The summoned baby dragon rushed through the crystal corridors at the sound of the call. He skidded to a stop in front of the throne room’s doors and flung them open with a dramatic flourish. "What is it?" he asked as he crossed the room’s threshold. "Has another monster escaped from the Everfree Forest? Did another villain escape from Tartarus? Did the map summon you to a remote part of Equestria to solve a friendship problem?"
"Worse," was Twilight's solemn reply. The lavender alicorn was sitting down on her throne, surrounded by stacks of books and papers. One heavy volume lay open in front of her, and her eyes were fixed on its pages.
Spike glanced around at the mountain of literature that surrounded Twilight, and then looked up and her distraught face. "One of the books is damaged?" he guessed in a much less urgent tone.
Spike scratched his head. "Uh... You're reading a novel that ends with the heroine dying and you want to send a petition to the author to rewrite the ending because of your emotional trauma?"
"Huh," Spike said thoughtfully. "I didn’t think it could get any worse than that."
"Spike, this is serious!" Twilight exclaimed. "This discovery could shatter the peace of Equestria!"
"So... why don't you just undiscovered whatever you discovered so it will be like you never discovered it?"
"It doesn't work that way, Spike," Twilight replied. "Once information enters the world, it cannot be destroyed. It can only be suppressed for so long before it resurfaces."
"And that's not all," Twilight continued. Her face twitched erratically as her rant rolled on. "Suppressing information could lead to political disasters and civil unrest. If one book is banned for containing politically dangerous information and somepony finds out, then ponies across Equestria would be in an uproar. They would protest for government transparency. There would be riots on the streets! The peace of Equestria would be shattered and villains like Queen Chrysalis and Tirek would be able to march into our country unopposed!"
"But what about the Starswirl the Bearded wing? It's existed for ages and no one has complained about it yet."
"That's only what you think! There have been petitions by the noble class to loosen the restrictions Celestia set in place centuries ago. Some ponies even want dark magic to be allowed to be taught in schools! Can you believe that?"
“They don’t understand that some information must be restricted to those who are capable of handling the responsibility that comes with it. After all with great knowledge, comes great responsibility.”
"Which is why this information must addressed and dealt with as soon as possible! It is my duty as the Princess of Friendship to maintain the stable tranquility of Equestria!"
"You have fun with that." Spike slowly turned around. "Well, since there's no emergency, I'll be going—"
"This is an emergency!" Twilight exclaimed.
“What is? I still don’t have a clue what in the hay you’re talking about!”
“Haven’t you been listening to a word I’ve been saying?”
“You’ve been ranting about riots and restrictions, how am I supposed to understand any of that? I don’t speak politician!”
Twilight used her magic to toss a notebook to Spike. "Read the underlined section," she ordered.
"Does this have to do with book burnings?"
"We don't have time for this, Spike! Read!"
Spike sighed and rolled his eyes. “To summarize, an addiction has four stages: Experimental, Social, Instrumental, and Compulsive,” he read aloud. He paused and raised an eyebrow. “Addiction?”
“The Experimental stage is when the subject first tries the substance for the sake of the initial experience. The Social stage is when the subject indulges in the substance for social conformity and acceptance. The Instrumental stage is when the subject becomes dependant on the substance to function normally and maintain their emotional balance. The Compulsive stage is when the subject is completely obsessed with the substance. They devote their entire to consuming the substance, but try to keep their obsession a secret.” Spike blinked slowly.
“Now do you see what I mean?” Twilight asked.
“You’re addicted to books?”
Spike scratched the scales of his chin thoughtfully. "Well, that fits in with the Compulsive stage of addiction."
Twilight blushed. "That's not important!" she protested.
"Then why am I reading this?" Spike asked as he waved the notebook in the air. "Twilight, you're not making a lot of sense."
"Just think about it," Twilight responded. "Can you think of a pony who has an obsession that could potentially ruin their lives?”
“Sure can! You.”
“I told you before, this isn’t about me!”
“I thought you said that your addiction wasn’t important,” said Spike with a raised eyebrow. “Twilight, are you feeling okay?”
“It’s not about me I tell you! It’s about the Prin—” Twilight covered her mouth with her hooves, but she was obviously too late.
“The Princess?” Spike asked. "Wait, are you talking about Princess Celestia and her cakes?"
Twilight glanced back and forth frantically. "Shh!" she hissed. "This a question of national security!"
"If anypony finds out that Princess Celestia has a severe cake addiction do you know what could happen?"
"Ponies could accuse her of being a poor ruler! Ponies could slip poison into one of her cakes in an assassination attempt! Ponies could add cake as the sixth food group!"
"That wouldn't be so bad," said Spike. His mouth watered as he imagined eating a large, warm gemcake. He rubbed his belly longingly.
"It would be a disaster!" Twilight exclaimed. "We must do something about this!"
"Are you sure Princess Celestia is even addicted to cakes? What if she just likes them?"
"Have you seen her eat cake?"
"Loves them then," Spike amended. "Just because she loves something, that doesn't mean she's addicted to it."
This made Twilight pause. "You could be right," she admitted. “But you could be wrong. We need to get to the bottom of this.”
“So why don’t we just ask Celestia if she’s addicted to cake?”
Twilight shook her head. “No, that’s too direct. She would only deny our accusations. If we’re going to get the truth from her, we’ll have to be clever.”
“...Well, this is going to go well.”
After lowering the sun and giving up her duties to Luna, Celestia wanted nothing more than to return to her chambers and rest. She already had the rest of the evening mapped out in her mind. First, she would enjoy a nice quiet dinner in her room. Nothing too fancy of course, just a daisy and lily salad with some hayseed soup and Prench croissant. After her meal, she would amuse herself by rereading some of Twilight's friendship reports. Then, she would curl up in her bed and enjoy a sweet night under the covers.
Meeting with Twilight and Spike was nowhere in that plan.
"This was a rather... sudden visit," Celestia commented. The two alicorns and lone dragon were sitting in Celestia's study. The room was rather large, but the rows of shelves and assortment of scattered cushions made the room gave the room a cozy and intimate atmosphere. The three had cups of tea sitting in front of them, but no one had yet taken a sip of the fragrant concoction.
"I just wanted to drop in for a visit," Twilight replied. Her hoof idly scratched her bangs as she said this.
Celestia did not allow her face to change from its serene neutral expression. "As much as I appreciate the visit, I would prefer if would kindly send me a letter before dropping in unannounced."
"Sorry." Twilight shifted in her seat.
Celestia sighed softly. She looked at Spike, who was taking great care to only look at the floor, the ceiling, and the tea swirling in his cup. She turned back to Twilight, who was staring deep into her teacup as if it had the meaning of life in its steaming brew. Celestia waited patiently through several moments of silence.
"So," Twilight began slowly as she finally looked up from her tea. "Princess Celestia—"
"Twilight, remember, you do not have to refer to me by my title," Celestia reminded the young mare. The calm and patient smile on the white alicorn's face betrayed none of the frustration and suspicion that welled inside her.
"Yes, Prin—I mean, Celestia!" Twilight replied immediately.
Celestia allowed one of her eyebrows to rise ever so slightly. "Is something the matter?" she asked gently.
Celestia permitted herself a small and knowing nod as she returned her attention to her tea. It was a nice fruity blend of orange, pineapple, and mango. The aroma was simply refreshing, reminding of the time a few centuries back when she had visited the tropics on a diplomatic visit. She considered visiting there again, especially since Luna would be there to cover her cuties for a few days. The tea had a sweet but tangy flower, which was both soothing and awakening at the same time. The rich orange color reminded her of sunset, the time that she relinquished her responsibilities for the day. Thinking about her tea allowed Celestia to pass the time in a very calming manner.
Eventually, Twilight interrupted Celestia’s train of thought. "Would you mind if I asked you a question?"
"Of course you can, Twilight," Celestia replied with a small smile.
"Well..." Twilight scuffed her hoof against the ground. "Do you..." She finished the question in an unintelligible mumble.
"What was that? I'm afraid couldn't hear you clearly."
Twilight bit her bottom lip. "Do you, um, like..."
Twilight looked at Spike with wide, pleading eyes.
The young dragon sighed, though Celestia couldn’t tell if it was out of exasperation or nervousness. "Twilight wants to know if you like cake," Spike stated.
Princess Celestia sat in silence for several shocked seconds.
Twilight's eyes widened. Her heart started beating so loudly she feared it jump into her tea. Her pupils dilated as her breathing became short and frenzied. She looked into Celestia’s eyes, fearful of what was to come.
Celestia cool, collected expression slowly began to slip. The edges of her lips curled upwards. From her gut, a rumble emerged. She tried to hold it down, but it was uncontainable. It climbed up her throat, gaining power as it went. Hysterical laughter erupted from Celestia’s throat, filling the room with its merriment.
Well, it was hysterical to her at least. Twilight and Spike thought she was only laughing politely, which was still surprising, considering the circumstances.
"Of course I like cake, Twilight!" Celestia replied with a grin as she struggled to replace the lid on her laughter. "You know, I'll let you in on a little secret." She leaned closer to Twilight and said with a small giggle, "When I'm going through a particularly exhausting day, I just tell myself that there's a large and delicious cake waiting for me at the of it."
"Cake is that important to you?"
Celestia was so high in her euphoric state that she missed the tremble of worry in Twilight's voice and replied, "Cake is very important to me. I don't think I would be able to get through my day without at least one slice of cake.” She winked. “But don't tell anyone. This is our little secret."
“Does L-luna know?”
"Oh, she knows I like cake," Celestia replied. "But not even she knows the lengths I go to get my daily dose of deliciousness."
By now, Twilight appeared to be quite a bit more lavender and considerable less purple. "Th-thanks for y-your t-time, P-Princess," she stammered. She threw Spike on her back and made a hasty escape from the room.
Celestia gave the fleeting form of her former pupil a strange look, but decided not to question her actions. After all, Twilight was a mature and responsible Princess now. Whatever she was doing, Celestia was confident that she was doing it to the best of her judgement.
Twilight sat down her throne with eyebrows scrunched into deep thought. Her eyes were open in slits so narrow Spike couldn’t tell where they were aimed.
"So... what now?"
Twilight turned to Spike with bloodshot eyes. "What now? What now? Now, we have a crisis on our hooves!"
Spike wondered how Twilight's eyes became bloodshot so quickly, but decided against pointing the change out. "What's the crisis?" he asked instead.
"Didn't you hear what Celestia said?"
"She loves cake?"
"She said, and I quote, 'I get through rough days by thinking about cake. Without cake I wouldn't be able to get through a single day.'"
"I don't think she said it quite like that—"
"You can’t argue with a quote!"
"If you say so, Twilight," Spike sighed.
Twilight got up from her throne and began pacing. "Let's see, we know that Princess Celestia is addicted to cake."
"You think she's addicted," Spike muttered under his breath.
"We also know that this information is a matter of national security."
"Additionally, we know Celestia trusts us to keep her secret."
"Therefore, I can determine our method of attack."
"Sure—wait, what? Twilight, you’re not planning treason, are you?"
Twilight shook her head vigorously. "I'm not going to hurt Celestia! You know me better than that, Spike! Method of attack is just a figure of speech.”
Spike scratched the back of his neck. "I knew that," he said with a sheepish grin.
"Sure you did," Twilight responded with a roll of her eyes. "It's time to get serious, Spike. We need to help Princess Celestia break her cake addiction."
Spike rolled his eyes, but decided that some battles were better left unfought. "Assuming she does have a cake addiction, do we really have to break it?" he asked. "I mean, it's not like she's hurting anyone."
"She's not hurting anypony, but her addiction will. Aside from possibly being used against her in an assassination plot, the high amount of sugar in her bloodstream could be disastrous to her health."
"But isn't she immor—"
"And when I say health, I don’t mean only her physical health! Just think about what the sugar and all those other additives they put in cake icing could do to her mental health! It'll make her hyperactive! Her emotional state will deteriorate! She'll gradually lose her ability to think critically!"
"But she's been eating cake and ruling—"
"If Celestia doesn't function as she usually does, the nation would call into panic! Ponies would claim her to be incompetent and refuse to follow her rule!”
“I don’t think anypony has the motivation to—”
“And if she isn’t ruling Equestria, who would keep the country running?"
"Well, there‘s you, and Princess Luna, and Princess Cadence—"
"That is why we must cure Celestia of her addiction before it's too late!"
Spike crossed his arms and huffed. "Have you been listening to anything I've been saying?" The baby dragon asked with a deadpan glare.
"What was that, Spike?" Twilight asked as she shifted her attention to him. "I wasn't listening."
"Never mind..." Spike grumbled. "Don't worry about your number one assistant."
Twilight shrugged and grabbed a stack of papers that were lying next to her throne. "Now, I've done my research on how to approach somepony with an addiction. We will need to be tactful and understanding above all else. Otherwise, she could feel pressured and become unresponsive or uncooperative. Hmm, perhaps we should bring Luna into this. She would be able to understand and connect with Celestia on a deeper level than I could. After being separated for a thousand years due to Luna going mad with power, Celestia would definitely cave to her sister’s begging and pleading! Hmm… now all I need to do is convince Luna to beg."
A disturbing image flashed through Spike’s mind. "How about we leave other ponies out of this for now?" he suggested as sweat dripped from his brow despite his lack of sweat glands. "I mean you know Celestia well enough to confront her without crowding her with other ponies, right?"
Twilight pondered this for a moment. "A reasonable idea, Spike! I should make sure to keep this matter between as few ponies as possible. I’m glad you were paying attention!"
"Just doing my job with a cool a head!" Spike replied with a nervous chuckle. “Unlike somepony…”
"Hmm..." Twilight rubbed her hoof against the underside of her chin. "But now what should I say to her? Maybe there's something in my books that can help."
Spike intercepted Twilight before she could leave her room. "I don't think you should look in any more of your books for a while, Twilight."
"Because, uh..." Spike's face blanched as he tried to come up with the right words.
"Because I... uh, have... um, full confidence in… your ability to reason with Princesses Celestia!" Spike replied with as much enthusiasm as he could muster. "This sounds like a serious friendship problem, and as the Princess of Friendship, you are able to deal with this better than a book could."
Spike tapped his claws together as he waited for Twilight to respond. Two seconds passed. Then a third. Finally, Twilight nodded slowly. "Thanks, Spike, I needed that," she said with a small smile. A gentle yawn erupted from her throat. "How about we hit the hay and deal with this tomorrow?"
"Sure thing, Twilight!" Spike replied with genuine enthusiasm. He happily skipped out of her room and ducked into the hallway. He let out a breath he didn't know he had been holding as he wiped the back of his claws against his brow.
"Oh, and Spike?"
Spike froze. He turned around and stuck his head back into Twilight's room. "Yes?" He asked as he tapped his claws together behind his back.
"Before you go, I need you to send a letter."
Princess Celestia had the morning planned out. She would wake up an hour before she had to raise the sun to have some personal Celestia time. She would be able to catch up on a book on the legend of Seaponies. She would then have breakfast with Luna before her younger sister returned the task of guarding of Equestria to her. Then she would have to steel her nerves in preparation for the day court…
It was a welcome, although concerning surprise to wake up finding a scroll lying on her bed. She immediately knew that it came from her former pupil, but she couldn't find a good reason for Twilight to send her a letter in the middle of the night. Her face taut with concern, she unfurled the letter and began to read.
"I'm so glad you could make time for us, Celestia!"
Celestia gave the Twilight and Spike a serene smile. "I always can make time for you two," she replied. "And I was especially glad to receive a prior notice."
Twilight smiled sheepishly. "Yeah, that was rude of me to drop in last night," she admitted. "I hope I didn't interrupt anything important."
"Nothing is too important to keep from spending my free time with you," Celestia replied honestly. "Spike, are you feeling well? I have not known you to be so silent."
Spike jumped. "Um, it’s nothing!" he protested.
Celestia raised an eyebrow as she watched the young dragon “discreetly” nod to Twilight.
The young alicorn cleared her throat. "Celestia, there is something I need to talk to you about."
Celestia raised an eyebrow. "Does it have to do with cake?" she guessed.
"Well…” Twilight glanced at Spike, who nodded encouragingly. “In a way, yes," Twilight replied hesitantly.
"There's no need for you to worry, Twilight. You can ask me anything," said Celestia as she took a sip of her tea. Twilight was silent, so Celestia focused on her delicious brew. It was sweet, herbal blend this time, with a well balanced mix of lemongrass and—
"Are you addicted to cake?"
Celestia immediately regretted taking that moment to take a sip of her calming concoction.
"What brought up that particular question?" Celestia asked after the resulting mess had been cleaned up.
Twilight hung her head, letting her gaze drop somewhere between the table and her newly dried bangs. "I recently ordered new books on various topics of psychology," the young alicorn explained. "One of the volumes contained information on addiction. As I was looking through it, I realized that you expressed some of the symptoms." Twilight raised her head to make eye contact with the larger mare. "I know that my question was undeniably rude, and you have the full right to refuse to answer it. But I just want you to know, whether you have an addiction problem or not, it will not change my opinion of you. You have been my mentor and best friend for many years of my life, and it will take more than one issue to destroy the bond we have."
Celestia looked at her former pupil with wide eyes. It took her a moment to find her voice. "Twilight, it took great courage for you to talk to me about this," she said as a small and proud grin crossed her face. "I will answer you truthfully. I will admit that I have a great love for cake. However, I do not believe I am 'addicted' in the sense you are referring to."
"See? I told you had nothing to worry about!" said Spike.
“B-but you had all the signs! You love cake, and when I brought the topic up all you could do was go on and on about how much you needed it! Where did I go wrong?”
“Twilight, I only talked about cake in that way because of the circumstances surrounding the question,” Celestia replied. “To illustrate, Spike, what would you say if I asked you about gemcakes right before you went to sleep?”
Spike’s mouth immediately watered. “Gemcakes… delicious… delectable… gemckaes...”
“Exactly. When ponies—or dragons—are asked about their favorite desserts when they are tired, they tend to talk a lot without thinking about what they are actually saying.”
Twilight blushed furiously, but Celestia gently rested the tip of her wing on the smaller mare's back. "You nevertheless made the right decision confronting me. Most ponies would not have taken the initiative to speak out when they noticed something wrong. When you notice that a close friend has a problem, it is usually a good thing to approach them and confront her or him in a gentle and understanding way. You did an excellent job, Twilight, especially since this is the first time you have encountered such a problem."
"Thank you, Celestia," said Twilight. "And for once, I'm glad I was wrong. Oh, and I’m sorry for disturbing you so late again."
"There is no need to apologize again," Celestia assured her. "I always welcome a visit from you. Just keep in mind, it might be better to send a letter next time instead of taking an entire train ride to Canterlot in the middle of the night."
Twilight smiled at her sheepishly. "I’ll make sure to remember that." She stood up from her soft, silk seat. "Spike and I should probably go back to Ponyville now. It’s well past Spike’s bed time.”
“I can see." Celestia turned to Spike, who was snoring softly on his cushion, muttering about gem-based confectionaries. “Have a safe trip.”
“Good night, Celestia."
"Good night, Twilight Sparkle and Spike."
After the two had disappeared in a blinding flash of lavender light, Celestia rose from her reclined position. She strolled out of her small study and walked down the halls to her room, making sure to keep her serene smile stuck to her face the entire time. When she finally reached her room and gently shut the door behind her, she flopped down on her bed in a very undignified manner."It has been such a long day," she said with a sigh. With a pop of her magic, she summoned a triple layered vanilla cake covered in thick frosting from her secret stash. "Luckily, I've had you to look forward to."