Noblesse Applige

by FanOfMostEverything

Chapter 1: Hidden Depths at Great Heights

Hidden Depths at Great Heights

The Gala had seemed like everything Applejack had dreamed of... for about fifteen minutes. The hour and a half after that had been a heartbreaking slog of one partygoer after another refusing to so much as acknowledge the stand full of Sweet Apple Acre's best. Even tactics so aggressive that Apple Bloom might have used them proved no more effective than standing there and waiting. Still, she had to admit, she was starting to understand what Rainbow Dash saw in the Wonderbolts. If they all enjoyed pie as much as that one stallion did...

Well, that just went to show they weren't from Canterlot. Sure, this town produced the occasional pleasant surprise like Twilight Sparkle, but most of the locals thought they were too good for a homemade fritter. She'd hoped otherwise, at least during the Gala, but now...

Two potential customers' approach broke her out of her woolgathering, especially when she realized just who was approaching. She put on her best salesmare smile and waved. "Howdy, Rarity!"

The other mare gave her own little grin back. "Good evening, Applejack."

"Lady Ponyville," said Blueblood, favoring her with one of his deeper nods. "Always a pleasure."

Applejack returned it to the exact degree. "Larry, yer lookin' well."

He preened as much as a wingless pony could. "One does try."

"Some ones more'n others." Applejack blinked as she registered the shocked look on Rarity's face. "Uh, everything okay, sugarcube?"

"I... This..." Rarity sputtered her way through several shocked noises before she turned to Blueblood. "Pray excuse us for a moment, Your Highness?"

That got the moue with raised eyebrow for when Blueblood encountered something unexpected and wasn't sure if he liked it or not. But he nodded a few moments later. "Certainly." He backed up a few steps to give them some privacy.

Rarity took the opportunity to grab Applejack by the collar of her dress and bring the two of them muzzle-to-muzzle. "Applejack, did you seriously just call Prince Blueblood 'Larry' to his face!?"

"Sure! Polaris Vladimir Blueblood, sixth o' his name, Heir t' th' Royal House o' Platinum, Duke o' Canterlot, Scion o' th' House o' Mercury, Cupbearer o' Princess Celestia, Five-Time Champeen o' th' Annual Canterlot Competitive Wine Tastin'..." Applejack blinked, mouthed the last few titles, and frowned. "Aw, shoot." She leaned over and called, "Hey, Larry! What comes after th' wine tastin?"

He gave that little smile that meant he'd be rolling on the floor if they weren't in public. "Ambassadorial duties."

"Right! An' Ambassador t' Dimondia." Applejack's grin faltered as she looked back at him. "It is still Dimondia, right?"

There was the muzzle wrinkle like he'd smelled something foul. In a sense, he had, it was just something somepony had done at least a generation ago. "One does have designs on Yakyakistan, but the yaks have long memories and previous ambassadors there did not comport themselves as well as they could have."

Applejack sighed. "Ain't that always th' way? Somepony made a mess fifty years back an' now we gotta pay for it."

"Just so. Deplorable."

"If anypony needs me, I'll be on the balcony, reevaluating my life."

Applejack blinked at the concussed-sounding announcement and spotted Rarity tottering away. "Aw, shoot. I oughtta go look after her." She bit her lip. "Uh, don't suppose you could mind th' stand?"

Blueblood quirked an eyebrow, which generally meant the same thing as when anypony else did so. "Lady Ponyville, I feel I should remind you that the Gala is fully and freely catered."

"Uh, yeah." Applejack cleared her throat. "'Remind.' 'Cause I definitely knew that."

"One would never dare assume otherwise." The slightest upturn of his lip translated to a horse apple-eating grin.

Applejack couldn't even deny that he'd earned it. She sighed and considered the collapsible sales cart. "Brought all this up fer nothin'. Dang it, Twilight, coulda told me sooner."

Blueblood blinked. "Auntie's student?" He shook his head, throwing in an expert mane toss out of habit. "Lady Ponyville, Twilight Sparkle's attendance this year is no less astonishing than yours. The Gala is perhaps the one topic in all of Equestria where I am better versed than she."

"Oh." Applejack gave a distracted nicker as she mulled that over. "Shoot, I think our whole posse's got th' wrong idea 'bout this shindig."

"Would said posse include the mare trying everything but beating me over the head with a club?" Blueblood pointed his horn towards the main ballroom, and...

"Rarity! Dang it all, keep lettin' myself get sidetracked. Gotta make sure she's alright." Applejack winced as she looked back at all the goods she'd be abandoning. "Though I still dunno what I'm gonna do with all o' this."

"I can't offer any advice on selling it, but I can see that it finds its way to the kitchens, compliments of Sweet Apple Acres. Servants need to eat too, after all."

"Well, word o' mouth's better'n nothin'," Applejack said as she folded up the cart. "Still, this was s'possed t' pay fer Granny's hip replacement."

"Ah." Once Applejack unlocked the wheels, Blueblood took one of the cart's handles in his magic. "Well, if the baroness is finally feeling her age, I can ensure some of that word of mouth finds an ear that will get some grateful compensation to the source."

"She still hates it when ponies call 'er that, y'know."

"If she's having hip problems, it may finally be safe to pay her due respect." Blueblood gave a glance in the direction of Ponyville, one that Applejack knew was solely for her entertainment. "So long as I do so in another city."

She smirked. "Y' show her respect by callin' her Granny."

"Be that as it may, I have only a narrow window of opportunity, given how she'll be receiving orthopedic surgery soon." Blueblood's own smirk shifted a few degrees, the equivalent of an exaggerated wink from Pinkie Pie.

"Yer a pal, Larry," said Applejack, genuinely smiling. She turned towards the castle. "But right now, I gotta git. Have a good night."

"You as well," he called as she galloped inside.

Applejack trotted in through the main doors, shoulder-checked her way through the line to greet the princess, spared a nod for Celestia and Twilight both, and worked her way along the edge of the castle until she found the right balcony. From there, it was a matter of how to broach the subject. "You, uh, prob'ly got a couple questions."

"A few," Rarity said, not even looking away from the view. "First and foremost, what's this 'Lady Ponyville' business?"

"The princess gave land t' Great-Granpappy Cody Lead-On. That's ennoblin' in a nutshell." Applejack moved to Rarity's side and stared up at what few stars could be seen against the castle's lights. "I wasn't gonna be next in line, but, well, that was before th' accident."

"Ah." Rarity didn't need to say more. She was the one other member of their group who'd even been in Ponyville at the time.

"Yup. After that, Mac clammed up an' I ran off t' Manehattan." Applejack cleared her throat and thought back to her elocution lessons. "As I was the one who attended charm school, albeit for only a few moons, I, not Macintosh, was designated heir. There was a notable lack of complaint from my dear brother on the matter."

"I keep forgetting you can do that."

Applejack turned and held back a snort at Rarity's awestruck expression. "Yeah, well, ain't like I'm gettin' much practice up here. Granny's still got the full title long as she lives, but she ain't makin' it up th' Canterhorn regular-like on that hip, and somepony's gotta speak fer Ponyville at all them highbrow shindigs. I know I can't beat th' locals at their own game, so I've gotten by on grit since I started comin' a few years ago. Folks 'round here call it 'authenticity.'"

"I... see." Rarity said that, but the awe in her eyes had given way to clear confusion.

From there, silence sprouted and grew like a weed. Both just turned back to the sky for a time.

Eventually, Applejack found the words to uproot the nuisance. "You never said you was gunnin' for Larry."

"I said I would woo the prince."

Applejack could hear the pout. Turning to confirm it was a formality. "Rarity, you can't spit an apple seed in this town without hittin' a prince. Half of 'em are named Prince! I figgered you'd grab some colt with more titles than bits an' have yerself a nice li'l ber-jwah-zee romance. Didn't know you were aimin' straight fer th' top."

Rarity scoffed. It was a quality scoff, with enough natural talent that the local professionals would happily help her refine her craft. "Have you ever known me to do less?"

"Fair. But you gotta understand, half th' reason I get on so well with Larry's 'cause he knows I ain't tryin' t' put a ring on that horn." Applejack looked back and waved in the party's general direction. "Ain't many mares in Canterlot what can say that."

Rarity gasped as the bit dropped. "Oh dear, I hadn't considered that. Being the most eligible bachelor in Canterlot..."

"Means everypony knows yer th' most eligible bachelor in Canterlot. An' they're all gonna try an' grab you like a prize sow up fer auction."

"Oh dear." Rarity drew a breath through her teeth, the sort of thing she did when a sewing machine jammed and she thought nopony else was in the room. "That certainly explains him behaving like an absolute mule for half the night. You know how him better than I do, hard as that is to imagine. How bad is it?"

"Well, I dunno what kinda nonsense he's pulled tonight, and I may have t' have a few words with him 'bout respectin' my friends. But I do know when he's all 'One does this' an' 'One does that,' either he's sayin' somethin' that wouldn't go over well at a garden party or he's right peeved."

The next thing Applejack knew, there was a glass slipper pressed against her mouth. "Applejack! Watch your tongue, this is the Gala!"

She took a step back, grateful that Rarity hadn't led with the heel. "Sorry, reflex. Little cussin' in some duchess's parlor gets more laughs'n a dozen rodeo clowns. But yeah, he ain't happy right now."

"I see." Rarity's brow furrowed in thought. "Do you think I can salvage this?"

"Depends on what yer tryin' t' salvage. You two ain't gettin' hitched any time soon."

Rarity slumped. "Oh."

Applejack patted her on the withers. "But Larry ain't got many friends, an' he could use as many as he could get. Bit like Twilight that way."

"I see. Thank you."

"Good luck."

Rarity nodded as she drew herself up and strode back into the castle. "Thank you for that as well. I dare say I may need it."

Rarity's gaze swept the room. She'd know Blueblood the moment she saw him; it was just finding him that would be the problem. She was seeking one drop of the cream of society in what amounted to a dairy silo.

Was cream stored in silos? Applejack would know. She also had a much better idea of how best to approach the prince after that shameless display. And when, for that matter. Indeed, perhaps Rarity could just pass on a message through their mutual acquaintance...

She caught herself halfway to turning back the way she came. No, if she didn't fix this tonight, he'd forever remember her as nothing but yet another trollop throwing herself at him.

And then, from across the room, it caught her eye. The finest longma silk, dyed with an ultramarine so pure the lapis lazuli still registered on her gem detection. And it perfectly offset the classic, tasteful suit collar. With the bow tie spotted, it was a simple matter to make her way to the stallion wearing it.

Thank Celestia, he actually deigned to look at her as she approached.

Rarity bent the knee. Not the supplication due to Celestia, of course, but layering it on never hurt. "Your Highness. I fear I owe you an apology."

"Do you now?" She hoped she didn't just imagine the hint of amusement in the prince's tone.

"I do. Our mutual friend, the Lady Ponyville—" That was definitely a stifled snort. Rarity had held back enough of them around Pinkie Pie to recognize one. She smiled as she straightened up. "She helped me see what a boor I've been this evening. Enraptured as I was by fillyish dreams of a breezie-tale romance, I never considered how many others might have tried to fulfill those same dreams with you. And when I thought on it further, some loathsome part of me only saw you as a prize to be won, not a pony with wants and needs of your own. So I apologize for troubling you as many others have, Your Highness, and hope it does not spoil your evening any further."

And with that, Rarity turned away. She wasn't so hopelessly optimistic as to think he'd want anything to do with her for the rest of the evening.

"Wait a moment."

That didn't stop her from turning back so quickly she saw stars. "Yes?"

"It would appear I must apologize as well," said the prince. "You are correct that many mares see me as little more than a prize, and many have tried to win me without regard for my thoughts on the matter. But few ever thought to apologize for such behavior, and none with the sincerity you displayed. Moreover, none of them could claim even the slightest acquaintanceship with," and there was the smirk she'd last seen when he looked at Applejack, "the Lady Ponyville. Contrariwise, assuming I have indeed made the grave error I think I have, your friendship with her is partially responsible for providing me with a new aunt. Also ensuring that the sun still rises; I understand some ponies are rather adamant about that sort of thing." His eyes twinkled like Celestia's when amused.

Rarity tamped down on the building smile so hard, her face ached. "Applejack especially," she blurted out.

"Indeed. She is very much a farmer first and a noblemare, oh, somewhere around ninth. She scarcely knew what to do with the sudden boost to her cachet when she first came to Canterlot after the Celebration. But I must admit, my past experiences had me executing boorishness which was intended to ruin your evening, and such behavior is terribly unbecoming for one of my station. Especially when directed against a heroine of the realm and her exquisite ensemble."

"I accept the apology on my own behalf, Your Highness. Under the circumstances, I could hardly blame you." Rarity allowed just a hint of a grin to slip out from under her solemn mask. "And I am sure I can find it within myself to forgive you for making me ruin my shawl sometime before the next Gala."

He smiled, and her heart sang. "I could hardly ask for more." Then his expression fell. "Sadly, that is not the only fault for which I must apologize. I fear I discarded your name the moment I heard it. After the thirtieth would-be bride trying to sweep me off my hooves, I stopped bothering to remember them. But that would be a grievous error in your case. So, let us start anew." He dipped into a bow that was definitely too low for a common-born fashionista. "I am Blueblood, sixth of my name, Scion of the House of Platinum, and several other titles and accolades you've already heard this evening. And you?"

It took her a moment to remember. "Rarity. Bearer of Generosity, if we're using accolades." She extended a hoof.

He gave it a chaste kiss. "A rarity indeed. As I said, I have dealt with scores of suitors who sought only a title and a handsome face to call their own. But a genuine friend? Far too few of those in Canterlot. Scarce wonder Auntie sent her student to your village."

"I would be more than happy to call myself your friend, Your Highness," Rarity said, while quietly trying to stifle the part of herself that kept humming the Wedding March.

"Please, call me Blue."

She raised an eyebrow. "Not Larry?"

The prince... Blue flinched as though struck. "That is the sole privilege of Lady Ponyville."

"I can't imagine she appreciates that title any more than you do the nickname."

"Oh, she hates it far more, but little indelicacies like that help keep one sane among the nobility." Blueblood shook his head. "And when I think of the not-so-little indelicacies I inflicted upon you..."

"Nothing unforgivable, Blue." Rarity managed to keep herself from prancing in place at the nickname. "If nopony could atone for their mistakes, I dare say Tartarus would be very crowded indeed."

Blueblood nodded, his gaze going distant. "Too true." His head froze as it panned across the ballroom, looking somewhere past Rarity's left wither. "A thought occurs. This is the first Gala for your other friends as well, yes?"

"It is, yes."

"Do you suppose they had as many misconceptions about it as you and Lady Ponyville did?"

Rarity gulped. "Oh dear. That seems dreadfully likely. Why do you ask?"

He pointed behind her. "If I am correct, one of them is on stage. And attempting to jockey discs."

Heavy bass flooded the ballroom. Rarity cringed at the noise, turned to look at the source, and sighed. "I believe you are correct. Pinkie—!"

A scratchy-voiced blue blur interrupted her. "Hey guys! Watch this!" At which point Rainbow Dash hipchecked Rarity into Blueblood, who in turn bumped into a stylized statue of Princess Celestia. One that replicated her appearance in a popular storybook down to the pinpoint hooves, which meant it had all the structural stability of a house of cards.

To her credit, Rainbow shoved Blueblood out of the teetering sculpture's path. Unfortunately, she then proceeded to stagger about with the uneven load.

Rarity knelt by Blueblood. "Blue, are you alright?"

"I'll live." Both watched as Rainbow managed to toppled half of the ballroom's blessedly ornamental pillars. "A friend of yours?"

Rarity narrowed her eyes. "Not for much longer."

Once the statue had cracked in half, she set upon Rainbow. "What in Celestia's name do you think you're doing!?"

And the other mare had the audacity to shrug her wings. "Hey, if rescuing you got the Wonderbolts' attention at the Best Young Fliers competition, it should work here!"

"I didn't need to be rescued!"

Rainbow's eyes darted about. "W-well, you saw how rickety that statue was! It was only a matter of time!"

Rarity sighed. "Honestly, just when the evening was starting to take a turn for the better—"

"What's going on in here?" Both turned to see Twilight and Princess Celestia at the main entrance of the ballroom, both gaping at the spectacle.

Then the entrance from the gardens burst open, sending in a wave of terrified creatures and a frothing madmare with an uncanny resemblance to sweet, gentle Fluttershy. "YOU'RE! GOING! TO LOVE ME!"

"You know," said Blueblood, who had moved to Rarity's side during this latest spectacle, "it's times like this where I think of what Auntie Celestia would say."

"Why?" Rarity said half-stunned, as the scent of panicking ponies threatened to make her to join the herd's blind panic. "What would she say?"


The next thing Rarity knew, she was outside of the castle, with Twilight waving her over to a group including the princess, Applejack, Pinkie Pie, and a shamefaced Fluttershy. "Rarity, Rainbow Dash, there you are! Are you okay?" Her relieved expression quickly gave way to a sneer when she noticed the other pony with Rarity. "Oh. Hello, Blueblood."

"Miss Sparkle," he said with a grin that seemed to have a bit more bite to it than usual. "As always, a pleasure to see you, and a rare delight to see you with more ponies than books."

"Be nice, nephew," said Celestia, in the same tones a mother might use to chastise one of two siblings, especially when one sibling might have been wearing the other's clothes without permission and yet the offended party was somehow the one at fault.

"Apologies, Auntie. And to you, Miss Sparkle."

Twilight just rolled her eyes and grumbled something unintelligible.

Celestia added, "Now, with everypony accounted for, I believe this Gala may go down as one of the best ever!" She spread her wings at the last word.

That broke Twilight from her grousing. "Wait, what?"

"Twilight, you stood at my side the whole time. As much as I appreciate the gesture, you saw what it's like for me. I have to stand there and greet ponies for more than half of the night. Every. Single. Time."

Watching the thoughts play out on Twilight's face was nothing short of fascinating. "Oh."

"And I can't have a moment's peace afterwards, either," said Celestia. "Everypony treats it as a chance to skip the line at Day Court. There's a reason Cadence and your brother didn't attend."

"You have a brother?" said Rainbow.

Twilight leveled an unamused glare at her. "You see him every day."

"You have another brother?"

Celestia tilted her head. "You didn't tell them about Shining?"

Twilight's eyes darted from pony to pony, all of her friends now looking at her curiously. "It, uh, never came up?"

Blueblood cleared his throat. "Ladies? Might I suggest we continue this discuss far from the, shall we say, site of the incident?" He tilted his horn toward the castle, where smoke was inexplicably pouring out of a few windows.

Fluttershy whimpered and folded in on herself.

"An excellent point, Blueblood," Celestia said with a nod. She looked about the group. "Any suggestions, anypony?"

"Ooh! Ooh!" Pinkie waved a hoof. "I've got one!"

Blueblood stared at the unfamiliar object like he expected it to look back. "So," he finally said. "A ring of batter dropped in boiling oil, covered in various kinds of processed sugar, and served still glistening."

Rarity nodded. "Yes, that is indeed a donut."

"Hideous. A monstrosity. An affront to the proper, dignified cuisine to which a pony of my station is entitled."

"Would you like another?"

He wiped the crumbs off his muzzle as genteelly as he could. "Absolutely. Master Joe? I believe we can see about making you a duke."

Donut Joe rolled his eyes, but his response was still tinged with amusement. "Yer aunt's already tried danglin' titles in front o' my muzzle, pal. I ain't bitin'."

Blueblood shook his head in wonderment. "And to think, this morning I never thought I'd find that kind of moral fortitude between the cliffs and the throne."

"I'd like to think all our horizons were broadened this evening," Rarity said with a smile. She certainly never would've imagined the Duke of Canterlot etc. sitting at the counter of a 24-hour donut shop before tonight.

"Indeed so."

"And, if you would care to broaden them further..." Rarity permitted herself a coy smile. "Well, I shan't call it a date. Applejack was very clear on your opinion of mares who only see a horn in want of a ring. But if you'd care to get a bit of Ponyville's local color some time?"

Blueblood stayed silent for several agonizing seconds. Just as Rarity prepared to apologize, he said, "Fancy Pants does wax eloquent on his time spent out in the country. I would be happy to have something to add to the conversation next time."

Rarity let out a relieved breath. "Then I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship."

"Hey Rarity!" Pinkie cried. "Rainbow Dash bet the princess she couldn't swallow four donuts at once! Come watch!"

The resulting twitch sent shooting pains all through Rarity's neck.

"Very broad horizons indeed," Blueblood said as he got off his stool, a broader grin on his face than any Rarity had seen that evening. "Go, Auntie, go!"

Once Rarity was able to move her head again, she turned to the other pony at the counter. "Twilight?"

"Yes, Rarity?" she said, looking as poleaxed as Rarity felt.

"Do you recall how you felt about Ponyville your first night there?"

Twilight sighed. "I believe my exact words were 'Everypony in this town is crazy.'"

"No offense meant, darling, but I'm feeling the same way about your hometown as well."

After a glance at their friends' table and Celestia's admittedly impressive demonstration of alicorn physiology, Twilight went back to averting her eyes. "Right now? So am I."

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