No Nose Knows

by Irrespective

Chapter 3: 3. - Seeds Sown in Adversity

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Baked Bean liked to think he was no stranger to formal dinners.

Yes, it was true that he had never attended one as a guest, but he was the go-to waiter whenever the Mayor of Salt Lick had decided to use his restaurant for important visiting delegations during his youth. Thus, it logically followed to him that he should have a bit of an upper hoof when it came to eating formal dinners, since he knew which fork to use, how to place the napkin, where to place his elbows, and what part of an individual course to eat first, second, third and last.

So he thought that attending an ‘as formal as it gets with only Luna and myself in attendance’ dinner with Celestia should be fairly straightforward. He wasn’t expecting to make much small talk, he didn’t have to win over any diplomats, and he wasn’t going to have his words dissected under a microscope by ponies who were itching to make power plays.

He actually felt confident about attending dinner, especially with what had happened after Celestia’s hay joke. She had invited him on a personal, private tour of the palace to make up for making him snort tea, and the tour had been captivating, to put it simply. She had been kind during the walk, and was even kinder in her explanations of the history behind the baubles and trinkets that now rested on plush velvets and marble pillars. He had been mesmerized by the overabundance of artifacts and the history behind all of them, and Celestia had seemed pleased that he was so interested in these trinkets from a bygone era. When she had shown him his room in the north tower he had felt an air of relaxing ease for the first time that day, and with said ease he dared to entertain the notion that he could get through dinner without too much trouble.

He was now regretting ever having any such thoughts.

It had started out innocently enough, as most descents into madness do. Celestia had escorted him from his room when the evening meal was ready, and the dining room was as grand as he’d expected it to be. The soft and relaxing light that filtered into the room through the large windows, coupled with the decorative curtains and stained glass windows calmed his nerves, and the smile he received from Celestia put his mind at ease. After sitting near the middle of the long table that ran through the center of the room, Celestia had selected a seat three chairs to his right, and she cheerfully called for dinner to be served.

And then it had gone downhill.


It started when Luna barged in through the doors, startling poor Bean and making him jump nearly out of his seat. Each of her hooffalls were loud and solid, and after she flung herself down into the chair that was directly across from him, she leaned forward and proceeded to stare at him.

The Princess of the Moon didn’t need to blink, it seemed, and it seriously creeped Bean out.

Her gaze remained fixated on him through the first course, but she made no attempts at communication. Celestia had quickly become distracted as her personal secretary had walked in with the fried turnips and had laid out several books, scrolls, and other loose papers in the space around her. From what he could hear, they were trying to clear her schedule for tomorrow so she could review her own Alicorn Law and undo what had been done, so she didn’t notice how intimidating Luna was being.

Or perhaps the Princess of the Night always glared at everypony, but that seemed rather unlikely.

Then the second course was served. It was, indeed, a rather nice rosemary salad, and Bean was able to enjoy two or three bites of it. He tried, for a few moments, to think of how he would describe it to somepony who hadn’t ever eaten it: subtly infused, perhaps, and strikingly balanced, with undertones of quiet restraint and delicate touch…

And then he looked up.

Luna was still glowering at him, and her seething rage seemed to be set at broil. She was angrily stabbing her salad, shoving large bites into her mouth, and then chewing the poor, hapless greens with extreme prejudice, dark purpose, and even with her mouth open.

And for a brief, horrible moment, Baked Bean feared that Princess Luna might want to add a certain yellow stallion into the greens for some variety.

So now he sat, his fork idly twirling in his salad, as he tried to avoid eye contact with the Butcher of Red Leaf Lettuce and possibly Baked Beans. With her fuming over there like she was, his appetite had decided it was going to vacate the premises without leaving a forwarding address and there simply no way to enjoy the food.

It was going to be a terrible shame if dessert was something delicious and he had to turn it down. Maybe he could throw it at Luna as a distraction if she tried to gobble his backside.

“What if we move the Ambassador to nine fifteen, and then the Mayor’s Roundtable to ten thirty?” Celestia’s voice drifted over.

“I’m afraid you have from ten to eleven blocked out for your class.”

“Ah, yes. I’d hate to deprive my students of the opportunity to dissect a worm.” She chuckled.

Maybe you could dissect me, Bean idly thought. It would save Luna a fortune in eye drops.

“What if you moved…”

Bean found his ears focusing in on a rather loud chewing sound, one that did not sound like Luna’s mouthy mangling. It sounded more like…

…like popcorn?

“I KNEW IT!” Luna roared in the Royal Canterlot Voice.

Before Bean really had a chance to figure out what she was shouting about, he found himself enveloped in her magic, flung across the room at near terminal velocity, and then slammed rather satisfyingly against the wall with enough force to nearly make him two dimensional. The secretary screamed, Celestia finally looked up from the paperwork before her, and Bean heard a new voice laughing uproariously.

“I knew thou wert in league with our enemies! Sister, quickly! Thou shouldst distract the draconequus while I deal with his inept assistant!”

“Luna, put him down!” Celestia commanded. “Discord is reformed now, remember?!”

“Oh, no, please!” the new voice that could only be Discord replied with a howling laugh. “If it means you’ll keep scrubbing the wall with Mister Bean then I’m as bad as they get! Please, let him have it! I want to see if he’s filled with jelly beans or if you’ll simply refry him!”

“Luna, now!” Celestia ordered.

“But he is using this diversion to gain the upper hoof on us!” Luna protested.

“Stop, stop!” Discord wailed as he rolled on the floor. “My tummy! Ha! I can’t take it!”

“He is not doing anything of the sort, either of them!” Celestia shouted. “Look! Discord is rolling on the floor and Bean is turning purple!”

Bean wondered how true that statement was as the world began to go blurry and dark, but then he wondered why oxygen was so essential for the sustainment of life.

Thankfully, Luna seemed to finally notice that the only chaos being generated in the room was by herself, so she gently set Bean on the floor and then retreated back a few steps.

“What are you doing here, Discord?” Celestia demanded, as her magic now gently picked up the battered Bean and began floating him towards her.

“Are you kidding?” Discord replied as he snagged Bean in midair and hugged him tightly with his arm. “This perfect little pony is going to be my new best friend! You wouldn’t believe the wonderfully chaotic vibes that are just oozing out of him!”

“Could you not squeeze so hard?” Bean moaned softly. “My ribs…”

“How can this cur be emanating anything other than idiocy?” Luna asked.

“Ah, my deliciously dark ruler, that’s where the fun really is!” he replied, and he gave Bean’s mane a playful ruffle. “This delightful little maniac right here has managed to create more chaos in the last twelve hours than I could in a month of Sundays! Telling me to stay away from such a wonderful source of chaos is like telling Fluttershy not to talk to cute little animals!”

A small image of Fluttershy then appeared in the space between Discord and Celestia, but she promptly frowned at Discord and shook her head in disappointment.

“You know what? On second thought, let’s not bring her into this.” Discord snapped, and the image disappeared. “But look at the readings! They’re off the chart here!” he suddenly donned a lab coat and safety glasses, and from behind his back, he pulled out what looked like a thermometer mounted to a board. The bulb at the top was pulsing and pounding like it would burst at any moment, and Discord tapped it to emphasize his point. “By activating that ‘No Nose’ clause in your manifesto, he managed to create enough energy to power a new small city in the chaos zone that I’m going to name Discordland! It’s simply impossible for me to not be around! I have to see this first hand! Or paw! Er, claw. Whatever.”

Celestia’s magic again wrapped around Bean, and she gently lifted him out of Discord’s grasp before replying. “Discord, while I am quite sure you are correct with all this talk of chaos generation, you do understand that this situation is unintentional and temporary?”

“That is the only sad part of this whole affair. If you find that loophole you’re after, then my fun will end. And just think of the poor residents of Discordland! Where will they get their power from when the chaos runs out?”

“Discord, this is a private affair,” Celestia replied in a low and threatening tone. “I graciously ask you to allow it to remain so until the matter can be settled. Then you may return and laugh at me at your leisure.”

“Oh, I’m going to hold you to that one, Celly.” He smiled wickedly. “But if you insist, I’ll leave. I am rather late for a teatime appointment with Fluttershy anyway, she was expecting me to be there quite some time ago. But understand that you won’t be able to keep me away if this chaos continues, and I simply must be at the wedding. Perhaps I could be your ring bearer? I would be oh-so careful, I really would.”

He demonstrated his ability to do so by producing a red velvet pillow with a snap, and a ring with a comically-oversized stone on top immediately followed. However, he promptly managed to lose his grip on the pillow, and the ring bounced once when it hit the floor before disappearing. Discord simply offered as sheepish smile to this, and then snapped again to make the pillow disappear.

“I’ll keep that in mind, Discord. But please, not a word of this to another breathing soul.”

“Always such a downer, Celly.” He pouted. “Fine. My lips are sealed.”

He then slithered up next to her and threw a clawed arm over her withers. “But I’m going to keep any innuendos you use. Those things are gold! ‘Roll in the hay,’ indeed!”

And then, with an echoing laugh and a snap of his claw, he disappeared.

Bean was finally allowed back on the ground, but he grunted in pain when his weight settled on his hooves again.

“Are you alright?” Celestia asked.

“I’ve been better.” He groaned as he reached a hoof up to rub his ribs. Both he and Celestia then turned to glare at Luna.

“Oops,” she offered sheepishly.


Foalish fool.

Bean winced as he moved to sit at the desk in his room. Despite being checked out and cleared by the royal doctor and Celestia, it still hurt like Tartarus to breathe, walk, talk, and even blink.

Idiotic, foalish fool.

He should never have left. He shouldn’t have come to Canterlot. Everypony who had tried to talk him out of the trip had been so right about everything, and he had been so wrong.

“You’re just having a moment,” Bean murmured the acidic words he had heard before leaving. “You’ll see. Your place is here, with us. You won’t find what you’re after out there.”

It was a shame he was just now realizing they had been right. If only he had listened. If he’d just stayed home.

He scoffed at himself. If he hadn’t had the ridiculous notion to run away from what he really was in an effort to find some illusion that he thought was truth, he wouldn’t be where he was now. He’d be safely tucked away from this nightmare. There would be no Princess Luna, who had no qualms about squishing him underhoof. No crazy half-pony, half-dragon, half-whatever-he-was who had given him a serious case of the heebie-jeebies.

And no ancient law that forced him to marry Princess Celestia so he wouldn’t undo a thousand years of progress.

He was a nitwitted clod, pure and simple.

He flipped open his notebook, and glared at the words he’d written. They had seemed like his friends when he’d penned them, eager and willing to take him to a wonderful place where he’d have everything he ever wanted and not be judged for it. Now they felt like spiteful enemies, laughing and frolicking in his misery. It was as if they knew they were responsible for his current situation, and they weren’t sorry in the slightest. They mocked him, reveling in his predicament. They held no mercy in their graphite souls.

“Imbecile,” he grumbled. The page holding his description of the train station was worse than trash, and deserved oblivion. He hated himself, what he’d become. He hated what he’d done.

If only he had listened. It was a shame it took a forced marriage and a near-death experience to finally convince him that writing was not his future.

He then flipped open the thesaurus Celestia had let him borrow, intent on finding synonyms for idiot so he could have new ways to berate himself. He paused for a moment, though, as his hoof ran along the outer edge, and his mind went back to their private conversation.

“All ponies see the light from where they stand, Mister Bean. To most of my subjects, I am the wise and graceful Princess who raises the sun and brings prosperity to our fair kingdom. To my students, I am a teacher who enjoys sharing deep magics and ancient history. To the rulers of other nations I am a shrewd diplomat and skillful negotiator, to Princess Cadence I am an aunt, to Luna I am a sister, and to Shining Armor I am a military commander. Now that you’ve met me and seen me as I truly am, you have to reconcile what you thought with what you now know. You know that I am not perfect, and that I made some rather serious blunders in my early years. You know that even the Princess of the Sun can mess things up. It takes time to make those reconciliations, and each pony does it in their own way.”

He paused for a moment more. Her unbidden words continued to rattle in his head for a moment, and he felt a…well, a certain warmth in them. Somehow, they had the power to burn clean through the miasma of depression that had settled onto his shoulders, and he felt his spirits slowly begin to rise. Everything had seemed so serene at that point, so sure. It was the mood, the feel of her words that had made the greatest impact. It was like she was just being Celestia, nothing more. No princess, no sun, no official duties. It had felt nice, and dare he say normal, even. It was almost…

Almost like she wanted to be just Celestia. She wanted to hold a plain, boring, regular conversation. Even though they had been talking about his preconceived notions, it was the pony, not the Princess who stood to gain the most from their shared moment.

Somehow in his musing, his pencil had slid out and into his mouth, and he chewed on the end in thought for a moment. He then pushed the thesaurus to one side, squared away his notebook, and began writing.

“But why all of this secrecy, my dear Celeste? Why hide behind the masks of illusion and deception?”

“Because, my sweet, it is those very masks that allow me to accomplish the greatest good. I cannot move the world as just Celeste; I must be more than that. Within these cloaks, I can leverage the power needed to bring to pass everything and defeat all who would oppose the Crown.”

“But at what cost, love? Why destroy everything that makes you so unique? I cannot bear to watch you bury yourself, so heedless to the shell it is turning you into!”

“Don’t you see, my sweet? In my emptiness is their foundation. Sacrifice has always been the great enabler in our world. One must give all they have, down to the very dregs, to claim the loyalty of those who serve around and beneath them. They gain because of my loss, and I would never have it any other way. Ponies may see me a certain way, but in that way lies the greater good.”

A light tapping on his door broke his thoughts, and he spat out the pencil before calling out to the knocker to enter. He wasn’t surprised when Celestia opened the door with her magic; he had figured she would want to check on him after cleaning up the mess in the dining hall.

“Hello, Mister Bean. I just wanted to stop in and see how you were recovering.”

“I think I am doing better,” he replied, and he rolled one arm slightly with a wince. “I’m probably going to be sore for a while, though.”

“I imagine you would be; you did take a fair amount of abuse. Is there something I can get for you to help with the pain?”

“No, I think I just need to rest and then take it easy tomorrow.”

Celestia nodded. “That should be quite beneficial. Before I interrupted your day in the gardens, what did you have planned for tomorrow?”

He shrugged and sighed. “I don’t think I really had any plans. If I did, I’ve completely forgotten what they were.”

“I see,” she replied softly, and her gaze moved around the room. “Are the furnishings to your tastes? Do you have enough blankets? I sometimes think this tower is cold even in the summer months, and the last weather schedule I saw indicated there could be a light breeze tonight.”

“Everything is fine, Your Highness. I appreciate your attentiveness, but I believe I have everything I need.”

Bean’s heart broke a little when he saw her diplomatic smile falter ever so slightly. “Well, I am glad for that. I apologize if I have disturbed your evening. I will trouble you no more, and—”

“No, wait!” he called out as she turned to leave. He then felt a burning in his cheeks as she looked at him again. “I mean, you don’t have to go yet. Maybe you could explain to me why Luna acted the way she did.”

Her smile became a bit more genuine, and with it Bean’s cheerfulness grew. “I can try to, if that will suffice.”

“Please.” He then stood and offered her the chair. She graciously sat in it—though she just barely fit on the cushion—and Bean moved to sit on the bed.

“Luna is…well, she’s very focused,” Celestia offered. “This is mostly a good thing, but sometimes she gets a notion in her head that just won’t leave, and she’ll become obsessed with it.”

Bean somehow caught the unspoken implication that this ‘obsession’ had been a rather large factor in the Nightmare Moon problem.

“She usually is very accepting of other ponies, especially since…” Celestia paused, then inhaled. “Especially since her return from exile. For her to inflict bodily harm is very uncharacteristic of her, but I think she did so because she worries about me. She’s a wonderful sister in that way, and she’ll grow to accept you too. Just don’t try to assassinate me and we should be fine.”

“That’s about the dumbest decision I could ever make.” He chuckled. “And what about that freaky, mixed-up, whatever-he-was?”

“That was Discord, a draconequus. You may remember him from such historical events such as taking over Equestria and stealing the Elements of Harmony. Luna and I turned him into stone a thousand-odd years ago.” She shook her head in a long suffering way but smiled. “He’s reformed now, but he is still the Lord of Chaos and it would have been more of a surprise if he hadn’t shown up at some point tonight. He practically bathes in the kind of confusion I caused today by touching your nose.”

“That’s a pleasant image.” He laughed with her. “So if he’s chaos, do you represent order?”

“I suppose I do,” she replied, and then she snickered. “You know, a thousand-plus years ago, I never dreamed I would be representative of so many things. I just wanted peace and harmony for all ponies, nothing more. I didn’t see myself as the Standard of Order, or the Eternal and Perfect Princess. I still don’t, in all honesty. All I really see when I look in the mirror is Celestia, the now very old mare who was given a kingdom.”

“So, is that how we get out of this marriage? I mean, compared to you I’m like a newborn foal still.”

“That would be rather convenient, but since I am biologically near the same age as you I don’t think that will work.”

“Well, it’s worth looking into, right?”

“It is. I will include that in my search.”

Bean gave a short little laugh, then sighed and rubbed one arm with the other hoof in an awkward way. “Princess, I know I’ve said it before, but I really am grateful for everything you’ve done today. You’ve been very understanding and accommodating, and I’m sure you cancelled quite a few meetings in order to spend the afternoon with me.”

“One or two perhaps,” she replied slyly. “Spending the afternoon with you was far more enjoyable, though. All of my Ministers seem to have collected a fair amount of dust, it seems, so it was rather refreshing to talk to you about Starswirl’s Staff of Serendipity as opposed to yet another presentation on why we should abandon the gold standard.”

“I really enjoyed the tour before dinner, too. All of those artifacts you showed me were really neat, especially that brass hydra thing with the five heads. If you do ever give up the Princess gig, you’d make a great tour guide.”

She smiled a bit deeper and nodded to indicate her appreciation of his praise.

“So thank you, again. I wish I had a better way of saying it, but I don’t.”

“I think you will find this to be useful in helping you with that.” She tapped the thesaurus with a hoof, but then she noticed his notepad. “Oh! Is this what you’ve been writing?”

“Yeah. It’s not much of anything at the moment.”

“May I be permitted to read it?”

Baked Bean, in any other place and time, would have answered that question with a resounding no. He still felt too self-conscious about his words, still too scared about his choice of phrases. To let another pony read his uneducated hash would be akin to asking him to sing the Lunar Overture while trying to grow a tomato plant and tap-dancing in a vat of oatmeal with chickens for his back up chorus to a sold out Bridleway theatre.

But as he looked at Celestia to properly deliver his rejection, his eyes went straight to hers. Somehow, in that sea of magenta, he felt his inhibitions dissolve and his concerns melt away. It was like…

His breath caught in his throat. In those majestic pools of light, somehow, he found himself. He had no idea how, or even why he felt such feelings, but there they were, all the same.

For the first time in his life, he felt like he was truly home.

“I would be honored to have you read my work.”

Celestia positively beamed at him, and he could only think of one or two other times when he had seen such a deep smile filled with as much pure joy. That smile could melt the coldest heart in seconds. She reverently picked up his notebook with her hooves, and her mouth moved a little as she read to herself.

“This is a fair description of the train station, if I may say,” she offered after a moment. “You have captured the feel of it quite nicely. Why did you write it?”

“I was hoping somepony would use it in a travel brochure, or something like that.”

“Ah, I see. Did you not write about the gardens?”

“I didn’t get a chance to,” he laughed. “I’m afraid somepony’s nose interrupted my musing.”

“I will have to have a word with that pony,” she offered with a wink while continuing to read. “I would like to see what you write about it when you do pen the words.”

“I’d love to show you.”

“Oh!” She gasped with a grin. “‘Celeste’, mm?”

“Not very original, is it?”

“Perhaps, but it works for now. What I would want to know now is what Celeste is sacrificing for. It it for a worthy cause, or is she needlessly throwing away her happiness?”

“That’s one of the problems with my writing. I can get a couple good scenes here and there, but then I can’t connect them together. I have a struggle with the journey between the main plot points. I need to be less random.”

“What you have here is interesting, and a good start,” she replied. “Let me see. I once thought I could be an actress, and I fancied that I had some theater skills. Let me try this.”

She put a hoof to her chest, cleared her throat, and then turned her head to the side in an anguished, dramatic pose. “’Don’t you see, my sweet? In my emptiness is their foundation,’” she quoted in a soft, contemplative, and slightly anguished voice. “’Sacrifice has always been the great enabler in our world. One must give all they have, down to the very dregs, to claim the loyalty of those who serve around and beneath them. They gain because of my loss, and I would never have it any other way. Ponies may see me a certain way, but in that way lies the greater good.’”

“Wow.” Bean whispered in wide-eyed awe. Celestia had completely nailed how he had envisioned that scene in his head. Her voice had held the nobleness of station, but yet the emptiness of loftiness; the desire of the forsaken that was slowly being swallowed by the numbness of the unobtainable.

He had no idea his words could carry such pathos.

“How was that?” she asked sincerely. “Too much, too over the top? Perhaps it was meant to be a bit lighter, a bit more devious?”

Bean slowly shook his head. “No, you were dead on. That captured the scene I envisioned perfectly.”

And Princess Celestia, Diarch of the Kingdom of Equestria, inspiration and guide to millions across a vast land, Standard-Bearer of Order and Mare of the Morning…

…blushed furiously.

“Oh, well,” she stammered, her pleased embarrassment obvious in both vocal tone and body language. She gently put the notebook back on the table and then patted it gently with a hoof. “The, uh, the source material helps. You set the mood, I simply vocalized it.”

Bean nodded dumbly. It was debatable if he’d even heard her.

“Well!” Celestia suddenly stood, thus breaking the trance. Bean stood quickly too as Celestia moved towards the open door. “Thank you again, Bean, for letting me read that. But it really is getting late—”

“It is,” he hastily agreed.

“—and I have a lot of work to do in the morning so I can review that law—”

“Naturally.” The word fumbled out of his mouth.

“—and I’m quite sure you are exhausted—”

“To a degree.”

“—and so I will bid you good night and leave you to your evening.”

“Thank you.” He concluded at nearly the same time she did. Celestia then stepped out of the room, but she turned in the hallway to face him again.

“As for tomorrow, you’re free to leave the palace grounds if you wish.”

“Really?” he asked, the surprise in his voice obvious.

Celestia nodded. “Of course. Just come check in with me in the afternoon sometime. I think I can trust you.”

“Thank you,” he replied with a small smile.

“Also, if you would like to join me for breakfast tomorrow I would be delighted to host you. I like to make pancakes, and if you ask nicely I might even put a silly fruit face on them.”

Bean laughed slightly at this. “What time?”

“Just after sunrise.”

“I’ll consider it, how’s that?” he asked, and Celestia brightened.

“That’s all I can ask. Good night, Bean.”

“Good night, Celestia.”

She then quietly trotted away. Bean softly closed the door, moved to the desk, and flipped the pages back to his train station description.

Perhaps they were not so foolish after all. The words had become meaningful to him again, somehow, and he almost felt like when he had first become inspired to become a writer. He’d keep them for sure now, maybe there was some home for them.

He would still need a job when Celestia found that loophole, after all. But as he switched off the light and crawled into bed, one thought kept replaying in his head, and it made him smile:

She called me Bean.

Princess Celestia cheerfully walked towards her own chambers, a happy nonsense tune on her lips and a slight spring in her step. Her conversation with Baked Bean had been quite delightful, and—

“Oh! Good evening, Twilight!” she hastily said after her vision cleared of lavender. She really wished her most faithful student wouldn’t just appear like that.

“Princess Celestia! Good evening!” Twilight replied.

Celestia was suddenly very grateful she had centuries of diplomatic skill to help keep her from laughing at her protegée. Twilight was wearing a black turtleneck sweater, but had the neck portion pulled up and over her muzzle. “Would it be a fair guess to say you are here to access the royal archives as part of the request I sent you earlier?”

“Yes. But I did have one question I wanted to ask you.”

Celestia mentally braced herself. “And what is that?”

“What in the wide, wide world of Equestria were you thinking?!” Twilight shouted. Though she was trying to look angry, Celestia could find nothing but humor since being able to only see Twilight’s eyes made it hard to take her seriously. “And when were you going to tell me about this law?! I’ve been running around this whole time with the possibility of having to marry the first stallion who bonks my nose? Why would you even write a law like this?!”

“Well, Twilight,” Celestia began, as she smiled serenely and stopped herself from rolling her eyes, “it was a very long time ago, and…”

Next Chapter: 4. - A Truce by Night Estimated time remaining: 8 Hours, 54 Minutes
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