For the 383279th time, - yes, she had counted - Princess Celestia effortlessly wove her natural magic into the dawn. Occasionally, she liked to mix it up a bit by standing in odd places (the royal fountain being a particular favourite) and enjoying the daft expressions on any guards that happened to be watching. At the very least, it seemed to help wake up the unlucky ones who had been drafted into the early morning shift. For today though, the roof of the palace sufficed. The gorgeous view naturally paid for itself.
With the sun's rays now washing over the landscape, Celestia's mind turned to other matters. She had around an hour before the first summons began in the throne room, and usually she liked to fill the time composing letters - both to within Equestria and abroad. With Luna quite eager to take on much of her previously oppressive workload, Celestia much enjoyed using the bonus free moments she got to bond with friends near and far. And of course, there was bound to be yet another frenzied message from Equestria's newest princess on whether this or that usage of power was appropriate for royalty.
Already running the draft assuring response though her head, Celestia teleported directly into her private study.
Princess Luna was almost finished eating when she heard the panicked cry erupt from somewhere in the castle.
Typical. Not a moment's peace.
Hastily chowing down the remains of her hay and cocoa sandwich (after checking no-one was looking), she left the kitchen and trotted briskly towards the throne room.
"Sister?" Luna asked aloud, poking her head around the edge of the golden door.
Finding nothing but air, she tentatively launched herself upwards and glided towards the head of the room. Better than walking down the absurdly long distance at any rate.
Landing to see that nothing appeared to be amiss, Luna prepared to look elsewhere, when-
"WHAT IN THE NAME OF EQUESTRIA IS SHE THINKING!?" a clearly alarmed Celestia yelled after materialising onto her throne, holding aloft a rather simple-looking letter with her magic; so strongly in fact that the paper threatened to tear apart at the seams.
Not being quite used yet to her sister's mastery of teleportation, Luna quelled the mini heart attack inside her.
"Dear sister, I cannot imagine what-"
"I mean, has she simply gone mad!? You see Luna, this is what marriage does to ponies. I knew I'd done the smart thing by avoiding it all these years and-"
"SISTER!" Luna roared, hoping in equal parts that her Royal Canterlot Voice would stop Celestia's rant and secretly hoping she would not be too offended by it.
"Oh...right. Take a look at this travesty!" Celestia said, practically hurling the letter into Luna's face.
To my Dearest Aunts
I cannot tell you how excited I am that this momentous day has finally arrived! To be honest, I had worried that you would think the idea of an independent Crystal Empire too radical, but I'm glad those concerns were unfounded.
The polling begins at noon, and Shiny and I will be announcing the final result later on this evening in front of the Crystal Palace. Of course, you are more than welcome to attend should you be free! A little birdie told me that a certain somepony will be serving "the finest cake in the land" at the after-party!
My advisors tell me that the early surveys seems to be split evenly down the middle, so sadly I cannot give you a probable result to help you both prepare. Nevetheless, whatever the result, we are still just a short-ish train ride away!
As Always, and With Love
Luna scanned the letter a couple times before looking back up at her hagged sister. Amusingly, whenever she got annoyed or flustered, Luna had noticed her sister's mane would flow less like a river of water and more like treacle.
"I fail to see any problem of note. Actually I am shocked that you are not thrilled by the prospect of cake-"
"Is this a joke? A prank of some sort? April Foal's Day was months ago Luna!"
"A prank? I think not. I have known about today's events for many moons-"
"You have!?" Celestia interrupted, now pacing side to side like an agitated mule, glaring all the while at her younger sibling.
"Please sister, let me explain. During the Equestria Games, Cadence and I discussed at some length the idea of the Crystalians having more powers over taxation and trade affairs and all sorts of things, moving towards what she called an 'autonomous state' I believe. Now the-"
"More powers?" Celestia exclaimed, eyebrows furrowed and ever sharpening. "They are a crown dependency! At least...they were before the whole Sombra thing..."
"I must admit, the whole situation confuses me greatly. Much of the terms are new to me. Even the very name 'Crystal Empire' is misleading if we are the ones governing," Luna said, nodding.
"Regardless, how the hay did she get this under my nose? I would've seen the legislation somewhere, and clearly you knew about it!"
"As I was saying sister," Luna continued, trying to match the fire in her sister's eyes with her own cool aura. "Cadence merely saw how successful the Games were and-"
"Slid this proposal underneath our noses while we were distracted with the closing ceremonies!?" Celestia finished, agasp. "That's so...clever of her!"
"Indeed. Meanwhile the good Captain Armour and myself made what you would call a sporting bet. A thousand bits to him if you noticed before today, and a thousand to myself if you didn't." Luna said, grinning. "All these new customs and things are jolly good fun are they not?"
The next few minutes of Luna's life consisted of a desperate yet exciting escape from the throne room.
Twilight Sparkle arrived to find Canterlot Castle in a state worrying close to 'organised chaos'. Pushing aside the thought of Discord working a desk job, she made her way through dozens if not hundreds of various castle staff, guards and random dignitaries all seemingly galloping from corridor to corridor in varying states of distress.
"Good evening Princess Sparkle," one of the guards astride the main dining room announced, bowing deeply. "Apologies for the...uhh...slight disorganisation happening at the moment."
"That's alright," Twilight replied, though deep inside the sheer lack of order was beginning to tingle the very earliest stages of a headache. "Is Princess Celestia inside?"
"Yes m'am. Awaiting you as we speak." The guard tipped his head forward once more.
Twilight entered to a scene from her darkest nightmares. Atop the large table standing dead centre of the room was a ridculously large bundle of paperwork, perhaps once sorted into neat stacks, but now a complete shambles. Seated to the left was Canterlot's newest Captain of the Guards, casting a worried look upwards at the nearest tower of papyrus - looking dangerous close to toppling over onto him. To Twilight's right sat the throne's most prominent advisor - Magna Cart; always on hand should a legal matter intervene in royal affairs, though now she found herself nose-deep in thousand year old paperwork.
Finally, at the head of the table and overseeing it all was Celestia herself, crown askew and a dangerous look on her face, one Twilight was pretty sure she hadn't seen since her brother's wedding. At least she forced a smile upon seeing the new arrival.
"My dear Twilight, sorry for calling you here at such short notice, but I fear the kingdom is in need of your unique talents." Celestia spoke across the table. "How much have you heard?"
"All of it I believe," Twilight replied. "Is Luna not joining us?"
"My dear sister has graciously volunteered to fly directly to the Crystal Empire to help resolve the issue." Celestia replied through gnashed teeth. Perhaps first of all you can help us with some of the terminology here."
"Of course!" Twilight said, taking the empty seat opposite her once mentor. "You know I'll do all I can to help."
"Wonderful. Do you happen to know exactly what 'decentralization' means? Only we can't see to agree on what."
As the paper tower finally collapsed onto the distraught Captain, Twilight began to wish she hadn't answered this summons after all.
As her husband handed her the sealed envelope containing the election results, Cadence reflected on a day of new beginnings. Below the balcony and before them, the entire population of the Empire it seemed had gathered to await the outcome. Even Shining's rather odd behaviour hadn't thrown her off.
"Shiny, are you ill? You're sweating."
"Uhh...no! I'm just...nervous about the result is all."
"Aha! Don't worry! Everything's going to be fine. Luna gave you assurance that we'll still be able to use Bits as currency right? And with all that untapped iron in the Crystal Empire, our economy might even improve faster than it had before!"
"Right...right" Shining replied, furiously nodding his head.
Cadence turned towards the crowd, holding destiny in her hooves. Finally, a chance to show her aunties that she could make it on her own.
They'll be so proud of me!
"My wonderous subjects!" Cadence boomed to the sparkling crowd. "Let us not waste any time with this and get right to it! Remember, we are all united under the Crystal Heart no matter what!"
Amid the sudden cheers and cries, Cadence used her horn to pierce open the envelope, revealing the contents within.
"And so it was voted! Those who decided 'Yes', six hundred and forty three! Those who decided 'No'...six hundred and...forty...three..."
Deathly silence followed. Cadence cast a worried look towards her beloved.
"Umm...oh dear....what happens now?"
Shining Armour took a tentative step towards his concerned wife and whispered into her awaiting ear. Worry rather quickly gave way to rising suspicion, and perhaps the notion that her husband wasn't quite as perfect as he made himself out to be.
"What do you mean...'a bet'?