Mounting entries on her to-do list coupled with a draining amount of time in which to attend to them had made Octavia somewhat irritable. The night of the Gala was upon them, and she was expected to be in attendance with her ensemble in no less than an hour. As such, it was very much to her chagrin that she discovered Vinyl asleep on the bed, where she should have already begun changing into her outfit.
A burst of sharp jabs to the stomach remedied the situation, and Vinyl's bleary eyes were met with the sight of a rather indignant Octavia bearing down on her.
"Vinyl, are you asleep?!"
A brief respite was given from the intent glare, as Vinyl's hooves shakily rubbed her eyes.
"Yeah...I was, what's up?"
Octavia practically cuffed Vinyl to her hooves, her benevolence somewhat lessened by copious amounts of stress, and an impatient cart driver waiting outside to bear them away to the palace.
"You're what's meant to be up! Come on! Get ready, get dressed, we're leaving in fifteen minutes!"
"You know, I can just hitch a cab and catch u-."
"No. I need you to come with me, Vinyl. You're mon invitée, comprende?"
Vinyl's linguistic skills were laughable at best while fully conscious. In her current situation of verging on the waking world, her brain simply let anything that wasn't the Princesses' Equestrian fall straight back out her ear holes.
"Wait...what? I'll just...get ready. You look angry and tired."
"You're looking rough around the edges yourself, Vinyl. Please hurry up, this is important!"
Octavia cut off her admittedly cold deadpan, digging around to find the saddlebag with her dress inside. She had already managed to freshen herself up, and had discarded her bow-tie for the purposes of her dress.
The emblazoned insignia of Toile Chatoyante's cutie mark - a piece of fabric being cut to the shape of a pony with some scissors - was inlaid onto the buckle of the bag. Octavia hadn't considered opening it since they had bought them. Lately, her life had been something of a rush between last-minute rehearsals, spending time with Vinyl, and - of course - their weekly attendance at the Children's Hospice. Thankfully, they'd managed to achieve all three, and came out mostly intact, though Octavia's sanity was on tenterhooks at the end of it all.
She hastily pulled open the rucksack, bounding backwards out of her coat as the bag erupted in a volcanic plume of pink and grey. The dress was catapulted up into the air, before it homed onto her like a flock of hungry birds. It adhered itself to her, wrapping itself around where it was intended, and enveloped her in its fabric embrace. As Octavia fought to catch her breath, the small morganite necklace gently floated down, and latched itself around her neck, as though apologising for its peers' rowdy behaviour during the dressing process.
Octavia scanned over herself, ensuring everything was fitted properly, and finding no fault. A trip to the mirror confirmed her satisfaction, the dress was as perfect as the day she had bought it. The self-dressing idea had also saved them valuable time, which was something of a bonus. It had to be the most traumatising convenience Octavia had encountered in her life, especially as she was unused to the ways of magic.
It would also be something amusing to forget to alert Vinyl about.
A moment later, the very same unicorn stumbled out of the shower, apparently not opting for the cold function to wake herself up. A glow of her horn caused her body to steam, before it blasted outwards in a puff of cloudy mist. She emerged from the epicentre of her rapid drying technique, shaking her mane to ensure it fell into its usual position, before opening her saddlebag and proceeding to explode once more in an admittedly lesser cloud of steam.
As Octavia fell from behind the doorway, barely containing fits of laughter with a hoof, the last pieces of Vinyl's dress fell into place. Octavia had issues breathing after the hilarity of Vinyl running in circles around the room, trying to evade her own Gala dress, but now she found her breath stolen by the sight of the mare before her. Vinyl turned around to her, a sullen expression dominating her face as she fidgeted in her outfit.
"Admit it. It looks stupid, doesn't it?"
Octavia reacted immediately, shaking her head with considerable force.
"Very much to the contrary. Why, you'll be an excellent partner to the Gala, my dear Vinyl."
The mare herself blushed, adding a burst of colour to the muted tones of her dress. She stood before the mirror, twisting and turning to see herself from different angles. Octavia noticed a repetitive hoof pawing at her unshielded eyes, a wisp of magic picked up the trademark shades from the bedside cabinet, before hovering them shakily in the air, then placing them back down again.
"She was right, this dress does make my eyes look good."
"Vinyl, it doesn't take a dress to make your eyes enchanting, but it certainly accentuates the effect."
The red of Vinyl's cheeks married to that of her eyes, framing them ever more beautifully for Octavia. It was only because she caught sight of the clock in the corner of her eye that they ever appeared at the Gala on time.
"Oh, by Celestia's bea...Come on, Vinyl. We have a Gala to wow."
Vinyl fell in behind Octavia as the pair cantered down the stairs out to the waiting cart. The driver stubbed out a cigarette, before reattaching his reins and scuffing the ground as if he'd been impatiently raring to go all this time. He nodded to the pair as they boarded the open-topped cart, giving them a second to get comfortable before he started his purposeful stride to the palace on the horizon.
The first of the night's fireworks began in the distance, stealing the stars' grace from the sky as they dominated its beauty for this one night. A more attentive astronomer might have noticed the stars burning brighter than ever despite this, an effort by a certain Princess of the Night to ensure her work didn't get upstaged by the pyrotechnics.
Vinyl devoured the scene with wide, open eyes. Her first Gala was definitely going to be a memorable one.
* * * * * *
Vinyl spent the entire journey through the palace gardens sitting with her forelegs hanging over the edge of the cart's railing like a happy puppy, which had initially annoyed Octavia before she gave up any efforts to change the situation. Every piece of the Princesses' regal abode seemed to fascinate her, a whole world had been laid here inside the castle walls, and Vinyl had never had the opportunity to glimpse it.
They disembarked at the end of the last path to the palace itself, which loomed before them in its stoic defiance against the laws of physics and architectural sensibility. The path stretched out before them, its usual simplistic sandstone paving garnished with a red carpet for this night only. Octavia approached the palace with a purposeful stride, while Vinyl's was more akin to a caged pegasus blended with a filly in a sweet shop.
They entered the gates side-by-side, however, and were greeted by the benevolent smile of Princess Celestia. Octavia bowed, smiling as Vinyl did the same. At least there was some decorum present in her partner's mind. The Princess thanked them for their arrival, as though it brought her the warmest joy to see them. Her pearly face broke into a warm and natural smile as though it were made of liquid porcelain, and her demeanour was calmer and more welcoming than anypony's mother had been. Octavia and Vinyl left her presence, feeling as though they were close friends entering the family home of a mutual friend, not the regal abode of a Princess.
The pair entered the ballroom, which was still off limits until the final preparations had been made. Here was the Princess of the Night, Luna, ensuring the decorations and ornaments were of sufficiently polished standard. Vinyl could only assume that the pony who created the tapestry of the night sky had high standards for a ballroom, and watched as Octavia trotted up to meet her musical peers.
Vinyl waited back a bit, trying to find a way to snatch one of the hors d'ouvres from under the protective cellophane without one of the attendants noticing. She spotted Octavia eagerly beckoning her with a hoof, before she lightly trotted up into the midst of the classical ponies.
Unlike previous years, the standards of the Grand Galloping Gala had been raised of late. A few more cutting reviews had been levelled at the ensembles of the past - and one particularly career-destroying allegation towards the personal life of the pianist at the last year's Gala - which mainly boiled down to them not fulfilling the refined presentation that was expected from an event of such prestige.
As a result, the ensemble had arrived in dressage equivalent to those who they would be performing for. Octavia had naturally planned on performing in her current dress, and Lyra had arrived in her own dress as well. It was a flowing gown of the purest white, as though stitched from the clouds themselves, and it seemed to be twice as light as she moved gracefully underneath it. A saddle was rendered in gold edging, that also banded around her neck and shoulders to create a style reminiscent of the ancient Pegasopolitan togas. Each hoof was shod in shoes of the most precious gold imaginable, and her lyre was cleaned to a lustrous sheen as she stood with it in hoof.
The other two musicians had arrived in outfits that were more sober and less expensive of taste. Being stallions, they arrived in fitted black suits, with the pianist opting for a red shirt in contrast to his black and white coat colouration.
Vinyl was distracted by a light tap on her shoulder, turning to find Bonbon giggling at her from behind a shod hoof. Her own outfit was more down to Equestria, and was a simple design of deep, navy blues and pink, frilled edgings. The borders of the gown were decorated with tiny images of wrapped sweets where the blue fabric met the pink frill. What Vinyl couldn't help but notice despite all this was the tiny, gold lyre hanging from one of her ears. She didn't need to ask who it was a tribute to.
"Well, well, well. Lyra and myself were curious if you were coming at all. Nice to see you're glamming up for the night, Vinyl."
Vinyl took the hoof held out for her, shaking it firmly. Thankfully, it didn't feel like two warring tribes declaring an end to hostilities anymore. It might have even felt like two friends.
"Yeah, Octy and me saw a mare in Canterlot town for the dresses. Some French mare."
Vinyl took a moment to peel apart the words. Even names needed to be translated back to her.
"Yeah, her. What, did you...?"
Bonbon smiled, nodding her head and twirling her outfit. Vinyl couldn't help but appreciate the flawless way it was married to her figure. It definitely carried the fashionista's hoof in its design.
"She works wonders, and Lyra is a fan of the dress, too."
"What, her dress?"
Bonbon blushed, allowing a sheepish expression to merge with a coy smile on her face.
"No, mine. Anyway, what are you planning to do while those two are off on their little musical session?"
"Dunno. Stay here and...listen, I guess?"
Bonbon waved away the proposition with a gleeful hoof.
"Ah, no. I have a much more important task for you. Given from the highest authority in Equestria, Vinyl. Let's just say we're going to...spice things up a bit, round here."
Bonbon beckoned her over to a far table, while their partners took their places on the stage, and tuned their instruments. She reached under her dress, pulling out several artifacts hidden therein. Vinyl couldn't help but crack up at the immaturity of it all. Hot sauce, sneezing powder, instant wing-popper, horn relaxant. Bonbon's plan was to turn the most prestigious event of the year into a college-level prank conga.
And Vinyl was so game to join in.
* * * * * *
"Well, Octavia, it's nice for us both to be at one of these, don't you think?"
Lyra levitated the tiny tuning peg out of its keyhole, each string of her lyre tightened to perfection. A casual flick of the hoof unveiled a flawless graduation of the notes across each string.
"Indeed. Rivalry leaves such little time for camaraderie."
"We're musicians, not soldiers. Besides, rivalry made us both better in the end, right? Hay, we're both sittin' here at the top, now. And we've each got a mare to go home to at the night's end."
Octavia looked up from her cello, breaking away from her last hairline tweaks to the tuning.
"I suppose you're right. I'm amazed at how well Vinyl can carry a dress, given her normally more...roughened approach to presentability."
Lyra shrugged, leaning casually on her instrument as she floated it with her own magic. Octavia couldn't help but imagine this as being like trying to lift your own body, although unicorn magic appeared to break any rules pony science had previously held in place. The pianist and the saxophonist had finished their preparations, and Octavia crouched down once more to complete her own.
A moment later and she was standing, strumming her bow with satisfaction. The A string was slightly below its intended pitch, and she corrected it as such. Finally, her instrument was ready, and she exhaled a deep breath of anticipation as she made herself ready.
"Remember, Octavia. We're doing a marathon here, not a sprint. This isn't your usual quick concerto then off for a whiskey, we're here most of the night."
"I have done this before, Lyra. I am quite fine. Just...slightly nervous, is all."
"Well, stiffen that upper lip, and show some of that trademark pomp. The Princess is arriving with her first guests."
The doors at the far entrance opened wide; great ballroom doors that had led onto the Canterlot Royal Gardens, where the guests had been instructed to wait for the final preparations. Princess Celestia walked through, each hoofstep in pristine, metronomic time, dominating the attention of everypony in the room. She halted in the centre of the ballroom, illuminating her horn as the chandeliers above burst into life. The candles burned more like a hearth than any candle anypony had seen before that day, lighting the room like the homely fireplace that wards away the cold winter.
"My loyal subjects, welcome to this year's Grand Galloping Gala. I apologise for any inconveniences that may have arose due to the changes to schedule this year, but attendees of the last year's ball will know exactly why these came about. I hope you all enjoy the night, I and my sister will be in attendance if you require our attention."
From behind her sister, as though manifesting directly from her very shadow, Princess Luna appeared. Nopony saw her enter or leave the room, nor did they know how she appeared in its centre unnoticed. She held her posture in a tall and regal manner, as only the ponies who remember the older and prouder times of long ago can do. While she held herself in confident stance, her voice did not carry itself as Celestia's had. It spoke more with the crack of an uncertain leader than with any authoritative tone normally used in such circumstances.
"Citizens of Equestria. I, Princess Luna, declare that this Gala has begun!"
Once more she trotted to her sister's side, the pair closely conversing with each other as ponies of all breeds, colours and backgrounds milled around in a sea of small talk and mingling. The hors d'ouvres were unveiled, and with a sharp nod from Hoofz Zimmer, the ensemble began to play.
* * * * * *
Vinyl stood in position, fluffing her dress out slightly to boost its obscuring properties. Bonbon was behind her, eagerly sprinkling wing popper onto a small tray of daintily baked cupcakes. The white powder was completely indiscernible amongst the polar-white icing on the cakes, that were topped with an image of a pony outlined in edible ball bearings. Bonbon gave three coughs - the signal that she had finished - and the pair retreated to a nearby area in visible distance. Eagerly chomping on a small collection of unaltered cakes, the pair of pranksters eagerly waited for their prey to fall upon the cakes.
This took longer than expected. For privacy reasons, the pair had opted for a table on the edge of the ballroom, where they were less likely to be seen. Most of the gentry of Canterlot had homed in on the central table, however. It seemed to be running dry, and Bonbon insisted patience was the answer. Bonbon obviously hadn't known Vinyl for all that long a time, and had only now realised that her level of patience was minimal at best.
"Come on, Bonbon. This is boring! I wanna go chat to some ponies or something."
Bonbon didn't take her eyes off the prize, the first few stragglers were alighting on the table. All she needed was one pegasus to eat a cupcake, and there'd be a most embarrassing fiasco.
"Hold your horses there, Vinyl. The patient baker gets the best cupcakes, right? Besides, who'd you talk to here? You said you found Octavia stuffy when you met her, and she's not half as high-snouted as all this lot."
Vinyl shrugged, snatching up the last cupcake and flicking it into her mouth. Bonbon couldn't help but think that ponies would have paid to see a seal perform such a trick with a fish.
"Okay, I guess. Besides, Octavia's not all that snobby anymore. She's actually great once you get to know her."
Bonbon halted in her sentry-like pose, before tilting her head slightly in agreement.
"Can't disagree, I guess. I'd say it's more because she got to know you, though. That mare needed that stick pulled out her rump fast. But yeah, now that Lyra's stopped throwing darts at a picture of her-."
"She did that?!"
"She took losing her job hard, needed to blame somepony. Anyway, now that those two are okay with each other, I'm okay with her. Never had a problem with Octavia, Lyra did."
Bonbon's head jolted, aligning smoothly to see a trio of ponies in tight-fitting flight suits trot up beside the booby-trapped cupcakes. She sniggered, waving to Vinyl then at the Wonderbolts. Of all the ponies for this prank to unfold on, these were the perfect candidates.
A mare with a mane of fiery orange shades picked up the first cupcake, taking half the cupcake in one, hungry bite. A contentedly high-pitched moan later, and her fellow performers were delightedly tucking in to the delicious, sugary treats. Bonbon began a steady countdown, and no sooner than when she had reached zero, the mare's wings erupted from her back mid-conversation, with a sound like bedsheets being shaken in the wind. A chain reaction began, as the wings of the other two pegasi gave hers a standing ovation.
Several ponies in the vicinity cried out in outrage, allowing the unlucky victims to know exactly how offended they were by the sight, and that fillies and colts would also be disgusted if they weren't banned from attending such events. The three quite wisely decided to exit the room, while yet more ponies appeared to discover an offended group of ponies present, and felt entirely offended at how offended the other ponies had been after the incident, despite not witnessing it themselves.
It is for such reasons that ponies who feel offended at things in order to gain popularity and attention ended up inducing the Ponitical Correctness laws several years later, that - amongst other things - banned all communication between ponies in case somepony got offended. Thankfully, this was overruled a week later by the We're Not Foals party, and, as a result, is of no consequence to any of the events in this story whatsoever.
Vinyl and Bonbon hadn't joined the offended parties - and the offended at offenses parties - because they were too busy laughing at how offensive their offense had been. Indeed, if anypony hadn't been bickering about the supposed decline of society long enough to hear the pair's raucous laughter, the offenders would have been very obvious to them. Thankfully, high society enjoys complaint as a hobby above all else, and it was long after the last, fitful laughs escaped Vinyl and Bonbon's bodies before the crowd dispersed into their miasma of small talk and mingling once more.
Octavia turned to Lyra, having watched the entire event unfold from the conception of the plan to the ultimate result with a mixture of social horror and repressed laughter. She tried her best to whisper at the unicorn, still playing on in a feat of multi-tasking only mares can really achieve.
"I never thought I'd see the day where I found somepony who was a bad influence on Vinyl."
Lyra shrugged, her lyre staying in place as it floated in its aura of beige magic.
"Didn't take a lot of convincing from what I saw. Hey, at least they're keeping busy."
"I just hope they don't get thrown out."
Lyra chuckled, grasping her lyre once more in her forehooves. Standing while playing may have seemed odd, but it allowed Lyra to play repetitive sequences with her hooves, keeping her magic for more complex and delicate notes. In that way, she essentially played two ponies' music at once. It required a tough regimen of walking hind-legged - and sitting as such - to achieve, but the increase in quality was more than self-evident.
It still gave her an occasional cramp she needed to work out, and she found herself casually shifting from hoof-to-hoof as she spoke.
"Pffft, wing popper? Unlikely. It's the horn relaxant that'll cause all the ruckus."
"Popular with college parties and ponies who dislike unicorns. Funny to watch, but not to be hit with."
Octavia's voice was edged with sharp concern. Magic was something far too temperamental to toy with, as far as she understood it.
"So what results does it have, will anypony get hurt?"
Lyra simply tapped the side of her snout in a coy manner, smiling wryly before turning back to the crowd that milled around before them.
* * * * * *
Delicacy. That is precisely what the next operation in the pranking chain required. Given this prerequisite, it is still unknown to many of the ponies who found out, why exactly Bonbon chose Vinyl to undertake this next maneuver. Especially given that a secondary prerequisite to Vinyl's demeanour is that both subtlety and delicacy were not entirely her forte.
Still, Bonbon had wanted to remove herself from the equation if anypony noticed the next, more risk-laden component of the plan. Vinyl was currently in the process of carefully pouring the solution of horn relaxant into the punch, drip by potent drip. A firm cough disrupted her highly strung and mostly forced concentration, and she yelped, dropping the bottle into the punch whole.
She spun around, certain that she had been discovered. Instead, she found a tall, regal-looking unicorn standing before her. His coat was the purest alabaster, with a golden mane and tail that flowed like a river of silk. Vinyl found herself backing away from his smile, which seemed far more forward than she had preferred.
"Good evening, pea...I mean, my lady. I hope you are enjoying the night?"
Vinyl scratched her head, decided to play this round cagily. She shrugged, opting to give very little in the way of signals back to the stallion.
"Quite enjoyable, yeah."
"Indeed, your coat reminds me of somepony I met at this Gala just last year. Very memorable, if I do say so. However, I can already tell you will be a far better concu - I mean, you are a far better mare overall."
Vinyl chuckled, waving away the compliment.
"I'm...spoken for, m'lud. No offence."
"Where is this stallion who has claimed your hoof? Tell me, so I may order my butler to engage him in gentlecoltly hoofticuffs for you!"
"Shouldn't you be doing that, to win a mare's hoof?"
The unicorn gasped, reeling his head back in theatrical shock.
"I would never stoop to such levels. Not like the vagrant who has claimed you! I, Prince Blueblood, would be a far more fitting stallion!"
"Well. My, 'stallion,' is up on that stage, playing the cello. So, you can understand what I mean when I say, I'm really not interested."
Blueblood's eyes roamed over the ensemble, visibly relaying his confusion to Vinyl.
"I don't understand, that stallion is playing a piano."
"It's the mare at the front, your highness. Octavia Philharmonica, if you like. So, like I said, you're really not my type."
"You mean to say that you are...Urgh! I did not know such...debauchery was present in this Gala! I will have you two cast out for...I can scarcely believe I breathed the same air!"
Vinyl shrugged, slipping to the side to allow Blueblood line-of-sight to the punch bowl.
"I'm very sorry, your highness. I think cleaning your mouth with some punch will help, the waiter tells me it is very enjoyable."
"Far too enjoyable for your lips, harlot!"
Vinyl managed to maintain her icy composure as she walked away, casting a parting glance in Blueblood's direction. She smirked, raising her voice so he would still hear her as she left.
"Oh, trust me, Blueblood. I wouldn't drink a drop of it."
Vinyl cantered over to the corner table, where Bonbon lay in wait, rapidly mounting a seat to wait for the fiasco to unfold. The minutes ticked by as Blueblood downed glass after glass of punch, until they evolved into a fairly large chunk of an hour. After a substantial amount of time had passed - during which Blueblood had harassed another couple of passing mares, and essentially emptied the punch bowl - he left, seemingly oblivious to the bottle laying in the depths of the punch bowl.
Bonbon turned to Vinyl, her expression layered with confusion and suspicion in equal amounts.
"Have you, uhh, have you still got the bottle, Vinyl?"
"No. It fell in when he interrupted me."
Bonbon gasped in shock, gripping Vinyl by the shoulders with a worried expression on her face.
"You mean...he got the whole bottle in one dose?"
"Yeah, how strong was that stuff, anyway?"
Bonbon slid back into her own chair, smiling before opening out into a rugged cackle.
"Oh-ho-ho. Strong enough, now. I think ol' Blueblood's gunna cause quite the commotion. The stronger the dose, the longer it builds up for. I wouldn't recommend standing near him when it does let loose."
Vinyl took the hint from Bonbon's eyes, finding the implications comical enough to hazard a chuckle herself. Beyond her, back on the stage, the ensemble was beginning to pack up, surrendering their stage to a large pack of bulky ponies laden down with decorations and ornaments. Vinyl found the sudden transition to be very intriguing, and leapt from her seat to investigate the matter.
"Hey, Octy, what's with the big changeover?"
Octavia looked up from her case, her previous icy irritation melting away. She quickly sealed up the case with the zip, before carefully setting it on her back so as not to ruffle her dress.
"Thank Celestia that was over, we were...evicted early. Apparently the Hoofie awards of all things are presenting at the latter part of the Gala this year. At least I get paid the same amount for less work, I suppose."
Vinyl seized Octavia, pulling her close in a casual yet tight hug.
"See, my good influence is wearing off on you! You'll make a real good procrastinator one day, Octy."
"I'm amazed that word fits into your vocabulary, it seems too long."
Vinyl smiled, suppressing a laugh before straightening her face. Every time she glimpsed at Octavia, though, the laugh would attempt to force its way out. This obviously caused some indignation on Octavia's part.
"What are you laughing at like a little schoolfilly for?"
Vinyl wiped a tear from her eye, finally having surrendered to the laughter within. She stopped holding her sides, managing to stand on eye level with Octavia again.
"Just...y'know, you made it too easy to say something dirty, there. 'Seems...too long...'"
Octavia lost Vinyl to another bout of laughter, leaving her to crouch on the floor in stitches, while Octavia covered her face and her own laughter with a hoof. However, she found it very difficult to hide the sound of her stuttering giggles, or the bouncing of her shoulders, which only made the scene more hilarious in her eyes.
* * * * * *
"Have you stopped laughing yet?"
"Yeah, yeah, I'm good. Let's watch the awards."
Octavia stood more comfortably, ignoring the irritated whispers from the crowd that had milled around them, congregating towards the now fully prepared stage. Vinyl dusted herself off, her dress still in its fully shimmering condition. That designer had to be a breed of secret alicorn wiccan to create clothing that simply didn't dirty after rolling on one's floor in fits of unrestrained laughter.
The stage suddenly lit up in bright lighting cast from an ethereal plane no one could see, simply magicked out of the air itself. A subdued puff of smoke shrouded the advance of the night's host. Her coat was seemingly made of stardust, glimmering in an enchanting manner and taking her supposedly blonde colouration to another realm of alluring quality. Her hazel mane was in a controlled yet free manedo, cascading down her shoulders, yet held back at her fringe. She smiled, waving out towards the Gala audience, before lighting her horn to create a collar of shimmering, emerald magic around her throat.
"Good evening, ladies and gentlecolts of the Grand Galloping Gala! My name is Champagne Supernova, and I'm here to present to you this year's Hoofie Awards!"
Champagne stroked her throat with a gentle hoof, the band of magic increasing in density as she increased the volume of her megaphone spell.
"We have awards from all disciplines here for you and only you, tonight, our most esteemed guests. The nominees have been selected, and invited as per the requirements to attend. Tonight, we will be presenting you with award winning talent from everywhere from acting to acrobatics, as well as music and the newly integrated category: 'movies.'"
Champagne paused, evidently at a moment on her script when she was expected to allow the audience to applaud. No such event occurred, so she simply winged it and continued on regardless.
"For the first award, we have the Best Actor award. Amongst the shortlist are Robert Whinny Junior for his work in Iron Stallion, Leonardo Dicantero for his role on Trotter Island, and finally we have George Cloney, nominated for his part in The Colts Who Stare at Goats."
An envelope was procured from the pillar in front of Champagne, levitated in a delicate aura of her emerald magic. She carefully began to lightly tussle with the envelope in an effort to open it. Vinyl turned to Octavia, tilting her head in the direction of the awards ceremony.
"So, who do you want to win? My vote's on George Cloney, I love his films."
Octavia shrugged lightly, tilting her head in a motion of careless nonchalance.
"All his movies are the same. Anyway, I'm quite tired, can we just...go home?"
"Ummm, no. Let's just...stay to hear a few more awards, alright?"
Octavia narrowed her eyes at Vinyl, trying her best to guess at what she was planning. She never took an interest in culture or art, not in the time Octavia had known her, at least.
"So you're a massive fan of movies, then?"
"Yeah, of course! They're great on the sound system I got at home. Five-point-one speaker surround!"
"Is that the one composed entirely of subwoofers?"
"Well, and a centre. That's why it's called five-point-one, see?"
Octavia chuckled, watching as Whinny Junior trotted onto the stage, beginning his thankfully rather concise acceptance speech. He only listed off three-hundred crew members to thank, which saved everypony a lot more time than was normal at such proceedings.
"Of course, I'm sure it's amazing. Ponies in Neighjing can probably hear every sound in perfect clarity, in amongst the earthquakes it causes. Can we just go home, now?"
"Pfft, who needs treble tweeters, anyway?"
Octavia awaited the answer to her final question, which she rapidly ascertained wasn't about to arrive. She stepped in front of Vinyl, blocking her view of the stage.
"What are you up to, Vinyl? Why do you want to even stay here, anyway?"
"Uhh, trust me, you'll like it when you find out."
"I'd better, if for one seco-."
Vinyl hissed, silencing Octavia. She sharply nodded her head at the stage, and at Champagne who had just finished surrendering the Best Actress award to its professionally teary-eyed winner. The announcer retrieved another envelope in her emerald aura, and cleared her throat to begin the next run of nominees.
"Next, to change to a different tune and medium, we have the Best Musician award. Picked by the pony, for the pony, these are the musicians who have touched the most ponies' lives with their art. The nominees are; Whisper Echo, for his breakout album Clouds over Canterlot. MC Col-7, for his tour Thunder and Lightning, and finally, Octavia Philharmonica, for her work in her classical concerts."
Octavia very slowly turned round to Vinyl, finding her beaming grin more infuriating than pleasing.
"You mean to tell me, I was nominated...and you knew?"
"Well, pretty much. I wanted it to be a surprise for you!"
Octavia began to gasp for air, panicking for breath as she tried to understand what was going on. Vinyl reached into her dress, retrieving a letter with Octavia's name and cutie mark emblazoned on the front.
"It was hard to keep you from noticing them. I was just glad that your music got recognised, y'know. I knew you'd be here anyway, so I kept them back to make it a surprise...hopefully a really good surprise if you win!"
"But I don't have a speech, how am I even meant to...wait, this is easy. I won't even wi-."
"...And the winner is, Octavia Philharmonica!"
"What the bu-!?"
Octavia's curse was cut short by a roar of applause from around her. She shyly waved, until she noticed Champagne beckoning her to the stage for her Hoofie statue. The pedestal was freed for her to speak into the microphone, though her vocal chords were still very much imprisoned.
"I...well, this is a surprise. A pleasant one. I, sadly, don't have a speech prepared. Well..."
Champagne leapt to her side, helping prompt her along. Partly due to showmarely camaraderie, partly because she needed her to say something worthwhile for the director's cut.
"How about your inspiration? What helped you make the music that enthralled Canterlot?"
Octavia blushed, smiling down at Vinyl in the crowd.
"Well, a very close friend of mine. Miss Vinyl Scratch, who has been...well, very close to me for these last few weeks, and taught me a lot about music and life."
Champagne raised an eyebrow, unveiling a wry smile and a glinting eye to Octavia.
"Why not bring her onto the stage, then? Come on, Vinyl, the inspiration is as essential as the execution."
Vinyl suddenly found the spotlight directed to her, an entourage of cameracolts appearing from the ether to take snapshots of her as she nervously ascended the stairs. She finished her journey at Octavia's side, smilingly somewhat awkwardly due to her nerves. Champagne aimed her microphone at Vinyl's muzzle, acquiring her trademark ex-journalist smile.
"So, how does it feel to be considered the inspiration for such an excellent musician?"
Vinyl coughed slightly, her cheeks filling with a torrent of embarrassment.
"Well, it's...the best feeling in the world. I've always thought Octy was amazing, even if she was too snooty to let anypony tell her. I'm just glad that she thinks the same of me."
The microphone slowly tracked back to Octavia, and her rosy cheeked expression at the gushing compliment from out of nowhere.
"Well, I have to say, I've searched high and low, and yet there's nopony out there like you. Not a colt or filly so idiotic, so stubborn, yet...so capable of making me smile."
The mic was whisked away, as Champagne pointed it back at her own muzzle. She smiled at the pair for a moment, before turning back to the audience.
"Well everypony, let's give it up for Octavia, and her fillyfriend, Vinyl Scratch!"
A roar of applause cut out the pair's confused stammering, as Champagne gently led them off the stage. They turned back around to her before departing the stage, finding her standing before them with a beaming grin.
"What? It's not as if I couldn't tell you two were together. Reminds me of when I met Morning Glory, ah, she's still got the bright smile you two have. Oh, anyway, show's gotta go on!"
Champagne trotted back to her pedestal, showmarely professionalism still reassembling as she reasserted her mane. She chuckled in exasperation, before beginning the announcement of the next award winner. Somehow, she felt the acceptance speech would be slightly less sappy, this time.
Vinyl turned away, beginning to leave the stage as Octavia followed in her wake. The pair passed Princess Celestia, who smiled to the pair as they crossed each other. After they left her sight, they overheard a colt in the royal guard uniform was standing before her, rushing off a report to her.
"...He just completely disappeared, ran off with some of the Neighjing acrobatics team to join their circus. We think he's gone insane, your highness! We found a bottle of these narcotics in the Punch he was drinking, seemingly of his possession..."
Princess Luna appeared at the far doorway, hastening towards her sister with a small squad of her bat-winged guards. She cantered in front of Celestia, blocking her casual strolling pace as the guard - now low on oxygen, with his grey coat turning violet - still relayed his knowledge on the incident to her.
"Sister, I hath mustered my guardsmen. Pray tell, where shall we begin the search?"
Princess Celestia yawned, stretching out somewhat more dramatically than she intended to.
"I say we call off the search for tonight, the weather is terrible for it."
The view from outside the bay windows presented a beautiful night of cloudless serenity, with a full moon dominating the skyscape.
"Sister? It is as flawless a night as one could hope for."
"Is it now? Ah, no look...terrible."
Celestia tutted as a sudden cloud formation came seemingly from out of nowhere, covering the sky in grey clouds and darkness . Celestia smiled, winking to Luna before she trotted away. She turned her head over her shoulder, parting with one, last sentence.
"I suppose we'd better leave it until tomorrow, sister."
Octavia and Vinyl had watched the entire charade, giggling lightly to each other as a still slightly confused Princess Luna decided to polish off the last of the hors d'ouevres. Octavia started towards the door, before noticing that Vinyl hadn't opted to follow her. She turned around, noticing an uncharacteristically nervous grin on her face.
"Vinyl, aren't you coming?"
"Oh, yeah. Let's go out this door, though, Octavia. I think...it'll be quicker."
Octavia stared at the side door in abject confusion, before she simply decided to go along with the request. Vinyl still carried a somewhat worried stumble in her step, as she trotted to open the door for Octavia.
The garden beyond the door seemed to be the home of all the triumphs nature had ever achieved. Flora and fauna of all beautiful forms and species filled every space, yet they left enough room for two starry-eyed and awe-struck ponies to stroll together in its midst. Vinyl found what she was looking for, a clearing in the centre of the paradisaical setting, large enough for a sizable group of ponies to stand in comfortably. She guided Octavia towards it, somewhat less subtly than she had hoped for. Octavia smiled as she found herself being gently shunted into the clearing.
They stared at each other for a moment, while Octavia noted the manner in which Vinyl hopped from hoof to hoof. It was how she always acted when she was nervous, Octavia had found. Her eyes turned downwards, her hooves became restless, and she bit her lip incessantly.
"I must say, that horn relaxant had quite...dramatic results."
"Oh, yeah. It can drive a colt to anything, he coulda done worse than some acrobats though. Hehe, yeah..."
Octavia picked up Vinyl's head by the chin, levelling her eyes with Octavia's own. She smiled for a moment, and it seemed to settle her restlessness slightly.
"You brought me out here for a reason, didn't you, Vinyl?"
Vinyl scratched her head, her eyes roaming around the trees laden with floral arrangements and strange, exotic birds. She coughed to clear her throat, before she centred her attention back on Octavia.
"Do you remember that night when you asked me, 'Where are we going with this, Vinyl?'"
"Yes, and I remember that you didn't have an answer that night."
Vinyl lightly scuffed the ground with her forehoof, glancing between the earth and the earth pony before her.
"Well, I've been thinking about it ever since. I think...I think I know where we're going."
She focused her eyes, locking on to Octavia's own. Avoiding them made her nervous, gazing into them washed it all away.
"We're gunna get a house together. With a big garden for sunbathing and growing food, and a spare bedroom for if we ever have guests. It'll have a sweet kitchen, so we can cook stuff from the garden, and for each other..."
Octavia giggled at the claim. They both knew only one of them should legally be allowed to cook.
"Octy, come on...right, and we'll have a veranda right up the front. So that later on, when we both get old and cranky together, we can sit there on rocking chairs, waving our sticks at these young fillies and moaning about how good they've got it."
"I would love to see that, Vinyl."
Vinyl smiled, restraining the tears that mobbed the corners of her eyes. She had never been one for deeply emotive thinking. It was quite new to her.
"I haven't even mentioned the best part, yet. The best part, is that we wouldn't rent the house or anything. No, we'd buy it, so it'd be ours forever."
She sat down on her rump, trying to clear her throat. She had rehearsed this moment at every moment she wasn't with Octavia, and it had still not made it easier.
"Just...just like you, Octavia Philharmonica. I...I want you to be mine, forever, if you'll take me."
She pulled out a box from her dress, gently teasing open the latch with the tip of her hoof. The hinge swung open to reveal a pair of radiant gold bands, each band the width of a pony's leg. One had a treble clef, cut from a solid amethyst. The other was a deep, black onyx note. Octavia clasped a hoof to her mouth, gasping through her joyful tears. Vinyl held her own tears back all the harder, she couldn't allow them to ruin her recital. She cleared her throat, with one, last verse to say.
"By Princess' will,
Through good or ill,
Our souls entwined,
'Til the end of time."
Vinyl finally found the courage to look up, finding Octavia in fits of unrelentingly happy tears. At the moment, she couldn't hold her own back any longer.
"So...will you marry me?"
Octavia tackled Vinyl in a cripplingly tight, tear-spattered, kiss-smattered, bear-like hug. She worked her way through her own emotion to whisper in Vinyl's ear as they lay on the grass together.
"How could I ever say no?"