After they finished eating, Sonnet led Fluttershy and Applejack to Tight Deadline's office, a rather imposing-looking building on one of the busiest streets in Canterlot.
"Deadline is the head editor of the Silver Horn," Sonnet explained as she magically opened the door for the two other ponies and they stepped into the lobby. "It's the biggest literary magazine in Canterlot. Being published in the Horn is a huge honor."
"Have you ever been published in the Silver Horn?" Fluttershy asked.
"No…" Sonnet said with a sigh. "Deadline doesn't like my work. She says it's good on a technical level, but it's too sentimental for her tastes. It's not the kind of content she wants in her magazine."
"What about the other magazines?" Applejack asked.
"They reject my work for the same reasons," Sonnet said. She looked over at her cutie mark, a quill and a page with writing on it. "I know writing poetry is my special talent, but I haven't been able to get a job doing it yet…"
"You just need to find the right audience," Fluttershy said. "And you need a chance to prove to everypony that happy writing is worth reading."
Applejack stomped her hoof on the floor. "She's right!" the earth pony said. "You should tell Sonnet to put one of your poems in the Silver Horn! Who knows, the magazine might start to sell even better!"
Sonnet's eyes widened. "I—I guess it couldn't hurt to ask," she said. She clopped over to the unicorn receptionist. "Excuse me," she said, "but could you tell Tight Deadline that her friend Sonnet needs to speak to her?"
"Deadline's a very busy mare," the receptionist said, barely glancing up at Sonnet from the pages of the magazine she was reading. "Any personal business will have to wait until she's out of the office."
"It's—it's sort of urgent," Sonnet said.
"Fine," the receptionist said, pulling out a scroll and a quill. "But don't expect to get in to see her," she said as she scribbled the message on the scroll, rolled it up, and magically sent it into a chute on the wall.
"You're doing great," Fluttershy said to Sonnet, who kept shifting her weight nervously while they waited for a reply.
Suddenly another scroll shot down the chute. The receptionist magically grabbed it and opened it. "She says she's busy," the mare said, "and that she told you not to bother her while she's working."
"Is work all that pony thinks about?" Applejack asked with a frown. "I mean, yeah, puttin' in a good day's work is important and all, but ignorin' a friend for it?" She looked around and spotted an elevator, and charged toward it. "C'mon, girls!" she said. "I'm sick and tired of Deadline's attitude!"
"Hey!" the receptionist said as Sonnet and Fluttershy followed the earth pony. "You can't just go up there!"
"I'm sorry," Sonnet said, "but I agree with Applejack! I need Deadline to listen to me and I'm tired of being pushed around by her!" Before the receptionist could stop them, they piled into the elevator, and Sonnet punched the button for the top floor.
As the elevator rose, Sonnet looked more and more confident and determined. "You're right," she said to Applejack and Fluttershy. "I've had enough of Deadline treating me so poorly. And I'm going to fix it."
The elevator doors opened and she led them down the hall, to a door with a frosted window that said "HEAD EDITOR" on it. Sonnet rapped at the door with one hoof.
"What is it?" Deadline asked sharply from inside.
Sonnet opened the door. "D-Deadline," she stammered. She cleared her throat. "Deadline—I'm not happy with our friendship! I don't like the writing club, so I won't be going anymore! I won't write a depressing story about dragons! And I need you to treat me nicer, including not insulting my favorite restaurant to my face!" She took a deep breath. "And… I would like you to please publish one of my poems in the Silver Horn! Ponies need to read things that are uplifting and happy, not constantly dwell on misery and drama!"
Deadline, who had paused in sifting through submissions, stared at Sonnet for a long moment. Her eyes flicked to Fluttershy and Applejack, and the red unicorn frowned at her so-called "friend". "You need to get a reality check!" Deadline said, stepping away from the desk to stomp toward Sonnet. "You're such a nag, you know that? I'm tired of you breathing down my neck!"
Sonnet looked terrified, but she stood her ground. "I'm not nagging you!" the pink unicorn whinnied. "I'm asking for common decency! I've devoted myself to you for years, and all I've gotten in return is criticism, rejection, and getting my sensitivities trampled on! I don't deserve that!"
Deadline wrinkled her snout as though she smelled something horrible. "W-well," she said, "I don't deserve your complaining! Without my critique, you wouldn't be half the writer you are today! You wouldn't know anypony in the writing community!"
"Neither of those things were worth it," Sonnet said, "if they came with me feeling anxious and worthless all the time! I could have found a healthier way to get both!" She held her head high. "If you're not going to give me the respect and kindness I want in a friendship… then I don't think I can be friends with you anymore."
Deadline glowered at her and magically grabbed the doorknob. "Fine," the editor said icily. "I don't want to be friends with you anymore, either. I don't need you."
"And I don't need you," Sonnet said, turning back to the hall as Deadline slammed the door behind her. The pink unicorn stared at the carpet for a moment, as though struggling to process what had just happened. Then, she looked up at Fluttershy and Applejack. "I… I was hoping that would go better," she said.
"I'm sorry, sugarcube," Applejack said. "But Deadline really showed her true colors just now. There's no way you should hang out with a pony like that."
Sonnet swallowed hard and nodded. "You're right," she said. "But… now I'm alone again."
The receptionist came galloping down the hall. "I told you—" she panted, "not to disturb—"
"Don't worry," Sonnet said. "I won't bother Deadline anymore. I promise." She trudged numbly past the confused receptionist, and Fluttershy and Applejack followed her into the elevator and back to the lobby.
At the doors to the street outside, Sonnet paused, staring out at all the busy ponies walking by. "I'm alone," she choked.
Behind her, Fluttershy looked to Applejack. "I… I hope we did the right thing," the pegasus said quietly. "I never thought we'd have to solve a friendship problem by ending a friendship."
"I guess some friendships were never meant to be," Applejack said. "Just goes to show how important it is to pick the right friends."
Fluttershy nodded and looked back at her flank. "Our cutie marks aren't flashing," she said. "What if we made a mistake?"
"I was thinkin' the same thing," Applejack said, "but I can't shake the feelin' in my gut that what we did was right."
"I wish we could find her a new friend," Fluttershy said. "One who would actually like her poe—ohhh." Her eyes widened. "We do know a pony who would like her poetry. Remember?"
Applejack grimaced. "I ain't so sure that's a good idea," she said. She looked back at Sonnet, who slowly opened the door and clopped back out onto the street. "But… I guess it's worth a shot."
"Wow, the palace is beautiful!" Sonnet said as Fluttershy and Applejack led her through the halls. "I've never been inside before—it's more than I ever dreamed!" Her hooves echoed on the marble floors as she looked back at her saddlebags nervously. "Are you sure somepony here wants to read my work?"
"Absolutely," Applejack said. "But remember—you deserve to be treated right by your friends, got it? You don't take any guff from anypony anymore!"
"I won't," Sonnet said. "And I think that now that I've seen what bad friends look like, I'll be able to know a good friend when I see them."
They stopped in front of a pair of large doors, and Fluttershy pushed them open, peeking inside. "Oh good, he's here," the pegasus said before ushering Sonnet into Celestia's library.
The unicorn's eyes widened as she stared at the vast collection of books. "I wonder how long it would take to read all of these," she said.
"Probably about as long as Celestia's been alive," Applejack said with a laugh. "C'mon, we'd like you to meet somepony."
Sitting at one of the study tables was Prince Blueblood, and when he saw the three he rose from his seat and trotted over to them. "You must be Miss Sonnet," he said to the other unicorn, politely taking her front hoof. "It's an honor to meet you. I've heard great things about your poetry."
"Ah—thank you, Your Highness," Sonnet said, looking utterly shocked. She glanced over at Fluttershy and Applejack as if to ask if this was really happening, and they grinned at her.
"May I take a look at your work?" Blueblood asked.
"Oh—of course," Sonnet said, magically opening her saddlebag and pulling out her notebook. As she passed it over to Blueblood's magical grip, she said, "Sorry if it's a little disorganized… and I know my writing could be neater…"
Blueblood smiled as he flipped open the cover and began carefully reading the first poem. "It looks just fine to me," he said. "You have very nice penponyship."
Sonnet blushed. "Thanks," she said.
As the prince read, his expression changed into something less politely pleasant and more thoughtful. It was evident that he was truly immersed in the poet's writing, absorbing it both in mind and heart. When he finished, he let out a deep sigh. "That was beautiful," he said. "What a lovely, peaceful poem. It's so much better than the ugly anger I keep seeing in those lit mags."
"I think so, too," Sonnet said. "I mean—no offense to those writers, I know they're trying their hardest and they're very good on a technical level—"
"Technical skill isn't everything," Blueblood said, "especially not in art. And I like your art far better than theirs. It speaks to my soul in good ways."
"Good," Sonnet said. "It's supposed to."
"I wish I saw more pieces like yours in the magazines," Blueblood said. Suddenly his eyes lit up. "That's it! How would you like to help me start a new publication? One that focuses on uplifting writing?"
Sonnet's jaw dropped. "I—I'd love to!" she said. "I'll bet there are other writers in Canterlot who haven't been able to get their cheerful writing published, either! That would be the perfect venue for them!"
"Splendid!" Blueblood said. "We'll have to start planning for that right away! What are you doing for the rest of the day?"
"Nothing, really," Sonnet said. "I thought I might organize some of my older work at home, but I'd be happy to put that on hold to help you out."
Blueblood paused. "Only if you want to," he said. "I wouldn't want you to sacrifice your projects for my sake. What do you want to do?"
Sonnet smiled. "I want to help you out," she said. "But thank you for asking. It really means a lot to me."
"Of course," Blueblood said, returning her smile. "That's what friends do. Would you like to go for dinner afterward? Have any restaurants you like?"
"Have you ever heard of the Tasty Treat?" Sonnet asked.
"I've heard of it, yes," Blueblood said, "but I haven't gotten around to trying it yet." He grimaced. "It can be difficult to go out in public when you're royalty—I can't even look at most mares without them swooning. Thank you, by the way, for not doing that."
Sonnet chuckled. "I figured that must drive you crazy," she said. "And I'm not that superficial. Don't worry—if anypony gives us trouble at dinner, they'll have to go through me first."
"That's sweet of you," Blueblood said, "but I'd hate to get you caught up in all that drama. Just ignore them—I'm sure it'll be easier for me to do just that when I'm in the company of somepony I actually enjoy being around."
Sonnet's grin stretched from ear to ear. "I hope I can be good company for you," she said.
"I think you will be," Blueblood said. "And an excellent business partner, besides. Shall we get started on those plans?" He pulled up a quill and a scroll.
"Yes, let's!" Sonnet said, and the two trotted over to the table, still chatting merrily with each other.
Fluttershy's and Applejack's cutie marks flashed. The two smiled at each other.
"Hoof bump?" Applejack asked, offering her hoof.
Fluttershy clapped her own hoof against it. "I'm so glad it all worked out," the pegasus said.
"Me too," Applejack said as they made their way out of the library. "It always does, as long as we don't give up." She grinned. "Want to get more Tasty Treat to go, for the train ride home?"
"Definitely!" Fluttershy said.