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Mysterious Invitation

Dear Ms. Twilight Sparkle,

The royal house of Canterlot requests your presence at an audience with the princess. This meeting has been scheduled for the third of June at 10PM. Please report to the lobby of the castle at 2PM on the same day.



Royal family's secretary

Twilight was puzzled at the unexpected letter. It had arrived via regular mail within a royal envelope. Celestia had always delivered letters directly to her via spike, never as formally as this one. While Twilight tried to think of a reason for why the princess would've wanted to see her in person, she heard a knock on the library's front door.

“Spike, could you get that?” She yelled. She soon realized she'd been yelling to an empty house, as Spike had left the house to go shopping a while earlier. Twilight headed for the door herself and opened it. Fluttershy was at the door, looking timid as usual.

“Good morning, Twilight. I'd like to talk to you for a bit. If you're not busy, that is.” She said.

“No no, it's fine. Come on in.” Twilight answered. Fluttershy looked a bit worried as she followed Twilight into the center of the library.

“So, what's bothering you?” Twilight asked.

“You see, earlier today I-” Fluttershy's interrupted by another knock on the door.

“Again? I don't usually get that many visitors. Excuse me for a second.” Twilight said as she headed back to the door. She opened it to find Applejack standing behind it.

“Mornin' Twilight. I've got this little problem I'd like to hear your opinion on. Would you mind if I came in for a bit?” Applejack asked.

“Not really. Fluttershy just came to visit too, we could help you together.” Twilight answered. She led Applejack towards Fluttershy. The two greeted each other, surprised to see another visitor so early in the morning. Twilight was about to ask Fluttershy to continue her story when she heard a knock on the door.

“Okay, this is getting repetitive.” Twilight said as she went to open the door again. Rarity burst into the room as soon as she did. She looked very excited.

“You won't believe what I just got! An invitation to meet the royal family in Canterlot!” Rarity said.

”YOU TOO?” The other three ponies said in unison.

“Yes! News of the beauty and style of Rarity must have reached them at last. It's only a matter of time until I charm them with my elegance. All of Equestria will discuss the mysterious beauty whom the princess met. I can't wait!” Rarity said as she bounced in place.

“Wait, we all got an invitation from the princess?” Twilight asked. “This can't be a coincidence. Why would she want to meet all of us?” They didn't have time to discuss it further, as another pony dashed in through the window.

“Hey guys! Guess what I got in the mail today.” Dash said as she flew next to them.

“An invitation to meet the princess?” Twilight “guessed”.

“Whoa, how'd you know? I wasn't expecting it at all!” Dash said.

“We all got one. That's why we're gathered here. If my intuition is correct, one more pony will pop up soon.” Twilight said. As if on cue, a familiar bouncing sound was heard near the entrance.

“Hi girls! Are you having a party? Ooh, let me join!” Pinkie said, upbeat as always. “Speaking of parties, the princess invited me for one too!”

“We know, Pinkie. Looks like the we're all heading to Canterlot on friday. Does anypony have any idea what this is about?” Twilight asked. They all shook their heads. They knew about it as much as Twilight did, which wasn't much at all.

“I thought you did, so I came to ask about it. You haven't heard anything from Celestia?” Applejack asked.

“Nope, nothing besides the letter. It's got the royal seal on it, so it can't be a fake. Maybe it has something to do with my friendship reports? I can't think of any other reason she'd invite us all there.” Twilight pondered.

“I suppose they didn't call me because of my beauty after all. Oh well, I still get to visit Canterlot! I hope it's as glamorous during daytime.” Rarity said, sounding a bit disappointed.

“That fancy schmancy royal life ain't for me, but it is from the princess after all. I could use a little vacation from all that applebucking.” Applejack said.

“Is Friday fine with everyone? I can let Celestia know if any of you aren't free then.” Twilight offered.

“It's cool. I can clear the skies before we leave. I was just going to nap afterwards anyway.” Rainbow Dash said.

“I'd love to visit Canterlot! I bet they've got the best sweets in Equestria!” Pinkie said.

“How about you Fluttershy?” Twilight asked.

“Oh, it's fine. I don't have anything planned on friday.” Fluttershy confirmed.

“Alright then. Let's meet up in front of the library at noon this friday. It doesn't take too long to fly there, but we'd better leave early so we won't be late. We can use my hot air balloon. I don't think it can fit more than four ponies at once, though. Would Fluttershy and Rainbow Dash mind flying there ahead of us?” Twilight said. Both of them assured they could fly there together.

With the plans set in stone, they discussed Canterlot and all the things they'd like to do there. There was a long delay between the time they were to report in the castle and the actual meeting. They'd have plenty of time to explore Canterlot in the meantime. Twilight knew the place well, as she'd lived there before. She promised she'd be their tour guide for the day.

A few days later, Twilight was setting up the air balloon with Spike in front of the library. Twilight had asked if Spike wanted to come with them earlier. He hadn't received an invitation, but Twilight was sure the princess wouldn't mind him joining them. However, Spike had told her she'd prefer to take it easy at the library. He hadn't had a day alone in ages and he wanted to catch up with his favorite comic book series.

“You sure you'll be alright on your own?” Twilight asked. She was a bit worried leaving Spike on his own. He was still a baby and had rarely been alone for a whole day.

“Of course I'll be. Don't worry about me, I can handle myself.” Spike assured her.

“Alright, I gave you some spending money. Go eat out when you get hungry. Don't forget to close the lights when you leave and-” Twilight lectured.

“Yeah, yeah. I'll be fine. Just relax and enjoy your visit.” Spike interrupted. Twilight was focused on inflating the balloon as Spike saw Rarity walking towards the library. “The most beautiful pony in the world is here.” He said.

“Oh Spike, you don't need to flatter me. I'm not mad at you.” Twilight said.

“Geez, I meant Rarity. She's coming from over there.” Spike said.

“Oh, hi Rarity! You're here early, I haven't prepared the balloon yet.” Twilight greeted her.

“Hello Twilight and Spike. I'm so excited that I could barely sleep last night. Canterlot's got so much more class than Ponyville. I do like living here, but I can't deny the charm in the high class life over there. Is Spike coming along too?” She asked.

“Not this time, but I'm willing to do anything for you. Just let me know when you need company.” Spike said, lovestruck with Rarity.

“Sure, I'll call you next time I need help in Carousel Boutique. Oh, I can't wait to get to Canterlot. There's this store I simply must visit. Is that fine with you, Twilight?” Twilight nodded in response. The three worked on the balloon while they discussed Canterlot. A while later, Pinkie Pie and Applejack showed up.

With everypony accounted for, they hopped onto the balloon. It was tight, but they all managed to fit in. Spike waved at them and told them to have a nice trip as they left. Pinkie kept her front hooves on the edge and excitedly looked for Ponyville's landmarks as they flew past them. Applejack wasn't fond of heights, so she kept her eyes closed through most of the trip. Twilight and Rarity continued their discussion of Canterlot. Rarity had looked up the address for Hoity-Toity's store. Twilight had never visited it, but she promised they'd look for it. Rarity was so excited about seeing her dresses on display that Twilight couldn't have said no to her even if she wanted to.

They enjoyed the cool wind that blew past them as they flew onwards. The trip went by quickly, as they were already close enough to see the landing spot for the balloon. Twilight slowed down as they prepared to land. The landing spot was a wide open field on the edge of Canterlot. It was one of the few places where you were allowed to land or launch in the city. There were some other balloons and flying chariots parked next to them, but there was plenty of free space available.

“Are we there?” Applejack asked after the balloon hit the ground, still keeping her eyes closed. The landing was a bit rough, but they had safely made it inside the city. Twilight deflated the balloon and hopped out.

“We're firmly on the ground. Have no fear and hop out!” Pinkie answered as she and Rarity left the basket.

“Oh, thank Celestia. I've never been so glad to feel grass under my hooves.” Applejack said and gave the ground a kiss. “Earth ponies don't belong up in the sky, that's for sure. I'll use the mountain path next time.”

“I don't mind heights. It's so fun to look down from above. The buildings look like models and the ponies look like little bugs!” Pinkie said.

“That's cause you're Pinkie, not cause you're an earth pony. Can't imagine you being afraid of anything with your attitude.” Applejack said, still looking nauseous.

“I'll take that as a compliment!” Pinkie said. Twilight finished packing the balloon to its case. She cast a magical lock on it and left it there. Canterlot had a higher crime rate than Ponyville's nearly nonexistent one. It's still a safe place thanks to the trustworthy guards that patrol all over the city. As expected, the ponies passed by  few as they walked towards the residential area. They looked rather intimidating in their golden uniform and confident look, but they're friendly towards law abiding citizens.

The ponies headed towards the location they agreed to meet the two pegasus ponies in. Twilight led the way as the other three admired the landscape like tourists. They walked through the area tightly packed with houses made from wood. This was one of the oldest areas in Canterlot, with some of the houses looking very old-fashioned. The look was a bit uneven, as some of them had fallen apart and had been built recently, making the modern houses stand apart from the rest. The road had been the same for centuries. It was rocky and uneven, making it hard on the hooves to walk on.

Past the old town was a road leading into an open area. It separated a few different sections of Canterlot. The ponies went forward on the road, towards the castle. The road here was cemented and much nicer to walk on. The air was nice and clean, as there's less ponies around than before. The working environment in general was more rigid than in the laid back Ponyville, meaning this was still working hours for many ponies. Guards patrol evenly at all times, so there were almost more of them around than passerbys. This came across as strange to the three ponies who weren't used to big cities. Twilight told them it evened out in the evening, as there's more ponies relaxing outside after work.

The group arrived at the castle gates. The castle was by far the most recognizable area in the city. It's a large, white and rounded building with many sections designed by famous architects thousands of years ago. It's undergone renovations since, but the overall shape has remained the same. They looked around for their friends, who they had agreed to meet with outside the gate.

“Over here!” They heard a familiar voice yell from towards the side of the castle. Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy walked next to them. “We got here a little early, so I was doing some practicing. I gathered up quite the audience. A nice start for my future fanbase here. Shame Fluttershy didn't enjoy herself as much as I did.” Dash said.

“Yes, well, I'm still trying to figure out why the animals here don't like me like they do near Ponyville. Don't worry, I'll behave myself this time.” Fluttershy said, sounding a bit depressed.

“Don't worry, I'm sure they'll like you once they get to know you!” Pinkie cheered her up as they walked into the castle.

“I hope so.” Fluttershy sighed.

The group went past the open gates to the lobby of the castle. This large area was the only one that's open to everypony. Guards stood in front of every exit and stairway, preventing anypony not invited from entering further. Twilight brought the group onto the front desk. Behind this desk sat an old female unicorn that Twilight had become acquaintances with during her time in the castle. She looked up from her paperwork as Twilight greeted her.

“Ah, Twilight. I've been expecting you and your friends. Glad to see all of you could make it.” She said.

“Do you know why we were invited here? None of us have any idea what we're here for.” Twilight asked.

“I'm afraid that's classified, even from you. Please return here in eight hours and you'll hear from the princess herself. Make sure you don't leave Canterlot so you'll make it in time, okay?” Quill answered.

“Alright, we'll do that. Let's go everypony, I'll give you that tour I promised.” Twilight said. The six ponies walked outside the castle gates, excited for the evening ahead of them.

They walked out of the castle into the open area. Twilight led them left on the crossroad. This road took them to the city central, where the majority of stores and entertainment was located. Colorful signs on buildings competed for the attention of ponies passing by.  It's one of the busiest areas in Equestria, as most ponies living nearby did their shopping here. Quite a few of Canterlot's most famous locations were also here, meaning there were some tourists around. One of these was the Historical Museum of Canterlot. Twilight had chosen this as their first destination.

The museum was a wide, white building made of stone near the northeastern edge of the central. The ponies walked up the stairs in front of the entrance. Past them was a row of round, decorative pillars. Twilight opened the door behind them and entered the building with the others following behind her. They bought tickets at the front desk and entered the door leading to the main exhibit. Inside was a large room. It was fairly narrow, but very tall and long. It contained carved statues of previous rulers of Equestria arranged in a row from the oldest to the newest. The statues were made out of pure gold, although the color in the older ones was fading. Next to the statues was a plate containing an abridged history of each of the rulers. The room was well lit, due to the ceiling being made out of glass. It was truly an impressive sight.

Twilight cleared her throat and began her explanation. “The first statue here depicts Soleus, the first known ruler of Equestria. She was the princess approximately four hundred thousand years ago. Information from this era is scarce. We do know that her blood type was A, she had a mole under her cheek and...” Twilight went on and on in extreme detail with her encyclopedic knowledge.

After a while, Rainbow Dash interrupted her. “Hey Twilight, give us the short version. We're going to be here all day at this rate.” She pointed her hoof at the hundreds of statues ahead of them.

“Sorry, I got carried away. I'll go over the important details as we pass them by.” Twilight said. They began to slowly walk past the statues, admiring the beautiful pegasus unicorns on the way. The vast majority of them was female, with only a few princes towards the latter half. They occasionally stopped as Twilight mentioned interesting details on them. One statue that stood out amongst the rest depicted two princesses instead of a single one as in all of the previous ones. Twilight stopped to explain the reason for this.

“The princess on the left, Soneir, ruled the first fourth of her life on her own. She was a well liked ruler at first. However, she eventually grew bored of her work and became insane. She ruled liked a tyrant, only thinking of her own amusement. A long war ensued, with rebels attempting to dethrone the ruler by force. She eventually came to her senses as she saw numerous ponies she loved die because of her selfish behavior. To gain back the trust of her citizens, she named another ruler beside her. The two shared the responsibilities of a princess and punished each other if they got out of line. This system was found to be an effective improvement over the traditional single ruler system, as it reduced the stress on the princess and allowed them to rule more effectively. It isn't enforced, but it has been used often since.” Twilight concluded.

After passing by numerous statues, they were getting near the end of the room. Pinkie's and Dash's attention spans had already ran out and they were having their own discussion behind the others. The rest patiently listened to Twilight's explanations, although they felt like they'd had enough history lessons for today by now. They reached the final statue, which depicted Princess Celestia and Luna. They were in a standing straight, with kind expressions on their faces. The statue shined brightly as the sunbeams hit it from above.

“I'm very biased, but I honestly think Celestia's the most beautiful one of them all.” Twilight said. “This statue is a good representation of her. She looks as warm and loving as she does in reality.”

“I'm fond of Luna, myself. She has such a magnificent profile.” Rarity said.

“So am I, she looks so nice.” Fluttershy agreed.

“Who's your favorite, Applejack?” Twilight asked.

“I don't pay much attention to appearances. But uh, shouldn't we move on? We've been here for a long time.” Applejack said and pointed at the clock on the wall at the end of the room.

“Oh, shoot!” Twilight said as she looked at the clock. “Time really flies when you're enjoying yourself. Looks like we'll have to skip the rest of the exhibits.”

“Are we done? What's next? Does it involve candy?” Pinkie said as she caught up with the group.

“Actually, it does. I was thinking we'd take a break and have some snacks. I know a good cafe.” Twilight answered.

“Sounds like a plan!” Pinkie said. Everypony thought this was a good idea, so they left the museum. The time that had passed was immediately noticeable in the amount of ponies around. It was nearly evening and plenty of them were walking home from work. The group walked into Meadow Park, which was on the way to the cafe. It was a pleasant park where citizens came to enjoy the peace and quiet. It was an unwritten rule not to disturb anyone who was inside. This made it popular for ponies who wanted to unwind after a hard day of work. It was also where most of the animals inside Canterlot lived. Colorful birds flew through the air, squirrels ran up trees and bunnies hopped around. This got Fluttershy's attention. She surveyed the park with her full attention as the group passed through it.

They arrived at the central square. As the name implies, it's a square area located in the middle of Canterlot. It's wide open with a large fountain and plenty of benches, surrounded by stores. It's a common place to meet and hang around in. It often hosts different events, like travelling circuses or markets where you can buy foreign items. Today wasn't one of those days, but there still were many ponies around. The group pushed through the busy square. They walked through a few streets until they arrived at the cafe.

Twilight entered the cafe followed by the others. It was a cozy, little place with a pleasant atmosphere. It smelled like strong coffee. The group headed to the counter where a brown male unicorn was taking up orders. After waiting in line for a minute, they placed their orders. Twilight, Applejack, Dash and Pinkie had a coffee while Fluttershy and Rarity had tea. Applejack asked for milk and Pinkie for cream in their coffees. They all got a snack to go along with it and sat down at a table in the northwestern corner. A moment later, the unicorn floated their orders to the table with telekinesis. He's clearly experienced at it, as he managed to get all of them at the right spot without spilling a drop. The group relaxed and enjoyed their snacks.

“So, what would you like to do after this?” Twilight asked as she munched on her donut.

“Dashie and I were planning on shopping for some candy.” Pinkie said.

“We still need to find Hoity-Toity's store, remember?” Rarity said.

“Uh, you know that park we passed through? I'd like to be with the animals there, if you don't mind.” Fluttershy said.

“Sounds like everypony wants to head into different directions, so how about we split up until dinner?” Twilight suggested.

“Sounds good. I'll go with Fluttershy, that park looked more peaceful than the rest of the city.” Applejack said. The rest agreed with the plan.

“Alright. I'll help Rarity look for the store. Let's meet up near the fountain in central square at seven o' clock. Be careful not to get lost. If you do, ask the guards for directions. They're friendlier than they look.” The group went by their separate ways  once they finished their drinks.

Twilight and Rarity were the first ones to leave. They went back to the central square together. Twilight needed to check the map located there.

“What was the address again?” Twilight asked next to the map detailing every street in Canterlot.

“Hoofington street 12, dear.” Rarity answered. Twilight looked for it all over the map. It was located further away than she expected, in the most expensive residential area of the city. Twilight wasn't fond of the idea of walking all the way there, but she didn't want to break her promise.

Following the map Twilight memorized, they looked for the store. Twilight read the street signs aloud as they passed them by. “Golden apple street, crown street... Ah ha! There's hoofington street.” The two turned right and looked for the twelfth building. It wasn't hard to find, as the bright sign on the round building instantly stood out. Twilight noticed that the building resembled Rarity's own store, although it was much bigger. She pointed this out to Rarity.

“You have a sharp eyes. I've seen this building numerous times in fashion magazines. I took inspiration from it while I was designing the look for my store. I almost had a heart attack when I heard my idol was going to see those flawed designs. Thank goodness it worked out in the end.” Rarity answered. The two walked inside the store. The inside was filled with colorful dresses on hangers. There was a highly polished feel to the store, as it was brightly lit and very clean. Elevator music played on the magical speakers as a pretty female earth pony in an uniform greeted them and asked how they could help them.

“I've come to see Rarity's designs. You know the upcoming designer, right?” Rarity said.

“Why yes, the manager has mentioned her often. He's shown me photos of her. In fact, aren't you her?” The earth pony said.

“I'm delighted that you would recognize me. I am indeed Rarity, the best designer in Ponyville!” Rarity bragged.

“I knew it! Wait a minute, I'll get the manager.” She said and walked into the back room. A moment later, Hoity-Toity came from behind the curtain, looking fabulous as usual.

“Hello, Rarity! Glad to see you found the opportunity to visit my humble store.” He said.

“The pleasure is all mine. Are my dresses still on display?” Rarity asked.

“They are indeed. They're in the import section at the back, follow me.” The two ponies followed him further into the store. Near the far end there were featured dresses from all over Equestria. One of the stands was reserved for Rarity's designs. It had a plaque with her name and hometown in it, along with the familiar gala dresses on models.

“Wow, you've done a magnificent job at displaying them. It really does justice to my designs. Have they been popular?” Rarity asked.

“Quite popular, yes. A few customers have asked me for details on the designer. I've pointed them towards your store, I hope it's been helpful.” He answered.

“Oh, I'm very grateful. It's really helped in getting my name known. It's only a matter of time until I become famous!” Rarity said happily. The two changed topics to the current news in the fashion world. Twilight felt a bit left out, as she wasn't much into fashion. She left the two in their passionate discussion and browsed the dresses in the store. They sure were fancy. They were all from famous brands, and this was reflected in the price tags. Twilight wasn't going to be shopping here anytime soon, but she enjoyed admiring them anyway.

Meanwhile at Meadow Park, Fluttershy saw a squirrel at the root of a tree. She carefully approached it and spoke to it with the softest voice she had. Despite her efforts, it ran up the tree like all the ones before it. Fluttershy sighed, feeling guilty for scaring the little animal. Applejack saw her useless attempt as she finished her run around the park.

“How's it going?” She asked Fluttershy, despite already knowing the answer.

“Not too well. I just want to be their friend, but they don't understand! It's so frustrating.” Fluttershy said.

“That's a shame. I'm gonna go for one more run. Don't lose hope, alright?” Applejack encouraged her. Fluttershy nodded weakly in response. Applejack began running her third lap. Seeing her friend so depressed made her feel down too. She tried to think of a way to help her as she sped through the park. On her way, she saw a pony feeding pigeons on a bench. How come they didn't mind him? If anything, Fluttershy looked kinder than that grumpy old unicorn... That's it! Applejack got an idea. She took a detour to a nearby store.

Applejack finished her third lap and got to where Fluttershy was. She had finally given up and was lying on the ground, sobbing quietly. Seeing her like this, Applejack really hoped her idea would work.

“Don't worry sugarcube, I've got an idea.” She said as she stood next to her.

“Really?” Fluttershy said. She stood up and wiped the tears from her reddened eyes. “What's that party hat for? I'm sorry, but a party isn't going to cheer me up now.”

“Hold still for a moment.” Applejack said. She put the pointy yellow hat on Fluttershy's forehead, so it pointed out like a horn.

“Alright, try approaching them now.” Applejack said. Fluttershy slowly walked towards the bunnies that had gathered near. To her surprise, they didn't run away from her. They were still wary, but they let her get near them.

“I knew it! Those animals are a buncha racists. We country girls aren't good enough for them, eh?” Applejack said in an angry tone.

“It's fine, really. I'm just glad I don't scare them anymore.” Fluttershy assured. A smile had returned to her face.

“If you say so.” Applejack said. She sat down and leaned against a tree nearby. She rested her tired hooves while she watched Fluttershy happily play with the animals in the park.

Meanwhile, Pinkie Pie and Rainbow Dash were exploring the city. They'd visited several candy stores and were full of sweets. They were on a street in the southern side of the central when they ran into a building that caught Pinkie's attention. It was a dark building with tinted windows. Faint music could be heard from the inside.

“Is that a party in there? It looks fun!” Pinkie said.

“The sign says ka-ra-oke. What's that?” Dash asked.

“Only one way to find out. Let's check it out!” Pinkie said as she rushed inside. Dash followed her as she bounced towards the other end. The place had a casual atmosphere, with lots of ponies sitting down at tables and enjoying drinks. The northern end had a raised stage with a microphone on it. A male pegasus was singing a song Dash didn't recognize, accompanied by an instrumental recording played from the large speakers at the sides of the stage. The two walked between the tightly packed tables to the counter. A gruff orange earth pony was serving drinks behind it. He greeted the duo as they arrived.

“Is this a party? Can we join? I love singing!” Pinkie said to him with excitement.

“Sort of. We take turns singing and have drinks here. Everypony is welcome here, we don't discriminate. I'll put you on the list if you'd like to sing. You'll have to wait for a while cause it's rush hour right now, but you'll get your turn. Just tell me your names and the song you'll sing. We've got a good selection here.” He told them. The two settled on a song and ordered some drinks. They took them onto one of the few empty tables and sat down. Many ponies went to the stage one by one and sang songs they liked. Some were talented, while others were completely off-key. Regardless of their skills, they were all welcomed equally. The two sipped their drinks and talked about their trip in between songs. A female unicorn who'd sang the popular “It's raining colts” left the stage. The announcer walked on the stage and announced the next singer.

“Next up, all the way from Ponyville, Pinkie Pie and Rainbow Dash will sing Winter Wrap Up! Give them a big hoof, everypony!” The audience stomped their hooves loudly.

“Let's do this!” Dash stood up and put her hoof in the air.

“Yeah!” Pinkie said and high fived Dash with her hoof. The two went up to the stage and stood in front of the two microphones. The spotlight hit them as the familiar intro played from the speakers.

Three months of winter coolness

And awesome holidays

We've kept our hoofsies warm at home

Time off from work to play

The two continued the song, alternating lines in the intro then singing together for the rest of the verses. Their voices complemented each other nicely. Pinkie encouraged the audience to join them in the second chorus.

Winter Wrap Up! Winter Wrap Up!

Let's finish our holiday cheer

The chorus echoed in the entire building as most of the audience sang along. The two ponies on stage were sweating once they finished the song. They bowed at the thundering applause. One guy in the back confessed his love for Dash. The two thanked the audience and went back to their seats.

“We nailed that song!” Dash said, very excited.

“We totally did!” Pinkie agreed.

“Man, I can't wait to tell the others about this. They're going to be so impressed!” Dash said.

At half past six at the fountain in central square, Pinkie and Dash arrived at the meet up spot. They bought some ice cream at a nearby stand and ate it as they waited for the others. Pinkie licked her strawberry cone. It cooled her in the warm summer evening. She compared Canterlot's sweets to the ones in her hometown with Dash, who was enjoying her chocolate cone with sprinkles.

Around fifteen minutes later, Applejack and Fluttershy walked into the square together. They searched for the others in the crowd. They soon found Pinkie and Dash sitting on the edge of the fountain. They greeted and met up with them. Pinkie asked if they'd been at a party as Fluttershy was still wearing her hat. She had forgotten to take it off after they left. Applejack explained the two what it was for. Fluttershy embarrassedly took it off and was going to put it in a recycling bin. Pinkie insisted that they kept it as a souvenir and put it on her own head. Despite its color clashing with her mane, it looked natural on her.

The four waited for Twilight and Rarity. They stood there longer than they expected, as the two were already late. They got worried when they hadn't arrived ten minutes after the agreed time. They couldn't have gotten lost, since Twilight knew the city well. The four wondered what could have happened to them. After another ten long minutes, the crowd separated to make way for something that was running towards the fountain. The ponies recognized the two figures as Twilight and Rarity as they drew close. They caught their breath and apologized for being late. Twilight had to drag Rarity out of the store, as she had gotten so caught up in the conversation that she didn't want to leave. Now that everypony was together, they headed for a restaurant Rarity wanted to go in. She apologized for being selfish. The rest of the group decided to put up with her whims, as the day clearly meant a lot to her.

The group walked into the classy restaurant. The inside was clean and tastefully decorated. Jazz music quietly played in the background to provide atmosphere. A mustached unicorn waiter in a suit greeted them at the entrance.

“You're in luck, ladies. A table for six just opened up. Allow me to take you there.” He said with his flamboyant voice. They sat down at a rectangular table near the middle. The seats were comfortable thanks to the soft red fabric they were covered in. The restaurant was almost full, with conversation coming from every direction. The waiter gave them all a menu. It had a hard cover and included many different meals separated into categories. The names didn't mean much to the group, as they were all fancy names in foreign languages. Rarity helped the group to decipher them and recommended meals for them. They ordered food that sounded similar to the kind they liked at home. Applejack was the first to start a conversation as they waited for their meals to arrive. She asked Twilight about something that had been nagging her mind.

“I've been wondering, how come so many of the ponies living here are unicorns? There isn't anything that prevents other races from living here, but there's clearly more unicorns than other species here.” Applejack said.

“Different types of ponies used to be more separated, and Canterlot happened to be where unicorns lived together. Because of this, everything here was designed for users of magic. For example, a lot of doors didn't have handles until recently because we're used to opening them with magic. Anti-discrimination laws were passed to prevent this, but old ways still linger. It's common to see complaints of it in the news.” Twilight answered.

“Interesting. It isn't a problem in Cloudsdale cause you almost never see anypony that isn't a pegasus. The roads are built so you can navigate them without flying, though. It's so pegasus ponies with injured wings can get around.” Rainbow Dash added.

“We did get there with a cloud walking spell.” Twilight said.

“Yeah, but it isn't common for ponies to do that. It'd be too much trouble to cast it all the time in order to live there, so basically everypony there is a pegasus.” Dash said.

The conversation soon changed topics to this afternoon. The ponies shared what had happened while they were away from each other. Once they'd eaten, they took their time and continued the conversation they were enjoying. The place was very pleasant to spend time in. Twilight noticed it was getting late and brought up their plans for the rest of the day.

“We should head for the castle. We'll be there a little early, but there isn't enough time to go elsewhere either. Let's take our time and enjoy the scenery before we leave, we don't get many chances to visit here.” Twilight suggested. None of them protested, so they paid their bill and left the restaurant.

It was getting dark, as the sun had almost gone down. The last few sunbeams lit up the street as the ponies slowly walked towards the castle.

“Those guards still bother me. I know you explained it before, but it still feels like there's too many of them around.” Applejack said.

“Yeah, it's like they're following us. I saw the two behind us back when we were heading to the museum too.” Dash said.

“I doubt they are, I'm not important enough to get an escort. I'll admit that there seems to be more around than when I last visited. I wonder if they've tightened the guard because something bad has happened.” Twilight wondered. She skimmed the newspaper headlines at a nearby stand. Canterlot Post, Pony Times, Weekly Mare, Equestria Daily... None of them mentioned any major incidents, just the usual politics and celebrity gossip. Strange. Must've been their imagination after all.

The group arrived at the castle lobby. There was still half an hour left until the audience, but the group thought they'd report back early. It's nicer to wait in the heated castle than in the cool night air, after all. Not much had changed from their earlier visit. The place was now lit by bright magical lights as the sun had already gone down. Quill was still behind the counter, swarmed by paperwork. She looked up at the group as they walked towards her.

“Excellent, you've returned. The princess is ready to see you. Guards, take them to meeting room one!” She yelled at the guards behind the six ponies.

”Yes ma'm!” They answered. The ponies followed them up the stairs near the counter. The guards guarding the stairs stepped aside to let them all through. They immediately went back to their position after they all got past them. The leading guards turned right at the top of the stairs and opened the first door on the left. They held both sides of the wide door open for the group. The six walked inside the meeting room. The guards shut the door and stood guard behind them. There was no way out of the room, as it had no windows or other doors. The unusually bright chandelier filled with tons of burning candles was the only source of light in the room. The ponies nervously looked around, unsure of what to do.

“So, where's the princess?” Twilight asked.

“Over here.” Said a voice in front of them. The six watched in awe as a beautiful pegasus unicorn materialized in front of them.

”PRINCESS LUNA!”The six yelled in surprise.

“I'm glad to see you all. I've heard a lot about you from Celestia. She often talks about Twilight and the friends she'd made. In the thousand years I was alone, I'd forgotten what friendship was. My sister told me the six of you are a perfect example of good friends. I wanted to see that with my own eyes, so I sent you those letters and followed you all day.” Luna said.

“You didn't have to do it in secret. We would've loved to spend the day with you.” Twilight said.

“You couldn't have acted normally while ponies would sweet talk and bow down in front of me. I wanted to see you act naturally. I'm sorry for intruding on your privacy, but there was no other way. I must say, the bond you all share truly is beautiful. Sharing both happiness and sadness, helping and trusting your friends. Friendship really is important. Thank you so much for teaching me that!” Luna concluded.

“Well, that was anticlimactic.” Twilight said as the six walked on the road lit by the moonlight. “I was afraid it'd be something more serious.”

“I know! I thought the princess had been kidnapped and the letter was a trap by an evil monster. We'd go on an adventure to defeat it with the power of our friendship!” Pinkie said.

“You know that kind of stuff doesn't happen in real life, right?” Applejack asked.

“What's reality for us could be fantasy to others. Who knows, someone might be reading a story about us right now!” Pinkie said.

“Yeah, right.” Dash said and rolled her eyes.

“I thought today was simply magnificent.” Rarity said.

“Me too.” Fluttershy agreed.

“Any day I spend with my dear friends is a good one. Sometimes in life the journey is more important than the destination. I'll have to ask Spike to write a letter on that. But first, let's go home.” Twilight said. The group walked towards the balloon, exhausted yet satisfied from their day in Canterlot.