Sonata being in charge was pretty much a joke, Aria knew that. She knew that no matter what, they'd still be following Adagio's plan to stick to the deal and pay back Sunset for helping them find their voices again. It was something all three of them agreed they owed her BIG for, but it was balanced a little by Sunset having been the chief cause of them losing that piece of themselves in the first place. That in mind, a simple request to root for them in some dumb school-to-school grudge match would make them pretty much even.
Anyway, Sonata wasn't really the leader, but somehow it still pissed Aria off to hear her and Adagio act like she was. It was great that at least two of them were probably preserving a bit more dignity this way, but, 'Sonata is the boss.'
Luckily, she could work off a bit of this frustration by taking up exactly the same role she had under Adagio; doing her damndest to poke holes in her plans, her ideas, and her confidence.
It wasn't just petty nit-picking. Not like Aria was the least bit jealous or anything.
Walking through CHS with the others, Aria smirked. "So, how're we gonna find Twilight, Sonata?"
Their 'boss' glanced around. "Uhh..."
With a faint smirk of amusement, Adagio joined in. "Indeed, what did you have in mind for this search?"
"We'll, um, we'll just, we'll just go to the Crystal Prep people and tell 'em to hand over Twilight for a sec. Simple."
"Ohh, I don't know," Aria said casually while turning her head to hide her grin, "that might sound kinda hostile, don't you think? We wouldn't wanna go starting trouble, now, would we?" Out of the corner of her eye, she caught Sonata starting to sweat.
"I meant we'll ask them, ask them to let us talk to her!"
They'd worked together a long time, but Aria had never suspected she'd have Adagio as a partner in crime like this. "Are you sure?" Adagio gestured to the halls around them, where Crystal Prep students could be seen wandering, loitering, and talking about how everything at CHS was of poorer quality than what they had back in the city. "Because it seems like they've already spread out a bit."
"Okay, uh, we'll just look around, she's gotta be around here somewh-"
Vice Principal Luna's voice sounded over the intercom.
"Good morning, students! I'm sure you're all thrilled to start the first day of the Friendship Games!"
And now Sonata looked really nervous. "Shhhhhoot! Uh, l-let's split up, they're gonna start the thing soon, so we should-... Guys?"
Peeking around a nearby corner, Aria snickered as she watched Sonata look around in confusion. "Any bets on how long it'll take her to work out that her own idea is already in motion?" The muffled reply from Adagio reminded her that she'd grabbed her, covered her mouth, and pulled her around the corner for this. She released Adagio, meeting her questioning look with an abashed grin. "Hey, if anything, I'm surprised you let me do that."
Resting her hands on her hips, Adagio turned her head to watch Sonata wander off, hopefully in search of Twilight. "Hmph. Suppose I haven't been as alert as I used to be."
Aria shrugged. "So, what's the real plan?"
"You heard her, we split up to cover more ground." Aria's incredulous face tickled her, but now wasn't the time to tease her for it. "We could ask any of the CP students where she is, but then word would get around that we were looking for her specifically, which wouldn't send any good messages." Well, maybe there was time for a little teasing... "Sonata's idea may actually be our best bet right now," she smirked while stepping around Aria, "and she might not have come up with it at all if not for you kindly assisting her. She'll make such a good leader with us there to be her underlings."
Turning on a heel so quickly that she nearly lost balance, Aria glared. "That's not even funn-... Where did...?"
Peeking around a nearby corner, Adagio snickered as she watched Aria look around in confusion.
Ohh, I never thought I'd miss this little rivalry, but they're so cute when they fight for dominance!
Well, she thought that now, but as she set off to look for Twilight in earnest, she couldn't say what the situation would be after today. Maybe Sonata really would end up calling the shots and constantly have them going into stupid, pointless flights of fancy, maybe Aria would seize 'power' and try to get them to where they were before, but Adagio knew she just didn't have it in her anymore. No goal, no ambition, no drive... was this why the others followed her in the first place? One more little uncertainty.
She could ask Sunset what she did when her whole world was ripped out from under her, but she already had a pretty good idea where they'd end up if she did; doing this, forever.
Perhaps not literally. Are we still immortal? I can't tell if our 'teen' bodies are growing yet.
Either way, she knew she didn't want to be one of CHS's dancing trophies for the rest of her life, even if she hadn't actually heard anyone refer to them along those lines yet. Then again, Sunset wasn't being paraded around like the spoils of war, and if anything, seemed to be taking something like a leadership role in the school, so maybe Adagio was just being pessimistic?
Her objective right now was to find and apologize to this world's Twilight Sparkle, but maybe she could find time to have a word with Sunset as well.
*\0/* *\0/* *\0/*
"Good morning, students! I'm sure you're all thrilled to start the first day of the Friendship Games!"
Twilight felt a frightened shiver run through her spine at those words, because she knew she'd be part of those games and failure was not an option. Still, she had a little more time to search for the source of the energy readings before her public performance (and possible public humiliation) would be necessary. Her spectrometer didn't appear to be leading her anywhere in particular (again!!), but at least she hadn't bumped into anyone so far.
I have to find something before the games are over, or the entire project will have been pointless, I'll have nothing outstanding to show for Everton, and the mystery surrounding this school might stay buried forever! I guess I could keep coming back on my own, but I almost got caught last time, and Canterlot High students probably know my face by now, so- well, technically, they somehow knew my face before, and WHAT was up with tha-
She jumped when a hand clapped on her shoulder, whirling around to see the blue cheerleader from yesterday. She beamed brightly as her eyes bore into Twilight's.
"I found you!"
Shrieking, Twilight immediately broke into a sprint in the opposite direction, glancing over her shoulder to find the cheerleader in hot pursuit with a terrifyingly wide grin, even starting to giggle with delight.
Just wait 'til Aria and Dagi see that I caught Twilight all by myself!
Twilight narrowly dodged the other students in the hall, sometimes avoiding impact by scant centimeters as she fled, internally ashamed to be breaking such an old and sacred rule as 'no running in the hallways!' One of those she ran past was the other cheerleader that had helped test the elasticity of her undergarments yesterday, and while Twilight was pleased to find that her work with custom-polymer lycra had proven effective, she was in no hurry to test it again!
"Slow down," called the purple one as she joined the chase, "we just wanna talk!"
Twilight had heard that one before! She was quickly running out of stamina and her pursuers were gaining on her. Everyone else in the halls just kind of looked on, not moving or even saying anything about her little chase scene. A few held up their phones, but she had the feeling no one was calling for help.
Why aren't they helping me?! Even Crystal Prep students are just watching us go by! Aren't we supposed to be on the same side?! Shouldn't they take issue with-
Whether she tripped or just hadn't been paying enough attention to where she was fleeing for her life, Twilight ran headlong into someone, sending both of them to the ground.
Stopping not far away, Aria and Sonata stared in horror at the scene in front of them... and several witnesses. As she'd been facing the other direction, the two of them had thought that Adagio's fluffy cushioning would harmlessly stop Twilight so they could calmly explain the situation, but Adagio must have heard them coming, because she turned around with just the right timing for Twilight to slam into her, knock her flat on her back, fall on top of her, and wind up with her face pressed into Adagio's chest. Aria's jaw dropped when Twilight lifted herself up by pressing both hands against Adagio's arms, as if to keep her pinned.
"Uhgh," muttered Twilight as she got her bearings, "sorry, I was-" Her overall body temperature plummeting, Twilight's pupils shrunk to pinpicks when she saw the girl she'd unintentionally tackled... and continued to hold to the ground. She didn't know this girl's name, but the murderous look on her flushed face succinctly communicated her thoughts.
"Stand up," she hissed, a command she was vaguely gratified to see Twilight adhere to almost automatically. She didn't break eye-contact as she got to her feet herself. "Walk with us."
Instinct was to run, but knowing that the other two were right behind her, Twilight cooperated in the hope of a lighter sentence. Her heart rose when Trenderhoof stepped towards them and opened his mouth, then immediately sunk again when the excessively fuzzy one shot him a look that made him stop, turn pale, and slowly back away, giving Twilight an apologetic look.
*\0/* *\0/* *\0/*
They brought Twilight to the backstage area of the gym, which wasn't in use at the time. Twilight started talking the second Adagio turned to face her.
"I'm sorry I fell on you! I know you're supposed to watch where you're going even when barreling through the hallways -which is totally against the regulations of any decent educational facility to begin with!- and I bumped into you once already because I wasn't paying attention but-" she glanced behind her, "-these two started chasing me and, n-not that I mean to imply that it's their fault, but I panicked even though in hindsight, all they really said was that they found me and wanted to talk, but in the context of what happened yesterday, I expected something excruciatingly painful, embarrassing, or both, so I assumed the worst and ran away so maybe it really is my fault buteitherwayI'mreallysorry!!"
She closed the statement with a large inhale, leaving the trio around her to stare at her wide-eyed for a moment.
Adagio nodded. "Right, well, that's good to know and all, but not what we wanted to talk to you about." Twilight's head tilted a little as she made a comical 'Huh?' face, so Adagio cleared her throat. "When we first saw you, the three of us mistook you for someone else, so a misunderstanding led us to treat you harshly." Swallowing her already-bruised pride (and rage, which was fortunately beginning to subside on its own), Adagio folded one hand over the other and bent forward a little. "That was wrong of us, and we're sorry."
For a second, Twilight's jaw dropped, then she shook her head while raising both palms. "N-no, no, not at all, I'm sorry for the, uh-" she blushed, unconsciously pantomiming groping motions with both hands, "unwanted t-touching t-to your, um-"
"That, was kinda our fault too," said Aria while rubbing the back of her head, "what with our little keep-away thing and sprinting after you like we did. Hell, I'd have probably run for it too."
"Yea," added Sonata with a contrite frown, "we're sorry, Not-Princess Twilight."
And there was that name again! Twilight was about to ask, but she hadn't even asked these girls their names yet, and wasn't sure if politeness should take precedent over wanting to know why everyone from CHS kept calling her 'Princess.' Unfortunately, the intercom again crackled to life.
"Will all competitors please report to the foyer immediately."
The cheerleaders glanced upward at the sound, then turned to leave.
"Wait," called Twilight, who had made up her mind, "what are your names?"
The blue one turned around to walk backwards, but none of them slowed down. "Name's Sonata Dusk!"
"Aria Blaze," said the purple one with an arm-wave, not so much as turning her head.
The fluffy one (that I've accidentally fondled twice) glanced over her shoulder. "I'm Adagio Dazzle. Good luck in the games," she said with a little grin and a wink, "we'll be rooting against you."
The statement was closed with a laugh that made Twilight's knees shake as the trio walked out, but she couldn't quite tell if the sentiment had been a catty taunt, or a friendly warning, maybe even a genuine wish for her to do well. Would she try to psyche her out right after apologizing? Even when Twilight... did that thing, completely by accident? Adagio was red-in-the-face furious and all they wanted was to talk.
Huh... maybe cheerleaders aren't so mean. At least, not all the time. And, seeing them in better light, all three of them were beautif-
The intercom crackled to life again.
"Will all contestants please-ah, hey! give that back!"
"Twilight," sounded Indigo Zap through a possibly-stolen microphone, "it's time to start the games! Get your ass out here!!"
To have her name called over any kind of public loudspeaker made Twilight extremely uncomfortable to start with, but knowing that she was tardy struck terror into her heart. Equally scared and mortified, it was all Twilight could do to hurriedly stumble her way to the foyer in the hope that Cinch was half as merciful as CHS's cheerleaders.
...Today! As merciful as they were TODAY!!
*\0/* *\0/* *\0/*
The Wondercolts, Shadowbolts, sirens (who had just arrived), primary authority figures for both schools, and many students who would be spectating stood in the foyer as they waited on the last member of Crystal Prep's team. As was often the case in rooms full of people that were waiting for something, there was much idle chatter.
"So," Rarity summed up, "no one should be mistaking Twilight for our Twilight anymore?"
"Yep," Pinkie answered proudly, "I got the word out all over MyStable last night, so everybody should know she's her own person, not just a stand-in for someone else or to be treated as such!"
Sunset smiled. Even if Twilight wasn't going to be around for long, that kind of misunderstanding wasn't going to make anything better.
And here she comes now!
Twilight was keeping her head down even before her team (and Cinch) started giving her withering looks, but she at least refrained from bumping into anyone again as she took her place by the others.
"Welcome to the first event," began Dean Cadence, "the Academic Decathalon! You'll be scored on Chemistry, Home-Ec, and everything in between. But remember, only the six students from each team with the most points will move on to event number two. Good luck!"
The first event was chemistry, so everyone headed to the lab. As they walked, Indigo nudged Twilight with her elbow, keeping her voice down as she smirked.
"Guess you know what I mean about those cheerleaders now, huh?"
Feeling the dread of oncoming shame, Twilight struggled to stay quiet. "W-what?!"
"Heard about it from the others, how you pushed one of 'em down and-"
"I-it was an accident!"
"Suuure it wa-"
"No, r-really," it didn't help that she had already felt as guilty as she sounded, "I was running from the others when I ran into her!"
Indigo looked at her in surprise. "Woah, really? What'd you do to them?"
"Uh-huh," she said in doubting tones, "they started chasing you for nothing at all right before you motorboated the third one?"
"I d-did NOT-"
Walking alongside them, Sunny Flare leaned in to whisper to Indigo, giving Twilight a fearful look. "I never knew she could be such a beast."
"Totally. Always the quiet ones, huh?"
Groaning, Twilight spent the next several minutes with her burning face buried in both hands.
*\0/* *\0/* *\0/*
Academic competitions typically didn't have cheerleaders, but then, academic matters typically weren't competitions at all. The trio in dark-blue belly-shirts and ruffly skirts were allowed to perform so long as they weren't disruptive.
"Well, here we go," grumbled Aria, a prickly blush already working its way across her face, "public humiliation time."
"Think peppy thoughts," said Sonata, "'cuz it's time to cheer!"
As everyone got ready for chemistry, the sirens again donned their bright, happy 'cheerleader' faces and started the routine.
Gog-gles, and, coats,
don't drink it, you'll melt your throats!
And don't, for-get, gloves,
if undamaged skin you love!
To the sirens' relief, no one actually pointed and laughed or snickered behind their hands at them, which made them feel a bit silly about having worried.
One, drop, to, change!
Colors quickly re-arrange!
But don't, heat, too, long,
or you won't know what went wrong!
Ditzy Doo was not careful, which didn't do CHS any favors. Next up was Home-Ec, which boiled down to baking a cake for some reason. This was even with the half-hour waiting period that baking cakes would actually require, as opposed to something that could be prepared faster. Maybe sandwiches just weren't as good for showing off? As a result, this stage of the event was essentially cut into two parts, starting with preparing the cake layers.
Break the eggs, roll the dough,
batter-making, ready go!
From the bowl into the tin,
pour it out and pop it in!
In the oven, now we wait,
then it's time to decorate!
Dooooon't BURN IT!
There wasn't much to cheer about when everyone was standing around making small-talk, so those not waiting near ovens wandered around a bit when Dean Cadence announced the baking period as a thirty-minute bathroom break.
Sunset was startled by a hand on her shoulder, whirling around to see Adagio. "Oh, hey. You need something?"
"Affirmation, perhaps. I know we aren't really doing anything of substance, but tell me;" she gestured to the other Wondercolts, "is our cheering having any effect? Because even if it was you that took our voices in the first place, I'd rather not repay their return by being useless."
Internally, Sunset squeed. If Adagio wanted to be sure her efforts (which were to help CHS in this instance) weren't for nothing and it was taken as a given that Aria and Sonata felt the same way, then it meant that the sirens genuinely wanted to do something good! Maybe just in a quid-pro-quo kind of way, but they must have known that they could just as easily carry on as they were whether they were helping at all or not, or even just drop their pom-poms and walk away, and they didn't!
Maybe by the end of the day, they'll even have some friends here!
Outwardly, Sunset restrained herself to a bright smile. "Don't worry, you guys being here is helping me a lot."
"Oh?" Adagio raised an eyebrow, the faintest smirk tugging at her lips. "In what way?"
Blink. "Huh? Oh, just, y'know, it's, uh... nice to have someone cheering for us, is all."
"Yea," Pinkie cut in with a big, big smile, "it's ALWAYS great to have more rhyming goin' on!"
Kneeling down to keep an eye on the nearest cake, Rainbow lifted her head enough to be heard. "To be honest, it ain't doing much for me, but that's probably because I'm not doing much either. I mean, seriously, cooking and spelling bees? Not my bag. But hey," she said with a cocky grin, "wait 'til things get physical and I'll show ya just how much having my own cheering section gets my blood pum-ow!"
Flexing the fingers of the hand she'd just thwapped Rainbow with, Applejack gave her an unamused look. "Our, Rainbow, our cheering section."
"Eh, r-right, right, haha... My bad."
There were a few giggles from the CHS side of the room. Rarity smiled as she looked over at Aria and Sonata, who seemed to be engaging a few Shadowbolts in idle conversation. "I don't rightly know what to make of the dance routines, myself, but I'm tickled pink to see my work flaunted, if I'm honest." She turned to Fluttershy. "The three of them just look exquisite, don't you think?"
Having been looking in the same direction, Fluttershy jumped with a start, glanced around, and hid most of her increasingly pink face in her hair before nodding once.
Glancing at a not-entirely-thrilled Adagio, Sunset looked to the rest of the Wondercolts, whom she was pretty sure heard all of this. "What about you guys?"
Lyra, Bon-Bon, Micro Chips, Sandalwood, Ditzy Doo, and Flash Sentry all offered smiles, nods, and looks that didn't convey displeasure of any kind. Sunset contained another squee as this drew a tiny grin out of Adagio.
"Hm. Well," she said softly, "I suppose that answers that."
'Oh, and, how did you decide what to do with your life when it lost all meaning and direction?' Would that be awkward with these other people around? Maybe it can wait...
Turning back toward the others, she regained her smirk, letting it carry into her voice. "Good luck in the games, Sunset Shimmer, and hopefully we'll keep doing a lot for you." Nearly being able to hear the inquisitive looks Sunset was getting for that last part filled Adagio with a special sense of delight.
It faded a little faster than she'd have liked, but that probably had something to do with returning to Aria and Sonata to find them apparently in the middle of an argument with the Crystal Prep kids; something she very specifically wanted to avoid. As Aria was currently telling off the one she'd heard 'Sugar' refer to as 'Indigo' and the yellow girl with the red, green-striped ponytail, Adagio whispered to Sonata.
"What's going on?"
"Aria's having a spat with some of the girls from yesterday."
"How did it start?"
"It's been kinda hard to follow with the ponytail girl (I mean, the one that isn't me) flip-flopping between Friendly Smiler and Growly McBitchvoice, but I think the blue-haired girl (I mean, the one that isn't me) said something about us shakin' our booties for the wrong team and how it wouldn't matter in the end, Aria took offense to the thought of her booty-shaking not even making a difference (we were just talking about whether or not we were having any impact, what'd Sunset say by the way?), and now they're making Hate eyes and calling each other names."
"...Does this mean I can't expect blue and purple grandchildren?"
Eyes widening as she flushed crimson, Sonata lightly shoved Adagio. "Not funny!!"
Adagio's snickering communicated her opinion on the matter, but she composed herself to break up the argument... which was still immensely weird for her. "Alright, alright," she said while gently pushing Aria and Indigo apart, "I just got done talking to the Wondercolts about whether or not we're wasting our energy here."
Aria hadn't stopped scowling at Indigo, who glared right back. "And, verdict?"
Raising her chin somewhat haughtily, Adagio rested her hands on her hips. "I can confirm that our shaking," she said while giving her behind a quick wiggle, "is at least having some effect, even if not necessarily as intended, and that we may prove even more effective when the physical portion starts."
"Hah," said Aria with a smug smile, "see? Told you."
"Pfft," retorted Indigo, "we'll see how much it matters by the end'a this thing, Pom-Poms."
Aria's eyes narrowed as she took a challenging step forward. "Don't call me Pom-Poms, Bug-Eyes!"
Indigo made similar movements. "The goggles are for racing, you Miku-Wannabe!"
"Miku? You weeaboo!"
"Okay," Sour Sweet said with a smile as she took hold of one of Indigo's wrists and led her away, "while it's just great interacting with other schools," her tone quickly darkened, "listening to you two is giving me cancer."
Indigo and Aria continued to make faces at each other as the former was dragged back to her group, to the mild shame of both schools. Over by Cinch, Celestia, Cadence, and Luna, it was silently agreed to let the moment pass.
"Yo," greeted Lemon Zest when Indigo and Sour had returned, "what'd we miss?"
Sunny Flare crossed her arms.
"Do not tell me you were trying to get those girls to transfer to Crystal Prep."
Not looking directly at her, Indigo smirked. "Okay, I won't tell you."
"Oh, you are unbelievable!"
"They definitely got some good-lookin' girls here," said a grinning Neon Lights, who had grown to appreciate belly-shirts since the start of the Games, "and not just the ones that shake it."
Painfully familiar with Sunny Flare's feelings on that kind of talk, Jet Set spoke up to defend his partner the second Sunny turned her head their way.
"A-and what he means by that is to say, er, that even though they're all human beings whose thoughts and feelings are to be respected, their physical beauty is easily observed, so even while attention is drawn to readily apparent features, it is to be understood at all times that those in possession of such, uh, traits, are not simply images to be used in fueling unclean thoughts," he gave Neon Lights a worried, though pointed look, "is that not correct?"
Taking the hint, Neon nodded quickly. "Yes! That! word for word, even!"
Sunny held her simmering stare, but it gradually melted to a warm little smile. "Better, thank you."
Jet Set and Neon Lights breathed sighs of relief. Not far from them, Sugarcoat stood idly by as Twilight wrapped the explanation she'd been giving for the last ten minutes.
"-which is where the endothermic expansion comes in. Neat, huh?"
Twilight frowned. "You know, I can never tell if you're being sarcastic."
Her eyebrows knitted. "I can never tell if you're mocking me, either."
"Trust me, Twilight; when I'm mocking you, you'll know it."
"...Thanks?" The sound of nearby footsteps made her turn her head. "Oh, hello, Indigo."
"Heya," she said with a little grin, "how's the lecture goin' over here?"
Realizing that she must have gone on a tangent again (half the reason people don't talk to me!!), Twilight blushed. "Uh... I think it's done now. Sorry."
Indigo chuckled. "No sweat." Looking around the room, her eyes stopped on the cheerleaders again, who were chatting amongst themselves. "I talked to those girls you felt up, by the way."
Fittingly for the topic she'd just been discussing, Twilight demonstrated an endothermic process in her face. "Wh-what?!"
"You got dibs on the yellow one, right? Is it her hips or-" she briefly cupped her own breasts "do you just like 'em small?"
Amusing as Twilight's flustered stammering was, Sugarcoat focused on the cheerleaders as well, particularly the aforementioned yellow one. Making note of Indigo's observations regarding the girl's physique, she allowed herself a tiny smirk. Soon, Sugarcoat would have her revenge!
...Once she got her alone for a minute. She'd been confident about making fun of her excessive hair, too, so better safe than sorry.