change," Blueblood assured them, laughing softly at his own private joke. "Things change."

- - -

The song and dance before the gates of Canterlot was half finished when a carriage rolled up. This was no ordinary means of conveyance, however. Studded with jewels in glittering, swirling, interlaced rivers and streams, and imported from halfway across the country, it was long enough to carry a dozen ponies or more with room to spare. A collective gasp sucked the air from the varied revelers about to enter the castle grounds, and every head and every pair of eyes turned to stare.

Royal Guards, dressed in expensive tuxedos, hurried to flank the doors of the stretch carriage.

A cream colored leg emerged first, teasingly, tantalizingly, sporting a sparkling slipper that probably cost more than most ponies made in a year. It was followed soon after by the Pony of Pop herself, Sapphire Shores. No mere dress would do for The Sensation, and instead she appeared in an intricate French Maid outfit, as saucy as it was ridiculously overpriced. Tiny diamonds caught the light along the lace filigree as the pony superstar emerged, lighting her up the center of the universe.

A step behind her, Blueblood reveled in the scene he was making. Gone was the proper dinner suit. Instead, his flanks scintillated with rhinestones, the silver spurs on his cowboy boots jingling. He'd expressly purchased the most gaudy, tacky, inappropriate and expensive ensemble within a thousand miles. A blue silk scarf and cowboy hat completed the utterly atrocious look.

Sapphire Shores loved it.

Further proof in Blueblood's mind that he had done well in picking something truly terrible.

The effect could not be argued with. A hundred ponies stood, stunned, staring at the pair. The spotlight hadn't just been stolen. It had been put in a safe, locked with a key, the key had been buried, and a house had been built over it. But nothing – nothing at all – compared to the look of shock on Auntie Celestia's face when she saw the duo walk through the gate. Priceless. Beyond priceless!

Blueblood choose that moment to propose to the Pony of Pop.

Let her be the Princess of Pop!

Sapphire was the perfect partner in crime. She didn't even mind when, accepting, they began to make out right in the center of the Royal Oratory.

- - -

Blueblood began the day with a banquet.

No: not just a banquet. A feast.

He began the day with a feast. When asked what he wanted for breakfast, after giving it a moment's thought, the Esteemed Prince had answered:

"I don't know. One of everything you can make, I suppose."

The table had been momentarily stunned silent, broken only by wary, uncomfortable laughter.

"No, really," Blueblood had repeated. "One of everything."

One or two stuttering protests aside – together with a "Yes, of course I'll pay for it, no Auntie, it won't ALL go to waste" – the table was soon laden with every treat imaginable. Those that were not freshly produced by the castle staff were brought from pastry shops and high class establishments in the city proper. Blueblood didn't mind waiting. It wasn't about the food. It was the spectacle.

No doubt suspecting that her nephew was intending to indulge in the family tradition of epic trolling, Celestia had stuck around just long enough to grasp the extent of his madness. She had even partaken in a few of the freshly arriving treats, seeing it as something of a challenge to keep up with him. For an hour or more, the two Royals played a deadly game of caloric chicken, their waist lines and cholesterol levels – and pride – on the line.

Blueblood considered it a point of disgusting, gluttonous pride to outlast Equestria's immortal Princess of the Sun.

Eventually, minus the servants, only one pony remained at the table.

Auntie Luna had remained silent the entire time, watching as her sister and nephew gorged themselves like the ancient hedonists of old. Despite normally turning in to rest after a long night guiding the moon, Luna remained even after Celestia left. Blueblood began to wonder if she was simply fascinated by seeing one pony stuff himself on such a vast array of sweets. He hadn't seen her eat any herself.

"Rather disgusting, isn't it?"

Finally, the Princess of the moon speaks.

"Allow me to disagree," he replied, raising his voice to ensure she could hear him. He held up a frosting crowned confection. "These... cupcakes... as they're called, are quite delicious!"

"We were referring to your behavior," Luna's voice projected easily across the table. He knew that spell. "It is rather atrocious."

"All in the eye of the beholder," he countered, using the same spell to project his voice.

To drive the point home, he scooped up a dollop of cream with a fresh strawberry, placing it on his tongue with an indulgent grin. Luna's face scrunched up in distaste. Though, a second later, she did tentatively levitate over a small round breakfast treat. A 'donut' they were called. Blueblood had never condescended to try one before.

That one... had sprinkles.

"Gluttony is a vice we have seen consume more than a few ponies," Luna told him, nibbling at the donut experimentally. As always, she was prim and proper; the perfect Princess. Albeit loud. She was old fashioned, like he w– like he had been.

"I'm not worried about that," he assured her, floating over a donut of his own and eating it in one bite.

"We find that hard to believe. In our experience, you appear to care a great deal what others think of you." Luna took a small bite of her pastry, smiling as she found it to her liking. "Our sister in particular."

Blueblood frowned at the observation.

"Yes, well." He glanced away, to try and find something new to try. "Not anymore."

Luna was silent for a time, as she finished her donut.

"So you say," she replied, standing up to leave. Her guards quickly moved to flank her as she left. "Yet," she added over her shoulder, "We can't help but find your desire for attention rather pathetic. We will leave you to your repast."

Blueblood followed the alicorn with his eyes before staring at a plate of sweet cakes, layered in a rainbow of colors in jam. He willed a fork to take a bite, but found his appetite – with his audience – gone. Raising a napkin to the corner of his mouth, he wiped away a smudge of jelly.

What did that old bat know anyway?

- - -

"Prince Blueblood."

"Proper Place. You look well."

"Yes, thank you. I trust you are looking forward to this Evening's Gala? I have heard you hired from the Canterlot Chamber Orchestra company? I look forward to their rendition of Entry of the Princess in Sun's Light."

"As... do I, Chamberlain. As do I."

Blueblood tried to eat his usual.

Tea, with milk and ginger. It always helped to wake him up. As for the rest: he still had little appetite for much of anything. Not that he wasn't hungry. It was the same as every morning. He just.. couldn't quite look at the plates of food the same way. Out of curiosity, he beckoned over a servant and requested an identical serving to what Celestia had: the oats and apples he had always derided. It wasn't like it hurt to try.

As things wound down, proceeding as they always did, the Prince couldn't help but glance in the direction of his other Aunt. The one he had never known. The one who had only entered the life of the Court over the last year. Who had done less than that, as few saw her outside of her nightly duty raising and lowering the moon.

"Auntie," Blueblood spoke up, sensing he was almost out of time.

Celestia immediately set her eyes on him, but it wasn't her he meant to address –

"Auntie Luna," he said again, and the dark Princess gave him a nonplussed look, unused to being addressed when her sister was present. "What is it like...? To be immortal?"

Next to her, Celestia raised an eyebrow at the strange question.

Luna set her hooves against her chest and lowered her eyes. "Why... are you asking us that?"

"I guess, the bigger question is," Blueblood continued, raising his chin, "when you're destined to live forever, what do you do with your life? I mean. Besides what you have to? How do you live with it?"

Like before, it took a second or two for Luna to really determine how to respond.

"One simply does," she answered, standing up to leave.

He watched her go, and sighed.

That... really wasn't the response he had hoped for.

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