Everything had gone according to plan.
Adagio could feel the Equestrian Magic pouring into her through the pendant on her neck, filling the void she’d felt since she’d first stepped into this accursed world. It lifted her into the air, wrapping her in an aura of pure, unfiltered power that would be the cocoon for her metamorphosis. A pair of equine ears sprouted from her head – a byproduct from the transformative nature of the magic she stole – and a pair of translucent wings grew from her shoulder blades.
This was it. The magic radiated off of her, illuminating the stage with its ominous red glow. The crowd was silent, entranced by the lyrical spell that grew stronger with each passing second. They would be her army, their only desire to serve her and spread her song across the land, and when she’d finished with this world she would move on to her true prize.
Adagio was startled from her thoughts by a distant sound that interrupted her moment of triumph. She scanned the horizon for its source, quickly locating a hilltop that overlooked the stage.
“So, the Rainbooms want to turn this into a real battle of the bands? Then let’s–”
Wait. Something was wrong. A lone figure loomed on the precipice, shrouded in darkness but casting an unmistakable silhouette against the night sky. It wasn’t the Rainbooms that had intervened in her moment of triumph… it was Aria!
Adagio glanced backwards just in time to catch a glimpse of Sonata’s hair disappearing behind a curtain. Her fellow Sirens had betrayed her. Anger welled up within her, and she could feel the magic crackling at the tips of her fingers.
Aria wished to usurp her victory? Well, she was too late! Adagio had never felt power like this before, it coursed through her, begging to be released, and she was only too happy to oblige. She would show them all what happens to those who dared oppose Adagio Dazzle!
Magic pulsed from her amulet, quickly enveloping the stage in its red glow. Adagio held her hands above her head, channeling the power into what would be a single, devastating strike, when the unthinkable happened.
Aria didn’t. For the first time, Adagio noticed that Aria’s pendant was lit with a sickly green light and, from a spider web of cracks that riddled the once perfect gem, dripped a sinister purple smoke. The smoke, unhindered by the wind, entwined itself around Aria and raised upwards until her shadowy form eclipsed the moon.
Aria opened her mouth and emitted a single, dissonant note. It struck Adagio like a shockwave, striking her from the air and sending her skipping across the stage like a discarded toy, landing in a heap on the floor. Her own music had stopped, replaced by the discordant melody of Aria’s song. Adagio could feel her strength – her magic – being sapped from within her.
No, this couldn’t be happening! Adagio staggered to her feet, opened her mouth to counter Aria’s strange music with a song of her own, but found that she couldn’t make a sound. Panic welled up within her and she he tried again, this time managing a pathetic squeak.
The crowd watcher her struggle impassively, and the smoke began to pool around their ankles as one by one their eyes took on the same green glow as Aria’s pendant. For the first time, Adagio noticed that each and every one of them wore a Crystal Prep uniform.
When the strange magic had spread across the entire crowd, the tone of Aria’s song changed. It grew faster, angrier, and with it the crowd’s demeanor shifted. Their faces contorted in unnatural fury, and in an instant they were rushing the stage, their arms outstretched and their fingers sharpening into long claws.
Adagio took a step backward only to find the curtains were gone, replaced by a sheer drop into a black abyss. Above her, Aria had raised her arms to the heavens, and from the smoke that now completely engulphed her emerged the form of a colossal Alicorn with the eyes of Abacus Cinch.
As the Alicorn raised its horn, repugnant green light bubbling from its tip, the crowed fell upon Adagio, ripping and tearing first at her clothes and then at her flesh. Overhead, the light had congealed into a blinding beam that shot mercilessly towards her.
She shot up in bed, ripping off her covers and gasping for air.
It was a dream, she thought. Her heart beat painfully in her chest and she barely suppressed a wave of nausea. She shook uncontrollably, drenched in a cold sweat that had soaked through her t-shirt and sheets.
It was just a dream, she thought again, it was just a dream, it was just a dream, it was–
Adagio’s clammy hand clutched the rail of the bunk bed as she looked over the edge. “Sugarcoat?” she said, her voice trembling pathetically. “What happened?”
“You screamed in your sleep and woke yourself up. It was really sad.”
Adagio groaned and rubbed her forehead. Sugarcoat was right, it was sad. Even now, the details of the dream – the nightmare – were draining from her mind, all except for the image of Aria lording over her, enshrouded in dark magic.
She shook her head. Why did it bother her so much? Sirens didn’t have that kind of magic, and even if they did, the notion that Aria would be better than her at it was laughable… and yet she couldn’t seem to shake it. Was this her mind’s way of dealing with their fight yesterday, or had Aria become so frustrating that Adagio wasn’t safe even in the sanctuary of her own dreams? She did her best to push the notion to the back of her mind and climbed down from the bunk.
Sugarcoat awaited her at the bottom. “You look terrible,” she said bluntly.
“Thanks,” muttered Adagio. She glanced at the mirror, finding to her great annoyance that, once again, Sugarcoat was correct. Dark bags hung under her eyes and her hair was matted with sweat. She sighed, and seeking to look anywhere other than at her own, disheveled reflection, her eyes eventually made their way to the window.
“Ugh, it’s still dark out. What time is it?” she asked.
“Five-thirty? Sugarcoat, why on earth are you awake at this hour?”
Sugarcoat shrugged. “The showers don’t start getting busy until six, and waiting in lines is a waste of my time.” She gathered her things into a bundle and tucked them under her arm. “Are you coming?”
Adagio hesitated. A little voice in her head told her she should wait for the other Sirens to wake up – they’d waited for her on their first day, after all. But on the other hand, if Aria saw her looking like this…
“Yeah,” she said, slinging her backpack over her shoulder, “let’s go.”
The hallway was entirely devoid of students, and silent save for the muffled snoring coming from the door across the hall. Adagio began heading toward the showers when she stopped. Sugarcoat wasn’t with her. She turned around, spotting Sugarcoat standing at the door to their room, fumbling with something in her bag.
“What are you doing?” asked Adagio, in a hushed voice.
Sugarcoat didn’t respond, instead she produced a small, water filled spray bottle and a dingy rag. Adagio was about to repeat her question, when she noticed what was written on the whiteboard.
“’Traitor’,” she read, punctuating the word with a roll of her eyes. “Seriously? Do the students at this school care that much about the results of a stupid game?”
“Yes,” said Sugarcoat, spraying the offending word with the contents of the bottle. One wipe from the rag smeared it across the board, and another removed it completely. Sugarcoat admired her work for a moment, before turning towards Adagio. “But not a basketball game.”
Adagio understood. “The Friendship Games,” she said. Sugarcoat simply nodded, placing the rag and the bottle back into her bag and replacing them with a blue marker. Her handwriting was meticulous, and by the time she was done all evidence of the vandalism was gone. She offered the marker to Adagio.
“No thanks,” said Adagio, after a moment of consideration. She wondered how many times Sugarcoat had had to clean graffiti from the door to her own room, and the feeling it evoked reminded her of how she’d felt just before she tripped Fleur.
Sugarcoat tucked the marker away, and together they made their way towards the showers. They didn’t speak, and although Adagio had a million questions about the Friendship Games, something was telling her that now wasn’t the right time. Instead, she spared Sugarcoat one last glance, their eyes meeting briefly, before stepping into the shower stall and pulling closed the curtain.
She peeled off her sullied nightclothes and stepped into the warm embrace of the shower. Steam filling her lungs and hot water running over her skin, Adagio finally felt as though she was breaking free from the clutches of her nightmare. She allowed herself to forget, for a moment, the long day ahead of her, and concentrate on the few things that had come out of her time at Crystal Prep, and the people that had come into her life.
Although she didn’t realize it, she thought about one of those people even more fondly than the others.
By the time Adagio had finished her shower, Sugarcoat had already left. Students had begun to trickle out of their rooms and into the hall but, fortunately for Adagio, Aria and Sonata weren’t among them. She ducked into her room, dropping off her laundry and picking up her books for the day – as well as Cadance’s umbrella – before quietly slipping out.
A consequence of waking up early was that Adagio had an unusual amount of spare time before her first class. Not wanting to accidentally run into either of the other Sirens after she’d gone through such lengths to avoid them, Adagio decided to spend this time in the one place they wouldn’t be able to reach her: the lab.
She unlocked the door and was greeted by the now familiar musty smell of the small, poorly ventilated room. She took a seat at the desk, inadvertently disturbing the screensaver and revealing the image of the purple-and-green dog. Adagio glared at him, his carefree expression a stark contrast to how he jealously hoarded the secrets locked within the computer. The password attempts had not reset, confirming Adagio’s fear that they now only had two guesses before being permanently locked out.
She felt a flash of renewed annoyance towards Sonata. She couldn’t just leave well enough alone, could she? Adagio took a deep breath, held it for a moment, and let it out. There was no helping it now. Adagio switched off the monitor and pushed the keyboard out of the way to make room for her school books. She might be too tired to make any progress on getting her magic back, but she could at least work on not failing her midterms.
The studying went slowly, but Adagio forced herself to continue. It seemed that each time she ran into a concept she didn’t understand, or whenever the sheer volume of information threatened to overwhelm her, she would encounter a note from Twilight in the margins that would clear things up. It was incredible how, in so few words, Twilight could make even the most complex topics more easily digestible.
But more than just clarifications, Twilight had somehow managed to distill a little piece of herself into the pages of Adagio’s books. She commented on places she disagreed, underlined spelling errors, and occasionally interjected with some of the dorkiest jokes Adagio had ever read. It might have been silly, but Adagio couldn’t deny that there was something charming about Twilight’s delivery, and found herself smiling whenever she came across her (admittedly atrocious) handwriting.
Twilight had, of course, asked for permission before annotating Adagio’s books. Adagio had agreed – she hadn’t paid for the books, after all – but was none the less surprised at the progress Twilight had made. They’d only had two sessions together, and of those sessions a considerable amount of their time had been spent talking. When had Twilight had the time to do all this? Adagio flipped further through the book, finding that Twilight’s notes stretched far beyond the material she was currently covering.
That girl is incredible, Adagio thought, closing the book. She checked the time on her phone – by far the most convenient feature of the device – and found that it was almost time for classes to begin. She looked at her array of books spread out over the desk, grabbed what she needed for her first class and left the rest behind. Why not? It wasn’t as if anyone else would come in here, and some of those textbooks were really heavy! Proud of her own cleverness, Adagio proceeded to switch off the light and relock the door, leaving in a better mood than when she’d arrived.
This mood was dampened somewhat by the classes themselves. In contrast to Twilight Sparkle’s very personal style of teaching, the teachers of Crystal Prep came across as extremely cold and distant. It felt as if they lectured at the students instead of to them, and though everyone around her seemed to be diligently taking notes, Adagio found it difficult to follow along. By the time her three morning classes had finished, Adagio was armed with pages of questions to ask Twilight when next they met.
But when were they meeting next? The implication had been that their afternoon meetings were to be a regular occurrence, but they’d never officially confirmed anything. What if Adagio went all the way to the Canterlot Public Library, only to find that Twilight Sparkle wasn’t there?
Fortunately, the solution to this problem was sitting Adagio’s backpack. She returned to the lab, switched on the light, and dumped the contents of the bag out onto the desk. The phone Cadance had given her – her phone, she corrected – slid out onto one of the books and Adagio scooped it up. She sat down in the office chair, opened her contacts, and selected the only name on the list.
Their ‘conversation’ from the day before opened on the screen before her, and Adagio quickly set about her business. ‘Twilight Sparkle,’ she typed, ‘are we still meeting at the library today?’
She stared at the text for a moment, then deleted it.
‘Are we still meeting up later?’
Too open ended. She deleted it again.
‘Hey, Twilight Sparkle, it’s Adagio–’
Obviously. She started over.
‘I was just wondering–’
She erased that, too. Why was texting so hard? The pattern of writing and erasing text messages continued for some time, until eventually Adagio had stopped typing all together and was simply spinning in the revolving chair, staring at her phone. This self-imposed stalemate would have likely gone on for even longer, if not for the appearance of an ellipsis in a small bubble at the bottom of her screen. Adagio had only a moment to ponder the meaning of this strange new icon, before it was replaced with a text from Twilight Sparkle.
‘Hey,’ read the text, ‘how did things go with Cadance last night?’
Adagio began to type, her texting paralysis suddenly gone.
‘Good, I told her what happened and she seemed happy that I was honest with her.’
‘That’s great! I’m glad everything worked out between you two. I was going to ask you about it last night, but I wasn’t sure what time you got home, or if you’d want me bothering you about it.’
‘You don’t bother me, Twilight Sparkle,’ Adagio typed. ‘Anyway, I have a question to ask you.’
There was a pause. ‘What is it?’ Twilight responded.
“Alright, Dazzle, get it together,” Adagio said to herself. ‘We didn’t talk about it yesterday, but I just wanted to confirm we were still on for the library today.’
Adagio was prepared to wait for Twilight’s response, when she was startled by a loud series of knocks at the door.
“Open up, Adagio!” came Aria’s voice from the other side. “We can see the light on under the door!”
Adagio’s mood darkened significantly as she set her phone down on the desk and stood up to answer the door. Outside stood Aria, arms crossed and wearing an expression of unhidden irritation. Behind her, Sonata leaned against a set of lockers, but quickly stood up straight when she noticed Adagio.
“Told you she’d be here,” said Aria. Looking at her, Adagio couldn’t help but be reminded of the ghastly facsimile she’d seen in her nightmare. She reminded herself that that version of Aria was a figment of her imagination, but remained on edge none the less.
“’Dagi!” cried Sonata, pushing past Aria. “Where were you this morning? We knocked on your door, like, a hundred times!”
Adagio could feel Aria’s gaze upon her, but kept her eyes on Sonata. “I woke up early,” she said dismissively.
Sonata visibly deflated. “And you didn’t wake us up? Or wait for us?”
“I woke up really early,” replied Adagio. “Besides, I wasn’t going to wait around for hours.”
“Maybe you didn’t have to wait, but I did!” said Sonata, puffing out her cheeks, sulkily. “Aria knew someone at the front of the line who let her cut, but I had to go to the back!” She leapt forwards and grabbed Adagio’s shoulders. “In the back, ‘Dagi! I thought we didn’t wait in lines!”
Adagio shrugged her off, fixing her eyes on Aria. “Someone let you cut the line?”
“Yeah,” said Aria, meeting her eyes defiantly. She didn’t elaborate, so Sonata did it for her.
“It was one of the girls on the basketball team—” she cut herself off abruptly. “Wait, you don’t know, do you?”
“Sonata–” started Aria, but it was too late.
“Aria’s on the basketball team!”
Adagio blinked at Sonata, before turning back to Aria, her lips forming a wry smile. “You’re on the basketball team?”
A blush rose in Aria’s cheeks. “You idiot, Sonata, I told you not to say anything!” she snapped.
“She’s really good, ‘Dagi!” continued Sonata, undeterred. “I was at the game yesterday, she scored a bunch of times and they won!”
“I’m sure she was excellent,” cooed Adagio, her voice dripping with sarcasm. The very idea of Aria running up and down the court chasing a ball with a group of humans was endlessly entertaining to her – nothing at all like the Aria of her nightmare (who, Adagio reminded herself, still did not exist). But the news that Crystal Prep had won the game was welcome, and even explained why the other students had been less outright hostile towards her that morning, instead opting for cold indifference.
“You’re lucky we won,” said Aria, suddenly getting some of her nerve back. “I heard what happened between you and Fleur de Lis yesterday. You should be thanking me for cleaning up your mess for you.”
“You’re so right!” said Adagio. “Thank you so much for saving me from the wrath of a bunch of teenagers! In fact, you did so well in your little game, I can already feel our magic coming back to us!”
Sonata gasped. “Really?”
Adagio dropped her faux enthusiasm. “No.”
“Right, I knew that,” said Sonata, doing a poor job of hiding her disappointment.
Aria worked her jaw. “Whatever,” she said, “are you going to let us in, or make us stand out here all day?”
Adagio realized she’d been unconsciously blocking the door. She turned around and headed back to her seat. “Do what you want.”
Sonata followed her in and, after a moment of hesitation, so did Aria, allowing the door to close behind them. A short silence fell over them, which was broken by two blasts of vibration from Adagio’s phone, causing all three of them to jump.
“What was that?” asked Sonata.
Adagio snatched the phone up off the desk. “Nothing,” she said.
“It’s not nothing,” said Aria, “it’s a phone. When did you get a phone? And who would want to talk to you?”
Adagio caught Sonata trying to sneak a peek at the screen of the phone, and placed it in her lap facing downward. “I got it yesterday, and who I talk to is none of your business. Maybe you should get one, you can use it to talk to the basketball team, because clearly they’re really important to you.”
Aria snarled, and for a split second she looked like her nightmarish doppelgänger. “Maybe I will,” she spat.
“Me, too!” said Sonata. “…Where do I get one?”
But Adagio and Aria weren’t paying attention. “Why do you even care if I’m on the basketball team?” asked Aria venomously. “Are you just jealous that I’m good at something and you’re not?”
Adagio scoffed. “Why would I be jealous that you can throw a ball in a hoop? You can do whatever you want, meanwhile I’ll be working on getting our magic back!”
Aria rolled her eyes. “Right, because that seems to be going so well. Maybe if you actually talked to us instead of disappearing all the time we’d actually be getting somewhere!”
“Girls–” Sonata interjected, but she was cut off again by the increasingly heated argument.
“Talking to you two is an exercise in futility,” said Adagio. “I don’t hear you coming up with any brilliant plans!”
“You don’t hear them because you don’t listen!” shouted Aria. “If you didn’t think of it then you immediately write it off. You think you’re so smart, but you don’t let anyone else think! If I was in charge–”
Adagio crossed her legs. “Oh, this will be good.”
Aria threw up her arms in frustration. “Why do I even bother? You know, Sonata wanted to look for you because she thought you might be sick or something, but I knew you’d be here. Because you do whatever is best for Adagio Dazzle, and the rest of us can go straight to Tartarus! If it weren’t for you–”
Adagio stood up, her fists clenched so tightly that, if she wasn’t so caught up in the argument, she might be worried about crushing her phone. “If it weren’t for me you wouldn’t even be here!” she declared.
“You’re right,” yelled Aria “we’d be in Equestria!”
Silence fell in the wake of Aria’s declaration. The two Sirens glared at each other fearsomely, their eyes locked together in a silent battle of wills. It was Aria that broke first, turning on her heel and, without another word, stomping to the door and slamming it closed behind her, the sound echoing through the small room.
“Go with her, Sonata,” spat Adagio, her eyes still fixed on the spot where Aria had been. “I have some things I need to finish. Alone.”
Sonata gave her a long, worried look, opened her mouth to speak, but thought better of it. She walked to the door, paused again, then opened it and walked out. The last thing Adagio saw of her was a glimpse of her hair disappearing into the hallway.
It was a long time before Adagio was able to tear her gaze from the door and turn back to her books, but when she did, she found that not even the words of Twilight Sparkle were enough to calm her.
Riding the bus was stressful.
No longer at the mercy of Cadance’s schedule, Twilight had suggested that the pair meet a little later than usual – five o’clock instead of four – and offered to stay out longer as compensation. Adagio, having nothing better to do that evening, had accepted. She’d passed the time in the lab, studying and trying not to think of Aria’s stupid face, before eventually making her way to the bus stop.
The halls were, for the most part, empty when Adagio was leaving, and similarly she was the only one at the stop when the bus arrived.
Two minutes late, she thought bitterly as the doors opened. She stepped on board, scanning her bus card at the small terminal which beeped and flashed a green light. The driver didn’t even look at her, nor did he wait for her to sit down before he started to drive. The sudden lurch of motion caught Adagio off guard, and forced her to grab one of the metal poles that ran up and down the length of the bus for support. She shuddered, wondering how many people with their filthy, unwashed hands had touched the pole before her, and quickly wiped her hand on her skirt.
Unlike the school, the bus was densely packed with people of all sizes, colors, and ages. She pushed her way to the back and, in a much-needed turn of fortune, found an available seat by the window. She sat down, placed her bag on her lap, and pulled out her phone.
‘I’m on my way,’ she texted to Twilight, before opening the app that Twilight had downloaded for her and watching the little, pulsing dot slowly work its way across the city and towards the Canterlot Public Library. It wasn’t a short trip, and the other passengers slowly trickled out until only a sparse few remained. This pleased Adagio, who placed her bag on the seat next to her and claimed the suddenly available legroom.
Things seemed to be going reasonably well, until Adagio heard a commotion coming from the font of the bus. A pair of boys, high school age but younger than Adagio, were in the process of paying their fare with a large quantity of small coins. They talked loudly, their voices like nails on a chalkboard, and once they’d finally scrounged enough money they began the process of choosing seats, pushing and shoving as they went. Adagio had already dismissed them and turned back to her phone when something they said caught her attention.
“Hey,” said the portly orange haired boy, doing a poor job of keeping his voice low. “Isn’t that one of the Dazzlings?”
Adagio froze. She chanced another glance at the boys, the lanky green haired one was now propped up on his knees, surveilling the bus.
Wait, she thought, I recognize them. She hadn’t realized it at first from the lack of backwards hats and stupid glasses, but the aura of stupidity radiating off them was unmistakable. This pair of idiots had performed at the Battle of the Bands, and what was worse, they recognized her.
Or one of them did, anyway.
“Right there, you idiot! In the back!”
The taller one shoved the portly one. “Don’t call me an idiot, Snips!”
Snips groaned. “Fine, Snails, but keep your voice down, she’ll hear us!”
Too late for that.
Snails scanned the bus once more, and Adagio buried her face in her phone. “Is she behind the pretty girl in the Crystal Prep uniform?”
Snips blinked at him. “How would someone be behind her, if she’s at the back of the bus?”
“I dunno,” said Snails.
“Because she is her!” exclaimed Snips.
“Oh,” said Snails. “But the Dazzlings go to Canterlot High, not Crystal Prep.”
“Yeah, but when was the last time you actually saw any of them?”
Snails scratched his head. “The Battle of the Bands, I guess. Huh.”
“The Battle of the Bands was weeks ago,” said Snips. “Maybe they go to Crystal Prep now?”
Snails squinted at her. “Are you sure she’s a Dazzling?”
“Pretty sure, who else has hair like that?” He paused. “Wait, I have an idea! Give me your phone.”
“Use your own phone,” said Snails, clutching his phone to his chest.
“I can’t, my mom took it away because I used too much data!”
“That’s rough, buddy.”
“Listen! We can take her picture and send it to Sunset Shimmer, she’ll know whether or not she’s a Dazzling! You still have her number, right?”
Adagio abruptly stood up and pulled on the yellow cable next to her seat. There was a chiming sound and the ‘Stop Requested’ sign at the front of the bus lit up in red light. The bus was about to pass the next stop, forcing the driver to throw on the breaks, sending all the passengers lurching forward. Adagio grabbed her bag and quickly walked down the aisle.
“Crap, she’s leaving, quick, Snails, take the picture!”
But it was too late, Adagio was already off the bus.
She walked hurriedly down the sidewalk, consulting her phone. She was a little over a block away from the library, but a little walking was well worth her escape from Snips and Snails, and more importantly, Sunset Shimmer.
If Sunset found out she was attending Crystal Prep, it would only be a matter of time before she found out about Adagio’s arrangement with Twilight Sparkle. That couldn’t be allowed to happen, she still needed Twilight… to help her get her grades up, of course.
Adagio took a deep breath. There was nothing to be done about it now. With any luck, Snips and Snails would forget they ever saw her long before they had the chance to mention it to Sunset, and in the meantime, she intended to get the most out of her time with Twilight.
Adagio had just mounted the library steps when she heard the call. Turning around, she saw Twilight Sparkle, having just rounded the corner on the opposite side of the library. Adagio looked around, confirming that there wasn’t anyone else around, and waved.
“Hello, Twilight Sparkle,” she said, a genuine smile flickering across her face. “It seems that I got here before you, for once.”
Twilight grinned. “Not yet, you haven’t. Race you to the top of the stairs!” Twilight hooked her thumbs into the straps of her backpack and began leaping up the stairs two at a time. Adagio rolled her eyes, laughed, and followed her at a leisurely pace to the top of the stone steps. When she arrived, Twilight was standing triumphantly at the top… or might have been, if she wasn’t gasping for air with her hands planted firmly upon her knobby knees.
“I… win,” she panted.
“Congratulations,” said Adagio, sarcastically. “Do you need a minute?”
“No,” said Twilight. She stood up straight, wobbling in place. Adagio placed her hand on her shoulder to steady her. “There’s a lot I’m hoping to cover today, so I hope you’re ready to work!”
“I’ve been looking forward to it all day,” said Adagio.
She set down her pencil and leaned back in her chair. “Done.”
Twilight looked up from the book she’d been reading, a blue pen tucked behind her ear. “Done?” Adagio nodded. “Can I see?”
Adagio slid the small stack of paper over to Twilight for inspection. Twilight picked it up, adjusted her glasses, and began to read. Adagio massaged her aching hand and watched Twilight’s eyes dart rapidly across the pages. One might think that, reading so quickly, she might miss something, but Adagio could now say for absolute certain that wasn’t the case.
Twilight finished reading and set the paper down on the table.
“Well?” asked Adagio. “What do you think?”
Twilight smiled. “It’s really good, Adagio!”
Adagio sighed in relief. “It better be, you made me write it three times.”
“But…” Adagio shot Twilight a dangerous look. “Kidding, kidding!” Twilight laughed and Adagio shook her head, not quite able to hide the grin that tugged on the edges of her lips.
“You’d better be,” she warned, standing up from the chair and stretching. “I’m still not sure what was wrong with the first two.”
“They were alright,” admitted Twilight, reaching into her bag and extracting a stapler, “but I knew you could do better.”
“You knew?” asked Adagio. “How?”
Twilight shrugged. “I just knew.” Twilight stapled the pages together at the corner, having to use both hands and throw her weight into the equation to get the staple through all six pages of the essay plus the cover page. She held them out to Adagio, who reached out to grab them, when their eyes met and the world froze.
It felt as if Twilight Sparkle wasn’t just looking at her, but into her. She felt exposed, but not judged, vulnerable, yet safe. She might have been able to process the moment they were sharing, perhaps even begin to understand the feelings that were welling up within her, if her mind had not gone blank save for one, single thought.
Twilight Sparkle had very pretty eyes.
A loud knock at the door lurched Adagio back into reality. She took the papers from Twilight, making a show out of tucking them into her backpack as an excuse to hide the blush that had lit up her face like a Hearth’s Warming lights.
What just happened? And why did her stomach suddenly feel like it was filled with butterflies?
Twilight had moved over to the door and opened it, revealing the old librarian standing at the other side. She cleared her throat. “Oh, Mr. Bookend, is there something I can help you with?”
Mr. Bookend squinted at her through his thick, round spectacles. “Ah, yes, Twilight Sparkle. I just came up to tell you that it’s about time for me to lock up.”
“I don’t understand. The library usually closes at midnight, and it’s only–” Twilight checked her phone and her eyes widened, her pupils narrowing into pinpricks. “Oh no, we must have lost track of time! I’m so sorry, Mr. Bookend, we’ll pack up right away!”
The old man waved his hand dismissively. “Take your time,” he said, wearing a smile that seemed to make his wrinkles even more pronounced. “It’s good to see young people so enthusiastic about learning. I’ll be waiting at the checkout counter when you’re ready.”
“Thank you, Mr. Bookend,” said Twilight.
The librarian nodded and closed the door.
“I guess I’ll check what time my bus will be here,” said Adagio, still unable to look at Twilight.
“The busses stop running at twelve,” said Twilight. “And I have three missed calls from Shiny. I knew I shouldn’t have put my phone on silent!”
“So why did you?” asked Adagio. “And who’s Shiny?”
“Shining Armor,” said Twilight, “he’s my brother. And I didn’t want it going off while you were writing your paper. Hold on, I need to call him and let him know I’m okay.” Twilight stepped out of the room, leaving Adagio alone with her thoughts.
No, not with her thoughts. She continued packing things into her bag, being careful not to crush her history paper or to think about Twilight Sparkle. Not that there was anything to think about. She pushed aside Cadance’s umbrella to make room for more books, cursing herself for forgetting once again to return it. And just like that, she wasn’t thinking about Twilight anymore.
But what was there to think about, anyway? She just felt… weird. But of course she did, she’d been up for seventeen hours! She got in a fight with Aria! She’d just finished writing the same paper three times! She didn’t need to justify anything to anyone, and whatever feelings she thought she might have felt for a split second were just a product of her overactive imagination.
Yes, that had to be it.
Adagio had just finished collecting her things when Twilight returned looking flustered.
“How’d it go?” asked Adagio, who was relieved to find she could once again look at Twilight Sparkle. Not that she had any particular desire to look at her, of course.
Twilight sighed and began sweeping her books unceremoniously into her backpack. “He was more relieved than mad, which made me feel even worse about making him worry. He said he’s going to come get us now, but it’ll probably take him about a half hour to get here.”
Adagio raised an eyebrow. “Us?”
“You didn’t think we’d make you walk home alone in the dark, did you?”
“No buts!” said Twilight, silencing Adagio’s oppisition. “Now, I don’t want to make Mr. Bookend wait any longer than he already has.”
“Yes, ma’am,” said Adagio.
The two girls left the study room and went down the stairs to the main floor. Most of the lights had been turned off for the night, shrouding the library in an eerie blanket of darkness. The librarian waited for them by the door, standing in a beam of light that gave him an almost supernatural quality. Twilight thanked him again for his patience, and the two girls stepped outside.
And into the rain.
“Oh no!” cried Twilight, holding her bag above her head, before immediately reversing her position and clutching the bag to her chest. “My books!” she exclaimed.
“I’ve got it,” said Adagio, ripping open her bag and pulling out Cadance’s umbrella. She wasted no time opening it, and without thinking grabbed Twilight by the arm and pulled her under the umbrella.
Their noses almost touched, and for a moment Adagio could feel Twilight’s breath on her face. For the second time that night, her brain went blank.
“Are you girls going to be alright out here?”
The voice startled Adagio. “Oh,” she said, taking a step back, “um–”
“We’ll be okay, Mr. Bookend,” said Twilight, “My brother’s on his way to pick us up.”
“Right,” said Adagio, “what she said.”
“Well alright then. Have a good night, girls.”
The librarian disappeared into the night, leaving the two girls alone with the rain.
Twilight slipped her arms into the shoulder straps of her backpack, and placed a hand on the shaft of the umbrella as rain pitter-pattered against the canopy overhead.
“So,” said Twilight, breaking the silence. “I didn’t really picture you as a ‘pink umbrella’ kind of girl.”
“What?” asked Adagio. “Oh – right. It belongs to Cadance, she loaned it to me and I was supposed to give it back. I’m sort of glad I forgot, to be honest.”
There was a long pause.
“I think we should make this thing official,” said Twilight.
Adagio blinked. “What?”
“Well, we can’t be going to midnight every night, and we shouldn’t have to text back and forth every day to confirm that we’re going to have a session, so I thought setting an official, definitive time slot would be the best option.”
“Oh,” said Adagio.
“But if you don’t want to–”
“No – I mean, I do, it’s just…” she sighed. “It’s been a long day.”
“Sorry about that,” said Twilight, sheepishly.
“Don’t be,” said Adagio, “coming here with you has been the best part of my day.” She scuffed the ground with the toe of her shoe. “My past few days, really. Even if you can be a little bit of a taskmaster.”
Twilight laughed. “I stand by my methods! But thanks for telling me. If we’re being honest, I wasn’t sure how I felt when Cadance asked me to tutor you. I feel like I still have so much to learn, but now I’m supposed to be teaching someone else? I almost turned her down, but something inside me told me to give it a try… and I’m glad I did. I knew I made the right decision the second I saw you.”
Adagio was reminded of when she’d first seen Twilight, and decided not to mention the part where she thought she’d walked into a nightmare.
“But I almost forgot,” continued Twilight, “we were figuring out a time for these sessions.”
“Right, that’s what we were doing.”
“I was thinking of going back to four to six. We can go a little later if we want, but I don’t want to get you in trouble for breaking curfew.”
“If we’re going get you ready for your midterms we’re going to have to keep meeting as frequently as possible. We’ll stick to weekdays for now – I won’t take your weekends from you! – but after midterms are done we can move to a more relaxed schedule.”
“Okay,” said Adagio.
“Good!” said Twilight. “I’m glad we got that settled. And look, here comes Shiny now!”
A car pulled up at the bottom of the stone steps and beeped its horn twice. The two girls, each with a hand on the umbrella, slowly made their way down the slick steps, pausing when they reached the car.
“It’s okay,” said Twilight, reassuringly. “He knows you’re coming.”
They climbed in, Twilight in the front and Adagio in the back. Shining Armor sat in the driver’s seat, but bent over as if to move something from the seat beside him. He had short, two toned blue hair, a strong jaw, and pale white skin.
“Hey, Shiny, and Spike! What are you doing here?”
Adagio cocked an eyebrow. Spike?
“He was worried about you, and so was I,” said Shining Armor. “Your friend isn’t allergic to dogs, is she?”
Twilight looked at Adagio, who shook her head. “Nope, we’re all good.”
“Good, in that case Spike can sit in the back with her.”
“Twilight!” come another voice from the front of the car. “I missed you so much! It felt like you were gone forever.”
Twilight laughed, and Adagio tried to figure out who the other voice was coming from. “You always say that!”
“Twilight,” said Shining Armor, “remember what time it is?”
“Right, okay, Spike, up we go!”
Twilight lifted Spike into the air, placing him next to Adagio in the back seat. As it turned out, Spike was a dog. But not just any dog.
A purple-and-green dog.
“Hi,” he said, wagging his tail, “I’m Spike!”
“Guh,” said Adagio, her brain struggling to process what had just happened.
“Twilight,” said Spike, his voice laced with concern. “I think your friend is broken.”
“You forgot to mention your dog could talk, didn’t you, Twily?”
Twilight whirled around in her seat. “I’m so sorry!” she said. “You went to CHS, and – I just thought–” she bit her lip. “He can talk,” she finished, lamely.
She looked between Spike and Twilight. Spike was the purple-and-green dog. The purple-and-green dog was the background image for the computer in Adagio’s lab. That computer had belonged to the former Crystal Prep student who had not only used that lab, but had created a device there that trapped and stored magical energy. Spike belonged to Twilight Sparkle.
Twilight Sparkle created the device.
Of course she had, who else could it have been? No one at Crystal Prep – perhaps no one Adagio had ever met – was as passionate or intelligent as Twilight Sparkle. Dots were starting to connect themselves in her head. Twilight had been at Crystal Prep until the Friendship Games, where something had happened that had turned the school against her and the ‘Crystal Prep Breakfast Club’. That was where the device had been broken – Adagio was sure of it! – but that wasn’t enough, she still needed more information, she needed–
She blinked. Twilight, Spike, and Shining Armor were all staring at her.
“Talking dog,” she said, feigning astonishment. “Wow.”
There was a collective sigh of relief from the group. “You really need to warn people about that, Twilight,” scolded Shining Armor. “We don’t need a repeat of what happened with Mom and Dad every time you introduce him to someone.”
Twilight laughed sheepishly.
Spike sidled up right next to Adagio. “I may be more intelligent – not to mention handsome – than other dogs, but I’m still a dog. And we dogs like getting scratched behind the ears.” He tapped a paw against his head. “Right here, if you please.”
“Spike–” started Twilight.
“It’s fine,” said Adagio, indulging him.
“Oh yeah,” said Spike, “that’s the stuff.”
Twilight shook her head, and turned back towards the front of the car. Shining Armor took this as a cue and pulled out onto the road. The car was silent save for the pounding of the rain on the windows, the rhythmic beating of the windshield wipers, and the occasional sigh of contentment from Spike.
The trip back to Crystal Prep seemed to go by in a flash, and by the time they’d arrived Adagio knew exactly what she had to do. She bid a quick goodbye to Twilight and her brother (and Spike), before running all the way up the stairs and to her room. She fumbled with the key, dropping it twice before finally managing to get the door open.
“Adagio?” said Sugarcoat. She was sitting in bed, her blanket pulled up to her midriff and a book laying open on her lap. “Where were you? Curfew was hours ago, and your blue-haired friend was looking for you earlier–”
“That doesn’t matter,” said Adagio, cutting her off. She must have looked crazy, barging into their room in the middle of the night. She hadn’t even bothered to use the umbrella in her hurry to get inside, so not only was she late, she was soaking wet. But she didn’t care. “Sugarcoat,” she said, grabbing one of the desk chairs and pulling it up next to the other girl. “I’m going to ask you something, and it’s extremely important that you tell me everything you know about it, got it?”
Sugarcoat’s brow furrowed.
“I need you to tell me exactly what happened at the Friendship Games.”