Chapter Twenty-One - Welcome to Thessia

Parnitha System, Athena Nebula, Milky Way Galaxy

April 11, 2183

The journey to Thessia had taken almost two days, thanks to the speed of Solar One's faster than light drive. Traveling across the galaxy was a an almost unsurmountable problem even for the superior Equestrian tech that was the envy of the galaxy. Maybe in a few more centuries that would become a non-issue, but for now, journeys still took time.

Thanks to the Mass Relays, the upper limits of FTL were a non-issue. Still, it took time to travel too and from planets within the range of any Relay.

They were headed for the island of Armali, and its well regarded University of Armali. If anyplace was going to have any reference to the Elements of Harmony, that would be it.

Honey Dawn had taken Solar One at a leisurely pace, having no true need to push the engines, and the ship was rapidly approaching Thessia.

Twilight, Gilda, Rarity, Sweetie Belle, and Spike had joined the crew on the bridge for the return back to real-space. The ship had been designed in just such a way that the bridge had the best view, with a three-hundred and sixty degree holo-display built into the surface of the walls. It had been added more as a gimmick to impress visiting dignitaries than it was actually functional for the pilots. Visual range was practically useless in a spaceship, and their displays provided much more useful information.

At the moment, the front half of the ship was wreathed blue, thanks to doppler shift, the faint shimmering of stars just barely visible beyond. If one were to turn their head and look towards the door leading to the rest of the ship, they would find the back half of the ship wreathed a bloody red.

It was a sight that Twilight never tired of, and one that her companions were staring in awe at. She had grown up with Celestia after all, and had spent more than her fair share of time on her teacher's former ship.

Smiling at her audience's quiet wonder, Honey Dawn glanced first to the right at Little Hoof, and then to her left at Fancy Steps, making sure they were ready. They were both completely focused at the task at hand and sent green confirmation lights to her console. Nodding to herself, Honey Dawn spoke out loud for her audience's benefit.

"Transitioning to real space in three… two… one."

All at once, Solar One shifted back into real space, the stars twinkling back into view. Thessia sat directly in front of Solar One, the sun just beginning to peak over its farthest horizon. It was a glimmering vision of blue and green, dotted with islands and larger continents, gentle rolling clouds checkered across the sky.

Thessia itself didn't have any moons. It was one of the factors that scientists figured had led the Asari to be so successful. Without the violent tides that other planets experienced, the face of Thessia would have been extremely different, never allowing for the generous life-spans of the asari, and their mastery over biotics. Element Zero tended to be found in shallow pools near the beaches, which any tidal force would have obliterated and carried straight back out to sea.

"There it is, Sweetie Belle," Rarity said, barely keeping a squeal from erupting. "The fashion center of the galaxy!"

"Well." Twilight couldn't help herself. She had read to many books and spent too much time around ponies who had given her her way not to. She stood up straight, almost pushing up a pair of non existent glasses on her muzzle, a force of habit from her time lecturing at the Academy. "Actually Thessia is much more known for being the center of technological advancement, at least historically. They've found themselves usurped from that position in the past few decades."

"This is Thessia Air Control to Solar One." The feminine voice that echoed from the hidden speakers on the bridge interrupted Twilight before she could continue any further.

"Roger that, Air Control, this is Solar One." Honey Dawn answered quickly and neatly, slowing the ship even further as they approached the atmosphere.

"We've been expecting you. We received your flight plans several days ago."

A set of coordinates appeared on Honey Dawn's screen, uploaded from the planet below, and the computer quickly gave her a map of Thessia with a waypoint to reflect that, blinking over the large island nation of Armali.

"Armali has a docking slip waiting for you. They'll guide you in. Welcome to Thessia, Solar One."

"Thank you, Thessia flight control." As soon as she finished, the line was cut and Armali's waiting Air Control took over.

"What's so important about Thessia?" Stepping closer to Twilight, Sweetie Belle was sure to put on her cutest, most curious face. The unicorn had quickly become her new hero after jumping into the Citadel lake, and that had only been cemented during the few short days on the flight over. Any excuse to speak to her was a good one in Sweetie Belle's book.

Twilight turned to look at Sweetie Belle, completely ready to launch herself into a long lecture about the Asari and their importance to the galaxy at large. She had already been interrupted once. It wouldn't happen again!

"The asari were the first out of all of the races to achieve spaceflight," Twilight said, sitting on her haunches. She waved her forehooves in the air as if to demonstrate a ship launching from a planet. "And they found the Citadel over two-thousand years ago. They founded the Citadel Council together with the salarians after they had joined them. Nothing would be the way it is right now if the Asari didn't exist."

"Didn't you just learn about this?" Rarity raised an eyebrow, looking at Sweetie Belle with a look of confusion.

"Uh…" Sweetie Belle looked around, her eyes shifty. Her sister was to never know of her hero-worship (crush) on Twilight. It would be the end of her. She had to be firm, convincing, misleading.

Instead, all she was able to say was a rather unconvincing, "No?"

Rarity just stared at her, waiting for her little sister to break. Sweetie started to sweat metaphorical bullets.

"Maybe?" She squeaked after nearly thirty seconds, practically on the floor trying to get away from Rarity's piercing eyes.

She finally slumped, groaning. "Yes." She hung her head, blushing.

Triumphant, Rarity looked up at Twilight, Gilda, and Spike to explain. "Sweetie Belle is going through an advanced study course, corresponding with teachers back on Equestria. Only the best education for my little marshmallow."

"Rarity!" If it was even possible, Sweetie Belle's blush grew darker. She wanted to crawl into a hole and die, or at least run from the bridge and hide under her bed. Her sister calling her 'marshmallow' in front of Twilight? It was the Worst. Possible. Thing! "Don't call me that."

"Oh, don't be embarrassed Sweetie Belle." Picking Sweetie Belle up from her place on the floor, Rarity wrapped her in a big hug. "Never be embarrassed of your family."

Sweetie Belle just scowled, looking anywhere but her sister.

"We're entering the atmosphere in three, two, one," Honey Dawn said over her shoulder, not having noticed any of the world ending drama that had taken place just behind her seat.

The ship juddered every so slightly as Solar One entered Thessia's atmosphere, and red hot flames licked at the hull of the ship. Solar One easily shrugged the heat away, her ablative armor having been designed to take multiple shots from the strongest of dreadnoughts. On the inside, it would have been practically unnoticeable if you didn't even know it was happening.

The flames receded after thirty seconds, and Solar One was suddenly flying over a pristine turquoise ocean. Twilight, Gilda, Rarity, Sweetie Belle, and Spike found themselves looking down past their hooves. It was almost as if they were flying through the air, supported on a pane of glass.

For a single moment, Sweetie Belle could have sworn that she saw a whale beneath the waves, but just as quickly as she had seen it, it disappeared.

They flew over a long series of islands, each pristinely populated at the perfect levels, in harmony with the planet.

Thessia held a modest population of only five and half billion, and that number rarely ever wavered more than a few points in either direction. With lives measured in centuries and millennia, it was easy to take the long view and asari self-regulated their population naturally. It was simply the way they evolved. If there was no more room or food for another being, other species were forced to either find a way to support them, or to abort the fetus.

The asari could simply choose not to get pregnant. It was a plus of their biology.

It as also a plus that a single asari could bring the entire species back from the brink of extinction if needed.

Asari were a truly wondrous, remarkable race.

The island of Armali rose up out of the ocean, volcanic rock and soft beaches formed by millions of years and careful tending by its residents. Solar One circled the island once, twice, three times before coming in for a landing at the largest of the two space ports, on the east edge of the city, on a small cliff overlooking the ocean.

Gently, Solar One came in for a landing. After the massive landing gears supported its weight, Honey Dawn shut the engines off and the background hum, a nearly silent companion that followed you wherever you went on the ship, disappeared.

Turning in her seat, Honey Dawn smiled at her audience. "Welcome to Armali."

"Thank you, Honey Dawn." Twilight nodded, compartmentalizing her wonder at the approach she had just witnessed as she prepared herself for the work that she needed to do. "I don't know how long we're going to be here, but I want to be ready to go at a moments notice if we have to."

"Of course." Honey Dawn nodded. That was what she was planning to do anyway. It was good that Twilight had more than just a basic understanding of how to run a diplomatic ship. It meant that there was less she needed to learn by the end of the cruise.

Twilight led her group out and off of the bridge, to the airlock just behind its neck. Like all ships, it was built on the left side.

The airlock cycled open in seconds after it had scanned and cleaned them of any diseases that might have been clinging to their clothes or coats. It was the single most effective way of keeping diseases from spreading across worlds. Twilight and Gilda were the first to step out onto the waiting platform, followed by Rarity, Sweetie Belle, and Spike, trotting down the stairs to meet a small delegation of asari waiting at the bottom.

"Welcome, Celestial Emissary Twilight Sparkle, to Armali." The lead asari in the middle spread her arms, her mouth open in a wide smile. She was dressed in a sleek dress, made of a light, thin material, perfect for the warm, humid climate of Thessia. "We are pleased to welcome you to our wonderful city-nation."

"Thank you…" Twilight trailed off, waiting for the asari to give her name.

"I am Diplomat Eshair T'Vedo." She acquiesced Twilight, bowing her head ever so slightly in greeting. "When we learned that you were coming, I was briefed to help you in whatever way you needed."

"I need to look through your Universities Archives." The University of Armali was one of the most prestigious schools in the galaxy, with few being its peer. Its libraries held resources from every known planet, and it was well-funded by the government of Armali. Those libraries were well guarded by the University, and only the students, faculty, and a select few from the rest of the galaxy were allowed access. Even fewer were allowed to explore the entirety of the archives without any restrictions. As one of the highest members of the Equestrian government, Twilight had been granted that access. "I am in the middle of a research mission, and it has lead me here."

"Of course, Emissary." Eshair glanced at the rest of the group. While Twilight had permission, she was the only one.

Twilight glanced back at her group, noticing Gilda's eyes staring up in the sky, following the flight of a bird, not at all looking forward to waiting around for one of her study sessions to wrap up. Thankfull, Twilight had already come up with an idea on the flight from the Citadel. She turned back to look at Eshair.

"While I am in the archives, would it be possible for my friends to be given a tour of Armali? I know that they would enjoy it." Twilight knew that she wouldn't say no. Armani would do anything to accommodate her, the same way that Equestria would bend over backwards for any important asari diplomat.

It was still the polite thing to ask.

"That would not be any problem." She gestured over at one of the asari's standing behind her, a young maiden by the looks of her. She didn't have any facial tattoos yet, and her eyes were wide and clear, inquisitive as they tried to take everything in of the rarely seen Equestrians. She wore a much more conservative outfit than Eshair, clothed in purples and oranges.

"Nyari would be happy to show anyone who wishes the wonders of Armali."

Nyari bowed in agreement. Rarity had to keep herself from squealing from happiness. Exploring the streets and shops was exactly what she had been hoping to do.

"That is wonderful." She gave a quick nuzzle to Gilda, before turning her attention back to Eshair. "If it's not too much trouble, I would like to start right away."

"Right this way, Emissary." Eshair gestured towards a waiting aircar.

###

There were few criminals in the galaxy as feared or respected as Pluto Fire. He had erupted into the galaxie's awareness the year after the Relay 314 incident, smashing aside competitors and taking over the businesses of those less skilled than him.

In five short years, he had become the single largest runner of organized crime in the entire galaxy. It was a record that he still held, and he hadn't kept his hooves clean during that time. He had bloodied himself to keep what he had built.

In the years since his take over, Pluto Fire had taken to traveling the galaxy under the guise of legitimate means, keeping an eye on his holdings and overseeing his business.

It was simply a fortunate accident that had placed Pluto Fire on Thessia at the same time that Kai Leng had needs of his services.

Setting up a meeting had been fairly simple, and hours within his landing, he had found himself sitting in a chair outside of Pluto's penthouse. He stared at the opposite wall, paying no mind to the turian and the batarian standing guard in front of the door. Beside him, he could hear Hope tapping a beat against her leg. One of the Illusive Man's most trusted agents, it was only natural that she accompany him on his mission. Two had better chances than one, after all, and few were as good at slipping through undetected as her.

She was disguised as an asari, a perfect disguise for a woman such as her. It would take more than a passive scan to see that she wasn't in fact an asari.

After nearly thirty minutes of waiting, the doors to the penthouse opened, and a well dressed asari stepped out.

"Pluto will see you now," she said, stepping aside to let the two of them through.

With smooth motions, Kai Leng stood and stepped pas the asari, hearing Hope following behind him quietly. As soon as they were inside, the doors closed and locked with a definite click.

Kai Leng took a moment to survey the room he found himself in. Several guards in tailored, thousand dollar bullet proof suits, were standing around the perimeter of the room, keeping careful watch. Professional, they were probably ex-special forces. Kai Leng easily picked out the weapons that they were wearing under their suits. They made for an interesting, motley bunch, comprised of humans, turians, batarians, and a few asari.

Kai Leng dismissed them as unimportant and not a threat, instead following the asari through the penthouse and into a large dining room through a door off to the side.

Together, Kai Leng and Hope entered the dining room. It was surrounded on three sides with floor to ceiling windows, offering beautiful views of Armali from every angle. The island of Armali was a mountainous place, surrounding a single central peak that rose taller than Everest into the sky. The skyscrapers of the nation rose up from the mountains sides, creating a unique stepped effect.

Kai Leng only paid that view a brief look, instead turning to look at the pony seated at the head of the table, eating a simple asari breakfast of fish and a rice like substance. Few had ever seen him before, and even fewer lived to tell the tale.

"Thank you for allowing my companion and I to meet you, Pluto Fire." Giving a polite bow, Kai Leng offered his respects.

Pluto Fire was a grey maned earth pony with golden eyes that matched his coat, dressed in a fine suit which hid his cutie mark. A small, grey goatee hung from his chin, finely trimmed. With a finely manicured hoof, he motioned for them to take a seat at his table.

"Please, join me for breakfast." His voice was smooth, hiding the danger that his presence held.

"Thank you for your generosity." With another bow of his head, Kai Leng gracefully took the seat that Pluto offered, just to his right. It was easy to stay in Pluto's good graces. All you had to do was give him respect, and make sure you did as you promised.

As he sat, he noticed that Hope hesitated for just a moment before following his lead, taking the seat next to him.

From a hidden door, a human woman emerged pushing a tray covered in breakfast foods. She paused next to Kai Leng and Hope, gesturing with her hand towards the food.

"Sir? Ma'am?" She asked. "What would you like for breakfast?"

"What he's having is perfectly fine with me." Kai Leng guessed that Pluto would be eating the best meal that there was to offer, and he was always open to trying something new.

The woman bowed in understanding, turning her attention to Hope.

"I'm fine," Hope said, waving her head.

Kai Leng frowned, displeased, his eyes narrowing ever so slightly. Pluto didn't so much as blink, instead calmly chewing his last bite.

"Please forgive my companion," He said, bowing his head to Pluto. To refuse an offered meal was certainly not respecting the stallion.

Pluto stayed quiet, watching Kai Leng through half lidded eyes.

"Leave." Kai Leng didn't bother to look back at Hope.

"Wha—"

"Don't make me repeat myself." His voice grew colder, a hint of his anger within.

Hope was still for a moment, before she stood and left the room, her steps just a little bit too heavy, but still too light to be considered storming out. As soon as she was gone, Kai Leng bowed his head again to Pluto, deeper this time.

"Please forgive me," he said, not begging, but apologetic. "I did not school her enough in what was appropriate."

"It is behind us." Waving a hoof, Pluto took another bite of his food.

"Thank you."

Returning from the kitchen, the woman laid a plate out in front of Kai Leng, the same meal that Pluto was eating. It was still warm, steaming ever so slightly, a beautiful aroma wafting up to his nose. Respectfully, Kai Leng took a bite of his meal, closing his eyes in appreciation.

"It's wonderful," he said after he swallowed his bite.

"I'm glad you agree. I make sure to have it whenever I have the opportunity to visit Thessia."

"I can see why."

They were quiet for a few moments, taking the occasional bite, enjoying their meal. Kai Leng waited patiently for Pluto to start, willing to wait however long it took. He was good at waiting.

Pluto finally paused, taking a drink before turning his full attention on Kai Leng.

"You have come a long way to meet with me," he said, eyeing the man with his large eyes.

"It was a fortunate accident that you happened to be in a position to help me." While Kai Leng had indeed sought him out, it was important to let him know that he wasn't the reason he was on Thessia.

Pluto was silent, waiting for Kai Leng to explain.

"You know who I work for." It wasn't a question. To have allowed Kai Leng to meet with him, Pluto knew that he was an agent for Cerberus.

"Yes." Pluto laughed, shaking his head. The skin around his eyes crinkled ever so slightly. "It was easy to figure out. Your name brings up very interesting flags from everyone I spoke to."

"I'm not surprised." Cerberus wasn't a common name, not yet, but it certainly wasn't hidden from everyone.

"I wouldn't imagine you would be." Pluto took another bite, chewing slowly. Swallowing, he leaned forward. "Let's get down to business."

"If you wish." Kai Leng wiped his mouth with his napkin, folding it neatly before setting it back on the table. "I have been ordered by my employer to figure out why the Empress is… bucking the status quo, so to speak."

"The Celestial Emissary." Of course Pluto knew. It wasn't often that the Empress made such drastic moves, tending to let things happen the long way, her plans lasting centuries.

Kai Leng nodded. "She is searching for something, and she's turning a lot of heads doing so. The Elements of Harmony."

"What are you asking of me?" Pluto leaned back in his seat, suddenly paying a whole lot more attention.

"For your organizations help. My employer is willing to pay you a very large sum for your help in… arranging a meeting between myself and the Emissary."

"I assume you are implying by any means necessary."

"You would be correct in that assumption." Kai Leng nodded, carefully keeping Pluto's gaze.

"Very well. Let's talk numbers."

###

It had only been a few hours since they had landed, and Nyari had already shown Gilda, Rarity, Sweetie Belle, and Spike through some of the more colorful districts of Armali. She had shown them the historic fountains and statues, the oldest building, and much to Rarity's relief, they were finally heading to the designer district.

The city was truly a wonderful place, with over five million permanent inhabitants, and towering hotels that when filled, swelled that population to ten million. The buildings all followed a similar design philosophy, and they all blended together into a single cohesive whole.

Rarity's eyes couldn't help but go particularly wide when Nyari finally them down into the fashion district. Down the wide street, shops lined both sides. Some of the largest names in fashion were represented there, the true homes of fashion designers with household names.

These were the shops where dreams were made.

"Sweet Celestia, I could live here for the rest of my life!" She cried, tears welling in the corners of her eyes.

"Great." Sweetie Belle glared at Nyari. "Now we're never going to leave. I wanted to go to the beach."

Spike wasn't at all frustrated, tagging around behind Rarity, hoping to get noticed in anyway. He was awestruck by her beauty, and it made him very foolish at times. It had simply taken the two day flight from the Citadel to Thessia for his crush to fully embed itself in his mind.

"Not much for fashion, are you kid?" Gilda stuck close by Sweetie Belle.

"Blech," was Sweetie Belle's finely crafted response. She shook her head, tugging at her uncomfortable dress. Rarity had made it for her, and while it looked wonderful on her (even Sweetie Belle was willing to admit that), it wasn't the most comfortable thing to wear. She looked enviously at Gilda's rather chill hoody and simply skirt. "It's Rarity's thing."

"Well, what do you like to do then?"

They both paused when Rarity squealed, easily heard from anywhere on the street, and she darted inside a store. Sweetie Belle facehoofed, but she wasn't at all surprised by her older sister's actions.

Nyari followed after Rarity and Spike, and Gilda and Sweetie Belle followed after her at much more unenthused pace.

"I don't know." Sweetie Belle answered Gilda's question, shrugging. She glanced back at her covered flank, and frowned at her lack of a cutie mark. "I still haven't figured it out ye—"

Before she could finish her sentence, Sweetie Belle yelped as Gilda grabbed her and rolled out of the way of a gaggle of asari girls as they stormed on pass, a flurry of revealing clothing and laughter.

"Hey!" Gilda shouted after them, scowling. "Watch where you're going."

The group of asari paused, looking back to find Gilda glaring at them. A few of them blushed, a few more of them scampered away, but a small few approached her and Sweetie Belle.

"We're sorry," the lead girl said, smiling apologetically. "We didn't see you."

"It's fine." Clacking her beak, Gilda shook her head, letting her anger drain away. "Just don't do it again."

She took a good look at them, realizing that even though they were just children, in all likelihood they were all probably older than her by a few decades.

"What's got all of you in a rush?" Gilda asked, tilting her head to the side.

"You mean you haven't heard?" One of the other asari asked her, disbelieving that someone couldn't know.

"Heard what?" Sweetie Belle asked, hanging in Gilda's forearms.

"It's only the best thing to happen to Armali in forever!" A third asari squealed, bouncing excitedly in place.

"You're not really being helpful." Before Gidla could inquire any further, another voice interrupted her.

"Girls! Quite bothering them and get moving." An older asari, a matron most likely, came forward, herding them away. "We have places to be."

Before Gilda and Sweetie Belle had a chance to get any answers from them, the girls were gone, their caretaker chasing after them. Sweetie was still dangling from Gilda's forelegs, and the two of them stared after the group of asari.

"What just happened?" Sweetie Belle asked after a long minute, feeling very confused at just what had happened.

"I have no idea." Shaking her head, Gilda stared at the spot where the asari girls had stood just a moment before.

"Sweetie Belle!" Rarity called from behind them, excitement filling her voice. "You simply must come here! I've found a beautiful fabric that would look absolutely marvelous on you."

Sweetie Belle sighed at hearing her sister and wiggled free from Gilda's grasp, dropping down onto all four of her hooves.

"Wonderful," she said, sarcastic.

Together, filly and griffin headed towards the store Rarity had already buried herself deep inside again.

###

Twilight and Eshair met up with Gilda, Rarity, Sweetie Belle, Nyari, and Spike at a restaurant overlooking the ocean for dinner. After nearly nine hours of working, and searching, and running into dead end after dead end, Twilight was tired and feeling more discouraged than she had for a while.

The sun was just starting to make its way below the horizon, casting mile long rays of light across the ocean.

"Twilight!" Seeing them approaching their table, Rarity started to gush. She was surrounded by shopping bags on all sides, and she had a slightly crazed look in her eyes. "You missed an absolutely marvelous time today. I don't believe that I've had such a time to indulge myself in… well, it must be years."

"I bet you had a much better time than us." Sweetie Belle was scowling at a large portion of those bags, which Rarity must have bought for her. She was not happy about that.

"Sweetie Belle!" Rarity looked offended that somepony might not have had a good time

"What?" Sweetie Belle looked just as offended that her sister was too obsessed with fashion. "It's true. All we did was look at dresses, and look at fabric to make dresses, and then look at even more dresses."

"And it was a marvelous time." She placed a careful hoof on the table in emphasis.

"For you, maybe." Sweetie Belle muttered, pushing a roll around her plate.

Gilda just took a drink from her glass, staying out of the argument.

Twilight took a seat next to Gilda, sharing a quick nuzzle with her before slumping down in her seat, tired and frustrated. Looking up as a waitress stepped up next to her, she just nodded.

"Just a water please, and whatever she's having." She gestured at Gilda.

"Of course." Making a note on her omni-tool, the waitress walked off.

"How was your searching, Twilight?" Rarity asked, looking at Twilight indulgently.

"Useless." Waving her hooves in the air, Twilight scowled. "Absolutely no information on the Elements of Harmony. Nothing. No mentions of a prothean artifact. No mention of why the map has Thessia on it. It was just as pointless as searching on the Citadel."

Twilight let her face drop down on the table, rolling it ever so slightly until she could see every pony at the table. She sighed, disheartened. "Maybe I'm just looking for the wrong things, the wrong places."

"You'll figure it out, just like you did on the Citadel." Gilda rubbed her back encouragingly, using her talons to her advantage, making Twilight practically purr in pleasure. "Who knows. Maybe what you're looking for isn't in any archives or libraries."

Twilight just groaned, half in annoyance, and half in happiness at Gilda's back rub.

"There's no reason to look so down, darling." Rarity eyed Sweetie Belle's roll for a moment before looking away, resisting temptation. "We're on one of the best islands of this world, we're young, and we have money. We should enjoy tonight, and you can get back to looking tomorrow. I'm sure that there's something we can do tonight."

Twilight looked like she was about to protest, but a look from Gilda stopped her.

"There is a festival tonight, if you're looking for fun." Eshair spoke up, looking up from her own menu. "As an ambassador on Thessia, I can guarantee all of you tickets."

"Festival?" Rarity perked up, her ears swiveling to face Eshair. "What type of festival?"

"Music and Dance." Eshair couldn't help the smile that spread across her face. She was looking forward to it. "You came at a marvelous time. It has been the talk of the planet for months, and it all starts tonight. Our hotels are filled to the brim with maidens and matrons who have travelled here for just the occasion."

"I like dancing!" Sweetie Belle chirped, perking up. She might not have been able to go swimming today, but dancing would certainly make things better.

Spike nodded along in agreement. He buffed his claws on his scales, smiling. "I've got a few moves I've been waiting to test out for the right occasion."

"That certainly sounds exciting," Rarity said, looking at Eshair to give more information.

"It's a travelling festival." Near explained further. "The largest in all of the galaxy."

"What do you say, Twilight?" Rarity asked, a hint of pleading in her voice. "That sounds like a good way to spend our evening, doesn't it?"

"A bit of dancing does sound fun." Twilight admitted. She sighed, sitting up and running a hoof over her mane.

She looked over at Gilda, who just shrugged. She was pretty indifferent about the whole ordeal.

"I don't dance, but I'll go for the drinking." Alcohol was the drink of the gods. That was all Gilda had to say about the matter.

"Alright." Twilight relented. "It sounds like a plan then."

"Wonderful!" Eshair clapped her hands together, smiling. She giggled a little, excited that she wouldn't have to miss the party of the century because she was working with a stick in the mud diplomat.

###

On the other side of the restaurant, Kai Leng and Hope Lillium, still in her her asari make-up, sat waiting for their own dinners. He was dressed in an expensive suit, his hair pulled back in a neat top-knot, and he wore a pair of thousand dollar sunglasses.

Hope was dressed in a simple asari outfit, pearls sewn throughout its fabric. She was listening to Twilight and her table with a microphone she had placed on a pole near there table as she walked by on her way to the restroom.

"They're going to the festival, tonight." Looking at Kai Leng, Hope scowled ever so slightly at him. "Do you want to make your move there?"

Kai Leng just leveled his gaze on her, making her feel uncomfortable.

"No," he said, crossing his legs. "Too many witnesses. We'll wait."

"But—"

"Are you really arguing with me?" She had already caused one too many problems today. There was no need for any more.

Hope shifted in her seat.

"There's no reason to act now. We can wait until the time is right."

###

The 'festival' that Eshair had spoken of was not just a little island carnival. As Nyari had said, it was indeed a traveling festival, going from planet to planet with its blend of music and entertainment. It promised to be a week of revelry and happiness for Armali.

The entire festival was being hosted in a makeshift stadium, built for more than eight hundred thousand inhabitants, on one of the larger beaches on Armali. Stacks of speakers hundreds of feet high lined the perimeter, with enough lights to make night day. A stage large enough to fit the entirety of Solar One sat opposite from the ocean, with even more speakers and lights.

Platforms in the ocean hosted even more lights and served as makeshift dive platforms for even more audience members.

Night having fallen almost completely, the stadium was almost half full, and even more were still streaming in.

In the VIP entrance, Eshair, Nyari, Twilight, Gilda, Rarity, Sweetie Belle, and Spike were being ushered past the hour long lines that the rest of the audience had to wait through.

"It's so loud!" Twilight shouted rather redundantly. She was standing shoulder to shoulder with Gilda.

"What?" Gilda shouted back, having completely missed what Twilight had said.

"It's so loud!" Twilight shouted even louder, to absolutely no effect.

Gilda shrugged, pointing at her ears with one of her talons. She's a griffin. She didn't have the best ears in the galaxy. Twilight just rolled her eyes and wrapped her griffin in a quick hug. It didn't even matter.

In front of them, Sweetie Belle was bouncing up and down next to Rarity, speaking to both her and Spike, though neither of them could hear her, which very well might have been a good thing considering she was probably reaching into the damaging registers of pony hearing.

Hearing the thumping of the music beyond, Rarity wondered just what she had gotten herself into. It wasn't at all what she was expecting when she had heard music festival. Still, it was on the world that brought the best fashion designers across the galaxy together, so she promised to giving it a try.

Entering the stadium, they all look over what awaited them. Hundreds of thousands of asari were already waiting, with a few others from the other races dotted about, chatting, drinking, eating, all of them ready to have a good time. Together, their voices were a dull roar, barely heard over the music. They had never seen quite so many beings together at the same time.

Eisha led them past the rest of the crowd, to a VIP area near and above the front with a perfect view of the stage. There were a few Matriarchs lingering around, not many but a few, with their retinues surrounding them and chatting excitedly. A few rich billionaires were among their number from every race, a trillionaire or two as well, and their groupies.

Twilight and her group fit right in (even if Twilight didn't feel she did).

It was a little quieter in the VIP area, but before they had a chance to speak to each other, everything went dark and the audience went quiet. Almost everyone had entered, and those who hadn't had made the bad choice to arrive late. It was time to start.

"In the beginning, there was… The Party!" A feminine voice roared across the audience, laughing excitedly.

A double flare of lights, striking in beat with drums that shook everyone to their core!

Darkness again.

"The Party saw the darkness, and it knew it couldn't last."

A mile high hologram appeared, an anthropomorphized artistic rendition of "The Party", an Asari, made especially for Thessia.

The crowd went wild, cheering!

A beat emerged from the speakers, felt in everyone's chest.

Nodding along, the hologram started to do the robot.

"For the Party. Never. Stops!"

The hologram disappeared, replaced by thousands of lights flaring off in time with music as it flared to life!

The crowd started to undulate in time with it, until everything stopped, and the lights spotlight the center of the stage were two ponies stood, one pink, and one grey.

"This is Smile!" The pink pony cried out, holding a microphone in one of her hooves. "Welcome to. Party!"

She held the microphone over to the grey pony, who finished the festival name.

"Rock." She said in the dullest term possible.

"Part Rock! Let's get this staaaaaaaaaarted!"

The beat dropped, and everyone went wild!

Twilight stared at the stage, realizing that she'd just found Pinkie Pie.

A thousand cannons with confetti fired into the crowd.