Princess Celestia, goddess of the sun, supreme ruler of Equestria and revered by all ponies, shuffled to the bathroom to brush her teeth. Her ever-waving hair was flagging a bit, and since she'd already finished her nightly task of setting the sun, she was looking forward to getting some much-needed sleep.

Her steward, a dour and matronly white unicorn by the name of Snowy Slopes, stood outside the bathroom door. She had only joined Celestia's staff after her last steward had gotten pregnant and retired to be with her family, a scant few months before. "Your Highness."

"Snowy. Is there something you need?"

Snowy shook her head. "No, Your Highness. I just wanted to inform you of a change of personnel in the palace staff. We've had extra money in the coffers lately, and it was decided to hire more servants to help you with day-to-day tasks."

Celestia cleared her throat. "And I wasn't briefed on this?"

"That's what I'm doing now, Your Highness."

"Well, I think there might have been a better time for it. I'll be more than happy to go over the arrangements in the morning, though," Celestia said diplomatically. She took a step towards the bathroom door.

Snowy Slopes stepped in front of her. "I think you ought to listen to the changes, Your Highness."

"And I think I ought to be getting to bed." Celestia took one more step towards the door, and Snowy bowed her head and stepped aside.

The door swung open to reveal one very nervous looking unicorn mare, almost a filly still, with a green-and-white mane and a mint green coat. She was holding a toothbrush in one shaking hoof.

Celestia turned her head slowly to face Snowy Slopes, who was attempting to back out of the room as quickly as she could. "And who is this?" she asked gently.

"This... this is Minty Fresh," the steward said. "Her special talent is dental hygiene, and she's going to... ah... she's going to be your tooth cleaner. Your Highness."

"You hired somepony to brush my teeth."

"Yes, your Highness."

Celestia rubbed her forelock with one hoof. "Well, I don't begrudge you hiring new ponies, but I'd really rather brush my own teeth. Can you... I don't know, give her a different job around the palace?"

Snowy Slopes shook her head, looking increasingly uncomfortable. "The anti-featherbedding provisions that you ruled on last month state that when a pony is employed by the Crown, she is required to do the job that her contract states in order to get pay. The only way to keep her from brushing your teeth, by law, is to fire her."

Celestia looked back at the terrified young mare in the bathroom, who looked like she was trying to blend back into the marble countertop to avoid the princess's notice, and then back to Snowy. "Is this because I have a problem with bad breath?" she asked. She puffed a single breath into her hoof, then inhaled through her nose. "I don't smell anyth..."

Snowy Slopes gasped. "No! No, Your Highness, nothing is wrong."

"...are you sure?"

As soon as she asked the question, she wished she hadn't. Snowy Slopes backed away from her down the hall, gibbering. "No Your Highness your breath is roses and sunshine always your gums are a credit to the great nation of Equestria I will see you in the morning your highness sleep well goodnight!" With that, she turned tail and ran back down the hallway to her own quarters.

Celestia sighed and entered the restroom. She flashed a smile at Minty Fresh, who let out a small yelp and shrank back.

"Well? Aren't you going to get started?"

Minty Fresh raised her toothbrush shakily. "Could you... could you please open your mouth, Your Highness?"

Celestia opened her mouth reluctantly. Minty Fresh approached her with the toothbrush and began to slowly brush the princess's front teeth. She was so gentle, afraid of what would happen if she irritated the most powerful set of gums in the land, that she barely cleaned the surface. Once, she poked the princess a little too hard, eliciting a slight wince of discomfort. This in turn drove Minty Fresh to a fresh round of apologizing and even softer, more ineffective brushing.

All told, it took nearly half an hour for Celestia's teeth to be cleaned to her satisfaction. As she finished the rest of her evening preparations and sank into bed, Celestia fumed.

Something had to be done.

xxx

"Your Highness, what are you doing?"

Celestia looked up from her place at the secluded royal breakfast table."What does it look like I'm doing, Snowy? I'm eating breakfast."

"You're eating pasta."

"Garlic and basil pasta, to be exact." Celestia lifted another forkful to her mouth with her magic, slurping up a few stray noodles that came loose. "With extra garlic. Would you like some?"

"No, thank you, Your Highness. What are you doing eating pasta in the morning?"

"Perhaps I simply had a craving." Celestia took another bite, savoring the intense flavor. To be honest, she was enjoying this. Savory foods weren't usually her choice at breakfast, but this time she was on a mission. Besides, her personal chef was excellent at any time of the day.

"A craving, Your Highness? Should I be concerned?" The steward certainly didn't look concerned – exasperated was probably the word Celestia would have used – but she seemed obligated to ask anyway.

"Hm. Perhaps I'm pregnant. Now wouldn't that be a scandal for the news rags – the Princess of the Sun is with foal. I wonder which of my suitors would be the father?"

"You don't have any suitors, Your Highness."

"Maybe I should get some." Celestia took another bite, still appreciating what magic could be woven with such robust ingredients. "That would explain the cravings, in any case..."

"Your Highness, what is this really about?"

"I'm just hungry for pasta. Why, Snowy Slopes, are you worried that it will make my breath smell bad?"

Snowy set her jaw. "No, Your Highness. Your breath is, as always, a credit to the Crown and the nation."

"Tell me honestly." Celestia leaned as close to the steward as the table would allow. "Should I go to Minty Fresh, now, and have my teeth cleaned before I meet with any officiants?"

"...No, Your Highness. Everything is fine."

"Hm." Celestia chewed thoughtfully. She had hoped Snowy would crack under this initial pressure, but she had more than one trick under her wings. "Well, then. What's the agenda for today?"

"We have a lunch meeting with the mayor of Bridlevale about some trade agreements, and a meeting of the Palace Council over dinner to discuss the recent personnel changes."

"Ah. It's good that you consulted me before actually making the changes."

"No offense, Your Highness, but payroll was due by the end of last week and you were busy with other things."

"No, no, it's no problem." Celestia chewed on a small piece of pasta as she thought. "So I have two engagements today? Both over meals?"

"That's right, Your Highness."

"Hmm. Well, I'd best prepare, don't you think?" Celestia finished her bowl and pushed the bench back from the table. "After all, it's going to be a big day. Now, which way were the kitchens..."

xxx

The Mayor of Bridlevale was a sour-looking old stallion, the kind of pony who naturally finds himself drawn to bureaucracy. He was of somber coloration – brown coat, somewhat darker brown mane cropped in a conservative style – and his cutie mark was obscured by his formal attire. He sat at the end of Celestia's banquet table, surrounded by a few members of his city council, muttering ominously amongst themselves.

By the time Celestia herself came to the table, already in attendance were her economic advisor Gold Coin, her political advisor Morningtide, and Luna, who had woken up specially for the occasion and still looked a bit groggy.

"Good day," Celestia said with false cheer. The Mayor of Bridlevale was usually a tricky customer, and never seemed particularly friendly. Celestia always had a way of making others act reasonable – being about two heads taller than everyone else tended to do that – but the Mayor was generally immune to her particular charms.

"Good day," the Mayor mumbled. "Now, your Highness, what's all this about lowering hay subsidies in the Bridlevale area?"

"It's been a bumper crop year," Celestia explained. She made it a point of pride not to lie to her subjects, even if her advisors would have preferred she be a little more political. Gold Coin, in particular, massaged his temple with one hoof, knowing the full unleashing of sensitive economic information that was to come.

"But part of that bumper crop has been coming from my town!" He frowned. "What am I supposed to tell my local farmers? They should produce less if they want to get Crown bits?"

Celestia and Gold Coin stared at the mayor in confusion. "That's... that's not how subsidy cuts work," Celestia finally managed. "It just means we're buying Bridlevale hay at a fixed price, but since the price is low this year anyway, we're buying less of it."

"Your Highness, you're not foaling anypony here!" The mayor slammed his hoof on the table and reared up to his full, not particularly impressive height. "My local farmers are being cheated out of -"

The doors from the dining room to the kitchen burst open, and Snowy Slopes, dressed in her best "visitor garb," stepped through. "Lunch is served!"

Celestia leaned back and breathed a sigh of relief while the silver-domed trays were brought through the door and arranged artfully around the table.

"For a starter, we are serving watercress and mint salad," Snowy began. "Specially picked to be light and mild, with a positive effect on the breath."

The princess smiled at that; it seemed like Snowy was trying to outmaneuver her. She would quickly find out, though, that a thousand years of experience gave a pony marvelous ability at subterfuge. Celestia cleared her throat and tapped on her glass.

Snowy turned to her liege with a wary eye. "Your Highness? Do you have something to add?"

"Well, I just thought that since the Mayor and his staff are two days' journey from home, they might feel a little out of sorts here in Canterlot. As such, I've asked the chef to prepare an appetizer with a little more rural character."

The servants apprehensively removed the silver domes from the platters. Underneath each was a wheel of white cheese with a greenish, spotty rind, surrounded by different kinds of crackers.

Snowy, Gold Coin, Morningtide, and the servants stared in confusion. Luna just raised an eyebrow. But the delegation from Bridlevale had a much more pronounced reaction.

"Bridlevale Blue!" The mayor nearly jumped out of his seat in excitement. "I have to say, Your Highness, I had no idea you had such taste in cheese! Did you know, my wife's ancestors were the first cheesemakers to make Bridlevale Blue?"

"I had no idea!" Celestia lied cheerfully. "I've been looking forward to trying it myself." The servers were at a loss as to how to introduce the meal, so they began silently cutting wedges off of the wheel.

As soon as the first piece was cut, a pungent aroma filled the room. The server with the knife jumped back as if struck, and Snowy's eyes began to water. The mayor was, if anything, only more excited. "That's real Bridlevale cheese, all right!"

The smell only intensified as the wheels were further segmented. Celestia wasn't sure how the chef had managed to come by five wheels of a relatively obscure, locally produced aromatic cheese, but her chef was a pegasus pony who, in his youth, had run with a band of griffin smugglers. He always had a tendency to...acquire...certain things, and seemed to enjoy taking unusual requests from Celestia.

The entire Bridlevale contingent tapped their hooves on the table impatiently as the cheese was served on their end. Not even the impropriety of eating before the Princess could stem their enthusiasm, and they tucked in to the smelly appetizer with gusto. Celestia's side of the delegation was less certain, and Morningtide in particular seemed distressed by the turn of events.

Celestia was a little worried, herself. Still, she had eaten plenty of unpalatable "delicacies" in the name of good diplomacy – the fried candy bars from Cloudsdale came to mind – but at least this was a tradition with a good number of years behind it.

Celestia was just about to bite into a cheese-topped cracker when Snowy interrupted her. "Your Highness, wait!"

The cracker, enveloped in the purple haze of Celestia's magic, floated downwards a bit. "Yes, Snowy? You don't think this would affect my breath any, do you?"

Snowy Slopes froze up. "No, Your Highness."

The mayor paused in between bites. "Yer Highness," he said, a bit of his rural accent beginning to creep into his voice, "the breath's just part of it! Why do you think it was a Bridlevalean who invented chewin' gum? We got a statue of 'er, right in the town square, right next to the one of my great-great-great-great-great-grandpa-in-law!"

"Well, I'm sure that won't be a problem. My staff has informed me that I'm immune to halitosis." She shot Snowy a look. Snowy said nothing, so Celestia bit down into the cracker.

To say that Bridlevale Blue tasted better than it smelled would be an understatement. In fact, the highly aromatic cheese was some of the best Celestia had had in her thousand-plus years of Equestrian leadership. It was creamy and flowed like butter over her tongue, enveloping her in a nutty, smooth cheese flavor.

As she chewed thoughtfully, she thought about the state of her plans. Snowy was still obstinate about the tooth brushing but getting closer to her breaking point; and the once standoffish mayor was chattering about replacing some of the subsidies with a Bridlevale-Canterlot cultural exchange program – cheese tastings, to be precise. Two birds, one stone.

Oh, and there was also the delicious cheese – make that three birds.

xxx

"What are you up to, Celly?"

Luna's voice snapped Celestia out of her smugly victorious reverie. She had been returning to her chambers to rest before the coming meeting and hadn't expected that Luna would be coming the other direction. "Nothing, dear sister. Why do you ask?"

The purple alicorn fluttered her wings a bit and stalked closer to Celestia. "And you didn't override the chefs and serving staff for a little political leverage over the Mayor?"

"Well, I may have done that. Just a little."

"But what I can't figure out is why you're antagonizing your steward. Is this about our new dental specialists?"

Celestia sighed. "Luna, you always were able to discern my – wait, did you say our?"

"You didn't think they'd hire somepony to take care of your teeth without doing the same for me? We are, theoretically, the co-rulers of Equestria."

Celestia nickered at that. "I suppose I was just hoping they'd leave you alone. Hmm, I'll need to change my plans..."

"Really, Celly, it's fine." Luna sidled up to her sister and nuzzled her on the cheek. "I appreciate your efforts in keeping me out of the public eye – and the attentions of the servants – but sometimes I don't mind being fawned over a little bit. After a thousand years on the moon, it's...nice."

"I just wish they'd consult with me before treating me like..." Celestia blinked at what she was about to say. "Well, like royalty. Which makes sense, but..."

"You don't understand why they're doing it, do you?"

"No. I can honestly say that I don't."

"They're afraid, Celestia. They're doing it because they're afraid."

"Why, though? I've given them no reason to be afraid of me!" Celestia stamped one hoof on the inlaid marble floor. "I set up the Council and the High Court to work towards a rule by all ponies. I hear petitions until my ears are about to fall off, granting almost every request. I do everything I can to encourage constructive dissent of my policies. Why do they still treat me like I'll become some horrendous tyrant at the slightest discomfort?"

"Because they're not afraid of you. They're afraid of losing you." Luna walked over to one of the windows of the bedchamber hall, where the sun was just barely visible at the apex of the sky. "During the Summer Sun Celebration, when I kidnapped you..."

Celestia saw the darkness growing in her sister's eyes, and crossed the hall to face her directly. "When Nightmare Moon kidnapped me. Luna, you know I would no more blame you for that than stall the sun's progress myself."

"When Nightmare Moon kidnapped you," Luna continued, "ponies were missing more than just the warmth of the sun. They missed their luminary, their beloved leader. You're the heart of Equestria, and you were even before my...before Nightmare Moon's rise. They've started treating you more delicately because those few hours showed them just how much they had to lose. It showed them how much they took you for granted, Celestia."

Celestia thought back over the year or so since her student and her friends had taken the mantle of the Elements of Harmony. Her staff was, increasingly, shielding her from public events that could not be sufficiently secured. Her personal guard had more than doubled, on the express command of her Captain of the Guard. Her personal physician seemed exceptionally keen to keep an eye on her health, despite the fact that she had gotten sick maybe five times in the past thousand years. "They're...protecting me." She nodded. "On some level, I already knew that. But it doesn't make it any easier for me to take. I'm no more fragile than I was a year ago, or five hundred years ago."

"So let them know that. Play your little schemes." Luna smiled. "You always were one for harmless tricks. Father would have been proud of how you mixed a prank with a bureaucratic measure today."

"That was more lucky coincidence than anything. The diplomacy was planned in advance; the prank just worked into it."

"Still. Don't get anypony hurt. Everypony's on your side, big sister, but not all are as keen to your methods as I. Good day – I'll see you at twilight."

As Luna turned away to her own rest chamber, Celestia said "Thank you, Luna. How did I manage so long without you?"

Luna turned back, just for a second. "The same way you always dealt with pain. You worked harder."

Celestia, uncharacteristically pensive, waited and thought for a while before retiring to her own chamber.

xxx

The inner meeting hall of Canterlot Palace was a much simpler affair than the sumptuous dining room where Celestia had met with the mayor of Bridlevale. This was furnished more like an office, although an expensive one, with a table grown from rare trees in the Everfree Forest. Celestia sat at the head of the table, with her Council of Advisors around her; all exceptionally competent ponies who had been selected because they were better at their jobs than almost anypony in Equestria.

"And now we can move on to the majority of our discussion today." Snowy Slopes pushed aside a small stack of papers and pulled a larger stack in front of her. "As I'm sure you've all noticed, there's been an increase in palace staff, spurred by a few labor regulations that Her Highness helped pass through the Legislature. Some of the increase has been to areas that already exist, but are somewhat understaffed; the rest are new positions created to fill a need."

The princess hummed to herself as she followed along. It wasn't strictly required for her to attend these meetings, but she tried to do so every week anyway. Still, there wasn't usually much for her to do. One of the side effects of retaining the most competent ponies was that they tended to get things done without one's help.

"I'm just going to go through the list of personnel changes; if you have any questions, stop me." Snowy peered down at the paper before her, cleared her throat, and began to read. "Gardeners. We're adding four gardeners to the back gardens and nine to the front; there's going to be some alterations to the shift schedule..."

The meeting went on in that vein for about an hour. Celestia listened with one ear, biding her time and waiting for her cue. All of the palace goings-on were important to her, of course, but she could catch the important points of the meeting without knowing whether the fourth of seven extra banquet chefs should have a flex schedule.

Finally, there was a knock at the door. "Ah, that must be dinner." Snowy stood as the doors swung open and servers came in with silver-domed platters. "We're serving a light dinner; watercress-and-mint salad with shaved apple. We have had a few...intrusions...with food tampering in the kitchen, so we've told the chefs not to let anypony in."

Celestia chuckled to herself. Snowy thought she was being clever, but she should have known that Celestia never used the same tactic twice in a row. She waited patiently while the salad (which, she did have to admit, was one of her favorites) was served.

"Excuse me," she began when all of the serving ponies were out of the room. "But I've been having some odd cravings recently. I hope you'll indulge me if I brought a snack?"

Snowy's eyes opened in apprehensive horror, but everypony else in the room was just confused. Celestia used her telekinesis to open one of the cabinets in the room and remove a large burlap sack. She floated it across the room, pausing for emphasis, and dropped it on the table with a heavy thud.

The lip of the burlap sack tipped over, and four bright yellow onions fell out. The rest of the councilors' faces matched Snowy's as Celestia floated one up to her lips and bit down hard. The CRUNCH reverberated around the room. "But don't let me interrupt."

Snowy closed her eyes and took a few deep breaths to steady herself. "Very well, your" CRUNCH "Highness, it doesn't" munch "really matter one" munch "way or another."

"Mmph. Good to hear, Snowy. Carry on."

"So now we" CRUNCH "can move on to" munch "the changes in the holiday" munch "kitchen staff schedule. We" CRUNCH "don't have a major holiday" munch "coming up, but we can" munch "use the upcoming diplomatic" munch "feast as a test run. We're" CRUNCH "going to bring in temporary..." munch munch "Your Highness, do you mind?"

Celestia dropped the half-eaten onion. "Am I eating too loudly? Apologies. Or is it my breath?"

"YES!" Snowy blinked tears out of her eyes. The vapors from Celestia's snack had fully filled the room, and everypony but the sun goddess had bloodshot, teary eyes. "Yes, that is, it's a bit noisy. I wouldn't want to interrupt your... dinner, but...?"

Celestia closed her eyes demurely. "I apologize for interrupting, Snowy. Do go on."

"Thank you, Your Highness. As I was saying," munch "the holiday schedule" munch "requires a change" crunch "in the menu," munch "which will..." The underside of Snowy Slopes' eye twitched.

"...will what?" asked Gold Coin.

"...will have no onions. Or garlic. Or rancid cheese, as diplomatically appropriate as it might be. It will, in fact, have no food that our beloved Princess could use to turn her breath into a trainwreck of horrific odors. The same beloved Princess who is currently throwing a temper tantrum because I was trying to spare her feelings by delegating her dental hygiene elsewhere. The same beloved Princess who has always had a minor case of halitosis, especially in the mornings and during the summer. The same beloved Princess with the stressful job of raising and lowering the Sun every day, and as such is entitled to a little pampering. The same beloved Princess who has driven me, over the course of a single day, to rethink ever taking this position."

Celestia chucked her onion behind her head and began to dig into the watercress-and-mint salad as fast as she could shovel it into her mouth. "Please don't quit, Snowy," she said between bites. "I need you. You're one of the best stewards I've had in a thousand years. I just wanted to drive home the point that I'm no more fragile than I was before the Summer Sun Celebration. If anything, I'm stronger now that Luna has returned to take care of the nights. You were too stubborn to just listen, though."

Snowy slopes bowed her head and turned towards the door. "I am sorry, Princess. I'll leave you now."

"No, no, no. Don't apologize. Your stubbornness is part of what makes you such a good steward. It's just that... well, I have flaws. I have bad breath sometimes, a tendency to micromanage, and I'm fairly bad at managing money. I'm certain that that's not the full extent of it, and that is why I need ponies like you around me. In fact, why don't you tell me a flaw that I didn't list?"

Snowy Slopes' clear blue eyes locked on to Celestia's, and new resolve flashed through them. "You have awful taste in interior decoration, Your Highness."

"...Is that why you insisted on a renovation when you took the job? And arranged for it to happen when I was in Fillydelphia dealing with that parasprite infestation?"

"That's exactly right, Your Highness."

Celestia chuckled. "You're a lot more subtle than I gave you credit for, Snowy. I can tell that I'm going to have to call on my thousand-plus years of experience to outmaneuver you."

"Or you could just let me work in your best interests, Your Highness."

The princess sat back on her haunches with a radiant smile. "What would be the fun in that?"

xxx

Princess Celestia, goddess of the sun, supreme ruler of Equestria and revered by all ponies, trotted happily towards the bathroom to brush her teeth. She always felt more invigorated when she'd had a prank-filled day. Also, she'd hopefully convinced Snowy not to dote on her so much, giving her a great deal of freedom in the days to come. Celestia had been feeling so good that she had worked together with Luna to make an unusually beautiful sunset, something that she had missed doing when Luna was on the moon.

It was only when she opened the bathroom door to the sound of soft sobs that she realized she had forgotten something.

Minty Fresh sat there with a tube of toothpaste in one hoof and a toothbrush in another, slumped against the wall in utter dejection. Her green-and-white mane was in complete disarray, and her eyes were red from tears.

Luna's words from earlier that day went through Celestia's mind. Don't get anypony hurt. Everypony's on your side, big sister. "Are you alright?" she asked.

Minty apparently hadn't noticed the Princess come in, and she startled so hard that the toothpaste tube went flying toward the bathtub. "I'm sorry! I'm sorry, Your Highness! It will never happen again! Please forgive me, Your Highness!"

"...what, exactly, did you do wrong?"

Celestia had meant her question as a genuine inquiry, but Minty looked chastised, as if it had been a schoolmare-ish And what have you learned from all this? "I don't know, Your Highness, but once I find out it will never happen again!"

"You don't know what you did wrong, but you still think you did something wrong? What would give you that idea?"

Minty swallowed back another sob. "I was following your eating choices all day, to better gauge what kind of oral care you need, and... and... you're trying to punish me! To make your breath so bad that I would quit!"

Celestia shook her head. You were right again, sis. "I was upset that they appointed you to do something that I can easily do myself. It has nothing to do with you personally; you actually did a fine job of brushing my teeth this morning."

Minty sniffed a couple of times, but her sobs seemed to have stopped. She looked up at Celestia expectantly.

"And besides, a pony with your expertise probably has better ways to serve the realm."

"I... I suppose, Your Highness. Are you certain you're not unhappy with me?"

"Actually..." Celestia thought for a bit. All day, Minty had been following her around, gauging her food choices to tailor her oral care routine. For a mare that was hired solely to hold a toothbrush, that was far above and beyond the call of duty. Minty Fresh really did have better ways to serve the realm. "Actually, you are hereby fired from your position of service under the Crown."

Minty's disheveled mane fell flat, and she bowed her head. "Your Highness, I'm..."

"However, it just so happens that I'm in need of an... informant within the Canterlot College of Dentistry. Somepony that I can trust. Somepony with a special talent in oral healthcare, with a keen mind for medicine. Do you know anypony like that?"

"Well, Your Highness, I have a sister in Ponyville who..." Minty blinked. "Oh. You were talking about me."

"Indeed I was. Do you think you could handle the position?"

"Well, I was already on the College Council when I was hired for this, so probably."

And you hired her to brush my teeth? We need to have a talk, Snowy Slopes. "Fantastic. Come in during petitioning tomorrow; I'll see to it that you get fast-tracked to the front of the line."

"Pardon the forwardness, Your Highness, but when you say 'informant' do you mean 'spy'?"

"Not quite. I need somepony who will report on the actual goings-on, without political bias or undue loyalty to the Council. You'll answer directly to me. I have various agents like you in different academic and nongovernmental bodies all around Equestria, who give me the inside story with no sugarcoating."

"I'm a dentist, Your Highness. Sugarcoating is my mortal enemy."

Celestia chuckled. "Quite. In any case, sleep well and we'll speak in the morning."

Minty slowly made her way to the door, knees shaking with relief and excitement. However, when she had barely made it into the hallway, she turned back to face the Princess. "Tea tree oil."

Celestia was in the process of fetching her toothpaste from the bathtub ledge and wasn't fully paying attention. "Pardon?"

"Tea tree oil. It's a remedy for minor chronic halitosis. Mint will just cover the smell up, but a mouthwash of water and tea tree oil will help eliminate it entirely."

"I think I'll give it a shot. Thank you, Minty Fresh."

"You're welcome, Princess Celestia." The young mare made her way out of the hallway, leaving Celestia alone in silence.

My Faithful Student:

You haven't sent me a letter in a while, so I assume everything is quiet in Ponyville. In light of that, I thought I would pass along a few lessons about friendship from a recent experience of mine.

The first is a lesson I had to teach, and it is this: your friends are not always as fragile as you think they are. Sometimes, even when you think you're doing them a favor, or sparing their feelings, they'd really rather stand on their own four hooves.

The second is a lesson I had to learn, and it is the reverse of the other. Your friends are not always as strong as you think they are, either. It's important to remember that something you think is harmless might genuinely ruin somepony's day.

Oh, and one more thing. I've found a solution for Spike's little problem. Next time you see your zebra friend, ask her where you can find some tea tree oil.

Warmly,

Princess Celestia