3:14 PM

by SugarPesticide

Progress? What Progress?

Following the pegasus, Pinkie soon found herself at the park, which had a surprising lack of ponies on this fine summer day. She kept her distance as the pegasus settled on a spot near the path that cut across the grass. This didn’t look much like preparations for the Summer Sun Celebration, but it was possible that the pegasus would manage to surprise her.

Shrugging off the sack of feed, the pegasus fluttered her wings a little to celebrate their new freedom. A little smile crossed her face as she looked to the sky, eyes searching. With a dainty clearing of the throat, she closed her eyes, took a deep breath, and began to sing a wordless melody.

Pinkie listened. The music floated on currents of joy, and she felt herself relax a little as it soothed her ears and calmed her mind. Somewhere in her heart and hooves, there was a shift — a sensation of becoming lighter but larger — and she indulged in a quiet reassurance that, loop or no loop, there would always be music.

Another voice joined the song. The pegasus squeaked in surprise, faltering as she looked around nervously for the other singer. Her wide eyes settled on Pinkie, provoking a little surprise from the latter when she realized that the music was coming from her. Nevertheless, something inside her swallowed its confusion and continued to let the song flow on, twisting and weaving into existence.

For a while, Pinkie’s voice drifted alone. The pegasus stood still, like a cornered animal unsure whether to fight or flee. Pinkie leaned toward her, making an unspoken request as the song continued to bubble up from its strange source.

The pegasus glanced to the side, shrinking back, but before long something sparked in her eyes. She stood a little taller, taking calming breaths; her ears stood erect as they accepted the music. Resolve smoothed her ruffled feathers, and her uncertainty was forgotten as she began to sing.

It was nothing short of magical. The melody was a dynamic, interweaving thing that slipped under and over reality, bypassing time and transcending space. From above, beings flocked to the sound, providing a soprano chorus the bolstered the music to unprecedented heights. It all came together in a mighty climax, and the last note rang out over the unbroken serenity.

Then it was over, and birds were everywhere, fluttering and chirping in excitement as they circled the ponies’ heads.

Pinkie blinked. “What just happened?”

“Something amazing!” the pegasus exclaimed, nearly loud enough to match normal speaking volume. Then she caught herself, stammering. “I mean … I never thought music could be so nice when shared with somepony. That feeling never happened when I sang alone.”

“Yeah.” Pinkie considered this. Something didn’t quite add up.

“Oh, and thank you! My little friends might not have come for a while if it was just me singing.”

“It’s not a problem.” She watched as the pegasus directed the birds toward the branches of a nearby tree, where they perched proudly. “What are you doing here?”

“We’re having a last practice section for the Summer Sun Celebration. They wanted us to provide the music, so we’re doing the best we can.” Part of her mane obscured her face. “I’m not sure it’s enough, though. Not to say my bird friends aren’t good at what they do!” she added hastily. “It’s just that … well, I worry ponies won’t like our music.”

“Well, it sounds great!” Pinkie said, smiling. “I bet you’ll do fantastically tonight.”

The pegasus scuffed at the ground. “Thank you.”

“My name’s Pinkie Pie! It’s nice to actually meet you, Butterfly!”

“Um, actually, I’m Fluttershy. Butterfly would be a nice name, though.”

“Oh. Well, Fluttershy! Would you mind if I listen in on your practice?”

“Listen in?” Fluttershy shifted her weight from one pair of hooves to the other. “I think that would be fine … if my friends don’t mind, that is.”

The birds had no objections, and soon Pinkie was listening intently as Fluttershy led them in a new song. The music was light, airy, and angelic, just what Princess Celestia would love to hear. Pinkie found herself getting caught up in the fanfare, tapping a hoof in time to the implied beat.

Still, it wasn’t quite the same. Something had happened with the music earlier … something that had lured Pinkie into joining in. She looked to her hooves, wondering at the feeling that had flooded them earlier. Could it have been earth pony magic? She wasn’t well acquainted which such a thing, and it was easily the least thoroughly studied type of pony magic. But why would earth pony magic have a connection with music?

Pinkie must have been puzzling over this for a while, because she was snapped from her thoughts by a familiar voice. “Oh, it’s you, Pinkie. What’re you doing here?”

“Listening to Fluttershy’s music.” Not a complete lie.

“Oh!” Fluttershy swiveled to face Twilight, and the birds trailed off in confusion. “I’m sorry, I didn’t see you there. I, uh …” She seemed to remember the second half of her name, and she tucked her wings in to her sides in a show of submission. “I’m glad you like it?”

“It’s very nice.” Twilight nodded to the dragon on her back. “Don’t you think, Spike?”

Spike shrugged. “It’s nice.”

There was a moment’s pause. Then Fluttershy, ears perked, rushed forward to push her face up against Spike’s. “Oh my goodness! A baby dragon … he’s so cute! And yet so well suited to nature at the same time. And he talks!”

“Yeah, I do that sometimes,” he said, grinning.

Twilight wrinkled her nose. “This is fascinating, but we need to get to the library. We’ll be staying there while we’re in Ponyville. You can come if you want, Pinkie.” She started to walk away.

“What’s it like to be a dragon?” Fluttershy trotted alongside, catching up quickly. “Do you only eat gems, or are you omnivorous? Or just carnivorous? How is it to live with ponies? Do you really have a lifespan that's a hundred times greater than a pony's?”

Pinkie smiled and took a step forward, intending to join up with them. That was as far as she got, however, as the birds chose that moment to take off; they flocked to follow Fluttershy, and Pinkie just happened to be in the way. She looked around just in time to see one speeding bird chirp in panic before its beak gored her between the eyes.

“Oh my! You’ve certainly been productive, haven’t you?”

“I don’t want to talk about it.” Pinkie rubbed her face, hoping to dispel the phantom pain of a bird lodged in her skull. “Or, maybe I do. Something’s up.”

Mrs. Cake’s smile flickered. “What do you mean?”

“I start dying and repeating time, and that’s weird enough. But now, when I’m singing, I get this weird feeling that doesn’t make sense? And it’s not even something I’m really in control of.”

“... Pinkie, did something happen?”

She sighed. “It’s not important. I need to get further along on this meeting ponies thing. It’d really help to save time if I could just catch them all at the Summer Sun Celebration … but Nightmare Moon will be there by then, and they probably won’t want to talk when she comes.”

“Nightmare Moon? What?”

“Maybe I could gather them all myself beforehand? But how would I do that? It’s not like I could just throw a party and expect them all to—”

She paused, blinking. Mrs. Cake, not one to make others feel alone, blinked as well.

“Of course!” Pinkie threw her hooves up in the air. “A party! That’s just what I need to take my mind off this loop stuff. And I can get to know everypony better too! I just need to find an excuse for it … well, Twilight’s coming, so I can set it up at the library, since I know she ends up there by evening! It’s perfect! Thanks, Mrs. Cake!”

“You’re … welcome?” Mrs. Cake blinked at the puff of dust the speeding Pinkie had left behind. “I do hope she’s all right. Still, she’s more energetic than usual. This might be her turning over a new leaf in sociability!”

She felt a little pang of unease. But that was easily dismissed. Pinkie was excited about something, so why should she worry?