The blustery wind carried rhapsodic cheers expelled by the stadium crowd. Thick clouds hung over Canterlot on this dreary Monday morning. But the gloomy weather did nothing to dampen the spirits of the Wondercolts.
School had concluded, but students, parents, and teachers filled the entire stadium, cheering for their soccer team. Today was the first league match against the Appaloosa Settlers.
“Woohoo! Go, Dashie!” Pinkie cheered, shaking a pair of pink pom-poms. “You can do it, Wondercolts, Whooo!” Her upbeat cheers were almost drowned out by—
“Come on, Dash!” Sunset screamed, leaning on the guard rail. “Don’t let her push you around like that! Yeah, that’s it, show her who’s boss!” However, Sunset’s encouraging cheers paled in comparison to—
“Let’s go, Rainbow Dash! Make those Settlers settle for second place!” Fluttershy bellowed the loudest of all, having scared Sunset out of her skin when the game first began. It was the loudest Sunset had ever heard the girl, compounded with the fiercest look she had ever donned. “What? Ref, are you blind? That was a foul!”
Twilight, Rarity, and Applejack sat in the bleachers behind the screaming trio. “They’re certainly passionate, aren’t they?” Twilight asked.
Applejack grinned in satisfaction. “Yep. That’s the spirit of competition for ya.” She jumped up and twirled her hat, cheering with everyone else as Rainbow brought home another goal, turning the score to 5-1 in the Wondercolts’ favor.
Sunset took a seat next to Twilight. “I’m glad we’re winning, but this is a pretty one-sided game.”
“Agreed. I feel bad for the other team.”
“As do I,” Rarity said. “I mean, brown uniforms? What on earth is their coach thinking?”
Twilight adjusted her glasses. “That’s not quite what I meant.”
Rarity clicked her tongue. “You’d be surprised at how much an outfit can help or hinder your performance.”
“I just wish they’d put up more of a fight,” Sunset said. “They’re letting us walk all over them.” The crowd erupted in cheers once more, as Cloud Kicker scored another goal. “Dear Maker, now they’re just giving up.”
“That’s right, Settlers! You don’t have anything on us! Go, Rainbow Dash!” Fluttershy screamed, jumping up and down, her hair a wild mess.
Twilight looked in her direction. “Is that normal?”
Sunset raised her shoulders. “I don’t know, this is new for me too.”
“Likewise,” Rarity said.
Applejack stretched her arms behind her head and leaned back. “It’s nice to see her come out her shell once in awhile.”
They watched Pinkie and Fluttershy cheer Rainbow and the team on as they dominated the match. When it was over, the Wondercolts had won 8-2. The girls waited outside the locker room along with other parents and friends eager to congratulate the soccer team on their first victory.
Rainbow emerged first, looking like a triumphant hero coming home from war. Her bangs still stuck to her sweaty forehead, and she had a towel draped over her shoulders. She met the rest of the Spectacular Seven, giving Applejack a high-five, and Sunset a fistbump.
“Four goals scored in one game,” Applejack said. “Someone was on fire today.”
Rainbow grinned. “Yeah, I was pretty amazing, wasn’t I? Too bad they weren’t more of a challenge. But hey, if we keep playing like this, no one can beat us!”
“All right there, champ,” a deep, jovial voice said. Out of the crowd came Rainbow’s dad. He was tall and toned without being overly muscular. Sunset could see where Rainbow had gotten her hair from, as her dad also had messy multi-chromatic hair. “Don’t get overconfident just because you beat one team.”
“I know, I know. Still, did you see me out there?”
Rainbow Blaze ruffled her hair. “Yeah I did. You brought your A game like always.” He smiled at the girls. “I also saw all of you cheering for her. Especially you, Fluttershy.”
Fluttershy blushed and brushed her boot against the sidewalk. “I just…” She winced at the gravelines in her throat, cleared it, and tried again. “I just wanted to show my support.” She was still a little hoarse.
Rainbow pulled her into a half-armed, sweaty hug, making Fluttershy blush harder. “You’re the best, ‘Shy.”
The girls gave Rainbow another round of congratulations before going their separate ways. Night had nearly settled upon them, allowing the brighter stars to twinkle in the violet sky. Twilight followed Sunset to the parking lot, where Sunset’s black motorcycle sat. It carried a few pink scuff marks and scratches from the time it had been vandalised, but it remained Sunset’s pride and joy.
Lifting the seat up, Sunset pulled out her red helmet and Twilight’s purple one. They hopped on, Twilight scooting as close to Sunset as she could, locking her arms around Sunset’s waist.
“Good to go, Sparky?” Sunset said from underneath her helmet.
“Uh-huh,” Twilight responded, her voice shaking. Her grip around Sunset tightened when the motorcycle lurched forward, letting out proud roar as it rolled onto the street. Twilight always said she liked riding Sunset’s bike, yet acted like she was going to die every time she got on it. Sunset supposed it was how she got her adrenaline rush.
Unfortunately for Sunset, suburban speeding laws kept her from burning rubber and giving Twilight a real rush. Thirty mph was probably enough for her anyway. Sunset enjoyed the peace-shattering din her bike produced, the rumble she felt each time she turn the throttle. To the houses she sped past, it was a noise-complaint waiting to happen, to her, it was sweet music.
The ten minute ride to Twilight’s house flew by. Both girls disembarked, stowing their helmets back under the seat. Sunset could already hear Spike barking at the door. He had learned that the rumble of a motorcycle meant his master had come home.
Twilight opened the door and there he was, jumping at her leg. She picked him up and carried him inside, scratching his belly all the while. “I’m home!”
Mrs. Velvet came out from the dining room, still dressed in her nurse scrubs. “Hi, sweetheart, hi, Sunset. How was the game?”
“We pulverized them,” Sunset said, taking off her boots. “A bit of a let down, really.”
“Rainbow made four goals though,” Twilight added.
A whistle came from the living room couch. Sunset looked over to find Shining lounging across it, reading a comic book. “Four goals in soccer? Either she’s really good, or they’re really, really bad.”
“A little of both,” Sunset said.
“So, what are you two up to tonight?” Velvet asked.
“We’re going upstairs to practice violin and do some homework,” Twilight said.
Shining looked up from his comic. “Why can’t you do that down here?”
Sunset gave him a toothy grin. “Because then, we can’t make out.” She grabbed Twilight by the wrist and ran upstairs before Shining could retort.
“Leave the door open!” Velvet called.
Twilight’s room sat at the end of the hall, square with violet walls and lavender carpet. What wasn’t taken up by the bed, desk, dresser, and closet was used as space for bookshelves. All of them were completely full, leaving some books to be stacked in neat piles on the floor. From the ceiling hung a model of the solar system. On Twilight’s desk was her laptop and a picture of her and Moondancer. Sunset tried not to let her eyes linger on it too long.
They sat on Twilight’s bed, and she pulled out her violin case from beneath. Sunset held her breath in anticipation, watching as Twilight delicately took her instrument out and tuned it. She tucked the maple brown body under her chin and gave the strings a few test strokes with her bow.
The moment she began playing in earnest was the moment Sunset breathed again, closing her eyes in bliss. Every note, perfect, every stroke, wholeheartedly delivered, even her occasional mistake added to the heavenly delivery of Twilight’s performance.
Twilight would never admit it, but she was a master of the violin. If Twilight asked, Sunset would gladly give up her day plans to listen to her play.
The piece was short and left Sunset wanting more. Twilight giggled at the euphoric look stuck on Sunset’s face. “I’m guessing you liked it?”
“‘Like’ would be a severe understatement.”
She giggled again and scooted closer, handing off the violin. Sunset gently gripped it, letting Twilight make all the necessary adjustments. Ever since they had started dating, Twilight had been giving Sunset violin lessons. Like her old guitar lessons with Flash, Sunset didn’t think she was making any progress, despite Twilight’s reassurances. Sunset just liked to have an excuse to sit close to her.
She had one arm around Sunset’s shoulder, fixing the curl of her fingers around the bow. “There, how’s that?” she asked, her voice dancing in Sunset’s ear.
Sunset nodded. “That’s good.” Her mouth was dry. She played a few notes, creating a scratchy wail that made them both cringe before she made the instrument produce something closer to music. She practiced her scales as per Twilight’s instructions, then played ‘Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star’. She got some of the notes mixed up, but she had prevented it from making anymore wails.
“You’ve gotten a lot better,” Twilight said, still hovering over Sunset’s shoulder.
Sunset tilted her head toward her. “I have a really good teacher.” Their eyes met, and Twilight leaned in, pressing her lips against Sunset’s.
Like always, it started out gentle. They broke away, smiling and giggling before coming back. Sunset carefully set aside Twilight’s violin and brought a hand up to cup her face, running a thumb across her cheek. Something warm pressed against Sunset’s teeth, and she parted them to let Twilight’s tongue explore the inside of her mouth. Sunset moaned in delight, playfully pushing back, and twisting her whole body toward Twilight.
Twilight ran her fingers through Sunset’s hair and leaned forward, showing a surprising amount of force. It wasn’t anything Sunset couldn’t match though. She leaned against Twilight, pressing their breasts together.
“I’m not hearing violin!” Shining shouted from downstairs.
It was enough to make both of them jump back, but whereas Twilight fell back against her bed, Sunset fell onto the floor with a thud.
“Sunset, are you okay?” Twilight asked, leaning over the edge.
“Yep,” Sunset said tonelessly. “Peachy.”
‘Holy crap, guys! You’re not gonna believe this! You have to come to the music room at lunch! It’s gonna blow your minds! Twilight, don’t bring Moonlancer.’
Sunset looked over the group text Rainbow had sent them, keeping a straight face at Rainbow’s typo as she walked with Twilight to the music room. They had all gotten it just before school started, and Sunset would be lying if she said it hadn’t kept her curious all day.
“Do you think Rainbow is still mad about Moondancer calling her a boy?” Twilight asked.
“Probably. She knows how to hold a grudge.”
Canterlot High’s music room was one of the school’s more up to date features, and thus, quite popular for the creative students. Trying to book time for it proved to be a hassle on occasion. Treble clefs and half notes hung on the beige walls, and three soundproof windows in the back gave the room excellent lighting. A grand piano sat against one of the walls with a small bandstand set up across from it. Next to it was the storage room that contained rental instruments, of which the school had a generous amount.
Rainbow stood at the top of the bandstand, a blue, electric guitar in her hands. She bounced with excitement, making a very good impersonation of Pinkie. “Oh my gosh, guys! Oh my gosh, oh my gosh, oh my gosh, you are not going to believe this!” she said when everyone had gathered. “Rarity, close the curtains.”
Rarity exchanged questioning looks with the others, but complied to Rainbow’s wish. She closed all three curtains, leaving the room lit only by the florescent lights.
“Okay, okay!” Rainbow took a controlled breath. “No one bother sitting down, ‘cause you’re all just gonna jump right up when you see this.” She tested the chords on her guitar, then began passionately strumming and breaking into song.
“Awesome as I wanna be!
“First you see me riding on a sonic boom,
“Got my guitar shreddin’ up my latest tune!
“There is nothin’ you can do to beat me,
“I’m so good that you can’t defeat me!”
The girls stared in shock and awe, with Sunset giving into the urge to facepalm. Had Rainbow really dragged them here so they could hear her brag about herself?
“Mah God,” Applejack said, “Ah can feel her ego in this.”
“I can taste her ego in this!” Sunset said.
“I’m awesome, take caution!
“Watch out for me, I’m awesome as I wanna be!
“I’m awesome, take caution!
“Watch out for me, I’m awesome as I wanna be!”
Rainbow broke into, what Sunset guessed would have been a guitar solo if Rainbow had a full ensemble. She bounced up and down on her toes and began performing tricks like flipping her guitar in the air and playing it behind her back.
“Is there a point to all this?” Applejack shouted over the echoing acoustics.
“Wait for it!” Rainbow said, grinning ear-to-ear. Sure enough, after several more seconds of guitar shredding, a blue aura appeared around Rainbow, growing more intense as she continued to play. She rose into the air, and in a flash of light, blue wings sprouted from her back, her ears elongated into equine shaped ones, and her hair extended into a ponytail.
She played one last chord, then looked down at her friends. “So, what do you think?”
Stunned silence and open mouths were the general consensus. Sunset gaped like a fish, her brain replaying the transformation in her head several times, then locking onto Rainbow floating near the ceiling. “I… how… what… why?”
Twilight had a similar response, only with additional finger pointing and hyperventilating. “She—she—how—that—music—floating—wings—magic!” She started laughing hysterically. “That’s magic! She has wings! Wings that came out of nowhere! That’s not scientifically possible! Hahahaha! You’re not scientifically possible!”
Sunset grabbed Twilight’s shoulders. “Sparky, breathe. Nice and easy.”
Twilight nodded and took in large gasps of air, bringing her hand in toward her chest and back out with every inhale and exhale. “Okay,” she said after a full minute. “Okay, I think I’m good.”
Sunset let go of her shoulders. “Good, because I’m not.” She turned back to Rainbow. “What in Celestia's left teat is going on?” she shouted.
“What?” Twilight said quietly.
Rainbow floated over, giving her wings a gentle flap. “Okay, so last night, after I got home and took a shower, I was still feeling pretty pumped about our awesome win at the game! So I decided to practice my guitar and get ready for the showcase.” She played a few chords. “I don’t know what happened, but one second, I’m on the ground, and the next, I’m floating in the air with these babies on my back again! It’s so awesome!”
Pinkie squealed. “Yeah it is! I want to be a pony magical girl again, too! It was so much fun floating around and shooting a giant friendship rainbow to stop Sunset’s demon form.” She blinked and looked over to Sunset. “No offense.”
“I don’t understand,” Rarity said, “I thought Princess Twilight took all the magic back with her to Equestria.”
Applejack lifted her hat and scratched her head. “Apparently not. Question is, why is Rainbow… ponying up now?” Hers and five other pairs of eyes looked toward Sunset.
Sunset shifted uncomfortably. “What?”
“You’re the one from magic land,” Rainbow said. “Don’t you have some idea of how this happened?”
“Not really, hence my outburst from earlier.” Sunset put a hand to her chin and paced the floor. She didn’t have a theory yet, but her mind already raced to find one. Rarity was right, when Princess Twilight took the crown back through the portal, the magic should have gone with it.
Then again, that’s not necessarily true, she reasoned. The magic released could have just as easily stayed to fill the vacuum of this world having such a low amount of magic. But, did we really release enough to create any lasting effects? She stopped pacing, aware all her friends were watching her.
“Okay, well, my first theory is some of the magic lingered because this world has almost none of its own. As for why Dash ‘ponied up’...” she paused and thought for another moment. “You five did come in contact with the Elements of Harmony, one of the most powerful forces from my world. It’s possible that that magic just stuck with you. You do represent five of the virtues that make it up.”
“That makes sense, I guess,” Rarity said thoughtfully. “But why only Rainbow? And why music?”
“Yeah, for that, I have no idea.”
Twilight gasped and squeed, holding her hands under her chin while she bounced from one foot to the other. “We should run some experiments! Test out why and how this phenomenon is occurring!”
Fluttershy stepped back. “You aren’t going to cut us open, are you?”
“Of course not! We’ll start with basic tests, like seeing if the same reaction happens to the others with the same stimuli! Then we can change up the catalyst and see if the effects are different! We can monitor brain waves and heart patterns, and—”
“Glad to see you’re taking this in stride, Sparky,” Sunset said.
Some of the excitement left Twilight’s face. “It’s how I cope with the fact that one of my friends has wings and pony ears and is floating over my head!”
Rainbow finally came down to the floor. “Well, as long as she doesn’t go Area 51 on us, I’m for it.” She fluttered her wings. “Wouldn’t it be so cool if we got superpowers from this?”
Sunset crossed her arms. “I’m pretty sure the only ‘superpower’ you guys get is that stupid rainbow cannon.”
“Well, it proved pretty effective at the Fall Formal,” Rarity said. “Er, no offense, dear.”
Sunset bit her tongue and growled. She didn’t want to use vulgar language on Rarity.
Twilight clapped her hands. “So it’s decided then! We’ll study magic for the sake of science! This is going to be so exciting! Groundbreaking!” She flashed her hopeful eyes at Sunset. “You’re going to help, right?”
“Umm…” Sunset shifted her weight between legs. “I will… help you take notes from a good distance away.”
Twilight frowned. “Why, what’s wrong?”
Sunset sighed and looked at the ground. Guess it’s time to pull this cat out of the bag. “I’m… scared.”
“Scared of what?”
Sunset clenched her fists. “Scared of magic, scared of myself.” She loosened her hands and let her shoulders fall. “As you all kindly keep reminding me, the last time I messed with higher powers didn’t end well for me. So I’d like to avoid coming in contact with anything magically related if I can. Especially anything with the Elements of Harmony.”
Warm fingers curled around Sunset’s hand, and Twilight smiled reassuringly at her. “Don’t worry then. You can be my number one assistant.”
Rainbow held a finger to her open mouth and pretended to gag.
“Thanks, Twilight,” Sunset said, thoroughly ignoring Rainbow. She looked to the others. “Well, first things first, you’re all going to need an instrument to play.”
Rarity put her hand on the piano. “Well, I’m a little rusty, but I can play this after a few practices.”
Pinkie waved her hand in the air. “I can play just about anything!” She hummed in thought. “Maybe I’ll try the sousaphone? Or the electric triangle! Oh, oh, I’ll play the theremin!”
“How about the drums?” Twilight offered.
Pinkie smacked herself in the head. “Duh! I rock at the drums!”
“Ah can play the banjo,” Applejack said.
Sunset gave her a half-lidded stare.
Turning to Fluttershy, Sunset asked, “What about you, ‘Shy? Do you play anything?”
Fluttershy wrung her hands. “Um, no, not really.”
“Well, can you sing?”
Fluttershy’s eyes widened in horror. “S-sing? In front of all of you? I-I…”
Rainbow put a hand on Fluttershy’s shoulder. “Relax, Fluttershy, it’s just us.”
“Uh-uh.” Fluttershy resolutely shook her head. “I’ll… I’ll find an instrument to play, but I’m not singing.”
Twilight wrote down everyone’s names and instruments on a piece of paper. “Okay then. Fluttershy, think about what you’re going to play. Everyone else, start practicing with yours. Tomorrow after school, we’ll meet in here and start experimenting!”
While Rarity sat down at the piano, and Pinkie and Fluttershy dug through the rental equipment, Sunset stood in the corner. What would happen if all five of them ponied up? Would they form another rainbow beam? And would it home in on Sunset in an attempt to eradicate the evilest force it could find?
Sunset shook her head. You’re being paranoid. Besides, they need all six parts of the Elements of Harmony to launch the rainbow. Right? An uneasy tingle crawled down Sunset’s spine. She, once the most powerful unicorn in Equestria, was now surrounded by magic wielders while she could do none herself. She looked down at her hands. Not without turning into a monster again, or some other dark repercussions.
She couldn’t feel her demonic claws hiding beneath her skin, but she knew they were there. She had pushed her dark half down, deep down beneath her newfound love and acceptance of friendship, and refused to give it any chance to resurface. She refused to give the Elements any reason to hit her again. If the price to pay was no more magic, then so be it.
“I’m not going back,” Sunset whispered. She balled her hands into fists. “I’m never going back.”