Rainbow Unicorn: The Ticket Matter

by Hopeful_Ink_Hoof

First published

Rainbow Burst gets two tickets to The Grand Galloping Gala. Unfortunately there are two problems: all her friends want to go, and she doesn't

Rainbow Burst (a unicorn version of Rainbow Dash and student of Princess Celestia) get two tickets to The Grand Galloping Gala. Except she doesn't want to go because she finds the whole thing boring. Maybe it won't be so bad if she has a friend with her. Turns out that they all want to go. What is she to do?

Sprawled out at Sweet Apple Acres

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It was a warm summer day in Ponyville. The sun shined brightly as ponies went about their daily business.

Well, most ponies.

One particular pony -- a sky blue unicorn with rainbow colored mane -- laid sprawled out on her back in the dirt, tongue lolling out of the side of her mouth. She could see the buzzards overhead, circling over her slowly as they waited for her to finally succumb to heatstroke. Soon, it would all be over.

"You sure she's okay?" Applejack asked, staring down at the prone Rainbow Burst in front of her.

"She'll be fine," Spike answered. "Like I said, she just pushed herself a little too hard. She needs to cool off and take it easy for few hours, and she'll be back to normal."

"Dad?" Rainbow called out, raising a hoof toward the sky. "Is that you?"

Applejack moved closer and extended one of her wings, giving Rainbow Burst some shade. She then turned her attention back to Spike, raising an eyebrow.

"You mean to tell me that she's done this before?"

"Yeah," Spike answered, rolling his eyes. "At least once a week when she was training with the guards. That mare does not like to admit when she's having a hard time."

"The light is so pretty."

"Okay," Spike stated. "That's different. Maybe she is a little worse than I thought."

"Blast it," Applejack growled out, looking around. "Where in tarnation is Twilight with that cloud?"

"I'm here!" a voice called out. Applejack and Spike looked up, spotting the purple pegasus flying toward them. A large, fluffy white cloud was held in her front hooves, pushed along as she came closer.

"Sorry it took so long," Twilight Comet said as she stopped with the cloud. "The skies are still pretty clear. Had to go nearly all the way across town to find one. Ready?"

With a nod, Applejack pulled her wing away from Rainbow Burst. She and Spike then moved back, making sure to be out from under the cloud. Once the two were clear, Twilight moved above the cloud and started jumping up and down on it. Thick drops of cold water fell from the with each impact, most of them landing on the sprawled out unicorn underneath. After half a minute, the rain finally stopped.

Rainbow spat out a stream of water and rolled over. Once back on her hooves, she shook herself, drying off herself but getting the nearby pony and dragon soaked in the process.

"You alright, sugar cube?" Applejack asked as she took her hat off. After thoroughly wringing it out, she put it back on her head.

"Of course I am," Rainbow answered with a grin. She rubbed one hoof against her chest. "Come on Aj, it's going to take more than a little heat exhaustion to stop me."

"Told you," Spike said to Applejack, elbowing her slightly with a grin.

Before he could say more, a familiar feeling started to develop in his stomach. It quickly made its way up through his chest and into his mouth. With a massive belch, a gout of green flame shot from the young dragon and into the air. A yelp escaped Twilight as she leaped off the cloud just before it was struck.

There was a pop as the flame vanished and a scroll appeared in the air. Reaching out, Spike managed to catch it out of mid-air. With practiced ease, he cut through the royal seal using a claw and unfurled the scroll. After clearing his throat he began to read it aloud.

"'My Dear Rainbow Burst,'" he read, "'you are cordially invited to one of the largest and most prestigious celebratory events in Canterlot.'"

"Oh no," Rainbow groaned out. She flopped backwards, landing in the mud that had been made from the rain. "Spike, please don't tell me that it's--"

"'The Grand Galloping Gala,'" Spike continued. He looked up. "Yep. Looks like it."

Rainbow tossed her head back, rolling her eyes as she let out a growling huff.

"I don't get it," Twilight said as she landed nearby. "Why would you hate to go to the Gala? I would love to go."

"Me too," Applejack agreed. "Seems like it would be a great thing to get invited."

"That's because you guys haven't gone," Rainbow replied. "The Gala and other 'prestigious' parties like it are nothing like the parties here that Pinkie Pie throws. They're boring. It's just a bunch of rich and snobby upper class ponies standing around talking about what they've done with their money. Most of them are there to suck up to Princess Celestia, or to meet her so they can brag to their friends or claim they are 'close, personal friends' with her." She gave a shake of her head. "And the music. After hearing it for just five minutes, I want to fall asleep. After the last one, I swore that nothing would ever get me to go to one again."

"C'mon, Rainbow," Applejack said, moving closer. "It can't be that bad."

"Don't you get to meet famous ponies?" Twilight asked. "Like The Wonderbolts."

"Before this goes much further," Spike interrupted, "there's more to the letter. Can I finish?"

"Fine," Rainbow huffed out.

"'I know you are not fond of formal events,'" Spike continued -- getting a snort from Rainbow Burst in response -- "'but I would greatly appreciate it if you would attend.' Well I guess you're going after all."

"Just finish the letter."

"Fine. 'It would be nice to see you again. Included are two tickets.'" He pulled the tickets out and held them up. "'Please do not hesitate to let me know if you should require anything. Sincerely, your teacher, Princess Celestia.'" He started to roll the scroll back up. "And that's it."

"Great," Rainbow said, still laying there.

"So... are you going?" Applejack asked.

"I guess so." Rainbow moved to sit up, slouching with her ears pulled back. "I mean I still hate the idea, but Princess Celestia did say she wants me to. Hopefully I actually will get to see her."

"You know," Twilight said, "it would probably be a lot more fun if you had a friend with you."

"Hey!" snapped Applejack, turning to face Twilight Comet fully. "I was going to suggest that."

That got Rainbow Burst's attention. Tilting her head, she looked at the two pegasi and raised an eyebrow.

"Wait a second. You mean to tell me that you both want to go?"

"Seems that way," Twilight responded, looking at Applejack from the corner of her eyes.

"Why?" Rainbow asked.

"Well in my case," Applejack jumped in, "it would be a chance to make some sales. All them rich ponies walking around and waiting to get in, probably getting hungry. I bet they would just love to buy some of our apple products. I bet I could make as much there in one night as we normally do in a month. Do you have any idea how much I could to fix up the place?" Her wings began to flap and flutter excitedly. "Why, we could fix up the barn, replace the old plow, maybe even get enough to fix Granny's old hip!"

"Uh..." Rainbow said as she shifted, "you do realize that they have a buffet inside the ballroom, right?"

"I know," Applejack replied, "but there are plenty of ponies waiting outside. They probably get a might hungry after waiting for hours to get in. Could use a snack or beverage while they do."

"I guess that makes sense." Rainbow then turned to Twilight. "What about you?"

"Well if I got to go," Twilight explained, "I would get to see my brother. It's been a long time since we've seen each other face to face. Plus I would get to meet The Wonderbolts." She started to grin. "The best flyers in all of Equestria. Do you know much advice they could give me? The tips they have? I bet with their help, I could even do a Twilight Starburst."

"A what now?" Rainbow asked.

"It's this idea Twi had since flight school," Applejack answered. "You ever hear the story of that Sonic Rainboom?" Rainbow Burst nodded. "Well, Twilight thinks that she can do something like that."


"Well it can't be a Sonic Rainboom," Twilight replied. "You have to be a rainbow pegasus for that. But I leave a starry contrail behind me when I fly. I bet that if I could make it, it would create an effect when I reach the right velocity."

"I bet you can do it," Spike spoke up, "and it will look amazing."

"Thank you," Twilight said, smiling.

With a sigh, Rainbow Burst got back up and stretched out. Her horn lit up with magic as she used her power to wipe the mud from her coat.

"Well as fun as this is," she stated, "I am hungry and exhausted. So if you two will excuse us, we're going to get some grub and then head home." She let out a yawn. "A nap sounds really good right now. Come on, Spike. Catch you two later." She then started walking toward through the orchard, Spike following after her.

"Alright," Applejack called out.

"See you later," Twilight added.

The two pegasi shifted to look at each other.

"Well," Twilight said first, "I should probably get to work. There's supposed to be rain later, and the sky is not as cloudy as it should be by now."

"Yeah," Applejack agreed. "I need to get going too. Have some deliveries to make and such."

"Okay then."


The two looked at each other a moment longer before going their separate ways. Twilight took off, heading toward town, while Applejack started toward the barn.

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Rainbow Burst and Spike had returned to Ponyville proper, the young dragon now riding on the unicorn's back. Spike was still steering back toward the road they had come from.

"You've been pretty quiet," Rainbow said, causing Spike to jump slightly.

"Oh." Spike shifted, tapping his claws together. "Uhm..." He looked down at them and the ground. "I was just... you know, thinking. About The Gala."

"The Gala?" Rainbow asked, "Or Twilight going?" She turned to look back at him, smirking at the way he was turning pink.

"Don't be ridiculous," he huffed out, turning away and crossing his arms. "I mean... yeah, it would be nice if she went. I would get to see her wearing some beautiful dress. I bet her face would really light up with excitement when she met The Wonderbolts. Plus, since there would be music, she would probably be willing to dance with me at least once..."

"I thought you didn't like the gala either," Rainbow said. "I mean, last time we talked about it, you called it 'girly.'"

"Well, yeah," Spike admitted. "It does seem like most who go there like to show off their silly, frilly outfits. Normally I would hate the whole thing. Still, a chance to spend a night with Twilight..." He wrapped his arms around himself, smiling gently as his gaze turned distant.

Rainbow Burst looked at him a moment more before she resumed walking. It seemed to her that Spike had it pretty bad. In her life, Rainbow had been through her own share of crushes. Sometimes it would have been nice if she could somehow have spent time alone with somepony she had feelings for. Maybe if she had, she would have actually worked up the courage to say something.

A thought suddenly occurred to her.

"You know," she said, turning to see Spike from the corner of her eye, "if you really wanted, you could probably take her yourself."

"Really?" Spike turned to look at Rainbow.

"Yeah. I bet that if you wrote to Princess Celestia and asked, she would be willing to send you two tickets of your own. That way..."

"... I could take Twilight to The Gala!" Spike finished. "That's a great idea. I should write to her right away." His stomach let out a gurgling growl. "Or maybe I'll wait until after lunch."

Rainbow chuckled, giving a shake of her head. There was a small cafe that she had wanted to try, so that was where they were heading. Between the exhaustion from earlier, talking to Spike, hunger, and being so close to their goal, Rainbow Burst was not exactly paying attention to things around her.

The door to Sugarcube Corner as Pinkie Pie came rocketing out. She slammed into the distracted duo, sending them sprawling into the center of the street. With the impact, the tickets went flying up into the air. Fluttering and swaying, the came down and landed gently on Pinkie Pie's face. In response, Pinkie Pie jumped up and let a gasp.

"Bats!" she cried out. "Bats! Don't let them get in my mane! I'll never get them out and they'll steal my candyyyy." This last part was turned into a long, drawn out cry.

"Wait." Pinkie turned back to where she had been. Her horn lit up. "These aren't bats." She picked the tickets up. "They're..." she let out a gasp before shouting "tickets to The Grand Galloping Gala!"

The pink aura of magic was replaced by a rainbow colored one as Rainbow Burst took a hold of the tickets.

"Yeah," Rainbow said. "Princess Celestia sent them to me."

"Oh! Oh!" Pinkie Pie cried out as she bounced over. "Can I go? Can I? Can I? Can I?" With each "can I," Pinkie moved closer until she was practically nose to nose with Rainbow Burst.

For her part, Rainbow Burst stared at Pinkie Pie, blinking. The other mare's hyperactive speaking method and the request were taking a moment for Rainbow to process.

"You mean you want to go too?" she finally managed to ask.

"Are you kidding?" Pinkie cried out, hopping up and down. "Why wouldn't I want to go?" Turning away her horn lit up. Balls of raw magic formed in the air around them, shifting and changing to take various shapes.

"They would have all sorts of decorations: like streamers, and fairy lights, and pinwheels, and piƱatas. All sort of treats and goodies: cookies, and cakes, and honey crunch bars, sugar cubes, and sugar canes, and licorice. Games like Pin the Tail on the Pony and The Pony Pokey. It's the biggest, bestest, most amazing party in all of Equestria."

The images vanished as Pinkie stopped using her magic. She then turned her full attention to Rainbow Burst.

"What kind of party pony would I be if I didn't want to go?" Pinkie asked.

Rainbow shifted, one ear flicking as she looked away from Pinkie. With a deep breath, she turned her attention back to the other mare.

"Pinkie," she said slowly, "I'm sorry to disappoint you, but I'm afraid The Gala is nothing like that."

"Did I just hear somepony talking about The Gala?"

Rainbow, Pinkie, and Spike all turned to face the new arrival. Rarity approached the three of them, tossing her head to make her luxurious purple mane bounce and sway.

"Rainbow Burst got two tickets to The Grand Galloping Gala," Pinkie answered. "I was just asking her if she would take me."

Rarity's eyes went wide as she let out a gasp of excitement. She turned to Rainbow Burst.

"You got tickets to The Gala?" She let out a sigh. "I design ensembles for The Gala every year, but have never had the option to go." She brought her front hooves together against her cheek. "Oh, the society, the culture, the glamour. It is truly where I belong, and where I am destined to meet him!" As she said the last word, hearts filled the mare's eyes.

"Him?" Pinkie asked. "Him who?"

"Ugh," Rainbow grunted out, rolling her eyes. She did not need to ask who. She had a pretty good idea. Her horn started to light up with magic.

"Him," Rarity repeated with a dreamy sigh. "I can see it now: I would stroll through The Gala, and all would wonder 'who is that mysterious mare? Why have we not seen her before? Who made that absolutely gorgeous dress she is wearing?' They would never guess that I am a simple pony from Ponyville."

Rainbow Burst and Pinkie Pie glimpsed at each other, but said nothing.

"I would cause such a sensation," Rarity continued, "that I would be invited for an audience with Princess Celestia herself. And the princess would be so taken by my style and elegance, that she would introduce me to him: her nephew: the most handsome, eligible unicorn stallion in all of Canterlot."

Rainbow wrapped her magic around Spike's mouth, holding it shut. Still, she could not resist rolling her own eyes and giving a shake of her head at the claim.

"Our eyes would meet," Rarity stated, her cheeks turning pink. "Our hearts would melt. Our courtship would be magnificient. So many ponies would be jealous: stallions of him for having me; mares of me for having him; and couples of how amazingly wonderful our relationship would be.

"He would ask for my hoof in marriage, and of course I would say 'yes!'" She jumped in excitement. "We would have a wedding befitting a princess." She giggled. "Which is exactly what I would be after marrying him, the stallion of my dreams. Then I shall live happily ever after, raising a family in the lap of luxury."

"How romantic," Pinkie sighed.

"I know," Rarity agreed, eyelashes fluttering as she was still lost in her fantasy.

"Yeah, yeah," Rainbow grumbled. She let out a sigh and gave a shake of her head. "Listen, Rarity. I really don't want to be the one to step on your dreams bu- HEY!"

A white rabbit had come running through the group. It had run up Pinkie Pie's back and leaped into the air, grabbing the tickets from Rainbow's magical grip. As soon as it landed, the rabbit took off, bolting from the group with the tickets.

Rainbow gave chase, with Spike, Rarity, and Pinkie Pie following close behind. A large part of Rainbow was tempted to let the thing get away with them, but she doubted Princess Celestia would believe "a rabbit stole my tickets" as an excuse for not attending. Plus, she did not like the idea of letting anything get away with stealing from her.

The rabbit raced through the street, heading directly for a yellow mare with pink mane.

"Angel?" Flowershy asked as the rabbit came to a stop in front of her. "What do you have there?" Reaching down, she took the two tickets from the rabbit and looked at them. A gasp escaped the mare.

"Where did you find these?"

Instead of answering, Angel darted past Flowershy, hopped up her tail, and used it to climb onto her back. Shortly after, Rainbow Burst, Rarity, Pinkie Pie, and Spike came running up.

"Did you see a rabbit with two tickets come by?" Rainbow asked.

"Do you mean these tickets?" Flowershy held up the ones Angel had brought her. "Are they yours?"

"Yes, and yes." Rainbow took them back. "Thank you."

"No problem," Flowershy said. "So... uhm..." She shifted, watching her hoof in the dirt. "I... I noticed that there are two tickets there."

The other four all turned their full attention to Flowershy, causing her to squeak and crouch down.

"You mean you want to go too?" Rainbow asked.

"No," Flowershy answered. "I mean... yes." She shifted, hiding behind her mane. "I mean... not exactly." Taking a deep breath, she straightened up and looked at the others.

"It's not really The Gala that I'm interested in. It's more of getting to see the royal gardens that surround it. They say that the flowers are the most beautiful and fragrant in all of Equestria. Some are so rare, they are believed to be impossible to find anywhere else. Plus on the night of The Gala, they are all supposed to be in bloom.

"And that's just the flora. Don't get me started on the fauna. Why, just the birds alone are amazing. With loons, toucans, and bitterns. Hummingbirds that actually hum. Buzzards that actually buzz. With blue jays, red cardinals, white doves, blackbirds, and pink flamingos. Oh how I wish I could see them all."

"It does sound lovely," Rarity admitted.

"Yeah," Rainbow agreed.

"So does that mean you will take me?" Flowershy asked. She looked up at Rainbow Burst with her eyes wide, smiling hopefully.

Rainbow Burst took a step away from her friend. Her ears pulled back as she looked away, jaw clenching. The look that Flowershy was giving her was so cute, that Rainbow was finding it hard to resist.

"I'll... consider it," Rainbow managed to say. "You're not the only who wants to go. So do Pinkie, and Rarity... and Applejack... and Twilight..." She shifted. "So, instead of saying yes or no to any of you right now, I'm going to think about it. Now if you'll excuse us, Spike and I are hungry and trying to get some lunch. Come on, Spike."

With that, the two hurried to leave the others behind and continue their way toward the cafe.

Clouds of Change

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Rainbow Burst chewed on her lip as she stared at the menu. Everything seemed so delicious, it was hard to decide. As she read the description of each one, she could feel her stomach gurgle with anticipation. It was tempting to order one of everything. Unfortunately it would be a waste since there was no way she could possibly eat all of it. Besides, she did not have that much money at hoof.

There was a faint cough followed by "Rainbow."

"Hey, Twi," Rainbow said with a smile as she saw her friend standing there. "What's up?"

"Clouds," Twilight Comet replied. "That's actually why I'm here." She motioned up toward the sky with one of her wings. "It's about to start raining when I noticed you out here. I figured that since we were such good close friends, it would be nice of me to warn you before it started so that you wouldn't get wet."

Rainbow turned and looked up at the sky. Sure enough, it could not be seen. Thick layers of clouds filled the sky, already gray and rapidly getting darker. Soon they would unleash the pent up moisture inside.

A sigh escaped Rainbow Burst. She was comfortable and hungry. Really, all she wanted to do was just sit where she was and have lunch. At the same time, she did not want to get soaking wet.

Maybe there was a way. Maybe she could stay where she was, enjoy lunch, and not get rained on. Twilight did want the ticket to The Grand Galloping Gala after all, and she was one of the senior members of the weather team. Maybe if Rainbow were willing to offer her the second ticket, Twilight might be willing to make a hole in the clouds. Not a very big one. Just enough to keep her dry while--

Ugh, she mentally groaned to herself. What the hay am I thinking? I shouldn't be thinking about manipulating somepony I think of as a friend like that. What would Princess Celestia think if she knew?

"Thanks," she said. "Come on, Spike." Horn lighting up, Rainbow Burst grabbed her menu and started walking toward the door to the cafe. Spike followed after her. The two went inside, finding a nice table beside a window. That way, they could watch the rain while having a nice peaceful meal.

"Have you decided?" the waiter asked.

"Grilled cheese with tomato," Rainbow answered. "With some spicy mustard please."

"Do you have any rubies?" Spike asked, getting a sour look in response. "No?" With a sigh, he shut the menu and held it out. "I'll just have some hayfries, then. Extra crispy." After the waiter was several tables away, the young dragon let out a huff.

"Why is it so hard to get some good gemstones?" he grumbled.

"We haven't been living here very long," Rainbow Burst answered. "Plus..."

"You're the only dragon" had been what she nearly said, but she had stopped herself. Although Spike had always had a family in her and Celestia, they were not dragons. In point of fact, she had never met any other dragons in her life. Most of the time he seemed fine with it. Others, it was a bit of a touchy subject. Normally it was when he was reminded of how different he was from ponies, and how little he knew about dragon-kind.

"Most don't eat gemstones around here," Rainbow said instead. "It will just take time to get used to things around here, for us and them."

"I suppose," Spike said, rolling his eyes. He then decided to change the subject.

"So, any idea of what you're going to do about The Gala?" he asked.

"Not really," Rainbow answered. "It just feels like no matter what, there's going to be disappointment."

"Well..." Spike considered it a moment. "Maybe you can ask Celestia for more tickets. That way you can take them all or something."

"It's not that," Rainbow said. "Well, for the most part. It's more like..."

She paused and took a deep breath.

"Each one of them seems to have this wonderful and great dream of what The Gala will be like and what will happen," she explained. "Twilight thinks she'll get to see her brother and hang out with The Wonderbolts. I can't say anything about her brother, but so many ponies want to be around The Wonderbolts, they barely get to spend time with anypony in particular. Applejack wants to sell her apple goods, but most of the ponies there would rather have the buffet inside. Pinkie imagines the whole thing like one of her parties. I imagine that she would be incredibly bored and disappointed to find out what it's actually like. Rarity thinks she's going to meet Prince Blueblood and fall in love, and she would probably be heartbroken to see what he's really like. The only one that would actually be happy would possibly be Flowershy, and she doesn't even care about the actual dance. She just wants to see the gardens."

Rainbow Burst flopped her head against the table and let out a huff.

"What's taking that sandwich so long?"

"Too bad you can't show them what it would really be like," Spike said as he turned to look toward the kitchen doors.

Rainbow Burst straightened, eyes going wide and ears perking up. A smile spread across her face before turning into a full grin.

"That's a great idea Spike," she said. "Maybe I can."

"Excuse me, waiter. Can we get that order to go, please?"

Spike jerked back around to look at Rainbow, raising an eyebrow.

"To go?" he asked. "Why do you want the order to go?"

"We need to get back to the library," Rainbow explained. "You need to write a letter to Princess Celestia, and I need to get ready to grab the next train to Canterlot."


"Because, I'm going to do my best to show my friends just what The Grand Galloping Gala is actually going to be like."

Potentially Peaceful Pact

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Rainbow Burst let out a sigh as she made her way through the halls of Canterlot Castle. Under other circumstances, she would be happy to be back and visiting. Even though it had not been very long since she had left and moved to Ponyville, she had missed it. After all, it had pretty much been her home for years. Nearly for as long as she had been Princess Celestia's student.

Unfortunately, she could not enjoy it for the moment. She was here for a specific reason, and not one she was happy about. In fact, she pretty much hated the idea about it. It was actually one of the last things she ever wanted to do, and she had tried to put it off for as long as possible. Well... not quite as long as possible. If she really wanted, Rainbow could technically put it off a little longer. Still, she had to do it. She could deal with this, put it behind her, and then go and check on the other things. She wanted everything to be ready for when her friends arrived.

Maybe she should have brought Spike with her. At least that way, he could be by her side now for emotional support. Plus, they could make jokes and comments before and after.

No. As much as she would like to have Spike here, Rainbow had left him in Ponyville for a reason. If things went the way she was planning -- and so far it looked like they were -- she would be able to send him a letter to bring the others to Canterlot. Besides, she could always talk to him about it when this whole thing was over.

Rainbow Burst reached her destination. There it was: the door to Prince Blueblood's quarters. Although, it seems that somepony had decided to mess with the sign. The l-o-o-d had been scratched out and a-l-l-s written above it.

After snickering at the sign, Rainbow let out a cough and composed herself. Reaching up with one hoof, she got ready to knock, and stopped. Did she have to do this? Did she want to? She was about to ask a favor of the one pony she liked the least in all of Equestria. In a way, it seemed like a no-win situation. If things went the way she expected, Rarity was going to be heartbroken and disappointed. If things went the way her friend wanted, Rainbow would be sacrificing something that had given her a lot of fun over the years. Plus, it would mean risking Blueblood and Rarity being in a relationship. They might even marry. Or reproduce.

The idea of Blueblood spawning sent a shiver down Rainbow's back

You're being too harsh on him, Princess Celestia's voice said in her mind. True you are not very fond of the stallion, but he has never done anything truly evil or malicious.

Just arrogant, condescending, and full of himself, Rainbow thought with a scowl. It was why she had first started pranking him to begin with. When she had first become Princess Celestia's student, Blueblood had felt that she did not deserve such an honor. After all, she was born of common stock, therefore she could have neither the power nor the influence to warrant such a noble position. It was not just her, either. The guards, the employees, even some of the lower nobility. He seemed to look down on them all. And why? Not because of anything he had accomplished in his life, but because of his own ancestry. The fact that he had been fortunate enough to be a descendant of Princess Platinum.

Still, the reason she was doing this was so that her friends could either live out their dreams, or learn the truth. For Rarity, the dream was meeting the prince and falling in love.

Maybe he's not as bad as you think, Celestia's voice suggested. Maybe he has more good qualities than you allow yourself to see. If Rarity is able to be patient and firm, then perhaps she can help bring out that better side of him.

Yeah, right, Rainbow thought with a snort. Still, it was important to Rarity.

With another sigh, Rainbow Burst closed her eyes, and knocked on the door.

When it opened, Prince Blueblood stood there. He tilted his head, looking down his nose at Rainbow Burst. His gaze narrowed, his blue eyes turning icy.

"You?" he asked, raising an eyebrow. "I must say this is a surprise. I don't believe you have ever actually knocked on my door before."

Rainbow Burst ears pinned back as she looked away. Her jaw clenched tight as she held it tight, trying to keep from saying the first thing that came to mind. She was here to ask a favor (ugh!), and it would make it tougher if she insulted him first.

"I need to talk to you," she said. "Can... can..." She clenched her jaw, "Can I come in?" she asked through clenched teeth.

Blueblood's eyes went wide in surprise. Whatever he had been expecting, that was clearly not it. Then again, Rainbow never imagined that she would be asking to in the first place.

With a golden glow of his horn, Prince Blueblood pushed the door open further and stepped back to let her in.

"Before we start," Rainbow said as she walked into the room, "let me just say that I didn't write that on your door."

Blueblood glimpsed at the door and rolled his eyes.

"I am aware," he stated. "It seems that some unruly servant has decided to continue your petty and immature vandalism. I have yet to discover whom they are, however. None are willing to admit to such inappropriate behavior, nor have any caught sight of the perpetrator in action."

Rainbow Burst considered that and felt a little swell of pride. It was nice to know that she was not completely forgotten now that she had left. It was also no surprise that nopony had seen anything. More than likely they had, but chose to say nothing. If Blueblood was in any sort of actual danger, the guards were more than willing to protect him, as was their job. When it came to other matters, such as harmless pranks, they were a bit more willing to turn a blind eye. If Princess Celestia were to ask, they would report the truth and what happened of course, but she never had.

"Anyway," Rainbow said, "the reason I'm here is because I have a favor to ask."

"A favor?" Blueblood asked. "Of me?"

"Yes," Rainbow growled out. "Look, I have some friends coming tomorrow so they can get some idea what The Grand Galloping Gala would be like before it actually arrives. They have some big dreams what it would be like, and I also want to give them the chance to fulfill them. One of them wants to meet you."

"Of course she does," Prince Blueblood stated. "After all, I am a noble of wealth and influence. Smart, handsome, well-bred. Why, I do believe I am the most eligible and desirable bachelor in all of Canterlot, if not Equestria, if I may be modest."

I didn't know you knew that word, Rainbow Burst thought, but I think you don't know what it means.

"So tomorrow," she told him, "I want you to spend some time with her. Be nice, show her a good time, make sure she has a wonderful time with you."

Prince Blueblood let out a chuckle.

"Is there any doubt?" he asked. "After all, I am certain that any pony will be swept off their hooves merely by being in my presence." He turned, moving toward a table and grabbing a glass.

"However," he called out as he started to filling it, "why should I do such a thing? What shall I get in exchange for performing this favor for you?"

"No more pranks."

Prince Blueblood straightened up as he tensed. The glass fell from his magical grip, falling to the floor and shattering. After rubbing at one of his ears, he turned around to face Rainbow Burst once again. The stallion tilted his head and raised an eyebrow.

"I beg your pardon?" he said. "I am not quite certain that I heard you correctly."

"You heard me just fine!" Rainbow snapped. Closing her eyes, she took a deep breath and slowly let it out. Her mind went over the exercises she had been taught to try and keep her temper under control. After all, it would do no good to turn hostile during diplomatic negotiations, and that is what this essentially was.

Once she felt calm again, Rainbow opened her eyes and looked at Blueblood once again.

"No more pranks," she repeated. "If you are able to show Rarity a good time and be a well-mannered stallion like she imagines, then I promise that I will never prank you again. I'll even ask the servants to stop."

"Well that sounds simple enough," stated Blueblood. "I am sure that I shall be more than sufficiently capable of wooing your little friend for one night. Plus, it would be nice if I no longer had to worry about my door being vandalized..." He narrowed his eyes. "Or eating a cupcake with chili peppers in it."

"Hey," Rainbow tried to reply as she held back snickers, "I wrote a letter warning you that's what they were. Not my fault you didn't read it before eating one."

"Be that as it may," Blueblood said, "it would still be nice to have this immature foolishness come to an end. And with such an easy method. Why, I could be charming in my sleep."

You would certainly talk a lot less, Rainbow thought.

"Good." She moved forward and got eye to eye with Blueblood. "Because if you mess this up, the deal is off. In fact --" she pointed a hoof at his chest, "-- if you really mess this up and make her cry or furious, I will make it my mission to prank you for the rest of our lives. Got it?"

Prince Blueblood looked at her a moment, one of his ear give a small twitch. He finally let out a snort and rolled his eyes.

"Oh, very well." He turned back to get his drink. "After all, what do I have to worry about. Your little friend's night will be more than she could ever imagine. Why, I do in fact suspect that it shall be the greatest night of her entire life."

Rainbow Burst said nothing, heading back toward the door. She had made the deal with Blueblood, and her threat. Everything else was pretty much set in motion. Now she could take a little break before sending the letter to Spike telling him to bring all their friends to Canterlot tomorrow. Maybe she would go to the kitchen and grab a quick snack.

She gave one last glance at Blueblood's room as she shut the door behind her. She was not expecting things to go well, especially between him and Rarity. Hopefully this time, Rainbow Burst would be wrong.

Anxious Arrival

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"I gotta say, Pinkie," Applejack said, "you've been mighty calm this whole trip. I figured you of all ponies would be wanting to know what Rainbow has planned for us in Canterlot."

"Of course I wanna know," Pinkie replied, shifting in her seat. "That's part of the fun with surprises, though. You think and wonder, coming up with all sorts of amazingly amazing and wonderful possibilities of what it could be. Then you find out and it's so so exciting. If you're right, then you get a surprise and the fun of having guessed. If you're wrong, you're doubly surprised because the surprise is something you never ever ever would have expected. That's why I love surprises."

"I meant I figured you would be pestering Spike the most about it," Applejack stated.

A gasp escaped Pinkie as she turned to look at Applejack. Her eyes were wide and mouth hung open.

"But if he told me, I would know," Pinkie replied. "Then the surprise wouldn't be a surprise anymore. What would that even be? I don't know what to call a surprise that's not a surprise. A not-surprise? An un-surprise? Boundless disappointment leading into a rapidly spiraling void of depression with a sense of betrayal? A consolation prize?"

"Well," Rarity spoke up, "I for one would certainly wish to know." She turned her full attention to Spike. "Are you certain that you can't tell us anything more?"

"I'm sorry," Spike said, "but even if I wanted to, I can't. I've already told you everything I know: Rainbow got really excited at lunch and wanted to hurry back to the library to write a letter. I was supposed to write it, but for some reason she changed her mind and wrote it herself. She didn't let me see the reply either. She then told me she had to go to Canterlot to get a surprise ready for all of you, and I was to stay in Ponyville so she could send a message when everything was ready. Rainbow then left to get the next train to Canterlot. Next thing I know, the five of you show up at the library, and I get the letter from Rainbow telling me to bring you all to Canterlot and the castle."

"Do you remember what you were talking about at lunch?" Twilight Comet asked, moving closer to place a hoof on Spike. "Maybe it has something to do with that."

Spike's eyes went wide as he stared at the hoof touching his shoulder. She was touching him. She was touching him. This was a very exciting moment for the young dragon.

Okay, he thought, okay. Play it cool. Just tell her what you and Rainbow talked about at lunch, and you'll make her happy.

"Uuuuuuhhhhhh...." he said instead.

"Oh, my," Flowershy said gently. "Are you alright?"

For some reason, his traitorous mouth had decided not to say the words he was telling it to. Instead it was making him look like an idiot. How could it do something like this to him? In front of the cutest and smartest pony he had ever met (Princess Celestia excepted)?

Let's try this again. Closing his mouth, Spike took a deep breath. This time, it was not going to double-cross him like that. This time, he would say exactly what he wanted to.

"Now arriving at Canterlot!" a deep booming voice announced.

"Yay!" Pinkie called out, hopping out of her seat. "We're here, we're here, we're here."

"Well, I guess we'll find out soon enough," Rarity said as she got up.

Once the train came to a stop, the five mares and dragon -- as well as a great many other ponies -- stepped off the train and onto the platform.

"Twily!" a voice called out, getting Twilight's attention. Standing off to one side of the platform was a white pegasus stallion dressed in guard armor. His wings gave a flicker of excitement as he stood there, grinning.

"Shiny!" Twilight Comet shouted. With a flap of her wings, she took off, leaving the ground and launching herself at the stallion.

"Twilight!" the stallion shouted. "Wait! Stop before-"

A massive metallic thump filled the air as Twilight collided face first with the guard's armor. This was followed by a softer thump as Twilight fell to the ground, letting out a groan of pain.

"I tried to warn you," the stallion said as he leaned down. "I'm wearing armor so your normal tackle hug of a greeting would be a bad idea. Are you okay?"

"I've had worse," Twilight answered as she moved to sit up. "What are you doing here?"

"The princess sent me to escort some of Rainbow Burst's friends to the castle. I was supposed to recognize them because they would be with -- Spike!"

"Hey, Shining Armor," Spike said as he walked up toward the two. He glanced back and forth between the pair of pegasi. "You two know each other?"

"Shining Armor is my older brother," Twilight explained. Grinning, she wrapped a wing around the stallion, pulling him close.

Spike gave a nod, as a small thrill of relief flowed through his body. For a moment, he had been worried that the two were romantically involved with each other or something. It would have been a little irritating to have the mare he has a crush on get back into a relationship because of him. Although, admittedly, he had no right to stop or interfere on the matter. It was also silly since in all the time he had known Shining Armor, the young stallion had never spoken about being involved with a mare.

"So I take that you're one of Rainbow's friends?" Shining asked.

"Yeah," Twilight replied. "I'll introduce you to the others. Spike and Applejack you already know. This is Flowershy, Rarity, and Pinkie Pie. Girls, this is my brother Shining Armor."

"Oh, my," Rarity gasped as she studied Shining Armor. The gaze caused the stallion to blush, shifting where he stood with his wings flickering.

"So, is everyone ready?" he asked, getting nods. "Well then, please follow me."

As Shining Armor started to walk, Twilight moved along beside him. The others soon fell in close behind, with Rarity making sure to follow directly behind the stallion and smiling at the view.

"So, has anything exciting been going on with you?" Twilight asked.

"Well, after the events of longest night," Shining answered, "I ended up getting promoted to Second Lieutenant. I've also been assigned to Princess Luna to guard her and help her get acclimated to the modern era."

The two continued to talk and catch up as the seven of them made their way through Canterlot toward the castle.

A Canterlot Experience

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Rainbow's hooves thumped loudly on the smooth stones of the floor as she ran through the castle. She made her way through the halls, heading for the front hall as quick as she could. Her friends were going to be here any second, and she wanted to greet them.

Familiar with the young mare's enthusiasm, most of the guards were able to open the doors and step out of the way, allowing Rainbow Burst to get through without incident. Two new recruits were not so fortunate. One had the door slam into him when it was thrown open, giving him a bloody nose and causing him to hit the wall. The other did not quite get out of the way in time and went skidding after being charged into. That one Rainbow Burst was at least aware of enough to apologize, but she did not even slow down.

Rainbow's horn lit up as she reached the entrance hall. She wrapped her magic around her hooves, allowing her to come to a complete stop without skidding. She snorted through her nose as she stood there, grinning excitedly.

Wait, wait. No. No. Play it serious Rainbow. Play it serious.

Taking a deep breath and letting out a cough, Rainbow Burst stood up straight. She should have thought of this sooner. How would her friends have reacted if they showed up to find her in formal attire with her mane and tail brushed and styled? Actually, most probably would not even think about it. Spike would definitely be shocked though. Rarity would probably have an aneurysm or something.

"Greetings," she said as the door opened -- doing her best to mimic Princess Celestia's formal speaking voice -- "and welcome to The Royal Castle of Canterlot." She made a sweeping gesture along the hall with her hoof as she spoke.

Spike, Rarity, and Shining Armor stared at Rainbow Burst. For Spike and Shining, it was waiting to find out what the gag was. In all the time the two had known her, Rainbow never really acted like this without it being some sort of joke. Rarity was for similar reasons, although she was not entirely sure why. It just seemed to her that the mare with the horribly tangled and mussy mane she had first met would certainly not be one to act formal so suddenly.

Flowershy, Applejack, and Twilight Comet were staring at the castle. For Flowershy and Applejack, it was a like nothing they had ever seen before. Flowershy had always avoided cities due to how crowded they were supposed to be, so being in not only a major one, but the capital, was an entirely new experience for her. Applejack had been in a major city before, having spent over a month in Manehattan. While there, she had seen plenty of incredibly tall buildings, but this was different. It was not simply tall, it was massive.

Pinkie Pie, meanwhile, was making faces at one of the guards nearby. She tried crossing her eyes, puffing out her cheeks, sticking out her tongue, and numerous other things. Even tried making a giant snot bubble. No matter what she did, the guard did not seem to show any expression of amusement whatsoever.

"That's not going to do you any good," Rainbow called out to Pinkie. "They've been putting up with me trying to get them to smile for years. They've gotten pretty good at keeping it together."

"Aww," Pinkie pouted, the snot bubble popping. If she really wanted, there was one other thing she could try that she was almost certain would work, but she never kissed a pony that she barely knew.

"Now that we are all here," Rarity said, stepping forward, "perhaps you will be so kind as to tell us what exactly you are up to?"

"Alright," Rainbow Burst answered. "Follow me and I'll explain while showing you to your rooms."

"Rooms?" Applejack repeated, eyes wide. She and the others followed after Rainbow.

"Yeah," Rainbow replied. "When I got the tickets to The Grand Galloping Gala, you all said that you wanted to go when you found out. You each had your reasons, and some of them were pretty good... but..."

She shifted, considering how to say it.

"The way some of you imagine the gala isn't really what it would be like?"

Yeah. That sounded good.

"I'm pretty sure that anypony that went would end up being disappointed. At the same time, the ponies that didn't get to go would be disappointed they didn't get to instead. It kind of made it tough to try and figure out who to take.

"Then Spike came up with a great idea."

"I did?" Spike asked, pausing to stare at Rainbow in surprise.

"Yeah," Rainbow replied. "In the cafe, you suggested I show them what The Gala was actually like." Her horn started to glow as she took a hold of Spike, setting him on her back.

"I did say that, didn't I?" Spike said. He straightened up as he sat on Rainbow's back, sticking out his chest proudly.

"After you said that," Rainbow continued as she kept on walking, "I realized that I could do just that. I do know Princess Celestia and have lived in the castle. I could send a letter asking to use one of the ballrooms they rent out and see about having a small party similar to the balls held, like The Gala.

"Then I thought 'why stop there?' I could also try and make some of those same hopes come true." She slowed down, letting out a grimace. "That... didn't go as well as I would have liked. I wasn't really able to find a way to get a hold of The Wonderbolts, and couldn't really think of a way to help AJ sell her apples here. But I was able to get Flowershy a chance to see the royal gardens, and made a deal with Blueblood so Rarity could spend some time with him."

"I get to meet Prince Blueblood?" Rarity squealed out. "Oh this is so exciting. I simply must freshen up and make sure I look my best."

"That's why I'm taking you to your room first," Rainbow explained. "I figured we would all stay the night here and go back to Ponyville in the morning, so I arranged some rooms for everypony. I thought I would take you all to them so you could get ready if you need to. Then we can all escort Rarity to Blueblood's quarters and Flowershy to the gardens. After that, the rest of us could go to the ballroom and I could show you all what The Gala would be like."

"Wow," Pinkie said as she moved up. "That sounds like a really nice thing, and lots of fun. Oh, I'm so excited to see what it's going to be like."

Royal Jewels

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This was it, the start to the greatest moment in Rarity's life. Soon, she was going to meet the Prince Blueblood. It would be the start of an amazing courtship that shall be the envy of so many eligible mares. Before long, she would be married and be able to live in the lap of luxury as a princess. She would never have to work again. She still would of course. Dresses were her special talent and Rarity did so enjoy creating her wonderful garments. In fact, they would probably become quite a valuable collectible some. Just imagine how many ponies would love to say that they own a dress made by a princess.

Rarity followed close to Rainbow as they made their way through the halls. She kept close, barely able to contain her excitement. Had she known where it was, Rarity would have moved ahead of the others and made her way to Blueblood's quarters on her own. As it was, she was following Rainbow Burst while the others moved along at a more casual pace behind them.

"Alright," Rainbow said as she came to a stop. "Here it is. Prince Blueblood's rooms."

Smiling wider, Rarity turned to approached the door, then stopped. She looked at the plaque placed on it, her eyes going wide as she read it.

"Oh, my," she whispered, staring. The others soon joined her.

"Huh," said Twilight. "Well that's an odd place to have a patch of blue fur."

"That's... not what it means, sugar cube," Applejack responded.

"It doesn't?" Twilight looked from the sign, to Applejack, then back to the sign again. "So what does it mean?"

There was a moment of silence as Rarity, Rainbow Burst, Applejack, Shining Armor, and Flowershy all tried to find something else to look at, preferably in the direction opposite of Twilight Comet. Pinkie Pie however, moved closer. Leaning in closer, she began to whisper into Twilight's ear. As Pinkie spoke, Twilight's eyes grew wide as her cheeks turned a bright pink.

"Oh," Twilight said after Pinkie had pulled away. "Why would somepony write that on a door?"

"That's not important right now," Rainbow Burst said. She then turned to Rarity. "What is important is that is what you said you wanted. He should be in there waiting for you now. Just go ahead and knock. We should be down in the ballroom when you finish.... Unless it goes really bad and we haven't finished showing Flowershy to the garden yet..."

"Oh, pshaw," Rarity said with a wave of her hoof. "I am more than certain that the prince and I shall get along simply wonderfully. After all, we are both sophisticated and intelligent ponies. Why, I believe that we shall more than likely be together all night chatting and getting to know each other."

As Rarity made her way toward the door, Rainbow Burst and Shining Armor glanced at each other but said nothing. The group moved away, leaving Rarity alone. Lifting her hoof, she gave a firm, but dainty knock.

"Enter," a sophisticated male voice called out. An excited grin spread across Rarity's lips before she pushed it aside, trying to seem calm and collected. She pushed the door open and, raising her nose in the air, stepped inside.

Standing inside was a unicorn stallion with a white coat and long, blond mane. He was dressed in a black lapel and white dress bib, topped with a blue bow tie. His icy blue eyes turned to look at Rarity, and she felt her heart catch in her throat. He was even more handsome than she had imagined. Broad shouldered, well muscled, pristine coat. If she did not see it herself, she would not believe it.

"Ah, how wonderful," Prince Blueblood said. "I was hoping that you would make it."

"You were?" Rarity asked. Her entire body was tense and buzzing with excitement. The prince had been anxiously waiting. For her. There was only one thing that could possibly make this moment any better.

"Yes," Blueblood stated. "It seems I am expected to entertain an associate of Rainbow Burst, and I may require some assistance to get out of the matter."

That was most assuredly not it.

"I beg your pardon?" said Rarity. Her mind was reeling at what he had said. Did he think that she was an employee of the castle or something?

"It seems that the mare has always wished to meet me," Blueblood explained, "and really, who can blame her? I mean look at me." He turned to a mirror and did just that. "Still, there is no way a pony who would willingly associate with that mare would have anything in common with one such as myself, especially some commoner from a little backwater town barely known to exist."

Rarity's jaw clenched as she narrowed her eyes. He did not just call her a "commoner," or Ponyville "backwater." It was a small town with a bit of rustic charm, but it most certainly not "backwater." What's more, he seemed to have a very low opinion of Rainbow Burst. While true that Rarity did not get along well with the unicorn, she did consider Rainbow to be her friend. The very fact that Rainbow had put all this together showed just how good a friend she was.

"Now, I have to be very careful," Blueblood continued. "I must be certain to be on my best behavior and excessively charming. After all, if I do well on this, I will no longer have to worry about the immature filly pulling her pranks on me. However, I do not wish to spend a moment more than necessary with this 'friend.'"

He moved closer to Rarity, leaning in close. Rarity's jaw continued to clench, her hooves pressing down hard into the floor. A part of her was tempted to resort to violence, even if it was unladylike. Either give him a good, swift punch in the nose, or to just headbutt him and see how he reacts. Another part of her wanted to tell him off. After all no one -- not even a prince -- should be allowed to talk about her or her friends in such a manner. Still another part wanted to correct him and try to salvage things. Perhaps if they got to know each other, he would see the errors of his judgement in both her and Rainbow. It might even be an amusing story to tell their children someday. A final part of Rarity wanted to wait and see what he was planning.

"Now," Blueblood said in a low tone, "if my time entertaining this mare were to be unexpectedly interrupted with an urgent matter that required my immediate attention, surely I could not be blamed for such now can I?"

"Surely," Rarity answered.

"Precisely. As such, here is what shall happen: you will go and wait in the servant area. While making an excuse or having the mare distracted, I shall use the bell-pull. When I do such, you shall come in and say that there is an urgent matter that shall require my immediate attention. I shall then make my apologies and escort her out, after which point she and I shall part ways. She will have enjoyed the night of her life, I will be free of her presence, and no longer shall I have to worry about some foalish prank being pulled on me. Plus, I shall reward you for your aid with an extra bit. Thus, everypony wins.

"However, it is of the utmost importance that this secret remains between us. If you were to tell any of the other servants, the truth may very well get back to Rainbow Burst. While she won't be able to prove anything, the very rumor of it would be sufficient enough an excuse for Rainbow to break her part of the deal. Therefore you must not say a word on the matter to another living creature. For if you do, I shall see to it that you are fired, and unable to work in Canterlot ever again. Understood."

A threat? He was willing to threaten the employees of the castle with their jobs? Simply to keep a secret of something that he actually did? This was atrocious. Had she not heard it herself, she would never have believed it.

Straightening up, Rarity took a deep breath and slowly let it out through her nose.

"I assure you," she said in her coldest, most professional voice, "that so long as I serve here in the castle, I shall say nothing to the others of what you have intended." Technically it was the truth.

"Wonderful," Blueblood proclaimed with a smile. He started moving toward the door. "Now, must make certain that absolutely everything is as perfect as possible for when Rainbow arrives with her associate." His horn glowed as he opened the door. "You must head to the servant's area as soon as possible, and be ready for my call." With that, he pushed Rarity out of the room, and slammed the door shut behind her.

Rarity turned and glared at the door. She was livid, outraged, furious even. He had been nothing like she had imagined. They had not even managed to get to the part that was intended to be the actual date. She should do something. Perhaps later, she could speak with Rainbow of what happened, and help come up with some form of retaliation.

Another idea came to mind as she caught sight of one of the actual employees of the castle. A unicorn mare in a maid's uniform stood at one of the far ends. Her horn glowed as she used her magic to ignite the light set there.

With a smile, Rarity made her way toward the maid.

"Excuse me," she said. "I was wondering if you could help me."

"I can certainly try, ma'am," the maid replied. "What is it that you need?"

"If you would be so kind as to follow me, I shall show you." With that she turned and walked back toward the door to Prince Blueblood's room. Stopping in front of it, she motioned with her hoof to keep quiet.

"Now, miss..." Rarity paused. "I'm sorry. I didn't think to ask your name."

"Quick Wick, ma'am," she answered. "Most simply call me Wick."

"Very well," Rarity said with a nod. "My name is Rarity. Nice to meet you." She smiled and shook hooves. "Now, Wick, I happen to notice that this door was mislabeled, and was wondering if you could help me in correcting it."

"As much as I would like to," Wick stated, "I'm afraid I can't at this time." She looked over her shoulder. "The guards should be coming through on their patrol any moment."

"Ah," Rarity sighed. "I understand. No reason to get you into trouble." She gave the other mare a gentle pat on the shoulder.

"If I may ask," said Wick, "what exactly did you want to write for your...'correction?'"

"Well first I was going to have you cross out 'Blue,'" Rarity explained. "Then I was going to have you add l-e-s and s after 'balls.'"

"So it would say..." Wick burst into laughter instead of finishing the statement. "I may just have to share that with the others. I'm certain one or two will get a kick out of it."

The sound of laughter and idea of amusement from others made Rarity feel a little better. She was still disappointed in how her evening had gone. The upside was that it seemed she may have made a new friend, even if temporarily.

"Well it was lovely to meet you," Rarity said. "My friends and I are having a party in the ballroom. Perhaps when you are finished with your duties, you would like to join us."

Wick's eyes went wide as she let out a small gasp.

"Oh. Oh my. That sounds lovely. But... wouldn't want to intrude."

"No intrusion," Rarity assured her with a smile. "It is simply a small group of us and none would mind another. In point of fact, I know for certain that at least one other would absolutely insist on it."

"Well..." Wick said slowly, "if you're sure it's no trouble."

"I am."

"Very well. Then I will try to do my best to join you and your friends."

"Wonderful," Rarity said with a grin. "Then I shall be on my way. I do hope to see you soon." She then turned and left, heading down the hallway.

A Royal Invitation

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"Oh! Oh! Oh!" Pinkie Pie cried out, bouncing up and down with each "Oh!" "We should invite Princess Luna to join us. Can we? Can we? Huh, huh, huh?"

The question made Rainbow Burst stop, considering it.

"I don't know," she said slowly. "I mean, it would be nice to see her and try to get her to hang out with us. Plus, she hasn't been to any sort of dances... in... a thousand years..."

Okay, that made Rainbow kind of sad. She was going to point out that Luna had not been to The Gala, so having her there would kind of change the way things were. It would make the party she was holding less like The Gala. But the thought that Luna had not been to a party for over a thousand years was kind of tragic. Really, the best option would be to put it off. Have the others experience the normal ball style party held, then have Luna join them for the funner one.


"I guess it couldn't hurt to ask her," she said.

"Yay!" Pinkie shouted. "Come on Shining. Take us to Princess Luna's room."

"I guess it would be alright," he said -- more to himself than the others. "It would be here in the castle with ponies she knows, and Celestia does want her to interact with other ponies more." He smiled. "Alright. Follow me and I'll take you to her quarters so you can ask her."

"If you don't mind," Flowershy said gently, "I would just like to go ahead to the garden, please." She shifted, looking down toward the floor.

Quite honestly, she had been wanting to go see them as soon as she had arrived. It had taken some effort on her part to not go racing through the castle toward the gardens. Now she could not wait any longer. If she did not get to go see them soon, she was going to explode.

"Okay," Rainbow said, walking over to Flowershy and throwing a foreleg around her. "The rest of you go ahead and ask Luna. I'll take Shy to the gardens, then meet you at the ballroom." She gave a gentle pat. "Come on, Shy." Pulling away, she continued the way they had been heading, Flowershy following along not far behind.

"Princess Luna's quarters aren't too far from here," Shining Armor told the others as he started to walk. After several minutes of walking -- and climbing a massive number of stairs -- Shining Armor led Twilight Comet, Applejack, and Pinkie Pie to the main tower and one of the highest stories.

As the group got closer to their destination, two figures came into view. They had a dark gray coat and were dressed in midnight blue armor (with a slightly spikier design than the guards typical golden type).

Twilight let out a gasp as she caught sight of the pair, bolting toward them.

"BATPONIES!" she squealed out as she reached them. "I've heard stories of them before but I never thought I would actually see one."

She grabbed one of their wings, pulling it out to fully extended length.

"Look at theses. The strength of the membranes must be impressive. And the skeletal-muscular structure. I bet that they could be highly dexterous, even without their innate magic."

"Twilight," Shining Armor said, causing Twilight to freeze. Her brother only ever used her full first name when she was in trouble.

"I get that you're excited," Shining stated in a firm, low voice, "but technically you are currently assaulting a guard. I suggest that you cease before he is forced to subdue you. I really don't want to have to incarcerate my own sister."

Twilight stared at her brother, blinking. Her gaze slowly drifted down from his stern face to the bat wing she was still holding in her front hooves. A slight chuckle escaped her as her cheeks turned bright pink. Slowly, she pushed the wing back into position at the batpony guard's side, giving it a gentle pat.

"Sorry about that."

"Stand down," Shining Armor said as he moved forward. The two guards gave a salute and moved aside, allowing him access to the door. Stretching out one wing, Shining Armor took a hold of the silver crescent moon knocker and slammed it against the dark blue door.

"WHO DOTH SEEK A PRIVATE AUDIENCE WITH THE PRINCESS OF THE NIGHT!?" a voice boomed from inside the room, causing the doors to rattle. Pinkie Pie stared wide-eyed at the door as Applejack and Twilight jumped back, their wings flaring out at their sides.

"We're... still working on The Royal Canterlot Voice," Shining explained as he glanced back toward the trio of mares. "At least it wasn't as bad as one time." He turned to face the door. "Blew the door off its hinges and sent a curious noble rolling across the floor and out the window. Luckily another guard managed to catch him before he hit the ground."

After clearing his throat, he announced "it's Shining Armor, your majesty. I come with some mares who wish to invite you to a party of theirs."

Several seconds passed before the door opened and Princess Luna stepped out. Her bat wings shifted at her side as she approached Shining Armor. Her gaze then moved past him, taking in the three mares standing slightly further back.

"Ah," she said as she caught sight of them. "Three of the element bearers. 'tis lovely to see you once more." She gave a slight bow of her head. "What is this speak of a 'party' at which you wish our attendance?"

"Rainbow Burst decided to bring us all here to do fun things we all want like meet Prince Blueblood and see the gardens," Pinkie Pie explained. "Plus she's throwing us a big fun party so we can all see what it would be like to go to The Grand Galloping Gala. And I thought that we should be friends with you, but haven't seen you since Ponyville. So I thought we should invite you as well. So, will you come?"

Princess Luna took a step back, her gaze shifting away from the trio. She licked her lips as she looked down along the hall.

"Such a thing..." She shifted. "Perhaps it would not be for the best."

"Princess," Shining Armor said, "such a thing would help you in becoming more acclimated to modern society, as well as your social skills."

Luna turned to look at him, her tail giving a flicker.

"And if we were to make an error in my interactions?" she asked.

"It will only be in front of a small group," Shining replied, "all of whom I'm sure would be understanding and patient."

Princess Luna looked back and forth, shifting between Shining Armor and the three mares, while occasionally glancing back toward the door to her room. The others waited patiently, which was more difficult for some than others. Finally, she took a step forward and gave a nod.

"Very well," Luna stated. "We shall indeed join you in celebration." She then turned to Shining Armor. "With the caveat that you, Shining Armor, shall attend as well as our royal escort and continued social tutor."

"As you wish, my lady," Shining Armor, giving a small bow.

In a Gadda de Canta

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"Okay, Shy," Rainbow Burst as she and Flowershy reached the doors to the garden, "are you ready?"

"Oh, yes," Flowershy said with a grin, standing at her full height with her head high. "I have been waiting for this. I'm so excited that... that I could just... just scream.

"Yay," she squeaked, her voice barely above a whisper.

Rainbow Burst clenched her jaw tight to keep from laughing, although a snort did escape her. Flowersy's quote-unquote "scream" was just so adorable. Also a little worrying. The mare seemed to have a hard time speaking up for herself. If she were actually in some sort of danger, would Flowershy be able to call for help?

"Close your eyes," Rainbow stated. Flowershy gave her a curious look, but did as she was told. With a quick burst of her magic, Rainbow grabbed the doors and threw them as wide open as she could.

"Okay, open them."

After opening her eyes, they grew as wide as they could as Flowershy let out a gasp. It was so beautiful. She could see trees, bushes and vines. She could already see dozens of different birds. Her mind reeled as she looked around, trying to take it all in. To Flowershy, it was the greatest thing she had ever seen in her life.

Rainbow Burst let out a grunt as she was swept off her hooves. Surprisingly strong yellow forelegs wrapped around her, pulling her into a hug. She could not help but wince as she felt -- and heard -- several vertebrae pop and shift in her back. She saw something yellow and pink in front of her, but could not quite make it out.

"Thank you so-so much," Flowershy squealed out as she hugged Rainbow Burst. "This is the best thing that has ever happened to me in my whole life. You have no idea how happy and excited I am for this moment."

"Ribs," Rainbow wheezed out, "lungs... air... breathe..."

As quickly as it began, the hug ended. Rainbow Burst collapsed to the floor as she was released, gasping to catch her breath. Once she was able to think clearly, she was surprised at how strong Flowershy was. Did she wrestle bears or something? After being caught in such a crushing grip, it actually would not be that surprising. She never would have guessed that somepony that seemed so soft-spoken and gentle would be so strong.

Once she managed to get herself back together, Rainbow got up and stretched. While there was no audible pop, she did feel the vertebrae from earlier pop back into place. A quick check confirmed that there had been no permanent damage.

"Well since you're here, I'm going to..." Rainbow stopped as she realized that Flowershy was already gone. The yellow mare had already ran off to somewhere in the garden, leaving Rainbow alone. Not really much reason for Rainbow to say she was leaving to somepony who was already gone.

Leaving Flowershy to enjoy the royal garden, Rainbow Burst headed toward the ball room to join the others.

For her part, Flowershy continued to walk through the garden. Her eyes were wide in awe as she looked back and forth, trying to take in everything around her. It was all so thrilling, so overwhelming: she could not even decide where to begin.

A small green snake moved across the ground in front of her. With a gasp, she reached out and picked it up.

"Hello there..." she lifted it up and studied it more "... Mister Snake. It's nice to meet you."

Mister Snake turned to look at her, but otherwise did nothing.

"If you don't mind," Flowershy said, "maybe you could help me? I want to meet as many of your friends here in the garden as I can, but I don't know where to begin. Do you have an idea?"

Mister Snake stuck his tongue out, then turned and slithered over Flowershy's hoof. With a slight nod, the mare set him back down. As soon as he was let go, he started to move along the ground, Flowershy following close behind. The two kept to what was for the most part a path, making their way through the garden with ease.

Finally, the snake stopped and turned face the pony. It looked up at her, seeming to do nothing.

"Just up ahead?" Flowershy asked as she looked down at Mister Snake. "Okay. Thank you for your help."

After seeing Mister Snake turn and leave, Flowershy turned and walked a little further ahead. There in front of her was a glistening clean pond. She could see flamingos, cranes, and swans. There was a group of duckling following along behind their mother. On the other side of the pond, she could see a skunk and several mice drinking water.

Her hoof tapped against something, getting her attention. At first, she thought it was a rock of some kind. Then she noticed a little bit of fur around the edges and the movement of what turned out to be a head. Leaning in, Flowershy got a closer look.

An armadillo. It was an armadillo. She had read about them, but had never actually seen one herself since they did not live near Ponyville.

If she were to die right now, Flowershy would do so a happy pony.

The armadillo turned and quickly scurried off.

"Wait," Flowershy called out. "Don't go. Please."

At the sound of the mare's voice, several other animals also ran off.

"Hold on," she shouted (causing more of the animals to flee). "I want to be your friend."

A Grand Affair

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"What are these?" Pinkie asked as she pointed at a tray on the buffet table.

"Cucumber sandwiches," Shining Armor answered. "It's pretty much slices of cucumber with cream cheese between them."

Pinkie Pie immediately grabbed ten and shoved them into her mouth. She let out a small noise of joy as she chewed, somehow having the sandwiches be unusually crunchy. She then turned to another item.

"And these?"

"Cheese balls."

"Why are they covered in sliced nuts?"

"I have no idea."

At a slightly different part of the table, Applejack was looking at the spread as well. There were chocolate covered strawberries (one of which Princess Luna was currently eating), pitted cherries, grapes, pineapple wedges, and cantaloupe and honeydew balls. There was also a small bowl filled with what looked like black seeds or tiny berries, surrounded by a tray filled with tiny squares of toast.

"Do you have any idea what these are?" she asked as she picked up one of the bits of toast.

"I believe it is called 'caviar,'" Princess Luna answered. "It is not something I am familiar with. Allegedly, it has become quite popular among the aristocracy for some reason."

Curious, Applejack took the spoon -- which seemed to be made of some odd material -- and heaped a bit of it onto the toast square she had. She then stuck the caviar into her mouth and bit down.

The taste of it was surprising and disappointing. She had been expecting it to taste sweet, and maybe a little tart. Applejack had imagined that it would be something similar to preserves, kind of like blackberries or something. But that was not the case. The caviar was incredibly salty. It also had a very odd taste that she did not recognize.

"What exactly is it?" Applejack asked as she continued to chew.

Princess Luna studied that pegasus farmer a moment. Her horn then lit up as she turned to the punch bowl. Picking up two of the cups, she filled them up before levitating them over to where the pair of them stood. One she set down in front of Applejack while she took a hold of the other in her bat-like wing. She then took a step back and erected a small shield.

"Salt-preserved fish eggs."

For Applejack's part, she did not immediately spit out the caviar after hearing that, even if just barely. Her eyes went wide as her jaw clamped shut. Several seconds passed before she forced herself to swallow, letting out a hacking cough. Grabbing the cup of punch, she shot the entire thing down in a single gulp.

"Why would anypony want to eat salted fish eggs?"

"A question that has yet to be answered satisfactorily," Luna stated before taking a sip of her punch.

"Aww," Rainbow Burst groaned as she approached the others. "You mean I missed somepony eating the caviar for the first time?"

"You knew what they were?" Applejack asked, turning to face the rainbow-maned unicorn.

"Yeah," Rainbow replied with a grin. "You should have seen me when I found out after trying it. Actually... you should have seen Princess Celestia. She was pretty good about laughing it off though. Even made a joke of it."

"Rainbow," Pinkie Pie called out. "Rainbow. Come here, you got to see this." Before Rainbow could react, Pinkie Pie grabbed used her magic to grab the other mare and pull her to where Pinkie now stood.

"Look!" Pinkie squealed excitedly as she pointed at the table. In front of her was a tray filled with inch sized cubes of black cake with a rose shaped pink frosting flower on top.

"The mini cakes?" Rainbow asked as she picked one up.

"Not just any cake," Pinkie told her, picking one up as well. "These are chocolate chili pepper mini cakes with cream cheese hot sauce frosting." She then shoved it into her mouth, letting out a small "mmm" as she chewed.

"Really?" Rainbow stared at the one she had in front of her. "Wow. I didn't think Princess Celestia would actually do something with that. She must have actually liked them if she wants them to be served at The Gala."

"Rarity!" Pinkie Pie suddenly shouted. "Hi Rarity. Over here. Over here."

"I can see you, Pinkie," Rarity said as she walked toward the table. "There isn't exactly a large crowd here to get lost in, dear." She moved past her friends, stopping to stare at the table.

"Welcome back," Rainbow Burst said as she moved to stand beside Rarity. "So, how did meeting Prince Blueblood go?"

Rarity narrowed her eyes and glared at Rainbow. The anger behind it was so intense, Rainbow imagined that had Rarity been a unicorn, she would have set the whole room on fire.

"I would rather not talk about it," Rarity growled. Turning back to the table, she picked up one of the cake bites.

"Uh, Rarity-"

"Fine!" Rarity snapped. "You want to know how it went? He thought that I was a servant, and was trying to conspire with me on how to get out of our date without making me mad. That's how it went. Happy?" She then shoved the miniature cake into her mouth.


"Hot!" Rarity shrieked, fire shooting from her mouth. Running over to the punch bowl, she grabbed the whole thing and began to chug it down.

Rainbow Burst watched Rarity's reaction, then turned and looked back at the cakes. Maybe she should go to The Grand Galloping Gala this year after all. It would be a lot of fun to watch the guests' reactions when they eat the hot and spicy little cakes.

"So, when's the party going to start?" Pinkie Pie asked.

"This is the party," Rainbow Dash told her. "Well, sort of. This is kind of how The Grand Galloping Gala would be like. It's as close to it as I can get it on short notice.

"Don't worry though. I sent Spike out on a special mission. In an hour or so, he'll be back, and we can end the ball to have a real party."

"Don't be a silly filly, Rainbow," Pinkie said, giving Rainbow Burst a pat. "I'm sure we'll have lots of fun. Look, Twilight's already dancing."

The others all turned to look. Out on the dance floor was Twilight Comet. To call what she was doing "dancing" was to use the term very liberally. From the sidelines, it looked more like the random flailing of limbs. Her head low and eyes closed, tongue sticking out the corner of her mouth. She would lift a front and back leg up, wave it in the air, then set it back down before repeating the process with the opposite limbs.

"Wow," Rainbow Burst said as she watched the display. She had never seen anypony dance like that before. Admittedly, Rainbow never really had a strong interest in dancing herself, but Twilight's move seemed wrong. Like the whole thing was just... awkward.

"Shining Armor," Princess Luna asked, "is this popular in modern dancing methods?"

"No, majesty," Shining Armor answered. "That's... that's just how my little sister dances."

Daisies and Donuts

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Hold still, Flowershy told herself. Just hold still a little longer. It's almost there. Almost. She continued to watch the cute little jackalope that was moving toward her.

Admittedly, her time in the garden had not quite gone as she had imagined. The flowers were pretty, and the few fruit bearing plants she could find were tasty, but the animals were a bit more skittish than she had been expecting. Seeing as this was a garden right next to the castle, Flowershy had thought that most of them would be used to ponies visiting them most of the time. Instead, everything she met since Mister Snake left had pretty much run away from her the moment they saw her.

It was quite a surprise to have any animal run away from her, let alone so many. Her first instinct had been to start chasing after them. It took an effort to stop, reminding herself that doing so would only make matters worse. If she chased them, that would just scare them more.

So she was trying the patient method, and it was quite honestly driving her insane. She knew it was the best method to deal with skittish animals -- it was the best way to deal with her too if she thought about it -- but she did not want to simply stand still and wait. She wanted to hug, cuddle, and pet each and every one of the cute little creatures.

Now, one of them was finally approaching. Flowershy had to clench her jaw to keep from squealing out in excitement. One of her legs was shaking with excitement. She had to keep waiting. If she moved to fast to soon, it would just run off again. Just a little closer, then she would be able to reach out and--

A twig snapped, causing the jackalope to bolt away.

"No!" Flowershy shouted after it. "Come back."

Alas, it did no good. It was gone, vanishing into the bushes with a flash of its fluffy white tail. Ears pinned back and teeth bared, she turned to glare in the direction of the original twig snap that had scared the creature away.

An old mule was walking by, dressed in overalls and a tattered edged straw hat. He was walking past, humming to himself contentedly as he went. It seemed to Flowershy that he was completely oblivious to her being there, or that he had just ruined her petting a jackalope when it was so close.

A pang of guilt shot through her chest. It was wrong of her to get mad at at the groundskeeper. He had no way of knowing that she was trying to get the animals closer, or that he was going to scare one of them away. More than likely, he was probably not even aware that she was here. It was his job to take care of this place and make certain it looked proper. He was probably here all the time.

Which would mean that he would probably have a good idea on how to help her get the animals calm and adjusted enough for her to meet them properly.

"Uhm, excuse me, sir?" she called out, getting the mule's attention. "I was wondering if you could help me, if you're not too busy."

"Sure thing," the mule said as he turned to the yellow earth pony mare. "What can I do for you, miss?"


"Booorrrriiiing," Pinkie Pie groaned out before slamming her head against the table. "I can't take it anymore." She popped her head up, turning to look at the others with wide, pleading eyes. "If I don't get to do something fun soon, I'm going to explode."

"Now keep it together, sugar cube," Applejack said gently, wrapping a wing around Pinkie Pie. "I'm sure that things will be picking up any moment now." She then turned to face Rainbow Burst.

"Please tell me that you do have something coming up soon to entertain her," Applejack pleaded. "I really don't want to have to deal with another Pinkie Pie explosion."

"Well I-- wait." Rainbow turned and looked at the two, raising an eyebrow. "What do you mean? Does she like actually explode if she gets to bored or something?"

Applejack shifted, pulling away from Pinkie Pie some. A grimace passed her face as she took off her hat and rubbed the back of her head. One ear flickered as her eyes looked away, turning slightly glassy. With a sigh, she looked back toward Rainbow Burst.

"I'm sure it's something you've seen a time or two with other unicorns. Where they have a magical surge and just let it out without meaning to."

"Yeah," Rainbow Burst replied, "when we're young and learning how to control it. Normally by the time most are out of elementary school, they have it under control."

"And most of the time, Pinkie does too," Applejack stated. "It's just that... well... She's a bit of a hyper mare as you may have noticed. So she tends to have a hard time staying still for very long, especially when there's nothing to keep her attention. When she's bored and doesn't do anything for too long--"

"I can't take it anymore!" Pinkie Pie shouted. There was a bright flash of pink magic filling the room. There was also the sound of a balloon popping followed by a noisemaker being blown. As the magic faded, the room was covered in streamers, confetti and glitter.

"As you can see," Applejack said calmly as she shook the aftermath of the explosion from her mane, "it don't do no harm to anypony. It just kinda creates a big ol' mess to clean up."

"That was kind of awesome," Rainbow Burst stated. Her eyes were wide as she looked around, studying the result of Pinkie's magical explosion. She could see Twilight laughing at her brother, who was flapping the streamers from his wings. Meanwhile, Rarity was gently picking pieces of confetti off of Princess Luna, who seemed fascinated by the streamer that had wrapped itself around her horn. it was kind of interesting that neither of the mares from Ponyville seemed the least bit surprised by the sudden party supply explosion.

"You feeling better now?" Applejack asked, turning to Pinkie Pie again.

"A little," Pinkie answered as she sat back up. "But I'm still bored. There has to be something for us to do."

"Tell you what," Rainbow said as she got up. "You go and tell the band to play whatever song you want, provided they know it. I'm going to see if I can find Spike and what's taking him so long with that surprise."

"Woohoo!" Pinkie shouted as she bounced off toward the stage. She grinned as she headed toward it, jumping right up onto the stage.

Before Rainbow Burst had reached the door, the tune the band had been playing had changed. Instead of some classical ensemble piece, they were playing The Pony Poky. That caused her to chuckle. It also made her want to stay, if only to see how Princess Luna would react to such a song and dance number.

Instead, she continued to make her way through the castle halls, working her way first toward their rooms, then toward the entrance if necessary. Hopefully she would not have to go that far. Even if he took his time, Spike should be on his way back already. If she was lucky, she would find him in no time. If not, she would have to go look for him.

Maybe she should have tried to create that dragon tracking spell that Spike used to joke about.

"Rainbow," a voice said, causing Rainbow Burst to stop. "We were just coming to see you."

Walking toward her was Princess Celestia, with Spike by her side. The princess' horn glowed with magic, as she held a donut in it near her mouth.

"I was actually coming to look for Spike," Rainbow said. "The others are bored and ready for their surprise."

"Okay," Spike said as he started walking. "I'll get these to them right away."

"Wait," Rainbow called out, causing him stop right where he was. Using her magic, she grabbed two of the donuts from the box. "Okay go ahead. Oh, wait one more second."

She turned to Celestia and asked, "Has Princess Luna had any of these yet?"

"Not that I am aware of," Princess Celestia replied, taking another bite of her own.

"Well, make sure that she gets one before the others," Rainbow told Spike. "Make sure you watch her closely too. I want to know how she reacts when she tries one of these babies for the first time."

"I'll see what I can do," Spike responded as he continued his way down the hallway.

After he was gone, Rainbow Burst turned back to Princess Celestia.

"Are you coming to join us too?"

"As much as I would love to," Princess Celestia said with a smile, "I'm afraid I must decline. There are still many matters for me to attend to, including preparations for a visit from my niece."

Rainbow Burst took a bite of her donut, but said nothing. She was aware of Princess Mi Amore Cadenza, Princess Celestia's niece. The two of them had even met a little, even made some small talk, but never really got to know each other. Princess Cadenza seemed alright. Definitely not as snobby as Prince Blueblood. At the time, Rainbow found her a little too "girly" for her liking.

"I was just stopping by to see how things were going," Princess Celestia stated, "and to give you these."

Pulling out six golden tickets with her magic, she held them out toward Rainbow Burst.

"The two tickets to The Grand Galloping Gala you returned," Princess Celestia announced. "Plus, four additional ones so that all five of your friends will be able to go." She held the tickets out toward Rainbow. "I already gave Spike his. I know he wouldn't want to be left out, even if he denies wanting to go."

Blinking in surprise, Rainbow Burst took a hold of the tickets in her magic as she felt Celestia's let them go. Pulling them closer, she stared at them. Six tickets to The Grand Galloping Gala. One for her and each of her friends.

"You mean you had these tickets waiting?"

"That is correct," Celestia said, giving a nod. She took another bite of her donut.

"By the moon!" a booming voice echoed through the hall. "These 'dough nuts' are the most amazing things I have eaten since my return! We desire more!"

"It seems that my sister enjoyed the donut very much," Princess Celestia stated with a grin.

"If you had these for me, why didn't you simply send them to me in the first place?" Rainbow asked.

"Several reasons," Princess Celestia answered. "One of which is that I recall a certain young unicorn filly who always got annoyed when I made assumptions about what she wanted, even if it turned out that said assumptions were correct."

"...Right..." Rainbow's ears pulled back as she flushed slightly. It was true. Several times Princess Celestia had basically decided something for Rainbow Burst without talking to her about it, even if it was what she had wanted. At least once, Rainbow had denied something out of sheer spite. Celestia had found it rather amusing, but it had at made the point clear that Rainbow wanted to be involved in certain choices when it came to her own life. Even if it was about decor, food, or clothing.

"Admittedly, I was also curious if you would ask," Celestia added. "Or if you had plans to go with a specific pony." She smirked. "Perhaps a certain stallion or mare that caught your eye romantically." One of her eyebrows raised up as she studied her student, whose face was turner redder.

"I just moved out there," Rainbow blurted out. "I barely know the ponies in there that I'm now friends with. I really haven't had time to get interested in any ponies like that."

"Really?" Celestia asked. "Because I believe that one of your friends has an older brother who I am told is quite striking."

"If you think that, why don't you date him?" Rainbow asked before she even realized that she had opened her mouth.

Princess Celestia pulled back, eyes going wide in surprise. She stared at Rainbow a moment. Her eyes narrowed and lips pursed. Reaching up a hoof, she tapped it against her chin and let out a small hum.

"Perhaps I shall," she responded. "It has been quite a while since I have had the company of a royal consort. Plus, it would be quite amusing to see the nobility's reaction to their princess dating a farmer."

Rainbow's jaw fell open as she stared at Celestia, eyes wide. The image of Princess Celestia out on a date with Big Macintosh now filled her mind's eye.

"It's weird imagining you dating anypony," Rainbow admitted.

"Yes," Celestia said with a sigh. "An unfortunate consequence of my position and image. A great many ponies see me as something above such desires and intimacy and companionship." She reached out a wing and pulled Rainbow Burst into a hug. "That is why I enjoy that you are so willing to speak your mind to and about me when I am around. It helps me keep a little more humble."

With a smile, Rainbow reached out and hugged the princess back.

Morning Troubles

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"Nooooo," Flowershy whined out, tightening her hooves around the branch she was holding. "I don't want to go. Please. Don't make me." She wrapped her forelegs around the branch tighter, clutching it against her chest. Around her hind legs was a rainbow colored aura of magic, trying to pull her loose.

"Flowershy," Rainbow Burst growled, "you've been out here all night." That caused her to pause for a moment. "Did you even sleep?"

"Who needs sleep when there are so many cute animals out here for me to meet? I'm still not done. I can't leave yet. I may never leave."

"Now sugar cube," Applejack said gently, "you know you can't stay here forever."

"Yes I can," Flowershy nearly shouted, turning to face Applejack. "There are bushes that I can sleep in, and water to drink, and there are plenty of edible plant and fruit-bearing plants. I could easily live here. I would just have to be sure to stay out of sight of the other ponies."

"I'm pretty sure that the guards would have a problem with that," Twilight said.

Flowershy shifted to look at Twilight. Her eyes narrowed and ears pulled back. She adjusted her grip on the branch.

"They'll never catch me," she announced. "Never!"

A white hoof reached out and placed it on, Rainbow Burst's shoulder, getting her attention. Turning to look, she found the Rarity had moved beside her. From the look in her eye, Rainbow could guess that she had some sort of plan. With a nod, Rainbow released her magical grip on Flowershy, and took a step back.

Rarity moved forward, bringing herself to stand beside the surprisingly stubborn yellow mare. Gently, she placed a hoof between Flowershy's shoulder, rubbing the spot.

"Now, dearie," Rarity said softly, "we're all very happy for you that you enjoyed your time here. However, your intention has at least one major flaw that you seem to not be thinking about. You do have animal friends back home that are waiting for you to return."

There was silence as the statement sank in. Flowershy's eyes went wide before her entire body drooped. She had completely forgotten about her animal friends back in Ponyville. Sure, they would be fine for a few days without her, but they would miss her sooner or later. As excited as she was to see all the animals here, she would eventually miss her friends and cottage as well. Especially her sweet and gentle little Angel Bunny. He would be simply helpless if she was not around.

With a sigh, Flowershy let go of the branch and stood up.

"You're right," she said as she turned around. "Come on." She started walking. "We should go before I change my mind."

The others moved to catch up with her, the seven of them heading back into the castle and making their way toward the main entrance.

"Hey," Rainbow called out. "Since we're all together now, I should tell you: Princess Celestia gave me more tickets to The Grand Galloping Gala. Now we can all go together."

None of them stopped moving since they were heading to catch the next train home, but the announcement did catch them by surprise.

"Uh... Rainbow?" Applejack asked. "Wasn't a part of the reason you did all this for us because you didn't want to go?"

"Yeah," Rainbow Burst admitted. "It was. But that was because I thought the whole thing would be boring and whoever went with me would be disappointed that it wasn't how they imagined. Now that everypony knows what it would be like and we can all go together, it will be a lot better. Plus we could have so much fun." She grinned widely, practically bouncing as she walked.

"Could you imagine the reactions we would get if Pinkie Pie actually exploded from boredom during the actual Gala? The looks on all those noble ponies faces when they're suddenly covered in streamers." She started to chuckle at the mental image.

"Rainbow Burst," the voice of Prince Blueblood called out, causing Rainbow to stop. "I want to have a word with you."

Almost all of them turned to look toward the approaching prince. There were two exceptions: Spike, who simply rolled his eyes; and Rarity, who moved to hide behind Applejack. The others watched as the tall, white stallion with long, wavy, blond mane moved toward them. He held his head high, looking down the edge of his nose. His gaze quickly flicked over the ponies before him, noting them as of common stock, and dismissing them.

"What is it, Blue?" Rainbow asked with a sigh. "We're kind of in a hurry to catch the train back to Ponyville."

"This will not take long," Blueblood stated. "It seems that last night your friend decided to stand me up and not arrive for our date. I was left waiting for several hours with no sign of them."

"Really?" Rainbow Burst asked, trying to sound as innocent as possible. "Are you sure that's what happened?" One of her hooves quickly reached out to cover Spike's mouth before he could say anything.

"Whatever the matter may be," Blueblood continued, "the fact remains that your friend failed to arrive. Be that as it may, I was still more than willing to maintain my end of the bargain. As such, I expect you to honor yours, regardless. No longer shall you perform any of your petty little pranks on me."

"Hold on," Rainbow said, her horn starting to glow. "Let me fix the problem right now."

"That will not-" Prince Blueblood started, only to be cut off.

"It's no problem. Really." With her magic, Rainbow picked up her friend Rarity from her hiding spot and brought her to stand beside her in front of the prince.

"Prince Blueblood, Rarity. Rarity, Prince Blueblood."

Blueblood glanced toward Rarity for a split-second before turning back to Rainbow, then stopped and looked at Rarity again. His ears drooped as his eyes went wide, recognizing the mare standing in front of him. Although it should have been impossible, he somehow managed to turn paler than he already was. His jaw opened and closed several times on its own.

With a slight cough, he straightened up. His eyes returned to normal as he ran a hoof through his mane.

"Well," he said as he took a step back. "I believe I have wasted enough time on the matter." Turning around he started to walk away. "Got other matters to attend to, after all." It took a strong effort for him not to full out run.

At least not in front of Rainbow Burst and her friends. As soon, as he was out of view, Prince Blueblood picked up his pace and ran as quickly as he could with dignity.

Alright, so it seems that he had made a dire mistake and had inadvertently told his plan to the very mare that he was attempting to deceive with the matter. In his defense, she had been deceptive as well. At no point had she identified herself as Rainbow's associate. Plus, there had been no mention that she was an earth pony. He had been expecting a unicorn.

Although none of that would be acceptable reasoning to Rainbow Burst. That mare would just love any excuse to back out of the deal and continue to humiliate him. Now she would have more than sufficient an excuse.

As he slowed down, Blueblood considered that he might have been overreacting. After all, Rainbow was now living in another town and would more than likely have some responsibilities there.... unless she wound up getting arrested. Either way, there was certainly no way she would be able to continue pranking him. Even if she did, how long until she got bored with the matter?

Certainly it would only be a year or less. There was absolutely no way that she would make good on her threat and continue to prank him the rest of his life.


Epilogue: In the Future

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Prince Blueblood made his way through the halls of Canterlot Castle, looking around as he did. It was odd. Every time he visited, something about it seemed different. Yet at the same time, everything was exactly as he remembered it. Perhaps it was simply nostalgia. A golden glow of memory coloring the way he saw it as opposed to how it truly was. He missed the place that he had once called home.

He even missed Rainbow Burst.

It was odd. Their whole lives, the two of them had never gotten along. He always looked down on her as a commoner who was reaching too far beyond her station, and she saw him as a stuffy and uptight noble who cared only about himself. Still, knowing that she was gone made him feel rather sad.

Not for the pranks, of course. He was grateful that he would never have to deal with them again. The fact that she had actually kept them up well into old age was an irritating surprise. There was never any regularity to it, of course. That would have made it too predictable, which would have taken the surprise out of it.

Still, even if it had been as a nuisance, Rainbow Burst had been a part of his life or years. Decades even. It was hard to accept the loss of somepony that he knew for most of his life, even if he never actually got along with her.

Perhaps it was something he could speak with Celestia about. She had been around for over a millenia, which means she would have lost a great many ponies she loved and disliked (although that second one was always hard to imagine, given her demeanor). At the same time, he could see how she is coping and offer his condolences and comfort as well. After all, Celestia had been Rainbow Burst's friend, teacher, and adoptive mother for the most part.

The word student stuck out at him as he slowed down his walk for a moment. That reminded him: Princess Celestia had said that she was taking on her next personal student today. It actually gave him all the more reason to check on her. That way he could check to be sure that she was still feeling up to starting the new student's lessons, and he could meet them as well in the hopes of having things get off to a better start than with Rainbow.

Quite honestly, he was far too old and tired to be going through something like that again.

Although it had been a while since he had gone there, it seemed that he could still recall perfectly how to get to Princess Celestia's quarters from his own. He was not actually certain if it was where she would be at this time. She could just as easily be in the throne room, dealing with last minute matters, the foyer waiting for her student, the kitchen getting a snack, or even the garden. Still, her quarters seemed as good a place to start as any other.

Reaching the doors, he knocked.

"Enter!" Princess Celestia's voice called out.

"Good evening, Aunt Celestia," Blueblood stated as he stepped inside. "I thought that I would see if youuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu.................."

What Prince Blueblood was going to say was forgotten as he stared, mouth hanging open and eyes wide.

Standing beside Princess Celestia was a unicorn with bright, rainbow colored mane. The small mare turned in his direction, looking up at him with dark rose colored eyes.

"Hi," she said in a familiar, scratchy, yet feminine voice.

Everything after that was a blank for the prince. Somewhat fortunate for him considering what happened next.

The white coated unicorn with rainbow mane, looked up at the prince, who stared at her with eyes wide and mouth hanging open. It was enough to make her uncomfortable.

"Are you okay?" she asked, taking a step forward.

"Stay back!" Blueblood suddenly shouted, taking a step back. "Keep away from me! You're dead."

"What are you--"

"Help!" Turning, Blueblood ran out of the room and down the hall as fast as he could. "Help! A ghost! It's after me!" The sound of his hooves against the stone floor echoed through the air as he fled as fast as he could.

"...what was that about?" the filly finally managed to ask.

"I'm sorry, Aurora," Celestia said as she moved to nuzzle the unicorn. "Prince Blueblood was a friend of your grandmother's since she was about your age. He must be taking her death harder than I expected. I guess seeing you -- looking so much like her -- brought his grief to the surface."

"Oh," Aurora Arcanum said, looking back and forth between. "Wait. If he thought I was Nana Rainbow, why did he run screaming about ghosts?"

He probably thought you were the ghost of Rainbow Burst come back to haunt him for some reason, Celestia thought.

"Sometimes ponies do strange things when they are caught up in their grief," she said. "He knows that she's gone and misses her so badly, he wishes that she were back. At the same time, he is trying to put it behind him and move on."

Aurora sagged, tail going limp as her ears drooped.

"I miss her too," she whispered, tears filling her eyes.

"As do I," Celestia said, wrapping a wing around her new student. "But I am certain that wherever she may be, she is looking down and smiling."

Actually, I bet she's laughing. She would have found the way Blueblood reacted hilarious.

"Now come along," she said with a smile. "How about we get a snack from the kitchen? While there, we can discuss your education, and you can ask anything about your grandmother that you like."

"Alright!" Aurora shouted as she bolted for the door. "Race you!"

With a grin, Princess Celestia used her magic to teleport from her room to the kitchen.