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The Trillion Ballet Company Presents La Bayamare! The After Party! [Open]

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[/colour]Lilac Briolette stared down over the crowd and felt tears welling in her light pink eyes. There were so many ponies, and not just crystal ponies! Earth ponies, pegasi, and unicorns all milled about the crowd that filled the Trillion Ballet Company’s main hall, and Lilac could not be happier. It felt as though it had been an eternity since her last dance, and in many ways it truly was – seeing the energy and warmth of these ponies filled her with a joy she could hardly describe, especially knowing they had all attended the evening’s event due to love and appreciation for the art of ballet. Her art. She was even willing to bet that the number of ponies who were attending the after party was very close to the number of those who had seen the evening’s performance. It was overwhelming. The prima ballerina had experienced her first emotional fit when the performance had ended: with her chest heaving and muscles burning, she felt the tears gather, only to begin streaming the moment the audience rose from their seats and roared with a standing ovation. This was the very moment she lived for – the moment when all of her years of pushing herself and pushing, spending every day rehearsing ballet, came to life on stage to be met with applause tantamount to the fierce roaring she felt in her heart with every plié and passé, every sissone and pas de poisson! It only made her heart swell that much more that this was her company’s first performance since the Crystal Heart returned and the crystal ponies had awoken; she just knew the future would be bright!

The prima ballerina did not think that her emotions would swarm her heart and threaten to spill down her checks (ruining her lovely powder job for the evening) again, but seeing all of these ponies gathered together in celebration of the Trillion Company, especially the ponies from outside the Crystal Empire – it was encouraging. Finally, one of the suited servers for the evening’s caterer let out a little ‘Ahem’ nearby and brought Lilac Briolette back to reality. Oh my! It seemed as though she was frozen at the top of the stairs that lead into the foyer, and she was beginning to gather some looks. She handled the minor awkward moment with great aplomb; without missing a beat, the slender mare lifted her head and beamed widely, blinking a few times to clear the tears from her eyes. Then, with the impeccable grace and fluidity that only a ballerina of her esteem could produce, she stepped down the stairs, the sheer golds and white of her long train flowing behind her like a stream. She wore a streamlined gown tonight, one that accentuated her dancer’s figure. The accessories were rather scarce – her usual pink gold necklace with matching shoes, plus a few pink gold and pearl pins that held her hair in an elaborate up-do, leaving a curled lock to hang behind her left ear.

When she made it to the bottom of the stairs, she did a quick scan of her surroundings. The other dancers were already mingling, as were the director of Trillion and the conductor. Everypony else was a stranger! Lilac was just deciding who she should approach first when, all of a sudden, there was a blue-grey and terribly fetching presence already at her side. Hoity Toity! She had met him earlier in the week while the company was still preparing for their opening. The earth pony, though his eye for fashion was critical, was friendly in his own unique way, and he was appreciative of beauty to boot! The two had hit it off instantly when she had run into him, and he seemed very grateful for her tour around the Crystal Empire.

“Hoity Toity,” she said smoothly, dipping her head in greeting, “How did you enjoy the night’s performance?”[colour=#9966cc]

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[/colour]How marvelous. How stunning. How absolutely enchanting! Hoity Toity was one of the first to rise to his hooves when the ballet had come to a close. La Bayamare! Who would have thought that one of his absolute favourite ballets (despite being very old, La Bayamare had a timeless, elegant story - not to mention choreography!) would be opening in the Crystal Empire the very week he decided to visit? The Fashion Authority Hoity Toity finally managed to take time away from Bouclé Boutique in order to visit the dazzling crystalline metropolis in the frigid reaches of the north. After all, it was his duty as one of Equestria’s top fashion minds to know anything and everything there was to know about pony fashion, and with the Crystal Empire now just a train ride away, he was obligated to visit the glittering paradise and learn everything he could about their fashions. So far, he was not disappointed. Crystal ponies had a keen eye for finery – elaborate hairstyles, intricate embroidery, sheer materials that reflected the translucent qualities of the ponies themselves – what impeccable taste! Hoity Toity – the Hoity Toity – was dazzled.

He had met Lilac Briolette by chance and immediately approached her. A beautiful crystal mare with excellent style and poise – he knew that befriending her would only further his education in crystal fashions! And what a clever move that had been! He didn’t just learn about fashion, he learned all about the art of the Crystal Empire to finally learn of the Trillion Company’s opening night for their performance of La Bayamare. Hoity Toity was not disappointed by the performance. The costumes sparkled, the dancers were flawless, and Lilac Briolette herself was a sparkling gem. The sheer emotion she conveyed was supported brilliantly by her technique – truly a prima ballerina! She danced her role so well – the heartache, the tragedy, the drama of it all was brought to life by the crystal mare. Ah, La Bayamare! The story of two lovers separated by status, ultimately doomed to be separated forever. Such an intense story, such a spectacle!

When he watched her make her graceful entrance (albeit a rather delayed one, which he suspected had something to do with those watery eyes of hers), Hoity Toity made sure he was the first to approach her.

Lilac my darling you were fabulous,” he replied, extending a hoof for her to shake. Hoity Toity, in celebration of his love for the Crystal Empire, was sporting his usual attire, though made from shimmering sheer fabrics tailored by a local artisan earlier in the week. “What an enchanting display of pure artistry. You should all be proud of the night’s performance. It was not a perfect show mind you – perfection is nigh impossible. But it was spectacular – I have no doubt it will bring nothing but success to your company.”[colour=#6666CC]

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[/colour]Lilac found herself a little overwhelmed once more. It stung a bit, hearing the performance had not been perfect (Lilac Briolette always aimed for perfection), but perhaps the fashionable Hoity Toity was correct and perfection was a little more difficult than she imagined it to be. Nonetheless, his compliments filled her with yet another wave of emotions, and with watering eyes she reached a shoed hoof towards his to shake. With a little smile, he stood back, though he didn’t look as though he was about to leave. Instead, it seemed as though he was clearing the way for the Prima Ballerina in case there were other ponies who wished to approach her and speak to her about the ballet!

Anticipation began to mount once more for Lilac. Would she get to speak to more ponies from outside the Empire? Were the ballets very different there? What would she learn? Lilac looked about the massive, gilded foyer of the Trillion Company’s ballet house. Glittering Trillion, the stallion who inherited the ballet company, spared no expense for finery. The amethyst and lazuli building was bedecked in golden trimmings, with marble statues of dancing ponies and birds in flight tucked into every nook and cranny. Coloured lanterns made of crystal lit the interior and covered in with rainbow lights, creating a breathtaking and ethereal atmosphere that made a perfect partner for the fanciful nature of the ballet. Suited crystal mares and stallions darted about the place, balancing trays of Crystal Empire delicacies and sparkling wines made from crystal berries, and Lilac had to wonder which ponies lost in the grandeur of this celebration she would get to speak with next! There was no doubt: this was going to be the best night ever.[colour=#9966cc]

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Among the many ponies in attendance at the opening night of La Bayamare was a particularly sharply-dressed stallion. Had he been anywhere else in Equestria, Dr. Merlot would have simply dressed in his usual black tie attire. Yet when rumors swiftly abounded of Hoity Toity giving fantastic reviews of the fashions of the Crystal Empire, the khaki unicorn knew he needed an outfit upgrade if he were to be dressed a cut above the rest of his fellow high society circles.

Fortunately, Merlot had already been in the Empire when he came to that decision, taking plenty of time beforehoof to pour though its archives. What self respecting archaeologist wouldn’t go through a completely persevered and functioning library on the hunt for potential spots for archaeological surveys? Anyway, the gentlecolt had more than enough time before the ballet to have a custom tailored suit sown together by the best fashion designers among the crystal ponies.

The end result was exceptional by all measures; a shimmering purple dinner jacket (even the buttons on the cuffs possessed a marvelous shimmer) accompanied by a puffy white caveat. Assuming the rest of Merlot’s upper class brethren in Equestria wouldn’t arrive in the Empire until the day of the performance, there was absolutely no way that anypony save for good ole’ Hoity could dare match him in looks. He’d be the envy of everypony worth knowing for the next week or so!

The ballet itself was also a spectacular display of Crystal Imperial stagecraft. Merlot in particular spent most of the time watching the graceful movements of the prima ballerina, Lilac Briolette. There was no question that within the week, the beautiful light purple lady would be a household name in every estate and penthouse from Stalliongrad to Manehatten. Clearly this mare wouldn’t be just another pony for the unicorn stallion; here before Merlot was a lovely ballerina worthy of the gentlecolt’s romantic attention.

Once the final curtain call came for La Bayamare, Merlot swiftly made his way over to the coat check counter to retrieve a bouquet of red roses; those customary post-performance flowers looked like a really good investment right about now! In fact, the gentlecolt was just in time to witness Miss Briolette arriving in the foyer. Reading her exhilarated body language, the gentlecolt swiftly deduced that the radiant mare was very much open to be approached. Displaying the most charming smile he owned, Merlot with his levitating rose bouquet confidently swaggered his way to Lilac. [colour=#0000ff]“That was truly an exquisite performance mademoiselle,”[/colour] the idol-flanked stallion complemented, telekinetically gifting the bouquet to the prima ballerina as his excited silver eyes glanced into hers; [colour=#0000ff]“You’ve definitely earned this lovely bouquet, and any other you get tonight as well.....”[/colour]

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[colour=#000000]Looking at Alexandrite Tilt, imperial palace guard and champion jouster, one might not assume that she would be a fan of the finer arts. This assumption couldn't, however, be further from the truth. Alexandrite considered herself to be as much an artist and performer as she was an athlete. In the jousting arena, she was putting on a show, a drama by which to enrapture the crowds. Perhaps this wasn't to uncommon a thought; jousting was the favorite sport of her kind, and crystal ponies were said to by their nature be in tune with all things artistic. She didn't doubt the drama of the joust was noticed by many and lent to its popularity. For Alexandrite at least, exquisite art resonated with her as deeply as the fiercest joust. That is why going to see the Trillion company's production of La Bayamare had been so very exciting for her. [/colour]

[colour=#000000]She was fond of ballet what with the grace and athleticism the art called for and the emotions it could convey but she hadn't found the time to go to one since she was a filly, well before the rise of the dark king. Not too long ago, however, she had happened to meet Lilac Briolette, prima ballerina of the Trillion Ballet, at the gates of the city and the two of them had ended up spending a day together leading a tour of their fair Crystal Empire to a number of strange outsider. The tour had ended up being a curious ordeal in all, but Lilac had proven to be a rare delight. Vivid, charming, lovely and intelligent; she had made up for some of the more hard to deal with elements on that tour. At the days end, she had come to decide she simply must see this mare in her element.[/colour]

[colour=#000000]Having just seen the opening night performance of La Batamare, Alexandrite was nothing but delighted to say she had made the right choice in coming that day. It had been one of the most moving performances the guard had ever happened to see. The tragedy, the drama, the way the dance evoked it all so expertly... the jouster had found herself moved to tears several times through the piece. Lilac was the very heart of the piece too. The prima ballerina looked so very radiant upon the stage and her movements were deeply affecting. It was impossible to take the eyes off of her as she danced and so very easy to understand why her character demanded the attention of multiple stallions. As the ballet finished, the crystal mare was left sad, but strangely uplifted and inspired by what she had just witnessed. She knew it would be something that would stick with her for some time. Moreover, she knew she would be coming back to the ballet more regularly.[/colour]

[colour=#000000]Alexa was set upon letting Lilac know how exceptional she was, so she stuck around for the after party. Perhaps she didn't fit in perfectly. She was intelligent and sophisticated, but she was a soldier and champion, most comfortable in her full armor with her lance at hoof. She was sure she looked as awkward as she felt with her golden mane up in an elaborate bun and her dressed in a dress, even a fairly understated dark purple and white one like she wore. Part of her wondered if Lilac would even recognize her in such an ensemble... though she had been determined to treat the event with the formality it deserved. [/colour]

[colour=#000000]She found Lilac in time at the foyer, with quite the little crowd around her. A number of well dressed outsiders seemed to have her attention. One earth stallion in particular stood out for his peculiarly loud fashion. She was presently engaged with a unicorn in a purple dinner jacket, however, who was gifting to the mare a bouquet of roses. The sight made Alexa wonder if she shouldn't too procure a bouquet to the deserving ballerina, though somehow she doubted the gesture woud mean quite so much to Lilac coming from another mare. Somewhat cautiously, hopeful not to interrupt anything, she walked up to the mare.[/colour]

[colour=#ffff00]"Good evening, Miss Briolette. I believe I told you that I would come to see you perform. Having done so now, I find myself moved! It was a soul-stirring show, held together by the unmitigated poise, agility and charm you exhibited in the lead role,"[/colour] [colour=#000000]she said with clear enthusiasm.[/colour] [colour=#ffff00]"I commend you and your company for the work you've done bringing something so beautiful to the ponies of this realm and those here from the lands beyond!"[/colour]

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[colour=#696969]“... in any case, the alibi supplied by Major Chenko was in error and not technically admissible in the court of law. It was a miracle the defense held as long as it did.”[/colour]

[colour=#0000cd]“Riveting,”[/colour] Fletcher said flatly, giving a mocking slow clap. [colour=#0000cd]“I don’t know how you saw it but last time I checked, La Bayamare wasn’t about a court case.”[/colour]

[colour=#696969]“I am well-versed in the classics, capitaine. I am well aware that La Bayamare has nothing to do with my case. One is welcome to speak of subjects other than the ballet after the conclusion of said ballet.”[/colour]

[colour=#0000cd]“One is also welcome to speak of subjects other than work after the conclusion of said work.”[/colour] Fletcher countered. [colour=#0000cd] “Work is work, Raffi. You need to lighten up. We’re here to watch the show and see the Crystal Empire. We’re on vacation. Your intel analyses will still be there when we get back to Canterlot.”[/colour]

[colour=#696969]“If you were half as clever at your job as you are in heckling me about mine, I would have fewer messes to clean up. I suppose I should thank you, then, for keeping me employed.”[/colour]

[colour=#0000cd]“You’re welcome. Now there’s a glass of crystal berry punch with my name on it. Be a good filly and go socialize. You can meet me back at the bar after you’re done.”[/colour]

With a cock of his army beret and a flick of his tail, the captain vanished into the crowd. Rafale’s muzzle wrinkled ever so slightly as she briefly lingered on Fletcher’s machinations. Her superiors had “highly recommended” that she take some R&R time and pony resources had even seen fit to assign her an “accountability partner” to ensure that she wouldn’t attempt to work during her forced vacation. Of course her partner’s means of holding her accountable were questionable to Rafale at best, leaving the REIN agent in unfamiliar territory with only her wits and her cocktail dress about her.

Rafale’s usual blouse, vest, and tie had been left at the hotel, replaced with what Fletcher had suggested as “appropriate attire” for an evening’s activities. In this case, “appropriate” was a black cocktail dress overlaid with fine mesh accents and held together by a red satin saddle. Her hair was done in the usual bun, but with the kogai replaced with a bun cover studded with cubic zirconia shaped to appear as ice crystals and topped with a single phoenix feather. Being feminine was nothing new to Rafale, but actually showing it was another thing entirely.

Being a mare of habit, Rafale was quick to fall into the comfort of quiet observation. She made her way around the foyer, her eyes slowly scanning as she ambled, her ears swiveling ever so slightly as she caught bits of passing conversation and sampled the mood. Of particular interest was the small herd that seemed to have gathered around one of the crystal ponies; Rafale recognized her as the ballerina who played Nikiya in the production. As she passed, she scanned over the faces she saw. A fanciful stallion accompanied the ballerina, easily recognizable from Canterlot press as Hoity Toity. There was another stallion, just as sharply dressed, probably a businesspony judging by his grade of suit, though his speech and posture suggested the educated air of an academic. Finally there was the other crystal pony, an athletic, well-built mare with a stiff walk and a stride that smacked of military training.

Rafale was about to pass the last of the herd when she felt a tug on her dress and suddenly found herself unable to move. She looked back over her shoulder to find that the passing guardspony had managed to snag her shoe on Rafale’s overlay. The pegasus ruffled her wings impatiently and let out an exasperated sigh. As inconspicuously as possible, she approached Alexandrite.

[colour=#696969]“Excusez-moi,"[/colour] Rafale began, a bit of fancy showing through, [colour=#696969]"If I may borrow you for a moment, miss, your shoe seems to have taken interest in my dress...”[/colour]

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[/colour][colour=#0000cd]“That was truly an exquisite performance mademoiselle. You’ve definitely earned this lovely bouquet, and any other you get tonight as well.....”[/colour]

Lilac was still drinking in the spectacle around her, her cheeks flushed with the satisfaction and overwhelming pride that always followed a successful performance. Normally her reflexes were much sharper, her entire demeanour much more akin to the cool and biting touch of ice – tonight seemed to be an exception, however, with her glowing mood! As such, when she heard the unicorn stallion speak as he approached her, and had to spin in place in order to face him! She hadn’t sensed his approach at all! A little flustered by her dulled senses, the prima ballerina found herself slipping into natural habits, and what was meant to be a quick turn became something of an unintentional half-pirouette. How very foolish and embarrassing of her!

She noticed, out of the corner of her eye, a lighthearted look of reproach from Hoity Toity – no doubt trying to hint at her to do justice to the fashion she was sporting and her own personal aesthetic. She hadn’t known the fashionable earth pony for very long, but he wasn’t too complex of a character – quite predictable, actually. In any case, she was still embarrassed. Time to save face!

Almost as though she had been snapped out of hypnosis, Lilac managed to turn on her very posh and refined airs once more, quickly brushing aside her fillyish giddiness Well, visibly brushing it aside, at least. Her inner monologue remained very excited!

“My sincere gratitude, kind sir,” she replied smoothly, dipping her head in polite thanks, “for your praise and this lovely bouquet." She reached a slender, toned leg forward to take the bouquet from its magical cradle. Lilac Briolette was something of a master at subdued flash!

“The entire company has poured countless hours of hard work and devotion into this ballet – we had considered doing something more modern, something from the world outside our Crystal Empire – but assumed something more classical and close to our hearts would be the best way to introduce our flavour of dance to the rest of ponykind. A group decision, of course - a prima ballerina I may be, but my dance is meaningless without the efforts of the rest of the company, from the choreographer to the janitorial staff. We are very much a team!”

While she spoke, the crystal mare regained a great deal of her composure. She noticed, too, the approach of a feminine figured she recognized, but could not quite place. At least, not until she was near enough for Lilac to get a good look. And no wonder! Alexandrite Tilt, the charming and eloquent guardsmare, had undergone something of a metamorphosis! Though they had only met once before, the prima ballerina was impressed by Alexandrite’s way with words and her sincerity when she spoke of jousting and dance. The way she communicated a devotion and love of artistry was inspired, and of course she won brownie points for her praise of the ballet.

[colour=#ffd700]"Good evening, Miss Briolette. I believe I told you that I would come to see you perform. Having done so now, I find myself moved! It was a soul-stirring show, held together by the unmitigated poise, agility and charm you exhibited in the lead role. I commend you and your company for the work you've done bringing something so beautiful to the ponies of this realm and those here from the lands beyond!"[/colour]

“Alexandrite!” she replied, nodding politely to the mysterious stallion in order to let him know she wasn’t simply snubbing him, “You are ever eloquent – your praise humbles me!”

Without an ounce of hesitation, Lilac swiftly closed the gap between them and embraced the other mare as though they were old friends, an action guided by a mixture of the mare’s touching words of praise and the sense of camaraderie the ballerina had felt during their first conversation on ballet and jousting. Momentarily, she feared her actions would be a little too forward, but by then it was already too late! The mare was also very careful that the roses she was holding would not be crushed by the embrace, nor would their thorns prick her new friend.

She stepped back and beamed, “It’s my turn, then, to come and watch one of your jousts! I look forward to it – if the way you speak of your art is any indication, I know the spectacle will be inspired – breathtaking even! And might I say, that dress is very fetching! Ah, but where are my manners?”

Turning back towards the two fashionable stallions, Lilac guided their attentions to Alexandrite by nodding (seen as she had her hooves full with those roses!).

“Introductions are in order. This is Alexandrite Tilt, a fine member of the Crystal Guard and a jouster. And Alexandrite, this is Hoity Toity of Canterlot and – oh! Oh my sir, I’m afraid I don’t know your name! I suppose we should have introduced each other first, hm?”

The mare chuckled slightly, when yet another pony was added to their little company. A pegasus mare in very fine attire had found her skirt caught in Alexandrite’s shoe! A sidelong glance towards Hoity Toity found the fashionable stallion to be very concerned about the whole situation![colour=#9966cc]

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[/colour]Hoity Toity found himself sinking into the background of the conversation for a change, allowing for Lilac Briolette to be swarmed by admirers. This, of course, allowed him to do exactly what he had come to the Crystal Empire for: research. His gaze swept over the crowds with calculating precision, taking note of materials, tailoring, and styles. There were quite a few Equestrians in modern fashions, but that was a secondary concern for the fashion authority that was Hoity Toity. Oh no, his concerns rested right in the lap of the Crystal Empire’s fashions. While many elements of the style were very dated and utterly archaic, there was a unique charm to them which complimented the crystalline citizens quite impeccably. It didn’t take long for him to notice, either, which fashions were better tailored than others – as foreign to him as these fashions may be, a trained eye such as his knew quality when he saw it.

The prima ballerina Lilac Briolette, for example, was obviously a mare with excellent tastes. While he recognized in her a nonchalance towards her looks that showed she was more concerned with public appearances than upholding a dedication to fashion itself, he did appreciate the lengths she obviously went to in order to look exquisite.

A part of him wished he had taken a notebook to jot down his musings on Crystal Empire fashions, but such an act would inhibit the allure of his own exquisite style. How unforgivable! Instead, he kept mental jot notes on every detail he noticed. Although he might not recall it all later, that would simply be an excuse to further steep himself in more high-end events in the Empire.

During his observations, Hoity kept a sharp eye on the activity buzzing around the prima ballerina. After all, though he remained quiet, it was his responsibility to assess every fashion in his presence. He had no qualms against the unicorn stallion who had approached Lilac with a bouquet of roses – his clothes were obviously of a very fine make, and bespoke at that – as all fashion should be. Readymade clothing…eughk! What a tragedy – even moreso than the tragic tale of La Bayamare!

The mare that Lilac appeared so fond of, however, made quite a lacklustre impression on the strict fashion authority. Before Lilac had even introduced Ms. Tilt, Hoity Toity had her pegged as a guard, or something of that ilk. She carried herself in formal dress the way many members of the REA did – as though she had stepped out of her real skin and found herself lost within the “fake” she was wearing. Though lovely, the mare did no justice to the subdued and elegant look she was sporting – what a shame.

He was just about greet the mare, when all of a sudden yet another mare had entered the scene – in the most horrible way possible!

“Excuse me, ma’am, but allow me!” Hoity Toity interjected. A skirt caught on a shoe? And one so lovely as the refined cocktail dress that this new mare was wearing? That mesh material was delicate!

“I simply cannot stand idly by when such a lovely ensemble is threatened with a hitch or a stain!”

Which very well could happen in this case. Though elegant, the wintry-hued mare was yet another pony he suspected of being unused to the fine clothing she was wearing – though if this were true, she masked it well. Still, to get so easily snagged? No, she could not be used to such lovely clothes, or she would be much more adept at avoiding entanglement! For shame.

Without the slightest bit of hesitation or evening waiting to be excused, Hoity Toity rushed forwards and began the delicate process of unhooking the fabric from the shoe, moving very carefully so as to maintain the pristine appearance of the winged mare’s ensemble. This might harm his own appearance a little (looking very forward and foolish as he stooped low to untangle the material), but any price was worth a rescue mission for such a fine dress! When the skirt was freed, Hoity stood straight and pushed up his Hay-Ban sunglasses.

“My name is Hoity Toity,” he stated proudly, addressing the company of ponies that had gathered, “The distinguished Equestrian fashion authority and owner of Bouclé Boutique. Charmed to meet you all. And if I may, Ms. Tilt,” he added, not bothering to wait for a ‘you may,’ “While lovely, I would recommend an ensemble more similar to what is familiar to you. Stiff, strong fabrics with defined sculptural tailoring wear much more like the heavy armour you are no doubt used to sporting. A smart look like that with sharp lines and sturdy materials would be much more suited to your own cleverness with words and your familiarity with armour.”[colour=#6666cc]

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[/colour]Lilac cast Alexandrite an apologetic glance almost immediately as Hoity Toity spoke. She found the stallion to be charming company, but had gotten a taste of his frank criticisms in the short time she had known him. She knew he would not hold back on the topic of fashion, but felt a little disheartened that he’d speak so bluntly towards the mare she considered a new friend. She hoped, quite sincerely, that Hoity Toity’s presence wouldn’t put Alexandrite off or give her a poor opinion of the prima ballerina.

As such, when he had finished speaking Lilac took her chance to get the conversation back on track. She stepped forwards, beaming once more, and made yet another round of introductions.

“Good evening!” she said to the pale mare, “I hope you enjoyed the Trillion Ballet Company’s efforts during tonight’s performance. My name is Lilac Briolette, the prima ballerina for the company, and this lovely mare is Alexandrite Tilt. You have already met Hoity Toity, of course – what might your name be?”

Turning her gaze towards the horned stallion, she cast him a bright smile as well, adjusting her grip on the bouquet as she began to feel one of the thorns digging into her neck a little, “And might I ask yours as well sir?”[colour=#9966cc]

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Dr. Merlot enjoyed the progress he was making with Lilac Briolette so far. As per the plan, the mare found herself caught off-guard by the gentlecolt’s advances. That meant Merlot was making a very mighty impression on Lilac, which was all but vital to avoid being regarded as a nameless pony silently vanishing into the night. And that posh demeanor of the prima ballerina’s... Merlot knew he had a worthy prize right in front of his eyes.

Miss Briolette may have attempted to give off an air of modesty as she thanked everyone else involved with La Bayamare, but the good doctor knew better. [colour=#0000ff]“I can’t deny that everypony else you worked with did their jobs magnificently,”[/colour] Merlot acknowledged in a manner intended to sound sincere; [colour=#0000ff]“But even you must admit that had a lesser dancer been in your place, all the effort from the rest of the group would have been for naught. Let’s not fool ourselves mademoiselle; you’re the star tonight, and you deserve to celebrate.”[/colour] Adding on a friendly chuckle, the khaki unicorn knew that making ladies feel like the most special thing in the world always worked wonders.

It was at this moment that Merlot regretted not leading Lilac to a more secluded place first, because other ponies now started clamoring for the prima ballerina’s attention as well. No matter though; the stallion would wait it out like a proper gentlecolt while Lilac bonded with her guardpony friend. Merlot also observed how the unlucky crystal mare received a round of fashion criticism from Hoity Toity; ah well, not all ponies had a gift for figuring our suitable clothing.

Ah well... now came the time for a grinning Merlot to introduce himself as requested; [colour=#0000ff]“It’s a pleasure to meet all of you. I’m Dr. Merlot; one of Equestria's top minds in the field of archaeology.”[/colour] After providing his hoof to everypony present; the stallion asked the crystal guard with a subdued inquisitiveness in his voice; [colour=#0000ff]“Forgive me if I’m wrong Ms. Tilt, but did we met earlier this week?”[/colour] That in fact was a blatant, calculated lie; Merlot couldn’t remember seeing Alexandrite Tilt at all before tonight. Yet in the actual event that the two encountered each other earlier, then Lilac would definitely appreciate how the gentlecolt got along with one of her acquaintances. If not, then at least the dancer would believe Merlot to not be a careless brute who’d rudly push everypony else aside. And best of all, Merlot's lie could easily be excused as a case of faulty memory.....

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[colour=#9966cc]“Alexandrite! You are ever eloquent – your praise humbles me!”[/colour]

[colour=#000000]The lingering uncertainty of whether or not Alexa would be remembered and recognized by the ballerina was immediately dismissed. Lilac did both; moreover she moved toward the other mare and took her into an embrace. This unexpected act, combined with the other mare's beauty and the display of grace, poise and artistry she had just been a part of caused Alexandrite to stiffen up, the red of her cheeks becoming somehow brighter. She found herself unable to hug the mare back very convincingly in return, as she wasn't sure how much would be appropriate and her mind was effectively blank anyway. As Lilac stepped back to speak some more she gave an awkward laugh.[/colour]

[colour=#9966cc]“It’s my turn, then, to come and watch one of your jousts! I look forward to it – if the way you speak of your art is any indication, I know the spectacle will be inspired – breathtaking even! And might I say, that dress is very fetching! Ah, but where are my manners? Introductions are in order. This is Alexandrite Tilt, a fine member of the Crystal Guard and a jouster. And Alexandrite, this is Hoity Toity of Canterlot and – oh! Oh my sir, I’m afraid I don’t know your name! I suppose we should have introduced each other first, hm?”[/colour]

[colour=#000000]This string of words made Alexa feel even more like a dumb schoolfilly. Lilac expressing a wish to see her joust all the while paying her compliments on her appearance? It was enough to elicit another vacant giggle before Alexandrite forced herself to recover. Stepping forward then she bowed her head in turn to the stallions.[/colour]

[colour=#ffff00]"Well met, all,"[/colour] [colour=#000000]she said. Bowing her head then to Lilac, she continued.[/colour][colour=#ffff00] "I thank you for your kindness, as much as I question how this manner of dress truly suits me."[/colour] [colour=#000000]She smiled weakly and gave a nod. [/colour][colour=#ffff00]"And it would be upmost delight to perform for you some time. My only hope is that you might find a fraction of the inspiration from a joust as I have from your performance today."[/colour]

[colour=#000000]It was at this point that Alexandrite, not entirely sure what to do with herself, made some less than opportune steps. She of course didn't even notice as the shoes she wore, awful things that she could hardly walk in, snagged on the fabric of some other pony's dress. She was soon,however, made very much aware.[/colour]

[colour=#696969]“Excusez-moi, [/colour][colour=#696969]If I may borrow you for a moment, miss, your shoe seems to have taken interest in my dress...”[/colour]

[colour=#000000]Alexandrite froze up. She was just about to embarrass herself in front of this mare she had come to admire, was she not? The thought was maddening. She truly was so very out of her element. She should have known better than to try this. A faux pas such as this was inevitable. She needed to act quickly or else the situation was bout to get out of hoof. She calmed herself as best she could and opened her mouth to force out an apology...[/colour]

[colour=#6666cc]“Excuse me, ma’am, but allow me! I simply cannot stand idly by when such a lovely ensemble is threatened with a hitch or a stain!”[/colour]

[colour=#000000]Before the crystal mare could even mumble out a word, the fancy dressed stallion Lilac had identified as Hoity Toity sprung into immediate action. He spared the other mare's dress from any form of ruin Alexandrite's clumsy hooves could have brought upon it, but left Alexa feeling even more awkward. She took several steps backwards upon being free, making sure to not snap any more dresses upon her shoes as she did so, but the stallion stayed focused on her[/colour].

[colour=#6666cc]“My name is Hoity Toity. The distinguished Equestrian fashion authority and owner of Bouclé Boutique. Charmed to meet you all. And if I may, Ms. Tilt, while lovely, I would recommend an ensemble more similar to what is familiar to you. Stiff, strong fabrics with defined sculptural tailoring wear much more like the heavy armour you are no doubt used to sporting. A smart look like that with sharp lines and sturdy materials would be much more suited to your own cleverness with words and your familiarity with armour.”[/colour]

[colour=#000000]Alexandrite might have been the first to admit she felt awkward dressed as she were, but that didn't mean that the words this stallion spoke to her--and the way he emphasized them--didn't sting deeply. She might have traded many of the feminine pursuits that typified a lady in for her armor and lance, but she was still a mare. She had worked hard to make herself presentable that evening. To hear this pony she didn't know judge it all as being not enough made her feel small. It might have wrecked even her sturdy composure had she not had the compliment Lilac had paid her dress to hold onto still. All the same, these outsiders really could be far too brash. Alexa's pride wouldn't allow to hold her tongue.[/colour]

[colour=#ffff00]"I do thank you, sir, for the counsel, however it remains my prerogative to dress myself as I do please,"[/colour] [colour=#000000]Alexandrite spoke, masking her irritation with eloquence as appropriate.[/colour] [colour=#ffff00]"And I would attest that my armor does hardly need define me as a mare."[/colour]

[colour=#000000]The jouster took this opportunity to then turn to the mare she had gotten entangled with. She bowed her head to her and spoke politely as she could,[/colour] [colour=#ffff00]"I do apologize, miss. I will do well to ensure my hooves find sounder steps." [/colour]

[colour=#0000FF]“It’s a pleasure to meet all of you. I’m Dr. Merlot; one of Equestria's top minds in the field of archaeology. [/colour][colour=#0000FF]Forgive me if I’m wrong Ms. Tilt, but did we met earlier this week?”[/colour]

[colour=#000000]Through the whole ordeal, Alexandrite had nearly forgotten there was another stallion gathered there to mingle. At this introduction, her eyes went to him. She wasn't sure what to make of this other outsider thus far, but she nodded politely at his introduction. His inquiry made her think however. She certainly couldn't recall seeing him prior, though perhaps she had. [/colour]

[colour=#000000]She tilted her head aside and spoke,[/colour] [colour=#ffff00]"Well met, sir, but I'm afraid if that is so I cannot recall the event. I am frequently posted at a number of key locales through the empire, however, so I'll admit it is very possible that you may have seen me at my duty if you have been a guest of our empire this past week."[/colour]

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