After an uneventful lunch and subsequent return to Carousel Boutique, Octavia began to wonder what Vinyl had planned for her.
Rarity was stood before a curtain, grinning with ill-contained pride, “Your outfit is just beyond this curtain. You'll look positively darling in it!”
Vinyl nudged Octavia forwards, giving her that infuriating smile. Octavia played the role of polite pony and asked to see the creation.
The curtains took on a violet glow of magic, shifting back to reveal a dress horse covered in a rather fabulous looking outfit. Dark grey in colour, the dress was simple yet complicated at the same time, it turned from soft fabric at the top to a tough looking corset around the waist and ending in a mid-length, open front skirt that adhered to the contours of the dress horses body and tail whilst leaving the front near enough bare. To top it all off, a matching veil was draped across half of the dress horses face.
Octavia honestly had no idea what to say.
“Isn't it great!” Vinyl said, “You'll be needing it when we play our first show.”
“You already have our first show planned out? We haven't even practised together yet.” Octavia replied, relishing the opportunity to say something rather than gaping awkwardly at the dress.
Vinyl grinned sheepishly, “I, er... This is actually an old idea of mine, I've just never had the chance to make it work until I met you.”
Octavia raised an eyebrow, “So what's this plan of yours?”
“Okay, Picture this...” Vinyl bounced up and down a few times, obviously excited. When she calmed down a little, she draped one of her front legs around Octavia's shoulders and used to other to guide her gaze into the distance, “Darkness. Then a light fades in revealing Octavia, looking for all the world like a gothic aristocrat. Slowly, she picks up her bow and begins to play a haunting melody reminiscent of moonlit nights in the Everfree Forest. Vinyl fades in, adding to the melody with atmospheric rhythms before switching into a heavy bass drum, signalling the turning point of the performance. The melody begins to fade away, being replaced by a much more intense repetition of a similar yet modified melody that sets the scene for what is to come, a rousing monologue from none other than me.”
“A monologue?” Octavia questioned, looking slightly amused.
Vinyl looked slightly crest-fallen, but hid it well, “Yeah, everyone likes monologues.”
“If by everyone, you mean cartoon super-villains.”
“You've not heard the monologue,” Vinyl walked over towards Rarity, “Or the monologue set to our epic music. Either way, climb into the outfit or face the consequences.”
Octavia didn't look too threatened, “And what would these consequences be?”
“Oh, I'm sure two talented unicorns like ourselves,” Vinyl indicated herself and Rarity, “Would be able to come up with an absolutely magical solution.”
It took a long time to get Octavia into the dress, Vinyl apparently insisted that it be designed to be close fitting. It took almost as long for Rarity to make small adjustments to the dress once Octavia had been told to model it and make a few turns on a makeshift walkway. Finally, it took equally as long to get her out of the dress without damaging it.
Rarity said that she would personally wrap and box the dress so as not to damage it in transit. Octavia tried to talk her out of it, but Rarity insisted, saying it was the least she could do after all the bits they paid for it.
“Wait a minute.” Octavia turned to Vinyl, who was casually cleaning her hooves, “You bought me the dress?”
“I thought that much was obvious, you've been trying it on almost all afternoon.”
Octavia rolled her eyes, “I thought I was going to buy it after we'd sorted out the fitting. I never knew you had already paid for it.”
Vinyl didn't seem very bothered by Octavia's objection, “Look, the studio pays me far too much money for the music I put out, I honestly don't need a lot of it. Consider it an early birthday gift if it makes you feel better.”
Octavia found herself, once again, at a loss for words, “Thanks Vinyl, no one has ever bought me such a beautiful gift before.”
“Sounds like you just needed nicer friends.”
Octavia made to object, but when she really thought about it, she realised that she didn't have any friends outside of her work. Yes, she was friendly with them, Bass and Treble Clef especially, but they rarely interacted outside of work. Octavia hung her head, feeling dejected, “I guess I did.”
Vinyl realised what her remark had done a little too late, “I didn't mean to drag up any old stuff by saying that.” The unicorn tried to lay a comforting hoof on her shoulder, but Octavia shied away.
“No, you're right, I've never really had friends. They just put up with me because I work with them.”
“Hey, chin up.” Vinyl put on an encouraging smile, “You have me now, none of that other stuff matters.”
“How do I know you're just not keeping me happy so we'll work better together?”
Vinyl tried not to look shocked at this question, she very nearly managed it, she sighed and went on, “Would a fake friend buy you an expensive, custom dress and ask nothing in return? I'm sure there are plenty of cheaper ways to keep someone buttered up, why waste more money than you have to on someone you don't really care about?”
Octavia looked up, Vinyl had a rather round about way of getting to her point, but it was a comforting point nonetheless. “Just don't waste too much money on me.”
“I will make no such promise, I'll spoil you like the milk in my fridge if I so please.” Vinyl gave her a cheeky grin and Octavia chuckled happily.
“Aww,” Rarity had appeared behind them, elegantly wrapped box held with her magic, “If I didn't know any better I'd say you two were budding, young lovers.” She winked and gave a disarming laugh.
Vinyl rolled her eyes, Rarity was oblivious to this of course, “Is that the dress? Thanks, we'll be leaving now, lots to do. I'm sure you can relate.”
Rarity nodded, “Yes, I have commissions to work on. If you need anything else, remember Rarity and tell your friends.”
“Come on Octavia, we need to execute part two of our musical plan.” Vinyl pushed the earth pony from the store, looking somewhat miffed.
“Okay Vinyl, so what exactly is part two?”
“We find that pegasus from last night. It shouldn't be too hard, just look up.” Vinyl scanned the sky just in case.
“The one who you wanted to talk to about singing in the band?”
“Wow, good job, I thought last night would be one big blur for you.”
Octavia cradled her head, the ghost of a headache catching her, “It's mostly just the second half of the night, I can remember the start rather well.”
“Shame, the second half was pretty good. Pinkie started a game, covertly of course, to see who could hide her pet alligator in the most hilarious place to prank people. Our pegasus friend joined in now that I think about it.”
“Can't we just ask someone? I know she's blue, surely that narrows it down.”
Vinyl had her eyes firmly trained on the sky, “I know what she looks like and where she lives, it's nearby just in case you wanted to know.”
Octavia dialled the conversation back a little, looking slightly worried, “You know where she lives? How?”
“Not everyone can be as level-headed as me at a party,” Vinyl replied, looking around, “We got to talking and she told me, I've no idea why though, I didn't exactly ask.”
Octavia breathed a sigh of relief, it was always nice to know your friends weren't crazed stalkers. “I can see some kind of cloud house over there, no other way I can describe it really, it's a house that's also a cloud. Do pegasi live in those?”
Vinyl turned to face where Octavia was pointing, “Good eyes Tavi, there's only so much I can do with magic. It's very possible that's where she lives, see any other cloud houses around here?”
Octavia made a quick three-sixty spin but spotted nothing, “Clear skies all around.”
“Then let us away, the quicker we get this done, the quicker we can start.”
The two ponies stood underneath the cloud home, staring at the several metres of open air that separated it from the ground.
“Well, this is convenient,” Vinyl said, her voice layered in heavy sarcasm.
“She mustn't like visitors that much, how is a non-pegasus supposed to get her attention?” Octavia supplied, trying to mitigate the pegasus' apparent want for solitude. She looked over at Vinyl to see if the unicorn agreed with her. Apparently she wasn't listening because Vinyl was searching the ground. “Er... Vinyl, what are you doing?”
“Looking for rocks, a few of those will get her attention. Aha!” Vinyl floated a bunch of rocks with her magic, launching them through the clouds at random.
“Ow!” Vinyl had apparently hit something capable of feeling pain. The next thing they knew however, a rainbow blur flew out of the cloud home and zoomed towards the ground coming to a halt before the pair, kicking up dust as it did. “What do you think you're playing at!” the blur shouted, brandishing a threatening hoof at each of them in turn.
“Hey Rainbow. How was your morning?” Vinyl didn't falter under the pegasus' gaze, instead giving her a goofy grin.
“It was going fine until somepony threw a rock at me!” Rainbow Dash rubbed the back of her head.
“Chill sister, we're just here to talk.”
Vinyl's familiarity with the pegasus would no doubt help ease everything, so Octavia elected to stay silent and just watch.
Rainbow Dash let out a deep breath, it seemed to level her out at least, “I wondered what happened to you after the party, I woke up with Pinkie insisting I leave before the shop had to open. Something about muffins?”
Vinyl laughed, “Oh yeah, we've already spoke to Pinkie, she's been up to her neck in muffins all day it seems.”
“Yeah, so I only got back a few hours ago, not feeling my best after last night. Think I had a little too much.”
Octavia failed to suppress a knowing wince, “You and me both,” she said.
Rainbow Dash turned her gaze, giving Octavia a quick once over, “You're Scratch's friend from last night, right? I don't think I caught your name, maybe I just can't remember,” she laughed embarrassedly.
Octavia chuckled, if only to make the pegasus feel better, “It's Octavia, I don't remember a lot about last night either.”
“Rainbow Dash, fastest weather pony in Equestria, at your service.” The pegasus gave a mock bow before smirking. “So what did you want to talk about, I didn't do anything stupid last night did I?”
Vinyl took control of the conversation again, “You were delightful company, but it's only one part of last night we want to talk about. Karaoke to be exact.”
If this question came out of the blue, she didn't show it on her face, “Just some harmless fun, a nice rock ballad to get the party started. You know how it is.” Rainbow shrugged absent-mindedly, her answer sounded rehearsed, like she had to explain her karaoke habits to a lot of ponies.
“I do know how it is, I know that you were fantastic up there. You have a brilliant voice.”
“So is that all you wanted, to complement my singing voice? It not as if I put any practice into it.”
“And that's why I think you're great,” Vinyl showed an excited smile, it warmed Octavia to see how passionate her friend was about music.
“You have a raw talent that hasn't been tempered by formal training to pigeon-hole your skills. You're exactly what I've been looking for in a vocalist.”
Rainbow took a step back and spluttered, “What me? No, I suck and believe me when I say that I'll brag about almost everything. My singing voice was never one of those things.”
“I know what I heard. Now, you don't have to make a decision now, perhaps you take a trip back to Canterlot with me and Octavia and we have a quick jam session, you might find it fun.”
Octavia recognised that tone in Vinyl's voice, her silver tongue working it's magic. Perhaps it was magic, maybe she should ask one of the days.
Rainbow Dash looked hesitant, “I have a lot of stuff to do here, I can't just abandon Ponyville.”
“It's nothing like that, think of it like a little holiday, I'm sure you're up for one of those after last night. You come into Canterlot, you lay some vocals down over our music and see how well we gel. Even if you end up saying yes, you could even stay in Ponyville if you wished, the music is perfectly willing to work around your schedule.”
The conflict showed on Rainbow Dash's face, but Vinyl cut in to put a cherry on the top of her cake.
“Of course, my music gets a lot of attention, I have countless fans all over Equestria. In fact, I was talking to my friend Spitfire last week, she told me that they use my music in some of her Wonderbolts routines.”
“You know Spitfire, leader of the Wonderbolts, the greatest fliers in all of Equestria?” Rainbow looked manic.
Vinyl ignored it and kept a cool demeanour, “Sure, we go way back, met when we were fillies.”
“So... say I go with you,” the pegasus tried and failed to stay casual, “You could put in a good word for me?”
“Let me put it this way, Dashy,” Vinyl leaned in close, “I'd be eternally grateful if you said yes.”
Rainbow almost jumped out of her skin, but reigned it in, “I don't think a weekend away could hurt, I might as well give it a shot. I've got plenty of holiday hours saved up anyway.”
“Perfect. Now if you don't mind, you can follow us when we leave for Canterlot, I'm not paying for an extra seat when you've got wings.”
Octavia was impressed, Vinyl had total control of that conversation without making it obvious. What other talents she was hiding, Octavia was sure she would love to find out, the unicorn was seemingly full of secrets.
Vinyl wrapped up a few last details with Rainbow Dash and started to walk back into the town centre, beckoning Octavia to follow.
“Now that we've got that all wrapped up, how about we make the best of our last few hours in Ponyville.”
“Hey look, there's a library!”
Vinyl rolled her eyes, “If I wanted a nap I would have had one already.”
“How can you not like a good book?” Octavia asked, looking scandalised.
“I love reading, what with my partial blindness and such. It's a blast.” She dead-panned.
Octavia's voice caught in her throat, “Sorry.”
“Nah, it's okay, I just use it as an excuse to ignore bad reviews.” Vinyl grinned, letting Octavia know that everything was cool. The earth pony responded with a smile of her own.
“Okay then, seeing as you're apparently the master of fun, what do you want to do?”
“Don't rush me, I'm still thinking.”
Octavia let out a high-pitched laugh, “Don't tell me Vinyl Scratch doesn't know what to do for fun? Isn't that against your own personal laws?”
“It's not my fault!” Vinyl sighed exasperatedly, “Ponyville is giving me so little to work with.”
Vinyl stayed silent after that, walking slowly in any random direction her hooves dragged her. Octavia followed, if only because she didn't want to get lost alone. Her gaze fell onto the rolling hills and valleys that surrounded the small town, she spied several lakes and even an intimidating mountain in the distance. Octavia's eyes lit up with an idea.
“Vinyl,” she got the unicorns attention, thinking how she should word her question, “It's been a long day and I think it would be better if we just sat down and enjoyed the scenery. We won't be able to see anything like this when we go back to Canterlot, we'll be busy over there anyway, so can't we just slow down and have these few hours to ourselves?”
Vinyl looked over, for a second it looked like she was about to object and insist they go hang-gliding or some such nonsense, but she took a deep breath and nodded in agreement, “A rest sounds lovely, what do you have in mind?”
Octavia smiled happily, “I saw a lake nearby, we could sit under a tree and talk, watch the birds fly by, it'll be great.”
“You already said that,” Octavia grinned mischievously.
“Well, I would've preferred going hang-gliding or something, but sitting down next to a lake might be fun.”
“We'll make it fun.”
The lake wasn't very big, but it looked great in the late afternoon sun. Ducks were swimming between the lakeside reeds and a variety of insects flew across the surface of the water. Octavia had dragged Vinyl over to a spot under a tree and forced her to sit down and admire the beauty of nature.
“Not just the sights either, just listen to birds and the insects and the wind. It's like nature is putting on a concert just for us.”
“That is honestly the most stupid thing anypony has said. Ever.” Vinyl said in a deadpan.
“Don't be a grump, just because you aren't getting your way for once.” Octavia settled down next to the unicorn and playfully tapped her with a hoof.
“That's not the reason.”
Octavia smiled, “Oh really? And here's me thinking that your cutie mark should have probably been a silver tongue.”
“What's that supposed to mean?” Vinyl asked, looking offended.
“Oh nothing,” Octavia said casually, “It's just that I've noticed you have a real way with words and you can be very convincing if you want to be. Poor Rainbow Dash never had a chance to say no did she?”
Vinyl narrowed her eyes, hidden of course behind her sunglasses, “You make it sound sinister, like I had ulterior motives or something. 'I only want you in the band so I can make love to you'” Vinyl mocked, putting on a fake voice.
“I never knew you swung that way.” Octavia couldn't stop herself from giggling.
“Hey, wherever Vinyl Scratch swings, she doesn't miss.”
“What is that even supposed to mean?”
Vinyl shrugged, “It sounded cooler in my head.”
“You're avoiding the issue. How exactly are you so persuasive? Is it just a natural charm or is it a little more, magic perhaps?”
“What do you mean, magic?” Vinyl nudged her own horn nervously, her smile seeming a little too forced.
Octavia rolled her eyes, “It's magic, I don't need to explain it.”
Vinyl sighed, backing up against the tree for support. She lifted the sunglasses from her head and folded them carefully by her side, “Okay, I'll tell you. Although I'm not exactly proud of it.”
Octavia lay on her stomach, propping her head on her front hooves, “I'm all ears.”
“So we've established that I'm partially sighted, right?” Vinyl began, watching Octavia nod in response, “And we've also established that I use my magic to help me 'see'. What I didn't establish however is that the magic I use is part of a branch of magic known as sensory magic, or any piece of magic that directly relates to a pony's senses. Sight, Sound, Smell, Taste and Touch, that kind of stuff.”
Octavia nodded along, keeping up so far.
“I assume you know that unicorns have magic which relates to their special talent. I learned how to use the spells that help me before I had even discovered my special talent, which is creating and playing music. I assumed that the sound aspect of the magic came easily to me because of my special talent and that I learned the 'sight' spells due to pure force of will. I learned one day through experimenting that I could control the other aspects of sensory magic just as easily as I could sound. It was only a matter of time before I figured out I could use magic to manipulate how other ponies perceive the sound of my voice, with that in mind, I can make myself sound good to them. It gets harder to do on a large scale, which is why I don't bother with it during performances, keeping that up throughout an entire song would probably kill me. One on one, it works brilliantly though. The other pony is hearing a pleasant voice so they're more open to listening to me and considering what I have to say. It's a cheap trick, I know, but it works.”
“So...” Octavia began hesitantly, plucking up the courage to ask her next question, “Have you ever done that to me.”
Vinyl smiled, her eyes flashing brilliantly in the late afternoon sun, “Honestly, no. I just know what you like to hear. I don't need extra help when you and me have this great synergy.”
“I feel it as well... the synergy I mean. How else can you explain two ponies becoming such fast friends?
“Maybe we were fated to be together,” Vinyl said, staring off into the distance.
“Perhaps we were,” Octavia gave Vinyl a gentle pat on the shoulder, “Sometimes I think the universe has a pretty good taste in music.”