Warmth finally came to me, coloring my white coat and setting my mane and tail ablaze with red hues. Celestias sun was rising on the horizon. Laid out in front of me was a collection of stir-fry bowls, organized in a half-crescent around my body. Beyond them, an array of pots and pans placed at different heights around a central barrel gave me a wide berth of high and low alternatives to work with. To my left and right a drumstick had been placed; ready to be enveloped in a field of unicorn magic. The fact of the matter that I could levitate two sticks and use my hooves to play, made my music all the more diverse, and it was that diversity that made me the money to keep me going each day.
Deciding I was done setting up, I stood and made my way towards one of the many vendors erecting their mobile stalls in preparation for the rush that was sure to hit them as the day started. Just outside the park, I used a small motel to sleep and store whatever extra money I made. Manehatten at night was a hellish place, and I was wise enough to retreat to my room with my earnings at around nine each evening.
“Vinyl!” A rather plump earth pony met me with a big smile as I approached the juice stand. “I was expecting you!”
I chuckled and nodded understandingly.
“Of course you were, Juicebox. I pay a visit here, what, almost every morning?”
“Yessery! What would you like today dear? It’s going to be hot… how about a nice big cup of orange juice?” I puckered my lips, nodding slowly.
“I think that’s a good idea. Sure, I’ll have one.”
With a nod the bubbly stallion leaned down behind the stall and pulled up a large container of freshly squeezed orange juice. He then proceeded to grab a large cup and pour the pulp filled beverage into it. Topping it off with a lid, he slid the cold drink my way.
“That’ll be three bits, but you get a discount dear... two bits please.”
I nodded gratefully and took the required amount out of my bit-purse, laying the gold pieces at the vendors waiting hoof.
“Thanks again, Juicebox! I’ll be back to see you later today. Good luck with the sales!” Levitating the drink I trotted back to my buskering station under the oak tree.
As I finished my solo, the assembled audience clippity-clopped the ground exuberantly; cheering as they did so. Soon to follow was a barrage of bits falling into her tin cup.
I bowed. It was getting closer to the end of the day, and there was a lull in visitors, so I decided to pay another visit to Juicebox. Pulling out three bits from my tin, I cast a glance around the thinned out crowd, spotting the peppermint striped umbrella. With a brief smile I began to make my way towards the beacon. As I drew closer, I quickly realized that it was not Juicebox behind the booth, but sompony else. He was a unicorn- like me -and his coat was a brownish color that reminded me of fresh mud. I stopped and looked around again for the stallion I’d planned on buying from, but came up with nothing. Shrugging, I made my way towards the umbrella.
“I’d like to buy something to drink.” Catching sight of my approaching figure, the salespony smiled in a way that led me to suspect he'd recognized me.
“It’s you!” he said.
“Me?” I replied, taken aback.
The salespony nodded. “Ya, the busker from underneath the oak tree, right?"
"Yes, and who are you?"
“Balefire." A dazzling smile, "I was meaning to talk to you.”
“Talk to me?” I asked curiously.
“Yes. I have a proposal." He sneezed. "I’ll present it to you when I close down for the evening. Stick around till I do, would ya?”
Well, I never thought the conversation would unfold exactly like this.
“I’ll stay around so long as it’s not past nine. You know how the streets are at night.” I mauled over my words as they came out.
“Don't worry," he assured. "I’ll be done here by eight thirty at the latest.”
I nodded slowly. “It’s a deal I guess. I’ll wait."
We hoof-bumped and the promise was sealed.
The sun was tipping close to the horizon, the day was almost done, and Balefire had turned up on time.
“So you stuck around!” he said with another one of those award winning smiles.
“Well I did bump on it. I’m not the kind of pony that goes back on promises.”
“And neither am I. You’ve waited long enough, so here’s my proposal.” He stopped for a second to clear his throat. “I’ve heard you play all day long, and it’s clear to me that you possess a great ability…”
He lapsed into silence that dragged on endlessly. Peeved, I prompted him to continue with a coaxing hoof wave.
“Well… my brother Dawnfire and I are starting up a band.”
Say what now!
“…we’re looking for a drummer. It’s not like we plan on going professional or anything, but we’d be touring bars all over Manehatten. I’m the guitarist, my brother’s the singer... and, well, would you be the drummer?”
When I diden't respond, Balefire began to second guess himself.
“I understand if you just want to stay here, you don't know who I am and…”
His spluttering was interrupted by my joyous laugh.
“Why are you even trying to convince me?!”
“I know, I know it’s just… wait, you want to join?”
“Ya! Dude, I’m in!” I exclaimed, throwing my front hooves up.
“And here I thought it would take at least a round of shooters to convince you.”
I smiled slyly. “You know. Now that I think about it, maybe I shouldn’t. Busking here is pretty sweet. I make an honest profit, and, well, it’s fun. You’re going to have to do better. You said something about shooters?”
Balefire laughed at my remark and nudged me lightly on the shoulder.
“Damn, you’re one tough cookie," his voice was laced with playful sarcasm, "Sure, you got me. Where do you want to go?”
“The Drinking Trough. You know the place?”
Balefire nodded. “Yep. That’s Dawnfire’s favorite place to drink. We’ll go there. Definitely."
“Great! I just have to pack up my equipment...” I drawled off, redirecting my attention to cast a bout of magic out over the scattered pots and pans.
“Let me help.”
In no time the task was completed.
The bar was stifling hot and buzzing with energy. There was no music, but the sheer amount of voices compensated, coming together to give the atmosphere a raucous sort of vibe. I sat beside Balefire, shouting a bit to be heard over the noise.
“So you’ve been making music since you were a foal?”
“Yep,” Balefire replied, puffing out his chest proudly. “Since I could use my magic!” He paused momentarily to take a swig of the cider he was drinking. The heavy shooters would come later on when his brother arrived. “That’s how I got my mark.” He shifted to his side to show the four stringed guitar on his flank.
“Only four strings, not five?” I questioned.
A chuckle from the other unicorn. “My dad used to play the guitar. When I was old enough, he pulled it out and taught me how to use it. The thing is it only had four strings. He damaged it a long time ago, and never really got around to fixing it. He used to tell me that if I could play something well when it was damaged, when the time came for me to get a new one, I’d rock out all the harder!” A sigh. “He was a good stallion.”
“He sounds like it,” I said. “I’d love to meet him one day.”
“I would too.” There was a sudden shift in Balefires mood, he smiled sheepishly.
“Sorry? Didn’t you…”
“He passed away. From Wing Rot.”
“Oh.” I felt like a total idiot. “I’m so sorry. Hopefully it was quick?”
“Not really. The damn infection drew things out. He survived long enough to see his own wings removed. He was, he was… oh, never mind.” Balefire gave a shaky laugh. “You don’t need to know all the details. I’m sorry.”
“I understand,” I cooed compassionately. “You’re luckier than me. I’ve never seen my parents.”
“Really? That must be hard.”
“It is. I grew up in an orphanage.” A shadow fell across my face as I recalled my tough upbringing. “It was pretty shitty.” Fearing that my dark memories would put me in a bad mood, I lightened up. “But the past is the past, yes?
“And we shouldn’t dwell in it too long. What we need to do is look forward to the future! So tell me about this band idea.”
“Oh, I’ll tell ya about the band!” A new voice coming from somewhere behind me made me turn around.
The sight that met my eyes would have definitely given me a wingboner... if I had a pair.
Was this the mysterious Dawnfire?
“Bro!” Balefire exclaimed, rising up from the bar stool to wholeheartedly hug the pegasi.
“Bale! How ya been doin’ buddy?”
“Really great actually… oh, and this is the filly I was telling you about.” He pointed with a hoof in my direction. “She’s taken up the offer. Or almost so. "A sarcastic glance. “You should hear her play.”
Dawnfire turned to look at me. “I’m damn glad you decided to take up our offer filly. Welcome aboard!”
I went to say something, but my voice caught in my throat, so I just nodded curtly.
Too. Much. Hotness.
“Vinyl and I have been waiting for you to turn up. We’ve got a round of shooters coming, and I knew you’d kill me if you missed out,” Balefire said.
Dawnfire laughed. “Damn right, Bale.” He turned again to me. “You picked the right place to drink, Vinyl; it’s great here. If you’re trying to gain my respect, you’re on the right track.” He nudged me “How does that sayin’ go…?”
“Great minds think alike?” Balefire mentioned before turning back to greet the approaching bartender; exchanging a few words with the well dressed stallion.
“Ya, that one.”
The shot glasses arrived on a silver platter.
I had planned on celebrating tonight, and this was a new chapter in my music career… so what the hay?!
“Bottoms up!” I shouted, tipping the strong shooter down my gaping maw.
A cheer from Dawnfire. “You go filly! Damn, how ya holdin’ in that much?”
“Magic!” I exclaimed with a drunken snort of laughter.
Minutes before Balefire had excused himself politely to go to the washroom, leaving Dawnfire and I to talk in private.
“But I think I’m done now.” As if to emphasize my proclamation, I swayed a little on the bar stool I was sitting on.
“Speakin’ of magic, I’m surprised you’re keepin’ it going with all that drink in ya'. Don’t you feel a little tired?”
I nodded. “I do, but it’s nothing I can’t handle. The last three years of busking have really helped me strengthen my magic. I guess that’s one of the good things that came out of it all.”
“One of them?”
“I met you.” I smiled in a way that both gave off a vibe of seduction and content. Dawnfire, being the observant colt that he was, smiled back coyly.
“Now that’s a bold thing to say filly. How do you know I don’t have a mate?”
He was playing hard to get. I'd show him.
“I’m using guesstimation.” I moved in a little, resting my head on his downy chest. He hardly flinched. I grinned. “And now I know.”
“You didn’t flinch when I rested my head on you."
“Well, you’re no fun!” he said, wrapping a hoof around me and pulling me close.
“I can be…” I snuggled into him, glowing with an almost electric desire .
Booze had done it for me again, and I'd snared a mighty big bird. Even if things between the two of us stopped the following morning, at least I could have a night.
“…do you want to find out?” Without waiting for his response, I brought an assertive hoof to ruffle the tips of his wings. To my delight, they flared outwards and he sharply inhaled.
“What the hay do you think?” he replied with a shaky smile.