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Everything posted by Bellosh

  1. Yù Yuè paused for a moment as she contemplated how to answer Àilóng’s question. The qilin mare knew the long would chastise her (but probably only in a playful way) if she revealed the truth: that she hardly did anything at all to celebrate the occasion. If only Yuè had one grain of truth she could cling to which could be spun as festive..... After several moments, something DID come to Yuè’s mind. “...I make a habit of writing my mother each year during the First Moon. Not just standard pleasantries either; I always compose a verse of poetry for her to read.” It had been one of many subjects the qilin learned during her spiritual training at Fenghuang Monastery. “...My work is but a pale imitation of the Great Masters, but my mother enjoys my compositions nonetheless.” Yuè noticed Àilóng’s hoof coming in contact with her own, but she made no effort to move it away. “Although we live far apart, my mother and I are keenly aware that when you strip away the festivities and the clamor..." Yuè’s gaze finally turned towards her counterpart; “The First Moon is, at its very heart, a time meant to express how you cherish your loved ones.....”
  2. “SHHHHHHH, NOT OUT LOUD!!!” Sunset hastily interrupted Tempest’s tale just as she was just about to speak about finding the Nameless Wizard’s L_____y-word; “You’re gonna ruin the SURPRISE for Twilight!” ---------- It took a ton of magical effort, but Sunset Shimmer did her part to open the gate. And no sooner had they trotted inside that the Tower was already trying to kill them! Thankfully, the ballista bolt had been aimed at somepony with the instinct to duck down, because Sunset basically stood there gasping in shock when she first heard those gears grind. The amber unicorn dared not move a leg. “Okaaaay,” Sunset gathered her wits as she looked impatiently towards Tempest; “You’re our resident tomb raider here Tempest... so HOW do we get through this booby-trapped dungeon?”
  3. “Nah, it’s fine Twi,” Sunset reassured her friend with the sort of raised defensive tone that indicated that things were NOT completely fine; “Seeing you’ll be princess of all the land soon, you might as well start getting used to having your free-time endlessly interrupted.....” And yet still after her day took this unforeseen detour, Sunset Shimmer continued to do her best to serve the ailing ponies. In between patients however, she couldn’t help but grumble; “You’d think Mage Meadowbrook would have interns to do this sort of thing.....”
  4. For a split second after the titles disappeared, Princess Cadence felt a twinge of anxiety as she wondered whether the projectionist remembered to fetch the right reel. See, there were two other reels of footage that were filmed that day; one of them depicted scenes of horror and chaos, the other showed naught but a luxurious bedroom. .....Neither of them were appropriate viewing material for little fillies or old mares. But as the screen finally showed moving Magicolor images of the Hall of Harmony — filled to the breams with sharply-dressed onlookers — Cadence breathed a sigh of relief. There was Twily at the front of the room standing besides her older brother, who didn’t look stoned out of his mind. This was indeed the right wedding reel! Squeeeeeee!!!!! Most ponies of Equestria would have likely seen bits and pieces of Royal Wedding footage from newsreel highlights. Here though was the source of all those clips; the master reel that documented the entire marriage ceremony and the reception afterward. It was a vitally important piece of history, both for ponykind as a whole and for this family in particular. Knowing the scenes that were about to transpire, Cadence reentered fangirl mode.....
  5. Although hushed griping and water-cooler talk are far from being accurate sources of information, there was a grain of truth to the claims that General Pummel was indeed more griffon than pony. One of the more significant ways in which his outlook resembled those of a griffon involved a hefty dose of cynicism. Back when he was a foreign exchange student in Talonpolis, the pegasus picked up much of the Aquellian’s skeptical attitudes towards political and bureaucratic figures. And frankly, his cunning Razorclaw hosts seemed to love nothing better than gloat about the virtues of realpolitik, and bombarding the rabble with endless propaganda. .....It was almost a miracle that Pummel made it into adulthood with an unshakable patriotic spirit and absolute loyalty to Princess Celestia. Unfortunately, another of the general’s Aquellian-esque attributes was a vehement dislike of getting called out, so it was no surprise when Pummel’s face flushed upon Shining Armor telling him he was out of line. That unicorn may have married his way into royalty, but in Pummel’s eyes, Prince Shining would forever be a Captain of the Guard; a subordinate position required to show deference to the higher ranks. Yet for all his internal lividness, Pummel was nothing if not a professional. Maintaining his cool as best as he could, the aging general responded with a succinct (if slightly ominous) counter; “Your Highness... you should know as well as anypony here that Equestrian history isn’t entirely sunshine and rainbows..... and that the Defense Forces and the Weather Service didn’t become the professional organizations they are today overnight. It took trial and error to get to where we are today, and we may have to endure more trial and error in the years to come.....” ---------- General Pummel’s face slightly convoluted again as Shining Armor expressed his latest concern. This time however, the grim pegasus got flustered because the topic of rogue veterans had never once been brought up by the Suntrot Commission, making it somewhat of a minor embarrassment that Pummel had no definitive recommendation to provide. All he could do was come up with a solution on the spot; “...Assuming our armed forces are sufficiently expanded, it would not then be unreasonable to expect that civilian law enforcement agencies and reserve forces will receive sufficient military backup if dealing with veterans that engage in criminal activities.....”
  6. General Pummel was 100% behind both putting a spotlight on valorous serviceponies and vastly increasing the financial incentives of enlisting. While it was probable that individual reforms — in conjunction with changes to the education system — would have to be rolled out in waves over the course of the next decade, at least there would be the bits to see everything through. There wasn’t much Pummel felt like he needed to do to express his support other than nod at the appropriate moments. ---------- For what it was worth, the general believed that Prince Shining’s instincts on how to currently deal with the Whitescar Civil War were spot-on. There were other practical considerations to point out; “In any event, I do not advise initiating any offensive operations against caribou rebels until we’ve built up our forces to the point where they’re ready to take them on. Frankly, our soldiers aren’t at that level yet, as recent events have shown.....” ---------- Staying on message, Shining Armor reemphasized a general need for restraint concerning employing new tactics. Pummel saw the need to clarify one point; “Well obviously, our field commanders will have much latitude in choosing which tactical maneuver is best suited for a particular situation. There will be instances where equine waves are the only good option we got, but there will also be times when more flexible maneuvers are more prudent. Ideally, REA officers will be skilled at knowing when to use what.” ---------- Although infamous for his intense advocacy for military revitalization, there were certain ideas that General Pummel inherently distrusted. On top of that list were the resurrection of battlemancy and OWC; proposals which Princess Twilight championed, but didn’t fit neatly into Pummel’s vision of a modernized defense force. As demonstrated earlier, it had been the biggest policy divide between the two ponies. Shining Armor didn’t seem so enthusiastic about the ramifications of his royal sister’s proposal; Pummel speculated he could have swung the other way too, given his advocacy for cultivating “hero units”. When the prince yielded the floor, Pummel added his thoughts; “This line of reform was also evaluated by the Suntrot Commission. Although we only have speculation to go on..... there is scattered, but convincing historical evidence, to suggest that those who underwent the process of Battle Empowerment developed, how do I put this..... psychiatric issues. In what few recorded documents our analysts were able to dig up about the actual battlemages and specialists themselves, nearly all of them exhibited signs of battle fatigue, an inability to adapt to civilian life, or the development of sociopathic tendencies. .....And those are the ones who avoided becoming complete lunatics. While the number of known turncoat rogues is fairly small, even one is enough to do a lot of damage. The last time a bout of empowered insanity happened eight-hundred years ago, the turncoat battlemage wiped out a town and half a legion before being put down by Princess Celestia and every specialist she was able to muster. THAT... was why the Ban was put in place.” The grizzled pegasus gave a long weary sigh; “.....All that being said, I am open to initiating an experimental trial program for reintroducing Battle Empowerment, as well as rigorous psychiatric evaluations of each candidate throughout the entire process. I should also stress that even in a best-case scenario where Empowerment can’t be linked to psychological changes, offensive specialists will be costly to train, and extremely hard to replace during a protracted conflict. Overall, it will be a more efficient — and less riskier use of our resources — to better condition all recruits during basic training to take lethal action towards the Enemy. It doesn’t take any hocus-pocus magic rituals to give a unicorn or pegasus a killer instinct. And by the way Madam Princess... whichever flunky from the Weather Service that fed you those lightning fatality statistics is full of bull. EVERYPONY who’s been through Basic or the Academy learns there’s no such thing as a non-lethal weapon or spell. I’d have every reason to suspect that the earliest weather overseers covered up fatal incidents to prevent interracial tensions from flaring up.....”
  7. The implanted mental image of Twilight Sparkle using her body as a pillow made Sunset Shimmer blush furiously. Loathe as she was to admit it, similar thoughts along those lines surfaced in the unicorn mare’s mind from time to time... which she chalked up to hormones acting up, and nothing more. After all, everybody possessed a silly fantasy of their own to daydream about. The wielder of Empathy knew this for a fact. Nonetheless, the fact that Tempest Shadow managed to pinpoint this weak spot of Sunset’s was... disconcerting. “Ugggggh,” the grumbling mare rolled her eyes; “You’re just lucky we needed each other’s bodily warmth to survive out there.....” ---------- Ignoring Tempest’s talent at finding morbidity in any sort of sentimental moment, Sunset could smell the spirit of teamwork brewing in the air! Following her partner’s example, the amber unicorn let magic surge from her horn and she focused her efforts on opening her half of the gate.....
  8. “...Same here,” Princess Cadence commented while the castle projectionist prepared the reel; “It feels so odd not having her around here anymore.” The alicorn might have gotten more into detail about her complicated feelings, but she didn’t want to remind Mama about how Auntie played such a huge role in Cadence’s formative years. And thus, the pivot; “Twilight... will never be Celestia, but the same is true of anypony. I’ve known Twily for many years, and you’ll never find a pony as friendly, smart, and driven to succeed at what she sets out to do as her!” The lights in the theater dimmed as the curtains rolled back, signaling the start of the show; “Shhhh everypony, it’s about to begin.” Shortly after Cadence took her seat in between Mama and Shining Armor, the screen came to life as it displayed the opening titles: ROYAL HOUSEHOLD OF CANTERLOT STATE EVENT DOCUMENTATION SERVICE REEL #226 4/21/1002 MME No rousing soundtrack, no fancy graphic design; just plain ole’ boring text on a black background without any sort of indication what the content will be. Nonetheless, Cadence’s starstruck eyes literally glowed with hearts as she devolved into fangirlism: “OHOHOHTHISNEVERGETSOLD!!!”
  9. .....It was not easy for Sunset Shimmer taking in these sorts of heart-felt confessions. Perhaps the only thing in the Multiverse that could have been even more awkward would be if Twilight Sparkle for some nonsensical reason revealed out of the blue she was desperately in love with the amber unicorn. Because for all the friendships she was blessed with today, a subconscious yet fundamental part of Sunset still believed herself not worth somepony sacrificing their life over. After all, it wasn’t like the Equestrian girl was a princess or anything like that. After a few moments however, Miss Shimmer’s unsure gulps transformed back into a warm smile as she buried her uneasiness away. “Friendship involves sacrifice in some instances,” Sunset sagaciously said; “...But it’s also about sticking with your pal til’ the end of the line. There’s no way I was EVER going to abandon you, Temy.” That was a creed the amber unicorn could comfortably live by. Sunset Shimmer offered her resting friend an eager hoof. “Come on girl; we’re almost to the end. Let’s grab what we came here for and head home!” Giving Tempest Shadow the time she needed to pull herself up (with help), Sunset eventually coughed up an afterthought as she smirked; “Oh just to let you know Tempest... if I lose you now, I won’t have the wilderness skills to make it back to Equestria. Not that I wanna’ put too much pressure on you staying in one piece or anything.....”
  10. In her rush to capture photographic memories, Princess Cadence almost missed the indication that her Mama was ready to head out. “Oh oh, right, of course,” Cadence put away her camera; “Time to show you the Castle, Mama.....” ---------- *SOME TIME LATER* “. . . Princess Twilight has royal duties to attend to today, but she promises to spend some time with us when she’s done for the day.” The Crystal Royal Family walked through the grand halls of Canterlot Castle; castle staff had already been directed to bring Barbera Red’s luggage over to her guestroom, allowing Cadence’s Mama to be shown the grounds without having to worry about all her belongings. “. . . This room we’re walking was once a cloakroom, but over the past year, it’s been converted into the Royal Projector Theater. Here, princesses and their friends and family can watch moving picture shows... and in sound too!” The ponies walking inside would see that the room’s interior indeed look like a miniaturized version of the stereotypical projector theater, including a big curtained screen up front, comfortable theater seating, and a projectionist's booth in the back. “As a matter of fact, I’ve got a special moving picture I want to show you Mama... and YOU TOO, you cutie Flurry Heart you.” Taking a brief moment to ruffle her adorable daughter’s mane, Cadence ushered the group inside the private auditorium; “So come on in everypony and take a seat....!”
  11. “You know Tempest,” Sunset Shimmer grumbled venomously; “For somepony who says she can live by herself in the wilderness just fine, you sure did need a lot of nursing while you were lying there. Did I also remember to mention how heavy you are?” ---------- It all felt like a blur to Sunset: Tempest Shadow taking on the pack leader alone, Sunset being all concerned for the other mare’s safety, Temy going for the dirty hit, and then that business out on the ice lake. Ah yes, the ice lake... Tempest would have joined the other stone wolves beneath the ice had Sunset not swooped in there in time and teleported the two unicorns to the opposite shore a mere split-second before the ice crumbled beneath their hooves. With much of her own magic having been depleted, Sunset had no choice but to physically drag Tempest’s sorry carcass to a relative place of safety. And lemme’ tell you; Tempest Shadow was one big hunk of a unicorn, making the dragging along all the more excruciating. The amber unicorn ended up having to use the last of her spellcasting strength to hover Tempest onto her own back to ensure they’d both make it, leaving the ex-apprentice with an unbearable load upon her back. Sunset was just about ready to slay her companion by the time she reached the towering keep... which, of course, was perched on a steep hilltop with access granted only by a winding stair hewn into the rock. Unceremoniously throwing the unconscious Tempest onto the ground, Sunset next worked on applying one of their stashed poultices on the site where Temy got hit hard; it was all Sunny would be able to do for the moment, until her mana sufficiently recharged. Oh yeah, you know what also sucks? Having to start a fire WITHOUT being able to use your magic. About half an hour passed before Sunset finally figured out how to get a campfire started by using a dumb flint and steel. By this point, her language had devolved into uncivilized profanities and curses; many of them aimed at Tempest. When night came, and it came especially swift this up North (only less than one quarter of a 24-hour cycle was just barely daylight, actually), Sunset finally felt recharged enough to use a Growth Spurt spell on Tempest’s ribs, which would further help with the healing process. She’d still feel immense pain for several days afterward, but her bones would more or less be fine... mostly. Only then could Sunset allow herself some sleep, cuddling up against Tempest for warmth..... ....................... Tempest Shadow took her sweet time awakening. When she did, Sunset was already up keeping a watch over the surroundings. Hearing her friend stir, Sunny didn’t bother looking back as she said in a half-scolding, half-congratulatory manner; “...That was a ballsy move you pulled off back there.....”
  12. Princess Cadence blushed; she still had work to do on making her hugs less of a suffocating ordeal. That would be another thing to add to the New Year’s Resolution list. “Oh, we’ve been doing fine,” Cadence replied to her Mama; “It’s just been the usual same-ole same-ole; a ribbon-cutting ceremony on one day, the return of a supposedly-vanquished ancient evil the next, and attending a coronation afterwards. I’m sure you’ve already read all about everything in the papers, though.....” The alicorn moved off to the side as Mama went to greet Shining Armor. The mane event was about to commence, and this particular younger-generation mother was going to document every moment of it... with a small hoofheld camera she somehow produced from.... somewhere. As Mama proceeded to dote on lil’ Flurry Heart, Cadence’s camera magically hovered up into the air and started blazing away; the snapshooter was enjoying every millisecond of this adorable scene.....
  13. Welp; guess it’s back to rockwolves again... which in this circumstance, was actually a welcome diversion for Sunset Shimmer..... ---------- *Pop* *Pop* *BOOM!!!!!* BLAST that confounded alpha wolf!!! Sunset hit that thing with everything she had, but when the smoke cleared from the furious explosion, the canine rock elemental remained standing... completely unharmed, in fact! It seemed quite unimpressed with the unicorn’s awesome display of magic, responding only by dusting itself off. “Uhhhhh, Tempest?” Sunset expressed her profound fear; “Got any ideas?”
  14. Twilight Sparkle was a wonkish pony princess; truly she was. Unfortunately, she was letting the present status quo blind her to the future of warfare that was about to unfold. When the princess rattled down the list of deposits, General Pummel quickly added; “And Long Guo.” It would have had been egregious to leave out the civilization that had been the historic pioneer behind gunpowder weaponry, and which to this day remains the world’s largest manufacturer of civilian and military rocketry. ". . . There is a reason the most advanced military forces on the planet . . . do not use them as the main thrust of their arms. It isn't access or lack of know-how." “I wouldn’t be so sure about that.” A new voice brimming with chilling smugness immediately interjected from the far end of the conference table from Princess Twilight. The earth pony mare speaking up sported a short stylishly-trimmed mane, a pair of half-tinted glasses, and a rather fashionable cravat. The credentials for this odd one out being here was that she was none other than Spyglass; Director of the Secret Monster Intelligence League of Equestria — or S.M.I.L.E. for short. S.M.I.L.E. was a civilian agency, but the intell it gathered abroad (and the other clandestine activities it conducted) gave S.M.I.L.E wide-ranging importance in national security affairs. “From what we’ve gathered from our informants,” Director Spyglass coolly explained; “House Silverbeak of Aquellia is pouring vast sums of money into experimental weapons development. In fact, they’ve already produced numerous designs on par with WRAITH’s; in some cases... too eerily so. If there’s one thing about Aquellians... they’re a prideful nation, and they won’t rest until THEY can claim the unquestioned title of most advanced military. Their leadership is 100% committed to this goal, no matter the expense. And so as Aquellia start equipping its forces with these weapons, other regional powers will inevitably feel they have no choice but to follow suit, or else risk getting muscled out of their spheres of influence... or outright losing territory. Our analysts believe that a decade from now, the designs pioneered today by WRAITH will become standard-issue in most militaries capable of projecting force on a regional scale.....” When it became clear that Director Spyglass had finished speaking, Pummel moved swiftly to give his own rebuttal; “With all due respect Madam Princess, barely any resource exploration has even been done in the Painted Pinto Desert. The geologists we’ve consulted however are confident that there is every reason to expect that suitable deposits can be found, much as they’ve been located in other arid corners of the world. I assure you that scarcity won’t be an issue. As for how cannons compare to ballistae, the simple fact is that a siege-grade cannon has five times the range of a bolt thrower and can fire its projectile at far greater speed, giving a round shot enough force to reduce any fortification to rubble without the need for enchantments. No heavy bolt enchantments have ever come close to replicating those results. Now, if we then compare ballistae to lighter anti-personnel cannons... it is possible to create enchanted bolt varieties with superior range and accuracy to round shot. However, that comes with the trade-off of that projectile requiring a lot more horse-hours to make, which can ONLY be done with an artificing specialist. And the end result is a heavy bolt that can only hit one target at a time. A single round shot projectile meanwhile... can plow its way through multiple rank-and-file the way a bowling ball mows down pins; no magic required. And not only can a cannonball be made by literally anypony in a factory, but light cannons are far more mobile and easier to set up than equivalent bolt throwers. Finally, we’ve seen WRAITH make effective use of small hoof-held cannons that can be readily carried into battle by a single pony. While even a mundane crossbow boasts superior range, accuracy, and rate of fire... a small cannonball fired at close-quarters can make mincemeat out of a heavily-armored combatant, regardless of where it hits. The same can’t be done with crossbow bolts without either exceptional aim, or costly enchantments.” ---------- On the matter of field tactics, Princess Twilight again betrayed her inherent tunnel vision. “Need I remind you,” Gen. Pummel countered as he sighed in frustration; “That the REASON rogue changelings and caribou attack en masse is because our over-reliance on antiquated and hard-to-manufacture weaponry allows them to get away with it. Give the Army and Navy a generous supply of cannons and rockets... and our opposition will start singing a different tune. ...You must also understand that if our troops depend solely on frontal assaults during offensive actions, we’ll suffer extensive casualties when taking the fight to the Enemy. That is something you MUST consider if you deploy your forces on an overseas intervention. When we fight over there for Freedom... it’s not just enough for us to have the bigger stick..... but we have to fight smarter than the other guy too. Because if we DON’T... it means a ton of brave stallions and mares won’t make it back Home, and your subjects will sour on everything we hope to accomplish here real fast.” For one slight moment, Pummel’s eyes appeared downcast as if in a mournful mood, suggesting that even a gruff pegasus as he could show a vulnerable side; “...I ask a lot of the ponies who serve under my command. I would like to think that in return, we’d give them every tool we could — and all the know-how they'll need — to ensure they return home to their families.....”
  15. Sunset might have been laying on the exaggeration a bit too thickly for Tempest’s comfort. Deliberately not drawing attention towards her buddy’s physical display of emotion. the amber unicorn apologized to their one-pony audience; “Sorry if I’m getting carried away, Twi. Temy’s not actually as troublesome as I make her out to be. And well.....” ---------- “For what it’s worth;” Sunset placed a comforting foreleg around her adventuring partner; “.....I myself used to HATE Hearth’s Warming. Well, ‘hate’ is a rather strong word I suppose, but still. This... this isn’t something I can tell most people. I’m not comfortable letting others know that I have no family to go to during the holidays... and uggh, I don’t wanna be invited over to somebody else’s place just because they feel sorry for me. Considering we’ve already nearly died TWICE on this expedition, I’d say this has a fine holiday season for me so far.” Sunset fondly sighed; “I almost forgot how much I loved questing back when I was Celestia’s lil’ sidekick... although I don’t remember the wilderness kicking me in the flank so hard before.....” Finishing her grumbling, the ex-apprentice took a swig of her own (non-alcoholic) drink; “For a mare who’s so vastly different from everyone else, you Tempest — of all ponies — are the one friend who makes me miss Equestria the most. I pretty much made my peace long ago with the fact that I’ll never be anyone AMAZING like a princess or a master of sorcery who’ll be written about in the history books.” (But has she really, though?) “Yet I can’t deny that sometimes, it just feels so good to be able to let loose and, you know, do pony things!” Sunset wrapped her forelegs around Tempest’s neck and fondly smiled. “Thank you for taking me way out here to the middle of nowhere... Temy.....” ---------- By the end of her mini-story, Sunset Shimmer appeared apprehensive and unable to meet Twilight Sparkle’s gaze. Although Twi would always be the PFF, what Sunset just described were deeply personal thoughts and feelings that she never felt comfortable sharing with her alicorn friend. Miss Shimmer didn’t want Twi to feel betrayed having to learn these things in such a grossly roundabout way, but if Temy was emotionally putting herself on the line tonight, there was no way Sunset would let her do that alone.....
  16. *OOC: Proper responses to those who've addressed Pummel's ideas so far will come after the next Twilight post, I promise.* General Pummel had thoughts of his own concerning military procurement; “As far as I’m concerned, the civilian-run Municipal Guard forces have the right idea doing away with antiquated suits of armor. If you think our army will be winning the wars of tomorrow with phalanges and mass charges, think again. Our potential adversaries are either larger in number, better equipped, or are creatures of freakish strength. We can’t afford to get into straight fights with hostiles... so we need gear that will better enable us to fight differently. .....And no other group knows how to fight differently better than the WRAITH insurgents.” The pegasus grimly shook his head; “Say what you want about those poor dumb bastards... but they’re clever enough to understand that they’d get wiped out effortlessly if they ever tried attacking in equine waves. If you refer to the section on Battlefield Tactics in the Suntrot Commission Report, you’ll see how WRAITH combatants consistently employ suppressive fire, cover and concealment, and highly-coordinated maneuvers on a platoon level during skirmishes. In conjunction with their cutting-edge weaponry, that is how WRAITH has been able to punch far above its weight until now. Based on the demonstrated effectiveness of Fire and Maneuver tactics, there is no reason why the Royal Equestrian Army couldn’t be trained and equipped to fight in the same manner. You’ll note the Suntrot Commission’s recommendations on new standard-issue equipment for our serviceponies, which meet the criteria of being both easily mass-produced, and maintainable with the bare minimum of tools. The specifics are all in the report, but to keep it brief; over the next five to ten years, melee weaponry and armor suits should be gradually phased out in favor of gear more suited to ranged squad-to-squad combat. Camouflaged combat uniforms. Lamellar protection systems. Repeating crossbows. Bombs. Cannons. Rockets. The technology behind these are already available in Equestria! All the Princess has to do is give the word, and our nation’s factories can start chumming these out at a moment’s notice. And given enough time and resources, our domestic defense contractors will be able to adapt AND improve on existing magitech and steam-powered designs in use by foreign powers and WRAITH, allowing us to readily equip our troops with rotary magicannons, flamethrowers... armored crawlers..... Equestria’s economic and industrial might is second-to-none. If we commit to a total modernization program today, our nation has the means to build an Arsenal of Harmony within the decade.....”
  17. Ah yes, the new “friends”..... ---------- “YOU KNOW TEMPEST,” Sunset angrily vented in the heat of the moment; “MAYBE THEY WOULDN’T BE SO HOSTILE IF YOU DIDN’T ACT LIKE A MENACING HORSE OF THE APOCALYPSE ALL THE TIME!” In the chaos of the chase, Tempest was swiftly regressing to her base instincts; “BLAST THEM??? ARE YOU CRAZY!!???” There was no way Sunset was able to carry out that command... but there were other things the amber unicorn could do with her talents. Sunset Shimmer halted and turned to face her primitive pursuers. Taking a page out of her foxxy buddy’s playbook, Sunset’s horn lit up in flames as she conjured a fiery apparition for a phoenix. It was “real” in the technical sense, but it looked and sounded real enough for the wild ponies, who fled in terror as the illusory phoenix screeched and swooped down..... ---------- “. . . So again, I managed to save the day without breaking a sweat. Anyway, the nights weren’t all that bad. Tempest chose our equipment well thankfully, although we might have stayed warmer if she hadn’t been SUCH a sour puss.....” ---------- Sunset was incredulous; “What do you mean you don’t want to sing?” The two adventuring unicorns were in a cave, huddling around a campfire as a freak blizzard raged outside. Tempest as always was being her difficult, miserly self. “Singing Hearth’s Warming carols was how Equestria’s founders made it through the windigos’ storm! Come on, Tempest.” She jabbed the dark-coated unicorn’s shoulder; “Live a little.....”
  18. “It was not a week about danger.” Wasn’t that the understatement of the season? “Pfft,” Sunset Shimmer snorted; “You could say that, again. Like when the rock wolves ambushed us on the Mountain Pass.....” ---------- With a pained wince, Tempest Shadow recoiled from the swipe of the rock wolf’s claws, barely managing to hold it together. Blew, how typical of that brick-headed fighter! As always, she just HAD to pick a fight with the local wildlife for the sheer thrill of it, and in typical Tempest fashion, she exhausted all her fighting strength without even so much as putting a meaningful dent in the ranks of the wolf pack. Welp, it looked like it’d be up to Sunset Shimmer to dispose of these pests! Using her quick thinking, Sunset calculated a fool-proof plan to get rid of the threat in one fell swoop. Taking aim at the mountainside above, the amber unicorn inhaled as her horn tip glowed with a reddish-rose light. Then she exhaled, releasing a beam of superheated energy that cackled in the air like firecrackers! *Pop* *Pop* *BOOM!!!!!* The beam exploded upon contact with the mountainside, triggering an avalanche of rock and snow that fell down upon the hapless rock wolves. As for our heroes... the falling debris was of no concern at all, naturally. If it had been, then SURELY Sunset would have remembered dodging all that rubble. But regardless, Miss Shimmer was undoubtedly the clear-cut hero of that particular encounter. ---------- “So that’s how it all went down at the Mountain Pass.....”
  19. “Here she comes, Flurry!” Princess Cadence was excitedly hyping up her tike-sized daughter; “Your grand-mama from Itaily is here!!” This was a day long in the making; the day that grandma and granddaughter finally meet one another for the first time. It meant a lot to the daughter that her mother accepted the invitation to spend Hearth’s Warming in Canterlot, for there was much family catching-up that needed to be done. It seemed like it was only yesterday that Flurry Heart was a newborn foal, crawling all over the floor whenever she was too tuckered out from a magic or flying surge. But the young alicorn was growing up fast now; her scrabbling now becoming a clumsy walk which became less clumsy by the day. Gone were the days of incoherent cooing and babbling, replaced with random words of a one or two-syllable nature. And oh yes, the little filly was potty trained too! Before anypony knew it, Flurry would be attending Magic Kindergarten and Flight Camp like all the other fillies!!! ...Which was why it was so important for Cadence’s mama to meet Flurry this season, before the little one grew any older! “MAMA!!!” An above average-sized mass of pink assailed Barbera Red with a bone-crushing hug the moment the elder mare appeared on the platform; “You made it…!” In her state of joy, Cadence had yet to notice the oversized luggage her mom was attempting to carry.....
  20. A smirk appeared on Sunset Shimmer’s lips as Gallus asked his next question; “Well... that’s the million dollar question, isn’t it? Conveniently enough, it’s also the subject I planned to lecture about today in our first meeting! So let’s get to it, shall we?” Sunset leaned on her desk, waiting for a few seconds for her students to grab their notebooks and pencils; “First, let’s ask ourselves: is fighting an inherently evil act? Does pacifism equate to moral cowardice? Can fighting be justified in certain situations? Do Good and Evil truly exist as quantifiable variables in our Multiverse, or are they merely crude abstractions that fail to reflect the shades of grey that can be found in any creature? The gist of the matter is that for as long has civilization has existed, philosophers have been grappling with these very questions. Indeed, entire cultures in this very world have come up with widely divergent answers. Let’s make one thing clear; I’m not here to tell you whether abstinence from violence or violence for a good cause is the more morally justified option. What I CAN do though is to teach you how to come to your own conclusions... and to give you the tools that’ll ensure that no matter the path you choose, that neither your hearts or those you cherish will succumb to Darkness.” The unicorn proceeded to methodically weave her way up and down through the rows of sitting students. “This is now a good time to remind you that we are all very much pioneers in the study of Defense Against Dark Hearts. Much of the required reading you’ll find in your syllabus is cribbed from other fields, as barely anything directly pertaining to this subject has EVER been published. Not even Princess Twilight has had the opportunity to synthesize the known knowledge and to conduct experiments! Don’t worry guys, heh heh; I’m not going to make you each write an entire book about Defense Against Dark Hearts. But be warned that the research I’ll be assigning will be extra significant, because the projects and lab sessions you’ll be doing this school year... will help form the building blocks for teaching future students how to defend against darkened hearts.”
  21. Once Nursemaid and the guards had been sent on their way, Sunset Shimmer began to elaborate more on the story teases Tempest provided. “So anyway, I was doing my Hearth’s Warming shopping when it occurred to me that ‘Geez, everypony probably gives Twi books for presents every year, she's undoubtedly sick to DEATH of them. Let’s get her something that doesn't make her do something as BORING as reading!’” Of course, it shouldn’t take a wizard to figure out that Sunset was only trying to get a rise out of Twilight. “Thing was, I was having trouble thinking of a super special gift for you Twi, so I wrote Tempest for advice on what I should get... and that’s where the fun began.....”
  22. Being told of the Palace’s draconian measures around mail inspired little confidence within Sunset Shimmer; “Yeah, sure.” She could only imagine the hellstorm that would ensue from the magic-using community if a princess ever told anypony to surrender ownership of enchanted items over to the State..... Miss Shimmer’s face turned a slight shade of scarlet when Prince Lián revealed he knew of her already. “Oh uhh,” Sunset stammered, rubbing the back of her head; “I haven’t really done anything all that special, really. You have to excuse Twilight; sometimes she gets TOO eager to hype up her friends because... hey, it’s what a Princess of Friendship is supposed to do, heh heh.” The unicorn actually didn’t know that for certain; it was just a hasty rationalization she made up to explain the inherent weirdness of Twi singing Sunset’s praises to a foreign prince. ...A foreign prince that Sunset still didn’t quite fully trust yet, despite taking on the affect of being a down-to-earth guy. If anything, it only further raised her suspicions. How convenient for a prince — a probable pretender to the throne back in his homeland, mind you — to maintain correspondence with a princess. Bet’cha there was no ulterior motive for that, no siree! “Soooooo.....,” Sunset gathered up the courage to awkwardly ask Lián after a minute passed; “Feng was telling me a couple minutes ago how you... ummm, have a really big family!”
  23. As much as Sunset Shimmer suffered much toil during her ordeal, she had to give credit to Tempest Shadow where it was due. Without the ex-commander’s ability to take blows like an earth pony, Sunset’s bacon would have been fried for sure, and this was from somepony ranked as one of the most gifted spellcasters of her generation. Or at least, was once considered years ago to reach that potential one day. Either way, Tempest earned the right to playfully rag on Sunset as she wished. “Oh please,” the amber unicorn smirked as Tempest whispered a message; “You only kept saving my flank because without me around to blast everything in sight, you would’ve been a goner.” Sunset and Tempest’s bantering did precisely nada to put Twilight Sparkle at ease. “Heh heh heh,” Sunset chuckled; “Calm down, will ya? It’s sorta a long story, but it can wait til Nursemaid’s done with me.” It go figured that the nursemaid’s actual name was Nursemaid. “How do I look, ma’am?” Nursemaid meanwhile was pouring Tempest a cup of herbal tea. “You’ll be fine for now Miss Shimmer, just as long as you drink your tea and not move around too much. I would also advise a massage treatment to relieve any additional throbbing... but I suppose it’ll have to wait until the Princess is finished with you.” “As for Miss Shadow here..... frankly, you should go see a doctor.”
  24. It didn’t seem that long ago when Filthy’s daughter would have revolted at the mere thought of getting her hooves dirty. She was surely maturing, indeed! As for Rarity, her mind operating on the same page as Mr. Rich’s caused him to make an embarrassed half-laugh. Diamond didn’t take too long to get ready; as she left with the carolers, Daddy watched from the front door, exchanging a goodbye wave of his own. Once the others were out of sight, Filthy shut the door, eager to spoil Spoiled with a night to themselves..... *EXIT FILTHY RICH*
  25. *15 MINUTES LATER* Sunset Shimmer opened up her eyes, finding that she had been relocated to a world of throbbing head pain. Or to be more precise, onto a comfy sofa in Twilight Sparkle's royal study. The amber unicorn’s saddlebags had been taken off of her and placed on a side table. Not a moment passed after Sunset reawakened before a castle staffpony shoved a cup of hot herbal-smelling liquid in her face; “Drink this tea, ma’am. It will help rejuvenate you.” Still feeling a little feeble, Sunset twitched her head at the attendant, nonverbally signaling for assistance. The other pony complied, first by sitting the unicorn up, then by gently pouring the tea into her mouth. This was a far more bitter tea than Sunset was accustomed to, but already the aches were starting to fade away, so she took one more sip for good measure. It didn’t escape Miss Shimmer’s notice when Twilight burst into the room. “Heh,” her strained muscles managed to pull off a teasing grin; “I guess you’re too much of a bigshot now to play nursemaid for your friend.” Sunset’s smile swiftly took on a more apologetic demeanor; “Sorry for raining on your Hearth’s Warming Eve party, Twi. I bet you’ve got a million questions in your head right about now.....”
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