Blueblood rolled away from yet another attack from one of his three assailants before intercepting a spear that was hurled at the center of his body. He then telekineticly reflected it back to its owner. One down. Another one of the two disengaged from their combat with Lance and took a swipe at Blueblood with a sword. The prince dodged the attack and used his magic to bind the legs of the swordpony. Two down. Unbeknownst to Blueblood or Lance there was a third swordpony attacking from behind with enough force to sever the prince's spine.
"Enough!" shouted Sarge. The assailants' weapons fell to to the ground with a clatter after being a hairs' breadth from Blueblood's neck, and the unicorns' magic was temporarily frozen by the power of the shout. Sarge walked over to the pony who had made the final attack. "How many times must I tell you Private Meadows. This is only practice fighting. The prince and Lance were not trying to kill you, nor are you to try to kill them. Report back to me after your dinner for punishment."
He then turned toward Blueblood. "And you."
Blueblood cowered in place, anticipating another shout from his superior officer.
"Good job. You could make a fine soldier."
"I'm sorry! I'll try better next time! I-- wait... good job?"
"In the month that you've been here you have shown more promise than most of the normal recruits," Sarge said. At this Blueblood felt a sudden surge of pride, though he pushed it down with reminders that he, as prince, was inherently better than anypony else. Besides, all this work made him dirty and sweaty. The prince did not want to be known as skilled if it actually meant having to DO anything. Sarge continued, "Though I wouldn't expect you to have the sticktoitiveness to develop any skill that requires you to learn something."
Blueblood was not quite sure whether he should take offense at Sarge's words or be elated at the prospect of avoiding more exercises. He went with the latter option and said, "Thank you, sir."
"Come on, Blueblood," Lance said after Blueblood had formally resigned from the Royal Equestrian Army. "Let's go get dinner and maybe make some plans for tomorrow. Do you have anywhere that you want to go?"
"Well... there is this one place for which I have had a craving recently... The Upper Crust."
Lance was a bit surprised. "Are you sure about that? I hear that it's awfully expensive."
"Of course! I will have only the best, and anyhoof, I'm sure that my auntie will take care of the bill. I have no bits, and she wouldn't force you to pay, I'm sure"
"Well if you're sure, then I'm okay with it."
The Upper Crust was one of the most exclusive establishments in Canterlot. The architecture was modeled after the Sun and Moon temples of Equestrian antiquity, white marble with intricately decorated columns around the structure. Ivy grew up these columns and branched out under the pediment, which was inscribed with the words "Blessed is he who offers foods pleasing to the goddesses." The golden doors led to a lobby that held an art collection rivaling any Equestrian museum. Most of the art consisted of portraits of Celestia and Luna, but occasionally would display a marble carving of some exotic specialty dish. The eating area was covered by a large round dome which was magically enhanced to look like either the day or night sky. Besides the magical ceiling, the only lighting in the restaurant was provided by candles and oil lamps, as the management didn't believe in "those fake electric knock offs." The tables were varied from large and round for large groups to small two seaters for a more intimate occasion. During all working hours, the finest classical musicians in Canterlot would play music suited to the atmosphere.
Lance and Prince Blueblood made it to the restaurant with time to spare. They were waiting to be seated when somepony behind them spoke up.
"Blueblood? Is that you?"
At the sound of his name Blueblood tensed up noticeably and ground his teeth together.
"Why so it is! Good to see you again!"
"Hello Fancypants. Fleur."
Fleur de Lis tossed her mane at this recognition, drawing the attention of many passing stallions, who were so entranced that they tripped, walked into tables, or received a well deserved scolding from their wives. One passerby had actually managed to do all three, much to his eternal chagrin.
"What brings you here old chap?" Fancypants said with well mannered cheerfulness, casually parrying the stare of Blueblood.
Lance picked up on Blueblood's sour attitude better than Fancypants and quickly stepped between the two white coated unicorns to answer in Blueblood's place.
"We're here for dinner"
Fancypants looked at the pegasus with mild curiosity, "Oh! Blueblood, you have yet to introduce me to your friend."
Wisely not trusting the prince to answer, Lance once more spoke up. "I'm commander Lance, of the Royal Guard, and, while I tend not to pay much attention to the going-ons of the Canterlot elite save those of an expressly professional interest, I have heard much about you, one of the most influential ponies in the city, and Madame de Lis, who, I must say, is even more alluring in the flesh than on the news."
Fleur blushed at the compliment.
"Well it is wonderful to make your acquaintance Commander. Say! How about you two join us for supper, my treat."
Lance, while not an "elite" himself, understood how these invitations should be handled. Therefore he responded with the normal pleasantries. "Oh, certainly a stallion such as yourself already has plans. We couldn't possibly impose..." To which Fancypants predictably responded, "No no no, I insist. I can tell that you are an honorable pony Sir Lance and would be delighted if you were to join my dinner party."
Lance accepted the invitation, despite Blueblood's obvious non-verbal objections. He also made a mental note to himself to ask Blueblood why he held such animosity towards Fancypants.
"Wonderful! This way, we have seats in a private room near the orchestra."
After ordering their meals, Lance electing for a daffodil sandwich and dandelion salad of astonishing quality and price, Blueblood and Fancypants trying that day's special, and Fleur simply having some celery and a glass of lemon water, Lance decided to take advantage of the situation and start a conversation.
"So... Fancypants. All I know about you is what they say in the news and whatever gossip I hear while on duty in the palace. I'm not quite sure what to make of you. If you don't mind could you tell me a bit about yourself?
Fancypants looked delighted to have the chance to talk about himself, but it was markedly different than the eagerness Blueblood exhibited in similar situations. Blueblood was always modifying the story to make him seem better than he really was. Fancypants, on the other hoof, was constantly deferring credit to somepony else, all the while taking the blame for whatever went wrong.
"... so after he had unsuccessfully tried to pick my pocket, I learned that Canterlot is filled with ponies who have to resort to thievery just to survive. This inspired me to organize a new charity for the betterment of Canterlot's homeless." Fancypants went on. "There is a slight shortage of ponies willing to donate help or money to the underprivileged classes"
"Are there no prisons, are there no workhouses?" Blueblood muttered under his breath.
"Yes! That is exactly what they said when I asked them for help. Anyway, with some help we won't even need the prisons nor workhouses! What a wonderful world we can create if only we were to try."
Blueblood, seething, bit his tongue and resisted the urge to facehoof there and then.
Spear and Floriano had left the table to get some fresh air and chat and Pleated Skirt was trying to start a friendly conversation with Bluebelle when the princess finally snapped.
"I have had enough!" Bluebelle shouted, standing up so roughly that she upset their drinks, "I've put up with your act for far too long. Always doing everything better than I could, dangling your accomplishments in front of me like a carrot in front of a donkey!"
A voice spoke up, "I resent that remark!"
Bluebelle ignored her.
"Well I won't put up with it any longer! From this day forth--"
Pleated Skirt tried to save the situation. "Wait! Bluebelle, I never did anything like that!"
"You know full well what I mean. 'Oh, I'm so perfect. I help everypony, even when it's none of my business or if they don't even want my help, and nopony can do it as well as me.' Stop the act, Pleats. You just love the chance to rub my failures in my face."
"Bluebelle... I never knew you felt that way. Is there any way I can make it up to you?"
"Oh shut up." Bluebelle replied, socking Pleated Skirt in the mouth with her front hoof.
"...so by the time Prince Solaris arrived in Ponyville, the weird pink one had already lured the pests into the Everfree Forest," Spear explained to Floriano. "We had to promptly leave to fix a similar infestation in Fillydelphia. I can't complain that my first day on the job was boring by any stretch."
Floriano smiled politely at Spear's anecdote as they walked from the terrace back to their table. "That's rather fascinating. You must love your job at the..."
"What?" Spear asked. "What's going on?" Floriano pointed through the crowd that had spontaneously gathered around the two nobles. "Oh horseapples," Spear muttered under her breath as they both dashed towards the center of the crowd, which was uttering rather ostentatious taunts and jeers such as "Brava!" and "Jolly good show, I say!" Through the numerous ponies that had collected around the action, Spear saw Bluebelle dodge a retaliatory strike from Pleated Skirt. Bluebelle utilized her military training as she grabbed a nearby wine bottle to club Pleated Skirt over the head. Spear leapt over the spectating ponies and tackled Bluebelle before she could telekinetically throw the bottle at her opponent.
Bluebelle and Spear landed hard on the marble floor. Fortunately, Spear snapped out of her daze before the pugilistic princess. She quickly pulled out her badge and flashed it at the crowd of ponies. "Commander Spear, Solar Guard. Nothing to see here. Back to your meals."
The mob of well dressed ponies either feeling threatened by the law or self-conscious about how foolish they must have looked, trotted off, nervously straightening their clothes or reaffixing their monocles. Spear glared at Bluebelle until she could be sure that she would stay put and not try to restart the fight. Once satisfied that there would be no funny business, the pegasus went over to Pleated Skirt.
"Are you alright?" She asked.
Pleated Skirt was already struggling to her hooves. "I think so. I only- Oof!" She fell to down. "Well...I may have sprained my leg." Her gaze fell to the limb, twisted slightly to the side. "Or perhaps I may have broken it."
"Will you be able to get home on your own?" Spear asked.
"Eventually. Unfortunately, my home is clear on the other side of Canterlot. We only came here because we were on the way back from the Wonderbolt derby. I don't suppose I could...?" Pleated Skirt asked intently.
"I suppose," Spear replied hesitantly, "though Bluebelle is already using my guest room, and my apartment may still be too far. I wonder... I know! If you can make it to the castle, I'm sure Solaris will let you use one of the royal suites in Bluebelle's tower. I think Bluebelle owes it to you after this episode. Right?" Spear turned around, expecting her companion to be sulking behind her, but she was long gone.
Blueblood's anger still boiled inside him like a covered saucepan. He had fled the establishment as his initial anger and resentment evaporated. What remained seemed to be a mixture of guilt, shame, and embarrassment. He deserved it. It was all his fault. He--
"No!" he reminded himself. "Fancypants made a fool of me, along with Lance, true, but shame? Guilt? I am Blueblood! I am the royal prince of the lineage of the sun! I do not need to feel shame! I do not feel guilt! And woe to those who made me look like a fool!" Blueblood looked up into the night sky and laughed heartily.
"Blueblood? What are you laughing at?" A familiar pony stared at him quizzically through his square rimmed glasses.
"Oh! Professor Canteen... I mean Cantrip!" Blueblood corrected himself quickly. "Yes. That." Blueblood mumbled to himself.
Professor Cantrip pushed his glasses up on his nose and gave Blueblood one of his trademarked "If you step out of line again, you'll wish you've never been born" stares. "Blueblood, I have an urgent matter that requires your attention immediately. It appears that there has been a development involving Celestia's' mirror that you broke, and I want you to come with me to help with the investigation."
"So," Blueblood pried, "you want me to come back to the palace? As in, back home?"
Professor Cantrip shook his head. "I only want you to come to the palace to investigate the mirror. It's in the room to the right of the throne room. After that you shall leave and continue your punishment."
Blueblood swore and hung his head. "Fine. Lead on Pro-fess-or," Blueblood said enunciating each syllable with mock respect.
"...As in, back home?" Bluebelle pried.
Professor Mesmera shook her head. "I only want you to come to the palace to investigate the mirror. It's in the room to the left of the throne room. After that you shall leave and continue your punishment."
Bluebelle swore and hung her head. "Fine. Lead on..."
Lance was furious. "That ungrateful bastard! Every time things don't go his way he does something stupid! I have to go find him. My bits are on that he ran off to the castle to mope. Fleur?"
"I think I should take Fancypants with me, we were planning on bringing him to the suite there anyway. I--"
"Lance!?! You had better explain to me right now what just happened. This may have very well cost me my career if they trace it back to anypony I know."
"Octavia?" Lance replied surprisedly. "Could we deal with that later, I need to get Fancypants here to the castle, but he hurt one of his legs. Could you help me?"
"D-d-did you say Fa-fancypants!?!" Octavia blurted out, quickly fixing her already pristine hair.
"Um...yeah? Why are you all excited?"
"Because he's only the most important pony in all of Canterlot; that's why! Oh, I do hope that I'm presentable." Octavia hurried over to the nearest window to try and see her reflection.
"Oh, don't worry Octy. It's perfectly fine." Lance said, brushing aside her nervous enthusiasm.
"So, you are the lovely Lady Octavia," Fancypants said as he smoothly snuck into the conversation. "I came here because I had heard that you were to be performing tonight with your ensemble, but I was sidetracked when I ran into Lance here and Blueblood, who seems to have developed quite a strong a right hook since we last met." Fancypants rubbed the side of his face, which still stung. "I am honored to meet an earth pony of such musical talent. Even without magic you are still the pinnacle of talent among your peers."
Octavia looked flustered at the comment, "Why, thank you Fancypants. I don't know if I am deserving of such high praise." She paused, then smiled as she thought of a bright idea. "You know," she said charmingly, "I've heard that you are one of the most respected and kind ponies in all of Canterlot. If someone like you were to, I don't know, mention my playing as an aside during a conversation with your high class friends..."
"Say no more Ms. Octavia, I would be happy to endorse your playing," Fancypants replied with a grin.
"Great! Can we go now?" Lance groaned.
"Oh yeah." Octavia said. "Let's go."
Lance began to walk in the general direction of the palace when Fancypants stopped him. "Surely you don't mean to walk all the way to the palace and put unnecessary wear on your hooves?" He turned to his companion, "Fleur, if you please."
Fleur de Lis trotted to the edge of the sidewalk and waved her hoof as if calling a taxi. Immediately, a stagecoach zipped in from a side street and stopped in front of her with the door already open and the coachpony asking her "How many in your party tonight Ms. de Lis?" Fleur, Fancypants, Octavia, and Lance, the latter two being rather embarrassed to be treated almost like royalty, sat in the posh seats of the coach in awkward silence as they swiftly rode to the castle.
"So, professor. What exactly does the spell in the mirror do?" Bluebelle asked as they walked through the castle gates. "I presume it is some sort of advanced communications spell or some such thing."
"Well," Professor Mesmera replied, "from what Solaris has told me, the spell is a bit more complex than that, but yes, that is the basic idea to it."
"If that is so, then why did I see the, um, me in it?" Bluebelle asked. "I know the spell did something with all the energy it took from me, not to mention the fact that it shattered the glass in the frame."
"I would suppose that would be because the spell had nothing to focus on besides itself," Mesmera explained. "You basically used all your energy and got into trouble in order to make an out-of-focus mirror."
Bluebelle sighed and shook her head in despair. "All of that for nothing. Say, am I going to get in trouble for this?"
"No. Turn left; we're using this room here. I have permission to show you; I was actually going to do it tomorrow, but I saw you there alone and decided to do it now and get it out of the way." The two unicorn mares entered a small room with an ornate mirror in the center. "This mirror has a match in the room to the right of the throne room. If this works then we should be able to see into an empty version of the room we're in now, as the wings of the castle are mirror images of each other, as you should know."
"Very well. Let's get started."
With an ear-splitting screech the carriage pulled up in front of the castle. Lance jumped out first, swiftly followed by Octavia. They proceeded to help Fancy pants onto the ground.
"Fleur, dear, why don't you take the coach back home. I'll be over sometime tomorrow if my leg is up to it." Fancypants said to his marefriend.
Fleur nodded and closed the door as the coach sped off again, less three passengers. Lance supported Fancypants on one side as Octavia held him up from the other. Lance nodded to the guard posted at the gate. "Excuse me private, have you seen if Blueblood went through here?"
"Sir, he went to the right, sir," replied the guard, somehow managing to stay as still as a statue while doing so.
"Thank you. At ease soldier"
The strange entourage slowly made their way down the corridor when Fancypants suddenly groaned and clutched at his head.
"What's wrong?" Octavia asked, beginning to panic, "If Fancypants goes and gets hurt with me like this my reputation will be ruined. Or what if he DIES! No-no-no-no--"
"I'm-I'm fine, it's just that there's a very powerful magical aura in that room," Fancypants explained.
"Well I'm obligated to check it out, make sure it isn't a threat," Lance said worriedly.
Lance pulled open the door slowly and was astonished by the scene before him. Blueblood was staring into a mirror more eagerly than usual, which, given his narcissism, is saying something. A professor from Canterlot Academy was focussing all his magic on the mirror. And--
Lance never got the chance to look at the scene in more detail, because Fancypants tripped over his bad leg, knocking Lance over and taking Octavia with them. They crashed into the professor just as the spell finished, the magical backlash further shooting them towards the mirror. Finally Blueblood was added to the rolling pile of ponies as they all flew through the space previously occupied by glass.
Solaris looked up as Celestia entered his throne room. "Well that worked out perfectly," she said.
"Yeah," he agreed. "I didn't even need to push them through. They got the needed momentum all by themselves."