One could say Rarity had faced many trials in her lifetime.
She’d faced dragons, monsters, her own inner demons, and two chaos-possessed alicorns. In truth, after the last alicorn, she’d thought she’d earned a break. A vacation, if you will. The right to sit somewhere and relax, where the hardest choice she’d be confronted with was what flavor of tea she wanted in the morning.
Unfortunately, this was not the case.
Once again, against all odds, there she was, pitched against the most formidable foe she’d ever faced, both of them engaged in a fierce battle that would determine the single most important thing to be determined:
Who would be the one to get up to go buy food from the train’s dining car.
With a poker face many would envy—and they did!—she carefully analyzed the elegant composition of white tiles before her, the little black dots on them taunting her, beckoning her to continue the design.
She looked at her remaining domino hand: specifically, her double-four and her deuce-zero. Unfortunately, none of those could follow the three-five or the double-six on the table.
She had no choice but to draw. And she did.
“Ah-hah!” she exclaimed victorious, brandishing a polished four-five, which she immediately placed next to the three-five. “Alright, it’s your turn.”
She glanced up at her opponent but was surprised to find nopony in front of her. She looked around, past the Go board set next to their domino tiles, and finally found a cloaked Princess Twilight Sparkle still sitting in front of the chessboard, all the way on the other side of their private car.
“Twilight!” she whined. “I’ve had both my turns at Go and dominoes in the time you’ve been sitting there!”
Twilight waved her off with a hoof. “Shh! I’m thinking!”
“That’s the problem! At this rate, we’ll get to Ponyville before we’ve eaten!”
With a great huff, she scooched her way over to the chessboard and frowned at her partner.
“Move. Now. Or else I’m putting these all away and we’re playing tic-tac-toe.”
“I’m thinking! This is important, Rarity! This is my first game of chess since I left the library! I need to win.” She leaned down, her eyes narrowing as she surveyed her domain. “Okay, fine.”
She made a show out of huffily moving a piece and then scooched towards the Go board, reprising her intense thinking.
“Will this also take forever?”
“Shhhh! I’m thinking!”
“But that’s all you do! I’m hungry, Twiliiiight!”
She gave Twilight one whole minute to make a move, and when she didn’t, she made a choice.
“Right, then. I’m going to go get us food,” she said, loudly, as a last warning.
A warning which went unheeded. When Twilight didn’t reply so much as she continued to stare at the pieces, Rarity got up and left the carriage, making a show out of rolling her eyes. Not that Twilight would see, but still, it was the principle of the matter.
Truthfully, she wasn’t that famished, but a brisk walk would be an efficient way to deal with the excess… anxiety? No. Energy? Energy she had since they left Hollow Shades earlier that day.
As she made her way through the train, she recognized several passengers from Hollow Shades, who recognized her in turn and waved. Almost a week had gone by since Princess Luna’s liberation, and she was grateful Hollow Shades had settled into a new normal.
The princess and Pinkie had left a few days later to go to the castle on vacation, much to the great dismay of the entire town, who’d practically all gone to wave them off at the train station (unlike Rarity and Twilight’s own departure, where only the kids, their parents, and some adults came to wave them off—not that Rarity cared. Really, she didn’t, it wasn’t like they’d saved them all or anything).
At the time, Rarity had encouraged Twilight to go with the princess and Pinkie while she closed up shop and organized things with Ink, but her beloved had insisted on staying. Considering how affectionate and attentive Twilight was, Rarity’d initially feared the alicorn was acting out of guilt towards the unicorn’s gentle meltdown in the dream realm, but if she and Twilight were to get better, she’d have to start trusting Twilight’s intentions.
By the time she’d returned with a salad and a steaming hot plate of fries, Twilight was still staring holes into the Go board, a white piece levitating in her magic.
“How is it going?” Rarity asked innocently, placing the plate of fries on the table, and watching with equal amounts of amusement and disbelief as Twilight levitated a fry to her mouth.
“Mmm… Still thinking.”
“You’re welcome for the fries, by the way,” Rarity noted, watching as Twilight now levitated three fries her way.
“Thank you,” she replied, mindlessly at first, until her brain apparently caught up to the situation and she snapped out of her trance, looking towards the plate of fries. “Wait, what? Rarity!” She looked to her marefriend, pouting guiltily. “We agreed that the loser was supposed to go get the food!”
“No. I agreed to that because I assumed it would take us an hour, not two and a half. Besides, we’re nearly at Ponyville, and I was famished.”
“Alright, then,” Twilight relented, looking back to the board. “I suppose it doesn’t matter, anyway, since based on my calculations, I was still going to wipe you out both at chess and Go.”
“I’m going to be extremely kind and pretend you did not just say that.”
Twilight looked up at her, offering a loving smile. “That’s fine, Rarity. Pretending I didn’t say it doesn’t mean it’s not true.”
Rarity matched the smile. “Is that so?”
“Will you stop shaking everything so much?!”
“Okay, just—Stop! Stop!”
With a great huff, Twilight did as her marefriend commanded, coming to a complete stop in the middle of a Ponyville street, the three boards she was levitating coming to a stop in front of her.
Pleased, Rarity cleared her throat and directed her attention to the chess board floating in the air.
“Now, let’s see…” She pointed to a piece. “Move that to C5, please.”
“You know,” Twilight said, doing as Rarity instructed and then moving her own piece, “this could have waited until we were at the boutique.”
“So it could have,” Rarity sweetly said, before trotting over to the Go board. “Alas! It didn’t. Now, stop mov—”
Her eyes narrowed.
“I didn’t move anything!” Twilight protested.
“You did! You absolutely did! Look at this! This piece wasn’t here before!”
“Rarity,” Twilight said in a long-suffering voice. “Rarity. Think.” She took a breath and then smiled lovingly. “Why would I cheat at a game I’m going to win, hm?”
“Twilight, darling.” She fluttered her eyelashes. “You ought to know better than to try and get a rise out of me in an attempt to distract me.”
“Rarity, darling.” Twilight fluttered her eyelashes back. “Why would I want to distract you when you were too distracted yourself to notice I just checkmated you.”
“What?!” Immediately, Rarity turned to look at the pieces and found Twilight’s words to be true. “Well. So you did. Good for you.”
“Thanks!” Twilight replied cheerfully, her tail swishing behind her. “It’s nice to be right.”
“It’s nice to sleep on the couch, too, I imagine.”
“Sleep on the couch?!” a voice asked. “Why’s she sleeping on the couch?!”
Startled, the two mares turned around to find Pinkie Pie standing next to them, a camera hanging from her neck.
“Oh, Pinkie! You’re here!” Rarity exclaimed, momentarily forgetting Twilight’s incredibly rude and unwarranted and undeserved smugness.
“Pinkie?” Twilight frowned. “What are you doing here? Is Princess Luna here, too? I thought you weren’t arriving until tomorrow.”
“We were, originally.” They turned around to find a cloaked Princess Luna had joined them, her horn gently lit with magic. “There was a change of plans.”
“Oh, hello!” Rarity exclaimed, completely forgetting the games. She frowned. “What change of plans?”
It was then that a third pony revealed herself, standing next to Princess Luna in her fabulous, royally displaced glory.
“That would be me!” said Princess Cadance the first and only, an impish smile on her lips. “I’m the change of plans!” She giggled and waved. “Hello!”
“Oh, Princess Cadance! Hello!” Rarity exclaimed, initially pleased right up until her brain caught up with her. “Princess Cadance?!”
Here?! In Ponyville?! With half the town visible through her body?! She remembered that Cadance could go to the castle gardens but didn’t realize it meant she could literally just… leave the castle?
“What are you doing here?!” Twilight gasped next, all three games unceremoniously dropping to the ground and scrambling apart.
“Twilight!” Rarity yelped. “I was winning!”
Twilight looked at her. “No.” And then she looked at Cadance. “Absolutely not.” She then practically threw herself in front of the princess and frantically raised her hooves in some… odd… attempt at hiding her? “Are you crazy?! Everypony’s going to see you!”
Princess Cadance cocked her head to the side, blinking innocently. “See what, Twiley? All they’re going to see is Auntie Luna’s very impressive illusion of Princess Denza.” She turned to Princess Luna. “Isn’t that right, Auntie?”
“I am very impressive, yes.”
Twilight, ever so eloquent, clearly didn’t feel the same. “I—but—you—displaced—um?”
“Don’t worry, Twilight Sparkle. We have it under control,” said Princess Luna, patting Twilight’s head like one might a foal. “Half her changeling guard is staying at a nearby inn posing as a Canterlot tour group.”
Cadance smiled awkwardly. “My guards weren’t very happy with me leaving the castle so unexpectedly for the first time in… a long time.“
“We didn’t think it was very fun for Princess Cadance to stay all alone in her big castle!” Pinkie chimed in. “She hasn’t had a vacation in a bajillion years, so we thought this was as good a reason as any! Plus—” She gestured to her camera. “—ponies are paying us ten bits for pictures!”
“I do hope you two don’t mind,” Princess Cadance said, taking on a more serious tone. “I know it’s last minute, and I really don’t want to impose, but…” Her ears lowered. “I’d really like to be with my family.”
Twilight’s expression softened immediately. “Cadance…”
“Of course you can stay,” Rarity said. “It would be my honor to host you. Though, er… I don’t exactly have a room for you to sleep in. The couch will have to do?”
Cadance giggled. “The couch? What for? I can’t sleep, remember?”
Rarity was, admittedly, a little unsure about the whole thing, but she more than any understood the need for a good and proper vacation, especially with one’s family. “I see… I see! Yes!” She cleared her throat. “Well, I won’t complain! What a better way to start a nice peaceful vacation than with good company, hm?”
Rarity felt she didn’t ask for much in life.
Certainly, years ago, she might have. Years ago, she might have said something along the lines of, “Listen here, everypony, I just finished saving a princess, and went through the most intense session of couples therapy in the history of Equestria, so you’re all taking me to the spa pronto, chop chop, and then no one bother me until I’m done, hm?”
She could have said that.
In fact, one might argue that it wouldn’t have been unwarranted. Really, a full day at a luxurious spa would have been just a teeny-tiny little thing to ask for after everything that happened at Hollow Shades and having to say goodbye to her home of two years.
And yet, she didn’t ask for that teeny tiny thing.
All she wanted was just one small week of rest and relaxation in her home.
Couldn’t have that, could we?
“Check this out, everypony! I’m sitting inside Princess Denza!” hollered Scootaloo, sitting squarely inside of a giggling Princess Cadance, who herself was surrounded by everypony.
“Scootaloo!” barked Applejack, frowning deeply. “That ain’t polite! Get out of there!”
“Say, Princess Denza,” Apple Bloom asked next, joining Scootaloo inside the princess and ignoring her sister’s aghast gasp. “How come you’re here? I thought you were stuck in the castle!”
“Oh, no. I wasn’t stuck. I just didn’t feel like I could leave because of, well…” She smiled and gestured to the two fillies looking up at her from inside her. “This. And because I was afraid of spreading my curse.”
“Ooooh,” said Sweetie, poking her hoof into Princess Cadance because of course she would.
As all this happened—this being Princess Cadance and the foals, and Princess Luna discussing baking with Pinkie and Fluttershy—Rarity was busy sketching dresses at the table.
“Rarity,” said Twilight, placing a steaming cup of tea next to the unicorn, “I thought you were on vacation.”
“On vacation from princess saving, dear,” Rarity replied, erasing a few lines here and there. “If I want to restore some of my shop’s reputation, I’ll need to work myself to the bone this week.”
Twilight looked around towards the others and the racket they were making.
“…Wouldn’t you prefer to be in your workshop, then? Can you even concentrate?”
Rarity smiled. “Concentrate? Oh, no. I think I’ve tried drawing this line at least twenty times already.”
Twilight frowned, concerned. “Are you sure?”
Rarity could have said no. She could have gone to her empty workroom and stayed there for hours, away from the noise and the distractions.
She could have, but if she had learned something in the past years, it was that things never went as she planned them. Or as she often mistakenly believed they should go.
In fact, the biggest lesson she’d learned was that what she often thought she wanted wasn’t what she needed. And what she needed right now was to be right there.
“Darling,” she said, fluttering her eyelashes, “however am I supposed to get distracted by your shapely figure and my thoughts regarding said figure if I’m all alone in my workroom?”
Twilight’s face flushed red, and even redder when Rarity bit her lip seductively. “R-Rarity!”
Now this was the start of a very nice vacation.