• Published 25th Aug 2018
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Sunset Shimmer Hunts the Undead - Rune Soldier Dan

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Joys and Trials of Communal Living

After a bit of negotiation, the dorm-mates settled on a deal for each to handle one Saturday or Sunday meal every fourth week. A fine and equal arrangement that, with a random draw, gave Wallflower responsibility for their first weekend together.

“Grape nuts and non-GMO oats,” Wallflower announced cheerfully as she doled a colorless, mud-consistency porridge to her underwhelmed companions. “Plus some flax seed extract for fiber, tofu for protein, and beet shavings for the vegetable. All blended together in one environmentally-friendly package.”

Sunset scooped out a spoonful and watched it ooze back into the bowl, desperately trying to wear a smile.

Adagio waved a hand over her nose. “What’s the smell? I thought it was just our room, but it’s out here too.”

“Smell? Oh, that’s me.” Wallflower beamed as Adagio stood. “Do you know how much water people waste by showering daily? Even every week is well beyond what we need to stay healthyOW-OW ADAGIO LEGGO MY EAR!”

The next week, each plate made an empty clink as Adagio set them on the table.

Applejack grinned weakly, more wishful than hopeful. “Salad plates, huh? I should have figured you were a fancy type who brings out the main course later.”

“Ha-ha, no.” Adagio pointed to each item in turn. “This is what girls our age need to eat if we don’t want our ass cheeks to look like basketballs. Three Lima beans, four lettuce leaves, and two tomato slices. There’s two spoonfuls of peanut butter for each, but if you’re smart like me you’ll save it for when you wake up hungry during the night.”

Sunset released a sigh, giving her best effort at an encouraging smile. “Adagio, you are not fat.”

Adagio jammed her fork through one of the beans. “I’m way fatter than Aria and Sonata.”

“That’s not fair.”

Adagio popped the bean into her mouth, eyeing Sunset up and down. “So you say, but you could stand to lose a few pounds yourself.”

Sunset bounced giddily in her chair alongside Wallflower and Adagio. “Sweet Celestia, I hear her coming. This is going to be amazing. I’ve gotten dinner at Applejack’s place like ten times, and each has been bigger food porn than the cooking network. Turkey, cornbread, sweet potatoes, fruit salads, pie, and all of it with scratch-made ingredients.”

Adagio gave a cat-like grin. “Sounds good. Today’s a cheat day for me, anyway.”

“So long as the turkey is grass-fed,” Wallflower added.

Sunset’s response was cut off by a noise, made horrifying by the context. A loud, frozen ‘thunk’ as something hit the table.

“Chicken tenders!” Applejack announced, smiling from ear to ear as she tore open the factory-sealed bag. “I never get to eat this at home, never-ever! Always a dang hour or more of cooking… cheers, girls! Freshmen ten, here I come.”

Sunset raised a finger as Applejack plucked up one of the frozen tenders. “Shouldn’t we cook them first?”

“The label says they’re pre-cooked.” Applejack snapped off a piece with her teeth and began chewing. “Nice cold dinner for a hot September, huh?”

Sunset dove to the ground, this time a second too slow. The swooping gargoyle raked its talons across her back, mercifully piercing only deep enough to scratch the skin and shred her Hemline.

“Not again!” Sunset snarled, whipping around to fire at her flying target. “This vest is three months old! Why is there a gargoyle, anyway?!”

Adagio shouted back, dagger in hand as she crouched behind a mailbox. “I don’t know! Whose bright idea was it to head out after dark for Chow Mein?”

“Well I didn’t think we’d get attacked by an animate piece of an ancient cathedral in a city with no ancient cathedrals!”

The gargoyle swooped low again, taking off the top half of Adagio’s mailbox. Both girls again threw themselves flat, and again Sunset could only fire wildly after it.

“I think you winged it that time,” Wallflower cheered, perched on a bench and slurping down her share of the food. “You’re doing great!”

The fractured mailbox had crushed the rest of their take-out. No time to be annoyed. Sunset stood brazenly, tracking the gargoyle over her pistol sights as it wheeled around once more. High risk, high reward.

It got closer. Bigger. An easier target. So was she.

A shotgun blast from her side broke up the gargoyle’s left wing. That didn’t kill it, but momentum sped its way down what became an uncontrolled dive. It smashed into the pavement, sending fragments and dust in all directions.

Applejack lowered the shotgun.

Her stomach’s growl could be heard even in Sunset’s ringing ears. She eyed the squashed food and shook her head. “Sunset? Maybe we should all just take care of our own meals.”

A slightly too short, but familiar wooden chair. Wonderful aromas from the stocked kitchen, and a plate of lasagna in front of her.

Home is where the heart is.

“You look skinny,” Luna chided, taking her own place around the dining room table. “You eating enough over there?”

“She’s always been skinny, leave her be.” Celestia gave a tut, with mitt-clad hands bringing over a steaming pan of food. She held up the tongs and looked to Sunset. “One biscuit or two?”

Not scratch-made, but lovingly baked all the same. “Two!”

“Two it is.” Celestia served them and dispensed with the pan. She passed her seat on the return in favor of stepping behind Sunset’s and hugging her in place. “Welcome home, Sweetie. I’m glad you decided to stop by.”

Luna’s eyes twinkled. “She was hungry.”

“Well, our collective cooking experiment kind of flew apart last weekend, so yeah.” Sunset gave a cheeky grin. “It’s this or burgers.”

Celestia rolled perfectly with the joke, tilting her head in mock arrogance. “And that’s all, hm?”

Sunset leaned back, nestling her head into Celestia’s chest. “Pretty much, aside from seeing the mom and aunt I love so much.”

“At least Luna and I place a close second.” Long pink fingers ran themselves through Sunset’s hair, drawing a tiny ‘squee’ from her throat. They stopped too soon as Celestia went to fetch the salad. “Any more business-related problems?”

“Nothing since the gargoyle.”

“Ugh, who builds a city on a Ley line?” Celestia said. “Us and the Pies make for two teams of hunters, we’re an upsize group too, and we still miss whole covens of undead.”

Sunset’s smile took a wheedling curve. “Sounds like we need three teams.”

“End that talk right now, missy.” Celestia’s tone brokered no debate, though her eyes swung to Luna. “I wonder if we should call off the trip.”

“No,” Sunset and Luna said together, and the former continued. “No-no-no, you guys have been planning this vacation for a long time, and it’s going to be awesome. Think of it, a month in Equestria as the guest of royalty. You’ll see and experience things no human has before, and it’ll be safe and fun the whole time.”

Luna leaned back in her chair. “Plus, Sunset’s been pushing us to do this for years. We won’t hear the end of it if we back out now.”

“Mom, you taught me this,” Sunset pressed, determined to tip Celestia’s view back over. “There’s always monsters, always problems, and you can’t let life stop because of it. Now’s the perfect time to leave, with no obvious threats or problems. If something comes up with the business I promise I’ll call...”

She gave a low, grudging sigh. “...Miss Harshwhinny.”

“Have fun with that,” Luna said. “Us, we’ll be sunbathing in our glorious pony bodies on a beach made of sugar or something.”

“I suppose we will.” Celestia conceded. “And I certainly am looking forward to this. Our first vacation as adults, well-past due, in the most exotic location of them all. I only wish we could all go together.”

Sunset began scooping salad to the plates. “Start planning for next summer. I will absolutely go to Hawaii with you.”

Celestia shook her head. “Hawaii is expensive. Two years off, at best.”

“Just like last year,” Luna said. “Silver bullets aren’t cheap. What say we explain things to your twin and see if we can’t get a little royal largess?”

“We’ve been over this before, we are not going to panhandle our pony doppelgangers.”

“Of course, of course.” Luna scratched her face on Sunset’s side with crossed fingers.

“At any rate, thank you for helping us plan this out.” Celestia graced Sunset with one of the radiant smiles reserved for her daughter, which never failed to send a loving blush across Sunset’s cheeks. “Between that journal of yours and Princess Twilight organizing things, I daresay you two put in more effort than we did.”

Sunset bashfully scratched the back of her head. “It was the least I could do. Equestria’s great, you know? Las Pegaus, airship tours, Canterlot galleries, and that’s a one-month taste. We made sure to leave a week just for the beach.”

“You’ll come over next weekend, won’t you?” Celestia asked.

“Definitely. Someone has to move the car.” Sunset’s grin flashed teeth as it curled up at the edges. “I’ll take good care of it while you’re gone.”

“I’m sure you will.” Celestia pulled back a green lock of hair, dividing her biscuit with a fork. “How about tonight? Will we get you until morning? We can make that Equestrian hot chocolate recipe and watch a movie, or just chat and watch Luna play her games.”

Sunset shrugged, still wearing her cagey grin. “I don’t know, it’s hard to go back in the nest after getting a taste of freedom. I’ll consider it.”

Celestia gave a broad smile. “Then I’ll get your bed ready.”

“She sleeps exactly like you.”

Sunset’s room was a relatively barren one. Once an unvisited display scene for Luna’s collectibles, boxes of them still crowded the corners with no better place to go. The clothes and band posters which made the room truly Sunset’s were off to college, leaving a featureless bed beneath a brick-red comforter.

The comforter had been kicked off before the sisters quietly entered. Sunset sprawled upon the bed – one knee up, one to the side, and one arm weirdly bent upwards like she was waving goodbye.

“Almost like you.” Luna corrected herself. “She’s not chewing on her hair.”

“That happened once,” Celestia whispered. She busied herself, moving the comforter back in place and gently lowering Sunset’s hand. The task done, she settled down on one of the boxes and leaned against the wall.

Her eyes never moved from Sunset’s face. “I’ll stay a while. Have a good night, Luna.”

“Don’t spend too long there or you’ll have a sore back in the morning.” Luna kissed the top of her head, then after a second’s thought padded over and did the same for Sunset. She departed, closing the door as Celestia watched her ward in the moonlight.

A sleepy moan came a few minutes later. Sunset shuffled in her sleep, kicking off the comforter. She rolled onto a side with a yawn, and began contentedly chewing her hair.

Author's Note:

Celestia had a sore back in the morning.

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