Adagio's head whipped about anxiously as she hastened through the park. It always seemed a hassle to try to remember where that old oak was, especially since neither she nor her sisters often came here.
Huffing, the Siren paused for a moment, pulled her jacket tighter around her frame, and then used her hand to momentarily shield her eyes from the midday sun. Turning in a nearly complete circle, she scanned the immense, grassy lawn while clutching her notation booklets closer to her chest.
Autumn had finally decided to put its foot down. The air had taken on that familiar crisp and pungent aura that heralded the beginning of the season. Even now, Adagio could just make out a few leaves beginning to turn a slight orange.
What a shame. Fall was her favourite season, and it looked as if she would not be allowed the chance to enjoy what might possibly be the last one she would ever see. Taking a moment to check the watch upon her wrist only worked to make the girl more impatient as what she searched for continued to elude her. "Girls?" she yelled, hoping for a response that would lead her in the proper direction. At once, she detected a high-pitched and incoherent stream of rambling resound from somewhere beyond an uphill path to her left. "Bingo," she muttered to herself, hustling off toward the mound.
The large, old oak came into view as she reached the top, and with it, two more figures: Sonata, who was garbed in her work uniform and a cozy looking jacket, and Aria, who appeared dressed for complete discretion whilst clad in a long, purple jumpsuit; sunglasses, and a wide brimmed, black hat. The sight of the worn, white bandages wrapped tightly around the girl's throat made Adagio frown. She noted how the strips clashed with everything upon her body, even her pinkish skin.
Aria braced against Sonata with one arm, her head lolling about listlessly whilst her younger sister excitedly talked her ears off.
Sonata's rambling only became more excited as Adagio moved to stand before them both. "Can't believe that we're actually all out together!" the youngest Siren exclaimed, bouncing about. "Oh my gosh, we should go somewhere after this! What if we just all call off, and like, have a sisters day out? We could stay here for a while, and then go to the mall, and get foot massages, and—Oh! Or we could go to the coffee shop first and then the mall..."
As words continued to pour from her mouth, Aria directed her forward toward Adagio. The dour girl then passed her elder the most pained of expressions, and without hesitation, shoved the babbling Siren into her arms. This, of course, didn't seem to stop or slow Sonata's rant in the slightest.
"Adagio is that a new headband? I don't think I've ever seen that one before! It looks different!" she bumbled on.
"Please... take... her," Aria croaked, almost sounding as if she might cry. "Can't... too much... words..."
Grimacing at the hyperactive girl as she would a pile of stinky laundry, Adagio then tilted her head to the side, and peered at Aria. "Did you give her sugar? You gave her sugar, didn't you? We're barely used to eating an entire day's worth of this human crud, and you somehow decide it's a good idea for her to pour a cup of sugar down her throat."
"Aria let me buy two hot chocolates from that cart on the other side of the park!" Sonata giggled, gathering her elder into a crushing hug.
"I had to!" Aria cried, her voice still strained and hoarse. "She kept trying to braid my hair!"
"It totes would've looked awesome with your hat, Ari! Let's just be honest about that at least. Kay?" Sonata retorted.
Adagio, who was currently locked in a hug of death, thought quickly, and reached into her jacket pocket with one, shaking hand. Pulling out a couple dollars, she tossed it in Sonata's general direction, and struggled for whatever bit of air she could muster in spite of the younger girl's crushing grip. "Go... buy tea," she gasped through her purpling cheeks. "Chamomile and Jasmine! Chug it!"
"Okay!" Sonata cried, immediately releasing her. She promptly snatched up the money, and raced off down the hill.
Bending over and gasping for air, the eldest Siren watched her go. Aria stood beside her, gazing coolly upon the youngest girl as she skipped down the path. She pursed her fuchsia lips. "I bet she'll barf it all up skipping around like that," she muttered out of the corner of her mouth. "Just you watch. Three... two..."
A retching sound could be heard coming from the great lawn down below. Sonata was now doubled over against her knees, trying her best to hold her own ponytail out of her face whilst her head was buried halfway inside of a nearby trashcan. A few adults had begun to clear the area, thinking the girl a drunk. A few others dragged their impressionably young children along behind them.
"Told ya," the pinkish girl snorted.
Adagio rolled her eyes at this, doing her best to keep her composure. It was far too early in the day to allow these two to annoy her. She stood tall to face her more composed sister, and passed her a serious look. "Did you smell anything on your way here?"
"No," Aria replied sternly, taking the moment of calm to make her way back toward the tree. She then plopped down upon the grass, and leaned her back up against the immense thing.
Adagio followed suit, tossing her stack of books and papers onto the ground. She daintily sat down beside her whilst pulling the hems of her skirt straight. "Good," she replied, looking out onto the park.
The brightness of the day was even more apparent from atop this lonely hill. From here, they could just make out Sonata, now looking renewed and purposeful, and walking—more slowly, albeit—toward a large cart set up by the northern gate of the park. Everything in between them was a beautiful and slightly fading green.
A small gust of wind picked up, and both girls inhaled the smell of the air. It was refreshing, almost mood-lifting, and as Adagio felt the breeze working its way through her curls, her lulled mind drifted onto thoughts of her sister, Aria.
Even though it had been over a month since Adagio's "mishap" at the Crescendo household and her subsequent fight with Aria, the tension had remained unwaveringly palpable between them both. One would think that the appearance of their new and extremely dangerous foe would have done more to bring them together—at least more so than the melodramatic cry session they'd all participated in the evening of Aria's attack. Alas, it had not.
The implication of what Adagio had said to her the evening they had fought about their powers was horrible; that, at least, was clear. The memory of the incident left an indescribable weight in the older girl's chest, one that she couldn't seem to shake, and which only got heavier whenever she looked upon her sister.
Wrapping a hand around her ankle, and squeezing for courage, she took a deep breath. "I'm... sorry," she croaked.
Aria's head snapped around to stare at her, a suspicious smirk plastered across her face. After scanning Adagio over a few times, trying to get a grasp on the earnestness of this statement, she turned about, braced herself upon a lifted knee, and gazed out into the distance. "We've already been through all that gushy stuff, Adagio. Please don't make me relive it. It's embarrassing." Realizing she was being awful for no good reason, Aria took a deep breath, exhaled, and tried again. "You've said what you needed to say, and I heard you then. No need to—"
"Not about the attack," the elder Siren interjected as she anxiously rubbed the pads of her fingers together. She dared not look anywhere in Aria's direction.
At once, the younger girl's muscles tightened. She let off a loud, impatient huff as a hand quickly traveled to her side, and began digging about inside of her pockets.
It was very clear to Adagio that the subject was something the other girl wasn't keen on breeching. Still, she powered on, though now she couldn't help but wonder whose benefit she was doing it for. "About, what I said about you and—"
"Yea, well," Aria cut in, her hand now working more frantically within her pocket. Not finding what it was she was looking for, she then moved to the other, "it was a pretty fucked up thing to say."
There was a brief pause as Adagio willed herself to acquiesce to Aria's tone of voice. This time, at least, she could admit that she deserved it. "I didn't mean to trivialize it. I was angry about what you said—"
Aria's hand wrenched itself from her pocket, and planted itself firmly on the ground. Pulling off her sunglasses, she spun about to give Adagio the most spiteful of glares. "You were angry," she scoffed. "You were angry? How the hell do you figure you could be angry enough to say something like that to me? To me?"
Alright. The nice Adagio had been given her chance. Now irritated, the eldest Siren jabbed a finger out in Aria's direction, dangerously close to her chest.
"You made it seem as if what happened with Upr— the Duke was the result of some..." Adagio sputtered, her clenched hands working about in the air as she attempted to think through her anger," some rainy day game that I played while bored. How could you make light of what he did to me?"
"Oh, come on, Adagio. He never harmed a hair on your noble, little head. He wouldn't ever, and you knew that!" Aria yelled, pounding a fist against the grass.
"How do you know? You never even met him!" Adagio retorted.
"Because for our first two hundred, you never shut up about it!" Aria quipped.
"He hurt the ones that I loved!" the eldest Siren hissed, a tinge of pain in her eyes.
"Yea, well they're all gone now, Adagio! All of those mortals that we loved or despised are long dead and long gone. Their troubles are over! But me, Adagio? I'm the one that's still here with you, and I'm the one that has to live for an eternity with—"
Aria's outburst was cut short as something seemed to strike her. Whilst looking at Adagio's clearly offended expression, the younger Siren's features grew weary, exhausted even. She shook her head, and turned around to face the park. Slipping her glasses back on, she again dug into her pocket whilst trying to stave off the trembling of her bottom lip. "Forget it, Adagio," she croaked, her voice even more raspy than usual. She reached up toward her cheek to swipe at something shiny. "Just forget it."
Staring at her, seeing her so upset, was something that frustrated Adagio to her wit's end. Why was it always like this with Aria? Where did the conversations between them keep going wrong? Bending over to lean her forehead against her fingertips, the eldest Siren closed her eyes. With all of her might, she attempted to clear her mind of her own frustration, her own selfishness, and her own desire to force into Aria's head the notion that she was always stronger, brighter, and more correct. After a long silence, she opened her eyes, leaned back against the old oak, and exhaled. "I can't do this anymore. I don't want to fight with you over this kind of thing, Aria. We can't afford to if we're going to make it through all of this. We've got to figure out how to get along. You—" she paused, wondering if saying what was currently on her mind was really a good idea, "— you have scars. I know that. We all do, and to a very large extent, they will never go away. Perhaps if we'd never chosen to experience life upon the land, we wouldn't be like this. But we did choose it, Aria, and there's no taking that choice back. It's made us into these... things that we've become, and we're going to have to live with that. How does Sonata put it? 'We are what we are'?" She attempted a chuckle before realizing there was nothing humorous about this."But, personally speaking, I'd rather live with them, Aria. After all of these centuries' worth of crying, and moaning, and lamenting about Equestria and our powers, it took an actual threat, one that feels real, to show me that I'd rather live with these scars, and see what happens rather than just give up. A while ago, we didn't think we would ever sing again, and today we know that we can. You can't predict what will happen tomorrow, but I think I'd rather see it, and find out for myself."
The silence that ensued made the elder girl begin to shift about nervously. Looking at Aria gave her no recompense. The rosy Siren was currently hunched over her own knee. She had given up reaching around for the mystery item inside of her pockets, and was now sitting stark still, completely wordless.
"Wouldn't you?" Adagio blurted in a poor attempt to draw a reply out of her. "Like to see for yourself, I mean."
"I'm not so sure I care anymore," the somber girl finally replied with a shrug, "but what else is new?"
It didn't matter how many times her sister expressed these types of sentiments; it always bothered Adagio when she did it. Usually, she would react angrily, bidding the girl to be silent or to stop scaring Sonata with her words. She never revealed to her sisters that it was she who had felt terrified the most.
There had been a few close calls with Aria after their banishment, most for which Adagio ended up kicking herself for in penance for her lack of foresight. That was before the time mage. That was before she realized that her foresight, on almost every important occasion, had generally been lousy.
Noting how quiet her sister had gone, Aria turned to take a quick peek at her out of the corner of
her eye. "You know, after the whole thing with the barrack by the sea, and us meeting, and all that stuff, I just knew that I'd be on edge with this forever. It's still on my mind, even now," Aria began. She gulped after noticing that Adagio's eyes had planted themselves upon her. "That's why I still don't understand the night at the concert. If I wanted it to be over so badly, then why couldn't I just let him... It would've been so easy."
"Probably woulda hurt like a bitch, but only for a little while, I bet." The pinkish girl snorted a short, rather inappropriate laugh. "Then, poof! Problems solved, no more worries, no more anything. So, why couldn't I just... y'know?"
Aria never noticed the small, knowing smile that cracked through Adagio's stern visage. "Because you like to fight, Aria. That's what you do, even when you know you're gonna lose," Adagio chirped with a humored roll of her eyes. "You get a kick out of discovering new ways in which you're set apart from... well... everyone. It validates your opinions. I think you realize that the day you stop wanting to fight with others is the day you're no longer Aria Blaze, and that's just out of the question for you."
By then, an astonished look had worked its way onto the younger girl's face. Blinking as her mind raced at a million miles per second, Aria's lips slowly began to part. It was if her mouth didn't want to say the words that her mind bid them to."Is it really?" she snorted, her voice wavering. "But I stopped fighting with Swift eventually, didn't I? And that led me back to my Sirenhood. Otherwise, I wouldn't be sitting here with you right now. So, how 'out of the question' should giving up be? Maybe it's the better choice."
The hairs on Adagio's neck stood on end. Her body stiffened, and her lips curled up into an apprehensive cluster. "You didn't stop fighting. You were just, idunno, hit hard," Adagio croaked, her voice suddenly faltering. "And then, you got back up. If you hadn't, then neither Sonata nor I would be here, either. Getting back up—That was what granted you your Sirenhood, Aria. That was what made you remember what you... what we were."
Aria huffed, as a smile broke out on her face. She then turned to face the park's great lawn once more. "Come on, Adagio. You would've eventually figured it all out on your own. Maybe not the blue one over there," she chuckled, directing her chin in the direction of Sonata who could now be seen making her way back down the path, "but you would've. Hell, by the time we met, you'd already figured out that you could purposely control others with your voice. That's huge!"
For once, Adagio's brain couldn't compute the compliments she was receiving. The Siren could feel, very clearly, that there was something greater under discussion than simply her own perceptiveness, something that came with higher stakes and which presented to her a greater risk. The bridge of her nose scrunched in frustration as she spotted Sonata now making her way back up the hill, looking far more settled. "Just keep trying. Alright?" she sighed, feeling her face grow hot. Her vision began to blur as she attempted to fight off a few tears of exhaustion. "Because I don't suppose that I can do this without you; not after all we've been through together."
If it wasn't for both of her eyebrows shooting straight up, one would never even know that Aria had been dashed into a state of complete shock by these words. Pushing her hat down, she then calmly reached back into her pocket. This time, with ease, she found what it was she had been looking for. "Well, knock me over with a feather," the rosy girl snickered. "Never thought I'd see the day that the great Adagio Dazzle admitted to wanting me around."
A lighter and sealed pack of cigarettes tumbled to the grass from her palm. She broke the seal, and quickly popped a stick between her lips. However, before she could retrieve the lighter, Adagio had snatched both it and the cigarette away. She rolled the thin cylinder between her yellow fingers while passing Aria a perturbed look.
"Yes, well, live it up. I might not say it again for another millennia and a half," she muttered. Giving the cigarette a forced sneer, she then broke the thing in half. "I can't believe you're still doing this with your throat the way it is."
"You don't have to believe it. Just pretend you're dreaming, and give me my lighter back," Aria commanded, reaching out to snatch it away from her. Adagio playfully drew it away, just beyond her grasp.
By this time, Sonata had returned, and taken her seat in the grass before her sisters. Tipping a steaming, paper cup up against her lips, her eyes darted to and fro between the other two, curious as to what they had been talking about. "Believe what, now?" the cheery—and much calmer—girl inquired as she began to twist a free finger around the end of her ponytail.
Adagio smirked in the girl's direction."Nothing. Forget about it," she bid her, reaching for one of her thick notebooks, and flipping it open. "There's too much to go over, and I've got another lesson to get to after this."
"Yea, about that, Adagio," Aria sighed, momentarily forgetting about her lighter. "What is the point of all this, anyway? We know what we know. Why do you have to give us a lecture, too?" Sweeping her long, purple hair over one shoulder, she then proceeded to play out a crude scene with her fingers. "The guy tries to come near us again, we just sing his ass dizzy, and walk him off of a cliff. Problem solved."
The eldest Siren placed her hands upon her hips, and frowned. "Do you really not want to know who he is? What all this means? Why you can use your powers when you're around him?"
Aria gave her a blank look. "I mean, they're there, and that's that. Knowing why doesn't matter to me," she shrugged.
"Well, it should matter to you, because you are the reason he is trying to kill us," Adagio spat, jutting her finger in her sister's direction.
Aria froze, her eyes wide and questioning. Studying Adagio's face closely for any sign that this might all have been some elaborate joke, she scoffed, and then proceeded to laugh. "Nice," she spat in between peals of chortles. "Real nice as usual, Adagio. Somehow finding a way to blame this on me. You can't even help yourself, can you?"
Adagio gave her a stare as serious as the grave, and did her best to shake off whatever offense she took with her sister's comments. She knew the younger girl was only trying to get under her skin. "About one thousand and twenty years ago, we infiltrated Canterlot for the fourth time, if I'm remembering correctly."
"Yea, and the last," Aria retorted, smiling patronizingly at her peer whilst leaning onto her knee. "And if I'm remembering correctly, you said that was my fault, too."
"I was doing a stint at the Canterlot Grand Hall," Adagio pressed on, feeling increasingly exasperated, "and three years in, I found a mortal... one that smelled incredible."
Aria snorted and rolled her eyes. "Oh ho ho, shocking," she laughed. "Adagio dramatically fawning over her meals. Never seen that before. Hey, when you lured her in, did you do that sexy fairy crap that you always do with your arms? You know... that 'come hither' jazz hands thing!"
By this point Adagio had folded her arms in front of her chest to keep herself from slapping the girl before her. Working her jaw, she continued on. "I didn't devour her energy. I called her back to the dressing room, and gave her to you and Sonata."
"Alright, cheesepuff. Now I'm bored. Gimme my lighter back," Aria chuckled, barely paying her sister any attention. She reached out to snatch the lighter from Adagio's grasp, only to have the thing drawn away again. "Her husband followed, and we took him in, even though I told you two that he was somepony important," the eldest girl continued.
Something flashed in Aria's eyes. It was a look of realization. For just an instant, her gaze faded off to somewhere distant. Quickly shaking off the grim thought that threatened to enter her head, she again presented her palm to her sister. "Maybe you didn't hear me the first time, Adagio..."
"You two fed from him and then her. I let Sonata feed from her first, and you were angry about it so—"
By this time, Aria looked plain sick. "Shut up. It's not funny anymore," she growled.
"I'm not trying to be!" the curly-haired Siren exclaimed, pounding her fist into the grass. "It was very long ago, but you have to remember, Aria. You finished her. You drained that stallion's wife!"
Sonata was now gripping tightly onto her rapidly cooling cup of tea, her eyes darting from one sister to the next. Aria took a long draw of air as if she was trying to regain control of herself despite her own anger. Sitting up straight, she slowly leaned in toward her older sister, and sneered. "Adagio, he... was... nothing."
"Ah! So you do remember him after all this time. Been questioning yourself, haven't you, Aria?" Adagio quipped, cocking a triumphant brow. Slowly, she leaned in to give the other girl a vindictive scowl. "That nothing was a student of Star Swirl the Bearded. Remember him, Aria? The unicorn that banished us to this forsaken place?"
She took this opportunity to quickly flip through a couple pages of her notebook until she found what she was looking for: a collection of her own notes pertaining to old Canterlot, Star Swirl, and his studies. Lifting the book up, she jutted one, slim finger against the page, and shoved it into Aria's face. "Time magic—Star Swirl invented it, and this Starshot guy was one of his two pupils besides Princess Celestia. He studied time magic with the mage, and considering how he's popped up in the modern world wearing that same brand of tacky boots that you're so fond of, I'm going to assume that he mastered it."
Eyes having gone wide, Aria slowly reached up with trembling hands, and snatched the notebook out of Adagio's grasp. Looking apprehensive, she began to read. Before too long, her head had begun to shake. "What the..." she breathed. "This doesn't say anything about how you know all of this. You're just guessing, Adagio."
The older girl snorted, passing her sister a pitying grin. She then reached down into her pile of books, and sifted through them until she came to a rather strange object. Before her sat a sealed, oversized sandwich bag containing a large, brown, and worm-eaten book. The thing was water pocked, cinged on its edges, and the binding had pulled away from its pages. Upon its tattered cover, now barely visible, was the faint stain of long faded paint. By the looks of it, this humble tome was hundreds of years old, if not more. Aria supposed that if she were to touch it, it might instantly wither to dust.
"W... what is that thing, Dagi?" Sonata inquired softly, donning a half repulsed grimace.
"This," Adagio began," is one of the journals of Star Swirl the Bearded, the greatest—and most irritating—wizard who has ever lived."
"How the—Where the hell did you get that?" Aria squawked, her eyes looking as if they might pop out of her skull.
"I found it in the ruins of the Princesses' castle, after their battle," the eldest girl stated proudly, placing the baggie back onto the grass. "Of course, most of it was illegible and burned to Tartarus, but still, there was some useful information left in there."
"What do you mean you just found it?" Aria pressed, staring at Adagio as if the girl had attained some new degree of absurdity. "That would mean that you've had this thing for over a thousand years, somehow dragged it along with you when we were banished, and have never said anything to us about it!"
Adagio thought to herself for a moment. "That would be correct, yes," she replied, looking quite smug, "but all of that is just details now, Aria. We're digressing from my point which is that this Starshot guy was Star Swirl's student, and that you devoured all of his wife's energy."
A heavy silence passed between them all, and the sound of the wind picked up their slack. The look on Aria's face seemed absolutely discomposed, enough to touch Sonata's heart. At once, the youngest girl tossed back her dull-ish ponytail, and crawled through the grass to sit beside her distraught sister. Pulling one of Aria's hands away from Adagio's notebook, she held it firmly in her own—much to the grimacing girl's dismay—and passed their elder a serious glare. "You shouldn't put all the blame on Aria, Dagi. I drained from that mare, too! And you were the one who brought her to us. And we were really really hungry that night... I think. Well, I'm just assuming we were hungry, because I can't really remember too much, that far back, anymore. We were always super hungry, though. Right?"
Adagio gave the both of them a weary sigh before she snatched the notebook out of Aria's hand. Wetting an index finger upon her tongue, she continued to flip through its pages. "Whatever. The specifics don't matter that much, anyway. He's after us, and there's nothing we can do to change that. What we have to figure out now is why your powers did whatever it is that they did that night, and how we can use that to our advantage." At once, Adagio lifted a hand toward the band in her hair, ran her finger along its inner side, and retrieved a pen that had been hidden therein. "Who knows. Perhaps we could even figure a way to permanently restore the abilities we've lost, what with all the research I've done. This Starshot guy has most certainly arrived at exactly the right time."
Her oncoming bouts of maniacal cackling were stalled by the sound of Aria clearing her throat. Head darting upward to look at her younger sister, Adagio immediately took note of the girl's offended expression. "Alright, fine. So you could have died, but you didn't, right?" she ceded with a huff, her shoulders slumping. "This wizard's presence filled in plenty of blanks for me. Blanks that I was still drawing about our powers!"
Aria proceeded to roll her eyes behind her shades. "Just get on with it, poofball, before I lose my temper. And speaking of which, give me my damn lighter back, will ya?"
Adagio's grip on the lighter only tightened. "You've got the rest of the day to further your quest to destroy your vocal chords, Aria."
"Yea, it's not like you're working or anything," Sonata joked, twirling her wrist. Aria wrenched her arm out of the blue girl's grip, giving her a nasty glare. She then lowered her head toward the pile of books lying before her in the grass, clearly feigning sudden interest in them. Her large hat, thankfully, hid the blush now beginning to consume her entire face.
"When are you planning on going back to work, Aria?" Adagio interjected, now sounding quite intrigued. "It's been nearly a month. Sure, a homicidal, Equestrian mage may be chasing us to the ends of time, but dammit, I need my weekly bottle of wine, and you're eating into our funds!"
"Hey! I do go to work!" Aria protested, jabbing a thumb into her own chest. "It's just that... y'know... I don't actually go inside."
"Yea, she just lurks around it in the mornings and evenings," Sonata giggled, flicking a finger against her bottom lip, "so she can stalk that mortal she's obsessed wi—"
At once, Aria reeled around, gripped the younger girl by the collar, and throttled her. "Shut up, shut up, shut up! I'm not stalking anybody, alright?" Discarding the disoriented girl away into the grass, she turned back around only to be met with Adagio's ever-judgmental glare. "Didn't we already all agree that you were gonna sell some of your jewelry to set us up for a bit, Adagio? Phones? A car? What ever happened to that?"
“My jewels are ancient and priceless! I'm not about to log onto some two-bit website, and sell them off to just any nouveau riche, Johnny Nobody out of Nowheresville!" Adagio retorted, looking quite bruised over the subject. "I want them to be given a proper home. A museum or with a good, upstanding, noble family of quality, perhaps."
The elder girl's gaze went dreamy, a sight which put both Aria and Sonata on edge. They glanced at each other out of the corners of their eyes before shifting their attentions back onto their elder.
"They're just shiny rocks!" Aria grunted, scratching the back of her head in confusion.
This earned a weary look from Adagio. "And most of the songs on those dusty old records you like to hoard can now be acquired on the Internet. Perhaps I'll see if we can sell those silly things, too."
"Don't you dare!" Aria cried, snatching her shades off to reveal a look of terror.
Adagio smiled with satisfaction. "See? Sentimentality—It's a thing," she purred, tossing another opened notebook onto the ground between them all. "Now, let's get down to business, shall we? There's a lot of ground to cover. We can start with our powers."
Sonata, always glad to be reminded of Adagio's brilliance—at least until her mind wandered off amidst the older girl's self indulgent rambling—laid down upon her belly in the grass, and propped her head up in her hands. Aria huffed, and leaned back against the oak, clearly not as enthusiastic.
"We know that we three are the same. We're Sirens, and as such, we stir up and feed off of energies. This is our nature... because mortals... are awful."
Sonata burst into bouts of quiet snickering.
Adagio ignored this. "Our magic works to reaffirm these facts," she stated, then flipping a page. "The source that created us, whatever it may be, also created our magic. We're very literally made out of this source, and it meant for us to function together as one manifestation of itself. So, naturally, we spawn the same songs, and likewise, we feel the same physical threats."
As Adagio continued, Aria discreetly rolled her eyes.
"This is why when one of us is gravely injured, we all feel it. Because it could potentially weaken our song. The song is how the source intended for us to feed and protect ourselves. The song is how we survive. If the song falters during an emergency, we die. Thus..." Adagio turned another page, revealing a rather crude drawing that resembled a large, bubble-ish vase with three spouts. Each spout donned a tiny depiction of each Siren as they appeared in their true forms.
Sonata gasped, reaching out to snatch the notebook up. "Oh my gosh! We're soooo cuuuute!" Her face contorted into a confused smirk. "But how come we're the three-headed, sea monster flower vase? And how come Aria's teeth are longer than the rest of ours... and she has horns?"
"What? Lemme see that!" Aria exclaimed, reaching for the notebook, but not fast enough to beat Adagio to it.
The eldest shook her head, slapped a palm against her twitching brow, and placed the book back onto the ground. "Just pay attention, will you?" she bid them both. "This vase represents our Sirenhood and the water inside of it is the source that made us and our powers, see? This is us when we were at our greatest strength, back in Equestria. There, we could devour as much energy as we pleased, and because of that, the abilities provided by our source remained extremely powerful."
"Yea? And?" Aria butted in, tired of what she deemed a useless lecture. "What does that have to do with this Starshot guy?"
"Actually, I'm glad you asked that, Aria," Adagio replied, looking quite pleased with herself. "For weeks, I've been pondering over this, and then on the night you were attacked by Starshot, I finally figured it out. You said you regained your abilities around what time that night?"
"Ionno," Aria shrugged. "Like midnightish or something?"
"Precisely. And that's about when Sonata and I were zapped of our strength at home. You were enhancing your own abilities by drawing the source out of us!"
"Wait, wait, waitaminute," Aria scoffed, waving a hand in her elder's direction while she gripped the bridge of her nose with the other. "None of that makes any kind of sense. How come all of the, oh, I don't know, billion other times one of us has been in danger in this world, we haven't been able to do that? Why there? Why then? What makes this guy so special that he makes it happen?"
"Remember how you said he controlled your body, and kept pulling weapons out of nowhere?" Adagio asked.
"Uh huh," Aria grunted.
"Well, there had to have been a connection to Equestria nearby for him to be able to use Equestrian magic like that, right?"
"So what are you saying?" Aria huffed. "That there's some kind of invisible door to Equestria that just so happened to be in the woods where I just so happened to attend a concert that night? Highly unlikely, Adagio."
"I don't know what it is or where it was, but it had to be there somewhere, or else he wouldn't be able to wield his magic," Adagio said, digging her fingers into her curls. "The same with CHS. I suspect that there was some kind of thin veil or gateway there as well; one that we didn't even know about! Because of that thin veil, we were brought just slightly closer to our source! That was what gave us the edge we needed to better take hold of the minds of those students."
A wistful expression flitted across her younger sisters' faces as they seemed to recall those harrowing days at CHS, and the final moments of their Sirenhood.
Looking upon them, Adagio felt something tugging at her heart, and quickly, her gaze fell toward the grass. Fighting off the pangs of guilt that now coursed through her, she cleared her throat, and powered on. "Again, the point that I'm trying to make is that being near this portal to Equestria brought you nearer to our source. It gave your abilities just enough of a boost to draw from the part of our source that was even closer—Sonata and me. In turn, this allowed you enough power to sing!"
Aria blinked. "Okay, this is officially stupid," the grim Siren sighed, now searching her pockets to see if, by some miracle, she happened to have a spare lighter. "Why would this 'source' thing permit me to drain from you two? Isn't that a danger to us all or whatever? I thought you said it didn't allow that type of thing."
"It wouldn't allow you to kill us, Aria. It allows you to take just enough to defend yourself from being killed. Sonata and I were safe at home. In pain, but safe. You weren't. Without all three of us alive, we aren't as powerful. We aren't the manifestation we were meant to be. We all have to be safe or none of us is safe! If one of us dies, then we're all... How would you so eloquently put it?... Fucked?"
"Yes. Yes, that is how I would put it," Aria chuckled as she stroked her chin, a glimmer in her eye. "But, unfortunately, this still doesn't make sense to me. If we could just drain this 'source' or whatever from each other, then why do we crave energies? Why do we get stronger when we consume them? What about our jewels?"
"Ah! Yet another good question," Adagio chirped, grinning slyly. Sticking out one, slender finger, she directed both of her sisters' attentions back down toward the odd vase picture she had previously shown them. "Like I said before, in our true, fully empowered forms, we are like this vase full of water. We are filled to the brim with our source and all of the abilities it grants us. We could call up this source whenever we wanted to, and it would respond. But as you found out with old Starshot, those abilities fluctuate depending on how near or far away you are from our source."
"Yea, but our powers never used to completely disappear like this back when we had our jewels," Aria muttered.
"Exactly!" Adagio stated, her berry red eyes sparkling. "In our true forms, our jewels were part of our bodies. Even now, we still have the evidence of that." The elder girl drew down the top of her blouse to reveal the burned scar upon her chest. The sight of it garnered saddened frowns from her sisters, but she paid this no mind. "Those jewels were given to us when we were created so that we might be able to harness energy besides our own in order to store up more of our source. That way, the abilities it gave us always remained at a high and steady level, ready to use at full strength, no matter how far away we traveled. The more energy we consumed and stored within our jewels, the more energy we had to keep our source and its abilities within us, and the more powerful we became! When our jewels were destroyed, it was the same as if someone had poked holes within this vase, and all of the source just spilled out. We could no longer store energy, meaning we no longer had the strength to keep enough of our source near to us for it to grant our singing abilities or the ability to drain from mortals. Nowadays, if we want to use our ability to sing, we have to be much nearer to our source; we will have to draw it out of each other. Even then, we won't be permitted to do that unless it's absolutely necessary. That's the only way, unless we somehow find out how to heal ourselves."
"But Dagi, how come we can still see and smell energy without being near one of those portal thingies you talked about, or without draining from each other?" Sonata interjected, looking half confused and half intimidated. Her legs were kicking back and forth in the air. "Aren't those some of the tricks our water-source-thingy gave to us, too?"
"We are made out of the stuff, Sonata." Adagio rubbed at the skin on her hand for emphasis. "There will always be some of our source within us. Perhaps we're made of just enough to at least allow us the abilities of smell and sight. Seeing and smelling things is rather passive. We certainly couldn't do anything more strenuous like singing or devouring energy."
"Ooooh, I get it... I think!" Sonata exclaimed. Her eyes went glassy, and for a moment, it seemed as if her mind had flown away like a flower in the breeze until, suddenly, she gasped. A spark of realization seemed to hit her. "But Dagi! If we draw the source thingy out of ourselves and each other, and that's what we're made of, then what's gonna happen when it all runs out?"
Adagio's lip tightened. It appeared that Sonata had touched upon something that she was already aware of, but hesitant to speak on. "Yes, well, about that," the eldest Siren coughed, flipping a few more pages in her notebook.
Aria, noting her sister's anxious behavior, grimaced. "Adagio?" she cautioned as if bidding the girl not to hesitate or lie.
Adagio's eyes slowly trained upon them both. Her jaw was set, and her lips stammered for the proper words. "We will"—another cough—"expire... I imagine."
"Expire?" both Aria and Sonata exclaimed, each with very different intonations.
"You mean we're mortal now?" Aria gasped as Sonata let off a pitiful, mewling wail at her side.
"Well, technically, I suppose you could say that," Adagio began. "But I'm not exactly sure how—"
"Idunwannadiiiiiiiie, Dagiiiii!" Sonata bawled, tears and snot beginning to leak from her face.
"By Chaos, will you just let me fini—"
"So, like, let's say there's this other mortal, hypothetically speaking, of course. Not actually someone that I knew or liked or something stupid and lame like that," Aria cut in, scratching the bridge of her nose. "I—as in hypothetical "I"—could tell this hypothetical person that I am also mortal, and that wouldn't be, idunno, like blatantly lying to them in a way that might come back to bite me in the ass, and ruin whatever potential relationship might develop between us—I mean, them. I mean hypothetical us, right?... Hypothetically speaking."
"What about flying cars? We'll never get to see flying cars!" Sonata stammered, now beginning to hyperventilate. "There are so many ice cream flavors I haven't tried yet! Oh my gosh, the nail polish colors that I haven't—Oh, dirt! What about tacoooos?"
"Shut up!" Adagio finally screamed, fists clenched, teeth bared, an assortment of veins threatening to pop from her forehead. This proved successful in silencing her two subordinates who now at least looked as if they were paying her the attention that she deserved.
Aria urged her to continue with just a single, cocked eyebrow. Sonata, however, seemed on the brink of explosion, cheeks puffed and hands clasped over trembling lips.
"What I was trying to say was that technically we are now mortal. However, I don't know what that may entail. The only thing that I am somewhat certain about is that unless we find a way to heal ourselves, we will expire. When? I have no idea. It could take three hundred years, or it could take one. There's just no way to be certain."
Sonata nearly lost her composure at these words. She snorted, doing her best to hold back a fresh spew of tears and spittle. Adagio, expectedly, shot her a cautioning glare.
At just that moment, Aria saw her chance, and took the opportunity to lunge out, finally snatching the lighter out of her sister's hand. Smiling victoriously as Adagio grimaced in her direction, she proceeded to fetch a fresh cigarette from her pack. "Great. So, now that we've so delicately laid bare all the wondrous secrets of the special flowers that are our own horrifying, self-devouring bodies," she jabbed, taking a moment to light the cigarette and inhale, "I must ask how all of this information helps us get rid of that crazy time stalker." The rosy Siren thought to herself for a moment. "And also, a side question, if you will: So, a cheeseburger and fries does nothing for me? Nothing at all? Because I'm gonna keep eating them, regardless." She sucked calmly upon her cigarette whilst watching Adagio fall to the very brink of her composure, and pull herself back again.
Forcing a barely convincing smile, the Siren leader clenched her hands into the grass and grit her teeth. "I don't know, Aria. Does eating cheeseburgers stop any human from eventually dying? For us, this mortal crud only staves off hunger pangs. Like in Equestria, we can devour physical entities if we have to, but they can't sustain us forever."
"Ah," Aria chuckled, looking as if she were remembering something fondly, "like the time that seafaring, pegasus mercenary thought he could capture us in his pathetic, little net. So, I bit off his—"
Catching her awareness, Aria noted how Adagio was now shaking with anger. Clearing her throat, she took another puff from her smoke, and calmly gestured with her hand.
"You may proceed."
"Oh, may I? Thank you," Adagio spat, fluttering her eyelashes. She then directed her gaze back down toward her books. "To answer your question—the one that wasn't moronic—knowing how our bodies work is important because they are the reason that time mage can't get near us." Adagio took a moment to fan Aria's cigarette smoke from out of her face. "This information could help us finally figure a way to heal ourselves. Perhaps we could find one of those magical portals. Then we could get back to Equestria, and to our source. I'm sure that would fix us."
"But what is our source, Dagi?" Sonata inquired, her voice still nasally and hoarse from her previous bouts of crying. "Is it that place we keep dreaming about? The place off the shore of that beach?"
Adagio smirked. "I can't believe I'm about to say these words, but, yes. I believe Sonata is right. The place under the waters where we retreated after we remembered. That must be it. We have to get back there."
Immediately, Aria's muscles tensed, and her eyes shot open wide. Shaking her head free of more horrible memories, she turned to face her older sister. "No," she hissed. "Never. I'm never going back there, Adagio. So, you can just scratch that idea."
"Aria, this could be the one thing that can heal us," Adagio huffed, impatiently. "Don't you want your abilities ba—"
"I said I'm not fucking going!" Aria screamed, accidentally dropping her cigarette whilst she scrambled to her feet. "I don't give a damn who's after us, Adagio. No one—pony, human, or Siren—is going to ever drag me back to that plot of putrid, stinking, unhallowed ground again! Not after what happened!"
"But we'd go to the sea, Ari" Sonata added gently in an attempt to calm her raging sister. "Maybe we wouldn't even have to pass through—"
"I don't care!" Aria shrieked, her wrecked voice breaking as tears began to fall from her eyes. She now looked in a state of panic. "If I even have to look at it... I... I just can't!" She reeled upon her elder. "How do you even know this will work? How do you even know we can still go back to Equestria? We're no longer whole, Adagio. What will we be when we pass through? What if we die? What if we can't fly, and just flop around like losers until we dry out in the sun? What if that wizard guy is in there with a trap? That's where he came from isn't it?"
Adagio, honoring the depth of her sister's distress, gazed up at her calmly, and waited for her to finish. When she had, the Siren leader stood up to face her. "Maybe we might die trying to get back, Aria. But we will certainly die if we stay here and do nothing," she posed in a calm, collected tone. "Forget our lack of powers and energy; that creep will find a way to get to us, and when he does, he is going to kill us."
"But... but you said he couldn't come near..." Aria stammered. "Can't we just..." Her words trailed off amidst her own confusion.
Seeing her sister's frustration, Adagio reached out, and gripped onto her sleeve. "Think, Aria. Don't you wonder how it is that he found us in the first place, and just after we lost our powers? How expansive is eternity? The odds are just way too small for this to have happened by accident. That wizard, whoever he is, has somehow found a way to look at us, to see us without having to be near us."
"Forrealzies?" Sonata gasped, her eyes going wide. At once, she bounced up to her feet, and ran to hide behind Adagio's hair which had not yet been tied up for the day. "Does that mean he could be listening to us right now?"
Adagio gently prodded the younger girl away, and nodded. "It does. So, we have to be careful with what we say out loud from now on." She turned back around to face Aria. "And we have to be careful with what and whom we choose to be around."
There was a hidden message in Adagio's eyes, one that Aria immediately caught. The sullen girl's entire face seemed to sink into an expression of disbelief and despair. Her head shook ever so slightly. "But why would—" Aria breathed. "He only wants us. He wouldn't..."
Adagio passed her a solemn look. "We have to find a way to heal ourselves. A confrontation is coming. It's inevitable. The best we can do is be prepared to fight... for whatever we need to."
There was a long silence as Aria huffed and gasped out the feeling of helplessness that had collected about her chest. Tipping the brim of her hat, she attempted to hide her face from her sister's sight as she tried to regain her composure. Eventually, she forced herself to meet Adagio's gaze. When her face was revealed from under her hat, a familiar sneer of disdain had taken the place of fear. "W... well, good going explaining our entire anatomy to the jerk!" the rosy Siren barked, collecting her things together, and preparing to leave. "I'm outta here. I've heard what I've needed to hear, and I'm sure he has, too."
"Knowing how our bodies work gives him no advantage against us, Aria, but other things might," Adagio prodded, making a last ditch effort to connect with the girl.
Trying, unsuccessfully, to draw out the unspoken words in her older sister's eyes, Aria's brow twitched, and then wrinkled with frustration. "I am done trying to figure out your cryptic crap," she sighed in defeat. Putting her glasses on, the Siren then began to walk away. "I'm done! I've said my piece. You two do what you want. I'm not opposed to healing myself, but I am not going back to that place. So, just deal."
Adagio and Sonata watched her go, both wearing worried expressions.
As she looked on, Sonata reached out with both of her hands, and felt around at her side for Adagio's arm. Pulling herself closer to her sister for comfort, she finally turned to face her. "What are we gonna do, Dagi? I don't think Ari can do this with us."
"Well, I don't blame her, Sonata," Adagio sighed, now taking the time to stoop down, and collect her things. "It's asking a lot. Remember how much I didn't want to go to the beach before? And how would you feel if you had to see that old mansion in Canterlot, again?"
Sonata gasped. If one were to look close enough, they'd be able to see the hairs on her arms standing on end. "Yea. Ok, I guess I get it now," she murmured through a deep pout. "But then how, Dagi?"
"Well, we won't be able to do anything if we can't find one of those passageways. That's our first priority," Adagio sighed, taking a moment to collect her hair back into its usual bun.
"Like the one you said was at..." Sonata's gaze darted about, searching for anything around her that seemed suspicious, "CHS? But how will you find it?"
By this point, Adagio was prepared to take her leave. Shooting one of her signature grins at Sonata, she reached to her side where her sunglasses had been hanging from her waist. Snatching them up, she flicked them open with her pinkie, and pushed them on. "Oh, I've got a few ideas," she chirped, heading toward the path. "See you at home, Sonata."
The sun had just begun it's slow descent out of the midday sky. Peering at the light through the dirty glass of the bus window, Adagio couldn't help but note how odd it appeared, all muddled and unclear. She supposed that perhaps everything in her life and the lives of her sisters was destined to gradually become just as washed out unless she could do something to fix it. Swinging around, and kicking her legs up onto the adjoining seat beside her, the Siren sighed, and turned her mind inward.
A strange thing the awareness of your own vulnerability was. Even now, Adagio could feel the small beads of sweat breaking out upon her brow, and the pitter-pattering of her heart inside of her chest. All of these new-old experiences and sensations were truly beginning to get on her nerves. Desperation, the comprehension of death, the ceaseless fear of the mortality of those she loved...
She scoffed to herself. When exactly had she started feeling that again?
Sighing and shaking her head, she allowed her gaze to fall into her lap. Somewhere, during sometime, she had heard someone say that the first step to healing was admitting that you had a problem, perhaps even asking for help. Of course, back in those old days, advice like that would fall upon her deaf ears. What in the world would have ever required a Siren to ask for anyone's help, especially that of a mortal? Pretty much nothing.
Oh, how times had changed.
Once again, it was just the two of them on the vehicle, today. Adagio was beginning to wonder if absolutely everyone else in this town owned a car except them. This was definitely something she needed to rectify soon. It would prove far too easy to be followed on public transportation.
Still, she couldn't complain too much at the present moment. This bus had been the sole reason she was brought together with her oh, so unwilling riding companion over the past few months. Talk about strange bedfellows. At least their inevitable conversation wouldn't seem too odd or out of place in their current setting.
Of course, none of these acknowledgements made actually approaching the other passenger any easier.
Pushing her glasses back into place upon her nose, the Siren cleared her throat as if to say something. Nothing came out. The best she could manage was an eerie glare across the aisle to the object of her attention, the girl who, at the moment, seemed a bit too wrapped up in the book she was pretending to read.
I cannot believe I am about to do this.
She slicked a hand over the top of her hair.
Alright. This is important, Adagio Dazzle. Just suck it up, take a deep breath, and get it over w—
A huge sigh resounded over the vibrating hum of the bus.
"Is there something that I can help you with?" Sunset Shimmer shot at the gawking Siren whilst slamming her book shut. "Just get it out, already. I can't concentrate with you burning holes into the side of my head like that."
It was a good thing that Adagio was donning sunglasses; she needed something to hide the astounded and slightly apprehensive look now plastered across her maw. Quickly clearing her throat one more time, she leaned forward. "Actually, yes, Sunset. There is something you can help me with."