It had taken nearly an hour all told, but in that time Adagio learned everything she needed. Sugarcoat had talked her through the mundanity of the initial games, the narrowing down of the competitors, and the ‘tricross relay’ where magic had begun to run amok. She spoke of how the students of Canterlot High – the Rainbooms, no doubt – had manifested magic of their own that had indirectly lead to a CHS victory, and how, in desperation to win, Principle Cinch had turned to Twilight Sparkle and her magic-stealing amulet in order to even the playing field. But Adagio never would have guessed what had happened next.
Twilight Sparkle had turned into a demon.
The idea was preposterous, and yet there was no hint of embellishment in Sugarcoat’s words. Swallowed up by a singularity of pure, untethered magic, Twilight Sparkle had been transformed into a malevolent creature with the all-consuming desire for knowledge and magic. From the way Sugarcoat told it, the creature – Midnight Sparkle she’d called it – might have torn apart the very fabric of the world, if it weren’t for Sunset Shimmer and the Rainbooms.
Sugarcoat hadn’t referred to them as ‘the Rainbooms’, of course, but her description of them was enough. Adagio had firsthand experience with their particular brand of magic, but hearing about how Sunset Shimmer had harnessed the very same magic that had transformed Twilight into Midnight Sparkle, and used it to do battle with her (and, eventually, win) in the skies over Canterlot High intrigued her. So, the magic gathered by this device could, if used correctly, be controlled. This was good. She was certain that, if she was able to recreate the device, she could draw on its magic, much as she had with her old pendant. She would be as – if not more – powerful than she’d ever been.
But something still nagged at her. Perhaps it was how Sugarcoat’s description of Midnight Sparkle reminded her of the shadowy simulacrum of Aria from her nightmare, or the idea of someone as intelligent and composed (not to mention sweet, good natured, dorky…) as Twilight Sparkle could have been so easily corrupted. Whatever it was, Adagio did her best to push it to the back of her mind. This device was everything she could have asked for and more, and Adagio had a backdoor into the mind of its creator.
And she’d already figured out how to use it.
The idea had come to her before she’d stepped out of Shining Armor’s car. She would read Twilight’s notes on the device, sneak the concepts she didn’t understand into her own study material, and have Twilight Sparkle teach her everything she needed to recreate the device without being any the wiser. She would have to be cautious, Twilight Sparkle was the smartest person she’d ever met, but Adagio was certain that, if she was careful, Twilight would never suspect a thing.
And why would she? Twilight had no reason to believe that Adagio wanted anything more from her than to help her improve her grades – until that night it had even been true! She’d thought that employing Twilight Sparkle’s help to take her revenge against the Rainbooms had been deliciously ironic, but never had she suspected it would be this direct! Adagio had all the necessary cards now, she needed only to wait for the right time to play them.
But there was still more to Sugarcoat’s story. She told Adagio about what had happened after the games, when the Rainbooms and the Shadowbolts had confronted Principle Cinch and forced a draw – and about what had come after. They’d thought, perhaps foolishly, that it had ended there, Twilight was gone and with her so, too, was the magic, and had hoped that their united front against their tyrannical principle would help to bring the students of Crystal Prep closer together.
They were wrong.
She might have been cowed on the grounds of Canterlot High, but in the halls of Crystal Prep Academy, Abacus Cinch was all powerful. Word had spread that Twilight Sparkle had sabotaged the games and defected to Canterlot High and, that instead of standing with their school, Sugarcoat and the other competitors had accepted the terms of the enemy. The other students hadn’t been close enough to know the reality of the situation, and though they (with the help of Dean Cadance) had tried to spread the truth, it was too late.
The students of Crystal Prep despised them – even those who had witnessed the rampage of Midnight Sparkle believed that it was they, without the influence of Abacus Cinch, who had convinced Twilight to use magic she didn’t understand to influence the games. Soon, the girls were being thrown out of clubs and kicked off teams, and before long each of them had been saddled with enough detention time to last them into the next school year.
While this information wasn’t as groundbreaking as what had come before it, in the very least it helped to clear up many of Adagio’s lingering questions. It also served to reaffirmed something she already knew: Abacus Cinch was dangerous. If she was willing to turn on her best students, there was little doubt in Adagio’s mind that she would keep her word of removing Adagio if she was unable to pull her weight.
But that wouldn’t happen, not with Twilight Sparkle on her side.
It had taken nearly an hour for Sugarcoat to tell the story, and by the time she was finished both girls were too exhausted to discuss the matter any further. But, before Adagio turned in for the night, there was one final thing she had to do. It took some fumbling – she wasn’t quite used to her phone’s interface – but after a few minutes she successfully set her alarm for five-thirty.
It had been a long, rollercoaster of a day, and it was of little surprise that Adagio was asleep before her head even touched her pillow.
The next two days seemed to go by in a flash.
Adagio had awoken Thursday morning with a sense of eagerness that had overpowered her fatigue and carried her through the rest of the day. She had, once again, joined Sugarcoat for an early shower – a routine that she would repeat on Friday, as well – before making her way to the lab to begin the next phase of her plan.
Twilight’s notes were exactly as arcane as Adagio had remembered them, but she remained undeterred. She spent the hours before her first class deciphering what she could, and painstakingly translating it into her own writing. It was slow work, but she didn’t mind, it was the first real progress she’d made since her initial meeting with Abacus Cinch, and Adagio intended to make the most of it.
The classes themselves were as boring as ever. Adagio forced herself to concentrate, constantly having to reign in her wandering mind. As appealing as it was to fantasize about the return of her magic, not failing her midterms remained the most pressing issue. At the rate she was unraveling the enigma of Twilight’s device – and that was assuming she was able to learn everything she’d hoped to from Twilight – Adagio knew with absolute certainty that she would not finish the device in the next three weeks, meaning she would have to play Principle Cinch’s game a little longer.
When it came time for lunch, Adagio once again sequestered herself in Twilight’s lab. Sonata stopped by briefly, doing little more than spouting some nonsense about Aria (who, other than occasionally spotting her in a crowded hallway, Adagio had managed to avoid completely) and spinning in her chair, before getting bored and leaving Adagio to her work. Adagio had to suffer her presence a little longer during their shared gym period, though it was made somewhat more bearable by the company of Sugarcoat, until at long last the final bell heralded the end of the school day.
There were no CHS students on the bus to the Canterlot Public Library, though the possibility of their appearance kept Adagio on edge throughout the entire commute. Her time with Twilight was, as was becoming the norm, the best part of her day. The pair spent two short hours in their comfortable workspace, tackling each and every problem that Adagio brought forward. There was a heart stopping moment where Twilight had questioned one of the equations Adagio had taken from her notes, but it quickly passed as Twilight praised her for reading ahead. By the end of their session, Adagio’s confidence was through the roof, and for the first time she felt as if her destiny was firmly within her own grasp.
Friday began much like Thursday, and Adagio was just starting to believe that the bulk of her troubles were behind her, when her little routine was shattered by a knock at the door.
Adagio looked up, noticing Twilight doing the same. They shared a look of bafflement, before simultaneously checking their phones. It was ten-after-five, so it wasn’t the librarian coming to kick them out again, so who could it be?
Adagio saw Twilight about to rise from her chair and held up a hand to stop her. “I’ve got it,” she said, standing up and making her way to the door.
Adagio had been closer, it was true, but that wasn’t why she’d stopped Twilight. Whoever was on the other side of the door had either made a mistake and come to the wrong room, or sought them out specifically, meaning it was entirely possible that she was about to come face to face with Sunset Shimmer or one of the other Rainbooms. There were other possibilities, of course, but whatever the case, Adagio wanted to be in complete control of the situation. So, taking a deep breath, she turned the handle, opened the door, and came face to face with…
…Someone she’d never seen before in her life.
Adagio blinked and peered up at the newcomer, who looked about as confused as Adagio felt. He was tall and lean, with wild green hair kept in check by a black beanie. He wasn’t wearing a uniform, implying he wasn’t a student that had followed her from Crystal Prep, and she didn’t recognize him as one of the students from Canterlot High.
So who was he?
The boy, equally perplexed, rubbed his neck and laughed awkwardly. “Sorry,” he said, “I think I have the wrong room.”
Adagio was preparing to close the door (and was about halfway through doing so) when Twilight leapt up from her chair behind her. “Wait,” she said, “Timber?”
The back of Twilight’s chair clattered against the floor, causing all three of them to flinch. Adagio stepped aside, allowing them to get a good look at one another.
“Twilight?” said the boy, his features relaxing. “For a second there I thought I got the time wrong, but then I remembered that would never happen, because I’m awesome.” He smiled and winked at Twilight, who indulged him with a giggle. Adagio folded her arms, unamused, and waited for an introduction.
After a few long seconds, Adagio cleared her throat loudly.
The pair jumped, remembering that they weren’t alone. Twilight looked sheepishly at Adagio, her cheeks quickly taking on a soft pink glow, before turning back to the boy. “Timber,” she said, “I want you to meet Adagio Dazzle, she’s the girl from Crystal Prep I’ve been tutoring.”
Adagio looked wide-eyed at Twilight. What had happened to keeping their arrangement a secret between the two of them?
“Oh,” said Timber, a look of understanding spreading across his face. “Nice to meet you, Adagio, from Twilight told me about you, I expected you to be younger!”
Adagio felt like she’d been slapped in the face. What was Twilight telling this boy behind her back, and what would lead him to believe she was some sort of child? Timber extended his hand in greeting, and Adagio took it in her own, doing her best to crush it between her fingers.
“Quite the grip you’ve got there!” he said with a laugh. Adagio withdrew her hand, feeling her blood freezing in her veins.
“Adagio,” continued Twilight, “this is Timber Spruce. He’s… well, um, he’s my–”
Timber cut her off. “I’m her boyfriend.”
The word cut through the room like a knife. Adagio watched, unseeing as Timber wrapped an arm around Twilight’s shoulders. If she’d been blushing before, the expression she now wore was something else entirely. Her face burned so brightly that Adagio might even have felt heat radiating off of it – that is, if in that moment she could feel anything at all.
“Yeah,” squeaked Twilight, “that.”
The two shared another smile, the warmth of which was entirely lost on Adagio.
“What is he doing here?”
She hadn’t meant to be quite so curt, but right now she found it hard to care. Twilight didn’t seem to notice, but Timber gave her a searching look.
“We’ve got a date,” he said, proudly, before turning his gaze back to Twilight. “You did remember our date, right?”
The color drained from Twilight’s face. “Oh no!” she said, her voice beset with panic. “We were supposed to go see a movie – I totally forgot! I’m so sorry, Timber!”
“Twilight,” said Timber, calmly, “the movie doesn’t start until six-thirty. We still have plenty of time.”
“Oh,” said Twilight, the blush working its way back into her cheeks, “right.”
Adagio stared at them coldly. “What about me?” she asked.
Twilight looked at Adagio, then back to Timber. She tapped the tips of her two index fingers together. “I sort of promised Adagio that we’d study until six,” she said, sheepishly.
Timber rolled his eyes and shook his head with a smile. “How can someone so smart be so scatterbrained?” he chided, earning himself a light elbow to the ribs. “oww– kidding! It’s cool, that should still give us enough time to get seats, though we might have to skip the popcorn. I’ll wait downstairs while you girls finish up.”
Twilight put a hand on his chest. “Thanks,” she said, earnestly. She leaned in, and realizing what was about to happen, Adagio turned away, but it wasn’t enough. There was nothing she could do to escape the sound of Timber Spruce and Twilight Sparkle kissing.
“I’ll see you soon,” said Twilight, pulling away.
“I’ll be in the ‘Outdoors’ section,” said Timber. “It was nice meeting you, Adagio!”
Adagio put on her best fake smile. She was out of practice.
Twilight closed the door behind Timber, before leaning on it and clutching her arms to her chest. She sighed, and Adagio dropped herself loudly back down in her chair. Twilight, remembering where she was, cleared her throat. “Sorry about that.”
“Whatever,” said Adagio.
Twilight returned to her seat, picked it up off the floor, and the two got back to studying.
Or tried to, anyway. It was immediately apparent that Twilight’s mind was elsewhere, and after about fifteen minutes of repeating questions and reminding Twilight what page they were on, Adagio finally had enough.
She slammed her palms against the table in frustration, shocking Twilight out of yet another daydream.
“Adagio?” asked Twilight. “What’s wrong?”
Adagio grit her teeth. “Twilight Sparkle, I just asked you the same question three times, and you still haven’t given me an answer.”
“Oh,” said Twilight, adjusting her glasses and flipping through her book. “What was the question again?”
“Forget it,” said Adagio, slamming her textbook closed.
Twilight jerked at the noise. “I’m sorry,” she said, “it’s just that he lives out of town, so we don’t see each other very often, so I–”
“It’s fine,” lied Adagio, cutting her off. “You’ve obviously distracted, so why don’t you stop wasting both of our time and go be with him? You’re useless to me like this.”
Adagio regretted the words immediately after they left her mouth. Twilight look like she’d been struck, and all the bubbliness and glee that had enveloped her since Timber’s arrival evaporated in an instant.
Adagio rubbed her forehead. “I didn’t mean it like that,” she said. “I’m sorry. Just… go have fun on your date. I’ll see you on Monday.”
Twilight watched her for almost a minute. Adagio couldn’t bear to look into her big, hurt eyes any longer, and made a show of reopening her textbook and burying her face in it. Twilight collected her things and made for the door, but stopped with her hand on the knob.
“Are you sure?” she asked. “I could–”
“Go, Twilight Sparkle. Timber is waiting.”
Adagio heard the door close behind her, and once again she was left all alone.
Twilight Sparkle has a boyfriend, she thought.
And why wouldn’t she? Twilight was pretty and smart, kind and quick-witted. Of course she had a boyfriend, it only made sense. The better question was why did Adagio care?
I don’t, she thought immediately. Twilight Sparkle’s love life was of so little concern to her that she was shocked to find herself thinking about it it whatsoever. It was a trivial, unimportant detail, a footnote in her grand plan. Twilight Sparkle could love whoever she wanted.
Suddenly, the room felt like it had dropped a few degrees. Twilight Sparkle surely didn’t love him, right? Not that she cared, but if Twilight was in love with him, certainly she wouldn’t have forgotten their date, and she wouldn’t have neglected to mention his very existence for an entire week, would she?
Adagio stood up from her chair and began to pace around the small room. She didn’t care about Twilight’s stupid feelings, and yet she couldn’t deny that something was wrong. There was a tightness in her chest and a familiar knot in her stomach. Why was she feeling this way? Was she frustrated that Twilight had left early? They’d only accomplished half of what Adagio had hoped to before the end of the evening, but that wasn’t it, either. She could have tried harder to make Twilight focus, instead of making her leave, but she didn’t. Every time she’d looked at Twilight, every time she thought about her now, all she could picture was the lovesick way she’d looked at Timber, how their puckered lips had drawn closer and closer until…
Adagio swept the contents of the table into her bookbag. A pen missed the opening completely and landed on the floor by her feet. She stomped on it, shattering the plastic beneath her heel, before storming out of the study room. She walked briskly down the stairs and out the main doors, the cold night air stinging her damp cheeks. But why were they damp? She didn’t want to think about it. She wiped her eyes and began walking down the road, not stopping at the bus stop. What was she doing? She was confused, angry, and restless. She needed to walk. But how long would it take to walk from here to Crystal Prep?
She didn’t care.
The sun had set by the time she had reached the school. Her legs burned and her feet ached, her shoes weren’t meant for walking such long distances. It appeared that she wasn’t the only Crystal Prep student returning to the dormitories after spending their Friday evening out and about, and Adagio did her best to ignore the other students as she made her way back to her room. Inside, Sugarcoat was waiting for her.
“You look terrible,” she said, in her usual blunt manner. Adagio was in no mood to deal with her – in fact, her long walk had only given her time to dwell further on her anger – and dealt her a sharp look before heading towards her bunk.
“Wait,” said Sugarcoat. Adagio reluctantly stopped with her arms on the rungs, her neck craning towards the other girl. “Your gem thing was on the floor again.”
Adagio groaned. “Just put it on my desk, I’ll deal with it in the morning.”
“Actually, I tied a string to it. You said it used to be a necklace, right? Now you can hang it somewhere or wear it around your neck so you don’t lose it.”
Adagio stared at Sugarcoat. As usual, the girl’s expression was unreadable. “Thanks,” she muttered. She didn’t know what else to say, and after another minute of awkward eye contact, finished the climb up to her bunk.
“Are you okay?” asked Sugarcoat from below. Adagio turned on her side and faced the wall.
“No,” she replied.
There was already light pouring through the window when Adagio awoke the next morning.
She sat up in bed, wiping the sleep from her bleary eyes. Below her, sitting at her desk, Sugarcoat toiled away at some schoolwork.
Adagio yawned and stretched. “What time is it?” she asked.
“Around noon,” said Sugarcoat, not looking up from her work, “you slept in. Oh, and your phone has been going off all morning.”
“What?” Adagio fumbled around her bed, eventually finding her phone stashed beneath her pillow. Sure enough, she was surprised to find that she had unread text messages from Twilight Sparkle.
Twelve of them.
Adagio groaned and turned off the screen. “I’m not awake enough for this,” she muttered, climbing down from her bunk.
“Awake enough for what?”
Sugarcoat had turned to face her, and was now observing her with her trademarked blank expression. Adagio took a self-conscious glance in the mirror and found that, other than a bit of bedhead and her big t-shirt hanging precariously from one shoulder, she didn’t look nearly as bad as she felt.
“Don’t worry about it,” said Adagio, fixing the neckline of her shirt. The anger and confusion of the night before had finally burned themselves out, and had settled in the pit of her stomach as a dull melancholy. She set her phone on the desk, intending to leave it behind while she took a shower, when she noticed Sugarcoat’s handiwork lying next to it.
Sugarcoat had done more than ‘tie a string to’ her shattered pendant. The red gem shard was attached to a thin metal chain with a clasp on the back. It was a proper necklace, not like the thick, black strap she’d worn before, but thin and chic. For a moment, it almost seemed as if the shard had had gained back just a tiny bit of its former luster.
“You did this?” asked Adagio. Sugarcoat nodded. Adagio held the necklace up to her neck and looked once more into the mirror. Her shirt had, once again, slipped off her shoulder, but this time she left it. It wasn’t a bad look. She turned her attention back to Sugarcoat. “Why?”
“I was tired of stepping on it.”
Adagio looked into Sugarcoat’s eyes, but as usual the girl’s thoughts were indecipherable. “Well, thanks,” said Adagio lamely. She wasn’t used to receiving gifts – not from people under their own free will, anyway – and wasn’t entirely sure what to say.
“You already thanked me,” said Sugarcoat, turning back to her work, “but you’re welcome.”
Adagio considered the necklace for a moment longer, before laying it carefully next to her phone. She grabbed her bag and a change of clothes, and made her way to the showers. She took a long, hot shower, undisturbed by any other students who had likely performed their morning rituals while it was still morning, before eventually deciding enough was enough (she couldn’t hide from her problems beneath a torrent of hot water all day) and returned to her room.
For the first time in what felt like an eternity, Adagio was not required to wear her Crystal Prep uniform, and she intended to take full advantage of this fact, electing to wear the most comfortable outfit she owned. While a purple hoodie, jeans, and sneakers weren’t exactly the most fashion forward thing in her figurative wardrobe, they were the perfect choice for a day where she didn’t have to go anywhere or impress anyone.
Sugarcoat was still seated at her desk when Adagio returned, but had exchanged the problems she’d been working on (which now sat on the corner of her desk, neatly stapled with a cover page) for a thick novel. Adagio scooped her phone up off the desk and tucked it into the pocket of her hoodie, and after a moment of thought, took the necklace as well. She pulled the chain around her neck and did up the clasp, shivering as the cool metal touched her shower-warmed skin. Sugarcoat looked up from her novel and gave her an approving nod.
“It looks good on you,” she said.
“Thanks,” said Adagio. Was that the first complement she’d received from Sugarcoat? It felt… nice, and Adagio felt her foul mood improve ever so slightly. She picked up her backpack and slung it over her shoulder.
Sugarcoat had turned to face her once again.
Adagio nodded. “Yeah,” she said, “I’ve got some things I want to get done.” In truth, Adagio wasn’t really sure why she was leaving. She knew she was going to the lab, her body had almost lead her there unconsciously, but even now she knew that she wasn’t going to get much done. Her disastrous session with Twilight had assured her of that. But she wasn’t going to sit around in her room all day feeling sorry for herself, so the lab was her only other option.
Sugarcoat hesitated for a moment, then spoke. “Some of the other girls and I were thinking about going to get something to eat later. You can come, too, if you’re interested.”
Adagio blinked. Well, that was a surprise. She wasn’t exactly in the mood to go out with anyone right now, and was about to turn Sugarcoat down, when she caught a glimpse of her new necklace in the mirror. She sighed. “I’ll think about it,” she said. “Let me know when you have the details.”
“Okay,” said Sugarcoat. “Give me your number.”
Adagio raised an eyebrow. “What?”
“Your phone number,” said Sugarcoat. “If you’re going out, and you want me to let you know when I have the details, you have to give me your phone number.”
Adagio stared at her for a moment, before pulling her phone out of her pocket. She opened the contacts window, carefully avoiding reading any of the texts from Twilight, and began the process of adding a new contact. She didn’t hand the phone to Sugarcoat, partly because she didn’t want her to see that she only had one prior contact, and partly because she really didn’t want her to see that that one contact was Twilight Sparkle.
After they’d finished sharing information, Adagio sent Sugarcoat a quick text to ensure they’d entered the right numbers.
‘Hi,’ she sent.
‘Hello,’ responded Sugarcoat.
With that behind them, Adagio bid farewell to Sugarcoat and began her trek to the lab. It was a cold day, and the wind howled and cut through Adagio’s hoodie like she was wearing nothing at all, but fortunately the trip to the school was a short one, and before long Adagio found herself hold up in the musty old lab.
Twilight’s musty old lab, she thought, and sighed.
Adagio dropped herself into the waiting chair, pulled her phone once more from her pocket and stared at it. As much as she wanted to, she couldn’t avoid Twilight forever, not as long as she held on to any hope of getting her magic back, anyway. Besides, part of her was curious about what was so important that Twilight had texted her about it twelve times, and another part simply wanted to find out if things were okay between them. So, before she could convince herself not to, Adagio opened her text messages and began to read.
‘Sorry about last night, I completely forgot that I made plans with Timber.’
‘He lives out of town, so we have make our plans pretty far in advance so he can be sure he can get the time off, and the transportation into Canterlot.’
‘I spend a lot of time at the library, so I thought it would be a good place to meet. I guess it’s a good thing we didn’t decide to study somewhere else, right?’
‘Are you mad at me?’
‘You seemed mad last night. I’m sorry, I should have paid more attention. That wasn’t very tutorly of me.’
‘Is tutorly a word?’
‘Okay, now I’m not sure if you’re not responding because you haven’t seen these, or because you’re actually mad at me.’
‘So if you see this and you’re not mad at me, please let me know. Or if you see this and you are mad at me, also let me know, so I know.’
‘“Tutorly” isn’t a word, by the way.’
‘I just realized that I sent you ten texts in a row. I promise I’m not crazy, sometimes I send a text and then I realize I should have added something to it, or I think of something else I was going to say, and suddenly it’s a wall of text. This is the last text, just call me when you get these, or when you feel like it.’
‘Sorry about all the texts.’
Adagio rolled her eyes. Even in the context of her text messages, Twilight Sparkle still managed to come off as a massive dork. A smile tugged at her lips, and her eye lingered on the tiny icon of Twilight Sparkle cleaning her glasses. Her thumb hovered over the call button.
Just get it over with, she thought, before you talk yourself out of it.
She bit her lip, and pressed the button.
It had barely started to ring when the call connected and Twilight’s voice came through from the other end.
Adagio felt a weight pressing down on her chest, and fought back the impulse to terminate the call.
“Hello, Twilight Sparkle. I got your texts.”
Twilight laughed uncomfortably. “Yeah, sorry about that, sometimes I get a little…”
The call lapsed into silence.
“Are you still there?” asked Twilight.
“I’m here,” said Adagio.
“I was just wondering–”
“I wanted to tell you–”
They both stopped.
“You go first,” said Twilight.
Adagio took a deep breath. “I wanted to… apologize for my childish behavior last night. You’ve done a lot for me these last few days, and it was a very poor way to repay your generosity. I’m sorry.”
“I’m sorry, too,” said Twilight. “I made a responsibility when I agreed to tutor you, and I shouldn’t have let my personal life interfere with that. I promise that it won’t happen again. I’m usually much better organized with my time, I have my dental appointments booked for the next two years!”
Of course she did. Adagio laughed and rolled her eyes.
“Are you rolling your eyes at me?” asked Twilight, playfully.
“No.” She rolled them again, and the two of them burst into a fit of giggles.
“I’m glad you called,” said Twilight.
“Me too,” replied Adagio. There was a short, pleasant silence, before Twilight spoke again.
“So, doing anything special for your first weekend at Crystal Prep?”
Technically her first day at the school had been a Sunday, but Adagio didn’t push the issue. She glanced around the lab, eyeing the small mountain of notes piled on the desks. “Not really,” she replied.
“Well, if you’re not doing anything, there are a couple of things I need to pick up from the mall, and it would be more fun if I had someone to go with.”
Apologizing was one thing, but going out in public with Twilight Sparkle was a disaster waiting to happen. What if someone from Canterlot High saw them together? What if someone from Crystal Prep saw them together? What if she did something stupid and drove Twilight away?
“I don’t think that’s a good idea.”
The line went quiet for a moment. “O-oh, okay. If you don’t want to¬–”
“It’s not that I don’t want to! It’s just–”
“No, you were right, I wasn’t thinking… Sorry.”
There was that feeling again: guilt. She’d already made Twilight apologize for having a life outside of the two-hours a day she’d already committed to helping Adagio, and now she was making her apologizing for having the audacity to want to spend more time with her?
Twilight’s voice was hollow, defeated, and sounded nothing like the clever, dorky girl Adagio knew her to be. How many times did Adagio have to hurt her, just to keep a secret? How many tears would be shed before Twilight grew to resent her? But if they were found out, everything could come crashing down. She couldn’t put her own future on the line just to make Twilight Sparkle happy, could she?
The answer surprised her.
“You didn’t let me finish,” she said. “I don’t think it’s a good idea, but if I have to spend my entire day waiting around Crystal Prep I might actually lose my mind. So, when do you want to meet?”
It took Twilight a few seconds to process her response. “Wait, really? You’ll come? Are you sure?”
No, she wasn’t sure. To be honest, she wasn’t convinced she wasn’t making a huge mistake.
“That’s great!” Twilight cleared her throat. “I mean, I’m glad to hear it. I was thinking of going around two o’clock, how does that sound?”
There was still time to get out of this.
“I’ll catch the next bus.”
“Okay, I’ll get ready and meet you at the mall. See you soon!”
“See you soon, Twilight Sparkle.”
The call ended and Adagio allowed her arm to drop to her side. What was she thinking? She had to call Twilight back, tell her she’d changed her mind! She picked her bus card up off the desk and shoved it into the pocket of her jeans. No, even with every fiber of her being crying out against it – even if she wasn’t entirely sure why – Adagio had made her decision and she was sticking to it.
She couldn’t let Twilight down again.
Adagio had just stepped out of the lab and was about to lock the door, when she noticed a familiar figure in the hallway.
Cadance stopped mid stride. “Adagio? What are you–”
“Hang on just one second!” said Adagio, ducking back into the lab and leaving a confused Cadance alone in the hallway. She emerged a moment later with an atrociously pink item tucked under her arm.
“Your umbrella,” she said, perhaps a little too proudly than what was merited given the situation. “I remembered.”
Cadance laughed, accepting the umbrella as Adagio handed it to her. “I was wondering when I’d get this back.”
“Sorry about that,” said Adagio, rubbing her neck and looking at the floor.
“Don’t be, I’m just surprised you kept it as long as you did. It’s a bit much, isn’t it?”
Cadance poked her playfully with the tip of the umbrella. “Hey, just because I’m old, doesn’t mean I’m blind!”
Adagio smirked. “So, you admit that you’re old?”
Cadance brandished the umbrella like a club. “Don’t make me use this. Remember, I know where you live!”
The two stared defiantly at one another for a moment, before their composure broke and they fell into a fit of laughter.
“So,” said Cadance, wiping a tear from her eye, “what are you doing here, anyway?”
“I could ask you the same question.”
Cadance rolled her eyes. “You could, or you could try giving me a straight answer.”
“Where would the fun in that be?”
“Funny girl,” said Cadance, sarcastically, though her smile didn’t fade. “If you must know, I was stopping in to get a few things from my office. I’ve done that, so now I’m leaving. Your turn.”
“I was thinking about getting some work done, but…” She hesitated.
“But?” said Cadance, cocking an eyebrow.
“…I decided to go to the mall, instead. With Twilight Sparkle. I’m about to catch the bus.”
No more lies, she reminded herself. Now she had to do it.
Cadance clapped her hands together with glee. “I’m so glad everything is working out between you two. Am I a great dean, or what?” she asked, punctuating the question with a wink. Adagio rolled her eyes, but didn’t argue. “It’s okay, you don’t have to say it, we both know. Actually, I’m heading that way myself. I can give you a lift, if you’d like.”
“Yes,” said Adagio, immediately. Driving with Cadance was immeasurably better than public transportation.
“It’s settled then, let’s get going.”
It was a short walk to Cadance’s car, and Adagio was about to get into the passenger’s seat when Cadance stopped her. “Actually, would you mind sitting in the back? I have to pick someone up on the way.”
Adagio shrugged and climbed in the back. It wasn’t as comfortable as the front, but considering she was getting a free ride she didn’t feel she had the right to complain. She caught Cadance’s eye while the latter was adjusting her rearview mirror.
“It sort of feels like I’m your chauffeur,” joked Cadance.
“I didn’t think chauffeurs talked so much.”
“There’s still time for you to catch that bus.”
Adagio smiled sweetly. “Thank you for offering me a ride, Dean Cadance,” she said, with only a hint of sarcasm.
Cadance laughed, started the car, and they were off. It was a nice day, and Adagio spent the majority of the trip staring out the window and trying not to think about everything that could go wrong once they arrived at the mall. Eventually, Cadance pulled up alongside a large house with a well-kept garden and honked the car’s horn. The door to the house opened, and though he was much better dressed than when she’d seen him on Wednesday, Adagio was surprised when Shining Armor stepped out. She cast a confused glance at Cadance, who smiled mysteriously.
Shining Armor approached the vehicle, opened the passenger’s side door, and climbed in. “Hello, honey,” he said, leaning in and giving Cadance a quick peck on the lips.
“Hello, darling,” replied Cadance, biting her lip to hold back a smile. They gazed at one another for a few seconds before Shining Armor finally noticed Adagio in the back seat. He blinked.
“Hey,” he said, confusion spreading across his strong features.
“Hello,” said Adagio. An awkward silence fell over the car, only breaking when Cadance could no longer contain her laughter.
“You should have seen the look on your faces!” said Cadance. Shining Armor smiled and shook his head, before looking back towards Adagio.
“We didn’t really have a chance to be properly introduced the other day,” he said. “I’m Shining Armor, nice to meet you.” He extended a hand, and Adagio shook it.
“Adagio Dazzle,” she said, “nice to meet you, too.”
“I’ve heard a lot about you from my two favorite girls – all good things, I promise.”
“She called me old today,” said Cadance, feigning offence.
Shining Armor chuckled. “Mostly good things,” he corrected.
“It’s funny, Twilight was actually just telling me that she was meeting you at the mall, and I had to tell her I couldn’t give her a ride because–” he cut himself off, turning to face Cadance. “We’re driving them to the mall, aren’t we?” She gave him a knowing look. He sighed. “I’ll go get her.”
Shining Armor stepped out of the car and jogged back up the lawn.
“So,” said Adagio, “dating a student’s older brother, huh?”
“Our families have been friends for years. Shining Armor and I went to school together, and I used to babysit Twilight when she was little. So, if you ever want to see embarrassing baby pictures all you have to do is ask.”
Adagio laughed. “Deal.”
Shining Armor returned, this time with Twilight in tow. Adagio slid over to make room for her as she climbed in.
“Hi,” said Adagio.
Twilight must not have noticed her, as in her surprise she jumped straight up and hit her head on the ceiling of the car. Adagio snickered and did her best to cover her mouth with her hand.
“Adagio!” said Twilight, trying to play off her clumsiness by straightening her skirt and fixing her glasses. “W-what are you doing here? I thought you were taking the bus.”
“This isn’t the bus?” asked Adagio, bluffing bewilderment. “Miss driver, I’m going to have to ask for my money back!”
“Sorry,” said Cadance, “no refunds!” They laughed, but Twilight still looked confused so Adagio decided to fill her in.
“I ran into Cadance at school and she offered me a ride. I didn’t know we’d be picking you up until I saw Shining Armor.”
“It’s on the way,” said Cadance.
“No it isn’t,” said Shining Armor.
“Bye, Cadance, bye, Shiny, thanks for the ride!”
Twilight Sparkle and Adagio Dazzle waved as Cadance’s car pulled out of the parking lot of the West Canterlot Mall. The drive had been a pleasant one, especially once Cadance and Shining Armor had decided to tell stories about Twilight’s childhood.
“All of that stays between us,” said Twilight, still looking delightfully flustered.
“My lips are sealed,” said Adagio. “Besides, who would I tell that Twilight Sparkle had her brother check her closet for monsters until the age of–”
Twilight’s elbow caught her in the ribs. “Adagio!”
“Careful with those boney elbows, Twilight Sparkle, you’ll take my eye out!”
That earned her another elbow, but it was worth it. Twilight waited for her snickering to die down before the pair headed for the entrance.
“Your brother seems like a nice guy.”
Twilight rolled her eyes. “You’re just saying that because he made fun of me.”
“Maybe,” said Adagio with a coy smile.
“Well, it’s true. I didn’t have a lot of friends growing up, but Shiny was always there when I needed him – he and Cadance both. I’m glad you got along with them.” Twilight thought for a moment. “Do you have any siblings?”
“No,” said Adagio, eager to drop the subject of her past. “What do you need to pick up, anyway?”
“Well,” said Twilight, pushing open the mall’s double doors, “it’s just a couple of things. I was thinking we’d start with–”
Twilight stopped mid-sentence, her eyes widening and her pupils shrinking into pinpricks. “Oh no.”
“What’s wrong?” Adagio asked. She followed Twilight’s gaze, and felt her heart leap into her throat when she discovered the source of Twilight’s distress.
Walking towards them, about twenty feet away, was not one, but all six of the Rainbooms who yet remained in this world, and what was worse, one of them was looking right at Twilight Sparkle.
“Twilight, hey!” called Sunset Shimmer, raising a hand in greeting. The other girls looked up, and Adagio tried to slip away into the crowd.
But she was too late.
Twilight didn’t have a chance to respond before Sunset’s demeanor shifted. The warmth in her face died, replaced with confusion and urgency. Realization swept over the other Rainbooms like a wave, and in an instant, they were upon her.
“Isn’t that–” started one of them, but Sunset Shimmer didn’t let her finish.
“Twilight!” cried Sunset. “I’ll explain everything later, but you need to get away from her right now!”
Adagio’s hands balled into fists. This is it. You knew this was going to happen, but you came here anyway. Now it’s all over. Was she worth it?
“Wait,” said Twilight, interposing herself between Adagio and Sunset, “you don’t understand!”
“No, you don’t understand!” Sunset tried to pull Twilight behind her, but she stood her ground. “Whoever you think she is, whatever she told you, it’s all a lie. Her name is Adagio Dazzle, and she’s a dangerous creature from Equestria called a–”
“Siren,” said Twilight, cutting her off. “I know.”