• Published 30th Mar 2021
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The Foundling - kudzuhaiku



After her success as the Princess of Detention, Luna has a half-baked plan to become the Princess of Home-Ec.

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Feelin' blue

A ravenous purple consumed the sky, leaving behind garish pools of vivid orange carnage tinged with pink. The train raced towards this multihued oblivion, but as fast as it could go, it could not keep pace with the retreating light. As the darkness gained power, so did Luna, who was now hungry enough to be just a little bit grouchy. Or, in the modern parlance, she was hangry, which was such a silly word.

The modern era had a tendency to smash words together in much the same way that young, inexperienced-but-eager lovers kissed; which is to say, sloppily and haphazardly, much to the disgust of all. Yet for the sake of politeness, it was expected to cheer young love on, for the consequences were too much to bear if one did not. A dearth of new births was an unmitigated disaster.

Luna wanted food. Beyond that, she wanted to make food. With this goal on her mind, she strode into the kitchen car and had a look around. Being a railcar, it was multipurpose. Part of it was a kitchen, a small, somewhat cramped galley. There was storage, a rest area for the staff, and a serving area where meals could be loaded onto a cart or trolley and taken to the dining car, which was also the sleeper car.

The cook, a chubby, tired older mare, was sitting on a wooden chair and looking out the window. When she saw Luna, she was on her hooves in an instant, and she winced when one of her knobby knees popped. For a moment, she was so panicked that she didn't know what to do, as evidenced by her inability to communicate, but she was quick to recover.

"Your Majesty, I was just about to start supper."

Luna, always sympathetic to the kitchen help, saw the mare favouring the leg that had popped, which made what she was about to do next so much easier. She drew in a deep breath, steeled her nerves, and then had this to say: "Be at ease. I'll fix supper."

"Majesty, please, there is no need for you to trouble yourself. I'm fit to serve, honest."

"I am sure you are, but I'd like to prepare a meal for myself and my guests."

"Your Highness, this is… highly irregular."

"So is arguing with my requests."

"Uh…" The old mare's mouth sagged open for a short time, but her state of confusion did not last long. "Forgive me, Your Majesty. I forgot my place. But this is… highly irregular. I assure you, I'm fit to serve."

"My sister told me to treat this as a holiday, so it is my intention to enjoy myself," Luna said, explaining herself. "So, what is on the menu tonight? What am I working with?"

"If I had known you'd wanted an earlier supper, I'd've had it done by now. I'm so sorry, Your Highness."

"Just let me know what I have to work with, if you please."

"Tonight's dinner is fondue, your favourite," the old mare said to Luna. "There's also a tropical treat cake in the icebox. There's not much work to do, I reckon. Please, forgive me. I was playing with my grandson yesterday and without warning, this excursion happened today."

"I am not upset," Luna said to the fretful mare. "Just hungry. Please, please, for your sake, get some rest. Go stretch out. Be comfortable."

Sighing, the mare relaxed. Everything about her seemed to sag a bit, but the relief was visible upon her face. "You're very kind, Your Majesty. I think I will take your advice and go and stretch out. If there is anything you need, holler for Summer Harvest… she's no doubt necking with Gardenia Garter."

"Your helper abandoned you?" asked Luna in what she hoped was an amused tone, so the poor mare would remain at ease.

"She's very much in love," the old mare replied. "It was fortunate circumstance that she was selected for this trip along with her sweetheart. Those two work hard, really, they do, and they get to see so little of each other."

"I'll not disturb them," Luna said. "Go on… shoo! Away with you." She waved her wings like a mother hen scattering her chicks.

Relieved, the mare nodded. "Thank you kindly, Your Excellency. I'll take my leave."

Amused, and with her heart well-warmed, Luna watched as the old mare trotted off down the narrow aisle towards the back of the kitchen car. Beyond was the sleeper car for the staff, where Luna hoped that the old mare would find some comfort, peace, and quiet. It took all of ten seconds for Luna's excitement to overwhelm her, and then she was brimming with foalish glee because she had the kitchen all to herself. Such power! Practically all of the power of the cosmos!

Looking about, she sought out something she needed, but she wasn't sure what it was or if it even existed. Surely though, there had to be a meal plan, a list, something for the staff to follow. And if it existed, it would have a list of everything available, everything stowed away aboard the train expressly for this purpose. A list. Documentation. A manifest. Such a thing had to exist in a well-organised environment and if it could not be found, Luna would have to wing it.

It didn't take her long to find exactly what she was looking for. Just over the produce bins there was a corkboard, which had several papers pinned to it with tacks. Yes, there it was. Tonight's meal, tomorrow's breakfast, lunch, and several other meals in the event of the trip running long for some reason. If things went exactly as planned, they would be back at home in time for supper—but since when did things ever go as expected?

Tonight's menu called for fondue, as mentioned, and there was a helpful checklist of everything involved. Dessert was the tropical treat cake. Breakfast tomorrow was quiche. Mouth watering, Luna stood there for a time just thinking about cheesy delights, but then she exploded into action because things had to be done and she was the one to do them. At long last, all of her fantasies of power and total control had come to fruition; finally, she had absolute power. Total authority. The outcome of the meal was hers to decide. Fate was hers to command.

"Huzzah!" she huzzahed, and her reckless huzzahing echoed through the galley.

Alas, there were no huzzahless masses to share her joy, as there had been that night in Ponyville.

"Huzzah," she said again, this time softer and with a lot less enthusiasm.

But there was no time for a pity party with a seating arrangement for one. She had a meal to prepare, and this was good. When the meal was on the table, she would be surrounded by friends. This also, was good. Beyond good. Exceptional. As she stood there, her eyes on the list but not actually seeing it, she thought about something her sister had said, something profound and meaningful that hadn't really sunk in until just now.

We are naturally attracted to the very young, Celestia had said to her during tea. Innocence draws us in like a moth to a flame, Luna. As the little ponies grow older, some of our interest wanes. I've observed this during the many long years I waited for your return. We are natural-born teachers. Our role is to be parental shepherds. It took me a long time to learn this, Luna, but I tell you this now so that you might find your way.

And standing in the galley, recalling these words, Luna suddenly had a sense of direction that she wasn't sure had existed before. Something about her sister's words rang true at this moment. The students had brought out the best in her; not just the four that called themselves her legion, but all of them. Even if some of the interactions were problematic. She recalled the day she had battled changelings in the school. A profound wave of emotion swept over Luna, almost knocking her from her hooves, and mysteriously, miraculously, the tsunami left her dry as could be—save for her eyes, which were now quite damp.

Luna very much wanted to share her joy with the young; she wanted to know the happiness found in a kitchen. The artistry of a good meal. Beyond that, food was a lure that brought ponies together. She thought of the meals shared in the school cafeteria with her friends, and those were happy moments. The food wasn't even special, but tonight, it would be. Tonight would be memorable.

But first, she had to get started.

First, Luna raided the icebox. Raiding was a favourite pastime, even if frowned upon. Luna liked raiding; there was something deeply satisfying and gratifying about swooping in and taking something from those powerless to stop you. Like iceboxes, for example. Stuck-up iceboxes with chilly attitudes and their unsettling cold indifference. Not long after her return, an icebox had slighted her and visited unspeakable indignity upon her body. She had backed into it without intending to do so, and the rude little contraption's cold metal skin had goosed a sensitive and thoroughly unmentionable area of her Royal Anatomy. Offended in a way that only those who knew true righteous indignation by the brazen assault, Luna committed herself and pledged her existence to raiding iceboxes so that she might plunder whatever treasures were kept inside.

No icebox would ever slight her again; they would know the fear of Luna.

"Spill your guts, icebox," she commanded as she yanked open the door.

Inside, she found a wealth of cheese, each of which was wrapped in wax paper and marked. The ones intended for supper were clearly labeled as such. There was also cheese for the quiche, some for salad, and some for grilled cheese, should somepony develop a hankering. Luna had hankerings that came and went with her moods. No doubt her hankerings were her body's way of informing her that her humours were in need of adjustment.

On the shelf below the cheese, she found some of the vegetables she needed. Broccoli and cauliflowers, curious vegetables cultivated and grown for the express purpose of torturing the very young and those young at heart. To leave a foal overflowing with revulsion, all one had to do was boil one of these strange alien growths—the bastard offspring of Carrothulhu—until slimy, and then force said juvenile to consume the disgusting mess. She had committed this very atrocity in nightmares countless times, and would continue to do so until the end of time itself. Thankfully, Luna had no intentions to boil these, but she would drown them in delicious cheese-goo.

As for the cake, it was pulled out from the fridge and placed on the counter.

Other things were needed, but Luna was unsure of their location. The most obvious location was the pantry storage. She closed the icebox door, gave it a good glaringly glareful glare, glaring it into submission, which was not the same as staring it into submission, as this was worse, far worse. This icebox would not chill the Royal Backside. Cautiously, she backed away, then turned herself around in the narrow space, pointed herself at the sliding door of the pantry, and then confidently strode over, knowing full well that the icebox knew its place.

Pulling open the door, she sensed a spell breaking, but before she could make sense of what had just happened, she found three unicorns, one of which was Overcast. He was in the company of two mares and the three of them appeared to be playing cards. All of them were quite surprised to see her, but none more so than Overcast, who openly gawped.

"Right then," one of the mares said with a bold grin. "What can we do for you, Your Highness?"

"An explanation, to start," replied Luna.

"Well, we found him in the luggage hold, a-bawlin' his eyes out," the other mare said with an intense nasal whine, the sort of voice that made one entirely unsuitable for professional work, but made for a splendid town crier way back in the day.

Now, Overcast was embarrassed, and he hid his face behind his cards.

"We was just talking about our mothers," the first mare said. "Gardenia here, her mom is a pegasus, and she and Overcast have a bit in common. I have to say, with all due respect, pegasus mothers are something else."

"Indeed they are," Luna deadpanned in return. "I suppose I broke some manner of privacy spell when I opened the door."

"The gig is up, Summer."

"Looks that way, Gardenia."

"No, no," Luna said to the two mares. "I just came for ingredients. This is the pantry, after all. Once I have what I need, I'll leave you to your conversation."

"You're not like your sister," Summer said to Luna.

"How so? What do you mean?"

"Well, Princess Celestia would be trying to cram herself into the pantry with us," Gardenia replied. "That's her way of getting us back to work, I reckon. She asks the most embarrassing questions."

"No"—almost smirking, Luna shook her head—"no, that's just the way my sister is." She paused, briefly, and then continued, "I need nutmeg, cherry brandy, dry white wine, corn starch, garlic, and bread for tonight's supper. Which I am preparing. Please, please do not feel the need to put an end to your pleasant time for my sake. Once I have what I need, I'll close the door and you can pick up where you left off.

"Hang on," Summer said with a broad smile. "I'll get all of those things for you. Thank you, Your Majesty, for giving us girls a chance to be girls."

"Yes…" Now smirking, and very much so, Luna nodded. "Overcast. Just one of the girls."

"Oh, he's very sensitive," Gardenia said. "He's practically one of us."

Overcast spoke not a word, but his eyes had whole volumes to say, and then some.

"Supper will be on the table soon," Luna said to the colt. "It would be nice if you joined us, Overcast."

"Hang on, I don't know where the cherry brandy went." Summer studied the shelves with a scowl. "I hope that Tawny Tail didn't drink it all. She's been hitting the sauce an awful lot lately. Oh, wait, I see it. Half a bottle. Should be full. Hmm."

"It will have to do," Luna remarked. "Thankfully, I only need a spoonful."


Overcast, Luna realised, needed to feel safe. He seemed to avoid ponies his own age—save for his friends—and gravitated towards older, more mature ponies. This was evidenced by Almanac trampling his feelings, which caused him to go off and sulk. The colt naturally prefered Luna's company if she was around, and they had quiet moments together, which she had come to treasure. He was getting better, but he needed a bit more time to get himself sorted out. Of course, if the truth were to be told, Luna also needed some time to get her bearings and adjust to the new world she found herself living in.

But that didn't matter right now, because her mood was excellent.

So excellent in fact that her rump wiggled from side to side while her wings slapped out a complex rhythm against her ribs. Little did Luna know that astronomers from other parts of the world would report that the moon had a curious wobble to it, an unnerving phenomena where the moon appeared to be dancing to some unknown funky beat. Thankfully, the odd occurrence was totally harmless, had no effect upon the tides, and the world did not end with mile-high tsunamis.

All the moon did was appear to wiggle.

With a crackling bolt of arcane energy shot from Luna's horn, the fondue pot shuddered to life, stretched its decorative legs, and then danced across the countertop over to the stove, where it then stood over the burner. It danced to the same unheard beat that Luna did, but alas, it did not have a rump to shake. What it could do was tapdance, and so it did. Dancing over an open flame was of no concern to the fondue pot, as it could not feel pain.

Levitating a clove of garlic, Luna crushed it, and then began rubbing down the inside of the pot. Which apparently tickled, because the rotund little vessel wibble-wobbled at her every touch. A hot garlic smell filled the galley, more eye-watering than mouth-watering. She lifted up a second clove and repeated this process, and then, after guiltily glancing about to see if she was being watched, she tossed both crushed cloves into the hot pot. Several glugs of white wine got dumped in—Luna had no use for exact measurements—and then she sniffed. After another guilty glance-about, she crushed a third clove of garlic, but did not add it to the pot.

Into her mouth it went, and she stood there chewing thoughtfully.

Lifting the bottle up to her nose, Luna opened the cherry brandy, sniffed it once, then twice, then sampled a little bit. Alcohol, a poison, had no effect whatsoever on her physiology and she was utterly immune to its effects. After imbibing, she rubbed her tongue against the lumpy-bumpy roof of her mouth, smacked her lips, and nodded her approval. Then, she turned the bottle on its side and poured in what she thought was just enough.

Conjuring up a grater, she ground a little nutmeg into the pot, which still danced and bebopped over the burner, and then shook in a little corn starch. She agitated this with her magic by creating a teeny-tiny maelstrom in the pot, a storm in miniature that made the liquid whirl violently. While this heated up, Luna summoned up a parade of green apples, broccoli, cauliflower, grapes, and lastly, cherry tomatoes, which she was not a fan of, but they were on the list.

The parade met with a terrible fate and cruel slaughter was visited upon them. Great care was taken with the apples, which were sliced, tossed into a bowl, and then heartlessly squirted with lemon juice to make their wounds sting all the more. It was true; her cruelty knew no bounds. Everything else got sliced and chopped into bite-sized bits and then arranged on a platter. When that was done, she went to work on the crusty baguettes, which she cubed into small bite-sized bits suitable for foals.

Assaulted by magic, the cheese crumbled and was tossed into the hot pot. Everything smelled fantastic now and Luna was quite pleased with herself. While she stood there making the magic happen, and her rump bumped from side to side, she wondered what a breakfast fondue might be like, with waffles, fruit, and chocolate. It sounded like an ideal meal to share with her sister, for there was something special about the bonding that took place when one shared a hot pot with another.

Contrary to what many thought, Luna loved her sister, even if she had trouble understanding her. Their differences made them strong, of this there could be no doubt. Yes, Luna loved her sister, even if she was a bit bossy. It was just her sister's nature, that's all. Of course, Celestia could be infuriatingly gregarious. But one could learn to live with that—when left with no other choice. One had to learn to live with all manner of irritation as an immortal. And there was the fact that her sibling was a morning pony, but the less said about that the better. Always bragging about her own dawns and how gorgeous her sunrises were.

A morning pony—The Morningest Pony of All Morning Ponies—boasting about their mornings was intolerable.

And a bit rude, now that Luna put it into perspective.

The dippables piled up on the silver serving platter, and Luna arranged them in a pleasing pattern that almost—but not quite—resembled something approaching art. If given time, she could have made a beautiful mosaic with food, but she was hungry now. There was no time to recreate her sister's face with fruit, vegetables, and bread. As the pot danced a funky quadrupedal rumba over the flickering blue flame of the gas stove, the swirling maelstrom of cheese inside slowly smoothed into something silky and truly exquisite.

Long—pointy and scary-looking—fondue forks were drawn into orbit around Luna's head. They circled with planetary precision, going round and round in a frightening display of domestic dominance. A stack of pale blue plates joined the forks, and these spun as they orbited. Ears twitching to a rhythm that only she could hear, Luna reveled in her moment of mastery. All that needed to be done was to set the table, and she didn't need the help to do that. Plates were vanished, then the forks, and then too did the tropical treat cake disappear. It was fiendishly difficult to vanish things to a different location on a moving train, but she appreciated the challenge.

Of course, failure meant teleporting an object inside of something—or somepony.

"Princess Luna?"

Hearing her name spoken from behind her caused Luna to freeze, and so too did everything around her. Even the fondue pot ceased its funky dance. She knew that she had been caught in a compromising position, and she knew all too well the voice that had spoken her name. Inhaling, she prepared herself for whatever awkwardness was sure to come. That was friendship, sharing your awkwardness with others and trusting that they wouldn't abandon you.

"How long have you been standing there, Overcast?"

"Long enough to know that you can't dance."

Luna's expression turned leaden and deadpan; he had her dead to rights. She was proud of him, but she would not tell him that. Not now, perhaps not ever. No, he was happiest when he struggled to curry her favour. For him, the struggle was what he was after, and any sense of accomplishment was only met with boredom. In that sense, he was a lot like her, at least in a sense. The task was more important than the outcome.

"I did not expect for you to come out of the closet so soon," she said to him.

"Everything that needed to be said had been said," was his guarded response. "I arrived at an unexpected conclusion and now I am trying to find the courage to say what needs to be said."

"No sooner spoken than broken."

"Silence," he said after only the briefest bit of hesitation. "Yes, I am aware of the curious magic that makes silence difficult to break the longer it persists."

Her face relaxed a little into something that might almost be considered a pleased—if somewhat smug—smirk of satisfaction. She turned herself towards him and saw that he seemed to be no worse for wear after having been in the company of the two mares. While his eyes were still sad, his ears were mostly upright and he wasn't slouching too terribly much.

The fondue pot waited in anticipation but was perfectly still.

"Miss Garter, well, um, as was mentioned, her mother is a pegasus, and as it turns out, we have a lot in common." The colt's orange tongue was visible for a moment when he nervously licked his lips. "But that's really beside the point. What's important, I suppose, was the direction that the conversation took, and it was brought to my attention that I show no appreciation for the mares in my life."

"That is a heavy thing to lay upon a young colt," Luna remarked.

"Heavy or not, it is no less true," Overcast replied. "I talk my mother's ear off every chance I get, but I hardly ever listen to whatever she might have to say. And with the shadow of divorce hanging over both of us, and everything else that has happened, my mother… she probably has a lot to say. I haven't given her much of a chance to get a word in edgewise. My mother probably needs a friendly ear to bend and I've completely failed to even consider this until it was just pointed out to me. I feel like a real sh—"

"Overcast! Mind your tongue, you little rapscallion!"

"Oh, I was minding my tongue, and I knew exactly what I was about to say."

"Mmm," Luna mmmed, more out of annoyance than anything else.

"It's not just my mom," the colt said, picking up where he left off before he was interrupted.

"Care to elaborate?" asked Luna.

"It's you," he replied whilst he averted his gaze. "It's you. And Whinny, I guess. Whinny especially. My sense of right and wrong isn't what it should be and Whinny… well, Whinny knows exactly what is right and what is wrong, and she will take time out of her busy day to explain to me in detail what the right thing is… and it means a whole lot more than I let on."

He swallowed.

"And you. Well. You gave me my mother back. And before you say I could have done that on my own… probably not. I had pretty much convinced myself that it was impossible, and then I was using the pain from that to, uh, well, you know. You know exactly what I was doing with my pain. You broke the cycle, Princess Luna, and for that, I am grateful."

He inhaled.

"I just want you to know, I am loyal as the night is long. I might be mouthy, and crass, and sarcastic, and while sometimes I put up a fair bit of resistance, none of that changes the fact that I am loyal. My mark appeared after my little oath, so maybe it's some kind of magic that is messing with my mind, but I don't care. You are the Dreamwalker. My Dreamwalker. And I will live my life for you."

Stricken with a sudden sense of emotion, Luna felt her humours warm in some strange way. The last time she had felt this way was just after her return, after being freed from Nightmare Moon's influence, and reuniting with her sister. She allowed the sensation to swell within her like a rising tide, and with the incoming flood, she felt buoyant with hope. A faint pressure could be felt just behind the eyes, and there was a curious sting in her sinuses.

Luna, who had once borne the weight of the Element of Honesty, felt the need to bare her own heart—though why she could not say. Overcast seemed so vulnerable at this moment, so exposed; so perhaps it would be a comfort for him if she were to reveal something of herself to him. Something had to be done; this was new territory for Luna, just as her sister said it would be. Celestia had promised her that she would find herself in this undiscovered country.

"Overcast… there is something my sister said…"

"There's another mare in my life that I show no appreciation for," he whispered.

For a brief second, Luna bit her lip and wondered if she were guilty of the same sin. But then, she found her courage and to the colt she said: "My sister, she told me… she told me that you would be my teacher, just as much as I am yours. It didn't make sense at the time, but I think I saw a glimpse of what she meant just now. She told me a lot of things, actually. Some of which scared me. She told me that I'd make mistakes with you… dreadful mistakes. But then she reassured me that it would be fine, because you were resilient. My sister said that these mistakes would be made and I would learn from them. And the next student I took beneath my wing would benefit from them, and so would begin the chain where the mistakes made with a student would allow me to better serve the next."

She gulped in some much needed air.

"Of course, my sister just assumes that I desire to take upon myself a succession of students. Which, I don't know if I will. Something tells me that I should, but I am hesitant because I am still adjusting to… everything. Celestia went through a lot of failures and disappointments before she had her Twilight Sparkle, and I don't know if I am up for dealing with that along with everything else." She paused, wondering how this might sound to the colt's ears, and she worried that she flubbed an opportunity to say something meaningful. "But you… and the others, you're worth it. For now."

He nodded; not the response she'd hoped for.

"Things are different now," she blurted out. "We negotiate with foals rather than just use whatever convenient means is available to coerce them. I must confess, I'm a bit baffled by this. The culture shock is very difficult to overcome. When I last existed, we did no such things with foals, who knew to be obedient, lest the consequences be visited upon them. Things were different then. Of course, back then, you wouldn't even be considered a foal, Overcast. You'd already be starting your adult life right about now. What I am trying to say is, all of this is new to me. I'm making adjustments. And my sister is right, as much as it pains me to admit it. You're teaching me how to negotiate. It's not something I'm good at, truth be told. I dictate terms and then obliterate those who fail to meet them. At least, that's how it was. Equestria needed that back then… but it needs a very different me right now and adjusting is the hardest thing I've ever done."

"Adjusting feels impossible when you're stuck in a rut," he replied.

Relieved, Luna let out a held breath that she had no awareness of holding. Something had just changed between them, something unknown. He was looking at her now, making eye-contact, which was something that very few ponies did with her. His expression? Earnest. Perhaps also a bit hopeful. Of course, she also felt hopeful. No, beyond that, she felt purposeful. She and Overcast shared similar marks.

"My sister told me the story of how you were accepted into her school," Luna said to him. "You were one of the few accepted into her school without magical application."

"Yeah."

As the colt nodded, she responded to him, saying, "She told me that you lept over the barrier in the holding area and immediately began chatting her up, asking her questions about applied metamagics and the book she wrote. You weren't the least bit afraid of her like all of the other foals, and most of the parents in the room."

"I wanted answers," he explained, "and I had the rare opportunity to question the source. I took it. She was right there. I remember it all quite well. Princess Celestia was so bored that she was yawning. As for myself, I needed to know. You see, I'd been experimenting with fire quite a bit, trying to understand various states of matter, and I couldn't quite determine what fire was. It wasn't a solid or a liquid, and I wasn't sure if it was a gas. But, if it was a gas, I wanted to know if I could use magic to make it a solid, and if fire could be frozen. Princess Celestia told me that fire was free-roaming electrons, and was therefore a plasma. Then she warned me not to play with plasmas of any kind, and to be honest I didn't pay much attention to anything she said because I was already thinking of ways to experiment with plasmas."

"Do not," Luna said in a stern voice, "play with plasmas. When electrons get into an excited state, they are difficult to control. They do not like being told what to do and any effort made to contain them only gets them more excited." Then, she spoke her thoughts aloud, as she did on occasion. "Come to think of it, electrons are a lot like young Miss Avocado."

"So I've noticed," replied Overcast, who seemed intentionally vague about what he was responding to, excited electrons or his companion who had all the gregarious bounciness of an electron in need of a good wee. "Not to worry. I moved on to other things, like hairy pottery and rescuing cats."

Remembering all too well the faintly living blob of clay that had grown hair, Luna shuddered.

After recovering herself, she said, "You know, Miss Avocado is another mare in your life and—"

"No she isn't," Overcast said before Luna could finish.

"Oh, but she is."

"Is not."

"Is so."

"Most certainly is not."

"I beg to differ and you—"

"Go stand on a street corner and don't forget to take a cup or a hat."

"Rude!"

"Don't be a beggar—"

"Miss Avocado is—"

"She is not a mare. There is nothing mature about her."

Luna considered this point, and then, after a brief nod, relented. "Well, she is a filly in your life. Perhaps some appreciation is in order."

"Sometimes… sometimes she gets on my last nerve. She makes me feel things like nopony else does. Like when she started talking about my mother. There's just something about her that cuts through my defenses and I have a lot of trouble holding everything in. She's like… a plaguebearer, but she infects me with emotion and sometimes I hate her for it."

Oh dear, Luna thought to herself.

Shuffling his hooves, his tail swaying from side to side, Overcast appeared rather distraught. After he cleared his throat, he continued, "Nopony gets under my skin like she does. Not my mother, not you, not Princess Celestia, nopony. She just… just bypasses my sense of concentration and without warning, I'm overwhelmed."

"Some ponies have that effect upon others," Luna said, and with the words barely out of her mouth she felt useless because she had nothing else to say. She felt some small sense of pity for Overcast, but there was nothing she could do to help him.

Whatever fate awaited him, he probably deserved it.

"Is supper almost done?" the colt asked.

"Yes." Pride gushed through Luna, no doubt doing something to her humours. Such a simple thing, a simple act, but one that brought so much pleasure.

"Good. Because I couldn't take another moment of you dancing."

Still flushed with pride, Luna's mood was impervious—for now. She flashed a haughty half-smirk at the colt, considered him for a time, and then gave him a slow nod of approval. "Go and tell your friends that supper is ready. Maybe say a kind word to Almanac. No doubt, she is anxious over what happened."

"I'll do that," he replied, and the way that he answered left no doubt that he would. "Thank you, by the way." With more to say, he paused, but briefly, and blinked several times. "I keep thinking I should give something back for all that I've been given. To you… to your sister." Another pause. "There was a time when I could only think of her as Princess Celestia, or Headmistress Celestia… but now when I think of her I think about her as your sister. Something has changed, but I cannot express what it is or how it has affected me. Anyhow… I've been thinking about what she said. About using my talents to help put the school back in order. And that's the trouble. It's stuck in the back of my mind and it's just… it's just there."

His eyes closed for several seconds, and then when he opened them he continued, "I know I don't deserve it. I can't figure out why she is doing this to me. Princess Celestia vexes me. What are her reasons? Is this some new and clever way to destroy me? To bring me down? Not just the whole school thing… but the classes, the courses, the divination… I've been given everything I've ever wanted. No, I've been given things I didn't even know I wanted. Things so precious to me that I'm willing to be good and behave so that I might keep them."

Then, he went silent, shook himself, and blinked several more times as if he'd had some moment of realisation, or perhaps an epiphany. Luna had those moments herself, and they were a bit like sneezes. One had to endure them when they happened, for they were weighty and profound.

"You and I," he said after reaching whatever conclusion came to his mind, "are suspect and suspicious of those who want what is best for us. Why is that? Why do you suppose that is?"

"Another time, Overcast. For now… supper. Go and tell the others while I finish up here."

"One more thing before I go… I don't know what I'll do just yet. Not sure how my life will turn out. There are opportunities. But… about what you just said, and you telling me what your sister told you." He swallowed, and then licked his lips with the tip of his tongue. "If I do nothing else, if nothing else extraordinary happens with my life, if all I ever do is make mistakes and mess everything up, it is reassuring to know that my life will still have a purpose, even if it is just to help you with your next students. A pony has to ask just what it is they can do to help an alicorn. We're common, and small, and mostly helpless, truth be told. The one thing we can do is make mistakes… and you, you can learn from those. I'm part of a chain. The first link, maybe. Me and my friends. Whatever else happens, even if we go on to live boring, uneventful lives, you'll go on to produce better and better students."

He inhaled, then finished, "There is value in that."

"Indeed there is," Luna replied, and it occurred to her that she had more food for thought than she did food to serve upon the table. As she stood there, with everything sinking in, she thought of Twilight Sparkle, which she did often.

How many students did it take before one could make a Twilight Sparkle? How many failures? Just how many bitter tears had to be shed before achieving meaningful results? Every hard-won success and every catastrophic failure—both were valuable. Necessary. It started with becoming the Princess of Detention. But the next step? Becoming a teacher, perhaps. There might be something more to all of this, something that she could not see yet, but her eyes would open soon, like a lucid dreamer who gained awareness that they were dreaming.

Lo, Luna's legacy loomed large.

Overcast bowed his head. There was nothing sarcastic or snide about it. His adoration was sincere, honest. Then, without a word, he departed. Luna saw a glimpse of what had to be the future; an older Overcast, his mane still mussed and a bit messy. Perpetually dishevelled. Bowing and departing. Not out of a misplaced sense of worshipful adoration, or a need to bow and scrape. He was no mere supplicant hoping to appease with bent knees, no. It was a simple gesture of respect, an acknowledgment of their as-of-yet undefined bond.

The colt would grow into the pony that would bear her many mistakes and failures.

How many of Celestia's students had done the same?

She shivered, but not from the cold. How many lives might she influence, for good or ill, until she had some measure of success? Just the thought gave her insight into her sister, and yet, even with this revelation, her sibling remained a mystery. Celestia played a long game. Luna realised that her sister was trying to teach the rules of this long game so that she might not have to play alone. Already the first pieces were on the board.

And Luna had no idea what to do with them.

Sighing, she prepared to serve the evening meal to her precious pawns.

Author's Note:

Don't worry, I've only been mostly dead. Spring and fall are rough on me. Weather changes and variations, with 30 degree nights and 60 degree days. Sets off the rheumatoid something awful. It'll pass. Anybody that has followed me long enough probably recognises a pattern. Been killing me, being unable to write. I hope the chapter is alright. I've gone over it dozens of times, because I've been spewing out word salad and missing words in sentences because my brain is currently mush. I would have had it done yesterday, but my body betrayed me and I spent the evening puking from pain. Was kinda bad, but I endured. Sorry for the delay, but I say this every year at about this time. Once the temperature stops fluctuating so wildly, I'll go back to my usual levels of miserable agony.

It's hard to be quirky and funny when you feel like dying, but I try.

Comments ( 11 )

I want fondu so badly right now...

What wasn’t cheesy was the conversation. I like seeing these small growths as the story progresses.

This story is good in so many ways I can't really articulate/specify even when I stop to try to put it into words.

I'm just happy that it's still being updated.

Luna is a delightful creature at times like this, even gripped by the existential thoughts and a case of the Tidal Wiggles.

Always a joy to read, bravo! I feel your pain with productivity. I’ve been horribly sick for 3 weeks and finals encroach.

It's hard to be quirky and funny when you feel like dying, but I try

I can sympathize. It’s not the same pain, but I had another 🤬 migraine tonight... I know what it’s like when it just. won’t. freakin. quit.

As for the chapter; it’s like the vast majority of your work... excellent.

"or their was something special about the bonding that took place when one shared a hot pot with another."

Wrong their there. :twilightsmile: loving this so far.

Another fantastic chapter. Thank you so much.

Or, in the modern parlance, she was hangry, which was such a silly word.

The modern era had a tendency to smash words together in much the same way that young, inexperienced-but-eager lovers kissed; which is to say, sloppily and haphazardly, much to the disgust of all.

I love this and the other references of just how much things have changed and just how much Luna has to adapt to, because unlike Celestia, Luna has to do it abruptly.

It took all of ten seconds for Luna's excitement to overwhelm her, and then she was brimming with foalish glee because she had the kitchen all to herself. Such power! Practically all of the power of the cosmos!

Only generals on the battlefield wield more power than a chef in their kitchen!:rainbowlaugh:

No icebox would ever slight her again; they would know the fear of Luna.
"Spill your guts, icebox," she commanded as she yanked open the door.

I love everything about this and the preceding

"Hang on," Summer said with a broad smile. "I'll get all of those things for you. Thank you, Your Majesty, for giving us girls a chance to be girls."

"Yes…" Now smirking, and very much so, Luna nodded. "Overcast. Just one of the girls."

!
Poor Overcast! Just one of the girls, now!

"How long have you been standing there, Overcast?"
"Long enough to know that you can't dance."

Dance like no one is watching,
Live like you’ll never be hurt
Sing like no one is listening
Live like it’s heaven on earth.
– William Purkey

I do so love their interactions and Happy Luna is an awesome Luna!

You handle the Princesses marvelously.

It's awful that you deal with the kind of seasonal pain you do, and I just wanted to say I'm grateful that you still take the time to write horsewords for us to read. This story and its predecessor are both wonderfully funny, and I look forward to reading the rest of the tale, however long it takes you to finish! Be safe, be as well as it's possible to be, please. You're a bright spot in an all-too-bleak world, at the very least for me.

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Same. It's been rough not seeing updates, and I'm not in the discord or his patreon, so I'm in the dark as to how they're doing.

I had to come back to this. Honestly the Luna centric ish stories help pick me up when my own humors are unbalanced. Thanks for keeping them here to be read. It helps.

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