We Three: Hebi No Onna

by Eyeswirl the Weirded

Chapter 9: Sayonara to Snake-arms!

With Adagio's feet limply trailing over the ground, the sirens were carried inside, where only their hypnotized mind-slaves would hear them. "Aria? Sonata? How would you feel about taking their offer?" They stared at her in surprise, which she met with a solemn look. "I've read that damn book cover to cover and found nothing I could use to turn us back. Those girls can dispell dark magic. I know our human bodies are a step down from what we once were, but if we don't get their help now, we may never even have that much again." It plucked something in Adagio's chest that her cute, serpentine sisters looked at her with fear.

"So, what," Aria asked with a worried frown, "we're just gonna surrender? After all this?"

"No, of course not! We're going to negotiate." She got two uncertain looks for this. "Even if we could outright enslave them, it's questionable whether or not we could get them to work their magic on us harmlessly while they were thralls, and we'd have some explaining to do if the book's magic dissipated soon after. This isn't even accounting for another appearance by some hitherto unknown element that completely swings everything in their favor again."

Neither Aria nor Sonata said a word at this. Adagio might have been a little paranoid ever since learning about the blue-haired girl and her magic car, but as they hadn't seen her with the Rainbooms this time either, maybe it was worth worrying about.

"We need them to work with us willingly, and to get that, we'll have to compromise."

Sonata pouted. "Aww, I hate compromising!"

Aria raised an eyebrow. "Surprised you know what that word means." She got an angry pout back.

"I know it means giving up stuff!"

"Yes," Adagio curtly interrupted, "but that doesn't mean we have to give up everything. We'll still reclaim our birthright some day, we'll still find a way to fix our gems, but the book, unfortunately, wasn't it. In fact, I'm thinking we can use it as a bargaining chip if things get desperate."

"But we still have to give up the hypno-powers?"

"I don't see a way for us to keep that and still return to individual bodies, Sonata, and the Rainbooms would never let us have even one servant through magic."

Sonata made a hopeful, pleading grin. "Not even a secret one? We could dress 'em in leather and say they're our gimp!"

Predictably, Aria flushed neon pink. "Gah, g-gawd, no! We're gonna have our own arms again, Sonata, so we won't need these guys-" she nodded to the two still holding them up, "-anyway!"

Not sold, Sonata pouted. "I know, but having to get stuff ourselves again is gonna suck!"

Adagio raised an eyebrow. "As much as being an arm?" Said arms were very quiet. "I'm actually a little surprised you two haven't complained more about being fused to me."

"Well, y'know," said Aria while flicking a fin, "I think all three of us were itching to get our magic back these last couple'a months, and it was kinda nice being in our old skin-" she smiled apologetically at Adagio's annoyed, envious stare, "-sorry, Dagi!"

"Rrrgh... I'm. Completely. Over it. Really."

"Right, uh... Anyway, by now? I miss having my own body, whether we've got people to do everything for us or not." Privacy was nice too, but she wasn't about to give her vicious sisters that kind of ammo.

"Alright," Adagio said with some finality, "then we go back out there, don't antagonize them any more than we already have, and see if we can't strike a deal that doesn't leave us as their servants." Sonata in particular looked shocked at this last part.

"They can't make us slaves when we're not allowed to have any!"

Aria rolled her eyes. "I'unno, wouldn't put it past 'em."

"Regardless," said Adagio as she rested her feet firmly on the floor again, shrugging off the two that had carried her, "keep those kinds of thoughts to yourself until we're out of this."

Having recuperated from their near-death experience with fatal hilarity, the sirens walked back out to the porch under their own power. Lemon had pulled herself together as well and was doing card tricks for the still-pinned, afro-addled Rainbooms.

"...And I know this isn't your card, but here in my sock is the Queen of Hearts!"

Twilight sputtered. "Whuh, h-how, when did-"

Rarity rolled her eyes. "I hope you'll forgive us for not applauding in our current state, Lemon Zest."

"No worries!"

Adagio cleared her throat, again looking down at Sunset Shimmer. She held her tongue regarding any and all comments about relishing the sight or being loathe to work with her of all people. "We have... agreed to discuss your proposal."

Her face brightening immeasurably, one would think Sunset had forgotten that she was still being held down. "Really?! That's great!!"

She really wants this, Adagio thought to herself, use that! But first, a show of good faith. She nodded. "Servants? Let them stand."

The Rainbooms were released. Most of them held their breath as Rarity glared at a very, very contrite Pinkie, but the young fashionista had apparently cooled off enough to wait until later to seek retribution, sighing as she offered Pinkie a little smile. It was returned with gusto.

"Okay," began Sunset, "so, what did you have in mind?"

"We'll release all of our slaves and relinquish the magic we've used to ensnare them. In exchange, we want your help in getting our old bodies back and the freedom to continue to try to fix our gems."

Sunset needed a second to process the statement. "Okay, uh... first, when you say 'our old bodies'...?"

"Being returned to our full glory would be lovely, but we'd settle for the forms you first saw us in."

"Ah, okay. If it's as simple as breaking whatever spell you used to turn into... that, then I think we can do that."

To Adagio's mild surprise, Aria glared. "We aren't letting you rainbow-zap us again!"

Rainbow, whom the servants had politely untied with Applejack when given the order to let them stand, furrowed her eyebrows. "What?! How else are we gonna break the spell?!"

"We don't care," chimed Sonata, her face equally annoyed, "but we don't wanna get hit with that thing again!"

"Ohh, suck it up, it's just lights and stuff!"

"Deal," said Sunset, "no rainbow-zapping." The exclamations of shock from her friends had her turn toward them, Rainbow in particular, with a very cold stare. "Do any of you know just how much that actually hurts?" The unsure looks going around said they didn't, though Twilight may have had an idea.

"I didn't get quite the same thing, but I remember that ray you hit me with being... unpleasant. If we're not fighting them, there must be a way to administer the same effect more gently, right? Because willingly taking your hand didn't hurt at all."

Nodding, Sunset turned back toward the sirens with a smile. "It might take some time, but I think we can work something out there." Then she slowly slipped into a frown. "But, uh... that second part, about your gems...?"

Knowing where this was headed, Adagio rolled her eyes. "Relax. We learned the first time what happens in a head-on conflict, but those gems were part of our bodies from the day we were born." She frowned a little herself. "We just want our birthright back, even if we can't go wild with it anymore." Truth be told, the gems could work with a lot more than just negative energy, but nothing else was quite as powerful and plentiful. Still, the Rainbooms didn't need to know that, or they'd be confined to songs about skipping in the sunshine for life.

Ever since she had come to this world, Sunset missed her horn. It wasn't a constant feeling of loss, but it never really left her altogether, either. She smiled in sympathy. "As long you guys can promise to resist the urge to cause huge fights and suck up the energy to keep doing it, I think-"

"Actually," interrupted Twilight while punching numbers into her pocket calculator, "from what you've told me about the sirens, all we'd really need to do to prevent their return is not argue, our group in particular, because if there's only one portal to Equestria, the odds of them finding anyone else with anything near the same level of magic are so abysmal that it's nearly hopeless."

"Are you accounting for the fact that they clearly found completely separate magic on their own?"

Twilight blinked, glanced back and forth at the snake-woman and her calculator, and pouted. "But... but... n-numbers!"

Still offering a sympathetic smile, Sunset gently pat her back. "Numbers may not lie, but sometimes they don't have all the data."

"Yea, yea," Aria cut in, "we'll keep our pants on, we just want our legacy back, okay?"

Remembering that she was given the benefit of the doubt too, if only by her friends, Sunset smiled. "Okay. Now," she glanced around at the mind-slave army, "there's one more little thing we've gotta talk about..."

Sonata rolled her eyes. "What? We already said we'd let 'em all go, what more do you want?"

Lemon actually answered this one first. "We've gotta say 'sorry.' I think that's where things really went bad for you guys last time; you never did the important apology part."

"We didn't get much of a chance," hissed Aria through gritted teeth.

"Maybe not, but we've got one now, right? Like this." She faced the Rainbooms, stood straight, and bent over at a 90-degree angle with her arms at her sides in a traditional, Japanese bow. "Sorry for all the trouble we caused."

There was a pause before everyone turned to look at the sirens, who looked over themselves in confusion. Adagio in particular seemed flummoxed. "I... Given the current distribution of my body weight, I don't think I can manage that pose without tipping over."

"Yea," remarked Sonata, "your hair would be way too heavy!"

"Shut up!!"

There were giggles from everyone but Applejack, who still wasn't looking anywhere near the talking snakes. "It'd prob'ly be enough if ya just said the words, Sugarcube."

Moving up to Adagio's ear, Aria whispered her complaint. "Do we have to?"

"Grin and bear it," she answered through a clenched jaw, "because even if all goes well, we're going to be powerless again soon." She addressed the Rainbooms at normal volume. "We're... sorry for causing so much trouble." The pill was easier to swallow when Aria and Sonata said it too. Unfortunately, Sunset gave them a sheepish look.

"That, uh... wasn't quite what I meant." Three irritable cries of 'WHAT?!' told her to talk fast. "I mean, that's a great first step, but I was actually referring to making things right with the people you've enthralled. You've torn these people away from their lives to serve you, and while they may think they're happy with that now, it's only fair that you-"

"Uhh, actually?" Lemon gestured to the sirens. "Dagi here pretty much gave everyone free reign to live their lives normally, it's not like we've just had everyone stand around the house this whole time. It might not have been for the nicest reasons, exactly, but nobody here was 'torn from their lives' for long, and she specifically ordered everyone to stay taken care of. That you caught us all together like this is sort of a happy accident." Lemon might have been disappointed about the lack of magical laser shows, but the hilariously gobsmacked looks of shock on the Rainbooms' faces was a pretty good consolation prize.

"Nobody here has really lost anything, guys, because for the average Crystal Prep student, most of the expenditures over the last few days have been chump change, and even the house barely makes a dent in the family that built half the city."

Sunset wasn't sold. "That... that may be, but it's still essentially theft, and stealing from someone just because they have a lot of something doesn't make it right!"

"The house could easily be made into a tea shop," offered Adagio, somewhat uncertainly, "I don't know how much the necessary renovations would add to the cost, but with the set-up we have in a few rooms, you could easily make the place into a relaxing hub for food, drinks, and civil discourse. Give it time, and that may eventually cover the cost of the place."

Her face doubtful, Rainbow crossed her arms. "How many people would really visit a place just to sit around sipping tea?" She was startled by Fluttershy's immediate answer.

"You might be surprised."

"...Okay then?"

"If they did the whole Japanese thing," continued Lemon, "people might pay more for the atmosphere than the drinks themselves, and there's gotta be something we can do with that flatscreen hanging from the living room ceiling."

"Alright, alright," said Sunset while dismissively waving one arm, "so you've more or less got that part down, now-... Rarity? What are you doing?"

As Sunset had been looking behind the sirens when she asked that question, they turned and were startled to find the girl in question fussing over Adagio's hair, even while her own remained a huge, puffy afro. "Fixing this messy top-knot of hers, it got all disheveled while she was rolling around on the floor- which is terrible for a kimono! -and I simply can't stand it any longer!"

Not wanting to do anything outright hostile at this point, Adagio tried to step out of her reach, but was immediately followed. "It's fine, just leave it!"

"It most certainly is not! My hair might be a trainwreck right now, but yours is an easy fix, like a crooked portrait that just needs righting, and the kimono could use straightening up too!"

"Oh, here, lemme!" Lemon quickly joined in, tightening up what had come loose during the shenanigans.

Increasingly baffled, Adagio had no words at all when Aria craned her neck around to look at Rarity.

"Careful back there, if the wrong hairpin comes undone, the whole thing'll break loose and rip your face off."

"Duly noted, Miss... You know, I never caught your name."

"Aria Blaze."

"Rarity, nice to formally meet you! May I say that your scales have an almost silken shine to them?"

Adagio beamed. "Right?!"

There were more giggles and exchanging of names (both groups had spent the longest time mostly referring to the other as 'the Rainbooms' or 'the Dazzlings,' give or take the leaders in each) before an agreement was made for everyone (barring the soon-to-be-free mind-slaves) to meet up at CHS to see what could be done about reverting the sirens to their human forms. As the Rainbooms walked back to the bus, Applejack gave Sunset a curious look.

"Ya sure we can trust 'em not to go doin' what they did again somewhere down the road?"

"Pretty sure. They could have taken the entire city, maybe more, as they were, had all the power they could have wanted, and didn't use it. If they could look at that and decide they didn't want it, there's gotta be hope for them too, because if it were me? The old me? I'd have made all of you my slaves forever without a second thought." She felt all the familiar twinges of guilt and shame, but her friends only smiled at her in understanding, which helped make it go away faster. "They had that same choice and chose to start over rather than pursue a path they knew they didn't want, even if it wasn't for the best reasons." Giggling, she winked. "Plus, if the legacy they wanted back is just their gems, I'm not worried, because I know enough about geological spell matrices to know that they won't be able to fix those things without the right equipment any time soon. And in the meantime, maybe they can make some more friends at CHS?"

Pinkie frowned. "Wouldn't that take them away from Lemon? Their first real buddy besides each other?"

Twilight shook her head. "If no one minds a bus-ride and they all have phones, keeping in touch is pretty easy. I may not spend time with them on a daily basis, but the Shadowbolts still invite me to outings sometimes."

"More importantly," said Rainbow, "those three don't go to CHS, I'm pretty sure they live over here now."

Chuckling, Sunset smirked. "Just leave that part to me, I think I can convince them to come back..."


That night, Rarity helped fix everyone's comical afros, exacting her revenge on Pinkie Pie by making her hair very, very straight. Pinkie's sisters interpreting this as Pie solidarity led to much confusion.


One week later...

The Dazzlings sat around a table in their old apartment in their own, separate bodies again, quietly enjoying a dinner of leftover pizza. Aria, as was common for her, talked with her mouth full.

"Corn't buhleeve they hulped us move back 'ere."

"I can," deadpanned Adagio, "it was their idea. To keep an eye on us, no doubt, but they were right about getting away from the people we once enslaved. We don't know whether or not all the memories of us I ordered them to purge are truly gone, or just deeply buried and might resurface someday, but not seeing our fa-well, my face, reduces the chances of anyone remembering anything we don't want them to." That she happened to know her way around this part of Canterlot much better was a happy coincidence. Really.

Few of their early lessons had stuck with Sonata by this point in her life, but table manners was, mercifully, one of them as she swallowed her mouthful before speaking. "I can't believe you went around asking all the brain-slaves how much they spent on us! The Rainbooms weren't around when we were letting them go and we could'a totally gotten away with that one!"

"We could have, but if I hadn't tallied up our debt, it may have come back to bite us, and that's if the Rainbooms don't outright force us into hard labor to pay it off." Propping up her head on one arm, she sighed. "It was nice of Lemon to repay all of them herself, but I don't know how we're going to repay her now."

Aria just rolled her eyes. She knew Adagio was serious about appeasing the Rainbooms if she was determined to 'clean up their mess' even when Lemon waved it off, eventually agreeing to let the sirens pay her back just for Adagio's peace of mind. That didn't cover the cost of building the house, but... "Lemon still helping 'em set up the new 'tea shop' over there? It's lucky that her family is all about that traditional atmosphere crud, because I don't think it would have worked if you hadn't set up the guys who paid to build the place into thinking it was their idea."

Adagio just chuckled. Erasing memories was convenient, but implanting them was an artform. "She called earlier today. If all goes well, the, er, Hebi No Onna Herbal Beverages shop should be open for business some time next week." This won an amused snort out of Aria.

"D'you really burn the book like you told the Rainbooms?" The sinister look on Adagio's face was answer enough, but she and Sonata were still treated to a cryptic half-truth anyway. It was something they'd long ago learned to live with, made easier with how those kinds of theatrics livened up their Sewers and Sphinxes games. Adagio was nothing if not emphatic as a DM.

"Ohh, I'd never dream of using the book that way again, especially after the trouble those nice girls went to to turn us back." Reflecting on that day, her smirk slipped away. "It, really was nice of them to refrain from just blasting us and hoping for the best." According to Princess Twilight, such an act while they were morphed into a creature of dark magic may have broken more than just the spell. Or their voices. Apparently, they were extremely fortunate not to have been physically fused to their gems in this world after all...

Turning pink, Sonata shrunk down in her seat. "It was kinda embarrassing when they broke the spell and we popped up naked..." Judging by Aria's sudden imitation of a Stop sign, Sonata guessed she agreed. She smiled sheepishly at Adagio. "Thanks for taking off the kimono so we weren't the only ones."

Smiling haughtily, Adagio brushed her hair aside, secretly thrilled to be able to do that with her own two arms again. "Any time. Princess Twilight joining in was a surprise, but she evidently doesn't like this world's arbitrary clothing rules any more than I do." She was equally surprised when Sunset didn't follow suit, as it were, but her turning scarlet while averting her eyes didn't make her claims that she was from Equestria and thus not bothered by nudity either very convincing.

The focus on someone else's embarrassment, Aria snickered. "The other Twilight actually fainted when the first one started taking her clothes off, bet that's gonna be awkward for her friends later!"

Sonata tilted her head. "Haven't you seen us naked a whole bunch too?"

Slapping a hand over her eyes might have been answer enough, but Aria never missed a chance. "Sh-shut up, Sonata!!"

Adagio had flushed crimson as well, ducking her head down in memory of her own agonizingly awkward moments when they were a snake-woman, but to her quiet gratitude, Aria and Sonata had never mentioned them since. Still, couldn't hurt to change the subject. "We don't have any classes together, so I have to ask; how have you two been doing in school, since we returned? Not getting harassed too much, I hope?"

Crossing her arms, Aria shook her head just as much to throw off certain images. "Just the usual dirty looks and snide comments, nothin' outta the ordinary."

"Hm. Well, I'm not exactly expecting anyone to trust us, but maybe we can use that disdain the 'friendliest school in the world' is happy to throw our way. I can't begin to guess how long it might take, but we will repair our gems some day."

There was a pause. Aria frowned. "So, uh... When that happens, what exactly are we gonna do with our magic? Because if I'm bein' honest? Trying to make people our slaves hasn't ended well since before we were banished." Judging by Adagio's grimace, she hadn't forgotten either.

"We'll, um... We'll have to be careful how we use our birthright when it's returned to us, yes. The Rainbooms won't show any mercy the second time. Still, like I told them, I'd settle for just having it back, even if we have to restrain ourselves."

Sonata smiled hopefully. "But, we can still make people fetch us stuff, right?" Her sisters chuckled, which probably wasn't a 'no'!

"More importantly," said Aria while directing a severe expression at Adagio, "you're gonna take it easier with working on those things, right?"

"Of course not," she scoffed, "why would-ack!"

Aria and Sonata were both doing the one thing she thought they'd never be able to sway her with again after the loss of their scales, fins, and snake-like eyes; giving her a double-dose of puppy-dog stares. She felt her willpower crumbling apart like a dried sandcastle. It wasn't like they were asking her to stop altogether, right? They wanted their gems back too, but Aria had a point in that spending every waking moment trying to repair them hadn't done them many favors. In fact, what was the lesson their own servants had posed to them? That maybe obsession wasn't all intent focus and desirable results? She sighed.

"Alright, alright, I'll... I'll find a hobby or something. Maybe make a new campaign in that game we played a few times."

Sharing a quick look of contentment, Aria and Sonata smiled, the latter in particular. "Y'know, the Twilight with the glasses saw our books when we were moving, and said her friends play it too. She even invited us to join them the next time they got together for a session!"

"Really?" Aria grinned wickedly. "Sweet, I can roll a thief and rob 'em all blind!"

And the siren sisters laughed. They may not have known exactly what their future held, but as always, they would face it together.

...Just, less-so than they had as woman with snake-arms.