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PrinceBlueblood

A Wardrobe for an... old friend (Private, Rarity)

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If there was one house of fashion in Equestria that could pride itself on the extent of its clientele, it was without a doubt Carousel Boutique.  The owner's keen eye and work ethic ensured that the quality of her wares was beyond reproach, and sure to enhance the looks of whatever sort of pony, or perhaps even non-pony, who cared to wear her handiwork.  When combined with a refreshing approachability and lack of snobbishness on Rarity's part, the unicorn's customer base reached into all classes!

 

Of course, given that an interest in high fashion tended to disproportionately cluster in the upper classes of Equestria, quite a lot of her time was spent in the company of those potential customers.  And that come with the potential of finding herself in the midst of rather unpleasant characters, a lesson that she had learned upon meeting a certain unicorn Prince at her first Grand Galloping Gala...

 

That memorable scene had been several years ago.  Something in the line of a formal apology was eventually forthcoming, and on the rare occasion where their circles crossed in Society, both had refrained from making any kind of fuss.  Still, it was pretty clear that Rarity wished to have as little to do with Prince Blueblood as possible, and for his own part he had been at least enough of a gentlecolt to grant that wish.

 

But now, circumstances had changed.  In a sense truer than any previous usage of the phrase, Blueblood was no longer the same stallion who had behaved so abominably...

 

~~~

 

*Glinga-ding-ding!*

 

The cheery sound of a bell signaled the opening of Carousel Boutique's door, and with it the entrance of a customer.  Unusually for such a bright and sunny day, the pony had elected to wear a hooded cloak, of the sort that concealed everything except the wearer's desire to be concealed.  Needless to say, by the time said pony had arrived at Rarity's shop, half of Ponyville were peeking at and whispering about this mysterious stranger.

 

Up close, few details could be seen of the potential customer, other than the delicate tip of a white muzzle, and shining strands of a golden mane.  The hooves, also, were trimmed and pedicured to an exquisite perfection.  And finally, the overall poise and manner of the figure betrayed that they were rather apprehensive of what the immediate future was likely to hold...

 

*Here goes nothing.  Hopefully, she's not one to hold a grudge...*  Memories of cake and screaming refused to be banished as the customer waited with baited breath for the proprietress...

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Rarity hummed to herself as she stood at her work bench, finishing the last seam on a gown for a client in the Crystal Empire. Meticulously, she guided thread and needle with her magic until two pieces of shimmery, smooth silk were one. Satisfied, she took a step back, adjusted her glasses and studied the completed dress. She found herself happy with how it had turned out and was sure the client would feel the same way.

 

She studied it still, making sure that every aspect of the dress was immaculate, and found nary a thread out of place. A smile came to her and then a brief sigh of relief. It wasn't that long ago where it had seemed the magic had left her, where genuine inspiration had been an all too fleeting thing and she had lost her flair for the art of the dress, but now she was convinced it was back in full and that she would resume riding the same wave of success which had ingratiated her to so many big names in the industry, relatively undeterred for her failings.

 

Feeling in an all together positive mood, Rarity adjusted her glasses and turned her head to her order list. There were still a hooffull of orders on it she had yet to complete, but nothing so pressing as to force her into a frenzy. She had more than enough time. Why it wouldn't even matter if she were interrup--

 

*Glinga-ding-ding!*

 

Rarity giggled at the sound of the bell. One of her friends perhaps? Or maybe a customer? She hadn't had a walk-in customer in a few days. Aside from in advance of a big event such as the Gala or when she held a sale, customers could be infrequent--a consequence of living in a town where not many ponies chose to accessorize themselves, she supposed. Most of her business was conducted more remotely these days, but she had to say she did always favor dealing with customers directly.

 

She nodded to herself and then walked away from her work bench and into the show room at the front of the boutique. There she found that it was indeed an unfamiliar pony and not one of her friends there for a visit. She studied them but found she could not see much for most of the pony's body was covered by a dark cloak. Rarity hummed as she examined the thing, which she found to be a most peculiar sight.

 

"Welcome to Carousel Boutique, where everything is chic, unique and magnifique!" Rarity cheerfully chimed as she strode toward the cloaked pony. "What may I do for you today, darling? Care to exchange that drab, old cloak for something a bit more glamorous, perhaps?"

 

"it truly is a forbidding appearance you've chosen for yourself, there," she half sighed. "And that's not to mention the fact that that thing can't possibly be the least bit comfortable in this sweltering weather."

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It didn't take long for the bell to summon Rarity downstairs, and into the full view of the stranger.  She might have found the hooded figure's reaction as odd as her appearance, as it shied slightly at her approach, as if in a kind of instinctual fear.  It seemed to be only momentary, however, and soon the figure straightened out and gave an answer.  "I didn't choose this for comfort... or beauty.  But yes, it is high time I had a wardrobe more fitting to myself..."

 

And with a hum and glow of magic, the cloak was undone and swept aside like the cape of a magician, as if to reveal the results of the transformation.  Had the thing been done on stage, the audience would have certainly stomped their hooves in applause, for the cape revealed a vision of beauty that one would not be in error calling truly magical.

 

Underneath the hooded cloak was a unicorn mare, with a coat of white like Rarity's, shampooed and conditioned to a level of smoothness and shine that was just on the right side of natural-looking.  Likewise, the waves of gleaming gold that comprised her mane and tail were styled to show off what nature had blessed her with, rather than being trimmed like decorative topiary.  Her sea-blue eyes were clear as the tropical oceans, while Rarity's own might have traced the curves of her figure from withers to flanks.  Upon those last the fashionista would see the rather familiar-looking mark of a compass rose...

 

On her own part, the new customer was looking over Rarity.  On all previous occasions where they would have encountered each other, the designer had been dressed to the nines, and certainly didn't look out of place next to the nobility and parvenues.  Now, however, without wearing her wares, or anything except a pair of spectacles, she gave off an entirely different air, looking less like a society figure, and more like...

 

Well.  More like a middle-class shopkeeper with a real eye and talent for beauty.  The realization hit the strange mare with enough force to make her blurt out, "You know, you really are much more attractive when you're not trying to be an imitation duchess."  Aaannnd if the coincidental resemblances weren't enough to bring a certain Prince to mind, the (lack of) intelligence behind that remark would probably do it...

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When the other pony spoke, it was in a mare's voice. The words added to the air of mystery generated by the covering garment. As the pony made to reveal herself, a sense of anticipation swept over Rarity. Her eyes focused intently on the other figure as she removed the cloak in a single swoop.

 

There standing before Rarity was a mare of exceptional beauty. Her coat was clean and white, her mane was luxurious gold. She was fair of face and exceedingly well proportioned. Her beauty was such that Rarity could not even think of very many models she had worked with who could hope to compare.

 

The reveal for Rarity was such that she could not begin to be prepared. Her mind went blank. She staggered back a step and very nearly swooned. There was something about the appearance of the mare which made her seem entirely unreal and impossible to her, like she was more a creature of dream than reality.

 

Come to think of it, wasn't the appearance of her, something familiar? Rarity could almost swear that she had seen the creature somewhere in her most compelling fantasies.

 

The mare spoke again, but Rarity's skill for comprehension had fled her. She only vaguely registered that she had been complimented, her numbed mind not picking up on the fact that it was perhaps a somewhat backhoofed one and certainly not registering anything more to which it might have alluded.

 

"Gah... ha... huh..." Rarity verbalized some sounds, unable to articulate herself. She coughed loudly then and glanced at the boutique floor. "What I mean to say is... I'm quite flattered, darling, but I could never even begin to hope to compare to your loveliness..."

 

Rarity giggled awkwardly as she shouted at herself internally to compose herself. With some deep breaths she managed to do so to some extent, but her face remained remarkably flush. "And to think you would hide such beauty away! Unacceptable! We simply must find the proper ensemble by which to accentuate your... ahem... quite pronounced allure."

 

She turned from the mare then and looked at some of the dresses on her racks. "Now, I think you would look best in something which compliments the color of your mane. Gold, orange, maybe even red. I also can see you looking good in dark colors. The contrast would be nice, you see. A deep blue or violet, black even could look quite sharp if the form's right, though really it comes down more to what you want," Rarity began to speak rather quickly, attempting to draw the conversation to the dresses spread about the place, still hoping to push past her awkwardness.

 

"Now, do you want me to find you something off the rack, or do you wish I tailor something to your specifications? The latter is pricier of course, but when it comes to custom gowns, I see that my clients are always satisfied!" Rarity continued her sales pitch, becoming more natural as she went along with it, gleefully unaware that she was still missing pivotal pieces of the puzzle when it came to her comely customer.

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A flair for appearance and the talent for presenting themselves in the best light were bedrock parts of both Bluebood and Bluebelle's personality; no mere switch of bodily gender could affect such deep matters of the soul.  It had honestly been her intention to come into Rarity's store with a contrite apology for past breaches of conduct and a peace offering in the form of a large commission, but...

 

"Well..."  The the bell-like alto tone of the single syllable swept through the air like the brush of a velvet cape.  "It's good to know that I've still got it, after all I've been through."  The mare said, with an expression of pleasant surprise and amusement dancing across her features.  To reduce a mare to near speechlessness, even for a moment, from sheer comeliness was just the sort of ego boost that the the Princess didn't need right now.

 

But, temporary dazzling aside, Rarity was still a professional unicorn, and soon composed herself sufficiently to run down color choice selections and suggestions.  Like most of his class, Prince Blueblood had devoted what limited brainpower he had to the study of appearances, and the fruits of that study produced something like actual knowledge.  His now altered self nodded along to the litany of colors, remarking, "I have a taste for the dark colors myself, particularly purple tones.  And, of course, black is never out of fashion.  I have preferences, you know, for the sort of outfit that is not subject to the cycles of what is 'in' or 'out.'  I don't mind working to look good, but I jolly well draw the line at market research!"

 

She had to admit, coming across the fashionista in her native habitat made this a much more pleasant encounter.  In fact... Bluebelle was beginning to wonder just how long she could put off the eventual revelation.  She didn't want to ruin this morning, just when it was going so well!  In fact, why not go one step further to sweeten this meeting?

 

"Hm... well, never let it be said that I spared expense where a few bits would have made the difference between greatness and excellence!"  No need to mention the fact that Twilight Sparkle was footing the bill, as an apology for making a new wardrobe necessary.  Heck, if the alicorn balked, Bluebelle was perfectly willing to pay the difference out-of-pocket.  She may be stuck as a mare, but she'd be bucked if she didn't look her best while there!

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Rarity's eyebrow piqued at the words hinting that the mare had been through difficult times, but she remained only the attentive listener, nodding at the beauty described the thing she thought suited her. She had to concur. She could really easily see this mare in purple or black. It just felt natural to her mind for some reason.

 

At her words about fashion trends, Rarity giggled. "A Canterlot mare who wishes not to get caught up in trends? Why dear, you certainly are a rare bird, aren't you? I'd much sooner expect that sort of sentiment from a stallion!" she declared brightly, grinning at the all too silly thought.

 

She paused a second, realizing the mare hadn't actually said where she was from. "I'm sorry. I just presume you are from Canterlot. I spend a lot of time there, as I'm sure you're well aware, and you just have that air about you..."

 

She gave a small sigh as she thought of her second location and the time she had had establishing it just recently. "And I definitely can understand where you are coming from. The thought of 'market research', as you so skilfully phrased it, can be one which certainly leaves me sour."

 

The unicorn mare nodded cheerfully. "No, the Carousel brand is about haute couture rather than prêt-à-porter. I'm always saying that it should be about what each customer wants. Forget the trends!"

 

Rarity laughed again. Dealing directly with customers truly was a delight to her. "Now then... we've been over colors. What do you have in mind in terms of shape and length?" she said as she turned to one of her racks and pulled a dress from it. "Personally I could see you in something like this..." It was a flowing satin gown, very simple in shape. "It's form fitting, but elegant--the kind of thing that's sure to make a statement."

 

She then brought another dress, this one much shorter and had a large sash and more adornments. "Of course, something like this would be just darling on you as well!"

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"I'd much sooner expect that sort of sentiment from a stallion!"

 

That sentence, playfully casual as it was, seemed to cause the golden-maned mare to start, and almost to stammer before recovering herself.  "Well, ah, I've been sympathetic to the view, honestly, ever since I heard a stallion of my acquaintance mention it.  I must confess the notion was a liberating one; no offense to ponies like you who making a living off this sort of thing, setting trends and all that."  Bluebelle added hastily, not wanting this friendly talk to be derailed by yet another faux pas.  A repeat offense was likely to be greeted with thrown pins rather than thrown pastry...

 

"I just... want to take an independent view of the thing, you know?  It's all to easy to let everypony else do your thinking for you."  That came from the heart, and she was honestly surprised to hear it come out of her mouth.  Not just because Blueblood had never thought it out like that before, but also because upon hearing it, the royal unicorn realized that it was true.  The Prince had become like he was because he, not gifted with brains, had found thought difficult, and so reverted to habits, and very often to bad habits, picked up from his class and upbringing.  There were very few things in which he had always thought for himself, and his looks were one of them.  Hence, how much pride he took in them, though that itself was a bad habit.

 

Well, life had shaken him up now, not the least of ways that he was a mare now buying dresses for herself.  In any case, it seemed her hasty explanations saw sympathy in Rarity's own views, which earned the fashionista a very winning and charming smile from the Princess.  "Then I know I have made the right decision in coming to you!"  There was something of a girlish squeak of delight in her voice; who said you didn't get a second chance to make a first impression?

 

"Hm..."  Bluebelle gave each option presented to her deep consideration, trying to imagine her body filling out the cloth, moving through crowds and social gatherings in them.  Given her lack of personal experience with dresses, this was not an easy task.  "They each would serve their own occasion, certainly.  The first one more for evening gatherings; the second rather deserves full daylight, wouldn't you say?  Oh, but I'll also need something more business-like, for the IMAGINE meetings.  Maybe... a jacket and scarf combination?"  She ventured a little hesitantly, unaware of a major hint that she had just dropped to her true identity.

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Rarity smirked as she considered the response she received. This mare seemed almost defensive. Rarity truly hoped she hadn't taken her playful comment the wrong way. She'd hate for the mare to assume she was calling her unfeminine. For one thing, it simply wouldn't be true--not when the mare radiated with feminine beauty.

 

"Oh, I quite understand. It's uncommon on a Canterlot mare as I said, but that doesn't mean it's not a point of view with merit. After all, one of the reasons I do make my living setting my own trends, as you put it, is because I do believe I would be simply awful at following someone else's," the unicorn mare giggled boisterously. "No, it's always been my philosophy that fashion should be about you and not about everyone else."

 

As the mare went on to give her thoughts on the dresses, Rarity nodded. "Well, you did say you were looking for a wardrobe, correct? No reason I couldn't fashion you one in either style!"

 

"As for business dresses... well... perhaps something like this, but in a darker color with perhaps a longer skirt..." Rarity started as she brought forth a new dress from the rack. It was a blue dress with a pronounced collar and long sleeves on the forearms. "Alternatively, it's never unbecoming for a mare to own a suit or two for such an occasion."

 

The unicorn nodded and looked back toward the mare, inclined to make some small talk. "So you're involved with IMAGINE, then? I must say I was surprised when I read about them on account of certain... acquaintances involved in the organization, but I suppose it's simply proof that first impressions don't always fully reveal the character of a pony..." Rarity said, her words becoming quieter and less considered as she went along. She then laughed and returned to a more normal tone. "Whatever the case, it sounds to me like it's first class work you're all doing out there."

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"Hm..."  Bluebelle was weighing the presented dress in her mind, but there was still something... insubstantial in the imaginings, like gossamer on a set of balance scales.  It slipped off without leaving an impression.  But perhaps seen in a mirror... "Would you mind terribly if I tried on the style to get a look for myself?  And to judge the feel of it, too.  I find there's not much of a substitute for firsthand experience."

 

That was true, rumors and imaginings made for themselves a false reality, and there were many in Canterlot that Bluebelle could name that had lived nearly their entire lives within that simulacrum... including herself, if she was being honest.  And even one's first contact with actualities could be misleading, as Rarity's statement about first impressions said.  Although that particular first impression wasn't exactly lying...

 

"I know what you mean."  The unicorn said softly.  "It rather surprised me too, to tell you the truth."  Speaking of the truth, the perfect moment to reveal it had arrived... and passed some time ago.  It was going to be really awkward now that Bluebelle had pretty much been stringing Rarity along all this time.  She hadn't even told the fashionista her assumed name, let alone her real one!

 

"It's... been hard getting things off the ground.  To tell you the truth, I don't think any of us quite grasp the magnitude of what we set out to do.  Or at least, I didn't.  Still, I'm not backing down now.  I'm not going back to the way I was, that's for certain!"  That last statement came out with unintended emphasis, enough to wake Rarity's cat, who yowled in complete lack of appreciation.  "Um, sorry.  It's just... I've been through a lot of changes lately."

 

Understatement of the year, that one.

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"Why certainly, darling!" Rarity replied immediately to the question. "You can try on anything in the boutique if you please! I encourage it. Let us see you in that dress!"

 

She pushed the mare and the gown she had toward a small dressing room nearby and then giggled and stepped back and nodded to herself. She was beginning to get a real sense that she would be making a big sale from this mare, which was exciting, but not as exciting as the thought of seeing another pony perfectly pleased.

 

She closed her eyes softly and listened as the pony continued to speak. She could relate effortlessly to the sentiment that the pony expressed. She gave a gasp when Opal suddenly let out a cry, startled from her sleep. Rarity walked quickly over to where the cat lie atop one of her dressforms. "Don't worry, darling. It's okay... We didn't mean to interrupt your nap," she cooed to her pet. Opal looked at her for a moment in recognition, flashed her a contented expression and then curled back up into a little ball atop the dressform.

 

Rarity nodded. Even just her dealing with Opal proved how far she had come in so short a time. it wasn't so long ago that she had the distinct impression her darling pet hated her... which would have been fair as Rarity had had little regard for the poor dear. That was, she supposed, indicative of the old her in general though. It was Twilight who had become the princess, but Rarity had little doubt that since the six of them had come together, she had learned nearly as much about what it means to be a good friend as she had.

 

"That's the spirit, dear," Rarity said, finally speaking again to the other mare, her voice somewhat quiet at first until she was a safe distance from where Opal rest. "I think Equestria would certainly be a better place if each of us made such an effort to make ourselves a better pony."

 

She giggled quietly and then sighed. "Why, It's staggering for me to even think of how much I've changed myself of late... and it's not just in the obvious things... the second boutique, Cosmare cover, Fashion week, any of those supposedly life-changing honors but in the little things. I've steadily been made to come face to face with the uglier parts of myself, and be forced to correct them lest lose the things that matter most to me."

 

"I was a terrible sister and not a very good friend. More than that though, I was a child clinging to fantasies," Rarity laughed in spite of herself. "It's quite the silly thing for one mare to admit to another, but the old me had this habit of falling in love with ponies I had never even met. You can only rightly imagine how that might have gone..."

 

"And all this change for me... it's recent, all in the years since Princess Luna came back to Canterlot," Rarity let out another sigh and nodded softly. "But that's the great thing about it all, I think. We can look back at ourselves and see how silly the pony we used to be was and laugh, but then turn around and realize that if we continue to put the effort in, the pony we will be in the future will be even better still."

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Rarity had a fashionista's artistry, and a shopkeeper's sound instincts.  It had been practically a certainty from the moment that Bluebelle stepped hoof into Carousel boutique that she would walk out with multiple dresses.  The only questions were which ones, and how many.  Her first foray into the dressing room was with the three dresses shown at the start: the sleek satin number, the more adorned shorter dress, and the collared blue one.

 

The Princess decided to try them out in reverse order, beginning with the more business-like outfit.  Given how IMAGINE was starting to pick up, this was the first priority.  As she carefully donned the garment, she listened to Rarity talk about herself, with a great deal of interest.  After so long of simply thinking of her as "that mare who threw cake at me," the royal was getting a glimpse into her real self that had heretofore seemed impossible.  It seemed, even, that Rarity felt somewhat at fault for what happened at the gala as well!

 

"Ah, yes, not an uncommon affliction, that."  Bluebelle replied from behind the screen, well aware of what that felt like from the other side.  "I will say, it's quite uncomfortable to be on the receiving end of such ephemeral affection, as I have been multiple times.  One is never sure if there isn't some ulterior motive, and even if there isn't, it's hard to shake off the suitors gracefully."   She hesitated before continuing, but decided to forge on.  After all, ff Blue wasn't going to reveal her true identity, perhaps she could at least reveal her true self.

 

"I'll admit, it quite soured me on other ponies.  In a way, I had the opposite problem as you.  Instead of loving ponies I never met, I despised the ones I did.  It was easy to, given that I sometimes found some genuinely despicable sorts among my class.  You've met the type, yes?  The worst of it is, they're infectious.  In fact..."  She blinked, pausing right in the middle of setting the collar of her dress.  "I suppose they were all once half-decent, at least, before they all sort of degraded each other.  Huh.  I never thought about that.  If a pony doesn't make an effort to be better, they can grow worse... until some other pony knocks some sense into them.  My Auntie- er, was rather instrumental in that."

 

Shuddering slightly at the barely-caught betrayer of identity, Bluebelle stepped back into the shop.  The dress would need to be adjusted to better fit her measurements; the best business-wear was not only tailored, but displayed the fact.  It was perhaps a concession to vanity and ostentation, but that was fashion for you.  In any case, as far as style went, it suited the mare very well!  The dark colors highlighted the pristine shine of her coat, while the falling locks of her mane and tail glowed just a little brighter.  It would look more professional, of course, if her mane was tied or cut shorter, but that was a matter of preference.  

 

"Hm, you know, I think this will do nicely, once it's taken in... and out."

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Rarity considered the words and nodded. She may not have been as shapely as the well-bred Canterlot mare to whom she spoke, but she nevertheless did have lines of stallions who were rather taken with her. She had, however, never truly been bothered by that fact. Rather, she couldn't deny that to be the object of affection was something which delighted her. She fed on such things and had no qualms at all about trading a sweetened word to a stallion for something she desired.

 

Not all mares were going to feel the same way about such things. She had learned that back when she had pressured poor Fluttershy into her brief modelling career. The question of status did also add other variables, Rarity supposed... even as she was fairly certain most any stallion who had pursued the lovely creature before her had only one thing on his mind.

 

When it came to the words the mare said about the despicable ponies among her class, Rarity could only agree. She thought of the ponies she knew in the Canterlot elite, the followers and sycophants. More than that though she thought of still others, of Coco and Sassy, ponies who got wrapped up in the cut-throat game of chasing success and lost sight of what was important.

 

"It can be hard to make our mark in the world, I suppose. Those who can't find it on their own, they're driven either to give up and instead simply seek the approval of the true influencers or worse still, abandon decency trample others underhoof,  to get where they want to be in life," Rarity muttered drearily. "I've seen such things both in the elite circles and in the greater world of fashion... and it's not like I can't understand it. The pressure one feels to succeed, it's unbearable... and that's me coming from my humble beginning here in Ponyville. it's undoubtedly worse for those already closer to the top, with storied family names to live up to."

 

"Personally, I think I was on the track to become like that, myself, to lose sight of what I should be doing, just to get ahead. A guiding hoof can change everything though, and I found that in my precious friends. I know for a fact I wouldn't be the pony I am now without them," Rarity said, her voice becoming warm. "It sounds like this aunt did similar things for you."

 

When the mare emerged in the business dress, Rarity was once more stunned by her beauty. She stared a moment before noticing how awkward the fit indeed was.

 

"You look gorgeous in that, dear, though yes, the fit is wrong... but it is bound to be for anything off of the rack," Rarity said, nodding as she retrieved a nearby tape measure with her magic. "No, I'll be needing to take measurements--then I can custom make a dress for you in each style which has the perfect fit!"

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There was a point in time when Prince Blueblood literally lived for that look in Rarity's face; the look of a pony absolutely stunned with another's beauty.  That was no exaggerated statement.  He would spend hours of painstaking labor, hygiene, exercise, strictly regulated diet, and carefully chosen dress just to strike the eyes of other ponies.  Over time, it had become second nature; and even now, after all the changes that had brought him here as Princess Bluebelle, the old thrill had lost little of its potency.

 

Still, the more pressing concern for the mare right now was to get out of an ill-fitting dress.  "Oh, yes.  Auntie made sure that I was introduced to ponies that eventually became real friends; friends who did the same sort of legwork yours did for you, I should think."  She smiled at the fashionista as she magically shed her clothes, giving her flank a quick shake as it was freed from the constricting bands of fabric.  "Hm, I suppose we'd best go ahead and do those measurements, now that I'm out here."

 

As the Princess trotted up to the stand, she caught her reflection in one of the mirrors in the shop.  In it, she could see both herself and Rarity; and the juxtaposition set her thinking again.  What might have been different, if this had been their first meeting?  They were getting along quite well, and it was clear that there was at least a superficial attraction.  *Of course, it's not all that different from how it was a few years ago, dear Prince.  You had your chance, you blew it.  Pushing for anything now would be just mean and deceptive.*

 

Bluebelle sighed internally at the somewhat melancholy thought, and even externally an expression of sadness might have been momentarily seen before the unicorn wiped it away.  No, she would keep this wonderful day as long as she could.  If the cost was to leave without Rarity ever knowing her true identity, well... that would be impossible, actually, given that the tabloids existed.  Still, the longer she put off the revelation, the better today would be, however badly their next meeting might go...

 

"So tell me," The Princess struck up conversation again as the fashion mare began her measurements, "What do you, personally, find attractive in a pony?"

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Rarity nodded when the mare gave her the go ahead to take her measurements and went to work. She took down each measurement meticulously, reacting enviously at some of the numbers she's recorded with her clipboard.

 

When the question came, Rarity was honestly disarmed by it. it took her out of what she was doing and forced her to take a step back to consider it. Ultimately, she let out a deep laugh and shook her head.

 

"That's a good question... and one I think I've been trying to figure out myself for quite a while now," she said as she gave a prolonged sigh. "It used to be that I was in love with the ideal of the storybook prince, well-groomed, handsome and charming--who might whisk me up and take me away from my ordinary, mundane life and take to a world of glamour and sophistication..."

 

"But that was the fantasy of a child... one who still had so much to learn about what was truly important and what she truly found attractive in a pony."

 

She closed her eyes and gave a nod. "I realized that the path to success was not one which I should look to others to find, but that instead something I should carve myself." She gave a laugh. "Now I'd more say, that what I find attractive is one who is true to oneself and others. Strong, confident and reliable, willing to go out of their way even for the sake of ponies they don't know. I suppose more the dashing knight more than the charming prince," she said, a smile appearing on her face followed by a deep blush.

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Rarity's reaction was a little stronger than one would expect for a mere small-talk question, but then, when Bluebelle thought about it, the answer was really connected with deeper issues of how one developed as a pony.  After all, growing up was not always automatically associated with growing older.  Prince Blueblood, for instance, had extended a spoiled and self-indulgent foalhood past its expiration date, to his own detriment and humiliation.  In fact, it was arguably the same incident which had started both of them along their process of maturity.

 

Chewing on this food for thought, Bluebelle nodded, reflecting on her own situation.  "I've grown up among that glamour and sophistication, and... it's not unusual, I think, to be obsessed and then disillusioned with it.  But.... just because you know that appearances are superficial and deceiving doesn't mean you know what's really underneath.  I used to go about with my nose in the air because I was so certain that I knew what everypony was really thinking, and that I was the only one in the whole pack of fools that saw the sham for what it was.  Heh."  She shook her head at her past self.  "It was no less superficial a judgment.  More so, perhaps; at least the surface was real, while 'my 'insight' was often imaginary.  It still led me to believe that I was the best pony in the room, and, well, you've met that sort before."  *Oh, by Celestia, have you...*

 

"But I see what you mean about the dashing knight."  Bluebelle brought her reflections back to the more recent past, as the fashionista's finished outline of her new dream pony triggered the Princess' thoughts as to what her own was.  "And... I think I agree with you.  At any rate, I can bring all the charm that's needed into a relationship."  She laughed again like golden bells, giving a wink at Rarity through the mirror.  "As for me... it's somewhat along your lines.  I've... always had a kind of attraction to the pegasus ideal.  Strong, brave, reliable, having a strong set of wings to wrap me up tight in..."  She giggled, then coughed, the sudden appearance of the filly-like mannerism apparently causing her some mortification.  "Lately though, I think what I should need is someone willing to stick with me, even at my most embarrassing.  In fact..."

 

She stopped suddenly, as the list of qualities suddenly began to coalesce into a name, and face, in her head.  "Huh."  She said, abstractedly, as she weighed the possibility in her mind.  "Wow, I can see now why mares discuss these private matters.  It helps to think about them clearly."  A great mystery resolved, though Bluebelle's slip in the tongue might provoke curiosity as to another....

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Rarity listened attentively as the mare spoke, reflecting on the wisdom of her words. She certainly had met the sort she spoke of before; they were somewhat endemic of the Canterlot scene. It was more than that though. That sort of haughtiness and superiority might have in fact been what she was headed for were it not for her friends presence in her life to keep her humble and grounded.

"Yes, I've definitely met the type. I wouldn't be too shamed for that though. I think there's some of that ugliness in all of us actually. I wasn't so different at a time. Wrapped up in myself, judging others, unable to listen," she said through a sigh. "it's a fortunate thing the both of us were able to change from that path."

At the mare's observations about Rarity's "dashing knight" she then went somewhat flush. Having wings and the phrase "pegasus ideal" associated with her ideal made Rarity aware of the fact that she had spoken perhaps in less broad strokes than she had intended.  Her thoughts went to a recent set of encounters with a certain rainbow-haired friend of hers and she found her glance wandering. She focused on the more self-reflective words the other mare ultimately uttered in hopes of putting her thoughts elsewhere.

"I can definitely see the necessity of having someone who can accept your silliest moments as a part of you," she said and as she said it she could help but think of the good natured teasing and exchanged eyerolls her and Rainow shared. She blushed again. her feelings were certainly becoming more difficult to deny, even as she didn't have a desire to pursue them at a moment. Not on her own when they could change things too greatly.

At the mare's concluding comments she gave an affirming sigh. "Indeed. Such talk has a way of cutting through the haze, whether we want it to or not..."

This was somewhat surprising, though she supposed from this mare's story it was at least possible she had never let another mare get close enough to her for such things. It was only after her words had hung there for a while that Rarity realized there was something strange in the mare's own. She spoke of discussing such private things with mares as if it was something new to her.

"Do you mean to imply you've never had a mare you could confide such things in before?" she asked, seeking confirmation.

 

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Oh, horseapples!  The fashionista had noticed Bluebelle's slip.  "Um, hm... you could say that."  It was largely true, in that you could say that the common cold was 'a bad birthday gift.'  Not false, but it hardly conveyed all the relevant information about the subject.  Once again, she was caught in the dilemma between revealing it all, or taking a risk of getting away scot-free.  The royal had changed much in the past several years, but still maintained a tendency to gravitate towards the path of least resistance.

Seeking for now to shift the subject, she asked, "Have you got all the measurements you need now, miss Rarity?"  She got down off the raised part of the floor, still getting used to the odd sensation of walking in a dress.  In fact, if she was remembering right, this wouldn't have been the first dress that Blueblood had received from Rarity, though that one had been made for his male measurements as a joke.  *I never did try it on.  I wonder if I ought to order something in the same style...*

Wait, what?  Where had that thought come from?  Full of these mental disturbances, Bluebelle attempted to banish them from her head by indulging her curiosity.  She walked close over to Rarity to see if she could get a peek at her own dimensions.  She knew them to be impressive, of course, but getting some actual numbers would be nice...

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"Truly unfortunate," Rarity muttered. "Though I can understand as well. For the longest while, friendship is something I overlooked in favor of getting the boutique up and running. Then all at once I made the five best friends a mare could have and realized the fool I was."

 

She smiled. "If you'd like to visit again sometime again after we're through today, then by all means, do," Rarity offered. "Even if you don't have business with me, but are just looking for someone to talk to. I've enjoyed our talks so far, dear, and would love to do it again!"

 

At the question, Rarity nodded. She was through measuring everything. She glanced at the numbers and her eyes widened a bit. She looked at the mare, slightly astonished. The proof was right there in front of her, of course, so she couldn't imagine why she would be, but just seeing it in written form made a finer point of just how exceptional a figure she was. It was such that even professional models would rightly feel some envy.

 

She noticed her customer was trying to glance at the numbers herself. She smiled and pushed the clipboard her way. "You cut such a remarkable figure, that I'm honestly looking forward to making your gowns..."

 

"And seeing you in them," she said, going somewhat flushed. "You have a lot to be proud of. Even amongst my Canterlot customers these are..." she trailed off, realizing the mare probably would be embarrassed to have her go on.

 

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Upon hearing that Rarity would actually welcome another social visit, Bluebelle was visibly surprised, but then a smile began to spread across her face.  "Th-thank you.  Coming from you, that... really means a lot to me."  Indeed, the Princess had come far since she was a Prince.  Would the fashionista understand, or even believe how much?  One thing was for certain; the secret might be kept until the end of this meeting, but the story of her transformation would certainly have made its way into the papers by then.

 

Still pondering over this problem, the mare looked over the numbers, and gave a low, pleased whistle.  "...Exceptional?"  She finished Rarity's sentence for her, clearly not embarrassed in the least.  Indeed, there was a brief touch of familiar vain self-satisfaction about her expression.  "It's nice to have mathematical proof of what one has always suspected."  She chuckled, handing back the clipboard.
"Indeed, I am looking forward to those dresses as well.  I hope you don't mind a little ostentation on my part in showing off your hoofiwork?  Between the wedding coming up... hm, and the Grand Galloping Gala, too..."  Bluebelle paused, searching for a reaction in the face of the pony before her.  "Will you be attending this year?  Given the way my schedule is filled, that's likely to be the soonest we'll be able to see each other on a social occasion.

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Rarity smiled. She found it odd that her opinion would truly mean so much to this pony she just met, but she supposed it was just that she had made a good impression with her new friend. She was pleased for it, as the feeling was very much likewise.

 

At having her sentence finished, Rarity laughed. "Someone certainly isn't modest," she said cheerfully. "But that's a fine trait in a mare, I think. Be proud of what you've got. Most things in life that are worth doing, are worth doing boldly."

 

She smiled as the topic of the gala was broached and gave a laugh. "Oh, certainly. I'll be in attendance this year. I wouldn't dream of missing the gala. Ever since the first year where I was invited, I've always made sure to attend." She laughed. "Which is perhaps itself a strange thing when one considers how very not well my début appearance went, but alas, I cannot find it in me to forego attending such an esteemed event!"

 

She shook her head and sighed. "But I doubt such stories are of that much interest to you," she said. "You mentioned a wedding. Who's might it be? Not yours, I assume."

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*So... she appreciates a lack of modesty in a mare, does she?  Apparently, that is not a statement that applies to Stallions.*  The internal accusation of a double-standard might not have actually been fair, but Bluebelle made it anyway.  After all, she had expressed love of her own looks in front of Rarity as both genders, and gotten wildly different reactions.  Really, what other conclusion could she come to?

 

The goading was almost enough to prompt a revelation right there and then.  Which would have been somewhat unwise, at this point, but now the Princess was resolved to do so before leaving.  Especially now that the subject of conversation was the Gala.  "Oh, I heard about that... everypony in Canterlot did."  *And in Ponyville... Manehattan... Trottingham... Faust, it went everywhere...*  "As it happens, I do have an interest in that, now being acquainted with both parties.  Also, I've become an active member of the Gala planning board, so it is rather my duty to ensure that such things don't happen again."

 

"Oh, I didn't mention who the wedding was for?"  Bluebelle was almost certain she did, tilting her head slightly as she answered.  "Snowfall, the CEO of Northern Storm Industries, is getting married to Pathfinder.  I know her from being on the IMAGINE founder's board."  Whoops, that was a pretty big identity slip.  Well, it almost didn't matter.  The secret would be out soon...

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