Starlight was out enjoying the sun in her garden. Using her magic she lifted several balls of water up out of the river and spun them around her. Concentrating she turned them from ice to water to steam and back again before combining them together and transmuting the entire thing into sand. Her horn glowed hot and she panted in effort but the spell prevailed. Proud of her efforts she lay down on the grass and took in the warmth of the sun. It had been a while since the incident with Nightmare Moon and having dedicated so much time to increasing her studies she really did need to take a break. That is until the bracelet around her hoof started to give out several faint flashes. Pulling herself up she headed inside her home.
She had still not fully gotten used to living in Ponyville and the fact her new house was just so much smaller than the grand tower she once resided in did not help either. Still, her mission was to report on her studies of friendship and so she was determined to get used to it. The fact it overlooked the town’s river was quite nice at least and the several floors gave her a decent amount of space. From the garden she entered through the backdoor into the kitchen and from there into the main living room of the building. It was large, taking up most of the ground floor, and was fully furnished. It even had a solid stone fireplace. Over on the large oak table sat an ornate white and gold lantern that had a small green flame flickering within.
Starlight lifted it with her magic and opened the small glass door to let a wisp of smoke come out, it twirled and formed a stamped letter that landed on the table softly. Picking that as well she opened the scroll and began to read.
“Hear ye, hear ye. Her grand royal highness, Princess celestia of Equestria, is pleased to announce that the grand galloping gala to be held in the magnificent capital city of Canterlot on the 21st of…” Starlight trailed off as she skimmed over all the boring parts. “...She cordially extends an invitation to Starlight Glimmer plus one guest.” Within the scroll there was also two golden tickets. Starlight was excited, she had never gone to the gala before due to having far too much studying and tests to do but now she could finally have a chance. Oh but only one friend could come with her? That would surely be trouble as she had not yet made a single real friend but Starlight realized that she did not need to be friends with a pony to give them a ticket.
Thinking Starlight placed the other ticket into a scroll and began to write. “Considering the events of Nightmare Moon I can think of none other than six who deserve to go with me but with only one ticket choosing who would simply be too difficult. I would rather not have them fight over it and so I am requesting several more tickets, or none.” With that she rolled it up, tied it with a piece of purple ribbon and tossed it into the lantern. As soon as she had placed it down however it started to flash and once more a letter wrapped in red came through. Opening it she found herself with six tickets instead of one, as well as some praise from Celestia for choosing her friends needs.
“Now I just need to give the tickets to the others.” Starlight spoke to herself. “If they want to go… Or if they will even talk to me after that outburst… Oh no.” She realized just how deep of a hole she had dug herself into. Starlight could not even return the tickets now Celestia knew who they were for. She sighed. This was going to be a long day.
Starlight knew a lot about apologies. She had read all the guides and done a number of practise tests… On herself via a mirror late at night… But this would be the first time on other ponies. With saddlebags heavy with gifts she entered into the town hall and asked where she could find Twilight. To her surprise she found that Twilight lived in the penthouse at the top of the building, not even the mayor had such a central and grand home as that. With permission given she entered into the elevator and went up several floors to find that the penthouse was far more grand than she expected. Carved wood, expensive paintings and luxurious tapestries were just a few decorations that stuck out to her. With thick velvety carpet under her hooves she walked down a short corridor to where two gilded doors stood. Pulling them open she found the large room inside to be nothing like the entrance. It was a mess with books, scrap and small crystals everywhere. On a huge table to the right of the entrance was something metallic and indescribable all tied together with what must have several rolls of grey tape while on the left was a staircase curving upwards.
“Welcome.” A voice rang out ahead of her. A small purple dragon with a bright green head crest jumped down from a chair placed in front of the fireplace and ran over to her. “Name’s Spike. Are you looking for Twilight?” He asked. Starlight just stood amazed. She had never seen a dragon in person, let alone a baby dragon.
“Ehm, yes.” Starlight replied as she lifted him off the ground and rotated him in the air. “Fascinating.”
“If you don’t mind, I am getting dizzy.” Spike called out causing a blushing Starlight to drop him. Giving her a wave to follow him they both headed to the staircase leading to the upper floors.
The upstairs was truly nothing like the bottom. For one it was smaller but also much more neat. With a solid desk stacked with notes and journals and a king sized bed taking up a good portion of the space the rest of the room was clean and tidy. Even the shelves were in perfect order. Twilight herself sat at the solid desk scribbling something down thanks to a pencil attached to her hoof via an odd contraption. It was a tidy desk, with a photo of a very young Twilight standing next to an older looking colt and tall stacks of paperwork all over the place.
“Hey Twilight, you have a visitor.” Spike called out before promptly heading back downstairs.
“Oh Twilight I simply felt terrible about what I said and wanted to tell you that I am sorry.” Starlight began as she used her magic to open her saddlebags.
“No you are not.” Twilight replied while glancing her way. “You don’t care about me or the others and if you wanted to try and make up with us then you would have to be honest about your feelings. So, what do you want from me?” Starlight was taken aback by her logic.
“I am not good with this stuff alright but I did mean it. I even got you sweets from the bakery because that is supposed to be the nice thing to do or whatever.”
“Gee thanks.” Twilight said with an eye roll.
“Ok. Ok… How about a ticket to the Grand Galloping Gala instead?” Starlight then asked as she placed the ticket on the table for Twilight to see. Twilight stopped her writing and turned to face her.
“Ah I see. You need me to go for some reason and so despite having all the chances to say sorry you wait until now to do it. Right?” Twilight asked while cracking a grin.
“Yes.” Starlight sighed.
“Great. I will go.”
“Do not get me wrong, I do not like you Starlight or your kind but I am not one to hold a grudge.” Twilight shrugged. “I do have a reason to go as well, the Galloping Gala is wall to wall with the rich and powerful as you know.”
Leaving with one less ticket and a point in the right direction Starlight could not help but feel somewhat confused. That was nothing like her books had told her and at the same time it did work, sort of. This kind of grey area was simply not covered by her studies and it left her with much to ponder on. The one thing she could be sure of was that Twilight had helped her greatly.
Starlight walked north from the town hall and across the market street. It was quite busy as it normally is and there were ponies rushing all around to get things done. Others still stood talking to each other pleasantly. Starlight never did like hanging around here, it made her anxious. Continuing on over the north bridge she quickly reached where the library sat. She had walked past it a few times since moving here but had never gone inside more than once during the summer sun celebration. Taking a better look at it she had to admit it was quite impressive. A huge enchanted tree that had been hollowed out to form a library, the construction and style of it harked back to ancient unicorn magic and she had no doubt that it must be as old as ponyville is, if not older. There were multiple floors and several balconies all the way up. The solid wooden door had fresh paint and the library had clearly seen several renovations in recent years but under it all the same worn wood stood strong and proud. The inside was just as naturally beautiful as the outside, with dozens of tall shelves having been carved into the round inside wall of the tree.
“Heya Starlight, I am Dewey the dutiful book keeper!” A small tan earth pony called out to her from the bottom of the stairs. “Are you looking for something in particular?” He asked.
“I am looking for Rainbow actually. Wanted to talk about something.”
“Hmm Mrs Dashy said not to let anyone bug her unless it was important.” The colt replied.
“Oh but it is very important. I have to give her a ticket to the Gala.”
“Wow, THE Gala?” Dewey gasped. “That is important. Go on upstairs.”
Thanking the young colt for his ‘help’ she headed up the carved stairs and though a smaller door to find quite the scene. The room was a messy pile of papers, ink, books, junk food and clothing while the walls were pasted all over with notes and string connecting things. Dash herself was laying on her back in what looked like a giant padded nest of blankets and pillows. Her eyes lazily staring up into nothing.
“Back alrea… “ Dash spoke as she turned her head towards the door closing. “Oh Starlight, what are you doing here?” Dash spoke as she suddenly sat up straight.
“I wanted to give my apologies to what I said during the Summer Celebration and also offer you a ticket to the gala.” Starlight replied as she wrapped herself up in a magic glow and levitated over the sea of mess on the floor.
“Ooo… Which gala?” Rainbow asked.
“The Grand Galloping Gala.” Starlight replied.
“Ooo… Never heard of it.”
“What. How can you not have heard of the GGG?!” Starlight called out.
“I don’t exactly go to many parties. Not my thing.”
“I can see that.” Starlight sighed. “But there will be tons of fun things, like eh dancing?”
“All sorts of famous ponies will be there, surely you have a hero you would love to meet?”
“Hmm… Not that I can think of.”
Starlight began to sweat. Looking around the room, her eyes fell on a drawing of what seemed to be a cake on fire. The string that was pinned to it led to several others including odd ancient cake recipes and odd alchemy symbols. “What about the, ehm, ah, the suncakes?”
Dash’s ears perked up. “Go on.”
“Celestia herself would at the Gala and you did say that she was the one to give out those cakes long ago. Maybe you could ask her directly?” Starlight cringed a bit at having to use Celestia as bait.
“Genius! Much better than my latest idea of communicating with the ghosts of pony knights although I do wonder what I am going to do with that helmet… Never mind. I will gladly accept the ticket.”
“Do you also accept my apology?” Starlight asked with a wide smile.
“For what?” Dash replied with a head tilt.
“N-nothing.” Starlight stammered as she floated the ticket over to Dash and made her escape from the room. She took a deep breath and tried to shake off that warm musky smell she had been suffocating in. “Dash really needs to clean up more.” She muttered.
Starlight headed back down to the town center and then west past the Ponyville lake to the very edge of town. Right on the border of Ponyville sat the Bejeweled Bridle, with beautiful gemstones adoring the outside and a sign all written in gold. Starlight had heard of it a few times as she walked around town as everypony wanted one of the Mythril Roses or other such decorations. Walking inside she was greeted by the sight of dozens of display cases all showing off gems so pure that they gave off a faint radiance or elaborate accessories made of gold and silver. Oddly though the entire building felt noticeably warmer than outside.
“Welcome, I can tell you have quite an eye for the finer things.” A unicorn of pale colors spoke from behind the counter.
“Oh no no, I am just here to talk to Rarity. I heard she worked here?”
The pale pony’s eyes narrowed. “Are you Starlight by chance?” She asked.
“Yes… Everypony seems to know me for some reason around here.”
“I am afraid we are closed.” The pale pony suddenly stated as she began to magically push Starlight out.
“What, wait, I need to talk to Rarity!” Starlight protested as she braced herself against the door.
“She is busy.”
“I just want to apologize!”
“You do?” The pale pony spoke with a glare.
“Yes, I do feel bad for what I said and I am going around making amends. I even got gifts.” Starlight explained with a nod to her saddlebag. Pulling out a box of sweets she handed them to the pale pony. “You can have these as well.”
“Well now that is mighty kind of you.” Lilly replied with a smile before becoming stern again. “Listen. I am Mythril Lilly, Lilly for short, and I am the one who is in charge of keeping Rarity safe. I was real proud of her having gone to help others and even saving Celestia but ever since she came back she has been hiding away from everypony again. Something that a ‘Starlight’ had said?” Lilly explained causing Starlight to sheepishly step back away. “If you want to go say sorry you can find her down west of here in the ravine but you better be extra nice you hear.”
“I hear! I really do feel bad about all of this.” Starlight spoke in half truth. She did feel somewhat bad for having hurt someone so much but a part of her just found the whole situation to be quite annoying. “If you do not mind me asking, what is wrong with Rarity? I just mean that normal ponies don’t get special helpers right?”
“You are not from around here I take it?” Lilly asked, Starlight nodded. Sitting down behind the counter she looked Starlight up and down. “Ponyville is not like Canterlot. It is not like most places to be honest. Twilight helped bring this town back from ruin and lets just say she helped bring a good number of the ponies that live here back from ruin as well.” Lilly stopped to give a small chuckle to herself as her thoughts ran by. “You go give your apology, if Rarity ends up trusting you then we can talk more next time you visit.”
Leaving the shop Starlight headed west through the fields of grass to find herself standing on the edge of a surprisingly hard to spot canyon. It ran deep and wide with dozens of mine tunnels sprinkled across its rocky walls. Starlight thought it would be quite a nightmare to find one pony in such a maze but then she noticed a sign that had been stuck just down the way. It pointed to a wooden platform that led down the cliff face and from there she found another sign that led across a bridge and then down some stairs, another bridge, and then into a mine. With odd crystal lights showing her the way Starlight found that the caves kept getting bigger the further she went. Eventually, down in the depths where even the light of the crystals was dim, she heard a faint noise.
Following the noise Starlight found Rarity sitting chipping away at a rocky wall that had a pony sized gemstone embedded into it. More surprisingly though was a minecart just nearby that was already filled to the brim with other gems and crystals. She was about to call out, even make a joke, but she could not find the right words. Rarity truly looked too miserable.
“H-hey.” Starlight eventually managed to say as her voice cracked nervously. Rarity did not seem to notice, or care, and just continued to chip away at the rock. “I wanted to come say sorry. I was stressed and I said some terrible things that I really feel awful for.” The faint clicking of magic hitting rock stopped. Starlight might have much to learn about ponies and emotions but the look on Rarity’s tired grey face as she turned to face her was enough to make her heart ache.
“You do?” Was all Rarity managed to say before breaking out a smile and standing up. “I-I forgive you, I think that is what I am supposed to say right?”
“I think so. Oh and I also got… A ticket to the Grand Galloping Gala!” Starlight cheerily spoke as she pulled the gold ticket from her bag.
“Um, thank you… But I… Um… “ Rarity stammered out now looking shy again.
“Let me guess, you don’t like being around other ponies or a dozen other issues?” Starlight sighed.
“I did not want to go without Lilly.” Rarity admitted causing Starlight to pause. That was a new issue she had not expected. Thinking quickly she remembered what Lilly had told her.
“Wouldn't Lilly want you to go on your own? To… prove that you can?” Starlight asked.
“Oh, oh yes. That would be good.” Rarity quietly spoke as she gently took the ticket with her magic. “Thank you.” She added before turning to the gem stuck in the stone and in one surprisingly powerful show of force, broke half the rock wall away in a single blow.
Starlight decided to leave Lilly’s explanations for another time as it was now past noon and she had plenty more to do, including the pony she dreaded the most to talk to. Pinkie Pie. The Cherry Pie was just down the road from the Bridle and so there was no way to escape it. It loomed on the horizon and it seemed to be much bigger than she remembered from the first time she had visited. The inside though was the same. Royal looking with purple and gold. That same incense burning in the air that caused her to feel so warm and loose. Heading to the desk she asked where Pinkie could be found and they pointed her down to the right. The lights grew dimmer as she went deeper into the building and just as all light had faded Starlight passed through a thick curtain into a huge room. A stage stood front and center with dozens of tables and seats all around, including several balconies on higher floors, and completing the room were two bars that flanked the right and left. The music here bounced with enough energy to shake the floor but quiet enough to leave ponies talking to themselves while the air did not have the same incense as the entrance but rather rich and heady smells of food and drinks.
Starlight felt herself moving as in a trace. Everything was so stimulating, the noise, the lights, the smells, and before she knew it she was sitting at a table on the far edge of things just trying to catch her breath.
“Oh hello again.” A familiar voice chimed in.
“Oh it's you, eh, Sunset?” Starlight asked causing a giggle from the small mare.
“Strawberry Sunset. What can I get you?” She asked.
“Oh please, not that drink you gave me last time. I could hardly walk.”
“Well you are only supposed to have a couple throughout the night, not drink one in a minute.” Sunset cheerfully said with a wink. With a growl from Starlight’s stomach, and a touch of blush to compliment it, Sunset giggled again.
“I kind of missed lunch, do you do food here?”
“I got exactly what you need, stay here and enjoy the show in the meantime.” Sunset replied before trotting off into the crowd and as she did so Starlight could have sworn she heard the faint ting of a bell.
Looking around the room Starlight could spot many of the town locals and others that were from elsewhere. At a rough count there had to have been a good 50 at least just on the ground floor and plenty more up on the higher floors. Suddenly the once quiet stage came to life, the curtains rose, and the spotlights rotated around to illuminate Pinkie Pie.
“Good evening everypony. Welcome to the opening week of the new and improved Entree theatre, we have several delightful performances coming up and discounts on all the tasty treats you could want. Do give a warm welcome to Madam Champagne and her performers.” Pinkie called out the crowds before exciting just as an older looking mare came on to replace her.
Sunset came back just as the upcoming schedule was being explained. On her back she carried a steaming hot drink in a thick wooden mug. It smelled rich, creamy and had a thick foam despite the boiling liquid.
“On the house.” She explained as she set it down and quickly left to check on other tables. Starlight sat stunned by the odd concoction before her as she was expecting a hot meal or something more traditional but instead she got something altogether different. Using her magic to hold the mug she took a sniff and then a sip to find it delicious. The finest of creams and spices mixed beautifully together and even after a single mouthful Starlight could tell just how filling it was too. Before she knew it she was simple sitting staring at the stage in a satisfied stupor, the sensory overload around her leaving her unable to do much but enjoy all the different pleasures. The act going on she knew was some kind of musical. It had dancers, two of matching colors wore stripes, while several others had feathers and bells. She could definitely hear bells but not work out where they were.
“Nice to see you return.” Pinkie spoke from the seat next to her causing Starlight to nearly inhale her drink out of surprise. “Just in time to enjoy our little theatre as well, how lovely.”
“Pinkie! Where did you come from!?” Starlight called out in shock. Pinkie gave her a sly look and took a breath to speak when Starlight raised a hoof. “Don’t answer that. I came to apologize for what I said during the Summer Celebration.”
“Darling I get called worse than that on even the most boring of nights.” Pinkie spoke while leaning in closer. “I hear in fact that it can be quite cathartic you know, to be vulgar and honest, swearing, screaming, letting all your little pent up secrets out.”
“I… Not again…”
“If you never need a little relief then do give me a visit, you can call me whatever you would like.” Starlight downed the rest of her still hot drink, let out a gasp as the pain woke her up fully and then stood right up so quickly that her chair skidded across the floor.
“I am glad you are not upset and I got you this ticket to the Gala and some sweets, please just accept so I can leave.” Starlight quickly explained as she snatched it out of her Saddlebags.
Pinkie reached over and slowly took the ticket with her mouth before doing the same for the box. Placing them down on the table she gave Starlight a long, soft look. “I will go, if you can tell me why you would think I would want to.”
“You want to party?” Starlight asked already blushing.
“Hm in a way, go on.”
“Dancing, singing, eating food and having a laugh?”
“Oh I will be laughing but anyone can do that. What would I, Pinkie, be doing?”
“Y-you would… You are going too…” Starlight trailed off.
“You will have to speak up, the music is quite loud.”
“Y-you are going to…” Starlight’s voice kept giving out on the last few words.
Pinkie leaned in real close. “Do you need to whisper it into my ear like a good girl?”
Starlight’s entire face had gone from purple to red. She looked to the ticket on the table and swallowed the lump in her throat. Leaning closer to Pinkie she gave an apology to Celestia in her mind before very quieting speaking a few words. Pinkie started to laugh. And she only got louder.
“I will see you at the Gala.” Was all Starlight needed to hear before she ran away from the Cherry Pie for the second. Pinkie kept giggling to herself for a moment more. “All that and the best she can do is ‘smooch the boys.’ Ah Starlight you are a treasure.” Getting up from the seat Pinkie waltzed over to the left bar. Leaning on the counter she waited just a moment for Sunset to appear.
“Hey Mrs Pie, do you need me to take another break?” Sunset asked seeing Pinkie chewing her lip. “Starlight really has that… ehm, effect on you hm.”
“Sugar, darling. I need you to take the rest of the day off and be in my room with a new bottle of whatever we have on the top shelf. Starlight has ALL the effects on me.”
Starlight meanwhile was running as far away from the Cherry Pie as possible. This time for sure she swore to never return, especially considering every time she did it would only get even more intense. First it was drinks that left her barely able to walk and this time she could not even think straight. Who knows what kind of madness would befall her on a third visit, just thinking about it made her face once more become red. Her hooves took her well out of town and all the way down into the countryside before she stopped for a rest. Looking up she only now realized. She had been in there for a few hours… “Pony feathers.” Starlight muttered.
Trotting further into the orchard, she found that the quickly cooling air combined with the lush natural smells around her helped to put her at ease. Ignoring a large red stallion arguing with a tree she continued straight on to the farm house in search of Applejack. Starlight rose a hoof up to knock on the door but before she did she caught sight of the pony in question heading her way through the trees.
“Hello Applejack, been looking for you.” Starlight spoke joyfully.
“Uh huh.” Applejack replied as she continued to march on.
“I want to say sorry and…”
“Listen bud, it is harvest season and right now all I want to do is throw myself into a real hot bath.” Applejack replied wearily. Starlight had not even noticed the leaves in her mane and the grime on her fur until now.
“Well I just need to give you a ticket to the Gala and say sorry, won’t take a second.”
“Look…” Applejack sighed. “Are you really, honestly, sorry?”
“Of course. I have already visited most of the others today.”
“Then you can come help at the farm for a few days to prove it.”
“No problem! Here is the ticket and some candy.” Starlight replied as she handed them to her. Applejack did not hang around another moment and closed the door to the farmhouse with a firm slam. Starlight did not mind, a few days of apple picking surely could not be that hard after all.
With Applejack quickly sorted there was only Fluttershy left to track down. Starlight remembered that she lived in the Everfree but it was already late in the day and hiking through the forest at night was never a good idea. She let out a huff. It was annoying to not get everything planned done on time and tomorrow she had to go help Applejack but she had time, plenty of time.
Stretching out her legs she began the long walk back to town but found herself distracted by that stallion from before glaring at a tree. She watched for a moment as an applecore dropped down and just missed the stallion’s head. He shook his head disapprovingly at the tree and began to walk away. Curious now Starlight went to take a look. Once she stood under the rich emerald leaves and craned her head up high she found that it was not the tree the guy had been arguing with, but rather a yellow pegasi in its branches.
“Ah I was just thinking of you.” Starlight called up to Fluttershy.
“Who?” Fluttershy asked as she pulled another apple of a branch and took half of it in a single bite.
“S-Starlight. I helped a while ago with Nightmare Moon?”
“Purple point.” Fluttershy muttered.
“Yes… Ehm. I want to apologize for what I said and offer you a ticket to the Gala.” Starlight only now had the realization that she was inviting a savage from the Everfree to the most regal event of the entire year. She shuddered and seeing no reply from Fluttershy continued. “The Gala is a super important party in Canterlot. There will be important ponies, things you won’t see elsewhere, ponies will be proud of you for going…” Starlight listed but could not get a reaction. “Ehm there will also be plenty of activities, the entire royal castle is on offer to you.”
“Royal… Food?” Fluttershy asked after a moment of thinking.
“Yes, there is a wide selection of free food and...” At that Fluttershy jumped down with only a light pomf of her wings breaking the fall. Starlight took the ticket out of her bag and fluttershy nabbed with her wing. Spreading both wide she leaped up and like that was gone. Starlight stood a moment more before shaking away the unanswered questions in her head and turning tail for home.
With the moon rising Starlight let out a comfortable sigh within her bath. Levitating a quill and a piece of parchment she thought for a moment and then began to write.
“Dear Princess Celestia,
Today I learned more than I was expecting. It is not wise to make plans for your friends without telling them and you should be honest with apologies as well or else they do not come off as sincere. Also that a moment of not thinking really makes your entire day much harder than it has to be, to say the least…”
Starlight stopped writing. Reading it over she screwed it up in a ball and threw it to the ground with several others. “Maybe I will just send one lesson at a time so I have more time to myself.