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SteelEagle

A Fair Faire Proposal (Closed: Phil, Steel)

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Valen was getting really familiar with the Equestrian Railroad system. They crisscrossed the nation, bisecting and disecting the metropolis and joing them with the most humble hamlets. It wasn't his favored method travelling across the nation in any case. Airships were slower but more comfortable and usually had a greater variety of entertainment options to satisfy a bored colt. It was a far greater expense but it was worthwhile. Trains were better than carriage rides, which were incredibly slow and bare to the worst of the elements. Trains- well, they were better than that. From one end of the nation to another trains were louder than they should be, more rickety than they should be, and too cramped for his tastes. he could afford a private cart but even then when it was a long train ride more often than not the line would demand he share his room. He loved socializing, hated being forced to do it, and was uncomfortable about the arrangement. But in the end it got him where he was going safe and sound, and where he was going, such a thing was of great importance.

He was going to the Crystal Empire as the guest and patron of Rarity, a good friend of his that he made in Ponyville. This far off land was recently rediscovered and made part of Equestria. It was still somewhat difficult to get to even with all the time passing as only a single rail line, a single airship station, and a few safe carriage routes existed. Travel was expensive and the trip was often cramped. Not often, all the time! Valen felt like he was a refugee fleeing a terrible regime whenever he went out into the halls, ponies all across the nation stuffed into one little train. But in the end it was worth it, less for the destination and more for the pony he was going to help. Rarity was as beautiful as she was generous, and as good a friend as she was a designer and that was not dull praise. He also believed that she had a keen sense of perception that maybe others missed, her voluptious blue eyes hiding a cutting will and intensity. Maybe he saw it only because they both had similar passions, but she was as intelligent as she was grandiose and when she asked for his help, he didn't give it a second thought.

It was time for the Crystal Faire, but it was more than that. By tradition the Faire was only on one day, but the festivities as well as the magic of the heart lasted for several weeks before and a short time afterward. The Crystal Empire litrally sparkled from end to end under the caring hooves of the Crystal Ponies, whose coats and manes owned the legends told of them. As the Empire opened up to Equestria, the amount of activities that occupied the time tripled overnight and quadrupled in the class and standing that went with them. One of the many activites to spring up was the Crystal Fashion Extravaganza, a rather putrid title for a well-thought of venture. The night before the Faire itself, the Great Hall of the North was leased to the Equestrian Organization of Fashion, who put on one of the most impressive fashion shows and open houses ever seen. From across Equestria, models and designers gathered and were given individual spaces to showcase their designs. It was a harsh venture for some, as while the modeling work itself was less intense than any single walk down the aisle, it was a full-day event and changes in wardrobe and setting were common. In the end though it was both a great reputation boost as well as financial boon- not only could you showcase your newest designs, but you could sell whatever you brought with you. So it didn't surprise Valen that Rarity had jumped at the opportunity, but it did surprise him that she had asked him to be her model!

It wasn't without some precedence. He had done the same job for her in Manehattan in a pinch and, again, Valen would never turn her down. It was just a bit odd and he would be gone for at least a month, so it was a serious commitment. But in the end his parents knew better than to deny his passion and he knew better than to deny Rarity her success, as he did not know of a pony who deserved it more. She had sent some instructions along with the EOF's ticket, telling him to pack light. That made him giddy- few ponies in Equestria knew fashion as well as she and she knew his personality style better than anypony else. She also sent him a large cylinder of albino gooey substance which she warned him not to open until he arrived in the Empire. Another odd little event, but he could only assume it was some sort of protection against some sort of Crystal disease. He wasn't one to question generosity. So he was packed and sent on his way after confirming the schedule, and spent the rest of the trip preparing himself. He was going to see a good friend in a new land for a decent time period and what was more important is he would repay her kindness with interest. A single suitcase was all he brought with a few required changes of clothes for the bus ride and all required legal documentation, and that mysterious container placed in a secure location.

It took four days an three hours, but the train eventually arrived in the Empire. Ponies got off one by one and two by two, pushing past one another onto the packed passenger platform. Most held firm to their coats and jackets as a gentle wind carried with all the small icey swords of the Crystal Empire's weather. A few others just gallopped off into the city and slowed their trot once in. True to form, the train station was just outside of the city gates and buttressed much more viciously than the city itself which was kept warm despite the land surrounding it. It was onto this platform that Valen stepped off of the train, his eyes heavy with baggage as he trudged off. The trip had been utterly draining and he was tired, the sun long ago having been beaten down beneath the stunning mountains around the city. Here he would be picked up by Rarity, which was another sign of her generosity- who else would dare stay up to a little past midnight simply to pick Valen up? Very kind of her.

What wasn't so kind was when Valen failed to move from the position directly outside the train, upsetting multiple ponies behind him.

"Hey! Get a move on!" They yelled, and Valen obeyed with a small jump into the air due to fright and a mad trot several feet in front of him tripping over a loose nail and nearly falling over. Only a mad dance known only to the clumsy kept him up, sending the saddlebag-slash-suitcase off of his back and around his neck. Top heavy Valen was forced to rebalance himself and only with the great poise and grace of a model was he able to keep upright, hoisting the suitcase directly into his face. This had the effect of funneling the cold weather directly into his nostrils and Valen could swear all the hairs were freezing. He tried to swing the saddlebag back around but didit with too much force and instead of going on his back it did a ful rotation, smacking him in the face again. Frustrated, Valen took the saddlebag-suitcase off and grabbed the handle by his teeth, trotting deeper into the passenger station to find Rarity.

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Rarity had to say that the more time she spent in the Crystal Empire, the more she found herself in love with it. The beauty of the city had to be seen to be believed. Not even the pristine alabaster spires of Canterlot could compare to the crystalline loveliness of the vividly colored kingdom to the north. That Rarity herself had had a part in helping this fair empire return to its right and glorious place north of Equestria as a point of true pride for her. Looking out upon the empire and upon its equally lovely and unique citizens, Rarity was nothing but happy with how things had unfolded.

What was even more spectacular than the Crystal Empire, however, was the Crystal Empire at Crystal Faire time. As the time for the Faire would approach, the crystal magic in the Crystal Heart would surge as the ponies of the empire were abuzz with joy and excitement. About a week or so before the Faire began, it would start to overflow and affect even those not native to the empire. It was during this window of time that an outsider could enjoy the experience of having her own coat and mane appear as crystalline as a genuine crystal pony. At the end of the first Faire, following the defeat of the foul Sombra, Rarity had experienced the sensation for the first time and had been in no hurry to have it end.

That was one reason why she was in such a hurry to take part in the Crystal Fashion Extravaganza, a showcase of fashions planned for before the Faire which would make to draw excitement from both in and out the Empire to the events of it as well as introduce the ponies of the Empire to modern Equestrian Fashion. Rarity felt it an honor to be invited and was eager to show off some of her favorite new designs. Everything seemed perfect... that was, until she realized that, unlike for something like the Fashion Week in Manehattan, she would need to supply her own model.

This posed a dilemma for the fashionable mare. The most obvious thing to do would be to ask one of her friends, but this was tricky. She couldn't see Applejack embracing the glamorous, she couldn't see Pinkie keeping herself calm and though her palette and looks were amiable for modeling clothes, Rainbow Dash would almost certainly refuse on principle. Though she had the build of a model and once even the experience of one, the Photo Finish debacle had made it pretty clear what Fluttershy thought of modelling, which left only Twilight and Rarity wasn't about to ask a princess of Equestria to model her clothing for her. Though the idea of paying to work with some model she had never met before was not especially attractive, she had been prepared to look up a professional model when an idea occurred to her. She recalled a recent experience with a certain young model.

The sassy young Gilded Lily had modeled her fashions in a travelling show and done it well. With her charming looks and sophisticated air, the filly had captured hearts all across the land. She had been the perfect model really, so what better option than to make use of her talents again. The only problem was that Gilded Lily was in fact Valen Orange, Applejack's cousin and not really a filly at all, at least not genetically. Valen was a sweet and interesting kid. Rarity had a very fond opinion of him. He was however, she believed, at least if a previous conversation they had held true, deeply confused about where he was at the moment and who he wanted to be. She had felt bad about making him model for her before. Truly she was exploiting him to some extent and the faith he had in her. At the same time, she wondered if it hadn't helped him embrace his true self more. She wasn't entirely sure... at the same time, she could picture no pony more perfect to model her line than Valen. She had been quick in her decision to invite him out to the Crystal Empire.

The day was now here and Rarity stood at the train station, looking out over the large crowd. So many ponies were coming to experience the Faire. It was a wonderful thing to see, but it made pinpointing the small Valen difficult. She found him just in time to see him having a rather... unfortunate altercation with his own suitcase. She gave an awkward laugh before forcing her way through the crowd toward him.

"Valen, darling! It's been far, far too long," she said as she threw her hooves around him to embrace.him. " I'm just delighted you agreed to come do this for me. I didn't know who else I could depend on." She gave a smile and a nod. "I trust you've been well?"
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Valen struggled heroically with his suitcase for a few more steps, the weight only serving to balance him when he got it into his maw just right. Maybe it was his previous modeling experience but there were times when he felt like the simplest breeze or sudden weight redistribution sent him careening off balance. But it was a fleeting sense of panic as before long he could hear the familiar clip clop of hooves and turned to see Rarity approach just as she began to speak. Thank Celestia she wasn't freezing cold yet- it was one thing if he was cold, another thing entirely if she were cold and they both were fated to make rash, silly decisions. As she hugged him he dropped his suitcase from his mouth and buried himself in her coat, partially for warmth and partially because gew ponies in Equestria had shown the kindness and care as Rarity had for an odd, gangly colt from Manehattan proper.

He pulled himself away and brushed over his mane, excited to finally be there.

"It feels like forever! I couldn't say no, however, to coming here for you. Going to the Crystal Empire? I've never been here but I've heard so much, and to come here for a month- well, that is a dream come true. Doubly so that I get to spend it with you, and helping you with your work is something I could never regret or deny, Miss Rarity," He picked up his suitcase saddlebag and attached it correctly this time, a great success for the colt in a day not really given to great success. He'd take it and run with it however. Probably not run, really- he had more of an inclination towards sleep than anything else at the moment.

"I have been well enough, thank you for asking. The Manehattan Cutie Mark Crusaders are moving ahead at a blistering pace thanks to Babs Seed and her whip-cracking ways and I am doing well at the Academy," Valen said with pride, more than sure that was on topic. He turned to Rarity.

"What about you? Any new designs from Equestria's greatest designer?" He asked, voice overflowing with charm. After he asked, he started trotting through the field of ponies with good pace.

Valen wanted to see the Crystal Empire already and while the long shots from behind the bubble were beautiful with towers piercing the sky and a dull glint reflecting off of a thousand surfaces, everything was covered with a thin layer of almost impossible to see pink that colored his view and dulled the scenery. You go to Manehattan for the tall buildings, Fillydelphia for the mix of frontier and big city, Canterlot for the glamour and Stalliongrad for the determination present in all things. You went to Roam for the love and to Hoofenheim for the drink. And most of all, you went to the Crystal Empire for a shot at seeing ancient history made new and a beauty untold or rivaled anywhere else in the world. A thin layer of pink didn't help that. Also, the freezing cold on the platform didn't help. In just a few moments, he trotted through the bubble and on the other side he felt immediately thirty degrees warmer.

"Ahhh..." he let out a sigh of relief. The city was beyond beautiful, every centimeter designed by artisans long since lost to the aegis of time. It didn't sparkle like it would during the day, but even with the moon high in the sky the softer lights allowed a pale shadow to reflect peacefully off of the city and the ponies inside. Not many were up at this hour, at least compared to a metropolis like Manehattan, but he could make out a few crystal ponies here and there with their own blazingly brilliant coats dubdued by the softer lights of the night. It was awfully pretty, but none off that stopped Valen from letting out a loud, forceful yawn, the sudden warmth bringing his body up to speed. A long period of travel with fitful sleep was not condusive to staying awake in the dead of night. It wasn't as if he was a colt given to staying up at all hours of the night, burning the midnight oil was a waste of time unless he was involved in a creative endeavor. He treasured his sleep, by golly.

"Very pretty..." Valen yawned again, shuffling his saddlebag around, "how long have you been here, Miss Rarity?"

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"It feels like forever! I couldn't say no, however, to coming here for you. Going to the Crystal Empire? I've never been here but I've heard so much, and to come here for a month- well, that is a dream come true. Doubly so that I get to spend it with you, and helping you with your work is something I could never regret or deny, Miss Rarity,"

Rarity smiled a weak smile. There was a small sense of guilt when it came to how she would be using Valen for the coming show. When it came to Twilight's compound, the thing Valen would be using, Rarity wasn't entirely sure what it would ultimately do. Unusual magics could often have unfortunate side effects or be hard to control. Rarity had confidence it would help her get the perfect model for the designs she would be showing, but when it came to what it would do to Valen she was a little more hesitant. Perhaps it might just allow him to get further in touch with his true self. Either way, that would come later. He had only just arrived. There was no real reason to rush anything. No, Rarity would just enjoy this little moment with her young friend. Her smile became more steady as she watched his excitement.

"I have been well enough, thank you for asking. The Manehattan Cutie Mark Crusaders are moving ahead at a blistering pace thanks to Babs Seed and her whip-cracking ways and I am doing well at the Academy. What about you? Any new designs from Equestria's greatest designer?"

"Excellent, darling!" Rarity started in at once. it was still interesting to her that Apple Bloom's two favorite cousins would become friends, but she supposed they complimented each other well. Whatever the case, it was always good to hear Valen was having fun and doing well in school.

"I've been quite busy of late, myself. I was in Manehattan myself with my friends not too long ago for Fashion Week. It was just for a couple days, so there wasn't the time to visit, but ultimately Prim Hemline herself awarded me with the big prize for my Hotel Chic line. Needless to say, after that--and after my Gala sale went so swimmingly--Carousel Boutique has been pretty hectic. At this rate, it won't be long before I won't be able to do it all on my own," Rarity recounted the recent adventure, giving a small sigh. She was here in the Empire for business and yet with how busy things had been back home, it almost felt like a vacation.

"Beyond that, I've been well. Somehow I still manage to find plenty of time to spend with Twilight, Rainbow and the others. Back in the fall, I even ran in a race, the Running of the Leaves, and somehow won the whole thing!" she said with a laugh. Really, she supposed a lot had happened since last her and Valen did something together, even though it hardly seemed long at all since last she had seen him. Things could move all too quickly sometimes, especially for such a busy mare.

"Ahhh... Very pretty... how long have you been here, Miss Rarity?"

Rarity smiled widely as the young colt began to stare around the empire in wonder. She supposed all ponies were the same when seeing it for the first time. Truly it was a magical place. Equestria had nothing that truly compared to it with its glistening homes and spires. It was a place that could inspire a pony to great things, which is why Rarity was sure this fashion show would be a competitive one. Seeing Valen lost in the moment took her back to her first trip to the empire; though in that case, the city had hardly had its full luster restored just yet.

"I've only been in the empire for about a day preparing things," Rarity said with a nod. "This is probably my fourth visit here though and still, it's beauty is never short of captivating."

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He had heard about the Fashion Week fiasco, or more likely, triumph. Gossip magazines had a certain knack for distorting the truth, and they had said so many awful things after the fact. They always did. After her controversial victory, another designer claimed that Hotel Chic was developed at the last minute after she caught Rarity stealing her designs. She had wanted half of the credit for inspiring Rarity to come up with something herself, and demanded that Fashion Week send her an award in recognition. It had been a lot of drama over nothing he was sure, as Rarity didn't need help from anypony in the creation and display of her most sophisticated and wonderful lines. True, hotel chic was a little strange but he was a simple admirer of a mind that was far greater than his own. He was just happy he could help and learn from her and maybe someday return all the kindness she had shown him to her tenfold.

"Well, I had heard something about that Miss Rarity but it was a bit of a drama! I'm so happy you won, though, I never doubted you for a second. It is good to hear that the boutique is doing as well as it is, and even better than I had hoped. If you do have need of expanding, I did have a few ideas. But we'll have time to discuss that later I suppose," Valen replied with all the dignity and academy trained manner he could supply. He then raised an eyebrow at the mention of winning the Running of the Leaves. He knew his cousin Applejack ran it every year and prided herself on it. To hear that Miss Raity had the body to go with the intellect and style was pretty pleasing, and something he could use to needle his cousin.

"Congratulations! Now I know why Apple Bloom skipped over it in her last letter," he finished with a smile, imagining the mental fiction Apple Bloom was surrounding herself with to come to grips with the fact that her rough and rowdy sister had been outdone in a physical activity by the prim and proper Rarity.

He couldn't agree with her more when it came to the beauty of the Empire. Mere words failed to give it any form of justice, the splendor was apparent at all times. even at night, half past midnight, the brilliance and glory that seemed to gravitate towards the eyes no matter where a pony may gaze was without equal in the whole world. Valen had hardened himself so as not to be lost to the beauty that he was told to be prepared for but little time passed before his defenses were bought and sold cheaply on the market of fresh emotions. And that night, he did what he could to experience it. He knew they had a busy schedule in the next few days- all month, if he was being honest- and it was very late, but he couldn't help but have a burst of energy in the midnight at the sight of the Empire. They didn't immediately head to the Hotel for the night as there were some quick things she wanted to show him.

There was a walk along one of the Crystal Avenues, with the reflective surface on the ground showing him that he had quite the rib action going. He was getting a bit too thin there! That was partially by choice but truth was that an Equestrian model that was too thin, especially at his age, was doomed to failure. Most clothing needed a pony of something more than wafer thin size and he was approaching that at a disturbing speed. So they got a bite to eat at about one-thirty, nothing heavy, just a light green salad and some fresh crystal water. It felt like getting hit by a wave of sensation before it brought him down. By the time two rolled around, days of travel and anxiousness had piled on the little colt.

"I think its time..." he yawned and his mouth grew big enough to suck in whole cities, "time for me..." he continued, eyes darting between open and shut, "time for bed, Miss Rarity. Where is our hotel?"

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"Well, I had heard something about that Miss Rarity but it was a bit of a drama! I'm so happy you won, though, I never doubted you for a second. It is good to hear that the boutique is doing as well as it is, and even better than I had hoped. If you do have need of expanding, I did have a few ideas. But we'll have time to discuss that later I suppose,"

"i'd be delighted to hear your ideas, dears," Rarity assured her young friend, happy to see him so spirited. She didn't doubt he'd have heard about Fashion Week. It'd be hard to avoid the news living in Manehattan. Still, it was an accomplishment that had turned out to be quite meaningful for her and she was proud of the win.

"Congratulations! Now I know why Apple Bloom skipped over it in her last letter,"

She giggled at this. Poor little Apple Bloom. As much as she looks up to her sister, she supposed it must have been hard for that filly to come to terms with Rarity winning that race. It was a pretty big shock. Still, much like fashion week that had been an exciting thing.

"It was so very close. Your cousin Applejack really should have won. She would have too under most circumstances... but I suppose luck was just with me that day," she said with a grin. "Not that I didn't want to win. I certainly gave it my absolute all. Whether it's a race or a fashion show or anything else, nothing less truly is ever appropriate," she added, shaking her head.

After that, Rarity decided to give a short tour of the city to her young friend. The Crystal Empire truly was too lovely to not want to show it off immediately after all. As she had been there a few times now, she knew it well enough too. it was easy enough to show him around to some of the important landmarks. After a while, they stopped to have a light meal together at a local cafe. Following this, it was well past one in the morning by this point however, and they had much to do the next day. Rarity was eager to guide them back to the hotel. Tomorrow was big.

"I think its time...time for bed, Miss Rarity. Where is our hotel?"

"Oh, don't worry, dear. I planned our little trek through the empire well. We're staying in that building, just there," she said, pointing a hoof at a nearby hotel, just around the corner. "Come on. Let's get you to bed..." she added as she lead the colt toward the structure.

Once inside, it was just a matter of returning to the room Rarity was checked into. Their room was on the fourth floor of the rather large and pretty crystal hotel. It was a well sized room with two nice, comfy beds and plenty of space to get work done when she needed to. It had been cozy enough for Rarity on her own and she hoped Valen would enjoy it now as well.

"Here we are, dear. I hope you find it comfortable," she said with a smile. "We have a big day tomorrow, so go ahead and get to sleep now." she added through a yawn.

Big day indeed... she honestly had some anxiety about it still. What would Apple Bloom think....Catching sight of a certain letter she had read many times now, she sighed and picked it up to read...

Dear Rarity,

Let me start by saying what I am about to describe was not easy. Nor was it something I had a great amount of fun doing, as I am still in the dark about the target of this position. I consider you one of my closest friends and I know you understand in a greater sense magic more than our other friends, but what we are playing with is very powerful and life-altering. I have done as you requested in the name of research and as a friend, but I ask that you be very careful about how you use it.

As you asked, the initial goal was to create a substance that could radically alter a body to fit the new parameters no matter how it started. To this end I sought out a few different Everfree plants with the help of Zecora, each a different branch of the Olypandias family. I won't bore you with the history of the breed since I know that you are more than likely not at all interested, but suffice it is to say that it is both difficult to find yet once foound, found in great abundance. The three branches of the Olypandias each have a different effct that alone would not take, but together are activated. They change the cellular, hormonal, and even chromosonal makeup of a specific pony, reducing it in some ways to a sort of formless mass and then remaking it as from birth. This is complete and total. The pony is now an XX Chromosone female with an overwhelming and continuous barrage of estradiol, estriol, and estrone hormones with the corresponding cellular structure and organs and system, from the nervous to the reproductive and endocrine, respiratory and integumentary systems and all that follow. From the coat to the tail, all things are altered on every level. This in theory was a smashing success, but the strain on anypony would be lethal. Therefore, I sought ways to defend aginst this.

A pony's aether, as you know, is his or her direct connection to the natural magic of Equestria. What many do not know and still remains a topic of debate among the highest order of magic researchers- save for myself, as I know it to be true- is that there is another factor in place. A pony's aura, for a lack of better term, is our real gateway and limiter to our aetheral connection. It is what limits and divides our access to all manner of magic, and under duress it is capable of exceeding bounds. It is a very personal thing as every aura is entirely unique and impacts every single element of not only our magical connections, but our connection to Equestria as a land. Indeed, it the aura and not our place of birth that makes us Equestrians. It can be very powerful and using a rather difficult spell that has been materialized in the roots of the evergrowing Garsin Olaf tree, I have been able to find a solution to our problem. The aura is mobilized in its entirety to defend the patient from severe trauma, even placing the aetheral connection to Equestria- a subtle magic that can sustain a pony in any state for any length of time, but unable to be reached and used consciously through any known method besides this- into a state of stasis for however long it detects such great trauma. In effect, it will stabilize and protect the patient, and after running more than fifteen thousand scenarios I can see with absolute certainity that this is safe. But even here, there is a terrible side effect. The aura undergoes stress that is unparalleled in its ferocity and longevity at such a deep level and will be utterly obliterated. The patient wakes up a pony, but one without magic nor a connection to Equestria. A pony, but not an Equestrian. Still not useable.

Luckily, this was an easier problem to solve. There exists a spell for such a situation. While rare it is not unheard of for some ponies to be born without an aetheral connection, which I know means without an aura. While the specifics of the spell's creation have been lost to time, the impact is well known by the doctors who cast it soon after birth. The pony gains the magical properties of the environment it was born in. I know that this is because it sends out aetheral feelers into the environment, analyzing and subsuming part of Equestria's infinite magic palate into a new aura for the patient. After a short time, the patient will have the magical properties of whatever the environment is dominated by. In Cloudsdale, a Pegasus. In Ponyville, Earth ponies. In Canterlot, Unicorns. In the Crystal Empire, as you will soon see, a Crystal pony. It is important to note that while they gain the magical properties of a species, they do not gain the physical attributes. An earth pony body with unicorn magical properties will sadly be unable to cast magic, and a unicorn cannot command the skies with her horn- unless of course they have a cutie mark for the occassion, which I'm sure you remember.

Beyond that Rarity, I just tossed in some spells and recipes from Zecora that seemed to fit the mold of whatever model you'll need up there, per your unusually vague request. I've run some calculations and I believe you are looking at a a tendency towards a slender but healthy body as has been noted, with a solid chest and flank supported by a somewhat smaller set of forelegs than back legs. Supports a very 'garrish' syle on top and front with the back half pronounced and strong. Long, flowing mane and tail since you tend to like to do work with the mane and tail. Combination of these ingredients produce what should be a garnet red filly with purple mane and tail. In modeling, the body is rather perfectly defined for your style. Outside of modeling, the body is pre-designed towards unintenational posing.

Oddly enough, tests show it should produce a somewhat heavy Stalliongrad accent, and this can seep into the aura- language complications may arise. I cannot for the life of me understand why, but I fail to find a way to give the patient anything other than an odd accent.

The following is the most important part: This is a limited time substance. I know that you asked for a permanent one but I cannot, in good conscience, do that just yet. I trust you Rarity- please do not be offended. But you must understand I do not wish to contribute to something as life altering as this without giving the patient the ability to opt out. The time limit is seven days, at which point once the body enters a period of rest it will revert all changes made unless there is another aetheral connection detected. While reverting, the new aura that has been made will be used as the original was. The two spells that concern the aura are forever imprinted onto the pony, and unless the same substance is used for further transformations, they will never have a consistent aura again. Rarity, I struggle to think of a more terrifying possibility than having my own personal aura, the thing that defines me as an Equestria, destroyed and rebuilt forevermore. Using this just once will radically alter the pony's life even if he or she decides to never use it again. They may come back and look the same, talk the same, act the same, and do the same things as before, but they have more in common with changelings than they do with other Equestrians. If you're using it the way I believe you are and on who you are, then I ask you to consider how young he is. If you are wrong, then even though he left to go help you and will be with you when you return home, he will honestly never come home again.

With Love and Worry,

Princess Twilight Sparkle

PS- Have I mentioned this cost me 3,000 bits? You better make me a dress with all the gems in the world to pay me back. Also, Spike accidentally made tea with some Olypandias leaves. I'm doing well enough and Spike's dosage is a mere one billionth of what is in the real substance, but he is still getting hit with some powerful hormones. Would you be jealous if he started fawning over Big Mac? Just kidding. For now.

There were parts of Twilight's letter that genuinely concerned Rarity. She wondered if the alicorn didn't take her silly little equest in the wrong ways or more seriously than she intended. The things it focused on seemed wrong to her and the whole thing was somehow far too dire, which made her wonder if she hadn't misunderstood. She had only wanted a means to give him a more model like figure for the sake of the show. Had she explained it to Twilight wrong. She wished no harm to Valen and certainly only had his best intentions at heart. She would never think to just use him for her own means. She was glad at the very least to hear it wasn't permanent. If that was the case, the harm couldn't really be so much and with Twilight having spent so much time and mony on it, she couldn't have second thoughts now. Still, as she reread the solemn warning, she was torn about whether this was a good idea. She'd just have to sleep on it she supposed.

That decided, Rarity prepared herself for bed.

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Valen had a great reserve of energy and endurance, which was natural for an Earth pony. It was one reason why he did so well as a model, as he was able to take a great deal more of the physical toll without faltering under the weight of it all. But that didn't stop him from feeling as though he was about to collapse due to how tired he was, operating as he was on bare fumes long before he had even arrived. His last little gust of energy was spent with Miss Rarity touring the Empire, and a short meal only served to fatten him up and slow him down enough for lethargy to catch up and finish him up. So her offer of putting him to bed was met with resounding internal cheers and he followed her all the way to the hotel step by step, with nary a second wasted! He loved sleep. It was full of such wonderful dreams known only to him, as nightmares and therefore Luna's aid were as divorced from his psyche as a fat colt was divorced from diet and exercise. So as he entered the fourth floor hotel room he would share with Miss Rarity, it was with as much excitement as he could possibly muster.

Tomorrow was going to be a big day, no doubt. Not only was there Rarity's many great plans, but he was super excited to share with her some of the many plans he had come up with to further her business. He had made sure to do his research on not only Rarity's reputation in the fashion community and more specifically fashion in Manehattan, but the costs of doing business for extended sessions as well as store space in Manehattan. It had been revealing, sometimes troubling, but continually fascinating as he had started to cobble up a plan that Rarity may enjoy. If he got it right, it would be a plan that Rarity could use to further her career and do for her what she had done for him, even if in only in a smaller way. It'd be effective, at least. He would be willing to commit himself, that was for sure. And if it worked out, a feather in the cap of Equestria's greatest designer and a step towards fame well deserved. The only negative was that if Rarity didn't like it, it may have come up a bit odd, and he knew that Miss Rarity was one who was all about being both upfront and on the level. Hopefully she'd enjoy it.

"You'll be very excited for my business plan, Miss Rarity. Sleep well," Valen offered before yawning, laying his suitcase against the wall and dropping onto the bed, rifling through it lightly. After a few minutes he found the substance he had been told to bring along, and his curiosity, which had been piqued earlier, was still there roughly. What was this? Why was it important? He looked at the instructions carefully, which were written plainly and easily. No warnings, no ingredients, a plain container. "Drink in one sitting"? Well, he was of two thoughts. First was that he should take it now and see if it was effective, whatever it was. At least it wouldn't get in the way of tomorrow's plans and if he made a mistake it was something that Rarity could correct later. The second was that he was curious and tired and just wanted to see what the fuss was all about, and if it was really all that important Rarity wouldn't have asked him to bring it himself. It was obviously something a bit silly and he was a bit silly-minded at the time. So what was the worst that could happen? Maybe a bad stomach ache and a lecture in the morning. That wasn't enough to fight curiosity.

So he popped the cork silently and imbibed the substance swiftly, which had an odd, almost grainy yet gel-like texture as it fought its way down his throat. He regretted it at first as it stopped moving and seemed to dry itself into him but just as suddenly as he panicked, the substance started to liquefy swiftly and he guzzled it down. It had a peachy aftertaste, and he felt an odd surge of tingly energy which sent several of his hairs on end all the way to his hooves, which flinched and spasmed once or twice because of it. It was an odd feeling, and his eyes grew heavy as whatever energy his curiosity gave him faltered under the wave of discombobulation that spread into all four corners of his body. He shook his head to gather himself, but a heavy air-headedness and sense of not caring settled over him as the mind drifted to that place where it goes where the space between dreaming and being awake was thin and you stepped into both worlds. Any attempt at fighting it fell on deaf ears and soon all resistance was ended. Seconds remaining before complete consciousness lost...ahh, sweet dreams incoming...

"Gooood...niigghhht...."

And with that, Valen was out and the potion went to work.

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A good night's sleep did Rarity well. It helped her sort out her feelings a little. Upon waking up early the next morning and beginning her morning routine, it became clear to her. Having a perfect model was important, but Valen was just a child, moreover he was a friend. Sure, she had suspicions about what he might have truly wanted, and the potion would get him closer to it, but that was just an excuse wasn't it? This was a selfish thing. She was taking advantage of her trust in him. She simply could not force the potion onto him. No, instead she would tell him all about it before hand. She'd let him read Twilight's letter. She'd even recommend he only use a little just so the change wouldn't be too intense. It was his body, so surely it had to be his decision to undertake something like this. Who was she to decide it for him? It just simply was not appropriate.

After successfully making herself sufficiently glamorous, mane full coiffed and an absolutely darling scarf wrapped around her neck, she emerged back into the bedroom, ready to wake little Valen. They had a big day ahead of them after all, and though she would have liked to let the young colt rest as much as possible, it was imperative they began before the morning was well wasted. She reached for his blanket with her magic and tugged it slightly.

"Rise and shine, Valen dear! I'm afraid we simply must be start--!" Rarity proceeded to wake her friend, though she cut herself off entirely when she pulled the blanket back all the way. She blinked several times in a row as she stared at the pony on the bed. "Who are you?" she asked blankly. "Where's Vallen...?"

Rarity stared for several good minutes, confused deeply. The pony she was looking on simply wasn't Valen Orange. It was a filly. A beautiful filly, one with the perfect build to be a perfect model. Wait... Rarity felt her body stiffen up as her head twisted to look at where she had left the bottle containing the potion. It couldn't be, could it? But sure enough... She didn't even have to touch the bottle with her hoof to see that it had been emptied, though she still did in her stupor. Her body trembled and if it was possible for her face to become a paler white, it likely did. There was no denying what had happened. Valen had drank all of Twilight's potion before he had gone to sleep!

"No... you drank all of this?" she started in shock. "Y-you... you weren't supposed to. I mean, not the whole thing... We were... were going to discuss..." she mumbled as she stared ahead. She could only hope that Valen did not hate her for this.
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Valen slept odd that night. He wasn't the most vivid of dreamers but he could count on some semblance of order or at least nothingness as he rested under the gentle moon. Tonight was different and weird. He wasn't dreaming. He wasn't in nothingness either. Instead, he seemed to exist in a kaledeiscope of colors that seemed to shoot through a landscape that alternated between black and deep black. He didn't have a sense of self in whatever environment this was, nor was he the colors or the blackness. He existed in a stae of non-existence in this not-dream, experiencing the colors for what seemed like eons until finally there was nothing but black. Then it got blacker, black upon black as the experience came to a silent close. And when there was nothing but black and with the experience ended, Valen fell asleep into nothingness once again. At least he understood that.

Many hard hours later, Valen felt the covers being taken off in a very vague fashion. He also heard Miss Rarity's brief exclamation and words, but in an equally vague, sleeplike state. He felt like he had been hit by every pegasi in the world and the resulting impact felt like he was stuck in drying mud. After a few more minutes, Valen summoned the strength to roll out of bed with a more feminine moan than he may have thought possible. And there were strands of purple mane in his eyes ad curled about his form as he continued to roll, which also struck him as odd. Almost alarming. He felt bigger. Alarming. He went to rub his snout and saw a garnet hoof. VERY ALARMING. So alarming that he accidentally poked himself in the eye and that produced a very feminine yelp of pain and a stalliongrad curse, which was also super duper alarming as Valen did't speak a word of Stalliongrad...and that voice sounded better than anything he could have attempted.

He fell off of the bed and went to extend his his legs but they were longer than he remembered and he did not get them out in time. His shins slammed into the ground while one back leg found equal hoofing for a second before his long and flowing tail, which was underhoof, tripped that as well. Valen tumbled and tried to get back up, completely panicked and confused for a few seconds until with the help of the bed he was able to stand up and look at a mirror. What met him was beyond his ability to rationalize. Valen was bigger, maybe by a full head. He was still a blank flank but that mattered less. He was garnet in color, a deep red that was starking if not startling. His mane and tail were long and flowing with a hint of curls, amathyst purple throughout. His eyes followed suit, his shocked and panicked expression not dulling their feisty natural glint. Across his whole form his coat felt as if it was made of the purest silk, soft to his touch as he rubbed them with a hoof that seemed excessively tender to the touch. His muscles were actually packed in tighter and felt stronger, which he chalked up to being a bigger pony now. Despite that, he felt as light as a feather. His front hooves were imperciptibly shorter than his back hooves which gave his backside a slight prominence. he was also a filly, which a quick check confirmed.

"Мисс Редкость, Я-" he began before his hooves met his mouth. That was definitely a filly's voice. One from Stalliongrad, too. he had tried to ask Miss Rarity what was happening. Instead, out came that. He concentrated in between his hooves, breathing rapidly. It was still very graceful.

"Vhat happened to me, мисс Rarrity?" He asked, a lot more conscience of what he was saying.

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"Мисс Редкость, Я-Vhat happened to me, мисс Rarrity?"

Rarity looked away awkwardly and then gave an exasperated cry. "You silly little pony... what am I going to do with you?" she started as she found the empty potion bottle nearby. She hovered it toward him...er her with her magic.

"You drank this last night, didn't you?" she questioned blankly, though she already knew the answer.

"Honestly, Valen, why would you drink a strange potion not knowing what it would do to you?" she asked still mostly not even sure what to think or feel.

She looked at him awkwardly, feeling very much uncomfortable. She wished for a moment that she had never even had the potion made. This really wasn't how any of it was supposed to have happened. She just hoped poor Valen wouldn't be too angry with her... and that it would be reversible in the end.

"What you drank was a transformative magic potion I got from my good friend Princess Twilight Sparkle," Rarity explained. "I was going to explain it to you in the morning and ask you if you'd take a little. My intention wasn't for you to drink it all though and end up looking and sounding like an entirely different pony..."

"It shouldn't be permanent if Twilight's letter is to believe," she added in a soft voice. "I do hope you'll be able to forgive me, Valen. I honestly didn't mean for it to happen like this."

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What was she going to do with him!? Wasn't that the most pertient questiom ever asked! She had been the one to tell him to bring this mysterious transformative potion. Towards what end was she pushing him to tell him to bring such a thing, and then get all manner of confused when he used it? She said she wanted to talk about it but what was there to talk about- this was strange! Weird! Totally out of control and out of left field. He had gone to bed a colt and woke up a filly- almost a mare! And she had the intestinal fortitude to act a bit exasperated with him. With her! Miss Rarity, such a wonderful mare- and at the moment in the panicked recesses of a brain that he couldn't even say for sure was of his own making any more, also a traitor. He had trusted her and she had held out on him, held a secret within her that could not and should not have been withheld from a true friend. He pulled back from that thought. She had made a mistake. A very bad mistake that showed a lot of very poor judgement, but a mistake nonetheless. How big of one was the real question.

He wanted to yell at her and be angry and throw a hissy fit but he reigned himself in. What position was he now in? As awful as the current situation was, it could have been much worse. If such a potion could truly be made than it meant that she could have asked for just about anything. Instead, she seemed to hav been as genuinely surprised at certain aspects of the transformation as he was, menaing she couldn't have asked for much specifically. It was a cold comfort, but at least he was in the hooves of a Princess' magic. yes, very cold comfort. Another point was if he called the whole shebang off, then what would he even do? He couldn't go home like this and as angry as he was with Miss Rarity at the lie, he didn't want to ruin her- which going home and revealing what happened would do for sure. That meant he would have to stay. And if he stayed, what could he do- spend all day, every day, angry and upset and not working at all? That would hurt him and hurt her. He didn't even know if he had that capacity for anger even now. And if it south quickly, where would he even stay?

So for better or for worse, they were stuck together. And as he collected his thoughts and realized things could be much worse, he calmed down. He rubbed his face a few times and then sighed tremendously, a breezy quality lilting out.

"Of course I drink potion. Result, see now- your request, da?" He asked simply, not angry. More just curious. He rolled his eyes, as frustrated as he could get.

"I zound like Stalliongrad filly. Take much concentration speak Equestrian. Moglo byt' i khuzhe . Mozhet byt' frantsuzskiy," He added, not being a fan of heavy Prench. He got up and went to the bathroom, door still open as he looked in the mirror, taking a good look at his face as he started making faces.

"I am not angry vith you, bezobidnyy. Ve all make ze mistake. You vill do ze three things Vone, you vill explain vhy. Two, you vill get us some eat. Three, you vill still take me out to ze Crystal Empire. I come from ze Manehattan, not leave so soon, da?" He said sweetly. Or tried to say sweetly. It came across strangely more confident or assertive with a tinge of haughty playfulness that infected his speech unknowlingly. It would take time get in control.

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"Of course I drink potion. Result, see now- your request, da?"

Rarity winced. Perhaps it was just the strange new accent, but it sure seemed that Valen had no patience for her and her excuses. Why should he? He was likely terrified and it wasn't something Rarity could just explain away either. She had done the wrong here and it was poor Valen who paid. She should have been upfront with her intentions from the start. The truest problem was that she hadn't figured out quite what it meant, this selfish request of hers, until it was already too late for explanations. No, perhaps instead the mistake was in asking for Twilight to make such a thing at all.

"I zound like Stalliongrad filly. Take much concentration speak Equestrian. Moglo byt' i khuzhe . Mozhet byt' frantsuzskiy,"

As the colt turned filly continued, Rarity's guilt in part at least turned to wonder. It was bizarre, unnecessary even, but the way that Twilight's magic could give a pony knowledge of a language that they did not in fact know was absolutely incredible. Her friend's power truly was vaster than she consciously was aware of. That's why she was student to Celestia. That's why she was a princess now. Truly Rarity should have known better than to toy with such great power so carelessly.

"I am not angry vith you, bezobidnyy. Ve all make ze mistake. You vill do ze three things Vone, you vill explain vhy. Two, you vill get us some eat. Three, you vill still take me out to ze Crystal Empire. I come from ze Manehattan, not leave so soon, da?"

This insistence was nothing like the Valen Rarity knew. She couldn't recall sweet and gentle Valen ever making demands of her. She wondered then if the potion hadn't just changed Valen's sex and age but also his character at a more core level. She recalled what the letter said and felt another pang of guilt. What if something in Valen that wasn't natural of him truly did remain even when the potion had ran its course?

"Very well, you deserve whatever I can give you... Valen," she paused before the name, as it didn't even truly seem to fit the pony in front of her. And yet she had no other name that did fit.

"I was hoping to ask you to model for me once more," Rarity said in an earnest, steady voice. "The show we are here for... it requires that the designers supply their own models, and though I had fashions to show, I had no one to turn to. None of my connections produced a suitable model and I could not ask it of any of my friends.

"I thought of how you modelled for me as Gilded Lily not so long ago. I thought fondly of the time, and even for all I forced on you, it seemed you did as well. I would have liked for you to be my model again, but a child model wouldn't do for this show and what I had to display..." Rarity looked down, feeling another pang of guilt. "That's why I had Twilight make that potion. If I made you a filly, a few years older than you are, you would be perfect for me..."

"But I was to discuss it with you before you drank the thing. I might have suggested you drink only a little if you were unsure... I never wanted it to be done without you knowing what the result might be," she said with a sigh of regret.

Her eyes focused then on Valen and she did her best to smile faintly. "Looking at you now though, I must say Twilight's magic is amazing. You truly would make a lovely model," she added softly as she looked over the fair filly who had once been Valen. It was real truth. This was a perfect model for her, though part of her wondered if Valen might have any interest in helping her now. Part of her also remembered to wonder if some part of Valen might be happy with this form. It was hard for her to say for sure what his thoughts were.

"But you can see that for yourself. Take a moment to get ready and then we can go find a place to eat and see the Empire together, as you would like," she added, recalling the other two demands Valen had made.

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Rarity was not full of her usual character and style. Maybe this situation didn't call for it. A bit of humility and shame was on tap in some ways of looking at it, her desires to further her own goals leading her to commissioning the creation of a very dangerous and likely illegal potion. It came at the cost of not only good sense but a pony she supposedly cared a great deal for, as whether she thought to inform him or not she was asking Valen to undergo a change to his life that whether temporary or permanent was epic in his personal scale. Nopony should be confident or subtle about it and she was suitably demure and taken aback if nothing else. But of all the times in the world when Valen needed somepony else to be confident and assertive, excited and positive, this was it. He was already undergoing an epic internal conflict and he didn't need somepony he respected waffling about actions already undertaken. He needed somepony with a snappy optimism and he didn't even know if Stalliongradians did snappy optimism or even if they did he doubted they did it well enough for his tastes!

Once he got past the unusual timidity of her speech, the meat of what she said was somewhat expected. She wanted him to model but didn't have use for a child model, so he was to be made a superior and older model. She claimed he was to be prodded to try it slowly but in all honesty who knew what the future would have told. The important thing was that hidden underneath her shame she still was keeping to the plan, which was oddly comforting. He didn't come to the Empire to only leave so soon and he couldn't now. If she was willing to play the part of an excited caretaker he was willing to play the part of an enjoyable friend. It didn't hurt that despite all that had happened he knew she was a good pony who was also a very dear friend. She had made a terrible mistake and would be made to pay for it in some great cosmic and markmic method, but it wouldn't be at his hooves. Or her hooves. It was awful trying to decide who or what he was and how to think of himself, and his voice added to that dilemma. He had to make an epic concentration of will in order to make it functional and believable, but with every moment that passed he could feel the language settle in and become more comfortable off of the tongue and the accent grow less thick.

And he'd need to use that ability soon because even though she was following the 'demands', her way of speech and bowling over at his word made him think she was taking his words the wrong way. He did sound more forceful but it was not intentional. It was just hard stringing together the words! He combed his hair as she started speaking and found it silky and easy to work with. He didn't style it and kept it straight, the long length of it draping over him like a thin cape. After she was done he considered- Valen sighed, he might as well just get used to it. She considered how she looked and felt. The only smell was a faint rose-tinted aroma that would fade quickly but made her feel fine. Her mane was now under control and her coat was smooth. No doubt there was a hundred upon a hundred small things she could do and would do later but for now her mane goal was getting back into a normal rhythm. With that in mind, as Rarity pawed at the ground full of regret, Valen finished and launched herself into a hug around one of her forelegs. Everypony needed somepony.

"It is okay. Yoo must stop being so regret. We all make mistake at times. You made one but can make up," she patted Rarity on the head, "so no need for such pechal. I am sorry too. It is hard sound normal with accent. I must sound so much more, what is ze word, assertive. Do not be put off. Just making new way of speech. It is difficult. At least I am not speaking in much of foreign language, da?" she settled back down on her hooves before sighing, tail flicking nervously.

"Still nervous. Will need think of name while out," now it was time to make Rarity more comfortable so a sense of normality could be had, "and you need to stop looking so beautiful. Even now I not compare. Not fair to me!" she ended with a smile, winking with more of her body's now bodacious flirtatious energy than she would have ever intended.

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"It is okay. Yoo must stop being so regret. We all make mistake at times. You made one but can make up,so no need for such pechal. I am sorry too. It is hard sound normal with accent. I must sound so much more, what is ze word, assertive. Do not be put off. Just making new way of speech. It is difficult. At least I am not speaking in much of foreign language, da?"

Rarity's tangled mix of emotions only became increasingly more so. Seeing Valen emerge with his--no, it had to be her at this point--mane brushed straight, her face and coat more visible in the light, Rarity for the first time noticed completely how very well the potion had worked. She had seen enough to call the filly lovely, but looking at her again, fresh and combed, the effect was only amplified. Valen didn't look or sound or act like Valen, but she was looking at the most perfect model she had ever seen. She was the perfect shape, perfect size and perfect colors. She was an image of loveliness who could make any dressmaker's work shine like the brightest of stars. This coupled with the suddenly much more sweet and gentle words spoke, assuring Rarity that it was okay, left Rarity feeling somewhat faint. She truly had no idea what so ever what to feel, and so she just stared slightly agape like a child, not sure what to even say. What even could she say at this point?

"Still nervous. Will need think of name while out, and you need to stop looking so beautiful. Even now I not compare. Not fair to me!"

Rarity blinked several times at this and took a step back. What was Valen saying? She was clearly the more lovely one of them. She looked the perfect model. Rarity was just a designer and didn't hold a light to the creature she was looking at. Still, the compliment made her blush a little, which surprised her. Valen said sweet and flattering things all the time to her, but Rarity didn't ever think much of it. He was just a young, sweet child. She thought of him much the same way she thought of Spike. Now that he was instead a filly closer to her age, and remarkably lovely, it was different though. It was disarming to hear such words thrown out there, especially since something in the tone almost sounded kind of flirty. She could just write that off as Valen not being able to control the unfamiliar accent or perhaps her just imagining things in it, though.

All Rarity could do was not make much of it, "Why, I'm not sure you took a long enough look in the mirror, dear," she said simply, smiling.

"You're quite right though," she added, brushing a hoof through the filly's lovely straightened mane. "You can't very well be called Valen looking like this, and you certainly aren't Gilded Lily either..." she said, looking the other pony. "We definitely will need a new name for you while you're like this."

She smiled and gave a nod then. "But we'll have time enough to talk about everything," she said, for once sounding almost like her normal self. "Now, let's go find us that meal you wanted..."

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It was odd hearing that come from Rarity, slighlty rebuffing his charmed words the way she did. She was always slightly more modest than some would give her credit for, namely in as much as she was uncomfortable with excessive praise. It was only natural that it was heaped on Rarity but to have her so simply retort back towards Valen- or whomever she was now- was a little bit unsettling...and exciting. She had never really looked at herself that way but there had been a reason she couldn't make eye contact with herself in the mirror as she was getting ready. She had chalked it up to nerves or fear and maybe a little of that was true, but reflected off the mirrors around the room was not a face that refleced such emotions.

It was one of elegant beauty masking a sort of husky and aggressive suggestiveness. Not too lithe as to be a paper thin cutout, she actually had good form and health about her which only allowed the curves and shapeliness of her forelegs to stand out as being beautiful rather than stickly as with other models. She very much had the look of a model who had all the natural, healthy beauty in the world and none of the skeletal lankyness that marked others. It could have been a source of deep pride and maybe later it would, but her excitement was tempered by the realization that for all of that, none of it was of her own doing. It was science and magic and a bit of casual and regretted deceit that gave her this body of a knockout, not her own genes and work. But oh well- Valen wasn't above a compliment herself.

She brushed her hair back and gave the faintest and most tender blush, smiling at Rarity's words only half-intentionally.

"Da, that true. Only once have I looked. But I suppose that remains to be seen? Two beauties, one room!" She laughed, the whole thing not so much lilting as wavy as each single chuckle seemed designed to soothe and relax. Truth be told Valen was still terribly freaked out, but once she had calmed down from her initial shock a sort of playful calm had started to seep in. She felt excited now about the possibilities, at least as equal as she was worried and afraid. This was a very brief window of time and she was planning on never doing anything like this again, but she did feel oddly liberated. Now that this had happened, what secrets or surprises could she ever hold from Rarity or Rarity from her? Barring her mother, nopony else had ever been this incredibly vital to his life before- and definitely more important to her life. So why not enjoy it for what it was? No doubt there would be many mistakes made but life was one long mistake punctuated by the right choices. Best celebrate the small victories and hold precious the successes, da?

And it was equally important if she were to celebrate this slight detour that they treat it as such with a fitting name. Sadly, nothing came to her mind at the moment despite an intensive search. Valen was never the most creative sort and preferred her reading to be of the topical rather than the fictional. Not that it mattered in the end since none of this would stick, but it would help later. Oh well. Rarity was a creative genius who lived up to her name literally. Few ponies could match her and she had no doubt that by the end of the day she'd have the perect temporary name truly befitting her for this brief spell. Valen nodded hier agreement, trotting alongside her mentor for the trip. She trotted ahead and opened the door for Miss Rarity, as some gentlecolt mannerisms never truly left.

"Da, my hunger not gone at all. Could eat all the food in Equestria! Or Crystal Empire. I vill stay behind you. Vhat is so not seen until can say own name...and ve find some topic," she nodded, a nervous chuckle escaping her, "not good subject in public, da?"

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"Da, that true. Only once have I looked. But I suppose that remains to be seen? Two beauties, one room!"

Rarity smile became more relaxed and natural with these words. It seemed to her that, if slightly, both her and Valen were slowly starting to get used this impossible and bizarre happening. She doubted she'd ever get fully used to it before the effects wore off. Even just forcing Valen to dress as Gilded Lily to model for her had left her feeling somewhat guilty and under if she was doing the right thing. This was many times worse by every angle. Valen, on the other hoof, might actually have a better time adjusting to it all. Rarity wasn't sure, but she had touched in the past on things when dealing with Valen that had her assuming this wasn't all too different from what he wanted... but even then it wasn't quite the same. The ever present accent was a constant reminder of this. This magic, whatever it had done, had not helped Valen become who he should be or anything so noble. It had changed him into somepony else entirely.

Remembering that, Rarity still onto some unease even as seeing Valen able to joke and smile about about it all made her feel increasingly contented.

"Da, my hunger not gone at all. Could eat all the food in Equestria! Or Crystal Empire. I vill stay behind you. Vhat is so not seen until can say own name...and ve find some topic," she nodded, a nervous chuckle escaping her, "not good subject in public, da?"

"Well, I know a place not far from here luckily. It's a chic cafe offering up the most delectable breakfast in the empire that I've managed to find so far," she said with a nod. "It's just two blocks up from the place we ate at last night, across the way from the famous Crystal Spa."

She left it at that and took to leading the way to her chosen destination. For all that had happened in such a short time with Valen and Twilight and the potion and the note, Rarity was kind of surprised to find how blank her mind was. It was kind of staggering really, but mostly she just felt tired and confused. it was hard to force herself to remember that on top of all of it the whole point of all of this was the fashion show she would be participating in. She supposed, with all this strange magic coalescing in this strangely magical place it sort of just started to feel like some weird and bizarre dream she'd wake up from soon. She wasn't sure. She just felt off.

Maybe a good breakfast would help her too...

Though really, whatever she was feeling, she couldn’t even imagine what Valen might be thinking. His words revealed self-consciousness. That he didn't arrive on a name for himself immediately told her he was taking that part quite seriously. As Rarity moved ahead in her dream walk, he was supremely conscious of what had happened and of everything it involved. It was kind of odd to consider. She wanted to encourage him, but at the same time she hadn't an idea of what to say, so she didn't say anything. She just lead the colt turned filly along until they were standing before a sweet smelling, cute little restaurant done in the typical architecture of the empire.

"Here it is. Cafe Charoite. Positively adorable, isn't it?" Rarity started cheerfully, nodding to Valen. "I recommend their crepes, but they also have amazing omelets," she said as she went through the door to wait to be seated. "I'm sure it's all pretty wonderful though."

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It was good that Miss Rarity had plans for their breakfast all lined up. For all of the chaos and the mistakes that had plagued their early morning, the duo at least had one thing in common. Well actually, compared to just last night they had so much more in common that the very thought seemed trifling and silly, but in any case they were both very hungry ponies. Valen or whatever her name was felt like she could eat a whole village and briefly wondered if her appetite had been changed. It was a dumb question. Of course it had. Everything had. Nothing was the same anymore. But in the end Valen or whatever her name was couldn't have really cared less about the big picture. She was hungry and no matter the name or events, a hungry diva was a hungry diva! At least Rarity seemed to take a brighter turn as they discussed a new topic and led the filly out of the door.

And once they were walking about the Crystal Empire, the Stalliongradish filly felt so much more comfortable. And terrified. It was an odd feeling. Being out in public, he felt for sure that everypony would stare and gawk and know what had happened and be weird about it. He couldn't have blamed them if he did. And a few did look and stare and one colt even dropped his food on the ground as he behald such beauty. But rather than make the filly feel mortal terror, just a tittering of shyness and embarrassment as she drew her mane back behind her ear reflexively. Inside, she was still panicked a bit but it was all internal. Externally, the attention she got at times wasn't unnerving in the slightest. That only made it worse internally of course, but if a pony could go through this without such epic conflicts of the heart then that pony likely didn't have free will.

Instead, what made the trip comfortable was the sheer beauty of the Empire in the sunlight. It sparkled and shone, just like in the stories. Even more beautiful was when the stories were proven to not be exaggerations of the mind and soul. Every little crack was as splendid as a piece of art, every shimmer as resplendent as a beautiful tapestry. The landscape was kept up as a beautician may work on the makeup of a popstar and the buildings glowed with the beauty of a designed dress. The filly could couch no complaints about the endless beauty of the land and soon the ponies of it made their mark on her as well. Even the homely ones shined! The beautiful ones filed the filly with an odd and penetrating sense of desire that could not be overridden by anything but the greatest of concentration.

It made sense why a fashion show or really anything that tries to show off beauty would happen here. Everything was gorgeous here. Everything. If you stood out then you were not just pretty or beautiful, but breathtaking and heart-pounding. It was somewhat intimidating to think that Miss Rarity's portion of the show had to out-do everything else in a land devoted to beauty, so it made sense why she would choose Valen. If anypony could be expected to be devoted to her and understand her ideals, Valen was the pony. Was this filly the same pony? Perhaps. In this land where only the breathtaking stood out she got attention walking down the street, so no doubt Miss Rarity would be pushed to present clothes fit for her. But would that be enough? It was odd thinking that her mind was on the show more than her own life, but then again, all the life is a stage and the filly had long ago realized that the parts she played were rarely the parts she had EXPECTED to play. So she was going to focus on being the best she could be and eating all the food in the cafe they were going to.

And it was a pretty one. It lived up to the name, the inside as the pair trotted in decked out in the rare crystalline structure of the mineral charoite. It was very cute. The purple reflected a bit dully compared to the outside and this was a wonderful feature for sure! It allowed a pony to peer deeper into the material and look at the fine lines and the sweet fractures that were the results of generations of mineral working. "Da, very nice. Good beauty work on walls! Esli tol’ko duša možet byt’ povezet," the filly said wistfully before smiling, "how find such pretty place, Miss Rarity? It is good place. Look expensive though, da? Come her on ze royal dime, da?" She winked playfully as the waitress came by.

"One mare and one filly? Okay, follow me!"

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"Da, very nice. Good beauty work on walls! Esli tol’ko duša možet byt’ povezet. how find such pretty place, Miss Rarity? It is good place. Look expensive though, da? Come her on ze royal dime, da?"

Rarity laughed and shook her head as she followed the hostess to their table.. "Not exactly," she said. "I came to the Empire with my friends to help Princess Cadance get things ready for the Head of the Equestria Games to visit and scout out the location for the games. it ended up being a real hassle for all of us, me especially, but while I was trying to get the princess's mane shaped to impossible perfection, at the Crystal spa across the way, one of the ponies who worked there recommended it to me."

The unicorn nodded and smiled at the still so unfamiliar filly as they were seated and both given menus. "We didn't have much time to dally that day, as Twilight was rather concerned to leave Spike back in Ponyville with all of our pets, but I did scope the place out and found the decor to be positively adorable. I made note of it, and the next time I visited the city it was one of the first places I went!" she explained with enthusiasm. "It was good enough to get me back many times now. Don't worry either, as chic as it is, the prices are reasonable enough."

It was beginning to feel more natural, even as she still found it hard to remember that this pony was Valen. There was just so little "Valen" about this filly. Rarity supposed it was the accent more than anything that was throwing her. It was certainly unusual, though she was doing her best to put it out of mind.

When a waiter came around, Rarity smiled and nodded, already knowing what she wanted to order. "I'll take the chocolate marscapone crepes with the crystal berry reduction and a caffè latte, darling," she said. She hoofed over the menu as both her and the waiter then looked toward Valen.

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Her jab had been received well by Rarity. Good to see that the humor box in this new ride wasn't any worse than before! One of the many ways that Valen had charmed her way into the hearts of so many fillies across the land was her easy humor and friendly disposition mixed with just the slightest hint of hesitation until a topic of great love and importance came up. Valen couldn't be blamed if all the mares and fillies in her life liked him. Would that transfer over to colts and stallions now that she was a filly? Odd question. Probably not. Hopefully not. But maybe not hopefully not? It was all very confusing. What wasn't confusing was her hokey sense of humor. She listened to Rarity's story about how she found this place and remembered hearing about that visit vaguely in some tabloid. While they weren't household names quite yet, you didn't save Equestria as many times as they did and hob-knob with the elite of the nation without catching some attention. Of course, it had only been a blurb and in some back corner so it wasn't as if it was news worthy of remembrance by most, but Valen actually had a rather tendril-like memory that snatched seemingly everything up. It made her a good student and a quick learner of any subject she deemed important. It also made her naturally wary of places like thus, but Rarity's assurances were enough for her

"Vat is good. No desire to make spend so much bits," She replied lowly. Only half-true- she had the appetite of a raging bull who was raging because he was hungry. But Valen always hated other people spending bits on her. She knew it was important that these things happen from time to time but with so many bits in the world and so many ponies who needed more, being a rich filly with all the bits on hoof and then accepting more in the form of room and board seemed a poor waste. Then again, Rarity had turned him into her so she could pay her back a lot of ways and there wouldn't be much guilt. Her attention turned to the cafe some more. The decor was as chic as it claimed and it looked fine, but Valen started to see things in a new light as she investigated it. It seemed like for all of their maintenance- and it was well-maintained or at least it had aspirations of being well-maintained- they could not hold back the sands of time. She stared up, her purple mane coifing elegantly and alluringly around her ears as she investigated the ceiling. Small cracks were present.

Not that they could do anything about them. Just like most of the infrastructure in the city, this building was old. Re-purposed over time perhaps, but old. For all of the glory and glamour the Crystal Empire was secretly a city where the foundation had mostly crumbled away to the sands of time. They were frozen more or less over time true, but when they came back and connected once more to Equestria's natural magical leylines and aether, they were hit by centuries of erosion and imperfect maintenance. The ponies were protected by their own innate magic as crystal ponies, but the materials of their land did not share the same luck. Massive projects had already begun to repair literally thousands of buildings around the Empire before anything serious happened. Most of them were away from the city as the sheer mass of crystal ponies in this area allowed a certain element of their aura to leak into the aether and gave it an element of protection. But eventually every building would need some serious work, including this one.

For Valen, she didn't know quite why all that was happening. All she knew is that under inspection it looked poor to a trained eye, which she had- rather suddenly and critically. She realized she had been silent for a bit and turned back down, an embarrassed blush shading her maroon cheeks ever so slightly as she pushed her mane back behind her ears with a simple and soft move.

"Yes. Very chic. But has problem. Like a crack in smile, zis place needs ze work. Cannot allow an imperfection to appear in ze public. Even if one can...ascertain-" eyes lit up, she could speak normal for a fancy word now! Yay! "-...zorry. feel ramble. Just felt odd looking looking at odd crack. Make me...how...dunno," She shrugged, annoyed that she couldn't place it. It felt right, as if something was clicking. But the menu needed to be inspected and she allowed the thought to drift away. Gosh, she was hungry. The waiter couldn't arrive soon enough.

The waiter arrived almost on cue, taking Rarity's order. Unknowingly, she pushed more mane out behind her ear as she gave the handsome waiter a half-lidded look as it came to her.

"Da, menu so nice. I vill take...maki volls...vichyssoise- hold ze milk, unless it iz goat clear, my vittle kotyonok- and sangria, please da?" She asked, her voice nearly squeaking in sweetness by the end unknowingly.

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"Vat is good. No desire to make spend so much bits,"

"Oh please, darling. As long as you're here with me, don't worry about such things at all. Whatever you want is completely fine," Rarity replied at once to Valen's comment, smiling softly as she did. Sure, it didn't do well to expect to be pampered, but a child shouldn't have to worry about being a burden either. Not to a friend. Besides, Rarity honestly still felt quite a lot of guilt. At that moment, she would have been happy to spoil Valen just to help her stay halfway content.

"Yes. Very chic. But has problem. Like a crack in smile, zis place needs ze work. Cannot allow an imperfection to appear in ze public. Even if one can...ascertain-...zorry. feel ramble. Just felt odd looking looking at odd crack. Make me...how...dunno,"

Rarity was surprised at these comments. She was surprised partly because she hadn't noticed the ceiling cracks, but mostly because Valen did and seemed troubled by them. A look of uncertainty crept onto her face as she looked at the colt turned filly, but after a moment she nodded gently.

"Believe me, dear, I know a thing or two about fussing over things right down to the last detail, but if we go through life always expecting perfection, we're hardly going to find happiness. In focusing in on the little cracks, we, in fact, might just miss out on the bigger picture." The unicorn closed her eyes and nodded. "As it is, this place has great atmosphere, lovely decor and everyone who works here does their very best to ensure their customers are smiling when they leave. A few small cracks shouldn't take away from that."

"Da, menu so nice. I vill take...maki volls...vichyssoise- hold ze milk, unless it iz goat clear, my vittle kotyonok- and sangria, please da?

Rarity's was somewhat taken aback by Valen's order. It was early in the morning. Cold, creamy soup and maki rolls didn't seem like a very typical breakfast to her. She was honestly surprised the latter was even on the menu given how far away it was from the millennium separated culture of Crystal Spire; she supposed one of the chefs must have visited Greater Equestria looking for ideas for new menu items.

More unusual that even that perhaps was the fact that Valen seemed to be flirting with the waiter. While the question of identity seemed to still linger over Valen, Rarity had never before seen any real evidence that Valen fancied anything other than fillies. The waiter was a fairly handsome crystal stallion, Rarity had to admit, but she doubted that alone would have Valen sway. She wondered if perhaps that potion really hadn't changed Valen's persona right down to the core, though maybe too it was in the advanced of age that had suddenly been allowed to occur. Either way, it was noticeable and, what's more, it had Valen ordering something she very much should not be.

"Come now, darling, it's much too early to be drinking something like that. We have a full day ahead of us, don't forget," she said as smoothly as she could. She knew not whether it was some new boldness in Valen or a want to impress the stallion by ordering something adult, but either way Rarity had to be the responsible adult here. She wasn't going to let Valen order alcohol, no matter how guilty she may have felt for what had happened. Though she appeared older, after all, she still wasn't an adult. "I recommend the coffee drinks personally, though they also have a fine selection of teas and juices..."

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Valen hadn't meant to fuss and flail over some minor detail. His mind had taken hold of something and turned what had been a minor point into a full blown analyzation. It felt good to have a kind so enraptured with something so minor, like a fascination switch turned on. But rarity was right. You didn't want to miss the greater picture of the details. It hadn't been all that conscious either. Annoying and a little troubling to be honest, but Rarity was right as she always was. This place was lovely and he didn't want to miss trees for the forest or the forest for the trees. He sighed and nodded emphatically, rubbing his head as he did so. Oh well- a random little spinning of the mental wheel ended on an odd number. Nothing to be worried about. Why had she ordered the Sangria though? Was that something bad?

"Da, da. Youu are correct, my mamulya. I do not mean look and see such thing. It came like a flash of lightning on brain. I feel bad for lessening mood. It is truly remarkable nice place to eat food at. The way you treat me is so kind. I wonder vhat vas ze cause for me here to Empire for ze show? Surely other models were better suit for this job. Not that I complain. This is big step forward for career for me for fashion da? May be hard to, how say, reconcile with other, how say, aspects of career. But experience counts da. And I will submit to your better judgement. Vaiter, miliy mo mily, I vill take...some greens and coffee, da? Surprise me, сексуален," She finished with an unintentional wink before giving the menu back, a stare of hunger in more ways than one briefly flashing over before she turned back to Rarity.

"So...vhat is sangria, anyway?" She asked witha chuckle, tail flcking with an unknown energy.

Her mind started to work back to happier times. Speaking of those very things, Valen had to know what was goin on with her second family down there in the town with no name until just a few short years ago.

"Vhat is Sweetie doing? I vonder sometimes. How are ze Crusaders? We have soe contact in Manehattan but not much. You deal with her...how is Applejack? Ve have a vittle contact. I veel closer to you in honesty, though I do love her!"

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"Da, da. Youu are correct, my mamulya. I do not mean look and see such thing. It came like a flash of lightning on brain. I feel bad for lessening mood. It is truly remarkable nice place to eat food at. The way you treat me is so kind. I wonder vhat vas ze cause for me here to Empire for ze show? Surely other models were better suit for this job. Not that I complain. This is big step forward for career for me for fashion da? May be hard to, how say, reconcile with other, how say, aspects of career. But experience counts da. And I will submit to your better judgement. Vaiter, miliy mo mily, I vill take...some greens and coffee, da? Surprise me, сексуален,"

Rarity nodded at the words said and also at the more reasonable order. This new Valen was still hard to figure out. Her personality just wasn't like the Valen Rarity knew so well, and yet, when she took the time as she did now, to sort through her feelings it was completely clear that it was still the same bright young pony indeed. The fashionista smiled at the thought.

"It's actually hard for me to find models. I do have connections in Canterlot and places like that, but even if my star is on the rise, Carousel is still a small operation with only so much in its budget. Connections are great you see, but unless your owed favors no one established is going to do anything cheap," Rarity explained, nodding her head.

"Don't think me to be taking advantage of good will now, darling, but friends are far more reasonable and forgiving, which is why if I can convince one to model for me, I will," Rarity said. "But my friends are largely unwilling. Fluttershy has the perfect figure to model, but can't stand it from experience. Dash's colors are so vivid and lovely, but she can be so hard to pin down. Applejack is just difficult and Pinkie calls too much attention to herself and well, you can't really expect me to ask a princess of Equestria to be my model. You did it before for me though, and you didn't seem to dislike it...I couldn't help but think you were the right choice for the job..."

"So...vhat is sangria, anyway?"

Rarity giggled at this. "It's a sweet drink made from wine, brandy and chopped fruit. Quite lovely, really, if made right, but not something for the morning..." she said. "Of for one so young..." she added under her breath.

"Vhat is Sweetie doing? I vonder sometimes. How are ze Crusaders? We have soe contact in Manehattan but not much. You deal with her...how is Applejack? Ve have a vittle contact. I veel closer to you in honesty, though I do love her!"

The unicorn smiled at the questioned and nodded. "My sister and her little friends are as cute and precocious as ever. Sweetie can really be a hoof full at times, but I've learned to be the best sister I can be," she said, warmly thinking of her dear sister.

"As for your cousin, I'm sure she misses you and would be happy for you to stay with her again on the farm. Family is everything for that mare, so there's not any reason for you to act distant with her," Rarity nodded steadily. "She's been her usual self. She can always be counted on for that, I tend to find. Whatever else changes, Applejack will always be so entirely Applejack."

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"It's actually hard for me to find models. I do have connections in Canterlot and places like that, but even if my star is on the rise, Carousel is still a small operation with only so much in its budget. Connections are great you see, but unless your owed favors no one established is going to do anything cheap, Don't think me to be taking advantage of good will now, darling, but friends are far more reasonable and forgiving, which is why if I can convince one to model for me, I will. But my friends are largely unwilling. Fluttershy has the perfect figure to model, but can't stand it from experience. Dash's colors are so vivid and lovely, but she can be so hard to pin down. Applejack is just difficult and Pinkie calls too much attention to herself and well, you can't really expect me to ask a princess of Equestria to be my model. You did it before for me though, and you didn't seem to dislike it...I couldn't help but think you were the right choice for the job..."

Valen believed he understood to a decent degree her budgetary concerns. After all, his parents ran a business and often ran into similar problems. Of course their problems were on a macro rather than micro scale but it fell in line with what he was taught in school. His academy taught all sorts of classes but one that it taught that he doubted any public school taught was business administration and economics. It helped that his school was fairly brutal about their grading as it helped focus him and this trip would test just how much he had learned. He had ideas on how to help her business thrive based on those very same economics lessons as well as his own gumption. His. Her. It was hard to focus on what Valen had planned when he was no longer Valen, but in the end it was just as important to keep a focus on what he had planned coming in as what was happening now. In a way, taking his-her mind off of his new body and all the unintentional flirting that came with it for some reason he couldn't understand helped him not to freak out. Valen nodded as Rarity spoke, pleasantly surprised at her candid reasoning.

“Zis is true. Friends can be helpful. Fluttershy was so absolutely beautiful, but, see, issue, ponies look at her and not clothes she wears. If youu check sales, no real bump from her model days. But she is very pretty. I vould say same for Rainbow. She is vivid and pretty like dangerous flover, distracts from clothes. I do think youu call on Applejack right manner, she do it. She is very pretty, da? But not distract from clothes. Understated look for her. But hard to get to agree. She is very independent. I am very flattered you chose me. It is pretty high honor to be considered fit for role,” Valen laughed, “you tell me what were in the details maybe I be wary, da?” She laughed for another second, shaking her head, “vay life goes. Anyvay, I do think I had ideas for you for Boutique. When you send for me I skip school for two days, make business plan for Boutique. It is back at our hotel room,” and for the first time, Valen-whatever shook her head, “maybe it vas mistake. I am not very good at it. You vill probably laugh at it. But oh vell. I try to help anyvay I can. Even if I am dumb business mind I can still look good for your clothes and model vell, da?” Valen ended on what he believed to be a positive note as the subject shifted.

"My sister and her little friends are as cute and precocious as ever. Sweetie can really be a hoof full at times, but I've learned to be the best sister I can be. As for your cousin, I'm sure she misses you and would be happy for you to stay with her again on the farm. Family is everything for that mare, so there's not any reason for you to act distant with her. She's been her usual self. She can always be counted on for that, I tend to find. Whatever else changes, Applejack will always be so entirely Applejack."

It was good to hear that even as the whole world shifted and changed that the Cutie Mark Crusaders kept on being themselves in all the ways they knew how. Valen didn't know what precocious meant but it seemed her words were positive enough. Valen had been kept abreast of developments on the Ponyville Chapter of the Crusaders for some time as it pertained to the Manehattan branch that he was a part of. Most importantly, it was good to hear that Sweetie was the same as ever. She had a fetching personality and winning attitude and while Valen didn't exactly know how to describe how he felt about her, safe to say he considered a good friend. More importantly, the subject of Applejack. He had made a mistake and misrepresented their relationship, which he would blame on the accent. He loved his cousin deeply and did not wish for a gulf to exist. Nonetheless it did, and it was partially of his own doing. Maybe a bit of it was fear but you could never be as close to someone as they would want to be or you would desire if you held back a torrent of secrets and that was what Valen held back from Applejack.

“Oh, I misrepresent my relations with cousin Applejack. My mistake- I apologize- I love and honor her as should and keep in contact. In fact, she is coming Manehattan soon. She be a lot of fun. I simply meant that...vell, I keep secrets from her. Like vhat I do. A lot of vhat I do outside of my parents only you know. I do not tell Applejack because I sure she think me very weird and even kind vords vould mask heavy emotions,” Valen shook her head, letting out a quick neigh and a nervous giggle, “sladkiy Celestia, I am such trus. Oh vell. Is vhat is. Vone day she vill find out and it cause problem, I know. She will always love me that I know but I fear her disappointment more than physical punishment from anypony else,” Valen ended lowly as she tried to head back to the happier subjects.

“Nice to hear zat Sweetie Belle and her comrades are so happy being happy them,” that sounded dumb. The accent got out there a bit, “errrr, happy to hear the CMC are so good. Darn accent. Does she speak about me at all?” Valen asked politely as the food arrived, the waiter laying out the plates sweetly with an extra plate on Valen's side.

“Here is your food ladies, with a small desert loaf for the pretty one,” he winked at Valen who blushed lightly and winked back, tail twitching in excitement. And why not? It wasn't every day that you got this sort of service. Such a nice an kind thing giving somepony SUGAR LOAF OH CELESTIA THEY WERE SO GOOD.

“Da, zank you so much for zis, Moy dorogoy,” she winked and the waiter floated away. Valen looked down at their food, mouth watering.

“Da, looks so good! I could eat it all up!” And then Valen started to do just that.

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“Zis is true. Friends can be helpful. Fluttershy was so absolutely beautiful, but, see, issue, ponies look at her and not clothes she wears. If youu check sales, no real bump from her model days. But she is very pretty. I vould say same for Rainbow. She is vivid and pretty like dangerous flover, distracts from clothes. I do think youu call on Applejack right manner, she do it. She is very pretty, da? But not distract from clothes. Understated look for her. But hard to get to agree. She is very independent. I am very flattered you chose me. It is pretty high honor to be considered fit for role, you tell me what were in the details maybe I be wary, da? vay life goes. Anyvay, I do think I had ideas for you for Boutique. When you send for me I skip school for two days, make business plan for Boutique. It is back at our hotel room,maybe it vas mistake. I am not very good at it. You vill probably laugh at it. But oh vell. I try to help anyvay I can. Even if I am dumb business mind I can still look good for your clothes and model vell, da?”

Rarity smiled. It was quite cute how Valen stood up for her dear cousin when it came to the prospect of who should model. They were fair points, Rarity supposed, even if the source was hardly an unbiased one. Still, as obstinate as Applejack could be, it seemed like a bit of a lost cause. She was a harder pony to get into a dress than even Rainbow was. Even for the Grand Galloping Gala itself the sort of fashions favored by the farm mare were hard to call dresses in any traditional sense.

On the subject of Valen having plans for her to look at Rarity found herself surprised by curious. Valen was young, but he did come from a business-oriented family. It was possible he had absorbed from useful know-how from his parents. She didn't know what to expect, but she certainly wasn't going to let Valen play the defeatist before she even showed Rarity the plans.

"Nonsense, darling. Coming from where you do, I'm sure you have more to offer than just your modeling. I'd love to look over whatever you have for me," she said giving a sturdy nod.

“Oh, I misrepresent my relations with cousin Applejack. My mistake- I apologize- I love and honor her as should and keep in contact. In fact, she is coming Manehattan soon. She be a lot of fun. I simply meant that...vell, I keep secrets from her. Like vhat I do. A lot of vhat I do outside of my parents only you know. I do not tell Applejack because I sure she think me very weird and even kind vords vould mask heavy emotions sladkiy Celestia, I am such trus. Oh vell. Is vhat is. Vone day she vill find out and it cause problem, I know. She will always love me that I know but I fear her disappointment more than physical punishment from anypony else,”

Rarity supposed this all only made sense. She could relate. "I know that feeling. It often feels like I come from a rather different world from my family, but they're all quite precious to me." she said.

"That said, I know Applejack quite well and I don't think she'd ever be the type to judge you for anything. Your her family, and for that pony there is nothing she treasures at all more." she added with a warm smile.

“Nice to hear zat Sweetie Belle and her comrades are so happy being happy themerrrr, happy to hear the CMC are so good. Darn accent. Does she speak about me at all?”

"Not as much lately," Rarity admitted with a sigh. "You know how my sister gets. She gets to easily excited about new and different things and just rushes head first into that and it becomes all she talks about."

"I'm sure she still thinks about you though. Sweetie isn't the sort to ever put a friend entirely out of mind," she added, hopefully to reassure as the waiter came with their food.

“Here is your food ladies, with a small desert loaf for the pretty one,”

Rarity's initial excitement over the food being brought out fell at this comment. She furrowed her brow as she stared after the waiter. Really? She had thought this place to be just a little more high in class than to have their staff say such things allowed.

"Pretty one, really...well, I suppose he doesn't realize which one of us will be leaving his tip..." she said diffidently, shaking her head.It wasn't so much that she was jealous; she didn't care so much if she were hit on by strangers (though the free desert would have been admittedly nice). It was just the principle of it that stuck with her. The choice of words was appaling when serving two attractive young mares.

"I suppose it also goes to show that our stallion waiter prefers his mares a little younger than he should..." she added with a dismissive shake of her head, before deciding to dig into her crepes. They at least were as lovely as she recalled from her last visit.

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It was good for Valen that she seemed positive about the possibilities inherent in the business plan Valen had managed to create. He wasn't a bigshot businesspony like his parents but he had been to academy long enough and listened attentively enough to his parents to understand the concepts of sound business to the degree he hoped he could help Rarity. She had helped him in so many ways, willing or not, that he wanted to help her. The plan concerned distribution and production of deigns to be able to be sold at a higher level using designs that could be replicated an masse. That would give her enough of a financial boost to sustain and grow her more higher-minded designs and everypony won, from the low-class types who could taste the high life through her designs to rarity herself who would be drowning in bits.

Valen was visibly excited, his fail flitting from one direction to another as he beamed with a huge smile.

“Oh, zat is good! It involves prêt-à-porter designs based off of elite haute couture designs, few ponies who know the specifics help production at high level. Zat why you can sell prêt-à-porter to stores and make lots of money. Funnel that into your haute couture productions, get bigger. Self-sustaining cycle! Very many specifics in plan. Even your own fashion house in Manehattan would be fun good, da?” Valen asked as the subject of his cousin and Sweetie Belle returned to him. Curses. He would have to try and leave a bigger imprint on Sweetie next time he visited. He would rather not be as big a deal to her as a butterfly flying by. As for Applejack- well, Rarity had significantly more faith there. It wasn't tha he thought Applejack would stop loving him, but the most cutting remark was never said with words but spoken with eyes and looks and an honest mare could hardly be expected to hold back too much. It was a situation he'd rather not go through, the variables invariably maddening.

And just as the variables invariably started to seep through his defenses, the food was here and the waiter was extra kind and gave him extra. What was the real news was how Rarity took it. Was she...jealous? Well now, that was something to not write home about. Why was she jealous? For more serious concerns, what did she mean by preferring mares younger? Seemed a bit of an unusual thing to say about the kind waiter. It had seemed obvious that he meant to give them both a pie because it was so big and was just kidding! At least to Valen it was. And what was meant by that second comment? Valen cut up the pie in two halves and pressed one half to the other side.

“I am confuse. Vhat do you mean he prefers his mares younger...?” Valen asked, clearly not lying about the confusion as he ate his food. It was as high quality as he could have hoped for. The Maki Rolls were cooked to perfection and he downed each one in a single bite, and the soup was as creamy and filling as one could dream. The spices were simply sublime and the texture to die for.

“Da, da, zis is good. Vant some of ze vichyssoise? Simple spoonful? So good! I could eat it up all day!”

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