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PrinceBlueblood

When the medicine is worse than the cure... (Concluded)

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The trouble began, as it usually did, from actions taken from the highest of motives and the best of intentions.  After all, it wasn't as if Prince Blueblood was looking primarily after his own welfare, no!  He was now the head of Equestria's newest and best-capitalized NGE dedicated to promoting peace across the world, IMAGINE!  He had work, actual important work to do, gathering donations, heading meetings, and organizing their first big expedition and project in Whitsecar!

 

"Cakh...HACK...snrtch...*whimper*...."

 

All of which were just plain impossible to do when every orfice in his aching head was leaking mucus while his lungs were making a valiant attempt to escape the general misery of the rest of body.  The Prince was holed up in a corner room in his Canterlot manor house, where the maids, taking advantage of his momentary complete debilitation, had forcibly placed him under quarantine.  The only visitor he got was the one servant on rotation who brought clear soup, orange juice, and fresh handkerchiefs, while removing the pile of used and disintegrating ones.

 

*This can't go on... I have a staff meeting next week, and the expedition to Whitescar is scheduled soon after!  I can't miss it, everyone will say I flaked out and let everypony else do the hard work; I'm trying to improve my reputation, darn it!  Auntie won't be pleased, either, and... really, I have to something; I've gone through too much to just let it all alone.*

 

Thus it was, in the long dark hours between soup-doses, he drafted an urgent note to his Royal "Cousin," Twilight Sparkle.  Honestly, in his flu-addled consciousness, he could hardly remember what it was he actually dictated through the keyhole to his secretary outside.  Something about a 'medical emergency' and 'any means necessary,' he was certain about those parts.

 

As for how incredibly dangerous it was to send that sort of note to the most powerful magic-user in Equestria... well, everyone on the staff figured it was best to not tell him.  Worry was, after all, bad for one's health...

Edited by Rackenhammer

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Multifarious designs on her time crackled, cackled, screeched and squawked against the robust defenses of her unyieldingly faithful schedule. Twilight tempered the lovely work she did as a Princess devoted to both her subjects and the aspect of life she had been given dominion over with the firmness of task mastering herself. It was safe to say that almost no moments in the day found themselves unsolicited and that Princess Twilight Sparkle was perhaps the most active of all the Princesses on a moment to moment basis. That normally meant she couldn't afford to have her time siphoned away bit by bit. Between EPIC, the Keepers, her open hours, meetings with foreign delegations, studying, visiting with friends,acting upon intelligence and traveling across Equestria, her time was spent well. But there were causes and concerns that could cause her to step forward a project or two and push through what barriers were present to make a little bit of time. It was difficult, but she had come to enjoy difficult.

So it was with equal parts despair and excitement that she received the rather fevered letter from her cousin by position, Prince Blueblood. It appeared that the Prince was extremely ill, and at what a time- just as he was about to embark on an international goodwill voyage with his organization IMAGINE. A part of her was willing to believe all of this was genuine even as a small element of her personality held onto the belief that it was all a show and his character hadn't honestly changed. No matter what though if this letter held true- and it likely did, seeing as a Prince of his disposition would be less likely to contact her than just about any other unless there was a serious emergency- she would help him. There was always the chance that he was honestly trying to repair his image and even if he wasn't, she felt obliged to help anypony who took the time to write a letter to her. Especially one who's letter was stricken with the obvious signs of somepony in dire mental straits. With a short break in her schedule thanks to a multi-national single day goodwill tour(thanks in part to multifractral illusions) she made time to visit her cousin and see if she could aid him in recovering his shattered mojo. Or whatever was going on, his letter was insanity.

She arrived in the early morning hours right before ponies started to wake up en masse, Luna's moon about to retreat to the brilliance of Celestia's sun. Thin rays of light were even now straining against the dark and lighting her path as she landed on the balcony heading into his room, one guard joining her while another flew below to tell the staff that she had arrived. She trotted immediately into his room, speaking as she did so. “Blueblood, I received your letter. How are you feeling?”

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Light is the enemy of mold, creatures of darkness, and sufferers of influenza.  The maids had been kind enough to realize this in setting up their quarantine, hermetically sealing all blinds and dousing all lamps before passing briefly in and out of the room.  This was most appreciated by Blueblood, who was content with the dim surroundings as long as he could locate handkerchiefs and hydration.

 

However, Twilight's balcony landing completely bypassed these precautions, barely leaving the Prince time to realize that his cousin had arrived before she opened the blinded Prench windows to enter his room.  Immediately, almost as if his Auntie Celestia, somewhere, were personally directing it, an early morning sunbeam shone through the room and hit the convalescent's eye with the pinpoint accuracy of a laser.

 

As if the sharp blinding pain wasn't enough, Blueblood's treacherous reflexes triggered a sneeze.  "ATCHOO-ooooohhh...."  Immediately, his vision shattered into a million blinding pieces of flashing, blinding shards of light; his ears filled with a ringing that drowned his moan of pain; and all he could feel besides his headache was the just plain icky sensation of liquids of varying viscosity oozing from his nose, tear ducts, and ears.

 

"My head just exploded." The Prince mustered in answer to Twilight's question.  It was entirely safe to say that she'd never seen him look so miserable.  The care he put into his appearance at all other times only served to accentuate the contrast between the proud Prince who normally promenaded everywhere he went, with the disheveled and bleary pony currently bedridden in front of her.

 

"You... got my letter?"  Blueblood managed to get his voice back up to a normal level after he confirmed that his skull was still in one piece.  He didn't often see his cousin, it was true; even when little Twily had been living as Celestia's apprentice in the castle, they moved in totally different social circles.  That is, his was limited, and hers was nonexistent.  But now, even though she'd joined him in Royal status, their lives had seemed equally divergent.

 

It had to be said, this wasn't a promising start to building that bridge, but then, one has to start where one is, and healing a debilitating illness is hardly the worst hoof to put forward.  Provided it works, of course.

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The world around Blueblood exploded towards Twilight, who got a shield up just in time to save her for the most part from his egregious and violent assault of illness. Well, he was worse for the wear. She had assumed perhaps he was exaggerating his symptoms or was being a worry wart. Only a small part of her had honestly bought that this was an illness to keep tabs on, something so demanding of her action and knowledge that this trip wouldn't turn out to be a mistake. Based on his condition now however she knew this was a level beyond her worst fears. For as silly as he could be, for how vain an individual he was and though dulled emotionally to the expectations and demands of honest friendship, Twilight was more than happy to extend her hoof to him in his hour of need. Building bridges required hard work, whether you were speaking of a real physical bridge or in this case more of a metaemotional concept of bridging the gap between two worldviews and personalities. More of a rapprochement, really. Harmonization- probably the better term.

However, her shield wasn't fast enough to catch all of it, even if she didn't notice. A few small specks of saliva hit the top of her horn. That would prove comically disastrous later. In any case, Twilight cautiously approached Blueblood, keeping her face warm and inviting. “How long have you been sick? I couldn't get much from your letter...you mentioned something about the sun eating the world and the moon dying and turning into...molten hot soup. I think. Then a bunch of stock tips. And you cursed me and then asked me for help. Really, it's a bunch of garbled nonsense. I should probably burn this- I don't think we want this getting out there. The tabloids would probably have you dating at least a half dozen of your house staff if they didn't have the proper context for this,” Twilight rambled on for a bit as she levitated the letter around. After a bit she filed it away and started brining out some medical texts.

As he spoke, Twilight cast a monomolecular protective layer around him, keeping germs safe inside a bubble in front of him as she scanned him and prodded him magically, testing his body in all sorts of ways. She had to get his symptoms down. And the best part was that he didn't have to strain to respond to her commands. She was able to infiltrate his body with her magic and test his nervous and other vital systems to gauge his immuno-nervous-synaptic response to her movements. “And- where were you when you got sick?” Hopefully with his symptoms, location, and length of incubation she could narrow this down. And if need be, burn his house down to prevent a much wider infection from spreading.  
 

She was already running down quarantine protocols.
He was in the safest possible hooves.  

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"Urgh..."  Really, questions?  Couldn't Twilight see that he was in no condition to be subject to pop Quizzes?  It was hard enough to deal with the here and now, without trudging the dreary memories of sickness to their point of origin.  Or likely point of origin, anyhow.  After all, wasn't there some kind of delay between catching an illness and getting sick?  Something to do with tiny bugs?  Blueblood had dozed through most of his biology lectures, when he'd bothered to turn up at all.  It seemed a waste of time for a Prince to fill his head with such stuff.

 

Well, at the moment he would hardly want to say what gunk was in his head, so he dutifully trudged along memory lane, "Uh... I think it might have been when Auntie Luna and I went to Las Pegasus.  Wanted... wanted to get in touch with the common ponies.  Can't remember if we did.  We both got drunk.  Really drunk.  Never figured out what happened.  There were pictures, but she burned them."  Blueblood's pithy statement did not do that night justice.  While nothing was ever confirmed, the rumors far surpassed anything that had been said about him in the tabloids to date.  Or, for that matter, anything that appeared in print for the past 1000 years.  Royalty usually didn't do things that ended up with them waking up in rooms accompanied by a changeling, a gender-swapped friend, and a weasel whose origins were never determined.

 

"Awp!  Ooh..."  Twilight's magical poking and prodding weren't doing anything to comfort the Prince, and already he felt his headache getting worse.  "Ugh, can't you do something about this?  I've been practically wallowing in my own filth for the past few days!"  Not, perhaps, the most encouraging response for somepony desiring to build a bridge of friendship, but then again this was hardly an ideal condition for that sort of thing.

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Ah, well, that would explain it. He was suffering the aftereffects, partially at least, of a heavy drinking episode with Princess Luna. A 'bender', if you would. Twilight wasn't one to judge ponies, least of all fellow Royalty, but she found their actions wasteful. She wasn't against ponies drinking, of course. She did herself on occasion and she knew she had likely put herself in harm's danger as a result. But she didn't consider herself a hypocrite for the simple fact she didn't go out of her way to party when she did it. It was closed with friends, not out on the town carousing about and causing a light level of chaos as a result. Their party had made it into the tabloids but beyond that it had made actual honest to goodness news. She hadn't considered that he would still be suffering from the after effects of his drinking but now she couldn't shake the belief that this was partially just a hangover that had lasted far too long.

“Well then. I hope it was worth it,” she replied curtly. She didn't mean to offend but partially self-inflicted wounds weren't going to illicit the greatest of sympathy. Only partially self-inflicted, however. Her investigation of Blueblood was at an end and it revealed a bit more. He was still suffering the effects of what seemed like food poisoning and a hangover that teamed up with a low-key sinus infection and a terrible allergy. Any single one of those factors would coincide with a short rest and recovery, but together they had come together to overwhelm his weak immune system. The sinus infection was leading into some meningitis, which was a serious problem now that his immune system was down and out. He needed to go to the hospital and get some medicine and serious medical care, but he had called on Twilight. Perhaps he was embarrassed, and who could blame him? A stallion seeking to turn his image around falling flat on his face in that regard was no small failure to stomach.
 

“You can relax now. I don't need to poke and prod you anymore. Sorry if it made you feel uncomfortable,” Twilight started before her horn started to light up, “normally I would rather use hard science to help you, but I don't have the tools with me and you summoned me here for quick help, so I'm here to do that. You have a myriad number of illnesses and issues going on, some of which could turn into serious troubles. Luckily, I have a spell that should suit you just fine. I call it the “Healthy Living Aid”, which should cure you of all your ailments by scanning your body for abnormalities and fixing them. Whether minor or major, the spell will take twenty-four hours but you will be in perfect condition,” Twilight spoke in increasingly earnest tones, more than excited to test this on a full grown stallion. Her horn had been growing in light the whole time until it became blinding. In a flash a beam shot out at Blueblood and enveloped him in a ball. It coalesced into a cocoon and the light dimmed.

“I'll be back tomorrow. Hope this helps!” Twilight said with a smile as she sauntered off, unaware of a problem- mostly that she was sick thanks to Blueblood vivacious germs and did not know it, impacting her aetheral flow and causing a slight mixup in the intensity of the spell- and in the workings of the spell she had cast!  

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“Well then. I hope it was worth it,”

 

"Oh, Faust, no-o-o-o..."  The Prince groaned sepulchrally as visions of newspaper headlines swam before his bleary eyes.  "Never again, I don't care what Auntie says..."  You had to give Blueblood this much credit at least; he only needed to be dragged through the humiliation of a self-inflicted fiasco once to learn a lesson.  After all, following the whole business with Rarity at the Gala, he never again behaved like that to a mare that showed interest in him.  The whole business with IMAGINE came about after a bad showing during the Caribou invasion during the Crystal Faire; and Twilight could therefore rest assured that drinking binges were off the table from now on.

 

Unfortunately, such was the Prince's character that the necessary lessons needed to turn him into a decent pony were not yet exhausted.  One of which, as it turned out, would be to not summarily summon a busy Princess to magically cheat the long healing process...

 

Still, Twilight wasn't a pony to hold a grudge about that sort of thing, and of course the little egghead would have a spell ready for the occasion.  "You have the eternal gratitude of the House of Blueblood!"  He called out as she finished casting the Healthy Living Aid.  Fortunately, the bubble sealed him off before he could gabble on further, else he might have ended up actually proposing marriage to her on the spot.

 

In five minutes, he was completely zonked out as the spell worked.  As it would later turn out, the spell was not so much healing as transformation; turning a sick pony into a healthy one.  That was quite powerful, but also quite risky.  Any minor interruption into the aetherial flow could be compounded in major complications, as Blueblood would find out after 24 hours...

 

~

 

He awoke with a deep breath, the first he'd been able to take since first becoming sick.  No blockages in his sinus, no automatic hacking of mucus from deep within his lungs.  The breath was let out with a happy sigh as the Prince stretched gloriously and threw off the bed coverings.  The spell had not only cleaned his insides from all infection, but also deep-cleaned his hide and mane, leaving him feeling as if he'd just emerged from a wonderful extended spa session!

 

*You know, Twilight really is that good at this whole magic thing.*  Blueblood reflected as he magically opened the blinds, letting the sun shine into his room for the first time in days.  *I'm really going to have to do something special for-*

 

And then, he saw her.

 

Blueblood was not a believer in love at first site.  He'd seen something of the sort before, with him as the target of affection, but it turned out to be the alchemically-induced affects of a love potion.  Not that it hurt that he was the handsomest stallion in the area, but even he had to acknowledge that looks only went so far.

 

Notwithstanding, they were going pretty far with him today!  Before him, shining through the morning sun in a perfect vision of loveliness was a mare, with a flowing mane of spun gold, eyes like the bright tropical seas, and a coat of shimmering alabaster.  The Prince hardly dared approach her, but as he did she also drew closer, carrying with grace and dignity a figure that words hardly did justice to!

 

"Well, ​mademoiselle, I wasn't expecting visitors, but in your case-"  He paused.  His voice didn't sound right in his ears, too high-pitched and fluting.  What was more disturbing, however, was that the lips of vision of female perfection before him had been moving in perfect sync with his.  Blueblood's rush of infatuation drained away, leaving a hollow dread as he tentatively reached out a hoof.  So did she, and they met... where Blueblood felt glass.  A mirror.

 

Hoping against hope that his suspicion would be proven wrong, he quickly turned to face the mirror profile-passant.  There, in the reflection of the mare, he saw a compass rose cutie mark.  A quick look backward at his, or rather her, now-rounded flanks showed the same result.  The transformation was complete.

 

 

 

You could hear the scream for miles...

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Twilight should have listened to the darker nature of her personality and allowed a bit of cowardice in the face of illness to seep in through the wardings of a braver mindset. Or maybe she should have been quicker with the shield. Either case would have resulted with a significantly happier and less ill Twilight, who was just waking up as the morning sun seeped in. Bedridden in Canterlot was not the way she had wanted to spend the rest of her time there, especially with such a busy schedule. Being bedridden in Blueblood's own house was especially uncomfortable, being such a stallion of rumors and paparazzi attention. No doubt spending a night at his place would result in rumors of a relationship followed by rumors of a breakup and reconciliation. Twilight would hear all of it from Rarity every day. All day. Oh Celestia, the headache she had now was nothing compared to what she would have later.

“Achoo!” Twilight sneezed, the hired help quickly coming to her aid. They had been truly wonderful. Maybe not worrying about being hit on or rumors circulating every time you did something kind helped them to move a little faster. It didn't hurt that being an alicorn meant ponies naturally paid a lot of attention to you, her station in society a little less impressive in current company than it would be in others. Regardless though, she was just trying to feel better. The illness robbed her of her prodigious magical talents or rather the ability to cast or prepare them with any degree of appreciable accuracy. This was all compounded by a pounding headache and blurring vision which caused her to keep her eyes shut and a cold rag on her forehead at the base of her horn, drinking a cup of soup as she simply existed. Uggh. Thanks Blueblood!
 

And then the scream that shattered realities woke her with a jagged sense of alarm. That feminine scream came from Blueblood's room! The staff started running and Twilight wasn't far behind, charging as best she could behind them. Long legs and a more sturdy frame led to her taking over the front and pushing open the door in mid gallop, charging in and finding- a mare? A beautiful one at that.
“What's happening? Where's the Prince?!” Twilight asked with all the worried energy of a piston raging out of control.

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Whatever the journalistic rumor-mill might have made of Princess Twilight staying the night in Blueblood manor was nothing compared with what the Prince-turned-Princesses' scream, particularly when it was quickly followed by the next words out of her mouth at the sight of her guest.  "YOU!  You did this to me!"

 

And yet, even then, for the first time in his life the headlines would underrate the weirdness of the situation

 

In any case, the perpetrator of her current predicament now before her eyes, the newly-minted unicorn mare wasted no time in getting up in the purple alicorn's face.  Given Blueblood's normal strict attachment to the principle of a pony's personal space, particularly when royal, this was a serious sign of emotional distress.  "Well!?  Do you have an explanation for this!?"  She was by now practically panting, trying to draw in enough air to prevent hysteria by hyperventilation; close enough to Twilight to smell the menthol rub the maids had given her the night before.

 

The mind-clearing fumes, no longer blocked by infected sinuses, rushed straight through to her brain, jolting it out of its convalescence-induced stupor and gunning it into emergency action mode.  *That's Princess Twilight.  This is the mare that turned you into a mare with a spell that didn't even tire her out, and you are yelling in her face.  Danger, Danger!  Abort, Abort!*  The realization having hit her between the eyes, as it were, the alabaster unicorn sat back suddenly, blinking into an expression of worried bewilderment that was pure Blueblood, mare or stallion.  "Er... this wasn't because of something I did to you, was it?"  

 

Was it revenge?  Or maybe this was one of those so-called 'friendship lessons' that the alicorn used to fill her letters to Celestia with, which said Auntie had been pestering him to read and re-read lately?  He wouldn't put it past her; if cake in the face was considered to be proper teaching tools by Princesses these days, gender-swaps surely could not be far over the line.  Darned if he knew what in the name of Tartarus the lesson was supposed to be, though...

Edited by Rackenhammer

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Twilight felt the white hot fury of the white hot mare in front of her being spat out with all of the outrageous fury that was apparently deserved, though for why Twilight's mind was slow to understand. This mare was so loud, so overwhelmingly aggressive and demanding that Twilight could only step back a few steps in sheer social retreat. She didn't know if she could handle this without getting angry herself if she was being yelled at any more, a fierce counter attack quickly being launched if it continued being the only possible outcome. But then the mare switched tactics and appeared to fall back, the absolute beffudlement and confusion reigning across her beautiful features a stark contrast to the rage she had just a few moments ago. Unless it was a natural byproduct of it- fear the common ancestor of both. Fear and a lack of understanding. But why?
 

Who was this mare? She was pure milk white, pristine and luxurious. Light and limpid blue eyes shone out with watery bastions of fear illuminating their extravagant, soul-searching beauty. Her mane and tail were golden flax and had a healthy, springy appearance to them. She looked fit and lithe, not weaker than normal but not somepony who wanted to fight in any real situation. Twilight had never seen her before. And here she was in Blueblood's room, looking exactly like a female version of Blueblood, confused and saying Twilight was responsible for something. If Twilight was of clear mind she would have put everything together in just a second. But she wasn't of clear mind. She was sick, her eyes heavy and weary with heavy bags of illness trying to pull her eyelids down terribly. Her mind swam, her magic was imperfect, and she felt slow and lame. So it took her two seconds.

Her mouth dropped when it all came together. What had happened? She had turned Blueblood into a mare? How? The spell she had cast was a healthy living aid. Simple biological realignment tool designed to reset the natural rhythm of the body and remove illness. But...what if the sickness was aura based? Or she was already sick? Or she had simply made a mistake? Her head ran with all the possibilities. There were dozens of gender bending spells that had all sorts of effects. But what had the closest arcane signature to hers? What was the- she had to know more! “Blue...Blueblood?” She asked in total astonishment, the staff backing away- some with smiles borne out of lack of a better idea. Twilight's horn lit up as she investigated the biology and aura of the mare. She almost dropped the mare twice due to her own magical weaknesses, but kept it up long enough. She dropped the mare gently and then wobbled herself, catching herself on the door frame. Several staff rushed to her aid but she waved them off, giving the former Prince a deep and slightly panicked look.

“Everybody but Blueblood, give us some- ACHOO- privacy.”

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Twilight's momentary mental sluggishness at first made Blueblood worry that further magical retribution was forthcoming; that his, or rather her transformation was only the first step in a long-planned evening of the score for some unchivalrous slight that she had now forgotten.  Seeing her sluggish blink of astonishment, however, made this an unlikely explanation.  Hence, Blue's fear begant o fade back, and irritation to rise again, until things finally clicked in the alicorn's mind.

 

“Blue...Blueblood?”

 

"Yes.  Who else could it- awp!"  And before she had time to react, the unicorn mare was suddenly lifted up into the air and twisted about, providing all-angle views of her beauty to a gathering audience of servants at the door.  She could only meet their smiles with a mortified expression, before being unceremoniously placed upon the carpet again.  Fortunately, she wasn't made to bear the humiliation long.

 

“Everybody but Blueblood, give us some- ACHOO- privacy.”

 

Even as a stallion, Blueblood had been notoriously prissy.  But with good reason; a white coat highlighted any speck of dirt you got on it!  It had been the subject of many jokes at his expense, but it had a side benefit of making him quicker on the draw with his shields when somepony had the indecency to sneeze in his presence.

 

Thus avoiding the specter of re-infection, the now isolated mares looked at each other, the situation sinking in.  "Twilight..."  'Bluebelle's' voice was calmer now, though still dancing on the edge of hysteria.  "I've been turned into a mare.  Why?  How?  What am I going to do about this?"

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Twilight rubbed the base of her horn where a powerful and rolling sense of pain expanded to consume all manner of good sense until she was little more than a receptor of pain and trolling agony. Whatever this was that had incapacitated Blueblood, he was in some fashion able to dull its most virulent and straining impacts. Twilight was a mare of considerable fortitude and exceptional energy, due in no small part to her alicorn nature, but this was a scale of illness that was breathtaking in it's overwhelming scope and rapidity if not nearly so terrifying in it's depth of illness. She had felt worse than this before, much worse, but never as quick or as total as this. There was a hundred diifferent problems that Twilight was trying to work around, but frankly, a gender swap wasn't one.

And that was one that Blueblood was going through. Her mind raced as much as it could as it tried to come up with the answer and to why, which was the real question that needed answering. She had cast the Healthy Living Aid. It was a biological reset to a healthier form, but the speed with which she had become ill told her that obviously she must have been catching it earlier. Her running theory was that she was sick and her aura dispersal into the aether to cast the spell had been off, nabbing other spell effects at the cost of her intended impact being low. Well, this was a pickle. She hadn't known she was ill when she started casting, which meant that this illness was extremely quick striking. She'd have to isolate it in her labs because it was certainly unique in some way, but that was for later.

 

For now, she had a mare who would be a stallion and the issues that presented. Her quick inspection had revealed the depth of her spellwork, all of which would be beyond Blueblood's understanding. She was a mare through and through, as if she had been born this way. Her aura was changed, and aural changes were huge deals. A pony's aura hardly ever even changed in small ways from birth, but this was entirely different. This was almost entirely new. Her spell had been absolutely powerful and it was beyond lucky that Blueblood's mind hadn't been effected. The main issue was that she didn't know what to do to change him back. There were many different gender swap spells but in order to reverse one you had to use the exact same spell. She didn't know if she had cast an old spell or created a brand new one. Simply adding gender swap to the healthy living aid wouldn't necessarily do it either, and could even impact his mind- leaving him desiring to be female. Classical gender dysphoria on her account.

No, she needed to cast the exact same spell. But...with how sick she was now, her aural dispersion would be all over the place. There was almost no way for her to hit the exact spot she had before. It was too dangerous. “I guess...when I was casting the spell, I guess I was already infected with your illness. I won't get into specifics, but I can only assume this meant my spell didn't do exactly what I wanted to do. It added other effects, which- ACHOO- you can see here. You are absolutely one hundred percent mare, including your aura- that means your magic. You are almost entirely a new pony. It's lucky your brain wasn't affected. If I knew what spell I cast to do this then I could simply recast it and you'd be fine, but there are- ACHOO- two problems, uggh. One, I don't know what it is. It will be incredibly difficult to find out, too. The second is that if I don't nail the exact right one, then I could very well change your body and aura back but also change your mind to wanting to be a mare, which would be trouble. So what to do? For now...nothing. I'm sorry about this Blueblood but until I get better it's far too dangerous for me to cast spells of that power,” Twilight said, breathing finally and nearly falling down, fluttering herself around until she found a soft spot to fall on, breathing a giant sigh of relief before looking back to Blueblood, “it could be worse. I could have accidentally changed you into a piece of furniture.”

Grand attempt at humor.

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“I guess...when I was casting the spell, I guess I was already infected with your illness. I won't get into specifics, but I can only assume this meant my spell didn't do exactly what I wanted to do. It added other effects, which- ACHOO- you can see here. You are absolutely one hundred percent mare, including your aura- that means your magic. You are almost entirely a new pony. It's lucky your brain wasn't affected. If I knew what spell I cast to do this then I could simply recast it and you'd be fine, but there are- ACHOO- two problems, uggh. One, I don't know what it is. It will be incredibly difficult to find out, too. The second is that if I don't nail the exact right one, then I could very well change your body and aura back but also change your mind to wanting to be a mare, which would be trouble. So what to do? For now...nothing. I'm sorry about this Blueblood but until I get better it's far too dangerous for me to cast spells of that power.  It could be worse. I could have accidentally changed you into a piece of furniture.”

 

"...what."

 

It wasn't that 'Bluebelle' didn't understand.  The initial blessed numbness of shock had long sense passed, leaving an ice-cold pool of mental clarity in it's pace.  Twilight had been very good about keeping to laypony's language, and the royal could not escape the truth through the wielding of idiocy or ignorance:  Prince Blueblood was now Princess Bluebelle, and likely to remain so for quite some time longer.

 

Once the realization had sunk in, it left an odd sort of calm with the newly-made mare.  After all, this had come straight on the heels of a drinking binge with the literal Goddess of the Moon, which in turn had been shortly after a caribou invasion foiled by foals playing patriotic songs, not to mention the two changeling invasions...

In short, his/her life had been getting progressively weirder over the past several years.  At some point, it was something a pony had to learn to live with.

 

Taking a deep breath, the newly-made mare once again took stock of herself in the mirror.  "Well... when you're right, you're right.  It definitely could have been worse."  She ran through a few experimental gestures and movements, clumsily at first.  Mane flips didn't exactly work the same way when you were dealing with three feet of hair rather than one.  And as for swaying the hips... well, the attempt would have provoked pity and laughter from any onlooker who had been born a mare.  It was like an overwound clock pendulum.  After a few stumbles, however, he was able to pace without falling over.

 

"At least the looks are intact, yes.  I think I might be able to live with this..."  She turned back to Twilight, for the first time actually noticing her condition.  "Good gad, though, you look terrible!"  Clicking her tongue, she trotted over to the door, opening it again to be greeted by the embarrassed stare of the maid who had been listening at the keyhole.  The 'Princess' held the servitor's gaze for a steady minute before turning back.  "Show our guest to the second bathroom; it's to be considered hers for the duration of her stay.  The bedroom too; if you caught what I had..."  She shook her head in belated sympathy.  Well, better belated than... be-nevered.  "You'll need rest; the faster you recover, the faster we can sort out this mess..."

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Twilight laid her weary head down to rest on Blueblood's pillows nearly crawling over there from where she had fallen. She paid attention to Blueblood but only in a cursory manner, more focused on getting into the bed. This illness was throwing her whole routine out of order and that was the truest failure and danger of all. So many ponies relied on her and so many plans and events were operated down to the minute that such a cruel delay would see the balance of Equestrian diplomacy effected. Of course the real damage was awesomely minimal, but the fact an illness was able to knock her out in such a way caused her to question what power really meant. This wasn't even one of the more dangerous illnesses out there and it had already crushed her underneath it's weight. Obviously she had a lot more to learn before she could ever really consider herself a powerful spellcaster.

But while she was recovering, she heard and saw Blueblood come to terms with this situation...easily. That was strange. She imagined most ponies were more than ready to freak out and complain about it for hours. Gender dysphoria was practically made to describe this sort of situation. Blueblood was a stallion in a mare's body. The amount of unease and dislike he should have were off the charts. Yet after a few moments and just the tiniest bit of rationality, he was more than fine. “I think I might be able to live with this” was not something she expected Blueblood to say. It raised many questions about who Blueblood was and even why the spell did what it did. Her addled mind would have to consider the possibility that something else entirely had happened and who Blueblood had been as a stallion was in some ways a product of something deeper and more complex than she had been led to believe.

 

She was helped into the bed a little faster by an aide who worked at Blueblood's back and call.”Thank you...” Twilight moaned at her before rustling and tussling under the covers. She did manage to poke her head out and shoot Blueblood a concerned look, hiding a massive gulp in her throat. “Just...to clarify. You're okay, right? Are you going to be able to go out there like this? I could always rustle up some form of identification for you...I don't know how long I'll be out. Even once I'm better I'm going to have to custom make this spell. It could be two days from now or two months. You're going to be okay?” Twilight asked quizzically, more than interested in his response.  

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The psychology of aristocracy was an under-researched subject in academic circles, mostly because anypony who proposed to follow a lord or lady around with a clipboard was thrown off the property for 'dashed impertinence!'  This was a tragedy for the science, for there were many interesting phenomena peculiar to that set which would have yielded much fruit of knowledge under the analyst's eye.

 

For example, there was the method by which the nobility had managed to retain societal importance, when time and progress threatened to reduce them to a position of political and social irrelevance.  It was a matter of instinct more than a matter of intellect (as could clearly be seen by even cursory observance of the principle members of that class); each had an inbuilt sense of what changes could be resisted, and which could not be.  Any changes that could be resisted, such as a loss of class refinement or separation, were stood fast agains to the uttermost.  Any that could not be resisted, such as fashion or involuntary gender swaps, were taken in stride, to the point where the outsider was sometimes led to believe that it had been the nobility's idea all along!

 

Such was the case here; as soon as Blueblood knew that he was going to be Bluebelle for the forseeable future, his class survival instincts kicked in.  Going crazy would not improve his standing in any way.  That said, there were many who would say that the Prince had already shown enough feminine characteristics to make the transition less rough than it would be for others.  Time would tell if any long-term issues would arise for the new Princess.

 

In any case, she seemed calm enough for now.  "Yes, Twilight.  I mean, really, you can't do anything now, so what's the point of panicking?  Casual visitors can be turned away, and I won't need to go out for a while yet."  In a week or two's time, of course, when the IMAGINE members would be showing up at her door, then Bluebelle would probably stage a freak-out of epic proportions.  "Just... relax, OK?"  She took a deep breath, suppressing a bubble of unease.  Calm, radiant calm, that was what was needed.  Betray no anxiety.  Show no weakness.

 

 

Bluebelle needed to take another such breath as she turned away from the doorway.  This... seemed to be the end of what she could do right now to become a he again.  Now... what was to be done?  All of the house maids and servants had by now heard of the transformation, and she could feel their eyes all on her.  It was strange, she wasn't usually so aware of their presence; they had been in the background her whole life, not really a prominent part of the scenery.  *Did this come from being a mare?  Or am I just noticing it now for other reasons?*  It was a little worrying, now that s/he thought about it.  Was there a similar transformation happening inside her head?

 

Well, again, no point in talking about it.  "I... think I shall breakfast now."  Yes, Faust, food and coffee.  Things would be clearer after that.

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Twilight nodded absent-mindedly at Blueblood, the world telling her to press for more information but her mind firing back that it simply didn't have the ability to comprehend anything on the level it needed to anymore. She was spent mentally and physically and nothing could help that except for rest and recuperation. After it was all done she would tackle the issue of Blueblood's transformation and any deep psychological issues she had accidentally uncovered in the temporary Princess. Hopefully there wouldn't be anything critical that would happen while she was out, and she doubly hoped that there wasn't a timed trigger on the spell placed by accident. Not that it would matter if there was- until she was in better shape, she coudn't do anything about it.
"See y- HACKOGGG-” She tried to reply, throwing up in her mouth a little before her head hit the pillow, the mare fighting for beautiful, lovely sleep to come and heal her up. It wouldn't take long, she hoped against hope.

********

One week later, Twilight stretched in bed as she awoke, her head clear and capable for the first time in what seemed like forever. Rest and relaxation were not the proper methods of healing for most ponies. Magic, medicine, doctors- these were needed when somepony was truly sidelined with a disabling illness. But as an alicorn, Twilight's body naturally fought off even the most insidious and cruel of infections and attacks with contemptuous ease. There were a great many benefits to being an alicorn and that was one of the better ones for sure. One day she'd have to write a book on alicorn physiology so other ponies could study the rarest species of pony of all. It just took a little bit of rest for her to accomplish what Blueblood would have needed magic for.

Speaking of Blueblood and needing magic, how was he doing a week later? She didn't remember much of the past week. It was spent in a whirlwind of incomphrensible health and magical fluctuations, and the kindness of the staff. She could only imagine what Blueblood was up to now, and she meant that- her imagination was limited by experience, and Celestia knows all the variables involved. No doubt he- she- was handling it well. It wouldn't shock Twilight if he obfuscated a bit and tried to find a way to say he was happy without saying so. Some ponies weren't willing to be honest upfront about themselves. No matter what the truth, Twilight got up and opened the door too greet it- a new day, a full mare!

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"AGAIN!!??  THIS IS THE FOURTH.  BLOODY.  TIME.  THIS.  WEEK!"

 

The peaceful morning that greeted Twilight was chased away by the sound and fury that, these days, tended more and more to intrude upon her day-to-day life.  From the tone and timber of the voice, which was pitched to carry, the alicorn would have easily deduced that she was still the guest of Princess Bluebelle.  What her neighbors must have thought, hearing the emphatic female voice rant so, she could only guess; it was a safe assumption that their wildest speculations, for the first time, were falling short of the truth rather than careening past it in a cloud of dust and printer's ink.

 

A quick trot to the dining room, and the scene would have unfolded before her; her fellow princess was all of a fluster and disheveled, standing before a partially-consumed breakfast.  At her hooves was a teacup shattered upon the floor, its brown contents cooling in the morning light.  Standing a bit back from the scene was a made, attempting to disguise a rich amusement with an unconvincing mask of chagrin.

 

Bluebelle had been venting her frustration into the void, but upon seeing Twilight, her blue eyes fixed the other's purple irises in a pained expression of exasperation.  "What ...blasted new tomfoolery have you visited upon me this time!?  Does this sort of thing follow you around?  Is it the doom of royals?"  She simultaneously huffed and sighed, throwing back her mane, and generally acted the part of the drama mare even more than Rarity.  It would have been less excusable had he not been born a stallion.  

 

"Transformation is bad enough, but at least it is a constant!  This... flip-flopping is on a whole new level of intolerableness!  The first time it happened, right after you fell asleep, was the worst.  I thought my troubles were over, but no!  I go from stallion to mare, and no one knows why!  I can't deal with this, it is simply the WORST.  THING.  EVER."

 

Behind her, the mare was going from light yellow to dark purple in her face, stifling her laughter with an improvised gag from her apron.  She couldn't have said before that she enjoyed her job, though she was better paid than any maid in this city.  But now... well, who could pass up the show?  And the glint in her eyes might have clued Twilight Sparkle in to the fact that she knew more than she was telling...

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 Again with the yelling. It assaulted her aurally where before there had been a greater sense of peace. Now she was struck down by two facts, either one of which would have been enough to sour her on the prospects of a pleasant meeting but together formed another disastrous link in the chain of misfortune she had wrapped around Blueblood's now egregiously feminine body. What had happened while she was out? She had become he and reverse four times? Her spellwork could have been off but it was odd thinking that it would happen so haphazardly. Her entire self told her that she couldn't be responsible for this work of Discordian art. She was an expert in manipulation and she made a mistake, but it would take a unique method of messing up for this to happen.

None of this took into account what this must be doing to Blueblood. Physically, she was sure that the spellwork would have made it safe but rapid fire changing had to have some sort of impact. Psychologically this was much worse. For a pony already likely confused about who he or she was or what was best, this could only be a special form of torture. Not knowing why only made it all the worst in all likelihood. The only one she could blame was Twilight, and the Princess couldn't ascertain the cause. The only lead she had was the all too happy servant, who could hardly stifle a giggle as her mirth exploded from ear to ear. Twilight took all of this in, her look of confusion betraying the observational nature of the information she was digesting.
 

“This...is, well, even stranger,” Twilight said as her investigative magic rolled over him, “I'm not sensing any sort of magical aural dispersal which would indicate a recent magically activated change. That would mean that something else is triggering the magic to make the change. Hmm...” Twilight took another long look at the maid, who was at this point not at all being subtle behind Bluebelle. Or Blood. “Go take a bath. Calm yourself down and allow me to investigate this, okay? And I'll need you-” she looked at the maid- “to help me, so stay here.”

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A mare in a state of distress, as Bluebelle certainly was, can only keep thrashing herself about so long.  Eventually, the instincts demand one collapse in a heap and wait for someone else to ease one's suffering.  Stronger mares tend to resist this urge, clever ones use it to manipulate their environment.  The new Princess, not conspicuously being either, simply surrendered to it.  The alabaster unicorn threw herself back into her seat, practically flopping onto the table, though her descent was more graceful than the vulgar term would imply.

 

"...What?"  She asked in a kind of despairing confusion as Twilight spelled out, in much longer words, that she didn't know what was going on either.  A bleary pair of blue eyes blinked at the alicorn from a head resting on the table as the owner was told to take a bath.  "But... I just took one and I don't-

 

Bluebelle suddenly stopped.  In the act of raising her head from the table, her no elongated mane had slapped a glob of orange goop all over her pristine coat.  Apparently, her dramatic antics had resulted in setting her mane over the marmalade.  "Ugh... yes, I think that would be a good idea.  Why condiments have to be so sticky I'll never know..."  Muttering to herself about irrelevant subjects was one way of distracting a stressed mind from a central series of traumas, and this technique the princess used to the full.

 

A scientifically observant mind would note several things as the unicorn mare passed by.  Her movements and gait were no longer awkward, but slipped into a natural feminine walk, betraying an increased familiarity with the differentiated center of gravity induced by the change.  Also, whether consciously or no, it served to highlight and emphasize her new figure.  That was brought up short when she caught a glimpse of herself in one of the many mirrors  about the manor, an unwanted glimpse if the horrified expression was any indication.  Though whether that was from the sudden swap or the marmalade no exterior observer would be able to tell.

 

 

She left the room shortly thereafter, leaving behind the maid.  Now that her master, or mistress, had left, she was looking considerably less amused.  Actually, she was looking a little worried.  Some deep instinct, the same triggered by the accidental breaking of an expensive vase, was warning her that she might very possibly be in trouble.  "Your Majesty?  Why did you want me?"

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Fate had a way of playing into Twilight's hooves pleasantly. This wouldn't be the last time that somepony else's fortuitous foibles proved to retroactively make her suggestions prescient. In just a short few moments, Bluebelle had went from prim and proper and looking the part of a prima donna who was just told that her specialist caviar was going to be delayed due to a strike in the bell-end of Mustangia to looking like a victim of the aforementioned strike in a matter of moments. She took Twilight's suggestion to heart at that moment and trotted over with great vultures of frustration pecking away at the shaken shades of her already dubious personality. That left Twilight alone with a servant with some sort of hidden information, all the better for he resolution.

What that would look like,however, was still a mystery. Twilight could not crack the code of Blue's desires. She was a mare who looked deep and when she did peek under the exterior of the pony- which was important, since few ponies spent as much time crafting an artifice like Blueblood- she saw a nest of confusion. The grace, the acceptance of her body and the ability she had to move it effortlessly, the nonchalance, the seeming near indifference to the situation unless it was unsettled. These were all abnormal psychological signs and they contradicted one another. It was clear that he was suffering some form of gender identity crisis, but she was almost entirety certain that none of it was the result of her spell. Her aetheral inflection had not touched his mind. If that was true, then what was he wanting? Only Blue knew for now. Twilight would investigate and would sink into the depths of his obtuse mentality somehow, experimentation finding new holes in her schedule to fill. But until then, she had an interview to conduct. Hopefully a very short, very informative one.

Twilight smiled as she drew close, instinctively waving her hoof in a gentle fashion to let the maid know she could relax. She then looked at where Blueblood had left from and arched her eyebrow as she turned back to the maid.
“This is very unusual, don't you think? I know it isn't magical. The aether is not being manipulated externally, but rather internally. Blueblood doesn't have that type of magic. You wouldn't happen to know why the changes are happening like this, would you? I would appreciate your full cooperation. I have many, MANY things I need to do, and I can't leave until I find out what's going on. You'll help me, won't you?” Twilight asked pleasantly enough, though there was an unspoken message in the words that were as clear as day. 

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"Um..."  It didn't appear as if Twilight Sparkle was in any way angry or upset, which was somewhat reassuring to the maid.  Of course, that still left her scrambling to figure out what it was she was going to say to the Princess.  She curtseyed, as a kind of automatic reaction, in order to buy enough time to put her thoughts in order, before beginning.

 

"You would know more about magical stuff than than me, your majesty.  I... really couldn't say why his highness keeps going back and forth like that; honestly it surprised us the first time it happened, and we didn't know what was going on!  The second time, though... we started to notice things.  It only happened at breakfast or teatime, so there was something to do with what he was eating.  So... we tried an experiment.  We served tea and coffee at irregular hours, and you know, it seemed that did it.  Tea turns him into a mare, and coffee turns her into a stallion."  

 

The recollection of successful trial results brought a color of amusement back to the yellow cheeks of the mare, something her fellow researcher could no doubt sympathize with.  "And oh, doesn't she put a show!  It always takes her by surprise, too, even after all the switches!"  She giggled, slightly, at the forever-treasured memories of a normally stuck-up employer reduced to hysterics.  "Never seems to remember that it's the drinks.  We thought the jig was up last time, but he took the tea today without a suspicion."  

 

With a smile of cheeky mirth, she looked into the alicorn's eyes to see if her humor was tickled as well by the display.  It was a rare treat for a house servant to be so able to prank her paymaster like this.  Not that it was revenge for anything, particularly; Blueblood paid better than most nobles in this city, and hired so many that the workload was fairly light for each.  It was just that each day was so dull.  The Prince wasn't even in the manor half the year, and spent most of the time he was at home either doing nothing much, or entertaining ponies he could be barely said to tolerate.  Gender identity crises were just the sort of thing needed to spice up the daily routine!

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Twilight listened intently to the story that the maid told, thinking the entire time along two different tracks. The first was whether she deserved to be punished, and indeed the others, for knowingly toying with the poor mare. Stallion. The marestallion. It was notoriously cruel to subject somepony to experimentation without their knowledge and this classified as such as far as she was aware. Somepony couldn't quite prepare themselves for the rigors of what was about to happen to them if they didn't know something was about to happen to themselves, could they? On the other hoof, the maids weren't scientists. They weren't asked to do experiments. They were asked to clean and help their employer. They didn't know that they were practicing poor science ethics. She could forgive them now if they managed to help her out.

The second tract was what this said about the increasingly complex emotional state of the subject. The subject was acclimating well to either body, but didn't seem perturbed in any fashion by being a mare. It was the act of change that frustrated the subject. Distinct possibilities were present. The first was that the subject was gender fluid, in which case being either pony was fine as long as the subject was aware of what to expect. This would be exceedingly rare to be the case as ponies invariably would have a preference, even if they were fine one way or the other. Physical change was unpleasant even if unharmful or without pain, so it didn't really seem likely that gender fluidity was the correct answer.
 

If not, the second option was the ticket. The subject was in the middle of a gender identity crisis, which would explain why the subject seemed to be less than uncomfortable as a mare. If this was the case, then toying with the subject was even crueler, since it played upon elements of the subject's heart and soul that the subject was struggling with mightily already. What the subject needed was stability in order to figure out who he or she was. What the subject didn't need was violation of a private trust between servants and their employer, who often had to share many a private details anyway. Twilight had to square this away appropriately and she had to do it within a relatively short time span. She would need simple cooperation with the house stuff in order to make this all work according to the proper methods of psychological acceptance and exploration of deeper meaning.
 

Of course there was also the question of why. There were no uniquely magical properties in tea or coffee, nothing that should cause a gender transformation. She would have to conduct further experimentation to uncover the secrets contained therein, but for now her only theory was that it was a subconscious psychosomatic response to aetheral inflection. Inner, unspoken desires made incarnate with the aid of a placebo. That was likely incorrect, but it was a working theory. She would get to the bottom of this no matter how unusual the answer, that was for certain. First though she needed to make sure that the maids weren't going to interrupt her experimentation and would, in all honesty, prove a boon to her efforts. Why not take advantage of a group of mares and stallions who knew who and what their employer was all about?

“That is very..intriguing. I'd appreciate it if you could stop, however. Assuming Blueblood is going through a gender identity crisis, it would be extremely cruel to toy with Blueblood in such a manner going forward. Instead, you must try and acclimate Blueblood to her body and see if she is comfortable. In fact, I need you to do something very important- all servants here, actually,” a notebook popped into existence and then started to blend into the background before totally vanishing. “I need observations here. How happy is Blueblood as a mare? How quickly does Blueblood accept this? How readily does Blueblood dive into being...well, Bluebelle, I guess would be the name? Avoid any and all sources of coffee for at least a month. Try different types of tea and see if that changes anything about Bluebelle. Write it all in this notebook. It is invisible to all who are not given permission to see it and even if somepony uses a spell to find it, the writing inside comes across as gibberish unless you were given explicit permission to read it's contents. How does that sound?” Twilight asked pleasantly, more than sure she would get the maid to accept it. The thrill of discovery had been evident on her face before- no doubt this was right up her alley!

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For the past two minutes, the maid had been peering anxiously at the Princess' face, trying to detect any sign of what her immediate future might hold.  Perhaps a shared bout of laughter at what was a rather good joke, or perhaps instant banishment to some dark, deep, unpleasant place.  It could go either way, depending upon the solidarity felt between royals.

 

What did actually happen was more towards the positive side.  The staff would have to stop their fun, of course, and actually get serious about their investigations.  But that wasn't so bad, really.  After all, none of them had actually seen a gender identity crisis before, it would certainly be interesting to see how this turned out!  And that was all they wanted; to have an interesting time as opposed to a dull one.

 

"Alright, I'll let the rest of the crew know.  Honestly, though, we've had sort of a hard time figuring out what's going on in his head.  None of us saw that whole IMAGINE thing coming, we thought he was joking!  But, apparently not... and now that Blueblood's Bluebelle, it ain't getting any easier.  Still, we'll keep notes, and let you know how it goes!"

 

~***~

 

Meanwhile, Bluebelle had been relaxing in a scented bath, as the aim was as much to steady a rambling and chaotic train of thought in addition to purging her person of marmalade stains.  The Royal Bathroom rivaled any that could be found in the private chambers of Canterlot Castle; as many bits had been spent to build and stock it as were sunk in the wine cellar.  And for much of the same reasons, too.

 

Shelf after shelf were filled with categorized bottles of soaps, shampoos, oils, conditioners, and other personal grooming products.  But it wasn't simply a matter of buying the most expensive stuff and matching it up willy-nilly, no more so that one could have a successful dinner party by pairing any fancy dish to any fancy wine, oh no!  You had to take into account pH balance, the delicate blend of odors, the degree of shinyness appropriate to the social occasion and potential lighting of the venue...

 

The Prince may have only gotten a C in academic chemistry, but his, or now her, practical knowledge would have almost qualified her as a masseuse assistant!  In any case, today the oils chosen were centered around eucalyptus, not one often used, but it 'cleared the head,' as it were, and Bluebelle certainly wanted to have her head cleared for thought.

 

When her thoughts finally came, however, they were not centered around her gender identity crisis or potential gender fluidity.  Polite society never discussed such things, and as such left her unequipped to think in such terms.  They were not things that happened in her still-narrow world; the closest she'd ever come to any such thing was waking up in Los Pegasus to see a couple of her acquaintance had had their genders swapped.  Neither of them seemed traumatized by the experience, so for all she knew, nopony really ought to be traumatized.

 

*So... how do I really feel about this?  If this madness were to stop right now, with me as a mare...*  Bluebelle stood up in the tub, tossing her wet mane over her shoulder as she took a peek at herself in one of the many mirrors about the room.  Hm, well that would explain why the 'wet mane' look was enjoying a surge in popularity among the commoners.  Perhaps there was a way of keeping the style, with the right conditioner?  The princess made a mental note to send a maid out on a research trip.

 

It was hard to keep focus; the mare's mind kept drifting.  Honestly, the most pressing issues were not psychological, but social.  She'd kept to the house for a week now, canceling all invitations.  Pressing notes of inquiry were beginning to come through the mail slot, along with longer and more sincere letters of concern from more genuine friends.  *I guess I'm going to have to tell them eventually... and get that IMAGINE meeting back on track...*

 

Yes, that was it, she determined as she rose from the waters and began to dry herself off.  However this madness turned out, she needed to let the few ponies who actually cared about her know.  That would naturally include his aunts; Java and Presteza would probably be told next, though she wasn't looking forward to the probably teasing that would be elicited.  Fire Walker would probably be most understanding; Dunder... hm, maybe she should wait on that, Bluebelle wasn't sure how she'd react to a friend suddenly hitting on her.  And then the IMAGINE founders...

 

All told, the list was depressingly short.  On the other hand, it meant she wouldn't have to write so many letters.  Taking a deep breath, she looked at herself in the mirror.  So much self-gazing for so little self-revelation.  But there was only so much one could do in isolation.

 

"Well, I hope you all are ready for this."  The new princess spoke aloud in reluctant challenge, before stepping out the door into a newer, stranger existence.

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Twilight was relieved that she didn't sense any great lie in the maid's words when she replied. She was prepared to give a whole academic spiel about the importance of process and how their actions could have such a major impact on the life of their employer, but the maid acquiesced quickly. There were few things more terrifying that the knowledge that a small cabal was planning to operate mentally on another, but there were few options truly open to her now. They couldn't let the subject know because knowledge of experimentation nullified the results. Since they didn't have some sort of control group for this, going into this with the proper frame of reference and methodology would be important. And since it was a bunch of maids and not scientists conducting it, being simple was the best path to success.

 

“Good. Now here is how this will work: You observe and report what you see. Once every week I can check in with the notebook and see the updates when I visit under the guise of trying to cure him. Once we understand what is happening we can move forward. I will also snip off a bit of Bluebelle's aura and see how and why it is affected by coffee and tea. Until then- keep clear of coffee and observe. Make sure to make Bluebelle comfortable. If there is an honest to goodness gender identity crisis going on, then Bluebelle will be internally very distraught and in shambles emotionally. Be there to support her if that's the case. If she is absolutely seemingly nonplussed about it, then maybe there is no crisis and we should instead move to finding ways to help her transition entirely. Sound good?” Twilight asked, preparing herself for travel regardless. She had to leave soon- a short talk with Bluebelle was all she needed, and that would be provided a few minutes later when Bluebelle came out.

She looked absolutely stunning. Almost perfectly so. Blueblood was always a stallion who looked handsome, but unusually so. Artificial and feminine were a pair of words often bandied about in relation to how he looked. It was meant to accentuate his masculine features but they always seemed to undermine them. He looked handsome but anything other than rugged or dreamy. He looked handsome and- well, frilly. But all that worked out so much better as a mare. His body was naturally outrageously beautiful. With all the work he put into it- well, Twilight wasn't normally attracted to mares that looked this way. She preferred a bit more down to earth look, but even she found her eyes traveling and devouring the curves with every greedy second ticking by. After a few, she shook her head and approached.
 

“You look absolutely amazing, Bluebelle. Here, let me do a little something...” Twilight muttered, her horn lighting up. Bluebelle would have felt a tiny little prick in her aura. “Thank you! Anyway, I need to study this more but I am unable to do it from here. It might take a while but we'll see how this all shapes up, okay? In the mean time- if you need any new clothes, you can put it on my tab. It may take up to a month- will you be okay?” Twilight asked, trying to feel her out. The answer would prove highly illuminating.  

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While the meanings of Pride and Vanity are often conflated in the common mind, they are two very distinct concepts.  The main difference being that Pride only has to do with one's high opinion of oneself, while Vanity has to do with securing the high opinion of others.  The latter, being more pro-social, is the lesser of the two evils, which do not always appear in the same pony.  And even when they are, as in the case of Prince Blueblood, one element tends to dominate above the other.

 

In Blueblood's case, and still more in Bluebelle's, it was Vanity.  It is not too much to say that there would never have been any hope for them, otherwise; a pony stuffed with Pride has nothing to appeal to in order to motivate an improvement of character, since they only care about the approval of one pony... which they already have.  But he was humble enough to acknowledge the opinions of other ponies, and thus to acknowledge their justice.

 

 

All of that went a long way to say that when Equestria's newest Princess walked back downstairs, she was intensely aware of the two pairs of eyes that fixed upon her, and what their expressions conveyed.  That the maid was attentive and observant did not signal much more than that she wanted to avoid a scene like that over breakfast.

 

Princess Twilight Sparkle's attentions, on the other hand, signaled very much more than that!  *I didn't know she was attracted to mares.  Or is it just me?*  Flattering as the latter might be, Bluebelle doubted it.  She took no more trouble over her appearance than when she was Blueblood, and he'd never noticed Twilight looking at him like that before.  *Or am I simply more attractive as a mare?*  

 

Distracted by these somewhat disturbing, yet not unpleasant thoughts, the unicorn mare barely caught what Twilight was saying, but one word stuck out like the tip of the proverbial iceberg.  "M-month?"  Her voice cracked and her pupils shrank at the word.  It is hard to consider the future as an indefinite spanse of time; the imagination deals better with projecting a finite amount.  A month as Bluebelle meant that there was no keeping this to just a circle of intimates; no, the whole world would see her picture pasted over the front of every kind of paper.  A month would mean fielding impertinent questions she could barely understand at present, let alone answer.  And a month meant dealing with all sorts of unpleasant sorts of ponies crawling out of the woodwork, seeking to take advantage of her situation, or set her up as some kind of champion of a cause she was hardly a part of!

 

For a moment, it looked as if she were about to hyperventilate, but her breath caught at the last moment.  After a brief dizzy spell which sent her reeling against the door frame, Bluebelle steadied herself, taking deep, calm draughts of air before answering.  "I... I think I might be able to handle a month, though I definitely need to... to let auntie know.  Both aunties.  Can't do this alone."  Another pause, and a bit of her old self began to recover as well.  "And you're right, for a month, I'm definitely going to need a new wardrobe.  Your friend Rarity actually sent me a dress, as a kind of joke I think, but it was cut for my, er, former figure.  I suppose you wouldn't mind if I, um, called on her for bespoke tailoring?  I mean, I guess the question is if she would mind; I'm not quite sure how things stand between us at present..."

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