• Published 10th May 2015
  • 7,744 Views, 100 Comments

Twilight Sparkle Eventually Solves a Conundrum - Lapis-Lazuli and Stitch

In trying to get the press off her back, Twilight Sparkle has inadvertently given practically everypony she knows the wrong idea about herself. Or maybe it's the right idea. She really doesn't know. Which is a very serious problem.

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Problem Solving Techniques

She slammed the bolt home with perhaps a touch more force than was strictly necessary, but for the first time in her life Twilight Sparkle wasn’t going to worry about the physics of deadbolt stress tolerances. She had far, far bigger things to worry about right now, like the fact that her life was quickly spiraling out of control. “SPIKE!” she yelled, the sound echoing off the crystalline walls of her castle. It was very handy for getting somepony’s attention, but not so handy if she wanted some discretion or quiet time.

The echoing slowly died away, replaced a scant moment later by the click-clacking of talons against the floor from somewhere upstairs. Her erstwhile assistant and last-sane-pony Spike turned down the stairs while humming some unidentifiable tune. “Jeeze, Twilight,” he muttered, giving her the once over as he reached the bottom of the grand staircase. “You look terrible. Rainbow Dash trying to teach you pegasus mating habits?” He snickered a little.

Twilight tried to figure out if Spike would survive a fifty-yard punt off the balcony upstairs, but decided it wasn’t worth the brainpower to map out the physics. “No. Applejack,” she huffed, pressing her back up against the door and exhaling slowly. “Said she was going to show me earth pony strength building exercises. She didn’t mention they involved Big Macintosh and a bundle of tree trunks.” Actually, that wasn’t the problem with what she’d been through today, but she wasn’t going to tell Spike that.

Spike raised an eye ridge at her. “Then why do you look like you’ve just crashed through a dozen trees?” He reached up and plucked an errant tree branch out of her mane, still flush with leaves and little pink flowers.

Twilight gaped at it for a moment. Dangit, she’d missed one. “Um…” she hedged, trying to buy time to come up with a good sounding excuse. Unfortunately, she didn’t have one. “That was from... “ She trailed off, with Spike crossing his little arms and giving her a look very reminiscent of Princess Celestia. “Oh, fine!” she snapped. “I crashed through a dozen trees trying to perform some absurd aerial maneuver so Dash would stop pestering me about it! And I had to rescue Angel Bunny from one of them!”

She crossed her own forehooves, sat down right in front of the door, and did everything she could to not burst into tears. “They’re coming at me in waves, Spike! And they’re getting more and more…” She squirmed a little on the spot, unwilling to talk about the details. “Cozy.

“Cozy?” Spike sounded amused. “Twilight, is that what all the foals are calling it these days?” He snickered again, covering it behind a taloned paw. “Jeeze, Twilight. I’m young, not stupid. Your mom already gave me ‘the talk’.” He wiggled his talon skyward while rolling his eyes. “Not that it made much sense to me, but I got the point.”

“She what?” Twilight felt her jaw hit the floor. What in the name of Celestia’s throne had her mother been up to? “Why- How- What in the world was she giving you that speech for?!” Her cheeks were already flushed at the idea of her mother giving Spike that talk. Especially given how young he was!

Spike snorted. “Because she said she wanted grandfoals, and that I needed to know what was going on if there were any funny noises in your room.” He trundled over to one of the couches in the foyer, picking up a paper bag from under the thing and plucking out a juicy looking ruby. “Said she wanted to make sure I didn’t ‘interrupt the process’ or something. Not that I would bother you if you started making funny noises.” He chuckled, shaking his head. “I know better than to interrupt you when you’re doing chemistry experiments anyway.”

“Chemi-” Twilight snapped her mouth shut. The last thing she wanted to do was correct him. She’d probably traumatize the poor dragon if she did. “Right. Chemistry. Ahem.” She adjusted her mane by pushing it back out of her eyes and huffing. “Spike, I have a problem. Rarity was making noises about having guests over for dinner. I need you to go over to Carousel Boutique and do whatever you have to do to keep her busy.”

Spike stared at her uncomprehendingly, his jaw hanging somewhere between his face and the floor. Twilight had to keep herself from bursting into laughter at the sight, which would’ve done nothing for his ego. So instead, she satisfied herself with putting on a soothing voice. “Whatever it takes, Spike. I’ll double your budget for gems this month if you can keep her away from the castle until sunset.” It was probably very wrong to do this, and it was probably worse to use Spike of all the creatures in the world; but he was probably the only person who wasn’t after her right now, and she needed time to devise a plan.

Spike shook his head slowly, rolling up his paper bag and stashing it back under the couch. “Wait, didn’t we just do this whole thing?” he asked. She crossed her hooves over her chest and glared at him. He sighed. “You’re either going nuts, or doing something nuts, and I don’t want to be around for either.” He hopped up and trundled to the door. “I’ll tell her you need a new royal dress for a dance or something. That should keep her busy for a few days.”

Twilight winced at that, knowing she’d have to make good on whatever event Spike fabricated. Still, it would be a small price to pay to try to extract some sanity from the situation. “You’re the best, Spike,” she said, unable to stop from smiling. He really was the best assistant anypony could ask for, even if he was occasionally a bit dense.

Spike waved at her with a grin before slipping out the front door, leaving her completely alone in the castle for the first time in nearly a month. A month since she’d caught her friends in here plotting how to split up her attention on dates. She’d tried to compromise, of course, seeing as how nopony could possibly just want to up and go on a date with her for no good reason. And of course, as with all of her more recent genius ideas, it had turned into the world’s biggest fustercluck.

Granny Smith was asking when the ceremony was. Scootaloo was asking what her ‘intentions’ with Rainbow Dash were. Sweetie Belle wanted to know if Twilight would be her big sister too. Celestia’s sake, Pinkie Pie wanted to know if Twilight wanted to meet her parents! Actually, speaking of Celestia, her mentor’s letters had gotten incredibly informal, warm, and personal with her over the past month. Luna’s letters had not been quite as forward, but they were the worst of all!

“I mean, really,” she said to the empty room, unable to contain her frustration. “Does she honestly think that I’m some kind of ancient Unicornian princess?!” Nevermind that the marital and private practices of the Unicornian royal families were unconventional at best, she was getting teasing letters from her own brother on the matter! Apparently, Cadence had started taking wagers on her! (Incidentally, Celestia was apparently the running favorite at five-to-two and Fluttershy the dark-horse favorite at twenty-five to one. Reportedly, someone had also placed a bet on Discord, but Twilight had no idea what kind of odds Cadence had given that one).

And absolute worst of all? She had been trying - desperately so - for a solid two weeks to tell them all to put it out of their minds, and every time she’d tried it had turned into a tongue-tied disaster. She simply could not bring herself to break anypony’s heart, no matter how much she knew that was the logical, correct thing to do. It was beginning to- Okay, if she was honest with herself, it had started driving her insane three days after it had begun.

About the only remotely positive thing was that her exploits had apparently left the entire Equestrian paparazzi so confused that most of them seemed content to sit back and wait for some kind of definitive event. So great. I’ve succeeded with getting the press off my case, and now I’m teetering on the edge of the friendship apocalypse! All things considered, this was not an improvement over reporters speculating endlessly about her dining habits.

She’d considered unsealing the Mirror pool and making copies of herself, but something told her that her friends would not be content with mere doppelgangers. There were copy-self spells she could access that would create true (if much less powerful) duplicates, but she was reasonably sure none of them were legal to use outside a laboratory environment. She supposed she could try to access some alternate dimensions, but there was always the slight possibility of ripping apart the space-time continuum, so that was out.

Theoretically there was a ‘alternate’ her through the mirror-portal, but given how incredibly difficult it had been for her to adjust to human form, she didn’t want to imagine what somepony with no training might do with access to powerful magic. Just the thought gave her shivers.

With all of the obvious, easy routes to fix this problem shut down, Twilight had been stumped. There were certainly other, far more risky routes to take. Most of them involving fleeing the country, or declaring herself chaste, or seeing what lay beyond the boundaries of traditional Equestrian maps. Of course, some of those solutions just involved her picking one special somepony, putting her hoof down and sticking with it…

But that brought her right back to her original problem, in that doing so would undoubtedly break the hearts of her best friends. Rarity’s protestations to the contrary, Twilight couldn’t believe after all the passion they had put into their various attempts to woo her that they would not be at least hurt by the news. Granted, she was almost certain she’d encountered a friendship lesson along these lines before. Then again, that particular incident had not involved romantic attachments and… chemistry.

Which left her with only a few grim options, none of them ideal. Still, if Spike could keep Rarity busy, she was certain she’d have at least until sundown to decide what to do. So she’d do what any good friendship-expert would do. Ask her friends.

But which friends? Spike was going to be of no help, obviously. And there were, after all, only a few someponies familiar with all of the actors involved who were not counted amongst them. Three names immediately sprang to mind, and it was the work of simple elimination in terms of raw effort to decide who to contact first. She was, in fact, older than Twilight and undoubtedly had some experience with this sort of thing before, and as a peer she might have better insight as to the right decision.

Fortunately, the path to her personal library was a rather quick one thanks to some convenient secret passageways and a quick teleport hop up to a balcony. Filed on a high shelf in the tax-law section of her library, where absolutely nopony ventured except for herself and occasionally the mayor, a very special book was pulled down and propped up onto a very special stand. She fished out a quill and began to scribble a message onto a blank page in that special book. With luck, she’d have an answer within the hour.


It was difficult not to be a trifle nervous at the arrival of her unexpected guest for the day, especially given what had happened the last time she’d set hoof on Equestrian soil. But she forced herself to relax anyway. After all, Sunset Shimmer had become a conduit for the powers of Harmony as much as she and her friends had. Her reformation to the side of good was unquestioned, and Twilight had already begun to consider theories that Sunset Shimmer herself might be the key to unraveling the mysteries of Harmony.

A topic which would have to wait for another day, as the power of the mirror-portal pulsed and the bright yellow coat of her very unusual friend popped into sight. Clad as a proper four-hoofed unicorn pony, rather than the black-jacket wearing bad-girl she’d been playing over in Canterlot High for some time. “Well, this is certainly unusual,” Sunset said, smiling nervously as she glanced around. “I take it this is your fancy new castle?”

Twilight returned the slightly crooked smile. “Yeah. It’s kind of an eyesore, but what are you gonna do? Princess Cadence is trying to figure out a way to recolor the crystal into something a bit easier on the eyes.” She rubbed the back of her head and tried not to look desperate. How did one do that, anyway? She had no idea what ‘desperate’ really looked like, nor how to avoid looking like it. Ugh.

Sunset chuckled richly, shaking her head. “I dunno, the colors suit you, Princess.” She winked, her smile growing more at ease with every passing moment. “So, you’ve got romance trouble, huh? And why couldn’t we just have this conversation over the book again?” Sunset slowly moved into the room, her head darting back and forth to take in the space.

Twilight sighed. “Mostly because I don’t actually know if the book will stop working when we run out of paper, and I don’t want to take chances. Partially, though, I’m…” She sat down with a thump on the cold floor and rubbed at her foreleg. “Well, I’m embarassed. Shouldn’t an adult pony be able to handle this sort of thing?”

That made Sunset laugh, a reaction Twilight had only half-expected. “Twilight Sparkle, for someone so smart, you can be kinda an idiot sometimes.” Sunset said it fondly, smiling with a surprising warmth. “Hot tip, Princess. There are very few people who handle this kind of thing with any degree of skill. Most of them only have it because they screwed up a lot.” She giggled, covering her mouth with her hoof. “I’m not exactly an expert myself, even though I’ve been around the block a few times.”

Twilight tried to parse what ‘been around the block’ might mean, but decided it was probably one of those earth-isms she still hadn’t entirely absorbed. “So can you help me at all?” It was hard not to sound plaintive, so she just went for the gusto and turned on her ‘helpless scared Twily’ routine she remembered from being a cute filly. She stuck out her lower lip and let her eyes tear up.

Sunset laughed again, though this time it was much rougher. “Oh, holy bologna! Turn off the wateworks, hon.” She trotted over and patted Twilight on the shoulder. “Relax, relax, I can give you a few quick tips, though I don’t know how much help they’ll be. Now.” She leant against the table and cocked an eyebrow at her. “What exactly is going on?”

Twilight bit at her lip, trying to compose the right way to say this and utterly failing to do so. “Everypony I know seems to be trying to get cozy with me!” she burst out, flopping to the floor in a heap of feathers and pony. “Applejack and Pinkie and Rarity and even Princess Celestia and-”

Sunset stared at her a bit, moving up quickly and cutting her off. “Wait. Hold on. Back up.” She waved her hoof in Twilight’s face to get her attention. “What do you mean by ‘cozy’? Like, are they hugging you too much or something weird like that?” She looked genuinely confused, and only then did Twilight realize what she’d done.

“Oh, fu-fiddlesticks,” she stuttered over the swear, coughing to cover the stumble. “Um. They want to be my very special somepony,” she tried, this time not using Spike’s rather silly word for the act. Unfortunately, Sunset still looked confused. “Um,” Twilight hemmed, searching for the right term that wouldn’t be overly vulgar. “Uh… Oh! They want to be my preening partner.” That was Dash’s term, and she hoped it would get the point across.

Sunset Shimmer’s cheeks suddenly went red, and she smacked her forehead. “Oh, sweet Celestia, you’re kidding me,” she muttered, then a moment later she groaned even louder. “You’re not kidding me. Oh goodness, that’s hilarious.” She devolved into a pile of giggles, falling over and rolling back and forth. “Oh, man! Dashie and Rarity and all the rest have all been after your flank? Girl, I am jeal-ous!” She rolled up to her belly, grinning at Twilight. “Ooo, ooo! Confess! You’ve got to tell me if Dashie likes getting her belly rubbed, and I’ve always wanted to know if Rarity’s got a pier-”

“Sunset Shimmer!” Twilight nearly shouted, falling back against one of the bookshelves, much to Sunset’s amusement. “Gahhh! I don’t know about any of that, I swear! I’m just trying to figure out how to let them all down without letting them down!” She flailed her hooves around helplessly, wishing she knew what else to do.

But Sunset just kept laughing for a few more moments before sucking in a deep breath. “Sheesh, no wonder you called me for advice. You’re so far up the creek without a paddle, you’re about to hit the ocean!” A few moments later, Sunset was hauling her back up. “Steady there, Princess. I might not be able to fix your problem, but I figure I can at least tell you what I know about dating.”

Twilight’s mood instantly brightened, and she grabbed magically for paper and ink. Sunset rolled her eyes. “You’re still such a dork, Princess. I guess some things never change.” She sat down, and Twilight noted there was a devious sparkle in her eye. “But in exchange for my help, I want something in return once you’ve gotten things settled.” For a moment, Twilight felt her heart sink, and the next moment it was followed by the rest of her guts as Sunset grinned broadly. “Since all of our friends got a turn, I want a date of my own with the princess.”

Twilight facehoofed and sighed. Oh well. What harm could one more date possibly do?


By the time Sunset had left an hour later, Twilight had sixteen neatly written sheets of relationship advice. It was all incredibly in depth and fascinating stuff, but absolutely worthless in regards to fixing her problem. Granted, if she decided to fix her problem the simple way, it would likely be invaluable in ensuring the decision she made turned out to be the right one, but she was trying to avoid the way that ended up with five ponies she dearly loved crying their eyes out.

Well, one possible source of help down, two to go.

Asking for help from number two was probably what she should’ve done in the first place about two weeks ago when this started to get out of hoof, but of course it came with its own problems. Problems that involved a certain teasing, stubborn big brother and his endless immaturity when it came to giving his little sister guff. And the problems inherent in asking somepony far more knowledgeable than oneself in specific things that were undoubtedly going to come across as very stupid questions. Of course, the fact that it was a nearly week-long train ride to get that advice was a problem unto itself, but she had an ingenious solution to that.

Well. Okay. It wasn’t terribly ingenious but it was so completely unexpected and out of character for her that deploying it would not only buy her time to think but give her a chance to do her eighth favorite thing in the world: magical experimentation!

Granted, this was an old experiment that most powerful unicorn wizards would do a few times before they moved on to bigger things, but it was never a bad idea to study the classics. The ‘Deus ex Vitae’ spell was the most popular way to make sure that one could quickly reach family members who might end up in trouble through enemies or just random happenstance. Twilight had never been entirely certain why the spell was named that, but she just assumed it was some wizard’s idea of a really lame in-joke.

And since her brother Shining Armor was never more than a few hundred yards away from her intended destination, it would be perfect! Well. So long as her aim was right. And Shining wasn’t doing anything inappropriate. There was also the chance the Crystal Heart might not react well to her spell and boot her into the snow. Or maybe she’d land in a cherry trifle like she had the first time she’d tried this spell.

It wasn’t a flashy spell like a lot of wizard rituals. Since it had been developed to rescue family members in distress it was actually fairly low key. Of course, ‘low key’ only meant comparatively low key, which still meant that she was probably going to announce her departure to half the town with the explosive sound that would follow a successful casting. Luckily, her return spell would need to take her through Canterlot and, well, she’d deal with Canterlot when she got to Canterlot.


Twenty seconds and one mane-fluffing explosion of light and sound later, Twilight was standing in the middle of a hoofball field just in time for a ball to smack her upside the head and sent her careening into the ground from the impact. The ball bounced about fifteen feet into the air off of her head where a quick-witted cloud snapped it up before yelling down at her. “Whoa! Hey, you okay down there?” He sounded awfully concerned for a talking cloud.

Wait, he was a pegasus, and she had just had her bell rung. “Twily!” yelled a much more familiar voice, and a cold pack of what Twilight hoped was ice was soon pressing into her head. “Sheesh, where the heck did you come from, Sis?” Shining Armor’s face swam into view as the vertigo quickly faded. He looked like he’d been doing some kind of strenuous exercise, given the floppiness of his mane and the sweat gleaming off his brow. “Is something wrong?” His brow knit together, eyes narrowing.

He looked so serious that she couldn’t help but giggle. “What? Girl can’t visit her big brother without makin’ a state event of it?” Twilight slurred a little, smiling like a dopefish. She really did miss seeing him him, especially given how hard it was for both of them to shake loose the time to see one another. Between Cadence and her own new duties as princess, it was a struggle to stay in touch in the best of times.

He shook his head, mane flopping about wetly. “You didn’t come by the train, so either something is wrong, or you’ve been drinking and spellcasting again.” His lips split into a sly grin. “And I can’t tell which one terrifies me more. Whatever happened to my adorable little sister who wanted to be a knight?” His voice was teasing, but it was plain to see he was stalling for something.

Twilight rolled her eyes at him. Or maybe she was just blinking, she couldn’t tell right now. “She grew up and realized how terrible she was at taking a hit.” It took her a moment to push up from the ground, but when she did she could see a field full of sweaty stallions chuckling and talking to one another. She muttered, rubbing at her head. “I don’t suppose you know who threw that thing?”

“I did,” Shiny snickered, patting her back. “And seriously, Twilight. Next time you decide to teleport several hundred miles, looking before you leap might be a good idea.” He helped her back to her hooves and blew a sharp whistle. “Alright, fellas! Pack it in for the day. Probably gonna have world-wrecking problems to fix tonight.”

Twilight huffed at him. “I’m telling you, it isn’t that bad. I just need to talk to Cadence about some stuff.” She saw him opening his mouth and quickly moved to cut him off. “Filly stuff, Shiny. Stuff you don’t want to hear about.” She injected as much dire warning into her voice as she could muster and was pleased to see Shiny snap his mouth shut and make an ‘icky’ face.

“Ergh, fine,” he muttered, kicking his hoof into the dirt. “Cadey’s up at the palace doing princess-y stuff. Are you gonna at least stay for dinner?” Shiny put on his very best puppydog eyes and stuck out his lower lip with a convincing little whimper.

Twilight facehoofed and laughed. “Oh, fine.” It wasn’t a hard choice - anything to excuse her buying a few more hours of time - and it would be nice to see Shiny for a little while.


Princess Mi Amore Cadenza—Cadence for short—or maybe it was Cadance for short. Twilight had never actually quite figured that one out, and everypony and their dog seemed to have an opinion on the matter, so she just stuck with the proper translation for Cadenza which was Cadence, and Cadence had never corrected her on the matter, so- GAH! She was waffling! Again!

Cadence was probably the closest thing she’d had to a friend before she traveled to Ponyville and met the five very special someponies who were now the subject of her problems. She was also, Twilight had realized, a more youthful version of Celestia. She also was arguably the definitive expert on romance in all of Equestria, and her ‘Ask Princess Lovebutt’ column in The Manehatten Times had been a smash hit since her ascendancy to the Crystal Empire.

Twilight found her former foalsitter not quite buried under a mound of paperwork that threatened to collapse her solid crystal desk, but she was one ill-placed tax reform sheet away from a landslide of bureaucratic proportions. She looked remarkably good for such a prodigious pile of legal legerdemain, but she was clearly in the weeds. “I told you, Cogsworth, I’m not attending state luncheons until we’ve sorted out the legal code,” she muttered, shuffling a pile of papers with her telekinesis and stacking them on a pile marked ‘done’ next to the desk. “And no, it cannot wait. Auntie needs us to be current with Equestrian standards, or we’re never going to get that trade treaty off the ground.”

Twilight grinned and lowered her voice into the most pretentious Canterlot accent she could muster and did her best to imitate one of the nobles that had visited her in the early days of her own ascendancy. “I do say, why don’t you simply have a clerk take care of this nonsense? It’s so utterly unbecoming of a princess to be doing peasant’s work!” She rather thought she delivered the haughty tones pretty good, too.

Cadence smacked the desk with her hoof and looked up with no small amount of annoyance, which quickly melted into amusement as she realized who was talking. “If you weren’t such a sight for sore eyes, Twilight Sparkle, I’d spank you for that,” Cadence said with a weary smile. “You nearly had me thinking Cogsworth was going to make me debate him for another six hours on the subject.”

Twilight grinned right back, trotting across the room toward the desk and minding the expensive rug in the middle of the room. “You should get yourself a dragon assistant, they’re indispensable in keeping ponies like that at bay.” She hooked her hoof over her shoulder. “I could ask Princess Celestia if she’s got another egg lying around someplace.”

Cadence laughed - a sound that often reminded Twilight of somepony ringing a lot of very tiny bells - and carefully unwedged herself from behind the desk “I’ve seen the kind of work it takes to keep Spike out of trouble. Thank you, but no. I’ll just have to keep them in line my own way.” She finally escaped from Mount Red Tape and spread open her forehooves to invite a hug. One that Twilight was all too eager to give her, burying her head in the familiar peach-scented fluff that was Cadence’s shoulder.

“Oof!” Cadence exhaled as Twilight impacted her and held on tight, then chuckled. “Okay little ladybug, what’s the matter? Our little joke about the wagers wasn’t that bad, was it?” She actually sounded suddenly concerned, and Twilight could feel gentle hooves giving her back soothing pats.

Twilight shook her head. “It was a little embarrassing but it wasn’t bad. I’m…” She exhaled into Cadence’s shoulder and closed her eyes. “I don’t know what to do, Cadence. I can’t stand the thought that I might break somepony’s heart over this, especially not the hearts of my dearest friends.” She grabbed two hoof-fulls of fur and tried to hide in Cadence’s hug. “And worst of all I can’t figure out how to decide between them without doing it!”

Cadence blew out a breath and laughed softly. Twilight pulled her head back to find out just what she might be laughing about, but there was a warm and sly smile on Cadence’s face. “Sheesh, Twilight. Is that it?” There was a gentle tease in her voice as she patted Twilight’s shoulders. “Twily, Twily, Twily.” She shook her head, grinning. “We can fix your problems, easy. C’mon.”

Twilight felt herself being steered back to her hooves and walked out of the room before she could so much as get her mouth open. “What do you mean easy?” she snapped, trying not to get annoyed. Why did everypony seem to think this was some kind of simple conundrum that could be solved with some basic logic!? She’d tried basic logic, and all of her conclusions failed on the fundamental level of trying not to hurt anypony!

Cadence giggled. “Calm down, Twilight. It’s just that you’re really overthinking this right now.” Their walk took them into the resplendent Crystal Castle’s main hall, where dozens of servants and functionaries bustled their way around the castle. “Lets break this down. You obviously have feelings for your friends, right?” Twilight nodded grudgingly at that. It was incredibly awkward to admit, though. She knew that ponies often dated lots of others before settling down, but this was absurd. Cadence winked at her. “So, the solution seems easy.” She giggled.

Twilight wheeled about. She knew what Cadence was about to suggest and - “Oh, hush, Twilight!” Cadence huffed, bopping her on the nose and stopping her tirade before it could get out. “I’m not Princess Luna for pity’s sake. Harems. Really, what a silly notion.” She snorted in a highly unladylike manner, pushing Twilight back onto their walk. “Listen, I love Shining Armor with all of my heart. You know that.” Twilight did indeed know that, even if it was a bit sappy at times.

Cadence was smiling faintly now, continuing to lead her in an inexorable walk that Twilight was becoming very suspicious of. “And you also know that he loves me in much the same way. But!” She waved her hoof in front of her, and Twilight had to shuffle to get a good look. Past a set of gilded doors, a horde of crystal ponies outside of the castle were going about their day. Cadence was watching them with a fond smile. “I have duties to all of them, too. Sometimes, those duties are…” She stopped mid-sentence, obviously trying to make a point with her pause. “Unusual, you might say.”

Twilight blinked. Once. Twice. And then she put the pieces together quite quickly, given that she had very little of what her mother might call ‘life experience’. Fortunately, her brain was doing a fine job of keeping her from completely locking up on the implications of that. Her lips, on the other hoof, were not doing a spectacular job of forming words to elucidate her thoughts. “Howhathuh?!” she spat out all at once, then smacked her forehead. “Ugh. I mean, what on earth is that supposed to mean?” She was starting to think coming here was a mistake.

Cadence just smiled tolerantly. “Twilight, your friends love you. And you love them. And whatever you decide to do, that decision is hardly going to make those feelings vanish.” Her lips curled up into a slow smile. “I believe the modern term is ‘friends with benefits.’ And really, it is about time you stopped worrying so much about your virtue and got along with life. Which reminds me, are you only into mares?” She tilted her head quizzically, looking quite curious. “I never had you pegged for that sort of thing, but it is always the quiet ones.”

“I- No, I’m not only into mares! And what do you mean by quiet ones?!” Twilight could feel her cheeks growing hotter. It was quickly becoming apparent what Cadence’s solution to this nonsense was going to be, and it was patently absurd. There was no possible way in all of creation she could do something like that. It defied all reason! And surely her friends would never consent to such an outlandish idea. It was an even worse version of what Princess Luna had suggested!

Cadence giggled happily. “Oh, that’s excellent! It makes the cornucopia of life so much more rewarding to have more options. You should consider talking to Big Macintosh when you get home, you know.” She winked. “He’s written me letters about you, and he finds you quite fascinating. And he’s quite the talker, too, once you get past that shy exterior. He’d be excellent practice for you, and-”

That was about all Twilight could take. Cadence surely meant well, but this scenario was looking more and more like she had no real good options at all. Twilight could only groan as she kept at it, covering her face with her hooves and wondering if she was doomed. Still, she did have one more idea.