Of Packages and Punches
By Bastard King
Disclaimer: My Little Pony belongs to Lauren Fausts and Hasbro. The character of Count Fetlock belongs to Tumbleweed. Cupcakes belongs to Sergeant Sprinkles. Story of the Blanks belongs to Donitz. Abacus belongs to the nation of China, circa 3,000 BC., as well as Andrew Joshua Talon.
Princess Celestia was not pleased.
The white alicorn slumped in her throne, staring listlessly ahead. The two palace guards stationed at the foot of her throne glanced back towards their royal charge awkwardly, then resumed facing forward. It was far from uncommon for the Princess to display her emotions like this, when in relative safety from the gaze of the public eye.
The senior of the two guards, a white earth pony with a trimmed blue mane and a shield for a cutie mark, held back a groan. Fortify, or Fort as those who knew the old pony called him, had been stationed in the palace enough years to know how things worked, and this was no exception. Without a doubt, anytime some major incident arose, or some massive pile of paperwork presented itself to their Princess… heck, anytime her breakfast got soggy before she was finished with it, Princess Celestia would let the world know.
Not that this was a problem. As far as he was concerned, the Princess was perfectly allowed to indulge herself in the occasional mood. As far back as he could remember (back in the years when he didn't have a care in the world about gray tail hairs or when he was going to retire), Celestia has stayed on the job every day. Not once had the sun failed to rise in the morning, or set in the evening. Through sickness and bad times, if the former of the two was even possible for an alicorn, Princess Celestia was dedicated to providing Equestria with its daily source of sunshine. And on top of this, she had been taking care of the moon as well up until the last Summer Sun Celebration! Why, it gave the old colt great pride to watch over the safety of such a dedicated and caring ruler.
Well, most of the time.
The other guard-colt, a relatively new pegasus recruit with a chesnut coat and a spiral mark on his flank, hesitantly turned towards the alicorn Princess once more. "Um, y-your majesty. Is something bothering you?"
Fortify all but face hooved. If there was one thing the members of the royal army stationed in the palace knew, it was that you didn't ask Princess Celestia what was wrong when she was like this. Regardless of whether something was indeed wrong, she would ask for their assistance when it was required. To volunteer their help when not asked for was inviting trouble. A fact that had clearly slipped past the younger equine during his training.
"Oh, is there ever!" she cried, tossing her hooves up in the air.
The young brown stallion widened his eyes. "What is it! Are you in pain!"
Celestia seemed to sink even lower into her seat. "No…"
"Is there something invading the kingdom? It's not a dragon, is it!"
"No, umm…" The Princess seemed to come to a halt, realizing she didn't actually know this guard.
"Oh! The name's Drill, your majesty. Drill Bit!"
"Ah, Drill. No, it's not that either." Gazing around, as if to check to see if anyone might be listening in, the white alicorn apparently decided that the young guard would do for venting her frustrations. "The problem's… the problem's my little sister."
"What? Princess Luna!" Drill started, alarmed. The older of the two guards merely rolled his eyes, and prayed that the newbie didn't say anything stupid. Last thing he needed was to be banished to the moon or wherever for his partner bringing up the whole 'Nightmare Moon' fiasco in all his zealously to help.
Seemingly having come to a decision about the ethics of gossiping in the workplace, the Princess leaned forward. "Yes, you see… I don't think she's getting out enough these days."
The guard-colt, prepared to charge into the den of an Ursa Major to save Princess Luna, blinked. "Eh-wuh?"
Princess Celestia nodded. "She's been cooped up in the library for the past few weeks, doing nothing but reading literature from the past millennia. And not even any specific genres! She seems to just be reading whatever she stumbles across in the archives. She came to me the other day telling me that she had solved all the problems with the current stable taxes thanks to her studies. And according to some of my top economic advisors, she has!"
"And also," Celestia continued, "she keeps carrying that silly abacus around with her. Oh wait, you modern ponies would know what one of those is. It's one of those old stick and string contraptions that helped old mathematicians calculate numbers. Really useful back in the old days, I'll tell you. But nowadays, there's really no need for such archaic tools. Now, there's nothing wrong with a safety blanket or two, but I'm starting to get worried that she's somehow using it as an escape from the real world. Do you know she's even given it a name?"
Drill seemed to be at a loss for words. While his instructors had taught him everything from how to disarm a renegade unicorn in less than 5 seconds to proper court etiquette, not once had he expected to discuss the personal life of one of the royal Princesses with the other royal Princess. Clearly realizing that he was in over his head, he looked over to Fortify with panic in his eyes. However, the older guard had suddenly found the ceiling of the chamber to be rather interesting, and was making it plainly obvious that he was not to be disturbed from studying it.
"I mean, I understand that this is mostly my fault." Celestia seemed to be doing a wonderful job of ignoring how unsettled Drill was quickly becoming. "She was banished to the moon for a thousand years. And while it sounds like an awful thing for me to say as the one who did said banishing, that's going to have an impact on how one socializes with those around her. I mean, she's probably seeking the familiarity of solitude."
A brief moment of silence indicated that it was Drill's turn to speak. "Ah, yes!" he squeaked out, "Solitude!"
"She is getting to interact more with some of the staff. Dare I say it, some of them might even be considered friends. But she's making no efforts to branch out of the castle!"
"Indeed, indeed! It's a proper shame!" Drill quickly decided that agreeing with whatever Princess Celestia said was a quick course to get this conversation done and over with.
The white mare nodded. "You see? It's all my fault that Luna turned out like this! She's been slowly getting better, but I'm still directly responsible for her being like that in the first place!"
Drill opened his mouth to agree, but suddenly froze in place. One could almost see the puzzle pieces aligning themselves in his head. And when the last piece fell into place, his pupils quickly dilated in fear. Ah, Fortify thought, he's realized the trap he's in.
As earlier noted, Fortify had spent numerous years in this job. And one of the earliest things he had learned was that you absolutely did not let the Princess speak her problems to you. For one of the frequent points she made was how she was at fault for whatever was currently bothering her. However, this presented a catch 22 situation; by agreeing with the Princess, one was agreeing she was at fault, something no guard-pony did if they wanted to keep their job. Simultaneously, disagreeing with the Princess on her whims was paramount to saying she was wrong, which was just as bad.
All in all, the ceiling was looking wonderfully interesting at the moment.
Celestia finally seemed to note the near-catatonic state she had put the young colt in. "Um, Bill?"
The blatant misuse of his name seemed to shake Drill out of whatever horrific fantasy he had just been imagining himself in, but did nothing to shake off the fear. "Well, I, uh… you see, she, as in Luna, I mean your sister, I mean the Princess! Princess Luna, she, she…" Drill seemed to search for a way to address the question without slighting either alicorn in any way. "She could certainly, um, use more exposure."
Fortify did actually face hoof this time.
Celestia tilted her head, confused. "Exposure? What do you mean?"
Drill asked himself the very same question, mentally kicking himself for the poor choice in words. "What I meant to say, your majesty, was that maybe what Princess Luna needs right now is more exposure to… to... the public?"
Now not only Princess Celestia was intrigued, but Fortify had also temporarily stopped his analysis of the chandeliers. Is he actually pulling himself out of that hole he dug? He thought in not-so-mild surprise.
Drill slowly started to build momentum as his confidence grew. "Well, with regards to you, I mean your majesty, you frequently appear in the public. Your exposure to everypony in Equestria has earned you all our love and respect. Err, not that I love you! I mean, I don't hate you either! And you're far from unattractive!"
Wait, no, he just fell back in. Fortifiy wondered whether there would be any oxygen on the moon to breathe.
Celestia, however, seemed to be ignorant of the younger guards now panicked rambling. Instead, ideas were starting to plant themselves in her head. Indeed, she made public appearances to the citizens of her kingdom, and immersed herself in the culture whenever she readily could. In essence, part of the success of the peace they had prospered from for the past millennium was thanks to the fact that she kept herself in touch with the people. Being there to focus on the problems of the commoncolt had made her less of a benevolent Sun Goddess and more a motherly figure in the eyes of many. Perhaps what Luna needed to help crack her social shell was some immersion in a more public setting. Why, it was working wonders on Twilight, if her weekly friendship reports were anything to go by.
Why, that was exactly what Luna needed! Something to get her out in the open and put that whole banishment thing in the past. Maybe she could participate in a concert of some kind. But then again, most everypony would consider the music she liked to be classical. Perhaps a charity would work? Yes, she could see that. Luna working side by side with everyday colts and mares, helping wherever she could and showing just how much she had changed. In fact, that was a great idea! She herself had helped out with plenty of fundraisers for good causes, and they always had the dual benefit of maintaining her public image and helping others. What better way to get Luna back in the public's good eye then to have her helping others?
"… not that I would be against the idea of fathering your children! I mean, only if the circumstances presented themselves as such! And only if we were married, because I assure you I-!"
Princess Celestia quickly left her throne in a speed that would have made Rainbow Dash do a double take, and embraced the shocked guard-pony. "Oh Bill, you're a genius! That's just what she needs! Fort, you certainly are lucky that you've been assigned such an intelligent partner!"
Both Fortify and Drill (whose face was currently changing from chestnut to very, very red) felt their jaws drop. "Huh?" they uttered together.
"Oh yes! I have to go find her and discuss this immediately! Maybe if we hurry, we can get all the preparations taken care of by tomorrow morning!" Celestia quickly let go of the still-frozen Drill and started to gather magic in her horn. "If anyone comes looking for me, tell them I'm away on very urgent business at the moment!" And with a bright FLASH, the Princess was gone.
Both ponies stood (or in Drill's case, sat) stock still, collecting themselves for a moment. All that could be heard was the window shades fluttering in the breeze, and the constant gasping as Drill remembered to breath.
"Hey, uh, you alive over there Drill?" Fortify asked, breaking the relative silence.
Drill stared ahead with glazed eyes, still not sure what had happened. "I guess?"
"… So she thought that what you said was a good idea?"
"So she's going to have you bear Princess Luna's children by tomorrow morning?"
And that was the final straw that broke the workhorse's back. Drill's eyes rolled up into the back of his head as he went muzzle-first into the marble tiles of the royal court.
Fortify stared at him for a few seconds, then snorted to himself in amusement. Walking over to the collapsed Pegasus, he bent down and tossed the unconscious colt onto his back. With the Princess gone who knows where, there wasn't really anything for him to do besides report what she had said to the nearest captain and call it a day. "Well newbie, you certainly got the chops needed for this job," he said as he ran through a list of bars in his head that would be open this early in the morning. "But if you're going to make a common thing out of this, then I'm not sure I'm going to make it until retirement."
Princess Luna was very pleased.
Immersed in a tower of books on all sides, she was currently nose deep in one of the more current novels of the archives. For the past several weeks, she had dedicated herself to getting "up to date with the times" like her sister had suggested. However, she had scoffed when Celestia had mentioned going out into the Canterlot market to interact with the other citizens. She already did that on a nightly basis, when she brought the moon to shine across all of Equestria.
On a side note, the amount of increased activity taking place during the night in this age was immensely pleasing.
Sipping a mug of coffee, Luna carefully moved the candlestick to the side of the desk. She then gently opened the great tomb before her, treating it with the proper respect such containers of information deserved. Picking out the cute little bookmark (bought once again at her sister's insistence, saying that she had looked absolutely adorable with it), the dark alicorn leaned forward and immersed herself in the world of literature.
What little is known of Count Fetlock's personal life describes him as a renegade ex-soldier of the Equestrian army. Having moved out on his own and gathered a fortune using his immense battle skills towards the benefits of surrounding barons and dukes, the Count was soon able to establish his base in the relatively small land of Tramplesvania. Here is where his legend truly began, as the dark arts practiced by the Count in this land are thought to be directly responsible for both the immense growth in his power and the slow collapse of Tramplesvania. It is said that he sought to gain immortality by bathing in the blood of one thousand unicorns, although whether this actually succeeded is-
"EEP!" The little princess jumped at the whisper in her ear and kicked her hooves in a panic. Nicking the corner of one of the piles of books, the towering structure slowly leaned to the side, taking the rest of the stacks with it. With another, more muffled "EEP!", Luna was buried under an avalanche of reading material.
"Oh ho ho, my goodness!" Celestia looked at the chaos she had wrought in blatant amusement. "I'm so sorry about that, Luna! Here, let me help you!"
Horn glowing, Celestia lifted the top of the book pile with her magic and neatly stacked it to the side. Oppressive weight now gone, Luna's head emerged from the books, gazing wearily at her sister. "Oh sun and moon, Celestia! You almost gave me a heart attack!" Her own horn glowing, she quickly aided her sister in resorting the books once more, freeing herself in the process.
Celestia quickly relit the candle with a tap of her horn, then nuzzled her sister. "I'm sorry again, Luna. I didn't mean to give you a scare like that!"
Luna felt her annoyance quickly disappearing at Celestia's apologies. Returning the nuzzle, Luna sighed. "There's nothing to worry about. I was just caught up in a book, and lost track of my surroundings."
This quickly reminded the taller of the two alicorns about why she had teleported down to the archives in the first place. Stepping back to look Luna in the face, she studied the younger pony's facial features. Her eyes appeared to be drooping a bit, although she couldn't tell if it was due to reading in the poor light or lack of sleep. Her body posture as a whole seemed somewhat more slumped than usual, and she seemed to be a little pale: an impressive feat considering her dark purple coat. Overall, this did nothing but affirm Celestia's worries.
Luna grew concerned as she noticed her sister observing her without saying anything. "Um, Celestia? Is something the matter?"
Being caught in the act, Celestia quickly sought to draw attention to something else. "No, no, of course not! I was just wondering what it was you were reading just now."
Surprised by the shift in focus, Luna quickly blinked. "Nothing!" she started a little loudly, then sheepishly crossed her hooves. "I mean, nothing important."
Celestia arched her eyebrow. "Really?" She moved to the right to look behind Luna at the desk, only for the little mare to lean and block her view. Now fully curious, she moved the other way only to find Luna still blocking her view.
"It must be something important if you're going to such an extent to prevent me from seeing it."
Princess Luna blushed. "No no no, it's definitely not important. Or interesting. I was just reading up on government policy with regards to the fish market. You know, nothing that you would be interested in!"
"Is that so…" Celestia stared at her sister, as Luna put on the fakest smile she had ever seen. "Well, if that's the case, then I won't continue bothering you- OH MY GOODNESS WHAT IS THAT!"
"What? Where!" Luna quickly turned around, looking for whatever had caused her sister to panic. Not seeing anything, she turned back to ask what the problem was, only to see to her horror that the book she had been reading had levitated it's way to Celestia's face.
Celestia chuckled. "Oh my, you seem to be just as easy to trick as when we were both foals."
"Celestiaaaa." Luna glowered at her older sister.
"Oh hush!" Celestia tutted, turning the book to face her. "It's not bad for a mare to show some concern for what her little sister is reading. Now let's see… Equestria Myths: Village of the Blanks, the Cupcake Killer, and other Pony Fables."
"I… I was tired of trying to memorize the scientific names of those on the Parasprite's family tree." Luna, plainly embarrassed, scratched at the stone floor with her hoof. "I was curious to see if, *mumble*."
"I'm sorry, what was that?"
"I wanted to know if… *mumble*."
"Luna, you're going to have to speak louder if you want others to-"
"I WANTED TO KNOW IF NIGHTMARE MOON WAS MENTIONED!" Luna gasped at her own outburst, and her ears fell back to her skull. "I, I mean…"
"Oh Luna!" Celestia quickly tossed the book to the side and rushed forward to comfort her little sister. "Why would you still concern yourself with that? All that's behind us, you're a different pony now!"
"I know that." Celestia rested a hoof on Luna's shoulder as she continued. "I know that I'm different now. Your student and her friends all made sure of that, and helped me see that what I was doing was wrong. That's not why I'm studying it."
Celestia looked down at her sister. "Then what's troubling you?"
"I just wanted to know what all the other ponies of Equestria thought of me. I can't begin to try and fix my relationship with them if I don't understand that first." She shuffled her feet anxiously.
Celestia stared at her for a second, before giving a sigh. So Luna's concerned about the same thing I am, she thought to herself. It was good fortune that she had come down to the archives when she did, it would help to convince Luna of her idea if she was willing to reach the same end result.
"Hey," Celestia said softly, lifting her sister's chin with a hoof and pointing Luna's face towards her own, "What would you say if I said that I had an idea for how you could find out how much all of Equestria loves you?"
Luna's eyes widened. "You do?"
Celestia smiled. "Yes. But it will require you to step out of this dirty old library."
"Hey! This place isn't dirty, nor is it a library. It's a record of all the events that have taken place since the beginning of Equestria!" Luna held up her head proudly.
"Oh?" Celestia asked, hiding her mouth behind a hoof.
"Yes! I've already scoped out all the material from the time I was banished until 800 years ago, and understand how things have changed in that time period. Give me a year or so, and I think I should be able to… what?"
Luna glared at her sister. "You were teasing me." It wasn't a question so much as a statement.
Princess Celestia tried, and failed, to hide her laughter. "But you look just so cute when you're like that! Your brow gets all furrowed up, and you do your little frown, and oh!" Unable to resist, she hugged her little sister.
"Ah! Let me go!" Luna tried her best to wiggle out of the taller alicorn's grasp, embarrassed to no end. Dropping her legs out from underneath her, she managed to slide out of Celestia's grasp and back off to a safe distance.
Celestia didn't give chase, seeing she had already established a small smile on her sister's face. "So then, would you like to hear my idea now?"
Luna nodded vigorously, forgetting about her sister's teasing in an instant. "What were you thinking?"
"Well," Celestia's horn glowed once more, and a parchment appeared in the air before her. "I stopped at our public relations department earlier, and grabbed this."
Luna levitated the paper towards herself, and saw a series of names and numbers listed down the length. "What is it?"
"It's a list of companies and organizations who have contacted the castle asking if they could get some participation from the royal administration in charity events."
"Royal admini… wait, you mean us?" Luna looked surprised.
"Well, us or some of our advisors. Apparently, it really helps with these charities when our image is put on the event in some way or another. A sort of stamp of approval, if you will."
Luna looked from the parchment up to her sister. "And have you participated in any?"
"Ah yes!" Celestia looked very pleased with herself. "In fact, I've made it a point to help feed food to the orphan foals in Canterlot at least once every year. You would melt into a puddle if you could see the pure joy and happiness you get from them when helping them out."
"Pure joy, huh?" Luna wondered to herself, looking back at the list.
"Here you go!" Princess Luna said, passing the plate to a young colt standing in front of a counter.
"Thank you, miss! This means so much to me!" The little pony beamed up at her.
"Oh, it was no problem at all," Luna smiled, ruffling the mane on the little ponies' head. "I'm glad that I could help make your day better!"
If possible, the foal seemed to beam even more. "I hope when I get my cutie mark, it's a picture of you!"
Luna felt herself quivering at the open display of affection. "You are just so adorable! Thanks, I'm sure you'll get your own, no, the perfect cutie mark someday."
"Do you really think so?" The young pony asked, eagerly looking up at the alicorn.
CUTE METER MAXED. CURRENTLY UNDERGOING NUCLEAR MELTDOWN.
The foal poked at the puddle of what used to be Princess Luna. "Um, miss?"
Luna shook herself out of the reverie. "Maybe I should start with something a little less… emotional." She set the parchment down on the desk and turned back to her sister.
"Don't worry, there's nothing wrong with starting small." Princess Celestia smiled, rubbing Luna's mane in a manner none too different from her fantasy. Focusing for a second, her horn glowed briefly. In a flash, a small telephone appeared on the desk next to the paper. "Now, when you decide which charity you want to participate in, use this device. It's called a 'phone', and-"
"I-I know what a phone is!" Luna stuttered, swatting away her sister's hoof. She glared at her for a second, before Celestia's chuckling told her that she had once again fallen victim to her teasing.
"Okay, okay," Celestia gave in, unable to withstand the pout on Luna's face. "I'm going to go back upstairs and take care of some business. Will I see you at dinner?"
"Of course," Luna nodded, moving back to the desk to go through the list of numbers.
"Well then, see you in a bit!" With another flash, the white alicorn vanished from the archives, leaving Princess Luna to herself once more.
Rubbing her hooves together, the young (or rather, younger) Princess set to looking at the list in more detail. Let's see, company names, who the charity is for, what the event consist of, and phone numbers. This shouldn't take very long. Why, I'm sure I'll have found something by dinner! Decision set, Luna began to go down the list.
But wait. How do I put these numbers into the phone?
Day came to a close, and the time for the sun to trade places with the moon soon approached. Celestia sat at a lengthy dining table, munching slowly on a green salad. Every few seconds or so, she would pause to raise her head and examine her surroundings.
To her dismay, her sight didn't change. Still the same long, mostly empty hall. Still the same guard standing by the entrance, and the same waiting ponies standing off to the side. Still the same salad in front of her. And still no sign of Luna.
I didn't scare her off with too much at once, did I? the mare wondered to herself, as she slowly munched on the same piece of lettuce for five minutes. I was only trying to help her out, give her some ideas. Maybe she was overloaded with all the possibilities at once, and decided that she couldn't handle it.
Maybe she's gone back into those books for comfort. Oh dear, I hope that's not the case. If I can't get her to leave the archives for even a day, then am I truly fit to be called her older sister. Am I truly fit to be the ruler of Equestria?
Oh no! What if the stress from trying to decide what to do was too much and she ran away! What would I do? I can't send the guards out to find her, that will look like I'm trying to seal her away again! But then how will I find her? Oh, if only I had stayed to teach her how to use a phone-
"Huh?" Celestia gave a start as she realized she had been staring at her plate without realizing. She looked over to the source of the voice that had interrupted her panic attack. "Luna? When did you get here?"
Princess Luna stared at her, disbelief written all over her face. "Are you kidding? I've been calling to you for about three minutes. You've just been chewing your food and staring at the table the entire time."
"Oh? Oh my!" Celestia had the grace to blush, before indicating the seat next to her. "Please, sit down!"
Once the wait ponies had served Princess Luna her food, the two started to dig in. Common manners dictating the situation, both waited until their plates were empty and taken away before starting to converse.
"So?" Celestia folded her hooves on the table and lowered her head in a very un-ladylike manner. "How did it go?"
Luna dabbed at her muzzle with a napkin. "Well, the hay stretcher was a little dry, but the assortment of fruits was wonderful! My compliments to the chef!"
"I meant the charities, dear."
"Huh? Oh right, the charities!" Luna chuckled, brushing her mane behind her ears. "Well, I went through the list and called the most promising looking ones."
"Great!" Celestia instantly brightened, smile on her face. "I was worried you didn't know how to operate the phone."
Luna coughed, bringing the napkin back to her lips. "It only took me twelve tries," she mumbled into the fabric.
Celestia leaned in towards her sister. "So? What did you decide to do?"
Luna perked up immediately. "Oh yes! There was a group that was looking for someone to help them package materials. The proceeds are going to a local hospital so it can build a new maternity ward."
"That's wonderful! I'm so proud of you!" And it certainly appeared so. Love and care was something Luna was used to receiving from her older sister, but this was an unusual treat. She felt her chest swell up with pride. "So tell me, what exactly will you be packaging?"
"I'm not sure," Luna's pleased look was replaced with one of confusion. "And when I asked the colt on the phone, he said only myself and another mare would be doing the packing. And that there was going to be a paying audience, which would produce the proceeds for the hospital.
Celestia stared. "That's… unusual."
"You think so to?" Luna looked back down at the table, her hooves put together as she thought. "I mean, I'm sure that the PR ponies wouldn't let anything slip by without assessing whether it was dangerous or not. But the information was so generalized, and the voice on the other end of the phone didn't exactly sound very cultured."
Celestia remained in the same position, her hooves folded in front of her mouth, hiding her expression. She seemed to be thinking. "You don't think… no… no way…"
"What? Do you have an idea about what I'll be packing away?"
Celestia grimaced at that choice of words. "Well, I'm sure I'm wrong, but if my idea were to be true, then I have several ideas as to what you would be packing away."
Luna's curiosity was now piqued. "What are you talking about?"
Celestia contemplated how to approach this. "Well, what other sort of activities involve a couple of mares, a paying audience, less-then-cultured sounding characters, and, er, packing away?"
Princess Luna looked non-plussed.
Princess Celestia used her hoof and arm to pantomime something going in and out of a hole.
Luna's eyes widened and face turned red at the implications she was finally getting. "You mean I… with a… and… in the… for a… WHAT!"
Celestia raised her hooves to calm her sister down. "That's why I discounted the thought almost immediately. There's no need to worry, they wouldn't let something so uncivilized slip through the department."
"Oh PHEW!" Luna sank back into her seat, relief written all over her face.
Suddenly, an idea for how to make fun of the situation arose in Celestia's brain. "Although, judging from the reaction just now, I take it you haven't… you know."
Princess Luna once again looked non-plussed.
One dirty gesture later, and the alicorn was blushing once more in embarrassment. "Of COURSE I haven't! I haven't found anypony… you know… that I could form that kind of relationship with."
"Well what about that hoofmaiden that you're always hanging around with?" Celestia grinned a grin that would make a dragon nervous. "Those kind of relationships are perfectly acceptable these days."
"I'm not hearing this, I'm not hearing this," Luna kept muttering to herself, hoof over each ear.
"Or what about that guard-colt over by the door?" Celestia gestured to the pony standing attention at the end of the hall. "I think his name was Ben or something, quite an intelligent gentlecolt. He seems to be staring at you quite a bit this evening."
"I can't just get together with some guard I've never met!" Cried Luna. Apparently, hooves weren't designed to block sound.
"Well what about a few at the same time?"
"'llseeyoutomorowgoodbye!" In a dark blue blur, the alicorn blazed her way out of the dining hall as fast as she could.
Celestia giggled as she witnessed her flighty little sister take leave. "Oh dear, I do tease her something fierce."
Dinner over for the night, Drill Bits was excused from duty for the evening. After waking up earlier to hear all the guards clamouring about Fortify's report that he and the Princess were to be wed by the following day, he had decided to take it like a stallion and brace himself for the inevitable romantic scene that evening.
That being said, being flat-out rejected, not even to his face nor with his proper name, had been a low blow.
"I wonder if Fortify is still out at the bars…" the colt drawled, idly wondering whether he would be able to catch up with regards to drinking away all memory of the prior day.
The morning came, and with it came Celestia.
The alicorn Princess slowly pulled herself out of bed, stretching her great wings before slumping back down into a tired amble out the door. She yawned, and with a quick glance out the window, noticed that the moon had just passed the horizon. With a quick nod of her head, the sun quickly rose to replace its position in the sky, starting a new day for Equestria.
Leaving her bed chambers, Celestia settled herself on the couch in her reading room. Not one to put up with acting fancy during the whole of the day, she preferred to spend mornings by herself, just lounging around. Therefore, breakfast was served before she even woke up, and left on her rather glamorous coffee table with the day's newspaper.
Getting comfortable, she made a great act of slowly taking the warm bun off her plate and taking a bite out of it. The delicacy with which she handled the treat seemed to increase the flavor, and a tingle of enjoyment went down her spine. Quickly wolfing the rest down, Celestia reached for the rolled up newspaper.
"Oh wait, can't let my cereal get soggy!" The Princess chided herself at almost slipping up like that. No need to start the day off badly.
One empty bowl of cereal later, Celestia say there and relaxed on the couch. Relaxing on the soft cushions with a full belly, she basked in the morning light. Ah, this feels amazing. I wonder if I would be able to get Luna to agree and take over the sun for a day. I'm sure she would be a little nervous, but it's nothing she can't handle.
Staying in that position for almost a half an hour, the Princess finally roused herself. "I can't stay here the whole day," she said to herself. That didn't mean she would hate the idea, but there was a country that needed running.
Getting up to leave her personal chambers, Celestia almost made it to the door before she remembered. "Ah! The newspaper!" Trotting back, she used her magic to unfurl the rolled up paper and bring it to her side. "I can read this while I'm on the go."
Stepping up to the door, the alicorn double checked that the lock would activate behind her. While twiddling with the little switch on the knob, she quickly glanced towards the front page of the paper before going back to the lock.
Then glancing back at the paper.
Then slowly moving her eyes across the paper, as if to clarify what she was seeing.
And doing so again.
Now it should be mentioned that Celestia was not one to curse. In truth, the act became kind of meaningless when the more colorful phrases involved invoking her or her sisters name in some combination of vulgar words. Aside from that, there was the whole public image thing to worry about. So let it be said that when the next words left her mouth, it was a good thing that she had not yet opened the door to the hallway for the guards outside to hear.
"Son of a-"
Down on the still-empty streets of Ponyville, the only two ponies out and about were a pegasus delivering the mail early in the morning, and her earth pony companion. Of course, they would tell you that the Pegasus making the deliveries was in fact the companion, but that is neither here nor now.
The grey pegasus was in a rush, having woken up on the wrong side of the sunrise. The mare wasn't anything special, appearing to most as just another pony moving about in a rush. However, she had a rather distinguishing feature: two eyes always facing different directions. This, coupled with her bubbles cutie mark and her blonde hair, had contributed to the (incorrect) stereotype given to her of being an air head. This, in turn, led to her nickname that most knew her by, Derpy Whooves.
The earth pony, on the other hand, seemed to be the complete opposite. Despite keeping pace at a frantic gallop, the colt's face seemed composed, serious. His brown coat and dark wavy locks had won the affection of many ponies (or at least he would say as much, usually in a very loud and noticeable voice). But his most distinguishing feature was the hourglass cutie mark he held on his flank. Not many ponies understood what it meant, as he was not particularly interested in clocks, nor did he have a penchant for showing up on time. If anything, the mystery of the symbol's meaning seemed to correlate with the mystery of the pony itself. For whenever asked Who he was, he simply replied "The Doctor".
Of course, there wasn't much mystery as to what was going on right now. They were late, and the mail wasn't going to deliver itself.
"So I was thinking," the Doctor announced, running down the street as Derpy zigzagged back and forth between mailboxes on both sides of the road. "Not that I don't think, but as this thought was particularly noteworthy, I felt the need to announce it. Of course, all my thoughts are noteworthy, for I am noteworthy. In fact, I'd say that the only thing more noteworthy then my thoughts is me. Where was I going with this?"
Derpy zoomed by overhead. "You were thinking."
"Ah, right! So your birthday is coming up in two weeks, and I was wondering what you wanted to do. I was thinking that maybe we could travel to see the end of everything. That's always good to get a shocked reaction out of people. Besides, new things are cool, right? Doesn't get any newer than the end of time. Therefore, it is very cool. Or maybe we could take a trip to Atlantis! The Atlantis above the water, I mean. Not the one below. Although that might be an interesting experience. A bit lonely though, I'd imagine. And a little more than very wet."
Stopping temporarily to smile at the gabbing colt, Derpy smiled. "That would be great, I'm sure. But I was thinking about something else." She nodded her head towards whatever she was looking at.
The Doctor followed her gaze towards wherever it was she was looking. Then looked back, and followed her gaze again. "Ditzy, dear, I get the feeling you're pointing me towards something. But I'm not sure which eye I should be following."
Swooping over to a just opening newsstand, Derpy grabbed a newspaper and zoomed back. Holding the paper in front of the Doctor's face, she watched him go from shocked to amazed to ecstatic in the course of a second.
"Brilliant! You are absolutely brilliant!" The Doctor grabbed the paper and stared at it hard. "I've been all over, and I don't think I've ever seen a bona-fide goddess getting their hooves dirty with something like this. You certainly have an eye for these sorts of things." He paused. "I'm not sure which one, but it's there regardless!"
In a wagon house a few towns over, a loud humming filled the air. This humming was soon replaced with singing, and before long a few of the items in the house were lifted into the air by magic, and clanked along to the beat of the song.
A few minutes later, The Great and Powerful Trixie waltzed out of her bathroom, towel wrapped around her mane and tail. Still humming a bit of the earlier tune to herself, she strolled over to her closet and opened it to select what she would wear for the day.
As the entire wardrobe consisted of the same matching cape and hat several times over, the selection was made relatively quickly.
"Behold, world!" The unicorn burst out of her front door to greet the new day. "I, The Great and Powerful Trixie, have decided to bless you with my presence! May today be a glorious day unto you, and in turn, glorious unto me!"
A crowing rooster was all that greeted her.
Scowling at the empty field before her, Trixie waltzed back into her wagon, definitely not slamming the door behind her, and definitely not complaining about the lack of an audience. Waltzing her way over to her table, she magicked some toast into the toaster and looked at her plans she had made the previous night.
Okay, the blue unicorn thought to herself. Ever since that failure in Ponyville last month, I've had to change things up a bit. Now that I know what an Ursa Minor looks like (and she shuddered at the thought of what that would make an Ursa Major look like), I understand that maybe I should have set my sites a little bit lower. Maybe I'll talk about having tamed a pride of Manticores instead.
Nodding to herself, Trixie now pooled over a map over the area she had procured. On it were several X's marked in the different towns she was planning at stopping at over the next couple of weeks. And at the top of the map, all the marked towns led to one ultimate location: Canterlot.
Toast popping out of the toaster and popping her out of her planning, she simply used her powers to butter the toast from where she sat. "So that's the plan then. Trixie will make a comeback from the embarrassment that purple filly has put on her, and build her fame up through these towns. And then, in two weeks' time, Trixie will reach Canterlot, and stun the entirety of Equestria with her amazing abilities."
Now moving the toast onto the plate before her, she munched it all down in just a few gulps. "And then, they will all witness the wonder that is my magic! And before anyone knows it, everypony in every household will be paying by the bits to see THE GREAT AND POWERFUL TRIXIE!"
Her monologue over, Trixie used her magic to turn the knob on her television on so as to catch today's news.
The Rooster outside was stunned. The scream of rage coming from that wagon put its own crow to shame.
Deep in the Everfree forest, a small hut lay in the middle of a small clearing. Zecora, Zebra and sole resident of the forest, stepped out of her dwelling to greet the paper deliver colt. As usual, he was looking around himself rather nervously, prancing about slightly in the spot like he was ready to run away at a moments notice. Which he was, for understandable reasons.
"Good morning! I thank you for delivering the paper./To travel this far must have been quite the caper." As usual, Zecora spoke in verse.
"Yeah, listen pal, hows about you put up some fences around here? I'm used to running away from dogs, but their ain't none of those in here. Or none smaller then a house, to say the least." As usual, the paper delivery pony spoke in rude.
Quietly noting to herself that for every time he had ever said "pal" to her, she would put off building a fence for another day (she thought this in verse as well), she strode over and took the paper from the disgruntled employee's hoof. "Take that into consideration, I will./Have a safe trip back to Ponyville!"
The colt glared at her. "Yeah, like that's reassuring." Turning around, he made to leap into the underbrush. "And I mean what I said, pal! Build a fence, it will make people more willing to show their faces around here!" And with a rustle of the bushes, he was gone.
With another rustle of the bushes, a shrieking yowl erupted from somewhere in the vincinity of the delivery colt, followed by a terrified yelp. And thus, the chase began. Circle of Life, and whatnot.
Zecora walked back into her hut, putting the paper down on the table and opening her storage box. Pulling out a few ripe looking pieces of fruit, she quickly tossed them on a plate, which she proceeded to carry over next to the paper.
"Let us see what's in store for today," Zecora stated to herself once she finished cutting her apple into two. "What meaningful words will this paper convey?"
She picked up the paper and unrolled, taking a look at the front page. However, her eyes widened significantly. "I.. I mean... um... wow."
And for the first time in ages, Zecora found herself unable to form a single verse from the topic at hand.
Princess Luna waltzed into the throne room, mug of coffee floating alongside her as she went. There was a small spring in her step as she went, something very unusual to those who noticed. Ever since her return, the younger alicorn had been mostly shy, to the point of hiding behind her sister at any public appearances. Now however, there was a gleam in her eye that wasn't there before.
No, not that kind of gleam. Get your mind out of the gutter.
Luna was feeling very happy at the moment. Why? Because in a couple of weeks, she was going to show the whole of Equestria that they had more than one kind and benevolent leader. By taking care of a few packages, she was going to guarantee the construction of a new wing to a local hospital. If that didn't show everypony that she was no longer the dreaded Nightmare Moon, then she didn't know what would.
Gazing forward, Luna was pleasantly surprised to see her sister already up and at 'em. "Celestia! Good morning!" Last night's conversation was already fast out of her head.
Celestia looked up, tired eyes staring ahead for a few seconds before falling on her sister. "Oh, Luna."
That set off every alarm bell in Luna's head. Not once in the past few millennia had her sister not greeted her with a "Good Morning sister dearest!" in response. Something was clearly wrong.
Luna set off for the throne at a gallop. "What is it Celestia? What's wrong. Are you in pain? Oh no, are we being invaded? Is it a dragon!"
"I, wuh… no." Celestia shook her head. "That's not it."
Luna skidded to a stop at the foot of the stairs. "Than what could possibly be the matter?"
Celestia stared at her sister. "Luna, I need you to tell me everything about what was discussed on the phone yesterday."
"Huh?" Luna had no idea what she was going on about. Hadn't they already had this discussion? "What do you mean? I already explained it to you."
"Yes, about that." The larger alicorn fidgeted a bit with a newspaper at her side. "I think there might have been some kind of misunderstanding over the phone."
"Misunderstanding?" Luna had no idea what that could mean. Unless… "Oh no. No. You don't mean-"
"No! No, not that!" Luna sighed in relief.
"Then tell me what's going on." Luna's patience was wearing thin.
"I… don't really know how." Princess Celestia admitted. "Just, here. Look at this." She handed the newspaper to her younger sister.
Luna unfurled the newspaper and read out loud:
"Equestria Daily – Faithful provider of Equestrian news to Bronies for-"
"No, skip that part. Look down.
Luna proceeded to do so, then smiled. "Hey, they already found out about the charity, that's great! Oh, and they provided the name of the mare I'll be working with as well!"
Celestia held her head in her hoof. "What's the name of the article, Luna dear?"
Luna looked back to the paper, wondering if her sister's behavior was some kind of elaborate joke. Clearing her throat, she read:
"Boxing Match of the Century! Princess Luna vs. Horseshoe Harriet!" Luna looked up, not comprehending the problem. "I don't get it."
Princess Celestia sighed, then summoned a dictionary with a flash of her horn. Scrolling over to the proper page in the B-section, she held out the book for Luna to read. Picking the dictionary up from her sister in confusion, she looked down and read the definition of "boxing".
Then slowly moving her eyes across the definition, as if to clarify what she was seeing.
And did so again.
"Son of a-"
"So summarize everything you just said to me in one sentence," Celestia addressed the three ponies standing before her.
The foremost and center pony, an old colt with a grey beard, pushed his spectacles back up with a hoof. "We screwed up, your majesty."
Currently, Princess Celestia had the three head ponies of the Public Relations division standing before her throne. They looked positively terrified, although Celestia wasn't sure why. She hadn't been attempting to put on an intimidating air at all. In fact, she had been rubbing her temple to get rid of a massive headache for the last 10 minutes. Except all it had managed to do was mess up her perfect mane, and make her all the more annoyed.
… Oh, maybe that was why they were scared.
Her sister Luna was staring out the window at the moment. She had been doing so for the last hour, expression never changing from the blank look currently on her face. She suspected that some sort of mild case of shock was currently taking place (if any of her more impressive attempts to torment her younger sister in the past were any indication).
The bearded pony continued. "We honestly weren't expecting that particular request to be answered. We occasionally let some of the more… eccentric requests go through our office, but we had figured that whomever was going to look at the list would completely understand what boxing was. We never imagined that someone unfamiliar with the sport would decide to take the requester up on their offer."
"Even though my sister has been on the moon for the past one thousand years?"
"Yes, well," the pony bowed his head in shame. "We haven't exactly finished updating all our procedures to take into account there being a second princess now.
"I see. So now what are we going to do about it? We certainly can't pit Luna up against a professional boxing pony for a crowd's entertainment." The white alicorn waved her hoof in her sister's direction, where she was doing an impressive impression of a statue. "Not if how well she took the news is any indication."
Looking at the two ponies flanking his sides for reassurance , spectacles spoke up. "Actually, we've gone through some deliberation… and we think that might be the best course of action at this point."
Princess Celestia arched an eyebrow. "Beg pardon?"
"The best course of action with regards to her public image!" the PR pony quickly clarified. "As it is now, the entirety of Equestria has probably found out about this upcoming event already. The general response from the public seems to have been positive."
"Yes, and to pull out of the event now after it has already garnered so much popularity…" He took his glasses off the bridge of his nose and rubbed them on his tie. "It doesn't help that the event was for a charity cause."
As he put his glasses back on, the pony to his right nodded. "We suspect that one of the main reasons this has gathered such a big following so quickly is the belief that Princess Luna is willing to suffer through anything for the good of ponies in need."
The other flanking pony continued. "We also believe that the chance two witness to famous ponies knocking the hay out of each other might be a fact- mmph!"
The other two ponies quickly covered his mouth. "Pay him no mind, your majesty, "spectacles said, chuckling nervously. "He has a bad habit of talking all stupid-like."
Celestia leaned forward in her seat, and the three ponies shrank back. "So let me get this straight. For the sake of showing the whole of Equestria how wonderful a filly my sister is, you want her to get herself beat up by a professional boxer?"
The center pony started sweating profusely. "Nonono! Of course, we would hope that she would be trained properly before the match! I mean, and I mean this in every positive way possible, you and your sister are goddesses. The pinnacles of pony form! You can both do naturally what many others would take years to achieve!"
The flanking pony (the one that didn't talk stupid-like), nodded. "With a couple of weeks training in an actual ring, we figure that the Princess would be able to hold her own with the best of them."
Princess Celestia gave this some thought. Of course their lame attempts to butter her up might have had some effect, but it was in fact true that both she and her sister were the peak of physical pony performance. In some of the few sports she had participated in within her life, she had found that after merely trying for a few days, she was able to match the bests play for play. "So then, what? We just send Luna down to a training gym for a few days, buy her the proper gear, and hope for the best?"
"That's actually another thing we'd like to discuss, your majesty." Spectacles once more adjusted his nicknamesake. "We also felt it best if the Princess not train at any one of the local gyms out in Canterlot, or even the neighboring cities."
"And why not?"
"As far as we can tell, the ponyrazzi are now out and about something fierce. We're concerned that if we were to try and send the Princess to any gym nearby, she could become an unfortunate victim of overzealous journalists trying to get a good story."
"And if the National Equestria got some incriminating photos of Princess Luna appearing to do something unsavory, that would spell doom for her public image." This, of course, was the pony that talked stupid-like.
"So what you're telling me is that with training, my sister could become a professional boxer. But unfortunately, anyone willing and able to train her nearby would become host to unmentionable numbers of ponies waiting with cameras at the ready."
"In a nutshell, yes, your majesty."
"So what we need to do now is figure some way around that problem. Maybe we could send her to somewhere far away? Somewhere that has little attention on the public's social map." Celestia continued to rub her head, trying to drive the headache out and the thinking in.
Spectacles nodded vigorously. "Indeed, that's the conclusion that we came to! Unfortunately, considering how the place we're looking for is somewhere that won't attract anyone's attention, we're afraid to say that no place in particular has come to our attention-"
"Ah, hold that thought on second." Princess Celestia held out her hoof, and an instant later a scroll fell out of thin air into her grasp. "I see my dear student Twilight has sent her report in a little early today. Let me go over this quickly, then we'll get back to our discussion."
Celestia undid the scroll with practiced ease, and quickly read the note to herself:
Dear Princess Celestia,
Today I've learned that one of the key aspects of maintaining a good friendship is to be honest with your friends, but not to be too honest with their secrets. Of course, there are certain things that you can and cannot tell, but when requested upon to hold a secret, the best course of events is to follow through. Especially when a Pinkie Pie promise is involved.
Your faithful student,
"Oh isn't that wonderful," Celestia said to herself. "She's made another step in learning about the importance of friendship, and-"
Woah woah, wait. Rewind.
When requested upon to hold a secret, the best course of events is to follow through.
"That's it!" Celestia shouted, holding the parchment in the air like some sort of revered treasure. "Twilight Sparkle, my dear dear student, you are a genius!"
"Um, your majesty?" the pony with the spectacles cautiously inquired.
"I have found where Luna can go train in secret!" Celestia proclaimed, looking quite proud of herself.
The bearded colt looked surprised. "Really? And where is that?"
Celestia waved her hoof dismissively. "Oh, no need to say anything about that. After all, it is going to be a secret. But rest assured, your services will no longer be required."
Spectacles blinked. "Oh… well then, should we have back to the Public Relations office, or…"
"Oh no, I'm afraid you misunderstood me," Celestia said, smile not breaking. "You're fired."
There was an awkward moment of silence.
"Figured as much," one of the flanking ponies muttered as the three colts left the room.
Once the door slammed shut behind the three, Celestia quickly trotted over to her desk. The jarring sound of the door closing seemed to wake Luna out of her temporary stupor. "Huh, wuh? Sister? What is going on?"
Celestia used her magic to levitate a quill out of her desk and dipped it in a bottle of ink. "It appears that we're going to train you so you're ready to box a professional pony."
"I'm going to WHAT?" Luna gapped at her sister. "But… but I can't do that! I've never even hit someone in my life! It wasn't the idea of those PR ponies, was it?" Looking around, Luna suddenly noticed that they appeared to have disappeared during her daze. "Speaking of which, where did they go?"
"Oh, they were dismissed," Luna said nonchalantly as she maneuvered the quill across a fresh piece of paper.
Not understanding the significance of the word 'dismissed', Luna nodded before continuing. "I mean, I've read up on the sport now. I know what it is! I can't do that!"
"Oh squibble squabble," Celestia said as the quill danced in front of her. "Reading something and doing it are two different things. Sometimes I wish you'd understand that, maybe it would get you out of that dirty old library-"
"-yes, archives, a little bit more." With a quick flick of her horn, the quill leapt into the air and back into the ink jar.
"And what is that you're writing?" Luna inquired, nodding towards the freshly written letter. Celestia's horn glowed once more, and the paper quickly wrapped itself up. A ribbon appeared out of nowhere, tying around the scroll and completing the package.
"Simply sending a message to the one pony that can help us," Celestia said with a smile, levitating the scroll up in the air. With another small glow, the message disappeared.
"And who is that?"
"Why, my faithful student Twilight Sparkle, of course!"
Luna stared blankly at her sister. "What?"
Celestia paid no attention to her confused sister. "In that letter, I just alerted her to the fact that we have a small emergency on our hoofs, and that we'd be requesting her aid. Of course, I also mentioned that we'd be sending a royal carriage over to Ponyville to pick her up as soon as possible, so I should probably get on alerting our transportation ponies."
"Hold on a second!" Luna said, stepping in front of Celestia before she could canter off. "What do you mean your student can help us? How can she help us?"
Celestia tilted her head. "What, don't you have any faith in her ability?"
"Of course I do! But I have faith in her ability as the Element of Magic. I don't possibly see how she could help me out here, unless she knew how to magic boxing skills into my brain."
Celestia raised her hoof, ruffling her sister's mane once more. "Oh, you worry too much. Sometimes what you need is just a little bit of faith in your friends, and you'll be surprised by what they can do."
Luna stared blankly. Where her sister had once stood, she was now sprawled on the floor, with what appeared to be a very panicked and dizzy Twilight Sparkle lying on top of her. For all her scholarly intellect, all she could get out at this situation was a small "Huh?"
"Ow, my head… oh right! Princess Celestia, where are you!" Twilight got up, maybe a little too fast judging by the way she swayed around for a second. "I got your emergency letter, what's going on!"
Celestia, still laid out on the floor, turned her head in shock. "Twilight!"
"Where not being invaded, are we Princess? It's not a dragon, is it?" Shaking her head, Twilight seemed to have cleared her vision enough to see straight. And see the princess on the floor in front of her. "Oh no, are you in pain!"
Waving off the oddest sense of deja-vu, Celestia stared at her protégé. "Twilight Sparkle, how in my name did you get here so fast? You aren't capable of teleporting that long a distance."
"Oh, I had Spike breathe his fire on me. Are you able to stand?"
"You had Spike do WHAT?" Celestia's eyes widened.
"I had Spike, breath… fire… on me." Twilight's vigor seemed to disappear as she realized what exactly it was she had just said.
As Luna helped her sister back onto her hooves, Celestia gave her student a stern look. "And what exactly made you think that was a good idea?"
Twilight's ears folded back, either in embarrassment or shame. "Well, I panicked when I saw your letter, and thought of how I could get here the fastest. I sort of just asked Spike to breathe fire on me spur of the moment, and didn't give it any thought. I'm sorry." Twilight's head bowed in apology.
Celestia's building lecture disappeared at the sight of her student looking like she wanted to go hide in a closet. "No, no, it's alright. I was just worried about you, is all. But just to make sure, are all body parts still there?"
Twilight gave herself a quick look-ver. "Well, a few of my tail hairs seem to be missing, but nothing that would give anyone besides Rarity a heart attack… but enough about me! What's the emergency, Princess?"
"Oh no, it's not my emergency. It's my sister's." Celestia quickly grabbed Luna from the safety of behind the writing desk and thrust her out in the open.
"Oh! Hello Princess Luna, how have you been?"
Luna seemed content looking every which-way aside from at Twilight. "Oh, pretty well, I guess."
"Oh, and I heard about the boxing match you have coming up at the end of the month! Congratulations!" Twilight beamed.
Luna seemed to shrink away from the blatant praise. "Ah, well, thanks, but about that…"
"Twilight," Celestia drew her students attention away from Luna, and put on a serious face. "I'm glad that you've heard about this already, it has a little to do with what I wanted to discuss with you. Tell me, how much about the match do you already know?"
Twilight frowned. "Well, nothing more than what it said in the newspaper. Why, what's this have to do with the emergency?"
"Why don't you take a seat, my little pony." Celestia gestured to a nearby pillow resting on the floor. "This is going to take a little while.
"Ooohhh," Twilight said, realization dawning on her face.
"Indeed," Celestia nodded in agreement.
"So then you… ooohhh," Twilight awkwardly looked at Princess Luna. She merely nodded in silence.
A cricket chirped somewhere in the room.
"Well," Twilight uttered sheepishly, rubbing the back of her head. "I guess that makes all the excitement about your match I had earlier kind of… awkward."
"Water under the rainbow," Celestia waved it off.
"But sorry for asking, what exactly did you call me here for? How can I possibly help out?"
Luna looked up at her sister expectantly. "I was kind of wondering the same thing."
Smile back on in full force, Celestia looked to both ponies. "Why, I was hoping that Twilight and her friends would help to train you for the upcoming match!"
"WHAT!" both said ponies responded with varying levels of panic in their tones.
"Princess, please tell me this is one of your jokes!" Twilight appealed of her mentor. "I don't know anything about fighting or coaching. Well, Applejack might know a thing or two about the former, but still!"
"Sister!" Luna continued right alongside the purple unicorn. "This is something that I need a professional trainer to teach me! I can't expect to learn everything there is about boxing from some random mare and her friends. Um, no offense."
"None taken. In fact, I totally agree," Twilight said, nodding her head.
"Now now you two," Celestia said, calming them both down. "I wouldn't have recommended this course of action unless I had full faith in its success. And you know, the things I think will succeed usually do. You don't rule over a land as vast as Equestria for several millennia unless you have some judgment skill."
"Luna, you know that I love and care for you," Celestia said, putting a hoof around the smaller alicorn. "There's no way I would recommend this course of action unless I felt it best for you."
Luna stared down as she clopped her hooves together. "Well, I guess."
"And Twilight, my faithful student. There's a reason I've been having you seek the true meaning of friendship. What better way to test what you've learned by putting it to the test here?" Celestia put her other hoof around Twilight's shoulders as well.
"I suppose that kinda makes sense," Twilight hesitantly agreed.
"Perfect!" Celestia suddenly drew both ponies into a herd hug. "Then it's settled! Luna, you will go with Twilight, and she and her friends will help prepare you for the match in two weeks!"
Suffice to say, both Twilight and Luna felt appropriately duped all of a sudden.
Princess Celestia continued on, oblivious to (or ignoring) the uncomfortable atmosphere. "Why, with their help, I'm sure you'll be primed and ready to go by the time of the fight! That Horseshoe whats-her-name won't know what hit her, literally!"
Luna felt the need to make one last attempt to argue. "But sister…"
"And think of how much the hospital will appreciate the funds gained from the charity!"
An attempt that was swiftly and soundly crushed before it was even formed.
Seeing that nothing could change her mentor's mind, Twilight sighed. "Well, it shouldn't be a problem if Princess Luna wants to stay over at my place for the next couple of weeks. I mean, if that's alright with you, your majesty?"
"Oh, no, I'm sure she'd be perfectly fine with that!" Celestia volunteered for her sister. "And go ahead and call her Luna. She hates all that formality stuff, makes her uncomfortable."
Wishing upon all the stars in the sky that she was still banished on the moon, Luna forced a smile. "Indeed Miss Sparkle, Luna would be fine."
"Oh! Okay then Prin- er, I mean Luna. In that case, you can go ahead and call me Twilight!" said mare raised her hoof in a tentative offer for shaking. Luna blinked, then with a small smile brought her own hoof up to meet in a small but firm shake.
"Very well, Twilight. I hope that I won't be too much of a burden on you."
"Oh, not at all!" Twilight grinned herself. "Why, between Rainbow Dash and Pinky Pie, there's enough chaos that goes on there that I'm confident Spike and I will be able to work around you."
"Well that's good to hear!" Celestia grinned as she released both ponies. "In that case, I will immediately call for a carriage to take the two of you back to Ponyville."
"But wait!" Luna said, once more stopping her sister from leaving. "I still need time to pack my stuff, and reschedule all my plans, and put back the books. And there's also the moon!"
"Oh don't worry about that." With a glow of her horn, two saddlebags suddenly appeared on Luna's back, containing all of the essentials that she would need while she was gone. "And I've taken care of the moon for the past one thousand years or so in your place. I think I can manage two more weeks."
"Oh, well, thank you, I guess," Luna said, distracted by the fact that all the stuff in the saddle bags did in fact seem to be hers. This is my comb! How did she know where to find my comb? Making a mental note to put a magic padlock on her bedroom door in the future, Luna dropped the flaps on the bags. "And about my schedule and books?"
"I'll take care of those while you're gone," Celestia assured her sister in a tone that clearly said she had no such intentions of doing so. "Now really, I have to get that carriage!"
Before any more questions, comments, or unvoiced complaints could be made, Celestia galloped off to the door to the throneroom once more, where the guard-colt held it open for her. After she had left the room, Twilight looked over nervously at the remaining Princess. "So Luna, I suppose we're in this for the long haul."
Luna sighed. "I suppose so. I do apologize about my sister, she does have an awful habit of…" searching for an appropriate word, she finally settled on "… everything."
"Well don't worry, it's not a problem. Princess Celestia's done so much for me ever since she took me in as her pupil. Why she even gave me the library over in Ponyville free of charge."
Luna's eyes instantly brightened. "A library? You mean we'll be living in a library?"
Seeing somepony with a passion for literature that matched her own, Twilight suddenly felt much more at ease with this situation. "Oh yes! Why, I just had half my books transferred from my place in Canterlot. I still haven't sorted them all, but with Spike around I'm sure it won't take very long. He's surprisingly able, for a baby dragon."
"Your assistant is a baby dragon!" Luna was now absolutely excited. Clearly, the mind of this pony was on her own wavelength. "That's fascinating!"
Twilight smiled. "Isn't it? He's still a little rough around the edges, but he's an absolute gentlecolt! Err, dragon. I'm sure the two of you will get along great!"
Celestia returned a short while later, having called for the pegasi to bring the carriage to her balcony in five minutes. She was pleasantly surprised however to find both her student and younger sister fully immersed in a deep conversation about star maps. Celestia couldn't bring herself to break up the sight, and chose to merely stand at the door while waiting for the carriage to arrive.
Oh Twilght Sparkle, she thought as the two pointed animatedly at the sky, I can already see that your friends are having a wonderful effect on you. Perhaps you can help break Luna out of this shell she's been in. And maybe how to punch a pony's lights out.
The trip back to Ponyville was relatively uneventful, for which Twilight was very thankful. It had been a trying hour, what with finding out that she and her friends were going to be training Princess Luna for the upcoming boxing match that everyone else in Equestria seemed to already know about. The pressure was slowly but surely mounting in that regard.
She was also thankful for not having to use dragon flame travel once more. Suffice to say, the experience had been an educational one, but she had been rather dizzy on the way out of… wherever she had been. The last thing she needed was to go permanently cross-eyed like Derpy Whooves. Also there was the matter of the missing tail hairs, but that wasn't important.
The pegasus carriage reached Ponyville within an hour. Hoping to detract attention from the very noticeable Princess Luna, she had the carriage ponies pull up directly behind her dwelling where no one could see. Then, with a level of stealth that would have made the Cutie Mark Crusaders proud (not that they could do stealth if their cutie marks depended on it), the two snuck swiftly snuck around and went in the front door.
Inside, Twilight had to console a panic-stricken Spike, who for the past hour had been frantically searching the D-section of the book case for the effects of dragon breath transportation. Yes, she was alright. No, she would not be doing that again. Yes, this was Princess Luna. No, she was not here to shroud all of Equestria in darkness again.
Cutting off the tirade of questions, Twilight Sparkle had her assistant go out and gather all the Elements of Harmony, while making him promise not to reveal the fact that Luna was here to anypony else. Once the five mares had arrived, Twilight and Luna both explained the situation, and what she was doing in Ponyville. Which brings us back to the present.
"We don't know how to box."
Ah, thought Twilight, trust Rainbow Dash to get immediately to the point.
"I'm aware of that. I'm perfectly aware of that," Twilight repeated. "But Princess Celestia trusted us with this task. I take it I don't have to emphasize the importance of that."
Rainbow Dash stood her ground. Figuratively of course, she was currently hovering in the air. "I know that Twi, I heard you the first time. But that still doesn't change the fact that we don't know how to box."
"Now don't get yer wings in a mix there, Rainbow Dash. Ah' don't recall knowin' how to rodeo with a full grown dragon either, but you were perfectly willin' to give it a go." Applejack gazed sternly up at the blue pegasus.
Rainbow Dash's wings stopped their flapping, leaving her to land on all four hooves. "Now hold on a sec AJ, that was completely different."
Seeing a challenge, Applejack stepped forward to face it head on. "What, yer sayin' that you reckon teachin' someone how to fight is harder than fightin' yourself?"
There was no insult present in Applejack's statement, but her tone was completely different. "Why don't you try telling that to my face."
"I reckon' ah just did!"
"Ladies!" Twilight butted her way in between the two, looking at both of them. "I know how much you two like to… compete, but this isn't really the time for that!"
"Indeed!" Rarity decided to chime in from the side. "Here we have a pony in dire need of help, and you two are two busy provoking each other to care. Really, how could you be so inconsiderate?"
The two ponies flushed quickly, realizing what they had just been doing. "Am right sorry, miss em… your majes… Princess-"
"Luna will do just fine," said Princess answered with a smile.
Applejack returned the grin. "Right, Luna than. We was so busy arguin' that we didn't give any thought as to yer views on the matter. Do you have any idea why Princess Celestia chose us to help you?"
Luna's smile was replaced with a thoughtful expression. "No, I truly don't. I figured it might have something to do with all of you being the Elements of Harmony, but I can't possibly see what that would have to do with teaching someone how to fight. Well, except for shooting beams of pure concentrated magic at your opponent…"
Luna suddenly noticed all the ponies present looking away rather embarrassed.
"… that hurt in no way and in fact felt quite wonderful at the time, I assure you!" Luna finished sheepishly.
Twilight nodded in agreement. "Whatever the Princess's reasoning was, I don't think it had anything to do with the fact that we each possess the elements of harmony. Rather, I think that she was counting on our personal strengths to help Luna with her training."
"Personal strengths?" Rainbow Dash put a hoof to her chin. "Well, you're good with books, Twi. AJ can stop stampedes of wild animals, Rarity knows how to put on a fashion show, Fluttershy's good at being… well, shy, Pinky Pie can throw a party-"
"I sure can!" Pinky Pie chimed in with a hop.
"- and I'm the fastest flyer in Ponyville, I look absolutely amazing in action, and I'm a perfect candidate for the Wonderbolts!" Rainbow Dash finished with her chest puffed out proudly.
Rarity looked confused. "But how is that supposed to help Luna, Rainbow Dash?"
"No Idea, but that doesn't change anything about how awesome I am!"
Twilight sighed wearily. They had been going at this for the past hour, and so far had come to no conclusions. Clearly, this was a test of friendship. After all, everyone's patience was quickly wearing thin, and the limits of their friendship were starting to strain.
"Oh! Oh! I have an idea!" Pinky Pie jumped around some more. "I have an idea! I have an idea!"
Oh yes, straining and starting to tear.
"Pinky Pie, why don't you just tell us your idea?" Twilight bit back any comments that might have followed.
Pinky stopped bouncing and put up her hooves in a mock-boxing stance. "We could train her like they trained Rocky Balbovine!"
The majority of ponies stared at Pinky with confusion. "Rocky Who, darling?" Rarity ventured, voicing their thoughts.
But Rainbow Dash beat the Pink wonder to respond. "Pinky, you're a genius! Why didn't I think of that before?"
"Ah don't reckon you two could fill the rest of us in on who or what this Rocky Balbovine is?" Applejack asked.
To everyone's surprise though, the one to answer was the pony who had been quietly sitting in the corner for the duration of their meeting. "Actually, um, if you don't mind that is, I could tell you who Rocky Balbovine is. He's a character in a movie Angel and I watched last year. I mean, normally I don't like to watch movies that involve fighting or anything, but Angel really wanted to see it."
Twilight stared. "Wait, your idea involves a character from a movie?"
"Uhuh!" Pinky Pie nodded happily. "You see, in the movie there's this bull named Rocky Balbovine. And he wants to become a professional boxer!"
Rainbow Dash kept pace. "Yeah, but the thing is that he really stinks at it! So his coach puts him through this really weird training regime. You know, wax on wax off type stuff! Chasing chickens and whatnot!"
Pinky started to dance around. "And then, when he gets into the ring, he totally destroys the guy he's fighting! And he says this really cool quote-"
Rainbow Dash pantomimed what everyone presumed was the Rocky character, scrunching her forehead. "If I can change, and you can change, then everyone can change!" she shouted in a deep lispy tone.
"And then to make the ending totally happy, the cow who he was trying to impress completely falls for him!" Doing her own imitation, Pinky Pie swooned with a lovestruck face into Rainbow Dash's arms as the latter continued to stare sternly straight ahead. "Oh Rocky Balbovine, I've fallen head over hooves for you, don't-cha know!"
"So wait," Luna asked, "you want me to try and impress a cow?"
"Actually, I think what Pinky Pie is trying to say is that maybe we should set up some sort of similar training schedule. I think." Fluttershy pawed at the floor nervously.
"A training schedule…" Twilight frowned in thought. "Rainbow Dash, what were the different types of training that Rocky was put through?"
Rainbow Dash dropped Pinky Pie, who despite facing upwards a foot from the floor, managed to land on her hooves. "Well, it was all pretty typical stuff. Mostly anything that involved physical activity. But the idea was that Rocky Balbovine was put through training based on… I think it was five different traits: stamina, strength, a healthy diet, technique, and reaction time."
Pinky Pie clapped her hooves. "Yeah, and it was all done in just a couple of week! Hey, we only have a couple of weeks!"
"Indeed…" A plan was starting to form in Twilight's head. Maybe if we can get everyone involved… Dash had the right idea before, we all have our own personal strengths. Maybe not the ones she listed, but if we could somehow direct them towards Luna's training… "Spike, can you come down here for a moment?"
Spike stuck his head over the bookcase he was currently sorting. "Sure, what's up?"
"I need you to write something down for me," Twilight pulled open a nearbye drawer and pulled out a quill and piece of paper.
Spike climbed down the ladder. "No problem. But what is it you want me to write? You already sent a friendship report earlier today."
Twilight grinned at her assistant. "Oh, this won't be a friendship report. This is something else completely." She looked over to the gathered ponies. "This is going to be… our training schedule."
The following morning, all was quiet on the dusty road leading out of Ponyville towards the Everfree Forest. The sun was just starting to peak over the horizon, indicating the end of one alicorn's day and the beginning of another's. However, things were going to work a little differently for the next couple of weeks. And as evidence to this fact, a small pink dot appeared down the road in the distance.
Closer observation might have revealed that this was not in fact a pink dot, but a pink pony. Even closer observation would reveal that this was not a pink pony, but a pony dressed in a pink sweat suit. And the closest observation, so close that one would politely ask you to back away before the police were called, would reveal that underneath the pink hoodie of this sweat suit was none other than Princess Luna.
This suit makes me look like a giant marshmallow, Luna thought to herself as she trotted off to Fluttershy's cottage. She wondered why it was this that had to be her disguise.
"Oh darling, I have just the perfect disguise for you!" Rarity put her hoofs to her face in delight, before digging around in the saddlebag she had brought with her.
Luna was confused. "Wait, you carry disguise costumes around with you?"
Pulling something out of her bag, Rarity had the grace to look somewhat offended. "What do you take me for, some sort of obsessive bizarre clothing designer?"
Rainbow Dash snickered.
Rarity ignored that. "You see, this is something I recently deigned for the sports world. Now most ponies seem to be content with just wrist bands or jerseys, but I've seen the future! I've predicted how the fashion world will turn! And this will be the next big sporting accessory!" With this, Rarity flourished her parcel with dramatic flair.
"… it's pink," Applejack stated.
It is indeed pink, Luna grumbled to herself as her destination came in sight. As she hurried her pace, she idly noticed that despite the rising sun, the moon was still in the sky. Deciding to not get upset about her sister's slacking, her horn glowed for a second. The moon quickly dipped below the horizon.
Fluttershy was already up and about. Indeed, it was common for her to wake with the earliest animals in the forest, so it was no surprise that the training schedule was to start with her. Looking up from feeding a pair of badgers, Fluttershy smiled. "Oh, good morning Luna!"
"And a good morning to you, Fluttershy." Luna looked around at all the assembled animals, who didn't seem to mind her presence. "I see you have quite the ensemble of friends here."
"Oh!" Fluttershy just seemed to realize that none of the critters had run away. "They all seem to like you. I suppose you must be very good with animals."
Luna reached out a hoof and patted a small bird's head. "Indeed. When I control the moon at night, all the nocturnal creatures of Equestria look up to me for guidance. Some of these animals are only active during the day, but it's not hard to relate to them the same way."
Fluttershy seemed pleased. "Oh, that's wonderful. Then that will make today's training all the easier." With a quick turn, Fluttershy whispered into some nearby bushes. "Come out Angel. Please don't be shy, she's our guest."
Out of the bushes waltzed a little white rabbit. Luna smiled at the creature, hoping to make a good impression. To her surprise however, the little creature merely turned it's head and folded it's arms.
"Angel here will be helping us today with your stamina training," Fluttershy said as she handed the small rabbit a carrot. He promptly downed the vegetable in two seconds.
"Oh really?" Luna asked, curious as to how this was going to work.
Fluttershy nodded. "Yes. So here's what I was thinking." She reached into a small bag on the ground and pulled out another carrot. Angel excitedly reached for it, but Fluttershy held it out of his reach. "Now hold on Angel, this carrot's different."
Not seeming to patient to wait, the small rabbit jumped and grabbed the carrot out of her hoof. Chomping down on it, Angel was surprised to find his teeth meeting unexpected resistance.
Fluttershy grinned at Angel's confusion. "Sorry Angel, but that's only a rubber carrot. Today, I'm going to need you to earn your second helping."
Luna winced as said rubber carrot bounced off of Fluttershy's cranium. However, she simply shook her head to clear the pain and grabbed the toy once more.
"What I'm going to need you to do today is keep this carrot away from Luna over here for as long as you can. Luna, what I'm going to need you to try and get it away from Angel." Angel, clearly not pleased with this development, readied his throwing arm once more. But Fluttershy continued. "And if you manage to keep the carrot away from Luna for a whole two hours, then you'll be getting three carrots instead of just one!"
Now that changed things. Angel suddenly went from angry looking to contemplative. Rubbing his chin briefly, he finally nodded before sticking the rubber carrot in his arms much like an Equestrian Football player.
Luna also nodded appreciatively. So to help build her stamina, she was going to be chasing this little rabbit around for a couple of hours. That was a good idea, although in spirit only. Luna couldn't possibly see how this rabbit could stay away from her for any longer than five minu-
Wait, where was that little rabbit?
"Huh? Where'd he go?" Luna asked Fluttershy in confusion. The yellow pegasus smiled gently before pointing towards the edge of the clearing fifty yards distant. Luna turned in that direction, only to find to her shock and surprise that Angel was standing there with the carrot.
He cleared that distance in a split second! How fast is this rabbit?
Angel, as if reading Luna's thoughts, pointed towards the purple alicorn. He then thrust his thumb down.
Oh. Oh that little vermin.
Luna lowered herself slightly, hoping to get the best running stance possible. "I see. So you think that you can challenge me, the ruler of the night sky, to a foot race? Me, the one who has brought untold chaos and calamity to countless enemies in the past? You really think that you can defy my rule?"
Angel nodded affirmatively.
Luna grinned, although whether it was hiding some sort of displeasure or sadistic pleasure remained uncertain. "Creature of Everfree Forest, know this! You will give me that rubber carrot before these two hours are up. I fully expect you to try your hardest, and realize the futility of your actions when I, Princess Luna, wrench that rubber toy from your cold, shivering grasp!"
A distinctly rude gesture was all that was returned.
Luna's grin disappeared. "It. Is. ON." And with a burst of wind, both Luna and Angel disappeared from sight, most likely partaking in some sort of life and death chase recreated from ancient times.
Fluttershy peaked out of the bush she had jumped into, and nervously cleared her throat.
"Um… h-have fun you two…"
Applejack and Big Macintosh pulled a large wagon full of apples together up the hill. It was clearly difficult work, but enjoyment could be seen clearly on both ponies' faces. Yes, it was nothing like the sweat of a hard day's work that truly brought out the best in the Apple family.
Luna wondered where they got it from, as she brought up the rear.
A few hours prior, Luna had emerged panting onto the Apple Acres Farm. Her chase with that cursed beast (she simply refused to believe that it was a rabbit at this point) has turned out fruitless. For all her unlimited magic potential and amazing foresight, it had been almost impossible to keep track of Angel in the forest. Not to mention his constant weaving and dodging through roots and shrubbery had required Luna to take some extensive detours and still try to keep up.
Needless to say, she had been far from the greatest of moods when she reached the next designation on her written schedule.
Applejack looked back, concerned. "'Ey, um, Prin- I mean, Luna. You holdin' up alright back there?"
Luna, pulling her own apple wagon, flashed the biggest, toothiest smile she could currently manage. "Never… been better…"
Big Macintosh turned around, a look of concern crossing over his own face. "AJ's right, Miss Luna. If it's too much for you to take at once, there's no shame in makin' another trip."
This time, Luna's smile was much more natural. "Oh, why… thank you… Mr. Macintosh!" Oh dear Celestia, did he just smile at me? How can a colt simply smiling look so good? "However… I think… I can manage… just fine!"
Applejack sighed to herself, and muttered something about "lovestruck fillies" under her breath. Angling her cart away from a loose rock on the road, she hollered back once more. "Really, Luna, it's not a problem if ya want to take a break! Even I'm startin' ta feel the effects of the sun!"
Not wanting to appear weak in front of the handsome gentlecolt, Luna shook her head. "Don't worry… one bit… Applejack… the sun… can't possibly… slow me down…" And as if to prove this statement, Luna turned to laugh directly at the sun.
Only to notice the moon once more sitting by its side.
I think she's teasing me again, Luna thought dully, trying to restrain herself from grabbing her mane and screaming herself silly.
Unfortunately, this distraction cost Luna dearly. The loose rock Applejack had made a point to dodge found its way under the wheel to Luna's wagon, and with only a slight give in the angle, the whole wagon, along with Luna, tumbled to the grass on the side of the road.
"Wha- Pricess Luna!"
"Luna, are you alrigh'!"
The two Apples quickly dropped their wagon load and galloped down to the fallen alicorn. Luna quickly picked herself back up however, no worse for wear other than the flushed face she now wore. "Oh dear, I'm so sorry. I wasn't paying attention, and there was a rock, and-"
"Don't worry 'bout it," Big Mac said with a smile on his face. He raised a large hoof and rested it calmly on Luna's shoulder, putting a stop to her rambling. "As long as your safe, that's all that matters."
Luna's eyes shown, tears quivering at the ready. "Do… do you really mean that, Mr. Macintosh?"
Big Mac smiled back down at her. "I reckon."
The two continued to stare at each other for a few seconds, before a loud clearing of the throat brought their attention to Applejack. She then proceeded to point at all the fallen apples. "So are we gonna pick these here apples up, or what?"
"Oh, right!" Chuckling nervously, Luna ran off into the grass to start picking up apples. Big Macintosh laughed, then proceeded to do the same.
"Jeez, what's wrong with every gosh darned mare who sees that big 'ol lunkhead?" she wondered out loud to herself.
"Is it because he's hot?"
"What in tarnation!" Applejack jumped about a foot in the air in shock, before turning to give whoever had the gall to say that to her face (or rather, the back of her head) a good showing of how well she could buck. Only instead of coming face to face, she came face to ribbon. "Wha- Apple Bloom, where do ya get off thinkin' you can say somethin' like that?"
Apple Bloom, who had snuck up on the Element of Honesty, stared up at her older sister. "Scootaloo tol' me."
Applejack felt a headache coming on. "Scootaloo said that?"
Apple Bloom nodded. "Yeah, we were on an adventure yesterday to get our ship sailing cutie marks yesterday, when Scootaloo said that…" and here Apple Bloom's face scrunched up as she tried to remember her friend's exact words, "that Big Mac was hot, and that I was lucky to have him as an older brother."
Applejack stared with disbelief at her sister. "Scootaloo said that!"
A loud clonking sound in the background signified Luna and Big Macintosh's heads colliding as they reached for the same apple.
"Oh goodness, I do so apologize!"
"Not a problem at all, Princess."
Apple Bloom, oblivious to the background noise, nodded. "Yeah, that's what she said. Why is Big Macintosh hot, Applejack?" Tears formed at the corners of her eyes. "He don't have a fever, does he?"
Applejack quickly nuzzled her little sister. "Now don't you worry none, sugercube. I don't think that's what she meant when she said that."
Apple Bloom looked confused. "But then what did she mean? If he don't have a fever, then how's he hot?"
Applejack lowered herself to face Apple Bloom and put her hoofs on her shoulders. "I'm sure you'll find out when you're older, hun'. And when ya do, I'm sure you'll wanna forget it as much as I do. But let me promise you one thing. You remember what I told you last month durin' the yellow delicious sale in the market?"
Apple Bloom nodded her head. "Yeahuh! That if you ever caught me kickin' another pony over what they said, you'd bake me into one of them apple fritters we always make!"
Applejack smiled. "That's right. Well, the next time Scootaloo says anthin' that stupid, I swear to Celestia and Luna both, that I will look the other way."
"Oh my, I can't believe this keeps happening, Mr. Macintosh!"
Pinky Pie sat on the couch in the back of Sugercube Corner, staring intently at the television screen in front of her. It was wonderful that Mr. and Mrs. Cake were willing to let her hang out here on her days off. She didn't understand what they meant when they said it was to control the collateral damage, but whatever that meant, it worked out perfectly fine.
"Now I'll just take this salt block… and lick it!"
"Oh wow!" Pinky leaned in closer to the screen. "I've never seen someone look so menacing when eating snacks!" The loud jingle of the doorbell out front however broke her from her reverie. "Oh boy, that must be Luna!"
The pink pony immediately zipped to the front desk, smile on her face. "Hello and welcome to Sugercube Corner the one stop for confectionary needs and baked goods in Ponyville although I'm not working right now so I can't sell you those baked goods or confectionary needs although I will gladly prepare them for you for free if you wa- OH MY GOODNESS LUNA WHAT HAPPENED TO YOUR FOREHEAD?"
Luna, sporting a large bandage just underneath her horn, smiled sheepishly. "And hello to you as well, Pinky Pie."
"Never mind your hellos, are you alright?" Pinky Pie quickly leaned in to examine the bruise the bandage tried (and failed) to cover up.
"Oh yes, uh, never been better!" Luna chuckled, small blush crawling up her cheeks.
Pinky Pie continued to stare at her intently.
"Big Macintosh, huh?" Pinky finally smiled, leaning her chin on a hoof.
"Eeeyup," Luna responded with a dreamy look.
"Well, what's done is done. Oh and speaking of done, I just finished baking your energy muffins!" Pinky Pie quickly disappeared and reappeared with a tray full of steaming muffins.
Luna stared down at the baked goods with raised eyebrows. "Energy muffins?"
Pinky Pie nodded excitedly. "Yup! I took all the best, most healthiest, nutrient ingredients I could find in the Cake's kitchen, then added a ton of sugar, mixed in a little bit of caffeine, and some yellow food coloring!"
"Visual appeal," Pinky Pie answered, waving the question off. "Otherwise, they looked this sickly green color when you took them out of the oven."
Luna felt her enthusiasm for the hot treats drop considerably. "Sickly green?"
"Yup! They looked that color two when I was mixing them in the bowl. It was pretty hard to mix the food coloring in, though. I mean, have you ever tried to mix food coloring into cement?"
Luna's stomach dropped like she had just eaten some. "Uh, no, I haven't."
Pinky Pie shrugged. "Yeah, me neither. But I think I have pretty good practice now. Hey, why don't you try one?" She thrust one of the rather ominous yet still undeniably delicious looking muffins into Luna's face.
Now feeling the need to stall for time, Luna carefully pushed the muffin out of her face. "So, by any chance, am I the first one to ever try these muffins?"
"What? Of course not silly! I wouldn't treat you like a guinie pig!" the pink earth pony held the muffin up proudly. "Rainbow Dash was the first one to ever have one of these babies!"
Luna blinked. "Really? And how was she afterwards?"
Pinky Pie smiled. "Oh man, you should have seen her! Usually, it takes a lot of build up to get her going into a Sonic Rainboom! But after she ate one of these, she pulled it off from a stand still!"
Luna's eyes widened. "From a standstill?" She had heard from her sister what the blue pegasus had done at the recent flying competition, and while she felt confident she could pull it off as well, doing it from the instant of takeoff was impressive. "Those muffins must have been amazingly effective." Now confident, she reached towards that muffin.
"Yes, but I still don't know why she headed straight to the nearest bathroom. Or why she was making those weird throaty sounds."
… And promptly withdrew her hoof.
"Well, would you look at the time, I'm sorry it's been such a short meeting Pinky Pie, but I've got to get away- I mean go to Rarities for the escape- FOR HER LESSON!" Luna quickly backpedaled as fast as she could, only to feel the closed door behind her back. Reaching desperately for the doorknob, she tried ,and failed, to turn it.
Oh no, why do I have hooves? I can't turn a doorknob with HOOVES!
So focused on figuring out the mysteries of the Sugercube Corner door was Luna, that she didn't notice the ominous pink mass slowly approaching her. But when she finally did, hey pupils dilated in terror and she froze in horror.
Pinky Pie grinned manically, holding the muffin towards her. "Open up and say aaaaaaaahhhhhhh!"
Rarity was at a loss. She had been waiting for five minute, and Princess Luna still wasn't here. Five minutes! Wasn't royalty supposed to be perfect in each and every way?
"Maybe she's been attacked by a monster?" Spike volunteered from his seat at the table.
"Maybe she ate something bad?" Sweetie Belle added, moving a checker across the board in front of her. "King me."
"Ah! How do you keep doing that?" Spike whined, adding another checker atop the invading piece.
"Meow." Opalescence contributed to the discussion in her own way.
"Be quiet, you three!" Rarity said quickly, panicking. "There's no way she'd be delayed from such horrible events. She's a princess, those things don't happen to princesses!"
Sweetie Belle looked up from her game. "I think you're confusing princesses with alicorns."
"I say what I'm knowing!" Rarity shouted, all coherent thought disappearing. Her whole world was shattering before her, in an endless stream of falling glass. Royalty was supposed to have no faults. Royalty was supposed to be the ultimate goal of one's life. Yet here she was, faced with a paradox. Princess Luna, who was supposed to be one of the most pristine examples of nobles in the history of everything, was destroying her illusion.
Wait! Did she just think of her own views as an illusion? No, she must keep her faith strong! Nobility was the pinnacle of life. To aspire towards that was to literally aspire to be in the presence of Gods. But faced with such a turn of events, what was she left with to support her beliefs. Oh, Rarity was indeed falling down a dark tunnel, deeper into the abyss. All hope was disappearing, and with it all light from her vision. Everything shrank smaller and smaller, until only a tiny white dot was visible. Rarity desperately reached out her hoof, needing to grasp that light, grasp anything that would save her-
"Um, Rarity?" Luna asked. "Is everything alright?"
"Oh, everything is marvelous, my dear!" Rarity quickly dropped her distraught look for one of pleasant surprise. Huh, now that's funny. What was I just thinking about? I can't remember for the life of me. "I must say, that pink sweat suit of yours looks simply fabulous! Wherever did you get it?"
"… You gave it to me."
Rarity smiled. "I did, didn't I? Now come, we haven't much time to prepare!"
"Prepare for wha-AH!" with a speed rivaling the Wonderbolts, Rarity pulled Luna onto a small stage in the center of the room. Rarity looked over to the three sitting at the table.
"Spike! Sweetie Belle! Opalescence! I do believe you all know what to do!" Rarity pointed a hoof at the three with much flourish.
Spike saluted, then jumped over to a nearby control panel. Sweetie Belle happily cantered off to where the curtain ropes for the stage were. Opalescence tried her best to look adorable.
Luna looked around nervously. "Um, Rarity? What kind of training are we going to be doing?" She was going to say more, but the curtains were suddenly drawn around the stage, enveloping the two in darkness. Speakers somewhere in the ceiling suddenly burst into life and started playing some slow music, white dim lights came on from the rafters.
Luna was confused. "What exactly is-"
"Hush…" Rarirty drawled, putting a hoof to Luna's lips. Luna was suddenly aware that the white unicorn was close. Very close. "There's no need for words now."
Luna started to sweat a little bit. "Rarity?" she managed out.
"You really should let your hood off while we're inside, dear. Why, without it on, you look… "With a quick yank, the hood was pulled back, letting Luna's dark mane fall all around her shoulders. "… beautiful."
All Luna managed at this point was a small squeak.
Rarity's hooves gently yet firmly grasped Luna's sides, and drew her in. "Don't worry about a thing, dear," she quietly uttered, and Luna felt her hot breath on her ear. "Allow me to… guide you." And with that she dipped Luna close to the floor.
Luna shut her eyes, face flushed red. Oh Big Macintosh, I'm so, so sorry! I don't think… I don't think I'll be able to save myself for you! She waited for the inevitable.
And waited some more.
After a fourth short period of waiting, Luna dared open her eyes.
Rarity looked down at her confused. "Dear, how do you suppose we'll be teaching you how to dance if you don't keep your eyes open?"
Luna's world came to a halt. "Huhwuh?"
"Dancing. How can you learn to dance with your eyes shut so tightly? And why is your face so red? Are you feeling okay?"
Luna didn't know whether to laugh or cry. The overwhelming sense of relief that came over her was too much to bear. "Oh thank Celestia, Rarity, I was so scared!"
Rarity was shocked as the alicorn threw herself over her shoulder and started to cry. Awkwardly patting her back, Rarity sought to calm her down. "There, there, it's alright. I understand that learning to dance can be a frightening task, but I'll be here with you every step of the way."
"It's… it's not that!" Luna sniffed, wiping away her tears. "I was just…"
Oh dear, there was no good way to put this, was there?
"Um, Luna?" Rarity asked gently, turning her head to face hers. "You can tell me, it's alright."
"Well, uh," Luna tried to think of a way to break it to Rarity, "when you pulled me in here, and when it got all dark, and the music, and you got close to me, and said those things…"
Rarity looked closer at Luna. "Dear, is there something wrong? Why can't you look me in the face? And what do you mean the things I said? And are you sure you're alright, your face is all- oh."
And finally, realization. Luna closed her eyes, horribly embarrassed. "I'm so sorry Rarity, I wasn't thinking straight. I hope you can find it in your heart to forgive me." She slowly opened them, to only see a shocking site: Rarity stifling a laugh.
"Oh ho ho, dear, was that what was worrying you?" Rarity chuckled with mirth. "I apologize for that, I didn't realize that I was coming off that way. But now that you mention it… yes, yes, I could see how you might have jumped to that conclusion."
Luna blinked. "Then, you're not offended?"
"Oh heavens no!" Rarity playfully flicked her hair back over her shoulder. "Rather, I'm the one who should be embarrassed. I can't believe I made you think that I had ill intentions. I hope I don't offend you even more, but there's no way I could feel like that towards you."
Luna felt her relief deepen at those words. "Oh, I'm sorry to Rarity. I can't believe I actually gave the thought that you would try anything like that any credit!"
"Indeed," Rarity said, nodding her head in agreement. "After all, you're not Twilight Sparkle."
Luna chuckled. "Yes, after all, I am indeed not Twili- wait what?"
"And DIP!" Rarity cried, swiftly lowering Luna to the floor and cutting off any further ventures into awkward territory. "And TWIRL!"
"Woah!" Luna cried as she felt herself get spun around. And then dipped once more. And tossed. And swung. And a multitude of other dance moves.
Rarity didn't even break stride in her tone. "Dearie, you need to loosen up, to be able to follow your opponent's movements no matter what they are. By the time I'm done with you, you'll be malleable as putty, and easily bending to match your partner's moves!" With another flick of her hooves, she sent Luna stopping her spin, the momentum carrying her back forward until her spine audibly crunched.
"OH! Oh my!" Luna cried out in surprise, and then pleasure, as the dance turned into a massage as well. Rarity poked, prodded, and bent her body all throughout the dance, and Luna could feel herself becoming looser, more at ease. A thousand years of tension seemed to disappear from her body. "Oh yes, Rarity, don't stop!"
Spike, Sweetie Belle, and Opalescence listened from outside the curtains.
Sweetie Belle tilted her head innocently. "What do you suppose my sister's doing to her in there?"
Spike shrugged. "Beats me, but whatever it is, it sounds painful."
"Meow," Opalescence explained to the children.
It was probably best that they didn't understand cat.
Rainbow Dash wasn't sure about what to make of the odd sight approaching her castle in the clouds. Moving at a steady upward slope was Luna (she was unmistakable in her blatant pink get up), but she flew with an odd ambling swing. It was like her wings were working perfectly fine, but the rest of her body was hanging along for the ride.
Dash flew down the rest of the way to meet the alicorn. "Hey, uh, Princess. You doing okay?"
Luna turned to meet Rainbow Dash's concerned gaze. "I feel great!" she responded with an extremely satisfied smile. "In fact, I feel wonderful!" To emphasize this, Luna added even more flop to her sideways swing until she actually completed a quick barrel roll.
Rainbow dash moved out of the way as the pleased-as-peach Princess's body came back to a more gentle swing. "I see. Well, I thought I'd just ask you anyways. I mean, I've seen sleep-flying better performed than what you're doing right now."
To the blue speedster's surprise, the taunt simply rolled past without getting any sort of rise out of Luna. "Rarity helped loosen up some of my muscles during her training session," she explained. "It feels like all the tension in the world is gone!" Rainbow Dash's eyes narrowed.
"All the tension?" Dash was skeptical. "All your stress is gone?"
Luna nodded. "For some reason, I just feel too relaxed. I can't seem to bring myself to feel anything other than… well, good!"
"You're fighting a professional boxing pony in two weeks and you have no fighting experience."
"Wow." Dash was impressed. Clearly Rarity had worked some kind of unicorn magic on Luna. Just yesterday, any mention of the charity had been enough to bring the alicorn to the border of histerical and catatonic. Maybe I should get her to do the same thing to me before the next Best Young Fliers competition.
Rainbow dash dropped down behind Luna, grabbing her haunches to steady her flight/push her faster. "Well, I won't deny that what Rarity did worked, but it's gonna be kinda hard training you with your legs flapping around like limp noodles!"
Luna waved a limp noodle dismissively. "Don't worry, I made sure to ask Rarity to leave my wings be." As if to prove her statement, she started to flap her wings harder, increasing her pace. And her flopping limbs.
Rainbow Dash stayed behind her, keeping a tight grip. "Well if it's alright with you, I think I'll stay back here and make sure you don't take anypony's eye out with a stray hoof."
The two soon rose above the cloud level, and Dash's cloud housecame into view. Luna's eyes widened at the surprising level of detail that obviously went into its design. "Wow, everything flows so perfectly together! The design on those columns is reminiscent of more ancient gothic cathedral styles. And… is that a river made of rainbows! How is that even possible?"
Rainbow dash chuckled as she released her hold on Luna. "Yes it is, I don't know what you mean, and food coloring."
"Oh…" Luna responded quietly as she continued to observe the cloud construction clearly lost in its beauty. However, Rainbow Dash was eager to get started, and tugged on her tail.
"C'mon, Princess. Your training is going to happen over here," she said, nodding her head at a nearby cloud. There was nothing particularly notable about it, other than the fact that it was long and reasonably flat on top.
The two flapped over and landed on the cloud's edge. Luna looked around for any indication of what they were going to be doing. "Umm, I beg your pardon Rainbow Dash, but what exactly is it that we're going to do?"
Rainbow Dash grinned. "Well, all that's left to train is your reflexes, right? So we got the idea that we would set up an obstacle course for you to try and fly through."
Luna blinked. She must have missed another pegasus when they landed. "I'm sorry, but what did you mean by 'we'?"
"Dashie, everything's all set down here!"
"Ah, Pinky Pie, you timing is great!" Rainbow Dash trotted over to look down past the cloud's edge. "And I see you got all the balloons ready!"
Pinky Pie, who was standing roughly 50 yards beneath the cloud, currently held a mass of what must have been hundreds of floating balloons. It was a miracle that she wasn't taking flight herself, given that she had accomplished as much before with a much smaller amount.
"So here's what we were going to do- huh? Luna?" Rainbow Dash turned back only to find the Equestrian royalty missing from where she was a second ago. "Hey Luna, where did ya get off to now?"
"MMPH? What the heck does that mean?" Dash asked to herself. She then proceeded to look down.
A blue spout of hair was currently sticking straight out from the top of the cloud.
"What- hey, what are you doing in there?" Not waiting to get another muffled reply, Dash quickly jumped into the cloud material herself.
… only to be grabbed on the shoulders by a frantic looking Luna. "She doesn't have any, right? She came without them?"
Rainbow Dash stared. "What are you-"
"TELL ME SHE CAME WITHOUT THE MUFFINS!"
Luna looked positively terrified. And suddenly, realization, as well as some memories better left buried and forgotten, arose. "Oh, you mean… oh, those muffins."
Luna gave a nervous nod. Rainbow Dash held up a hoof to stop her from saying anything else, and quickly stuck her head out the bottom of the cloud.
"Hey Pinky Pie, you didn't bring any of your nasty abomination muffins to my training session, did you?" she shouted down to the pink pony.
Pinky Pie remained unscathed by the tough review of her culinary abilities. "Gee, that's a funny thing to call them, Dashie! I personally like to think of them as "energy muffins" because they're muffins, and because they give you energy! But maybe we could decorate one with a scary mouth, and then we could call that one an abo-"
"Pinky Pie. Did. You. Bring. Those. Muffins. Here."
"Of course not!" Pinky shouted up at her friend. "I already threw them away after Luna left! She only ate one, so the rest of the batch went stale quickly!"
Rainbow Dash stuck he head back into the cloud, looking at Luna in shock. "You actually ate one? A whole one? I only took a bite before my stomach went ballistic on me!"
Luna pushed at the cloud in front of her nervously. "Well, it tasted pretty bad… awful actually… horrendous." She looked down at her hooves, then brought her head up. She looked directly into Dash's eyes with a haunted look, almost like she was speaking to her soul.
"It was like being dragged to the fiery depths of Heck. As it went down my throat, I could see myself passing the seven levels. When I reached the bottom, I was met with only despair."
Rainbow Dash blinked. "Huh. Sounds pretty disgusting."
"Yeah, pretty much."
Rianbow Dash suddenly frowned. "But wait a second. I've seen how much sugar she puts into those things. They're literally a pile of sugar with some muffin mixed in. How are you so…" failing to find the correct words, she grabbed Luna's limp arm and shook it like rubber.
Luna frowned. "Actually, that's a good question. I guess the whole thing hasn't hit my stomach yet."
And then the whole thing hit Luna's stomach.
With a burst of light, magic, and whatever else she could burst with, Luna shot out of the cloud like a rocket. Blasted back by the pure power that had fueled her launch, Rainbow Dash stared at the rapidly diminishing speck in the sky.
She turned around and faced back down the cloud's edge. "Pinky Pie, I'm gonna go get her before something bad happens! Set up the course!" And with her own burst, Rainbow Dash flew after Luna at top speed.
Pinky Pie saluted the now empty sky. "Aye aye, sir!"
Luna blinked away the tears forming in her eyes from the high speed winds. I can't slow down! She thought in a panic. Why can't I slow down? How am I not slowing down? I'm not even flapping my wings!
Luna managed to turn her head against the wind pressure. To her surprise, a determined Rainbow Dash was keeping up with her. "Rainbow Dash! What's going on!"
Dash brought herself even with the zooming alicorn. "I don't know!" she admitted. "I think it has something to do with all the sugar in the muffin! Kinda like a sugar rush!"
Luna once more tried, and failed, to apply the brakes. "This is a SUGAR RUSH!"
"I said I don't know!" Dash slowly eased her way closer to Luna. "But I'm pretty sure that if you don't burn off all that energy soon, you're going to explode! Or something!"
"Relax! Or rather, don't! Just follow me!" Dash pulled in front of the cruise missle that was once a Princess and brought her into her own jet stream. "We're going to do a Sonic Rainboom!"
"What's a Sonic Rainboom!" Luna shouted, but Dash didn't bother responding. Instead, she focused on the wind barrier that was starting to push against her front hooves.
C'mon, just a little more… Rainbow Dash gritted her teeth. "PUSH!"
Downtown Ponyville was having an entirely normal day. Well, other than the rumors of a princess running around town. And the reports of a pink marshmallow monster stalking the area. And the filly that ran screaming out of Sugercube Corner earlier.
Well, okay. It was still pretty typical for downtown Ponyville.
However, what was unusual was the two resounding booms that echoed across the market. Everypony looked around, trying to locate the source.
"I think it came from the sky!" one pony shouted. Everyone proceeded to look up for the source, and quickly found what they were looking for. But then that pony jumped out of his house, much to everyone's dismay.
You know the one.
"Oh my Goddesses! Double Rainboom! Double Rainbooms in the sky! What does it meeeeaaaan!" He shouted like he was declaring it to the world.
"Look again you thrice-damned colt!"
Blinking, the pony looked up again. But instead of two moving streams of wonderful rainbow colors, there was one. And directly behind it, a stream of what appeared to be nighttime sky (stars and all) covered the tail end of the rainbow.
In short, no, it was not a double rainboom, it was a rainboom and a nightboom, now shut up.
"Oh." The pony looked down, and sheepishly rubbed the back of his mane. "Well, I thought… huh. Maybe, maybe it's time to stop shouting that whenever I see a rainbow."
And secretly, everypony agreed.
"Wow, what's going on!" Luna was absolutely stunned by what was happening. She was apparently skimming just over the top of a rainbow being produced by the tail end of Rainbow Dash, What's more, a quick look behind her (and the G's nearly strained her neck) showed a beam of what appeared to be night sky behind her own tail.
"This is a Sonic Rainboom!" Dash yelled back. "Or rather, mine is. I'm not sure what yours is called. You can name it if you want. Mines, like, 20% cooler though!"
"Indeed!" Luna laughed, too caught up in the moment to argue.
The two winged mares zoomed across the sky, leaving their respective trails of color in their wake. Dash leading the way, the two slowly circled back in the direction they came. Soon, the cloud that they had been standing on before came into view.
"So listen up!" Dash called over her shoulder. "This is actually perfect for the training I was going to give you earlier. Nothing tests your reaction time better than when things are coming at you at supersonic speeds!"
Luna blinked, all business now. "What exactly is it you wanted me to do!"
"I want you to reach the other end of the cloud!" Rainbow Dash responded like it was rather obvious. "You know, without getting hit!"
"Hit? Hit by what?"
Rainbow Dash veered off course, leaving Luna flying at the cloud by herself. "Balloons!"
"Balloons? What Balloons!" Luna blinked once more, and suddenly her vision was filled with balloons of all colors. Said balloons having been released by Pinky Pie just a minute prior. "AH! BALLOONS!"
Princess Luna quickly turned away from the red balloon she had been flying directly at, only to see a green one take its place in front of her. With a cry, Luna started zig sagging through the crowd of balloons, turning away from each one at supersonic speeds only to find another one taking its spot. Forget reaching the end, I can't even tell what way I'm flying right now!
Rainbow Dash screeched to a halt on the ground, stopping right next to Pinky Pie. "So?"
"So was that cool or what?" Rainbow Dash put on the most impressive stance she could think of. ""I saved her from exploding. Or something."
"Really!" A look of awe crossed Pinky Pie's face. "You're a hero, Dashie! But why was she going to explode?"
"Because of your stupid muffins!"
POP! POP! POP!
Pinky Pie frowned. "Hey, my muffins aren't stupid! Well, they're not smart either, I suppose. They're muffins."
"That's not what meant!" Rainbow Dash said, breaking her pose for a second. "What I meant is that your muffins tate like the back end of a-"
"Huh?" Both ponies looked up.
What had once been a large number of balloons floating over the cloud had been severely reduced to a few small remnants. A stream of night sky zig zagged all over at sharp angles, wrapping in on itself several times. And one end led directly to the direction at which Rainbow Dash and Luna had come from, the other end pointed to the lower half of a pony torso sticking out of the cloud.
"Luna!" Rainbow Dash shot up towards the sight in an instant. "Oh no oh no I killed a Princess what's going to happen hey Luna are you alright please respond!"
"MMPH!" interrupted Dash's panicked ramblings.
"OH SWEET CELESTIA SHE'S ALIVE!" ecstatic at not having committed murder, Rainbow Dash grabbed onto Luna's hooves. "Hold on girl, I'll have you out in a jiffy!"
Dash pulled, and with a popping sound, Luna was yanked out of the cloud. The two landed in a pile, with Radinbow Dash on the bottom and Luna on top. They laid there for a couple of seconds.
"Okay, this is nice and all, but it's time to get off," Dash reported from under the atlicorn.
"Don't wanna," was all the response she got.
"What do you mean, you don't wanna? Look, I'm sorry about almost killing you, but that doesn't give you the right to dog pile me into a cloud." The blue pegasus pushed until Luna rolled off to the side. "Now, you're not hurt, are ya?"
"Don't wanna," Luna once again replied.
"Wait, that doesn't even make any sense." Rainbow Dash frowned. "You don't wanna what?"
Uh oh, maybe I gave her a concussion! "Hey Luna, are you feeling alright?"
Pinky Pie, who had climbed up the string end of a nearby balloon (don't ask, no one knows how), nodded her head. "Yup, she's crashed. I don't think she wants to do anything right now."
Rainbow Dash turned towards the pink pony. "No, really? I couldn't tell by the skid mark she left in her wake."
"No, no, that's not what I meant. I mean she's sugar crashed." Pinky Pie clarified herself.
Rainbow Dash blinked, then looked back at Luna. "Wait, you're telling me that she's physically fine from crashing into a cloud at supersonic speeds, and that the only thing she's suffering from is a crash from some sort of sugar let down?"
"Aren't clouds made of nothing but moisture and air in the first place? What exactly is there to crash into?"
Dash thought about it for a second. "Oh yeah."
Pinky Pie smiled. "Well, I think that's all we'll be getting out of her for the day. Let's bring her home so she can rest!" And with a whistle sound affect accompanying her, she slid back down the balloon.
Rainbow Dash turned back towards Luna, and made to get the Princess up over her back. "C'mon Luna, let's get you back so you can rest up for tomorrow."
Luna sat on the couch, covered in a blanket and mug of hot cocoa in hoof. Finally able to relax for the day, she let out a sigh and sunk into the cushions underneath her.
Confound these ponies, they drive me to find pleasure from the small things in life. Luna thought this to herself as she pondered whether the inventor of the couch cushion had been a nice pony. Surely they must have, for only a nice pony could produce something that felt as nice as this.
Seeing Twilight approaching with her own mug of cocoa, Luna straightened up as best she could. "So, did you find out anything?"
Twilight plunkered down next to Luna. "Absolutely nothing. It's like she's never even been in a boxing match before." Littered across the floor where she had come from were all the books she could find on boxing and professional sports in the bookshelves. "Not once did I hear any mention of a Horseshoe Harriet."
While Luna had been out and about all day, training her tail off, Twilight had been looking to keep up with the training in her own way. Deciding that her talents would best be put to use by researching their mystery opponent, she had dedicated the better part of the day to searching through every book on the subject of sports that she possessed.
What she had found, however, was that there was absolutely no record of a "Horseshoe Harriet" mentioned anywhere. Not even in the newest editions!
This of course had driven Twilight to try alternative means. Taking an unusual route, she went to the local newsstand to see if the journalists of Equestria had any more luck in figuring out this mystery ponies identity. However, it seemed like every major news source was just as nonplussed. In fact, the topic of exactly who Horseshoe Harriet was had quickly taken precedence over who she was fighting.
"Maybe she's in hiding?" Luna suggested.
"Why would a pony in hiding publicly challenge a royal princess to a fight?" Twilight responded, shooting down that theory.
The two ponies stared straight ahead for a second. Before sighing in unison and gulping down their hot cocoa. Or course, the two then proceeded to cringe and fan at their burned tongues, but this part wasn't in as much unison.
Twilight ventured her own off-the-wall theory. "Maybe it was a prank? Are you sure Horseshoe Harriet even exist?"
Luna nodded, mug below her mouth. "This was a bona-fide charity proposition. The hospital involved verified as much. Unfortunately, they also said that they were obligated to alert the public as to whom had made the request."
"Well that just seems unfair, if you ask me." Twilight frowned. "Just why should this mystery boxer get to know their opponent, but not you? Seems kinda like a dirty tactic."
"Now now," Luna put a hoof on Twilight's shoulder. "Just because they don't want to reveal who they are doesn't mean that they're automatically unscrupulous."
"I suppose." Twilight looked down into her mug, and saw her expression stare back at her from the reflection of the glass. "So, onto a topic that we can discuss, how was your day?"
Luna sunk even further into the couch. "Don't wanna."
Twilight turned her head. "What was that?"
Luna realized what she had just said and blushed. "I mean, it went alright. I mean, except for Fluttershy's training. And Rainbow Dash's. And Pinky Pie's." Oh lord, Pinkie Pie's…
"Really?" The purple unicorn was now curious. "So what did Rarity do to help?"
"Oh, not much. I mean, it was awkward at first, with the way she held me. But oh my, her moves! And her technique!" Luna cheeks tinted red. "And she treated me roughly at first, but it really straightened me out by the end."
Twilight stared, mouth agape.
"Oh! Oh yes, I figured that out, because that's totally what it sounded like you were talking about, and nothing else it could possibly be!" Twilight smiled a toothy grin. "In the slightest!"
"Yes, well, that was tough in its own ways too. But Applejack's training…" and now the purple alicorn positively beamed.
Twilight blinked, then nodded in understanding. "Big Macintosh."
Both ponies leaned back, thinking of the handsome red colt.
They short reverie however was broken. "Hey Twi!" Spike shouted from a ladder on the other side of the room, where he had been sorting all the books Twilight had taken down that day.
Twilight turned her head. "What's up Spike?"
"How often does a ponies cutie mark relate to their name?"
Twilight blinked. Well, that's sure an odd question. "I dunno, pretty often I suppose. I mean, it's not always the case. Pinky Pie isn't name Balloons, after all."
"But there's a good chance that it will have something to do with their name?" Spike repeated the question.
"Well, it's certainly unscientific of me to just up and say so," Twilight answered with a frown. "But there does seem to be a large correlation between the two.
"Ah, okay then." Spike resumed putting books on the shelf. Twilight, wondering what had driven that line of thought, turned back to her cocoa.
"It's just that I'm pretty sure I figured out who Horseshow Harriet is," Spike continued, putting How to Uppercut a Dragon back in the proper place.
Instantly, Spike was yanked off the ladder with the force of two glowing horns. Being brought through the air and to the table in front of the two mares, Luna instantly grasped him by the shoulders. "Please, Sir Spike, repeat what you just said!"
Deciding that he would definitely have to include "Sir Spike" in his next rescuing Rarity fantasy, Spike nodded affirmatively. "Yeah, I know about a pony with a horseshoe mark."
Twilight crowded in with Luna. "Spike, this is very important. Where did you see the pony with that mark?"
Spike pointed back towards where he came. "I saw her outside the window while I was putting up the books. She's been standing outside the house for about five minutes now."
Luna and Twilight looked at each other, before making a bolt for the door.
Twilight was the first to reach it, yanking the door open and sticking her head outside. "Hello? Miss Harriet, are you there?"
"Why yes she is," a blue colt responded directly to her face.
"Ahh!" The surprised Twilight fell back into Luna, the two landing on the floor. The blue pony stuck his head in the doorway, looking around Twilight's dwelling.
"So can we come in, or are we just gonna be kept out here in the cold?" He redirected his attention at Twilight, being the one who had opened the door.
Disentangling herself from Luna, she stood up. Not quite sure what was going on, she stuttered slightly. "Uh, s-sure! Come in, I mean."
"Right," blue colt nodded and strode in, passing the two fillies. Now that he was fully in view, Luna and Twilight were able to fully discern exactly who had waltzed into the treehouse. A darker shade of blue, the earth pony had no mane to speak of. Not a speck of hair sat on his head (aside from the hair actually covering his head), although he did have a dark brown tail. What was most unusual about this pony though was his cutie mark: a cigar tilted over a bag with a money symbol on the front.
Twilight waited for the colt to introduce himself. Though after he appeared much more interested in looking around her place, Twilight felt the need to reassert her presence. "Excuse me, Mr…"
"Lotso Moneybags," he responded without even turning to face her.
"Right, Mr. Moneybags. What exactly are you doing here?" Twilight frowned. "In my home?"
"You invited me in," Lotso responded, picking up a book laying nearby. After examining the cover, he tossed it to the side. Luckily, Spike leapt in the path of the flying literature, and caught it with an audible "Oof!" Twilight reminded herself to thank him for that later.
"Yes, I understand that I invited you in. What I'm wondering is what you're doing here?" Twilight usually made it a point to be patient with people she just met. Afterall, one couldn't judge a book by its cover. But something about the way this pony waltzed right into her home rubbed her the wrong way.
"I'm here to discuss business," Lotso answered, either oblivious to or ignoring Twilight's tone.
Twilight narrowed her eyes. "And what business do you have with me?"
"Not you." Lotso Moneybags nodded his head next to her. "The Princess here."
Luna's eyes widened in shock. "W-what? What business could you possibly have with me?"
The blue pony grumbled something under his breath. "I don't have any business with you. She does." He nodded his head again, this time in the direction of the door.
"She?" Twilight and Luna both turned to the doorway once more, only to now find a red mare standing there, chewing on a cinnamon butterscotch swirl stick. Also an earth pony, she had a sharp red coat and both a mane and tail of bountiful blonde hair. Her form was very feminine, but had a distinct edge of muscle to it that made it look like she could take Big Macintosh on in a fight. And win.
And of course, there was the horseshoe cutie mark.
Luna was the first to talk. "Are you, by any chance…"
"Horseshoe Harriet," Lotso interrupted from behind the two ponies, now examining a scroll at his feet. "Current record: zero wins, zero draws, zero losses. New entrant in the mares boxing league as of today. Height, weight, age, classified. Able to bench the equivalent of a guard-colt's weight, armor and all." Here, Losto kicked the scroll away, interest in it already gone. "And she'll be your opponent for the match in two weeks."
The world seemed to simultaneously expand and shrink around Luna. "She'll be… my opponent?" she squeaked out.
Lotso Moneybags let a smile slip on his face. However, there was no hiding the ill intent it held. "I prefer to think of it as her being your executioner in the public's eye, but that's just putting a theatrical flair on it."
"Now wait just a minute!" Twilight marched forward in front of the shocked Princess Luna. This guy could waltz into her home and be rude, but nobody got away with talking to her friends like that! "There's no need to be so rude about all of this. We can all act like civilized ponies and discuss this like we're not foals, or we could just end this meeting right here. But either way, I'm going to ask that you please step outside of my house."
"Of course, of course," the blue jerk of a colt paused for a minute to hack something in his throat and spit it to the side (which Spike managed to catch in a spare vase they had lying around, before throwing a glare at the responsible pony), then walked out the front door. Twilight angrily followed, with Luna following behind slightly more nervous.
Now all standing on the road in front of the library, Twilight stood and stared Lotso square in the eyes. "Before we discuss this business of yours, I'd like to clarify one thing. How did you know that Princess Luna was staying here? That information is on a need-to-know basis, and I don't recall you being one of the people who need-to-know."
Spike watched everything unfold from the doorway to the house. Oh yeah, she's ticked.
"Well, all it took was a little wetting of the palms, and certain information was able to become available…" Lotso Moneybags left it at that, smirking.
"You bribed ponies to find out where she was!" Twilight was appalled.
"Woah woah woah, now hold your horses little filly!" Lotso held up his hooves in innocence. "I never said that!"
Twilight openly glared at him now. "You just as well implied it."
"Ah, but I never said it." The smile reappeared on his face. "Anywho, I'd love to banter the evening away with a beautiful little unicorn such as yourself," and Twilight actually growled at this, "but like I said, it's not my business that I am here to discuss."
Twilight was about to retort about where this pony could shove his so-called business, but a hoof on her shoulder stopped her. She looked back, and to her surprise she no longer saw the nervous Luna that she had been protecting a second ago. No, now she saw Princess Celestia's younger sister, Princess Luna, ready to deal with an unsavory character.
"Then if that's the case, Mr. Moneybags, I will ask you to restrain from speaking any further. You clearly have no part in this business between myself and Miss Harriet, and frankly, your tone and behavior disgusts me." That Luna said all this in an absolute regal tone shocked Twilight, and got a solid fist pump from Spike at the door.
Lotso whistled, clearly impressed, but said nothing further. Stepping back, he nodded at Horseshoe Harriet to go on. The mare hesitated for the briefest of seconds, before walking up to Luna, stoic serious face in place.
Luna looked her future opponent in the face, still chewing her swirl stick, and allowed a small smile to grace her features. "Now, I know perfectly well that one should not judge others based on the company they work with, so I would like to start anew. My name is Luna, Princess of Equestria, ruler of the moon and all of nighttime Equestria. And I am pleased to meet you." Luna followed this up by bowing her head.
"What?" Luna's head shot back up, surprised. Twilight's mouth dropped open, and Spike fainted straight away. This pony had insulted the Princess. To her face.
Lotso Moneybags smiled.
"I'm glad to see that I got your attention." Horseshoe's tone was cold, uncaring. Yet at the same time, some level of anger burned beneath it.
Luna was still rather shocked. "What… what did you just call me?"
"A filly faker," Horseshoe answered easily, spitting the swirl stick off to the side. "A mare who feels the need to draw attention to herself by sticking a false image over her own. A liar, if you will."
Now shock was slowly eroding to anger. "You think I'm a liar!"
The red pony went on, as if she was paying no attention to the Princess in front of her. "Mare professional boxing is already considered a joke these days as is. No one can take us seriously, even in this day and age when equality between sexes is touted as a crowning achievement. Regardless of what they say, no one believes that females can match up to the world of colts in sports."
"What does that have to do with-" but Luna was cut off.
"Instead, they feel the need to stick us in our own little league." And now, flames of passion burned in Horseshoe Harriet's eyes. "They feel that they can keep the mares separate, to keep the little foals away while the big boy ponies can play together. Even now, we have to put up with that. Especially in the world of boxing!"
Luna was done playing games. "State your business. What does this have to do with me?"
Horseshoe leaned in. "Everything. You, who were looking for an easy way to get the public's attention again, felt the need to jump into our world and turn it into even more of a fiasco than it already is!"
"You offered the charity event!" Luna retorted.
"The hospital did!" Only a scant few inches now separated the two. "They contacted us looking to see whether we could help them out with a fundraising event. We left the details up to them, and you took them up on their offer."
"So what you're saying," Luna said, staring icily at the red mare, "Is that because we accepted an offered charity, we chose to destroy your sport.
"That's exactly what I'm saying."
"I see." Luna closed her eyes for a second, and took a breath. Opening them once more, she looked over at Lotso. "Mr. Moneybags, I think we're done here."
Lotso nodded, smile still on his face. "Indeed. C'mon, Harriet!" To Twilight's shock, he slapped Horseshoe's rump with a hoof. However, the mare didn't even acknowledge it. She simply pulled another cinnamon butterscotch swirl stick out from hammerspace and stuck it in her mouth. "we've had our say. Now everything can only be settled the good 'ol fashioned way: in the ring."
Twilight and Luna watched the two ponies turn around and walk away. Once they were out of sight, however, Twilight felt Luna lean heavily into her. "Woah! Luna, are you alright?"
"I'm fine," Luna assured her, nodding her head. "That just… took a lot out of me."
"Yes, I'll- wait." Twilight blinked. "Who said that?"
There was a muffled noise that sounded suspiciously like "Me!" through a hoof. Twilight's eyes narrowed, then she moved away from the confused Luna towards a tree in her front yard. Cantering around a bit, she finally looked ready to walk away, when without warning she bucked it as hard as she could.
Applejack would be proud. Or rather, she would have if she weren't one of the four ponies that tumbled out of the tree. They gave a collective "OOF!" as they all landed at Twilight's hooves. Fluttershy followed down soon after, carefully flapping down to the edge of the pony pile.
"So girls," Twilight eyed the other Elements of Harmony. "Late night to go parasprite hunting."
"Oh, we weren't parasprite hunting! We were listening in!" Pinky Pie grinned as the ponies around her groaned or face hooved.
Secret out in the open now, Applejack stood up first. "Ah can't believe those two. They called themselves professionals, but all ah saw were a bunch of bullies!"
"Yeah!" Rainbow Dash agreed, shaking her hoof in the general direction the two had left in. "AJ and I were gonna jump down there and show those two what it looked like from the ground up, but a certain someone, " and with this, she glared at Rarity, "felt the need to tie us up in a ribbon."
"Now, now," Rarity gently chided while discretely sliding a roll of red ribbon back into her saddlebag. "You saw how ripped she was. She would have beaten you two so hard that no amount of makeup would hide the damage."
"Hey, hey! Attention up here, ladies." Twilight looked at the assembled group. "How did you even end up hiding in that tree?"
"Well," of course, it was Pinky Pie, "Fluttershy came running up to us about a half hour ago, telling us that there were some new ponies in Ponyville. Naturally, I proposed that we go find them so we could throw a party, although I'm not sure that's why everyone else came. Anyways, we were about to ask you if you had seen them when they started to walk around the corner. Of course, Fluttershy was startled, so she went into the tree, then Rainbow Dash followed her, and so did Rarity and Applejack, and I went over to invite them to a party, but Applejack lassoed me and brought me up there two!" Pinky Pie took a deep breath, ready to continue on.
"And that about covers it, sugercube," Applejack said, putting her hoof once again over Pinky Pie's mouth.
"Yeah, so now that we're done talking, are we gonna go catch up to them?" Rainbow Dash took to the air. "I'm pretty sure that if I left now, I could-"
All attention was drawn to Luna, who had remained silent for the duration of the conversation. She looked down, then looked back up with determined eyes. "Please do not follow them."
"Luna dear, are you sure?" Rarity walked over, concern on her face. "We should at least get them to apologize for what they said."
Luna shook her head. "I don't think that would work. Besides, you heard them. They want to settle this in the ring."
Twilight stared. "So then…"
"Yes." Luna nodded. "At first, I didn't want to fight this pony, and I even hoped that we would get the chance to talk it out instead. Worse came to worse, I could have donated my own money to the hospital and been done with it. But there's clearly some bigger issues going on in that Mare's thoughts. I'd… I'd like the chance to convince her that she's wrong."
"By punching her in the face?" Rainbow Dash asked, eyebrow raised.
"If that's how she wants it, yes. But I'm not good enough yet. So, my little ponies," and Luna looked at everyone, tears in her eyes along with a smile on her face, "Will you help me become a boxer?"
"Of course!" they all cried, and together everyone came into a large herd hug. Spike, woken up by the group's shout, stared around wide eyed.
"What happened! Where'd that jerk go!" Seeing nothing but all the ponies currently hugging together, Spike crossed his arms and scowled. About to make a comment about how girly everypony was being, he instead just threw his hands up in exasperation. "Whatever," he muttered as he went to join the herd hug. Mostly Rarity, of course.
"And now," Pinky Pie shouted, bursting out of the group, "It's time for a time skip!"
"Pinky Pie, what are you talking about-"
"Come one, come all! Witness how I personally took out a whole pride of manticores, all by myself! Witness my amazing magical abilities as I challenge anyone who is willing to participate in a battle of skill! Choose your strength, and I will show it to be your weakness. Test your luck, and watch as only I succeed! Witness, Canterlot citizens, as you are shown true magic and skill, as can only be demonstrated by one amazing mare! The one! The only! THE GREAT AND POWERFUL-!"
Two eager pegasi, trying to race towards the Canterdome, accidentally bumped into a small cloud. A small hole, torn in the side, dumped the entire content of the cloud in one quick shower. And all this water had the bad chance to land on only one pony in all of Canterlot: The Great and Powerful Trixie.
Unfortunately, for all her magical ability, a drying spell was not among her repertoire of spells. Looking down at her dripping cape, and her hat dripping water droplets in a steady stream, Trixie sighed.
"Forget it. Trixie is just going to grab a tub of ice cream and forget this whole night ever happened." With that declared, the grumpy pony shuffled off towards her wagon house and chocolate moose tracks covered in chocolate syrup.
The town of Canterlot was abuzz tonight. The center of the action, and apparently everyone's destination for the evening, was the Canterdome. Located roughly in the center of the city, the Canterdome was a large stadium made of marble and brick. It looked remarkably similar to the stadium in Cloudsdale, this being due to the fact that the two who designed each, pegasus and earth pony brothers, designed the stadium together but had disagreements over the materials to use. As the Cloudsdale stadium was made of cloud, expansion on short notice was an easy process, and the size of the stadium in its normal state was moderate.
However, the Canterdome was on a completely different scale. Made to fit all ponies of Equestria rather than pegasi alone, the structure was significantly wider and taller then it's cloud counterpart. The Canterdome reached for the heavens, and from the outside was quite the spectacle to witness at night. The inside, in an effort to not get left behind, was built with multiple layers of terrace seats above the center of the dome. At the floor level was a plain flat field, used for whatever sports events of concerts that may be taking place. And finally, in the middle of the dome's ceiling dropped a large black box. Powered by magic, this box gave visuals and sound of the action going on to all ponies in the stadium, in case, they were not close enough to witness it first-hand.
Tonight, the floor level of the Canterdome had been converted for use by the boxing ring currently present. However, as this did not take up too much room, much standing room was left for ponies lucky enough to get floor-level tickets. From the spectator's box, wearing a red bow tie, along with a crew cut mane and a small mustache, was the current announcer for today's match: Bolt Madden, a tan bodied colt with a grey mane.
"This is ridiculous!"
Bolt waved his hooves angrily in the air. "I can't believe you would come to me over this stupid sort of thing. Tell me little filly, what's your name?"
The filly in question, a light blue pony with yellow hair, looked bored as she responded. "Skydance Merry."
Bolt waved the papers obnoxiously in her face. "And what are these, Miss Merry?"
"Release papers, sir."
Bolt lowered his face in front of Skydance's, trying (and failing) to intimidate her. "Release papers for what?"
Skydance looked down at the paper in front of her. "To prove that you are Mr. Bolt Madden, professional sports spectator slash announcer, and are here to announce for the fight of the century, Miss Horseshoe Harriet, versus her majesty Princess Luna."
"I am Bolt Madden!" Bolt threw the papers down angrily.
Skydance examined her hoof as she continued on in her monotone voice. "We at the Canterdome announcer's booth understand that you are Bolt Madden. However, we need your signature to confirm that you, bolt Madden, are indeed Bolt Madden."
"I am Bolt Madden!" Skydance idly wondered whether her headset was repeating earlier recordings.
"Unfortunately sir, bureaucracy has an iron hold over ponykind's free will, and my hooves are tied on this. Until you sign that form saying you are Bolt Madden, I cannot believe that you are Bolt Madden. I can, however, give you this nametag that says you are Bolt Madden." Skydance held out said nametag.
"I am Bolt Madden!"
Below this exciting pre-game show, the lockerooms were located. It is that we find our friends from Ponyville, as they were preparing for the upcoming match.
Of course, this consisted of a panicking Luna and 6 consoling friends (sans baby dragon), so preparing might not be the correct word to use.
"I can't believe I stopped you from chasing Horseshoe and Lotso at Ponyville!" Luna cried, head cradled in her hooves. "We could have settled this then! We could have just surrendered! We could have begged forgiveness!"
"Princess Luna!" The Princess felt her chin lifted up as she was brought face-to-face with a stern looking Twilight. "You're not actually saying what I think you are?"
"I-I-I can't win!" Luna stuttered.
"Oh stop that!" Rainbow Dash stood on her rear legs, hoofs on her hips. "You beat me at dodging balloons after yesterday's final training session." She brought her face in close, eyes squinting. "You, beat, me! There's no way I'm gonna live that down if you got out there and get beat by some looser like Horseshoe Humbug!"
Luna shrank back, looking for an escape route. "Now Rainbow Dash, you know that was accident. You don't actually think I'm that good, do you?"
"Yes," Fluttershy continued from the side in a small, yet firm voice. "You had Angel chasing after you for a change yesterday. I never thought I would see the day that Angel would wave a white flag at anypony, but he did it for you. He admitted you were better than him."
"Yes, but… but I think he was just doing that to get the bag of carrots I had…"
Pinky Pie clopped her hooves together, bringing attention to her. "Yeah, and you even ate an entire tray of my energy muffins yesterday! Even I can't pull that off!"
Rainbow Dash's eyes bulged. "You what! Oh sweet Celestia, don't tell me you're acting like this because you're sick!"
"Oh no!" Luna raised her hooves defensively. "Actually, I find that those muffins don't really, erm, taste that bad now. The taste kind of grows on you after the first few terrifying experiences or so."
Rarity draped a comforting arm over Luna's shoulders. "And dear, let's not forget who was leading who during our last dance. I didn't even know you could Samba!"
"I didn't either," Luna admitted. "I guess I just adapted to the situation and changed my technique."
"Well?" Twilight asked, looking at Applejack.
"Ah don't have nothin' to say. She can pull a wagon for sure, but she spent almost all her time there goggling at mah brother!" Applejack crossed her arms in a huff.
All the other ponies present took that moment to fantasize Big Macintosh resting on the grass after a hard day's work.
"And stop that!" Applejack thundered, startling everypony present. "I can tell when y'all start fantasizin' 'bout him, you know!"
"Ah, right," muttered a blushing Luna.
"Point being," Twilight continued, "that we've all put our total faith in you. We all believe that you can win this match, hooves down. And remember when you said that you wanted to show Horseshoe Harriet how wrong she was?"
"By punching her in the face!" Rainbow Dash added.
"Err, yeah. Don't you want to convince her that she has to be more open minded about this sort of stuff?" Twilight looked pleadingly at Luna.
"I… well, when you put it like that…" Luna fidgeted in her seat.
"Ah, this is taking too long!" Pinky Pie shouted, hoofs in the air.
"Now Pinkamena!" Rarity frowned at Pinky Pie. "You just went ahead and ruined a perfectly touching scene!"
"No I didn't!" she claimed, before pointing at herself. "Luna, do you believe in us?"
Luna blinked. "What? Of course I do! I believe in all of you!"
Pinky grinned, pointing at Luna now. "And do you believe that we all believe in you?"
Luna was getting somewhat confused now. "Ah, yes. Yes I do."
A light bulb in the locker room flickered for a second, casting a bright sheen over where Pinky Pie stood, hoof now raised in the air. "Then don't worry about believing in yourself! Instead, believe in the us, who believe in you!"
Everypony stared. "Ow, my head," Rainbow Dash muttered to herself.
However, Luna's face brightened instantly. "I… you… I understand!"
Twilight Sparkle looked at her funny. "You do? Because I don't. That sounds like the sort of thing that would get grammarians into food fights."
Luna stood up. "It means that I don't have to worry about my own strength. Because I believe in all of your strength. And you are all pooling that together to help me!"
Pinky Pie nodded. "Exactamundo!"
Applejack looked wide eyed at Pinky Pie. "Wow girls, I reckon we're all in trouble when Pinky Pie does all the proper thinkin' for us."
Luna stood there, and looked at all her friends. Twilight Sparkle, Rainbor Dash, Fluttershy, Applejack, Pinky Pie, and Rarity were all giving her wide grins. How could she possibly not grin as well?
A smile lit up her own face. "Let's go."
A cheer erupted from the locker room, and with Luna leading, the fillies stepped out into the hallway.
And right into a cake.
"What? Ew! Ew ew ew ew ew!" Luna hopped on three hooves, her fourth one covered in cake.
"What's up?" Rainbow Dash asked, looking around Luna. "Is that a cake for you?"
"Let's see!" Pinky Pie, forensic cake expert, jumped onto the scene. "It says 'Good Luck'. Or I think it does, your hoof kinda landed on the G."
Luna stared, hoof still in the air. "Someone left a cake for me?"
Twilight Sparkle smiled. "What, so you have fans. Are you surprised?"
Luna looked at the cake in deep thought, then shook he head with the smile back on. "No, I'm not surprised. I'm just… happy."
Spike rounded the corner, looking to make sure the coast was clear. Seeing the empty hallway, he made a quick dash down to the announcer's room, shutting the door quietly behind him. "Wow," he said quietly to himself, taking in the sites.
A large window on the wall afforded him a perfect view of all the action from a slightly raised perspective. What's more, several computers sat lined up along desks, which he presumed would be manned by ponies during the match. Seeing all this, Spike made his decision. He carefully stroked his mustache.
Twilight looked down at the baby dragon. "Spike, I'm not sure you need that to impress Rarity. Didn't you say that she didn't like it last time?"
Spike grasped both ends of the facial hair, giving it a quick pull. "Yeah, but I think I may have been showing her the wrong side of me."
"What, you mean like your superficial side?"
"No, my left side!" Spike leaned the other way, showing Twilight his body from the right. "My Image looks much better on this side. Really brings out the 'stache, don't you think?"
Twilight shook her head and sighed.
"Sorry 'bout tricking you like this, Twi." Spike said to himself as he hopped up on a seat. "And sorry about not showing you my right side with a mustache, Rarity. But our love can wait another day. Today, I have a dream to fulfill." Spike reached for a nametag sitting in front of him.
Bolt Madden stormed down the hallways. He didn't have to sign any stupid release forms, he was Bolt Madden! Bolt Madden! Yes, he did quite like the sound of his own voice shouting his name. Bolt Madden! Ah, music.
He was so focused on the beauty of his voice that he didn't notice what was going on until he stepped into the announcing booth. "Huh?"
Two security ponies were standing side by side, looking at him menacingly. Seated between them was a small figure, wearing a red bow tie and sporting a rather impressive mustache. And seated neatly on his chest was a nametag that read: Bolt Madden.
"Wha- who are you, and what are you doing here!" Bolt shouted, pointing a hoof at the baby dragon.
Said baby dragon examined his nails. "Why, I'm famous sports announcer Bolt Madden!"
"You're… I'M BOLT MADDEN!"
Spi- er, Bolt Madden looked up at the security ponies. "You see gents? I told you there would be people trying to imitate me to get in here. It's a good thing I called you fellas when I did!"
"Indeed," the first guard nodded in agreement. "Sir, we're going to have to ask you to leave." He looked pointedly at the pony who was decidedly not Bolt Madden.
"BUT I'M BOLT MADDEN!" mystery pony raged.
The second security guard raised a hoof. "Please, sir, don't make us escort you out of here. This gentlecolt is most assuredly Bolt Madden. After all he has a nametag that says he is."
"And he also has a signed waver stating that he is indeed Bolt Madden, not to mention his famous full mustache. If I may sir, yours look utterly small compared to his."
"THIS- THIS-!" the unnamed pony looked like he was about to blow a casket. Suddenly, something caught the edge of is sight: a young filly walking by.
"You! Whatever your name is!" the pony grabbed the light blue filly and forced her into the room. "Tell these fools that I am Bolt Madden, and that this imposter is not Bolt Madden!"
Skydance glanced between a now sweating Spike and a triumphant looking Bolt Madden. There was no hesitation.
"Here Mr. Madden, I brought you your coffee," Skydance said as she brought a cup to the baby dragon.
"Why thank you, dear," the now affirmed Bolt Madden said as he took the cup. "I'll be sure to recommend a raise for your actions."
"Well, that settles that. Please sir, let us escort you out of the building." The two security ponies took each side of the pony who was now frothing at the mouth, and dragged him towards the nearest exit.
"I'M BOLT MADDEN! I'M BOLT MADDEEEEEEEENNNNNNN!"
After the crowd had disappeared, Spike turned towards Skydance. "Much appreciated."
"Not a problem!" Skydance chirped, smiling brightly. She was probably fired for doing that, but she hadn't had that much fun in ages!
"LADIES AND GENTLECOLTS! I WOULD LIKE TO WELCOME YOU TO THE MATCH OF THE CENTURY! THE FIGHT OF THE FAMOUS! THE BRAWL FOR THE BRONIES! WELCOME, ONE AND ALL, TO THE PRINCESS VERSUS POWERHOUSE HOUR!"
The crowd erupted into cheers as the announcer made his dues. Meanwhile, Twilight Sparkle and the others sat ringside, all around the corner that Luna was currently sitting at. Horseshoe Harriet was currently glaring from the opposing corner, Lotso Moneybags grinning on the side.
"That announcer guy sounds a lot like Spike," Pinky Pie noted.
"Don't be silly." Twilight frowned. "Although I do hope he's alright. I saved him a seat and everything."
Ah, maybe I'm worrying too much. He's from Canterlot too, after all! He knows his way around the Canterdome.
Applejack sat in her, hoof on her chin, a look of concentration on her face. Rarity noticed and leaned over. "Is something the matter?"
Applejack shook her head. "No, no, it's nothin'. I was just thinkin' somethin', is all. Like there's somethin' on the tip of mah tongue. Or, er, mah brain."
Rarity frowned. "Well, whatever it is, I hope you realize it soon. The match is about to start."
Luna tuned out all conversation from behind her. Currently wearing two pads on her front hooves, as well as a foam helmet that covered her horn, she was ready for battle.
"IN THIS CORNER, COMING FROM THE CASTLE IN THE SKY! YOU ALL KNOW HER, YOU ALL LOVE HER, AND YOU'VE PROBABLY ALL SEEN HER SISTER AT SOME POINT IN YOUR LIVES! PLEASE WELCOME, PRINCESS LUNAAAAAAAAAA!"
The crowd erupted, cheering for her. Luna smiled. I can do this. All these people have put their faith in me. There's no way I can lose.
"AND IN THE OTHER CORNER, COMING ALL THE WAY FROM FILLYDELPHIA! SHE GREW UP ON THE STREETS, AND CERTAINLY FIGHTS LIKE IT! THE UNDERDOG, THE UNDERTAKEER, HORSESHOOOOOOOOEEEEEEEE HARRIET!"
As the assembled ponies let out another cheer, Horseshoe pointed out Luna. She then drew her hoof across her throat. Huh, Luna thought in confusion. Wonder what she meant by that?
A striped pony that may or may not have been a cousin of Zecora stepped onto the stage. "Fighters, to me!" he called out. Luna and Horseshoe both trotted over, gloved hooves making soft thumps as they hit the mat.
The referee pony drew both mares in close. "Now listen girls, no funny business! This is a live televised fight, so keep it clean and we can all go home feelin' good about ourselves! Remember the rules, use your front hooves only, no heads, no horns, no wings! Keep all blows above the haunches! We clear?"
Both mares nodded, so the Ref waved a hoof up to the announcing box. Both he and the boxing ponies retreated to their corners.
"AND CONFIRMATION FROM THE REF SAYS BOTH PONIES ARE READY TO FIGHT! BUT BEFORE WE START, LET ME JUST TAKE THIS TIME TO THANK OUR LOYAL ADVERTISORS! AND LET ME ENCOURAGE ALL PONIES AVAILABLE AFTER THE MATCH TO GO TO CAROUSEL BOUTIQUE IN PONYVILLE FOR ANY AND ALL OF THEIR FASHION NEEDS!"
"Oh my!" Rarity started, hoof to her mouth. "I must have a fan up there!"
"NOW WHEN THE BELL RINGS, THE FIGHTERS WILL START THE MATCH!"
"You know girls, I was wondering," Pinkie Pie said to the assembled ponies.
"Not now, Pinky," Twilight said, focusesd on the ring.
"No, really! It's important!" Pinky leaned over to Twilight.
"Fine, what is it?" Good luck, Luna.
"Who was supposed to train her how to actually box?" Pinky Pie asked with a frown.
All thoughts left Twilight Sparkle's head. "What?"
Luna looked back at her friends, smile on her face. "Hey, is that supposed to be the bell-"
Luna's sentence was ended prematurely courtesy of Horseshoe's glove to her face.
Twilight turned to the shocked ponies. "Oh sweet Celestia! We forgot to teach Luna how to actually box!"
Gaping mouths and popping eyes were all that met her in response. Slowly, all of them turned towards the ring, where a decidedly no longer happy Luna was getting knocked around like… well, like a punching bag.
Rainbow Dash put her hooves to her head, full panic mode engaged. "Oh sun and moon, what have we done!"
Rarity looked positively stunned. "I'll tell you what we've done there," she whispered. "We've sent her into a shark tank without a cage."
"No no no, Luna! You have to hit her face with your fists!" Pinky Pie remained oblivious to the horror, as usual.
Fluttershy… well, she was pretty much comatose by this point.
Twilight felt like crawling into a hole in the ground. "Oh no! I've failed Luna! I've failed Princess Celestia! I've failed Friendship!"
Applejack, though… Applejack was still deep in thought.
Twilight noticed her friend's scrunched brows and recognized her thinking pose. "Applejack, what's wrong!"
"… that cake."
Twilight stared at her friend, not quite processing what she said. "Huh?"
Applejack nodded. "That cake is botherin' me. It's been botherin' me for a while now."
"The cake is bothering you!" the purple unicorn couldn't believe what she was hearing. "We sent our friend to her doom, and the cake is bothering you!"
Rainbow Dash had apparently caught part of the conversation, probably when trying to avert her eyes from the brutal display in the ring. "Excuse my Clydesdale AJ, but ARE YOU INSANE!"
"No, no ah'm not!" And now, Applejack's face grew hard, as she stared at the ring. "Ah think ah've figured out exactly what's goin' on here!"
"Figured it out!" Rainbow Dash pointed towards the boxing match. "Have you not been paying attention to what's been going one for the past two minutes?"
"OH, THIS IS BRUTAL! THIS MAY BE THE MOST ONE-SIDED FIGHT I'VE EVER HAD TO WATCH! I WANT TO LOOK AWAY BUT I CAN'T! I WANT TO LEAVE THE ROOM BUT I'M STUCK IN MY SEAT! OH WHEN WILL SOMEONE PUT THIS POOR FILLY OUT OF HER MISETY!"
Applejack ignored everyone around her. Storming over to the ring (and shooting Lotso a particularly dirty look), she shouted up into the ring. "Hey Luna, get over here for a sec!"
Luna landed on the matt directly in front of Applejack. "Huh?"
Now, the astute reader will notice that Luna has been largely ignored for the past few minutes. This is not without good reason. For from the time Horseshoe's glove first connected with Luna's face to this point in time, only one thing has crossed her mind, over and over: Oh, why did I leave the archives?
That, and Luna being mercilessly beaten is something no one wants to read.
"Her punches are balloons, Luna!" Applejack yelled over the crowd. "Her punches are balloons!"
Balloons, Luna thought, looking at her approaching opponent. She slowly got up. Yes, they do look sort of like balloons.
One of Horseshoe's punches went straight for her forehead.
"Dodge the balloon!"
The response was instantaneous. Two weeks of honed instincts kicked into gear, and Luna deftly moved herself out of the way. The punch sailed harmlessly past the side of her head.
The crowd was silent. This was the first time that Princess Luna had many attempt to dodge her attacker, and it had worked. What made this more amazing was that the speed of Horseshoe's punches was nigh invisible to many spectators. But they were far from supersonic.
Horseshoe frowned, and unleashed a flurry of jabs directly at Luna's head. But to her and everyone else's shock, she dodged all those punches as well, ducking, weaving, and overall making the process look simple.
Applejack wasn't done though. "Take her for a dance!"
As Horseshoe tried to follow her attack up, she found herself going at thin air. Luna almost effortlessly weaved around her, constantly staying out of the range of her attacks. The crowd was silent in awe.
Good thing Spike wasn't.
"THIS… THIS IS INCREDIBLE! FOLKS, I THINK WE MAY BE WITNESSING THE MOST UPSETTING UPSET IN THE HISTORY OF UPSET MOMENTS! PRINCESS LUNA, WHO WAS TAKING A BEATING A SECOND AGO, IS NOW ALMOST LEADING HER OPPONENT AROUND BY THE NOSE!"
Seeming to kick start the crowd out of shock, all the ponies in the audience immediately burst out in cheers once more. Only now, they were completely different. This wasn't a brutal beat down anymore. No, this was a boxing match!
Twilight Sparkle gazed at her friend in awe. "AJ, I… I get it! It's not that we didn't teach her to box! It's that we each taught her a separate part of the whole!"
Applejack nodded. "That's right. After all the abuse she's been takin' at mah farm for the past couple of weeks, I knew a few weak tosses from that filly wouldn't be able to put Luna under. All that was left was to show Luna how all our trainin' applied to boxin'."
Pinky Pie's eyes widened. "Ooh, I get it! Here, let me try!" She cupped her hooves around her mouth. "Luna, eat a muffin!"
A glove immediately hit Luna in the mouth.
"No no! Balloons! Balloons!" Seeing that Luna had resumed her dodging dance, Applejack grabbed Pinky Pie. "Yer comin' with me!"
"What?" Pinky Pie complained. "But she's finally winning!"
"Wait, Applejack!" Twilight looked from the spectacle on stage back to Applejack. "Where are you guys going?"
Applejack grinned. "Well, I reckon there's a cake that needs examinin'. And I got me here a forensic cake expert!" And with those mysterious words, the two were off.
The first round ended fairly much the same way that it had been since Luna had made her recovery. Nothing but dodging and weaving from Luna, and swinging club-like hooves around from Horseshoe Harriet. By the time the bell signified the end of the round, not one more blow had landed on Luna, head or anywhere.
However, it also remained true that Luna hadn't landed a blow on Horseshoe either. And in this case, it was for a lack of trying. Luna didn't know the intricacies of what made a left hook a left hook, and she thought that and uppercut was a scratch on someone's face. Beyond the all-female known technique of slapping someone with the side of one's hoof, Luna was clueless. And with these gloves on, slapping was useless.
The alicorn suspected that simply pushing her gloved hooves at her opponent would accomplish the task well enough, but she lacked technique in that regard. Her attacks would be plainly visible, and easy to counter. To try anything so foolhardy would be to invite Horseshoe Harriet to have her way with her face again.
Luna sat back in her corner as Twilight dabbed at her face with a wet clothe. "I'm sorry, Twilight," she apologized to her friend. "I don't know what to do aside from dodging her."
Twilight smiled. "There's no need to apologize, Luna. We didn't do anything to teach you how to properly punch. The only thing I think you can do is keep dodging for the time being. I'm sure an opportunity will present itself ."
"Do you really think so?" Luna sounded doubtful. But Twilight only grinned, and patted her shoulder.
"I know so."
The second match started, and this time Luna was prepared. Horseshoe rushed at her from the get go, but Luna simply leaned back and let the jab fly over her face. And like that, the dance was on.
And continued. And continued some more. And after the end of the second round, decided that an encore performance was required.
So Luna proceeded to dodge all of Horseshoe's attacks for the third round.
And the fourth.
All the ponies in the audience were absolutely losing it. It was clear that both ponies had control of their own fortes. Horseshoe was a master of offense, with even the lightest of her punches feeling like blows from an angry bull's charge. And Luna, with her ability to dance around all attacks that came her way (and no one doubted it at this point, this was indeed dancing), possessed the ultimate defense. With both ponies having a full grasp of their respective fields, absolutely no progress could be made.
And yet, it was.
For two other parts of Luna's training in Ponyville were finally starting to become apparent. Pinky Pie's muffins, designed to enhance her body (and not eat a hoof, as she had found out), had helped raised her body's movement to match her reaction time. And Fluttershy's training in the Everfree Forest had helped polish her already impressive stamina, to the point where simple action repeated over long periods of time had no drain whatsoever.
Actions such as, say, dancing.
So as the boxing match continued on, and the rounds passed by, Luna's body condition remain largely the same. Horseshoe Harriet, however, could not say the same. Her repeated failed attempts to hit the alicorn princess were showing their affect. She sat huddled in her corner, panting while Lotso whispered in her ear.
"I wonder what they're talking about?" Rainbow Dash wondered as she fed Luna water through a straw.
"Who knows," Rarity shrugged, as she combed Luna's hair. One must look beautiful on the battlefield, after all. "But whatever it is, it can't be good."
Twilight nodded, but her attention was elsewhere. Applejack, Pinky Pie, where are you guys?
The bell sounded once more, and the 5th round was underway. The two boxers leapt back into the ring, and started to circle each other once more. Horseshoe closed the distance, and Luna got ready to dodge the hit.
Shocked by the insult used mid-match, Luna was clocked solidly in the jaw. Using this opportunity, Horseshoe took advantage of the opening and went full out, trying to reconfigure Luna's facial layout. With a gasp, Luna backed out of one blow and put some distance between them.
Horseshoe came back however, hooves at the ready.
"Purple Parasprite!" and this time, the blow caught Luna in the gut. Doubled over, Luna took the next one under the chin and was sent slightly off the floor by the force.
"Oh no!" Twilight looked up in horror. Rainbow Dash and Rarity donned their own faces of terror, while Fluttershy… yup. Still out.
Not wanting to get caught on the landing, Luna pivoted her body mid-air. The position gave her the results she wanted, as the swift jab blew by her side. Landing once more, she once again placed some distance between herself and Horseshoe, this time breathing somewhat harder.
"WHAT IS THIS, FOLKS? SUDDENLY, HORSESHOE HARRIET HAS TAKEN CONTROL OF THE FIGHT! IN THE LAST TWO SKIRMISHES, SHE HAS PULLED OUT THE VICTOR BOTH TIMES! HAS THIS GAME OF CAT AND MOUSE FINALLY REACHED ITS END?!"
Luna looked at Horseshoe. She's trying to use psychology on me! Trip me up when I'm trying to dodge! That shouldn't be working! Why is it working? Luna, for the life of her couldn't figure out.
But suddenly, a voice came unbidden from the back of her mind. Maybe it's because you really believe those insults. Filly Faker? Purple Parasprite? Ingenious to say the least, but certainly fitting.
No! Those aren't me! I'm Luna, friend to Twilight Sparkle, and Applejack, and Rainbow Dash, and Rarity, and Fluttershy, and Pink Pie, and possibly maybe Spike!
You're friends?The voice laughed. What good are friends when you can't even deal with yourself?
Then don't worry about believing in yourself! Instead, believe in the us, who believe in you!
Wait, was that voice just now pink?
Luna blinked, and suddenly realized a glove was coming at her face.
That's alright. I don't have to care about what I think about myself.
After all, my friends believe in me!
Luna dodged the hoof once more. "Alright!" she cried out, back in the game. She dodged a few more blows, and continued to, once again, dance.
More insults were tossed her way. But Luna now realized that it didn't matter what the insults were, or what they described. After all, they didn't change how her friends viewed her. They were just words at this point.
The 5th round ended, with Horseshoe Harriet once more looking worse for wear.
Pinky Pie hopped down the corridor, somehow keeping pace with the galloping Applejack. "Applejack, this is great! Do you know that that means?"
Applejack nodded. "I most certainly do!"
The two were rushing back from their analyses of the cake Luna had stepped in earlier. Clearly an insignificant clue at first, it had bugged Applejack for some reason. And now she knew why.
Screams from the crowd greeted the two as they ran back to the ringside. Twilight looked over at them in surprise.
"AJ! Pinky Pie! Where have you two been?"
Applejack opened her mouth to respond, but the bell signifying the start of round 6 rang.
And then all heck broke loose.
The crowd seemed to die down in noise, but not from the shouting lessening. Rather, it seemed that the sound was being sucked out of the air. And to the shock of many ponies in the audience, the same thing started happening with the light. Pretty soon, things were both looking and sounding distinctly dim.
Many don't realize that there's a power scale used to measure magic power for the average pony (and before you ask, no, it does not go over 9,000). 0, the base level, is used to refer to those without magic, aka earth and pegasus ponies. 1 and 2 are the most common, being the ability to lift things with telekinesis and use small amounts of magic spells. Ponies of, say, Trixie's level, would measure 3 or 4 on the scale, for the addition of being able to cast several spells of use telekinesis on multiple larger objects at once.
Twilight Sparkle herself measured at a 7 on the scale. Being the Element of Magic, this was to be expected. Using her raw level of talent, she could cast innumerous spells, lift vastly huge objects, and even teleport short distances. Further training might even bring her up to an 8 in her lifetime. But she would never break the level 9, which is considered the barrier that prevents regular ponies from reaching the magic levels of gods. And the two alicorns who sat together at level 10 could very well be considered gods by some.
So Twilight's concern was justified when she felt the power emanating from Luna currently pushing the max boundries of level 10.
Rarity couldn't measure the power to the same extent, but she felt nervous all the same. "Twilight, what's going on?"
Twilight gulped. "Magic."
Luna's voice suddenly rang out loud and clear, and for an instant, what was seen was not Princess Luna, or even Nightmare Moon. It was a fully grown purple alicorn.
"YOU DARE CALL UPON MY FORMER NAME IN AN ATTEMPT TO ANGER ME. YOU WISH TO MAKE ME REMEMBER THE PAINS AT WHICH I HAD ONCE CAUSED MY FRIENDS. YOU WANTED ME TO FOCUS ON MY DAYS ALONE, ON THE MOON, SO YOU COULD WIN THIS PETTY MATCH."
Horseshoe Harriet backed away, looking rather afraid all of a sudden.
"YOU'RE WISH SHALL BE GRANTED. I AM NOW ANGRY. THEREFORE, I WILL NOT HOLD BACK. I WANT YOU TO ENGRAVE THIS MEMORY INTO YOUR HEART, AND FOREVER LOOK AT IT WHEN YOU LOOK BACK TO THIS MOMENT. I, PRINCESS LUNA, AM FORGIVING. BUT I AM NOT TO BE TRIFLED WITH LIGHTLY."
Suddenly, the magic disappeared. Lights returned, the volume level rose, and Luna appeared normal again.
Then she went in for the attack. No one saw it coming.
For the following, I will now leave you with the commentary of the two best spectators present, Spikey the baby dragon and Pinkamena Diane Pie the earth pony. For surely, no words I could provide you with would do justice to the scene.
"IT'S ABSOLUTELY INCREDIBLE! SHE'S SUDDENLY TAKING THE ATTACK TO HORSESHOE HARRIET! LOOK OUT THAT FLURRY OF BLOWS THAT SHE'S LANDING, MY SWEET CELESTIA! WHERE ARE HER HOOVES, I CAN'T EVEN SEE HER HOOVES!"
"Atatatatatata!" Pinky Pie yelled, mimicking the actions on stage. "Hooryah!"
"WHAT KIND OF UPPERCUT IS THAT? I'VE NEVER EVEN SEEN ANYPONY DO THAT BEFORE! IS THAT PHYSICALLY POSSIBLE?"
"Oh man, I didn't know Luna played Hoof fighter!"
OH NO, STOP PRINCESS LUNA! SHE'S NOT SUPPOSED TO BEND LIKE THAT! PLEASE STOP THIS, I PROMISE WE'LL GO EAT SOME CANDY AS SOON AS WE GET HOME IF YOU STOP! I'LL EVEN SHARE MY GEM STONES!"
"Stop it Luna! She doesn't have confetti inside of her!"
On second thought, perhaps no one do justice to the scene. Let us skip to the end of the round.
That was… what was that? She had felt overcome with the oddest sense of anger, and suddenly she became a powerhouse! It's like she had just channeled all the knowledge of fighting into this one round. But it looked like Horseshoe was still up and at it. It looked like Luna was going to need to-
A bucket of cold water was dumped over her head.
"UWAAAAAHHH!" she screamed from the cold, and it was like she had awoken from a dream.
"Luna! Luna, are you awake! Luna!" Luna turned towards the sound of the voice, only to dimly recognize her friend.
Twilight took Luna's head in her hooves. "Listen Luna, you just had a massive surge of magic run through you. I need to know if you're even aware of your surroundings."
Luna nodded affirmatively. "… I am. What happened?
Twilight pointed, and Luna looked.
A positively ragged looking Horseshoe was sitting on her corner, looking worse for wear. Lotso Moneybags was yelling something in her ear, but she didn't seem to hear. She met Luna's eyes, and suddenly their pupils shrank in fear.
"I did that?"
"Yes you most certainly did," Applejack's voice rang from her left. "And while you're awake, I need to tell you somethin'."
"What?" Luna turned towards Applejack. "What is it?"
Applejack whispered what she had found out in her ear.
And suddenly, Luna felt like the biggest ass in the world (not that she meant offense to any asses out there).
Luna looked up once more at Horseshoe, who shrank back in fear. She suddenly realized what she had to do. The bell for the final round went off, and she stood up.
"Horseshoe Harriet, stand." Luna's voice no longer held the same command it did before, but Horseshoe fearfully complied.
Luna looked at what she had done to the mare. "Please don't shake like that, I… I want to finish this fight proper. No insult tossing, no power unleashing, just… just, boxing."
Horseshoe stared with a swollen eye.
"I don't want to make this fight a point about who's right or who's wrong anymore," Luna continued. "I don't even want to do this for the charity anymore. I could just give them the money if they really needed it. I just want us… you know, you and me… to have a fair fight."
Horseshoe wavered a little bit, but held her own.
"So please, Horseshoe Harriet. Please, stand tall. Stand proud. You have made it seven rounds fighting against one of the two most powerful beings in all of Equestria. There is no way that this match, or mare boxing, or anything like that can be looked at as a joke anymore. The ponies of Equestria will come to realize this." Luna took a deep breath, then smiled at Horseshoe.
"Let's finish this fight."
Horseshoe stared at her for a few more seconds, then nodded.
The two mares blinked.
Then they ran.
And they met.
"IT'S A CROSS COUNTER!"
And that was the last thing Luna remembered before passing out.
Ah, this blackness was comfortable. No pain, no thought, no anything. Ah, this was the life. Or maybe the lack of life. Who cared? Whatever it was, it was. And boy oh boy, was it ever was. Why, she could get used to this. Whoever she was.
Hey, wait. What was that dot of light-
Luna awoke, in very much pain. She blinked trying to clear her vision. When her eyes finally focused, she noticed a blue pair of eyes staring back.
"Hey everyone, she's awake!" Pinky Pie yelled to the group.
Everyone immediately rushed to her bedside to make sure she was alright. Questions came from all directions, directed by no one in particular, but Luna only had one question of her own.
Twilight Sparkle came into her vision, ready to answer that question. "You and Horseshoe hit each other at the same time. You got knocked out, she didn't. Sorry."
Luna wondered if she should have felt bad. She certainly didn't.
"It was actually really lucky," Twilight continued, "but our friend Derpy was in the audience at the time. And luckily for us, she had her Doctor friend with her."
Luna blanked. "Doctor? Doctor Who-MMPH!"
"Now, now," a brown colt standing above her said as he shoved a thermometer into Luna's mouth. "I've already been asked that question three times tonight, and even I get sick of that joke after a little while." Withdrawing the stick, he checked it over. "Well. Internal temperature seems stable. Although considering the power you showed earlier, I'm surprised you don't have a nuclear power source or anything. Unless you can somehow keep it cooled at a constant 98.5 degrees."
Luna stared. "Huh?"
"Oh, right, I ramble! Or at least I've been told I ramble. Honestly I find that most things people say to you are silly, so it's rather ridiculous to listen to them anyways. Of course, that can lead to awkward moments when they were actually right, but hey, hindsight is twenty twenty and whatnot."
"Right!" Quickly flashing a small metal pen with a blue light at her, he tossed it back in his saddle bag. "Well, since it seems you're in no danger of immediate exploding, I'll be off! If I hurry, I still think I can get Ditzy to the end of existence as a whole and back before she starts her shift tomorrow. See you next time!"
The odd Doctor ran out of the room. The small pegasus he had referred to as Ditzy ambled over to her bed, and fixed Luna with a cross-eyed stare. "Muffin?" she asked as she held out a treat in her hooves.
Luna took it gingerly, wincing at the pain. "Ah, thanks."
"No problem!" Ditzy said with a beaming smile. Then she was off, chasing the Doctor off to wherever he went.
"So Applejack, you never did explain what you meant by the cake being important." Rainbow Dash fixed the orange mare with a stare. "What was it that you were talking about?"
"Ah!" Applejack, blushed, now the center of attention. "Well, ya see…"
"I've got this!" the resident forensic cake expert shouted. "You see, when we originally saw Luna step on the cake, we all thought she stepped on the letter G in 'Good Luck'."
"We know she did," Rarity pointed out. "Her hoofmark was right there on the cake!"
"But that's the thing!" Pinky Pie said excitedly. "There was a chunk missing from the side of the cake as well. And as we all know, Luna only stepped in the cake once. So that means…"
Luna frowned. "I got cake on my back hoof without realizing it?"
"No silly! It means that the horseshoe print was already there!"
Twilight's eyes shown with realization. "Oh, I get it! The way the hoofmark was sideways, it was meant to look like a G!"
Pinky Pie nodded. "Correct. And then using my advance scientific tools that I have at my disposal at all times…"
"She ate it," Applejack informed everypony.
"… I was able to detect a hint of cinnamon butterscotch swirl stick ground up into the cake!"
"So wait," Rainbow Dash held up a hoof. "I got this, don't tell me this one…"
"Wait a minute," Rarity asked. "Didn't we recently see somepony eating a cinnamon butterscotch swirl stick?"
A moment of silence followed.
"Oooooohhhhhh jeez this is awkward," Dash muttered, having finally understood who left the cake.
"But wait, AJ." Twilight looked confused. "Why did she make Luna a cake? I thought she hated her."
Applejack grinned ear to ear. "Why don't we ask her ourselves?" She then kicked the wall right next to the doorway to the room.
"Eep!" was heard from the other side.
A moment of silence was met with a slow shuffling as Horseshoe Harriet dragged herself around the corner. He was wrapped up in bandages, same as Luna, but was able to walk without a problem. "Um… hello."
Luna stared at the red mare. "Um… hi."
"So, yeah, um… Princess Luna?" Horseshoe's tone was now completely different than before.
"Yes?" Luna asked, surprised by the change.
"I'm sorry!" The red mare dropped to the floor in a bow, and tears started coming from her eyes. "I'm sorry about all those awful things I said to you, both during and before the fight! I'm sorry I always acted so mean to you! I'm sorry I hit you during the match!"
Luna tried to ease herself out of bed. "No… no need to cry. Just, what do you mean?"
Horseshoe looked up, tears still in her eyes. "It was-"
"It was me."
All eyes turned towards the door. Lotso Moneybags stood there, sour face plastered on his bald head. "I told Horseshoe to act that way towards you."
Applejack stood up and immediately was held back by Rainbow Dash. "Why you no good scum sonuva… What did you do that for!"
Lotso backed up, hoofs in the air. "Keep the hooves off, sweetheart! I'll sue you for throwing the first punch!" Easing himself back down onto four hooves, the villain of this tale divulged his ultimate evil goal. "Drama."
Everypony blinked. "Drama?" Luna asked.
"Of course!" Lotso grinned. "Drama makes the world go round. You get something going between two people, and others will watch. Increase the level of drama, and more ponies will watch. The bigger the audience, the bigger the betting pool!"
Twilight glared at him, realization dawning. "You're telling me that you set up this charity for a betting pool rather than the hospital? And that you got Horseshoe to say all that mean stuff to Luna, just so their fight would get a bigger turnout?"
"Exactamundo!" Pinky Pie chimed in, beating Lotso to the punch.
"Er, what she said. It helped that with Horseshoe just starting off, no one else would hire her. I found a true diamond in the rough, this one. And since I pretty much hold her career in the cup of my hoof, I've got control." Lotso waved a hoof airily. "I say beg, she asks who. I say jump, she asks how high. You know the drill."
Fluttershy stared at the colt in disgust. "You're horrible."
The colt's grin disappeared. "Darn right I'm horrible. Horribly off! I lost the bet, so I lost all the money in the betting pool, and then some!"
Horseshoe stared up at Lotso in shock. "You… you bet against me?"
"Of course!" the blue colt waved his arms to emphasize his point. "She's an alicorn, for cripe's sakes. Who can win against that! Now, if you ladies don't mind?"
Rarity cooly stared at this creature she refused to consider a pony. "You're certainly right we don't mind. Please, take your presence elsewhere at once!"
Lotso bowed. "As you wish." Walking over to Horseshoe who was still on the floor, he slapped her rump once more. "Come on sweetheart, we aren't welc-"
Horseshoe clocked the sleaze pony a good one with her right hoof. The bald head of Lotso Moneybags went careening into a bedpan sitting in the corner of the room. The loud ringing of the metal seemed to convey the ending of another match, if the spirals in Lotso's eyes weren't indication enough.
"You threw the first punch," she said with a smile.
Luna stared. "Horseshoe! What about your career? I thought no one else would hire you!"
Horseshoe smiled at Luna and the other ponies gathered. "That was the case before. But I'm not exactly a nobody anymore, am I? After all, I beat one of the two most powerful beings in all of Equestria in hoof-to-hoof combat."
Luna smiled. "Indeed you did. And no hard feelings whatsoever." She held out a hoof. Horseshoe Harriet nodded, and took the hoof in her own, both ponies giving a good shake.
"Awww! Herd Hug!" Pinkie Pie yelled as she suddenly managed to wrap all the mares together into a tight group mass. The laughing and struggling that ensued helped to make this lighthearted ending perfect.
… Only to be ruined by Spike running into the room and slamming the door behind him. "Quick! Twi! You have to remove my mustache right now, before they find me!"
The clopping of hoofs came down the hallways as a loud pony voice could be heard outside in the hallway. "Don't let him get away! No one gets away after impersonating me! I AM BOLT MADDEN!"
Celestia looked at her sister. "So when are you going to let me take a look at the video of the fight?"
Princess Luna currently had her head buried in another book, this one being about the growth pattern of white birch trees. "Pretty much never."
"Oh come ooooonnnnn!" Celestia draped herself over the desk that Luna was studying on.
"No" was the quick and easy response.
"But I head so much about it!" Celestia dropped down, her face next to Luna's. "A cross counter? Seriously? You can't even find any convincing shots of that in movies, yet you pulled one off. And you won't let me see it."
"Can I trust you to not take to the skies and try to fry Horseshoe Harriet with lightening the instant you see her punch me in the video?" Luna looked away from her book at her sister.
"No," she repeated, going back to her book.
"Oh, fine!" Princess Celestia harrumphed in a very unladylike fashion. "I send you out to finally get your true self shown to the world, and when you manage to do it, on pay-per-view no less, I can't see it."
Luna sighed. "I'm sure you can find other ways to entertain yourself. Like ruling Equestria, for example.
"Been there, done that…"
"Oh, hey!" Princess Celestia grabbed the scroll that dropped in front of her with practiced ease. "It's looks like Twilight managed to keep up her schedule, despite having trained you with her friends!"
"You should really give her a vacation, you know." Luna reached for her drawer, not removing her head from the book. "She deserves it."
Celestia nodded absently, not really paying attention. Her eyes were on the scroll:
Dear Princess Celestia,
These last two weeks I've learned two things. First, I learned that sometimes you can't always accomplish everything you want by yourself. But if and your friends work together towards the same goal, then you'll find that truly wonderful things can take place. Second, I learned that that you can't always judge a person by their cover. Even if someone seems to come off badly, there might be a good reason worth it. It is always worth the extra effort required to find out.
Your faithful student,
"Oh wow, two friendship reports for the two week assignment. Maybe she does deserve a vacation!" Princess Celestia squinted. "Wait, what's this part that looks crossed out?"
"Twi, are you sure I shouldn't put that in the report as well? I mean, you are her faithful student, and it is a new development in friendship that you discovered."
"Really, Spike, I'm sure she doesn't have to know. It wasn't a big deal anyways, we were all hung over and no one remembered what happened that night."
"Are you sure? I mean, weren't your and Rarity's horns-"
"SPIKE, JUST BE QUIET AND SEND THE LETTER!"
"…Celestia?" drawers opening and closing could be heard.
Distracted from discerning what exactly had been written down, Princess Celestia put the scroll away. "Yes, what is it Luna?
More drawers opening and closing. "You didn't happen to see Abacus while I was gone, did you?"
"Abacus… Abacus… let's see, what was Abacus again?" Celestia tried to look as nonchalant as possible.
Luna stared blankly at her sister. "An abacus."
"Hmm… ah, right!" Celestia pounded one hoof into the other, "remembering" the tool. "Ah, yes, I think I recall seeing it."
"Really?" Luna asked, looking relieved. "Where?"
"Leaving my hooves as I gave it to the castle janitor to use as a replacement scrubber when his broke," Luna said innocently.
"OH NO ABACUS, MOMMY IS COMING TO SAVE YOU!" And with a flash of her horn, Luna was gone.
Celestia sighed. "One step forward, two steps back."
Authors Note: Oh sweet Celestia, that was difficult to write. This was written for the Happy Luna challenge held over at Equetria Daily, and was all worked on over a period of five days. That said, I only planned on this being 15k words, maybe 16k or 17k max. But once this stuff started pouring onto my keyboard, things just started coming out of my head more and more, until I was suddenly finding myself staring at walls of text from God knows where. I don't know if this will be my last pony fic, but I do know that I've developed a strong hatred of all things "hoof", "hooves", or anything to do with typing out Applejacks accent (yes, yes, I know, what accent).
Anywho, thanks to all of you bronies for reading up until the end of the story, it's much apreciated. Thanks also to the Space Battles forums, for the prereading and advice you guys tossed my way.