• Published 23rd Apr 2012
  • 11,432 Views, 299 Comments

Diary of a Foalsitter - Hivemind



Princess Cadence's well kept diary entries of her time as Twilight Sparkle's foalsitter.

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Champion Amore

“Steelwing and Star Strider were...dating?” said Shining Armor. “Why didn’t I see it before…”

“I thought it was quite adorable to see those two in love,” said Cadance, smiling happily. “And to think that we were like that back then, now that we’ve come this far.”

Cadance sighed, leaning her head against Shining Armor’s soft neck before nuzzling into it comfortably.

“So, what should we read next?” asked Cadance, levitating the diary down to her eye level. “I think I remember writing about the day we visited the lake together. It should be in here somewhere...”

“Please don’t tell me you wrote about what we did-”

“The big oak tree. Yes, yes I did, but nopony actually saw us that night, right?”

“Except for that family of squirrels,” mumbled Shining Armor. “Those poor little squirrel children. That was one thing nature won’t be able to unsee. Let’s look for something else.”

“The day we went to the carnival? It’s a short one, but even you should remember it. After all, you were the one who got us kicked out.”

“I was just super hungry that day! I swear!”

“What sort of pony would openly eat the tail off of a giant cotton candy statue that somepony spent weeks working on? That old mare who owned it must have been devastated!”

“But I said I was sorry! You remember that, right?”

“You were lucky to have been dating royalty at the time, mister. Just think of what could have happened had those royal guards caught sight of you before we left.”

“Oh how I wonder…”

“You could have been arrested, court martial'd, upset your family, lost your shot at captain of the guard, and worst of all...well, you could have lost me.” Cadance frowned.

“Aww, don’t worry. I would give up anything to be with you, Cadance. You know that. So long as you're happy, I’m happy,” said Shining Armor, planting a kiss on Cadance’s forehead.

“D'oh, thank you, Shiny,” Cadance cooed, returning the kiss with a quick one of her own. “But really, what should we read next? There’s tons of stuff we could look at. It’s crazy what I have written in here! I wrote about the time we went to the beach, that time we went to the enchanted chocolate factory, that time when we played board games in the castle because it was raining outside and you were getting really frustrated because Twilight was beating your flank in every single game we played, and I even wrote about-”

“Games?” whispered Shining Armor, interrupting Cadance. “Why does that word ring a bell to me?”

“Maybe the old memories of losing to your own little sister are coming back to haunt you?” Cadance chuckled.

“No...it’s something else.”

Shining Armor pushed the diary aside before putting one hoof in front of the other and slowly stepping off the bed.

“Where are you going?” asked Cadance.

Shining Armor made his way to the bedroom closet, murmuring inaudibly under his breath as he went.

“Care to answer your tempered newly-wed, Shining?” Cadance continued, raising an eyebrow.

“Maybe,” replied Shining Armor, smirking as he opened the closet door. “This will only take a minute.”

“I’ll be waiting...” Cadance sighed, despising the sense of being ignored.

Shining Armor nodded before stepping through the dark doorway. Just as royalty intended, the closet was practically as big as the bedroom itself, so the search for whatever her husband was after was going to take a while, no doubt. Luckily for Cadance, a cure for boredom was sitting right in front of her.

Cadance opened the diary again and hastily flipped the pages until she landed on the first blank page she came across. Every page after it was blank as well, but that was what made the diary so special to her. Anypony could just open it up and read from her past memories. Aside from a need for seclusion, that was the point of having a diary, right? But all little fillies, even princesses, can have a few shadier secrets of their own to hide.

Cadance tilted her head and touched the tip of her horn to the paper. A spark of blue magic streaked from the base to the tip and zapped the diary. In the blink of an eye, the blank page was flooded with neatly written words, from top to bottom, with the date of the entry inscribed in the top right corner.

“Oh, magical invisible ink salespony. Why did I ever doubt you?” Cadance giggled. “Now, let’s see what we have here~...”

~~~~~

“B-but, Aunt Celly--!”

“No buts, Cadance. Just relax and enjoy it.”

“But it’s so big!”

“I know! I never let anypony see it! I just get a little...lonely sometimes.”

“Well...it does smell pretty nice.”

“Go ahead. Give it a taste. I assure you that it’s real.”

~~~~~

“Found it!” shouted Shining Armor, startling Cadance and making her drop the diary onto the floor. The frightened mare scrambled to retrieve it, but before she could cast the spell to hide the secret text, Shining Armor strolled out of the closet with a shiny gold medal suspended above him with magic.

“Oh, well that’s...great, honey!” said Cadance, smiling nervously.

“Are you okay, Cadance?” asked Shining Armor. “You look like you’ve just seen a ghost.”

“Not at all, Shining. I’m fine, really.”

“Are you sure?” asked Shining Armor as he climbed back onto the bed, his personal trophy hanging around his neck. “I didn’t scare you or anything, did I?”

“...maybe you did, just a little.”

“Well then, m'lady, please accept my most sincere of apologies.” Shining Armor then turned his head and planted a soothing kiss to Cadance's closest cheek.

“Mmm…apology accepted,” Cadance moaned, blushing. “So, what’s with the medal?”

“You don’t remember? I won the champion title in that royal guard tournament, the one that was also disguised as a royal evaluation of the current state of the guard?”

“Not really. I just figured you wanted to show off your newest edition to your collection. You get them left and right anyway.”

“Then why don’t we refresh your memory a little?” Shining Armor gestured toward the diary. “Go on! See if you wrote anything about it!”

Cadance nodded and began flipping through the pages, only to stop seconds later with sudden realization.

“Do you remember any dates? I don’t want to waste my time flipping through this entire book, you know.”

“Yeah! If I remember correctly, it happened sometime in the middle of August, but I can’t be-”

“You mean this?” asked Cadance, hovering the diary in front of Shining Armor’s face.

“Yeah...” said Shining Armor, eyes wide. “That was fast.”

“That’s what she said!” Cadance giggled. “Or rather what I said!” Cadance continued, giggling even harder. Shining Armor rolled his eyes, just barely amused by Cadance's sudden petty humor. “So, which one of us is reading?”

“Could I-”

“Called it first!” Cadance grinned, snatching the diary away and hiding it behind her back.

“Whatever...” murmured Shining Armor, looking away from his eternally-bonded trickster.

“Don’t be mad,” said Cadance, snuggling up next to her husband and hugging the diary close. “How about I let you read the next one?”

“Really?”

“When I’m done with it anyway!”

“Of course...”

~~~~~

The royal trumpeters blared their instruments with thunderous force as Princess Celestia and her royal party, consisting of the young Princess Cadance and her even younger filly friend, stepped onto the royal seating platform in the Canterlot Grand Stadium. Thousands of ponies from every major town and city cheered on in the stands as their regal ruler waved to the masses from her temporary throne on the platform. Not wanting to be the odd one out, Cadance put on a little smile and waved alongside her dear relative, feeling a little nervous about having to act like a real princess for once in front of such a massive crowd.

While she was waving, Cadance felt somepony tug on her back leg.

“Cadance?” said Twilight behind her. “Could you help me?”

“Sure!” replied Cadance, lowering her nervous hoof and turning around to face her little friend. “What do you--oh, Twilight! Your dress!”

“Argh! I know!” Twilight groaned, using one of her back legs to scratch the little space behind her ears like a dog. “I hate this stupid thing!

As painful yet slightly humorous as it was to watch her little friend squirm like an angry cat, Cadance felt quite proud knowing that she managed to convince Twilight to wear something of her own design. Before she was brought into royalty, her mother taught her the little things that most ponies today wouldn’t even turn a blind eye to. She wasn’t exactly Equestria’s most prominent fashionista, but at least Cadance knew how to stitch a few pieces of vibrant fabric together into an easy dress.

Cadance went for something simple and sewed together a slightly formal blue dress that would fit well if a bit uncomfortably over Twilight’s shoulders, complete with a little blue bow tied into her mane. It was all kinds of adorable poured into an even more adorable package. Twilight wasn't one for wanting to look cute, but to Cadance, only pure, mental will kept her from wanting to hug as hard as she could. It was almost like she was her own little princess, similar to how some young fillies would play dress up and pretend that they rule their own little kingdoms in their bedrooms.

“This dress is just so itchy!” Twilight grunted. “Can I please take it off, Cadance?”

“D’oh! Now you’re just messing it up!”

Cadance bent down to Twilight’s level and started to straighten out the wrinkles in the stubborn filly’s mane and dress.

“Pleeease, Cadance?” Twilight continued, pouting with her lips curled upward.

“Don’t you want to look nice for the royals?”

“What royals?” asked Twilight, wiggling out of Cadance’s grip. “I’m just gonna be sitting here for the whole day anyway, and with nothing to read!”

“No complaining, Twilight. You’ll be sitting in the most luxurious seat in the entire stadium, and right next to Celestia! Even the wealthiest of ponies would do anything to get within five inches of her for the whole day! Either way, you need to at least look your best. Today is a special day for Canterlot, as today could affect the entire city, if not all of Equestria!”

“But why aren’t you wearing anything?”

“I don’t need a dress,” Cadance giggled. “I look my best all the time!”

“Princesses...” grunted Twilight, rolling her eyes again.

A second fanfare of trumpets blasted another mighty tune, causing the crowds in the stands below to scream and cheer even louder. The cries of excitement echoed all around the stadium, reverbing outwards like a great, bellowing foghorn. When the trumpeting died down, a brown-coated pegasus stepped out into the middle of the empty, grassy field. The pegasus spread his wings wide before leaping into the air and soaring directly upwards, stopping in direct alignment with the middle of the stadium’s height.

“Ladies and gentlecolts!” shouted the announcer in a booming voice so loud that magic had to be the only explanation. “Welcome to the annual Canterlot Competitive Tournament Games!”

The welcoming announcement was more than enough to send the crowd into frenzy, sending wave after wave of fierce hooting and hollering bouncing off the stadium walls. Ponies everywhere were stamping their hooves against the seats with unbridled excitement unlike anything Twilight had ever seen before. The citizens of Equestria must really like their stadium events.

“You dragged me out of bed at five in the morning just to dress me up to go to a sports game?!” Twilight protested. “I don’t even like sports!”

“First of all, I didn’t drag you out of bed,” explained Cadance, rolling her eyes. “And secondly, this isn’t just any old sports event, Twilight!”

“Can’t we just go back to the castle?” Twilight groaned.

“Twilight, if I didn’t have a reason, I wouldn’t even be here right now.”

“But why did you have to bring me along? Sports is boring, and I could have just stayed back at the castle and studied like I always do!”

“I brought you along for a reason too, and I think you’re gonna like it.”

Cadance turned her head and smiled at Twilight, waving her hoof back and forth in an attempt to coax the pouting filly to her side.

“Why should I care? It’s just some silly endurance competition where a bunch of beefed up ponies get dirty and sweaty by doing even sillier challenges to win some big piece of jewelry. Nothing special.”

“But Twilight, it’s not the rewards that make this day special. What really does that are the competitors.”

“And now, ladies and gentlecolts!” continued the enthusiastic announcer. “Put your hooves together for the main event! Introducing the players themselves! They've worked hard to get where they are today, so please welcome Canterlot’s own royal guard trainees straight from the Royal Guard Training Grounds right here in Canterlot!”

Twilight’s jaw dropped like a rock, and her eyes went as wide as dinner plates as a third fanfare of trumpets blared into the sky.

“Did...did he just say...” Twilight whispered.

Cheers and screams roared up from the eager sports fans as hundreds of unarmored recruits walked onto the field, waving their hooves to the excited masses around them.

“Twilight, get over here! You’re gonna miss it!” shouted Cadance, leaning her head over the platform railing.

“Miss what?” asked Twilight.

“And finally, we are proud to introduce the three currently highest ranking trainees within the trainee program! Lieutenant Blackwing, Lieutenant Graze Bolt, and last but not least, Junior Captain Shining Armor!”

Even the most passionate banshee couldn’t have matched Twilight’s excited squealing right then. Twilight zipped up to the railing on the edge of the platform nearest Celestia’s royal seat just as the three achievers strolled out onto the field, each one bearing a big smile on their faces underneath their decorative suits of armor, receiving words of praise and high fives from their peers left and right as they maneuvered towards the center of the group.

“Ohmygosh, ohmygosh, ohmygosh! It’s Shining!” Twilight squealed as she skipped on the tips of her hooves with glee.

Cadance looked over at Twilight from where she was standing and smiled, feeling as if she granted her little friend's wish, just like in the story books. It continued to amaze her as to how strong and how valuable the bond between brother and sister stuck between Twilight and her caring sweetheart. There was more than just love bonding those two together, and Cadance was certainly no stranger to its secrets.

“Just look at them all, ladies and gentlecolts!” the announcer shouted out once more. “Proud and determined young ponies ready and willing to tackle any task at hoof, and tackle it hard, with nothing but strength of both the mind and body! These are your everyday heroes of Equestria!”

“Cadance! Can you see him?” Twilight called out further away.

“Yes, Twilight,” Cadance giggled. “I can see him. I can see him perfectly fine...”

“Your highness,” spoke the gruff voice of a guard nearby. Cadance turned her head to find two royal earth pony guards struggling with another royal guard being held from behind by the forelegs.

“Yes?” Cadance replied, nervously stepping up to the armored handlers.

“We caught this recruit trying to sneak through the entrance of the royal seating platform,” explained the guard who seemed to have the most control over the fidgeting situation.

“Let me go! We’re on the same side here!” grunted the struggling culprit.

“Quiet!” snapped the second guard.

“You don’t have to be so rough on them. Let me see their face,” Cadance ordered.

The two guards gave each other querying looks before abiding by Cadance’s commands. After tightening their grip, the captured pony was grabbed by the shoulders and flipped around, revealing the face of somepony Cadance had not seen in quite some time since they first met several weeks ago.

“Star Strider?” said Cadance, removing the white-coated mare’s helmet to get a closer look at her face.

“Hey there, Cadance.” Star Strider coughed, smiling weakly.

“Oh, Star Strider! You poor thing!”

“What should we do with her, your highness?” asked one of the guards.

“Unless you want to know what it feels like to be 'royally discharged' for potentially injuring an innocent pony, you will release her and report back to your posts immediately.”

“Is there...anything else you wish of us, your highness?”

“Now!” Cadance snapped, grabbing Star Strider and yanking her free of the guard’s hold.

“Y-Yes, your highness!” stammered both guards in fearful unison, giving a quick salute before scurrying down the nearest flight of stairs.

“Serves them right,” murmured Cadance, turning to face Star Strider. “Are you okay, Star? They didn’t hurt you, did they?”

“It's nothing too bad, but I’ll live.” Star Strider shrugged.

“It’s great to see you again, Star, but what were you doing trying to sneak up here? That could have gone a lot worse if I weren’t here to save your flank.” Cadance giggled.

“I chose not to compete today, but for reasons of my own. It was getting a little lonely all by myself in the stands, so I just thought I’d come by and visit one of my best friends!”

“By sneaking in? You could’ve just asked for me, you know!”

“I don’t think royal guards are that kind to those who aren’t royalty. I learned that the hard way...”

“Come with me. Over here by the railing, so we can get a good view of the field!” said Cadance, tugging one of Star Strider’s forelegs as she began to walk.

“Did I mention my little hubby is competing?” asked Star Strider as the two approached the edge of the platform railing.

“Steelwing?” replied Cadance.

“Yup! He’s right...there! Next to Junior Captain Armor!” Star Strider pointed down at the field, trying her best to aim at the tiny bead of golden mane standing next to Cadance’s blue-haired darling.

“You two go great together,” said Cadance

“What makes you say that?”

“What wouldn’t make me say that? You just called him your ‘hubby’” Cadance giggled.

“He’s sweet, but it’s been getting harder to see him lately, what with his tournament training and all. We sneak out of the camp whenever we can, which gives us some time to be alone with each other...”

“Aww!”

“Oh, stop it!” Star Strider blushed.

“All of our eager athletes have arrived, and we’re just moments away from today's truly exciting events!” the announcer spoke up once again. “But before we go on, the ruler of Equestria wishes to bid good luck to each and every pony. So, it with the greatest honor that I proudly introduce Her Royal Highness, Princess Celestia!”

“The princess? The princess is here?!” Star Strider squealed as the stadium crowd burst into another fit of wild cheering.

“Well of course she’s here!” replied Cadance. “We’re on the royal seating platform after all. Where were you for the last five minutes?”

The regal equine rose from her private throne and slowly moved towards the edge of the railing, stopping right next to little Twilight, who politely began to back away, but stopped when the smiling princess gestured at her to come closer and stand by her side. Obviously not one to disobey her teacher, Twilight returned and took her place next to the generous princess. Cadance could almost swear that she heard the crowd bay with adored trills. Her newly designed garment has certainly done its work to please ponies other than herself.

“I’ve always dreamed of meeting the princess in person!” whispered Star Strider.

“I’ll take you to meet her later, ok?” Cadance replied. “Just quiet down! She’s about to give her speech!”

With a single sweep of her snow white hoof through the air, the entire stadium fell silent, opening their ears in favor of the words of the princess.

“Ladies and Gentlecolts...” Celestia began, her voice echoing outwards just like the voice of the announcer before her. “Friends, relations, and protectors of Equestria alike. It is my honor to welcome all of you here on this very special day, for this day, no matter the outcome, will have a dramatic impact on the future safety of our kingdom.”

Celestia turned her head and looked down upon the populated field below. All eyes were on the princess as the trainees stood to attention.

“I speak this to all who are taking part in the tournament. Trust me when I say this. Today is not about winning medals or boasting your strength or skills to others. Today is about showing what you can do for all of Equestria! Everypony is counting on you to protect them from whatever evils that may come our way. Put aside your rivalries, your doubts, and your fears! Today, none of you are too weak or too strong, too tall or too small. You stand by each other’s side as both friends and guardians, keeping Equestria safe for generations to come. You have come a long way to get here, so do your best to assure that your strives were not in vain.”

At this point, then tension in the air was so painstakingly thin you could cut it with a hair thin butter knife. The royal trumpeters off in the sidelines had their instruments to their lips, ready to trill another marvelous tune at a moments notice. Cadance knew a few ponies who were certainly more than excited to hear the princess’s final words. Star Strider couldn’t take her eyes off the princess, and Twilight was shaking in her little blue dress shoes with anticipation.

“Good luck to you all, and let the games begin!”

Not even a second later, a fifth and hopefully final blast of trumpets accompanied the exuberant cheers as the princess gracefully spread her wings. Her Majesty’s feathers gleamed as the sunlight poured in through the open roof and reflected off her feathers, sparkling like a shower of early morning mist. The crowds fierce cheering soon split up into ooes and awes of wonder. Once she decided that the crowd had their fill, Celestia folded her wings to her sides and calmly walked back to her seat with little Twilight in tow.

“I have no idea what that speech was all about, but that was incredible!” exclaimed Star Strider.

“Wait, so you weren’t listening?” Cadance groaned, rolling her eyes. “Ok, here’s a quick rundown for you. Today is the day where royal guard trainees get to show their stuff for the royals. They test their strength and whatnot in front of the princess in order to gain her favor. They’re basically gambling their own ranks away in a few tests of skill and endurance depending on how much they may have slacked off, taking a chance on where they’re gonna go in life once they’ve graduated.”

“Like college?” Star Strider chuckled.

“Pretty much!”

“So, about meeting the princess...”

“Go right ahead!” exclaimed Cadance, waving the white mare off.

“H-huh?”

“My Aunt Celly loves meeting new ponies! I’m sure she won’t see you as an exception.”

“R-really?!”

“I’ll do you one better! How about you take my seat, the one right next to the princess. Maybe you two could have a little chat together! Just tell her I sent you, ok?”

“I-I...I don’t-”

“We may be royalty, but it’s not like we bite or spray venom in our subject’s eyes.” Cadance giggled. “No thanks are--gah!”

Cadance found herself constricted by the tight hug of Star Strider, her hooves dangling just a few inches off the ground.

“Thank you, thank you, thank you, Cadance!” exclaimed Star Strider, tightening her grip around the constricted princess.

“Could you...let me down now?” asked Cadance.

“Sure!” replied Star Strider, immediately lowering her friend to the ground. “I’m gonna go introduce myself. Thanks again, Cadance!”

“You’re welcome!” Cadance called out as Star Strider turned around and moved towards the princess.

“Ladies and gentlecolts!” The announcer came back. “The first round of the tournament will begin in fifteen minutes! I repeat, the first round of the tournament will begin in fifteen minutes!”

“Fifteen minutes?!” said Cadance to herself. “That’s soon! I still need to...wish him good luck, yes...and I know just how to do it!”

Cadance had to get down to the sidelines somehow, and fast. Walking there would take too long, and flying there would only raise suspicion from her aunt.

But of course, being part unicorn had its perks! A detour, whether it be by land or air was both inconvenient and unacceptable. Why settle for traditional travel when you had the power to bend the laws of physics and go anywhere you want?

Carefully focusing a great deal of her own energy, Cadance built up a charge of blue magic into the tip of her horn before releasing it all at once in a great flash of white light, whisking her away into the unknown.

~~~~~

“Don't start without me, guys!” shouted Shining Armor over his shoulder as he entered the cool stadium breezeway. The first event of the tournament was due to being any minute now, and what better way to start the tournament than with a stroke of misfortune? The junior captain could not find his numbered flag. the flag used to identify each player. After searching the sidelines a few minutes earlier, Shining Armor suspected that he had left it in the locker rooms, and decided to investigate.

But, as Shining Armor walked past a broom closet on his way to the locker rooms, the door to the closet flew open, and a shadowy figure pounced from the darkness and grabbed the startled guard by the neck, pulling him inside like a fly on a frog's tongue. It all happened too fast for the trained stallion to even put up so much as a struggle.

“I don’t know who are, or what you want, but know right now that you’re messing with the wrong--!”

A hoof slammed into Shining Armor’s mouth, silencing him immediately.

“Well now, doesn’t that voice sound familiar?” cooed the voice of the unseen figure.

“Oh, let me guess...”

Shining Armor reached around for a light switch until he found a pull string and gave it a quick tug, illuminating the tiny room and revealing the wide, grinning face of the royal pink wonder hugging his neck.

“Surprise!” exclaimed Cadance, hugging Shining Armor even tighter, despite the cramped conditions in the dusty cupboard.

“I should have guessed...” Shining Armor smiled, playfully rolling his eyes.

“Aww! Don’t you like my little surprise visits?” asked Cadance, curling her lips upward.

“Of course I do, but most of them are a bit...pointless.”

“Pointless? I just wanted to wish you good luck!” Cadance shuffled a little closer to Shining Armor, running a hoof down his chest while the two lovers stared at each other eye to eye. “And I wanted to do it in my own special way...”

“Well…I guess I have some time to kill,” replied Shining Armor, his warm smile growing as both he and Cadance moved closer to each other. Cadance closed her eyes, and Shining Armor followed, leaning forward to meet in the middle with a much-needed kiss.

When the two lovers were within mere inches of each other’s faces, the closet door was thrown open, startling both princess and guard. The two lovebirds turned and stared with frightful faces at the wide-eyed, bearded janitor pony standing at the doorway.

“Oh...umm, hello...” Cadance whispered, smiling sheepishly.

“This...isn’t what it looks like, mister…?”

“Scruffy, the janitor,” grunted the old pony , nervously tugging at his uniform shirt collar. “Suppose ah’ should uhh...leave now, yer’ highness?”

“Please?” replied Cadance, still awkwardly holding on to Shining Armor.

After spending a few moments processing what had he just witnessed, the old janitor simply shrugged, turned around, and trotted down the hallway, whistling a jaunty tune as he went.

“That was too close...” Cadance sighed, turning back to Shining Armor. “Shall we continue?” she giggled.

“I don’t see why not,” said Shining Armor, shrugging.

“Attention to all players!” echoed the voice of the announcer through the wide, breezeway halls. “The first match of the tournament games will begin in exactly two minutes! I repeat, the first match of the tournament games will begin in two minutes!”

Two minutes?!” gasped Shining Armor, breaking out of Cadance’s embrace. “I need to get out there, and I still don’t have my--!”

“Flag?” Cadance interrupted, smiling while she floated a little blue flag behind her back and waved it in the air above Shining Armor’s head.

“Thanks, Cadance,” said Shining Armor, snatching the flag and tying it around his waist.

“Good luck out there!” Cadance leaned forward and kissed Shining Armor on the cheek. “Oh, and Shining?”

“Yeah?”

“I just wanted to tell you that there’s a little...surprise waiting for you when you hit that winners circle...”

“A surprise? What kind of surprise?”

“It’s a surprise, Shining! I can’t tell you! Now, get out there! They could start at any minute!”

~~~~~

“S-so, your highness. Umm...what’s it...like, being a princess and all?” asked Star Strider, sitting comfortably in Cadance’s seat next to Princess Celestia.

“Oh, where to begin...” started the princess, putting a hoof to her chin. “I'm being serious. Where should I begin?” Celestia giggled.

“How about telling her about the massive beds we sleep in every night?” Cadance spoke up, stepping up next to Star Strider with a flick of pink smoke trailing behind her tail. “Or the pain of having to sit through another boring court day...”

“If I recall, Cadance, you’ve never participated in court,” said Celestia, raising an eyebrow at her nephew.

“Duh! That’s your job, not mine!” replied Cadance.

“Not yet, anyway. Although I must say this Star Strider friend of yours is quite the--”

Shhh! Quiet!” hissed an eager Twilight. “They’re about to start!”

Cadance was disappointed with Twilight’s sudden rudeness, but Celestia just smiled and nodded, brushing off her student’s slight misbehavior as an excusable jolt of excitement.

“Ladies and gentlecolts!” boomed the voice of the announcer. “Please direct your attention to the center field, where the first event of the tournament will now commence, the Javelin Toss! So please, welcome our first contender, Junior Lieutenant Cave Clobber!”

“Cadance, look! Down there! It’s Shining!” Twilight pointed down off to the sidelines, where Shining Armor, who had his armor removed, and two other colts sat on a bench, chatting it up with one another as a red-coated, beefed up unicorn trotted out onto the field with a confident smile on his face.

“A unicorn in the javelin toss?” said Cadance. “Doesn’t that seem a little...unfair?”

“Fortunately, Cadance, there will be no cheating this year,” said Celestia. “Each event has been modified to perfectly fit unicorns, pegasi, and earth pony trainees.”

“But how? Any trained unicorn could just pick that spear and practically plant it wherever they want with magic!”

“They could...but it wouldn’t be easy...”

“What do you mean?”

“The javelin used for the unicorns is made from a highly dense, but malleable metal, forged by magic, thus making it very heavy, but that’s not all. The javelin has also been enchanted with a very powerful containment spell. The longer a unicorn holds it in their magical grip, the harder it gets to actually hold the javelin up in the air before it becomes too difficult to handle and starts weighing you down. If they held it in the air for too long, they wouldn’t be able to throw it at all!”

“Ok...but what about Pegasi and Earth Ponies?”

Shhh! Please be quiet!" hissed Star Strider, annoyed as much as Twilight by Cadance’s questioning.

Cadance watched from high above as the muscle-bound unicorn heaved the enchanted spear into the air with his magic. The pony then took off in a brisk gallop, speeding across the grass at a breakneck pace before skidding to a halt at near edge of the foul line and releasing the spear from his magical grip, all without so much as a struggle. Cadance continued to watch in awe as the metal missile zipped through the air before impaling itself in the grass near the furthest end of the field. She could practically feel the hum of the crowd’s anticipation as two referees ran onto the field with measuring tape and a white pole for marking the spot.

“Whoa! That was awesome!” exclaimed Star Strider. “Did ya’ see how far it went?”

“Yeah...but that was nothing!” Cadance joked. “I’m sure that any of the players could do better than--”

“I don’t believe it!” shouted the announcer. “A full one-hundred meters! It’s a new world record!”

“A new...world record?” whispered Cadance, sitting there with a baffled look on her face as Star Strider and Celestia clapped their hooves softly while the crowd in the stands cheered for the smiling champion.

“You were saying, Cadance?” said Star Strider. “Nopony could beat that! Noopny I tell you!”

“Yeah...nopony...”

“What an extraordinary head start to the tournament games! It’s gonna take more than a miracle to outshine a move like that!” exclaimed the announcer. “And now, our second contender steps up to the plate, Junior Captain Shining Armor!”

“Oh, look Cadance! Shining Armor’s out there now,” said Star Strider.

“Shining?” murmured Cadance with a worried look on her face.

“He’s a tough pony, tougher than just about every recruit at the training grounds in fact, but like that announcer guy said, he’s gonna need a miracle to beat that last move!”

“Yeah...a miracle...”

Shining Armor boldly stepped onto the starting plate. An attendant nearby brought over a magical javelin in his mouth before laying it on the ground next to him. Shining Armor quickly limbered up before lifting the javelin with his own blue magic.

Cadance wasn’t one to believe in things such as miracles. If her aunt's stories were true, the limitless power source that was magic had kept the world safe and in balance ever since the birth of ponykind. She had confidence in her coltfriend that he would do better, but unfortunately, the statistics don’t lie. Cadance decided that if he was ever to come out on top, Shining Armor would need something much stronger than a miracle.

Cadance did not wish to see her love lose. There was no other choice. Cadance would have to cheat.

“Here he goes! Here he goes!” Twilight squealed, clinging to the furthest edge of the railing.

Cadance watched with fretful eyes as Shining Armor bolted down the straightaway on hooves of thunder. He then slammed his back hooves into the ground before tossing the javelin with all of his might, skidding to a stop just mere inches from the foul line.

If Cadance was to ensure Shining Armor’s victory, she had to act fast. A minor wind picked up, steering the javelin slightly off its course. It was now or never.

“Heyeverypony! IneedtogousethelittlefilliesroomsoyeahI’llbebacksoon!” Cadance quickly stammered before spinning around and dashing down a dark breezeway corridor a few meters behind Celestia’s seat and immediately turning the corner, slamming her back against the concrete wall.

Using an abundance of her magical strength, Cadance focused hard on the far away javelin as it reached the peak of its climb, pouring a great deal of her magic into an invisible beam of energy that surged towards the missile. The javelin was enchanted, just like her aunt had told her minutes before, so trying to redirect its course directly would only wear down on her body even harder. Instead, she focused on the wind around it, swirling it like a cone as she carefully but hastily shifted its gust. She could see nothing through the black veil, but she could sense the cold rush ambushing the javelin as it cut through their airspace.

It was difficult to keep her magic held together, but Cadance pressed on, determined to score a victory for her love. She kept it up, despite the massive amounts of energy being drained from her small form as the javelin soared further away from her control. Within moments, she had lost all control of the winds, releasing them before falling to her haunches and gasping for breath.

Just then, she heard a loud crack of wood, followed by the astonished gasps of hundreds of fans. Fearing the worst, Cadance galloped out of the shadowy breezeway. The unbearable feeling of guilt started to take hold of her as she approached Star Strider’s side, whose lower jaw had dropped like a rock.

“Did...something happen while I was gone?” asked Cadance calmly, bracing for the worst.

Star Strider said nothing, but instead lifted and pointed a hoof down at the far end of the field. Incredibly nervous, Cadance followed Star Strider’s guiding hoof to the end. What she saw completely blew her away.

Not only did the javelin land, on the field thank goodness, but where it landed was what made the entire stadium go quiet. Split into two halves beside Shining Armor’s javelin was the perfectly even remains of Cave Clobber’s javelin; a flawless, straight-down-the-middle, Robin Hoof-esque bulls eye that shattered the voices of the stunned audience. Cadance couldn’t see him, but she could most certainly imagine the look on Shining Armor’s face right then.

With equally surprised looks on their faces, the two referees snapped out of their trance and went about their job of measuring. When they were finished, one of the referees, a pegasus, flew up to the announcer on high and whispered something into his ear.

“It’s a new new world record!” the announcer cackled, scaring the referee out of his wits. “One-hundred point one meters in distance! It’s one of the most astounding things I’ve ever seen!”

The stadium crowd burst into applause, clapping their hooves, hooting and hollering while Shining Armor happily trotted back to the sidelines where his friends and colleagues congratulated him on his jaw-dropping feat. Frustrated, Cave Clobber just scowled in his general direction and stormed off into the nearest breezeway.

“Phew...” Cadance wiped her brow, breathing a heavy sigh of relief. “Glad that’s over...”

“Cadance! Did you just see that!?” exclaimed Twilight, shaking like a giddy schoolgirl in her little blue dress. “That was amazing!’

“Well, in all my years of attending the tournament, I’ve never seen anything quite like that.” said Celestia. “Your brother is quite the athlete, Twilight.”

“He’s the best!” replied Twilight.

It warmed Cadance’s heart to see that she made her little friend happier than she ever was before. Despite her guilty conscious, she felt proud for having once again made her happy by doing something she never even knew about. Yes, cheating was wrong, but it sort of evened out once she realized that she had an equal or an even higher chance of either breaking the record or bucking everything up during her little enchantment.

She needed to "congratulate" him, and fast, before a mob of journalists and photographers question him to death...

~~~~~

“Just hide in the bathroom stalls, dude. In the locker rooms though. They’ll never find you!” said Steelwing, facing Shining Armor.

“Got it. Thanks, Steelwing,” replied Shining Armor.

“No problem.”

The bays and banter of desperate journalists and newspaper writers sounded off in the distance of the stadium breezeway, their questioning cries getting closer each second.

“Oh boy...” murmured Shining Armor.

“...I would run if I were you. I’ll try to hold them off.”

“But--”

“No buts, just go!”

Shining Armor nodded at Steelwing before turning tail and fleeing down the long hallway. He dare not look back as he skidded around the next corner. He barreled down the hallway, making a mental note to thank Steelwing later for his little sacrifice. The locker rooms were straight ahead and in plain sight. He was home free. He picked up the pace, eager to escape the wanting eyes of anypony who happened to be holding a pen, a notepad, and an endless amount of questions.

When he was within mere meters of the door handle, a powerful magical force stopped him dead in his tracks. He tried struggling to set himself free, but it was no use. A door he had not seen before opened up behind him, and he was dragged into the blackness before the door slammed shut again, surrounding him in darkness.

“Ok! Ok! Fine! Ask whatever you want! I don’t care what it is! Just take your pictures and get it out so I can take a break!”

Shining Armor’s pleas were met not with questions, but with by a pair of warm lips pressing against his own. As he stood there, feeling his cheeks warm up with soothing redness, the lights flickered on, revealing the bright pink face of a certain princess pony he knew all too well.

“Surprise, again!” chirped Cadance, pulling away from the kiss with a bright smile on her face.

“Cadance? Again with the broom closet?” asked Shining Armor.

“Unless you prefer the unbearable heat of the furnace room, then yes,” Cadance giggled. “That was amazing what you did out there! How did you do it?” asked Cadance, trying her best to make her question sound as believable as possible.

“I have no idea!” exclaimed Shining Armor. “I’m not sure if you noticed, but the javelin became really heavy all of a sudden as I was running. I nearly tripped and fell flat on my face before I let it fly! But getting that record breaking shot...”

“That's what I like about you, Shining! You're the greatest big brother ever to the cutest filly ever, and you're strong and caring enough to keep me happy!” Cadance pecked Shining Armor on the cheek. “Anyway, I just came around to congratulate you, and you can expect more than just that if you keep it up!”

“I don’t know how it happened...but if it makes you happy, then I promise I’ll do even better!” Shining Armor pecked Cadance on the cheek in return.

“That’s my Shining! Now, it’s time to get back out there! They’re gonna start the next events any minute now!”

~~~~~

“Well, where’d you wander off to, Cadance?” asked Star Strider with a raised eyebrow as Cadance walked back up to her side, another thin trail of pink smoke streaking the tip of her tail leftover from her most recent teleportation.

“I just wanted to...compliment that junior captain on his astounding accomplishment. It impressed me more than I ever thought it would.”

“That's nice of you. They’re gonna start the track events soon. See? They’re lining up right now!” Star Strider pointed a hoof down to the grassy field, where parts of the field itself seemed to have been magically transformed into a long, six-lane running track that went around full circle. The newest, blue-haired record holder, along with the previous, now grumpy-faced record holder and four others walked onto the track and positioned themselves accordingly. They poised themselves in a crouching position, narrowing their eyes down the narrow stretch as a referee on the sidelines stepped up to a small, painted cannon aimed towards the sky.

“Couldn’t they just use a flag or something?” asked Cadance.

Star Strider shrugged.

“I guess using a cannon makes it a little more exciting.”

The fuse was lit, the cannon was fired, without a projectile of course, and without a second to spare, the players rocketed down the track. Almost immediately, Cave Clobber overtook the lead, speeding like a freight train as he passed the other competitors with ease, leading up to Shining Armor. Side by side, both champions exchanged challenging glances at each other before looking ahead again. They rounded the first corner, with Cave Clobber leading by just a hair.

“Just look at them go!” exclaimed Star Strider just as the runners rounded the second corner. “That Cave Clobber guy is giving Shining Armor quite the challenge!”

“Yeah...quite the challenge...” said Cadance, raising an eyebrow.

Once again, the impulse to ensure her lover’s victory kicked in, and at another desperate moment. When the runners rounded the third corner, Shining Armor nearly tripped over his own hooves, causing him to stumble and nearly fall down while Cave Clobber stole the lead, placing him back in second. There was no way Cadance could manipulate the event without making everypony too suspicious. That practical miracle she performed with the javelin previously was enough to rouse their spirits, but twice in a row could ruin everything, but despite the volatile chances, the odds seemed to be in her favor. Everypony was too busy paying attention the race, paying little mind to much of anything else. If there was any hope for Shining Armor winning twice in a row, Cadance would have to take the shot now.

Cave Clobber and Shining Armor rounded the final corner, speeding down the home stretch, with Cave Clobber a good ways in the lead. Once again, in a critical moment, it was either now, or never.

Cadance turned around and quickly walked away from the throne until she was out of sight. When she made sure of it that nopony was watching, she concentrated her magic on the sidelines nearest the home stretch. She blindly felt around with her magic like one would feel around with their hooves, searching for a small, next-to-nigh invisible object that only the most eagle-eyed of ponies would be able to see. After a rather brief search, she found a small chunk of chipped concrete only a few meters away from the finish line, and with a simple flick of her head, the tiny chunk of inevitable failure rolled onto the running track, held in place by magic directly in Cave Clobber’s path.

“You’re going down, Armor!” grunted Cave Clobber as he continued to accelerate past Shining Armor. “There’s no way I’m gonna let you beat--whoa!”

The crowds in the stands gasped when the muscular unicorn contender suddenly tripped head over hooves, falling onto his side and rolling off into the sidelines, crashing into a small crowd of referees. Shining Armor appeared equally surprised, but was hardly phased by the drastic turn of events. With the lead wide open, he pressed onward, speeding past his downed opponent and crossing the finish line.

Despite the sight of Cave Clobber’s recent hard luck, the crowd burst into applause as the announcer shouted words of praise in Shining Armor’s name. Wanting to emphasize his stroke of good fortune, Shining Armor cantered around the middle of the track in a victory lap, inciting the crowd’s admiration even more.

“Hedidit, hedidit, hedidit!” Twilight squealed, rapidly clapping her hooves in the air.

“Most certainly impressive. Well done indeed,” said Celestia. “I can see why Shining Armor is so close to such a position of high merit.”

“Are you even watching any of this, Cadance?” asked Star Strider, taking notice of Cadance’s strange absence at her side.

“Oh...y-yeah! Definitely!” Cadance perked up, walking back to Star Strider’s side.

“Whatever.” Star Strider shrugged, turning back to face the field.

I don’t believe it! thought Cadance. That was such a rush! I just can’t believe everypony’s reaction! They didn’t suspect a thing! Twilight liked it, Celestia liked it, Star Strider liked it, and best of all, the whole stadium liked it! Looking back on it now, there’s not much harm in a little...modification, right? It makes everypony happy, except for that Cave Clatter or whoever the hay he is, but then again, why should I care? I’m doing this for one pony and one pony only!

The day’s events came and went as the legions of competing trainees gave it their all. Long-range horseshoe tossing, archery, weightlifting, wrestling, fencing, hoofball, and many other sports gave way to new champions and medalists, one pony in particular receiving gold medals in nearly every event, with a few “special adjustments” made of course, courtesy of the not-so-ladylike pretty princess in pink.

Of course, she made sure of it to be very careful while she secretly assisted Shining Armor. She allowed some new champions of the game to take first place while a few others straggled behind, most notably Cave Clobber, who started to act like a massive jerk to Shining Armor and the other players whenever he blamed them for his falters, which happened quite a lot. Cadance would have none of it, and she even thought about doing something to fix the problem. Permanently.

But thankfully, the problem managed to fix itself, which meant that Cadance didn’t have to plan for any future “mile-high vacations”. During one of the races, Cave Clobber got in a heated argument with one of the runners and started punching him in the face, disqualifying him from the games and any destroying any hopes or chances of earning even a single medal. The referees asked him to leave the field, but he refused and had to be escorted off the field by the royal guards. Some ponies in the crowd even had the brave nerve to boo at him as he walked by their seats near the breezeway, adding a much deserved insult to injury while he openly sweared like a sailor in a fit of rage.

Eventually, the heated commotion died down, and everything returned to normal. The events that followed, a three-varianted discus match suited to fit all three types of ponies, and a field-wide table tennis match, suited for much of the same, flew by in a hurry, adding to the already massive count of medalists.

“Ladies and gentlecolts!” spoke the announcer. “On this day, we have seen some of Equestria’s finest give it their all, and give it with pride! Each and every one of these strong, courageous ponies has most certainly proved their worth to us all. We have crowned new champions, and have lifted the spirits of many! They rose to the challenge and gripped it by the horns, showing us all of what they can really do!” The announcer spoke with so much enthusiasm in his voice that it sounded like he could have a stroke at any minute.

“That announcer must really love his job,” said Star Strider. “But when is he gonna get to the point?”

The announcer nonchalantly cleared his throat when he noticed that few ponies were paying attention to his ramblings. “Well, I’ll just skip right to the point, shall I?” The announcer cleared his throat again before continuing with his excited prattle. “You have witnessed the protectors of tomorrow in their prime, and now, you get to see them in the ultimate test! The final round of the tournament will begin in twenty minutes! So, hold on to your hooves! It’s gonna be a wild ride!”

~~~~~

The heavenly feeling of the cold, relaxing air washed over his aching body as Shining Armor stepped out of the heat in the breezeway and into the cool-aired bliss of the locker room. He stood at the entrance for a moment, slowly taking in the soothing chill. He then closed his eyes and sighed in the midst of the silence, truly realizing the importance of his accomplishments.

The events of today meant that his life could only go up from here, and he had many ponies to thank for helping him seize the day: his friends, his family, his mentors, and most notably, his marefriend. They all mattered to him deeply, and there was no greater feeling in the world than to finally reach your life’s goals after so many years of hard work and patience.

The final event of the tournament was coming up soon, and the celebration feast promised to everypony who participated would not take place until several hours afterward. Feeling a little peckish, Shining Armor opened and fumbled through the contents of his locker until he found a plump, shiny red apple he had been saving for a time like this. He licked his chops, eyeing the delicious fruit with hunger in his eyes.

“Hey, plotmunch!”

Suddenly, Shining Armor was forcefully pushed aside, causing him to tumble and fall down hard onto the cold, tiled floor.

“H-hey! What gives?” yelled Shining Armor to the unknown voice.

The door to Shining Armor’s locker was slammed shut, revealing the red coated form of Cave Clobber, who looked down at the junior captain with a blank, unamused look on his face.

“Cave Clobber? What the hay was that for?!”

Cave Clobber lifted Shining Armor’s apple off the ground with his magic, wiping its side on his crimson coat before taking a big bite out of it. He stared down at the angry-eyed junior captain, little visible emotion in his eyes. The only thing that was preventing an awkward, unresponsive silence between the two was the sound of crunching fruit.

“Well?” Shining Armor continued, rising up off the floor.

Cave Clobber stopped his chewing and swallowed. In the blink of an eye, he angrily flung the half-eaten apple at Shining Armor’s face. Shining Armor groaned in pain as the apple splattered against his forehead, leaving behind a rather nasty bruise.

“I’ve had enough of this, ‘junior captain’!” Cave Clobber mocked.

“Argh! What did you do that for?! Being of higher rank, I order you to stand down!” barked Shining Armor.

Screw your orders! You’ve been stealing my thunder all damn day, Armor!”

“What are you talking about?”

“The javelin? The races? I was supposed to place first in every event today!”

Everything? Even if that were possible--”

“He said it was guaranteed...” mumbled Cave Clobber.

“What was guaranteed?”

Rather than speak the words, Cave Clobber decided to show off his “guarantee to win” by charging forward and delivering a swift hook to Shining Armor’s upper jaw, sending the junior captain slamming into the ground. Utilizing his long months of training, Shining Armor quickly recovered and rose to a defensive stance.

“I’ve had it with you, Armor!” yelled Cave Clobber. “You think you’re so great? You think you’re so awesome that you could take me down?”

Shining Armor just barely managed to dodge Cave Clobber’s next punch, which landed right into the lockers, crumpling the metal face like thin paper.

“See that locker? That’s gonna be your face when I’m done with you!”

Cave Clobber threw another swift punch. Shining Armor dodged it with ease, but Cave Clobber immediately came around with his over hoof, which slammed into Shining Armor’s lower neck like he was a punching bag.

“Clobber! Stop this, right now!” yelled Shining Armor, who then threw a punch of his own. Cave Clobber caught his hoof in mid-air. The red stallion smiled coyly as he twisted the skin on Shining Armor’s hoof, making him shriek with pain. While he held his grip, he swung his other hoof around and started to beat the snot out of Shining Armor, landing punch after punch on his face, neck, and upper body. When he could go no further, Cave Clobber tossed the junior captain aside before quickly rearing around and bucking him square in the chest, slamming Shining Armor into a row of lockers behind him.

“Had enough?” grunted Cave Clobber, cracking his neck left to right.

“Why are you doing this?” Shining Armor sputtered, making an attempt to lean against the cold, uncomfortable metal lockers.

Cave Clobber chuckled as he loomed over his downed nemesis.

“Didn’t I explain that already?” Cave Clobber lifted his right hoof high into the air, hanging it over Shining Armor's head, ready to bring the pain down upon him.

“It’s payback time...”

~~~~~

With a lovely pink flower threaded through her mane and her coat smelling as fresh and lovely as a dainty spring field, Cadance merrily trotted down the breezeway corridors, smiling a bright, carefree smile that she would use to greet Shining Armor with, but despite her cheerful demeanor, ironically, the breezeway didn’t even come close to living up to its name. The heat from outside piled in and rose up to the ceiling, making the air dry and uncomfortable. Tiny droplets of sweat poured down Cadance's forehead, and the dryness in the air messed with her neatly groomed mane, but does her appearance matter that much right now?

No, of course not. Cadance could most certainly handle a little discomfort if it meant seeing her winning champion before the final event. From what Celestia had told her, the final event of every tournament each year was supposed to be the most difficult of all the events. Good thing Cadance had plenty of “inspiration” left to give, and usually in more ways than just a simple kiss...

As she turned the next corridor, Cadance could hear strange, low noises coming from the locker rooms at the far end of the hallway. Curious, she decided to break off from her search for her honey and went to investigate.

As she came closer to the locker rooms, she could hear the muffled grunts of what sounded like a fierce, violent struggle. When she reached the front door and took a quick peek inside through a glass porthole in the door, she almost fainted when she was faced with her worst nightmare.

Her beloved Shining Armor was leaning against a smashed metal locker with a horrified look on his face. Blood ran down from his left temple and nose, his face was dotted with several swollen bruises, and his lower jaw was contorted in a rather galling position. The sight was more than enough to bring Cadance to tears. Who on earth would do such a thing to her beloved Shining Armor? When she got a good look of the culprit’s grinning face hovering over her sweetheart’s battered form, her sadness and anguish morphed into an emotional hay storm of anger; one that she felt needed to be unleashed.

Sure, it was against her nature to act in such an unladylike manner, but then again, she’s a princess! Ponies look to her for protection, and if protecting her subjects meant a little "misbehavior", then so be it!

From inside, Cadance could hear: “Let’s see how you like when all you’ve worked for vanishes before your very eyes...”

It's go time.

With plenty of power poured into her divine, magical horn, Cadance burst through the front door of the locker room, growling and baring her teeth like an angry pit bull.

“What the--?!” stammered Cave Clobber, turning around in shock to face the newcomer.

“Cadance?” groaned Shining Armor.

“You know this mare?!”

“Hey, pea brain!” yelled Cadance bending her knees low while she bared her teeth. “Stay away from my coltfriend!”

“Your colt-what?!”

On that moment, Cadance released a shining burst of white hot magic from her electrified horn, striking Cave Clobber in the chest and sending him flying towards the tile wall. With a loud crack, the beefed up bully slammed into wall, cracking its surface and knocking him unconscious.

“C-Cadance?” stuttered Shining Armor with a baffled look on his face.

“That’ll teach him...” murmured Cadance under her breath.

“Cadance? How in Equestria--?”

“I know! This looks bad, but what else was I supposed to do? He nearly beat you to a pulp!”

Cadance ran over to Shining Armor’s side and helped him to his hooves.

“Oh my goodness! Just look at you!” Cadance scrutinized every inch of her injured darling like an overly attached analyst.

“Here! It sounded like it came from inside the locker rooms!” echoed a new voice in the breezeway outside.

“Oh great. Who could that be?” Cadance sighed, readying herself.

With a disturbed look in his eyes, Shining Armor gently pushed Cadance aside before stepping in front of her, straightening his back, and heightening his posture in a statue-like form, facing the open doorway.

Confused and slightly annoyed, Cadance was about to ask why, but she felt that her question would be answered soon enough as four heavily-armored royal guards charged into the locker room. They all conveyed the same angry, yet monotone looks as one another, save a single grey coated stallion out of the mix wearing a large and bulky suit of ornately decorated armor plates. His head bore no helmet, revealing marks of age on his slightly wrinkled face.

“Drill Sergeant Grind Stone, sir!” said Shining Armor, standing to attention with his head held high.

“At ease, Junior Captain,” grumbled the old war stallion. “Now, what do we have here...”

“Sir, I can explain,” said Shining Armor, taking a step forward.

“No explanations!” barked Grind Stone. “I heard the noises and my ears don’t lie! I see a half-dead pony on the ground, blood all over the place, and dozens of signs leading right up to what must have been one heck of a struggle!”

“S-sir--”

“I said--!”

“Oh forget this!” yelled Cadance, stomping out from behind Shining Armor’s back. “I can explain!”

Almost immediately, the three normally attired guards stood to attention, throwing their hooves up to their foreheads in a salute in the presence of royalty.

“Your highness?” said Grind Stone, baffled by the princess’s sudden appearance.

“Save it, drill sergeant,” replied Cadance, giving the aged stallion a mare’s special stare.

“O-of course, your highness.” Grind Stone acknowledged, bowing to Cadance before standing to attention alongside his fellow guards.

“Now, before you even think about asking what happened here, I am telling you right now that this pony, Junior Captain Shining Armor, is one of the bravest and most noble of ponies I have ever met. A few minutes ago, this shining example of a royal guard saved my life!”

“S-saved your life?” murmured Grind Stone, looking just as perplexed as Shining Armor was.

“That’s right! I was actually on my way down here to congratulate him on his previous accomplishments. I entered the locker rooms in hopes that he may be around here, but was confronted by that brute you see over there!” Cadance pointed to the comatose pony drooling onto the floor near the adjacent wall. “He attacked me. Why? I do not know, but I do know that I would have been seriously injured had Shining Armor not came to my aid. He fought courageously for my protection and piledrived that excuse for a recruit into the dirt, so to speak of course.”

“I uhh...see, your highness.”

“No. No you don’t,” Cadance scolded.

“Oh...”

Nearby, Cave Clobber awoke from his painful slumber, trying his best to stand on all fours.

“Guards,” Cadance pointed her hoof at the broken unicorn. “Arrest that pony at once!”

“H-huh?!” stammered Cave Clobber.

Grind Stone repeated Cadance’s orders to his guards, who then rushed the dumbstruck unicorn. Cave Clobber tried to resist his arrest, but he soon found himself bound in magical chains while two of the guards held him down. The accused pony was then brought before Grind Stone, sneering at the drill sergeant before spitting blood into his face.

“You disgust me...” growled Grind Stone, wiping the red spittle from his cheek. “Take him away.”

The red stallion was dragged out Grind Stone’s sight kicking and cursing. Pestered, the guards saw it fit to conjure a muzzle around his mouth to quiet him down, leaving him a foaming, squirming wreck.

“Stuff like that just pisses me off....” growled Grind Stone, turning to face Cadance. “Forgive me, your highness. I can assure you that this will never happen again.”

“And I hope for the same thing,” replied Cadance, bearing a new smile. “You are dismissed, drill sergeant.”

“Thank you, your highness.” Grind Stone turned to face Shining Armor. “Junior captain?”

Shining Armor tried his best to stand to attention again, but the pain from his swelling injuries kept his flank on the ground. Surprisingly, Grind Stone put on a little smile at the white stallion’s efforts to remain true to his duties as a royal guard.

“There’s no need for that, junior captain. For successfully defending a high figure of royalty, you will be awarded the Merit of Shield and Spear for your bravery. Feel proud for what you have done here today, for if it weren’t for you, things could have gone much worse for the princess."

“Th-thank you, sir,” Shining Armor choked out, smiling happily.

“Good. Now, if I were you, I would find a medical office at once. Those wounds appear quite painful, and you don’t want to risk further injury out on the field, if you still have the strength to compete that is. Your highness, are you in need of an escort?

‘No thank you,” replied Cadance. “I will...personally accompany Shining Armor to the nearest medical office. Once again, you are dismissed.”

Grind Stone nodded and saluted the princess before strolling out of the defaced locker room, finally leaving Cadance and Shining Armor with some alone time. They waited until the drill sergeant was out of earshot before either of them decided to speak up.

“I’ve seen some crazy things in my time at the training grounds,” said Shining Armor. “But that was without a doubt one of the craziest--”

Before he could go any further, Cadance grabbed Shining Armor by the neck and forced him into a tight hug. She showered his face with kisses, leaving no part of his bruised, dirty face untouched.

“Don’t you ever do that to me again, do you hear me?!” Cadance yelled to his face.

“Geez! What did I do, Cadance?” asked Shining Armor, gently pushing Cadance away to allow himself some breathing room.

“What did you do!? You could have gotten yourself killed in that fight!”

Killed?”

“Oh, just look at you! All of those nasty wounds…”

“Cadance? Can I just say something, please?”

“Here, just calm down and let me tend to these. This will only take a minute…”

Cadance touched the tip of her horn to Shining Armor’s forehead. Pink and blue magical mist swirled from the base to the tip and spread out in all directions of Shining Armor’s head and body, slowly dissolving his every injury until nothing remained but his devilishly handsome figure.

“There! All better, and just as good looking as ever!” Cadance giggled, her mood suddenly changed from anger to relief in an instant. Shining Armor wanted to protest, but he had seen Cadance act this way before, so he decided to let it slide.

Now can I say something?”

“Like how I just saved your flank from somepony equivalent to a schoolyard bully?”

“…sort of.”

“Then shoot!”

“Why did you lie to Grind Stone about what happened? I could have told him the truth, and everything would have been fine!”

“Shining, I’m a princess! I had to explain, otherwise that Grind Stone guy would have gotten a little too suspicious for his…own good.”

“His own good?”

“N-nevermind, but it’s not like you see a princess in a stadium locker room every day, right? Besides, you’re getting a merit, whatever that means!”

“It’s an award…but I did nothing to deserve it…” Shining Armor sulked.

“Oh, shush! Of course you deserve it, Shining!”

“No, I don’t. I just stood there...and took the punishment. I wasn’t strong enough...”

“Now what sort of talk is that coming from a junior captain? You didn’t get to where you are today from lazing around, that’s for sure!”

“But what good is being rewarded if you know that you don’t deserve it? You saw how beat up I was! You saw me just lying there on there on the ground, not even taking a chance to defend myself! And think about this! I only took a few hits from Cave Clobber, and they were more than enough to take me down! A Junior Captain is supposed to be strong a-and fearless! I wasn’t strong, and I wasn’t fearless. Truth be told, I was scared out of my wits. That’s why I couldn’t beat him...”

Shining Armor leaned back and rested his head against the cold metal of the lockers.

“Why am I even in the royal guards?” Shining Armor sighed. “I’ve done nothing all year but follow pointless orders and do some embarrassing exercises. I don’t even remember how I got promoted…”

“But you’re forgetting something, Shining, and it wants to tell you to stop your sulking, take a good look at yourself, and realize just how important you are to Equestria!”

“Important?” Shining Armor guffawed. “That’s a laugh…”

“No, it isn’t!” Cadance stepped forward and nuzzled Shining Armor’s neck to in an attempt to brighten his mood. “Just take a look at what you’ve accomplished in your life so far! Twilight, your gentle, caring sister, loves you like you’re the greatest stallion in the world! She looks up to you to be her best friend and protector. Isn’t that why you chose to join the royal guard? So you could not only protect the citizens of Equestria, but your sister as well?”

“Yeah…I told you that before didn’t I?”

Cadance nodded. “And don’t forget your family! You wanted to impress them, and you did, and continue to do so!”

“Mom and dad were pretty proud of me when I told them I was joining…” Shining Armor’s somber frown began to lose its downward curve and slowly curve up into a bright smile.

“Do I even need to mention how much of an impact you’ve made on me?” asked Cadance, fluttering her eyes.

“…maybe?” Shining Armor smiled sheepishly.

“Oh you!"

Just then, a voice chimed in from a loudspeaker in the corner of the ceiling, announcing that the final event would begin in just five minutes time.

“That’s my cue.” said Shining Armor. “Thanks, Cadance."

"You're welcome, Shining,"

Cadance wrapped her hooves around Shining Armor’s neck in a big hug. She pressed her lips onto his, delivering a much needed kiss to sate and stabilize both of their shifting moods.

“Don’t thank me,” whispered Cadance, slowly pulling out of the kiss. “I should be thanking you, for being such a marvelous pony. Don’t forget who you are, ok?”

“With motivation like that, I never will…”

“Good. Now, get out there, and show everypony what you’re really made of!”

~~~~~~

The crowd in the stands just couldn’t get enough of them. The royal trumpeters brayed their instruments loudly as ever as the announcer declared the coming of the final event. All who took part in the tournament strolled out onto the field through each of the four breezeways, waving to those they knew as they spread out all over the field.

“Oh, this is gonna be so exciting!” said Star Strider. “But really, what kind of event requires that everypony participate in it? It’s got to be something big, right?”

“Very big…” said Cadance. “They’re gonna need the entire field for this one!”

“The final event isn’t usually the most…subtle part of the tournament,” said Celestia. “But this one is sure to be quite the thriller.”

“We’re not gonna have to watch another race again are we?” asked Star Strider.

“Certainly not! Truth be told, I’m just as bored of those are you are.” Celestia chuckled. “You two remember how it works, right? Every year, the tournament hosts a final event to crown a new tournament grand champion. The event is focused on evaluating just three things about the tournament’s contestants, pooling together their strength, skill, and will to fight.”

“It’s not gonna be anything…dangerous, right?” asked Star Strider, clearly thinking of Steelwing.

“In a way, no, but instead of explaining it, why don’t I just show you?”

The white princess rose from her seat and swayed to the edge of the railing next to Twilight. She smiled and nodded to the pegasus announcer high above, who nodded back and turned to face the crowd.

“Ladies and gentlecolts! The final event of the Canterlot Tournament Games is about to begin! We’ve prepared something very special for you all today! Regardless of who has won the most medals or took first place in the most events, whoever wins this event will be dubbed the new tournament grand champion!”

Princess Celestia closed her eyes and lowered her horn towards the field. From the base to the tip, her horn flowed with an ominous white magic that beamed down to the field below and began seeping up from the grass, wrapping itself around the playing field. As the flow of magic continued to build, a very tall, transparent sheet of sparkling essence rose up from the edge of the sidelines, acting like a cage and trapping the trainees inside. Just as the confusion among the recruits started to rise, a long spear, surrounded by glowing white magic, appeared on the ground beside every recruit. Some tried picking them up, but found that they were anchored to the ground. When Celestia released control over her spell, she looked to the announcer again and nodded, signaling him to continue.

The announcer pointed and waved at one of the pegasus referees on the sidelines, who took to the skies and flew up next to the announcer. In his hooves, he held an extra white spear, similar to those already on the field, which he then passed to the excited broadcaster.

“Right! Listen and well everypony, especially you eager recruits down there! Beside you all, there is a spear crafted from Princess Celestia’s own powerful magic! They work like any other spear you’ve seen, and are no different in their goal! You use them to fight!”

“Oh dear…” murmured Star Strider, worried.

“But instead of gut-wrenching pain, when you get hit from these spears…” The announcer thrust his magical weapon at the referee, who immediately vanished in a puff of sparkling smoke and reappeared on the sidelines below, shaken and wide-eyed. “You get teleported to the sidelines! The last pony standing wins the event, and gets dubbed the new tournament champion!”

“So they’re basically sword fighting like a bunch of little colts?” asked Star Strider. "That seems a bit immature..."

“I don’t think I heard him give a list of rules…” said Cadance.

“That’s because there are no rules!” said Celestia, smiling away as usual.

“What?!” both mares gasped.

“That doesn’t sound very sportsponyship like!” exclaimed Cadance.

“Within reason of course, girls. During the event, they are not allowed to leave the stadium, but they are allowed to use any means necessary to win, also within reason. Nothing too harsh or too brutal, so there’s nothing to worry about. I assure you.”

“Oh...” Star Strider breathed a sigh of relief.

“Remember, girls,” Celestia continued. “These events are here to allow the recruits to demonstrate what they can do, and how they could better themselves as the protectors of tomorrow. In no way are these events meant to harm them, but that responsibility rests with the recruits themselves.”

The announcer raised a hoof high above his head. On the sidelines below, the referees on the sidelines moved to ready positions.

“Ready!”

The recruits gave one another a stern look in the eyes, smiling with devious content.

“One!”

Cadance bit her lower lip, hoping for the best.

“Two!”

A small flash of light flared up from each of the magical spears, unanchoring them from the ground.

“Three…”

Shining Armor poised himself low to ground, keeping his weapon within easy reach, ready to strike at a moment's notice.

This one’s for you, Cadance… thought Shining Armor, looking up at the nervous face of his marefriend on the royal platform high above.

“GO!”

Right on the dot, everypony scrambled for their spears, taking up arms and preparing to take victory. Shining Armor hastily looked all around in search of his first target. A loud whoosh followed by a tempered scream broke through the ambiance of early battle. He turned his head toward the sidelines, and saw a recruit sitting flat on his rear with his forehooves crossed and a pouty look on his face. The first pony was down!

“And the first pony is down and out!” exclaimed the announcer, pointing out the stupidly obvious. "Only many more to go and—wait a minute! There goes another, and another! Who knows where this will take us!”

Shining Armor was starting to develop a minor hatred towards the overly-enthusiastic announcer. By the time he finished, another three ponies were sent to sidelines. Things weren’t looking too good. He had to move swiftly lest he become the next victim.

But like the speak of the devil, a broad shouldered unicorn bellowed a fierce war cry as he charged across the terrace towards him. One opponent was easy enough for him to handle, but just then, another pony let loose his own war cry far behind him. Shining Armor quickly turned and saw the new challenger, an earth pony, hauling plot to reach him. Just when he thought he was a dead pony, a bright idea chimed in Shining Armor’s mind.

Standing still until the precise moment, Shining Armor waited until both ponies were within close distance to him before leaping out of the danger zone. Behind him, he could hear the two ponies cry out in terror as their spears collided into each other, teleporting them both to the losers bench to sulk in the heat of failure. He silently congratulated himself and sped towards his next target of interest with his spear held high over his head.

“Go, Shining! Go!” Twilight cheered.

The air of cheering all around the stadium was accompanied by the zaps and sparks of mock magical warfare. The whole of the field was illuminated with bright white flashes as recruit after recruit was whisked away to the sidelines. Epic lancing and saber duels took place on the field, prepping the crowd's adrenaline-fueled excitement as it turned into a guessing game as to who was going to come out on top.

Cadance however paid little mind to the exciting action. She was more worried about her gallant dearest ducking and dodging the swings, swipes, and stabs of the spears to strike his own decisive blow in the end. He’s been through so much already, and even though the event was considered “moderately safe” there was still so much that could go wrong. The lack of rules in the event meant that anypony could just push, shove, punch, or kick their way to victory. After that unpleasant encounter with Cave Clobber, it made her cringe with fear just to think about somepony harming him bodily.

Should she start…cheating again? She most certainly trusted in Shining Armor and his training to keep himself safe, but by the number of large, hunkered stallions still on the field, she had to choose between taking a risk, or letting her mind suffer with a ten ton load of guilt.

Shining Armor jabbed his spear at another unsuspecting pony in front of him, who then vanished in a puff of sparkling smoke like so many others he struck down already. The exhausted stallion had bagged another one, adding to his growing count. Nearly half of all the young recruits were off the field, leaving behind the more difficult targets; the ones who look like they spent most of their time chugging muscle fiber shakes and bench-pressing entire carriages for exercise. Some of the pegasi recruits had better luck though, as they were allowed to fly above the carnage. He looked up and saw one of his best friends, Steelwing, dogfighting with another pegasus, tearing through the boxed airspace from corner to corner.

Suddenly, Shining Armor yelped with pain after somepony kicked him to the ground. He scrambled for his spear, which he had dropped upon hitting the ground, but found it too far away to be reached. He rolled over, and stared into the rage-fueled eyes of a large unicorn bearing down on top of him. The unicorn grinned and chuckled devilishly as he raised the tip of his spear high into air. Feeling that it was all over for him, Shining Armor went limp, accepting his fate.

But just when he thought he was done for, the unicorn on top of him burst into puff of colorful smoke before his very eyes, sweeping off to one side as a swift wind blew it all away. A white coated pegasus swooped down to the ground with a spear in his mouth and offered his hoof to Shining Armor. The dazed captain looked up and saw that his winged rescuer was none other than Steelwing, coming to save the day.

Cadance reemerged from the shadows of the dark breezeway behind the royal throne, recovering from her most recent spell and regaining her regal figure as she moved back to Star Strider’s side. Taking control over a gust of wind to redirect a pegasus’s attention to somepony on the ground wasn’t exactly the easiest trick in the book.

“You really need to control your bathroom breaks, Cadance,” said Star Strider. “You’re missing out on all the action!”

“Well, I try my best,” replied Cadance, smiling sheepishly.

“Well, look who it is!” exclaimed Shining Armor, taking his friend’s hoof and hoisting himself off the ground. “Took you long enough!”

“What are you talking about?” Steelwing laughed. “It’s a free for all, dude! You’re lucky that you and me are best—“

“Wait, look out!”

Shining Armor shoved Steelwing aside and quickly jabbed his spear into the pony charging straight for him. A gust of wind carried the sparkling remains of the pony through Shining Armor’s lavish mane, blowing it off the side as he emerged from the dust, frozen in a heroic pose that made Cadance quiver with admiration.

There! Now we’re even!” joked Steelwing, grabbing his spear and flying off into the sky. Shining Armor rolled his eyes and scanned the remaining masses for his next target.

“What just happened?” asked Cadance. “Was that…Steelwing helping Shining Armor?”

“Steely told me that he and Shining Armor became best friends just a day or two after we met you,” Star Strider giggled. “They chatted it up a little during the exercises, one thing led to another, and…well, there they are! This could give them an edge in the game, unless Steely decides to be a big meany, then he can just kiss this mare goodbye!”

Steelwing tore through the air above the action on the ground, flying as fast as he could to escape another pegasus trailing him from behind. His training prepared him for situations like this, but with such a small space to fly in, evading his capture turned into a game of cat and mouse, only the mouse had nowhere to hide.

Shining Armor parried a strike from his newest opponent before jabbing at his legs and sending him to the sidelines. A sudden, swift breeze above his head caught his attention. He looked up, and saw Steelwing struggling to escape his pursuer, who seemed to be getting closer to him by the minute. Thinking quickly, Shining Armor waited until both Steelwing and the pegasus behind him were in his line of sight. When the time was right, he hurled his spear into the air, soaring past Steelwing’s head and striking the pegasus behind him. Being magically enchanted, his spear acted like a boomerang, tracing back through the air and into Shining Armor’s magical grip. He exchanged a friendly salute with the snow white pegasus still in the air before continuing on his conquest.

For the longest of whiles, the mock war on the ground raged on. Left and right, ponies disappeared from the battlefield, leaving nothing behind but a puff of colorful smoke. As the lesser half of the strong armed recruits went away, the more muscular recruits started to band together, going after the remainder of the smaller recruits. They used tactics and techniques that would most certainly be considered unfair or an act of cheating in any other event, but in an event with no rules, one could only imagine just how far they would go to win. Some held down their victims while they dealt a crucial final blow. Others employed a more…physical means of sending their opponent sprawling to the ground. It was like watching the world’s biggest physical demonstration of natural selection; only the strongest would survive.

But even then, when all of the anemic were all gone, the strongest started to turn against each other. Steelwing and Shining Armor held their own against the onslaught, and successfully took down anypony who dared to challenge them. The number of ponies left on the field dissipated quickly, and it looked as if it would all be over in just a few short minutes.

But if it weren’t for the hidden aid of a certain pink princess, both Shining Armor and Steelwing would have been struck out long ago.

Over the course of the day’s previous events, Cadance had learned how to cast her manipulative spells without anypony, not even her own aunt, knowing. She summoned forth more gusts of wind, or even an annoying insect or two to draw attention away from the other recruits to allow Shining Armor to continue fighting with major incident. Since she was closer to the action and not behind any barriers, her magic flowed more easily, making it all but impossible for anypony to detect whether or not she was using magic to aid in her coltfriend's battles.

An hour passed, and now the action was really starting to heat up. Only six ponies remained on the field, four of them being some of the most muscle-bound meat buckets anypony had ever seen, and they each seemed to be struggling with one pony in between them. Eventually, their struggle found an end, but not in their favor. The brawny hunks burst into the usual cloud of colorful smoke, reappearing on the sidelines with their frustrated brethren.

“W-wait! Where’s Steelwing?” said Star Strider, scanning her worried eyes over the near-empty field.

“And what about Shining Armor?” said Cadance, joining in on the visual search.

“Settle down, girls,” cooed Celestia. “Only two ponies remain. Let us see what has become of your friends…”

“Four ponies down, only two more to go!” shouted the announcer. “Who’s going to be the lucky ones to face each other off in one final battle for the title of tournament champion?”

The dust began to settle. All eyes fell upon both sides of the field, eager to see who was left standing. When the dust cleared completely, only two ponies, panting and sweating, stood tall with their heads held high and a bright smile on their faces.

“And would you look at that, ladies and gentlecolts!” continued the announcer. “The final two ponies left standing, Steelwing and Shining Armor, are up to face each other for the title of tournament champion!”

“…what did he say?” Cadance murmured, speechless.

“Cadance! There he is! He won! Shining Armor won!” Twilight excitedly called out over her shoulder, looking a bit jumpy from being so excited. "Well, almost..."

“Y-yes…Twilight,” Cadance swallowed hard. “I-I see him…”

“And there’s Steelwing too!” Star Strider squealed. “He’s made it through! I can’t believe it!”

“Cadance! You have to come watch this! It’s way better up close!” exclaimed Twilight.

“I think I’m fine here, Twilight…” Cadance replied.

Pleeease Cadance? I don’t want you to miss out on this…” Twilight beamed a hopeful look into her foalsitter’s eyes, silently begging her to come join her by the railing.

“Well…a-alright,” Cadance smiled, slowly moving to Twilight’s side and sitting down beside her.

The magical spears Shining Armor and Steelwing were holding gradually vanished into the ether. The barrier of light that surrounded the large rectangular field began to shrink into a smaller, more circular form, enclosing the two finalists in a tight space no bigger than the average bedroom.

“The field of battle has been reduced, and our two finalists stand ready to take each other on!” exclaimed the announcer. “Who will be the next tournament champion? Let’s find out!”

Two magical spears, colored red and blue respectively, appeared chained to the ground beside both of the finalists; the blue for Shining Armor, and the red for Steelwing. They looked at their weapons, then looked up at each other’s faces, both bearing nervous, but proud looks.

“Well…here we are…” said Steelwing.

“Yeah…thanks for helping me get this far,” said Shining Armor.

“Same to you. That was some pretty impressive teamwork we had!”

“Yeah, but now, it comes down to this…”

“I know that feel bro…”

“Well…good luck, I guess.” Shining Armor smiled, offering a brohoof.

“Good luck, dude, and may the best pony win!” Steelwing accepted Shining Armor’s brohoof with honor before stepping backward to his starting position.

“Finalists, ready!” shouted the announcer, raising his hoof in the air. “Three…two…one…”

“Go, Shining!” Twilight shouted at the top of her lungs.

“Go!”

The announcer dropped his hoof, the spears were unchained, and the finalists began with haste.

Before anypony could even blink, Steelwing grabbed his spear, leaped high into the air, and prepared to bring his weapon straight down onto his opponent’s head, but Shining Armor was quick on his hooves. The strong unicorn swiped his spear off the ground and blocked Steelwing’s attack from on high, sending colorful sparks and bright flashes in all directions.

What am I going to do? Cadance thought to herself as the battle continued to unfold. I can’t guarantee Shining Armor’s victory like this! He’s facing off with my best friend’s coltfriend! She wants Steelwing to win as much as I want Shining Armor to win!

A shower of sparks continued to rain down upon the finalists as they blocked each other’s well-placed moves. The crowd was going nuts, Twilight even more so, while Cadance simply sat back and watched, stressed beyond her normal levels.

Steelwing made a move to deliver a sweeping kick, but Shining Armor quickly slid out of the way and came around with one of his own, knocking Steelwing to the ground. Before the final blow could be struck, Steelwing flapped his wings hard and shot out from underneath Shining Armor before turning skyward. While in the air, Steelwing playfully taunted the unicorn below, making faces and blowing raspberries, but Shining Armor would have none of it.

Remembering one of his earlier moves that saved Steelwing from getting struck out, Shining Armor decided to use the very same move to take him down. While Steelwing was openly flexing his muscles, Shining Armor lifted his spear towards the sky and threw it with all of his might. Steelwing gasped and quickly bolted out of the way, missing the spear by mere inches. Shining Armor was now defenseless. Steelwing seized the opportunity and dove for the unarmed unicorn.

A little alarm went off in Cadance’s head, urging her to do something. She acted on impulse, discreetly using her magic to redirect yet another gust of wing, blowing Shining Armor’s spear back towards him before it could boomerang around on its own, but her own quick thinking was about to betray her. The shining missile was aimed directly for Steelwing, who just so happened to be lined up in its path. The speed of the spear made it impossible to be redirected now. She released control over her magic and braced for the worst.

“Look out!” Shining Armor gasped having noticed his spear flying back towards him. Steelwing looked behind, taking notice of the imminent danger, and attempted to fly away from the spears path, but the speed at which he was going made it too hard to bank off to either side. He crashed and tumbled onto the field, rolling head over hooves before slamming into the spectral wall. Back on the royal platform, Cadance breathed a heavy sigh of relief. Beside her, Star Strider cringed, extremely anxious for the state of her winged sweetheart.

“Oh boy…” murmured Shining Armor, picking his spear up off the ground. “Are you alright, Steelwing?”

“Alright? Alright?!” Steelwing grunted in pain as he slowly rose to his hooves. “Why in the hay did you do that? You could’ve won this thing, just like that, and I wouldn’t have nearly broken my neck!”

“I-I’m sorry, Steelwing! It was an accident! Really!”

Steelwing growled angrily. “Accident or not, we’re still in this fight, so don’t expect any soft play from me, got it!?”

Before he could reply, Steelwing dashed for his spear and began wildly flailing it at his blue-haired opponent. Shining Armor did his best to dodge or block each and every swing, but Steelwing was moving like a comical praying mantis with wings. There was just no easy way for Shining Armor to swing a few hits of his own, until he remembered the no-holds-barred style of the event. When the time was right, Shining Armor quickly whipped up enough energy for a levitation spell and threw Steelwing against the wall again, giving himself some space to recuperate.

“So that’s how you want to play it, huh?” grunted Steelwing, rising to his hooves. “How about I join in on the fun?”

“Steely, don’t you dare!” growled Star Strider with an angry look on her face.

“Try me!” mocked Shining Armor.

“With pleasure!” yelled Steelwing

Steelwing shot forward like a lightning bolt, swooped underneath Shining Armor’s torso, and lifted the surprised junior captain high into the air. The white pegasus carried the captain several dozen meters above the ground, almost passing over the full height of the stadium.

“Let’s see how you like this!” shouted Steelwing, heaving the heavy load up and over his head before dashing off to the side. Shining Armor was scared out of his wits. He started to fall like a lead brick, tumbling through the air over and over again. His heart raced into a panic, fearing how Twilight and Cadance would react if he slammed into the ground, dead upon impact.

How could Steelwing do this to him? Why aren’t there any guards coming to rescue him from certain death? Whose idea was it anyway to design a dangerous final event with no rules whatsoever? Why? What? Why?

“Celestia! Aren’t you going to do something?!” shouted Cadance, shielding Twilight’s dumbstruck eyes in case the worst should come to pass.

“I think your friend already has,” replied Celestia in a calm tone, pointing a hoof up into the sky.

Cadance looked up and saw that Steelwing had a tight grip around Shining Armor’s back legs during the free fall, and just in the nick of time.

“Ha! You’re not getting off that easily!” mocked Steelwing with a smile on his face.

Mere meters from slamming into the ground, Steelwing panned his wings towards the ground, and began flapping with all his might. The sudden braking force was enough to slow him down by a small margin, but his live, heavy cargo only made things worse. In a desperate attempt to avoid serious injury, Steelwing released Shining Armor as close to the ground as he could get. Up in the royal platform, Cadance and Twilight winced when they saw Shining Armor cartwheel across the field before coming to slow stop on his side. The impact left several bumps and bruises all over his body, but somehow, he found the strength to try and rise to his hooves.

There! Now are we ev—uh oh…“ Steelwing halted his jeering when he realized that he was still flying at an incredibly fast speed, headed straight for the spectral wall that was eager for another friendly reunion. Like so many times before, he slammed face first into the barrier of white light, skidding down its smooth surface before coming to a rest at the base.

“Argh! I hate walls!” grunted Steelwing, rubbing the back of his head while he searched for his spear.

“No! Shining, you have to get up! Please get up!” shouted little Twilight, looking devastated seeing her brother in such a agonizing state.

Come on, Shining… thought Cadance while she consoled her little filly friend with a gentle back rub. You have to get up! You just have too!

Somehow, Cadance’s breathless words reached Shining Armor’s flat and folded ears. The unicorn stallion began to rise, his legs twitching and wobbling as he did so.

That’s it, Shining! You can do it! Maybe there’s still some hope left! thought Cadance. Maybe my Shining Armor will actually make it through--

“Hey, there’s my spear!” exclaimed Steelwing, grabbing his red, glowing gaff and twirling it in the air. “And not a scratch on her!”

Steelwing suddenly bore a devious look in his eyes. He slowly turned around, and saw that his opponent was facing the opposite direction, struggling to get up again, but it was no use. The moment to deliver a surprise attack was wide open.

“I’m done for…” whispered Shining Armor.

“Sorry, Shining, but somepony’s got to take home the gold!” mocked Steelwing.

“I let everypony down…” whispered Shining Armor. “Twilight, Cadance…”

Shining Armor continued to brood in shame, not even trying to stand up straight anymore. He had given up, losing all hope of ever taking home the champion gold, but not for himself, but for his family. He wanted to make them proud. Now, he had no chance.

Suddenly, the sound of rolling metal came from underneath him. Shining Armor looked down and saw his blue, glowing spear rolling out from underneath him, still alive and pulsating with strong magic, but an extra detail seemed to have caught his eye. Carved into the side of the spear were three, simple words:

Don’t give up.

At first, he thought his mind was playing tricks on him. He had suffered enough injuries today to put the average pony in the emergency room for a few weeks, but just the sheer oddity of it made him believe that this was certainly not a coincidence. The spear rolled over again, as if it were being pushed along by a ghostly hand. It continued to roll until it bounced off against his hooves, sizzling with magical fury. There was only one other pony in all of Equestria who had the power to could break Princess Celestia’s magic, and he had a pretty good idea of who it was.

“It’s been fun, Shining…” Steelwing sighed. “But this is where it ends!”

With a loud whinny acting as a war cry, Steelwing charged forward, aiming his spear directly at his opponent’s backside.

His head and heart full of rejuvenated confidence from his secret messenger, Shining Armor snapped to his hooves, swiped his spear out from underneath, twirled around to face his danger close adversary, and with one mighty swing, he thrust his spear upward, catching Steelwing underneath the chin and sending both he and his red lance flying into the sky. Steelwing disappeared in a colorful dust cloud in midair, and Shining Armor stood triumphant, boldly facing the awestruck crowd with a hero’s pose. After thrusting the tool of his victory into the ground, he let loose the most heroic victory cry he could muster...

“Yes! Yeah! Woo hoo! In your face, Steelwing! Haha!” Shining Armor continued his “victory cry” while he danced a little celebratory jig. “Who’s bad? I’m bad! I did it! I did it! Oh yeah, yeah, yeah! Woo hoo!”

So much for his "heroic" victory cry.

“Uhh…Shining Armor?” said the announcer.

“What is it now?” replied Shining Armor. “It’s just nothing but pointing out the obvious with you and…wait a minute…”

It was only in that moment did Shining Armor notice that the stadium had gone dead silent. Not a word, not a sound, not even a gentle whisper could be heard in the midst of the eerie stillness.

“When did everypony get so…quiet?”

“Shining Armor! Look out!” shouted a random somepony in the stands.

“Look out for what?” replied Shining Armor.

Then, it dawned on him. Shining Armor went wide eyed, and his ears and mane went limp and flat. He looked up, only to catch a glimpse of Steelwing’s spinning red spear hurdling towards him before impaling him on the head. The instant the spear touched Shining Armor’s skin, a rapid surge of magical energy sent his essence hurdling through a tunnel of light before reappearing in a completely different place than he was in before, dazed and confused just like those before him.

“Oh, hey Shining,” spoke the voice of Steelwing beside him.

Taken by surprise, Shining Armor snapped his head to the left, where he found Steelwing sitting on a bench next to him, his forehooves crossed and a grouchy look on his face.

Steelwing?!” Shining Armor gasped. "How did you--"

“You’re not alone, dude…” mumbled Steelwing.

“What do you mean I’m not…”

In a brief moment of panic, Shining Armor went wide-eyed and looked over both of his shoulders, where dozens upon dozens of recruits sat on benches, some just as grouchy as Steelwing, while others started at him with some of the most overwhelmed looks on their faces that Shining Armor had ever seen.

“Wait…if you guys are here and if Steelwing is right next to me, then that could only mean…”

“Yeah. So what? You win…” Steelwing sighed. “Take the title. I don’t care…”

“It’s a…tie?!” exclaimed the announcer. “That means we have not one, but two champions this year!”

What?!” gasped Steelwing and Shining Armor in unison.

“It’s a whole new record!” continued the announcer, more excited than ever. “Two champions in a single tournament! Oh ho ho! So what’s wrong, everypony? Cat got your tongue? Go ahead! Give our two new champions a celebratory round of applause!”

On his words, the entire stadium burst into a thunderous applause that seemed to echo off for miles. It came like the sound of an earthquake as hundreds drummed their hooves in their seats. The flash of cameras, followed by showers of confetti and balloons added to the festive funfare. In the barrage of cheering and screaming, Shining Armor could make out the distinct voice of his little sister shouting his name at the top of her lungs. He smiled cheerfully, turning to face his timidly grinning friend.

“So…I guess this makes us both the best pony?” asked Steelwing with a hopeful look on his face.

“Pretty much!” Shining Armor laughed.

“That’s…good, right?”

“Would a trip to the winner’s circle give you the answer?”

“Race you there?”

“You bet!”

~~~~~

Princess Celestia, Princess Cadance, an adorable, regally-dressed Twilight Sparkle, and a flustered Star Strider were escorted down the crowded breezeway by a small platoon of armored guards. Despite being filled with journalists, photographers, recruits, and several others, the royally revered were treated with the bowing of everypony in their path. Celestia kept her cheerful smile, while Cadance just smiled and waved as usual, her mind racing as the guilt continued to pour in. What she did during the entire tournament was wrong. Sure, it helped someponies gain a bit of fame, but her conscious was just too delicate to take this kind of stress. She could never tell anypony; ever. Not for a few years at least. Besides, there have been lots of instances of ponies cheating in sports events…instances that all resulted in their capture and imprisonment, but being a part of royalty grants you a ‘get out of jail free’ card, right?

She hoped so…

“Twilight, in all my years of ruling over Equestria, seeing royal guards come and go, I have never seen one with such skill, strength, and intelligence like your brother.”

“Thank you, princess!” Twilight replied, smiling brightly at Princess Celestia’s generous comments towards her older sibling. “That’s why he’s my very own BBBFF!”

“I’m assuming that means—“

“Big Brother Best Friend Forever!”

Celestia giggled. “A part of two world records, a knack for being both brave and bold, and of course, a lifelong friendship with you. After seeing what he has done today, I will most certainly keep him in mind. He has a bright future in the ranks of the Royal Guard. I'm sure of it.”

“What about Steely—I-I mean, Steelwing, your highness?” asked Star Strider.

“He shall receive the same commendation as Shining Armor. No matter their rank, I treat all of my royal guards with respect and dignity. When it comes to the safety of Equestria, everypony counts.”

“Your highness,” spoke one of the escorts out in front. “We have arrived. Steelwing and Shining Armor are directly ahead of us.”

Everypony turned and saw the two reigning champions working it up with a crowd of eager, smiling ponies. Their wounds seemed to have been healed completely healed by magic, thanks to the help of the nurse ponies, and after what they’ve been through, they looked anything but exhausted. Steelwing was signing a little colt’s autograph book, while Shining Armor chatted it up with a small group of mares no older than Cadance. They both wore large, golden medals around their necks, laced with a silvery ribbon that glittered in the right light; the perfect complement to their hard work and final victory.

Wait…mares?! thought Cadance, struck with sudden shock.

“Is something wrong, Cadance?” asked Celestia.

“N-no, Aunt Tia,” replied Cadance, smiling sheepishly. “Just a little…excited is all.”

“Do you wish to meet with the champions, your highness?” asked one of the lead guards, looking over his shoulder at Celestia. “Shall we clear the way?”

“No. I will meet with them at the tournament celebration feast later tonight,” stated Celestia.

“Mind if I go speak with the champions, Aunt Tia?” asked Cadance. “I’m sure Twilight would love to tag along.” The little lavender filly beamed at Cadance when her name was suddenly mentioned.

“Of course. I’m sure it will make her brother’s day even brighter when he sees his sister in such an adorable little outfit.” Twilight looked away and blushed at her mentor’s kind comment.

“Thank you, but could Star Strider tag along with us as well, as both a friend and escort?”

“M-me?” said Star Strider, smiling. “Well…I would need the training, protecting royalty while in a crowd and all…”

“I agree. Once again, of course,” said Celestia. “I will be within the main atrium, speaking with the other recruits and their families. If you need anything, you know where to find me.”

Cadance waited until her regal aunt and her guards were out of sight before grabbing Star Strider by the hooves and hurrying over to the winner’s circle; a small, golden ring in the middle of the main stadium hallway where Steelwing and Shining Armor stood. Twilight quickly followed behind them, feeling just as avid to see her big brother in the spotlight.

“Whoa, Cadance!” exclaimed Star Strider, wrestling out of Cadance’s grip. “At least let me royally walk you in, first!”

“Oh please, Star! I’m not that much of a princess yet!” replied Cadance, rolling her eyes.

“How do you think that would have made me look? If anypony saw me, a recruit, just slack off like that—“

“Relax, Star! I’ve done this several—“

“Shining!”

A ball of blue and lavender fur zoomed past the bickering mares, dazing them for a short moment.

Shining Armor looked up from his conversation with the group of mares when he heard the high pitched squeal of his little sister nearby. He craned his neck upward and scanned the heads of the crowd until a long, fuchsia horn and a familiar shade of bright pink caught his eye.

“Cadance?”

Suddenly, Shining Armor found himself pinned to the floor by a ball of excitable fur clinging to his chest. He rolled his eyes downward and found his sweet little sister keeping a tight grip around his thick neck, wearing a little blue dress and a bow in her groomed mane that only mystified Shining Armor, but made her smiling face that much more enjoyable see once again.

“Hi, Shining!” said Twilight, looking up into her brother’s eyes.

“Twilly!” Shining Armor rejoiced, hugging his little sister even tighter as the two nuzzled each other’s faces. The mares he was talking to earlier awed and dawed at such an adorable sight.

“Well, look who it is!” exclaimed Cadance as she stepped up to the brotherly champion. “A little eager, are we?”

“Sorry, Cadance, but I just couldn’t wait!” said Twilight, pulling out of the hug to allow her brother to stand up again.

Cadance blushed when she and Shining Armor locked eyes. She smiled, and he smiled back.

“Hello, Shining,” said Cadance.

“Hey, Cadance…” murmured Shining Armor in reply.

“So, how does it feel to be a champion?”

“Meh. It’s great.” Shining Armor shrugged. “It’s good if you want lots of attention, that’s for sure.”

“I think you’ll find it gets you more than just that.” Cadance fluttered her sparkling eyes, making Shining Armor the one to blush this time.

“Hey! Long time no see, princess!” said Steelwing, walking up to the three ponies with Star Strider at his side.

“H-hello, Steelwing,” said Cadance.

“You know him, Cadance?” said Shining Armor.

“I met both Steelwing and Star Strider a few weeks ago.”

“And in a pretty strange situation, huh?” said Star Strider.

“Yeah…” said Steelwing. “But hey, Shining, I gotta hoof it to you, that was some sick action out there!” Steelwing extended a brohoof, to which Shining Armor happily met with his own.

“Yeah! That stunt you pulled where you tossed me into the air? Amazing!” exclaimed Shining Armor, pumping a hoof into the air.

“Well, I had to get back at you somehow for slamming me against the wall several times over!”

“Let’s just try to be a little more careful with what ‘stunts’ we pull, ok?” said Star Strider, hopefully looking into Steelwing’s eyes.

“…ok,” replied Steelwing, smiling back at Star Strider.

“Hey, Shining! Can I see your medal?” asked Twilight, still cheerfully smiling in the presence of her big brother.

“Sure! Anything for you, Twilly,” said Shining Armor, levitating his great medallion up and over his head. He lowered it down to Twilight, who cooed in awe and plonked down onto the ground with the golden pendant in her curious hooves.

“Well, should we leave you and Steelwing to your adoring new fans?” asked Cadance.

“Now, why would I ever want you to leave?” replied Shining Armor with a dry chuckle.

“Because you’re waiting for your surprise parting gift, maybe?”

“Parting gift?” said Steelwing.

“Surprise?” said Shining Armor, who seemed to have completely forgotten about Cadance’s earlier promise.

“Is there some sort of royal reward for the winners of these tournament games?” asked Star Strider, bearing the same curious look as Steelwing.

“Sort of…” replied Cadance, a thin line of blush forming over her nose.

She had been waiting all day for this. Cadance looked to her left, then looked to her right, making sure of it that nopony was looking. Surprisingly, everypony had stopped paying attention the champions when she arrived, and were now conversing with one another, paying no mind to other things going on around them. When she double checked to make sure the visual coast was clear, Cadance quickly planted a big kiss on Shining Armor’s cheek, pulling back just as somepony turned their head in her direction.

Steelwing and Star Strider were stunned. Their lower jaws hung like that of nutcrackers. Shining Armor looked as if he was about to go into a panic, but was quickly reassured that there was no need to do so when Cadance willingly nuzzled his neck. She swore that she felt like somepony was watching, but she didn’t care right now. It’s been far too long since she last laid so much as a hoof on her knight in glorious, shining armor.

“Did…” Steelwing started, mumbling. “Did you just—“

“So,” said Cadance, turning to face Star Strider. “Can you keep a secret?” she giggled.

Comments ( 62 )

19,000 words.

Well, if no one ever hears from me again, know that I was crushed to death beneith an avalanche of pony words. Wish me luck, all.

19,000 words? Why u no break up into multiple chapters? Gonna have to read this later.

i hope you realise that now everyone wants to know every single detail in cadance's hidden entries

Have an arbitrary fave and upvote!

I'll have to read through all of this later.

How did he become Captain of the Royal Guard? I was wondering that.

“B-but, Aunt Celly--!”
“No buts, Cadance. Just relax and enjoy it...”
“But it’s so...big!”
“I know! I never let anypony see it! I just get a little...lonely sometimes...”
“Well...it does smell pretty nice...”
“Go ahead. Give it a taste. I assure you that it’s real...”

WHAT THE FUCK.
SERIOUSLY
WHAT THE FUCK.
WHATTHEFUCKWHATTHEFUCKWHATTHEFUCK.
this had better not be what I think its about, or I wont even finish the story.

643253
Halfway through...

Best chapter yet. :pinkiehappy:

1197081 75% sure its a cake of some type... 25% that This should be rated mature for that statement.

119734
I hope for the 75 percent.
I really do.

So... how does Shining react when he realizes she cheated him through the entire event?

Wow thats one of the longest chapters Ive ever read, and probably among the best. Thank you for the update :)

Why are people whining about the length of the chapter? More words = more happiness! Twilight has proven this to be true.:twilightsmile:

So many different feels, I don't wheter I should laugh out loud, be disturbed, cheering, booing, crying my heart with joy, or appluading such a wonderful chapter? :applejackconfused:

“If I recall, Cadance, you’ve never participated in court,” said Celestia, raising an eyebrow at her nephew.

Wait what? Is... Is there something you want to tell us?

Wow. That was... long… Not that I didn't enjoy it! I was very glad for the update. Very well written chapter!

“B-but, Aunt Celly--!”
“No buts, Cadance. Just relax and enjoy it...”
“But it’s so...big!”
“I know! I never let anypony see it! I just get a little...lonely sometimes...”
“Well...it does smell pretty nice...”
“Go ahead. Give it a taste. I assure you that it’s real...”
encrypted-tbn2.google.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcRK3bNkZPbZI4PclZkk33Uf6CorPZKiJxv-CxmKR_a6Kq7HpDiiSw What?

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I understand completely that some people are upset over that little bit of supposedly NSFW text that I put into this chapter. I can see why you would feel upset about it, and understand that some are mad while are others are deeply confused.

I can assure you, right now, that this chapter is in NO WAY NSFW.

“B-but, Aunt Celly--!”
“No buts, Cadance. Just relax and enjoy it...”
“But it’s so...big!”
“I know! I never let anypony see it! I just get a little...lonely sometimes...”
“Well...it does smell pretty nice...”
“Go ahead. Give it a taste. I assure you that it’s real...”

^This, right here, is not what you think it is. Trust me. My deepest apologies to those who are mad, upset, saddened, or confused. I will admit though. I knew all along that this was going to cause quite the uproar, but there is a further point this, and it in no way NSFW or any other explicit content that is to come in the next chapter. I only wrote it out this way to better conceal its true meaning. :facehoof:

1196577

Because it is all just one chapter. There is not perfect "material" by which I could successfully break up the chapters. :ajsmug:

Think of it like other stories with massive chapters, like FO:E (which I have not read)

19000? I was wondering why 9000 words were taking so long to read. This answers that question.

1200554 I know, I was saying that there was so much going on and so many different feelings from various bits that I didn't know how to feel. :facehoof:

1200257
heh.
I wasn't mad either, but I did lol at first thinking it was a joke. Even now its still funny when I imagine all the people that are making "DAFUQ" faces... tehehehehe

1201581

The story is not meant to project a single, straightforward feeling to the readers. It has never done that, but I understand. Maybe the process of editing nearly a full 20k words wore down on my brain so much that I forgot to proofread the same thing several times over. :trixieshiftright:

Of which I did, but you try doing this with no help from an editor or proofreader :twistnerd:

Edit: Just reread that to myself. I need to think before I type next time ;__;

Not entirely sure how I feel about this chapter. I don't think it's really going to end well for Cadence, given that SA probably never knew about all of the interference. This is... Hmm. Really concerning.

1200257 I actually thought that part hilarious.

That only took like an hour to read :pinkiehappy: and I loved it, GG no RE Hivemind, you may take the internet!

I had thought you dead. Glad to see the story is still very much alive. Took me a little under an hour to read this last chapter, and I was enthralled the entire time. Loved every word. Keep it up!

1201815 There were no signifcant errors, I'm just saying that because of how long the chapter was and all the things that unfolded during that chapter I wasn't sure how to feel, one moment I could be laughing out loud and the next moment I could be so angry or even slightly disturbed. :twilightoops:

As for that one line I knew it was not I thought it was, cause if it was this fic would not be at it's current rating. :pinkiesick:

At this point, then tension in the air was so painstakingly thin you could cut it with a hair thin butter knife.
The expression is "the tension was so thick you could cut it with a knife". Also, "painstakingly" describes the effort put into a result, not the result itself, so it doesn't fit here. There should also be a hyphen between "hair" and "thin".

1205916

Thanks for pointing that out! Out of 19,000 words, finding little mistakes like this can prove to be quite difficult, especially when you're editing every chapter alone. :derpyderp2:

1206050
I've heard of sites/boards/etcetera that are entirely devoted to editing, proofreading, and the like. Perhaps you should look into one or more of them. 19,000 words must take quite a while to proofread. I've heard /fic/ mentioned a few times, though I've never had any reason to look into it too much, so it may or may not be what you are looking for.

Simply fantastic. Personally, I don't know about Cadence helping out Shining so much. That said, that was actually in line within both their characters as depicted in "A Canterlot Wedding."

This has been a pleasure to read this far.

MOAR!!! :flutterrage:

So next chapter SA goes into a deep depression because the crowning achievment of his early military carer, the one that got him his position as Captain was all a lie?
He was absolutely soul crushed at the thought of not truly earning that merit for allegedly saving Cadence so why would he suddenly be okay with it now?
Super well written and even at this things ponderous size it never lulled and flew by way to fast. At that it hurts me to say this with how much I like your stuff but this seems like a pretty major plot hole.
Don't take that as truly negative it just seems really strange.
The ending though a bit predictable was both humorous and compelling enough to make even the most staunch naysayers take pause.

P.S
Hehe Plothole....

1209188

Well, allow me to thank you for your watchful eye, not to mention your skill at writing out that summary so well :pinkiehappy:

I have to admit, of Cadence doesn't get in trouble for using her magic/royal authority to cheat or make life for her friends easier at some point, I'm going to have to drop this. I mean, I know this isn't an episode and isn't intended as having a moral, but that sort of stuff pisses me off.

1216709

Why is that? I'm not going to give away spoilers, but after reading your comment, and from what I can tell, you seem to dislike it when authors take their stories in different directions than you expect. Again, not giving away spoilers, but the fact of the matter is that authors are free to take their stories in any direction they want, and they are free to ignore any feedback they may receive, but at their own risk.

Now, that does not mean I ignore feedback/ do not want to please my readers. It just means that while the story progresses, one must be ready for an unexpected twist. I too have felt this way when I was reading one fic in particular called 'Wingbury Academy'. It was so well written, so well defined and executed, that half the time, I literally wanted the story's antagonist to die in oh so many ways (Pinkamina style :pinkiecrazy:), but no, the author took it in another direction, but we (the readers, who were pretty close knit with the story) respected that as the author's choice.

No insults if any, but really, it would be nice if more people would just stop commenting on what they really want to happen and just let the author do his/her work. It might not seem like it, but it just puts unwanted strain on us, sometimes forcing us to modify our work just so we could please a few extra people. Yes, it's polite, but then again, we are free to write what we want. :twistnerd:

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I was not making any suggestions; I was merely stating my opinion. While I completely agree that authors can and should take their stories in the direction of their choosing as opposed to succumbing to reader opinions, I must also say that the reverse is also true; the reader must read what they would like to read and ignore stories that displease them. I was merely station my intentions to do so.

In hindsight, however, I can see that my wording was far too antagonistic, and I thus apologize if I caused you offense or distress. I most likely should not have made that comment.

I do hope you continue this story, and my ignore my opinions if you disagree with them. This is, after all, not a choose-your-own adventure story. My apologies again, and I do hope you enjoy writing this as much as I enjoyed reading it so far.

Give this author a prize, STAT!

Lol. How will Shiney react when he realizes that his win was a fluke?

Sooo, who said Cave Clobber was guaranteed to win? And who was watching that kiss?
The plot thickens! :pinkiegasp:
And 25 bits say that the hidden entry is about CAKE!:trollestia:

Okay, I love the story, it's just that I can't stand how you characterize Cadance. She cheats, lies, gets overly jealous. pretty much got her boyfriend beat up and blamed said boyfriend, and no there's no coincidences for anything she does. :ajbemused: She can't just call the royal guards for everything.

I'm not going to stop reading yet (which is saying something because I tend to judge stories mainly based on characterization), but please improve. Don't kill me. :fluttershbad:

Two thousand words, three thousand words, six thousand words...eighteen thousand words, holy hell! Ah, well, it's good to see that you're getting better.

“I’ll be waiting...” Cadance sighed, despising the feeling of being ignoring. Shouldn't that be 'ignored'?

Cheating? For shame, Cadence, getting caught could result in a lot more than just SA being disappointed in you.

Cave Clobber, ya really need to get over losing. It happens.

Sure, it was against her nature to act in such an unladylike manner, but then again, she’s a princess! Ponies look to her for protection, and if protecting her subjects meant a little "misbehavior", then so be it! Oh, dear. She just keeps making one bad choice after another. Even though things more or less work out, I'm still actually disappointed with her. I like it, though--you're showing us Cadence's character flaws, rather than making her a boringly two-dimensional alicorn princess.

Within reason of course, girls. During the event, they are not allowed to leave the stadium, but they are allowed to use any means necessary to win, also within reason. Using this phrase twice in as many sentences is a bit jarring, especially for someone as well-spoken as Celestia.

Should she start…cheating again? That you even need to ask...there are not enough facehooves in the world. :facehoof: I do enjoy this far-less-than-perfect side of her, though.

leaving nothing behind but a puff of colorful smoke Smoke has to have some color, even if it's grey. Otherwise no one would be able to see it.

What she did during the entire tournament was wrong. No, really? :twilightangry2:

All in all, very interesting chapter. I look forward to seeing Armor's reaction to Cadence's admission of events in the present.

1231176

Thanks for pointing out the errors, but again, it's 19,000 words, and I edit all of my chapters alone, yet I appreciate it that people point out these little mistakes as they go :twilightsmile:

Why do I get this niggling feeling that Celestia knows about Cadence's "help" already ? Seems to me, no matter how good at magic Cadence is, Celestia [being older and far more skilled at magic] would still know that she was helping Shining Armor win.

Very fun chapter to read. I can't say I agree with what Cadance is doing, and she should really think about Shining's feelings more... but teens in love are crazy. :pinkiecrazy: I was a little freaked out by the one part at the beginning..... but since you assured me personally its nothing bad I guess I'm OK. But... what is it? Do we find out next chapter? Twiley in a dress was cute:twilightsmile:

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It's always nice to see your face around here :twilightsmile:

I won't spoil anything, but eventually, we do get to see that part, but I doubt what I have in mind for it will hold up whatever suspense it builds :unsuresweetie:

So I finally got around to reading this. I must say it was so worth it
:scootangel:
keep up the good work

"Scruffy, the janitor"
Hah! :rainbowwild:
Okay, you officially win the internet.:eeyup:

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